La Viaggiatore Solitaria

Hello, friends. It’s been a while.

I’ve spent the past couple of months traveling and working, and binge-watching Gossip Girl. I could try and give you all the details of the time that’s passed and get you up to speed, but that’s not realistic and I don’t want to. Haha. I will, however, fill you in on my amahzing experience traveling alone in Italy.

First of all, let me just make it clear that I am obsessed. For those of you who were my friends when I returned from my internship in Montana my sophomore year in uni, and then when I returned from studying abroad in Spain my fourth year…I am in that place of obsession. I will not be able to stop talking or dreaming about it until I find my way back to the land of pasta and pizza. And yes, the food was my favorite thing about Italy. I’m not hard to please. Haha.

A diary…

Day 1:
I land in Pisa and get completely lost looking for my hostel. I don’t have mobile internet, so I’m going off of screen shots and written instructions. After getting lost for long enough, I made my way back to the airport to utilize the free wifi. Haha. (By the way, getting lost happens a lot throughout this experience, so I won’t go into detail anymore than this one time.) Anyway, I find the hostel, and get settled in. I attempt to make friends at the hostel’s buffet dinner, and completely fail. It’s fine. I’m sleep deprived, anyway. I decide to call it a night and wake up early for adventuring.

Day 2:
Today, I find the infamous leaning tower, and have a moment of “OH MY GOD, I’M KIND OF A WORLD TRAVELER.” I snap a couple pics and head to find a panini. LIFE. I’m stopped by a man who is asking for signatures for a campaign to help recovering drug addicts. I sign it, because I care about the cause, but as Jessica Day, because I’ve seen Taken. I rush off to catch a train. There were some technical difficulties with my ticket, and I had to wait in a long line. I was so nervous that I wouldn’t make the train on time, but luckily I went to the station super early. I head to my platform and run into Jo! My roomie from UTA! She’s also on her spring break, and traveling through Italy. After lots of hugs and squeals, I am on my way to La Spezia!

I arrive, and get lost again. I can smell the sea in the air and am desperate to find it. I check into the guesthouse, and head to find the city I’ve seen pictures of on Pinterest: Manarola. One of the five towns (Cinque Terre) on this part of the coast. I finally find it and decide I can die at any moment and it would be totally fine. Haha. This is the most beautiful view I’ve seen in my life. A small town with colorful buildings that climb up the coastal hill. Sigh.

Me, Manarola, and an Italian photobomber

Me, Manarola, and an Italian photobomber

I later find my way to a place called Portovenere! It’s another small coastal town that is beautiful. I learn that on bad weather days in the winter, the waves from the sea completely cover the stone church on a hill on the edge of town. So cool.

I make my way back to La Spezia and look for FOOOODDD. Haha. I’m so desperate, I almost settle for a kebab, (which are delicious, by the way. But they’re everywhere in Spain, so it wouldn’t be right, haha,) but I find a small family-run pizza place. I was so tired and wanted to go back to the guesthouse to eat and chill, but they were so friendly, I decided to dine in. The brother of the family offered some of his special rice pie to each of the guests – so nice. So good. I decide to buy some to go. Go home. Sleep.

Day 3:
Today, I am traveling to Florence and Venice.
When I arrive in Florence, it’s raining spaghetti and meatballs. (Hhhaaaaa!) I did not do any research, so I have no idea what to do here. Haha. I find a small diner where I order the real version of Chef Boyardee’s beefaroni, which I learn in Italy they call, “pasta.” Haha. SO GOOD. Then I have some Italian cake…which…if I could remember what it was called, I would seem way cooler and more cultured, but let’s be real. It’s cake and I love it. When I cash out, the waiter gives me a free cannoli!! Ay-oh!

I set out to explore Florence, soaked from head to toe, and the rain keeps coming. I find a place called Alice’s Masks, run by Alice and Agostino. It’s covered wall to wall, ceiling to window in masks of all kinds! It reminds me of a Goosebumps book. But the intercom is playing super jazzy music, so I’m not afraid. Haha. That was pretty cool. I leave to walk around some more, and decide I want to get a tattoo. Haha. But the next opening at the tattoo parlor was when I needed to be getting back to the train station. So. Fate spoke more loudly than spontaneity. Ha.

