10 REASONS WHY RUNNING IS THE ABSOLUTE BEST

Don’t @ me

With so much change recently, running is a constant. It’s hard to explain just how much this sport means to me, unless you are a runner yourself. In this case, you probably understand. If not, try to conjure up an image of your favorite pastime. Think of the feeling you get when you go fishing, bowling, watch golf on tv, or do whatever it is you’re passionate about.

1. Running allows you to FREE YOUR MIND

Cheetah Girls GIF - CheetahGirls Strut Travel GIFs

Whenever I have thoughts racing through my head (every day), I take to running to sort them out. I always come off a run feeling a bit lighter and with a sense of clarity. In this way, I keep unreasonable thoughts from running around my mind all day, ha.

2. Be the main character.

new york running GIF by CBS All Access

When I’m running, I pretend I’m a movie character. As cliché as it may be, I really like the “I’m the main character” mindset that has surfaced recently on social media. I recommend keeping a “my life as a movie” soundtrack featuring key songs such as Electric Light Orchestra’s, Mr. Blue Sky. Why not pretend you are in a movie about to have your great adventure?

3. Supportive community of runners

fun running GIF

With a background of high school and collegiate running, I’ve experienced the community that the sport provides. Although running is considered individualistic, I have NEVER felt more of a team bond in any other sport. Even now, without a team behind me, I still consider fellow runners my teammates. Ya know when you pass another runner during a run and you give each other that ~look~ and you just feel that internal bond of “Yeah, you’re a badass? I’m a badass too. Keep up the badassery.” ? Love that moment.

4. Runners high

wgn news lol GIF by WGN Morning News

There is nothing like that post-run feeling.

5. I like to eat and drink a lot. Need I say more?

happy jim carrey GIF

6. Bragging rights

london marathon kipchoge GIF by Virgin Money London Marathon

“Yeah I’m a runner.” For some reason, people are impressed when you say you are a runner. (hint: anyone can be a runner)

7. Unpredictability

Surprise Reaction GIF

Some days, I feel winded after 2 miles, and the next day I bust out 8 miles like nobody’s business. Sometimes my watch stops in the middle of a run. Sometimes I get lost. Sometimes it starts raining. Spontaneity keeps life interesting, amirite?

8. Passing boys on runs 😉

9. No equipment necessary!

Expensive gym memberships or COVID concerns keeping you from working out? Fear not! All you need to do is put one foot in front of the other. *Warning: your feet will likely end up looking like this:

Feet Gullible Pants GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants

10. You can do it ANYWHERE

My favorite running spot in Puerto :’)

Wherever you are, you can always run. It is an efficient way to explore new places and quicker than walking.

Anyway, those are just a few of the reasons why this sport brings a warm fuzzy feeling to my heart. I love running, yes I do, if I love running, so can you!

Un Saludo,

Mags

THE UNITED STATES ELECTION VIEWED FROM ABROAD

This year has been a shit show….no doubt about it; a fascist president, a global pandemic, police brutality, protests and riots… all resulting in a divided country causing strained relationships among friends, families, and neighbors. I could go on, but those are the basics.

This year has separated time into periods of “before 2020” and “after 2020”. I’ve heard people pleading for the end of 2020. To this, I ask, “Why? What changes when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, 2021?” We will still be in the “after 2020” period. This life is still our reality. Adapt. Keep moving. But don’t wait until January 2021 for a magic spell that will transport us back to “normal” because I promise you, it ain’t coming. A vaccine though?? One can hope.

I can’t say I was all that surprised that the U.S. elections loom so large on the world stage. However, I was curious to gage the opinions of non-Americans on our current political climate. For the most part, the people I have met here are not big Trump supporters. The one outlier was an Italian man I spoke with who admitted his limited knowledge on the subject, but thought Trump was better for the global economy.

