Archive for July 2015

Hola from Spain

I've been in Spain for 10 days yet it feels like I left Scotland so long ago! I really really miss my UK adventures and friends there, but Spain has been a completely different experience so far. For those that don't know, I am being an au pair for a month in Pamplona - a city up north in Spain. I'm living with a wonderful family that has three kids, ages 3, 6, and 8, who I take care of while the parents are at work and also am teaching English to. They are quite a handful and it's very, very difficult because of the language barrier but we manage!

During my first two days in Spain, the dad took off work because it was the week of San Fermin! This is the famous week of the running of the bulls, parties, festivals, etc. It was crazy overwhelming but a great first impression for me of Spain. Since we were with the 3 little kids, I only saw the "family-friendly" version of San Fermin -- none of the night parties or anything like that. But it was really fun! The streets were absolutely flooded with people -- both locals and many tourists -- wearing red and white. It was nerve-wracking for me the first week just being constantly surrounded by foreign people speaking a language I don't know that well. I got frustrated many times because I never knew what was going on or what anyone was saying. I'm starting to get used to it now and have learned to just go with whatever comes my way. During the last two days of San Fermin that I got to experience, we saw the parade of giants (which symbolize the different kings and queens of countries) and these creepy big-headed giants that hit the kids with a foam ball on a stick.


We watched a puppet show, which I was confused about the entire time since I don't know Spanish. We also did a kid version of the running of the bulls, in which adults chase kids with fake bulls on wheels. It was really cute. In the morning we went to the huge bull ring and watched brave yet stupid men run around with the bulls in the ring. Only one bull came out at a time and the people in the ring would agitate them to make them charge. It was exciting to watch in real life but also sad. I could see marks on the bulls from where they've been consistently branded and poked. The entire time I was nervous for the people, especially when they would get caught on the bulls' horns and flung on the ground or up in the air. It was an insane sight. We didn't stay long enough for the actual bull fight since the kids are too young for that, but I didn't mind so much. To end San Fermin on the final night, we watched an amazing fireworks show.

Days alone watching the kids have been veeeeery up and down. I don't want to spend too much time writing about that but I'll just say that it started out rough and is getting better day by day. I am the first au pair the children have ever had so they are not used to a strange, older, American girl living with them who does things very differently and speaks a language they are not that familiar with. But it's a learning experience for all of us and I'm gradually getting more comfortable with the family. Plus, the youngest little guy is insanely adorable and we are always laughing together.

On Sunday we drove to San Sebastian, an amazing beach an hour away. It was extremely crowded but we were able to find a spot on the sand. I was a bit shocked at first to see numerous topless women just casually tanning or walking around. Every other child was naked as well, playing in the sand. I tried not to stare at the nudity all around me since it was clearly a normal part of their culture here, but I never did get used to it. San Sebastian was a beautiful place and I'm hoping to return there next week if I can to explore more. Oh man, back home in Wilmington I always feel super pale next to everyone else around me but here in Spain it's at a whole new level. I don't even care anymore, but it's just pretty funny seeing my white skin tone against everyone else's tan complexion. Also, I have yet to see a single fat person. They don't eat a lot here (small breakfast, normal lunch, tiny dinner) and I swear my family probably thinks all Americans like to do is eat. It took me a week to get used to the different meal portion sizes so I was always snacking. Luckily my family is really sweet and considerate; the dad is always asking me if I'm hungry, tired, etc.


Thank goodness the family I'm living with knows friends who have an au pair as well. Her name is Kelly, she's from Canada, and she is 21 years old like me. It has been WONDERFUL having a friend here to hang out with, talk to, and explore the city centre with. The first time we met last week it felt so strange to be able to talk English in a normal way, no longer slow and simple. We're pretty similar and get along really well. I am so, so happy to have her here with me in Pamplona because now it's much more fun during my free time. We like to get lost in the city centre, walking around the winding streets, eating dinner outside in big beautiful plazas, and shopping in odd tourist shops.

It's been a nice first week and a half in Spain! I'm beginning to miss familiarity though -- like American food (oh, Panera, where are you?), my friends and family, and even random things like being able to watch TV at 1 in the morning or driving a car. I don't wanna go back to America yet but at the same time, I am really starting to miss my usual routine back at home. Luuuuckily tomorrow I am taking a train to a new city in Spain to meet up with one of my best friends from college!!! Anna is being an au pair in another part of Spain for the entire summer and I am SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED to see a friend from home! I'm so stoked for this upcoming weekend with her.

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A Final Farewell

There were many exciting, adventurous days in Scotland during my past month of living here that I never posted about. Now that I’m sitting in the airport with three more hours of waiting to go, I figured I would write about these moments.

About two weeks ago we went to Glasgow for the day. It was probably my least favorite city that I visited in Scotland but still a beautiful one at that. We walked along the River Clyde and poked our heads into a cathedral that was rather modern. Glasgow is huge so we tried our best to navigate the streets and head towards the West End, which we heard was nice. The streets smelled so bad but the people were really friendly! I guess a city can’t have everything. We wandered through a park which had a fountain with a sign that said “do not climb.” Yet a daring little boy was splashing up top while his parents lounged on the grass. I noticed there were lots of kids just kind of wandering around on their own, doing their own thing, while the parents nonchalantly hung out on the grass. It was such a cool vibe in the park! We almost saw a toddler fall into the fountain though so maybe it was slightly too laid back in the park.

