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Haz el bien, y no mires a quién. -Spanish Proverb


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It’s hard to believe we’re well into June! Now that things have slowed down a bit for me, I’ve had more time to reflect. May was a seriously great month. Hands down, it was one of the very best of my life. It started with great travels with my parents and continued to be full of experiences, fun and unforgettable times with friends.

On May 19 in San Sebastian, I ran my sixth half-marathon (third one on this side of the pond, after doing the half at the Bilbao Night Marathon in 2011 and 2012.) I’ve changed to minimalist-style running over the past year, and although the adjustment really took an entire year, it has finally paid off big time. I beat my half-marathon PR by 8 minutes, meaning I knocked almost an entire minute off each mile. It was a beautiful race in a beautiful place, even when the pouring rain and high winds kicked in during the last mile. Maybe you can find a happy/exhausted American girl crossing the finish line in this video.

The weekend after the race was my birthday weekend and it was…the…BEST. I’ve made so many great friends from a variety of circles in these past couple of years, and many of them were able to join me  to help me celebrate with a Mexican-style potluck in my apartment. I put together this GoPro-recorded account of the night:

My main job here as an English auxiliar for the Basque Government ended at the end of May as well. I’m much more sad about that than relieved or anything else. My job was seriously amazing: my boss and coworkers were super friendly and easy-going, and my students were intelligent, creative, engaged and extremely appreciative. There probably aren’t many teachers in the whole world that can say all of those things about their work. Thank you, EOI de Getxo, for EVERYthing.

one of my classes at the EOI, goofing around like they do best ;-)

one of my classes at the EOI, goofing around like they do best 😉

One fabulous month rolled directly into another, and June is off to a great start. I can’t wait to see what more great things this summer has in store.

I hope you are all doing well in your various corners of the world. Let the summer fun begin! 😀


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Dondequiera que vayas, allí estás.

So…I’ve been in Spain for almost a week now? Whaaaa? It still feels very much like a dream. That’s so cliché, but it really seems that way more than any other time I’ve traveled. I think it’s because my surroundings are so familiar, and I’ve dreamed of them often since I left here last May, so it’s hard to believe that I’m actually physically here again. Add to that sleep deprivation and jet lag and what do you get? Life in La-La Land.

I rather loathe the very journal-esque stlye of this post, but I felt it was best just this once in order to fill ya’ll in on things. I’ve split it up by subject so you can read about whatever interests you.

Livin´la vida vasca:

I spent my first few days here truly living the life of the Bilbao natives as I’ve been staying with my friend Xandra and her mother, both Bilbao natives themselves. We go for coffee at 7, pintxos at 8 and maybe dinner at 9 or 10; all the while visiting with their friends and family in the streets. Never in a hurry. Always enjoying the moment.

I’ve been so lucky to be staying in a home until I find my own place. Xandra and her mother are so helpful and caring. My first day here, Xandra’s mom made me tortilla española immediately upon hearing it’s one of my favorite foods. It was easily the best I’ve ever had. On Sunday, she whipped up some patatas en salsa verde con merluza (a fish commonly served here) which was magnífico.

I spent Saturday buzzing around my old haunts in Getxo and taking in the late-summer sun on the beach. On Sunday, I went to Sopelana with the sole purpose of watching the sunset on one of my favorite beaches in the world. It was completely worth the trip.

The enchanting old part of Getxo

Al atardecer en Sopelana

The new job:

Yesterday morning, I set out to commute to my school for the first time. The school is in a pretty small town right outside Bilbao called Amorebieta. It seems everyone knows where Amorebieta is, but knowing how to get there is another thing. As I’ve said many times, things just don’t tend to be very straight-forward here. There’s a lot of asking random people on the street, backtracking, hurrying and then waiting. I’m lucky though because I’m in contact with the girl who had my job at this school last year, but even with that it’s a bit of a challenge. I walked 20 minutes to where my bus should stop in downtown Bilbao, eventually found it, hopped on and hoped for the best. My directions for finding the school in Amorebieta once I arrive there were this: “stay on the bus until you go through a roundabout with a statue of a giant potato in the middle, then press the stop button. Get off at the next stop, walk straight, turn right and walk up the hill for about 5 minutes, walk across the highway, turn left up another hill and follow the fences all the way around to the front of the school (which is actually the back of the school from the road). Yes, my school is in the boonies. It’s a beautiful area though, really. Pictures to come 🙂

