Turkey Time

Thanksgiving is here already. The turkey is cooking and family is on the way over. This is one of my favorite times of year!

I cannot say enough how thankful I am for family, friends, and employment. Tejana readers, I am also so thankful for you and the Personal Finance blogging community. Your emails, tweets, and comments have provided so much encouragement and support! Although I am still new to this community, your support inspires and pushes me to continue on my debt free journey!

Have a very, very Happy Thanksgiving!

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What happens when you blow it? Bad?

Let me start by saying how excited I am! I had the opportunity to guest post for a fabulous blog: No Debt Brunette. You can read the article here. Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from you!

Well, I hate to admit it, but I got a severe case of IDIS last week and its side effects have lingered and have been bothering me ever since. For those that don’t know, IDIS is a horrible epidemic that has already swept across America and is only getting worse. I thought that I had rid myself of this terrible disease, but this last week has shown me that I am far from beating it.

First and foremost, let me start by saying that IDIS is not an STD. No, your undercarriage is safe. IDIS stands for I Deserve It Syndrome. In the past seven days, I made two separate purchases because in the heat of the moment, I thought that “I Deserved It”!!

Wrong.

While I still am $69k in debt, needless purchases are not justified by “I Deserve It!”. These two purchases were made on separate occasions: the first being a massage and mani/pedi. I had made the appointment several weeks ago, but once I decided to become ultra-serious about repaying my loans, decided to cancel the appointment. However the day of the appointment came, and after a long day at work, “I really deserved that massage and manicure”. So, I spent $167.

Later, I got online to re-order face wash, which I budget for in “Misc”.  While searching around the website I realized that I needed more toner, and lotion and … well you see where that ended up. Total, I ended up spending $242.61. WHAT?!?!

These two purchases were completely unjustified and ended up costing me $400. That’s $400 that could have been better served paying off a loan. But, no. My selfish side got the best and it is $400 extra dollars I now have to work twice as hard for.

In light of that horrific spending, I picked up an extra shift at the restaurant last week and this coming weekend to make up the money. Ah. Sometimes I feel so irrational.

I know how to get out of debt and I do work hard to meet that goal. However there are times like last week when I fall off the wagon. From here, there’s no use in continuing to beat myself up for it, but only to learn from my mistakes. When I am stuck asking people if they need any more napkins or a refill on beer during the extra shifts I pick up, I’ll remember that I would have rather had a day off to read or relax, but my purchases required me to work even more.

What is the hardest aspect of your life to “get under control”?

Welcome, EL FUEGO!

