Tuesday, September 29

"Long story short!"

Lordy Lordy... lots to share!  Well, our last couple nights in Sevilla were a blast.  At this point we had all made friends with some locals and had a huge group of people traipsing about town.  The very last night, CIEE threw us a farewell dinner at a pretty nice hotel, complete with... yes, tapas, wine, the works!  It was the first time both of the immersion groups were officially together (the two-weekers and the four-weekers).  Most of us had mixed at some point before, so it was fun for all 75 of us to be hanging out.  It was pretty awesome how close some of us had become, considering we had never met just weeks before!

The next day I said goodbye to Esperanza and met Jenna at the train station, finally headed to our new home.  Of course we needed to document the journey, so I asked the nearest (and cutest) guy, in Spanish, if he would mind taking our pic.  We both started laughing as he answered back in English.  Nothing shocks me anymore, but his name was Nick and he's here from Laguna Beach doing the same thing we are.  Nick kindly helped us on the train with our luggage and joined us for the ride.  It's his second year teaching in Andalucia and was full of tips and tricks for our time in Jaen... a few of which we used even during our first hour here!  Gracias Nick!

Ok, so we arrived in Jaen and took a cab to our hotel.  We saw much of the city right away and it is really fabulous.  It's cleaner, quieter and there is much more greenery here than in Sevilla.  We put our bags away and set out to discover this place we had read so much about.  In just a short walk from the hotel, we found the amazing cathedral all lit up and stepped into what looked to be a fun tapas bar called La Barra.  Within minutes, we were welcomed by the owner, Carlos, the bartender, Nino and Nino's friend, David.  They stuffed us full of local tapas and Tinto de Veranos, the house specialty, insisting our first night in Jaen be an awesome one!  They not only invited us back, but also invited us over for Paella the next day.  We actually already had plans and had to take a raincheck.

I had emailed my Bilingual Coordinator at my school and was welcomed to Jaen by the MOST incredibly helpful email of my life.  My new boss, Antonio Luis, arranged to pick us up the following day to help us look for an apartment as well as show us around town.  When he arrived, he gave us a list of about 15 places he had found by going to the local university and taking numbers from the bulletin boards.  He began making calls and we arranged to see five different apartments that day.  We were floored by his kindness, as some people had not even heard from their Bilingual Coordinators!  He then took us to Az-Zait, the high school where I would be working with him.  He asked Jenna where she would be working and we all had quite a laugh when he pointed to the building right next door to my school and said "Lindsey, here is your school and Jenna, there is YOUR school." They literally share a wall.  Jenna and I died laughing and once again thanked Lady Luck for all she's done for us.  We then took a tour of all the main roads on the city and found ourselves at home pretty quickly.  Antonio Luis arranged for lunch with his wife, Nuria, and his gorgeous two-year-old daughter, Alba.  They took us to a local fave, La Manchega, which was built in 1886.  They have a secret basement for dining and we said order whatever!  The food was phenomenal! We will definitely become regulars.  Antonio Luis and his family are wonderful.  They said they would love to have us over for dinner and Nuria would teach us some local dishes if I promised to cook some Amercican faves for her!  Yes please.

We then set off on the apartment hunt and we are delighted to say that, even though we looked at six places, our hearts jumped at the first one.  It is right in the historic center of town, in a very safe and quiet neighborhood, and it is BRAND NEW.  Everything is beautifully tiled, super clean and huge.  Double beds are a rarity in Spain and Jenna and I will both get our own, so start planning your trips, 'cause we got the room!  There are even two bathrooms and a huge kitchen.  Again, we are some lucky, lucky girls :)

Today, Antonio Luis invited us over to the high school for cafe y tostadas (coffee and toast), a Spanish ritual.  He showed us all around the school and introduced us to everyone.  They are an amazing group of teachers and the jefe, Paco (school principal) is a character.   They were all so warm and I really like the vibe at the school... totally relaxed and inviting.  The cutest thing was that, on the board in the teachers' lounge, it read "LINDSEY IS COMING!"  They seem very excited about our year together and of course, that made me even more excited!  Antonio Luis had already made my schedule and I work Weds, Thurs and Fri from "about 10-2."  He said my first assignment each day will be to have cafe y tostada!  I will call it "Coffee Talk" since I will just be visiting with the other teachers and helping them with their English.

