I heart Rebajas

While Liz was busy talking about how minimalism in your suitcase is a good thing, I was busy roving the stores for bargains, wardrobe staples and a little but of color for my monochrome style.

Yes friends, it’s rebajas time. Hide your wallets.

By Spanish law, shops are required to dump all of their old merchandise onto the sales floor and mark it down, sometimes up to 70%. Little orange or red tags start sticking to the bottom of my soles, popping out of my wallet on spare receipts and then my orange bank card starts acting up.

Thank God my mom raised me to search EVERY item on EVERY sale rack at EVERY store, because I always have the patience to try just one more shop and scour each rack until I am convinced there is nothing else for me.

WAIT these shoes are burgundy and it’s summer and they’re suede and I have zero anything that matches? Sure, toss them in the bag. Oh, sorry, sevillana stink face chick at Mango, for impulse buying them and then deciding against it, hence multiple trips to Nervion Plaza and a whole new wad of shopping bags.

Ok, self-confessed. You get the idea.

I’ve survived Rebajas - which for the record happen in January, February, July and August all over the peninsula - nearly a dozen times. I shudder to think how much money I’ve spent on the garments that have been purchased in that time, even if in the name of bargain basement prices. Hey, I worked in a Banana Republic outlet store and learned some simple stats – the longer it sits on the sale rack, the lower the price goes. This, sadly, is related to the decline in your size (which, in European size, means that all the Mediums and size 40s are loooong gone).

Despite the money spent and the time wasted in line (DIOSSSS the Spaniards love to hacer cola!), I’ve had some pretty memorable finds.

Exhibit A: A flamenco dress for 125€. And the other for 100€. And the third for 60€

Exhibit B: The Mango Blazer I wear like I have nothing else (half-off at 25€)

Exhibit C: My birdcage necklace that I get complimented on constantly and wear with everything (70% off, totaling 7€, not to mention the Cariocca dress marked down from 135€ to 36€ that I bought at the same time)

Exhibit D: a Panasoic Lumix, my faithful companion before NYE in Switzerland, a trip to the toilet and old age did it in, for 129€

Exhibit E: In true rebajas style, three pairs of shoes (including a Franco Sarto) at the Zappos outlet for $71 this summer (it counts because it was a super ganga and it was technically during the tail end of Rebajas in Spain anyway)

Even today, to avoid a long line at Vodafone (where I eventually threw away two hours of my life and never made it to Mango), I shopped. For just under 9€, I got two pairs of underwear and a summer skirt (2€, 3€ and 4€, respectively) at Women’s Secret, along with a pair of loafers (9,99€), a light sweater (8€), a lace shirt I’ve been looking for (not on sale, but only 10€) and a mustard-color skirt (4€) for 32€ at Lefties. Forty for alllll that loot. Call me a rebajas champion.

Or call  me a maximalist, a hoarder or someone who will never have any life savings. I have two-thirds of the closet full of finds, and nothing on my body currently was bought at full-price. I call myself Spain’s only way to fight recession, really.

What did you all find at Rebajas this season, or are you taking Liz’s approach to things and steering clear of the shops? How much do you normally spend at Rebajas? Do you love my super amateur photography?!

Eight Simple Rules for Surviving Your Spanish Apartment

It’s January, time for a new start, or perhaps a new outlook. Or maybe even a new living situation.

When you’re abroad, you undoubtedly expect the best when it comes to language acquisition, looking for new friends and lessening the effects of culture shock. In that way, of course, it was like going to college, just with a little bit more life experience, for me. Being a journalist by college degree, I delved into my research about neighborhoods, pricing and what to not expect in my new casa dulce casa in Spain. But you never know when a few strangers are picked to live in a house, work together to survive convivencia and have their lives changed.

Source http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=es&biw=1280&bih=662&gbv=2&tbm=isch&tbnid=-DgDPVf6W_32AM:&imgrefurl=http://lasorcitroen.wordpress.com/2008/02/06/se-alquila-habitacion-en-el-convento/&docid=y1YCm2btEnq8WM&imgurl=http://lasorcitroen.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/alquiler.jpg&w=300&h=456&ei=pcYiT6yzIqKh0QWp4cigBw&zoom=1&iact=rc&dur=164&sig=116411042950929204419&page=1&tbnh=139&tbnw=91&start=0&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:8,s:0&tx=36&ty=81

In living abroad, one is often faced with questions like, what do you mean there’s no dryer / oven / Walmart nearby? There’s not enough hot water for me to take a shower? What exactly do I do when I spill olive oil all over the floor? Add a language barrier, a mix of personalities (and maybe nationalities) and an ever-present landlord, and convivenciathe art of living together without throwing the compañero off the terraza and hoping he hits all the clothes lines on the way down - becomes ever-important. After three years of a shared piso, four roommates and countless frustrating situations, here are  eight simple rules to help you survive convivencia.

