What I wore exploring Jaén

exploring Jaén

Recently, I found myself exploring Jaén. Jaén is a city that is just about an hour North of me in Granada. These days, I do not have tons of money to travel to big, extravagant places. However that is okay as I live in Europe. There are so many neat places to see only a few hours from where I live. So exploring Jaén was one of those closeby but awesome trips.

The dress

As most of you all know, I’m the girl who is always wearing a dress. I love traveling in my dresses and wear them all year long. So when I was exploring Jaén with my friend Sharifa, I of course opted to wear a dress. I had found this grey dress at a shop in my neighbourhood in Granada called Humana. It looked perfect for a work setting or really just anything. I loved the buttons on the front too.

Humana is a non-profit and the money funds development projects in Africa, South America and Asia. The projects benefit education and other community needs. Basically, I always love it when I can support people doing good work. So I will happily shop at Humana and tell others to do so as well!
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El Castillo de Santa Catalina

If you have not visited the castle atop the big hill in Jaén, you need to do so. It is absolutely breathtaking and the views from up there are amazing. In fact last week, I wrote all about it. You can read about it here.

exploring Jaén

exploring Jaén

exploring Jaén
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Walking around town

The streets of Jaén are like most others in Southern Spain. I just love all the cobblestone and streets that wind up hills. In these photos, you can see my H&M peacoat. Upon moving to Spain, I of course could not pack every single thing. I have had to do shopping here and there for things like sweaters, shoes, basic tees and pants. However I made sure to bring this peacoat with me as I knew I would need it. And boy am I glad that I did.

exploring Jaén

exploring Jaén

exploring Jaén

exploring Jaén

exploring Jaén exploring Jaén exploring Jaén

Today I’m linking up here: blogger linkups.

 

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5 ways I’ve experienced culture shock in Spain

culture shock in Spain

Friends, I’ve experienced culture shock in Spain. In fact, I’m experiencing it now. All of my close friends and family members already know that I’m an open book. I like to talk about my struggles and as a highly sensitive extrovert (God that’s the weirdest combo, by the way. You have overwhelming feelings and aren’t afraid to verbalise them … sometimes not in healthy ways either), I always feel the need to talk out my feelings with at least 10 people. You add in the fact that some of these people speak only your second language, and it can feel isolating.

So instead of posting one of my fun travel posts, I’ve decided to push that one back a few days and write about what is actually happening. I promised you all that I would paint an accurate picture of what life in a foreign country is like. And culture shock is a part of that experience. Everyone experiences culture shock, we just all experience it in different ways. And some don’t want to or need to talk about it. However that’s not that case for me. So I figured I would share my experience here for several reasons.

  1. You may be living overseas and experiencing similar feelings. You are not alone.
  2. Perhaps you may be living in your home country, but some of your close friends or housemates may be foreigners. This may help you understand where they’re coming from a bit more.
  3. You may have experienced this in the past … ah nostalgia.

What is culture shock?

Culture shock, according to merriam-webster.com, “a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation.” Now I will say that I’m not sure how much preparing would prevent this. It’s inevitable that you may grow weary and tired of the differences. I can only speak to my own experiences, but I will paint a picture for you of my two experiences with it.

Nicaragua

In summer of 2015, I packed up all my things to move to Matagalpa, Nicaragua. In fact, that was the initial reason I learned to speak Spanish. I had the desire to not only live outside of the United States, but live in a culture with a different socio-economic status as the United States. At the time, I thought the only culture shock I would experience or was possible to experience was in relation to the poverty there. People have dirt floors, tin roofs and homeless children wander the streets. I remember thinking “well I’ve seen documentaries about third world poverty. It won’t shock me.” And I was right because it didn’t.

However I still experienced culture shock and I experienced it about three weeks in. It’s after your initial honeymoon stage with the country that you start to notice the little differences and they add up. Personal space and the language barrier are what did it for me. I remember riding the city bus and sitting right up against the side. A Nicaraguan girl sits down next to me and her arm is right up against mine the entire ride. I had no space on my side, so I couldn’t move. Yet it didn’t seem to bother her in the least bit. This would not happen in the US and of course made me a tad uncomfortable.

I also remember speaking Spanish and having a hard time understanding people, or having them understand me. In the end, I had to go back to the United States because my mom went to the hospital, but my time in Nicaragua will forever affect the way I see the world.

Spain

So because I had been to Spain once and experienced no culture shock (I was only there for two weeks, though) and had experienced culture shock in Nicaragua, I thought I could again avoid it here. Do you ever just laugh at your past self? I do all the time. While Spain and Nicaragua are both Spanish-speaking countries, their cultures have a lot of differences. I’m sure a Spaniard moving to Nicaragua and a Nicaraguan moving to Spain would also both experience culture shock.

