Sunday, November 30, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

How to Apply for the Auxiliares de Conversacion (NALCA) Program in Spain

As I write this, I am currently in my first year as an English language assistant in the North American Language and Culture Assistant Program through the Spanish Government for the 2014-2015 school year. I am a mid-twenty-something American from Ohio (the Midwest) and I have lived in Spain before both as a student and tourist in the iconic and lively city of Seville, in the heart of Andalusia. However, when I decided to apply to the program to live in Spain longer and gain experiencing teaching, I wanted to go way out of my comfort zone and chose the northwestern region of Galicia as my first choice. I'll explain the steps you should take to apply to this program, why I chose a new region and some pointers (and loopholes) that I found helpful when I applied or read advice on how to apply myself.

(This post is currently being edited and updated so look for the full post soon. Please don't comment until I've finished it by the end of July 2015).

Gracias y hablamos pronto!

- Sarah

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Daytrips: What to Pack and Where to Go (Spain Edition)

As I may have mentioned before, this is not my first time in Spain so naturally I have taken all sort of trips around the country, both long and short. With friends and going solo. I am currently on a solo day trip of own right now but I utilized the time on the train ride there to compose this blog entry for you.

Let's begin!

A few do's and don'ts:

DO go on a daytrip to a town (or city) that is less than or about 3 hours away.

DO go alone if you are confident enough in your language skills and aren't shy about asking a stranger where the nearest (insert location here) is. You never know what wonderful kinds of people you'll meet and get into conversations with! Use your best judgement with people and know when to break an interaction off.

DON'T take a day trip somewhere if it will take more than 5 hours to arrive there one way. You will most likely not see everything you want to see or will try to fit too much into one day and could miss your train or bus back home.

DON'T take a day trip to a town that speaks a regional language or little to none of your native tongue if your Spanish skills are shaky. Exception: if the town or city is more touristy and so English and other languages would be spoken, go! Just remember to use common sense wherever you go and go to the tourist office if you need help finding a place. Or use your trusty friends, Google Maps and the Internet! ;P

Don't leave the house without these essentials:

1) Money belt and/or wallet (with the necessary tickets, cash, cards and passport or national ID card tucked safely away in the zippered pockets)

Chances are you won't need your passport for a day trip but if you live close to the boarders of Portugal or France, take it with you!

2) Reusable Waterbottle

3) Camera + extra batteries or smartphone + cord or portable battery charger (plus the necessary power converter plugs)

Can't leave home without my Pentax Optio 8.1 MP or my Lenmar Portable USB Charger.

4) Non-perishable snacks

5) Medicine (aspirin, allergy medicine or inhalers)

6) Travel toiletries (tissues-which can act as toilet paper-,lotion, hand sanitizer, scissors, tweezers, a comb or brush, hand wipes, resealable sandwich bags-for snacks or leftover uneaten food-)

A few extra essentials as seen in the picture: sunglasses, flashlight, band aids and deodorant (couldn't hurt!)

7) Waterproof rain jacket or heavy coat (depends on the season and location of the city or town you plan to visit)

Don't leave home without one of these if you plan to travel to Galicia! It's a must.

8) Umbrella (depends on season and region. This will be #1 on the list if you plan on visiting any city or town in the region of Galicia. Check the weather!)

9) Reading material (books, magazines, guidebooks or ebooks and audiobooks)

El Hobbit is in Spanish and the Learn Portuguese book is well, in Portuguese, haha.

10) Plastic bag with extra change of clothes or for dirty clothes. (This one mainly applies to those who are taking a day trip that involves some type of outdoor activity or hike. Cross this one off your list if you don't foresee yourself getting wet, muddy or sweaty on your day trip).

Pretty self-explanatory but I wanted an excuse to show you how ugly the colors on the Gadis bags are...

11) Your imagination and sense of wonder! Take the time to get to know they city you're in and talk to a few locals if you can. It's fun to see the sights and be a tourist but it's much more worthwhile if you can do that and get to know the place on a more personal level.

And that's all I've got! What would you add to this list, if anything?

Tell me in the comments below!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Galicia: First Impressions

This coming Tuesday the 28th will mark one full month in Galicia for me. I have never been to this region before but I heard nothing but wonderful things about it when I received my placement n this region with the North American Language and Culture Assistant program back in May 2014. Even the horror stories of how it rains for days here sin parar in the wintertime didn't scare me off. I was living in sunny Northeast Florida in my college city up until the spring of this year when I moved back home to Ohio and needed a change of pace as well as climate. A nice long stint in Galicia seemed like the perfect spot for me, and even if I do get tired of the rain, I can always jet off to a new location in Spain for the weekend or cross the border into another European country and explore til my heart's content. Speaking of the rest of Europe, I have some trips planned, but before I can take them, I had to adjust to this new-to-me sub-culture of Spain and get settled into a rhythm and daily routine myself.

Here is a short list of my impressions of Galicia and how it differs from the rest of Spain (in my opinion). Keep in mind that I am more used to the Spaniards in the South - primarily Andalucia - who are a lively and boisterous group of people and Galicians are quite the opposite. I'm learning to appreciate both cultures in different ways and I'm glad I am out of my comfort zone here. That's not to say that I don't just about get googley-eyed when I met an Andaluz here in some part of Galicia, haha!

Anyway onto the list:

1. Galicians are more reserved and may come across as cold when you first meet them. They are not quick to give their opinion on a certain topic and often add, "Well, I don't know," after giving you their opinion. I think it's because they want you to form your own opinion of a place. That's not to say that they aren't proud of their region -they really are! They seem to be a little more modest to me. Galicians are also not as likely to make eye contact with you or smile at you when you pass them on the street unless they know you personally or are related to you. You have to make the effort to get to know them and once you do, you will have a friend for life.

2. Saying chao vs. saying hasta luego. This is more of a difference between the colloquial phrases used in Galicia compared to Andalucia or Madrid and not the people themselves. Well, maybe that's part of it too. You hear the locals saying 'chao' more often than 'hasta luego' but it depends on the part you're in. I am used to saying 'ta luegooooooo and really carrying out the last 'o' as they do in Andalucia. However, I like these distinct differences in the use of the language as it helps me separate my experiences and memories in both regions a bit better.

3. It is so green, foggy and mountainous in this region! I also knew this by doing a ton of research before arriving in this beautiful land but seeing it with my own two eyes was a whole different story. Take a look for yourself:


4. The smaller the town you visit, the more gallego you hear in the streets and stores. You can also find it spoken in small shops in bigger cities (spoken by older people more but young people too) which I love! In just the past two weeks I had small conversations with two people in Gallego (Galician). I could get the gist of what they were saying as I also speak conversational Portuguese which sounds a little similar to the language. It was so much fun though my vocabulary is very limited right now, haha!

