Friday, June 9, 2017

How to travel for FREE

Sometimes I get stressed about travel decisions. Should I go somewhere new? I love all the places I've already been! I must go again! There are many new places to explore!

Yeah yeah #firstworldproblems but SERIOUSLY.

2017 winner: It's a repeat! Spain, wrap me up in your olive and jamón filled embrace!

Traumatic side story: While walking around Madrid I realized it was my Middlebury ten year anniversary. I froze in the middle of the street and had a one person freak out/class reunion. Ten year old kids, who are now walking around, talking, doing all kinds of stuff, were born when I studied in Madrid. I might as well die now.

Actually, what I've mostly been thinking about is the best way to travel.

Here is a list of ways to travel that are not the best:
large tour groups
Las Vegas

Those are the main ones I can think of right now.

Calm down. There aren't wrong ways to travel. But booking a flight and visiting a city's highlights is literally the easiest thing to do. Again, nothing wrong with this. CHILL OUT.

Slice me some jamón!
When I think of my most memorable trips, they all involve unique connections to the destination. Meeting or visiting people who live there... Joining some normal, local activity... Looking like an overly eager foreigner trying to blend in...

But, wait, I don't understand. Can you please give an example?

- Why yes. Yes I can.

I recently volunteered with an organization called Pueblo Inglés. They run English immersion programs for professionals from all over Spain. English speaking volunteers come and spend the week speaking a whole bunch of English.

You guys, it was so much fun.

Here is how many exclamation points worth of fun it was:

There were tons of games and activities. 1-to-1 conversations, group discussions, team challenges, trivia, theater skits... As other volunteers pointed out, it was like summer camp and, let me tell you, summer camp is way more fun as an adult.

Middle/high schoolers lack the life experience to fully appreciate camp. Their days already predominately consist of adult planned activities. And there's usually at least some preoccupation with looking cool and is ______________ noticing said coolness.

As an adult you realize being a kid is amazing. You've faced the chilly abyss of grown up responsibilities and there is no way you're passing up an opportunity to play the heck out of some games while someone else manages mealtime. Not to mention, it's been clear for awhile that looking cool is not going to happen for you.

(Can I go back to being a kid? I would be an exceptional 5 year old. Someone tell me when to eat and sleep and I will be awesome at yelling and eating dirt.)

The program also involved hearing ourselves talk a lot, explaining funny expressions like 'kick the bucket' (a personal favorite moment), and exploring La Alberca, a really charming area about 4 hours west of Madrid.

Above all, spending a week with 30 great people = new friendships and learning more about the world. I was amazed at how quickly students' English improved after only a few days. It inspired me to get my Spanish going again, but then I came home and naps.


Here are more pics. La Alberca: hasta la próxima!

views from Peña de Francia, monastery near La Alberca
Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Must hot dogs be the most famous American export?
Plaza de Cibeles

Templo de Debod

Palacio Real

**Sorry about the clickbait title. I really wanted you to know about this program.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bring me the babies

The latest big family news is that Nick and Cara had a baby! I am now an aunt!

This is an important milestone towards improving my (because, yes, this is about me) somewhat lukewarm relationship with babies and young children.

To clarify, I've always LOVED my friends' kids. Even kids of acquaintances, if I really like the acquaintance. It's a default recommendation for the child, and we immediately have something in common: we both like your parents.

Strangers' kids are wildcards; there's no way to know what's going on with them. They might be fine, they might be a mess.

My new niece is going to be awesome.

A couple weeks after Henriette Josephine was born, Ellen and I made our first trip down to Iowa City for a meet and greet. Like any self-respecting mid-westerners, we brought a casserole and dessert.

An aside: Recently, I came across this handwritten recipe of my grandma's. I love seeing my grandparents' handwriting, so I felt a lot of warm, cozy feelings, and decided to help this Chicken Rice Bake live through the generations.

We get to Iowa City, and Henriette is, of course, awesome. There was about a 15 minute period during which I felt panicky about small babies. What if I forget how to hold things and drop her!!!!! What if I sneeze and fall down!!! So many things can go wrong!!! How is she so tiny!!!

But then it was all fine and I couldn't hold her enough. Henriette even came to a brewery, and to brunch, and was the most chill person in the group.

Then we had to go. Sadness!!! Bye for now, Henriette!!! You are the best and we LOOOOOVE you!!!


The only real blight on the whole time was, unfortunately, the Chicken Rice Bake. You may have noticed it calls for cream of celery/mushroom/chicken, and I learned cream of anything is pretty gross. (Non-mid westerners: tread carefully with any less than supportive comments of our strong, proud tradition of church lady potluck casseroles.) There's a chance my grandma wrote out this recipe for someone she didn't like that much.