A few months ago, I stumbled on a post by Mr. Money Mustache that really caught my attention. If you have never read Mr. Money Mustache’s blog, you are definitely missing out. His wit, candidness and very solid “mustachian” ideas are part of the cornerstone of my get of off debt quick philosophy. 
This particular article scoffed at the horribly high amount that we as a society drive cars for incredibly insignificant reasons, highlighting on the fact that Americans typically use their car to drive terribly short distances that can easily be walked or biked to. This really resonated with me, so I searched his website and found several bike articles that can be found here and here
It then hit me— how am I trying to save money and pay so much on my loans when I am missing one terribly simple way to help??? 
When I turned 12 my parents bought me a blue “Magna” mountain bike. I rode the crap out of this bike until it became super uncool in high school and I received my driver’s license (where of course I drove to and from school every day, although the school was only half a mile from my house). However, when I went to college I  brought the bike with me and rode it to and from classes and for exercise. I then moved to Austin, the most bike-friendly city in America and rode my bike non-stop. Austin has bike lanes on all major roads and even most of the smaller ones and in neighborhoods. Not to mention- all city buses have bike racks on the front, which made it nice if you were going a longer distance. 
Alas, when I graduated from UT, I was moving to North Carolina (this was only for a very brief stint). I had no idea if the city I was moving to was bike friendly coupled with the fact that the U-Haul was getting packed to the gills, so I decided to give away the Magna. It was a sad day, but North Carolina proved to be very unfitting for a bike.
Fast forward, and I now live back in Texas, bikeless, driving to and from every location I could ever need. Mind you, where I live anything I could possibly ever need is within a five mile radius. 
Thanks to Mr. Money Mustache, a few weeks ago I saved up some cash from waiting tables and found a bike on Craig’s List for only 60 bucks! The bike has been reconditioned and is in great shape! And did I mention the best part? It’s a MAGNA! That’s right, my new bike is a distance relative of my beautiful old blue Magna, so I know that this baby will last for many years to come! 
As with any vehicle I own, it simply must have a name. After riding this bike around for a few weeks and breaking it in, it has been dubbed… “El Fuego“. Why El Fuego? I’m so glad you asked! First, as a Spanish teacher, I love all things Spanish, so El Fuego fits that bill nicely. Not only, but el fuego in Spanish means fire, and this bike is “firing me up” to save money on gas and driving my car.
Okay, that last bit was extremely cheesy, but hey, El Fuego sounds pretty darn cool, so it’s here to stay.
Although I had taken el fuego around town for several leisurely rides, it was time to step it up and really start using el fuego to get around town. So today, I took el fuego to the grocery store. For all of you readers out there, let me preface this with the fact that the town (shall I say suburb) that I live in is not very bike friendly, and if you are under the age of 10 you get funny stares when riding your bike. This is by-in-large a horrible societal mindset, because bikes rock and have the potential to save us all so  much money!
Needless to say, I got several funny glances as I rode el fuego to the store with that obnoxiously bright blue and pink basket (and pink u-lock!). All in all, the trip was a huge success. I was a little worried about whether or not the groceries would be to heavy for the basket, which has a limit of 11 pounds, so instead of bringing a purse I brought my backpack to put extra groceries in. The nice thing about my basket is that you can easily detach it and take it into the store with you (it has handles) and it works just like a reusable grocery bag. Before riding home, I only had to take out some of the heavy produce to place into my backpack and the basket fared just fine. 
I was also a bit worried about where I would lock the bike, as my town is not incredibly bike friendly, there are not bike racks at most public shopping centers. However, I was able to ride around to the back of the store and find a ramp with handle bars that I was easily able to lock up to. 
Besides getting to break in the bike for the first grocery run, the best part of this trip was the fact that I only spent $20.44. I saved 10% just by wearing my Cowboys jersey on a game day, too. I currently allocate $120 to groceries each budget cycle. Moving forward, I think I am going to try to cut that budget by $40-50. If I can make it spending only $20 a week, it would be a $40 savings. There will be more to come about the grocery list and a further explanation of why I allocate so much in a future post. 
As for now, Happy Sunday! Get out there and enjoy the beautiful cool weather. I challenge you to forfeit your car for just one trip this week and walk or bike instead. 
Hasta pronto!

La Tejana

Enjoyable day off?

Here it is, Thursday, and I find myself sitting at home at 1:17 in the afternoon actually wishing that I was at work.

Crazy, right? I stumbled upon this day off by accident: my school district is paying for me to attend a conference tomorrow, and as such, will pay for a substitute. When the district offers to pay for a sub, it is not taken from your Personal Leave banks, but instead is allocated as “Educational Leave” and is essentially a free day off. Being ever so attentive as I filled out the substitute request form, I noted that my educational leave day was set for November 7th (today), instead of November 8th (the day of the conference). As I’m sitting in my classroom during first block, getting my materials ready for the day in walks a woman who informs me that she is my sub for the day.  I immediately called the secretary to clear it all up, but since the sub had already signed the payment paperwork, she was legally bound to get paid for that day. So, what does that mean for La Tejana? That to pay for her day of work, I was charged a Personal Leave day. So, sitting in my classroom, I figured that if I am already getting charged for the day, I might as well go home and enjoy it.

The morning proved to be very productive– it’s crazy how much you can do on a weekday with no work! I was able to pick up my paycheck from the restaurant, deposit it, and even renew my library books! So far this afternoon, I rode my bike to the jewelry store and had a pair of pearl stud earrings fixed (for only three bucks, too!).

But let’s get back to the real issue, the fact that I would rather be at work then enjoying a day off.  Let me preface this by saying I LOVE my job and am blessed to teach the kiddos that I do. Today, I was going to introduce a holiday sock drive that my school is holding for a local clothing bank. The class that raises the most pairs of socks will receive a free cupcake party.