1. Be clear about the conditions from the beginning.

My first roommate is called Erin, and we shared a love for Lite beer, college football and the movie Center Stage. But we were also comm majors, so we learned early on that the easiest way to live with one another was to be able to communicate. When I say be clear from the beginning, I mean to lay down the rules and conditions until your ears bleed.

Some questions to clear up could be:

  • Can I have guests spend the night?
  • What day must the rent be paid by?
  • How will we split utilities?
  • Are we sharing food, just a few communal things, or nothing?
  • What’s your relationship like with the landlord?
  • Is there Internet? How does it work?

When each party is able to understand just how you’ll deal with tricky situation, a roommate who can’t pay, and cleaning, your convivencía will be ten times easier to achieve.

2. Make a chore chart.

It sounds silly, but when you get to a foreign country and are confused by pretty much every label, they help. When in Spain, for example, Mr. Clean doesn’t exist. instead, he’s called Don Limpio, and he can be used for all sorts of stuff in the kitchen and bathroom. Cilit Bang becomes the miracle liquid, and detergent pills are more common than its liquid counterpart. As Hayley points out, there’s a methodology behind the clean floors issue: vacuum, sweep, wipe down. As Spaniards don’t have carpet – at least in the South – you’ll find that cleaning your apartment can sometimes be a drawn-out, hair-pulling sunday morning routine.

Having a chore chart that’s agreed upon by all can be the most helpful way to ensure buena convivencia. I often waged small battles against roommates who didn’t clean or asked me to do it instead. And, when all else fails, you can hire a limpiadora. With the economic crisis rampant in Spain, many unemployed people are offering their cleaning services for as low as 6€/hour. Look on websites like Loquo or even on lampposts for fliers.

3. Communicate openly, especially about money, upkeep and type of contract.

This goes back to laying down the law upfront, and then holding your compañeros to it. If you get a contract, know the conditions (and brush up on your housing vocab) and be clear about how any communal money will be spent. Before moving in with the Novio, I lived in a shared flat with two other girls. The Spanish girl was in charge of handling the money and paying the landlady, so we gave her our rent plus an agreed amount each month. Anything we didn’t spend in utilities was used for cleaning supplies, household items like onions and oil, and the occasional Telepizza for us. Honestly, it worked, and we rarely squabbled about money. Don’t be afraid to confront your roommate if there’s a discrepancy, you need some doubt resolved or you think there’s a better way to do things.

4. Ask for a contract.

I found out the hard way that having a housing contract can be to your advantage if you plan on staying in Spain for more than a year or two. On the negative side, the contract makes you liable for damage to the apartment and to pay each month. When you’re an auxiliar, living in your piso for just eight months while you’re visiting America over the summer could be a hassle, especially if your landlady was not too keen on the idea of having subletters like mine was. On the other hand, having a contract serves as proof of residency, which could be handy if you need an empadronamiento, which is a legal acknowledgment of your residency. I ran into the problem of not having one because my landlady wasn’t paying takes to the government on me, so she outright refused to help me out. The plus side? I left a few months before I said I would and didn’t need to pay the last few months’ rent.

5. Tell your señora you’re not coming for lunch/merienda/dinner.

Call it a personal story (or maybe one I have heard a trillion times), but part of respecting your host family is a simple, Yo, Pepa, I won’t be joining you for another stew made of whatever it is that’s in your fridge. My little old host mom, Aurora, she of Radio María and fish head-eating fame, was never quiet about how much trouble it was for her to find a suitable meal for us. It was the great sequía of 2005 (when all of Spain suffered heat and a drought), and we barely ate a thing. Aurora took this personally and chided us to stuff our bellies. The problem was, I happened to be living with a vegetarian who couldn’t stomach fish, and I myself didn’t eat fish. We had a steady diet of Cola Cao, tomatoes and tortilla de patatas with plenty of cheese and nocilla chocolate (and I swore I lost about six pounds!). Still, Aurora nearly took the Lord’s name in vain when we didn’t turn up for lunch one day, and she’d finally figured out how to turn on the oven to make us pizza.

