Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm Famous!!

    As some of you may, or may not, have known, one of my private lessons wrote and published a book in English about wine. Last year he was working on the book and I helped him to correct and edit it. We spent several weeks of lessons going over corrections and thinking of better ways of translating certain sentences. After all his hard work the book was finally published about a month ago (and I got my very own signed copy, oh la la). Several newspapers interviewed him about his book and this is one of those interviews. And the best part is that I am mentioned in it! For those of you who can read Spanish, read on, but for those who can't, the article is all about his book and the unusual format of English/Spanish. It also talks about the contents of the book such as: how is wine made, qualifications of wine, weather, different types of grapes etc. And in the 6th paragraph my name is mentioned for helping him translate the book! The author of the article forgot to put my last name, but hey I know it's me so I'm happy! So enjoy! And now you can tell everyone that you know someone "famous" haha.


Talking About Wine: Rioja

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's Everywhere!

   Have you ever realized that once someone points something out to you, you seem to notice said thing everywhere? Well that has definitely happened to me the past couple of weeks as a couple of things have been pointed out to me and now I can't go anywhere in Logrono without noticing them!


  Firstly, someone mentioned something about the old men (or men in general) loving machinery and construction. Bam! Right after that was said to me, I was walking to one of my private lessons across the train tracks and saw a long line of old men just staring at the big cranes and construction! I thought maybe it was a fluke but they were still there when I walked past an hour later, and still there two days later, and a week later, etc. I find it funny that not only had I not noticed it until someone told me, but that it literally is 'the thing to do' for these men. They gather, and talk, and stare, and just have a grand old time watching the construction. Now if only them staring would make the men work faster and we would therefore have a nice, new train station pronto (instead of the old, bombed out looking one we currently have).


  Secondly, people from different countries use different hand gestures or sounds to say different things. It is no different in Spain. Yet again someone mentioned to me the unusual way many Spaniards say no to something. Instead of just simply saying no or shaking their head, they add in a 'tsk, tsk' sound (which I can't accurately portray here but if you have heard it you know exactly what I am talking about). Again I had never really paid attention to it or took notice of how they said no here, but once my attention was caught, I now hear it everywhere. My 8 year old private lesson student did it in class today when I asked him if there was a shower in his bedroom, my students constantly do it in class if something isn't correct, even my teachers will use it if a student says an incorrect answer. I hear it so much that I have even caught myself doing it a couple of times and have had to stop myself. Although I am considering picking it up to be more Spanish haha.


   It's little things like that that I find myself suddenly noticing, even though I have lived in Logrono for a year and have lived in Spain four separate times.

Madrid: City of Modern Art and Jamon

     First off I apologize to any avid reader of my blog (if I have any haha) for not posting in a while. I have been quite busy with lessons and class, so I will do a mass update/blog posts to make everyone happy. The end of October/beginning of November is a holiday here in Spain; what's called a puente (bridge). Since Spain is a Catholic country we get all Soul's Day off which is November 1st. And since the Spaniards love to party or have any excuse to have a day off work, they have 'created' this fabulous 'invention' called puente. They bridge the days off so instead of having to go to work on Monday and then having Tuesday off, they just give you Monday off as well... brilliant? I think yes!


   So since we had a 5 day weekend at the end of October, Cait and I went down to Madrid for a couple of days. We met up with some childhood friends of Cait who came in from Italy and the U.S. for a week to visit. It was definitely a wonderful visit and a much needed change of scenery, as we hadn't left Logrono since we arrived. We got in on Sunday and met up with said friends and walked around. We walked to the Palacio Real, but didn't go in (one palace is enough to see right??) since it was almost closing time. We did walk into the cathedral near the palace, which I have been told by several Spaniards is 'the ugliest cathedral in Spain'. I wouldn't call it ugly, but it certainly wasn't as breathtaking as the cathedral say in Sevilla. After walking around the city for most of the afternoon we were pretty exhausted so stopped for something to eat at Museo del Jamon. Now for a little 'Katie's a blonde' moment. I had been told by several people that I HAD to go see the Museo del Jamon and so was talking to Cait and Diane about what to do in Madrid. I mentioned that I wanted to go here right after Cait said she wanted to go to the Museo de Reina Sofia. Now mind you, the Museo del Jamon (unbeknownst to me) is not a museum at all. It is in fact a chain of restaurants. So I thought I was being all artsy and academic by suggesting we go to the Museo del Jamon, when really all I was getting at was that I wanted to eat large quantities of Jamon.