Here’s the deal, I teach high school and I know my kids would go NUTS for cupcakes (especially free cupcakes). I had this whole introduction planned and had even decided to sweeten the pot by telling the kids that if they won, they could order pizza and that I would preform a reasonable dare decided upon by the class (I was going to try and plug  doing crazy hair/wardrobe/makeup or that I would take them all to the football field and do a back flip).

Alas, instead of hyping my kids up for donating to a good cause, here I sit. Out of errands. And shall I dare say– bored? So…what do I do? Of course! Pull up Nelnet, login and stare at my loan balance.

With the paycheck from the restaurant and one nigh’ts worth of tips, I put another $218.34 to my smallest loan. With this payment, I’ve currently paid a whopping total of $2294.86 on loans this month. Sick. I mean that both in the way of “that’s a disgusting statement” and as “that’s sick awesome bro!”.

It’s just crazy how much money I could be putting to a savings account each month if I wasn’t paying so much on loans. But— we’re making progress. Sick awesome progress, bro. And to that, I will be content knowing that I am working really darn hard to get my debt paid off as quickly as possible.

Breaking Down the Budget

Ever since I graduated from college, I’ve kept a budget. It’s undergone some changes throughout the years, the numbers have expanded, shrunk, and expanded again. It’s been written on paper, typed in an excel document, and even for a brief stint, recorded on an iPhone app.

Since this past January, I’ve reverted back to the good ole’ budgeting days of college (back when my grocery budget was $40 a month… oh boy!) and have been tracking my spending in an excel document. However, I must admit that the past few months, I ever been ever so reluctant to turn on my computer, open excel and to log all of my income and spending (first world problems, I know). As this blog is helping push me into ass-kicking ninja mode, I figured it was time to be honest, open and finally get back to seriously logging my cash flow!
My take home salary for the current budget cycle, October 18-November 19, is $3,296.52. This number will change next month, as $200 will be taken out for a 403B before it even hits my bank account. However, it’s what there is to work with now.
Currently, I pay a combined total of $1,223.52 a month on my loans on, excluding the extra payments I make using money from waiting tables. So essentially, this month I’ve got $2,073 to “play” with. My current budget break down is as follows:
Savings: 250
Gas: 160
Groceries: 120
Eating Out: 50
Fun: 50
Toiletries and Misc.: 100
Toll Tag: 40
CrossFit: 72.25
Extra Loan Payment: 300 (this comes straight from my salary)
Total Expenses: 1,142.25

Yikes! Right now I’m only saving a little over 7% of my take home pay (not including tip money)! Not only, but 37% of my take home pay (pre tips) goes straight to loans.  After subtracting my expenses from my “play” money, I’m left with $930.75. Not too shabby. Right now, I’ve got $1201.29 in my checking account. I like to keep a $500 cushion, just to be safe. This money is for emergencies. At this point in my life the only real emergency I can have is car trouble, but just keeping it there makes me sleep better at night. That being said, this month, I can ideally spend $701.29 extra on my loans. This coupled with the $535 extra I’ve already paid (from tip money), will be a whopping $2759.81 spent on loans! When adding in the $535 from tips, that constitutes 72% of my total income for the month. Holy. Cow. 
Here’s the only thing… I have yet to make that $701.29 payment. I’m not sure if I’m the only one like this, but it worries me to clear out my checking account so “early” in my budget cycle. What if something drastic happens? I know the chances of that happening are pretty slim, but let’s be honest, my car, a good, sturdy, faithful vehicle, suddenly broke down in August and needed $1,200 worth of repairs. And- this was only 3 weeks after having to replace the rear brakes and get new tires, which cost an additional $400. I don’t anticipate any other terribly major expenses. I know I need front brakes, but other than that, the car is in tip-top shape. However, that $1,200 cleared out my checking account and made it really tight to get through the month of September, so it just makes me leery to pay the extra amount so early.
Alas, I will wait to the end of the budget cycle to pay the extra amount. Additionally, by that point, I’ll have several hundred more to add in from tip money over the next few weeks. So fellow debtors, the final percentages and amounts are TBD. 
The last thing I’d like to note: this budget is by no means perfect. My budget “categories” and their limits are still a work in progress. Since I’m now on ninja mode, these will definitely be changing next cycle. There is certainly plenty of wiggle room within the categories (Fun and Eating Out to start with) that will undoubtedly be changed. This blog and this journey is a work in progress, something that will definitely be improved upon. Just bear with me as we get there. 🙂
Hasta pronto!

