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.



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.


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!

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.

Sidrerias…who knew wine could be so refreshing

Me having a go at escanciar ... Not bad for the first try...

Not Bad for the First Time!!!

One of the things I absolutely adore about moving to this city is how friendly people can be. Everyday I see it as an opportunity to meet new people.  So this past Saturday was not only fun but educational. In a neighborhood called Lavapies I stumbled to a sidrerias. Basically, a tavern where there are  only ciders. In the states, I believe most would say cider is a girly way of drinking beer. Here on the other hand it’s an experience.  In reality it is just a type of  wine.

According to Asturias tradition, Sidra or Cider, is the traditional drink of Asturias. Asturias is north of Madrid  between the regions of  Galicia and Pais Vasco (where my ancestry is from).It is made from locally-grown apples in Asturias and has been produced here since ancient times. Sidra is technically the regions “wine.” The Romans called it “pomaria” and the Arabs called it “siserio.” There are over 30 varieties of apples commercially grown in Asturias, but only some of the varieties are suitable for fermenting into sidra.  Sidra Asturiana is a light, musty and tart, but slightly sweet beverage, perfect for enjoying during the warm days of summer.

Believe it or not I think los españoles  (the Spanish) are very much like the Texans, maybe that is why I feel so at home. The spanish love to do food and drinking in a very big dramatic fashion.  ” Go big or Go home” mentality a small group of you would order a bottle and it has a split spout.  The tavern only gives you one glass and everyone in that group shares.  So you definitely want to do this with someone who is close to you or you will have no choice but to become fast friends.  Holding a large, rustic glass in one hand and a bottle of cider in the other, the bartender raises the bottle above his head and lets the chilled cider fall into the glass, producing a bit of foam from the carbonation.  This process is called escanciar, it is said that it is to produce the best tasting cider.   Once it is poured you must chug quickly.  Whatever is left over you swirl it in the cup and dump it on the floor.  Yes people you so wear tennis shoes or shoes you do not mind getting wet.

Now I can scratch of #7 on my personal Spain list.

Beef and Potatoe stew

Beef and potatoe stew

I had to try it myself...

I had to try it myself…

Communal Glass

Communal Glass