   And that is just what we did! While Museo del Jamon is not a real museum in the normal sense, it is a wonderful mecca of jamon! They serve everything with jamon, so we of course ordered two plates full of jamon and queso and chorizo and pan! After stuffing our faces, we left as happy campers. The next day we did indeed go to a real museum, the Reina Sofia. Guernica by Pablo Picasso is housed here and that was essentially all I really wanted to see. I am not a huge modern art fan, but do love museums and art and being a nerd in general, so the hour plus wait in line was worth it. That night was Halloween, but since this is not a special holiday in Spain we did not end up dressing up. There were people dressed up, but only as zombies or vampires or ghosts. Spaniards think that Halloween is only for dressing up as something scary or frightening, and use Carnival for dressing up however you please! We tried to go to a concert by El Guincho (if you haven't listened to him I highly suggest it... he's amazing!), but by the time we got there they weren't letting any more people in the door... bummer.


  The next morning Cait and I made one more stop before we hopped back on the bus up to Logrono... Starbucks! Yes that's right, we were extremely American and had to stop at Starbucks. But let me tell you that Chai Tea Latte was heaven and just what I needed and tasted like fall... ahhhh! It was a great trip, but it was definitely good to be back home where it wasn't so crowded or big or overwhelming (in my opinion). Madrid is a wonderful city and one I definitely want to go back to!


Palacio Real 
The 'ugliest' cathedral in Spain

Reina Sofia

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beautiful Water

Yesterday Diane, Cait, myself, and one of Cait's private lessons Mikel decided to spend the day doing something different than hanging out in Logrono on a Saturday. We piled into Mikel's car, survived the steep curves and crazy driving of a Spaniard and made it to a national park called Urederra. Urederra is located in Navarra, the province of Spain right next to La Rioja. Urederra is fairly close to Estela in case anyone feels the need to look on a map and find out exactly where it is! It wasn't the most beautiful of days, but we made it work! We packed our bags with jamon and queso bocatas and some water and set off on an absolutely stunning hike. The hike is about 3 hours long there and back and it was well worth it. Urederra means beautiful water in Euskara (Basque language) and it was aptly named! Throughout the entire hike you come across these amazingly blue pools of water and waterfalls. The hike wouldn't take 3 hours if you didn't stop and gawk at the serene pools of the most vivid blue you can imagine. We definitely felt like we were in some sort of paradise or in the movie Blue Lagoon. Multiple times we had to stop ourselves from trying to jump in, as clearly the water is that blue because of some sort of acidity level or bacteria. All in all it was a wonderful day and I hope to have many more days of hiking and seeing the beautiful country where I live!


Walking through the town

This must be paradise

So blue!

I want to live here

There were waterfalls everywhere!

Money, Money, Money!

This year is already different in many aspects from last year. For starters, I am teaching at a high school and not at an elementary school. I have never taught high schoolers before so was a bit nervous going to my first day of class last Monday, but I love it! They can understand me when I talk to them, they have a great sense of humor, they listen, and they don't pick their nose and then wipe boogers all over you! What a joyous day when I can come home from school and not be covered in slime and snot. Not that I don't love the nenes, but this is a wonderful change! I am teaching at the oldest high school in Logrono and it is only a 5 minute walk from my piso.... definitely a different commute than last year! Not only are the students amazing but so are the teachers. They are so warm and welcoming and have made me feel a part of the school in just one week. I have already been invited to numerous lunches and dinners and am treated as a colleague, not just the 'lectora de ingles'. Sadly I don't have the same schedule as last year with no class Mondays or Fridays, but I do have Fridays off and only have 2 classes on Monday. I am done every day by 1:45, which leaves me plenty of time to do private lessons! Which leads me to reason number 2 why this year is different....


