Confession… Abroad + Anxiety= worst combination ever!!!

Since my last post I’ve experienced a series of uncomfortable events and I wish I would have had more knowledge on this subject so when things like this happen, I could be better prepared.  I have yet to find a cure for this and I have felt uncomfortable bringing it up.  But since I have gained a travel following I feel I should share this because this is more than just about my travels and cultural quirk adventures.  So here it goes! I wish people would have told me about the anxiety I would experience before I decided to do this.  Conducting my own research lately on how I feel has been scary and daunting.   I guess I can start from the beginning.

Me looking "normal" ... * Budapest

Me looking “normal” … * Budapest, Hungary.

Well, in the past couple of months after Semana Santa (Holy Week), ironically enough I have not felt inspired.  I did not want to write nor even empty out my memory card from my camera.  I think part of it had to do with my 12 day grueling trip.  I sometimes don’t know what I was thinking trying to visit three countries in 12 days. Honestly, I can’t say enough how honored and privileged and fortunate enough to see what I have seen. The greatness of what people can construct is awe inspiring but at the same time the unkindness and the cruelty one man can inflict on his fellow human-being is disheartening.  (That will be another blog post.)  I have to give a great shout out to the girls that I travelled with.  I will say that being on this trip changed my perspective on a lot of things.  That particular week, once again, the world showed its brokenness with the terrorist attacks in Brussels (where the day before my travel buddy and I happen to be in Brussels airport because the flight was cheaper to go from Budapest, layover in Brussels and take a flight to Bucharest).  I recalled my friend having said very often, “this world is broken”.  Well, so is its people.  So here goes more brokenness, but this is very embarrassing to speak about. A couple of days ago I hit a bit of a low point while simultaneously my anxiety hit an ultimate high. I realized that what I have been dealing with lately is anxiety and it has been intense.  I have been very reluctant to speak about it even with friends and felt quite ashamed. In fact some of my closest friends are probably finding out on this blog post.  Mainly I have been afraid of the judgement. I have finally decided that I need to face this anxiety and to face it head on.  Hopefully, whoever is abroad and stumbles across this blog will hopefully not feel alone.

What is anxiety?

Well anxiety in my opinion is probably one of the worst emotions you can have.  I really would not wish it on my worst enemy.  The movie, Inside/Out should have added a twin to “Fear” and called it “Anxiety.”  The truth is everyone has some level of anxiety. It is just that some people are by nature calmer than others (If you are like this … I am freakin’ envious of you) and some have such high levels of anxiety that they can suffer from panic attacks. These panic attacks have been what I have been experiencing.  I read in Anxiety and Depression Association of America, that anxiety affects 40 million Americans. Why am I concentrating on that?  Well one of the main reasons I decided to move away was to experience a change of pace. My previous lifestyle and work environment should have burnt me out but now looking back I think I never had time to process it.  Since, I have had this drastic change in my life – not just environment, lifestyle, culture and establishing a close knit group (not easy), I have not given myself the chance to digest this massive change and not to mention my last one.  Well I was certain I was one of the 40 million affected, but could handle it… eeehhhh, wrong!  Apparently, I was able to mask it and I was certain I could handle any task thrown at me and not be affected, but sadly it took its toll on me when I finally slowed down and started allowing myself to feel more.

What I really feel inside... Not pretty

What I really feel inside… Not pretty

Panic Attacks 

Well to be straight up I’ve never experienced anything like this … It straight up feels like you are having a heart attack.  You feel as though any situation is a matter of life or death.  One time I was walking down the street and I had heard some upsetting news. I was walking and did not know where I was going and all of a sudden I passed out! Thank God for the señor (gentleman) behind me who caught me as I was falling.  He then walked me home.   I have had moments where I uncontrollably can’t stop crying and sometimes stop breathing.  My most recent episode involved me being so stressed out that I was throwing up several times in a row for several days. Now I’m not trying to throw a pity party of one here.  I just thought I would talk about it because people suffering like me may be ashamed of opening a dialogue about it. Sometimes I am walking to the Metro and I get to the platform and I can feel a panic attack coming on because I am thinking of the worst possible scenario like someone inadvertently pushing me onto the tracks because everyone in Madrid is in a damn rush to get somewhere.  I am basically living in constant fear of that possibility.

