Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Can't Sleep...

              Time zones are dumb! Why do we even have them? Well I mean I know why we have them for practical reasons, but really why do we have them? All they do is mess with people’s bodies when they travel and make them appear to be zombies during the day and insomniacs at night. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not a huge fan of waking up at 4 am…

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lesson Learned

Warning: Do not continue reading if you in any way, shape, or form like Orbitz or work for them. You may not be thrilled at the rant that follows…

            Ahhhh Orbitz!! Let’s just say they are not on my good list right now (and certainly shouldn’t be on Santa’s good list either, can anyone say naughty list??). I made it to the airport this afternoon and was quite excited about my little stops in Casablanca and Montreal because it meant I would be home for Christmas. But yet again, I was in for a surprise! Orbitz had never really changed over my ticket, so I wasn’t going anywhere! After standing in multiple lines, spending way too long on the phone and getting charged God knows what (do they have frequent caller ‘miles’ for international phone calls??), I was finally booked on yet another flight through British Airways. Thing is I now don’t leave until Christmas morning and still have to fly through Heathrow (fingers crossed they have figured out their ‘travel chaos’ situation), but will land in Chicago at 2 pm on Christmas Day! So good news is that I will (hopefully) make it home for Christmas, bad news is that Orbitz is horrible and wouldn’t pay for a hotel for the next two nights (but yet they don’t know the phone call that is coming when I come home demanding reimbursement haha) and I can’t imagine how many other people’s flights they managed to screw up.  I definitely learned my lesson on this one. I will never, ever use a third party site, especially Orbitz, again when booking a flight and I suggest everyone else does the same. As a friend told me, “Don’t let other people make your plans for you”. Sage advice for both travel arrangements and life in general!

            And since I’m not a bitter or angry person, Merry Christmas everyone (and that includes you too Orbitz)!!

The Joys of International Traveling

             Oh the joys of international traveling! I guess it’s never an easy or certain thing and it certainly wasn’t this time around. Last week northern Europe got hit with some snow (what they claimed was horrible snow but was in reality 6 inches…), which caused major flight cancellations and delays. As the kind folk in London Heathrow put it, there was major ‘travel chaos’. I assumed that since I wasn’t leaving until Wednesday morning that they would have cleared everything up by then, but I was mistaken. I got to Madrid on Tuesday night and checked into my hotel after the longest 4-hour bus ride ever! I then proceeded to call my dad to see if he could check on my flights and lo and behold they were already cancelled! I then spent the next hour and a half on the phone with Orbitz, only to be disconnected halfway through, missing the callback because I was on the phone with another Orbitz guy. Luckily Eric at Orbitz was a smart man and called our home phone, which I had left as another contact number when making my reservation. He was able to book me on another flight via my parents so I will be making it home for Christmas! I am not flying through London though. I will be making my journey starting tonight from Madrid where I fly to none other than Casablanca! When the guy first told me that, I thought he was kidding, that Casablanca really isn’t a real city. So I head on over to Africa where I have an hour and a half layover and then from Casablanca I fly to Montreal! I have a 6-hour layover in Montreal and finally make it into O’Hare at 7 am on Christmas Eve morning!
            Even with this tiny snafu in my travel plans, things could have been a lot worse. Talking with the second Orbitz guy, he informed me that the earliest I would be able to get home would be the 26th. Clearly I was not going to let that happen and miss Christmas Eve and Christmas! I am staying in a nice hotel with a very comfy bed in Madrid, which has been excellent since I also have tonsillitis! Thank god for health insurance and the absolute ease that going to the doctor in Spain entitles. I found a clinic yesterday that accepted my health insurance and it took me longer to actually get there than for me to get diagnosed and given some medicine, and all for the price of 11 Euros! Sadly I have not been able to see much of Madrid, but am going to try and walk around a bit today before I head to the airport (that is if it’s not raining). It has definitely been a whirlwind of an experience but something that I will look back on and laugh at! I mean honestly, who gets to have a layover in Casablanca and Montreal?? Let’s just hope that my year of French at Miami comes back to me tonight…

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Could I Not Love Them?!

