Monday, June 30, 2014

Leaving and Starting Over


Even though I am leaving on a bit of a bitter note, I can't even pretend for a second that I didn't learn anything about myself or have some great experiences. So, I need to talk about some things I learned. If you have a problem with anything I post, go read the section on ethnocentrism in my first post.

A big thing I learned was how little language has to do with communication. Language has nothing to do with communication. Yes, it's easier to express certain things, like sarcasm and feeling, in your own language, through words, but it's not important. Even to this bookworm, who is always romanced by poetic sentences and dreams. People who I haven't been able to converse with have left an impact on me. Like the girl at Starbucks that always says "Que tal, Brittany?" and "Gracias, guapa!" We haven't said much else to each other, but she has been a friend. And then there is the lady who gave me a bandaid on the metro. That was sweet. And, of course, there are always the sleazy men who yell "Hola guapa" while I am walking down Gran Via. With no makeup. And sweatpants. Ah Spain. 

Another thing I learned was how important it is to be comfortable in your own skin. Americans aren't. Americans place too much emphasis on body and what you look like and fitting in, Although I have never been one for fashion and march by the beat of my own drum (I have style, but it's my style. Not Vogue style), I feel the pressures of this. Here, it is like that with clothing. I mean, I have to dress nice to go to the grocery store or else I will get weird looks (and hola guapa'd at). But certain things make me realize that it's important to be comfortable and, if you are, no one cares. I'm not so worried about my body type here. I'm not worried about my tattoos showing or that my arms aren't as toned as I would like them. I simply am myself. 

The most important thing I learned was to feel without care; to let myself be emotional. I've always been an emotional person, though I have always been good at hiding those emotions and expressing them in my poetry. But, really, if that episode from Glee is going to make you cry, then go ahead and cry. Tell the people you care about that you care about them or it will blow up in your face. Tell your friends that you miss them. Be open about feelings. This is something I am still working on, but it is a lesson I have learned. 

Starting Over

I wish jobs would be handed to me. I wish someone would come up to me and say "You are Brittany. You lived in Spain for a year. You used to be president of Sigma Tau Delta. You are a literature BAMF who can spin references like crazy. You can quote more Broadway songs than Idina Menzel. You make amazing margaritas. Here's a job for you." But it hasn't happened yet and there is a 97% chance that it won't (yes, I am that optimistic). 

All I know for sure is I don't want to go back to my hometown. I want to go to Oregon. Is that weird? I guess so. When I was a kid, I would beg my parents to move somewhere far away (they didn't...). As much as I love going home, I cannot stay there. I can already envision myself getting comfortable and settling down in Northern California and that is the most terrifying thing in the world. 

Right now, I am pushing for Ashland, which is also known as the land of almost no jobs unless you are an aspiring-actor-actress who is waitressing in your free time. Ya. It's weird, I know. Once upon a time, Chico was the place I walked into and felt like I belonged. Although Chico still feels that way from time to time, I experienced the same thing when I went to Ashland. I belong there. I love the beauty. 

Roseville and Chico don't hold much for me right now, I'm sorry to say. They scare me more than anything. And I just spent a year in a country where I don't speak the language. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Future

After many cups of coffee, bars of chocolate, glasses of wine, and walks through the park, I have decided I couldn't put writing this blog off any longer. I am leaving Spain. It is time for me to go back to the states and figure something out.

I will continue writing this blog, hopefully more frequently, about my life and my adventures in the work force. For right now, I am unsure, unemployed and the most lost I have ever been. It's the scariest, greatest thing I have ever done in my life. The past few weeks have been filled with many job searches, applications, tears, goodbyes, alcohol, and, of course, Broadway music.

My song list has looked something like this:

  1. "What Do You Do With A BA in English/It Sucks To Be Me" - Avenue Q 
  2. "I'm the Greatest Star" - Funny Girl - Glee Version (Lea Michele)
  3. "I See The Future" - The Fix  
  4. "I am Damaged" - Heathers
  5. "Sante Fe" - Rent
  6. "Confidence" - The Sound of Music
  7. "Without You" - Rent
  8. "Anything You Can Do" - Annie Get Your Gun
  9. "Dentist" - Little Shop of Horrors
  10. "Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch Is Dead" - Glee - Barbara Streisand version
  11. The entirety of The Book of Mormon soundtrack
  12. "I Have Confidence" - The Sound of Music
  13. "Til There Was You" - The Music Man - The Beatles version
And the job search will hopefully end with the classic: "Don't Rain On My Parade" - Funny Girl

So, as you can see from that list, it's been quite an emotional roller coaster of a few weeks, ranging from sadness, to optimism, to flat out funny. 

This will probably be the last post I write in Spain.

It has been a great year. In the memory of my first post, I will write my excitements/fears of going back home.

Five Things I Am Excited About:

1) Getting to see my friends and family! This is the longest I have ever been away from them and I miss each and every one of them each and every single day.

2) People smiling at you. I miss making eye contact with people and having them smile at you. People smiling will be a much welcome thing about home.

3) Food. Brussels Sprouts. Good margaritas. Goldfish. Homemade cookies. Chicken and dumplings. Panda Express.

4) Going to my favorite places. Like the theater. And Barnes and Noble.

5) Being in a place where I don't have to worry about leaving. I am legal in the states. And I don't have to have a job just for that. 

Bonus excitement: DRYERS! I hate hanging my clothes.

