Monday, January 27, 2014


     My friend Rachel and I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Córdoba, Spain. This was a special trip for me because it was my first time paying for an entire trip while abroad. I paid for food, my hostel, entries to landmarks and everything else. For some people this might be like "well it's about time you child with a silver spoon", but I was very proud of myself for the entire weekend. Córdoba made for a pleasant trip. There was nothing out of this world about it besides the Mezquita, but it was nice to get out of Sevilla for the weekend for something other than frisbee.
     Rachel and I took the bus out of Sevilla on Friday evening. It was already dark by the time we got checked in at our hostel so we went out for an early dinner in order to get to bed early. You see, the Mezquita is free from 8:30 - 10am, so we decided we would get up bright and early to take advantage of the discount. We had dinner at a place called Delorean Bar de Tapas. If Delorean rings any bells, well, it should. The place was decorated with posters of Back to the Future and had a very fun and quirky feel to it. Here's a wonderful thing about most Southern cities with the exception of Sevilla: you get a free tapa with every drink you buy. This means that dinner is ridiculously cheap and that I was able to get happily tipsy and full after three drinks. 
     The next day we were up bright and early to get to the Mezquita. It was freezing cold but worth every shiver. There were less people there (it gets packed during the afternoon) and it was free. Sometimes I get a little snobby about traveling and say things like, "nothing surprises me anymore. Every city has churches, basilicas, winding streets and some kind of ruins". I will say, the Mezquita surprised me. It looked like it didn't belong in this world or this time. It looked like it came from somewhere else. I love when things do that. The Mezquita ignited my imagination. You can find information about the Mezquita here
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     After the Mezquita we took a quick coffee break to get out of the cold. Also, it was only 10am. Most things weren't open yet, it's Spain. After coffee we began the Juidism leg of our trip. Fun fact, the synagogue in Córdoba is one of three in Spain. The other two are in Toledo. Rachel and I are planning on going there to finish the trifecta. First we went to the Jewish museum. I was really impressed when the docent explained that recently there has been a push to educate people about the Jewish history of Spain. I appreciated it. Most of the time I find Jewish museums laughable in Spain. They only bring to light the lack of religious education that occurs in Spain. However, I enjoyed how in depth the museum went into the Inquisition. It is a part of Jewish history I don't know as much about as I should. I also enjoyed the room dedicated to important Jewish woman in Cordoban history. After that we headed to the Synagogue. After the Mezquita, it was a huge disappointment. It was kind of a hole in the wall. However, it's a synagogue! So....yay!
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     By the time we had finished with the museum and the synagogue, the sun was out and it was starting to warm up. Rachel and I headed over to the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. The Alcázar was beautiful. Complete with a ginormous castle and gardens for miles. The weather was beautiful, so Rachel and I wandered around until lunch time. You can learn more about the Alcázar here.
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     After the Alcázar we headed to a restaurant called Casa Mazal. It serves a Spanish take on Sephardic food. It was a little pricey, but so worth it. The food was delicious. There was even home made Challah bread! We enjoyed a long lunch and then wandered around the city a little bit. We stopped by the Roman Bridge and then did a little shopping around the more modern part of Córdoba. After a nap we headed out to dinner. It was a horrible hole in the wall thanks to the bad advice from the free map of Córdoba we received from our hostel. We ate as quickly as possible and headed to bed early again in order to have time to eat breakfast before our bus.
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     Before catching our bus, we headed over to a small café called La Tortuga (tortuga means turtle). We treated ourselves to some toast, tea and a slice of cake. The place was adorably decorated and the food was exactly what we needed. A nice step up from our dinner the night before.
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And there you have Córdoba. Maddie Mandel's first ever fully paid trip. Look at me being a grown up.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah

         For the third time I spent my Thanksgiving abroad. Honestly, it gets harder every single year. Thanksgiving is my time for family, yet I am never home for it. Thus, Thanksgiving has become a time for me to celebrate the new families that I create every year. From Scotland to Barcelona, I have been fortunate enough to have lovely families with whom I celebrate Thanksgiving. This year was no different. I have grown close to a group of girls who also teach English here. Three of them took it upon themselves to cook up a traditional Thanksgiving meal for the rest of us. It was delicious! There was stuffing, a whole chicken, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and so much more. We were content and stuffed into a food coma by the end of the dinner. It was perfect. 
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        Being away from home for Hanukkah was more difficult. This was the first time I was away from home for Hannaukah in my entire life. I didn't expect the homesickness to hit me as hard as it did. I did what I could to keep away the blues. Catherine was really nice and bought the apartment silver and gold decorations (appropriate for both Christmas and Chanukkah), I made a paper Chanukiah and then took it upon myself to throw a Hanukkah party for my newfound family. For the first time in my life I made Latkes. With the help of my friends dinner was put on the table and my first attempt at Latkes was a smashing success. I even found gelt. They had euro signs on them, but they were chocolate coins all the same. I am truly thankful for my Spanish family. They kept away the majority of homesickness and constantly gave me something to look forward to and celebrate.  
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Life is Pretty Normal

