Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Week that Wouldn't End

So for the first time in long while I let a whole week go by without posting.  I can't help but feel guilty about this; like my lack of posts breaks some unspoken blog-world rules.  Then I remind myself that I'm pretty sure all those blog "views" are from my mom...

Regardless, my silence this past week has half been because I just didn't have any topic I felt strongly about writing, but also half because this has been a non-stop week of crazy.

Normally my schedule this summer has been babysitting three days a week and working twice at the local YMCA (yay for free membership!); but this week I picked up extra shifts on top of all the events that happened to land on this week.  All of this meaning I can't remember the last time I had adequate sleep or didn't need to chug a coffee to remain semi-conscious.

Since I don't want to bore everyone with my thrilling seven-day week work schedule, here are some of the more exciting parts of my long week in picture form.  Hopefully this coming week will bring more inspiration to post, and a little bit of a break wouldn't hurt either...

Finally rode my bike to the local beach, too bad it was 90°+
Enjoyed a much belated birthday dinner.
A nice storm-filled WaterFire Captain's training
Made some fabulous blow-art with the kids I babysit
Not to mention domino chains...
Had some quality time with the world's coolest (fattest?) cat.
BEACH BOYS CONCERT! AKA dream come true.
Enjoyed a manicure by one talented 6-year old.
(Don't worry, she saved the thumb for glitter)

How has this past week been for you?  Are you enjoying a relaxing summer, or working your tail off?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Benefits of Learning a Second Language

A lot of my friends and family ask me why, as a certified teacher, would I want to move to Spain to teach English as an assistant instead of looking for a permanent job here, in the USA.  Other than the fact that I love Spain and want to be closer to my boyfriend, is that learning a second language is SO very important.  And is something I, and my whole family, are very passionate about.
My grandmother was well-known in the foreign language community as a long-time high school Spanish teacher and an active member of multiple language organizations.  My mother also was a Spanish teacher but at the elementary school level.  Both have instilled in me the value of second language learning, particularly at a young age!

If you're considering an attempt to learn another language, or if you're teaching abroad and you're questioning your importance in the class (or have family that is not supportive), here are just some of the benefits of learning a second language.

The Younger You Learn, the Better Your Ability

Research over the years has argued that there is an optimal window for learning a second language, a time when our minds are more open and able to pick up the language easily with little accent.  In a February 1996 Newsweek article, Sharon Begley claimed: this "'learning window' of opportunity for language learning is indicated from birth to ten years...it's far easier for an elementary school child to hear and process a second language and even speak it without an accent."  Whether cognitively more able than adults or not, young children are generally more open and interested in learning another language and about another culture.  They are naturally inquisitive and learning a second language can be both fun and exciting for them.
I once did a report on the benefits of Early Language Learning back in high school.  I compared student work from my mom's 5th grade students, that she had been with since kindergarten, to what I had done in my own 10th grade Spanish class.  Everyone in my class was shocked that we were working on the exact same concepts.   Just think if they continued their language studies all the way through college...

Increased Opportunity for Jobs

Knowing a second language is extremely important in the job search nowadays.  In a world as global as ours is, it has become increasingly valuable to be able to communicate with people from other countries and backgrounds.  Many companies have contacts or positions overseas, most educators have students coming from various countries with differing language abilities, and in general you will encounter people that speak other languages in most places you will work .  Being bi-lingual, or even tri-lingual, is a huge selling point to have on your resume and could be what makes you stand out from a sea of other candidates.
From my personal experience, I had one practicum teaching experience where the majority of students spoke Spanish as their native language but the teacher knew no Spanish.  Knowing Spanish helped me communicate with these young students and help provide better support in the classroom.