Five Things I am Nervous About:

1) Not having a job!!! I have never not had a job. I've thought about it. I have had some sort of job since I was 15 and a half. Or at least something lined up. This exciting and scary all at once. Job hunting is tough. This is where Brian's part in "It Sucks to Be Me" from Avenue Q comes in handy...

2) Driving. I don't want to drive. I've been spoiled with all of this walking. It's great to never have to think "I can't have another glass of wine because I have to drive." I am going to miss public transport. And I am not looking forward to the traffic.

3) Moving back in with my parents in my hometown. Thankfully I have the best parents. Even still, this is something that is quite difficult for a 23-year-old. It almost feels like I'm admitting "I can't make it on my own" even though I have been and I know I can and that has nothing to do with why I am moving in with them.

4) American Ignorance. Not that Spaniards are less ignorant, but being a foreigner opens eyes. I don't want to go back and have the damn NorCal conservatives rub off on me....

5) Okay, I know I said this one, but JOBS!!!!!!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post. Keep reading for my post-grad adventures.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

There's Really No Way To Reach Me, 'Cause I'm Already Gone...

If you are curious about the title, it comes from a song by The Fray titled Vienna that I absolutely love. And considering this blog post is about Vienna, it seemed very fitting. This post will also talk about airports and future plans.

But, first, I want to say that after a few complaints, I reread Love Story. I still stand by my opinion. First of all, Jenny Cavilleri wasn't even 21 when she married Oliver. He's mean to her and he hides the fact that she has cancer from her. SHE DIDN'T GET TO GO TO PARIS. She always wanted to see Paris. And, when she is dying, she tells Ollie something like "Screw Paris" but I know she doesn't mean it. He knows she doesn't mean it. But she keeps him from apologizing because "love means never having to say your sorry" and whatnot. 

Now, with that said, I did start bawling my eyes out in the Zurich airport when I reread this, but I think that's more because of how prevalent cancer is in my family than anything else. Cancer is stupid. That is one opinion that no one can even attempt to change my mind on. 

Okay, so, down to business....

Airports and Airplanes

1) The Madrid Airport - Terminals 1, 2, and 3 are awful things. They are depressing and have very little choices for food and such. Terminal 4 is a much better thing. I had a cronut in terminal 4 for crying out loud. At an airport. In terminal 2, I had coffee and a sandwich that cost me 9 euros, which I consider expensive for Madrid.

But my flight from Madrid terminal 2 to Zurich was awesome. My view from Madrid to Zurich was epic. Here is a view of what I am pretty sure is the Pyrenees mountains. You know those flights where you look out the window and all you can see are clouds? Well, that happened on this flight, except you could see the tips of mountains peeking into the clouds. It was incredible and it made me feel like the scene in The Great Gatsby when Jay Gatsby when he is describing all of his trips with Dan Cody to Nick Carraway.....not sure why, it just did.

I flew Swiss, so, chocolate and a pastry! They gave me a slice of lemon cake.

2) The Zurich Airport - I've been here many times now. It's pretty, but it's expensive. It is a very clean airport and that's nice. A coffee and a salad here cost me the equivalent of 17 US dollars, which was ridiculous. But necessary. 

My layover ended up being longer than expected on this trip because of storms and such, which led me to discover that when flights are worried about turbulance, they will not serve hot drinks. So, no coffee for me. Also, this flight gave me a bagel with a square of butter on the inside. Not quite as appetizing as the lemon cake, but, hey, free chocolate still.

3) The Vienna Airport - I didn't spend enough time here to have any real opinion on it, but I remember coffee being a reasonable price. 

The really nice thing about this place was that I was able to check into my flight from the train station in Vienna. I didn't have to deal with it at the airport. Convenient.

4) The Munich Airport - also known as my favorite airport that I have ever been in. First of all, they had an amazing stationary store. Second, they had FREE coffee. You read that right. Free coffee, tea, hot chocolate, beverages, etc. So, I had a lot of free coffee. Also, for 15 euros an hour, you could rent a little room with a bed and a desk that is in the middle of the terminal. My layover was short, but this would be a great place to be if you needed a short little nap while your devices charged on the desk. 

Both airlines I flew with to and from Vienna were great (Swiss and Lufthansa) and I would recommend them.


Vienna was an epic time. I went there to visit a friend that I hadn't seen since high school and to visit the beautiful city. It's great having friends in awesome cities. I owe a lot to this guy. I am very grateful both to have gotten to see Vienna and to have reconnected with someone I'm not sure I would have seen again otherwise. 

Vienna. Hands down one of the most outwardly beautiful cities that I have ever been to. Hands down the most beautiful library that I have ever seen. The library was at one point owned by the Hapsburgs (my favorite European dynasty) and I am just enchanted by it. Here's a picture:

Schönbrunn palace and the palace gardens were beautiful. I didn't actually go into the palace, but I went to the cafe at the palace and got to see strudel being made (and got to taste it of course). I was trying to wait for the rain to pass. Then I went to the gardens and they were so amazing!

Some things from the gardens:

The Neptune Fountain

A duplicate of a Roman Ruin

This Awesome Statue that unfortunately had no plaque (look at the woman's face. Doesn't it just make you want to write a poem?)

The Gloriette

Amazing Views of Vienna

It was by far one of the most beautiful gardens I had ever been in. Lots of fantastic statues and such. But my favorite statues of the day come from just outside the Hapsburg palace. I think these ones are just so worthy of poetry. The way the stone has settled adds so much character and expression to them, it just amazes me. Of course, my pictures can't do it justice.