Last year I had some wonderful private lessons and it was a great way to supplement my income from the program, but it was more pocket money than anything else. This year I have a whopping 12 lessons a week so far! Can you say cash money?! They certainly keep me busy in the afternoons, but not too busy so I can't enjoy a little siesta or some gym time or a beer with friends. It will definitely be nice this year to be making more than pocket change with my lessons (I'm making the equivalent of our monthly 'income'... cha ching!)


And last but not least I am not starting off in a new place this year like I was last year. When I got back to Logrono, I was coming 'home' and it felt like I hadn't left for more than 2 weeks. Now some people may consider this bad, but for me it's a great feeling! I know where I'm going (well most of the time anyways), have a great group of friends (both Spanish and American and all different parts of the world),  I know what and where the good pincho bars are as well as the other bars, and overall I am just very comfortable being back here. I certainly miss Chicago and home and family and friends, but (Mom this should make you feel better) it's a good feeling to know my city and love it so much that I wanted to come back for another year!


Here is the link for my school's webpage in case anyone wants to see what's going on! 
http://www.iessagasta.com/

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Life Would Be Awesome...

... if learning a new language were this easy! Too bad it's not quite that way, but one can only hope right?? I need to find this for French and Portuguese and I'll be all set! Enjoy!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Viva La Rioja! Viva Logroño! Viva San Mateo!

This past week was San Mateo here in Logrono, the city's biggest festival. Seeing as I am a smart traveler, I planned my return here to coincide with the start of the festival (see my life isn't all made up of blonde moments!) San Mateo is a week long festival celebrating wine and the vendimia (the picking of the grapes). The harvest officially starts after this festival and grapes and wine are offered up to the Virgen de Valvanera (who is the patron saint of La Rioja). The week long celebration is full of parades, eating, drinking, and just an overall sense of partying! It was definitely the right time to come back to Spain and, although it wasn't as crazy as I had expected, it was still a great time with fireworks every night, nightly concerts from some big name bands, great food, great wine (as always), and lots of fun! And if the Spaniards know how to do anything great, it's throw a party! Here is a video of one of the parades that passed right by our place!








video

My New Home

Yes ladies and gentlemen, this year I have a new piso. And not just a new piso, but a livable, real person piso. Let me just say that compared to my place last year, it's like I'm living in a mansion. Cait and I arrived last Sunday and it was a great feeling to already have a place to stay. And the best part of it was that I had left a bunch of stuff at our place over the summer, so was able to mostly unpack right away (that is after a 4 hour nap, 24 hours of traveling kinda make me out of it haha). But we arrived safe and sound, and I have now settled into my piso. We had some friends stay with us last week and have more friends staying with us this week, but it's great to be "home" again.


My room 

Actual wardrobe!

View from my back balcony

Mold-free walls!

Kitchen (with an oven!)

Bathroom 

Living room

More living room

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Countdown Time!

       So I have to apologize for slacking on the blog posting this summer. But in my defense, my blog is supposed to be about my time in Spain, not my time at home. However, being home this summer has been wonderful and I have some done amazing things such as visit Dan for 2 weeks in Miami, go to San Fran for a long weekend with friends, celebrate my grandma's 88th birthday, relax and catch up with friends, and spend some time on a lake in Ohio. So much for my 3 month 'break' of doing nothing.
      It's getting to be countdown time again to head back to Spain: 10 days, but who's really counting?! I am definitely getting very excited to head back, but I will certainly miss being at home! It's much nicer going back this year knowing what I am getting myself into, having a piso, having friends already there, knowing what to pack, etc. The stress of moving abroad for a year is not the same as it was last year, and for that I am thankful. I certainly will miss things about being at home in the States, but I am very excited to get back to Logroño and to my life there!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Some Words of Wisdom

    Sadly these are not my own words of wisdom, but if I had to write my own, I would most likely use exactly this!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

One Month Left!!