My absolute favorite class: 1st graders!!
Making dough Christmas ornaments!

The little little kids excited about using glitter!

The first graders at my school in Cenicero decided they wanted to show me their Christmas song/dance!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The 'Typical' Barcelona Experience

            I have often heard that you do not fully experience Barcelona unless you get robbed or something is taken from you. My first two times in Barcelona proved this theory wrong, but I guess the third time really is a charm… err disaster. This weekend I was in Barcelona visiting my friend Jenny for the Puente and we wasted no time in having that “typical” experience. We went out on Saturday night for some tapas and drinks. We had a wonderful time and ended up staying out much later than we had initially expected. Around 6 am, we were heading back home when Jenny’s purse got ripped off her arm and the kid ran down the street. We were both so astonished as to what happened that our reaction time was greatly reduced and there was no way we would be able to catch the kid. Luckily we had met Carlos that night, a fun and extremely generous gay man that let us crash on his couch for the night as Jenny’s purse had her keys, camera, ID, 15 euro. We woke up on Sunday and attempted to call her landlord to let us back in but were unsuccessful. Since we couldn’t reach anyone to let us in, we had to call a locksmith. He was extremely friendly, which made the whole experience not as bad as it could have been. However our opinion may have slightly changed when he handed her the bill… 480 euro to get into her place and replace her lock! We were both astonished, but at that point just cared about getting back into her place. So really the only consolation is that karma really does work in situations like this, so kid watch out, karma will get you!
            Other than that minor blip, the whole trip was so much fun! We saw a movie (in English!), went on a day trip to Tarragona, did some shopping, walked around Barcelona, saw one of Gaudi’s houses, and had unbelievable weather. As this was my third time to Barcelona, it was nice to have someone who lived there to show me a different side of the city and one a little less touristy. I will definitely be heading back to Barcelona, and hopefully this time it won’t require a trip to the police station or 480 euro to the locksmith.

Becoming Wiser in Spain...

1.     As hard as you try, it is very difficult to ‘blend’ when you have blonde hair here.
2.     Spanish people struggle to walk like a normal person. Whether it’s the crawling pace or the stopping mid sidewalk, they can’t seem to grasp the concept like the rest of the world.
3.     Kids really do say the darnest things.
4.     All of the ridiculous and hysterical experiences you will have will be enough to fill a book. And maybe writing that book will make you millions!
5.     Elementary children can be adorable or hellish and your opinion of them will change on a daily basis.
6.     English teachers are some of the most interesting, amazing, and fun people you will ever meet!
7.     Traveling is one of the best ways to figure out who you really are and what you truly want in life.
8.     People will never cease to amaze you, both in good ways and in bad ways.
9.     Never take central heating or ovens for granted. You will greatly miss them when you don’t have either.
10. There are few things more amazing than sitting at an outdoor café in a plaza having a beer or coffee with friends, just talking and people watching.

Friday, December 3, 2010

An Expat Thanksgiving

I have officially become a part of the expat community over here in Spain as I had not only one, but two Thanksgivings last week. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday by far and also my favorite day of the year so I was bummed that I wasn’t going to be able to spend it at home with my family. Luckily I was able to share it with some friends here and had a fantastic time! Thursday I had to teach, which consisted of me throwing on some video clips and having the kids color, as I was not in the working mood. Then Thursday night we all went over to one of my friend’s house for a nice potluck thanksgiving meal! We had two turkeys (which were expensive, 50 Euros, but well worth it!), stuffing, green beans, rolls, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, lots of wine, and even homemade pumpkin pie! It was delicious and wonderful to be able to spend the night with friends! Then Friday morning I headed down to Segovia for the weekend where Friday night we proceeded to have yet another thanksgiving meal! This one had all the fixings as well, so by the end of the weekend my body was stuffed to its limit! As much as I missed being home for Thanksgiving this year, I had such a wonderful time celebrating it twice in Spain!