5. The food is so varied and rich - and not to mention cheap here! I am living in a part of Galicia that is known for its seafood and I couldn't be happier. I have been putting off trying pulpo as the best pulperías are a ways away from me in the city center (and not to mention cost a bit more per plate/tapa)...but I will try it soon! I have tried many other typical dishes which I will share more about in my next post!

Feel free to add a comment about YOUR favorite place in Galicia or Spain in general if you have been here.

Hasta, chaooo! :-)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Running List of Things I'm Thankful For

I have severely neglected this blog for reasons that are understandable (the loss of a family member, working and saving up for a big move halfway across the world, making said big move and starting a life here, and that list goes on, haha).

Bueno, saludos desde España! :)

A few things have gone wrong from me and I'm not in the best health right now but I am not giving up. I think these challenges are just more of the same challenges I have been facing all year when it came to preparing for this new chapter in my life. There were several roadblocks that I faced leading up to my move to Spain and I know that they are not over. I did think, "oh, how hard could things be once I get over here?" and I shouldn't have thought that everything would be smooth sailing once I did. Anyway, I am choosing to keep a positive attitude and finding things to be thankful for. The way I'm doing this is writing down at least three a day.

Here's what I got so far:

Sept 28th, 2014

- Power coverter plugs and available outlets

- Places that will let you come inside with suitcases!

- A sleep mask that blocks out ALL light

Sept 29th, 2014

- Sunny weather all week long in the infamous rainy Galicia

- Signs in Spanish and Gallego :)

- Hearing Castrapo (a mix of Spanish and Gallego) in the streets (It's like I'm discovering Spain as a country all over again :)

-Wifi in most bars and restaurants (especially those with strong outside signals ;)

-A city that's easy to navigate (I went mapless today and I've only been here like 2 days! haha)

Sept.30th, 2014

- Fresh, cheap produce that will hopefully help me continue to recover fast!

- The fact that I brought my pillow from home and how comfortable it is

- A school with staff that seems very friendly and proactive with the students!

And speaking of school, it starts tomorrow for me, October 1st, 2014! I have waited for this day all year. Let's see what this experience teaches me while I in turn teach children English and about my culture.

October 1st, 2014

- A child's smile and mischievous grin.

- Co-workers with whom I can speak Spanglish

- The fact that I have co-workers again!

- Being enough of a regular at a local bar that people recognize me and can help me with local problems if I need it! :)

Un beso,


Saturday, August 23, 2014

So This is What Love (And Loss) Is. . .

Be on the look out for the full story behind the title and the sweet adorable kitty to whom I am dedicating this post.

<3 Sarah

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Monthly Update: July 2014

Read what new things I've been up to this past month, plus, some life changes and updates on my upcoming stint teaching English in Spain! Just two months until my start date of October 1st now - wow!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Postcards from: Chicago

This time last month I was having a fun time exploring the streets of a new-to-me city, the Windy City. I can't say that the whole weekend went without a hitch but I did have a few wonderful moments while I was there and I captured some great photos to remember them by.

Millennial Park at dusk

In front of the Bean!

Fountain pillars at Millennial Park

Inside the gorgeous Union Station!

Stay tuned for more pictures and highlights from the trip tomorrow!

<3 Sarah

Friday, June 27, 2014

Monthly Update: May & June 2014

Updates from May and June!

I never got around to creating a month of May update draft and before I knew it June rolled around and I was too late. In reality, though, it's perfectly fine to do a combined post of updates but I won't elaborate on every one. I do plan to write a couple more posts about 2-3 of these topics individually (like how I applied to the North American Language and Culture Assistant program, some places and things that I saw in Chicago, must see places and must-do things in Ohio and lastly, my own evaluation of some of these micro-gig apps I am using to earn an extra income on the side. For now, please enjoy photos of mine from the past two months and read what I've been up to lately.

As always, at the bottom I will share prayer requests and praises. Please input your email into the subscribe box on the right hand side if you would like to receive updates from this blog straight to your inbox. Thanks!

1. Explored more of Ohio's parks and nature activities

The more I talk to friends who stayed or are just visiting the Dayton area, the more things I realize I haven't seen or done in this area. One of those places was John Bryan State Park just outside of Yellow Springs, OH. I actually went to this park for a picnic during the last weekend of April but I didn't write about it in last month's update. It was an absolutely perfect day weather wise and I couldn't have asked for better company either. The picnic was an IFI (International Friendship Institute) activity and one of the last events of the school year. I enjoyed meeting more new people, getting to know others, playing Dutch Blitz (super competitive and fast card game, not to mention addicting :-P), exploring the park and river nearby and discovering more and more how small of a world we live in. And how any event becomes instantly better with international people in attendance! :-)

In mid-June, I went canoeing for the first time in a long time with a group from UCIE (University Center for International Education) and IFI at Wright State. The last time I had been on a boat in any sort of water was when I borrowed a friend's kayak and went out on the St. Johns River by myself one hot day in May. That was definitely a fantastic experience! Canoeing was so fun and relaxing (well, not always, haha) too and it was the first time I had been since being on JU's Rowing Team. I actually found that I paddle better backwards than I do forwards. After all, rowing requires you to paddle backwards! haha I did scare the friend whom I was canoeing with a little bit when I accidentally turned the boat around and started paddling us out of a tight spot...backwards! Oops, haha. We canoed  for two miles down the Little Miami River (with the Little Miami Canoe Rental in Oregonia, OH) and the trip went by fast. Everyone that went decided that we'd all like to try their 6 mile trip in a few weeks. Not only could we canoe longer but we could also enjoy eating lunch right there on the river!

2. Saw my brother Nathan graduate from college!

This particular milestone my brother reached on Saturday May 3rd, 2014 was a long time coming, about 9 years in the making. I was so proud of him but barely saw him walk across the stage that morning as there were SO many graduates of all different majors from WSU walking. It was the first WSU graduation
that I had attended and the number of graduates and people in the arena watching everything completely blew my mind. It also made me appreciate the size and personal attention I got during my own graduation in 2011 a lot more. I am very happy for my brother and proud of all his hard work (both in the classroom and outside of it as he paid for the majority of his tuition costs every year up until graduation). I can't wait to see where he goes with his degree and beyond! He is a very talented and ambitious person and I am proud to call him my big brother.

I will let the above picture say the rest. :)

3. Got my regional and city placements from the Spanish government!

On the afternoon of May 16, 2014, I was sitting in a cafe (Tim Horton's) up the street from my house working on several things including some worksheets for an online Spanish editing and translation class I was taking through I got completely absorbed in my work and fascination with the Spanish language that I forgot to keep track of time. I also forgot to check my email for several hours but I knew I wasn't going to receive an important message that day so it didn't matter whether or not I kept tabs on it. Famous last words!!!