Improved Grasp of Native Language

Learning a second language also helps improve the grasp of one's native language.  Too often we may forget the specific grammar and structural rules of our own language, but learning another language forces us to re-examine these rules as we are often comparing our native language to the second.  Most people who are learning a foreign language show improved knowledge in reading, grammar, writing, and overall critical thinking.
Learning Spanish helped me have a better grasp in different areas of English like: direct and indirect object pronouns, various verb tenses, a rich extended vocabulary, adverbs, and of course general memorization.  Not to mention knowing Spanish seriously helped me with the often Latin-based SAT vocabulary words.

Increased Mental Capacity

While learning a second language helps improve your grasp of your native language, studies have also shown that in general studying a foreign language increases your mental capacity.  Some of these benefits on mental capacity range from things like increased problem solving abilities, high memorization skills, better communication skills, and increased creativity.  And these are not limited to younger learners, studying a second language is beneficial to people of all ages.  It is a mental challenge, and challenging your brain is always beneficial.  Recent studies have shown correlations between studying a second language and postponing the effects of Dementia.  This claim is made based on studies on the brain showing that the challenge of learning, and using, a second language helps keep the brain active and strong.

Travel Benefits

It is often the stereotype of traveling Americans that we will only speak English while in a foreign country without even trying a few words in the local language.  This may not be true for all, but many American in reality do not know a second language.  This can make it difficult for those traveling internationally (I know I was surprised how few people over the age of 30ish in Spain didn't know English, really made me appreciate knowing Spanish!) as you may not always find people who speak English.
Knowing even a few words in the local language can be extremely beneficial for international travel; it shows respect for the local culture and often will cause natives to be more accepting and welcoming of the traveler.  Wherever I travel I try to know a few basic words like: hello, have a nice day, thank you, please, and your welcome.  I've always found that even this small effort is very appreciated by the people I speak with (not to mention natives usually have a great knowledge of local places off the usual tourist radar).

Are you studying another language?  What benefits have you found from learning a foreign language?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bridging the Gap in a Long Distance Relationship

I have previously written before about my experience in a long distance relationship, and have seen more than ever that I am not alone.  An increasing number of couples, especially those in their early twenties, are finding themselves stuck in long distance relationships.  Whether it only be a couple hundred miles or a couple thousand apart long distance relationships are never easy and I can say from personal experience that even after years apart it can still be lonely missing someone you care so much about.  You lose that sense of intimacy and connection you take for granted in an face-to-face relationship, and that can take a toll on any couple.  However, with all of the new technology of the recent years it has become much easier to make the distance not feel so long.  Here are some pretty neat ways to help lesson the distance in your LDR.


This may sound like a weird suggestion, but Build-a-Bears can be great for long distance relationships!  You can make ones together which, if you've never made one before, can definitely be a fun bonding experience on its own with the silly things they put you through.  Once you have it stuffed, you can dress the bear up and name it together.  Also, you can even record a sound and have it inserted into your bear, leaving loving messages for each other while you are apart.  It's sweet way to have something connecting you through the distance.

My boyfriend and I made one together for him and it was hilarious the things they made him do before he could put the heart in, like jumping up and down and spinning around (and it was in the middle of the Boston store!!).
Adorable and embarrassed.

Online Games

If you and your significant other like playing games in person, then see what multi-player games you can find online.  Here is a link to some great online multiplayer games that you might like take a look out.  My boyfriend enjoys online games far more than I do so our multi-player games are usually pretty basic because I'm so terrible at most of them.  We generally like card games, checkers, or other board games converted to online play.  It's definitely a fun way to make the distance feel a little less extreme, and you can use it to challenge them to later in person game marathons.

Phone Apps

Having a smartphone is probably the greatest tool you can have for a long distance relationship.  There are so many amazing apps to play around with that are specific for those in LDRs.  One app my boyfriend and I love using is called couple.  It's like social networking, but only between the two of you.  You can upload photos, draw pictures with one another, make lists, add important dates, and thumb kiss (my favorite part).  A thumb kiss is when you each match up your thumb on the screen and it vibrates, "kisses", when they are held together.  It's the most adorable thing I've seen!

