Monday, December 14, 2009

Washington, D.C. December 2009

Recently, I spent a week in our nation's capital. It was an interesting place in early December. If you are planning a trip there, I would say it's definitely I nice time to go! Since it's the off-season as far as tourism, I got to see a lot of things and barely waited in line anywhere. It snowed one day when I was there, but it wasn't like Colorado snow. The rest of the time was pretty good weather, although it is a lot more humid than I am used to, so it felt a lot colder than it was. Other than that, though, all the seasonal decorations were up, and the town looked beautiful.

I toured the White House, and had an amazing time. There is so much history in every room (or at least the rooms we were allowed in)! There were displays of old Christmas cards from different presidents and other mini-exhibits, but just walking the halls was neat by itself. After that, I ventured to the Capital for another tour. I also got to sit in on the senate. If you have the opportunity, I highly suggest it. All I had to do was walk across the street to my senator's office and get a pass from the receptionist there, and I could sit in the Senate Gallery and watch the proceedings. It was truly amazing to be so close with our nation's governance.

In addition to touring around town, I also went to Arlington Cemetery, Old Alexandria and Georgetown. The last was really an amazing neighborhood to walk around. There was tons of shopping, but still felt very homey. I had the chance to eat at Martin's Tavern, a favorite of a few of our presidents. Old Alexandria was also charming, and went to the water front. It was great to walk around, and had a nice variety of things to do. We missed the parade of lights, but considering how cold it was during the day, I'm not sure I could just sit at night and watch the boats without freezing!

I have uploaded some photos, so take a look at my Facebook album for the best pictures of my trip so far!

I also got to wander around the Library of Congress, which was quite awesome. I have an online account and will be reviewing all the historic pieces of art I saw there (including the Guttenberg Bible). I also was able to meet up with some of the local NaNo WriMo folks for the Thank Goodness It's Over party, and talk novel writing shop with lots of nice people. We had a blast, and it was nice to visit with people from a different area about their experiences writing a novel in November.

As far as the city itself, I really enjoyed walking around D.C. There was too much to see in one week, but I did get a feel for the town. It's impossible not to be involved in politics, but it's also a great place for young professionals. I got around the metros OK, but I think Barcelona's Metro system was a little easier to navigate and had better signage. Other than that, though, I found it fairly easy to get around. We stayed at The Quincy, which was downtown and close to a lot of what I wanted to see. Although it didn't have a lot of standard amenities such as a pool or breakfast, the rooms were awesome and great to go home to after long days of touring around on my feet! I would very much like to go back to D.C., and for a longer period of time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NaNo WriMo

Hello all!

This post isn't necessarily travel-related, but I'd like to post it anyways!
I worked pretty hard for four weeks, teaching, going to class, planning lessons... when I got back I ended up being  bored!

However, another activity came in to play, with prefect timing: I am participating in National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel by November 30. I am doing pretty well, and have about 19,000 words written so far. I am very excited, and have been having a lot of fun with it!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Best of Barca: Pics are up!

Hello all. I've been back in town for a few days now, and have gotten my pics uploaded to share with the world! I had intended to post them a few days ago, but was distracted by all the *snow* all over the place the last couple days!

Here's the Placa del Sol in Gracia, a great place to sit, relax and chat with friends. It would also not happen here in Colorado because the idea of sitting outside on the cement in October is nothing I would wish on anyone in Boulder right now. However, in Barcelona, this pastime is quite nice!

You can view the album of my photos so far here Facebook Album: Best of Barca! You do not need a Facebook account to view them.

I also have some photos up at My Photobucket Barca Album, however, I haven't added pictures or titles yet, so it's a little rough still.

Here's a picture of my TESOL class celebrating our last day of classes at The Wembley. Some of our tutors and students showed up, and we all had a great time!

I am hoping to have some more time next week to really organize things, but if you are desperate for some pictures of beautiful Barcelona, those should do for now!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Last week in Barca!