They had some gorgeous cathedrals as well, including this one, St. Stephan's Cathedral:

I spent a lot of time just wandering the streets of Vienna as well. I found a street named Kollergasse, which was awesome. My grandmother's maiden name was Koller, so, I had to snap a photo of that one for all of my family in New York and Switzerland:

I got to wander through the Prader and the amusement park. I took a photo of the Riesenrad, the iconic Viennese Ferris Wheel:

I also got to ride the tallest amusement swing in the world and saw an amazing view of Vienna that way:

And, of course, I took a photo of the Hundertwasserhaus, the most photographed building in Austria (and one of the most unique buildings that I have seen):

Vienna was great and it is definitely worth a visit. I was also, surprisingly, underbudget for my trip, so, that was good. It's always good to have more money at the end of the weekend than you thought you would. 

Future Plans

I have officially booked a flight home to California for the summer. I will be spending two and a half months there, which I have mixed feelings about. But I have epic times planned and I am starting to get excited about that. I will return to Spain in September and hopefully write more blog posts than I do now, but who knows. I might try to write one or two while I am in California about reverse culture shock and whatot. 

So, look out and keep checking for new posts.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

For Jenny Cavilleri, a letter

You know, because I can write letters to fictitious people... Don't worry, it's about future travel plans...

Dear Jenny,

I am not sure that you got to live the life you wanted to and, at times, I think it is my personal responsibility to fix that and live for you.

Although I think you ended up happy and in love, I feel this pang of regret every time I think of how you must have felt at the end of your story. I think you did what you felt was right for you at the time, but I'd like to think you would have wanted more.

You see, when I thought about what I was going to do after graduation, I was in a situation similar to the time when you were about to graduate college. I was beautiful and brilliant. I loved Mozart and Bach. I loved the Beatles. And I loved a boy. But I had dreams that were bigger than that. The difference between you and me was I chose my dreams. 

You see, my plan was always to stay home. See Europe on some future trip. But something drew me to revisit your life. At the end of it, all I could think about was "Jenny never got to go to France. She never got to. She never achieved her dreams. AND SHE GRADUATED, LIKE, 4 YEARS AGO NOW." 

Sure, Oliver was a great guy in some aspects, but there were times when I felt like you weren't happy. You regretted your decision. He never did - he was head over heels for you - but you didn't feel quite the same way, did you?

One of the big reasons I came to Europe was because it upset me that you never had the chance to go. You missed out on your scholarship to study in France. You missed Europe.

Now that I am in Europe, I am starting to realize that I am missing out on things. And you are one of the women who taught me life was too short, so, I can't waste my time anymore. I can't miss out on Europe any more than I have. 

So, this weekend, I am going to Austria. Next, I am hopefully going to Italy. And the weekend after? I am going to France. For your sake. Because, Jenny, you never got to go to France. And that still upsets me to this day.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Poetry on the Brain

Alternate titles include: Nothing to do with Spain, Reminiscing, Ill-fated and Star-Crossed...

But I will say one thing about my life in Spain. Some guy was angry that he missed the bus and threw a rock through the windshield, causing everyone on the bus (including me) to be late to work and fear for our lives for a minute. It was the craziest thing that has ever happened to me. 

Alright, so, today is the last day of National Poetry Month in America. THIS IS MY FAVORITE MONTH. And while I was sick, I decided to play "What is this document?" while getting rid of old Microsoft Word files. I don't get rid of anything in Word and have a slough of poems, short stories, character sketches, etc. So, basically, opening any document on Word is a trip down Memory Lane for me. 

I opened one document titled Milton Bradley Poems - poems about a crush I used to have. (I can't explain my mind or weird references). Now, I did a bit of research for this blog post. The nickname for this crush of mine came from the board game designer Milton Bradley. Before an hour ago, I didn't even know there was a baseball player with the same name. Also, before an hour ago, I didn't actually know anything about the game designer, so, I took the time to educate myself. 

He gained some success by printing advertising for Lincoln's campaign. He then created "The Checkered Game of Life," which was the springboard for the still popular "Game of Life." Back then, it looked something like this:

But with more squares. These days, there are spaces like "Get a Flat Tire. Lose a Turn." (I may be making that one up, I can't actually remember...) Back when Bradley invented it, there were bad vices and things on it such as gambling. I'm not sure how to play, but you had to collect 100 points in order to win the game. 

Enough about random history, let's get back to my Milton Bradley. Like I said, this was a boy I had a crush on and, therefore, the subject of a number of poems including a sestina, which I will share with you.

But, first, a bit of background on this crush. I sat next to this girl in one of my classes who knew him and one day she came to class and was like "I ran into [him] at the gym. And then he was talking about this really cool girl he'd met. And then I realized it was the girl I sat next to in English!!" Before that moment, the girl didn't even know I knew him. And to a teenage girl, the fact that a boy you think is cute talked about you at the gym is some of the most exciting news in the world. Him and I became sort of friends throughout the years, but nothing beyond casual flirtations and cute moments. 

This poem is for the Milton Bradley.

It's a sestina, in traditional sestina form and I have played around with it a little bit since I found it in the word document. Not the best, definitely feelings of a teenage girl (at this point in my life, I'm like, "Wow, looking back, I didn't think I felt so strongly...." ) but I like it and wanted to post a poem for National Poetry Month. 

Working title: Mercutio

We watched the sky for hours
as our hearts tempted fate
and we fell carelessly in love,
wandering through life
not knowing our watched stars
had pain in store for us.

