Archive | January, 2011

Menu del dia (one of the many things I love about Spain)

30 Jan

I know it’s been a little while since my last post, but I thought I’d start back up with a pretty awesome concept to end January: the menu del día.

I know you’re probably thinking, “My high school Spanish class was enough for me to translate that,” and “What could possibly be so great about a menu of the day?” But let me tell you…

The menu del dia can be found at many restaurants and for about 9 euros, you can get a full 3 course meal – drink, dessert and coffee included. (Does the coffee count as a 4th course? possibly.) Could there be a better way to spend a lazy Saturday/Sunday/Monday??

Typically, you can choose from a list of some of the best Andalusian food possible, including some of my favorites: migas, salmorejo, and patatas a la pobre. Before you know it, you’ve been posted up at the restaurant, chatting and eating for nearly 2 hours. Then the only logical thing to do next is to return home for a siesta, or in my case try to walk off some of the olive-oil-soaked food that you just consumed.

My Lesson of the Day: Not only do you get an amazing meal, it’s also quite economical. The large lunch leaves you so full that you save money on dinner.


La carretera de San Anton

19 Jan

There’s really nothing quite like a sleepy Sunday in Jaén. The church bells start early in the morning and the normal street traffic is traded in for deserted sidewalks, dark shop windows and pulled down persianas (a type of heavy blind made from metal). The only hint of life comes from the cafes, overflowing into the street with people. The main concerns become visiting with family and friends over long lunches and lazy siestas into the late afternoon.

But this past Sunday the people of Jaén woke up from their siestas, put on their running shoes and for a little change of pace headed to the streets for the annual San Anton race. The 10 kilometer race happens every January 16th.

Since I’ve returned to Jaén after Christmas, I noticed an increase of people running at the park and through the streets, training for the race. While a lot of people register to run, even more line the streets to cheer on the runners and light the way with torches.

After the race, there were fireworks and every neighborhood hosted a large bonfire with music and even an outdoor bar. If only every Sunday could end like the Sunday of San Anton!

My Lesson of the day: When the race is over, the people stop training. I don’t think I’ve seen a runner since Sunday!

A little trip to the doctor

14 Jan

I woke up feeling a little sick… about 2 weeks ago and I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered. Between all of my traveling and resettling, I’ve really just decided that I don’t have time to be sick. So I chugged some more orange juice, took my medicine and went about my normal routine.

I was a little alarmed last night when my roommate asked me if I wanted her to take me to urgent care.  I laughed at first – it sounded a little too dramatic for me, but it planted a seed. Maybe I really did need to do something about this.

Then I went to school this morning without much of a voice (which is unfortunate because my main purpose and most of my day is spent speaking!). After suffering through half an hour of trying to talk and listening to all my coworkers tell me that I needed to go to the doctor, I caved. But how was I supposed to find a doctor and make an appointment if I didn’t have a voice to talk on the phone?

That’s where my principal came in. Even though he is probably one of the busiest people I have met (being a principal in a school with 1500+ students is not easy) he spent a good part of the hour making phone calls, figuring out where I could go with my insurance and setting me up with a private doctor. I’m so grateful to have had his help or I’d probably still be searching for a doctor!

So anyways, I trekked over to the doctor, but not before going home to get books, some blank postcards, and various other activities to occupy my time because I was sure there was going to be a long wait. There always is with doctors.

However, I showed up 10 minutes early and the doctor herself answered the door to the clinic and ushered me straight back to her office. The appointment took all of five minutes for her decide that I had an infection and to write out a prescription for what I needed.

I was starting to get a little nervous, because I knew that I would have to pay for the visit and then get reimbursed from my insurance. I only had a little money on me, so I already had devised a plan of leaving behind my valuables while I ran to the ATM to take out cash. (Spain still runs almost runs solely on cash.)

Sure enough, she told me they didn’t take credit cards. So I asked the dreaded question: “Cuánto cuesta?” and braced myself for the response.

Trienta,” she responded.

I was shocked! Only 30 euros for the visit! Now I know it wasn’t much of a visit, but how much would that have set me back in the U.S.? I’m sure my co-pay would have been somewhere around the ballpark of 30. And the best part is she told me just to drop by as soon as I’m finished with my antibiotics so she can make sure I’m better — free of charge.

