Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Recap

This has certainly been a year for the books. I've experienced so many ups and downs this past year but through it all I have rediscovered - or realized for the first time - just how strong I really am. This post will not only be a recap of all of the good moments of 2013 but also a short list of what I've learned this year plus, an announcement at the very end.

Take a look at my 2013 through pictures!

(We didn't get a picture of this but on January 1st, 2013, I ate 12 grapes at midnight CST -even though I had a bad stomach ache- and made a wish to go back to Spain in 2013. I think many of you know whether or not that wish came true. ;)

I started the year off flying back to Jacksonville with a free First Class upgrade thanks to all the qualifying flights I took in 2012.

(First class in United just meant round the clock drink service! haha)

I discovered new spots in my San Marco neighborhood to see sunsets or to just take a walk.

(Sunset behind the shops in and around the Square)

Not only did I reconnect with a friend, Christine, of Sucre Sucre, but I was influential in helping her attend One Spark 2013 (a huge crowdfunding event for artists, musicians, innovators and entrepreneurs in Jacksonville!)

In May, I took off on a month long adventure back to the country that captured my heart: (Sevilla) Spain!!!

En el patio de los naranjos afuera de la Catedral en Sevilla
I actually cooked while I was there in two different houses! (my host mom in Triana wouldn't allow us inside her kitchen back in 2010!)
In Rincón de la Victoria (Malága)

En el piso de Andre en la Macarena (Sevilla)

And to top it all off, I got to see my brother while he was visiting Madrid...

and then again in Sevilla! :D

I reunited with old friends and made new ones!

Nathan, Santi (my intercambio) and I in Puerta Jerez (Sevilla)

Nathan, André, Dámaris and I after dinner in her flat 

Loida, Miguel, André and I just before saying hasta luego at the Sevilla airport!

And when I got back, I realized I had fallen in love with the Portuguese language (after two layovers in Lisbon, Portugal) and want to become trilingual before I hit 30!

                        It's going to take a lot of work to perfect my skills in all three languages,
                                                       but I am ::determined::

I worked on improving my health and probably ate the healthiest this year than any other year in my life thus far

My favorite meal creation of the year (besides the tortilla de patatas): chicken and avocado tostadas with mozzarella cheese and a spicy sauce! Mmm...even Fred wants a bite! ;)

                          Saw a dear friend of mine marry the love of her life in June!

Amanda, Dustin and I in Daytona Beach, Florida

                       Attended my first "Willats" family wedding as an adult in October- so happy for my cousin                            Emily and new cousin Tyler!

Almost the whole family together at Emily and Tyler's reception in Iowa

                      Went to the beach and enjoyed seeing many sunrises and sunsets there

Closed out 24 by making my first paella using a real paella pan my aunt got me for Christmas 2012

I spent part of my 25th birthday in my country's capital - Washington D.C.

                                     With the under construction Washington Monument in the background

              And last but not least, I reunited with a very dear friend - mi hermanita en Cristo, Abigail!

Abby and I reunited in our hometown of Dayton, OH after her one year term in the DR!

As, 2013 comes to a close, I look back and give thanks for every good and bad moment that happened in my life this year. I learned who my true friends were again (which seems to happen each time you travel internationally) and received a lot of support and advice the people closest to me. I have learned so much about myself and other people, what I am capable of and who I want to be in the future.
While I have enjoyed learning and discovering the wonderful and challenging world of marketing, I have learned that it's not my main passion in life. My first love in life is God, but, until a man captures my heart, my second love will always be Spanish.

I spent a small part of this year being in a country that was not my own, speaking a language that was not my native one and honestly? I couldn't have been happier and have never felt more at home in Europe. Which is why I have decided to stop running from my desire to live and teach English in Spain. I have decided to go full steam ahead into applying and getting things in order so I will be able to do that. I want to say the end of hte 2014-2015 school year in Madrid (hopefully) that I am bilingual in English and Spanish. I will take a lot of work to get to that point but I am ready for the challenge! We will see what other opportunities come my way as the year 2014 unfolds!

So, my friends near and far, as I write this, I will soon be heading into my last winter in Jacksonville, Florida as a snowbird and in March 2014, I will be saying 'see you later' to a city that has been my home away from home for the last 6 years.

Life is too short to not follow your dreams and live each day to the fullest and that is what I plan to do! Stay tuned for updates and potential changes to this blog next year.

How was your 2013? What did you learn?

I pray that you will be surrounded by people you love as you ring in 2014 and strive to make this coming year your best year yet!

Feliz año nuevo a todos mis amigos y lectores en Espana o cualquier sitio vosotros estéis!

Besos! xxoo

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Como ayuné durante el día de acción de gracias

El cuento arriba están en ingles pero pronto, lo traduciré al español porque creo que más gente, de otras lenguas, pueden aprender algo a través de mi experiencia. O, al menos, espero que si.
Un beso!

Friday, November 29, 2013

How I accidentally fasted on Thanksgiving Day

I was invited to a Hispanic church near San Marco (Jacksonville) on Wednesday night to take part in their annual dinner. Though I did eat turkey this year, almost everything else on my plate was not traditional. It seemed to have followed suit with the theme of this year.

I did eat something later on in the evening on Thanksgiving Day but it wasn't the traditional fare. This whole fasting thing wasn't my original plan at all. In fact, I didn't know that when I woke up that morning, that I wouldn't be eating turkey and all the fixings that I'm so used to having on the fourth Thursday in November. It just happened and now I'm trying to put into words what I learned that day.

The day started out on the wrong foot. I mean, it wasn't that I overslept or had a bad dream. No, what happened was I got into a little fight with one of my roommates. I lost a part to something in her kitchen and not only did I forget that I lost it, but that I had failed to let her know about it. It's not like me to do either of those things but I've been under more stress lately than usual so I guess that's what can happen. Anyway, I spent a little extra time looking for it which ate up the time I needed to be spending getting downtown to volunteer for part of the day. I was frustrated that I couldn't find that thing but more for the fact that I added stress to someone else on one of the biggest family gatherings of the year. So...after I had looked, I had to tell her that I couldn't find it...and then I got ready and left the house. I was running late and there was nothing more that I could do or say.

On my way there, I try calling my mom to tell her about my plans and to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. I didn't get her on the first try so I called again a few minutes later. I've been doing my best to find new ways to enjoy my time here in Jacksonville but it has proven to be a challenge. If I went into detail about that, though, I'd have to write another post entirely. Needless to say the call lasted longer than we both wanted it to last. I vented a little about what happened at home but mostly focused on how I managed to misplace something of my own that is a serious deal-and the underlying thing that I was really angry about.

