Saturday, January 23, 2016

Top 5 Most Embarrassing Moments of 2015

If you've been following my blog for a couple years or know me in person, you know that I often find myself in some pretty hilarious and tricky predicaments - both on purpose and accidentally. In the past year, however, I have managed to walk into all of the following situations on accident and some of them were highly coincidental. Others felt like something out of a movie but oh, no...they were certainly real. Each one provided me with an opportunity to feel extremely embarrassed in the moment and then to laugh about it in the next one. All of these crazy moments gave me the chance to laugh at myself (or the situation around me) and not take myself too seriously. And, the longer I live abroad and take time to travel and leave my comfort zone, the more I think about all these funny moments and laugh even harder about them as time goes on.

So, without further ado, I give you permission to laugh at and enjoy a few of the many hilarious things that happened to me in 2015. I've laughed at myself about these already so just know that I was laughing about them again while reminiscing and writing this post. Life abroad and travel are not all sunshine and rainbows everyday and some days are downright awful or problematic. We all live this thing called life and that's how it is - no matter where you live on this big, beautiful globe. Take a moment to appreciate the funny moments in life and learn from them. That's what I try to do. :)

5.

Where: Budapest, Hungary

When: December 28th, 2015


There's a reason why most people only tend
to stroll by the river and not eat by it. I learned the hard way.


What happened: 

On the train to Budapest that morning from Bratislava (where I was staying), I had a very small breakfast and so after walking around Budapest a little bit and wandering over to the river, I was hungry. It wasn't exactly lunchtime by Hungarian standards -or so I assumed- so I decided to finish eating the snacks my friend was kind enough to pack for me before I left for my day trip.

After taking a few pictures of the apple with the Pest side of Budapest in the background, which you can see here, I finally started eating it and enjoying the sunshine that had peaked out of the blanket-like fog. The temperature was at about freezing (in Celsius) so my hands were turning into blocks of ice while I ate it but I didn't mind. The rays of the sun and countless passersby (read: enormous waves of tourists) helped keep my mind off of the cold and allowed me to enjoy the whole experience. And since so many people were passing by my bench, I didn't think it was strange when I heard a tiny clinking sound and felt someone (or something) plop down next to me on the bench, I finished chewing a bite of the apple (which I was just about to get up and go throw it away) and swiveled my head over to the right - in the direction of the movement. My eyes widened and I choked back a laugh at the sight of a large crow sitting on the top of the bench pointedly staring at the juicy remains of the apple in my hand.

I panicked and repeated the phrase, "Oh, my gosh," over and over again and glancing all around me before quickly decided to throw the apple towards the rocks near the river. The crow took off like a shot and dove down to get the apple and flew it up to the tall, thin lamp post near the bench. It happily munched on the remains of the apple and then went on its merry way. I believe that crow (and all the other birds flying around or near the river) was desperately hungry for any kind of morsel of food as it didn't look like anyone in the area made a habit of feeding them.


How breathtaking is this view, though?

And in hindsight, throwing my apple on the ground and letting a bird eat it wasn't the best of ideas. However, I saw how focused its attention was on my apple and imagined it following me over to the trash can and attacking me further. So, to not cause a scene or draw more attention to myself on that cold sunny day, I decided to let the bird have it. After all, he (and many other things) helped make my day in Budapest very memorable. (Thanks, you crazy old Hungarian crow. Now I've got a great story, too!)


4.

Where: A Coruña, Spain

When: May 2015

I don't know about you but I prefer drawing and reading about people with clothes on....
What happened: 

I was left unsupervised in an entire 3rd grade (3A) art class (which I assisted with weekly with a head English teacher) one afternoon and the kids went out of control. One student decided that that moment -without a main teacher in the room- was the perfect moment to find a science book that he had read before and look for nude drawings in it. He grabbed the book from the bookshelf in the back of the classroom I imagined and took it back to another student's desk. (He had recently been assigned to sit in the front corner of the classroom so that's another thing about the situation that seemed fishy to me.)