My mom had called me wondering when I'd be home and also was wondering if I would go get a haircut that day. I said that I hadn't decided yet on either but I would at least call the hair cutting salon to see if their sale was still on. Well, in between searching their website for a phone number to call and going back to check my email since I had neglected it, I had a very big surprise waiting in my inbox. Before I even moved my cursor over to the Gmail tab I had up, I said to myself, "Oh, I'm sure there's nothing new in here. It's not like I got my placement email or anything today." HAHA! The joke was on me because that was exactly what was waiting in my inbox - my regional placement from the Spanish government! I'm going to my first choice region --> Galicia!

Here's a glimpse of what they call the Golden Ticket to Spain:

And then, just after I logged onto Profex (the application system candidates use to apply) a couple days later to accept, two weeks later, on a Friday again, I got my city and school placement. The funniest thing was, I had only emailed the regional coordinator in Galicia at the beginning of the week asking if I could be placed in a city called La Coruña. I never received a reply email except for the notice that I had been assigned a school La Coruña! And what's more is, I looked up the address of the school and I will be teaching at a school that is near the city center. In other words, I will have virtually no commute! Depending upon where in the city I decide to live, my commute could be at longest a 15 minute walk! :-D I am ecstatic about that!

Also, the bilingual coordinator at my school has already contacted me and shared the library's blog with me. If you would like to take a look at it and see some of the future students I will have an impact on, click here: Colegio Salgado Torres. (The blog is in the regional language, Galician, but if you know Spanish you should be able to roughly figure out what it says.)

4. Reconnected with old HS friends

I will let this picture speak for me with this one. It was so great to see you Lanora and meet your kids! You are doing a fantastic job with them. And they're so hilarious too!! :-)

5. Started to really clean and organize each room in our house (my room will still take a lot of work!)

I will elaborate on this more as time goes by but the short version of this update is that we are working hard to organize, clean and simplify several things in our house. I had the idea to first do all of this with my room as I have about 25 years worth of belongings in there now that have experienced a move almost every year for the past 7 years. It evolved into figuring out why we keep the things we keep, why there is so much clutter in certain rooms and how can we live more simply.

My brother came across a website called FLY Lady at the beginning of June and we have taken some activities and philosophies from there and applied it to our cleaning habits. One of these activities in particular is to break up our cleaning spurts into 15 minute challenges. The goal is to get as much done in one spot or one room as possible in 15 minutes. The time frame is not meant to frustrate you but rather challenge you to go through more things quickly and straighten them all up faster. You have to make quick decisions when it comes to throwing away, donating or keeping things. You even have to make sure you use those 15 minutes wisely and clean only the most important areas. We have done a couple per day for the last month and we have made a lot of progress! One of my big projects for this summer that I have yet to tackle is to scan all of my pictures, projects, papers, posters, reports, assignments, etc from school and back them all up on an external hard drive or flash drive. Then....I'm going to throw all of the hard copies away so that I can simplify all of the clutter in my room and life. I realized, while I was packing up my room in Jacksonville, that I can't move to Europe if I'm going to still be holding onto every little paper I write or print off. I need to consolidate and go digital! (And just because I know I need to is not going to make throwing all of those things away any easier. :-/)

6. Joined several Language Assistant Facebook groups and started to reach out and ask questions

I have been continue to research and join groups on Facebook that are geared for language assistants going over to teach English in Spain. I joined one in particular that is the largest one out there and connected with a couple of people. We have been introducing ourselves to one another, asking and answering questions and starting to make tentative plans to visit each other's regions. I am also looking into GBU's (Grupos Biblicos Universitarios, Spanish university student geared campus ministry) Facebook pages up in Northern Spain to see if I can connect with some evangelical Christians there early and hopefully find a good lead and potential roommates in an apartment next year. I'm crossing my fingers for something great to work out! :-)

7. Worked on getting back in shape

I was inspired by the picture below from an event that was floating around on Facebook. I have been thin my whole life but I haven't always been fit and in shape. I seriously need to build up my upper body strength which is why I started this challenge at the beginning of the month...but only made it about halfway through.
:-/ Better luck in July I say!

8. Visited Chicago for fun/work including a trial run trip to the Spanish Consulate General

I went up to visit Chicago the city for the first time as an adult from June 6th-9th to visit a friend, do some part-time work, see the sights and locate and plan a route to get to the Spanish Consulate where I will go in person to turn in paperwork to apply for my visa to live in Spain. That trip did not turn out as I had planned but I now know how to plan, budget for and get around the city better than I did! It's not my favorite city in the world but it was nice to visit.

9. Obtained a few extra freelance projects and sharpened my translation skills

My portfolio and skill sets are slowly getting built up the more extra projects I do. I have had three so far and while they have not paid a whole lot, they have definitely helped me to supplement my income. I have also challenged myself to translate about 100 words a day for the whole month of June which would come to a total of 3,000 words. I tried this challenge for many reasons but only successfully translated 1500 words. I tried this because I wanted to increase my speed and accuracy, build my vocabulary and read more articles in Spanish. I will aim to do this again in July and possibly in August to see if I can find just 20-30 minutes a day to set aside to translate any 100 word text from Spanish-English every day. Maybe in September I will do the opposite and go from English-Spanish. That will be a bit of a challenge for sure!

10. Started watching the World Cup 2014!

Last but not least, I am watching most of the World Cup games. Since I've been exposed to people other than those from Hispanic countries and I'd love to go to Brazil some day, I've been trying to watch almost every game. I don't particularly like to watch soccer (I'd rather play it to be honest) but I love to see all of the action on the field, how wildly the fans are cheering and how creative some people are dressed and how they go all out for their team! I even have the FIFA World Cup app on my iPhone and can follow the nitty gritty of each game if  I want to.

And yes, I'm still tuning into it even though my beloved 'La Roja' has been eliminated from the brackets!!! :( I'm very pleased to see how well the USA Men's team is doing and hope that they go far!


-I'm making progress on organizing and simplifying my belongings. It has taken some time to really feel like I've settled in here but I think after three months I feel as settled as I possibly can be.
-I received my regional and city placements a month earlier than I thought I would! And I got my region of choice --Galicia!!!
-Also, a huge praise that my school placement is in La Coruña proper and not in a small town 30-45 minutes away from the city. I will have virtually no commute and will save money on transportation costs during the week! I only thought this would be something nice to have happen to me but totally didn't expect it to happen. I'm already thanking God for being placed at this school and I haven't even gotten there yet! :)
-My brother graduated from college without a hitch and receive his diploma in the mail on June 27th. Very happy and proud of him!
-I got to go take a mini-weekend trip and not only explore a new city but do a trial run trip to the Spanish Consulate in Chicago. When it comes time to book my appointment there I will know exactly how to get there and where to go!

