Facts about Mario

  • Mario’s initials are MAR, which in Spanish means “sea,” whereas in English it means “disfigure.” I prefer the former definition.
  • Mario has three degrees: translation, law, and business.
  • Mario is a bad ass. As translated by Google Translator, he is a “culo mal.” (I once looked at how Google translated my blog. I had said “you’re a bad ass.” Google translated that as “usted es un culo mal.”
  • Mario is not the typical Spaniard in that:
    • he drinks tea, not coffee.
    • he doesn’t siesta.
    • he speaks English really well. (Sorry if that’s offensive, but I’ve found the average Spaniard’s English skills to be not that high. Remember, I did work in a Spanish high school.)
    • he doesn’t like staying out late.
  • Mario is a fan of a good tonic water, with or without gin.
  • Mario’s least favorite thing he ate in the USA was a marshmallow.
  • Mario was very excited to see the following things in the States:
    • a yellow school bus
    • a mailbox
    • a raccoon
    • skyscrapers
  • As well as English and Spanish, Mario speaks German and French.
  • Mario’s mother and aunt are tied for the best cooks in Zamora. That’s just a fact.
  • IT’S HIS BIRTHDAY. He’s old. Wish him a happy birthday!

I hope you all enjoyed my #factsaboutMario. I realize this isn’t Twitter, but I say someone doing that for their friend’s birthday on Twitter, and I liked it. Unfortunately, Mario will never ever have Twitter, so I had to do it on my blog.


4 Reasons Why I Love Castilla y León (And Why You Should Too)

I am still a member of the Spain auxiliares’ group on Facebook. Why? Good question. I like to take a peek in there every now and then, as the discussion can get entertaining. The latest comment thread I read (it was from November, I think) was highlights and how some poor girl was willing to travel “anywhere” to get them done correctly. I couldn’t really identify, as I’ve never really dyed my hair (that time with a slightly reddish-brown shade doesn’t count; it was barely noticeable), but it was an amusing thread nonetheless.

I joined the 2011–2012 auxiliares’ group back when I was still in Spain. I don’t live there currently, nor do I wish to sound arrogant, but I do know a thing or two about Spain. (Reasons include: study abroad in 2008, internship in 2009, being detained in the airport due to visa issues in 2010, chilling with Mario in Salamanca in 2010 for three months, and a year teaching English in Zamora [from 2010–2011].) Sometimes I felt qualified to answer their questions, so I did. When I was first applying, the group wasn’t that active, and I had approximately a zillionquestions, many of which I just had to find out about on the job.

One thing I notice(d), though, is the lack of love for some regions of Spain. Okay, I get it—you want to live on the beach in Málaga, walk Las Ramblas in Barcelona, eat the best pintxos of your life in País Vasco, live la vida madrileña in Madrid … I do understand.

But why no love for Extremadura? None for Castilla-La Mancha? Or, nearest and dearest to my Spanish-American heart, Castilla y León? I found these questions puzzling—still do. I know, I know: they aren’t glamorous and they aren’t near the airport and you most definitely cannot spend Carnaval on the beach like you can (supposedly) in Cádiz*. But I want you to know that, if you choose one of these regions (or other lesser known ones), there’s no reason you can’t have the best year of your life. Here’s why I love Castilla y León (and why you should too).


  • The Spanish spoken there is, they say, “pure.” Now, let’s not get into linguistic debates about this because I know all accents have merit and if you can understand a Gaditano, you can understand anyone. But I’ll tell you one thing—these people speak like the people you hear on TV, the news announcers, the academics. I love the accent. (Mario has the best one.) I love the ceceo and leísmo. What’s more, this accent has become the neutral Spanish accent to me, much like the General American Accent is neutral to me in English. I know there’s technically no neutral, but to me, it’s the norm. And I like it.
  • The food. Sure, San Sebastián gets all the good press with good reason. The food there is astonishingly good. Nonetheless, I believe wholeheartedly in the value of a good Castilian meal. I don’t mean what you get in a bar when you’re having a coffee—this is often rather hit or miss. What I mean is the food you get in someone’s home, someone who has taken the time to lovingly prepare a hearty, delicious, and almost always healthy meal. Mario’s mother, my suegra, is a marvelous cook. Her food is, without fail, fresh, delicious, homemade, and (most importantly to any good Spanish woman over fifty) filling. I can’t get through one plate without her asking me if I want more. There usually have to be two denials before she’ll stop asking. She’s introduced me to lentejas, cocido, patatas a la importancia, pescado a la plancha, solomillo adobado, aceitadas, roscón de reyes, pan de queso, menestra, potaje de garbanzos, natillas con un toque de limón, and many more. (Not to mention homemade salchichón, which is my favorite thing. Ever.)


There’s also meat and potatoes—more my dad’s style

  • The Scenery. There’s much to be said about Barcelona, Madrid, and Galicia (all gorgeous places in their own right), but I’m partial to my adopted home in Spain (no duh, right?). I love Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor, Zamora’s old Roman bridge, Ávila’s Lord of the Rings-style wall, Segovia’s aqueduct. I love the ancient feeling of it all, and this feeling was no strong than whehn I saw the Roman statue of Romulus and Remus in Segovia. Just thinking of the Romans—the Romans!—being there millennia ago gave me goose bumps.


