4 Things I Will the Most as I am in Spain

As winter turns into spring, I am getting closer to receiving my placement letter to teach in Madrid, Spain for the 2014-2015 school year. I am filled with mixed feelings about the leap I am about to take, but I will grown and change during this adventure. I am about to leave the comfort and the familiar of the United States for an unknown land called Spain. I have been reflecting on what I will miss the most while I am in Spain for 9 months.

  1. FRIENDS & FAMILY: I will miss each and every one of you. I will miss being able to call someone and go do random stuff. I will have to make new friends to survive my stay in Spain. I won’t ever replace y’all. Friends grilling food and throwing a party. Girl’s night. Getting margaritas with my dad. Daughter and Dad time.
  1. FOOD: Trudy’s Stuffed Avocado, Thundercloud Subs, 888 Asian Restaurant, and more. I will miss the Tex-Mex I have been eating this stuff all my life.  I know I won’t find any of these places in Spain. From what I have read Spaniards are not too fond of spice in their food. Guess I will have to pack some spices in my luggage. I am going to have to have friends send me care packages with foodies from home.
  1. PLACES IN AUSTIN: Places around town: the Hike and Bike Trail, Congress, Summer Moon Coffee Shop, Whole Foods, Local Farmer’s Market, Formal 1 Weekend and accent hunting, Wake the Dead Coffee Shop, Kerby Lane Café, Boomerz Bar and Karoke, Fado’s Irish Pub, Elysium, Headhunters, Lake Travis, and San Marcos River.
  1. SPEAKING ENGLISH: Communicating in English on a daily basis is simple for me. While in Spain, I will have to use Spanish to communicate. I am excited to practice my Spanish. In the long run, I will be able to say I can speak two languages and maybe claim that on my resume. Let’s be honest! I’m going to be worn out every day just trying to survive in Spanish. It will be tiring.
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Rediscovery in Killarney Ireland: Horseback Riding

Sometimes when you think you have lost passion for a hobby, sometimes the passion comes with a stronger desire to rediscover your connection to that hobby.

I rode a horse for the last time in my sophomore year of college. My mare Erica had to go to a new home; I was miserable knowing that this was our last ride together. My dad thought it would be best for her to go somewhere were she could get the attention she deserved. Since the day I got rid of Erica, I dreamt of being back on a horse.

A year after I lost Erica, I found out that there was a five-week study abroad program offered through my university. I was excited that I might have the chance to study abroad and see a different culture. Before I knew it, I was on my way to Ireland. I had one desire that I wanted to accomplish while I was in Ireland. I wanted to go horseback riding. I spent a few months researching online for the perfect riding stable. I came across the Killarney Riding Stables in Killarney National Park. I shared the information about the stable with two other girls I met at the Ireland orientation. All three of us had passion for horses and riding, so we planned to go riding one of the weekends we had off from school.

I didn’t expect our booked date for riding would arrive so fast. I recall during the early morning hours of my big adventure, I heard rain hitting against my window. I thought that the rain would ruin my riding adventure. I got ready for my day of horseback riding. My two classmates and I waited for the stable owner to come pick us up and take us to the stable. The minute I got out of that Land Rover different emotions and memories began to resurface in me. The smell of the stable made me think of my barn back home where I kept my horse Erica. The mixture of hay, dust, horse, and mildew made me feel comfortable. As I heard the horseshoes hit the concrete, I thought that there was no better.

I got ready to go out on the trail. I found my riding shoes and helmet. When the stable workers brought me my horse, my heart was leaping for joy that I was about to get on the back of a horse. The horse I got to ride was a twelve-year-old Irish Draft mix gelding named Solomon and he was sixteen hands tall. When I got on his back, I thought that I had forgotten how to ride a horse because it had been a few years since I was on a horse. Plus, this was my first time riding English and using an English saddle. Back home, I’m use to riding Western and having a saddle that is bigger and has a horn at the front for ropes. There are many differences between the two styles. I was confused at first and wanted to convert back to Western. The guide had to correct me a couple of times for not riding English; however, I fixed the problem and started to enjoy the ride.

Solomon was a good horse because he was not hard to manage. With the reins, Solomon would listen to me and do as I told him. As we got onto the main trail, I saw the mountains in the distance, native Irish Red Deer, emerald green grass, and the main lake. The air was fresh. It was a mixture of after rain smell and fresh air. Before we knew it a rainstorm started. Our guide asked if we wanted to go back to the stables. Our guide was thrilled to hear that we rejected to the idea of going back. Instead, we went further on the trail and caused mud and water to splash everywhere. I looked down at my hands and they were turning red from the cold and rain. My hair was wet and nasty; eyeliner and mascara were running down my face. At that point, I did not care how I looked because I was having too much fun riding on the back of Solomon. It was pure joy to be riding a horse again.