As a small group of students began to crowd around him, and started laughing, I realized that he was looking at something that he wasn't supposed to be looking at. I was helping a couple of students with the project they were working on but I knew I had to walk over there and see what was going on. I approached the desk he was sitting at and saw that there was a drawing of a naked woman with big breasts on that page. The boy started lifted up his shirt from the neck and started looking underneath it and asked out loud in Spanish, "Dónde están mis tetas? Dónde están? (Roughly: Where are my breasts/tits? Where are they?) At that point -with my face flushed and eyes wide- I grabbed the book from his desk, threw it back into the bookshelf (I usually am very careful about how I treat books but I didn't care much for this one at the time, haha) and told him to go back to his seat. I said it in English but as I knew he wouldn't understand me, I reiterated it in Spanish. "Véte, véte, Saul." Dónde? "A tu sitio!" (To your spot/seat.)

This may be one of just a handful of times that I will get angry and turn into an wicked teacher in my career -however long this overseas teaching career will last me- but this is probably my funniest experience to date. And since I'm expected to speak in English the entire time (save a few words here and there to help with comprehension) at the schools I work in, having those students hear me not only yell for the first time ever but also do it Spanish, instilled some fear in them. Who knew that soft-spoken and slow to speak Sarah was capable of instilling fear in a small group of Spanish elementary students?

I didn't know I had it in me either. :P

3.

Where: Santiago de Compostela, Spain

When: October/November 2015

Thankfully the incident didn't occur in this bar cause I love its name!

What happened:

I decided to go out with a couple new friends and go listen to some traditional music at a local bar. After being there for only thirty minutes -and finding out that the band cancelled last minute- I was still having a nice time and was standing around near the bar stools with my friends. A older man comes up from behind me and stands next to me. (I'm standing parallel to the wall with my back to the door.) After making eye contact with me (and then almost staring a conversation with me), he awkwardly reaches over and touches one of my butt cheeks! Just one AND keeps his hand there for a few seconds before it dawned on me what was actually going on, as the bar was quite crowded and small. He claimed that two young guys who were hanging out at the entrance of the bar saw me and thought that I had a nice butt and dared that man to go touch it. (Who does that?!)

It's kind of a miracle that I didn't get angry and start yelling at the man or go over and yell at the guys who propositioned him to do it. On the other hand, I wished the floor would have opened up and swallowed me whole instead of having to have stood there and dealt with that very, very, VERY awkward social situation that I had suddenly found myself in that night. It would have been a tiny bit less awkward had the man not made eye contact with me before he touched me back there. Maybe, haha.


Not even wine could fix that night, folks. (Wine glasses at a tasting in the Ribera del Duero wine region)

My friends barely knew what had happened to me because their attention was focused on ordering another drink. When a couple of them got back to our spot, they saw me talking to this old man who said, "No te pongas rojo," a couple times to me as he explained why he did what he did. He excused himself after that by bluntly saying, "Voy a mear," (Roughly: I have to go take a whiz/leak) like the "gentleman" that he was. After he left, I filled my friends in on what happened and how I probably caught their attention by leaning against this beer shelf/holder that we were standing by. I told them that when I stand I naturally lean to one side or the other and that stance makes my already attractive butt even more prominent (it's true, haha). I caught the attention of a couple guys that night but they were too cowardly to come over to me and say anything to my face and instead sent someone else to indirectly do their bidding. I also didn't want to cause a scene, I told my friends, so that's why I didn't feel it was necessary to get angry at the old man even though he was a bit of a pervert.

And on my walk back home to my flat that night, all I could think about was how disgusting that whole situation was (though it wasn't the first time it had happened overall but that's a long story) and how I just wanted to wash those jeans. As I walked up to the main door of my apartment, however, I found a 5 euro note laying in front of the door! I pulled out my keys and put them over it and picked it all up together (as there were a couple of people behind me wanting to enter the building too). The night didn't start off well but it sure had a nice, happy ending! (For me at least.) And it helped me forget about what was mostly an awful night out within a matter of minutes, haha.

2.

Where: Barcelona, Spain

When: September 25th, 2015

Barceloneta Beach at night (where most people go fully clothed)

What happened: 

I spent a few days in Barcelona before returning to Galicia for another year to teach English but this time in a new town. I needed a few days to relax and readjust to the time zone again as well as taking advantage of seeing more of Barcelona in warmer weather. I had also met a Spanish teacher in my aunt and uncle's city in the States over the summer and she suggested I stay with her daughter for a few days when I flew back. I did stay there for free but I spoke English with her daughter (who is practically my age) almost all of the time and got a taste of what authentic Catalan culture is like.

