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Monday, October 31, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: Give of Yourself (La Mariposa Eco-hotel and Spanish School)

The central goal of the Mariposa is to bring as much Western capital (starting with my own) as possible into Nicaragua in order to try and pay back a tiny, an infinitesimally tiny, amount of the debt which the First World owes to the Third World.
~ Paulette Goudge, Owner of La Mariposa Eco-hotel and Spanish School in Nicaragua
 I am a true believer in giving of one's time, money, etc to someone else. I don't consider it giving back because we all need someone or something that we cannot obtain on our own at some point or another in life. While in Spain I will be volunteering with the Red Cross( La Cruz Roja Espanol). As a volunteer I will be promoting health in high schools by teaching mini health seminars. This position is very dear to me because as a career goal, this is one of the components that I would like to include in my future occupation.

In the past year I've volunteered at community health centers in Washington, DC( The Mary's Center and Family Health and Birth Center). Those positions were more than rewarding and I am definitely looking forward to my new position abroad. It will give me an opportunity to gain greater knowledge of the health care system, the dynamics of health services for youth, and the overall attitude about health and wellness that is had here. Not to mention it will give me more time to learn and practice Spanish!

Here are a few good links to start your volunteer vacation search. Make it a rewarding one!
Global Volunteers
Great Source-USA Today Article(2010)
I attended this school!!!-Nicaragua-Volunteer Opoortunities

Masaya Volcano

Relaxing area/Clothes drying area at the School

Outside my Room

Madrid-2nd Day

Woke up super late, left the hotel around 2pm...We had a grand plan that was comprised of a little shopping(yea right!) then taking the Teleferico(cable car) across Madrid to one of the highest points in the city, blah, blah, blah. What we actually did; Shopped for hours in La Puerta del Sol neghborhood, took the train to catch the cable car(we were late, last car left twenty minutes ago...), found an awesome tapas bar, ate and were merry, back to the hotel around midnight-knocked out from exhaustion....

Plaza La Puerta del Sol

Yummy(but greasy) Bacalao Empanandas. Will be back for more!

Finally got my CHAI TEA LATTE!!

Creepiest street performer EVER!

Ground transportation PLUS it's a tour. I have to do this next time!

We got those flowers as a free gift at this cute jewelry shop TIERRA. They also have a location in New York.

Sunset at Casa del Campo(a very nice park).

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Madrid-1st Day

"Can I get a Window Seat? Don't want nobody next me. I just want a ticket out of town to look around."-Window Seat: Erykah Badu

I experienced this quote and so much more during my 48 hours in Madrid this weekend. My international bestie described the trip as an episode of Amazing Race, lol! First Day-here it goes: 

1) Ryan Air-no assigned seats#WTF, 2) My friend and I couldn't find each other for almost two hours in the airport(no cell or internet service), 3) I lost my wallet(found it!), 4) We thought that our tickets hadn't been purchased because we never received a confirmation email!!! So we rushed to venue to buy tickets, only to find out that they were sold out! But were able to get our original tickets by looking up the credit card.... 5) Ran into one of Erykah Badu's band members who we know vaguely-got into the Afterparty, 6) Met many Madrid Auxiliares(people in my English teaching program) and ERYKAH BADU!!, 7) We stayed out til 7am...

Click HERE to see me at the side of the platform while Erykah Badu is spinning!!

On the bus on the way to the concert!!

International bestie! This place had awesome Spinach Croquetas and one free shot for everyone!

A Brazilian/Afro-Hispanic Bar with delicious Empanandas in La Latina neighborhood

Saturday, October 29, 2011

4 hours of Sleep thanks to Erykah Badu in Madrid/Red Bull Academy!

Words can't describe one of the best nights of my life, but I'll just use AH-MAZING!!! We are getting ready to start our four part day: 1. Shopping, Chocolate con Churros, Empanadas de Bacalao-Puerta del Sol, 2. Casa de Campo, 3. Cable car to Parque del Oeste, 4. Vino Tinto and Tapas!

Here is a sneak peek of the evening: Erykah Badu spinning at the Afterparty! Click HERE to see a pic of me at the side of the stage(Click on the center picture to enlarge)-lmao!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Traveling Essentials & Madrid Shopping List

IPOD Touch(love the Skype app. When I have wi-fi, I can use it as a phone! And text with my free text app), a big scarf/pashmina, my fluffy socks(for chilly flights), Tortoise Shell fold-able Raybans, a magazine/book(Spanish Glamour), a large purse, and of course MY CAMERA!

