He cogido frío

He cogido frío

What is cold?

Oh this beautiful winter weather here in Madrid, Spain. Most days it feels like Spring. A freezing average of 45 degrees fahrenheit and let me tell you, this cold sends Madrileños in search of hats, gloves, scarves and heavy duty coats. This winter thus far has brought one day of snow (On Thanksgiving!), a couple weeks of rain and countless days of beautiful sunshine (as you can see in the photo below). Those of you from anywhere else in the world might snicker a bit at these innocent Spaniards who really have no true idea what winter is. These same Spaniards who may or may not have experienced a true winter also have an interesting idea as to how a person becomes sick. Lucky me, I seem to lack an immune system, so I have been getting sick a lot lately (That’s a link to my boring tale of my adventures with Spanish doctors). Anyways, me getting sick leads Spaniards to analyze what I was doing and the reason that I may or may not be sick. Now, this isn’t to say that all Spaniards believe this, but the lovely few that I call my friends all seem to have the same general notion as to how one becomes sick.


So, how does one get sick in Spain? You get sick in Spain because “He/has cogido frío” can be translated as “I/You got cold”…or literally, “I/You caught cold”…this phrase is something that you start to hear when the weather starts getting cold and people start getting sick. What in the world can getting cold have to do with anything? In Madrid, it has to do with EVERYTHING!

So getting sick could not possibly be runny nosed toddlers or first graders with whom I come into contact on a daily basis. Perhaps “germs”? No way. Not here in Spain. Then what made me sick? Chances are if you ask a Spaniard they will tell you that you have a sore throat because, “A lo mejor es porque has cogido frío de la garganta”. PIENSO QUE NO WAY DUDE. This basically means, “You have a sore throat because your throat got cold”. With that being said, it also means that any particular part of my body that may be hurting was exposed to cold air and thus now, that part of my body hurts. My first reaction is to say “I hate you”. That’s my first instinct, I don’t know why, I just find it really hard to believe that I have a sore throat from not wearing a scarf. I remember that one time when I grew up in the Midwest, oh yeah those 23 very cold, actually wintery winters where I cogido a bunch of frío and never got sick from it. So weird that now all the sudden I’m living in Madrid (or the Antarctic as they may see it) and I am getting sick from being cold. *chirp*chirp*

Not to mention, this “getting cold” thing doesn’t only apply to exposing your neck or face when getting sore throats or runny noses. No, no friends. This applies to all vulnerable body parts. Perhaps one day I don’t wear slippers/socks, I may hear, “Ohhhhh nooooo! VAS A COGER FRÍO DE LOS PIES!”…I’m gonna, what? Who? My feet are going to get cold and then I am going to get sick? LA LA LA I don’t believe you! All I know is that it’s not true!

You do not have a sore throat because your neck got cold! End. of. Story.

Now, that being said, I have been sick a bunch but to be honest. I have yet to feel truly cold in Madrid. We went to Chicago over Christmas, and there, there is where I truly felt cold, but I didn’t get sick in Chicago. Only in Madrid. Perhaps my appendicitis scare was because my appendix got cold? We may never know. All I know is that there are all kinds of germs in Madrid that my body hates and instead of wearing a scarf, maybe I could wear a mask to protect against germs like they do in China?

No scarf, no hat. Didn't get sick and Hawks won. This is what life should be like! #chicago
No scarf, no hat. Didn’t get sick and Hawks won. This is what life should be like! #chicago

What do you believe causes someone to get sick? Do you have any beliefs that you think will cure you when you are feeling bad?

The thing that I say when people tell me they have a head ache or that they are tired is, “Are you thirsty? Have you drank water? You are dehydrated.” That could come from countless years at summer camp, but I still think it’s true. When you have a really bad headache, it can surely be cured with a couple glasses of water!




Hospital in Madrid

As much as it’s hard to believe, it does get cold in Madrid and with the change in weather comes sickness. Kids with runny noses, lots of booger picking, sneezing and coughing. So of course, I got sick. Does anyone want the story?

Basically the story ends in me paying out the ASS for treatments and never finding out what was wrong.

I suppose you can stop reading here because I just summed up the whole story for you. Here are the details (as much as I think is appropriate for the internet). For those of you who are sick and wondering what will happen to you if you go to the hospital here in Madrid.

One week I had to go to the bathroom a lot…(why does this happen to me?), so I went to a public health clinic here in Madrid and they more or less said, “If you don’t have a TARJETA SANITARIA (Public health insurance card), we aren’t going to help you”. This is something I don’t have. As an Auxiliar de Conversación, we are not part of the public health system. End of story. We aren’t. So that means that treatment that I receive has to be from a private hospital or clinic. Everyone has different insurance, mine is iNext. iNext functions as a SECONDARY insurance if you have insurance in the states. Lucky me…I have insurance in the states. Basically, I just dealt with it and felt awful for a while…luckily, it stopped the morning that I had to go to the extranjería for my TIE appointment. Grateful for not pooping on myself while waiting in a two hour line to apply to get my Spanish residency card #proudmoment…

Anyways, that passed but the following week I woke up with unreal stomach pains at 4am. I thought it was diarrhea again. It wasn’t. It was nausea and awful stomach pains. I just waited hoping it would go away. I didn’t want to go into an emergency room at a private hospital because I didn’t want to have to pay for it. I didn’t go to an emergency room at a public hospital because I didn’t want to get all the way there and have them tell me they can’t help because I don’t have a TARJETA SANITARIA. So what did I do?