Even from 4000 miles away, I have seen countless news stories and heard people discussing election drama. On Friday, my roommates excitedly pulled up the Electoral College map to show me that my home state, Pennsylvania, had flipped to blue. Students in class have asked me who I predict winning the elections, and I subtly bragged that Joe Biden’s campaign team is awaiting results at the conference center where my Dad works. My boss has sent me memes of Donald Trump, and even the police officers at my TIE appointment recognized the state of Pennsylvania listed on my passport. My 9 year old tutee told me that he would vote for Biden. Todo el mundo has been paying attention.

Mom and Dad excited as heck at the election night celebration

It is certainly an interesting time to be an American abroad and witness the whole world hold their breath. This week, I will have some cool stories to share with my students about how my parents partied it up with The President Elect and U.S.’s first ever female VP over the weekend. There’s a lot of work to be done to mend relationships in such a polarized nation, but today, I feel proud to be an American and especially a Pennsylvanian 🙂

Un Saludo,

Mags

HALLOWEEN IN THE CANARY ISLANDS? DON’T COUNT ME OUT.

I never considered Halloween my favorite holiday. I never considered autumn my favorite season. But not-so surprisingly, missing out on these familiar realities, had me feeling some type of way. While there is not much I can do about the lack of changing leaves and sweater weather, I can prioritize Halloween.

As I have learned from my students, Halloween is not really a big deal here. It happens, but it is not a whole season of celebration, and it is certainly not ~spooky~. Yes, there is trick-or-treating and costumes, but that’s about it. One teacher told me that Halloween only arrived in the Canary Islands about 15 years ago, building on the customs seen in the U.S. (which we took from Ireland/Great Britain) centuries ago.

The Canarians do observe a holiday known as Finoas in which people eat chestnuts and pay respect to the dead, but this holiday is a little antiquated, and the younger generations know little of its origins. However, I did have many students tell me they partake in egg-throwing on Halloween, and I was an ever-so-gracious recipient of the tradition this year 🙂

So what did I do to get that Fall feeling? I made Halloween (or a version of it) happen. Pumpkins are not easy to find in the Canary Islands. Pumpkin Spiced lattes? Forget about it. The pumpkins aka “calabaza” here are what Americans call gourds. My roommate, Julia, and I considered what our success rate would be if we tried to carve gourds until a friend told us about a grocery store that was selling the “rounder pumpkins.” By a stroke of luck, we found candles in our house that were the perfect size to put in our tiny ashen pumpkins. I actually don’t think I’ve carved a Jack O’ Lantern in years, and it was exciting to watch Julia partake in an unfamiliar American custom. Because of my eagerness to share my country’s traditions, I tapped into my own child-like admiration for the simple things.

Bringing American Halloween traditions to the Canary Islands
Celebrating Halloween by carving Jack O’ Lanterns

Not wanting to let any bit of Fall escape, I roasted the pumpkin seeds with a bit of olive oil and salt, and I used the pumpkin innards to bake a pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing. Believe me when I say, that the only pumpkin flavored treat in all of the Canary Islands can be found in our kitchen.

While I had trouble convincing my new friends to deck out in complete Halloween costumes, Julia painted some spooky makeup on our faces, and we celebrated the night with a bit of Sangria (typical Spanish) and some pong (typical American). It was not the Halloween I am used to, but it was a wonderful Halloween nonetheless. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving.

Halloween makeup
Not pictured: the tutu I got for a few euros at a store down the street.

Un Saludo,

Mags

UNDER THE SAME MOON

The longest amount of time I have ever been away from home by myself was 20 days. I visited Barcelona during my winter break, junior year of college, and I did not know a soul there. However, I had the privilege of meeting a wonderful mix of American and Australian students through a travel abroad program (CIS Abroad) upon my arrival.

