School, lately

When I say that I love my job, I really mean that. There hasn’t been one day that I’ve felt dread about going to “work.” The students are so eager to learn English (and to teach me Spanish), the teachers are so inclusive and are quickly becoming great friends and the village where my school is offers beautiful views of the snow capped mountains, making my commute rather enjoyable.

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Here are some of my recent highlights:

Halloween

Halloween is a new phenomenon over here. I intentionally brought my Mrs. Potato Head costume for this occasion, truly expecting it to be a huge hit. But turns out Mrs. Potato head would have only caused mass confusion. If you ever find yourself celebrating Halloween in Spain, don’t expect to see any rockstars, bunnies, football players, Mrs. Potato Heads… Only the creepy, crawly, scary, traditional Halloween costumes. Lots of little ghosts, mummies, and witches running around… all in strikingly identical costumes probably purchased from the one convenience store in their village.

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The other assistants and I performed a story we created about a ghost that steals candy from black cats and zombies, which actually made a handful of first graders cry.

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Then we broke into smaller groups and I told a story about the Canterville Ghost, while my teacher hid in the corner of the room. When the story finished, she jumped out and scared all the kids, which actually made one fourth grader cry. Maybe Spain isn’t quite ready for Halloween yet… I don’t know.

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Field trip to the mountains

Third and fourth grade got to take a science field trip to a tree conservatory in the mountains. It was a freezing day, sprinkled with snowflakes, but we still managed to learn about trees, take plenty of pictures of cow poop (seriously, why?!) and play lots of games.

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This wasn’t exactly the little yellow school bus I imagined we would take.

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Special guest: THE Pilot Steve!

My dad had three trips to Madrid in November, and on his last trip he sacrificed valuable sleep to visit my school and talk about his job as a pilot.

Sometimes I forget that my dad has a pretty cool job, but these kids quickly reminded me.

We had to walk across the playground during recess to enter the school, and immediately my dad was SWARMED.

“Oh! The father of Erica!”

“Will you autograph my diary?!”

“The father of Erica is so beautiful!”

The principal had to help me pull the kids off of him and we became this rockstar’s body guards for the rest of the day. It was hilarious.

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So Pilot Steve told the kids all about his exciting life, tried to explain why I broke the chain of pilots in the family (great question, kid.), and answered many, many other amusing questions.

Then, this ensued. AUTOGRAPH TIME. Nothing could have prepared him for this. Clothes were ripped, tears were shed, friends were pushed. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We had reached Justin Bieber status, people.

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Tomorrow we will celebrate Thanksgiving and eat a traditional feast… with chicken instead of turkey. All the students had to write just one thing they are thankful for to put on the school’s turkey, and one boy wrote, “I am thankful for Erica and the father of Erica.” It’s the little things like words written on a feather that fill my heart with happiness and affirmation.

Our next big field trip will be in March when the third and fourth grade go SKIING! We drop the kids off with ski instructors and the teachers have a kid-less day of skiing. Ski passes, ski clothes and ski equipment: all free.

This IS the life.

Happiness & Homesickness

“I love Spain!”  “This life rocks!”

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But I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t get just a little homesick for certain things every now and again. Life in Europe is much, much different than life in Texas, and living here makes me realize how much I really love certain things from home.

  • My family, duh. But I’ve been so lucky to have had them visit–my dad three times already!

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  • My friends. COME TO SPAIN ALREADY!

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  • My pups. Ohhhh, Harley and Moe. Every time I see people walking their dogs here, I have a small tear and have to fight this insane urge to tackle the dog and get all up in its face. Our neighbors have the sweetest pup and just hearing its little paws against the tile through our wall melts my heart. No need to call me crazy, I already know.

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  • World Market’s pick six beer deal.
  • Blue Moon. Wahhhh.
  • Chipotle. We are going to Paris next month and guess what… THERE IS A REAL LIFE CHIPOTLE THERE! Forget the Eiffel Tower… I know what our first stop will be.

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  • Fresco’s. Or just Mexican food in general. Spain puts forth a good effort, but the country doesn’t do spicy or queso or good guac. One time, we tried the “best Mexican restaurant in Spain” and paid $10 for guacamole, which turned out to cover about 2.5 chips. Ughh.
  • Target.
  • Driving. It’s a weird feeling to be utterly dependent on public transportation. Oh, and rainy days + no car = probably not leaving the apartment.
  • All the pumpkin things.

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  • A dryer. Because Europe doesn’t believe in dryers, clothes take about three days to fully dry.
  • A microwave, freezer and an oven. Spain has these, our apartment doesn’t.

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  • Chick-fil-a.
  • Free water. At restaurants, water is more expensive than wine or beer.
  • Ice. I’m  beginning to forget what it tastes like.
  • Iced tea. OMG how I miss having a cold glass full of ice while eating lunch. This is another thing I could literally cry about.
  • Hanging out and watching American football.