I was completely right that the language barrier and personal space wouldn’t affect me that much. Yes, Spaniards do tend to not say sorry as much when they bump into each other, but overall it’s better than Nicaragua. And after a year working at a bilingual organization, my Spanish is now lightyears beyond what it was in Nicaragua. It’s still not perfect, but it bothers me way less when I don’t understand or need someone to repeat something.

At the end of the day, not all culture shock is the same. Different things in different cultures will wear on you in different ways. And while some may seem small, they can add up and seem bigger. So from now on as I continue traveling, I’m going to except something and not try to guess. Here are some of the things that have been wearing on me while in Spain.
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5. Children

I think I’ve noticed this one because children are a big part of my life here. I work at an elementary school three days a week and teach 12 hours of private English lessons each week and the majority of my students are children ages 3-8. And before I start this, I want to preface it by saying that I truly love working with children and all of my students have been a joy to get to know.

However having worked with children in the US, things are just different here. I worked at an elementary school in the US for two years, and the teacher I was in the classroom with was able to control the classroom calmly and without raising her voice. She set the boundaries and inspired the students to do their best work. Kids need boundaries and good examples for sure. She would use positive reinforcement (praising the kids doing what they were supposed to in front of everyone. Ex: “thank you to Johnny for standing in line quietly. I can tell that he is listening.” It’s magical because the other kids want that positive attention and start listening too).

Here in Spain, it’s not uncommon for teachers to yell. They yell when they are excited and yell when they are upset. One teacher I work with wants the students to repeat the vocabulary words loudly, for example. I think to him he thinks that loud=more engaged? And I don’t entirely think that’s false.

In general, children seem to have less boundaries than in the United States. I remember when I was waiting for my BlaBlacar in the Malaga train station a few weeks ago. There’s a McDonalds on the second floor food court and there was a birthday party happening. The kids were just running around in the open walkway area and the adults were doing nothing about it. As a teacher, I wanted so badly to tell them to stop … but of course that’s not my place, so I just ate and tried to read my magazine. And then one kid feel down and I couldn’t help to think “well, you are running around uncontrollably.” The Spanish Pizza Hut employee’s response was to ask him if he was okay. That was nice … I wasn’t feeling nice. I was feeling annoyed.

One of my private lessons I honestly dreaded each week because the oldest boy was very hard to work with. I will say that a majority of the kids I work with are fine and all of the parents are there to help me. They all tell me to let them know when their kids are misbehaving. That can be a hard one for me to use as I’m so used to controlling classroom behaviour on my own. I also find that I have to break the no Spanish rule I try to maintain and tell them to behave in Spanish. They respond better in their native language, of course.

Overall, though, it has been a joy to work with children and families here. I have gotten to know all my students a little better each week and have seen them all make improvements in their English. That makes me happy.

4. Cuisine variety

Those of you who live in the United States, please be thankful for all the food variety that you have. I can think of at least 25 different Indian restaurants in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. And Cincinnati is not some major city like Chicago. We’re just an average, mid-sized city in the Midwest. We also have Ethiopian, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and so many other choices. I think I always took for granted the variety I had when asked “where do you want to go for dinner?”

Here in Granada, there’s like one Indian restaurant. Furthermore, most Spaniards have not even tried Indian food. That just blows my mind. Every time I go to an Indian restaurant, it’s such a treat to me. The food is so amazing and good for you. You come home full and guilt-free. It’s the best.

So what’s my plan? 1. embrace the Spanish food in my town and 2. when given the opportunity, eat other cuisines and be thankful. 3. introduce my Spanish friends to Indian food.

3. What “on time” means

When planning to go out with a bunch of Spaniards, adjust what your definition of “on time” means. In US culture, if we say meet at 10:30, I may arrive at 10:45 at the latest. However with Spaniards, it’s best to tell them a half an hour or an hour ahead of when you actually want to meet. Here’s a good equation for you:

Time that you actually want to meet – an hour = the time you tell a Spanird to be ready. I need to employ this more.

2. Being the foreigner everywhere

So when you first arrive, you welcome all the “where are you from?” questions. However it does get old after awhile. Furthermore with me, I eventually want to just blend in. Like I would love to get to the point where I speak almost perfect Spanish with little to no accent. Of course that day is far off and when I’ve worked through all of this crap. However I still just am finding that more and more, I just want to blend in. Furthermore with the recent election, I find myself having to explain that crap to people. And sometimes I just don’t want to. So the other night, I was telling everyone I was from France which is CLEARLY not true. I have a very North American accent when speaking Spanish.