This time is a bit different. I have now crossed the threshold of my 20 days, and I have done so, for the most part, alone. There have been no organized activities or tours of the city, no excursions, no classes, and no three-course Spanish lunches followed by trips to see Gaudi’s most famous architectural designs. But, we are comparing apples to oranges here. And while apples are crisp and shiny, sometimes you crave a different flavor. You might have to get a little bit of rind underneath your fingernails to get to that sweet center.

This month has been slow and then fast and then slow again. I have spent a lot of quality time with my roommates, who I am extremely thankful for. Meeting Julia and Adrí my third day on the island was by no stretch of the imagination a blessing, and they have helped me keep some semblance of normalcy during such a transitional time. One night, as we were walking outside, Julia looked up at the moon and said, “We are all under the same moon. That’s what I like to think about when I’m missing my mom.” Later that week (and I don’t know how I didn’t notice it before), I was staring up at my ceiling, trying to fall asleep, and I noticed that my room has those scattered twinkling stars I always wanted as a kid…and of course.. a little sliver of a moon right dab in the center of the pattern.

I started teaching, and it is not unlike how I expected, but I do have a newfound appreciation for my American schooling and for teachers in general. Teaching, ladies and gentlemen, is not a job for those who can’t. My self-directed mission during week one of classes was to understand my students’ English abilities. How should I approach the different ESO (Secondary Education) levels? And will I be mistaken for a student? The answer to the later is yes, many times.

A note my roommates left out for me on my first day of school.

I arrived at school with a presentation about myself and a “Create your Instagram Profile” activity that I prayed would last the class period. My first week taught me I will have to adjust sessions for the more basic classes (alphabet, colors, greetings, etc). As, I went to college for Business (ha!), I have no idea how to make a lesson plan, so if anyone in the field of education wants to drop some knowledge, please do. So far, google drive and a plethora of dutifully named subfolders has been my approach.

I am teaching high school, and while I admit some of the students are intimidating, most are genuinely curious and kind. A highlight of my week was when a student approached me and asked me to join him and his friends in their football match. Another girl from my lower level classes proclaimed, “Hi. teacher. I love you!” when I walked into the room. The eagerness to learn English is evident in many of my students, but the classroom structure is so different from anything I’ve ever seen. The notion to raise your hand in class is quite literally a foreign concept, leaving the quieter students unable to fend for themselves in classroom discussion.

In other news, Pedro Sánchez, announced a 6 month (pending approval from the Congress of Deputires) State of Alarm due to COVID-19. The government set a 6am-11pm curfew, is limiting gatherings to 6 people, and setting travel restrictions. This state of alarm applies to all of Spain except the Canary Islands, due to its low amount of cases. In fact, the Canary Islands were just recently added to the UK’s safe travel list. When I applied to be an auxiliary (before anyone had ever heard the word coronavirus), I chose the Canary Islands on a whim. Live on an island? Sounds good. Maybe I should have done more research, but my good fortune in this particular situation proves sometimes you just have to follow your gut.

Like anything in life, my experience here will be a mixed bag. If I dig far enough and have just the right amount of luck, I may be able to pull out a small treasure. Or, I could live through a Charlie Brown scenario and repeatedly score some rocks. On that note, I will be introducing Halloween to my classes this week. What are you being for Halloween? How do you plan to celebrate Halloween in a COVID-19 world? Drop your answers in the comments below.

Un Saludo,

Mags

QUE RICO

I am one lucky gal. Not only do my roommates share their Spanish language and culture with me, but they FEED ME. In turn, I introduced them to grilled cheese, peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies, and swear words in English.

I have learned there are three rules in Spanish cooking (or at least with my roommates’ cooking) : 1.Garlic 2.Oil 3.Onions These three words fit nicely into my vocabulary and don’t stray too far from my already basic knowledge of what makes food taste good.