Prayer requests

-For my expected budget for Spain (Visa, background check and start-up costs, plane ticket, potential deposit on an apartment, personal expenses). There have been some setbacks or challenges as I try to earn the suggest amount I budgeted for but I am continuing to pray that I can get to half of what I need by mid to end of July.

-For an early placement hopefully in the northeast region of Spain (Galicia) and a school placement with little to no commute.   <---An answer to prayer right there!

-For a fairly easy and routine experience with the Spanish Consulate when I go to apply for my visa. I'm finishing up the background check process and will work on getting my medical exam during the early part of July. I will have to wait at least 10 days for the background check to be sent off to the State Department in Washington D.C to be apostilled (internationally notarized) before I can go apply for the visa.

-To keep using my time wisely and being able to take a couple of trips this summer. One in particular is our family vacation out to Nebraska to visit family. We are already experiencing schedule conflicts but pray that we will be able to make the trip together instead of separate.


-Health-wise I have been struggling for the past few months. And by struggling, I mean showing signs of carpal tunnel in my wrist (right arm). I type anywhere between 2,000-4,000 words a day for my copywriting/marketing jobs and projects, I write on this blog for relaxation, I message people, send texts and IMs and type other short notes and emails throughout the day. I really only get a break from typing on the weekends. I haven't always sat at a desk and typed long posts or emails which is bad for you know. I also know that my bad laptop etiquette has contributed to my pain but I didn't start to correct it until earlier in the spring of this year. I'm making progress in reversing the symptoms but it is going to take a lot more time to rehabilitate the wrist. I also won't have health insurance coverage until October (with the Spanish government) so I can't exactly just up and visit a physical therapist and pay out of pocket costs. I would just appreciate prayer for healing and more down time for my wrist.
If you or anyone you know has had (almost) carpal tunnel before and can recommend some exercises, stretches or products I could buy (specially designed mouses or laptop stands/holders), I would sincerely appreciate it!

Thanks for reading and investing time and prayer into my life!

Ata a próxima/Hasta la próxima/Until next time!
(Galician)          (Spanish)             (English)

Besos y abrazos,


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Few Things I'm Thankful For...

If you regularly read this blog, you probably already know that I moved from Jacksonville, Florida back to my hometown of Dayton, Ohio for a few months. If not, well, you won't be out of the loop much longer as I'm working a short series of posts with updates on my life here and what is next for me. Today I just wanted to write a short post about some things I'm thankful for. I started writing down several things I'm thankful for just after I moved so that I could maintain a more positive outlook as I transitioned from living on my own with roommates to living in one of the houses I grew up in with my parents and brother again for a short time. It hasn't always been easy having everyone under one roof again but in some ways it has been really great.

Find out why below!

Just lounging outside one last time with the dogs (Fred, right; Nolan, left) in late March.

  • I'm thankful I can live in a more peaceful and quiet area. No train whistles, dogs barking -inside and outside of the house-or construction noises.
  • I'm thankful that I don't have to worry about one of the above mentioned dogs eating my uh, rather delicate laundry items, haha! (I still sometimes worry about that in the back of my mind because it became I had a couple bad experiences with that. :P)
  • I'm thankful I don't have to worry about someone honking their horn or whistling at me as I walk to/from a bus stop or wait at one.
  • I'm thankful I can sit outside with my kitty on a nice sunny day and feel like we have the neighborhood to ourselves.
  • I'm thankful I still have alternate places to go (ie: cafes, libraries) to work on projects and regular work.
  • I'm thankful that the nearest Target is up the street (5-7 mins away) and not 50+ minutes away by bus. So nice!
  • I'm so thankful (for the first time in fact) that the Dayton area has such a well-connected and beautiful network of bike trails. Not only can I get great exercise whenever I want to but I can also enjoy the natural beauty around me. :)
  • I'm very thankful that I have the opportunity to meet new people, especially international students! :)
  • I'm thankful that places to meet and hang out with people are NOT far away at all. (You're too big sometimes, Jacksonville haha!)
  • I'm thankful I don't have to interact with a super anti-social and unfriendly male cashier at Save-a-lot (supermarket) anymore. (It was like he was terrified of small talk and making eye contact. The cheap, fresh produce was the only thing that made me keep back coming there, haha.)
  • I'm thankful I don't have to hurry to grocery shop at a store, fit the small amount of items I do buy into one reusable bag and have to walk and carry the heavy bag from one or more bus stops and then home. And I'm thankful I could fill up a whole shopping cart full of groceries and have a way to transport them all home (especially in the rain!).
  • I'm thankful I don't have to spend most of my morning corralling dogs and telling Nolan to stop barking at every little thing sometimes - especially the "Invisible Dog" aka a big dog that lived next door whose owners would let him go outside of his fence.
  • I'm thankful to have my family close by (living with me) for late night chats and laughs, advice and hugs.
  • I'm thankful to have so many people in my life who not only care about my well-being but also care about my dreams and goals and want to see me succeed in life.
Taking a short break from work today with my kitty, Tigger. I made a towel out of my sweater for him to lay on. :)

If you're reading this blog, chances are you are one of those people! :-)

What have you been most thankful for lately?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

La tolerencia es el vino de los pueblos por Jorge Majfud (translated)