For messaging, there are viber and whatsapp, both messaging tools that you can use to even message internationally (I belive you can also call with viber...).  I really like whatsapp and it's what we have used as a couple for the past two years; I especially like the tons of cute emoticons that we'll often string together for funny messages.  A new kind of "messageing" app I recently stumbled upon is Postagram.  With this app you upload your images and then you can send it as an actual postcard!  I haven't tried it yet, but I think it's such a great idea.  Additionally, I know many of my friends use snapchat as a fun way to talk to their loved ones, though I've never used it myself.

Also on smartphones you have a ton of multi-player games at your fingertips.  A few of these types of games that my boyfriend and I enjoy are: Angrywords (like scrabble), bike race, and draw something.  With a smartphone so much is possible for connecting a long distance relationship!

Video Chat

Nowadays video chat is often the standard of most long distance relationships.  It's a great way to hear the voice of your loved ones while simultaneously seeing their face, essentially the closest you can get to face-to-face interaction while you are apart.  The most well-known program for video chatting is Skype.  It's free from computer to computer and has come a long way since I started using it my first years of college.  While Skype is the most well-known, it is definitely no longer the only chat of its kind.  There is facetime for Apple users, ooVoo, facebook video calling, and Google+ hangout which allows for multiple users to chat together at once.  It's all about your personal preference and what video chat program works best for your relationship.


When I say "dates," I mean virtual ones that really go hand and hand with video chatting.  I know I have read of some people having the date in public, taking their laptop to a coffee shop or somewhere else and have a date with their loved one but for my boyfriend and I, our "dates" were never anything in public.  Instead we would often cook together, study together, or watch movies together.  We would plan the time for our date and choose what we wanted do together.  Last fall for my boyfriend's birthday we 'celebrated' his birthday together with a birthday shot and blowing out a candle.  It was something small and sweet, but helped feel like we weren't so far apart for the major events in our lives.

Happy birthday to him!


Along with online games and phone apps, is the great technology that comes along with the internet in general.  There is first of all an abundance of advice you can find on the internet, like this great LDR website: Loving From a Distance.

But if you wanted something to send to your significant other then how about a geoGreating!  Type in your message and it searches for buildings and landmarks throughout the world that spell it out for you.  You could also send flowers with flowers2mail.  You choose and decorate the vase you'd like to use. then make your own floral arrangement.

If your LDR is very long distance like mine, then use this time zone converter or this distance calculator so you know what time it is where your loved one is and how far apart you two are.  You could also make a joint blog about your lives or a pinterest account for the things you would like to do/have when you're finally together.  The possibilities for long distance relationship activities and advice on the internet are endless and invaluable to any LDR.
The geoGreeting I made :)

Care Packages/Letters

This may be "old-school" for many people my age, before being in a long distance relationship I couldn't even remember the last time I mailed someone a letter, but it is much more sentimental than an email or text.  Mailing your loved one a letter or care package is a way of giving them a small part of you, something you physically had in your hands and sent to them.  You could even spray your perfume or cologne on what you sent so they receive your words and scent, or send an item of clothing of yours they loved.  

If you haven't sent your significant other something during your time apart I highly recommend it.  Receiving something in the mail is the best feeling in the world, especially if it's from the one you love.  Here is some stationary you can download and use in your next letter across the distance.
Postcard from when my BF was in the Philippines.

You can read more about my experience in a interview I did as part of the So You're Dating a Spaniard series in one of my favorite blogs: Y Mucho Más.

Have you been in a long distance relationship before?  What have you done in your LDR to help bridge the gap?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Summertime in Rhode Island

It's that glorious time of year in Rhode Island again, summertime.  Some may complain about the heat and humidity but, as a summer baby, I love every part of it.  Summertime is when southern Rhode Island comes alive, there is so much to do and see in southern Rhode Island.  This my first summer home in the past two years so I'm trying to make the most of it (while simultaneously trying earn extra money) before I head off to Spain in early September.