Not only is the food buenísimo, but eating is an event. In the typical Spanish way, lunch is the largest meal of the day and requires the most work to prepare. I’ve been taking notes, watching Adrí and Julia in the kitchen as they prepare the food. So far, we’ve had a few pasta dishes, salmon and rice with homemade garlic aioli, and Spanish style lentil soup with blood sausage, chorizo, Canarian potatoes, and bacon (Spanish *beicon* is a thicker/fattier meat). Yesterday, we had a taco spread (provided by yours truly), but I let Adrí handle the cooking of the taco meat and veggies.

I have learned to forego my typical, and one may say boring, 12pm lunch for a more traditional Spanish lunch time of 3pm or 4pm full of flavorful food and great company, leading me straight into my siesta.

I have been writing down some of the recipes and styles of cooking to save for a later date when I want to remake these creations. Más para seguir 😉

Un Saludo,

Mags

TRIALS, TRIBULATIONS, & TASAS?

This week, I feel like I have been all over the world, and I guess quite literally I have been. I’m glad I know a lick of Spanish because I don’t know how I would get by without it. My first revelation; no one here speaks English. Those who do have more of a Spanglish approach (like me). My past experiences in Madrid and Barcelona led me to believe that English was widely spoken in Spain. I was mistaken. I try my best to speak with locals in Spanish out of respect…I’m on their turf now. I want to become fluent in the language, so I guess diving right in is the best approach. Three university classes taken my freshman year and two years of tutoring basic Spanish have prepared me enough, but I’ve got a ways to go.

This brings me to my second revelation; people are really freaking nice and willing to help. I don’t know if it is because I am a young wide-eyed girl very far from home who looks like she needs some help (I’ve used this card a lot) or if it is the nature of the people here, but I am very thankful for the kindness I’ve received.

Here’s a short story:

While I was searching for a place to stay in Fuerteventura, I mentioned to one of the flat owners (Maximo) that I can not use my phone without WIFI. After showing me the flat, Maximo told me to follow him and walked with me a few blocks to a Locutorio (phone store). He proceeded to look up the best/most reasonably priced phone plan for EU roaming and llamadas nacionales (calling in-country) and explained to the woman behind the counter what I needed. If that wasn’t enough, he also put me in contact with his son who is fluent in English and lives on the island. Even after I decided not to rent Maximo’s flat, he told me his family was still there to help with anything I needed. *Cue the tears* This is only one example of the generosity I’ve experienced.

While I have been lucky with my encounters, I also have done more work than necessary trying to obtain my TIE (kinda like a green card). I still do not have it, and the process has been a massive headache, but I am taking things step by step.

For any auxiliaries reading this, here is what I wish I had known:

Step 1: Find a place to stay. This will be important because you need to put your address on all your documents.

Step 2: Make an appointment with your Ayuntamiento (town hall) to empadrar (register) in the country. You may have to make this appointment online or through the phone due to COVID. I made the mistake of going to the Comisario first before registering because I thought I had all of the paperwork I needed. Nope. I did not.

Step 3: After registering, you will have to come back to pick up your contracto de empadramiento.

Step 4: When you have your contract of empadramiento, make an appointment with the comisario. You will need to bring:

  • Contract of empadramiento
  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Tasa and receipt for the Tasa (I had no idea what this was, but the police officers pointed me in the direction of a local print shop, and I found out a tasa is like a money order. After obtaining my tasa, I had to go to the local bank and use an ATM machine to pay for the tasa and receive my receipt).
  • 3 passport sized photos
  • Copies of your passport and visa (black & white)
  • Contract of employment

I hope these steps prove helpful. I wish I had known to go to the Ayuntamiento right away because their appointments are all booked up for the coming days. Spanish bureaucracy is sloooow moving especially with COVID, but I am making moves poco a poco and trying my best to find my way here with a little help from some friendly Spaniards.

Un saludo,

Mags

ANXIETY & CHANGE… BUT MAKE IT HOPEFUL

I am coming to terms with the truth that life is unpredictable. Even as a kid, I abhorred change. As a very structured person, I like my routine; same bed time on repeat. While some routine is beneficial, at a certain point it becomes limiting. Little changes scare me more than big ones because the big ones happen so fast I can’t control them if I try….AKA CORONA…Massive changes force me to adjust, but consciously making small changes is f****ing hard, man.