I still got to volunteer but it wasn't for as long as I wanted to. That was alright in the end because at least I got to do something for people who have it a lot worse than I do. And I got to smile and just all around be cheery. That's really one of the main things a person needs around this time of year. Especially if they are away from their family or have no loved ones still alive. Because I had arrived a bit later than planned, the serving at the rescue mission was almost over and almost everyone else had already eaten. It was time to finish eating and start cleaning up. The day wasn't about me, so I didn't mention to anyone that I hadn't eaten anything yet. I didn't even think at that point that I wouldn't be eating anything that afternoon. I helped clean up and the coordinators of the Thanksgiving program wished us well and we went our separate ways. 

My plans for the afternoon and evening were going to consist of reading and writing in a cafe before going to a store to shop. Don't get me wrong, I'm against shopping on Thanksgiving Day (and seriously smack the CEOs of any major corporations that opened their doors on Thursday) but this one particular shoe chain that was giving out a gift card to the first one hundred people in line. I figured, as one of my favorite pairs of shoes now has a hole in it, that it was worth a shot. Well, thanks to getting incorrect directions from the maps app on my phone and spending a little but too much time in Starbucks, I wasn't near the shoe store to get in line with enough time to spare before the clock struck 6pm. So...that didn't go as planned.

Keep in mind that during this entire day I was using public transportation to get around. The buses were set to a holiday schedule and some of them only ran every two hours they were that slow. And since almost every major store and restaurant was closed that day, there was little traffic on the major roads so every bus was on time. When my plan to go to that shoe store fell through, I decided not to risk going there at all. It wasn't worth getting myself stranded later on. I hadn't ever ridden a bus on a major holiday before (minus 4th of July) so that was an experience in itself. To say you meet interesting people is an understatement. Everyone I interacted with, from the drivers to the passengers themselves, smiled just a little but more and went the extra mile to help another person out if they dropped something or had a question about the route. I made sure to not only thank every driver who dropped me off but to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving. Someone even helped me get something out of my hair that I didn't even know was in there (a leaf or something) which was very kind of them.

Now if you spent the day helping your mom or grandmother cook and prepare the meal or ate three servings of turkey and traditional foods or watched football all day or didn't do any of those things but were with family, I'm not condoning you for doing that at all. I would have done most of those things too if I were home with my own family. The purpose of this post is to simply present a different perspective on Thanksgiving. One that didn't include a feast, at least not in the traditional sense.

During the whole day on Thursday, I felt fine. I was focused on helping others in any way I could and I felt calm and focused on the inside too. Even when I was serving and cleaning up food, I didn't feel any hunger pains gnawing at my stomach. When I didn't get to eat in the afternoon, I was almost thinking that God was disciplining me, almost punishing me in a way. Well, it turns out He was actually humbling me instead. 

In the last six years, I've spent two Thanksgivings with my immediate family. That wasn't what I needed to learn humility about exactly but it plays a part. My absence during a lot of major holidays has become the norm in my house. I can't come home for all of them due to finances and my family understands that. Sometimes I'm able to experience the Thanksgiving holiday with other families, as I did last year. I'm blessed to have had these families welcome me into their homes on such a special holiday. While I am still appreciative of them, I think this year, deep down, I really wanted to be home. Well, what I truly wanted to be home for was my mom's birthday the following day (the 29th). I haven't been home on her birthday in 7 years. I came close to it in 2011. Maybe I just don't understand why they're always there with me on my birthday and I'm never there on theirs. You can't always be home for everything like you were as a kid I guess.

The main lesson I learned through fasting was how much we take food for granted. Especially when we can have it in such large quantities on one or two days of the year and no one bats an eye. But what about those who don't have that luxury? I was compelled, due to my accidental fast, to think of the people who don't have enough to eat. The people who always wonder where their next meal will come from or how many meals they will eat today compared to yesterday. My unplanned selfless act of giving up the Thanksgiving meal meant that someone else could have a hot meal, as I can have them almost whenever my stomach growls. I gave of myself that day: of my time, my personality, my encouraging words and even my appetite.

And you know that? I think I felt even more full than I ever would have felt had my belly been full of food that day.

Whether or not I spend Thanksgiving next year with my family is not my main concern. Whether or not I maintain thankful and grateful heart throughout life, however, is.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

La recepción (The Front Desk)

Este cuento es uno de mis recuerdos favoritos de mi corto tiempo en Madrid este año....

Cuando entré en el hotel después de caminar de la estación de autobuses (unos 25 minutos), fui a la recepción primero y empecé a hablar en español con las damas allí. Yo creo que es mejor hablar con la gente en su idioma nativo (o intenta) primero y si pudiera hablar bien el ingles contigo, está bien cambiar de idioma con ella. Bueno, yo les dije a ellos que estaba buscando un huésped allí en el hotel y que él fue con un grupo universitario. Les pedí una lista o algo de los estudiantes en su programa. Todos los estudiantes y los profesores en el grupo de su universidad estaban quedándose allí. Ella me permitió llamar al cuarto de Nathan pero sabéis que pasó?  Llame el cuarto equivocado! jaja Es que ellos pensaban que he señalado con mi dedo a un nombre pero yo quería decir un diferente! Que va . . . Al final, cuando llamé el cuarto de Nathan, el no estuvo allí! Bueno, la primera cosa graciosa que pasó fue que yo hice las dos llamadas (a estudiantes que hablan el ingles nativo) en español y no en ingles! jaja No sé por que las hice así pero si, las hice. Bueno, en el segundo cuarto, uno de los chicos me dijo que probablemente él se fue a pasear afuera del hotel. Pero, también los empleados de la recepción me dijeron que quizás él estaba esperando el buffet en el comedor para el desayuno. Entonces, despues de pensar que eso fue posible, yo fui a la primera planta (arriba porque "la primera planta" en USA no es igual que Europa) para buscarlo y esperar si no estuviera allí.