Over the years I've truly come to appreciate Rhode Island summers and while I enjoyed beautiful northern Spain, I did miss: the constant sunny days (not so much this week though!), the heat, the rivers, forests, and so much more that I grew up with.  So here is what I'm taking the time to enjoy this summer, in what could be one of the last for a while.


My cousin made me a 'sauce recipe' book!
I love food.  LOVE IT.  A huge part of my summer has always been going out with friends and family to enjoy different local restaurants, especially seasonal ones that are only open during the warmer months.

With me moving to Spain this year I'm making an even bigger point to experience as much of the food I love before I can't have it anymore (especially American desserts because I have a terrible sweet-tooth).  So this all means a lot of wings, corn on the cob, doughboys, ice cream, Del's lemonade, anything "saucy", anything "spicy", and good beer.

Especially good beer.  

Enjoying a delicious rack of beer.
My heart weeps at the thought of going a year without any porters and only Guinness as a stout.  My dad and I love a good dark beer and a good variety, to put that into perspective our favorite tavern has 69 beers on tap.  When I describe the Spanish beer, and lack of variety on tap, to my dad he just looks at me in horror, like I told him they eat baby kittens and breathe fire.

But I do love Spanish food and luckily Spain redeems itself with it's fantastic wine.  So I'm making sure to enjoy plenty of food and drink during my "maybe last Rhode Island summer."
Cotton candy with nerds, is that weird?


Luckily I love one of my summer jobs so it's not too painful having a spainless summer.  Right now I'm babysitting three days a week for a wonderful local family who has just about the cutest kids I've ever met.  I met them in the after-school program I ran this year, and I'm so glad I got lucky with such a great family because it's been an absolute joy working for them.

The first day I came over they begged me to stay for dinner and then when we finished eating the little boy turned to his dad and asked: "Can we play with her?" I died laughing.

His favorite memory from the after-school program was
hitting me with the ball, real funny kiddo.
They're insanely fun kids with lots of energy and have so many things to ask me about Spain and what life is like there.  Luckily my BF is a good resource and gladly answers all the questions a six and eight year old are curious about, aka everything.

Our time has been spent going to the library, pillow fights, intense Uno matches, and playing hide and seek (so unfair because I'm too tall to hide!).  The hours and days fly by and even though I still have three weeks left I'm dreading when I have to say goodbye, the first goodbyes were already hard enough! :(


My baby

Another huge part of summer has always been kayaking.  My family first started kayaking and canoeing when I was around ten years old and I got my own kayak when I was about thirteen.  I mean, why not kayak, there's so much water access around here.  Before I started going to Spain during the summer months, my dad and I used to take trips sponsored by the local Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association.  

This non-profit group ran 6-8 mile-long kayak trips called "Source to Sea" during the month of June.  They don't run that particular event anymore (as far as I know) but have many other great ones through the Spring-Fall.

The point being, I want as much kayak time as possible while I still have the rivers and the means.  Southern RI is home to many great rivers and salt ponds, I've even taken my baby out into the ocean a time or two.  Moving to Madrid means I'll definitely be much further away from the natural beauty I've grown up with in the country.  While I'm excited for some big city life, I'll seriously miss the experience you get kayaking down a pristine river.  


Beaches in RI, especially southern Rhode Island, are the way of life in the summer.  It's been so weird being home this summer but working so much that I have yet to purchase a beach pass, and I still don't know if I will...  It's doubled in recent years to $60 and I only have a month and a half left.  However, I refuse to let a summer go by without enjoying our beautiful beaches.  

Even beautiful on a cloudy day
Luckily my dad only lives about a mile from some of the local beaches so I'm planning on just parking there and riding my back instead (great exercise and saves money/the environment!).  I'm not really into paying $60 for only a month and a half of beach time when I can get it for free.

Gorgeous sunsets, what's not to love about the beach!
Unlucky for me though, the weather this week has been pretty awful and rainy so I haven't had any motivation to get out and go to the beach.  Hopefully one of these next couple of days the weather will turn around so I can enjoy some beach time before I move to the first place I've ever lived that is inland!  