Welcome to Las Aventuras de la Tejana

Hola a todos!

I am La Tejana, a 25 year old high school Spanish teacher by day, waitress by night with two degrees and WAY too much student loan debt (insert scary death music here).

This blog will chronicle my adventures in paying off these dreaded scary death music makers. Not just in the projected 10 year payment plan (which would total to over $100,000 of repayment), but in the ass-kicking, ninja chopping payment plan that I myself am creating. Inevitably, this blog might include lifestyle and culture musings, but only naturally, as we dive into the budget-depths of La Tejana. In this area, I ask you to read with an open mind. You might not always agree- but hey, where would the fun be if we all agreed on everything? This is a process- one in which I will constantly be striving to improve and better.

Let’s break it down. As of right now, La Tejana is currently in the hole $69,500. I have three different lenders, 11 separate loans, and am paying 6.8% interest (ek!) on almost each of them. At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, How could a 25 year old be SO STUPID to get herself into SO MUCH student loan debt? To this I simply say, I agree. The thought of this much debt often keeps me up at night and I wonder why in the world I let myself get here.

However, since I began loan repayment in January of 2013, I’ve paid over $12,000  and have fully paid off 4 loans (also paying off one lender).

I’m pretty proud of what I have accomplished at this point, but thinking about what I could have done with that $11k makes me sick to my stomach. So much so, that I’m ready to move into ultra ass-kicking, ninja chopping mode to pay these suckers off as quickly as possible.

Enter Las Aventuras de la Tejana. My goal is that this blog keeps me accountable to squashing my loan debt and can provide some level of comfort to readers in similar situations. Read, comment, critique, encourage. Help keep me on track with early loan repayment and motivate yourself to do the same.

Hasta pronto!

***As you can tell, I am no professional blogger. Below are previous posts from a summer trip I took to Spain in 2011. I’ve left them up because 1) they serve as my journal for my time while there, and 2) the trip was spent using student loan money. It serves as a subtle reminder that my own lifestyle choices, not just tuition, are a large part of what got me here (and serve as incentive to be extra careful with my current and future spending).

¿……y ahora?

So, I’ve been spending the two hours collecting my things and getting everything ready to leave for tomorrow and there are about a million things going through my head.

First, I want to start with packing- I didn’t include this story in the last post, but it is rather worthy of a mention. Last night I did a little bit of packing and realized that everything was fitting much better than on the way over here. Que suerte, no? Well, last week, I decided to send a box of clothes and shoes home so that there would be enough space in my suitcase and so that traveling by myself would be a little easier. So, I packed some dresses that I knew I wouldn’t wear today (including my perfect lindy hopping dress), my jeans, two pairs of shorts that I wear regularly during the summer, and my Sperry’s. I packaged the box really nicely, with the address clearly printed and I even managed to borrow some packing tape from the reception desk at the Resi. I walked two miles to get this to the Correo, fill out two pages of international package paperwork and wait for my turn. When my number gets called, I walk up to the window and the mail clerk takes one look at the box and says that I can’t mail it. Apparently, international packages only ship out of Spain in special Correo boxes, or if they are not the Correo boxes, they have to be covered in plain brown paper, with this special sticker for the destinario and return address. Oye. She was nice enough to sell me the brown paper and name tags, so I go sit back down and spend the next ten minutes wrapping up the package. Whew. I go back, and start talking with her about the cheapest options to mail it. Earlier that morning, I had looked online, and “economico” was the cheapest way to go, so that is what I asked for. I asked if I could expect the package in the next two weeks and she looked at me like I was an idiot and said “si tienes suerte” (if you’re lucky). As it turns out, shipping economico means the package travels by boat. Who even knew that shipping by boat was still an option? I asked her how much it would cost to ship the package by plane, and it was almost double the cost, so economico it was. The mail clerk goes on to tell me that it can take anywhere from 15 days to 3 months, and it really just depends on how full the boat is, if it’s empty it takes less time, if it’s full, it will take longer. But really- three months? De verdad???