Encontré algunos de sus compañeros de clase allí y hable con ellos. Unas chicas me surgieron, al contarles a quien estaba buscando, que yo debería volver al vestíbulo abajo para encontrarlo. Entonces, volví abajo por asesor y después de unos pasos mientras estaba mirando alrededor del vestíbulo grande, allí estaba Nathan, sentándose en una silla mirando a su iPod! La verdad fue que él estaba sentándose allí todo el tiempo mientras que yo hablaba con la recepción y llamaba a los cuartos. No nos vimos a causa de las columnas en el vestíbulo y él no reconocía la voz mía cuando hablaba en español! Miraba a la recepción por unos segundos y vi una mujer con una mochila violeta (yo!) pero ya que yo estaba hablando en el castellano, pensaba que yo era una cliente normal, como una española! A las 7 por la mañana, hombre, anda que no! Ah, que situación super graciosa, no?!

Creo que Dios tiene un sentido de humor muy único a veces porque, mirando al fondo, no habría querido reunirme con mi hermano en España (por primera vez) en ninguna otra manera! Despues de abrazarnos, él y yo fuimos a su cuarto (en la quinta planta de diez plantas creo). Fue la primera vez que visité un hotel en España porque mi cartera y yo preferimos los hostales y nada más -como un estudiante! jeje Saquemos unas fotos allí y bajemos para que el podría comer y luego, salir por el día.

Y lo que se dicen el resto es historia. . .

I've told this story before in English but as I was reminiscing the other day, I wrote it all out in Spanish. I'll translate it into English tomorrow but...for now, see how much of it you can understand! If you dare, that is. ;-)

The Front Desk

*This is one of my favorite memories of my short stay in Madrid earlier this year...*

When I entered the hotel after walking from the bus station (about 25 minutes), I went to the front desk and began to speak with the women there in Spanish. I think it's best to speak with people in their native language first (or try to) and if they can speak English well with you, it's okay to switch languages with them. Well, I told them that I was looking for a guest at the hotel and that he was with a college group. I asked them for a list or something of the students in his program. All of the students and professors in the group from his university were all staying there. She let me call Nathan's room but do you guys know what happened? I called the wrong room! haha It's just that they thought I had pointed to one name but I really meant a different one! Ahh.... Finally, though, when I called Nathan's real room, he wasn't there! Well, the first hilarious thing that happened was that I made both of those calls (to students who speak native English) in Spanish and not in English! haha I don't know why I did them that way, but I did. Well, in the second room, one of the guys told me that he was probably taking a walk outside around the hotel. But, the staff at the front desk told me that it's possible that perhaps he was waiting for the buffet in the dining room for breakfast. So, after thinking that that was possible, I went to the first floor (above because "the first floor" in the USA is not the same in Europe) to look for him and wait for him if he was there.

I found some of his classmates there and talked to them. Some girls suggested to me, after telling them who I was looking for, that I ought to go back to the lobby downstairs to look for him. So, I returned back downstairs via the elevator and after taking a few steps while looking around the huge lobby, there Nathan was, sitting in a chair looking at his iPod! The truth was that he was sitting there the whole time while I was speaking with the front desk and calling the rooms. We didn't see each other due to the pillars in the lobby and he didn't recognize my own voice when I spoke in Spanish! He glanced at the front desk for a few seconds and saw a lady with a purple backpack (me!!) but since I was speaking in Spanish, he thought that I was a normal customer, like a Spanish lady! At 7 AM, psh, of course not! Ah, what a super funny situation, right?

I think God has a very unique sense of humor sometimes because, looking back on it, I wouldn't have wanted to meet up with my brother in Spain (for the first time) in any other way! After we hugged, he and I went to his room (on the fifth of 10 floors I think). It was the first time I had visited a hotel in Spain because my wallet and I prefer hostels and nothing else - like a student! hehe We took a couple pictures and then went back downstairs so that he could eat and later on leave for the day.

And the rest, as they say, is history....

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An Unspoken Challenge

It is less than two months until my 25th birthday. The birthday that supposedly puts the final stamp on one's entrance card into adulthood. I haven't had the greatest last few months so I wanted to change things and challenge myself to spend these next two months very wisely.

What is this unspoken challenge? Well, I'm glad you brought it up. I'll reveal it...tomorrow. :P


I realize that quite a bit of time has passed since I said "tomorrow." I didn't mean for that to happen so lo siento! Anyway, I will reveal what this unspoken challenge is now and make it public to all of you. A lot of people before they turn a milestone age in their younger years create bucket lists. You know like "25 Things to Do Before I'm 25." Or instead they replace the word things with countries. I have several things on my bucket list but don't exactly have the funds to complete them all before I turn 25. After all, it is next month. (Yikes! lol) At any rate, though, I wanted not only to challenge myself again but to also end my 24th year on a great note. It's been one heck of a year full of mostly delightful surprises and that's really only just begun. So...what better challenge to give myself than to try to do at least one new thing everyday for the next two months? 

Yes, there you have it! That's my challenge. These 'new things' can really be small or big things (you'll notice that I started small in the beginning), can cost money or not but must involve one or more of the 5 senses. 

After nearly a month of doing one new thing everyday I am pleased to say that it has become a habit. This is exactly the right type of spice my life needed and I'm glad I have begun this journey. I will be updating this post every week with more things I have done up until Dec. 15th so please bookmark this page and check back! :-)

Without further ado, here's what I've done so far!