She just shook her head in disappointment. I realized then that we had become like family to her, and she was hurt that we hadn’t advised her that we chose Pans and Company sandwiches over her culinary delights. If you’re living in someone else’s house, abide by the rules and keep them informed. You may be an adult, but being on an exchange program means they’re also in charge (and many times, invested) in your well-being.

6. Respect the rules and the neighbors.

You may never exchange a word with the little old lady in 3ºD, but don’t go out of your way to piss her off, either. Little ladies in Spain pack a lot of heat, I’m telling you, and they chatter away with one another about you. I found out the hard way during my first few weeks at my apartment in Triana. My friends were visiting from nearby Huelva, and upon leaving the cathedral, ran into a group of minstrels. They day turned into evening turned into we were hammered enough to invite them to my house for a party. We stocked up on cheap whiskey and canapés before the tunos showed up, and transformed my tiny piso into a heathen paradise. I will forever associate the term “sexy bones” with Kait Alley and the 14-year-old we all swooned over.

Soon after, I heard a knock on the door, and ran away on instinct. Alfonso opened the door and told me the cops had come. They let me off with a warning, not the 100€ disorderly house fine. My German roommate begged me not to tell the Spanish one, but she found out soon enough. When I admitted the whole thing to her, she wasn’t too angry but asked me to be more respectful. After all, she’d been living in the building for ages, and instead demanded to know who had used her brush, which was full of long blonde locks.

Other ways to piss off your neighbors is having your shower leak (happened to us), getting locked on your balcony (the lady told me not to drink early in the morning), tanning on your terrace or having all of your guiri friends over Saturday night for a botellón.

7. Don’t settle

If you’re not happy with your living situation or you find something better, just move out. I know, it’s a huge pain in the ass to cart your stuff across town and up a few flights of stairs in the heat, but in the end you may be happier. I was excited to have an acquaintance a mere three minutes away, but not halfway into the year, she was moving out and into the center, where she shared a villa with an eclectic mix and was much, much happier. Offers come and go, so don’t be afraid to look for something that better fits your bill. Most auxiliares or Erasmus students freak out in coming to Spain and having just a few days to adjust to the language, jet lag and sunshine, and then think about trekking all over town to find a place at the height of the season (early September and mid-January, as the student turnover during this time is quite high).

I had a beer with a friend a few weeks ago who told me she’d moved from one neighborhood to another in Seville just recently. Her reasoning was that she was paying too much – although in a great locations with many amenities – to only live in Seville two-three days a week. She now shares a bedroom and pays a fraction of a cost. Be practical – know what you want in your future home, and move on if you can’t get it.

8.  Develop a penchant for beer.

Just trust me on this one. (Ok, I couldn’t think of an eighth rule, either).

People ask me all the time how it was that I came to call Seville home (including International House Hunters!!), and how I went about finding a place to live. There are tons of online sites and placement agencies, but I did all of the work myself. While I can’t say I loved the noise from the nearby soccer pitches or having to take cold showers every now and then, I did survive convivencia, Spanish temperaments and even a weirdo landlord who always came round when I was just stepping out of the shower (FOR REAL). Melissa, Sanne, Eva and Megan will forever be compis, even though it’s been ages since I’ve seen most of them. They may not be my bestest friends, but we dealt with different languages (English was the lingua franca), painting the walls ourselves, a neighbor who always cooked naked, a stampede of Chinese people in the teeny apartment above us, getting locked on the balcony and rockhard beds. And we survived. So much, so, that I now have bedbugs and the boyfriend on the daily. O-freaking-lé.

Tell me your roommate horror stories! Landlord fracasos! About living under a bridge down by the river!

El Tintero – Pescaíto al estilo Subasta

I’ve learned a lot of things in Spain. Just ask Christine. Certainly one of those lessons has been to speak up. As Spaniards are candid about their opinions and not really all that patient, their bar language is a reflection of the gregarious personality that even my six-year-old students display.

And this is why I loved El Tintero, a malagueño restaurant that puts it all to practice.

Chipi! Chipi!

[Read more...]

What to do in Spain if: your phone gets lost or stolen

Ok, so in retrospect, it’s not the worst thing that’s happened to me ever. Or even in Spain. But flu + six-year-olds + stress makes losing a Smartphone way worse than it needs to be.