Later in the day, I was telling Carlos about the whole thing, and he laughed and just said, hope you don’t need any of that stuff anytime soon! He then went on to tell me about a time when he sent a package to America via boat and it took one year to get there. Yes, a full 365 days. Oh boy. So my box is on some boat (hopefully that’s empty) voyaging across the Atlantic. Fingers crossed that I get the stuff before August at least! Oh well, it’s just another Spanish experience to remember, right? Haha.

Besides that, the last few days have been pretty relaxed. Carlos and I went to the pool in his neighborhood yesterday, and I fell asleep while laying out for an hour and a half. Needless to say, I look like a lobster today. Actually, I seem to have acquired quite an array of tan lines since I’ve been here. Currently, I have the lobster burn that is just on my front side (because I forgot to turn over…), then the baller sports bra tan line on my back (something akin to the lifeguard line which I sported for the past few summers) from working out in the sun every day. Oh- I also have the shorts tan. It’s really quite attractive. 😉

Today I finished classes and received Sobresaliente’s (A’s) across the board! Woo! I was a little worried about grammar, but Charo, my grammar teacher was wonderful and really helped me to understand the subjunctive. I had fun in my classes and did learn (not as much as hoped- gracias a todos los americanos), but it will be nice to have a break from school for the next two months. It’s funny to think that I will actually never be done with school… at least in another year I will be teaching classes instead of taking them.

After class today, I ran a few random errands around town, then went to the Bajas with Carlos to work out. Since I’ve come to Spain I’ve starting doing CrossFit (trying to do Crossfit. There are some big modifications- 1- I’m super weak, 2- I don’t have access to a lot of equipment). I introduced Carlos to Crossfit and barefoot running (something else I picked up here) and he got super into it. He borrowed my copy of the Primal Blueprint and is deadset in converting all of his friends. After working out, we just sat on the pista and hung out. It was sad saying goodbye to him today, we’ve become really good friends these past few weeks.

Tonight, I’m packing and just getting things ready to leave in the morning. It’s still hard to believe that six weeks have already passed. Has it really been that long since I’ve seen my family, driven a car or ordered coffee in English? Like I said in the last post- I’m excited, but I really am going to miss it here. These past few weeks have been an extended vacation (no responsibility outside of school). Have I picked up the relaxed Spanish way of life? I’m a little worried for culture shock when I get back. Working? Waking up early? Responsibility? Rent? Bills?

Being here really has shown my how to relojar y disfrutar la vida. Hopefully I’ll be able to apply that when I get back…

Nah, even though I have realized the importance of taking things slow and not too seriously, I don’t think that I’ll have too hard of a tim jumping back in to the American culture. I guess that I fit the Spanish stereotype of being overly-competitive and entirely too serious about life… maybe.

Tomorrow I take the early train out to Madrid and will spend the day hanging out and relaxing (and CrossFitting- at CF Madrid!), then will fly out on Thursday morning. So- it looks like this will be my last Spanish post!  If you are reading this- I appreciate that you took the time to stay connected and share a little life with me. Hopefully these posts were entertaining and didn’t bore you too badly… 😉

Well- that’s it on this side of the Atlantic, see you back in Texas!

Animo y a tope!!


“Nadie puede querete como yo”
No one can love you like I can.

 
Shot of the Old Cathedral. Passed this everyday on the way to school. Not too shabby, huh?

La ultima cena en Salamanca. A combination of the last of my groceries and a horrible Comedor means eating what’s available. It’s just pre-paleo practice, right? 🙂

Vamos al Medico!

Can you believe June is almost over? It FLEW by. I leave Salamanca on Wednesday, and fly out from Madrid on Thursday. Then it’s Grapevine for Friday and Saturday then to Austin on Sunday! That means in one week from today, I will be back on Avenue A! 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, I am having a blast here, but as these are the last few days, I’ve already started thinking about what the rest of the summer will be like, working on stuff for FLESA and for internship and have been thinking about all of the wonderful things back in Texas. Without further ado (I know you are all dying for this), the top 10 things (in no particular order) I am excited about doing upon arrival in the states!