As we came to next section of the trail, we started to canter again. For a moment, I just closed my eyes. I started to think about being on the back of Solomon and began to listen to the rain hitting my jacket, the stomping of Solomon’s hoofs splashing through the mud, and the wind blowing in my face. At that very moment, I felt freedom from the world and just wanted to enjoy my ride on Solomon. Solomon helped me to rediscover my passion for horseback riding. I never felt as much joy as what I did during the rainstorm cantering down a muddy trail. When I got back to the stable, I discovered that my jeans were soaked and covered with mud and horsehair. My horseback riding experience was extraordinary because not everyone gets the chance to ride horses in Ireland in the enchanting forest of Killarney.

After getting down from Solomon, I started to notice that I was cold like an icicle. Thankfully, I had brought a change of clothes with me. After we changed, we left the stables and got dropped off in front of a pub. We went into the pub to get drinks. I ordered an Irish coffee to warm me up. I was sore and exhausted from my early morning ride. I knew that I looked like I just left the stable, but I did not care what others though about me because I had a grand time riding.

Reflecting on my trail ride in Killarney National Forest, I would have to say that the experience was the highlight of my trip to Ireland. For me, there is nothing more magical than getting on the back of a horse and riding in the enchanting green forest of Killarney. I felt that I was in a dream because of all the beauty that surrounded me: the tall mountains, wildlife, the blue lake, and green vegetation. Ever since my experience in Killarney, I end up falling asleep every night dreaming of my moment riding Solomon. I have rediscovered my passion for riding and look forward to getting back on a horse soon.

 

Poem to go with this Article

The Pure Joy of Riding

 

Pure Joy

Rain falling down all around you

Mud splashing everywhere

Cantering through these elements on horseback

Feeling free from the world.

Riding through a magical emerald forest

 

Pure Joy

Finding out your jeans are covered in mud.

Discovering you are cold like an icicle

Noticing that you smell like a horse

Not caring how others see you

Feeling overly happy because

this moment is all you dream about now.

Wonderburger in New Orleans March 2014

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I spent four days in New Orleans for the 2014 Mardi Gras Season. In four days, I fell in love with the food, music, history, and architecture of this breathtaking city. I believe to gain a good grasp of a culture and a city you have to eat foods that are renowned in that region. New Orleans is famous for their seafood, Cajun, and Southern food. I had the opportunity to enjoy some of the best food this has to city offer.

The first night I arrived in New Orleans I was welcomed into my friend’s house with some homemade gumbo. The gumbo had sausage, chicken, rice, beans, and other vegetables thrown into a big pot. Gumbo in New Orleans is like brisket in my home state of Texas. As in how the citizens of New Orleans pride themselves in their homemade gumbo. During Mardi Gras, I wondered into a neighborhood called Claiborne. There was a bridge and people were parked under the bridge. The people were celebrating Fat Tuesday. Many of the partakers had big cooking pots setup with gumbo cooking in the pot. It was in this moment that I realized how important gumbo is in Louisiana. A hint of hot sauce is all that is needed to have the perfect bowl of gumbo.

Another amazing meal I had was some fresh seafood on my second day of this trip. I had the pleasure of going to a restaurant called Olde N’awlins Cookery a Cajun & Creole restaurant. This restaurant is located in the heart of the French Quarter. I ordered an appetizer of fried and blue and blacked gator tail bites. The gator tail bites were delicious with a Remoulade sauce. This was my first time eating gator. I believe that gator dose not taste like chicken. Gator has its own unique taste and I suggest you try gator once. I am now a big fan of gator and will more than likely order some gator on my next visit to New Orleans. After the gator tail bites, I got to enjoy my lunch. I ordered a fried seafood platter with fried oysters, shrimp, and catfish and a side fries. The freshness of the seafood could be tasted in the meat of the oysters, shrimp, and catfish. The batter for the fry was perfect as in the batter was a perfect golden brown and was crispy. This is how I like my batter on my fried food not too crispy or over cooked. The cost for the meal was reasonable too. I spent only $20.00 on my meal. Plus, with this restaurant being in the French Quarter I think the prices are not too expensive.

The final night I spent in New Orleans fell on Fat Tuesday. I spent most of the night on Bourbon Street collecting beads, checking out different bars, and socializing with other people. The police were on horseback and clearing the streets so the city could clean up the street after all the parting. After the bars shutdown at midnight, I ventured down to Café Du Monde for coffee and some beignets. This was the perfect snack after wondering Bourbon Street and the bars. A beignet is a square piece of dough that’s fried and covered with powered sugar. Usually an order of beignets comes with three beignets. I ordered one order of beignets and a cup of coffee. The texture of the beignets was light and fluffy like a doughnut. There was a lot of powered sugar covering the top of the fried delight like snow. I inhaled some of this powered sugar as I was eating my beignets. Beignets go well with a cup of hot coffee. This was the best way to end my stay in New Orleans. As this trip drew to an end, I was inspired to write about the different foods I enjoyed. I hope to go back to New Orleans and enjoy more of the amazing foods this city has to offer.

Three Beignets

Three Beignets

Seafood Platter

Seafood Platter