October 15th: made butternut squash and spinach soup
16th saw Sanford and Son
17 tried a new type of yogurt
18 made one of Grandma's recipes
19 saw a new 80s movie
20 toasted my parents' anniversary with some wine (first time ever lol)
21 Went to the Duval Audoban Society talk and learned about wildlife in Ecuador!
22 Tried a new sparkling cider (sidra) drink from Spain (El Bochero)
23 Made a new cookie creation with Galletas Maria (a cookie sandwich with peanut butter and honey in the middle!)
24 Tried peppermint tea from Serbia!
25 Talked to an international person ego works at Pulp and tried a new orange sherbet flavor 
26 Went to the Balis Park opening and went into many stores in the Sq for the first time!
27 -I'm blanking on this day! lol-
28 met a friend for "coffee" first thing in the morning
29 Played tennis on a Tues!
30 New recipe for chicken lasagna & I got my second migraine in my life
November 1 - discovered who does the song Capitão Fantastico
2 Had an authentic bbq dinner
3 Tried a Halloween Cadbury creme egg!
4 Tried out a gig app, went to a new Publix and got great deals on tea! Tried a chai spice tea
5 Tried a new natural bar of soap for my face!
6 Got a delivery from Hello Fresh & made a brand meal
7 Got ice skating lessons from US Figure Skating pros
8 Played tennis on a Friday!
9 Spent $3 on a lot of groceries and tried Coconut water
10 Saw two trains pass by at the same time on both sides of the tracks, ate Caribbean style paella
11 Did a gig with a different app an tried the Girl Scout flavored Crunch bars
12 Ate my first caramel apple!
13 Went to a new area of Jacksonville today and saw the sunset over a new spot on the river
14 Tried sardines (produced in Morocco)-they actually taste good! haha
15 Saw a guy at the bus station do full body push-ups on a pillar! Went to a Walmart late at night-haven't done that in years!
16 Went to my second ever JU football game haha
17 Made a new breakfast item and bought an all-natural soap (for my face) made mostly of olive oil and green tea!
18 Listened to an Indian (Asia) radio station and Created the most wonderful Greek yogurt combo ever- chocolate on the bottom, Greek yogurt and then cinnamon on top!
19  Slept on the sofa for the first time in weeks and then later took a nap. <-don't normally do that!
20 Tried a coffee flavored yogurt
21 tried a new sandwich concoction, went to a GlobalJax event and met a girl from Morocco and a girl from Belarus!
22 Stood in line for the opening of the Microsoft store, met two nice ladies (one that reminded me so much of Sarah T.), ran into Aida, tried a new frozen yogurt place.
23 found a page about Spanish speakers in Denmark and listened to a pop song in Danish, found a Danish singer who sings in Spanish (lives in Cádiz)...and more to come!
24 Tried an organic roobios tea from the Twinings brand 
25 Put egg nog instead of milk into my cereal! (and proceeded to do that everyday this week lol)
26 Saw the Legend of Zorro (the sequel to the original)
27 Mixed cinnamon into my cranberry sauce and had a Latin themed Thanksgiving meal a day early
28 volunteered at Trinity Rescue Mission, accidentally fasted on Thanksgiving Day, didn't have the traditional meal for the first time in my young life lol, went to a Starbucks on Tgiving, and saw what the line looked like at Best Buy before and after 6pm-too crazy
29 ate oatmeal with egg nog, did a little shopping on Black Friday in Jax for the first time ever
30 had a dream in Spanish where I didn't let anyone else talk lol, saw some of the boat parade for the 2nd year in a row and found a new place to watch fireworks and/or sunrises
December 1
didn't go anywhere on a Sunday (not feeling that well), tried a new Chai tea and Skyped with Santi in Spanish from my iPhone to his new iPad!
2 tried creamy curry chicken with coconut milk for the first time, 
3 first time I've been living in a house where all the Christmas decorations were up early (all of them were put up by today lol)
4 tried Hershey's Symphony candy bar for the first time ever mixed in with Greek yogurt and peanut butter-sooo good!
5 ate dinner outside in a tank top in 70/80 degree weather in December, made a Manoli inspired fruit salad :)
6 went to my first TEDTalk event which was also a live stream from San Francisco!
7 ate at Village Bread Cafe, hung out at Friendship Fountain and spent the afternoon writing a letter in Spanish, got fake proposed to lol and listened to a radio station in Turkish!!
8 Went to the beach (on my dad's birthday!) and it was foggy the whole time, went the farthest south of Jax Beach I've ever been by myself, listened to a radio station in Filipino! Got "promoted" to run a promotion for one of my clients on my own! :)
9  slept in a tank top and shorts while knowing that it was 60-70 degrees warmer here than where my family is
10 Tried curry couscous, saw a sunset by the river in my neighborhood-secret location-
11 Finished up the last season of Fraiser (never thought I'd watch that show going into this year lol), made fresh cranberry sauce for the first time ever

(List copied from my phone's notepad)

We are creatures of habit so we often times do our best to avoid change. Change is often seen as the enemy. But one day, you'll come to realize -sooner or later- that change is good. Change lets you know that there's still more to learn in this life. More places to see and people to meet. More lives to touch. In order to do all of that, though, you must let go of some of your habits and routines. Without change and variety in your life, you will grow tired and weary.  However, with those two things, you might just feel more alive than you've felt in years!

Give change a try! How often do you try something new?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Brothers are Blessings

In my case, I would have to argue that brothers are the best! One day, I'll experience what it's like to have a sister join my family -God willing- but for now I will continue to appreciate and enjoy the sibling relationship I've been blessed with: a brother and sister relationship.

And what better time to reflect on it than on my brother's birthday? Yes, today's his special day! He's pretty much been the best brother I could ever ask for...and though we both know a foreign language, we actually know two: the language we sometimes speak whenever we're together. I have to reflect a little on the past year because it has been full of adventures! It's also the end of a mini era. You see, I like to say that one of the best years of my childhood with my brother was when we were only 4 (me) and 7 (Nathan) years old. That was the year I started remembering tiny details in my memories. I don't remember another as a young girl being as fun or having laughed so much. And, what's more, we weren't just having fun being the crazy brother-sister pair that we were, we had adventures and we went places. I vividly remember playing outside at our old house and rolling down the hill, chasing each other, doing voice impressions and taking a supervised road trip out to our grandparents house. Our most challenging obstacle was the most ruthless ride at the Knox County fair: the Zipper. Neither of us was brave enough or tall enough to ride it, so no worries there. It was and has always been the thing we've yet to conquer when it comes to our grandparents' county fair.

Nathan's 10th (?) birthday. This was the year we unfortunately got lice at the same time. :(

Now, fast forward to last December. When I reached my 24th birthday, I caught up to him. Well, let me explain. I feel like our epic '4 and 7' year was repeated again 10 years later and now 10 years after that, when we were 24 and 27. I'd argue that this has been our best year together so far. We started my 24th birthday off by going to Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I desperately wanted to spend my birthday (at least once) out of the USA and Nathan had recently gotten his passport. What reasons to go? We had a fun time on our first international [road] trip together. We also enjoyed Windsor a lot the short time we were there and would love to go back again some day. Little did we both know that that was just the start of exciting year being 24 and 27, twenty years after the epic '4 and 7' period. The two of us traveled again this time returning to our grandparents' very snowy, sleepy town in Northeast Nebraska for Christmas. We haven't seen snow there in over 15 years. It didn't matter though because we got to be kids again when we played in it! And....we rolled down the big hill with our cousins in the snow! If you ever get the chance to do that, it will be the most refreshing activity you'll ever do! haha But, WARNING: rolling down the hill when you're 4 and when you're 24 are two completely different experiences. I remembered it being less of a gravity-alterating experience when I was 4. Maybe your equilibrium changes as you get older? I'm not sure. All I know is that after rolling down the hill for the third time, I was so dizzy I felt drunk! (And for the record, I have never been drunk but I'm sure that was fairly close.) But....I have never laughed so much and so hysterically in my life! At that moment in time, there was no other place I'd rather be than lying in the snow with my brother and cousin nearby, laughing our heads off! ;-)