1. Seeing family and friends (duh.)
2. Jogging on my normal trail around Hyde Park, and not getting stared at funny for working out. Spanish girls don’t like to sweat and therefore do not work out, ever. I always get the weirdest looks when I go to the Bajas.
3. Whole Foods goodness
4. The Lodge and the Sunshine House! I am such a nester, and I really do miss my room, and living room, and porch, and porch swing, and ghetto kitchen, and the window in my bedroom that goes to Narnia, and blue room with the rotting wood…. need I continue?
5. Sonic! (I’ve actually stopped drinking soda these last three weeks, but I do plan on indulging on a Route 44 Cherry Vanilla DP when I get back)
6. Doing nothing (or everything!) at Miranda’s apt with my fav non-Texan friends. This includes taking the tandem bike out for a stroll in the neighborhood and the fabulous walks to Sonic.
7. Ego’s Karaoke…
8. Swimming. Really anywhere. It’s summer, and since Cadiz, I haven’t been swimming once. There is a problem with that.
9. LINDY HOP. It’s been way, way, way too long.
10. Driving. I’m sure that Poco has missed me, and I sure have missed him. My car is like my own personal little sanctuary, where I can get away from the world. It will be nice to get in the car, roll the windows down, blast some music and just enjoying driving.

So yes, there it is. I do love America and will be happy to be back. However, I really have enjoyed these past 6 weeks and will be sad to leave Spain. But- I still have until Thursday! 🙂 Time to aprovechar!

Since it’s been so long since the last post, here is a breakdown of fun events from this past week:

Tuesday, 6-21:

Trip to see Dr. Cuadrado. Elaine got back from Portugal on Monday morning and said her eye had been red since Saturday, and there was actually a bump on it. Since she was leaving on Wednesday to travel for the next few weeks, she was a little worried. Luckily, we get insurance through Cursos (our program) which includes free trips to the doctor. I do not know all of the specifics about how healthcare works here in Spain, but this was quite an experience. 

We get to the office, which looks like it is in an apartment building, check in, and go to the waiting room. The waiting room was smaller, stuffy and the windows were frosted, so it gave the room a very weird feeling. Also strange: as we were sitting there waiting, and a couple in their mid-50s comes in. Normally, when you are in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, no one says anything to each other. This couple comes in, Hola, hola, como estais, que tal? To everyone. Pretty funny.

Not to long after that, Elaine gets called back. We follow the receptionist back and she shows us the door to the room. We open the door, and we literally walk into the Doctor’s office. Not a sterile examination room with a bed and all of the other doctor-y stuff, his actual office. Bookshelf, computer, desk and all. And there was the doctor, sitting at his desk waiting for us. We were both taken aback, but we sat down in the chair’s on the other side of his desk, and I begin to explain to him what was wrong with Elaine’s eye. Throughout the whole explanation, he sits there playing on his iPhone. Once I finish, he puts his phone down, and walk around his desk to look at Elaine. He examines her eye for about 3 seconds and tells her that she has conjunctivitis. He walks back around to his desk, pulls out his prescription pad and writes a prescription. He then gives directions on how to take the medicine and said I hope you feel better soon! After that, I looked at him, and just asked “Y ya?” (Is that all?) and he assured us it was and we were good to go. So we thank him, walk out and begin to go back to the front desk, because that is the normal thing to do, where you normally give insurance information and pay the co-pay, but as we walked out of the office door, the receptionist opened the front door for us to leave (which was about 3 feet away) and gave us an “hasta luego!”. And that was all. In total, from the time we walked in to the office from the time we walked out was about 7 minutes. Tops. Elaine and I both just stood in the hallway and started laughing at the whole thing.

 
In front of the office door.

 
The prescription. Completely illegible in any language.

Nothing else overly exciting happened in the last few days. Yesterday, I finally made it to see the exhibit by la Caixa, “de Nomadas a Sedentarios”. This was an exhibit that detailed the history of how humans went from being hunter/gatherers and nomads in the Paleolithic and Neolithic era to settling down and building houses and communities (it went up the bronze age). It was super interesting, and I am glad that I walked all three miles (yeah… it was pretty far) to get there. It talked a lot about the advent of agriculture and how it has changed how society functions.