            It´s hard to believe that I have been in Spain for 8 months already, and even harder to believe that I only have 2.5 weeks left of teaching! Some days I feel like I just arrived in Logrono, and other days it feels like I´ve lived my entire life here. Both of those feelings are awesome and partly why I decided to come back here next year. I have had an amazing year of experiences, from traveling, to meeting new people, to making life long friends, it has all been one great year! It will definitely be bittersweet to leave in a little over a month, but I think I am ready to head home for the summer to see friends and family. I think going home this summer is made easier since I know I will be returning here in 2 months or so and will have yet another amazing year (or at least I hope so!). Just like my other two times in Spain, this year will be a year that I will never forget and one that has helped make me the person I am today!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Canary Islands: Where Brits and Germans Reign Supreme


            This past week was our spring break, so Diane, Maggie, and I decided to head somewhere exotic; somewhere we had never been before. We all finally decided on going to the Canary Islands, specifically to the island Lanzarote. The Canary Islands are a province of Spain and are between the eastern coast of Spain and Africa. We were all very excited for some tropical atmospheres and exotic landscapes, however we were slightly disappointed when we arrived our first day. The Canary Islands are a huge vacation destination for the Brits and Germans, which we knew going in, but had picked the least touristy island out of the big ones. Lanzarote was still extremely touristy and full of Brits and Germans all speaking English! Not a single person spoke Spanish to us the whole week, which was slightly odd seeing that we were still in Spain. We stayed in Puerto del Carmen, which is one of the most touristy areas of the island, which was a disappointment as well. The weather wasn’t fabulous as it was windy and cloudy most every day, but we still managed to soak up as much sun as we could and still got a bit tan! We rented a car one day and headed to the Timanfaya National Park, which is the volcanic national park. The park was cool and we learned a bit about how the island was created by volcanic eruptions, but we weren’t allowed to get out and walk through the volcanic rock. We also found a nice secluded beach named Papagaya, which was a little bit of paradise so hung out there for an afternoon. Overall it was a good trip and we still had a lot of fun, but the Canary Islands are certainly one of those places that I am glad I went to, but don’t feel the need to return. So if anyone is planning a trip to the Canaries any time soon, just be prepared for lots and lots of English speakers and touristy strips!

Volcanic rock beach in Puerto del Carmen

Boats in Playa Blanca

Old castle used to ward off pirates

More volcanic rock in Playa Blanca

Palm trees!

Timanfaya National Park

Part of the volcano

Crater

One of the other islands off in the distance

Papagaya beach: now this is what I call paradise

Sunset in Old Town Puerto del Carmen

Sunset on our last night

Man struggling to fish haha

Semana Santa: Logroño Style


                Semana Santa is one of the biggest festivals in Spain and is celebrated in every town throughout Spain. Semana Santa celebrates Easter week and starts on Holy Thursday. Most people have off work and school starting from Thursday through Easter Monday, and some (like me!) have off that whole following week. The week is celebrated with processions, complete with floats and religious statues and people dressed up and walking in the processions. There are different brotherhoods throughout the cities that each have a different color hood and carry a different float. The hoods look like Klan hoods, but in fact are penitent hoods and were used back in the day so people could perform public penitence without giving away their identity. The floats that are carried through the processions are extremely ornate and beautiful, taking up to 50 men to carry just one. I was able to see the Good Friday procession here in Logroño and it was truly amazing! It lasted almost 3 hours, complete with lots of drumming, floats, flowers, and the procession. I wish I could have been in Sevilla for Semana Santa, as their processions are the most well known throughout Spain, but it was amazing to see them in Logroño, especially since I saw some of my teachers and students out watching the procession as well. All in all it is an amazing experience and one I am happy I was able to partake in!

Lots and lots of drumming

Kids taking part in the procession

One of the amazingly ornate floats

Full outfit

Float of La Virgen

Carrying the cross

One of the last religious floats to go through

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Time Festivites

        Here are some pictures of some Easter activities I did with my kids in Cenicero. We made Easter egg nests with chocolate, corn flakes, honey, and butter. It is a very easy activity to do and they loved it!

4th graders with the finished product!