We never meant to be an us.
in those first significant hours
we just sat in the light of the stars
thinking we were exempt from their fate.
Exempt from the human-ness of life
and safe from the pains of love.

But it turned into love.
And, horribly, turned to an "us"-
-a "we," ampersanded in life.
We whispered nothings to pass hours
and pretended not to be ill-fated
but rather crossed by stars.

My hand in yours watching stars
made me feel more wildly in love
wondering if meeting you was fate
wanting to be more of an "us"
watching for seconds, minutes, hours
wondering if I could be lucky in life.

But I wasn't lucky in life,
was I? Day broke and the stars  
faded, breaking my heart. Within hours
of my be-all, end-all love
I half-heartedly watched us
crumble and give up faith in fate.

Before you, I didn't believe in fate
but now I live a different life.
I hate that there won't be an us
as I sit and watch the stars,
alone, wondering about future love,
hoping next time for more than hours,

but if it's only hours aligned in my fate,
then I hope for more loves in this life
than stars that stretch the miles between us. 

Milton Bradley, if you are reading this and you know who you are, smile because you were such a good friend of mine. Even though we weren't close, you were always there for me, even when the going got rough. I used to love our conversations about obscure music and sharing earbuds with you to listen to music and just our conversations about everything. I also loved later when you used to ask "How is what's his name doing?" when you knew perfectly well what my then boyfriend's name was. I liked that a boy I was dating could make you jealous. Also, thanks for always keeping on my toes and calling me out on my bullshit. 

If the girl who sat next to me in that English class is reading this, come on, it's not like you didn't know. I'm pretty sure you and I have had conversations in which all we talked about is that the Milton Bradley was sooo hoooot, as teenage girls are known to do.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bed-ridden, Medicine-induced Blog Post, or, My Parent's Visit

Hey guys! I write to you from the land fo sinus infections/respiratory infections/bacteria. It's not that exciting here. My life hasn't been super exciting lately, which is a big reason for the lack of blog posts. All I have been doing for the past few weeks is listening to the "Book of Mormon" soundtrack (and "Rent," "Avenue Q," which segued into "Dreamgirls" and "Jersey Boys" and now I am on a 60s Motown (mostly The Temptations) and a Dusty Springfield, Lesley Gore, The Shangri-Las, women of the 60s kick). Although I did make a trip to Valenica - blog post to come - and, oh, ya, MY PARENTS VISITED. So, since my mind isn't at its greatest, this blog post will mostly be pictures of their visit and my brief (or wordy, probably wordy) explanations.

Templo de Debod - I may have another picture of this somewhere else in my blog. Sorry about that, I think this sight is absolutely marvelous and I took my parents here for the sunset. It was absolutely beautiful. Another day, my father and I went back and I took him inside the temple. It was quite interesting. If you are wondering, this temple is 2200 years old and was donated to Spain from Egypt because Spain helped efforts to preserve the temples in Nubia. It's been in Madrid since 1968.

Madrid's Palace (Palacio Real) - A marvelous building! I got to do this one with both my parents and they both enjoyed it. It might be one of my favorite tours I took while they were here. Mostly because there wasn't over 1100 paintings like in the monastery in El Escorial. I like art and have a modest appreciation of it, but 1100 is too much...

The Cathedral of Segovia - it actually has a much longer name than that, but, as it is Segovia's most famous cathedral, it does get called Catedral de Segovia. It has a bunch of beautiful chapels and a wonderful courtyard and the outside is lovely too.

A candid photo of my lovely parents outside of the Castle in Segovia. Aren't they cute?

And a posed photo of them - still a beautfiul couple, huh? With such beautiful kids...

And here is my mom and I outside the castle. Beautiful place, beautiful town, even after three visits. I cannot get enough of Segovia!!

Every time I go to Segovia, I have to get cochinilla - roast, suckling pig (sorry, Andrew). Mostly because whenever I go to Segovia, I usually go with someone who has never been before. They ususally give me a cut of meat rom the center and nothing that actually resembles a body part. As morbid as it makes me, I was quite excited to be served an arm... It was also some of the best cochinilla I have ever had - although I haven't had much....

The beautiful Avila. Almost the entire city has these walls around it. I don't quite know the correct history behind that, but I remember it being interesting, so, I encourage all of you to use a good search engine (I recommend google) and search the history. It was to protect them from enemies in medieval times, but I don't remember which enemies or who was ruling or anything. Beautiful place though.

Entrance to the walled part of the city. 

Another view of the walls. Just because they are so interesting and beautiful and history (even if I don't exactly know what that history is...).

Another photo of my parents inside the cathedral. My mother has a look of "if you are actually taking a picture of us right now, I'm going to kill you..." She (obviously) didn't though. I think my father was in the middle of asking me what I was doing.

The viewpoint from which you can see the entire walled part of the city.

Here is a "selfie" (ough, I hate that word, but I sure take enough of them) of my father and I on the Madrid City Bus Tour. My mother was unfortunately sick that day, but I promised her photos. And seeing that I already have quite a lot of Madrid, I took a photo of us for her instead.

Last, but not least....

We went to a restaurant fittingly titled "Van Gogh" to celebrate my sister's birthday. My sister couldn't be with us last week because of her stupid important movie industry job (which is really awesome and not stupid at all....Proud of you, Jess!), but it was still important to me that we did something for her birthday. So, we got carrot cake! Happy Birthday, Jess!!!

