Toledo, Spain

For a little weekend excursion, we took the metro to the main train station where the high speed trains leave (Atocha Renfe). We arrived in Toledo at 9:30am. It was only a 30 minute ride by high speed train from Madrid. We tried to get money from the ATM at the train station because we were running low on EURO but it spit out a slip saying it couldn’t connect with our bank. Thankfully we had just enough EURO to pay for the cab ride to our hotel which was across the river from the Old City of Toledo.

The staff at the hotel did not speak much English but we managed, thankfully they had a room ready for us even that early in the morning! Not sure if we just got lucky or upgraded due to our Marriott “gold” status but we got an amazing room that had a huge balcony and views of the town. We put away our things and headed out to town. The front desk told us it was a 20 min walk to the city centre or the bus comes every hour. Since at this point it was 10:10 we decided just to head into town on foot. We cross the Puente de San Martin and stopped on the other side to check out our Madrid guidebook for the Toledo recommendations.

The top recommended site was the Cathedral de Toledo (Sacristia de la Catedral). We stopped at a bakery Benipan for a loaf of freshly baked bread. When we got to the cathedral, they didn’t take tarjetas (cards) so we had to find an ATM. This was an adventure that would have been simplified if we new more Spanish. Turns out there was an ATM super close to where we were but we ended up finding another one not terribly far away. We headed back to the Cathedral and spent a few hours with the audio tour taking in the sight.

It wasn’t quite lunch time by Spanish standards (they normally eat lunch around 1:30 or 2 pm). So we headed to see the Alcazar Museo, it is a is a stone fortification located in the highest part of  the city. It was used as a Roman palace in the 3rd century, it was restored in the 1540s. Now it has been turned the inside into a military museo so we were’t too sure we would know what we were looking at so we enjoyed the architecture from outside. We walked around a bit in the highest point of the city and then decided we needed some lunch!

We ate lunch outside at a resturant called D Diego Meson. Across Spain they have menu del dia (menu of the day) where you can get two courses, a drink, and dessert for 10 or 11 EUR. This was the case here as well. It was Dustin’s first experience with this since he got take out (para lavar) each day so it was quicker with his work group. Dustin had Paella for his first dish and Carcamusas for his main course which is a Toledo speciality. I had the Ensalada Mixta and Pollo asado. All dishes were very yummy, seemed more flavorful than the dishes in many of the places in Madrid. While the food has been very good, I’m am desparately longing for some steamed veggies or even just some green beans, ha! The sides here are mostly potato or rice based. Or peppers/tomatoes/eggplant but not very many greens at all.

After lunch we roamed the city a little bit, it started to get more crowded as tour buses from Madrid rolled in. We did some shopping on a Calle de Comercio and found the Calle de Toledo Ohio street! Toledo is famous for swords and gold/silver jewelry. Swords were everywhere, not sure how all of these folks are getting them home with TSA and customs, ha! We stopped in a store that has a craftsman making the jewelry. It was cool to see how much of an intricate process it is to appreciate all the jewelry we saw everywhere! Another thing Toledo is famous for is Marzipan. This is a confection of mainly sugar or honey and almond meal or almond extract. There is some controversy where it may have orginiated some history links it back to Persia but it previously was known as Postre Regio around 150 during the reign of Alfonzo VII. Almonds have to be at least 50% of the total weight and today under EU law marzipan must have a minimium of 14% almond oil. We sampled a few marzipan cookies in one store and it is yummy!

We headed towards El Greco’s museum but again we aren’t artists so without a tour telling us what we were looking at we weren’t sure it would be worth the money, later we found it out it was free after 2pm…should have gone in!  But instead we watched a tennis match for a minute, it was some form of tennis that was a cross between tennis and racquetball because they could play the ball off the wall. We went back to the bakery to get a loaf of bread for breakfast for the next day but it was closed so we added an an extra half mile to the day’s count! We took the escalator down from old town and walked around for a few minutes and then got a cab back to our hotel.

We relaxed for a few hours on our porch, chatted with Kenley and I took a bath! I got some bath salts in a store nearby and I think this helped me so much not be as sore from all the climbing on those streets the next day!

We probably could have gone out to sleep without dinner but we saw there was a restaurant within few minutes walk of us that had high marks on Trip Advisor called Restaurante Hiebabuena. Our server was such a sweet girl that knew about as much english as we knew spanish so that was fun, but it was cute especially at the end were we couldn’t figure out she was asking to see Dustin’s ID for the credit card, we had a good laugh! She was teaching us new words too. I didn’t do a great job here about telling them I was dairy/egg free so I probably had both in the course of this meal and didn’t feel so well in the morning, but oh well it was delicious. I’ll get back on track in a few days!

It was funny that the menu translated parts of the dish and not the whole name. For example Risotto de seats “deconstruido” was listed as mushroom risotto underneath in the english. Sounded good but then when it came out it was like mashed potatoes, gravy, and puffed rice on top. It was amazing but totally not what we expected ha..now we get the “deconstruido” part! We also had Crepes de puerros y gambas (crepes with leeks and prawns), Rollitos de carpaccio de presa rellenos de aceitunas negras, tomatoes secos, albahaca y parmesan con vinegreta de fresas (super yummy salmon type meat stuffed with black olives sun dried tomomatoes, parmesan, basil, and strawberry vinaigrette). Dustin choose the Brownie de Marzipan since we were in the town were Marzipan is famous! It was not at all a chocolate brownie, I had a few bites since I already busted my current diet restrictions. It’s been really hard to avoid some of the things I need to avoid right now to heal my gut!