Think about it: people who have their contacts, photos and all-important Facebook at the touch of a button, a simple tap on a screen, become quite attached. My own love story started in March of last year when I decided to cortar la llamada with Orange, so to speak, and change to Europe’s biggest carrier, Vodafone, to get a Smartphone. I figured it would be handy to be able to Skype my mom from wherever, send tweets whenever I had the urge to and never get lost. And it was.

The greatest love I’ve ever known. That’s sad, right?

Nine months later, I’m struggling through a Thursday at work. The kids won’t behave, and it’s humid and cold out. My wooziness gets full-blown bad around lunchtime. Venga, come have something warm to eat, coax my coworkers, and I hate missing our Thursday standing date at the bar down the street. I check my phone for emails and saw that José María had messaged me. After ordering, I said goodbye to JM and put my phone in the pocket of my jeans.

Not an hour later, I’m back at school when I notice my phone missing. Not panicking (for once), I ask my coworker to call me, and her face drops. It’s off, tía, she responds, and forces me to hand over the class to run down to the bar where we’d eaten. Inquiries to the bar staff, construction workers and other patrons are met with nothing more than shrugs and sympathetic looks. It’s gone.

A few hours later, I’m in the Vodafone store in Nervion staring down a hipster named Miguel Angel. He patiently asks me what I was doing when the robbery occurred, if I have an htc account, etc. I’m dumbfounded (and still fighting a fever) that the sales rep who sold me the phone had not told me about the features built-in to smartphones to locate them, lock them and wipe the memory. I reluctantly hand over my debit card and choose a more rudimentary version of my old phone, 144 € in the hole.

Petty theft is perhaps the most common crime in Spain, so the age-old saying goes: watch your belongings. Don’t set your bag on the ground at a restaurant or keep it open while walking through a crowded plaza. Keep an extra copy of your flight information and passport at your hotel’s reception. Stay alert. I’ve been a victim of robbery twice now, and I can’t say it won’t happen again. But there’s a few things you can do to protect your phone.

Let’s start with the basics. In Spain, there’s a few options when it comes to cell phones. The major companies are Vodafone, Orange and Movistar, with Yoigo quickly becoming more popular. Major supermarket chains also offer discounted plans. I’ve had each of the majors and have never been 100% satisfied with any of them.

Companies typically offer two types of plans: prepago or contrato (pay-as-you-go or contract). Prepay will get you a SIM card, typically with a few euros of saldo (credit), and you’ll have to top-up when your credit gets low. All of the major carriers in Spain have pre-paid cards, and even European-based mobile broadband carriers are becoming popular for those who travel. Calls and messages usually cost more than a contract, which requires a residence card, bank account and 18 months minimum commitment, called permanencia. The benefit here is no pesky trips to the supermarket to get more saldo and reduced prices for calls and messages. What’s more, 3G has reached nearly every corner of the country, so you can Skype home from nearly anywhere (as long as you’re within your MBs, that is).

When switching companies, you’ll have to put in a claim stating that you’d like to change your portabilidad to another carrier. Then starts the war: for a week, your old company will call you and beg for your loyalty, even offering you a discounted iphone 4 or better rates. After a week, your choice carrier will activate your phone ans start charging you. 

V is for very inutil.

Anyway, I digress. When I switched companies last Spring, I was given a deal good for six months – my plan at 24,99 instead of 39,99, plus an htc sense for 75 euros. I took it, gleefully playing around on my phone and downloading apps. I had asked about insurance, and the sales rep joked around with me about how no one would ever think to rob it from a pretty girl, and I looked smart enough to not drop it. Ok, amiguito, but appearances can be deceiving. His flirtatious attitude made me grab my phone and run, and I now regret it.

When Hipster MA asked me how I protected my phone, I kinda just shrugged. “I bought a silicon case at a chino,” I replied, “and I don’t usually drop it.” He shook his head. “No, how do you protect it from thieves? Did you try and locate the phone? Or did you block it? Give me your insurance policy and let’s see how much we can get for you.”

Um, ¿cómo?

I felt like the dummy with a smartphone, and realized I’d broken my normal routine of buying insurance and sending in warrantee guarantees. In the end, I had to pay for a new phone (the plan would have been way overpriced without Internet), but this one has Alcatraz-style safety on it. Here’s some tips to protect your smartphone while in Spain:

Take out a security plan when you purchase the phone

Major companies offer security plans against forced robbery (robo con violencia), water damage, dropped phones, etc. for a premium each month. The 4 euros I pay monthly will just be tacked onto my bill each month, and iphones with Movistar are less than twice that (and those fancy new screens cost a loooot more to replace). When getting a phone, be sure to inquire about how much a plan costs per month, what is covered under the insurance and how to activate it. I also asked for duplicate copies of the plan to be sure I’d read it carefully this time. The charge should also come listed on your monthly factura (bill).