We ran into one of our RA’s and one of the summer school interns, who invited us to join them to their favorite little hidden spot in Glasgow. We immediately said yes. They took us to this little hippie tea room behind a building that I never would’ve known was there. We all took our shoes off and crammed into a booth, sitting on pillows. I ordered a pot of the Fairy’s Blood tea which was an exotic  and odd fruity, mint flavor. Next door to the tea room was an adorable record shop and I of course couldn’t resist purchasing an album called “Scotland in Song.” The cover was highland cows grazing in a field so even if the songs suck once I listen to them at home, at least I got a snazzy album cover. The store next door was a vintage used book store with piles upon piles of books reaching up towards the ceiling. It was a wonderfully organized mess. I even spied a cat sleeping at the top of one of the piles.

Other places we visited in Glasgow were the pretty botanic gardens and the beautifully old University of Glasgow (where they originally were gonna film Harry Potter at).

Last week a friend and I finally went inside Stirling Castle! Everyone said it was a must-see in Stirling and I definitely agree. Most of it has been renovated but it was awesome seeing how elaborately decorated it was inside. The bedrooms were set up with furniture to show what it would’ve looked like back in the day. One room had frames hanging down and a box of costumes for kids to dress up – I had too much fun in this room.  I adored the castle’s colorful tapestries, unicorn paintings in every room, and exquisite ceiling art.

We then went to the Wallace monument. After watching Braveheart and understanding more of Scotland’s rich history and the important figure William Wallace, it was really neat going inside his memorial. There were 246 spiral steps to the top and halfway up we were feeling dizzy and like we weren’t even making progress. But finally we made it to the top! The view was phenomenal like always but I particularly really enjoyed it at that monument for some reason.

Thursday me and my group went into town for a full Scottish breakfast, which consists of baked beans, potato bread, sausage, a fried egg, tomato, and black pudding (sheep’s blood mixed with nasty things). Basically all of the things I hate put on one plate. I ordered the American-style pancakes instead and had a lovely meal. I never tried haggis either because I was too grossed out knowing what it was. Sorry Mom.

We went shopping in the Thistles mall, which has pretty much all the same stores that are in the States, yet they have different names. We hung out in the Groundhouse Coffee shop for wifi (seriously, it’s 2015, why is free wifi so impossible to find?!). Later that evening, we had our farewell ceilidh for all the international summer school students. A Scottish band played music all night while we ate finger foods (I had THE YUMMIEST homemade bagel bites, oh my gosh) and did traditional ceilidh dancing. It was here at the event that I realized I was going to be leaving Scotland on Saturday and that very soon I would have to say goodbye to my friends. It’s crazy how close we have all gotten in just 4 weeks and yet they mean so much to me! We’re already discussing when the reunion will be. God blessed me big time with this amazing group of friends who made my trip oh so wonderful.

To end my Scotland adventure with a bang, I decided to take a bus to Aberfoyle (an hour away from campus) with my friends Chelsea and Grace. We spent the day at Go Ape, a tree tops ropes course and zip line place. IT WAS INSANE AND EXHILARATING AND FUN. We had to learn how to use the hooks attached to our harnesses because we would be up in the trees for hours with no supervision. It was nerve wracking at first and Chelsea and I were convinced that we would do it wrong and die. But we made it through the whole experience with no broken bones – just a bunch of bites from the annoying midgies bugs. Being high up in the trees was so thrilling and my heart didn’t stop beating fast until we were back safely on the ground. We had to make our way through tunnels, tight ropes, balance beams, nets, plank bridges, etc. with nothing but meters and meters of space below us and the ground. It was great. The scariest part was definitely the Tarzan Swing, where you jump off and feel like you’re freefalling, before then swinging to the other side into a vertical net. I got Grace to film me because I was planning on doing a Tarzan scream while I jumped off. Well, the actual noise that came out of me was hilarious because I was too scared to even focus on what kind of scream to do. At the end of the adventure you take a zipline back to the starting point. This particular one was actually the longest zipline in the UK! It was so relaxing coasting over the mountains and trees and I wish I could relive that moment over and over again.

Afterwards we had 2 hours to kill before our bus home so we walked down a trail near the Go Ape lodge. We ended up coming across the strangest, most peculiar but lovely place I may have ever seen. Throughout the woods were random areas that were scenes from Alice in Wonderland. There were huge teapots made from painted tires, china tea cups hanging from tree branches, tiny wooden doors nailed to trees, garland made of playing cards, mini stick huts, roses painted red, etc. It was the oddest sight but I absolutely loved it! At one point we were crossing a bridge over a swamp and suddenly freaked out because we could see our reflections in the trees. At closer inspection, we realized there were all these life-size mirror cut-outs of bodies just placed among the trees. Sooo bizarre. The whole place felt like something out of the imagination and was truly a lil hidden gem of Scotland. It was the most perfect day to end Scotland with!

To wrap up this last post about my UK travels, I just have to say that this past month has taught me so much. I met some incredible people, experienced crazy things, and saw many wonderful places. I wasn’t ready at all to leave Scotland or say good bye to my friends, but now it’s time for my next adventure.

Get ready Spain… here I come!

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