I spent my last full day there visiting places near the outskirts of city like Parc Güell and Barceloneta Beach. I asked friends online for advice on what to see if it were their last day in Barcelona and someone suggested I visit the secret nude section of Barceloneta just for fun.

Well, I didn't plan on going to it but I did accidentally find that nude part of the beach and it wasn't so bad. I arrived around twilight and found a spot to lay out my towel and sit for a few minutes watching the colors of the sky go from a dark blue to almost pitch black with only the twinkling lights of the stars and cruise ships to light up the ocean view in front of me. And the glaring lights of the street lamps behind me that bikers, roller skaters and passersby used to take advantage of the pleasant weather and go for a stroll or a quick bout of exercise. It was really a nice night to be out at the beach.

A few minutes go by and suddenly the noise level on the beach increased. I noticed that the people around me were staring out at the ocean and talking among themselves. Then...I realized that a very tan, middle aged guy near the shore didn't have any clothes on! I could have sworn I saw him earlier and I knew he had had clothes on a few minutes earlier. But, then all of a sudden he decided to take 'em all off!

I brought both hands up to my forehead and covered my eyes all the while shaking my head at the same time. I had tried so hard to avoid the nude part of the beach and lo and behold I found it anyway! That didn't stop me from enjoying the beach and the fresh sea air, though. I still decided that I was going to get my feet wet in the ocean and walk alongside the shore. So, I made sure to keep a considerable distance away from this man and I had a nice time walking along the beach, enjoying the gentle waves and moonlight.

Everything was going just fine, until I realized that on my walk back to the towel, the naked man was less than 50 feet away from me. And higher up on the sand than I was. He was gazing out at the ocean himself oblivious to everyone else around him. I had no choice but to pass by him and I did so by looking out towards the ocean and praying that he didn't come near me. At the same time, my face was beet red (thank goodness it was dark!) and I had to cover my mouth to keep myself from laughing at how awkward this situation was -or could have become.

I survived and while nothing directly embarrassing happened to me this time, I guess I was more embarrassed for this man since he was out in public. At any rate, I'm going to pay more attention the next time I visit Barceloneta (if I don't go to better beaches along the Costa Brava) and make sure I don't go back to this spot in the daytime. :P


And what was probably the most embarrassing experience of them all and of the past decade is the following story. I managed to handle it well after it happened but due to the sheer number of people I saw in both airports, on the plane and later on the metro, this had to have been my most uncomfortable travel experience to date. I laugh at it now but I was mortified in the moment! (And had only brought one pair of jeans for my trip. So...here's the full story:

1.

Where: Santiago de Compostela Airport (Spain)

When: June 17th, 2015

I promise I'm house trained, haha....

What happened:

I planned to go to Madrid for a long weekend a couple weeks before I flew back to the States for the summer. I was meeting up with a new friend and she was going to show me around the city and help me cross a few touristy things off my list that I hadn't been able to do yet. As well as explore ¨off the beaten path¨ locations and hidden corners of Madrid that only long-time city dwellers know about (or really clever and ambitious ex-pats!).

I lived in A Coruña at the time so I had to take the train and then the airport bus before I could arrive to the airport itself. All the way to the airport in Santiago on the bus, I had an urge to go to the bathroom. I used the bathroom before I boarded my flight and well...see the above picture for more details. Long story short, I really needed to use the toilet and ended up missing the mark so to speak in the process, haha. And then I went and boarded a flight for an hour and a half to Madrid, the capital city of the country and a booming metropolis full of people, especially trendy and stylish young people.

To my advantage, and to save face, no one really noticed that part of my pan leg was wet and thanks to having scrubbed it with some soap and water (as well as a baby wipe), it dried and didn't smell after I got off the plane. I was super embarrassed in the moment but I had a flight to catch and later on a route on the metro to plan so I quickly forgot about the whole ordeal. I did remember to put the jeans in a plastic bag when I got to my friend's flat and thankfully had a pair of shorts that I wore for the rest of my 5 day trip.

Hey, at least I finally found this legendary spot and realized what it was finally!

And what's even worse is that while walking around Madrid in 100F+ weather for a few days, I managed to simultaneously get both a sunburn and a heat rash on my feet due to all the walking and sweating were doing. (And I didn't think to put sunscreen on my feet...go figure on that one!) Of all the times I had been to Madrid or only passed through via the airport, this time may have been one of my most memorable visits ever.