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  • Feeling confident in a language. Any day now I’ll be a Spanish pro, right?
  • Denton and UNT. Because Denton is getting super cool and UNT is actually winning football games.
  • Having the option to attend friends’ weddings, holiday parties, engagement parties, birthday parties, graduations, etc. I am a very sentimental person and I hate to miss out on this sort of thing.

Maybe it’s the holidays approaching, or maybe this is just what happens after two months living in another country, but one thing I do know for sure is that I’m growing and adapting and changing in ways I never knew needed changing. With a little bit of homesickness comes a whole lot of happiness… and it’s funny to think that in seven months I will have a long list of Spanish things I’m homesick for from the comfort of my Texas.

Santa Lucía Hill, Santiago, Chile

A small fort tucked between busy streets and high walls, Santa Lucía Hill is a Santiago “must-see.”

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From the outside, it didn’t look like much, but once we meandered through the front gates on our second day in Santiago, we encountered a small, new world full of color and humming birds… and who doesn’t love humming birds?

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In the years of the “conquista,” the “fort” was used as a look-out, garnished with canons, winding paths and plenty of places to hide.

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The trees stand tall and the vines fall low, making this “fort” feel more like an oasis.

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Free entry + no crowds = my perfect place to explore.

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As we wandered past the masses of orange flowers, we could hear hummingbirds buzzing around in abundance. I could have snapped photos of these skittish little fellows all afternoon, but our layover was just too short and so my dad politely shooed me along.

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Once we summited the fort, we were presented with a stellar view of Santiago and the snowcapped Andes Mountains.

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I visited Santiago with my dad in late June on a quick layover. Although the season was falling into winter, the weather was perfect. In just two days, I felt as though we conquered everything I wanted to see. For a look at DAY 1 of our brief adventure, click here.

The Sint Maarten Skinny

Year after year at camp, I heard Denis rave about Sint Maarten.

I know you love airplanes, so you absolutely MUST convince your dad to take you there someday!” he told me every year. “Heck, Barbara has never been, so maybe we will join you!”

Well, when one brings up potential travel plans and pairs it with Denis, Barbara and Erica, ideas don’t stay ideas for long.

After three years of hearing about Maho Bay, I finally found myself on an airplane with Denis and Barbara making the journey to Sint Maarten in early January. We managed to fly standby together (!!!) and we even floated right through Miami with no problems whatsoever. Talk about lucky.

I know you non-revenue passengers have my back when I say Miami (and Atlanta) is standby HELL.

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Turns out, it didn’t take much to convince my dad to join us. He was actually scheduled to fly to Sint Maarten the following day. We figured it was perfect timing and this way, we could jump on his flight back home!

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Since I was on college-girl & RA budget, Denis and Barbara were extremely kind and offered to let me crash in their suite at the hotel. It definitely wasn’t a bad deal, as this was the view from our balcony.

With just a short couple of days on the island, we started exploring immediately.

Our ultimate mission was to get to Maho Bay where the famous airplanes land, but we took the long route to get a feel for the island.

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Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for… Maho Bay!

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When I say the airplanes land right over your head, I really mean that.

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Below is the Big Kahuna.  This is one of the biggest planes to land over the beach–Air France’s Air Bus A340 that arrives directly from Paris.

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Obviously, this isn’t the ideal beach to go to for relaxing, but I had no problem  hanging out there all weekend. We stationed ourselves at Sunset Bar and Grill, sipped on fruity drinks and watched the planes land and take off all. day. long.

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The bar updates the arrival times for all the big airlines on a surfboard. They also have a loud speaker that broadcasts the radio transmissions between the pilots and the airport’s control tower.

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Watching the planes land was pretty impressive, but watching them takeoff was a show in itself.

I can’t imagine how much longer people will be allowed to test their fate on Maho Bay, but nevertheless, I loved watching this show unfold with every take off.

You can’t say they didn’t warn you!

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Some thrill seekers willing to receive a face full of sand and jet blast, go right up to the fence, hold on tight and fight to stay grounded.

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The jet blast blows sand everywhere and sends the waves back into the ocean. It’s really intense and quite uncomfortable to be in the midst of.  I personally opted to avoid the fence and beach and sought shelter at the bar.

We watched the sunset and waited and waited for my dad’s arrival time to appear on Sunset’s surfboard.

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Although it was nighttime, watching my dad land his plane right over my head was one of the coolest experiences I have had thus far!

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With just a little time left to watch planes land with my dad the following day, our time in Sint Maarten ended all too soon with one of the worst sunburns I’ve ever experienced. My snowy January skin was not prepared for so much sunshine.

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Denis and Barbara were my perfect travel companions and helped me check this trendy destination off my “traveling list of buckets…” Where are we going next, you guys?!

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