Posts by Country

Sunday, October 25, 2015


On Friday, October 23rd, I moved in with a family in Las Mesas where I was offered room and board for 250/month. My boss in the primary school, Yolanda, also organised after school lessons for me so that I could make some extra cash. That evening Yolanda came to pick me up for a trip to Guadalajara. After arriving we went to have dinner at a restaurant with really big bocadillos.

The next day we went on an excursion into Guadalajara and saw lots of cool places, like the Palacio del Infantado and the Pantheon.

For lunch we had some paella & flan and then went to Alcala de Henares for churros con chocolate. On to way to get the churros we passed through a wine festival and, after stopping again for some cheap tapas, we went to the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso.

After that we went back to Yolanda's and the next day we went back to Alcala de Henares for merienda before returning to Las Mesas.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Casa de Dulcinea

On Thursday, October 22nd, I taught at the school and sorted out my Spanish bank account before heading back to Pedro Munoz with Julio for some Merluza (Hake) and rice. Later on after siesta, we went on another excursion. This time we went to El Toboso to see la casa de Dulcinea (the house of Dulcinea). As with the giants in Campo de Criptana, la casa de Dulcinea is the purported site of a famous scene in the fictional novel by Cervantes called Don Quixote which is also known as The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. According to this particular tale, crazy old Don Quixote is meandering around on his way to some place for some contrived reason when he comes upon a simple peasant woman named Dulcinea.

Well, in his usual psycho way, he assumes that this woman (who, according to Sancho, is rather plain, quite loud and a even bit masculine) is some sort of princess and he vows to defend her honor somehow by going on a "quest" for her for some reason even though he hasn't met her and doesn't actually know anything about her... I think at this point he goes on a killing spree at a local pub. Anyway, after exploring the rather large "house" of Dulcinea (it actually does lend itself to the idea that she was a princess), Julio and I walked around the pueblo a bit. We saw a couple of large statues of the Don and Dulcinea and then went back to Pedro Munoz for kebabs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Campo de Criptana

On Wednesday, October 21st, Julio and I went to work. On the way he jokingly told me of the "selvas de vino en la Sahara del Manchego" or basically: the wine producing jungles in Spain's version of the Sahara which is inhabited by local people of Castilla la Mancha (Manchegos). Indeed, the vast expanse of vineyards in Spain could easily be compared to that of a desert - endless. Interestingly, as the region lends it's name to it's inhabitants, so does each pueblo; the people of Belmonte are Belmontenos, in Las Pedroneras they call themselves Pedroneros, the Mesenos live in Las Mesas and so it goes from pueblo to pueblo all throughout Spain.

At the school I presented a PowerPoint introducing myself and the land I am from to each of my classes. The day went by pretty quickly and soon Julio and I were back in the pueblo of Pedro Munoz. We picked up some "pan tierno" (fresh bread) and, after returning home, had "merienda" - a light meal usually eaten between lunch and dinner. After that we relaxed for siesta and then headed out on an excursion to Campo de Criptana.

On the way we stopped at a local wetland park followed by the santuario de la Santísima Virgen de Criptana - a cathedral in Campo de Criptana which overlooks the countryside. After that we made a trip over to "los gigantes de Don Quijote" (the giants from Don Quixote). Of course, if you've ever heard the story of Don Quixote, you know that the "giants" are actually just wind mills or "molinos" mistaken by Don Quixote (the crazy old semi-protagonist of the story) for giants. As part of his senile decision making process, Quijote makes the valiant pledge to take down the would-be aggressors (assuming that giants existed anywhere outside of his wild imagination). With sword drawn, he charges toward them in an attempt to slay his rather stationary foe... disregarding the vain cries of his squire, Sancho, who has the futile notion that he might actually be able to talk some sense into his kooky companion.

Pretty wild story right? Just another tale from the adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha: an instant classic which has been around for centuries... origin of the Spanish conquistador perhaps?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bienvenido a España!

On Saturday, the 17th of October, I boarded my plane to Spain and, after a total of about 17 hours flying, I was finally there. I met up with Julio, another professor from my school, and we went to get some tapas before making the drive out to the pueblos. I was really lucky as Julio was not only hosting and showing me around, but he and the school had prepared everything else for my arrival as well.

Most Auxiliares de Conversation / Cultural Ambassadors / Language Assistants, as we're called, have to figure out everything themselves when they arrive - transportation, accommodation, legal documents, etc. Fortunately, my school was happy to help me with everything. They mailed my documents, made appointments for my TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero or "foreigner identity card"), set up a bank account and even put together a mutually beneficial after-school program so that I had some extra cash flow and wouldn't have to seek out my own private classes right away.

After arriving at Julio's place in Pedro Muñoz, we ate lunch and took advantage of siesta - a traditional break period between the hours of two and five. This doesn't necessarily mean people sleep the whole time as the stereotype suggests (in fact, the nap, if taken, is usually only about 15 minutes), but it certainly doesn't mean they can't either. I probably slept through siesta time every day that week (as Julio likes to remind me). It wasn't until dinner that I saw fit to climb out of bed so that we could go get Bocadillos - basically the Spanish version of the ham and cheese sandwich.

The next day I went to Cuenca with Elena, another professor from my school, and applied for my TIE in person... a long trip but necessary in order to fulfill one of the many bureaucratic requirements of working in Spain. Later on, we went back to Las Mesas so that I could meet my students.

Everyone was super friendly and excited to meet me; they had even made a sign to welcome me. Although, as it turns out, everyone at the school had mistaken my surname as my first name... a fairly humorous error that would be repeated over the first month or so about a thousand times a day as the primary students all yell my name every time they see me.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


On Tuesday, the 13th of October, I went back to Ellensburg for a final visit with my brother, Sam. We had a good time hanging out and enjoyed some pretty nice local Mexican food at Fiesta Mexican Restaurant. We also went up into the mountains and did some off-roading with his Jeep which, as you can see in the video below, was a bit more of a challenge than your everyday, casual backroad jaunt.

For my last week in the states I did a few things: I learned to cut my own hair (a bit tricky on the back but taking photos with the camera helps); I tried a few restaurants with my mum (5 Guys in downtown Puyallup, Hawaiian BBQ at the Tacoma Mall, and some old favorites - Taco Del Mar and Cold Stone); I bought some secondhand clothing (used stuff fits better, is often higher quality and comes at a fraction of the price); and I finished packing my bags. On Saturday, the 17th of October, I flew to JFK, New York and then, finally, Spain.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Tiny House Project

On Thursday, September 10th, my dad and I laid the foundation for my tiny house. The day before that we had finished preparing the forms but we still needed a foundation for the foundation. Early in the morning we started by piling up a solid base for the slab to sit on and we placed some plywood around the outsides of the forms to contain the concrete. We also had to put some dirt around the plywood to keep it from bowing out. Finally, the cement truck arrived and we started pouring.

A week later I came back and we started putting up the walls. We were at it for a couple of days and the third wall had to be lifted up by the excavator so that we could carefully lower it down over the plumbing that we had stubbed off around the perimeter.

During the following week back in Puyallup, I went with my mom to have lunch with the
Stampers for their 69th anniversary. We met at Indochine in Tacoma where they had ordered mountains of super delicious Asian food from different cultures - definitely a place worth checking out if you have the cash.

A few days later I was back with my dad putting the roofing on my tiny house. This took two days and, a few days after doing that, we installed the power cables and lights. We also installed the door and the outdoor electrical socket for plugging in a mobile home.