Unidad Medica

Waited until 8 am, and called a clinic. The clinic I called was Unidad Medica. They gave me an appointment for 10am, I made my way there, yes, crying in the metro on my way. They gave me an IV with fluids and pain killer (not very strong pain killer either). They took blood, did a urine test and then told me that I needed an ultra sound and a CT Scan, BUT that I would need to go to a different clinic to get these tests done because at Unidad Medica they don’t have either of those machines. They suspected appendicitis or a UTI. They were very concerned that it was appendicitis and that my appendix could rupture at any second. Now, it was time to head to the clinic, but I had to pay before I left: €342.

Consult with doctor: €125
IV+Medication: €60
Blood test: €125
Urine test: €32

Well, that’s a lot. I paid it on my credit card. I asked about how much the CT scan and Ultra Sound would be. They said the CT scan would be about €800 and the Ultra sound €200. So, obviously there is no way that I am going to head to this other clinic just to get charged €1.000. I called Alana, one of the CIEE coordinators. She told me that I should get in contact with Hospiquality at Hospital of Madrid. Instead of going to the clinic that Unidad Medica recommended me for a CT Scan and Ultra Sound, I went to Hospital of Madrid to see the Hospiquality team.

Can you even follow what was going on? I hardly knew what was happening. All I knew was that they were not being very helpful.

Hospiquality at Hospital of Madrid

I got to Hospital of Madrid (which turned out to be about a 5 minute walk from my apartment) and we waited for my test results to be sent from Unidad Medica. I was still in pain and at this point its 2pm. We waited until 4pm for the test results to come in. They never came so I went home.

The next day (Tuesday), I went back to the hospital and had an appointment to read my test results. Urine test, all normal. Blood test, high white blood cell count and I still had weird stomach pains, he ordered me an emergency ultra sound and then charged me €125. Uhm hi, I’m still breathing and alive, and you just charged me €125 to spend 5 minutes with me. I am not doing anything “emergency” because if things are done “emergency” style, it costs more. So, we made an appointment for the next day for an ultrasound.

Well, now it’s Wednesday morning (IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY) and the doctor does an ultra sound. For €310, I got an ultra sound from a cranky ass doctor. She was mad because I was getting an “emergency” ultra sound done with an appointment and didn’t know why I wasn’t in the emergency room, she tells me to come back later for the results. Rude, it’s my birthday, you think I want to be here feeling awful? No.

Later, Wednesday evening, another doctor consultation to see the results of my ultra sound. What happens? Ultra sound shows inflamed appendix but nothing conclusive to say “we must operate right now”…he orders an emergency CT scan. He didn’t charge me for this appointment because I had been going back and forth and he felt bad for charging for 5 minute appointments when I was getting no results. Again, I am alive and breathing, not trying to have an emergency CT scan, thanks but no thanks. If I need it, it can wait for an appointment where I won’t have an extra “emergency” fee. The next available CT scan was the following Monday. I scheduled the appointment. I later cancelled it because I figured it’s either going to tell me that A. they need to remove my appendix or B. that there is nothing conclusive. Either way, I’m not trying to get an operation, so thanks, but no thanks.

Thursday evening, was supposed to fly to Mallorca and didn’t because I still felt awful. €90 down the drain.

The hospiquality staff are really nice and helpful overall.

So why did pay for all of these appointments? and why didn’t you use your iNext travel insurance to pay?

Because if you have primary insurance in the states (I am insured though my mom’s health care plan in the US), iNext functions as SECONDARY insurance. I have to file a claim with my insurance company then later, what my company doesn’t cover, iNext will cover. My insurance covers ABSOLUTELY nothing because both of the places I went to are out-of network (obviously, they are in Europe). I will receive an explanation of benefits and that explanation of benefits can be sent to iNext and they will (hopefully) reimburse me. As of yet, my primary insurance company has yet to process my claims. It’s been a couple months since the first claims were sent in. I hope to get it all figured out within the next year! Good thing its January!


‘Tis the Season

‘Tis the Season

It’s that time of year again!

Where all of us become nostalgic for Harry Potter movie marathons during ABC Family’s 25 days of Christmas, Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee, seeing lines of kids ready to take the photo with Santa at the mall, making cookies, wrapping presents and of course, eating many many home cooked meals. This year my holiday season is looking a little different, at least until I make it back to Chicago a few days before Christmas!

The beginning of November, I found myself to be surrounded by garbage. Garbage everywhere. There was a sanitation worker strike in Madrid that started and didn’t end until mid-November.


Mid-November, the garbage strike ended and I also began baking Gram’s homemade macaroni and cheese to practice for my first Thanksgiving in Madrid. I even brought a batch to my favorite bar, Pintan Tapas for the bartender to taste the macaroni and cheese that I kept talking about!


The Saturday before Thanksgiving I hosted my first Thanksgiving at my apartment here in Madrid! I invited a few friends and we ate delicious American food, drank some Spanish Wine and made crafts, later on I went to see The Hunger Games with Adrian and his sister. It was a pretty perfect Spanish Thanksgiving!

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Before the movie I snapped a picture of Adri’s sister, Emma and her friends for her parents! Yes, that is a bunch of Spanish middle schoolers getting ready to see The Hunger Games. Yes, I was a bit frightened that there were so many of them!


On Thanksgiving day, it snowed in Madrid for the first time this season! I took the bus to school to get pictures of the snow and the beautiful sunrise! Sunrise is around 8:30, so no, I didn’t get up at a crazy hour to get these pictures! The snow was cool to see, but it all melted by mid-day.

