How was Spain?

How was Spain?

It was exciting. At first, every day was an adventure. Setting up my bank account, exploring the aisles of the grocery store, figuring out the local bus system. And then the adventures continued, meeting my coworkers and students, exploring nearby towns and villages. Later on, traveling with friends to further corners of the country, like Valencia, Andalucia, and Santiago de Compostela.

How was Spain?

It was challenging. I moved to a new city, away from my family, friends, and boyfriend and had to do time zone math every time I wanted to talk to them. I taught at a high school where the students went on strike and classroom control was nonexistent. Writing paragraphs seemed to be an extraneous skill for most of the students and my job was to make them write a 3+ paragraph essay. In their second language.

How was Spain?

It was beautiful. I lived 20 minutes walking from the ocean in a pink palace with a spiral staircase. My town had beaches, a royal palace, and sailboats in the bay. In the distance, rolling green hills and snow capped mountains. Weekend jaunts to stunning cathedrals and impressive art museums were a regular occurrence.

How was Spain?

It was terrible. It rained almost everyday of the winter, and my clothes rarely dried. The crazy landlady told us that we were cultivating mold in the house by not ventilating, and every time something leaked, it was always our fault. And the peanut butter was obscenely expensive.

How was Spain?

It was delicious. Seafood paella. Good cheeses and meats. Rioja and Alberiño. Churros con chocolate. Fried eggplant with honey. Fried everything. And for a little balance in life, delicious and abundant produce in the corner market.

How was Spain?

It was disgusting. Olives. Anchovies. Sardines. Dissecting whole fishes bought from the market. One time, I ordered a baked potato and it came topped with tuna fish and big dollop of mayonnaise. Gross. And don’t even get me started on the salads…

How was Spain?

It was different than I expected. Did you know that you really do have to use the vosotros verb form here and that they laugh at you or tell you it’s cute when you speak “Mexican” Spanish? Or that Spain is comprised of 17 different autonomous communities, each one like its own country, and many of them with their own language? Did you know they play very explicit American music in the grocery store because no one understands the lyrics? And while you’re strolling the aisles listening to the unedited version of “Thrift Shop,” you can buy a whole cured leg of ham on sale for 75 euro.

How was Spain?
Beyond anything I could have ever asked for or imagined. It’s so, so hard to say goodbye, but only because it has been so, so good.


2 flights and 2 sleeps til I’m back in my homeland- and oh what a joyful reunion it will be!  But don’t think you’ve heard the last of me- I’ve just spent 9 days traveling with my mom and crazy sisters, so rest-assured there are more stories to come.

Signing off from Spain, with lots of love.



Tess & Nona’s Pilgrimage to Galicia: Another Guest Post

My wonderful friend Nona wrote this perfect description of our Galician adventures last weekend.  Our friendship began when we studied together in Santiago de Chile, so Santiago de Compostela seemed a fitting end to Chapter 2 of our international friendship. Enjoy! 

Guest Post {Lydia Angell}

I’m excited to share the following essay with you, written and read by my very own sister at the 2014 Baccalaureate Ceremony of East Grand Rapids High School.  I couldn’t be more sad to have missed it, or more proud to be able to share her wisdom with you. Her words resonate deeply with me, as I conclude this chapter of my life and begin the next.  Thank you, Lydia, for challenging me to teach my students here to “fish,” and encouraging me to consider to ask questions that matter in whatever I do next.

Whether you are going to college next year, taking a year off, or finding a job, there will be many things to look forward to and many things to miss as we head off into the “real world”. We will all have days when we miss home and we will all have days when we are so happy to be somewhere else. I have full confidence in all of us that we are well prepared for whatever we choose to take on in the coming years. No one can say that East Grand Rapids is a bad place to grow up. Many, myself included, say that they can’t wait to get out of East, but hardly anyone tries to deny the preparedness that graduates from East have to be successful after they graduate.  

I am sure many of you have heard the old adage, if you give a man a fish you will feed him for a day, but teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. I recently came across a new perspective of the story in Shane Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution. He says “as we consider economics, some of us will give people fish. Others will teach people to fish. But still others must be looking at who owns the pond and who polluted it, for these are also essential questions for our survival.”

Two summers ago I had the opportunity to intern at Mel Trotter Ministries, a homeless shelter downtown. I always knew that poverty and homelessness were problems in places like Detroit, Chicago and New York, but when I heard people say that the homeless in Grand Rapids have the opportunity to eat six meals a day, I believed that we didn’t have a poverty problem. The real issue is not that the homeless are not being feed fish, the problem is no one is teaching them how to fish, no one is asking who owns the pond. It was through my personal interactions with the homeless that I learned the importance of reaching out. I realized that our generation are the ones that can teach people to fish.

It’s this kind of forward thinking that I fully expect from many of my peers. I see in them vast potential, potential that can be realized because of the opportunities we are afforded growing up in East. This is my hope for our class, and for myself, that we are not content with passivity and that we all become leaders in our own right. In our class I see future activists and politicians, I see doctors and nurses, lawyers and teachers, amongst a myriad of other careers.  Whether you are staying in Grand Rapids or going to a foreign country next year, I encourage everyone to at least help someone put a worm on their hook. I truly believe that we are all capable of making a small change that could impact someone else’s life in a large way.

– Lydia Angell, East Grand Rapids High School Baccalaureate Speech, May 2014