What to do? Just accept that you are “la Americana” and that mostly, it doesn’t mean anything bad.

1. Spain has racism too

So I am someone that hates racism with a passion and does all I can to stop it. This change occurred in me about five-six years ago when I was living in Washington, DC. I attended a weekend-long anti-racism workshop. This experience really got me to see how racism in the United States is a systemic thing and that I needed to be aware of my white privilege. Before that, I would have said that I was not personally racist. And that was true in part … I always accepted people with an open mind. However that workshop got me to re-evaluate my way of thinking and address some prejudices I wasn’t aware I had.

With the recent election and what has happened with African-Americans in our country over the last several years in regards to the police, I’ve had some conversations with Spaniards about this. They’re always like “oh yeah, I can’t understand why all that happens. It’s awful.” And now with the recent election of Donald Trump, the reality is that foreigners think that half our country is racist. Sorry, but it’s true.

At first, I would think “wow, they are really progressive. That’s awesome.” Then you see what they think about the Gypsies and the Chinese, and it just feels like it’s all a wash. Let me break down what I’ve seen with both people groups. Also I completely understand that I’m seeing this as a foreigner. However I still maintain the anytime you make an assumption about a person because of their race or where they come from, that is prejudice and it is not good.

  • The Chinese: In recent years, lots of Chinese immigrants have been moving to Spain and starting up businesses here. Many of the convenience shops and “everything” type shops are owned by Chinese families. And of course there are also Chinese restaurants. What I hear from Spanish people is that their culture is way different than theirs, they all hang out together and don’t mix with Spanish people (which is totally normal in a foreign country and something Spaniards apparently also do when they are in the UK. Not surprised. It’s human nature to find people from your own culture in a foreign land) and they work hours that Spanish people don’t (through the siesta, on Sundays and on holidays). It’s normal for kids and sometimes adults to pull their eyes back imitating the eyes of a Chinese person. That has ALWAYS been VERY offensive to do in the United States. Bottom line, of course the Chinese have a different culture than the Spanish. However I don’t think one is more right than the other. Both are just very different.
  • The Gypsies: In Spanish, the name is “los gitanos.” They are a people group who have been living in Europe for hundreds of years. They are thought to have emigrated from India originally, and their culture is vastly different from the rest of Europe. And so for generations upon generations, they have been discriminated against. There happen to be lots of them living in Southern Spain, and still people don’t have the nicest things to say about them. They often keep to themselves, probably because Spanish people aren’t nice to them. They have kept their traditions, many of which Spanish people don’t understand. And the general stereotype is that they are up to no good. And while some are thieves, many are just normal people living their lives. I will say that I do not have the whole story about them, . However I refuse to treat someone differently solely based on where they come from. I always prefer to get to know them first.

Anyone who knows me would have guessed that this would be the thing that grates on me the most. It’s just so important to me to treat all people with dignity and respect. And that includes the people group you’ve seen your parents and grandparents say mean things about all your life.

I will admit that this one is hard to get past. In the US, a new phrase has come about. It’s called “being woke” and it refers to an awareness of social issues. I’ve decided that instead of getting annoyed when Spaniards cannot focus the mirror on themselves, I’m just going to remember that they’re not quite “woke” on this yet. I will also remember that I’m not always “woke” on everything yet.

And moving forward

So the best thing to do when in the midst of culture shock is to take some time for yourself. It ebbs and flows, so it won’t be around forever. Get lots of rest, sleep and eat well. Take walks and just enjoy life.

Have you lived abroad and experienced culture shock?

 

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Castillo de Santa Catalina: a castle in Jaén

castle in Jaén


The lovely province of Jaén sits in the North of the region of Andalusia, Spain, where I live. While many tourists who find themselves in Spain opt to visit places like my home of Granada, Malaga, Sevilla or Cadiz, Jaén should not be overlooked. If you are a fan of history and castles, you will definitely want to add Jaén to your lists of stops throughout the wonderful region of Andalusia. El castillo de Santa Catalina sits just above the city of Jaén, the capital of the province. The city is a mid-sized city worth a visit for a weekend or a few days.

Last Saturday, my friend Sharifa and I had a nice little visit to the castle. The views were absolutely breathtaking and I’m now planning to see as many castles as I can in Europe. It’s my new mission.

How to get there

So a majority of tourists will not have access to their own car, much like us. If you do, you can drive right up and park in the lot of the hotel, the Parador de Jaén. If not, you basically have two options: taxi or walking. There are no buses that go up there. It would take you about an hour to walk and much of it is both uphill and without sidewalks. Walk at your own risk, I suppose?

castle in Jaén

We opted for a taxi and it cost us about 7 euro. Protip about taxis in Spain: there are stands all over town with taxis waiting to take you wherever you want. Since the castle is up the hill, it’s smarter to go to a stand perhaps near the cathedral rather than the Corte Ingles since the cathedral is a bit more on the way. You’ll probably save a few euros this way. When you are finished seeing all you want to see, you can simply pop over into the hotel reception and ask them to call you one to take you back down.