Feeling on cloud 9 (and a little stupid for not having gone to the doctor sooner) I strolled back down to the farmacia, and paid the 13 euros for my two prescriptions.

My biggest shock however came when I got home and opened my antibiotics for my first dose. I’m taking a powdered antibiotics that you mix in water and surprisingly tastes really good! I just hope it works!

My Lesson of the Day: While sometimes the simple things take me a long a time to do here, it feels good when something so complicated goes so smoothly!

Home sweet Jaén

11 Jan

I’m back in Jaén and finally settled back in to the grove of things, with classes beginning today. It was nice to have such a long break and such a great stay in the U.S., but it also feels nice to be back in my own apartment.

The funny thing I’ve noticed in the difference in being in the U.S. and being here in Spain is my stress level. For some reason, the vida española makes me a little more relaxed. In fact, I’m so relaxed I might just go and take a siesta. Now you gotta love that!

My Lesson of the Day: There’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed.

Feliz dia de los tres reyes magos

6 Jan

Happy three kings day!

Did Gaspar, Melchor and Baltazar bring you any gifts last night? That’s alright. I didn’t wake up to any presents in our hostel this morning, but I did get to see the three kings themselves last night here in Madrid.

Yesterday was the Cabalgata, a huge parade dedicated to the three kings. I was expecting it to be a pretty big deal, but I had no idea what we were getting into. Lauren and I headed out to the main street in Madrid around 7 (the parade started at 6:30, but much farther north) and it was a total locura! Many of the streets were closed off due to the huge amounts of people in the street.

We spent most of the parade trying to see over the crowd, which included hundreds of excited kids on their parents shoulder. From what we could see, the actual parade was pretty cool – think Macy’s day parade, but with classical music playing in stead of drum lines. And the big finale was the appearance of the three kings – each with their own float and queen. (I’m not sure where the camels were.)

The big finale happened at Plaza de Cibeles with a speech from Melchor (he’s the one with the grey beard) – with Baltazar and Gaspar by his side – and then an impressive fireworks display set to music.

My Lesson of the Day: The best gift doesn’t come in a box. The best gift is the love and happiness of your family and friends. Or at least that’s what Melchor told me!


Insert foot into mouth

6 Jan

The crowd around the baggage claim in the Madrid airport was slowly thinning out as each family ran up to the circling luggage rack, picked up their belongings and wheeled out to the exit. We all eagerly waited for more bags to come out. There were at least eight of us still circling the luggage band. Safety in numbers, right? There had to be more coming if all of us were still there. Then, our worst fears were confirmed when the sign above switched from “bags arriving from LONDON” to “bags arriving from BRUSSELS”. Our bags were lost.


It all started out about 24 hours ago in the Dayton airport. It was the first of my 4 flights to make it back to Madrid. The attendant came over the intercom to announce good news! Our plane was arriving ahead of schedule, which meant earlier boarding times and a speedy departure. This was the kind of start that I needed for the long day ahead. Until…


The landing gear got messed up. Three hours later, I had rerouted my flight twice and was booking it across the small Dayton airport to the next terminal in order to get to Chicago.


I arrived in Chicago with a little time to spare. However, no one mentioned to me that because I switched my airline in Dayton, I would have to change terminals in Chicago. And what are the odds that the terminal I landed in would have a flight to the same place at the exact same time with the same last two digits in the flight number as the flight I was supposed to be on?


Once again, I found myself booking it across the airport, but this time in Chicago where I must have walked a good 20 to 30 minutes before I got to my gate (which always seems to be the one at the far end of the terminal).


Then it was off to London, where I had to go through another check-in where the guy was baffled at the state of my itinerary, which had somehow been changed three times and had me booked on the same flight twice (thanks Dayton!).  In all the time he spent trying to fix it, I found myself booking it across my third airport for the day to catch a flight. Did I mention that I brought a good 30 lbs. of luggage to carry? I guess I’m sticking to my new years resolution of getting in more workouts!


And that brings me to where I am now: sitting in the Madrid airport, suitcase-less but all the wiser. I used to enjoy flying. I even ENJOYED being in airports. But fool me no more, airports. I now know what a pain you truly are!


My Lesson of the Day: Even though I complain about the traveling, all the hectic travel in the world was worth it to be home for the holidays!