Shopping List:
1. Leopard Scarf
2. Wool Floppy Hat(obsession!!)
3. Chai Tea Mix(Not sure if I can take it back on the plane...)

I can't believe I fit everything in that gold bag(I had to. Stupid low cost airlines bag restrictions-RYAN AIR). Also try VUELING and EASYJET for cheap flights around Europe.

See ya Monday with LOTS of pics!!!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Rainy Day Walk Around Town

Things that are a MUST have here in Santiago during the winter: 1. Rain boots(with fleece boot socks or fur inside), 2. A big, strong umbrella! 3. A bunch of heavy sweaters and cardigans for layering!
Moving on....I really enjoy independently owned bookstores. There's an abundance of them here in Santiago. Here are a few pictures of books I thought looked interesting and ones that I want to buy. I also got my eyebrows done(um, she used tweezers instead of wax... but I really needed them done! And no complaints, she did a good job) and it only costs 2.80euros=less than $5(check the updated Customs post here).

Isabel Allende, very well known Spanish author from Lima, Peru

Yes, those are grapes. They were for everyone!

 My favorite cyber cafe

And the palm trees during a sunny break from the rain!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Find: El Corte Ingles

How do I begin to explain what El Corte Ingles is?? Well let's see, if Super Walmart, Macy's on 5th Ave in NYC, and Ikea decided to join forces, the collaboration would be-El Corte Ingles. This store has four floors and each floor has a side A and B. That's EIGHT sections. I'm a bit ashamed to say but on my first pilgrimage to this store,  my friend and I spend almost three hours on only two floors. But fortunately, we found out that they have a section that sells Desigual, an amazing Spanish clothing brand(I'll have to do an entire blog post about them later). We both chose coats and boots that we plan on buying after we get our first paycheck in three weeks(seems like forever, living on a string...).

Back to El Corte Ingles. They have a grocery store, many different clothing sections, a beauty section, a huge candy kiosk(where I accidentally ate a pork rind, lol! I thought it might have been a fried piece of pulpo-octopus), an electronics section, an appliance section, and SHOE section(where they had an ENTIRE wall of Camper brand shoes: made in Mallorca, Spain-I have several pairs at home). OH! and the grocery store had a bar in it! Fortunately, they had a veggie food section, but the fake meat, tofu choices looked inedible. Ok, I'm officially done. I only took one picture. I was too mesmerized by the entire experience...

Fuel to keep you going during your looooong shopping venture...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Encountering Race, but not Racism

1) I was sitting in the teacher's lounge and two teachers asked me if my hairstyle hurt. Of course I said no and they proceeded to point and smile and said that it looked nice. Then one started to tell me that she has an Ethiopian adopted son. Then she tells me about her neighbor who has a adopted daughter who is also Ethiopian. Here is where the conversation got interesting. She explained to me how curly and dry the little girl's hair was and how it has grown so much since she arrived in Spain. But for the life of her, she and her neighbor couldn't figure out how to make it soft or how to moisturize it. I simply told her to put olive oil on it after she washes it, then blow dry it. Or after it's dry to moisturize her scalp with olive oil every few days. Unfortunately I haven't seen hair products specific to African hair, so olive oil will have to do!

2) Also, one morning my 55 year old Spanish woman roommate asked me, as I was moisturizing my face, "How do people of color keep their skin so young looking?". She said that she knew two people of color who were around 70 years old and had little to no wrinkles! I just told her that it was the melanin and it was natural. What else could I say??

3) Right now my hair(locs) is very curly. I went to a Chino(a discount store-like Dollar Tree-owned by Asians, their(Spanish folk) word-not mine) and had a 10 minute conversation with the cashier about how I made my hair curly, how long would the curls last, and what would happen if I washed it.....Interesting. I'm thinking about writing a book about African hair and having in translated in every European and Asian language! It's crazy to me that we(people of African descent) know EVERYTHING about them(everybody else) but they know close to nothing about us. 