Speaking of English, I think this year may prove to be an occupational hazard for me!!!  In order to communicate with the people here, I either speak in Spanish or sloooooow English.  Truthfully, it's more difficult for me to slow down my English than it is to speak a foreign language!!!  I find myself thinking in Spanish, talking Spanglish when I could just be speaking English and worse, I can barely write in English anymore hahaha!!  NOT GOOD when you are a WRITER.  Oh, the funniest part is I think I am developing an accent.  That could just be in my head, but at this point, anything is possible :)  I really can't tell you how fortunate I am to have such a solid foundation in the language here.  I get lots of compliments on my pronunciation and speaking skill, which just gives me more confidence to go for it!  So, (are you ready for this??) THANK YOU, PUERTO RICO!!!  Yep, that's right :)

Random tidbits: we made friends with two other cafe owners, the most hilarious one being Andalusi, this crazy Moroccan (we think?!) who adores us.  Everywhere we go becomes our own version of Cheers, so that's kind of awesome.  This is the way to go when you are on a budget.

In trying to make a connection with mine and Jenna's names, some of the locals tried going with "Juana" and (wait for this) "Benji."  Since Jaen is hard to pronounce (their "j's" are REALLY hard here... think loogie-hawking with each pronunciation), we decided to just call it "Jean," since that's what it looks like.  So, we have officially dubbed ourselves "Benji and Juana of Jean."  Kind of hilarious (maybe just for us)!

Tonight we had dinner with some of the other Language Assistants from the program who were placed here in Jaen.  There are seven or eight of us!!  Very cool.  We had dinner tonight and will meet again tomorrow.  Fun to have a group to call our own, especially since they are all super nice people.

It's possible I may have to start liking tuna.  When you get free tapas and don't have to pay for your dinner, you can't be picky.  Also, this morning, I had room-temperature yogurt.  Additionally, I haven't asked for ice but once since I got here.  This all may seem like minor things, but if you have ever met me, you know this is HUGE news.  Yes, yes my Beans and Cheese, "I've changed."

Oh and for you who know what this means, keep in mind Jaen is the olive oil capital of Spain.  Well, Az-Zait, the name of my school, is Arabic for aceite, which means olive oil in Spanish.  For those of you who don't know what this means, please don't ask ahahahaha!  Who am I?

Ok, that's enough for now.  Sorry for the novel, but really, every nanosecond is an adventure, so this actually IS me doing my ever-famous "long story, short!"  For real.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE  you all!!!!  I can't wait to share this with you in person :)  More pics to come, possibly tomorrow!

Thursday, September 24


Wow.  What a difference a week and a half can make in a person's life.  While it feels like I've been in Sevilla for half a lifetime, I am in awe at what has been taken place in less than two weeks.  Let's just say that Spain works for me.  I think I wear it well :)

I feel incredible... happy, confident, beautiful.  Walking 500 miles each day is not only good for the body, but for the mind and spirit.  I put on my iPod and walk to and fro, taking in all of the gorgeous sites and daily Spanish life.  Everyone here is SOOO nice and complimentary... I can get used to this kind of treatment!

A couple nights ago was one of my favorite yet.  I've mentioned that I come to the internet cafe around the corner from my house so I can make contact with the outside world and take care of a little business back in the U.S.  I mentioned Antonio, the boyishly sweet waiter/bartender who looks after me while I'm in here.  At closing, he mentioned he was going to meet a couple friends, whom I had been introduced to before, on the Alameda for tapas and drinks.  Having yet to truly hang with the locals (my fave thing ever to do!), I said yes since I knew exactly where we were going, whom we were meeting and that it was in a well-lit area where a ton of people would be and that it was walking distance from my house.  Let me just say, I had the time of my life.  We met up with Andres and Manuela, an adorable couple who was celebrating their two-year anniversary.  Andres is 31 and from Argentina.  Manuela is 22 and from Sevilla.  They were HILARIOUS.  They didn't speak a word of English (neither does Antonio), yet we all got along juuuust fine.  Manuela told me Andres didn't know it was their anniversary until that morning when she had to tell him.  I told her that was typical with most men and the cultural and language barriers just melted away.  It's shocking how much Spanish stuck with me and I am lucky that the pronunciation isn't as difficult for me as it is for others.  They were so sweet and helped me along when I struggled.  We all just sat and talked for hours about life, Spain and the U.S., and now I am happy to say I have some fabulous local friends.  We met again last night at the cafe and are going out tonight.  Nights like this are what this experience is all about :)