What was your most embarrassing moment while traveling or simply living life in 2015? Can you relate to any of the incidents that happened to me last year? Share your stories below in the comments!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Reflections on Being 26


1. I prefer the window seat.

Sometimes the view is much better than you could have ever
 imagined it to be in the first place.


That's only one example of the numerous things that I like. I listed a simple thing I like to emphasize that I now know what I like. I have spent a lot of time away from home and a lot of time on my own. I now have a good handle on what my likes and dislikes are. I'm still very much open to change and trying new things - I love trying new foods especially. However, I am fairly confident in what I do and do not like. I've lived in different cities and countries during my twenties and I've been exposed to a various geographical locations, cultures, lifestyles, cuisines, beliefs, etc. I don't always get what I want but I do know what it is I want. I've managed to keep a good head on my shoulders and focus on my own passions and interests. There were a few times that I got distracted and tried to fit into other crowds (mainly the popular crowd) and do things that weren't necessarily wrong but rather things I simply did not enjoy.
I've learned my lesson and now I only pursue things that I enjoy and that make me happy. I do them to simply make myself happy and not to please other people around me. That mindset unfortunately only leads to unhappiness - and the only way to learn that it doesn't work is the hard way.

2. I love being an early bird.

And I need my morning cuppa tea. These are really the only things I'm serious about, haha.


What can I say? I like a good old fashioned routine. I don't necessarily need to wake up at the same time everyday - though it does help - but I need a few things in my life that I can count on, and a routine is one of them. I like showering and cleaning the apartment on the same days. I like to have one day where I take things slow. I like to have an afternoon or two set aside for writing. And if possible, I like to have a day where I regularly hang out with a friend or two and that day is usually Sunday. Though I love the hustle and bustle of city life and the thrill that traveling to a new country or city brings, I love peace and quiet more. I like to be alone to think and write about my observations of the world around me. The great thing about being the only one who's awake in the house or apartment is the blissful silence you can enjoy before the day gets underway. I imagine I will continue living like this and enjoying the silence when I become a mom one day - because those moments of pure silence will be few and far between in the future. For the moment, however, I will enjoy the routine I have but will continue to keep an open mind towards change and look for ways to make my days more efficient and filled with life.


3. I don't use swear words.

Words are very powerful so be careful how you use them.

Not only does swearing go against my beliefs as a Christian, I simply don't like swear words...in any language. And I know a few but don't ask me to teach you any. I've learned over the years that words have a strong effect on me but I didn't really know just how strong of an effect they had until I moved overseas for a long period of time.

In a way I've become desensitized to them as I hear people from all parts of the world use them frequently - in my native language or their own. I'm also very intellectual and to be honest, swearing in a negative way because you stubbed your toe or swearing in a positive way because you found a great deal on a cute dress at Macy's or Zara, makes you sound uneducated and unintelligent. It simply does.

The last thing I want to come across as is stupid or ignorant so I choose not to swear. And the worst thing is, when someone strings a sentence together that's full of swear words...it's as if they're saying virtually nothing. I don't know about you but I think about and choose my words carefully. That's why I pause a few times while I'm having a conversation or look off into the distance - it's because I'm thinking about the words I want to say and in the order I want to say them. Most of the time when I speak or add something to a conversation, it's because I have good reason to do so. Sure, I'm also human and I would be just as likely to have a slip of the tongue and mutter or scream a bad work when something awful happens. However, the habit of swearing never became a habit for me...so it's not something I have to work on breaking or changing. It feels more awkward for me to say the words instead of having to refrain from saying them. So, in a way, you could say that I would be the ideal friend or girlfriend to introduce to someone's parents. :P


4. An attractive mind is much more appealing than an attractive body.

Billboard in A Coruña. What can I say? This country has a lot of attractive men!

This lesson certainly threw me for a loop this past year. I do appreciate a well-dressed and attractive man just as much as the next woman. However, I wasn't honest with myself for a while just what type of man attracts me. I've officially come to terms with how there is a type of man that physically appeals to me more than any other type (read: Latin and Iberian men) but in reality this was nothing new, though something I denied for years. I didn't necessarily come to terms with it this past year but rather realized that that is the one type of man that I truly go crazy for. I admitted the truth to myself somewhere around the age of 20 or 21 but still wasn't sure if that was my "type" so to speak.