The following story is an opinion piece written by one of my former professors at Jacksonville University for the widely read El Pais newspaper online. I liked the piece so much that I wanted to translate it from Spanish to English and share it with my readers, many of whom do not speak Spanish. If you do and would like to read the original article, you can click this link and read it here. If you are a native Spanish speaker and notice an error in my translation, please comment below and bring the specific line or phrase to my attention! I will sincerely appreciate the corrections. Thanks!
Tolerence is the wine for the people by Jorge Majfud
My father was the fourth or fifth child of 12 born in Uruguay to a Lebanese immigrant couple, she was Christian and he probably was too. All his childhood he lived in misery, digging up food from the field to eat, setting his bare feet in the cow manure to relieve the early morning cold with frost, fighting with other poor people for the bones that were left in the Frigorífico Tacuarembó.
He was a school boy when his siblings already worked mixing mortar to make bricks or planting vegetables that later he would sell in their town. When one brother returned from school, the other found him at the entrance of the town in order to put on (exchange) his shoes.
With time, somewhere there in the 1950s, my father successfully made it to the capital city to study carpentry and radiotelephony and upon returning to his town started Fabrica de Muebles, as he called it, besides starting many businesses and founding a Rotary Club and some banking cooperatives successfully. During the day he worked in his pharmacy or looked for some lost cow en one of his fields, and at night, for 30 years, taught classes in the technical school. His colleagues laughed at his ability to fall asleep sitting or even standing on foot.
“If I could go back in life, I would work less and enjoy things more,” was one of the last things he told me on the phone, not out of grief but to give me new advice, that ended up being his last. Our last conversation was lighthearted because one never knows the meaning behind each moment.
One day after his funeral, walking through the old corners of my city from my past lives, as if I took the sadness out for a walk with the secret hope of losing it on some corner, I came across many people, too many at the moment, the majority of whom I did not know or had not been able to recognize after so many years. One of them told me: “I had the best time of my life when I worked for your father. The man knew how to follow through with projects in whatever city and we were all going there together.”
“I was a student of your father,” another gentleman told me, whom I did recognize from some years back. “I was a lost boy when I met him. He gave me my first job and showed me how to be a team. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be who I am today nor would I have the family that I have.”
My perspective, like any other, is not neutral. To me he was an serious e man, generous with his own family and others, even though many would think the opposite. “To some people I am a good guy,” he said, “and to others I am surely a miserable guy. You can't be okay with both God and the devil.” It was not difficult to find faults in him, not because he emphasized this in some particular human way but because it is never difficult to find faults in everyone else. If they say he was already a perfect guy, what would happen if he was preaching democratic love to his enemies and they crucified him for it, what more can one hope for?

This was even more evident in the world of idealistic passions. We always discussed politics. He always clung to his conservative principles and I held onto a rebuttal. Our discussions were intense but as always we resolved them in a simple way:
“Well, I can see now that we are not going to reach an agreement,” he said, “ let’s go have some wine then.”

Of course, someone will say that tolerance is not the wine but the opium for the people. No lesser truth is that its absence in death of the people and worse, the frustration that each one of these concrete lives conform to this mythical abstraction.
I loved him a lot, like any good son can love a good father. But a son never loves as much as a father does. It takes a whole lifetime to come to this realization; some, even, need two lifetimes to understand it and more to begin to accept it. So, one can go about discovering other meanings in old memories, each one more profound.
For example, in several political elections, the old man listed himself on the ballot for their party. I never voted for him. I remember my first time, at the end of the 1980s, I voted for an emerging ecological party. When I arrived home I told my father that I had not voted for him. As always, he took the news with a smile and told me that I had done well.
Now that he has died, I ask myself what in the hell did that idealistic honesty serve for what I presumed that one election day. For what purpose does every tiny cruelty serve? For what purpose does every single small truth, every questionable honesty serve?
What is the point of everything? I asked myself this while I stared at a pile of a hundred letters written in Arabic that his parents wrote and received almost a century ago. I don’t know what they say. I can barely suspect that they are stories of love and heartbreak, of meetings and failed attempts that neither my father never came to know because his also hid his own frustrations, how all secrets of a language were hidden from him that are only used in the most profound way of their two shattered privacies in a clay ranch, in the middle of a field barely close to being able to survive.
What is the point of everything? I went back to asking myself this. So I look at my son looking out the window as I liked to do while my father worked very useless things and I realized that I know the answer. The answer, no the truth. Because one thing is a task, what you should do, and another thing simply is not. There is no doubt about one and about the other, about the truth, probably no one knows it or their own name. 

To read more articles and opinion pieces by Dr. Majfud, follow him on Twitter or visit his website, Escritos Críticos.
**This is just a practice translation.I am not claiming that I am providing the official English translation for this article nor am I claiming any ownership or rights to it.** <--just wanted to clarify that!

What I've Learned So Far at 25.5 Years Old

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Monthly Update: April 2014

April Updates!

I've now been in Dayton, Ohio for a month and a lot has happened within this short period of time. From re-connecting with old friends to making new ones, to attending an Easter sunrise service with my family (first time in 7 years), to re-adjusting to living at home to sunny days, cloudy days and one snowy day to getting involved with an international student ministry, I've been keeping quite busy up here!

Spring has sprung in my neighborhood! (Beavercreek)
I've been especially thankful to be experiencing a real spring after many years of being away from this area. The flowers and trees have started to bloom or have already bloomed. Birds are chirping earlier and earlier in the morning welcoming the warmer weather and sharing their songs with us. It has been a rainier April than what I got used to in Florida (March is a much rainier month there) but I am oh-so thankful for the lack of humidity, cooler nights and slightly weaker yet infrequent rays of the sun. But, most of all, I'm thankful to have quite a bit of stress off me and my family much closer than before. At times I can't believe I'm living back in Ohio, in Dayton nonetheless, but here I am. I'm starting to figure out the reason why I'm here such a time as this but I'll explain why later on in this post.

1. Spending Easter Sunday with my family

Collage of photos taken on April 20, 2014 (Easter Sunday)

We didn't get a family photo taken this Easter (due to waking up so early -6 AM- for the sunrise service but I at least got a picture in our church's small courtyard in the back. It was a brilliantly sunny yet cool day that Easter. I should've worn a coat actually but I knew I would warm up later in the morning when we went to have breakfast with the congregation in our fellowship hall. I was also just enjoying a cool morning in late April which practically doesn't exist in any part of Florida.

It was a little bit mind boggling that I hadn't been home for Easter in 7 years. I was a completely different person the last time I was in Ohio for Easter (a shy HS senior, stressed about graduating and anticipating my upcoming trip away to college) but that's okay. Now I'm much more confident in myself and personality, I have direction (somewhat) in my life and I'm done with college. I'm not done learning but I am done with the technical side of college. Thankfully. :)

The thing is, when you go South for college and where you live is a pretty much a Spring Break destination, there's really no need to spend extra money to fly home to Ohio where it's probably still cold and there's a chance of rain or snow on or around Easter. And unlike high school, I didn't attend a Christian institution so we only got one spring break vacation and it didn't coincide with Easter. I am thankful for the opportunities I had during my spring breaks and for the privilege to worship with another church family and spend a couple Easters with good friends from church and their families. I went on two week long mission trips in 2008 and 2011 (Miami, FL and New Orleans, LA), participated in spring training on the JU Rowing Team (2009), experienced Holy Week (Semana Santa) in Spain in 2010, Easter with Jamie's family in 2012 and an Easter afternoon at Jacksonville Beach in 2013. So, it's not like I didn't have anything to do for Easter since I was away from home and I won't be home for it in 2015, but it's okay. Being home just enhanced the experience for me this time.

2. Volunteering with IFI (International Friendship Institute) and meeting people from around the world in my own backyard!