The Purpose

Living abroad, no one really told me that I would experience anxiety this way.  In fact no one I had spoken to talked about it.  It wasn’t until I confided in someone and she told me she had experienced it as well.  I figured I would have the case of the blues but never anxiety and panic attacks.  Sometimes it is just hard to cope because you don’t even feel it coming on until you are past the point of no return.  You don’t talk about it with people back home because you don’t want to stress them out. It is also a sense of pride at least for me. I don’t want to admit that I feel like I am losing it, because from the outside I look like I have everything together but in the inside I have this uneasy feeling.

I know many members of my family and friends do not understand me right now, but I will say what you should not say to a person who is having tons of anxiety is to “calm down.”  Maybe tell them to breathe. Start with the basics.  When someone tells me to calm down my panic goes into triple mode.  It’s safe to say I don’t understand myself either.  I feel like I have to give more of an explanation with regard to my silence. People including my family and friends have noticed a difference in my demeanor.  The truth is what you want to hear.  In reality everything does work itself out. I know and have faith in the universe that it will, but in the moment I don’t see the universe and that is just the fucking truth!  I wish I could give tips on this subject but really this post is not how I have overcome.  It’s a real issue I am dealing with now. What is scary about these panic attacks is that I look normal.  I have given several examples where these attacks basically originate and worst of all, they come out of nowhere with no warning.

I hope this serves someone who might be going through this also and just know you are not alone. I am obviously actively working on getting better.  I do not have all the solutions nor techniques down.  I know this will take some time.  I might have posted this because I still feel that the perception is that I am just jumping from plane to train to camels and that I might not have a care in the world but the truth is that it is a very wonderful but lonely experience.  I’m just trying to figure it out.



From fantasy to reality


When people ask me what kind of place is Munich, I have to say it’s the perfect place where fantasy meets reality. Munich is definitely more “square” than the other European cities I have visited with a mix of old with new buildings. By “square” I mean there is a deliberate, purposeful grid-like layout of the city. The re-building of Munich after WWII gave the city planners the opportunity to give the city a more modern design in terms of how it was laid out. But thankfully, the buildings were built to resemble what they looked like before they were sadly destroyed during the Allied bombing. I will definitely say that it was comp!etely worth going in December. It WAS the first time I felt that Christmas felt like Christmas in a very long time. Being in Spain and away from home meant that Christmas was not going to feel quite the same. However, Munich in December lets you know immediately where we, in the states, were most influenced in terms of our Christmas traditions.

My first Christmas away from home was already feeling awkward. The different Christmas decorations I would see in Madrid only served to intensify that awkward feeling. The decorations were not in bad taste or really all that peculiar, just different and unfamiliar. I really wasn’t aware of the difference until I went to Germany. The Christmas markets in Germany give you a familiar feeling of Christmas in the states. You can vividly see the German influence that made its way to the states. However, the German Christmas markets take it up several notches and you feel as though you were in the North Pole. It seemed that every major square you passed you saw an elaborate display of the holiday spirit. My favorite market had to have been the medieval market. Everyone was dressed in that time period. Think – Renaissance Festival with a Christmas theme. The best market I saw was in the main square Marienplatz.

The great thing is you can visit a good deal of Munich in just a couple of days and still have time to visit Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. Even more so you can travel on a budget.

This is how you do it.

We arrived late in the evening. Sandman tours always gives an option for free walking tours. First day walking tours are a great option and an excellent way to get to know the main points of interest. The tour guides usually give you extra unique information about the city like tips where to eat and things that are worth seeing. Our guide was very well versed on the history of WW II. Showing reminded of the history that the Bavarian people have left so IG has not been forgotten of what has happened. At the end of the tour they only ask for tips.

Where to stay.

I have to say if you are going to stay in a hostel, the way to go is All 4 You Hostel. For 13€/night, the place couldn’t be beat. The small room had clean showers and customer service is definitely up to par with stateside standards. My travel buddy and I had a bit of a mishap at the hostel and they were quick to resolve the issue by hooking us up with our own room. The best thing about the hostel was location location location. Our hostel was no more than 8 minutes walking distance to the main train station which could take you to the airport and all the other main lines in Munich.