The castle in Jaén

El castillo de Santa Catalina is divided up into 12 different parts. When we arrived, we were met by a lovely tour guide named Javier who could speak both English and Spanish. As I always love to practice my Spanish, we spoke mostly in Spanish. He was so excited to tell us all about the castle and it’s history.

The southern region of Spain used to be inhabited by the Moors, an Islamic people group. Thus the castle was built during this time period to look over the city and protect it. According to wikipedia, in 1246 King Ferdinand III of Castille captured the fortress and took it under construction. Things like a chapel were added. More work was done to the castle under the rule of kings Alfonso X and Ferdinand IV. There was also some occupation by Napoleon and the French. They left around the year 1812.

Now the atop the hill you can tour the castle, visit the cross and visit the hotel.

dsc_1484

castle in Jaén castle in Jaén castle in Jaén

The perk of traveling with buddies is that you can take candids of them … and you can bug them to take your photo.

castle in Jaéncastle in Jaén castle in Jaén

Torre de Homenaje and Torre de las Damas

Basically, where the warden lived and where the women lived. The Torre de las Damas had a very striking view of all around. You could see the city and the olive fields that stretch and stretch. Jaén is known for olives and the production of olive oil.

castle in Jaén

castle in Jaén castle in Jaén castle in Jaén castle in Jaén

The prisons

We went down and explored the old prisons of the castle. So apparently they were one of the first prisons to better the conditions for their prisoners, according to their information displays. That’s good, right? They didn’t completely or always treat their prisoners like crap.

I had fun preceding I was in there …

castle in Jaén

castle in Jaén castle in Jaén

More shots around the castle

I just could not stop taking pictures of the castle and surrounding area. It is just so breathtaking. There’s also this cross that you can walk out to.

castle in Jaén  castle in Jaén castle in Jaén castle in Jaén  castle in Jaén

castle in Jaén castle in Jaén castle in Jaén castle in Jaén castle in Jaén  castle in Jaén castle in Jaén castle in Jaén

The people

As mentioned before, upon entering the castle, we were met with the most kind and friendly tour guide (or whatever his official title was). He could tell we were American and spoke some English with us. However I love any chance I can get to practice my Spanish, so we quickly switched to Spanish. He was so nice and helpful telling us all about the castle.

On our way home, we ran into him again and saved $$ on our cab fare. He happened to be heading towards the city center anyway and offered us a ride. How much! I just love how far speaking Spanish takes you here. I am still by no means a perfect speaker, but the locals always seem so flattered when you make a good effort to speak their language. I feel like more than anything, it conveys to them a respect for their culture and an openness to learn about their customs.

Also he insisted upon taking my photo in front of the sign:

castle in Jaén

Well that’s all folks …

Have you toured any castles of Europe? What were some of your favorites and favorite parts?

 

 

 

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My wedding style: a collaboration

wedding style

New fashions added daily at SheIn.com

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself at plenty of weddings and also in several weddings over the last several years. I suppose it’s because I’m 29 and everyone but myself (okay that’s an exaggeration) is getting hitched. The thing is, I’m not one of those bitter people. I really, REALLY love weddings. I love wearing dresses and love any excuse to wear one! Furthermore, when my friends ask me to be their bridesmaid, I’m overjoyed. I love being there for my friends and helping them in any way I can.

So when Ada from Elegance and Mommyhood approached me about a wedding style collaboration, I of course said yes. In fact, there are six of us collaborating today! This dress is absolutely perfect for a wedding and in a less-expected color: green! I love dark green and feel like I look best in it, so I had to order this from Modcloth. In fact, I had been eyeing it for about a year before purchasing it.

For some of you, this dress may look familiar. It was the dress I wore in my post Green is one of my colors and how to find yours. I was happy to show it off again, of course!

wedding style

wedding style

wedding style

wedding style

When picking out a dress to wear to a wedding, you want to pick something that you look good in but also doesn’t take attention away from the bride. After all, it’s not your big day. This dress seemed perfect for that. I wore it to the rehearsal dinner of my friend Sara.

wedding style

wedding style

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My bridesmaid dresses

I thought I'd post my bridesmaid dresses because why not? Both were bought at David's bridal. The blue one is called the versa because there are literally about 10 different ways you can wear it.

wedding style

wedding style wedding style

wedding style

Well I'm so excited to be collaborating in this post! Here are the bloggers that I'm collaborating with:

Ada from Michigan USA, blogs at Elegance and Mommyhood
Linda from Ontario Canada, blogs at A Labour of Life
Kristin from Germany, blogs at Countdown to Friday
Shelbee from New York USA, blogs at Shelbee on the Edge
Roxanne from Washington DC USA, blogs at Glass of Glam
wedding style
I love how we are all over the world here. Ada wrote that I'm "from Spain." Ha ... I just live in Spain but am an aspiring Spaniard? Who knows ... Either way, make sure you check out these bloggers! They are all awesome ladies.
Also I'm linking up here today.