What scares me more than anything is not knowing, and I DON’T KNOW SO MUCH (even though I pretend I do.) This age is so weird. At 22, I am young enough to take many different paths, but I am old enough that I have to be responsible about my decisions??? I feel off kilter. If there was a book detailing how to live life right, I think I would follow those instructions to a T… but where’s the fun in that?

A quote I have been thinking about a lot lately is,

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

-Lao Tzu

Idk if Lao actually ever said this, but I probably found it on a Pinterest board or something, and the words really stuck with me. If I am honest with myself, I spend way more time than I would like in the past and future. I think most people spend their lives trying to reach that “peace,” but I wonder how many actually achieve it.

I’m not sure what the point of this post was, but as I am planning to leave home, these thoughts have been on my mind. I am hopeful for this new change, and I will try to stay in the present…practice mindfulness and all that blah blah blah.

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk 😉

Un Saludo,

Mags

LIFE IN LIMBO & THE VISA APPLICATION PROCESS

Lately, I have felt like my life is in limbo. I graduated from college in May, and a few weeks later, I received an email informing me I had been placed as an Auxiliar de Conversación in Spain’s Canary Islands. I was beside myself. While I knew I was qualified for the position, I had incorrectly assumed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this role would be nonexistent for the 2020-2021 school year. You know what they say about assuming… and boy, I was happy to be so wrong.

I am a resident of Pennsylvania, but I spent this summer living in North Carolina with my sister, since I had no real obligations at home, and I know I will never again have the opportunity to spend so much time with my adorable niece and nephew, ages three and two respectively. I was able to continue with my marketing internship which had transitioned online due to COVID, and I picked up a restaurant job to earn some more cash. This summer has felt like a waiting period for the next great chapter in the book of Maggie’s life. 

While I was somewhat busy with work, I was also busy with planning for my year abroad. My number one stressor? The VISA process. Because I am independently employed by the government and not going through a program (such as Conversa Spain) I did not have to pay a bunch of fees to apply for my position. However, the tradeoff is I have to figure out all this VISA stuff on my own. Below, I have outlined what you need to know to start your VISA application, but keep in mind things may vary slightly depending on your state:

What I recommend:

VIsit http://www.exteriores.gob.es/ to find the Spanish Consulate that matches with your state. I live in Pennsylvania, which falls under the jurisdiction of New York City’s consulate. Because I was in NC for the summer, I hoped I could visit Raleigh’s consulate, but that was not the case. You must make an appointment with the consulate that represents your state of residency.

As an Auxiliary de Conversación, you will apply for a long-stay student visa. Make an appointment at your consulate well before you need to leave. NYC’s Consulate told me that my VISA would be processed in 2-3 weeks. I just hit the 3 week mark, and I am still waiting. If appointments are unavailable, check back frequently because people will cancel. 

This is what you will need to bring to your appointment: 

  • Completed VISA application
  • Valid U.S. Passport. If you don’t have one of these bad boys, get it now.
  • One passport size photo to glue to your VISA application (I went to Walgreens to get this photo taken)
  • Letter of acceptance from your school
  • Money order (you can get this from your local post office)
  • Either a state background check or FBI fingerprint clearances stamped with the Apostille of Hague.
    • Try to get the Apostille ASAP
  • Medical Certificate (I got a physical & had the physician write a note that I was in good health.)

*Make sure you give yourself enough time to get all of these items before your VISA appointment at the consulate. Because of delays due to COVID-19, I did not have my Apostille of Hague at my appointment, so the representative told me to bring it with me when I return to pick up the VISA. You must go in person to pick up your VISA when it is finally processed.*

Un Saludo,

Mags