Month: November 2011

Not Mercadona. Merendero

I wish I could insert a sound clip of the Mercadona song. Mercadona is a grocery store close to my house and I really like it. I usually leave singing “mer-ka-dooonaaa, mer-ka-dona.” The words are really easy, clearly.

This photo is not of the one that I go too.

Imagine my luck that almost everything in the world is available on YouTube. feel free to have it stuck in your head forever as well.

This post is actually meant to be about how I spent my Thanksgiving. On Thursday, I went out and ate patatas bravas, and did a video chat with my family for the first time ever! Geeked out! I also failed to mention anything cultural about Thanksgiving at my school’s. Big fail as a language and culture assistant.

Saturday was the belated feast. I kept telling people I was having it at a merendona, or a mercadona? No that’s the supermarket….ehhhh. The word is MERENDERO. It’s a place that is separate from your house/ apartment just for eating and cooking basically. I can’t think of any equivalent, unless your family has a restaurant that only you eat at, and don’t make any money from it.

The merendero we ate at belongs to a friend of our group in the village of Albelda. We had to figure out a carpool, so if you were going to attend you had to make yourself useful and cook something. SHIIZZZZ. It’s not that I can’t cook, It’s just a life choice not to. I jumped in on the conversation when they needed someone to make stuffing.

When I looked up the recipe it seemed easy. I just ripped up some bread like I was at the park feeding pigeons, chopped up some celery and dried apricot like an eight year old using scissors for the first time, sprinkled in herbs of provence for luck, and then poured too much chicken stock over some parts, and zero over others. Here is what happened….

Basically crumbs with herbs of provence. Burnt and soggy live harmoniously.

Let me tell you that I also contributed three loaves of bread, and those got eaten. Boom. Let me also preface the photos by saying that I used to have a stereotype of the word village. I thought if you lived in a “village” you lived in a quaint little hut made of mud and stones. I’m kidding! But I didn’t expect it to be so amazingly beautiful.

The table set for 20

I spy the turkey

looks like my hand was shaking with excitement from looking at all the food.

In front of the fully stocked bar, with coffee/espresso machine. So dope

I should also mention that this dinner started around 11 p.m. It’s not the ideal hour to stuff yourself, but when in Spain! The Spaniards of the group definitely had smaller portions on their plates. I had a great time because I got to eat a lot, and feel American,  and sort of Spanish at the same time.

In other news, I will be taking over a class of 5 adults who are studying English for the first time ever. I met them the other day and I think my Monday nights are going to be a highlight of the week. Just straight hilarity.

We have a holiday coming up here in Spain. The 5th or 6th is off because of the Constitution and the other days have to do with religion or virgins or who knows? Not anybody that I asked.



Milano; more than a posh cookie.

First of all Happy Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for; first and foremost, my family. I’m so thankful for this opportunity that I have to live in Spain and travel. I’m also thankful for this and other such hilarious ecards…

Funny Thanksgiving Ecard: I'm thankful that no one has forced me to completely assimilate to their culture and then celebrated by stealing my land and killing my people.


I’m also thankful that for my birthday last weekend (the big 24) I was able  to go to Milan, Italy. As it turns out, our flight was cheap because it was cold and foggy, but I had an important moment there. It was a moment of clarity, or realization, or something that currently no word can express, and I felt it in every part of my body that I love to travel. You can’t say it any better than “you have to go to know” in my opinion.

The thing is I don’t love the act of traveling; never have and never will; i.e., getting on a bus or a plane and sitting next to a mystery person that could potentially fall asleep on you, smell awful, or god forbid want to speak to you the whole trip. Jet lag sucks, and so does having luggage; especially being lost with luggage (damn madrid metro stairs). But once I throw my suitcase somewhere, and freshen up, AHHH amazing, a new fabulous place to explore.

Some things I noticed about Milan:

1. 85% of the population = top models

2. Pizza and pasta are (the only) food groups

3. Graffiti

4. Because of #2 I don’t understand #1

Now to the iconic images of Milan through my eyes

Cathedral in plaza Duomo

striking a pose in front of the Cathedral

Prada, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Mossimo Dutti, etc.....

Santa Maria de la Grazie - Church of the Last Supper

Courtyard of the church

Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the pasticceria (confections/ cake shop) that took my breath away. It’s called Sugar.  The confections are absolutely gorgeous. It was also where I realized that I loved traveling and being in new places and experiencing new things. I had seen this old woman in there the night we arrived just slamming this cake, and not looking up or caring who saw her. She was my new idol. I knew I had to go back and do the same.

This is sort of how I felt

The man who owned the shop spoke some English and he gave us some (free) bottled water, and then free extra pastries (just to top off the rich chocolate tart I was eating). He also asked us to come back the next day, but unfortunately we were leaving. I was about to quit my program in Spain just to live in a bakery….yikes.

Not from my dream bakery, but still cute

Our final full day we also explored Lake Como (made famous by George Clooney).   There was a funicular, like in Bilbao and San Sebastian and I’m sure other places….(funicular =tram/trolley). It’s close to the Swiss Alps, but unfortunately the fog and cold prevented any kind of wonderful views. There was a church at the top that we decided to wander into, and it was beautiful. I forgot to mention that my camera was dead, so these last two photos were taken by a friend.

scurrying past the altar.

Below is our Milan group on lake Como. I give photo credit of this final picture to an amazing photographer Nicole.

I'm the one that looks like a marshmallow

Even though the only shopping I did in the fashion capital was for a warm hat and gloves, I had a fabulous time in Milan. I wish I had known more Italian, but now I’m inspired to learn and go back.