 

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My farewell to the sundress in Ibiza

sundress in Ibiza

Ah Ibiza. A little over a month ago, I was wearing my sundress in Ibiza. The weather was absolutely perfect. Now I sit in my apartment in Granada and it is quite cold outside! Winter has arrived in Spain! And while winter here will be way more mild than what I am used to in the United States, winter is here nonetheless. I am for sure excited to wear lots of boots and tights with my dresses. However I will miss all my sundresses. They are comfortable and easy to wear. This one is one of my favorites.

When I was in Ibiza with my friend Shola, we thought this made for a lovely backdrop. I am a big fan of green, after all. If you wish to read more on my Ibiza adventures, you can check them out here and here.

The sundress

sundress in Ibiza

I found this dress about a year ago at a second hand shop in my hometown (Cincinnati, Ohio, USA) called Plato’s Closet. Plato’s Closet is geared towards teens and young adults (so I may have been too old … aw well) and their sister shop the Clothes Mentor is more geared towards adult women. I always love finding things at second hand shops. You never know what you’re going to find and are often times pleasantly surprised.

sundress in Ibiza sundress in Ibiza

This dress is also quite slimming. I just put it on and feel slim. And that’s always amazing.

Stylish Plus Size Dresses & Separates

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sundress in Ibiza
he was copying me

sundress in Ibiza sundress in Ibiza

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Are you going to miss sundresses?

Today I'm linking up with all of these bloggers.

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5 tips to avoid the English bubble overseas


In summer 2015, I spent about a month in Nicaragua. I was supposed to be there for a year, but had to return to the United States for some personal things with my family (a story for another time). However when I was there, I was in the mindset of living there. I made a nice group of about 3-4 friends … and they all spoke English. I remember about 3-4 weeks in stopping and thinking about it. What the heck? Why did I move to an entirely different country only to make friends who are either from my country or speak my language as their first language. I had three Americans and one Scottish girl in my group. And while I still consider all of these ladies friends to this day, I knew I didn’t want to end up in the same situation in Spain.

Upon moving to Granada, Spain, my biggest goal was to immerse myself in the culture as much as possible. Practicing my Spanish was a big one, although I came here with a pretty high intermediate level (which has honestly made immersion easier). Moreover, I’m in Spain to learn about Spain. I have plenty of English speaking friends in the United States and frankly, I didn’t need a big heaping group here.

The English bubble, as I like to call it, is so easy to fall into as an expat, especially if you live in a large city. In Granada, we have something like 80-100 or more auxiliaries (other English teachers in my program). Plus we have lots of English academies that employ British and Irish teachers, and we have a university that draws expats. Basically if I wanted to, I could fill my entire circle English speakers. And while I do not think people move to a foreign country specifically to do that, many end up in this trap. After all, it’s comfortable to stay with people from your culture. You can speak your language and they get you. And you see this all over the world in different expat communities. And if this is where you are and you like it, I’m not knocking it at all. I just knew that for me, I wanted to meet and befriend more Spaniards than Americans this year. If you too would like that from your overseas experience, here are my tips.

5. Make friends with Americans who don’t live in your town

So I might have slightly lied. I have American friends who live in Spain. In fact, we are all a part of a group chat together. I love technology. This summer, I joined several Facebook groups for my program. I met and befriended different people. One of my closest new friends is a girl named Shola who lives in a town an hour or two north of me. We’ve become travel buddies and chat all the time on WhatsApp. And if she lived in Granada, I’m sure we’d hang out all the time. Which sounds like fun, but we’d never practice Spanish together if we did this.

avoid English-speakers overseas

Here are some of the ladies in said group chat. This was from that olive oil tour we went on (wrote about it here). Everyone in this picture lives at least an hour from one another. And it’s great.

When they visited this weekend, we were those Americans all together and speaking loudly. It was fun and relaxing. And it was also something I knew I didn’t come to Spain to experience every single weekend.