Well, a few years later, I learned that my type is also the intellectual guys. And this type doesn't always look drop dead gorgeous...but that's okay. After meeting a few different people with varying personalities, I realized that if I can't have a good, deep conversation with a man or talk about my crazy dreams for the future (or the ones I had the night before), then we aren't compatible. I will get bored with him so quickly and I will want to move on to the next best thing. This thought initially surprised the pants off me when I first came to the realization that it was true.

In years past I was so focused on looks -though I swore that I wasn't focusing on them- that I could go throughout the day and have imagined myself "being" with a dozen different guys. Up until the beginning of 2015 I was always looking and "shopping" for the next cutest guy. I only did this with my eyes and imagination of course but in the end I was left feeling very disillusioned and still far, far away from finding Mr. Right. I vowed from then on that I wouldn't let my eyes wander and imagine myself being the girlfriend of every cute guy who happened to turn my head. Instead I would focus on the guys whom I met in bars or cafes or through friends. The guys I was actually having conversations with and getting to know on a less superficial level. Wow, had I done this years ago I would have saved myself a lot of inner turmoil and personal grief. This aspect of life is so much easier to manage when you just let things happen naturally.


5. I don't have any ex-boyfriends. (And I don't have a current boyfriend either. Hmm...)

That doesn't mean that I haven't casually dates at the very least and I have. However, I haven't found a man whom - in my eyes- I'd deem worthy of my time, love and devotion and who wanted to be with me too. In fact, the times I have tried to get into a relationship, I was the one who put myself out there and shared my feelings. Each time, the feelings were not mutual and I got rejected. And that hurt - believe me that hurt. It felt like getting my heart physically ripped out of my chest but I've become stronger with each rejection. It's a part of life and a part that we often try to downplay and hide because of the pain it brings. I do hold onto the hope that I have that there is someone out there who won't reject my affections for them but will instead welcome them with open arms and will also confess his feelings to me. It hasn't happened yet for a number of reasons and this year I decided to focus on a different aspect of life: the silver lining of being single.



A few days before Valentine's Day this past year I was walking home from teaching at the school and a profound thought pierced my mind like a knife: I'm no one's ex-girlfriend. No one has had their heart painfully and selfishly broken by me. No one harbors a grudge or dumps their hatred on me because I spit on their love and rejected it. At that moment, I realized I had been looking at my love life all wrong for over 10 years. I was focusing on the fact how in today's society, it's so strange and uncommon that I've never had a boyfriend before. Instead, I should have been focusing on not how I have not been someone's ex. So many relationships go sour and painfully end. Or the two partners realize that they must continue on in life but must go their separate ways. And while this is true and heartbreak -whatever degree of it that you experience-does suck. However, the heartbreak that you avoid could be so much better than you realize it could be. If I've learned anything during my 26 years, it's this: it's better to be alone than be wishing yourself out of a bad relationship. I never realized how grateful I should have been for all the times I heard the answer, "No." Regardless, I'm still eager and anxious to meet the one who will finally say yes to me. I haven't lost hope that one day I will find him.


6. I need to read the Bible and pray in English.

This one is pretty straightforward: if I can't have access to a Bible in English, I won't feel as motivated or passionate about life and what God desires me to do with my life. Reading the Bible and singing songs of praise in multiple languages is wonderful but there is nothing like talking to and praising God in you own language, in my opinion. And though I often joke saying I don't need to speak English as much as other native teachers around me seem to need it, this is the one thing in English that I absolutely need. If I didn't have access to a Bible in English or lost my abilities to comprehend and speak the language, life would lose its splendor for me.


7. In the midst of my own pursuit of personal happiness, I recognized that I also desire to see my friends and family happy.

Sometimes I want this more than I want myself to be happy. Is that a sign of true maturity and being an adult? (It's kind of scary and surprising to me at times...but it's how I feel.)




8. For the first time in my life, I accepted all of myself -both the good and bad, my talents, my flaws- for who I am and I learned how to love myself fully.

When I finally meet my special someone, I can not only be happy to be with him but also be proud of the person I'm offering to him. I have fought, struggled and gone through trial after trial to become the woman I am today. And you know what? I'm proud to be her.

One of the places in the world where I am myself and at my happiest - an ice skating rink!