Sometimes I get messages, whatsapps, face times, etc. asking, "so how is it living the dream". I'm assuming "the dream" is living and working abroad. You know those memes about how I see my experience, how my friends see my experience, how the world sees my experience and how it really is? This is exactly what "living the dream" here in Spain is. I feel like the assumption is that I've been given the chance to go study abroad yet another time. Let me get rid of that myth. I do not spend my time here in Spain drinking and paryting until 5am on work nights. I know this assumption exists, however it is not my reality. I take my job very seriously. Other assistants that I have met don't at all, hence the assumption that I do nothing. But I do a lot. My school has much higher expectations of me than other schools that I have heard about. It was luck of the draw. I'm not allowed to slack and I'm not expected to be a just another body in the room. Most of the teachers have taken it upon themselves to teach me how to…well, teach. This means that I lesson plan for most of my classes every week. My school holds me up to a high standard and I try to go above and beyond their expectations. I also teach private classes outside of school in order to make extra income. Even with the private classes I do not work what is considered a full time job in the states. However, I do not spend hours upon hours watching netflix and eating bon bons (well most of the time). When I moved here I had some goals. The most important was that I would spend more time on myself and the people I met. This is something I really didn't get to do in college. I put so much academic pressure on myself that other things just had to slip through the cracks, the thing that suffered the most was my relationship with friends. I wasn't going to let that happen in Spain. Because of this resolution I have become a part of a very special group of friends. We are from all over the world and speak many different languages. The thing we have in common? Spanish and our love of Spain. I have taken more time to focus on my personal life. This means that I cook more, indulge in hobbies, go out of my way for friends and spend time making a real home for myself in Sevilla. This has resulted in a very special, sit com-esque experience. So now that that word vomit is on the internet, here is a photo journal of some of my favorite "normal" moments from my time here. See, after a couple of months, living abroad isn't the "dream" it's just your reality. What makes it so special is that it's exactly the reality I wish for myself right now. And I don't know how many twenty somethings are so lucky as to be able to say that.
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That one time I found real dressing in Corte Ingles
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Sometimes you gotta switch up Tapas with some Indian food
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When you don't feel like cooking? McDonalds
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Ladies night at our favorite bar/coffee shop
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Casual Flamenco jam session at lunch
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Pancake breakfast
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Sometimes I go climbing now
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Tuesdays often include exercising and healthy dinners
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Prepping for the Christmas performance
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Diaramas to teach about ecosystems. My idea!
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That one time I finally found quinoa in Sevilla!
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Charlotte's with the ladies

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Little Frisbee Update

In the past I've ranted and raved on this blog about how joining a frisbee team always changes my abroad experience. Just because I haven't written about it this time around doesn't mean I haven't joined a team. Once I had settled into my routine I headed out to the field to start playing. I'll be honest, I wasn't super happy for the first couple of months. The team was pretty poorly run and I felt that we spent more time bickering than actually training. I would complain about it all the time to my friends because this had never happened to me. All of my past frisbee experiences made my time abroad more special and I had the feeling this wasn't going to the be case this time around. But I stuck it out because I love playing and I couldn't just not go. It was also very hard socially to break into the group (I still feel a little on the left out side). They are a group of very close friends who have known each other for a very long time. Besides the language barrier, it was hard simply to not have any history with them. Little by little we've been getting closer, but my closest friends in Sevilla are not on the frisbee team. Like I've said though, I've stuck it out. Little by little I've gotten to know the team better and now that tournament season has started again, we've started to train a little more seriously. And wasting time bickering over nothing? That's just a Southern Spain thing. You get used to it, you tune it out. Not quitting has meant that over the past months I've had some pretty fun times at some different tournaments and gotten to know the world of Spanish ultimate even better.

My first ever tournament with the team in Sevilla was a beach tournament in Málaga. I was horribly sick with food poisoning, but I went anyway, because that's what I do. I ended up playing for the team from Granada, who had only come with one girl. I had the best time! Their captain was from Wisconsin too, so that made the tournament in and of itself. We came in second after losing to my old team from Barcelona. It was a close game (universe point) and I'm proud of how I played. To this day, I still haven't played a tournament with my team here in Sevilla.
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El Porró
The second I knew I was officially coming back to Spain I signed up for El Porró. It's a huge beach hat tournament run by my old team in Barcelona. To this day, it is one of my favorite weekends have had here in Spain. The theme was Latin Loving so besides playing on the beach in beautiful weather, I learned how to Salsa and did my best to dress up to the theme. My team, Mojito Mixers, came in 9th. Like every tournament, it was full of good spirit, meeting new people, and plenty of alcohol. It was really great to be back in Barcelona and Casteldefels and to see my old friends again. When you leave a place you've studied abroad you kind of assume you're leaving for good, so, while it was a little weird to be back, it was also the most wonderful and unexpected surprise.
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My next tournament was a beach hat tournament hosted by my team in Punta Umbria, Huelva. I came in not expecting much (you know, disorganization) but wanting to make an effort to be a part of the team. With expectations set so low, it's no wonder that I was blown away. The weekend started a little rocky when I was informed that, since I was a part of the team, I would be helping with set up and take down. This meant getting up before 8am, after a loooong night of partying and saying hi to friends both old and new. It would have been nice to know that I was expected to help out before hand so I could have mentally prepared myself for the lack of sleep. That aside, I had more fun than I had ever expected. I finally got the opportunity to get to know my team mates and honestly talk to them about how I've been feeling about the frisbee here. They were really understanding and open and it's changed the way I've felt about going to trainings and spending time with them. My team ended up coming in 10th, but I won  a box of super expensive Christmas candy in a charity raffle, so I feel like a winner. I can say, without a doubt, Chiripones is one of my favorite tournaments that I have ever been to.
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Those are the highlights thus far. Tournament season has started so I have a lot to look forward to. After some disappointment I finally feel in a good place with the team and I always looking forward to trainings and spending time with them. So like always, if you're studying or living abroad and feeling a little lonely, find Ultimate Frisbee.