It was funny that this exhibit was in town, because since I’ve been in Spain, I’ve been reading “The Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson and have been doing research on the Paleo lifestyle (it’s not a diet!!!). Prior to leaving for this trip, I was eating quasi-paleo (the quasi part included Kashi cereal, Ezekial bread and the ever necessary Sonic run), and since I’ve been cooking for myself in the dorm, I’ve been able to continue my quasi-paleo habits. However, when I get back, I am going to do the month challenge and have managed to recruit my parents to do the whole month and Amy to do the first two weeks with me! Woo! I am even going to try and convince Bronwyn to join me with it when she stays with me in August… 😉

As for now, that is all. Time to enjoy the last few days in Spain and make the most of the time here!

 
Neolitico part of the exhibit

 
One of my new favorite fruits. They are SO good here. I eat them like candy!!

El Intercambio

What a wonderful week! These last few days have been incredible and have really made Salamanca feel like home.

On Monday, I started an intercambio with a Salamantino named Carlos. An intercambio is a language exchange in which you meet up and talk for half the time in English and the other half in Spanish. Since coming here, my speaking abilities haven’t improved as much as I was hoping, due to the fact that my program is all Americans, and they all want to speak English all of the time. So, the first day of the intercambio kicked my butt! We spoke for about an hour and a half in Spanish and then another hour and a half in English. It was great, but after going for an hour and a half straight, I was exhausted. I know that an hour and a half doesn’t seem that long, but when I’ve only been speaking for 15-25 minutes in Spanish, it was tough. We’ve met again several more times this week and it’s been great. Each time we meet, it becomes easier and easier to speak and easier to understand him (he talks SO fast). On Wednesday, Carlos and his brother Pablo took me, the guy Pablo does intercambio with and a few other people out to their family’s land in a pueblo called Ledesma, which is about 30 minutes outside of Salamanca in the country. We started by visiting the town’s castle and then went out to their property (they have thousands of hecatres) to see their bulls, lambs and other livestock. Their property was gorgeous and in the middle, they have a house that was built back in the 1800s. They don’t use the house anymore, but their family used to go out their during the summers and for vacations. The pueblo of Ledesma is important to their family, because their parents, and each of their aunts, uncles and grandparents met in the town of Ledesma. Very cute stories.

During our intercambio times, I’ve talked with Carlos about how I love visiting all of the smaller pueblos in Spain more than the bigger cities. So yesterday, Carlos invited me to go out to Alberca, a super-tiny pueblo about 80km outside of Salamanca. It was incredible. Alberca is situated in the mountains, and has beautiful views. It also has a completely different style than any other in Castilla y Leon (this region of Spain). The houses all had wood supports, as opposed to the bricks and older stones used in other towns and cities. We had a blast just walked around the town, then drove down the mountains to the valley. The valley was definitely “la naturaleza pura”. Although there is a bit of tourism in Alberca, there was hardly none in the valley. It was gorgeous. We went hiking around the valley and up the side mountain. We ended up going out to these prehistoric drawings. They were pretty worn, but after staring at them for about 20 minutes we were able to find most of them! After we hiked back to the car, we drove over to “La Pena de Francia”, which was the tip of one of the other mountains. On the top of the mountain there was another monastery, which is actually a stop on the Camino de Santiago de Compastela.

The whole thing was such a great experience. Not only did we talk in Spanish the majority of the time, but the countryside of Spain is beautiful. I had no idea that there were such beautiful mountains and scenery that close to Salamanca.

Then, last night, I ran in the Carrera Popular Nocturna, a 5k put on by Salamanca A Tope. It was crazy. There were more than 700 participants. Who knew that there were so many intense runners in Salamanca? The race went all through the city, and I got to see a lot of things I hadn’t seen in the city before. As all things Spanish, the race was supposed to start at 10, but didn’t end up starting until 10:40 or so. So, after the race (I did 26:35), and the post-festivities and all, it was super late when I made it home and was exhausted. Needless to say I slept like a rock. It was lovely 🙂

Sadly, I only have 12 days left here. It feels like this trip has gone by SO fast. I really do wish that I could stay longer. Being in Salamanca is completely different this time than when I was here back in 2009, but I feel like I’ve integrated a little bit more into the city and am actually “living” here (if that makes any sense at all). Before coming, I was incredibly nervous to be here alone, not knowing anyone, but these past few weeks has really shown me how independent I am, and that I am more than capable of living abroad. We’ll just have to see what happens after graduation…

 
Street in Alberca

 
Sweet garage in Alberca.