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When I got to school on Thanksgiving, none of the kids knew it was Thanksgiving and frankly, they didn’t really care that it was Thanksgiving. We tried to give them some general ideas as to what Thanksgiving is, but I think they missed the whole point. Either way, we made hand turkeys with my first and second graders and talked about what we are thankful for, some got the idea, others…not so much. It was adorable to see their ideas though! At the end of the day watched a “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”.

Some Turkeys done by my first graders:

  • Picasso turkey.
  • Normal turkey, “I’m thankful for dad, Toys, scool, trees, mom” turkey (it says “Happy Crismas” in the hand if you look closely enough.
  • A perfect turkey which says “I’m thankful for, school, family, dad, mom, friends” with no spelling errors and in perfect cursive!
  • Also, an example of one of my confused Turkeys, the official “Happy Crismas” turkey.
  • Lastly, I hung them all up on a bulletin board for them to admire their work! They were very proud and pointing saying “mio! mio” (mine! mine!) Enjoy!

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The friday after Thanksgiving, “Black Friday”, there were actually a few stores that advertised Black Friday sales which really surprised me! There weren’t any sales that interested me but there were a bunch of people in the center because the lighting of the Christmas lights around the city started that Friday, November 29th.

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The Christmas lights here in Madrid are amazing. The Christmas Markets are pretty exciting too! In Plaza Mayor, there is the oldest Christmas Market in Spain! It is full of toys, christmas decorations, nativity scenes and knick-knacks. In every plaza, there are different stands open selling just about anything you can imagine. Walking around Madrid with everything set up for Christmas is beautiful!

Lastly, this first week of December, I have been working on a bulletin board at school! I hope it turns out the way I want! I drew Santa and cut him out, now I just have to make his reindeer! I also drew a little guy sledding down the hill. I threw some tinfoil on the tree and my first graders are going to make some present boxes to put under the tree and ornaments to put on the tree! I am excited!


“May your Days be Merry and Bright!”

I hope you have all taken your time to appreciate and enjoy the holiday spirit that is filling the world! Merry Christmas to all!


Grandma’s Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Grandma’s Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Grandma’s Mac and Cheese


Holiday season is upon us and that is giving me the desire to cook and bake! I love holidays and I love cooking…baking isn’t really a strong suit of mine but cooking is great for me because the amounts really don’t matter as long as you taste test it to make sure it tastes right! I had the pleasure of having a few friends over for lunch yesterday to test out how my recipe would turn out here in Spain. I haven’t bought measuring cups and I don’t have an oven with a temperature gauge. So, cooking is quite the science experiment! I have to admit, I enjoyed it! Thanks to everyone for coming over!

Let’s get started on my Grandmas recipe! One thing about my Grandmas recipe is that no one knows exactly what the amounts are…really this is all just a guesstimate…so if you think you need more or less of something, that’s probably true! In reality, each ingredient can be altered a bit and it will come out tasting pretty amazing no matter what! This recipe is really easy, so that’s why I am sharing it! Good luck!

What you’ll need…roughly:

Cheese Sauce

  • 3/4 of a stick of salted butter
  • 1/4 C All-purpose flour
  • 2 TGI Fridays cups (1 pint?) of Milk (2% is best, but if you prefer “light” macaroni and cheese you could use skim I suppose)
  • 3/4 of a 350g brick of cheddar cheese, shredded or chopped, whatever you can do (any kind, yellow, white, aged…whatever you find first!)
  • 3/4 of a 390g can of whole canned tomatoes (Gram prefers the ones she cans herself…if you have those, use those
  • 3 palmfuls of salt


  • 1/2 of the bag of noodles (medium shells, or whatever you can find!)
  • 1 pot (for noodles)
  • 1 sauce pan
  • Casserole dish
  • Cook at 375 degrees for 45min-1hr…or until crispy. (In Spain put the temp about a 1/2 inch from the small flame.

The oven. This setting may or may not be 375 degrees, either way, this is the temperature you should use for your macaroni and cheese.IMG_0780

Making the sauce

Before you start your sauce, put some water on to boil for your noodles. Add the noodles once the water is boiling. Don’t forget to pay attention to your noodles while you’re making your sauce!

Melt your butter in a sauce pan and let it get golden brown and bubbly (I forgot to take a picture!). Then add flour. Let that get golden too. This is the base of your cream sauce. It will make your sauce creamy!


Now add your milk, notice the golden color in the pan with the milk? That’s the butter-flour mixture! Let your milk, butter and flour mixture get bubbly. Throw in some salt.


Once this bubbles, add the cheese! It would melt better if it was shredded but I don’t have a cheese grater so I chopped my cheese with a knife. It real doesn’t matter how the cheese goes in as long as you don’t use a whole brick…that would take too long to melt!



Yes, bubbly cheese sauce! Throw some more salt in.IMG_0769

Now add your tomatoes WITH THE TOMATO JUICE to the cheese sauce. Straight from the can, plop the tomatoes into the sauce (with the tomato juice from the can! THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART!). You should be putting 2-3 whole tomatoes from the can into the sauce. Pick up each of the tomatoes with your wooden spoon and slice them up with a knife. The reason we don’t slice the tomatoes up on a cutting board or something is because we would lose a lot of the juice from the tomato on the cutting board if we did it that way. It’s only three tomatoes to fishing them out to slice them up doesn’t take much work!

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Let the cream sauce come to a light bubbly state. NOT a rapid boil. Now, fill your casserole dish 1/2 way with noodles. Then pour all of the sauce into the noodles (SLOWLY!). Now add the rest of the noodles bit by bit. If you have too many noodles, it’s bad. So stop adding noodles if it seems like there are too many!


It should look like this before you put it in the oven! I could have put even less noodles!