My students call me guapa all the time (sweethearts), but I wouldn’t mind hearing ciao bella all the time either….


I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.

Although I’m from Chicago and consider myself somewhat of a “city girl” I still like nature. I like going on walks, and I don’t mind bugs (that much), and I don’t consider swimming up to a bar to be an outdoorsy experience.

However, I can’t recall ever really going on a hike- like up a mountain- like…the Pyrenees for example. Honestly, I didn’t even bring gym shoes to Spain. Not super outdoorsy giveaway # 1.

Hiking day one consisted of renting a car with 4 amigos and winding our way up and around the narrow roads of Navarra. We were headed towards a place called Urederra, which is a national park with very beautiful waterfalls. I wore yoga pants, a turtleneck from mango, a leapord scarf, a white fleece from Alcampo (supermarket…) and my leather jacket. Oh and my shoes-pretty orthopedic.

Outfit: heinous Background: forgiveable

So I was NOT prepared, but I really wanted to go and do something special with my weekend. So now- LOOK.

This way to beauty

No artificial coloring

In a "bowl" going up

You just have to go to know

So I survived the hike and we met some nice women from Zaragoza along the way that were kind enough to share their water, salad, sausage, chocolate….everything with us- since all we had was a block of sheep’s cheese that we bought in the parking lot and no knife.  So I think without that I may not have made it.

We wound our way back down the narrow roads, and my friends dropped me off at my place, and I went right to the shoe store a block away from my house and finally bought the gym shoes I’ve been eyeing for a few weeks. Then I was so happy about that purchase that I went and bought a puffy warm vest with a hood. Then I realized my birthday was approaching, and I bought a cute sweater dress at Mango. Woops. Did I mention this was all in preparation for another day of hiking, but this time in the Pyrenees? Minus the dress.

Bright and early the next morning we headed off towards Sallent de Gallego. It’s sort of a ski resort town, about 10k from France. A few hours and a few incorrect roundabouts later we made it and stopped for a hearty lunch before our hike.

I’ll let the photos explain the rest of the journey…

False advertising. No idea where this is exactly, but it was on the way to Sallent de Gallego

Actual arrival in Sallent de Gallego below…

Houses in the village. Perfect

Hiking boots, pssshhhh

I love that pop of color- and a little view of the village below.

I made it! Only slightly puffy ankles (cankles)

Did I mention we were really close to France?

Luckily I had a wonderful hiking buddy- also from Chicago- so we could huff and puff our way up a little more slowly than our expert friends. My legs were sore for the next 3 days, but I loved all of it. I feel like I could even do it again sometime soon. I could do the Camino de Santiago that passes through Logrono If I wanted to, and then walk back to my piso because i’m still not sold on the whole idea of camping. The city girl lives on.

Next post- how this city girl fell in love with another city, Milan.


Teacher Emma

I hope you are all familiar with the book Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. If not, you should read it- seriously you can do it in like 2-3 hours.

He was Teacher Man, and I am Teacher Emma. He taught English, and so do I. He lead the class, and I lead the class- sometimes- and other times I lurk in the front and say nothing. He had a funny accent, and so do I. I’m from Chicaaaaago. I don’t pronounce the T’s in 20, 30, 40 etc. But he was in America, and I of course am in Spain.

The methodology of teaching that I learned in school has not been applicable. Maybe because I work with the little ones instead of High School. And I’m not teaching Spanish (would be absurd). I did think that in an elementary school the teachers would be a little more lovey dovey with little kids. Errrrrrrr, nope.

There is one school and one teacher that I work with that drive me insane. Said teacher does not know some of the students names. Said teacher does not usually know what will happen with the lesson, thus allowing the little snots to get off task and go buck wild for five minutes, and then this teacher yells at the students for five minutes, AND since class NEVER starts on time, there’s about 15 minutes of learning happening from the hour available.

About the whole “time” thing: I’m usually late, but rarely/never in professional situations (jobs, student teaching…).

my life

On my first day of school, which according to my schedule started at 9 a.m, I was almost late. I blame public transportation. I rolled up to the bus stop at 8:57 and rushed towards the school only to see that all the kids were outside waiting in the courtyard. So….I don’t have to run in the classroom sweating and panting as my first impression? Vale.

The bell rings at 9. Now school starts. Oh, but wait, nobody is inside yet. Okay, the kids meander in, run in, fall in, pick their noses in, and push in to the school. It’s 9:07. There are two rooms where the English classes take place. I wasn’t sure which one I’d be in first.

I go wait by one. Dark. Okay, 2nd floor. Dark.

It’s 9:12. Back to the first floor. I look down the hall and there is the teacher I work with getting the kids.

Okay… we’re all in the classroom now. Everyone is bumbling, one girl does the splits. Someone throws their pencil case so that they have to get up and get it (really?). I actually can’t say that High School students were much different.

I have no idea what time it is now, but the teacher is flipping through some books deciding what to do. Then he has me read aloud a bogus story. Almost no one is listening. I can understand why. This lesson is something I probably did day one of student teaching. Learn what sucks, and get creative.

Not in Spain.

Show up when school starts, not before. Leave when it ends, it’s lunch time derrr.

However, not all the teachers I work with stink (literally and figuratively). The rest are fine, and open to my ideas, my height, and my “special accent.” Plus, only once have I seen one of them send a student in the hall with their arms up in the air as punishment. WTF.

It’s different, but i cherish the moments that I hear “Teacherrrrr Emmaa!” and I get a big hug. Plus living in the same city as my students I hear it on the street alllll the time. Like why does that random Spanish child know me? ahhhh I’m Teacher Emma.

Time to make dinner with the roomies. Even the communist boy scout.

When in Spain….

un beso