Inspiration Mondays: Free Yourself

Below is a picture of my latest tattoo(shhhhh, don't tell my mom. It's my 7th and she doesn't know yet ;). It's the Spanish word for freedom-LIBERTAD. I got the tattoo a month before embarking on my Spanish living adventure. I think it really embodies the emotions that I've had for the past year or so and how I want to continue living my life-Freely Liberated-to be exact.  I quit my job, put all my things in storage, put my American life on hold, and moved here. I'm 29 years old, no physical attachments, and my sole responsibility is myself. I want to grow and evolve while I'm here and for the rest of my life.

So be inspired this week to Free Yourself. Whether it's just for one moment by reading this blog, praying or meditating, running, affecting the life of someone else by volunteering, listening to your favorite song, shopping ;),  going on a trip, or simply drinking a cup of tea and looking out the window-take some time to yourself and be FREELY LIBERATED

I absolutely LOVE this song! Wale ft. Jazmine Sullivan: World Tour-Let's go!
On my left side, under my arm. It hurt so good ;)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Letter to Self or Maybe to You...

I don't apologize for my life; where I've been and the fact that I don't know exactly where I'm going. Life is to be experienced, lived, and not passed by. What have you seen? What have you contributed to? Have you touched a person, plant, or any living organism today? 

Praise God/the Most High/Mother Earth! 
Each moment spent living is a new chance to start a new beginning.

I'm going where I've never been and learning from what I've already done. These lessons will dictate my future.

My stardust is uniquely different from yours. I'm not you and I will never be.

But I'm free and that's all I ask of ME!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

My first ROAD TRIP!!!! Not driving, DEFINITELY Flying to.....MADRID!!!

My international bestie and I are going to Madrid next weekend. Luckily, our favorite singer, Erykah Badu, is performing the night we get there! Can you tell? I'm sooooooooo EXCITED!!! And granted combined we have seen Badu perform probably 20 times or more in the U.S., but never in Europe!

Hmph, now I have to figure out what to wear and make a short list of must haves to buy while in the capital city!

And just in case you are into fashion, here is a link to thrift stores in a hipster neighborhood in Madrid. I'll verify next week if these are still open and as cool as they are described HERE ;)
And HERE is a more recent article link to a neighborhood with independent designers.

I don't have a list of eateries yet, but I'm definitely going to be searching long, hard, far, and wide for the best little kitschy spots in town!

And if you have never heard Erykah Badu sing, enjoy this:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Los Custumbres/The Customs

There are so many customs that I'm am not accustomed here. This post won't be long and drawn out, just a simple list. But check back often as I will be adding to the list daily, I'm sure.

1. I've seen many people eat fruit(bananas, pears, apples, etc), pizza, fried shrimp-almost everything!- with a knife and fork.
2. When eating out, they do not take their leftover food home. If you don't finish, you leave it there. Most places do not even have to go containers.
3. Only certain places that have caught on to the eat-on-the-go idea have to-go cups for coffee or tea. And these places have clearly marked signs in the windows.
4. Um, this one is personal. I LOOOOVE to eat oatmeal for breakfast in the winter and drink Chai Tea Lattes. I haven't seen Quaker Oats here, only a small bag of oats labeled DIET in the fiber section-scary...
*As for Chai Tea Lattes, I've only seen one place that serves them. Thank God I have an espresso machine in my apartment and I'm going to get some Chai tea mix soon.
5. I swear coffee is the national drink here. Red wine runs a close second. I get crazy stares every time I'm out and ask for tea.
6. The students don't call their teachers, Ms. or Mr. Instead they call them teacher or use their first names.
7. Their isn't a dress code for the teachers. Every day is casual Friday and I love it!
8. Hair Removal Prices: Eyebrows: 2.80euros=$3.90, AND the most surprising- Bikini Wax:3.80euros=$5.29!!! And a full Brazilian is only a few euro more.
**In case you didn't know a Bikini wax or Brazilian in the States is $50! What a wonderful treat here!
9. People go to the grocery store EVERY day. They really like to eat their food fresh, which is a very good thing. But I absolutely ABHOR  going to the grocery store. So of course I've purchased fresh fish TWICE and didn't eat it in 24 hours and it spoiled....note to self: Buy fresh, Eat today!
10. To Tip or not to Tip?? I was definitely confused by this one. I was told by a friend of mine, who travels for work, that most people in Europe don't tip and the service employees don't expect tips. But honestly it felt strange not to tip. All was cleared up by a teacher friend of mine. She said all service employees are paid a salary(sueldo or nomina) and tipping on beauty services is a good idea and rounding up your bill for restaurant visits is the most common thing to do. If you want to leave a tip, 10% is good enough.
11. Pushing & Shoving: This custom does not solely apply to Spain, it applies to the whole of Europe! To get around someone or to get past someone on the train, in a store, or simply walking down the street, everyone pushing their way through. And it's not rude not to say "pardon me" or even "coming through!"-It's something you just have to get used to... 
12. This really doesn't fall under Customs, but it's normal here and annoying to me! No one uses large garbage bags here. And the large trash bins are on the street. Good thing: Your house should never smell like garbage. Bad thing: You waste an enormous amount of plastic and you have to take the garbage out almost everyday-something I absolutely hate to do! 
13. The people of Spain like to conserve ENERGY!!! In just about every public bathroom and apartment building I have been in(and I've polled others...)the light switches are timed(you turn it on, after about a minute or so, maybe up to three, it automatically goes off!). Therefore, if you turn the light on you are liable to be in the dark at any given moment-not an ideal situation if you are using the restroom... Good Idea-Bad Idea
14. Free mini tapas with your drink at the bar. Whether it's in the morning and you are drinking tea or coffee or if it's at night; when drinking at a bar you are offered a pastry or mini tapas (olives, potato chips, sliver of a sandwich or pizza).  
15. Spanish people don't sleep. It's normal to go out at 2:30am and stay out until 5 or 7am. And wake up a few hours later to do whatever...
16. It's very common to eat dinner after 8 or 9pm. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Living the Good Life-"The Cafe/Bar LIfe"