The frightening giant potato statue

Yesterday I just met the teachers I’ll be working with and one class of students. The auxiliaries (my position) are a bit like celebrities to the students, especially in a small town like Amorebieta where I am the only one. They all just stared at me as they passed. Some were saying things like, “Es ella? La americana? Tiene que ser…es rubia!” (Is that her? The American girl? Has to be…she is blonde!) Maybe they thought I couldn’t understand them, but nothing gets past “la rubia” 😉

Today we went to Vitoria, a town south of Bilbao, to the Basque Government headquarters for our official welcoming ceremony. It was less than thrilling, especially since a good portion of the ceremony took place in Euskara, the Basque language that none of us auxiliaries can speak or understand. They redeemed themselves, however, by serving us complimentary pintxos (tapas/small dishes) and wine over the noon hour.

The piso hunt:

The rest of today was spent in the seemingly never-ending search for a good apartment. It’s not that there aren’t apartments available in Bilbao. There are thousands. It’s just difficult to know what you’re getting into when you’re wheelin’ and dealin’ with sometimes manipulative and often cranky landlords that don’t speak a word of English. I’m sure that foreigners get taken advantage of often when it comes to renting apartments in any part of the world, and I was just doing my best to avoid that while also trying to arrange something with people I would get along with and in a place that wouldn’t add much to my already lengthy commute to work. All of these factors added up quickly and caused a lot of stress in these past few days.

Another girl in the program, Hillary, and I have been looking for apartments together since we got here. The hunt for an apartment is a very different thing here than it is in the States, because most people here actually OWN apartments since there are no houses inside the city. Some apartments are still rented though, and they are usually specifically for students and therefore come completely furnished. We scoured Spanish piso-rental websites like EasyPiso.com and Alkila.net for hours and hours. We called and called and called some more, having several awkward, language-barrier-filled conversations with landlords and potential piso-mates. Everything seemed to be a dead end. Discouraged and exhausted, we decided to take the advice of some of the teachers and find an apartment the old-school way: by looking for signs around the city with the little pull-off tabs with phone numbers on them. We took a few and then sat down in a park to make some calls.

The first call was to the only ad that had actually listed the price of the apartment: something we figured was probably a good sign. The landlord answered and was quite friendly. She asked what I was doing in Bilbao, and when I told her I was working for the Basque Government teaching English in Amorebieta, she said “No me digas (no way)….a girl who lived in this apartment last year was doing the same thing!” So, yes. Out of the thousands of apartments in Bilbao, I am ending up in the same one that Stephanie, the girl who had my job in Amorebieta last year, lived in. I immediately called Stephanie to ask more details about the place, and she couldn’t believe the coincidence. Hillary and I went to see the place, and it is huge and just fabulous. And since we had Stephanie’s word that both the apartment and landlord are totally legit, we couldn’t say no. It’s a 3-bedroom, and she offered us a discounted price while we are looking for a third roommate. But when we returned to Hillary’s hotel tonight she had a message from another girl in our program who is looking for a place to live. We called her, and voila, we had our 3rd compañera. We’re all the exact same age AND all grew up in small towns in the Midwest/Central US (ND, CO, MN to be exact). All of those coincidences just make the world seem so small!

The apartment we are moving into tomorrow is in Santutxu, a nice neighborhood in the Bilbao center, right by Casco Viejo, the beautiful old quarter of the city. We’re all so excited to finally get settled into our own place.

Thanks for reading!

Hasta luego, ¡Agur!


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A gym rat in Europe

The gym. Perhaps the number one thing those who know me associate me with. I’m sometimes even called a “gym rat,” which isn’t exactly the most charming nickname, but I do prefer it to “bimbo.” It’s true, I love the gym. I’m a fitness instructor, and even the fact that the gym is my workplace hasn’t ruined it for me. When I pictured my semester in Europe, I thought for sure I’d be sweatin’ it at a gym at least a few times a week, and maybe even guest-instructing some Pilates class or something like that (ha.)