Must see. Click here to see the video.

Neuschwanstein Castle involves an incredible story about the beloved, eccentric, visionary Bavarian king, King Ludwig II. King Ludwig created a fantasy world so he could live a better more fulfilling life. He was a king who was kind and gentle unlike some of his predecessors. But he was a bit frustrated because he was misunderstood. Part of the reason is he was not allowed to express himself. He was a homosexual and part of one the major pressures at the time for a monarch was to marry and produce an heir. His solution for such a predicament? He built a castle in order to lose himself in it. He was obsessed with the famed German composer, Richard Wagner and as such became an aficionado of Wagner’s operas. This obsession is manifested all throughout the castle. The castle was inspired by Wagner’s music and it clearly shows as you walk into a formal dining hall and see a mural with Jesus, the apostles and a rainbow behind it. On the other wall there is another mural of a unicorn peering through. The imagination it must have taken to create a corridor that leads to the bedroom where you feel like you are in a cave is quite mind-boggling. This fantasy world he created It is no wonder why Walt Disney adopted this castle from Ludwig’s fantasy world as its company logo. There really is no other logo to match this spectacular work of art.


A visit to Munich must include a day trip to Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. Most history buffs would recognize this historical site as the first concentration camp. When you first arrive to the site you immediately have an eerie feeling because the site looks like a normal suburban neighborhood frozen in time, much like one you would have seen in older movies. Approaching the gates to the site, you will see the words on top of the gate – Arbeit Macht Frei, which means work brings freedom. There was nothing that could have been further from the truth for all the condemned souls that passed through that gate. All at once, you are hit with the realization of what horrors occurred thereby sick, depraved individuals upon the innocent and then further saddened by the realization that humankind still has not learned its lesson. However if you find yourself in Munich, the Memorial is a must see.

Refranes Castellanos; Also known as what the hell do you mean?


“say what…?”


Refranes … how I love them!  The truth is once you can master the refranes, that is when you know you’re bilingual status in another language.  Refranes are commonly used expressions to impart wisdom … in other words “Sayings”. These are brilliant in my respectful opinion.  The one thing that makes the language and culture rich are these expressions.

I remember the first time I one was on a car ride here in Madrid.  I was with a couple of then colleages and one of them said, “te canto las cuarentas”.  In that context she was basically telling me “let me tell you how it really is”.  However, in my head I translated it as “I will sing you the 40”.  I thought to myself, “what the hell does she mean?”  I remember thinking I will need a separate dictionary just for refranes.   I have kept a long list since I have gotten here.  I think I will keep a page just for them and just keep adding as I go.

So here are just a few.  Enjoy!

  • “no vendas la piel del oso antes de cazarlo” literal translation is “don’t sell the bear skin before hunting it.”.  The Spain version of  “don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”
  • “dos no discuten si uno no quiere”  literal translation..  “two can not argue if one does not want to.”  We have a similar one in English.   It is “it takes two to tango”  I don’t know why we use “tango” .. In this case I believe the Spanish version makes more sense.
  • “esta como un tren”  Ladies, this when you see a hot guy and it literally means “he is like a train”.
  • “estar pensando en las musaraña”  Literal translation means “to think in the shrews.”  This one has a bit of history.  One of  Spain’s writers wrote a book and explained this description as daydreaming.
  • “dos que duermen en el mismo colchón se vuelven de la misma condición”. Literal translation  “two that sleep in the same mattress become of the same condition.”  It’s similar to “birds of a feather stick together ”  However,  not quite. It’s like saying that their opinions are rubbing off on each other.
  • “allá donde fueres, haz lo que vieres.”  Our English version is “when in Rome do as the Romans.”
  • “Que me quiten lo bailao” … literally means Let them take away my dancing.  Our meaning, ” they can not take away my fun.”
  • “Quien se pica ajos come”. Now on this I have heard two definitions to this one.  So If any of my Spanish follower would not mind leaving a comment below which is correct.  It would be greatly appreciated. First explanation, If someonw says something and it does not sit well with you it is probably because you have some involvement in the situation.  Or … ” If the shoe fits wear it.”
  • ” No esta el horno para bollos”.  literally means the oven is not for buns. ( My favorite one)  It’s like saying you are not in the mood or don’t “F” with me.
  • ” No dar pie con Bola” direct translation is “to not give foot with ball”  It means, to not be able to resolve or figure it out.

