Little Nudges

Hola amigos,

How do we know how to make decisions? How do we choose the so-called “right” way for ourselves and pave a path for ourselves that will bring us peace, joy, and prosperity? In my experiences thus far, honestly you can never truly know how something will pan out until you experience it and just wholeheartedly GO for an opportunity. Trust your intuition and honor what is on your heart. You can do all the research, make a pros and cons list, talk to other people, but sometimes the best way to go is to just JUMP. Dive in head first and see what happens. This topic has been on my mind because it’s the time of year at my school to start the process of renewal for the next school year. If you had asked me in November if I would consider doing another year of being an auxiliar in Madrid, I would have confidently said “Heck no!” but now I don’t know… As time goes by, I become more comfortable and happy here. I love where I’m at in life, but I also miss my family and friends back home. Only time will tell I guess. Nothing in this life is permanent and I feel very inspired at the moment to seize the day, to go all in, to trust my gut, and to live it up to the fullest.

This was my first week back at work from the Christmas holidays. I have been working with the “Chosen 10” students for Global Classrooms and prepping them for the official conference on January 23rd. Its been a lot of work up until this point, but I am so proud of my students. I hear them practicing their speeches, debating ideas, and coming up with resolutions for issues about juvenile crime and violence and I am amazed. They are practicing their English and discussing relevant global issues! I can’t wait to see them strut their stuff at the conference:)

I also got to explore Casa de Campo with Renee this Saturday, which is a gorgeous and ginormous park in the city, a great place to walk, bike, have a picnic, and be in nature. 

Sending you lots of love from Madrid!

Love,

Manders

 

 

 

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Compelled in Portugal

 

 

Hola amigos,

I visited Portugal for the first time this past week for a little New Year’s getaway with Elin. We started in Porto for two nights, which is in the north, and then spent another two nights in Lisbon, which is in the south. We both were so charmed and in love with Porto. It’s a smaller city than Lisbon, but Porto has a lovely balance of city life and small town warmth, with a mix of old and new. The cobblestone streets are narrow and quite hilly, the buildings are eclectic colors with beautiful designs of tile called Azulejo that Porto is known for, the people are friendly and smiling, and the pastries are some of the best I’ve had. For breakfast, we went to this bakery across the street from our hotel every morning for pastries and a cappuccino. So good! The buildings and the hilly streets reminded me a little of San Francisco, but a more quaint and European version. Honestly this was one of the first year’s that I actually stayed up until midnight, but it was worth it. There was a street party downtown with live music and lots of local people and some visitors too. People were dancing and singing and just enjoying themselves-their happiness was infectious. 

 On New Year’s Day we stumbled across this insanely gorgeous cemetery with angelic statues and memorials. It was cool to see families buried together in their unique mausoleums. One of my favorite parts of Porto was walking on the Ponte Luís I Bridge and getting an incredible view of the city and the sparkling Douro River. Walking and sitting along the Ribiera/river area was another highlight. So peaceful and relaxing to just sit, stare, and have a chat with a friend. We also tried Portugal’s famous Francesinha sandwich. Look it up. Its crazy. And their Port wine, very sweet and delicious. The Tawny was my personal favorite. Something cool that I learned is that J.K. Rowling taught English in Portugal and there is this bookstore called Livraria Lello in downtown Porto that is rumored to be the place where she was inspired to create the Harry Potter series. Unfortunately that bookstore is a huge tourist trap and the line was super long so we didn’t get to go in. But even just looking from the outside, you can see the resemblance to Harry Potter: the winding wood staircases and architecture had a magical quality to it. 

After Porto, we took the 2 1/2 hour train journey to Lisbon. Seeing the landscape and countryside of Portugal was incredible! We went to the Time Out Food market, which has a variety of world class food, desserts, and drinks. Elin and I tried the famous pastel de nata dessert and the cod fish was delicious too. We also took a trolley ride downtown, saw the Belém Tower, and walked along the ocean. I didn’t like Lisbon nearly as much as Porto; it has a grungier feel and is more metropolitan-like compared to Porto. Even though we got to do a lot of things in Portugal, my favorite moments are the little things: relaxing in the hotel room with Elin, buying souvenirs, good conversation, and admiring the beauty of a new place. 