On to Venice! It’s still raining! Boo! I catch a ferry to my hostel, which is basically a bar/club/restaurant with beds. Haha. The place is bumpin’, and I’m determined to make friends! I settle in and head downstairs for food (sound familiar?) and decide I am Dan Humphrey his freshman year at Saint Jude’s. (For those of you who don’t watch Gossip Girl, this means I’m an outsider. And a lonely boy.) So I decide to pull a Pisa and go to sleep to wake up early and explore Venice.

Day 4:
The next day, I wake up and head downstairs for food. I find a couple of girls who are laughing a lot, but not the kind of laugh that feels like they’re better than you, haha. So I approach them and we become the fastest friends. We spend a lot of time hanging out, and I decide I should go see Venice before I run out of time, and we plan to meet up later for an Easter Dinner. Venice is nice, I guess. Ha. I explore this crazy beautiful place, grab myself a gelato, and head back to the hostel. Sadly, I don’t have time for Easter Dinner. :( I make my way to the bus to the airport, and head back to Spain.

A gondola man in Venice, going through the struggle.

A gondola man in Venice, going through the struggle.

The fun is over, and I have to stay the night in the airport. Haha. But I’m still high from Italy, so I’m in good spirits! By dawn, I’m on the train to the bus station. I grab some snacks, get on the bus, and sleep almost the entire time. Haha.

Bonus: the guys sitting in the seats in front of mine had a total language barrier between them. One was Spanish, and spoke very little English. The other was English and spoke very little Spanish. I listened to them struggle for hours (/slash/ I was sleeping) until I finally chimed in to explain a grammar rule to the English guy. For the rest of the trip, I was their interpreter. It made me feel pretty awesome. Haha. Maybe all those years and student loans weren’t a waste. Hahahahaha…ahhh… *whimper*.

I’m one more bus ride away from my comfy, cozy bed. I finally get back to Caravaca, exhausted and sleep deprived. I shower, make myself comfortable, and eat some pasta while watching Gossip Girl.

Life is good. I am so lucky. And forever grateful.

The Ultimate Karaoke Contest

Those of you who know me well are aware of my love for karaoke/have probably heard my monologue about being raised in karaoke bars. I’ve been aching to get behind a microphone and belt out my rendition of P.Y.T. Karaoke is scarce where I’m at in Spain. (There’s a small bar with exactly one page of English songs. Large font. Only 3 good ones.) (Fun fact, it’s normal to pay to sing karaoke here…what.)

This past week, I had the random and lucky opportunity to be part of what was announced as a “star panel” of judges for a karaoke contest for a high school I’d never heard of. Haha. I considered myself the Ben Folds of this star panel. Spectators think, “I don’t know who that is, but I feeeeeeel….like I’ve seen this person around.” And they have no idea that I know EXACTLY what I’m doing. Haha. Mostly because my category to judge was pronunciation, and I was the only native speaker in this audience of, like, 700. Haha.

Okay, the crowd. Gah! This crowd was WAY bigger than I anticipated, and it was totally hype! It was held at a venue called Teatro Thuiller. The same venue at which I attended a Pink Floyd cover show, which didn’t even have  1/4 the crowd as this karaoke event. But this post is already getting to be too long, so let me dive right into the performances.

1. Staying Alive – The BeeGees
The theme for the entire event was old school music. Group number one was 6 or so girls, with afro wigs on, and grungy flannel tops over bell bottoms. Haha. Their choreography was simple, and what I expected for an event like this. (I later learned that I WAS HORRIBLY WRONG. This event got CRAY. This group could be considered the opening act for the rest of the show. Haha. Is that mean? Eh.) I couldn’t give them a score really, because…they didn’t….sing? Haha. Nobody thinks about how cray these lyrics actually are. Haha. It’s like 70s freestyle.