Big turn out for their Graduation Night for the class of 2014 (added May 2014).
Photo credit: Enoch Jayasundara
My friend Abby (pictured to the left and in the front of the above picture in blue) has talked about all the opportunities she's had in the past couple of years to meet and interact with international people (besides Latinos) in the Dayton area. She invited me to an international dinner event at a church around here back in May 2012 and I attended. I was home for a quick surprise visit for Mother's Day. However, looking back on it, it must have been a combined Dayton and Columbus IFI event as I met people who were either going to school somewhere in those two cities. There was one girl that we both met who was studying at Wright State University (WSU) but was from China (pictured to the left of Abby). I didn't think that I would see her let alone any of the couple of other people I met from the Dayton area again but little did I know where I would be two years later! I was under the impression for years that a lot of international people did not come to the Dayton area but instead went to other bigger and more populated cities in the US. I was still sort of under that same impression when I moved back up here but I quickly learned that I was wrong. Sooo wrong, haha.

I was really wondering what my social life would be like up here as many people I knew in HS have moved away from this area or have other responsibilities in their lives (spouses, kids, pets, extended family, etc). I didn't know more than just a couple of people who are at the same place in life as I am (single and working) and wondered where I would fit in. It was like being the new kid at school again except this time school was not in the equation. I felt welcomed into the group at IFI almost immediately the first night I attended (April 4th). I quickly learned how to navigate explaining my unique situation and tried not to talk about how I had left beautiful sunny Florida for cloudy, moody, rainy Ohio at the beginning of April. If you want to make a bunch of Midwesterners mad, talk about what living in paradise was like when it's not even springtime! haha I kid, though. I did my best to focus on explaining my connections to other cultures, the languages I speak and my plans to teach English in the fall. I met Americans who had been overseas as well as Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Saudi and Hispanic students all studying or working somewhere in the Dayton area. I even met one person from Spain and he's actually the first person I've met from Spain in Dayton.

If life had gone as I had planned -or as it would have if no students went and studied abroad-, I should have met people like Abby in Ohio and JD in Spain at some point. But, no, God has a sense of humor and likes to take us by surprise sometimes. Abby told me about this International Bible Study (IFI) she had been going to a couple of times before I moved back home but she didn't mention it was IFI related until just a couple of weeks before. I had also not told her until I replied to her email that I was hoping to receive an early placement into the Spanish government program to teach English and go live in Galicia (Northern Spain). She writes back and says, oh, hey, there is a student from Spain attending the IFI Bible Studies and he's from Galicia. She suggested I meet him when I come up and get settled. She said he loves to talk about his region and how great it is and that I would enjoy getting to know him.

I thought that I would too but I still I laughed when I read the email. Why? Because that just sounded not only coincidental but very convenient! There's a Spaniard (a gallego at that!) around my age in Ohio for another month who could answer any questions I might have and regale me with his stories of living in the enchanted region of Galicia. It sounded too good to be true but it was! I figured he probably knew a lot of good places to travel to and see and suggestions on what to eat too. (That part is especially important as, like Ana says, food is the first problem, haha). I made a note to have Abby introduce us when I got up there but I put that in the back of my mind. I was busy selling my furniture, packing, coordinating the trip for my dad and brother to easily come down (at the tail end of a snowstorm of course, ugh, haha) to think about daydreaming about what I'd do in Galicia were I to be placed there. I didn't even look up any of the people she told me about on Facebook because, besides the lack of time, I figured it would be more fun to meet them in person. 

It turns out, a lot of people attend IFI's Bible Studies (between 40-60 people most nights!) and there is more to them than just a Bible Study. There was dinner for one thing, a short time of worship, a couple of games (international style with maps and trivia questions about other cultures) and then finally a Bible study and a time of prayer. A lot of students who attend the Bible studies are open to listening to the Word of God and who Jesus is but many of them do not call themselves Christians. That just makes IFI's mission even more important and powerful. They strive to bridge the gap between cultures by befriending the foreigner, whether they are a student (primarily) or a young professional in the area. Some students attend Cedarville University (a small private Christian university) but many people attend Wright State University (a huge public university). JD, the Spanish student, attends Cedarville University. He told me later that month that he first heard about Cedarville from a friend in Barcelona (who's married to a Cedarville grad) and just decided he'd go there for college. (Well, I'm sure there was more factored into his decision than that...) What a strange way to find out about a tiny Christian college in nowheresville Ohio! haha He also, like many other students I met, speaks multiple languages. In fact, he speaks the number of languages that I want to speak fluently [Five] in my lifetime now and he's younger than me! There are other students just like him who speak at least 3 languages and I am just astounded! It just goes to show me that I better speed things up if I want to catch up to these language whizzes some day. 

All in all, I have been overjoyed and pleasantly surprised by the people I've met and the topics, countries, foods, customs I've learned about in the past month. I was really spoiled in Florida with all of the opportunities I had to meet Latinos from all over the Caribbean, Central and South America but I sorely neglected Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It wasn't on purpose, of course. I just didn't have as many chances to meet a non-Latino person until I came back up to Dayton. I would say I am comfortable around Hispanics but God doesn't want us to be comfortable. If you're starting to get comfortable where you are, it's highly likely that something in your life is about to change. I am grateful for this challenge and change of pace. I think I know now that I simply love interacting with and getting to know people from all cultures and languages. I feel like I fit in better with Latinos and Spaniards but I miss out on a lot when I'm just sitting there in my own comfort zone speaking all of the Spanish I want, haha. I just never realized how many opportunities there are to meet internationals in Dayton and they have helped change my opinion of my hometown. In a very positive way. :)

That is just a small part of my experience with IFI. I'm planning on writing a more in-depth post comparing the Dayton I'm familiar with (boring) to the Dayton I've been newly introduced to (a vibrant one!) soon. I have so many observations but I first need to list them and then elaborate on the most important ones. 

3. Re-connecting with old friends

Arielle, Abby and I on April 28th, 2014

I still have a lot of friends down in Jacksonville (who I miss a lot!) but I have quite a few special friends who live in the Dayton area too. One family (not pictured) in particular and mine have been friends for 20 years this year. They are like family to me and we have all been a part of each other's lives during the big milestones and through the bad times. I'm thrilled to have them just a few streets away instead of 800+ miles away. God has certainly been good to me when it comes to having caring, godly friends in my life.

The two ladies in the above photo are two of those friends. We all have a unique life story but we also all have a unique story of how we met. Abby and I met through a suggestion from a mutual friend who was going to Spain the same time we were in 2010 (little did I know, they met on their plane ride over to Madrid! haha) and with the help of social media, primarily Facebook, haha. I messaged her, introduced myself and suggested we meet somewhere in Sevilla (a flamenco bar) in March 2010. Later on that month or in the month of April, I met Arielle (pictured in the middle) who was also a student (for the semester) at Cedarville. I reconnected with Arielle for the first time in the States this month as it just hadn't worked out for us to see each other before now.