Well, the time has absolutely flown by! I leave on Saturday, but I could probably spend a whole nother month here to see everything! The course has been keeping me pretty busy- I taught four lessons last week, and have three this week.We also have all sorts of projects due and tests this week, so the time will go by pretty quickly since we´re all busy. The hardest part for me is the phonemic script based on British pronunciation. It´s quite funny in class, Lizzy the Australian will say "oh right, but Jessica would say it this way- with the ´r´". I love my r´s! :) On Friday I had my advanced students write cover letters, and today we went over word stress in 4 and 5 syllable words, and I had them practice "interviewing" each other, which was pretty fun. I also made a  board game with the worst pun in the world-- "the word stress-ful job hunt". Ha ha.

It´s just now getting a bit cold here, although it´s been great weather mostly. I found a great park yesterday afternoon, which had a cafe playing music. There´s also a park right by my apartment building with some wonderful landscaping (palm trees!!) and lots of picnic areas. Last week a lot of us went to the Parc de la Ciutadella and also a fountain for a light´s show, all which was really fantastic.

There´s all sorts of plazas here. For the most part, the streets are fairly bleak as far as plants go, so it seems they try to fit in little parks wherever they can, and plazas for the open spaces. You can tell it´s a warm climate here, because even in October a common weekend evening activity is just sitting on the ground in the plaza, drinking Estrellas and chatting with friends. I can´t even imagine sitting on the cold Colorado cement in a street in October!

Well, we have a test tomorrow, but I am not too worried. Most will be multiple choice with some short answer. I suppose that means I should get to studying.....



Monday, October 5, 2009

Barcelona Update!

Hello all,

Last week ended up being super busy! I've already planned and taught two lessons, and will teach two more this week. Our Language Journals on Macedonian are due today, but mine is in good shape and looks great! Since everyone in the class has been working really hard, a few of us decided to relax this weekend! I  came into school at 10 on Saturday and worked until they closed the school (around 2 pm). After that, we headed to the beach! There was an international Fly Race going on (sponsored by Red Bull), so the beach was crowded, but we still got a great place. The planes were really neat to watch- I can't imagine doing something like that! After the rounds were over for the day, we all hopped in the water for some amazing salt water swimming. It was a beautiful, warm summer day and perfect after a week of hard work!

Well, I just wanted to give a quick update, now break time is over and it's back to lesson planning!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

First few days in Spain


I had my first day of class yesterday, and it went pretty well. This week we will be learning some Macedonian to better understand what it´s like to learn a foreign language (like I didn´t know what that was like already...). I also picked up the alphabet fairly quickly, and we made name tags for ourselves in Macedonian. There´s a pretty diverse group of people in my class (including another ling major yay!), so it should be a pretty interesting four weeks.

My teaching practice for the first two weeks is at night after class, which means I have mornings free for for a while to do some touring around and study. Technically, since I don´t have to be at my TESOL class until almost 2 pm, I can sleep in and relax in the mornings. Tomorrow I will probably be palnning in the morning, as I will be teaching in the evening. My first clas is a Beginner English class. The people we teach sign up for a month´s worth of classes here at the school, it`s only like 60 Euro something, and they know we are teachers in training, but they still get lots of English education in the mean-time.

This morning I went to La Pedrera, which was amazing. They have all sorts of models set up to show the design, as well as an apartment that was pretty neat to walk through. I got some great pictures of the terrace, and some amazing views of the city from there. Tomorrow, I am thinking about going to a cafe near Sagrada Familia just for a snack afte I finish up teaching. I hear it´s great lit up at night, and I don´t think I really need to go inside, since it`s pretty touristy. There is also a Chocolate Museum which I`ll visit Thursday morning as I tour around more of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.

So far, I have managed to avoid getting lost anywhere. My  tactic is to plan out my trips and check the maps before I leave my flat, and that has been working pretty well. The area around the school is very easy to navigate. The only thing about the streets in Spain, is that the street names aren´t on sign posts, but on buildings on the corner, so they´re a little hard to see at first. The schools is only 3 metro stops from my flat, and a few blocks from Passieg de Gracia (so if I feel like buying some Armani or Chanel right before class, I can....). There´s also some really good little cafes nearby. Yesterday I picked up lunch in one, and ate a "bocate con bacon", which is just some really nice fresh bread, what I think is crushed up tomato that gets spread on every sandwhich every where in Spain, and some ham and bacon. Needless to say, it was incredibly yummy. I also indulged in my default drink here which is cafe con leche. Served with sugar, it´s just simple coffee and milk, but perfect.