I love how the Cafes and Bars serve beer, wine, liquor, coffee, and tea ALL day long. This is definitely a city where one needs to learn(if they don't know already) how to relax and enjoy life. As one of my fellow colleagues said this evening, "'s a different lifestyle here. In the US we keep working even when we have money to survive, here, they can work, save, chill for awhile, go back and work again. We live to work and they work to live". I can dig it! I really can. Why be preoccupied with things or status when we all are going to end up in the same place at the end? I'm not preaching, because, trust me, I like things and I like to have money to buy my things. BUT, I like to do so with as little stress as possible and I want to do it solely for me not to get to where the next person is.

And for the next 8 months I will enjoy relaxing. Work a little, play a lot! Take naps in the afternoon and play some more!

This restaurant was featured in a NY Times article. I'll do my own review soon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Teaching is FUN and Exhausting!!!

I swear I have a new found respect for all those in the world's population that choose to teach as a profession and especially those who volunteer. Teaching is a job that requires an immense amount of patience, confidence, and an ability to just let go. I have a small amount of all three of those things, but one of my life's goal is to increase my level of patience. I'm also going to learn to not get bored with repetition. I have 10 classes and in one day I repeat the same lesson 3 times( 2 sets of 3 classes that are on the same level). Therefore, if you are reading this and you are a teacher-send me a message, leave a comment, tell me how you do it!

I really enjoy my students and my classes. They are very precious, curious, and eager to learn. Everyone, even if they are in the same class, are on different learning levels, and are excited to help each other.  My first lesson after the initial meeting was to have the students listen to a song in English and read the lyrics while I help them translate. It was an amazing lesson! They thoroughly enjoyed it! After the first listen they began singing along before I asked them too! I'm thinking of having them memorize the words and shoot a music video ;) We'll see how that turns out...I used 'Turn It Up' by Oh Land, a Danish born singer, now residing in Brooklyn, New York. This is off of her second album, Oh Land.

By the way, if you are in Washington, DC she will be performing at The Black Cat, December 9th. Wish I could fly over!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: Get Moving with Free Yoga!

I was inspired last night to get myself in gear and stretch(all this walking has my body feeling extremely stiff). After complaining to a friend of mine, she suggested I check out the many yoga videos on youtube. Sadie Nardini has several good core strengthening and weight loss videos, but because I wanted to wind down I chose the below featured video to stretch and relax before going to bed.
I was very pleased with what I found and am now going to try and add then to my daily morning and evening routines.

Be Inspired!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street occupied Santiago de Compostela

Today the protest around the world hit the capital city of Galicia in Plaza Alameda at 6pm(12 noon EST) and I was there, without a sign, but always with my handy little camera ready to document as much as possible. Enjoy!-Included are pics taken on the way there.

A little taste of Morocco, no?