Plus, had Arielle and I not gone away to college and left the Dayton area and stayed like Abby did, the story of how we all met would be much different. It would probably be a lot less exciting than our meetings were in Spain but we will never know. Sometimes God likes to throw curve balls and bring people together in an exciting and memorable way. Sometimes He doesn't but the important thing to keep in mind is the people you meet and what purpose they will serve in your life and vice versa. These two women are definitely friends I want to have in my life for a long, long time! And...if they can manage it, they should come visit me in Galicia some time in the next year! ;-P

Lastly, I'd like to share some prayer requests and praises. These will likely change a little (or a lot) in the upcoming months. Your prayers are greatly appreciated and I covet them! Please let me know how I can pray for you by reaching out to me via a phone call, text, email or Facebook message. I would love to unite with you in prayer and pray for the important things in your life.


-We fit everything I own into the *tiny* SUV we were given to rent (Chevy Equinox) and financially the move back up here did not break the bank for me.
-I am getting involved as a volunteer with a great ministry that has a heart for international students (IFI).
-One of my freelance clients will be paying me not one but two commission checks in the coming months for the lead generation I've been doing for her business on LinkedIn. A big blessing!
-I have access to a car on a more regular basis and I only have to use public transportation if I really want to (I no longer depend on it).
-I've gotten to enjoy a really nice, albeit strange (ie: snow on April 15th!), Ohio spring and Easter!

Prayer requests

-I'm still adjusting to living at home with my family all under the same roof but running into a lot of conflicts with my mom. We operate very differently now in terms of how things should be done in the house and it is hard not to say something or want to change something. I'm learning to keep quiet at times but it is hard.

-For my expected budget for Spain (Visa, background check and start-up costs, plane ticket, potential deposit on an apartment). I am expecting there to be setbacks or challenges as I try to earn the suggest amount I budgeted for but I just pray that I can get to half of what I need by mid to end of July.

-For an early placement hopefully in the northeast region of Spain (Galicia) and a school placement with little to no commute. A lot of people who have gone over to Spain to teach English end up getting placed in a small town to teach but live in a bigger city about an hour away. It would be awesome, but not necessary, if I were to be placed in the same city where I live. We'll see!

-For a fairly easy and routine experience with the Spanish Consulate when I go to apply for my visa. I hope to start this process as soon as possible but I cannot do anything now until I get my signed letter of appointment (carta de nombramiento).

-For more opportunities to use Spanish both in spoken and written forms. I'm primarily working in the fields of marketing and copywriting now but I really want to build up my translation portfolio while I've got some time. I also am just looking for odd jobs and anything that will bring in extra money for me on a short-term basis.

If you've made it all the way down to the very bottom of this post, bien hecho [good job]! If there are any improvements or suggestions you have or things you'd like me to talk about in my upcoming updates, let me know in the comments! These update posts are not really just for me to tell you what's going on in my life but also how you can be praying for me in this transition. Even if you just take the time to read the updates to see what I've been up to, I greatly appreciate your time and investment in my life!

Gracias por leer y hasta la próxima! (Thanks for reading and until next time!)


Monthly Update: March 2014

This is the start of a series of posts I will be doing throughout the rest of this year. A lot of changes are happening and will continue to happen in my life in 2014 and I want to share them with you!

If you are interested in receiving these blog posts via email, you can enter the email address you check the most often in the subscribe box on the right hand column of this post. I sometimes have the tendency to create a blank post solely because I wanted to make sure I had a certain number of posts published each month. However, once I have a few people subscribing to this blog, it will keep me accountable and help me to break that bad habit. Besides, who wants a blank email coming to their inbox late at night? Yeah, didn't think so, haha!

Now, without further ado, some updates way back from the month of March. It's hard to believe that my surroundings are completely different now than they were just one month ago.

Some big events that took place in March 2014...

  1. Traveled to Southern California with my brother (first time in 12 years!)
Nathan and I at Pacific Beach, California (San Diego area)
The last time I personally was in Southern California was in June 2007. I went with Xenia Christian HS on my second and final mission trip to Baja California, Mexico to minister to the migrant workers at camps and help translate from Spanish to English and vice versa. I had just completed 4 years of HS Spanish but only had head knowledge of the language. I realized, as I sat on this beach, that I really didn't know Spanish the last time I was there. And what's even more, is that the last time my brother and I were in Cali together, we both didn't have cell phones and our cameras both had disposable film in them, haha! We also didn't have driver's licenses as we were only 13 and 16 at the time. Regardless, we had a wonderful time with our grandmother (my mom's mom) who generously flew us out to visit and visited with other family members out there as well. It's a shame that we all live so far away but I'm grateful for the time we all got to spend together, the laughs we had and the memories we made. I'm also thankful that there are so many ways to stay connected through cell phones, social networks and apps.

Until next time, Cali! You left me California dreamin' as always...(but for the mountains this time! :P)

2. I moved out my college city! --> Jacksonville, FL

At the Metropolitan Park entrance to the St. Johns River, October 2007

On the Main Street Bridge in front of the Jacksonville Landing (Downtown) in March 2014

As someone who had never been to Florida before her college orientation weekend, I didn't see myself staying in Jacksonville for as long as I did. I lived there for almost 7 years (off-and-on)! I cherish my time there and all of the ways I grew personally, emotionally and spiritually there. I met and go to know so many wonderful people from all different ages, backgrounds, languages, faiths and cultures.

Sitting on the JU side of the St. Johns River in December 2009.
I went to a fantastic private college where I earned not one but two Bachelor degrees (BBA in Economics and a BA in Spanish), studied abroad in Spain thanks to JU, met so many amazing students and alumni who taught me many important life lessons and gave me invaluable advice. I also discovered a love for a sport I'd never thought I'd try: rowing. Though it's been 5 years since I was last in a rowboat on the St. Johns River, my eyes and my mind are always drawn to bodies of water, no matter how small or large they may be. As someone who was born and raised in a land-locked state, I had more than enough water and water activities available to me when I lived in Florida. Through my participation on JU's Novice Rowing Team, I was able to travel to almost every part of Florida and other parts of the South for races. We visited places like Augusta, GA; Orlando, FL; Tampa, FL; Sarasota, FL; and Oak Ridge, TN. I had been under the impression that Florida was largely the same landscape wise wherever you went but throughout my college career, I was pleasantly surprised by how diverse Florida really is.