 Lovely! A view coming down the mountain.
 View from the top of Pena de Francia
 
It was incredible.

La Resi y La Chica Loca

Oh La Cuenca. What a special little Resi with the most interesting people.

So, Elaine, Claudine and I live on the same hallway. For the most part, the hall is always empty and quiet, and for a the first few days we were here, we thought we were the only people on the hall. Thought, that is. After the third night or so, Claudine discovered that she had a next door neighbor. She found this out by the Danza Kudoro (please watch the video) concert she got at 4am in the morning. Not just concert, but screaming fest. This then continued for the next several nights…

Elaine and I hadn’t really been able to hear anything until this week. However, at 8:30 am on Sunday morning it started. La Chica Loca (Claudine’s neighbor) and amigos had just gotten back from going out the night before and decided that it was completely necessary to yell at each other in the hallway as loud as they could. It woke all three of us up. It was two girls and a guy, and I actually was scared for the guy because the girls seemed like they were completely crazy (actually, last time I was here, I had a Spanish friend tell me that Spanish women are all crazy… I believe him now), it was like nothing I’d ever heard.

We all (and hopefully the guy in the hallway) lived through the rest of the morning, and were just able to laugh it off the next day. Well, last night I went to bed at 11pm. I was exhausted from the day, and from some workouts that I had done over the weekend (I don’t think I’ve ever been so sore) and was SO ready to sleep. I laid in bed for a good two hours and couldn’t. So I got up, read for an 30 minutes or so, then tried to sleep again. As I laid down at about 1:30am, my next door neighbors (who are older travelers) decided it was a good idea to have a debate about who even  knows what. I felt like I was in the room with them. So I’m laying there, exhausted, trying to sleep, and by 2am they stop and I hear my neighbor, who’s bed is next to mine on the other side of the wall snoring. Like. a. freight. train. How it is possible that someone can snore so loud that people in the next room over can hear it is still beyond me, but I wasn’t sure if I should have been impressed by the talent or annoyed because it was impossible to fall asleep with that going on. Vale- somehow, I fell asleep for about an hour and was awaken at about 3am by this deathly noise in the hallway. It was doors slamming and then screaming (it was La Loca). Oh my gosh. I laid in bed, annoyed and tired. Then I hear this sweet little voice out of the hallway, “Could you be quiet?” there was a small conversation between the two and I couldn’t hear it all, but then, loudly, and in english, La Chica Loca started screaming at the top of her lungs with all the passion in the world “f u slut” over and over and over and over and over again. This went on for quite some time. I had been thinking of going out there to talk with her and whoever the other person was (it was Claudine), but once she started screaming, no way Jose. Who knows what crazy drunk Spanish girls are capable of.

Then, it sounded like someone came and took her away. Good, she should be institutionalized.

So I laid in bed for another 30 minutes or so, then the footsteps come back and doors start slamming. What. the. heck. La Loca’s friends are with her this time and they are having some intense conversations and deem it obligatory to slam the door as many times as possible. I guess this emphasizes a point? Who knows. Then, they finally go into her room, and it’s like the place is shaking. Seriously, it was the weirdest sound. The door was shaking and it sounded like the walls were shaking with them. What the heck were they doing in there? Claudine jokingly suggested the next day that it was “power yoga”… hmm if that’s what it sounds like, count me out for sure.

Well, after the curse out, I texted Claudine because I knew there was no way she could be asleep.This is the response I got:

I nearly cried after reading this I was laughing. Elaine actually said she could hear me laughing through the wall. Thank you La Loca!
Well… after the evening’s happenings, I laid in bed for a while longer and got up at six and made scrambled eggs. I was dragging all day in class today and was completely exhausted and crashed for a two hour siesta this afternoon. Needless to say I will sleep great tonight.
At breakfast this morning Claudine told me about what all happened when she went out to talk to the girl, and apparently she was on her back, legs up against the wall, with a bottle of wine in her hands. Let’s hope her liver can make it through the next few years…
So, just wanted to share that fun little story with everyone. So far, there has been no new spotings/hearings of La Loca today, but updates will come!