I´m glad I get to finally use my Spanish, although, if I didn´t know any I probably wouldn´t need it since Barcelona is such an international city. Still, it´s nice to improve at least my Spanish listening skills, and I´ve been able to use my Spanish in all restaurants, etc so far. I am staying with two other people in a flat. One of  them used to work at the school I am taking my course through and usually has someone from the course stay with her each month, and the other person is an Irish guy who works at HP. They both keep everything super tidy, so that´s a nice change, and also necessary given the space we have. My room is fairly small, but it´s not like I have that much stuff, so it works. I have my own desk in there to study, and the living room is pretty nice to lounge around in.

Well, I think that´s a pretty good update for now. I`ll keep you posted on how teaching goes tomorrow!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Arriving in Barcelona!

Well, I am quite tired of travelling for an entire day, but am in my flat in Barcelona, and already have my suitcases unpacked and feel at home! My two room-mates are very nice, and the pace is only a couple metro stops away from the school I will be taking courses at, so that will be really nice.

As far as how the actual travelling bit went, I will leave you with the following observations:

Apparently, arrows on signs have a different convention here in Spain. What I would interpret as a "down" arrow is what they use to convey "continue forward", which of course greatly confused me as I was trying to  find the check-in kiosk  for my flight. They apparently have multiple check in terminals, and no train, so my 90 minute layover in Madrid turned out to be me searching for where to get my boarding pass for an hour, then literally running through security all to Gate E *81*, but I made it just in time to hop on the plane for Barcelona.

Now I'm here, and we're going out for some entirely far too needed coffee.. Yum yum.

Tomorrow is the first day of class, so I'll try to update you on that.

Nos vemos!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Time's A-ticking!

I can't believe I will be leaving in less than a week! I have pretty much everything ready to go, it's just a matter of completing my packing. I still have to finish some of my homework for my TESOL class. We have a text book How to Teach English (really creative, I know) that we must read the first 6 chapters of, and then answer questions on for completion credit. Some things were a breeze with my linguistics background- parts of speech, phonetics charts, etc. The one thing I am not a huge fan of so far, is the author will say "This might make you seem too ____, but too much of this will also make you seem ___" and doesn't really offer too many ideas for a middle ground. I guess the book is much more about learning your own personal style, and just being aware of how your students might view things, but sometimes it can be a little wishy-washy.

I would really like to take The Grammar Book that I used in my TESOL class at CU, but it's one of those huge, heavy, hard-bound books and I don't think I can justify taking it with me to Europe. It's so weird to have "homework" again. I am so glad I still don't have any on a regular basis. I always did my homework in school but it has certainly been nice not having any the last few months. Definitely something to think about when I decide to go to Grad School. Hopefully, by then I will have had enough of a break that I'll be excited to write essays again! :)

As for preparations, I picked up my Euros today at the bank, and have everything purchased that I need. Now it's a matter of packing my clothes. I pretty much have all of my school supplies ready to go, though, as well as first aid kits, laundry, etc. I didn't realize how much of this stuff I had just lying around until I started looking for it! I will definitely have to clean up my room before I leave, as it's been getting a little messy what with me moving everything around and searching through everywhere.

In other news, I very much enjoyed Talk Like a Pirate Day this Saturday. It was kind of a weird day, because I had to work in the morning, and the servers were down. After that I got home and dressed as a pirate, and enjoyed dinner at Carrie's. I have been joking because my trip to Barcelona fits right in between two of my favorite holidays: Talk Like A Pirate Day and Halloween! Luckily, I will not miss out celebrating either of them! I will leave Saturday, so if you have any specific advice for over-seas vacations, feel free to leave it in the comments!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Prepping for Barcelona, Spain

September 26 draws near, and I have begun preparing for my departure. I have most of my work taken care of, and have instructions written for co-workers to make sure things get done in my absence. I also have a great packing list prepared, thanks to Catherine who found some cute packing list stationary when she was cleaning out her desk.