Wrong. The gym situation in Europe is astoundingly different than in the US. I personally don’t know of one college student here, local or foreign, who hits up a gym on a regular basis. That’s a big change from the 60-70% of my friends at home that do. There is a mediocre gym at our university that we can get a membership for, but I fear that riding 30 minutes on the bus home soaked in sweat would cause me to get even more stares of disapproval than I’m willing to cope with. There are a handful of gyms near my apartment, but the membership prices are outrageous, and they appear to me to be strictly for serious athletes. I think if I entered one, I would feel completely out of place in a gym for the first time in my life.

So what does a gym rat do without a gym? Well, for the first month or so that I was here, I was so exhausted by the amount of walking, getting lost, and dealing with my life being in a different language that going to a gym was almost out of the question. As I’ve settled into my life here, I’ve incorporated workouts into 3-4 days of my week. I run very regularly–Getxo is a very active-lifestyle-friendly place with plenty of running/cycling paths. I also do some small workouts in my room at home–lots of abs of course, and a little “muscle pump-esque” type stuff, which makes me feel super cool while alone in my room…

The Getxo lighthouse, along the path I take on most of my runs

As I’ve said before, the lifestyle here is simply WAY more active so regular sweat sessions at a gym just become less necessary. Several 20-30 minute walks per day have become a normal part of my lifestyle. In summary, walking everywhere and a few small workouts per week have just allowed me  to “break even” with the amount of dark chocolate, gummy candy and red wine I consume.

I miss hard workouts, and I miss teaching classes even more. I just have to keep reminding myself that my time here is short, and I should embrace the lifestyle here while I can. I will be back to being “Abs Megan” in no time.

As I write to you, I am finishing up the last of my packing for my two-week sabbatical around Europe. I’m kicking it off in Paris, then hitting up Dusseldorf, Cologne, Amsterdam, London, and finishing the break with a ladies’ weekend in Barcelona. Hopefully I don’t forget all the Spanish I’ve learned!

Until next time….Au revoir! Auf Wiederschauen! Tot ziens! Goodbye! Adios!


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Let’s go for a walk

Greetings from my newly relocated position in Getxo! …..Relocated? What’s that all about? Well, for a variety of reasons, my living situation in Algorta was much less than ideal. I was dealing with it alright, but when I learned of a 5-bedroom flat with only 3 USACers (members of my program, USAC) in it, I had to see if a move would be feasible. I asked the housing coordinator, and found out that a move would be much smoother than I anticipated. And BOOM! Two days later I was all settled into my new home in Las Arenas, a section of the city that is about 40 minutes walking distance away from my original apartment in Algorta. I am further from the picturesque beaches of Algorta (but still only a 10-minute metro ride.) The upsides of the move, however, are many. Las Arenas is where most of the “action” is. It is where must of us students come to hang out, get coffee, drinks, etc. It is also much easier to navigate as it is at the base of the mountains, thus very flat, and it is set up in more of a grid-format like I am used to from home. My bus stop is now an easy 2-minute walk around the corner; a stark contrast from my 15-minute uphill trek to the bus in Algorta. I am a block away from one of the most famous and historical sites in Getxo, Puente Colgante, a transporter bride that links Getxo with the town across the river, Portugalete. The move was a bit of a hassle, and having to relearn bus schedules and stops, market locations, etc. took a few days, but all in all, vale la pena (it was worth it.)

a new home

After moving, I was struck down with what has been dubbed “The USAC Plague” (since almost all 30 students have been sick) in the form of strep throat, an ear infection and pink eye. I was in an out of a seemingly comatose state for two days. I received some antibiotics after a visit to the doctor, and when I awoke yesterday and the sun was shining, I felt like a new person. Cheesy, but true. So after school, I went for a long walk from my new apartment all the way to the main marina/port, which is basically in Algorta. It was a fantastic walk, so I thought I’d bring you along:

You will also find a new album called Paseo por Las Arenas in my Picasa web albums with the photos from this video as well as some additional photos (I will be adding pics of the inside of the new apt here soon.) I have also added a few new random pics to the album Various Pics that you might enjoy.