This post has been written while on a few anti-biotics and without spell-check. I apologize for the mistakes this may have caused.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ich will in die Schweiz leben

I love Switzerland. I love everything about it. My incredible family, the amazing sights, the calm country side, etc. I feel I owe it to a lot of people (okay, my mom - haha) to write an entry about my experiences there. 

My last trip to Switzerland was during early March. I got to see my family and I did a lot of awesome things.

My Aunt Arlette and Uncle Walter picked me up at the airport and took me to the oldest house in Dietikon where we had a traditional Swiss dinner. Apparently, my great grandmother used to take my mother to the bakery there. They told me all sorts of memories of it. I love stories like that.
The dinner was to die for!
And we had whole conversations in German, which was really good for me. 

One day, my family took me up to Mount Rigi. It's considered the "pre-Alps" and it is absolutely beautiful. It was covered in snow and this girl had the wrong shoes, so, she fell on her ass, but it was beautiful.
We took a boat on the lake (Lake Lucerne) to the bottom of the mountain before we took a tram to the top. I felt like I had the cover of the Sound of Music in my background and all I needed was Julie Andrews singing (yes, I know that was a different country) and it would have been perfect.

Then I took a tram to the top and caught this lovely view:

And here is my lovely family:

Zurich is called the "Little Big City" and that's exactly how I feel it is - at least how I feel after living in a big city... I got to go around the lake with a boat and see some great things like the Großmünster.

I also saw so many clock towers, which reminded me of my mother and her love of clocks, which made me think that her love of clocks derived from her love of Switzerland. 
I got to see more great members of my family:

They told me a lot of cool things about Zurich including a lot of interesting legends. I really liked the legend about the women who saved Zurich. Basically, the men of the town were off fighting in wars and the women had heard that they woud be attacked, so, they dressed up in armor and stood at the wall of Zurich to scare the upcoming attackers away. Although it's a legend, there is a wall there and I got to see it!
Then I went to the bookstore and I got a copy of The Great Gatsby in German! I am currently making my way through it in Spanish and trying to collect it in as many languages as I can. They also had a seperate English bookstore that was two stories high! This book lover got her fix after months of going through intense withdrawals.

Dinner in Dietikon at Wintergarten
I got to spend some great, relaxing time with other members of my family and got to practice my German some more. They made fun of my love of Brussels sprouts (favorite vegetable!) and my hatred of bananas (hate 'em!!!!!). I got to translate a bunch of German proverbs that came on the cookies wrappers from when we ordered tea and cookies. It was great just spending time with family!

Fassnacht (Carnival)
I got to go to Fassnacht in Basel and it was one of the most epic events I have ever been to in my life. I've never experienced anything quite like it. The Basel parade was quite different than the one in Madrid (a different post for a different day). 
I wasn't sure what to expect at first. People in costume. Kids throwing confetti. 
Then the parade began.
And it was madness. 
It started with peoplein obnoxious witch masks playing the piccolo. They were followed by a float of a book! A book! A BOOK! I believe the purpose of the book was to start the story of Fassnacht. At least, I think it follows a story... Either way, it was a book. Fassnacht knew the way to my heart!

And then people on the floats started throwing candy and confetti and such. Some guy on one of the floats was pointing me out and he ended up giving me a stuffed heart while saying things in really fast German that I didn't quite get. Either way, this is the guy:

Let's hope he looks better without the mask....
Then I got a lot of chocolate and flowers and papers and chips and confetti and flyers and confetti and confetti.
And confetti.
Some costumed man actually came up to me, pulled my shirt out and shoved confetti down my shirt, while my family stood by and snapped photos. It made me consider the "space bubbles" we have (especially me haha) that don't seem to exist in Europe. Why does America have such space bubbles? But, yes, confetti down my shirt, in my bra, etc.
My dad would have loved all of the confetti. It made me miss the hay fights my dad and I used to get into. He would be happy to know that confetti is even harder to get out of your clothes than hay. It's been three weeks since I was there and there is still some confetti in my shoes and purse despite my attempts to shake it all out. And it was nearly impossible to get out of my hair. 
So much fun. 
This is what I looked like after about the first 1/4 of the parade (just imagine what I looked like at the end):

And after Fassnacht was over, this is what the ground looked like:

It was just piles and piles of confetti!!

After that, I got to spend a bit more quality time with my family. And then I had to return home to Madrid and work and real life, which I will update you about in a blog post coming soon!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dreams and Struggles

The time has come to start thinking about the future. And by future, I mean where I will be four months from now. WIll I be staying in Spain? Will I be moving on to new adventures? Will I go work somewhere? Will I go back to school?

I thought about all of these things. And then something hit me. I have a dream and I just need to go for it. I want to help people, specifically people who are going through a hard time with mental illness. 

I have a special places in my heart for things like The Butterfly Project, NAMI, and TWLOHA. One of the best moments of my life was getting to meet Jamie Tworkowski, founder of TWLOHA.

So, I decided that if my dream is to help people, what am I waiting for? I just shot an email off to TWLOHA inquiring about jobs in July. As much as I love Spain, I would take a job with that company in a heartbeat. Or any company that would allow me to pursue something I am so passionate about.

This thought and this posst couldn't have come at a more perfect time. This Saturday, March 1, is National Self-Harm Awareness Day (in America). I encourage all of you who self-harm to reach out for help. I encourage all of you that know someone who does to let them know you care. And I encourage everyone to write (or tattoo :P) the word "Love" on your arms. I know that I will. 