As far as preparing for Barcelona itself, I spent a good few hours perusing Tourist Guide: Barcelona, which has everything from restaurant recommendations to safety guides. Barcelona is a big city, which is not something I am totally used to. Although I've been to Europe before, and am at least a little more travel weary than others, I wanted to make sure there weren't special things to watch out for. After reading their safety precautions, I am not too worried. I plan to avoid most of the "touristy" places anyways, and on my spare time I intend to be traveling with fellow classmates instead of by myself. As long as I dress appropriately and am aware of the people around me, I should avoid most of the pitfalls most tourists find themselves in.

My primary purpose in going to Barcelona is to receive my Trinity TESOL certification, but obviously, to also experience Spanish culture. This includes eating some yummy stuff! Thanks to the website mentioned above, I have the names and addresses of some really good tapas places. I can even mark them out on a map and plan out my metro trips before hand, which is a plus. Anyone who knows me knows I can get lost, but if I pay attention and do my research I do pretty well on my own. The site includes some great tips on what to do at a traditional tapas restaurant, as well as what not to do.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Seattle and Chicago: Food Post

I didn't have room in my last post to go over all the amazing foods and such I experienced on my last vacation, which is what this post is for!

First up, is Seattle. If you're like me and from a land-locked state, fresh sea food is always a novelty. We ate at the Crab Pot and ordered one of the "Feasts". Yes, the food was just like it sounds. They basically bring out a bowl of fresh sea food boil with Cajun spices. Our bowl included two types of crab, shrimp, clams, potatoes and mussels. It was delish! We were each given the following items to prepare for our meal: 1 Bib; 1 wooden block and gavel to crush our crab; lots of butter. It was a blast. I have a new-found appreciation for everyone who has to prepare shrimp from scratch. Mine was already cooked, so it wasn't that hard to take the head and legs and such off, but it was a lot closer to the "animal" than I usually get in cooking. Smashing the crab legs up was certainly a lot of fun though. I, of course, sent little pieces of crab flying everywhere because I'm clumsy like that.

We also had some amazing food at Pike's market. They have a cheese shop and we could see them making it right there. Their macaroni and cheese, of course, was superbly awesome!

The last day we were there we went to Ivar's, which is where everyone my family goes to every time they're in Seattle. Instead of eating in the restaurant, we just got ours "to-go" and ate outside. We basically stood in line for a few minutes and then got to shout our order to the cooks. We got some yummy fish and chips, and of course, the classic Ivar's clam chowder. So YUMMY! Seriously, their chowder is the best I've ever had and if I lived in Seattle it would be bad for me because I'd go there for lunch all the time! In case you couldn't tell, I am recommending this place for anyone who plans to visit Seattle. :)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Seattle/ Chicago: Jessie is a Nerd

So, recently I took a week off work to go to Seattle for fun with my sis and her friend, and also to Chicago for a family reunion. While on these trips, I got the chance to thoroughly indulge my nerdy side. Not only was there a Pirate's Plunder shop in Seattle, but the first location of the world-wide Harry Potter Exhibition is in Chicago at the Science and Industry Museum. Also in Chicago, the Field Museum's special exhibit is Real Pirates. It was like travel paradise for me.

First up, my review of the Harry Potter Expo:

Apparently, they've had a quarter of a million people go through since it's been open in April. That's crazy, and also easy to imagine since they're pushing around 40 people through every 8 minutes. There was an optional "audio" tour, but I thought "Um, why would someone like me need that?" Before our group was sent in, the leader did some trivia. The first question I heard was "When is Fred and George Weasley's birthday?" I, of course, in true Hermione fashion, shot my hand up as fast as a I could, and proudly answered "April 1st". Of course, after that, I let the little kids have all the glory. I have some dignity left, you know.

Once inside the exhibit, a few people got to be "sorted". One of the chicks said her favorite house is Slytherin, because "Draco is pretty". The guide was glad it wasn't because of any moral reasons. Seriously, I couldn't make this up. After that we got to watch a video montage that almost brought tears to my eyes, because I am that pathetic of a nerd. We then entered through the Fat Lady portrait of the Gryffindor common room and continued on from there.