Too cool for school

Marta is the cutest 4 year old ever!

Easter egg nests!

Cocineros, cocineros!

Mmmmm, delicious!

Oh how I love the first graders!

I Triple Dog Dare You


            I daresay that many people would say this statement is true for any city or country, but I believe that it is even truer in Spain: Try and not fall in love with Spain on a spring day. Spain on a spring day is like any college campus on the first nice day of spring; everyone is outside, talking, and overall enjoying themselves. We have had some beautiful weather here in Logroño these past couple of weeks, and it is clearly evident from the attitude of people and their overall demeanor. Everyone seems to be in a better mood and I don’t blame them! On a beautiful spring day, you can find everyone, of all ages, out and about, walking through town or having a caña or copa with friends at an outdoor café. You even see people, particularly old men, just sitting on benches, people watching and enjoying life (usually while smoking a cigar haha). The outlook that the Spanish have on life is more evident during spring than at any other time of the year. They take the time to enjoy themselves and life in general. They are in no rush and want to fully experience everything around them. So I double dog dare you, no wait, triple dog dare you, to come to Spain during the spring and not fall in love with the people, the life, the country in general. And passing on a triple dog dare is something extremely difficult to do!
View in Cenicero, one of the towns I teach in

La Grajera, a park near Logrono

Beautiful La Rioja landscape

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I Feel the Need... the Need for Speed!

             Only in Spain would it be fathomable and perfectly acceptable to get picked up to go to work on a motorcycle.  And that is just the experience I had on Friday with one of my private lessons! Our schedules were fairly tight, but he still wanted to meet to get a lesson in so decided that he would pick me up on his moto and drop me off, to cut down on walking time. So yes, I got to ride on my first motorcycle on Friday! And to be honest, it was amazing! I had always thought that I would be terrified, but I found it very exciting and exhilarating. And the fact that it was absolutely beautiful out helped in that aspect I’m sure. So now I can successfully cross that one off my bucket list!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Porto: City of Hills, Birds, and Pastries


This past weekend I ventured to the other part of the Iberian Peninsula and visited Porto, Portugal with Cait and her friend Amanda. We flew out of Madrid with Ryanair, as the flight including return cost 27 Euros! Certainly too good of a deal to pass up! I arrived on Thursday afternoon and Thursday night we ventured into a more local area for some seafood. The restaurant we stumbled upon was called ‘King of the Sardines’, so of course we had to try their grilled sardines! We ordered a total feast and the waiter even looked at us funny, as if to say ‘I don’t think you’ll be able to finish that’. We feasted on the grilled sardines, bacalao (codfish), squid, potatoes, vinho verde, and bread, and all for 30 euro!
            Friday was absolutely gorgeous in Porto, with not a cloud in the sky and in the mid 20’s! We walked around the old part of the town by the river (Ribeira) and then crossed the bridge and made our way to some of the port wine cellars. We stopped at the Sandeman cellar, one of the most well known port wines, and took a tour of the cellars. The tour was extremely interesting and the wine tasting at the end was even better! After the wine tour, we took a nice little train ride around the city to see some more places.  Saturday wasn’t as nice of a day outside so we walked around a bit then did some shopping. We also stopped at a wonderful flea market where we found some sweet deals such as scarves for 25 cents! Saturday night we had Indian food, as we have been craving different types of food besides pinchos (although they are wonderful and delicious). Cait and I left early Sunday morning and Amanda left on Monday morning.
It was a wonderful trip and a wonderful city and it is actually named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. I would highly recommend visiting Porto any time you have the chance. Even though it was wonderful to get away and travel a bit, it was certainly wonderful to get back to Logroño and also to be able to understand the language. Even after taking a year of Portuguese at Miami, I still cannot speak the language and can barely understand as well. It certainly made me determined to get back into learning it and I am considering taking classes here in Logroño next year at the Language School. All in all it was a wonderful trip: great food, great views, and great friends!
Views of Ribeira

Port Wine Cellars 
I love the old buildings!

Porto!!

Sandeman Port Wine!

Yummmmmy!