Snow!!! Seriously……


So, it was actually snowing in Madrid last thursday. Like seriously snowing and actually sticking. Granted it is nothing compared to snow falling in New York but snow none the less. I honestly thought that I left all the cold behind in the States.


Besides the complete shock of actually snow, I actually found a reggae club.  I can´t believe that I actually found one and it was pretty good. Didn´t fund any island men but one step at a time lol. The club is called The Jungle and only reggae, hip hop, and dancehall is playedon Saturday nights.Before going I didn´t have much hope that the place would actually be good but boy was I pleasantly surprised. The dj played a good mix of up to date music and as always I was still lost during the hip-hop session lol. But I am super excited to find this place because there is only so much bachata and salsa I can hear.

Surprisingly, I actually found two places that play reggae music but over the weekend I only checked out one place. In the next two weeks I will check out the other spot.

So in other news I am completely set for my trp during Holy Week. I am beyond excited and each week I will give a hint as to where it is I will be goin. This weeks hint is; One of the things this country is known for is their spices. What country am I?

Las Fallas Festival

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Las Fallas is this major celebration held in honor of St. Joseph. Its a huge celebration held over two weeks but the last 5 days are crucial. (really only the last day when La Crema) Leading up to the last day, each group brings their ninot(which are puppets or dolls) to the grande parade and then mount their ninot on their designated street. During the course of the five days there are scheduled activities held throughout the streets.

I went on Sunday, March 19th which is the completion of the festival. I went with a tour group and we arrived in Valencia just in time for La Mascleta. La Mascleta is a coordinated loud mess lol. Pretty much the town lets off firecrackers for about 5-10 minutes and a massive amount of people gather in the town square to listen and cheer as the firecrackers go off. Now, you would think that no more firecrackers would go off after this but no I was wrong, little children and adults let off firecrackers throughout the remainder of the day in the middle of the streets and on the sidewalks.

 



After viewing all of the ninots, my group explored a little of the city. We walked to the edge of the town and went and saw L´Algora, L´Oceanografic, City of Arts and Science, L´Umbracle, and this cool little kids park lol.

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The shape of this building reminded me a little of the Sydney Opera House

 

After La Mascleta, a host of other activities occur until it is time for La Crema (burning of the ninots). La Crema occurs at night, 10pm for the small ninots and midnight for the large ninots. Before La Crema occurs, you guessed it, more firecrackers and fireworks are let of. As the ninots are burning, classical(well I don´t really know but almost like opera and of course in spanish) music was played.


I must say though, no matter where I go I can find similarities between the culture I am visiting and my culture. Las Fallas kind of reminds me of Junkanoo because the way they make their ninots is by having a structure to hold the shape and putting paper-mache around it to make it beautiful and tell the story. Junkanoo pieces are made the same way.

Valencia is the home of paella and can you believe I didn´t have any while I was there. It gets so crowded that apparently people make reservations months in advance to the restaurant of their choice. We were able to get a reservation at this place but by the time we go there, all the paella was done. They had some type of fish rice that was good but it wasn´t paella. The restaurant ended up being a great choice though because it was right in front of the ninots. I was able to watch the smaller ninot burn from the inside of the restaurant.

Overall, Las Fallas was a great experience but I will have to go back to experience what Valencia is truly about another time.
 

Beautiful Architecture in Barcelona

For my mom’s last weekend, I decided to take her to Barcelona and I must say it was worth the wait.

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At MAD waiting to board our flight…

Barcelona is a beautiful city with amazing architecture and hidden treasures. Definitely a must see for those who appreciate beautiful artwork and buildings. Fun fact about the place, Barcelona didn’t have its first beach until the Olympics was held there in 1993.

We got in Saturday morning at about 11 am and to get into the city from the airport is quite simple. So you have two options, the metro and the city bus (this bus specifically runs from the airport to the city center, Catalunya). We ended up taking the city bus because a person at the tourism stand suggested it because she said it was faster. A one-way ticket cost 5,20 euros which is quite expensive but hey not to bad I guess. It was nice to enjoy the view as we got to the city center. But for future reference I will be taking the metro from the airport. Barca has 1,2,3, and 4 day metro passes that includes buses, trains, trams, and the special train to the airport. Our 3 day pass cost 22 euros each and worth every penny.

We stayed about 15 minutes (well be metro. You can walk and I think its like a 30 min walk but you know my mama wasn’t walking there for no reason) from Catalunya in a town called Gracia. The hotel I chose was quite clean and spacious. After dropping off our things we decided to go on a free tour. Kind of the biggest mistake of the trip lol. The tour we chose was not the best, he spoke of so much history and some depressing topics like Franco(which of course is taboo to even say the name here). The best thing he did for us was to show us some hidden gems we wouldn’t have necessarily seen on our own.


Church of Sant Felip Neri

 The tour was about 3.5 hours and we literally stayed within 10 mins walking distance (and this is my moms walking time) of the Catedral. Don’t get me wrong, if you are a history buff and love learning about that, then Andrew from Free Tour is your guy. For those who are like my mom and I, just not that interested then he is not your guy.

Overall, day one wasn’t too bad, we got to see the Catedral, the port, Columbus statue (can’t escape him), Picasso’s stomping grounds and the first art school he attended (his dad taught there). We ended the day eating in the hotel’s restaurant, which was pretty darn tasty.

Day two, I took the reins and was the tour guide (as per usual lol). We started the morning visiting Sagrada Familia (make sure buy tickets online to go inside. This will save you standing on massively long lines). What a beautiful piece of art and its not even done yet. Can you imagine how it will be once you can experience it in its fullness?