Now its ready to pop into the oven! Feel free to let it get crusty, that’s the best part!


Written directions:

Preheat oven to 375, or just guess if your oven doesn’t have a temperature gauge and cook your noodles (follow directions on the package!)

Now, on the stove, melt butter in a sauce pan, wait for it to turn golden brown and bubbly, be careful not to burn it! Once butter is golden, take off heat while adding the flour. Stir together. Wait for it to be golden again, not too golden, because then it’s burnt! Return the sauce pan to the heat and add one TGI Fridays size cup of milk. Stir. Add the second cup of milk. Wait for it to bubble and get a tiny bit thicker. It won’t truly get too thick (that happens when you add the cheese!). Now, the cream sauce is bubbling, add the cheese and let it melt. Throw in a palmful of salt. Once the cheese is melted add the tomatoes (mash them up with your stirring spoon and a knife so they aren’t whole!). Bring sauce to a low bubbly state and remove from heat. Throw in your last two palmfuls of salt.

Put about half of the total amount of noodles you will use in the casserole dish and pour the sauce slowly on top of the noodles. Stir gently within the casserole dish. Add the rest of the noodles bit by bit, DON’T ADD TOO MANY NOODLES! If there are too many noodles the casserole won’t turn out as delicious! Add noodles until it looks right. Not too many! NOT TOO MANY! This is VERY important. The sauce can taste amazing but if there are too many noodles, when it bakes, the noodles will take over and the taste of the sauce will be lost!

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Don’t forget your apple crisp! I will save that recipe for another day…IMG_0776


I love mac and cheese. I also love making it! Hope this recipe makes some sort of sense and that you can enjoy it during this holiday season! Enjoy your holidays and good luck with your baking in Spain!


A Spanish Thanksgiving

A Spanish Thanksgiving

How does one go about celebrating a holiday in a country in which the holiday does not exist?

It’s obvious that I am very excited about this, being that I am making this post a couple weeks before thanksgiving. I want to share with all of you how I am going to share Thanksgiving with my friends here in Spain! First, what do Spaniards know about Thanksgiving? Not much, but then again, what do I really know about Thanksgiving? Pilgrims, turkeys, being thankful, family, football, pumpkins, gourds, pies, casseroles. That pretty much sums up my knowledge of Thanksgiving. So, giving that my expectations are low as to what people should know about Thanksgiving, I don’t mind that my roommates don’t have any idea as to what to expect. Especially because this gives me the freedom to be in charge of everything and I am so excited because I love Thanksgiving! So, you have the freedom to basically create your own holiday…what are you going to do? I mean, what would you do?

Make shit up, obviously.

Ok, ok. I would never want to ruin Thanksgiving for anyone, so to be honest, I have made a plan for Thanksgiving which I am about to share with you all. However, there are going to be a couple flaws in my Thanksgiving. First, it’s going to be during the weekend, so that I have more time to cook and prep. Second, there will be no giant roasted turkey. NO TURKEY?! are you out of your mind?! I am ashamed to admit that I will have no turkey but, it just isn’t realistic here in Spain. Mainly because I don’t even know how to cook a turkey in America. Secondly, because I don’t think I can buy an entire turkey here and lastly, my oven doesn’t have a temperature gauge. Thankfully casseroles don’t really have to be cooked at a certain temperature, I am hoping for the best with my casserole. Otherwise my dinner will be just mashed potatoes…

For the first Thanksgiving that I ever host, the Thanksgiving turkey is going to be a chicken.

Now, I am more than excited to introduce my roommates (and my American friends!) to my version of Thanksgiving! I am hoping that my American friends will contribute some of their traditions to our Thanksgiving too! If you had to introduce Thanksgiving to people who had never celebrated before, what would you do? What would you want them to take out of the experience? Here is a summary of my Spanish Turkey Day plan:


Green Bean Casserole
Mashed Potatoes with Gravy
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
Apple Crisp


Ok, I love arts and crafts. I was a preschool teacher for four years and I am currently a first grade teacher, so expressing myself with mindless-childish crafts is one of my favorite things to do. Haha, can’t help but laugh at how if I was in the states right now, I would have to relate all of my Thanksgiving crafts to child development!

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Fine Motor and Early Literacy

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While doing these crafts, were going to have some youtube on in the background and I suggest you do the same. Of what? You ask. Well well well…lots of options. A rerun of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving day football. I think any of these would be perfect. No, they won’t be from this year, but hey, you could get vintage with it and watch the parade from 2006 or something!

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Giving Thanks

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Welp, that’s pretty obvious I think. We get to talk about how happy we are to have one another. Everyone’s family does this differently, I am not sure what me and my “family” here in Spain will do, but I am sure we will find something!

Go for a walk, a “Turkey Trot”…!

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My (American) family is really into running, so usually once we have all digested, some sort of run takes place through the neighborhood. I don’t think all of my Spanish family would approve, so a run is out of the question. However, after dinner, we are going to have to take a nice stroll through Madrid to appreciate the beautiful fall that is upon us and all of the Christmas lights that have been put up in the center! I cannot wait! See what I did there? I said “We are going to do ____ and appreciate it”. I think that means there isn’t an option, hahah. Ok, if they don’t want to go on a walk, they don’t have to…it’s just strongly encouraged. Hopefully by then the cleaning strike will be over and the only thing on the ground will be fallen leaves! A girl can dream!

I am so grateful to be celebrating Thanksgiving here in Spain and I cannot wait to share all of my favorite things with the people who have become my family here in Madrid! I hope they are just as excited as I am!! Have you begun planning your Thanksgiving? Have I left out anything important?