But...the year gets better! Through careful planning and saving on both of our parts, we were able to take another international trip together. This time we'd have to hop this thing called  the Pond (at different times) and....meet up with each other somewhere in the wonderfully large and lively city that is Madrid, Spain! :) Nathan signed up for a three week Ambassador study abroad program with faculty and students from WSU in Spain for the month of May. I work remotely and do freelance work so I'm not tied to a physical office here in Jacksonville. He had the timeline for when he'd be going and I had the flexibility to travel and still work at the same time. Side note, though, I was already thinking that this would be the year I would travel back to Spain and Sevilla (where I studied abroad). I just wasn't completely sure which season or which month I would go. But...it all worked out in the end and we met up one morning very early at Nathan's hotel near the Atocha train station. The fact that my own brother, who was sitting in the lobby the entire time, didn't even recognize his own sister -after we hadn't seen each other for 4 months- is crazy but true! There's also not enough time to tell it here. It makes for a really good 'first time we're in Spain' story, though! :) Due to some hiccups in my travel plans, I got to spend more time in Madrid than I thought....and I got to show Nathan a few of my favorite places there while doing our best to speak a good amount of Spanish together!

Nathan and  I in sunny Madrid, España and in front of  the Alfonso XII monument in Retiro. 
If you have heard even just one story of my study abroad semester (which wasn't that long in reality), you may have heard me also mention how I can't quite describe in words how much that semester and that country meant to me. The same is true for when I returned to Spain. And when I saw my brother and when he came down to Sevilla for more fun after his program ended. I have been to a number of places by myself but to be in a place where I've not only been before but with a family member? It was the best feeling in the world. It's been almost 6 months since our time there but it feels like it all just played out last week. It was the rich, vibrant icing on the wonderfully crafted cake that was this past year. I know we have many more international and domestic trips to look forward to (note, we haven't planned anything else at the moment!!) but this was a fantastic start to our trips overseas. I hope they can continue and that we can explore many more countries together throughout our lives. And, you all know that I'm not quite done with Spain and will be back. There are also many, many more Spanish speaking countries that we've both only read about and have yet to discover so rest assured, we won't be leaving too many -if any-countries off our list.

Después de tapas en la mejor bar de tapas en Triana (Sevilla): Las Golondrinas!
But, as amazing and wonderful (and short) as our time together was in Spain, the fun didn't end there! We would see each other for the third -out of four times- this year during this month! Our cousin in Iowa was getting married and we had plans to be there for the festivities! I flew up to Ohio and then drove out to Iowa and Nebraska with my parents and Nathan. We all haven't made one of those road trips out that way in about three years. And, if memory serves correctly, we haven't made this trip in the fall let alone in October. What's important about the month of October is my parents' anniversary (29 years!!!) and my brother's birthday. What's shocking is that I haven't been home in the month of October (for either occasion) since 2006, my senior year of HS! Which also means that the last time I saw my brother during his birthday month was when he turned 21! Yes, it is crazy, I know, haha. I'm glad that I was able to reset the clock so to speak on that counter and that I was able to attend the wedding in Iowa as well as have a short visit at home too. And...the last big thing about that week and weekend was this: the last time we were at a Willats family wedding was when I was 3 and he was 6! We had fun during our uncle's wedding (because we were in it, haha) but all of us only have a handful of memories from the day. I have even less. But, with her wedding, we will remember the beautiful ceremony and all of the fun times afterwards at the reception! Also, it was another time in the past year where I have never laughed so much at one time! It was a great end to a great year of me being 24 and Nathan being 27.

He's been a part of my life for almost 25 years and I couldn't imagine having grown up with a better brother. From all of our crazy made-up words, to our play fights (we didn't fight that much as kids so we had to pretend to fight sometimes) to all of our real fights to all of the laughs, tears, moves and changes in our lives, we've been right by each other's sides. A friend of mine told me a few years ago how much family meant to him. He said that if you can't love your own brother, how can you love your friend or a stranger? You honestly can't love others if you don't first love yourself and your family. (For me, God falls into this category too.) My brother may get on my nerves sometimes (and vice versa ;) but I will always love him. I am reminded of how fortunate I am to even have a brother almost everyday. I also know that not everyone has a sibling, at least one that they get along with and/or are on speaking terms with them. I haven't found anyone in this world -so far- who not only gets my sense of humor and knows me better than I know myself but shares my love for other cultures and languages. You'd think that after 20+ of knowing each other, we'd run out of things to talk about....but it's just the opposite! We're both always growing, changing and maturing into the people God has called us to be. Some years might be more challenging than others, but we're always there to encourage each other and remind one another not to take life *so* seriously at times. (Self nudge? haha)

This post has gotten quite long so I will wrap things up here. It's been an awesome ride with you so far, Nathan, and I can't wait to see what this year and the next 20+ years bring. Near or far, we're always on the same sheet of music! And, I hope we don't ever become a boring brother-sister pair and that we'll always be able to have as much wild and crazy fun as we did below! Happy, happy birthday to you, mi querido hermano! I raise my cider bottle to you and wish you a fantastic 28th year! :-D

P.S. I'm not a copycat anymore! I'm learning Portuguese now and not Arabic (like you). It only took me 20 years not to copy you! hahaha

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Growing Pains

"I think it's happening again. I'm having another Spanish overload...."

These words rolled off my tongue to many a friend over five years ago when I was taking two upper level Spanish classes at the same time. What exactly was this "Spanish overload," you ask? Well, I will elaborate on that in just a few sentences. I was pretty ambitious back when I was starting out in college (okay, I still am...). In fact, my first and last semesters of college were the only times I took just one class taught in Spanish. The rest of the semesters I took an average of five to six classes per semester and two of those classes were always Spanish classes. By the end of my first year I had my minor in Spanish completed. But oh, I wasn't done there. I had many more classes and an eventual major change ahead of me. And not to mention cultural and self-immersion too. :)

Having an overload in Spanish for me would consist of a two things. Both of these things were not emotional or mental side effects. These things had a huge affect on me physically. The first thing that would happen, after I had been reading or listening to too much Spanish, was that I would get a headache. The closest thing that I relate it to is a tension headache. Except that the ache would primarily be in my temples and they usually throbbed. The second thing was this: I would feel like I was drowning. Or as if I hadn't gone outside or spoken to anyone all day. Another way I could describe it would be a mix of hitting a brick wall, getting into a slump (think middle of the day 2pm. slump) and a brain freeze. When I reached this point, the best thing for me to do was take a step back, breathe and...take a break. I knew that feeling overwhelmed with the language was a sign that I was moving in the right direction. Or at least it felt like I was even though I had no idea what I was doing half the time. (Especially when it came to interpreting Spanish literature, madre mía...)