  • The Heart of Spain. Spain has been stereotyped as the land of bullfights, flamenco dancers, sun, and beaches. When the average person (not Hispanophiles) thinks of Spain, Castilla y León is probably not what comes to their mind. That’s okay because I truly believe what the Lonely Planet says when it states that CyL is “Spain without the stereotypes.” It may not be a place you go expecting to be wowed—and you probably won’t gasp in amazement too often—but it’s a place that will give you a peek into the heart of Spain. This heart of Spain is growing ever older, ever feebler with each passing year, and I fear that much of its everyday magic will soon be lost, forever hidden in the annals of the great libraries. Every year, it seems, there are fewer births—there are few children on the playgrounds, yet the park benches are full of ancianos. They too are a window to the Spain’s soul, a soul found everywhere, but, for me, most vividly in Castilla y León.


If my grandma can do it, so can you.

You should visit.

College Study Abroad—If I Could Do It All Again

I get a lot of emails regarding study abroad and applying to be an auxiliar de conversación. Understandably so, as I talk a lot about Spain and my experiences there and how I feel now that I’m back home. People ask for recommendations of places to eat, drink, and see the sights. I’m definitely happy to (try to) help them out, but I often wish I could give them a list of general advice …without sounding stuck up. My biggest piece of advice is to put yourself out there and go study abroad! It truly is an experience that every college student should experience. Even a student working on an online bachelor degree should pack their computer and experience another country. With the world as connected as it is today, we can often forget the value of experiencing places in person. I feel a bit sorry for all the people who attend college online through an online college program or students attending smaller schools that don’t offer study abroad opportunities. Beyond this obvious piece of advice, I had difficulty coming up with my own recommendations of what to see and experience. And then I realized what I…

First day in Spain. Ever.

would like to tell Kaley (age twenty-one).


  • Life in Spain is just that: life. It may be life in Europe, but you still have to do your laundry, write papers, and go grocery shopping.
  • You will walk. A lot. In the U.S., walking distances longer than to and from your car, especially in winter, is not common. This will change. You will walk everywhere—in the pouring rain, in dreadful heat, when you’re tired, when you’re not, when you are hung over, when you’ve got a withdrawl caffeine headache… you will walk.
  • You will make embarrassing mistakes. You will make mistakes that are not embarrassing as well. Live; learn; deal with it.
  • You will eat a lot of pork products. It’s really unavoidable.
  • You will feel frustrated and realize your Spanish has a long way to go. This is okay. This is normal. Embrace it, and realize that the only place to go is up. A note: you will not be fluent by the end of your study abroad journey unless you left for Spain with an absurdly high level. This too is just fine.
  • You will feel like a foreigner. Um, you area foreigner. Yes, you—all 5’11”, pale, freckled, American-faced you. You aren’t Spanish, and people might automatically switch to English when they hear your accent.
  • You will be homesick at times. You might just be more homesick than other people. This does not make you weak or lame or any of those other negative words that haunt you as you try to fall asleep. You may struggle at times—with the language, with the culture, with the schedule—but you will come out stronger on the other end.
  • You will feel disconnected from home. Life, like it or not, will go on without you. Your parents will buy new furniture. Your former roommate will bond with someone new. Your car may not be around when you get home. (Yes, this happened to me in 2009. Blame my brother.) You may get on Facebook and ask yourself, Who are these people?
  • You will worry about money. Yes, some people will travel every weekend—London, Rome, Paris, Greece, Morocco, Lisbon. Save your money. Travel where you have always dreamed of going. Remember that there is value in staying home, visiting your bar, walking the streets of your new (albeit temporary) home.
  • You will go home and feel nostalgic. When you return, whether or not you experience reverse culture shock, you will remember how you felt. You will remember the smell of incense in the cathedral, the taste of tinto de verano, the sight of Toledo across the river, the feel of your scratchy comforter as you fell asleep in a city older than your own country. You will listen to songs that make you cry, remembering what you had there, realizing you’ll never get that back. Be okay with this, this nostalgia of yours. It’s fine to miss it.

Life goes on, but you’ll remember.

Entry written because I’m totally nostalgic right now. Please forgive me.

Behind the Scenes

Behind the scenes of this blog, a lot of stuff is going on. Or, rather, we’re waiting for it to do so.

You see, although having a blog is inherently narcissistic (in that I enjoy getting positive feedback, interacting with other bloggers, and knowing that somewhere out there someone’s reading), I don’t tell you everything. Surprise! Although I may seem like a chronic oversharer, I promise – there are people out there way worse than me.

I’m working a nine-to-five job, balancing work with relationships and trying to not gain forty pounds from my desk job. I’m slowly memorizing the Chicago Manual of Style. I’m learning whether the verb should be lie, lay, laid, or lain. (Yes, it does exist.) I’m trying to keep my apartment clean and my kitten from biting my legs.


He did this on purpose to look innocent. He is not.

But, if you know me, there are always a million things swirling around in the back of my mind. The future, you see, is still up in the air. We’re waiting on a few things. While we’re waiting, I’m here; he’s there. We talk every day – we Skype, chat, email, text, Facebook…you name it, we use it.

Kelly wrote this great post about technology and study abroad – its pluses and minuses. I could say the same for the Internet and my What Ifs. I get sucked into the vortex of the Internet and emerge, hours later, starving and wondering just how I got started down this series of tubes.

You may now understand my lack of writing. I want to tell you, but I also am afraid of putting myself out there, getting too personal, and – you know – looking like a fool in the end.

So, if you ever want to know more (and I understand that you might), please email me: kalhendr[at]gmail[dot]com. I’m more than willing to dish over Gmail. Or add me on Facebook. You can see all the sappy, lovey dovey photos that you always seem to be searching for.