Does everyone have their rubbers?

Does everyone have their rubbers?

I am not a professor or even, a teacher!

Ok, I admit it. I am not a professor or teacher (although my elementary school kids do call me “profe/teacher”). I am prancing around Europe pretending that I am a fancy schmancy English professor but it’s all lies. I work at a public bilingual elementary school in Madrid, Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversacion or a North American Language and Culture Assistant, they mean the same thing. They mean that I am an assistant to the teacher. I bring my “fancy schmancy” American English accent and my knowledge of the United States of America to work and that pretty much prepares me for what I have to do on a daily basis. I don’t write lesson plans unless it’s for a something special like a holiday (Halloween, Thanksgivng) and I don’t teach the class by myself. Alright, alright. So you aren’t preparing classes or in the class by yourself, you aren’t teaching alone and you aren’t in charge of any kids…

That has to be pretty easy then, right?

In comparison to other jobs, not gonna lie, you should be pretty jealous. However, one thing that I have learned about my job is that we are teaching British English to the kids. No, the kids don’t ask me if I want “a spot of tea” on a daily basis, but they do throw their “rubbish” in the “bin” instead of throwing their “garbage” in the “garbage can” and things of that nature. That being said, I have learned a lot in the last couple months.

Mostly, I have learned that I have been taught lies my whole life.

First of all I’ve learned the date. Today is: weekday, day of month, 2013.

It’s Tuesday, 12th of November, 2013. Not to be confused with Tuesday, November 12th, 2013. Also, you must add the word “of”, if not, you’re very much wrong because today can not be and never will be “Tuesday, 12, November, 2013”, nor will it be the “12st of November”, trust me, the options are endless with the combinations of these words. Don’t let them fool you. There is only one right answer and in Spain it’s not, Tuesday, November 12th, 2013.

It’s Autumn, not Fall.

If you ask one of my first graders what the season is, they will tell you, “The season is Autumn”, in the cutest british/american/spanish accent they can muster up and although you may hate that they don’t know the word Fall, you will appreciate that they understood the question.


Also, the temperature outside is 48 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun is shining. For my first graders, that means it’s: sunny and COLD.

What? Since when is 48 degrees cold? is this because Madrid is the capital of the country and if Madrileños say 48 degrees is cold, then it must be cold, right? All I know is that these kids would be freezing if they were in the Midwest today, 19 degrees and snowing, now THAT’S cold!IMG_0691

So, these kids are learning all sorts of fun things (the weather, the date, etc), do they pay attention? What are Spanish kids like at school?

Pay attention? We’re talking about 6-year-old here. All I know is that they love their rubbers, their pencil sharpeners and really anything inside of their pencil cases.

I think one day, a girl spent an entire one hour class period sharpening all of her crayons. Another day a different girl spent a 45 minute class period erasing. Just…erasing. Why didn’t the teacher stop them? I don’t know. Sometimes things just happen, and if a kid is quiet and peaceful while sharpening all of her crayons, why not leave her to it? I think that must be the mentality at least.

Lets talk about the contents of pencil cases.If you have a pencil case, you are basically set to spend the whole day playing with your school supplies, why? Because it’s fun.

First, there are no erasers in Spain. You must “rub it out” with your “rubber”. Yes, Teachers do tell kids to “rub it out”, it’s a British thing.


Also, a hard days work may include sharpening all of your crayons and pencils.


Oh no! The teacher caught a kid playing with school supplies. What happens? Do they get sent to the Principals office? Nope, no principal. They have to go stand by a green dot on the wall.IMG_0710

Or if they were talking, they may be sent to the corner with a mask…


Later on, the kid may have to pee. They will ask,”May I go to the toilet please?”. They don’t mean to be rude by asking for the toilet, they would like the restroom, which just so happens to be where the toilet is located.


So, the kids have talked about the date and the weather, they’ve played with their school supplies and then asked to go to the bathroom. Where does the learning come in?

Here, with Max and Susie! Max and Susie are two British characters that are full of all sorts of fun phrases and songs. Phrases include, “What’s this?”, “It’s a ball”, “These are pencils”, etc. Songs include, “I can sing a rainbow” or “Days of the Week”. My life pretty much revolves around Max and Susie while I am working. Our goal as auxiliares is to get all of our kids to remember and understand all of Max and Susie’s fun phrases and songs!

Is this Tiny Ted? Yes, it is! Phew, mystery solved.
This specific exercise is meant to focus on “Is this your____?” “Yes it is” or “No it isn’t”


Now, what sort of grammatical things are taught to first graders? They are taught many things, but let me tell you about some things they are taught incorrectly.

They are taught to say, “My favorite toy is THE ______” instead of saying, “My favorite toy is A/AN _____” or “My favorite toy is MY _____”

The teachers are very tough about the kids using the word “THE” when stating their favorite toy. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert but if a kid said “my favorite toy is my bike”, I would be happy. Even if they said “My favorite toy is an iPad”, it makes sense. What doesn’t have the correct sound for me is when a child says, “My favorite toy is the car.” I suppose in a book somewhere (in England), it must say that’s correct, it just doesn’t sound right spoken!


Another thing they are strict about, when there is an apostrophe (they call it a “stroke”), the letters that are separated CANNOT touch.

Please notice the minuscule space between the letters. This is real life. I definitely need to go and re-write everything I have ever hand written apparently, because I haven’t put a space between the letters that were divided by the apostrophe!


What is your teaching experience like? Have many things surprised/confused/shocked you? Have you had the same experiences that I have had?