If you’ve got prepago or have a crappy little I’ll-never-break-sucker-no-matter-how-far-you-throw-me Nokia, I wouldn’t waste the money. No one steals those these days, anyway.

Download a phone tracker program

Little did I know that with an online account or app, I could track my phone to its geographical location. Could you imagine? Showing up at the door of the capullo who is enjoying my phone? When configuring most smartphones, you can add an account with the brand’s company and send a message asking the phone to be located. Within 15 minutes, you can find out if your phone is under your dirty laundry or if indeed someone has taken it. This account may also allow you to download more ringtones and wallpapers.

I have an htc sense account, which I found online at their website, as well as a free app called Android Lost. In the Market app, you can type in the name of the program and download it directly to your phone, or do it from a PC.

Call and block the phone

If you’ve got the box your phone came in handy, you can call customer service on most carriers and ask them to block the phone, making it useless. The operator will ask you for a code that can be found on the original box, near the bar code.

Put in a denuncia at the nearest National Police station

Just as you’d do if your passport was stolen, reporting it to the National Police can help you to get some of the value back for your lost phone, provided the robbery was committed with force. Simply head into the nearest sede, call, or take care of it over the Internet. 

Police dollars won’t get me all these, sadly.

When I went to Mexico with some friends during college, we left our bags near our chairs and jumped in the pool to cool down. Being the only one who spoke Spanish, I asked a pool attendant where our bags were a few minutes later, and he responded that he’d moved them. Lisa’s was missing, Jenn’s camera has been stolen and our room key lifted. The room keys all had the room numbers engrained on them. The five of us ran up countless flights of stairs and found the door ajar, Lisa’s bag in a nearby garbage can. I gasped, remembering that not an hour earlier, I’d wanted to come upstairs and take a nap.

The scene inside the room meant that someone had been there – overturned suitcases, change missing from the table. They’d taken our meal tickets, but we had hidden the safe key so well, our cameras and passports were still there. Sure, having someone lift your mobile phone is a pain in the culo, but I’m happy I wasn’t around to try and fight anyone for it.

Bottom line: just ask questions. I was too busy fending off a creeper to ask about anything more than when my phone would be activated. #oohguiri

Say hello to my little friend.

I want to introduce you to someone.

His name is Camarón, not to be confused by the other one from la Isla.

Clearly the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought, besides plane tickets. Seems like a natural progression, as my interest for photography is likely stemmed from my passion for traveling.

Truth is, I feel naked without my camera, so having a big one dangling from my neck gives me a helluva lot more assurance that no one is checking out my muffin tops.

I spent my 19-day Christmas vacation in the American Southwest, snapping up Kike’s obsession with his Christmas present, stately saguaro cacti and the dazzling lights of the Vegas strip. Camarón got a good workout, and we’re starting to get to know one another. I wish I would have thought about investing in one earlier, as I’ve been making treadmarks on the Earth for ten years now, but timing is sometimes everything – I won back the value of the camera on penny slots in Vegas!

If January Marks the Start…My 2011 Travel Round-up

Let me tell you a little story about peer pressure.

When I was 11, my parents informed me that the dog had taken the news well. She faintly wagged her tail.

“What news?” I asked, hoping for the trampoline I’d begged my parents to buy us for ages.

Oh no, it was the M-word. We were moving. I’d have no friends. Maybe there wasn’t a Kohl’s there. Was Chicagoland > Rockford, or had my mother just confused after consumering too many kosher hot dogs growing up and was going crazy?

Well, I wanted to fit in. I did so by going to the Von Maur and using my birthday money to buy a pair of Jnco jeans because all of the popular girls had them.

I strutted into Edison middle school the next morning and was immediately dismissed as a poser.

Well, I didn’t learn my lesson. Now that I’m blogging, I give into the peer pressure of comparing stats, doing those dumb surveys and, as the new year has already crept up on us, a year in review. In 2011, I added two new countries to the list, had five visitors from the US, got my work/residence visa paperwork all together and turned 26.  I can’t say 2011 will be the greatest I’ve had (dude, 2010 was pretty, pretty good), but I managed to see some new things, meet some new people and probably consume a new pig part.