As a beach bum (my friends and I seriously would even go in the winter), it's probably the thing about Madrid I'm least looking forward to.  I guess I'll just have to make plenty of visits to Santander to get my beach fix throughout the year!


I make everyone participate:
here is the BF lighting the fires
A huge part of my summers for the past four years has been volunteering with WaterFire Providence.  I've blogged about it before and as always, it's a beautiful experience and I highly recommend that anyone in the Providence area should look into either attending a lighting, or volunteering.  It's a great non-profit organization that promotes the arts in Providence.  I love WaterFire because it's like a family and it's always great to take part in any of the events.  I generally go on the wood boats with my dad, but have from time to time volunteered in other areas.

Unfortunately I'm at a disadvantage because I'm about an hour away from Providence so a lot of weekday or weekend morning events I can't attend because of work.  Since I can't make it for weekdays, I try to sign up for as many weekend evenings as I can.  

So far there haven't been too many lightings due to issues with the tide levels, but there is in fact one tonight starting around 8pm and will start to pick up more over the next few months until the final lighting of the season in November.  I know I've truly enjoyed being welcomed into the WaterFire family over the past few years. 


I don't actually go to that many concerts during the summer, unless it's Blues on the Beach down in Westerly.  This year however as part of my early Christmas gift, since I won't be home for Christmas, is a Beach Boys concert at Monhegan Sun in a few weeks!  I'm beyond excited because next to the Beatles, the Beach Boys is my favorite band of all time.  I've always wanted to see them play, and while it may not be all the original members, I've never been so excited for any concert before.  And I think my mom is just as excited as I am!


This is probably self-explanatory, but spending time with my friends and family is also a huge part of my summertime in Rhode Island.  Hopefully I'll even get to visit one of my childhood friends in Maine who I haven't seen in a few years!  There's so many people I want to spend time with before the end of summer.  Even doing small things like getting Del's lemonade, going for a walk on the beach, or playing mini-golf is quality time with the people I care about.  Time that in a few months will be much harder to come by, so I'm trying to appreciate what I have while I still have it.
Throwback of the brother and I, you're welcome.

What are your summer plans so far?  Are there things you also like to typically do this time of year?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Top Travel Dream Destinations

With yesterday being my birthday I think I'm entitled to some big dreams.  And my favorite kind of dreams are those of the travel variety.  As there are less than two months until I arrive for my year in Spain I have been thinking about the many places I would like to visit, generally things close/around Europe so I can still afford them.  The more I think about those destinations the more I think about all the places I would like to travel in my lifetime (in no particular order).  Ever since I was a little girl I would read stories and look at maps and promise myself I'd go to wondrous places one day.  But could I afford it, could I make it happen?  Doubt or no doubt I continued my big dreams.

As I got older and caught the travel bug I found that could afford travel and that even the biggest dreams could be made possible, like visiting my number one dream of Monet's Garden.  So though many of these dream destinations may be out of reach in the near future, due to time and budget constraints, I will continue to dream as big as possible.  Here's to one day seeing them all, or hopefully at least a few!


Blue Mosque, source
Ephesus, source
Cappadocia, source

British Isles

England, source
Scotland, source
Ireland, source


Moscow, source
Saint Petersburg, source

New Zealand

Tasman Valley, source
Waikato Countryside/"Hobbiton" (Yes, nerd alert), source


Sphinx, source
Pyramids at Giza, source
Abu Simbel, source


Taj-Mahal, source
Konark Sun Temple, source
Sanchi Stupa, source


Santorini, source
Athens, source


Wooden Churches of Maramureș, source
Snagov Monastery, source
Bran Castle, source


Berlin, source
Munich, source
Frankfurt, source

Honorable Mentions Just Shy of Ultimate Dream Status:

Czech Republic

Maybe I'm a little bit ambitious, but a girl can dream can't she...?

What countries/cities do you recommend I add to my list?  Do you have your own set of travel dream destinations?