Some other tidbits of fun... I got my first pair of "skinny jeans!!"  Maybe its my new-found confidence, the fact that other my other jeans are stretched out with no washing machine in sight or that boot season is coming up, but I did it.  Jenna encouraged me through this hefty decision and I'm glad I made it hahaha!  It was getting a little hard walking by H&M, Zara and Mango every day on my way home, so my cheapie skinny jeans served way more purposes than one!  Pitts, you would never survive this walk every day!  "Want it?  I'll buy it for you!"

Other fun facts: we took some photos in class today.  Jose Antonio was teaching us "commands" using the imperative form and thought it was funny to do weird things like have the class touch each others earlobes.  Let's just say that Nick from Arkansas, Rob from Jersey and Roland from Switzerland were regretting sitting next to each other today!

We've been having a ball people-watching.  Jenna has some killer photos of some unusual Spanish garb, which I will post later!

Don't anyone get any ideas about Antonio, thank you very much, but his dad just came in and said he wanted to give me to Antonio as a gift, complete with a house. AHHAHAHHAHHAH!!!!  I'm dying.

Tuesday, September 22


Ok, pics are FINALLY up!!  

Hopefully everyone not on Facebook will be able to see them, so let me know if you have any problems.  Also, not sure why you're having trouble posting comments on here, but you can keep emailing me just the same.

It's actually impossible to put into words, even for me, the shenanigans that have took place since we've been here.  Just imagine trying to buy a cell phone completely in Spanish, ask about plans and rates for every possible scenario, be totally caught off guard as to what you may find on your dinner plate or in your lunch, walk around a foreign city and see at least 10 people you know, not only meet and learn about Spaniards and their culture, but even meet and learn about people from not only the U.S., but ALL OVER the world!  Everything has been a learning experience and an adventure and we're all loving every minute (ok, minus a few pangs of homesickness).  But we're all looking forward to getting settled into our apartments and beginning our new jobs as Culture & Language Assistants in Spanish schools.  

CIEE has been awesome.  We feel so prepared and armed with info.  CLIC, where we take Spanish classes every day, has THE best teachers.  I am impartial to mine, Jose Antonio, who is freaking hilarious.  I've already learned so much more about how to communicate effectively here in Spain.  Esperanza, my señora, and I just kick it and rap out in Español for hours.  She's a typical Spaniard and I love hearing her stories.  We had a Brazilian girl move into the apartment, but she keeps to herself a bit.  It's nuts to be around so many different kinds of people, but I always feel right at home thanks to my girls, Jenna and Kelsey.  We are three peas in a pod and will most definitely be friends for life.  Kelsey is 22 and from Minnesota.  She's a total hippie at heart and laughs EVERY minute of every day.  She keeps things light and positive and I am lucky to know her.  Jenna and I are totally made for each other in regards to sharing this next year of our lives.  She's super down to Earth, is up for anything and is a phenomenal listener.  She's gotten to know my freakish self and for some reason, seems to love me!  I could be around her for hours... she has the world's greatest laugh that just brings sunshine into my heart whenever I hear it.  Every day the three of us find ourselves peeing our pants at God knows what.  I suppose you could call us "The Three Amigas" :)

Thanks to you all for your sweet emails!  I miss you SOOOOO much and count the days 'til I can share this crazy life with you.  Your encouragement and love get me through every waking minute and it really hits home what an incredible circle of support I have around me.  I already knew that, but obviously it becomes more apparent when you are removed from the situation.