Also, everyone stop what you are doing. Stop. And go do something that will lead you in the direction of your dreams.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Education Rants

I work with many teachers at this school. I love them all for different reasons. They are all great teachers in their own way and they are all so different from one another. And none of them is Kim Jaxon....

Teacher 1: JM Barrie - I cannot praise this teacher's teaching skills highly enough. He's awesome. Students love and respect him. His lessons are very captivating. He is capable of making every student feel smart. He has incredible patience with the children. Today, Jean Valjean knocked over some kids backpack and kicked it when JM Barrie told him to pick it up. JM Barrie told him to repeat the motion of picking the backpack up until he could do so in a mannerly fashion. It literally went something like this. "Put the backpack on the floor and pick it up again." The girl would lay her backpack on the floor and Jean Valjean would kick the air and pick it up. "Okay, you're going to do it three more times. Lay the backpack back down. He'd kick the air and pick the backpack up. On the 7th time "Okay, you are going to do it three more times, and if you keep doing it like that, you are going to go talk to the Principal." He never raised his voice. Not even once. 

In class, he makes every moment a moment where life lessons can be learned. He rewards the students and he makes learning feel like magic. He hardly ever loses his temper. He encourages their imagination by telling them to invent answers. He makes every single kid in there feel smart and he makes his class a safe environment. I do not know a single kid in that class who would be afraid to speak because their classmates might make fun of them, or they might say something wrong. He treats it as a true learning environment where everyone can improve. Because of that, he has their respect, they respect each other and they respect every individual that walks into their classroom. Seriously, he can leave me alone with the students and they will not say a word while he is gone. They will all work on the assignment he has asked them to do unless they have a question or something. And it's not like I would get them in trouble if they did. (Okay, so, maybe I'm biased. They are my favorite class.)

The downside to JM Barrie. He's overly ambitious. Like OVERLY. But it's because he wants every single one of them to succeed. He cares far too much. When I walk into the classroom, he has everything planned down to the second. "Okay, we have a half hour. Do you think you can grade all thirty paragraphs, file three sets of exams and talk to seven students?" Okay, that's a bit of a stretch, but, you get the picture. 

Also, there was one time he let a child get away with plagiarism. PLAGIARISM. One of the only education sins I am fully against. The kids had to write paragraphs about food and a kid copied word for word out of their science book. I recognized it and immediately showed it to JM Barrie, who pretty much dismissed it. "It's good he knew what the topic was about and I doubt he would remember the wording during an exam, but if he did I'd be impressed. He's a good student though, so, write 'Good Job' at the top or something." I'm pretty sure that's almost word for word what he said.

Teacher 2: Elphaba - I love Elphaba. She truly is the misunderstood green lady who just wanted her shoes back because she was upset about her sister's death. Or something like that. But, like the character Elphaba, she has a reputation. Unlike the character, Gregory Maguire has not written a story about her to defend her honor. 

Elphaba also cares too much. She wants her students to be the best and they are. But they are also afraid of her. Maybe she subscribes to the theory that fear motivates them. 

A few of her students had to stay at lunch the other day to finish art projects and they were in the English room with me. They were speaking Spanish even though I kept reminding them that art was a subject they did in English. They didn't listen. Then I asked "What would happen if Elphaba were to walk by and hear you speak Spanish?" I didn't hear a word of Spanish the rest of the time.

Elphaba likes to yell. She likes when kids are wrong because she can go on a half hour tangent to show the person with wrong answer why they were wrong. Yes, she uses this as a learning opportunity, but she uses it to bitch rant. 

One time, a kid was five minutes late to class and she asked him why he was late. He mumbled something that we couldn't hear and she spent fifteen minutes yelling at him to speak up while he stood there crying. "The examiners won't be interested in you crying, they will be interested in hearing you!!!!!!!!" After 15 minutes, I asked if I could say something. I told him how to use his diaphragm. Then she wanted me to teach the whole class. Then we practiced. The English class turned into an acting class for the day with an impromptu performance of Three Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. It ended up being a lot of fun and even the crying kid was laughing hysterically by the end.

Elphaba loves that kind of stuff. She doesn't like actual lessons. She likes looking for unique ways for the kids to learn English and I really appreciate her for that. She has a lot of faith and pushes them to work really hard. She has them write poems and tell stories and do silly games. Her problem is her intensity, but she never means any harm. 

Okay, well, I will let this entry end here because I feel like it's getting too long and especially ranty. So, my apologies, but I hope you enjoyed the read!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cute Stories to Brighten Your Day

Sometimes they say really cute things. Spanish children use the words "got die" for kill and I honestly can't take them seriously when they say things like that. Sometimes they say things that just make you want to adopt them as your own. I have a few stories like that from this week.

First one involves Jean Valjean (I swear these literary names are NOT completely random and make sense when I choose them in my head). This kid can be trouble sometimes. And distracts his classmates. But he just does it because he likes to have fun and enjoy life. He never means any harm. 

Anyway, today in class, Elphaba was subbing and she was trying to get all of the kid's attentions by making them imagine creating a life on the moon. She asked them questions, like, "What would you want them to build on the moon?" To which they answered things like "A swimming pool with floating water!" "A park!" ("Without real trees of course because those need Oxygen!") "An amusement park with floating rides!" You know, perfectly acceptable answers for 9-year-olds imagining a life on the moon.

She then asked the question "What would be the first thing you would do on the moon?" Jean Valjean raised his hand and she called on him. "Read a book." Elphaba looked at him. "If you were visiting the moon and you could do anything including swim in a pool with floating water, you would read a book?!" He shook his head yes. 