I am sure this is probably me… but I feel this is what makes learning a language fun.  What do you think?  If you have any other expressions please leave a comment below.


Calling all English Teachers …

Most of you know that I don’t like to promote businesses. The primary purpose for my blog is to chronicle experiences, cultural aspects and provide helpful tips to people who are interested in coming to Spain and sharing what I have experienced. With all that said, this week in Madrid, there is now a new forum for native English teachers who wish to teach in Madrid.

This start-up company has been created as a new forum to allow teachers easy access to students and visa versa. Think of it as an “Air B&B” for languages. This new forum is called Go Profe. This user friendly forum has made it easy for new teachers who are new to the Madrid area to get their private lesson services out there.

Why should you sign up? Well speaking from experience, one of the drawbacks of providing private lessons can be that awkward moment when you are teaching a class and then you realize your creepy student is interested in other intercambios. The second most obvious drawback comes at the end of the session when your student says they will pay you at the next session. Yes, I know! Gasp! At which point, you will find yourself empty-handed, walking home with Rihanna’s “Bitch, give me my money” playing in your head. Then there’s the third drawback, the one that really chaps my a$$. This is when they cancel a scheduled lesson on you altogether while you are in route to their house. Granted, I understand that anything can happen, but going through all the trouble of scheduling the lesson ahead of time and actually making your way to their house makes it all the more inconvenient. Well here is one start-up company that has managed to take all these drawbacks into account and will minimize their occurrence, it not, do away with them altogether. The forum also does away with any confusing lingo bongo and clase particulares.

It’s easy.  Click Here to log in. First, fill in your basic information. Then, you set up a simple profile of the type of classes you teach and any certifications you may have. Shortly thereafter, you will be prompted to select the area where you would like to teach. You must upload a photo of yourself. Lastly, set up a tag line for your advertisement. Very simple.

Once a profile is set up, they verify that you are who you say you are. You are also given the opportunity to agree to teach a potential student or not. As far as avoiding the possibility of walking home empty-handed after providing a lesson, the student is required to set up payment for the classes through a secure forum called Mango Pay. The funds are released once the class has been provided. The best part – if the student cancels at the last minute less than 24 hours from the scheduled time, you still get paid. It really is that simple.
So if you are interested, sign up and be one of the first to take advantage of this new forum.

Where were you when…

 I was making my afternoon tea and finishing my following week’s blogpost when I received a text asking me how I was doing.  It is not out of the ordinary for me to plan a trip at the last minute to go somewhere, anywhere and just pick up and go.   So since most of my closest loved ones were all of a sudden asking me how I was,  I was not particularly surprised.  Then I heard what happened in Paris hours earlier and understood why I was receiving texts asking about my well-being.   A long-time friend, a person that wholeheartedly supported and encouraged my move to Spain, called me and we spoke at length about the ugly events that had just happened in one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited.  He and I were both struggling to come to grips with what we were seeing on TV.  As we talked about the absolute, horrific atrocities that happened a day earlier, I realized I was having a hard time digesting the events that had happened in a country that was next door to the one I’m living in.

Sadly, what happened this past Friday stirred up all too familiar feelings.  We will all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing on that awful day in September fourteen years ago.   I was 15 years old, just dropped off at my friend’s house, getting ready to carpool to school.  I remember waiting on my friend who was doing her makeup.  An ordinary day by all accounts.   “Good morning, America” was on TV.  The first plane had already hit one of the buildings and everyone was discussing how such an “accident” could occur…then I remember seeing the second plane hit the other building.  No accident.  I’m talking about this because I remember the feeling of uncertainty and confusion that I felt when I was a 15 year old teenager.  Which state is the next target?  Which major city gets hit next?  My state?  My city?  Sadly, it wouldn’t take long before those questions were cruelly answered.