Another cultural difference I’ve noticed since being in Spain vs. USA is this idea that I refer to as “Spilled milk- a Spanish approach to living and making mistakes”

I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up as a student-athlete in Orange County, but I felt a strong pressure to be perfect all the time and because of this I developed a fear of making mistakes and trying new things. The perfectionistic culture prevalent in the U.S. is cut-throat and as an impressionable young person I found it difficult to live freely and fully. Its no wonder that anxiety and depression is at an all time high. Its because of this that I am nervous to go back home, but ultimately how we live our lives is our own choice. I’d like to think that this perfectionistic culture is changing, in some places more than others, but being in Spain has given me a taste of how life can be different. Our goal shouldn’t be perfection- maximum effort, showing up fully, giving our best, that’s what counts. Striving for excellence is different than striving for perfection. When you’re chasing perfection, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and it becomes an endless goose chase. Take the shame out of “mistakes” and laugh instead and take it easy on yourself. Its really not that big of a deal. We live and we learn. Change your perspective on “mistakes” or “failures” and embrace whatever arises throughout your day as an opportunity for growth, for learning. Our mental health and wellbeing matters too. A friendly reminder to take care of yourself! 

Hope your 2019 is off to a lovely start! Wishing you peace, joy, good health, and prosperity. 

Love,

Manders

Building a Home

Hola amigos,

This past week my family came out to visit me for Christmas. The time flew by, but it was wonderful to be together and show them around. On Christmas day, we had lunch at my place and my señora prepared an authentic Spanish feast: bread, cheese, shrimp, tortilla de patatas, ham, a mango dessert, and Spanish candies called turrón. In addition to exploring the neighborhoods and sites in Madrid, we also went on day trips to Cuenca, Segovia, and Toledo. And of course we ate a ton of food too…They were astounded by the amount of food that comes with the menu del día option and we definitely experienced our fair share of food comas but it was worth it! One thing that my brother pointed out that I hadn’t noticed before is the prevalence of street art and graffiti around the city of Madrid. They also loved how great public transportation is here, the charming streets, and the rich history of Spain, but I think they’re ready to go back to the warm weather in SoCal. Until next time!

One thing about growing up and post grad life is the shifting configuration of home. In most cases, we live somewhere with our family until we graduate high school, then we leave the nest for university, and after that we might go back home or venture somewhere new, or a mix of both. Something shifted for me my junior year of university. I came home for Thanksgiving break and my childhood home didn’t feel like home anymore. Not necessarily in a bad way; things just felt different. Maybe I felt my world expanding and knew that I had popped the Orange County bubble? Graduating university and moving to Spain gave me that similar expanded feeling…where is home now?

I’ve talked about this idea with my good friend Megan and what we’ve come to realize is that “home” is within yourself. Home is wherever you are in the world. It is not a physical place, but something you create wherever you are. I love this idea because it gives you full freedom and responsibility to create your joy and comfort no matter where you are or what circumstances you are in. Its on you to build your home. You can paint it and decorate it however you like…and remember that you hold the paint brush and the canvas is within you.

Feliz año nuevo!

Love,

Manders

P.S. Thank you Mommy, Daddy, and Ezra for coming out here..come and visit anytime:)

Tabula Rasa

Hola amigos,

           I am officially on Christmas break and thankful to have two weeks off work. This week was special because myself and the other auxiliares at my school had Christmas workshops where we went around to different classrooms and did a Christmas activity with the students. For mine, I taught the kids how to make pop-up Christmas cards. On our last day, we held a Mock Conference for Global Classrooms with another school in Móstoles. The students gave their opening speeches, debated, and wrote resolutions on the topic of juvenile crime and violence as a result of socioeconomic effects. And all in English too! I have trouble discussing these issues in my native language, so I was thoroughly impressed with my students. I was in charge of planning and leading that event, which was really demanding, but it turned out to be extremely rewarding and fun the day of. Fortunately I had the other auxiliares helping me-Jackie, Sonja, Alea, and Philip, pictured above. The real Conference is in January and ten of our students are selected to compete with other schools in the Community of Madrid. 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting a nativity exhibition at the Matadero. The artist collects nativity sets from all over the world and it’s incredible to see the different figurines and art from different countries. The ones pictured above are from America, Peru, and Germany, but there were lots more. The Matadero, which is a large outdoor area and event center, also hosts an International Christmas market with stalls from all over the world selling food, wine, and gifts. I went yesterday with a friend and they also had a couple performances by Filipino dancers in colorful costumes. It made me think of my mom and Tati:)

         As 2018 is coming to an end and un año nuevo or New Year is in our midst, I am eager for a toast to new beginnings. The idea of a blank slate is enticing, but with that I have also been contemplating the concept of hoarding. Maybe it’s because Christmas is a few days away and it’s the season of giving and mass consumerism times 1000…but this idea really stuck with me. What are we hoarding in our lives? Is it money? Love? Forgiveness? Food? Clothes? Clutter? Pride? Time?