4. Go to intercambios

If you live in a larger city, there are tons of intercambios. What is an intercambio? I’m glad you asked! An intercambio is a weekly event where you can practice languages. They are usually held at bars and are pretty relaxed. Spaniards come wanting to practice their English and English speakers come wanting to practice Spanish. Often times connections are formed and people decide to hang out outside of the intercambio for further practice. It’s a fantastic way to meet some nice locals.

I’m in a Facebook group called Granada language exchange and meeting events. I’m sure if you look on Facebook or Google it, you can find lots for wherever you are.

3. Make a few English speaking friends in your town … y ya esta.

So again, I do have a few. But literally like three. When in a foreign country, it is nice to have some people right there with you would you can complain about crap with. Your friends for home don’t get it and your Spanish friends don’t either. So it’s good to have a few.

And then you can invite them out with your Spanish friends and it’s not awkward because you don’t have like 20 people (flashbacks to freshman year of college and hanging out with your dorm floor all the time).

avoid English-speakers overseas

Here my American friend Cassie and I are with some new friends on Halloween. She’s the one in from in white. She later joked that this is the one and only time she’ll ever be a giant. I’m in the back looking a bit …

2. Live with Spaniards

It took me a week to find my piso and crying was involved. I came to Granada at a time when everyone was looking. It was like we were all vying for the same spots. And sure, I could have found a nice English-speaker or two to go find a place with. But I held out. I knew that my level of Spanish could only go up if I lived with Spaniards. And lo and behold, I found these lovely people to live with. This photo is them mixed in with my American friends when they came to visit. We made them American breakfast.

avoid English-speakers overseas

1. Find a Spanish novio

Kidding but not.

 

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An olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Olive oil tour in Granada

An olive oil tour in Granada, Spain is the perfect way to spend a girls weekend! This past weekend, I saw a new side of Granada with three of my fellow English teachers who live in different parts of Andalusia. For those of you who are first timers to A World of Dresses, I’m an American girl who now teaches English in Granada, Spain. Granada is a nice city in the South known for free tapas (with the order of a drink), the Alhambra and the beautiful architecture. That is the city that I live in. However Granada is also a province with many cute towns and lots of olive trees. My fellow English teacher friend Sharifa organised a little outing for us and I could not say no. I’ve always loved olive oil and olives.

Through an online search, she found Olive Oil Tour in Granada. The tour includes a bit of history and a bit of tasting. And for a little extra, you can sample some Spanish wines and eat tapas.

Part 1

The tour starts out in Granada. They will arrange to pick you up somewhere central in the city. There were four of us Americans on the tour and a family of three New Zealanders. The tour was led by a nice French woman and she gave it in English. According to the website, the tour can be given in English, Spanish and French.

From Granada, we drove outside of the city for about 30 minutes. Our destination was the lovely town of Niguelas, Spain. However we first stopped to take a look at the olives and the view.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Tasting a bitter olive

So has anyone attempted to taste an olive right off the tree? Apparently they taste horrible. What we eat is after it has been cleaned and prepped. However she opened it up for us to try. Sharifa stepped up to the plate. She said it was way more awful tasting than she had thought.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

So pro-tip if you find yourself in the countryside of Southern Spain: don’t just go grabbing olives off of olive trees.

The olives and the people

Many Spaniard families in this area have a group of olive trees that have been passed down through the generations. A plot of maybe 20-30 is sufficient. Here is an example. They are watered through and old but efficient irrigation system.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

The xv century oil mill

Next, we all piled back into the van and drove into the town of Niguelas. I just love little Spanish towns. They are so cute and so different from the bustling city life. Once in the town, we parked and walked over to the old mill where they use to make the olives and olive oil up until the 1920’s. It’s so neat being around things and spaces that were used long ago.

Here is where they separated the olives by family.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Then we walked inside where they’re created a small museum. We got to see how the oil was broken down and processed many years ago. They would use these huge stones and would work for many hours. They even had a few beds for when people wanted a quick siesta.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

It was neat to see what they used so long ago and just imagine life in the mill. I’m sure it was such hard work.

Time to eat and drink

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

This part may have been my favorite. I love any opportunity to eat and drink. I was especially excited for some olives and may have eaten a few too many black olives.

The tasting was guided. Each participant had a placemat and little cups of olive oil numbered 1-5.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

We each got a few gifts to take home. I’m excited to try my olive oil. They also had various wines, olive oils and other olive-based products available for purchase.

Overall, the wine tour was a fun experience. If you are in Granada for a bit, it’s a neat way to see a different part of the region. Oh and I snapped a few photos of the town on the way out.

Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain Olive oil tour in Granada, Spain

Did you know about Spain’s history with olive oil? Did you know that olive oil in Spain was such a big deal? What do you normally eat olive oil with?