With Matt and Jamie Wilbanks outside of MissionWay. Wonderful friends and mentors!
One of the other major blessings in my life in Jacksonville, was my church family. After some searching, a friend and I were invited to MissionWay Church all the way back in February 2008 at Nease High School (St. Johns County). The church did not have their own space to rent yet at that time but were praying for one and hoping that God would provide in His timing. I loved how genuine the members of this church were to one another and to visitors and felt an instant connection with a couple people. The pastor was at first a little too laid-back than what I was used to but he quickly won me over with his warm, welcoming and open personality. His love for God is transparent and you could also see how much he cared for others in the way that he interacted with them. I met a lot of great people throughout my years of attendance there at MissionWay and I am proud  to say that I was a member all 6 out of 6.5 years that I spent in Jacksonville. It was at times a struggle physically to get to church as the church's location was always closer to St. Augustine than Jacksonville (and I did not have my own transportation) but I was always blessed in some way when I attended. I learned that, if you really want to get somewhere, you will find a way to do it! And I did, with God's help most of the time. It was sad to leave my Jacksonville church family behind (along with several good friends and mentors) but I know that we will always stay in touch and that we will continue to pray for each other and encourage one another, whether we live near or far.

In front of the Three Lions Fountain in Historic San Marco. I had so much fun living there! 
I really discovered my likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, my passions in life while living in Jacksonville, Florida. I went there as a shy, quiet Midwestern girl who only had a slight idea with what she wanted to do with her life but left a nearly tri-lingual, confident, outgoing, college educated woman (who is a world-traveler-in-the-making) with a rough plan of what she'd like to do for the next 5 years. (There is plenty of room for surprises and changes of plans along the way, though!) After months and weeks of praying and feeling that God was closing doors for me in Jacksonville, I made a decision in December 2013 to move out of the room I was renting the following spring and leave Jacksonville for good. Where was I going to go and what was I going to do? Good questions! Keep reading to find out the answers. :-)

3. I finally visited two iconic St. Augustine landmarks

There are still a few things in the Jacksonville area that I have never done or been to before (the Cummer Museum and Gardens to name one thing) but I managed to cross two things off my Jax bucket list before I moved out of the area. The top of and the inside of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and the inside of the Castillo de San Marcos (affectionately known as the Fort). I got to do the first thing by myself and the last thing with family. And for once, it didn't rain on us in St. Augustine like it had during our past visits there. I couldn't have asked for clearer, sunnier or more arid weather that last day in Florida.

After seeing a pictures of a couple of friends getting proposed to on top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse (and okay, also after seeing Ted Mosby propose to the mother on HIMYM on top of one--on TV--the month before, haha), I figured the view must be spectacular and that I should make it a point to visit the lighthouse closest to me for a long time before I left. So, in a skirt and in flats, I climbed up and down all 219 steps to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and was rewarded with a gorgeous view of the Atlantic Ocean and St. Augustine itself. It was very windy up there but the sun was shining brilliantly and I could see for miles. I also saw my dad and brother below and arranged for them to come over to that area beneath me so that I could wave to them. And though I went up alone, I met a nice male tour guide who kindly took a few pictures of me at the top. I felt like I was going to fly off the thing and my unruly, windswept hair was going to ruin every single picture but nothing extreme happened. He even waited a few seconds for my hair and the wind to cooperate! What a nice guy!

On top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse facing the Atlantic Ocean. March 30, 2014

Lastly, I finally went into the Castillo de San Marcos. I have been to many castles and fortress like structures in Spain but I had been dying to see the inside of the Fort. I love all of the Spanish influence in St. Augustine now more than ever primarily because I have been to the "homeland" a couple of times and love the Spanish culture and architecture even more. I was really impressed with the condition of the inside of the Fort, how beautiful the inside courtyard and outer grounds are and the fact that people reenact the blowing of the cannons off of the Fort a few times everyday. The commands are rattled off in [broken] Spanish by gringos (white people) and that alone really enhances your experience at the Fort. I was particularly pleased to recognize some architectural similarities between the Fort and a small castle I had visited in Cádiz, Spain about four years ago. Our entrance tickets to the Fort were good for one week but unfortunately we weren't going to be there within that time frame to go visit it again. It's good to know for the future though and we'll have to plan ahead to visit it multiple times if we can!

Just hanging out in a little cove on top of the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, FL

4. I moved back to my hometown! Dayton, OH <--

All of the room I had during a 15 hour car ride home from March 30-31, 2014!
Don't try to move someone halfway across the country with their whole adult life's worth of belongings in a Chevy Equinoix. Do try this if you have a dad who has a very mathematical and engineering geared mind! (That's what I had thankfully.)

 Yes, I did what every young Ohioan (or anyone who has ever gone away to college or moved out of their parents' house) prays they won't ever have to do: move back home with your parents. I certainly didn't see this becoming part of my post-college plans but it did. It's not for an indefinite time because I have a move-out month coming up! Let me explain.

One of many things that I was praying about and making decisions about was what I wanted to do next in my career. I know I'm just getting started with my career and have plenty of time to "figure things out," but there was one thing I was certain of. I didn't want to be tied down to Jacksonville, Dayton or anywhere else in America to be honest. I wanted to live overseas and keep traveling but there were several things holding me back. The first was spending so much of my time and money to afford to live in Jacksonville on my own. I was unhappy with the way some things were going there but overall, I felt that it really was time to move on and start a new chapter of my life. I knew that I couldn't move home on a temporary basis without presenting a plan to my parents. I got all the plans squared away and then worked on a move-out date. Things pretty much came together rather quickly (including selling some of my large furniture items) and before I knew it the last week of March was upon me.

At that point, I was working on getting all packed up and saying goodbye to friends. The most important plans were already set and out of my mind. Chief of all of my plans was what I will be pursuing in the fall. I am very pleased to say that I will be going to Northern Spain (hopefully) from October 2014 to May/June 2015 to teach English in a primary or secondary school. I was accepted to the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program in late February 2014 but I do not know my exact placement yet. I am very excited about this next step in my life, my move overseas and the opportunity to become fully bilingual in Spanish as well the chance to act as a cultural ambassador for both the English language and the United States in the school I will be assigned.

However, there were still a lot of unknowns before me. I still don't exactly know why God has called me back to my hometown for this short period of time, what He has planned for me personally and spiritually, or how living at home will be as we transition back to having everyone under the same roof. I certainly don't know what kinds of people I will meet, re-connect with or get to minister to while I'm here but I am convinced that, based on recent events, they will be the kinds of people who will bless my life and that I in turn might be even a blessing to them.

Stay tuned for the next update!

Hasta la próxima, (Until next time)