¡Hasta luego!

Monday, September 21

Livin' la vida LOCAL

¡Hola todos!

I have been trying to upload photos all week, but my perfectionist ways and a very slow connection have made that increasingly difficult. It's time for you to see, not read what we've been up to, so I'm going to a cafe with a better connection tomorrow. The (actual) short version is we are loving Sevilla in every way, but take off to our respective cities on Saturday. This place is fantastic but it will be fabulous to finally unpack and get truly settled!

We've mixed it up well, going from being tourists to locals and taking in all Sevilla has to offer. I miss everyone A LOT, and hearing your voices breaks my adventurous exterior a bit, so forgive me if I tried to leave you a message telling you how much I love you through a mini-blanket of tears. It kinda makes me laugh what a sap I am! But things are fantastic and I can't wait to share in more visual detail.

¡Hasta mañana!

Thursday, September 17


Wow. iAy Dios! Whirlwind is an understatement. I feel like it’s been 18 different days in the six I’ve actually been here. I really don’t want this to be a novel, but considering it’s been some of the most eventful six days of my life, I think I’m allowed at least a Cliff’s Notes booklet.

The chaos started when Jenna, the other girl from California placed in Jaen for the next year, found me online in London and told me we would not only be living together over the next 10 months, but we had also been paired up at the hotel for orientation weekend. We decided fate was hard at work and we weren’t gonna fight it. I landed in Sevilla around 9pm on Friday night. By 10pm, I had unloaded my luggage, met my new roommate and proceeded to enjoy a glass of vino with the other program participants who had just arrived. We are definitely an eclectic group, but we all have one very important thing in common, so the rest is just details (and half the fun is finding them out!). A group of us checked out the Sevillian nightlife as we acclimated to the time change.

We were put up at a pretty swanky hotel that specializes in conferences and meetings. Day one began with quite the buffet spread… we all found some familiar favorites and tried other “unique” (that’s for you, Levs) breakfast items, like grilled vegetables and French fries. I learned the Spanish are big fans of the churro (hey Noms!) and eat it like donuts for breakfast, then dunk it in hot chocolate for dessert. Um, yum.

We proceeded to a series of seminars, informing us of everything from how to survive as an Expat in Spain to what to expect inside the classroom… all very helpful and useful info. Plus the leaders were hilarious, so they definitely set the tone well.

CIEE (the name of the program I went through) arranged for a night of Tapas, Sangria and a Flamenco show. There are 50 of us doing the two-week immersion course, so off we all went and had quite the time! Flamenco is incredibly captivating, being both intense and graceful in every move. Me encanta

Ok, so come Sunday, we finished orientation and waited for our host families to pick us up. I waited by my luggage until my name was called to find out where my home would be for the next two weeks and whom I would be living with. Esperanza, or Mami as she said we could call her, is the storybook definition of a Spanish señora. Everyone was hoping to be paired up with someone else from the program, but I was one of the luckiest few. You can only imagine how unnerving it can be to be a guest in the home of someone you’ve never met, in a city you’ve never been. But when Esperanza came to pick me up from the hotel, she asked "¿Dónde está la otra chica?" I about died when I realized someone else was coming with us. Kat is from San Francisco and now she is my "Spanish Sister" :)

Esperanza took us to her apartment near the city center where we met her 15-year-old son, Manuel, who seems very shy, but mostly I think he's just annoyed at having visitors in his house all the time! Like normal kids here in Spain, he is out of the house every day hanging with his friends in whatever Plaza. She's super sweet, calling us hija (daughter) or cariña (sweetheart).  All she wants to do is feed us, which normally, I would welcome, but I instantly remembered the Spaniards' love of canned tuna in EVERYTHING. I didn't want to seem difficult off-hand, so sure enough, a "salad" of tuna, deviled eggs and mayo was half of my first meal. I swallowed a few mouthfuls as I told myself there would be MANY things I would have to learn to let go while I was here. (P.S. It's now day five at my homestay and Esperanza just became aware of my dislike for tuna... I tried.) Anyhow, Kat and I share our own room, have our own set of keys and are welcome to come and go as we please. Esperanza makes us a bocadillo (sandwich) each day for lunch, then we come home for dinner at 9pm (considered early by Spanish standards). Each day we are curious to find what will be on our sandwiches... everything from potatoes to Nutella. Let's just say I've dropped a few pounds so far. She's a great cook, just not what I'm used to. I will wait to bring on the paella et al until after the wedding!