I shared online one day a few weeks ago that I thought I was experiencing another one of my infamous overload headaches. To be honest, I hadn't experienced one of those since 2010. My brother commented saying that he could relate. He also had some insight on what might be the underlying reason for 'language induced headaches.' You see, the two of us are exploring two new languages this fall. He is taking a Beginning Arabic class as well as two required classes for his Spanish major. I'm delving into the wonderful and often times confusing world of...Portuguese. Nathan has the benefit of having a structured class and a professor. I'm on my own, minus the lessons and activities I've been doing through Duolingo (an interactive language learning app) on my iPhone. I've yet to conjugate verbs or make verb sheets in Portuguese (like I did in good old HS Spanish classes), but I am trying to read a little bit of it everyday, make a list of vocab words and practice saying what I've learned.

So, what causes the headaches? Well, Nathan's theory went something along the lines of this: "You get overloaded and you get headaches from learning a new language because you are forming new connections in your brain." It makes perfect sense to me. The headaches aren't always from an "overload." They could primarily be from your brain forming connections to this new language you're learning. Connections to words and phrases that weren't there before. Connections that will only be solidified through hours and hours of practice. Practice that is three-fold: hearing the language, speaking the language and seeing the language on a daily basis.

I will elaborate a little bit more below on the "overload" and tips to get through it (if you're currently experiencing one or had one recently). I'm sort of having one of those headaches myself right now. Listening to a couple of hours of music in Portuguese, talking to myself in Spanish....and oh yeah, writing this post in English will do that to ya! haha


Now I will share a few tricks that have helped me get through many an overload headache. They may not all work for you but I hope you will at least give one of them a try.


Maybe you've been working on homework or writing pages upon pages in another language for a few hours. You might be proud of yourself for staying focused for so long but believe me your neurons will be screaming at you to STOP! For as many hours as you spend working on an activity in your foreign language, aim to spend half of that time doing something else. Years ago, one of my professors suggested to me that, when working on the rough draft of a large paper, I put it away and not look at it for at least 12 hours. He claimed that it was critical to have a fresh pair of eyes examine your paper, whether they were your own or someone else's. Why? Well, when you take a step back and aren't so focused on every little detail, you will spot errors more quickly than you would if you kept your nose to the grind and pounded out that paper in a matter of hours. That tactic was literally a lifesaver for me. So, when your head starts throbbing and you don't think you can't decipher another line of Cervantes, close the book! Put the pen down. Step away from that table. You will thank yourself later for doing that. :)

~Speak or listen to your native tongue

Think of it this way, for every hour you spend speaking or listening to another language, spend the same amount of time being immersed in your native tongue. If you want to become fluent in another language, it is good to be around it as much as you possibly can. I wholeheartedly agree with that. However, sometimes your brain has had enough and you need to let it rest. So when you feel a headache coming on, take that as a sign to take a break and listen to a song in your native tongue. Or just go sit outside and breathe. Relish in the silence (or sounds) around you.

~Sleep on it!

Yes, when both of the above tricks didn't work, I would throw my language woes out the window and take a nap. (Or go to bed early). While sleep can help clear and relax your mind, it won't erase the difficulties you're having with your homework or write your paper for you. But it will hopefully refresh you and give you some much needed energy to keep chugging along in your linguistic pursuits.

One of my goals to reach by the time I turn 30: be able to speak three languages fluently. Challenge Accepted! :)

It's strange that we can still experience 'growing pains' as adults. You would think our years of growth and development would stop in our early twenties but that's not the case. Everyday you are either growing or shrinking. There is no in-between when it comes to this topic. I'm embracing the growing pains I'm currently experiencing as I challenge myself with this new language. If you've made it to the end of this post, I have a feeling that you are are doing the very same thing. Hang in there. I promise it gets better!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Unexpected Lessons

As I look at today's date on the calendar, I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that it is the end of September! In just a little over a week I will be heading home and then making my way out to Iowa to attend my younger cousin's wedding. I truly feel that she just got engaged last week, but almost a whole year has passed since that time. Now, we're all preparing for the joyous occasion that will be her wedding - the first wedding among my cousins on my dad's side. I guess you could say it's official...we're all growing up!

No one has come to this realization more clearly than my brother has, in my opinion. He is the oldest of seven grandchildren on that side and has seen a lot of changes over the last 20 odd years, including someone raining on his parade: me, his little sister. All of my life, my brother has been one step ahead, always outdoing me in every fashion. Until...I left home for college and took my education into my own hands. For the first time in my life, I was on my own  hundreds of miles away from the only place I ever knew and my family. I was responsible for every choice and action I made, and at first, that seemed frightening to me. However, I also came to this realization: I was in a brand new city and able to redefine myself. Six years ago, no one knew me here. No one knew what I was capable of, especially not me. Well, fast forward to today and I'm a college graduate, embarking on my career path and trying to create a life for myself. You could say that, I've "been there, done that and bought the diploma." (Okay, those were actually "free," haha). My brother, however, is still muddling through the college trenches and will soon be done next year. It's been a long road for him but the past two years especially have been challenging for both of us. In these last two years he has shifted from the community college mindset to the university way of doing things. What's more is, he's now taking and finishing up upper level Spanish classes that I took...well, quite awhile ago.

From 2007 until now, I have seen dozens of textbooks, listened to thousands of hours of music, movies, lectures and written pages and pages of papers all in Spanish. I will admit that I haven't always been modest and humble about my language skills; I have had my moments where I have bragged and blabbed about my skills. As talented as I have become at the language, though, I have had my moments of insecurity. Where someone might happen to ask me this question, "How many langaugeS do you speak?" When you hear a question phrased like that, it implies that surely the person thinks you know a lot of languages. However, I have always had to answer, rather reluctantly, "Just two," as if it's something I should be ashamed of! It's not! In fact, it's quite impressive to be an American to know more than one language fluently...and be from smack dab in the middle of the Midwest. Mexico is hundreds of miles away and Canada isn't exactly close either to that part of the country. But...my brother and I managed to learn and love the Spanish language. Of the two of us, I am fluent in the language (in writing, speaking and listening) while my brother has a little ways to go to reach fluency. I officially became fluent in Spanish when I lived and studied in Spain for a semester...and I have just gotten better and better ever since that time in my life. I hope to be bilingual in the language by age 27 -my brother's age now. And if you're wondering, yes, there's a HUGE difference from being fluent and being bilingual. I'll get there one day soon and I hope the same for my brother.