Em pa dro na mi en to. Do re mi fa so la ti do, so do?

Em pa dro na mi en to. Do re mi fa so la ti do, so do?

I live in Madrid, why do I have to prove it? and how?

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Yes, I live in Madrid. Yes, I work in Madrid. Now, I just have to prove it to the Ayuntamiento with some simple paperwork. If I am able to prove that I live here, I will get a certificate of empadronamiento! But wait, what is the Ayuntamiento anyways and why do they want me to have a certificate of empadronamiento? Why would I tell them that I live in Madrid if I don’t? this paperwork is seeming a little unnecessary. Well, the ayuntamiento is a part of the Spanish government of course, and I have read that it can be translated as town hall. The certificate of empadronamiento states that you are living here in Madrid, simply put, they are counting us. They don’t care if you are legal or not, they just want to know if you are living here.

Then you ask yourself, “wait, am I even empadronada (or whatever the equivalent would be) with my town hall in the states?”

The answer,”no idea, but, wait?! I have to go to a Spanish town hall? Where people want me to fill out paperwork in Spanish? and then later use this paperwork for something really important (my TIE) that I also don’t fully understand?” This is crazy! So, how do I prove to them that I really am living in my piso in Madrid? Well, you can prove it with qualifying paperwork! Perfect! You will get the Padrón Municipal (Alta por cambio de residencia desde otro municipal)Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 2.17.09 PM

Wait, I don’t have any of the qualifying paperwork.

In my particular situation I don’t have a rental contract, I don’t have fixed bills in my name, none of my roommates are empadronado in Madrid (they are from other parts of spain). Please note how this says “today persona que viva en España está obliged…”…I am not 100% fluent in Spanish but I am pretty sure that means that everyone is obligated to do this.  However, my Spanish roommates have not done this, and that’s a whole different issue. Anyways, you get the idea. I basically looked at all of the documentation that qualified and said, well, I guess that is the end to my time abroad, should just start packing now. I legitimately don’t have any of this qualifying paperwork.

Well, well, “qualifying” paperwork here in Spain is arbitrary my friend.

So you are telling me that this paperwork may or may not be necessary depending on the specific ayuntamiento I go to or the government worker that I talk to? Yes, yes I am. So, go through the list of documentación and check out what you need. You may or may not have it. Even if you don’t have all or any of the paperwork, make yourself an appointment.

Making an appointment

Make your appointment at any ayuntamiento online, here.
The ayuntamiento that you have the appointment at DOES NOT have to be in the same barrio that you will be empadronado in!
For example: I went to the ayuntamiento in Chamberí for the appointment but I am actually empadronada in Ciudad Lineal. Really, wherever you can find an open appointment is great. So, choose a location that has an available appointment on the day you want to go.

Here is a list of the documentation that you need to bring to your appointment:

English version from the AngloINFO Madrid page:

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Spanish from the Spanish governments website:
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I believe the most important part is the “documento que acredite el uso de la vivienda”…that is the “proof of address”, the rental contract, fixed bill, deed, copy of leaseholders DNI, etc. This is where my stress kicked in. Woahhhh, I don’t have any of those documents. When I went to the appointment, I didn’t actually bring in a “document” that would have been the “proof of address”, I didn’t have one. I just brought a friend. If you don’t have proof of address, you can just bring in whoever you live with or whoever you want. I think as long as the address on their DNI matches the address that you put on your solicitud de empadronamiento, it will be fine.

Here is a list of ALL the paperwork that I brought in to my appointment:

1. Tramite – Solicitud de Empadronamiento (the form!)
2. Passport + 1 copy
3. A Spanish boy who signed my solicitud de empadronamiento.

Wait, seriously? Yes.

How did that qualify you? No idea.

Either way, I am now empadronada in Madrid, and I will use this piece of paper for my NIE appointment! The address that I am empadronada at will be the same address that I use for my NIE paperwork, Also, if they ask you if you want two copies of your empadronamiento, say yes! Because you will give one of the copies up at your NIE appointment! It doesn’t hurt to have two originals!

Was it this easy for you to get your empadronamiento? Tell me about your experience!



Hiking: Sierra de Guadarrama

Hiking: Sierra de Guadarrama

You like nature? I like nature!

Let’s be honest, by saying “I like nature” I mean that I like to go outside in favorable conditions with a picnic lunch and a map. I also like going to the lake, drinking beers on the boat and later cooking s’mores by the campfire. So, given that information, you may be able to guess what kind of hikes I like to go on. My idea of a hike is a stroll through a prairie or a walk on the bike path along the Rock River. I live in the Midwest. There are hardly any hills and definitely no mountains. So, yeah, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I decided to invite my friends to hike through the Sierra de Guadarrama.

Did I mention this was the morning after Halloween?


Yes, I was a soccer ball for Halloween and my sister was a soccer player. Why? because we love sports I guess. Anyways, I woke up and said “let’s go hiking!”. I think my sisters response was, “are you serious?”. I googled “hiking in Madrid” and found some directions as to how to get to Cercedilla (about an hour north of the city center).

This is a great last minute day trip! Busses are hourly and convenient!

Before we left, we went to the grocery store and got spanish bread, lomo, queso, chips, fruit and water. I made us each a bocadillo of lomo and queso and packed our bags and we headed for the mountains! The one thing that we forgot was dramamine. The bus ride up was a little rough, we were grateful for the 24-hour pharmacy right by the bus stop.