2. Twist and Shout – The Beatles
First impression: Whaattt. Haha. The girl who was singing had a voice that was sooo buttaahh (butter.) And her pronunciation was actually, really awesome! But what really had my jaw dropped was the choreo! This huge group of girls were doing, like, LEGIT choreography! With flips and cartwheels and all! Amahzing.

3. Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison
Sigh. Pretty. Freaking. Woman. Do y’all remember seeing the shadow dancers in one of the _____’s Got Talent shows? WELL. They busted out sad piano cover and a shadow dance, and brought tears to my star-paneled face. Haha. Of course, it followed with the actual song and a super fun dance. Bonus: Confetti! :)

4. Jailhouse Rock – The King
This group was the first to have a really awesome storyline with their performance! Not to mention a freaking awesome stage set up. AND COSTUMES! The stage was a bar, there was a group of kids (ha) taking shots, a group gambling, and another group getting ready to strip for a guy who says into the microphone, “Oh yeah, baby. I like that.” (Cue my nervous laughter and sideways glances to see how the other teachers were reacting. They loved it. #Spain.) Out of nowhere, the police show up, and everyone takes off running! But to no avail. They are arrested and put into the jailhouse. UNTIL! Somehow, they escape from the heavy captivity of cardboard prison bars. The jailbirds proceed to hilariously wrap the officers in a rope and throw THEM into the jail cell. Ha HA! Then…out of nowhere, gun shots go off, and everyone falls to the ground. Then out comes the “Yeah, baby. I like that.” kid, walking lazily down center stage. He blows the “smoke” from his “gun,” winks, nods, and says “Jailhouse Rock.” What? Haha.

5. Grease Mix
I’m not gonna lie, I don’t remember much from this performance, because I was still trying to process what the hell happened in Jailhouse Rock. Haha. I do remember that Sandy had AMAHZING hair, and terrible pronunciation. Haha. And, as was becoming expected, the costumes were fantastic.

6. HIGHWAY TO HELL – AC/DC
HOLY COW. THIS PERFORMANCE. YOU GUYS. First, of all. FLAMES. One of the 6 or so guys put down a fountain firework in the middle of the stage, and flames go up as another kid comes out with his guitar, playing the opening chords on his amp. The song ensues as the rest of the group comes out, just…being amazing. Haha. Putting on a hell (Ha! No pun intended.) of a show! One of the guys takes off his Ray Bans, kisses them, and throws them to the crowd (I’m guessing they weren’t actual Ray Bans…haha.) They come directly to me. Haha. The one time I will a crowd-bound object to go somewhere else. The teacher-judge beside me scooped’em up. As the show goes on, the crowd is totally wigging out. I see a bra thrown onto the stage and do a double take. Then one of the Grease girls runs up and throws another one. At this point, I’m like, oh my god, what is happening. Hahaha. I look around, and all the teachers are totally into it. So I just laugh and clap along. Haha. Because it really was such a freaking awesome performance! Hahaha. The crowd is going insane, and out come the giant bouncy balls. AC/DC throws them into the crowd, and they are going EVERYWHERE. The song is carrying on, everyone is screaming, there are bras on the stage, and giant bouncy balls circling the crowd. Spain, man.

Finale: Blame It On The Boogie – Jackson 5
Performed by: Teachers and Faculty
The rest of the star panel rush off backstage to get ready to perform while the scores are tallied. The curtains open. Music begins. Teachers enter. Two words: BLACK FACE. Ohhh, goodddd….hahahaha. This subject is obviously controversial, and I’ve seen other auxiliares on the fb page freaking out about black face being used in Spain’s Christmas parade. (They celebrate the three wise men here, one of the three being traditionally dark skinned. If there are no dark skinned folks around, black face is the go-to.) After getting over my initial shock, I laugh and laugh, and enjoy the show. Haha. This is seriously the most fun ever. This school rules.

Finally, the results are announced. You know in any competition, there’s the group that wins because of the technical scores and categories, but then there’s the group that everyone actually wanted to win? Jailhouse Rock was announced as the winner, and all the girls from their group screamed giddily, as I heard, “Buuuuuullshit!! Buuuuullshit!!” from the guys in the crowd. Hahaha! The giant bouncy balls bounced around as “Hiiiiighway to hell!” echoed throughout the theater. It was like a movie. Haha. So amazing.