Now that you know a little bit more of my background with Spanish, let me explain the challenges I have faced with the language and my brother's experiences. The hardest thing for both of us to get used to is...that I am more knowledgeable and experienced in the language than my brother is. He got a three year head start in learning the language but had a couple years off when he didn't go right into studying it post-high-school. I, for whatever reason, have been able to live in and travel to Spanish speaking countries and areas and be immersed in the language and he has just gotten the chance to travel this past year. I've also been studying and speaking it for the last 10 years. (10 YEARS - WOW, that's so crazy to write it out!) I've almost spent half my life being involved with that wonderful language. I've also almost had a Spanish class every semester of college, sometimes two. I realize that we're two different types of students: I am the more book-loving, studious type and my brother is more hands-on, learn-through-experience type. Our educational journeys have taken various twists and turns...and have led us to where we are today: I'm graduated and he's still in school. It wasn't what either of us had planned while we were still in high school but it's okay. We're both navigating the sometimes rough waters of 'the younger sister teaching the older brother new tricks.' The most important thing we've learned is that you should never underestimate what someone, regardless of their age, gender, race, religion, etc, can teach you. You will benefit greatly from keeping both your mind and ears open. I'm sure he hasn't always wanted to listen to what I have say but he listens anyway. I never thought I would be the one with more experience in this important area of his life (his major and future career) but I believe I have a role to play.

For some brother and sister relationships, the younger sister showing up the older brother would greatly annoy the older brother and cause him to plug his ears and go, "Laaa laaa laaa," and drown out his sister's voice, haha. Luckily for me, Nathan and I have always had open lines of communication between each other and can literally tell each other anything. I know not every sibling relationship is like this but I'm grateful we have a relationship like this. This experience of 'teaching the older brother new tricks' has brought us closer together I believe. We now have even more things to talk about, teach each other and more places on our joint travel bucket list to visit. What's more is that, I'm so glad that we had the chance to be in Spain together at the same time. That he got to teach me new things about a country I'm super obsessed with. How we got to swap travel stories as we traveled around different Spanish country sides at the same time. How we got to take a walk down memory lane with me in Sevilla and how he helped me leave a new mark on that marvelous city. A mark that said we both were there...and how we naturally have to go back!

I suppose the moral of this post is: don't put your education in a box or on a timeline and don't reject learning lessons the non-traditional way. Old or young, you have the power to impact someone's life and learning even if you don't feel qualified or called to do it. So..just do it. Open your mouth, share your story and learn from the experience. Chances are you won't regret it!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Facebook Fast

If you had told me soon after my college graduation that I would be working in marketing, I wouldn't have believed you. If you elaborated further and said that I'd be earning an income by handling social media accounts for a couple small businesses, I would've burst out laughing. Well, the joke's on me because that is what I have been doing for just a little over a year now. I won't do this forever -as long as I keep having dreams in other languages I won't- but it is good steady work for now. And being able to work at home, or wherever I'm at in the world, still has its perks.

2013 has been a good year. It's been challenging and it's coming to a close soon, but it's been good. I was able to go back to Spain for a long visit, see several friends, "run into" and do some sightseeing with my brother and have many other exciting adventures along the way. I've spent time with friends here too and attended a wedding of a good friend a couple months ago. I'm eagerly awaiting my cousin's wedding this fall which will bring one whole side of my family together.

Back on the home front (Jacksonville), though, I've been a bit lonely and unhappy. I chalk some of those feelings up to turning 25 at the end of this year. If you've talked to me lately, you might have heard me mention that I'm having sort of a "quarter life crisis." John Mayer coined the phrase a few years ago and it has seemed to stick with my generation. It's not that I don't know who I am or what I want, it's just that I don't know how to get to where I want to be - or rather I lack the resources to do so. Several months before my big trip to Europe, I had this passing thought one day: "Well, now the goal is to get out of Jacksonville." It stopped me for a moment because that is almost the same thought and plan I had many years ago when I realized I had to get out of Ohio (my home state). I didn't know if I was going to be able to achieve that goal but my hope was stronger than my doubt. Now, I am filled with that same hopefulness, years later. Only time will tell when I can move onto the next chapter of my life -wherever that may be.

Not too long ago I decided to go off of Facebook for a month. I still haven't shared a good portion of my pictures from my trip nor have I written about many of the new cities I traveled to or the people I met along the way. It wasn't that my trip changed me in a negative way. It made me stressed out at times but overall I was joyful there. I had some fun experiences and made wonderful memories with old (and new) friends. However, I came to Spain discontent about the situation at home and was hoping being in Spain again would change things. Help me figure out how to become content again. The only way to truly change how I felt was to change my thinking. And when that failed, give it up to God.

Well, as I was doing my best to do the latter, I still struggled with those feelings. I realized one of my problems was now this fancy iPhone I got just before my trip. I had the world at my fingertips. I could read, watch or listen to anything I wanted to, whenever I wanted to. I had never experienced that before. I could also see whatever my friends around the world were doing at any given moment with just the touch of my finger. Now, let me just say that none of those things are bad. It's great that the world is much smaller and more connected than it ever has been. It's great that families and friends can stay in touch all over the world. What can be bad (or detrimental) to your health and well being is that you become addicted to things like social networks and smartphones. I've already developed a dependency on social media -which I'm not exactly proud of- but I didn't want to become addicted to my iPhone. Most importantly, I didn't want to become addicted to checking Facebook first thing while I was still lying in my bed. Too ambitious maybe?

Well, here are the three things that I wanted to accomplish by staying off Facebook:

1) Break my habit of checking the site multiple times per day.
2) Form good habits with my smartphone
3) Get back in touch with and be more engaged with my real life (IE: regularly exercise and enjoy the outdoors, finally get around to studying Portuguese and spending more quality time with friends)

You might be thinking: "Hold on just a second! I thought you said you manage social media pages like *ahem* Facebook?"