Aaaaaanyways, blah blah blah. Each day I have Spanish classes at the international school for four hours. My class rocks (only nine of us) and our professor, Jose Antonio, is hilarious, patient and very, very good at teaching us. You can't imagine how funny it is to be in class with all adults (we're from all over.... U.S., Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, etc.), yet still be stumbling over our words and acting things out like we are learning how to speak for the first time. So weird, but we laugh all four hours. Esperanza doesn't speak a lick of English and she won't even let Kat and me speak in English to each other. EVERYONE wants us to practice, which is great, but now I'm even second guessing my English as my thoughts bounce from one language to another. Very cool, but very strange. Let's just say if I don't come home beyond bilingual, there's something wrong.

My favorite thing about Spain so far is easily siesta (ok, just one of my faves). We have just been WIPED OUT and people EXPECT you to go to your room and nap in the afternoon after lunch. It’s brilliant.

Ok, I have way too much to say, but I don't want to take advantage of your time or interest, plus I have a futbol (soccer) game to be at in 10 mins, and it's about an average of a 30-min walk anywhere. Plus, the server/bartender, Antonio, keeps asking me when he can show me around. Time to go!

I really love and miss everyone. I cried when I heard my mom's voice. But obvi this is SUCH an incredible adventure and I am really taking each minute in. I will have internet access more regularly once I get to Jaen in about 2 1/2 weeks. Hope everyone is well and make sure you keep me posted on YOU!!!

Much love,

Friday, September 11


Fear not family and friends, for I doubt I will rarely clog up your inbox with (gasp!) two posts in one day. But for those worried/paranoid/caring types, I made it safely to London and am happy to be killing a few hours at the Mecca for people-watching fanatics like myself... London Heathrow Airport. Enter green-haired punks, adorably accented children begging for Cadbury's (yes, I've refrained!) and senior citizen types who could just give a hoot about anything, yet seem to maintain a charming elegance in not doing so. Brits as a whole have an uncanny humor I could just bathe in. Sprinkle in foreigners from every corner of this planet and you could say this layover will be a breeze!

And just for visual sake, for those who have lived with me or traveled with me, yes, Big Bertha is here. Yes, my neon, day-glow backpack is here and you met my brown, orange and cream plaid addition over the weekend. The three of them combined make ME an easy target for gawkers, as I know I am being judged for being an excessive American, overpacking and oversized in every way. I have kindly found subtle ways to inform them I am MOVING TO SPAIN and I think I did pretty darn well, thankyouverymuch.

Thanks for all the well wishes and stay tuned for Free as a Songbird con subtitulos!

Thursday, September 10


Saying goodbye can be very difficult, but I imagine the only thing worse is having no one to say goodbye to. Fortunately, that's a worry I'll never have. I'm hours away from boarding a plane to Spain, a mystical land I fell in love with ages ago. I leave with two heavy suitcases, a heart full of love and two very wide eyes, ready to take in all of the magic that will come my way during my adventure abroad.

THANK YOU to each and every one of you who has supported my dream in any way you could. I appreciate it more than I can tell you and won't ever forget how the world was placed at my fingertips because of it. I do know just how lucky I am to be able to take off and live a life most people only dream of. What I also know is that none of this would be possible without my faith, as it is God who told me loud and clear that this is what I was being called to do. It's also the blessings and prayers of all my friends have family that have actually made this possible... you know who you are and you know I couldn't love you any more if I wanted to!

So, here I go! Whether you're a virtual peeping Tom, bored at work or just genuinely enthusiastic about what I'm up to, hit up this blog for all Lindsey, all the time. If you're more the type who just likes to look at the pictures, there'll be some of those, too :)

Expect more slap than sap and all the quirk you know and love from yours truly...