Bonus: The crowd trickled out, and I was approached by the teacher who’d been put in contact with me to have me participate in the event. She asked if I had had a good time, and continued with, “I remember you from Thanksgiving!” Nooooooooo….hahahaha. #drunksgiving

This is not from the actual show. Just pretend.

This is not from the actual show. Just pretend.

A Little Infinity

The highlight of my winter break trip was finding the bench from “The Fault in Our Stars.” It’s a hidden gem in the backstreets of Amsterdam. I was surprised to find that there was no one around! All over the bench, you see where fans have come to write their favorite quotes from the book. It’s like a community of people who’ve been affected by the story. I loved it.

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“It’s the moment in the story where these two people in love learn that their time together is coming to an end. It hits them that if it weren’t already cardinal to cherish each moment, it certainly had become it. This moment is just beautiful in that it’s so raw and vulnerable. I love it. It’s a reminder to hold nothing back, to love hard. And to relish in every moment.”

How I Traveled 10 Days with a Classic Backpack

Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I just got back from the ultimate Christmas break trip! I traveled 10 days between 3 countries, and it was, indeed, ULTIMATE.

Many folks would pack the ultimate (Using this word a lot. I apologize.) backpacker’s backpack or an actual suitcase for trips that extend past a weekend. And that makes sense. You need things. We need things. I just am not keen on the idea of lugging around a suitcase or massive backpack for 10 days. I am a delicate flower. Haha. In the days leading up to my departure, I was all over Pinterest looking for ways to pack light, and found about 1 tip that was applicable to me. (Moisturizer in a contact case. Genius.) So, I went with my gut and was actually able to squeeze just about everything I needed into a classic schoolbag.

Here’s what I packed:

– One pair of black jeans
– One set of fleece leggings
– Two undershirts
– Two tank tops (One I didn’t wear at all.)
– Two flannel-type shirts
– One sweater (That I basically wore every single day.)
– Lots of undergarments
– Lady products (because Mother Nature hates me.)
– One towel (To be fair, I shoved this into a friend’s suitcase.)
– Travel sized shower products (Also shoved into friend’s suitcase.)
– Wipeys for the days that showering isn’t available
– 2 small packs of tissues (which were handy when we ran out of TP)
– Necessity bag including tweezers, nail clippers, makeup, etc.
– Granola bars!
– Electronics (phone, tablet, chargers)

You might be asking yourself, “What the hell.” Yeah, I get that. I should say that I definitely roughed it throughout this trip. But I’m kind of a hippy (not) so it works. Here are some notes on how my packing suited/did not suit my needs while traversing the European continent:

Pros:

1. When checking in for flights, I didn’t have to worry about checking my suitcase in, or meeting a weight requirement. I just carried on my backpack. I didn’t even have to worry about putting it in the overhead bin. It fit smoothly under the seat in front of me. And I had everything I might have needed within my reach.

2. When we were lost (which was often) on our way to a hostel, or train station, or bus station, my friends had to lug around their suitcases (which they were cool with, btw. Disclaimer. I’m not bashing their packing choices. Lol.) while all I had to carry was my backpack. My hands were free to do things like….wave at people….or something. Whatever. It was nice. Haha.

3. It’s winter time, so all anyone ever sees you wear is your coat. And scarf. And hat. So why bother shaking it up with several outfit options? One of my friends packed a dress specifically for NYE, and she was bummed because no one would get to see it, because we would be celebrating in the streets of Amsterdam. I wore the same exact outfit I had on throughout the day, and looked equally as fab as my homie, because hello, peacoats. And red lipstick.

Cons:

1. IT WAS FREAKING COLD. And there were days I wished I could have put on more layers. Eventually, I came around to wearing my fleece leggings under my jeans, and my sweater under the flannel. That seemed to work well for me, but I wished I had a thermal long sleeve or something.