I swear I did not pay this kid to say this, despite what people may think. I mean, maybe this kid didn't know how to say any other activities in English, but I prefer to think he would truly want to read a book. I love hearing that other people love to read and it was just a heartwarming moment!

Next story for you is about my third grade. The main teacher, Miss Clavel, was out for the day and the teacher from next store came into the classroom and said something in rapid fire Spanish to which I replied "No hablo Español. Pérdon." One of my kids translated for us and then she left. 

When she left, they burst out saying in almost perfect unison "YOU DO KNOW SPANISH!" Yes, I just said "I don't speak Spanish. Sorry." and, yes, it was in Spanish, but that is literally pretty much everything I know in Spanish. So, they decided they wanted to teach me Spanish instead of doing their English lesson. "Brittany, repeat 'Hola.'" "Guys, we really have to do phonics." "Repeat, rojo." "No, phonics." Within two minutes, they were calmer and doing their phonics and all was restored, but it was such a cute moment. And it was nice to know that someone had faith in my Spanish skills. Although it's kind of depressing that when they really thought that's all I knew in Spanish they proceeded to teach me "Hello" and "Red." I hope they know I live in Spain.

Last story of their cuteness. One day, there was freetime at the end of one class, so, I told them they could ask me questions in English using "Have you got...?" Their first question: "Have you got a husband?" "No, I haven't." They then got looks on their faces to reword their question. Some kid raised his hand. "Have you got a fiancé?" "No, I haven't." Another hand shot up. "Have you got a boyfriend?" "No, I haven't." The looks on their faces was that of shock and confusion. (I know, sweet kids with a lot of faith in my guy-catching abilities). Then someone let out a sigh of relief and smiled. Her hand went up. "Have you got a wife?" she asked. *facepalm* I told them "No, and I haven't got a girlfriend either. I'm young and sometimes people are just single." At least they are open-minded and still would have accepted me had I said yes I had a wife. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

For My Few Loyal Fans

You want more updates? I'll give you more updates. I can't promise they will be Spain-related, or even life-related, but I will write more. 

So, if you want me to write more then I'm going to write what I want to write about. And I've got books on the brain. 

But, to appease you, I will give you a quick life update. Randolph ran away. Again. And told the teacher it's funny when she's mad. So not true. 

Also, my fourth graders are studying hard and fast for the Trinity exams and they are in the process of preparing their topics. I had to help them with the present perfect category today. It felt like every kid - even the know-it-all that I have exceedingly high expectations of - wants their topic to be pets. Or football. Or family. Or holidays. And then Helen Burns sat down next to me and I asked what her topic was. Her response? "My topic is about how disabled people can participate in sports." (Okay, perhaps her English was a bit more broken than that). Wow, what an impressive topic. What a compassionate person. But then JM Barrie (that's a rant for a different day) had to ruin it by practically pointing out that he thought she had the BEST topic in class. I'm sure some kids thought really hard about their topics. And I'm sure they are equally as passionate about "My favorite band, One Direction" as Helen is about disabled athletes. I generally feel like JM Barrie is the best teacher at the school and has a gift of making all students feel respected and that their voice is heard, but I didn't like that he said that in front of the whole class.

Back to books.

I am taking on the challenge of reading a book set in each of the fifty states this year. I will occasionally be updating my readers with what I am reading and such, but for now I am going to go on a book rant about the books/states I have read so far.

1) Vermont - Dead Poet's Society (novelization by N.H. Kleinbaum (small tree, small tree!)). I must preface this with OMGILOVETHISMOVIESOMUCHANDCANWATCHITAMILLIONTIMES and not just because I think Robert Sean Leonard is a DREAM. And I knew it was a novelization of the film going in so I was already expecting it to be kind of crappy. But it was overly crappy. Overly. And the characterization was SOOOOO BAD! Especially the characterization of Todd Anderson. 

But then I watched the movie, so I will give you this meme:

which led me to this:

I whole-heartedly agree with Oh Captain, My Captain's quote as well as with the quote below. I think they can tie-in together. Or maybe I'm just easily wooed by words.

Also, in reading books set in each state, I am doing research about the states as well. So, an interesting Vermont fact: Rudyard Kipling lived in Vermont. 

2) Indiana - The Fault in Our Stars - John Green - "My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations." Minus the fact that I think that is one of the most brilliant sentences ever written (although, I have a notebook full of the most brilliant sentences ever written and a Donna Tartt tattoo to show my love of brilliant sentences), this book didn't do much for me. Maybe I went into it with too high expectations. This is one of those "everyone is talking about it" books and, really, it just didn't do much. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a heartless person and it did tug at my heartstrings a bit, but it was just predictable and a bit too idealistic for a book about cancer. Ya, I know the ending was sad and yada yada, but I found it oddly idealistic and optimistic. And no 17-year-old boy, even one who has been humbled by cancer, is that romantic. 

I do think John Green is an absolutely brilliant writer, perhaps the best YA writer next to David Levithan and Markus Zusak and Tim Tharp, but I don't think this book deserves the credit it does. Book after book, John Green displays excellent characterization and unique ways of expressing thigs, and this book was no exception, but I just don't feel like it was up to par with, let's say, Looking for Alaska.

Also, I am curious to see the movie adaptation of the book. I think Shailene Woodley is a fantastic, underrated star who has an interesting year ahead of her. And the preview looked surprisingly good.