This weekend, a few of our friends from San Sebastian (we met them on the Madrid tour) are coming to Getxo. We’re going to be busy showing them a good time. Sunday is supposed to be beautiful, so the tentative plans are to sunbathe in the afternoon, go out for dinner for Bri’s birthday in the evening, and watch the Superbowl in the wee hours of the morning (it starts at midnight for us!). I better start catching up on sleep now!

In the upcoming days look for a post about the Basque Country: the controversy and culture of the region in which I live.

¡Disfruta del fin de semana! (Enjoy the weekend!)


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Does this look familiar?

A photo I took today of Playa Arrigunaga

When I learned that I’d be living in Getxo, I did a google image search of Getxo and a photo of a skatepark overlooking a beautiful beach came up several times. I thought it was a great picture, so I made it the background on my desktop as well as on my blog as you can see up at the top of my homepage. I had no idea that this very beach would be the closest one to my apartment. The other day I was walking with some other students in the group, and we came upon this fantastic beach. I think I’ll lay on it every day. More pictures here.


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Holy Toledo! Welcome to the Basque Country!

**Be sure to check out my Youtube channel for 8 new videos as well as my Picasa albums for many, many newly uploaded pictures!**

Where to begin. The last several days have been so packed with activity that I just can’t cover it all! I left off writing to you from my hotel in Madrid. We traveled on Saturday to the monumentally historical city of Toledo. Toledo was built on a hill…you could even say a mountain, maybe. From the gates and walls to the city to the river surrounding it, it seems like something right out of a fairy tale. The highlight of the trip for me was definitely the famous cathedral of Toledo: Catedral de Santa María. Here is a video of the outside, as we were unable to use cameras inside the cathedral…

If I could sum up Toledo in one word, it would be: magical. To visit Toledo is to step into a time machine. Everywhere you look is an important part of Spain’s history. The way that things there have been preserved since even before the Middle Ages is phenomenal. Check out my travel buddy Ryan’s blog for some info about our trip to Toledo.

The remainder of our time in Madrid was just too short, although for how sleep-deprived all of us were, a change of pace needed. Ryan, Sarah and I walked for hours before sunset and explored a the beautiful park at La Plaza de la Independencia:

clicking my heels together in the park

We spent our last day and night in Madrid exploring the city as much as we could. We topped the night off with sangria at El Secreto,  a wonderful place we found tucked away on a side street in downtown Madrid.

A few of us at El Secreto

On Sunday morning we made the scenic journey from Madrid to Bilbao. There is an unusual amount of snow in Spain right now, so parts of the trip were a bit like travelling in North Dakota. But that didn’t last long. As we entered the Basque Country, the landscape changed, the snow disappeared, and like an illusion, quaint castles and cathedrals began to pop up seemingly out of nowhere along the countryside. Seeing this breathtaking countryside outside of Bilbao was the spark that began my new love for my new home. We were able to see Bilbao from the highway as we came in, and Ibon, our program director, served as our tour guide for our first glimpse of the city. As we entered Getxo, all of us were taken back by the beauty. I don’t think any of us expected it to be so inviting and so astoundingly gorgeous. I couldn’t be happier with my location in Spain.

Perhaps I should explain this Bilbao vs. Getxo business. Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque Country and has 400,000 inhabitants. When including all of the surrounding communities, the population of Bilbao is one million. Getxo is a seaside community (pop. 80,000) that is directly connected to Bilbao. Bilbao has many industries and large stores, while Getxo is purely residential, with small shops, restaurants and bars scattered throughout. My neighborhood is called Algorta, and it is the most mountainous area of Getxo so all of the streets are quite steep. At the bottom of the Algorta neighborhood is the finest beach in Getxo. Not too shabby. I attend school at two different campuses: one which is in an area between Getxo and Bilbao, and one which in the very centrally located in Bilbao. See if you can find Bilbao, Getxo and Algorta on this map.

There is so much more to be said about my time so far in Getxo, my orientations at school, and all the adventures in between, but that will have to wait. I will take some time to get more pictures of where I live as all I have so far are the ones I took from the bus. The video below was taken as we first laid eyes on Getxo from the bus:

¡Hasta la próxima!