January

Amy and I rang in the New Year with oysters, an old boxing legend and a broken camera in Lausanne, Switzerland. I moped through Season Three of Sex and the City the next day while Amy was bed ridden. Colds and booze do not mix, people.

From there, I met several  friends in Berlin, Germany and got my history nerd on as I explored a concentration camp, museums and the off-beat Berlin.

February

Apart from the usual routine, I got to go to my first flamenco fashion show and a wine festival. Cheap wine, that is.

March

March came in like a león, as I spent a raucous night in Cádiz as a third-of the blind mice group at the annual Carnavales celebrations.

My first visitors of the year, Jason and Christine, spent a rainy sojourn in Sevilla,

but then Beth came during the Azahar and warm weather, and we drank in Granada, Jeréz and Cádiz (and then I got strep).

April

Ahh, a Sevillian primavera. I spent Easter Week in Romania with my camp buddies, driving a beat up Dacia from one forlorn corner of Romania to another. I loved it, and consider it a budget-lovers paradise – I spent in one week less than I did on my airfare! And ate a ton of pickles. I am like the Snooki of Spain when it comes to pickles.

May

The first week of May brought flamenco dresses, sherry and my five-year win over Spanish bureaucracy during Feria week. I spent nine days riding in horse carriages and proving I have plenty of enchufe.

A few weeks later, Jackie and her brother came to visit, and we took off to Córdoba for another fair.

Also, Luna turned one, Betis worked its way back into the premiere league, and summer was just on the horizon.

June

Switched to half days at work just as it was impossible to take the heat. Got to watch Lauren walk down the aisle and party all night (only to fly to Madrid for a conference the next morning. I made it!). And I got my first real year of teaching done, too!

I may have, at time, been a professional baby handler, but having a peek into a kid’s world is something magical. Magical if you like boogers, of course.

July

The first of the month brought a huge triumph: I was finally given my five-year resident card and had won my battle with extranjería. For the third summer in a row, I headed up north to Galicia and to summer camp. Instead of teaching, I was given the role of Director of Studies, so I got a work phone and unlimited photocopies. Perks. Teachers got crap weather, but I a not-crap team (they were awesome.)

The Novio, finally back from pirate-hunting, met me in Madrid for a few days. We got the chance to, um, do what we do in Seville (eat tapas and drink beer) before making a day-trip to the sprawling El Escorial palace.

August

A is for August and America and fAtty, as I spent 23 days eating up all of my favorite American goodies, like real salads and Cheez-its. I had help celebrating a birthday, as my dear amigas from Spain, Meag and Bri, came to Chicago for a few days. I also got to visit Margaret in her New Kentucky Home.

What I thought would be a good little sojourn was much too short, and I boarded a Dublin-bound plane and stayed overnight on the Emerald Isle.

September

School started again September first, and my change to first grade resulted in more naps, more work and more responsibility. Thankfully, I had my great kiddos back in my (own!!!) classroom. Life resumed as normal.

October

Though I vowed to make my fifth year in Spain new (and I have been doing hiking trips, seeing theatre and exhibitions, etc.), I fell in to normal school routine. In October, this was punctuated by a work trip to Madrid for a conference, studying for the DELE and endless barbeques. When in Spainlandia, I suppose.

November

The new month meant cooler air, a focus on studying and a visit from my final visitor, Lisa. I sprinted out of the DELE to catch a train, meet her and take her to Granada. We laughed at all of our college memories and she broke out of her little mundo to try new foods and explore Seville on her own.

Bri came, so we had a small Thanksgiving dinner, and I shared it with my not-so-anxious-about-pie goodness at school.

December

Amid lots of school work and the looming Christmas play, I enjoyed the Christmas season in the city. Brilliant lights, snacking on chestnuts, window-shopping. The Novio went to the States for work, and I followed him soon after to travel around the Southwest with my parents and sister. The Valley of the Sun, Vegas and the Grand Canyon were on the itinerary, but the extra $640.55 I won on a slot machine win weren’t!

Sadly, the year ended on a sour note when I got news that the child I had repped during my years in Dance Marathon passed away after a long battle with cancer. I don’t want to preach, but you can visit the website to see what the Dance Marathon at the University of Iowa does for kids and their families who are battling cancer.

Goals for the next year? Plenty, both personal and professional. Just be better, I guess. The second part of the year has been a huge slump, so it’s time to find me again. Be a better partner, teacher, friend. Fill up those last two pages of my passport. Figure out where to go next.

I want you to share your biggest accomplishment and goals for 2011-2012! I need some inspiration, readers!

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