As he and I talked, we could not help but struggle with the” Why” question? WHY attack the most famously loved city and the City of Love?  We wondered about the hours leading up to the attack.  It was supposed to be a normal Friday night.  We were certain that most Parisians were probably either excitedly making their way to see the soccer game at the stadium or on TV at their favorite cafe or simply sitting somewhere, people watching,  getting ready to enjoy a meal and/or reflect on the week over drinks with friends.

Instead, Friday the 13th, 2015, has become one of those – “Remember where you were” – kind of nights.  I am profoundly saddened by what happened, and am old enough to know that when tragic events like these happen, they put your life in perspective.  The frantic pace of the rat race that we find ourselves dealing with on a daily basis comes to a screeching stop and our communities, our countries ask once again –  where were you that night?…the night that we will inevitably remember for the rest of our lives.  My neighbors in France will never forget neither will the rest of the world when the city of lights was a little dimmer than normal, but just for a little while…


Coffee Break TIME … If you learn anything go to Coffee Break time

Coffee break-time here is a bit of a religious experience regardless of the business or work environment you are employed in.   I would probably compare it to the Happy Hour festivities we partake in the states.  Let me explain.  I know it sounds confusing but it is probably one of the few traditions that Spaniards and Americans have in common, but the Spaniards have taken it to all new heights as is their nature.

Regardless of your work environment in Spain, there is a an early morning break that everyone participates in and almost appears to be mandatory through an unspoken rule that is known to everyone.  In the school where I teach, the coffee break-time is usually when my coworkers take the opportunity to catch up on what they did the previous weekend and discuss work issues, but most importantly the break allows everyone to establish and reinforce coworker comradery.

I quickly learned last year that if you want any chance to make friends here in Spain, you have to participate in coffee break-time.  Everyone knows I am not really a fan of coffee partially because my doctor says I am not allowed to have it because of a particular medical condition I have.  The irony for me is the Spanish are fervent coffee aficionados.   Coffee break-time, on several occasions, has served as an icebreaker between my colleagues and me and is responsible for getting me several invitations to other events including an invitation to take trips to fellow teachers’ hometowns.  Coffee break-time is also responsible for landing me other job opportunities in the form of providing private English lessons.

Coffee break-time consists of more than just coffee.  It is usually a very light breakfast that includes pastries, coffee, toast and jam.  We Americans would basically refer to this as a continental breakfast.  Local coffee shops happily accommodate this customary morning tradition.  Most (if not all) coffee shops here offer a serving of coffee with a bolleria (pastry) at a usual fixed price between 2.20-2.50 .  Not bad if you are a baller on a budget!

So even if you’re not much of a coffee drinker like yours truly, have an alternative like hot coco and participate in the tradition and see where the experience will lead.  I, for one, am sold on this tradition.

Eat, Drink, and Be Happy

 Everyone knows that my favorite part of the meal is dessert. If you were to ask me I would actually say that that your dessert should be served first, then the rest of the courses should follow. I know it seems rather unlikely, but what if you go into cardiac arrest or have a severe food allergy during the earlier courses of your meal. This is why I think that you should eat dessert first.

Which brings me to one of the top reasons I decided to stay in Spain. The Spanish really pride themselves on their gastronomic prowess and definitely have the right to do so. In fact, I would say Spain is probably one of the best places to eat well in Europe without burning a hole in your pocket.  The best part of the eating out experience in Spain is meeting random people and engaging in interesting conversations.

As most of you know I am not a stranger to the latter. Last October I basically lived the mantra “expect the unexpected.” As we got ready to go out this past weekend, my “Meow” friend (you know who you are) and I posed the question of what to do when you have nothing planned for the weekend. The Go-To activity – checking out the Mercados (Markets) in Spain. I know I have spoken about the Mercado of San Miguel, which is the most popular in Madrid but not necessarily the best. So this particular day we went to the mercado in San Ildefonso . It is in an unpretentious area called Malasaña . Malasaña  has an eclectic scene with bars playing music ranging from rock and metal, house music, Latin, nudist, mainstreet music and bohemian. Funky little retro shops can also be found in Malasaña.