And they make such a cute couple!! Although I have to say, I pictured Augustus to be a lot more outwarldy handsome. Ansel Elgert is soo adorable in an adorable way, not an Augustus Waters way.

Interesting Indiana Fact: There are none.

Just kidding, Scott and all my Indianian fans.

The Saturday Evening Post is published in Indiana.

Interesting Shailene Woodley fact: She attended the same high school as my ex-boyfriend. Also, we're soul sisters or something - both of us had to experience part of teenage life in a backbrace.

3) Louisiana - Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris - Exactly what you would expect from the novel that inspired True Blood, but with less sex. And written very modestly. Definitely entertaining, but the entire True Blood, Sookie Stackhouse, Southern Vampire Mysteries Franchise seems to be epically entertaining. I plan on reading more of these books after I finish all of my other states. Not necessarily intelligent reading, but fun reading.

Also, I'm pretty sure that Stephanie Meyer stole a lot of ideas from Charlaine Harris and used them for powers of evil. I'm so sorry, Charlaine.

While we are on Sookie Stackhouse, I think Anna Paquin is pretty kickass. While I'm saying this, I want to go on an X-Men tangent. But, don't worry, I won't. I will say that Paquin was an awesome Rogue, especially given the fact that she had to work with an utterly botched story line in The Last Stand.

Also, it's pretty adorable that her and Steven Moyer play each other's love interest on the show and they ended up together in real life, don't ya think?

Interesting Louisiana Fact: Pirates used to hide out in Jean Lafitte. Pirates. 

4) Oklahoma - The Spectacular Now - Tim Tharp - This is the second time I've read this book and I cannot say enough about how much I am in love with this book. Scratch that - how obsessed I am with this book.

Brilliant writing.
Brilliant characters.
Brilliant story.

I'm in love.

First of all, Sutter's philosophy on life is "embrace the weird," which I've contemplated getting tattooed (don't worry Mom, I don't have new tattoos. I do, however, have one less piercing, which I bet makes you happy!) because it's something you just have to do in life.

Plus Ricky spews this fantastic quote (it's in my Facebook favorites for the curious of you) about our need to experience the magic of new things. That quote made me feel incredibly sad about the fact that I grew up.

The first time I read this book, I found myself totally relating to Sutter Keely. This time around, I felt myself relating to Aimee Finnecky. Weird, I know. I guess people do feel differently at different circumstances in their life.

Also, if we take away the very end of the film, they actually did a pretty good job with the adaptation. I said it before, I think Shailene Woodley is fantastic. And even more fantastic, MILES TELLER. After this movie, Rabbit Hole, and Footloose, I think I love him. Okay, yes, I have a Hollywood crush on Miles Teller and I would say a good majority of the world either don't know him or know him as the guy in that crappy Zac Efrom movie (that I sadly want to see because of Miles Teller).

She looks different here than in the other picture, but they make an equally adorable couple. 

And given that they are both in Divergent, I kind of hope something actually happens between these two stars. Although, they cast Miles as Peter, which makes me hesitant to see it. It might ruin my romance with Mr. Teller.

Interesting Oklahoma fact: They disagree with the rest of the world. Their state motto is Labor Omnia Vincit - Labor Conquers All.

5) Nebraska - Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell - Hmm. I can't decide. Did I love it? Did I hate it? Did I like the very last sentence of the book? Is the end different than what I think it is? Did I think Eleanor was a complete bitch throughout the book? Or was I just overly protective about my innocent Park?

I have a lot of mixed-and-undecided feelings about this book. I think I just find it to be unrealistic. Maybe I was too jaded as a teenager, but love isn't like that. Holding hands with someone isn't like that. Kissing someone isn't like that. Hmm, maybe I was just too angsty to really get the feelings like others did, but I found the characters here completely unrelatable (for my ideas on first loves, experiences and such, please read the aforementioned The Spectacular Now and remind yourself that I am usually the non-alcoholic version of Sutter in relationships). Maybe that's it. They were unrelatable. 

I really wanted things in the book to be expanded on too, but oddly, at the end of the book, the biggest question in my mind wasn't what happened to the main characters or anything about them left untied, but rather, I wanted to know more about Steven and Tina, who didn't make up too much of the book. More importantly, I wanted to know about Tina's stepfather and (spoiler alert) how that made her relate to Eleanor and why Steven became accepting of Eleanor after he found out about her stepdad. (end spoiler alert).

Also, I usually have so many highlights in my books of quotes I want to remember or ideas I want to remember or things I need to look up later and here I only had a few, my favorite being "He didn't have bookmark like feelings for her." Although, I love bookmarks. Especially the handmade ones my students make me. And I can't say I have ever received a bookmark from one of my love interests, but I don't think it would upset me.

It is one of the most beautiful, yet simple covers I have ever seen. But my obsession with ampersands might make me a bit biased.

I do have to say, all of the music references, comic references and other references were such a joy and so fantastic. I love nerding out over nerdy things. Also, I liked this quote about the great Stan Lee's X-Men "They're a metaphor for acceptance; they've sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them." Thanks, fictional Park for that one. I can go on and on about how I wanted to be an X-Men as a teenage because of I thought I was different and all that jazz. I was one of those. 

And I have to admit, I nerded out a bit when I found out that having blue eyes is actually a genetic mutation. I'm pretty sure I ran up and down halls screaming "I'm a mutant!"

Interesting Nebraska fact: the author, Rainbow Rowell, is from Nebraska.

Alright, 'til next time!

Thanks for most of my interesting facts.