Okay, so... admit that it wasn't a complete and total Facebook fast. I've still been on the website everyday...for business. I've seen my own profile page a few times when switching between the pages but I haven't seen the news feed and what you all have been up to in about a month. In fact, I don't know what many of my friends have done with their summers. Is it my fault? Well, the short answer is yes.

I ended up fasting food almost the entire day today (Saturday). I know that this may seem like it coincides perfectly with my other fast but I didn't plan on doing it. In fact, I've never really done an honest to goodness fast in my life. I've done the Daniel fast before but at least with that type of fasting you can still eat throughout the day, though there are diet restrictions. Anyway, because I fasted today, I was much more aware of the time and I was more focused than I have been in a long while. I can't say that I accomplished a whole lot today but I had a much needed time of reflection.

This nearly month long of Facebook fasting has been good for me. I went into it with misguided intentions but have come out learning a couple of good lessons. One thing in particular was, that I've known for a little while, is that I've been very selfish. Due to a couple of situations this summer, I realized that I've grown a bit obsessed with thinking about myself. My work. My time. My actions. My clothes. My looks. What I do right during the day. What I do wrong. Or what I simply don't get done during any given day, week or month. How much money I make. How much money I'd like to make. Where I live. Where I'd like to move to. How much I miss home but can't go back often enough. It's always about ME. From the moment I wake up to the second I fall asleep. Sure, I think about and interact with other people throughout the day but I don't do it often enough. Not as much as I should.

Secondly, I need to always reach out to my closest friends and stay in touch. To make plans to chat or catch up in person. I have hardly done that all summer. I've spent most of my time working and recovering from all that work in my down time. I had a good conversation with my mom about this the other week. I told her how tired I was (of a lot of things) of always being the one to initiate contact with someone. How the people who stay in the best touch with me are hundreds of miles away. How no one around here makes plans with or thinks of me first. (See where I'm going with this? It ties into the first thing I mentioned) I asked if she ever got tired of being the one to make plans with her friends growing up and if she ever stopped being the initiator. She said yes but she continued to be the one who got everyone together. To make plans to hang out or go take a weekend trip. She said that if she didn't, nothing would happen. And on top of that, she would feel lonely.

That's how I have felt these past few weeks. Sure, I've had some time to myself to do the things I'm interested in and learn a new language but if I can't spend time with other people while I'm living in this city, then what's the point of living here? For some strange reason I thought people would want to talk to me more and make plans to do stuff this summer in person since I got off Facebook. It's a great tool to use to stay in touch but it can also ruin friendships. I'm not saying that my fasting has ruined any of my friendships but it has sort of stunned the growth of some. I take full blame. It's not easy to admit that but I feel a lot better doing so. The truth is, I need people. I like helping people. I like talking to people. I love making people laugh. I am fine spending time by myself but God does not want us to be alone all of the time. He built us to desire companionship -both in platonic and romantic ways.

As this fast comes to a close, I can definitely say that I've learned more than I thought I would. I knew that I had been selfish at times in the past few months but I didn't realize that it had gotten this bad. I will re-join the Facebook world in just a couple of days but I won't look at it the same way I did before. I hope to continue to work on my pride issue and do my best to get it under control.

I'll still be working through the constant struggle between my fervent desire to live abroad and my current financial situation. That's not going to go away any time soon. For now, I will do my best to be content with God's timing. I may make my own plans but ultimately His plans will prevail.

Have you ever taken a break from technology or a social network? How long was your break and what did you learn?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Taking Language to the Next Level!

Having lived in Northeast Florida for the past few years, I've seen that the Hispanic community has been ever increasing here. Spanish is at least seen or recognized everywhere across the county. It is quickly becoming the most popular foreign language to learn across the US. Spanish is at least seen or recognized everywhere across the county. I also know that negative experiences with the language (or with those who teach it) are the number one reason why people choose not to learn. However, from a purely financial perspective, there is a lot of money to be made for those who speak English and Spanish regardless of the field. From a linguistic standpoint, Spanish is one of the most beautiful Romance languages. Each country has their own unique phrases and accents. It can be overwhelming at first to learn the vocabulary or how to speak it, but once you can get a handle on it, it starts to become easier. You have to remember to keep practicing and using what you learn, though!

If you haven't already known, I chose to study Spanish in high school for a number of reasons. I had exposure to it as a child and already recognized a few words when it was introduced to me in middle school. I took some French in middle school as well but I wasn't all that interested in it. It seemed like a confining and stiff language to me. Spanish truly seemed like a living, vibrant language. I grew up listening to some Caribbean and Latin artists and the music was always so upbeat and energetic. I also thought my future field trips in Spanish class would mean that we might go eat at a Hispanic restaurant!! I mean who could pass up Mexican food especially when the school paid for it sometimes? haha Well, Spanish was my first experience with learning a language but it was just the beginning of my linguistic journey.

I took 4 years in HS and 4.5 years in college. I've been to Mexico and I've studied in Spain. I've taken the language beyond the classroom and used it to live my life. To grow and change. To talk and get to know people I wouldn't have met otherwise had I not known how to speak their language. I think when you reach that point in your learning, you begin to see that it's not just about memorizing the words on a page or the lyrics to a song. It's about learning a new way to live your life. How to see things from another person's perspective. To challenge yourself and see what you're made of.

I'm not quite finished with the Spanish language just yet (and I never will be to be honest) but I'll let you in a little secret: I want to know and speak 5 languages fluently in my lifetime. I've been tinkering around with Portuguese for the past couple of years but now I want to get serious and starting studying the grammar and leaning vocabulary. Eventually, I will either find a conversation partner here or take another trip back to Portugal or venture down to Brasil. Whichever way I decide to begin practicing it, I will be incorporating it into my life. I haven't officially decided on my 5th language but I know what I want my 4th one to be: Arabic. Ever since I went to Morocco three years ago, I have been a bit obsessed with the culture and its language. Even spending time in both Southwestern and Southeastern Spain where there is a heavy Arab influence has only made me more curious about the language. I'm not certain how I can incorporate Arabic into my life and future goals but I still want to learn it! 

For my 5th language I'm considering learning Japanese or German - because these two languages are so similar to one another, right? ;-) I hope my friend Anita is reading this because she has a little something to do with my interest in German. I learned a little bit of Japanese when I was younger and have always been fascinated with their culture as well. I may add one, both or none of these two languages to my repertoire. I don't know at this point!

What I do know is that I will never stop learning, exploring and gaining new experiences through languages, whether I speak them or not! Life is too short to put limits on anything -especially learning. :-)