2. I didn’t have much room for souvenirs, but I didn’t have much money for spending either (#thanksMurcia) so it worked well. Haha. One of the girls started collecting flyers, postcards, stickers, and napkins from hostels, bars, and restaurants to have as reminders of our experiences in each place, and I followed suit. #AlternativeSouvenirs

Overall, I’d give traveling with a simple backpack 4 high fives. It was convenient, stressless, and easy peezy.

At some point in the near future, I will be posting a video of clips from the entire trip. But for now, I’ll leave you with this random, possibly useless post on packing for people who like wearing the same clothes daily.

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Here is my fancy backpack.

Merry Christmas! #happyholidays

Being abroad has its perks and its fallbacks. A perk, for example, would be that I get to spend Christmas IN FREAKING PRAGUE. A fallback is that I’m missing everyone back home in my favorite time of the year. So! Since I can’t be home to sing Christmas carols and laugh at my family’s weirdness, I have captured a bit of my own weirdness for my loved ones to laugh at.

I have been working on this song for weeks, but couldn’t quite get it down. So I just rolled with it. Haha. Enjoy! Merry Christmas! :)

I have a comfort zone.

Fun fact about Alexz:

I am not known to have a comfort zone. I tend to adapt to new situations well and quickly, and I feel comfortable most everywhere. I have performed interpretive dances while waiting in line for a movie ticket. I have remixed the words to “Part of Your World” to be about produce and sang it loud and proud while grocery shopping with my boyfriend’s family (before I was sure they liked me). I once spent a day shouting at every person who passed my res hall, asking them to marry me. I’m weird, and I’m comfortable with the world.

Or, I used to be.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

I’ve seen this quote, or variations of it, a million times. But I never felt like it actually applied to me. Nothing out of the ordinary has ever stopped me from doing something I really wanted to do.

I’ve been having such a negative experience this time around living abroad, but when I take out all the obvious elements (no pay, stupid education system, missing my boyfriend) I can’t find a reason to be unhappy here. It’s beautiful. It’s cultural. It’s different from the norm, which is something I typically thrive on.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that I do, in fact, have a comfort zone. And I left it when I stepped onto Spanish soil. I don’t know what happened to me in the time that passed between studying abroad and teaching abroad, but suddenly EVERYTHING IS TERRIFYING. Everything is uncomfortable. And it’s even more uncomfortable, because this is not a feeling I’m acquainted with, and I did not apprehend this while mentally preparing to leave home.

So! Now that I recognize this, I can act accordingly. I’ll approach each situation with the knowledge that I am expanding my comfort zone, which means actively fighting discomfort. Or embracing it. Something I didn’t have to think about before. It came to me naturally.

Here’s to a new disposition, an upcoming new year, and a more positive experience for the remainder of my time here. #yas

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Meet 10 Characters from CEIP Cehegín

Every day, I spend time with, like, 90 different kids. They are all precious (or evil), but there are some who have really made an impression on me. Today, I am introducing you to some of the characters in the elementary classrooms of Cehegín.

1. The boy who says random phrases in English. 
“Are you ready? Yes or no?” “I SAY!”
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2. The 3rd grade boy who looks at me like this guy: 
mexican smile

3. The girl who, when she can’t remember an English word, just makes one up. 
braverism

4. The bubbly girl who is full of charisma when she speaks Spanish, but as soon as you ask her to speak English, she turns into Lilly.
lilly pitch perfect

5. The first grade girl who I’m pretty sure is a gypsy.
She adores me though, so there’s no need for concern.
thinner-02
But if she ever brings me a cherry pie, I will throw it away. Just as a precautionary measure. #thinner

6. The boy who always looks like he’s ready to punch the teacher.
scarface

7. The girl who always looks like she’s ready to punch me.
angelica pickles
“I’m bigger than you.” “…mhmm!”

8. This first grader: 
Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 5.28.29 PM

9. And this first grader:
amanda please

10. And then there’s the kid who shouldn’t even be here. 
“You wanna know why I know all these words? It’s because I know English.”
cereal-guy-newspaper-guy-tear-l