We then took the bus and stopped at Pl Espanya (can also get there on the metro) and explored that area and Parc de Montjuic in its fullness. So it was a little crowded because some biking/extreme sport tournament was taking place in front of Font Magica and the stairs of Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

 

We ended the day visiting Castell de Montjuic. This place had amazing views of the ocean one side and the whole city on the other.

 

So our hotel was literally a 15-20 min walk from Park Guell but we took the bus to get there and I must say we were pleasantly surprised. Once we got off the bus we still had to walk about 10 minutes to get to the edge of the park. Well what we thought was the park (come to find out it was just the gardens). It was beautiful scenery of the whole city. There were 3 ancient crosses (I guess ruins), and quiet trails to explore.

Overall Barcelona is a great place to visit with many different scenes it just depends what and who you are going with.

Another part of Spain discovered and conquered.

 

How to go about funding a trip….

How do I do it? 

So I was asked how I am able to travel so much with limited funds/as a student. The short answer; through a wish and prayer but seriously I have been blessed with a supportive family and a determination to travel no matter what obstacle is placed in front of me.

I have been able to travel numerous places under the pretense of education. The very first trip I raised money for was when I was 16 years old and was invited to go to Australia through People to People Student Ambassador. If I can remember correctly the total cost of the trip was $5200 and I was able to raise more than that. (I don’t remember the exact amount)

 The formula to success you may ask is DETERMINATION+STEPPING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE=SUCCESS. What do I mean by stepping out of your comfort zone, for me that meant asking any and everybody and not accepting the word No. I was given a template letter to follow with spaces to add my personal information with the People to People logo (to show it was legit) and I sent it to everyone. I got the email addresses and physical addresses of banks and businesses both corporate and family owned and sent them out. No matter how many No’s I received I kept pushing.

I am also fortunate enough to have a large church base and I sent the letter to every church (probably about 50) and personally asked individuals as my family and I visited churches. I also asked churches in general, local Baptist, Pentecostal and Catholic churches in my area or who had a website. (pretty much any church I could get information on)

Traveling is extremely possible no matter what your circumstances are. I remember in college my roommates and I were trying to plan a spring break trip but at every turn they kept telling me that they didn’t have the money. (mind you, sneakers were mailed to our apartment like weekly and they actually got a refund). What does this mean; depending on your PRIORITY will determining if you travel or not.

Ways to get funds,

1. sponsorships (from people, local businesses, churches, etc.)

2. fundraisers (selling candy, baking goods, coupons, etc.).   

          a. this all depends on how creative you are and how much you think out of the box

3. saving money (picking up odd jobs around the house/neighborhood, allowance)

              a. I never really got an allowance but whenever I got any money from my parents I would pocket at least 80% of it. Trust me, the one dollars and five dollars really adds up. Even collecting all the change around your house/area.

4. Grants/scholarships (college students- free money is lurking around at your school you just have to find it. Most schools have partial/full scholarships to study abroad)

Now I am not saying that everyone or every place that you reach out to will give you money. It’s all about persistence. For every no you receive you ask or send out 3 more requests.  

Lets put traveling into a little perspective:

• A round trip ticket from New York to California is $312

• A round trip ticket from New York to The Bahamas is $320 not including all the deals/sales various airlines have (and forget about a flight from Florida even cheaper)

• A round trip ticket from New York to Houston, Texas is $260

• A round trip ticket from Houston, Texas to Mexico (and practically all of Central America ie. Costa Rica, Belize) about $250

What this all means is that most places you travel to in America you can also find the same or comparable ticket to a place outside of America. (and of course I am not even mentioning how cheap it is to travel within Europe)

Traveling is indeed possible. I hope I have shed some light on the different ways to accomplish said travel.

Finally Done with my TEFL Course

Finally Done!!!!

Hey there everyone, how’s it going? It has been a bit crazy lately so I wasn’t able to write like I wanted but its over. Finally completed the course and I have my certificate (whoop whoop).

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The four-week course was really good. I learned a lot of grammar and different techniques to be an effective English teacher to non-native speakers. Honestly only the last week was hectic because of the fact I had my exam, my group project was due, and of course I still had my two classes to plan for and teach.

I am now ready to concur Madrid and looking forward to how everything plays out.

What am I up to now, you might ask. Nothing and everything. I am in the process of looking for a place of my own, looking for jobs, planning my next trip, and just trying to learn Spanish. Sounds like a lot huh? Honestly, not so much. Once you balance your time everything falls into place (well most things).

 

Happy International Women’s Day. I almost forgot and had to throw it in there for all my female travelers and a special shout to the solo female travelers. So since my mom came with me for the first month I haven’t been able to fully experience a solo trip. I have taken long flights by myself but usually to meet up with a group. Thinking about it, I wonder if my day layover in Seoul, South Korea counts. I spent 24 hours there where I left the airport and explored the city and stayed at a complimentary hotel by myself. Hmmmmm I do wonder. But anyways I will be embracing the solo travel experience fully now that my mom has left. 

Traveling with my mom was definitely interesting. I was so proud of her that she was able to keep up with me. Even when the mysterious pain ( and no I don’t mean it facetiously. It seriously came out of nowhere) in her feet came on she pushed through and still went out. But it was definitely a unique experience for me. Normally when I travel with friends or classmates we are out all day and almost always find something to do in the night. I usually never sleep but my trips with my mom were more relaxing and laid back. 

Shout out to my mama for being a trooper and a great travel partner. We still working on posing for the camera, hopefully she doesn’t forget all she learnt  on her next trip