           What is it that we’re holding on to? It could be an emotion, a person, a fantasy or goal, a material thing, a memory…

            I see hoarding as a kind of comfort or sanctuary. Whatever we’re holding on to has some kind of effect on us- it’s something we desperately want to hang on to. We couldn’t possibly survive or imagine life without this thing that we’re hoarding.

            But this sense of comfort that hoarding provides could also be seen as a crutch. The thing that we think is keeping us sane and grounded may be the very thing that’s holding us back. Holding on to this thing prevents us from being naked- physically, mentally, and emotionally naked with ourselves. Most of us don’t like the idea of being naked because we’re afraid of being vulnerable or exposed. We fear not being accepted or loved by our family, friends, or co-workers or society in general. There’s this fear that “What if I was actually my genuine, authentic, naked self today but the people around me didn’t like it?”

            The thought of acknowledging and owning our unique insecurities and weaknesses makes us want to curl up in a cocoon and never come out. But there is danger in hoarding and suppressing our true selves to conform to this ideal of how we should be like: how we should talk, dress, behave, look like, etc. The danger I’m talking about is addiction, anxiety, depression, rationalization, and alienation. It is cancer for our wellbeing.

            My proposal is to experiment with being naked with ourselves. Take some time to just be with yourself and strip away all the extra details: external expectations, the “should’s”. Take off your mask and listen to what you honestly want. What do you authentically want in your life and what thing or things are you hoarding to prevent yourself from achieving what you want?

            The truth is that hoarding takes up space in our lives and prevents us from having room for new things, possibly better things, in our lives. Letting go of the things we hoard will not be easy, but it is the first step in cultivating an authentic and happy life.

Cheers to new beginnings and Feliz Navidad!

Love,

Manders

Of Value

 

 

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Hola amigos,

Last weekend we celebrated a “puente” or long weekend in Madrid and I decided to get outta town and see Barcelona. It was my first time there and I fell in love with the city. All my life I have lived along the coast and since moving to Madrid, which has no beach, I have realized how much I miss living by water. I was crying tears of joy when I saw the ocean in Barcelona! I don’t know what it is, but there is just something different in the air when you’re by the ocean. I feel happier and more connected to a place when it’s along the coast. Lesson learned. After Madrid, you will find me somewhere close to the sea. One thing we noticed was that most people in Barcelona speak English, compared to in Madrid where it’s not so common. The dialect in Barcelona is also different; they speak Catalan. I was honestly a little nervous to visit Barcelona because on the news I’ve seen that there are a lot of protests due to the Catalan independence movement, but we only saw one protest and it was pretty mellow. I’m not super aware of the details but I know that the region of Catalonia, which includes Barcelona, wants to separate from the rest of Spain. I also know that Barcelona makes the most money compared to the other regions of Spain because of the loads of tourism, so there is probably economic factors behind the movement as well. If you’re interested in learning more about the Catalan independence movement, I have heard that there is a great documentary on Netflix that looks at the roots of this issue. 

So, I spent three nights and four blissful days with Renee and Elin at St. Christopher’s hostel, which was actually my first time staying at a hostel. The best way that I can describe the hostel experience is that it is similar to camping, but in a hotel building with a bunch of international, young travelers who are on a budget. Its a great option if you want to save money, but just be ready to share a room with some strangers and have communal bathrooms and showers. If you’re traveling alone, it’s an awesome way to meet new people who also share your love for exploring. 

We did a lot of the typical touristy things in Barcelona: strolled down Las Ramblas- which is a lively street with lots of restaurants, cafe’s, and little markets, went to La Boquería-which is a huge market with a variety of fresh local foods and treats, wandered through several Christmas markets, hiked through Park Güell and saw Gaudí’s architecture creations, witnessed a light show at The Magic Fountain, went to the Picasso museum, toured La Sagrada Familía-which is a massive church started by Gaudí and still currently under construction until 2026, walked around the marina, and enjoyed the beach. 

My mom always says that traveling is food for the mind and I’m really beginning to understand that statement. You learn so much about yourself, about others, and about life in general. Traveling teaches you how to be adaptable and resilient. With traveling and in life, things don’t always go according to plan; there are hiccups, detours, and many surprises along the way, but that is totally okay and part of the fun. I’ve realized that the best game plan for traveling and for life is to show up with a good attitude, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Love,

Manders

 

Exhale

img_20181201_170612img_20181201_1748451img_20181201_1803301img-20181201-wa00031Hola amigos,

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff. I was video-chatting with my parents and Ezra last night and my brother told me that his childhood friend, Chase, passed away after suffering a seizure. He was so young. Hearing about his passing touched me because it was a complete reality check. It’s fascinating to me how death can change your perspective; it makes you reflect on what’s really important in life and helps you see that the petty worries that consume our minds throughout the day are a complete waste of time. I guess that that’s the beauty or silver lining in grief or any kind of trauma…it streamlines Life and helps you see things clearly. 