Oh and if you find yourself in Granada, Spain, here are the details of the tour:

Name: Olive Oil Tour in Granada, Spain

Duration: About three hours

Cost: 38 euros a person and an extra 15 euros if you want to taste the wines

Languages: available in English, Spanish and French

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My experience, Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Stylish Plus Size Dresses & Separates
Several weeks ago, I found myself basking in the sun of Ibiza poolside at Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza. It was a wonderful weekend. In fact, I wrote about my journey in 5 Reasons why you should see Ibiza in off season. I really did enjoy my weekend on the Spanish island of Ibiza.

My friend Shola and I came to Ibiza to attend a Kizomba dance conference. For those of you unfamiliar, Kizomba is a style of dance similar to salsa only in that it is a partner dance. Kizomba, however, actually originated in Angola and has had significant popularity in Africa. My friend Shola is a fan of dance in general and thus various dance conferences and events are always on her radar. When she saw that this one was happening in Ibiza, she jumped on the opportunity. After all, she was going to be living in Spain like me and teaching English. She needed a buddy and I said “why not?” It was my first time learning Kizomba and both of our first time in Ibiza.

The hotel

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Upon arrival, the hotel seemed decent. It is situated on the beach and is within walking distance of shops and restaurants. It has a pool, tennis courts, a restaurant and other such typical things of a hotel. Had I seen more elaborate hotels? Absolutely. But it seemed nice and was definitely worth the price we got through the conference.

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

The room

We noticed a stark difference going from the lobby to the second floor where our room was located. In fact, we both took a look around and were like “well, this hallway isn’t as nice.” Don’t get me wrong … the hallway was clean and all. It just was more basic and felt like we were back in the 1970’s. I suppose I’m used to hotel chains in the United States and their pristine hallways.

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

The room was nice. I was loving the balcony! We had a nice view.

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

The layout of the room was nice. It was generally clean and comfortable.

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza

Spain vs. the United States

As I’m adjusting to life here in Spain, I’m of course noticing all of the differences between the two cultures. In the United States, a majority of hotel rooms have carpeted floors. There is normally one bed that is either queen or king-sized. And in this hotel, you had to put your room key in this slot to activate the electricity.

My friend Shola and I initially burst out laughing when we saw the two beds pushed together. However it did allow for each of us to have our own space, which was nice.

Overall

Overall, Sirenis Hotel 3 Carabelas Ibiza is a decent place to stay. Have you stayed on the island of Ibiza?

 

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My new go-to dress

Stylish Plus Size Dresses & Separates
Hello friends! I am happy to inform you that I have my new go-to dress. When making the move from the United States to Spain, I had to leave behind many of my dresses. I opted to bring with me only a small roll-on bag, a duffle and my backpack. In fact, this Instagram photo here shows all that I took. In retrospect, I’m glad I packed light. And everything I brought, I have put to good use!

So minimalist moving ways have allowed me an excuse to shop (and I don’t really that’s how minimalism works … oh well)! Spain’s department store or their version of Macy’s is called El Corte Ingles. I luckily or unluckily live only a 2-minute walk away from one of their two locations in Granada. So I of course have made my way through their racks. I stumbled upon this and just had to.

go-to dress

go-to dress

go-to dress

go-to dress

go-to dress

go-to dress

A day in Andujar

These photos were shot in Andujar, the town that my friend Shola teaches English in. I decided to venture out of my big city of Granada and see what her town was all about. I had more of a fun time than I was expecting! We met great people, ate great food and stayed out a little too late.

The thing that always amazes me about Spain is that even small towns feel “urban,” as we Americans would define it. People still choose to live in apartments over houses with a front and back yard. People still choose to walk rather than drive. Life in the town centre is still lively. And you really cannot say that for most small towns in the United States. Here are a few shots of Andujar:

go-to dress

go-to dress

go-to dress

go-to dress

If you are planning a trip to Spain, Andujar is worth a bit of your time. Or if not Andujar, small town Spain is just such a neat experience. I feel like you get a sense of the real culture.

The last day

We shot some by this amazing graffiti wall.

go-to dress

go-to dress

Have you explored small-town Spain or small-town Europe? What were your thoughts? which do you prefer?

I’m linking up here today.

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5 US comforts you’ll miss in Spain

US comforts you'll miss in Spain

No two countries are alike (okay maybe the US and Canada come VERY close). So when moving from one to another, it’s normal to miss things about your home country and fall in love with other things that your country does not have. One of my goals as a blogger this year as I live in Spain is to paint an accurate picture of life as an expat. This means that sometimes it’s all sandy beaches, Instagram photos and red wine. Sure, it often is amazing like my weekend in Ibiza. However if I were to pretend that it’s always amazing, I’d be lying to you. And I hate lying to my readers or anyone, for that matter.