Things you definitely should bring for your hike:

Water (you can never have enough!)
Coat (be prepared to take it on and off!)
Comfortable shoes
Dramamine (for the bus ride!)
Cash: for bus tickets, food (that you forgot at home), or dramamine (if your sister gets motion sickness)

Things to keep in mind:

Time of sunset (it’s dangerous to hike in the dark no matter where you are)
Temperature (be prepared to be sweating but cold!)
Weather (don’t go if there is a blizzard or rain, please)
The hour of the last bus/cercanías to leave for the city center (it’s normally around 10 p.m. so shouldn’t be an issue)
There is a 24-hour pharmacy by the cercanías station
There are hostels and restaurants near the cercanías station, too!

Cercedilla, your door to Sierra de Guadarrama

You can take the Cercanías from Atocha, Nuevos Ministerios or Chamartín or take bus 684 from Moncloa to get to Cercedilla which will drop you about a 30 minute walk from hiking trails. The bus and cercanías both drop off at the same spot, the cercanías station. We took bus 684 from Moncloa to Cercedilla. Within the Intercambiador de Moncloa it was really easy to find where we needed to go, bus 684 leaves from Isla 2 (Yellow), Dársena 20. Also, if you get motion sickness I would suggest taking a dramamine before getting on the bus.

Bus 684 from Moncloa to Cercedilla was one hour and cost €5,10 each way!


Where to go once you arrive at the bus stop in Cercedilla? Up. Up forever.

You walk up the road (nn the same road that the bus drops you off, the road that is outside of the cercanías station) to head towards hiking trails. If you feel that you are not going up then you are going the wrong way. You will walk up for 30 minutes or so on a sidewalk along the road until you get to an information station. The person who works at the information station will give you a map and tell you to choose your own adventure! Whichever you choose, be sure that you make your way to the mirador, you won’t regret it!

Choose wisely, my friend.


We decided to follow the blue dots, to the orange dots until we got to the mirador and then on the way down we took yellow to blue and made it to our bus stop about 20 minutes before the bus got there! It was VERY VERY easy to stay on the trail and the views were perfect!



Be sure to stop to take photos, your butt will be grateful!


Once you reach the road, you know you are close to the mirador!


Looking out from the mirador as the sun begins to set



“Afila Siete Picos en la sombra su aguda dentellada” from the book Geografía es Amor by J. Garcia Nieto. You will find this poetic rock and some of his friends at the top of the mountain near the mirador. If you take the yellow trail to the blue on the way down, be careful not to slip on rocks! Also, if you happen to be heading down the mountain around sunset, the view will be outstanding.

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The hike that we did took around four hours. We made it to 2,000 meters and hiked around 10km.

I am not sure exactly how long it took going up or down, I am going to guess that it was about 30 minutes up until we got to information then about 2 hours to the mirador, then an hour and a half down from the mirador until we reached the bus stop outside of the Cercanías station. If I was watching the clock during that hike I probably wouldn’t have made it!

Have you gone hiking in the mountains outside of Madrid? Which trail did you take? How long was your hike?


Alternative Creative Youth Home: Ronda de la Universitat 17, Barcelona, España

Alternative Creative Youth Home: Ronda de la Universitat 17, Barcelona, España

You want to stay at a hostel while in Barcelona? I did!

Try the Alternative Creative Youth Home.

Yes, the name of the hostel almost made me a little bit nervous. Does it make you nervous too?

Let’s be honest, the words “alternative and creative” mixed with “youth home” makes me think of 17 and 18 year olds partying. Plus, my sister who has never stayed at a hostel before was pretty sure we were staying at a center for troubled adolescents. Apparently we don’t get out much.

However, the price was right so I went on and read the reviews on Hostel World.

The reviews were phenomenal and the hostel lived up to the reviews.Let me share with you some highlights of the hostel.

It is very easy to find

We took the Aerobus from the airport to Plaza Catalunya (The last stop on the Aerobus). The bus dropped us off at the plaza and the street “Ronda Universitat” across the plaza to the right. Basically if you could walk through the two fountains from the bus you would arrive to Ronda Universitat. If you find yourself in the center of the plaza (because hey, you just arrived to Barcelona and Plaza Catalunya looks like a perfect photo op), situate yourself facing the two big fountains, with El Corte Ingles on the right, take a picture of your friend in front of the fountains and then go to the left towards La Caixa and you’ll find Ronda Universitat. Walk all the way down Ronda Universitat. Number 17 is on the right (its a huge door, is NOT labeled as hostel, you press the gold button to ring to the hostel).

Go left when facing these fountains to get to Ronda Universitat!
Go left when facing these fountains to get to Ronda Universitat!


It is in a great location, here are some very accessible things:

1. Plaza Catlunya which includes Metro Catalunya (L3). The green line that Catalunya is on can take you to the funicular (to have a view of Barcelona from the sky), barrio Poble Sec (for some great tapas) and to the Magic Fountain (to see the light show.

2. Metro Universitat (L2). The purple line that leads to the Sagrada Familia. After the Sagrada Familia you can walk to Park Güell…good luck…it’s up…and up some more.

3. The famous “La Rambla”, obviously for taking pictures, browsing the trinkets and looking at the people who are dressed up. La Rambla also leads to the beach!


The beds were comfortable with good blankets

I have slept on many uncomfortable beds while living in Europe and these beds turned out to be relatively great. I was surprised that I got a decent nights sleep. On the reviews on hostel world a few people did complain about the beds, maybe those people who thought these beds were bad have had great luck with hostel beds in the past, for me, these beds were great!