Grieving is a normal and inevitable cycle of life. Grief is often the result of experiencing a death, but it can also come from grieving a relationship, the loss of a job, an unfulfilled dream, a particular season in life, etc. In any case, leaning on your loved ones during times of grief is crucial. When my friend Annie passed away when I was in college, I also went to see a psychologist at my school to process my feelings and learn how to cope with grief. When she died, there were so many things on my heart that I wish I could have told her in person but since I couldn’t do that I would write to her in my journal as if we were having a conversation or just talk out loud, anything to still feel close to her. Everyone experiences grief differently, but the best advice I have for anyone who is grieving is to stay connected: with the present moment, with your loved ones, with yourself, with the person who has passed. 

On Saturday I went to the Christmas market in Plaza Mayor with Renee. It was lovely to see all Christmas trinkets being sold and the lights and big tree in the square. Sunday, I went to a German Christmas market that was held at a German church. They had waffles, bratwurst, potato pancakes, wine, soup, cakes, and other delicious German foods. It was so cool and it made me think of my Oma:) It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and it makes me so happy that Ezra and my parents will be here soon to spend Christmas with me.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week! Sending all my love and prayers to Chase and his loved ones.

Love,

Manders

 Grief never ends…

But it changes.

It’s a passage,

Not a place to stay.

Grief is not a sign of weakness,

Nor a lack of faith…

It is the price of love.

-Author unknown

Red Light, Green Light

Hola amigos,

This past week started off with attending my first theater workshop in the city. I was not at all familiar with theater or improv, but I thought it would be a good learning experience since the workshop was geared towards improving your teaching skills through using theater performance techniques. The workshop was extremely helpful for spicing up lesson plans, but I didn’t realize how all-out and demanding theater is. Theater requires you to be wide open, present, adaptable, imaginative, and have constant high energy. I left with a newfound respect for theater and I thought it was a great exercise for getting outside my comfort zone. After the workshop, I had a sleepover with Renee at her place and we ate pizza for dinner and watched a Christmas movie on Netflix. It was a simple night-in, but it felt so cozy and refreshing to be with a good friend and just laugh and chat about life. 

This year was the first time that I spent Thanksgiving without my family, but lucky for me Jordyn and Jules, my good friends from college, came to Madrid to see me for a few days. We had our “Thanksgiving” dinner at an Argentinian restaurant in the city, followed by churros with chocolate dip at San Ginés. The cold weather was definitely a shock for them, but it was divine to spend quality time with them again and wander the streets of Madrid together. We walked everywhere- Mercado de San Miguel, El Palacio Real, Museo del Prado, Retiro park, Malasaña, Sol, Gran via. I think they’re favorite part was the fresh pastries, the gorgeous buildings, and the charming cobblestone roads.

Before they came to visit on Thursday, I was feeling really scattered and overwhelmed with my Global classrooms role. It’s a wonderful project, but it’s a lot of responsibility and requires a lot of time/energy outside the classroom. For some reason I thought of the game Red Light, Green Light which is a children’s game that I used to play when I was little. But this time I was thinking of the game in terms of self-care and seeing the green, yellow, and red lights as indicators of how to manage your energy output and recovery from our responsibilities, such as work, school, etc.

Sometimes I want to be green light all the time and just go, go, go and knock out that To-Do list of mine but that is not healthy and I’ve learned that it’s more beneficial to work smarter, not harder. Working smarter and living a balanced life to me means taking advantage of those in-between moments of work and/or carving out time to hit the RESET button and put gas back in your energy tank. This could be sleeping, exercise, meditation, being with loved ones-whatever activities that make you feel rejuvenated and ready to be green light again. I’ve noticed that when I prioritize slowing down and listen to my needs, I show up for life more fully and I just feel better overall. It is important that we listen to these signals from ourselves so that we can work, live, and play at full capacity. Listening to myself and finding out what works best for me is a life-long journey, but one that I want to continue exploring. 

Have a beautiful week!

Love,

Manders

P.S. Thank you Jordyn and Jules for coming to Madrid! I love you both so much and can’t wait til our next adventure:)