There have been some things that I’ve had to adjust to here in Spain. At the end of the day, I do want to stress that I’ve moved from one developed country to another. These are things that yes, I miss. But overall, life is still pretty comfortable here in Spain. So without further ado, here are the 5 US comforts you’ll miss in Spain.

5. Uber

Uber, the super easy ride-requesting service, does not exist here in Spain. I’m not sure all the details, but I heard that they tried it in some of the bigger cities and the taxi drivers got mad. Where I live in Granada, we have taxi stations. Sure, you could also flag one down but it’s often easier to just go to one of the stations. They usually have about three lined up at said stations. However there’s nothing like just touching a button on your phone to request a ride.

I really could have used an Uber the day I moved my suitcases from my airbnb that I stayed at while I searched for a piso to my new piso. The closest taxi stand was a good five or more blocks away and I had to lug it all through the streets. And sure, I could have called a taxi company and requested that they come to my door. But … I just miss Uber. Also being able to pay with your card is amazing. Luckily most taxis are under 5 euro and aside from my move, I rarely take one.

On the upside

All of Europe has something called BlaBla Car. It’s a ride sharing app that makes going from one city to another easy and cheap. I’ve started using it a lot. I wish we had this in the United States.

4. Different shop hours

US comforts you'll miss in Spain

Now I want to start by saying that I live in Andalusia, the Southern region of Spain that observes the siesta. This means that from the hours of 2-5 the entire town shuts down. People go home to be with their family or nap. Then at 5, you back to work until 9, which is when you eat dinner. Not all parts of Spain observe the siesta but they do all eat dinner at 9.

A scheduled in nap sounds great, right? Before I lived in Spain, the idea of the siesta sounded amazing. However now that I’m here and am programmed to think that business hours are 9-5 like back home, it can be a challenge. Want to go to the bank at 2:30? Nope. Want to by groceries on a Sunday? Nope. And on holidays, literally everything is shut down. The only businesses that don’t close are some of the Chinese-owned shops. It’s not their culture to take a siesta and they probably make a little business by staying open.

On the upside

I love naps.

3. No coffee to-goUS comforts you'll miss in Spain

I love coffee and have to have it every morning. In the United States if I’m running late and have no time to make some at home, I can just stop by any gas station or go through a Starbucks drive-through. Here in Spain, coffee to-go is not so much of a thing. Spaniards do love their coffee just in a cafe where they can enjoy it out of a mug and have a nice chat with their amigo. So either I make it at home or I try to quickly drink a coffee in a cafe. And trust me, I’ve become real good at sitting at the cafe bar, ordering a cafe con leche (coffee with milk), gulping it down and asking “cuanto es?” (how much) in about 10-15 minutes. I think I’ve even done it in 5.

While I love the culture of enjoying your coffee, I also miss my home culture where I think if we invented coffee IV tubes, they’d sell out.

On the upside

Maybe I don’t need huge cups of coffee in my life? Also less littering this way.

2. The hot water not always being on

In the United States anywhere I’ve lived, you just turn the faucet over to the hot side if you want hot water. In my piso here in Spain, it’s not that easy. We have this tank of gas called a bombera hooked up to the water system (and I apologize if this is not the correct lingo … I’m literally just describing it). I then have to turn the switch over to the gas side and hit this button to ignite a flame. Then I have to wait about 30 seconds (I usually just scroll through Instagram) with the gas button pushed in. If I let it out too soon, I have to ignite a new flame. Once it’s lit, I can go take a shower.

One morning the tank ran out of gas in the middle of my morning shower. Like I’m showering like normal and all of a sudden cold water. The funny thing was that I went back to ignite the flame and it stayed … then it would go out when I was in the shower. So after two times of re-lighting the flame with no success, I just washed my hair in the sink and made do. And I was late to my carpool that day.

US comforts you'll miss in Spain
that silly flame you have to ignite

US comforts you'll miss in Spain

On the upside

There is none. This was my worst morning in Granada thus far.

1. No clothing dryers

US comforts you'll miss in Spain

So if you want to buy a dryer, I’m sure you could. However the majority of the people here only have a washer. They then hang their clothing out to dry. In the US, I never realized how last-minute I would do laundry. You take it for granted that drying your clothes takes maybe an hour. Here if I need to do laundry, I have to plan ahead to ensure that the clothing I want to wear is dry for when I want to wear it. That has definitely taken a bit to get adjusted to.

US comforts you'll miss in Spain
Washers … in the kitchen

On the upside

Save energy? That freshly-dried smell? Who knows.

Have you made the move to a foreign country? What were some of the things you missed from your home country?

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