Great WIFI & Apple computers

The WIFI has great signal and there are three FAST computers for communal use! I never had to wait for a computer and the computers had fast internet connection and they were just plain fast. I love updated technology! In reference to the WIFI, it could be that this hostel is kind of small, so the WIFI reaches everywhere, but I was very happy that my phone never had to search for the WIFI and it didn’t lose the signal either! **I wasn’t in the hostel often and didn’t use WIFI for long periods of time, so I am not sure how great it would be for long periods of use**


It has a kitchen and a fridge!

Cook yourself some food!

Fabulous staff

The staff were very friendly and helpful. They have advice for just about anything you need. Plus I think about a million brochures and maps in the hostel to give you even more help. If you need anything from them, just ask.


Now, I know I can’t always be positive so let me share some downfalls of the hostel.

No breakfast included
Rooms are cramped with no sunlight (even during the day)!
Bathrooms aren’t the cleanest, but I have seen way worse!
Lockers are outside of the room…the room is too small to have lockers inside!


Give up passport as collateral for the locker key. Yikes! I don’t stay at many hostels but this is the only place I have had to do this. Made me very uneasy.

These downfalls are honestly not that bad. Just somethings that I noticed, they didn’t bother me too much but still noticeable. It would have been nice to have even a basic breakfast, some sunlight in the room during the day (or just some fresh air), and I wouldn’t have minded locking up my own passport instead of trusting it with the staff.

Hope this review helps you when you are in search of a hostel in Barcelona!

Safe Travels,


Pintan Tapas: Galileo 38, Madrid

Pintan Tapas: Galileo 38, Madrid

Come one, come all…

Welcome, welcome, to my first tapas bar review. I have been putting off bar reviews since I arrived in Spain. Before I get into my review, I want to talk about the basics of what makes a tapas bar great for me.

First and most important criteria for a good bar is the bartender


I need a friendly bartender. Don’t we all? Ok, I don’t need to pour out my deepest darkest secrets but I do need someone who will chat with me when there aren’t many customers. If my bartender isn’t friendly then when I come in for a caña…or five…on a lonley, cold winter evening, who will console me? (This is where people tell me that I need to make friends) This is all hypothetical, but you never know. I can’t set myself up with “favorite” bars where I can’t even have a nice conversation with the bartender.

Second and sort of third most important things are prices and food!

Well, a really really important part of a tapas bar are the tapas. Obviously. With that said, prices and food really have to be relative. i.e., a caña that is over €2,50, I am probably going to expect a pretty decent tapa to go along with it. No delicious tapa, no deal. Also, with that said for €1, I can deal with potato chips and green olives. However, if the bartender is so nice and the tapa isn’t that great, I probably won’t hate the place.

Third and last criteria for a good bar is location

Location? The thing is, if a bar is in a good location they will get constant foot traffic. I hate this because then they don’t have to have fabulous tapas or fabulous service because new people walk by daily and will walk in. Anyways, I have found that the bars that are the easiest to find, often don’t have great prices or great tapas. The best bars aren’t always the really busy ones on the busiest streets. Thus begins my search for lesser known bars in Madrid that live up to good food and good customer service!

Now, this officially brings me to my review of Pintan Tapas on Galileo 38, Madrid


My roommate and I wanted to go to bar Sierra for lunch but it was closed. Bar Sierra is our “go to” bar even though the bartenders are what my roommate likes to call, “antipaticos”. So, we had to go in search of a different bar for lunch. We searched high and low, ok ok, we only went into two bars to read the menus before we came across Pintan Tapas.

First thoughts, “hamburguesa + patatas”, alright, I suppose we can give it a try. So we went inside and there was only one other customer there. Made me a little nervous because it was Spanish lunchtime and where were all the people? We checked out the menu a little closer, decided it looked good, sat down and then started chatting with the bartender.

Ahhhhh, he chats back. He is winning us over already.


So, being that he was willing to chat with me, I had a few questions. I found out that he is left “sin vasos” (without cups) on any given weekend night and he told us that this bar just opened two months ago. Seems like they are doing pretty well for themselves. While chatting, I am checking the place out. Very green. I asked what color it was before, he said it was beige. Then he said something about green meaning nature and I threw in that green also means money. The other person who was in the bar added that she is going to paint her walls green, it was a joke. I hope. Either way, the green is cheery. I like it. pintantapas2

So, after a few minutes of chatting we ordered. The menu is written on various chalkboards throughout the bar and it changes whenever they change it.pintantapas4

The bartender also said that everything they make is fresh, nothing frozen, so they definitely don’t have a microwave! We ordered patatas bravas (homemade brava sauce), magro estofado (sort of italian beef) and a sandwich mixta con huevo (ham and cheese sandwich with egg).

Patatas Bravas (Potatoes with Brava Sauce)
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Magro Estofado (Italian beef, sort of)
Sandwich mixta con huevo (Ham and cheese sandwich with an egg...egg in a basket?! awesome!)
Sandwich mixta con huevo (Ham and cheese sandwich with an egg…egg in a basket?! awesome!)

Everything we ordered was fabulous! The bartender also told us that “tapas caseras” (homemade tapas) come with all drinks! A caña in this bar is €2,20. While we were in the bar, a couple came in and ordered two glasses of wine. They each received a slice of tortilla de patata. The tapa wasn’t big. But here they are going for quality over quantity and it is definitely working for them!

At last, the bartender gave me the rest of my ragro estrofado in a “tupper” and we got the bill.

The total was €11,70.

Nice! For the potatoes, meat (with bread on the side), a sandwich and a coca-cola. I think that was a pretty fabulous price and to be honest, one of the best bars I have been to since I have been living in Madrid. I hope to return here very soon!

Have you been to Pintan Tapas? Did you have the same experience here? What do you think makes a good tapas bar?