My friend and I decided on a particular market to visit and we were seated next to two couples (communal seating is the norm here). They heard us speak in English and invited us to join in their conversation. Somewhere in the middle of the lively conversation they offered us each a pint of beer. Needless to say, the conversation became livelier and we instantly made new friends in Malasaña.

I may continue to live in Spain forever or I may return to the states or I may decide to live in an another country altogether, but wherever I end up I hope the opportunity always presents itself where I feel I can join in the merriment of the moment which transforms strangers into friends!

TIE Process in Spain for 1st year


When I talk to my family about bureaucracy in this country they laugh, but I can assure you it is anything but laughable.  Working in the states as a civil servant, it appeared to me that getting anything accomplished was taxing but I know now more than ever that it mentally prepared me for dealing with the Spanish bureaucracy.  So here is the “how-to” on how to get your TIE.

What is a TIE?  Well a TIE (tarjeta de identidad de extranjero) is basically your identity card.   In order to be here legally you must solicit for this card within 30 calendar days of being  in the country.

How to solicit your appointment?  First Click here to make your appointment.  Secondly, you will be asked to select Provincia and you will select from the drop down menu. Then the next drop down will be TRÁMITES: select EXPEDICIÓN DE TARJETA DE IDENTIDAD DE EXTRANJERO (HUELLA).  “Huella” means Fingerprinting.  Once you have clicked on this the program, you will have three random appointment dates to choose from. Bring the following documents above to the appointment.  Lastly, bring a book, headsets, or anything you find entertaining.  You’ll thank me later for this last bit of advice.


Documents you must have at your appointment:

  • Physical Passport
  • Print out of your Fingerprint appointment
  • Copy of Passport page
  • Copy of Visa Page
  • Copy of your entry stamp into  Spain.  (if you happen to get stamped in another EU country you must also have a copy of your itinerary)
  • Modelo EX17 (non-EU citizens) or EX18 (EU) form completed and signed
  • Your Carta de Nombriamiento … Basically your letter that states you have a job here.
  • 1 recent passport photo
  • Receipt of payment for  Modelo 790/ Codigo 012 which is a form you must get at a police station and then pay at the bank. Yes, I know!!! – this procedure involves going to two places. The fee is 15.60€


*** It is monumentally important to make sure you make copies of EVERYTHING and keep the originals.  Trust me on this. They love paperwork, so do not underestimate how many copies you should make.

Finally, the moment of truth.  Make sure you have everything with you. The fingerprint appointment is inside an active jail so don’t  be surprised if you get cat called from a jail cell while you are walking there.  You take Metro Line 5 to Aluche and the street exit is Avenida de los Poblanos.  Make sure to turn left and you will see a building that looks like a circus venue except it is a jail.  Show all your documents and they will keep a copy.  After that you will be given a “resguardo” which is a proof that you turned in the paperwork and you must bring this back to get your card 30 days later.  Yes, you will not receive an email, snail mail, nor a homing  pigeon,  so keep count of these days.  Let’s say you decide to pick it up in 40 days.  Well, they may actually have disposed of it.  So you will have to start the process again from the very beginning


“By perseverance, everything reaches its target.” – Catalan proverb

*note this is for non-EU 

First last day

With my luck I end up in Luck.

With my luck I end up in luck.

October 1st – I get off at Las Suertas Metro stop as I have done countless times before, but this time I am excited and apprehensive so I psych myself up by playing  “Dangerous Paradise” by Coolio on my phone.  A fitting song considering the area where I teach.  I know I have not shared much about my school but partly it is because I’ve kept a journal of the shenanigans my kids say and do.

Truthfully speaking, my school is in a tough neighborhood.  However,  that is part of the reason I wanted to repeat the second year.  Nothing has been as rewarding as walking through the corridors of the school and being greeted with the countless “hello’s”, hugs and kisses I receive daily from my children.

The realization has suddenly hit me that this is going to be my last year here at this school.    So this year I am going to be in the moment.

“You’re worried how you’re going to feel at the end of your life?  What about right now?  LIVE.  Right this moment.  That’s where the joy is at.”  – Abigail Thomas

Enjoy all my students’ out-of-this-world comments, faces and stories.  So here is the way I am going to start my year.