I loved the Gilderoy Lockhart set up- it was perfect to see all the costumes and the props you barely get to see in the movies. I also got to pull up my own mandrake (or, mandragora) roots, which made a large shrieking sound. I also got to practice with a quaffle and sit in Hagrid's chair. Awesome, right? Overall, I think it was worth it to a dedicated fan like me just for all the props you remember from the books that were only backgrounds in the movies. The actual costumes were also fascinating as well.

Next up: Real Pirates

Now, this exhibit wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it was extremely interesting. They chose to showcase the journey of one ship- the Whydaa (Ok I'm spelling that wrong). It actually started off as a slave ship, but was taken over by Sam Bellamy and became part of his pirate fleet. The exhibit aimed to quench a few common pirate rumors, and try as best as possible to capture what true pirate life was like in the Golden Age. It was fascinating to see that about half of the average pirate crew was of African or part-African descent. Consider this- piracy was illegal, and you faced hagning and public torture if you were caught. However, the honest sailor barely made any money, if at all, with all proceeds of merchant vessels going to the captain. And for escaped slaves, or Africans trying to evade slavery altogether, a society that allowed them an equal vote and equal share of wealth with all other men was highly appealing, and the only alternative to a life of suffering.

This particular fleet was hit by a hurricane, and the ship went down. The few survivors were all tried and hanged for piracy (except for the Carpenter, who claimed he had been forced into service), and the loot the ship was carrying at the time wasn't recovered. People at the time tried to find the wreck, but were unable to access it. In 1984, someone managed to piece it all together through some extraordinary research and use of technology, recover the treasure, and all sorts of artifacts from the pirate ship itself. The whole exhibit was fun and educational at the same time, and I loved it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Portland, OR and Stevenson, WA

Recently I went out to the beautiful west coast for a wedding. It was a sort of crazy trip from the last minute travel arranging on my end, to me being sort of crazy stressed for a little bit when I first got there. Once I took a breather, however, it ended up being a nice mini vacation! It was the first time I've rented a car myself, so that was a new experience in and of itself. First, I want to thank Alan and Megan for choosing such an amazing spot for their wedding!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chicago- Part I

I labeled this post "Part I" but it is actually the fourth time I've been to Chicago- I was there as a kid and went to an Oscar party for my cousin, I went there with my parents another time to visit family, and I went there for a wedding once too. Why isn't it part IV, then? Because it is the first one I'm blogging about, but there will be more, have no fear! I'm also not posting this in May, either, but that is because I'd like to keep things chronological, even if that means fabricating some posting facts.

Now, this time was to celebrate my Great Aunt Rose's 90th birthday. Never have I met another woman loved by so many because she gives so much love to everyone in her life. She's truly amazing. The party was cruise themed, and they went all out! I brought back a great little sailor hat and all sorts of decorations. All the food was amazing, even the buffet. They seared scallops right in front of me, and mixed pasta with whatever toppings and sauce I wanted. Everyone had a great time, and Aunt Rose partied till the end of it. They compiled a twenty minute video montage of her life, and it was so sweet (it also brought tears to my mother's eyes, but that was to be expected)! I was truly glad to go, and had a great time chatting with her and her daughter at the house the next day.

This was also my first trip to Chicago in a while, so we toured around quite a bit. Cousin Laure guided us through downtown and we had loads of fun in Millennium Park. We also took a trip to the aquarium because I honestly had never been to one before. It was pretty neat, but their ocean exhibit was being renovated so I missed out on the whales :( I did see some sea turtles, though... aye, sea turtles.

We also went to Berghoff's like, five times. No joke. It's a classic German restaurant that my Uncle Bob loves, so we were there for drinks, dinner, happy hour, lunch, it was super fun. I also got to experiment with all sorts of public transport- took taxis, trains, buses. I also have to admit to having to hail a cab once because I turned the wrong way down a street and by the time I realized I was lost and then figured out where I was supposed to go, I was running late. Haha, I'm surprised I only got lost once :)

All in all, it was a great trip and I got to catch up with lots of relatives, have yummy deep dish Chicago pizza (and it was not like anything I've ever had at Old Chicago's), relax, and tour around the city.