We headed back to our hotel and caught a glimpse of the old city all lite up! Toledo was a fun place and a great place to go for the day. Highly recommend a day trip or an overnight stay here if you are going to Madrid!

Madrid Part 2

Wednesday morning started with a seminar on cultural differences, the goal was to better understand some of the ways in which cultures differ or are similar, and consider how to introduce frameworks that can help students understand, recognize, and appreciate differences. We discussed cultural value patterns such as individualism and collectivism, high-context vs. low context cultures, how cultures or individuals view time (poly vs. monochromatic), and power distance. I learned that I am a very low context person and tend to tell people how it is quickly! :)

After the morning session we got on a bus to head to Chinchón, a pueblo outside of Madrid. The purpose was to experience another way of life in Spain and to observe the cultural patterns discussed in the morning session in action. This was by far my favorite excursion of the program. I love small european villages, it’s such a slower pace of life and I love all the history and architecture that is present. We had lunch here together, then walked around the small pueblo and interacted with the people. At the monastery, there was a small bakery where they sold cookies to help with funds that were made with local products.

After we visited there, we walked around to observe the town. I talked to the pharmacist at the Farmacia, he spoke pretty good English and was able to tell me about the process of becoming a pharmacist in Spain, how much he made as a pharmacist, how the process of dispensing went in their stores. I learned the government regulates how many pharmacies can be open which is based on population in the geographical area, so you won’t find them across the street on the same corner anywhere. I also learned that you can’t even buy Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) without going to the pharmacy. Currently there is a law potentially being changed to allow purchases like those in other stores, but the profession is fighting it.

I was spending most of the day in Chinchón with a small group of ladies, we had been told by a few others to check out a bakery in the main square.  So Gina, Sarah, and I went into this bakery. We found a women there eager to have us try her sample cookies and show us her products. I got a few honey pastries to bring back to Dustin and Sarah bought a cookie.  We probably spent 1.50 EUR, if that. You could get a loaf of bread decorated for almost any occasion. (see picture below). We were heading out and the woman handed Gina a half eaten bag of pistachios and told her to have us sit outside. Gina is a Spanish professor so she was our communicator! We sat outside in 4 plastic chairs with this women as she told us about her life. It seemed that the bakery was handed down to her from her father, her brother left the village and become a translator, and this women seemed to feel like she was stuck in this place.

She told us we were smart for exploring the world. She told us a few other crazy stories and asked us to stay while she helped a few customers and then came back to chat. We did need to leave because our bus was headed back to Madrid, but before we left she went back in to get some cookies for us and bagged up some bread. She was a sweet older women who seemed lonely and stuck. This was one of those moments where I wish I could communicate with her in her language to share the gospel and love of Jesus. There were multiple other times that week where I felt the same way. I’m working on my Spanish but life keeps moving faster than ever!

Dinner was on our own when we got back to Madrid which was about an hour’s bus ride away. Dustin and I had dinner at a restaurant called Vi Cool which was a new contemporary take on Spanish Tapas. They also had some fun pizzas and I was able to get an all goat cheese one. The Tapas dishes looked good that were coming to the other tables, but it was a little bit pricey.

On Thursday we headed to the Las Ventas, (Madrid’s bull ring). The purpose of this was to gain a deeper understanding of this iconic aspect of Spanish culture and to consider how controversial topics can be an opportunity to practice cultural bridging techniques. This was quite the experience because we got there and the tour told us they couldn’t do it for another hour, so we split up to grab some coffee/tea and then came back to the ring. During this time it started to rain fairly hard and we got a little wet, ok more than a little wet! The bull ring staff finally opened up a gate so we could stand under a roof in an alcove, and while were in there, it started  to hail with the pouring rain. The Spainairds thought this was crazy and kept saying how it never happens! Must be my luck, the only time I’ve traveled to San Diego where it is supposed to be 70’s and sunny all the time it hailed too!

Once we got all the group back together (some were still hiding out in the cafeteria across the street), we got the tour of the bull ring, then we had lunch, and our afternoon/evening workshops focused on cultural bridging practices, where we learned and practiced processes for bridging between ourselves and others who are culturally different. We discussed the skills involved in cultural bridging, the personal leadership model, and spheres of intercultural competence.

Dinner was on our own. Dustin and I grabbed a few bites of food from a Tapas place at the Mercado de San Antón. The market had some grocery places at the bottom but not like a typical open aired market. Apparently the markets were causing a stench in the city especially when it was hot from the meat that was being sold. So they turned many of them into more touristy/restaurant style places. The second floor was all tapas restaurants & bars that each had a stand. And the third floor was a full sit down restaurant with a roof top lounge. Lots of tapas dishes included dairy and eggs, I desperately wanted cooked veggies that weren’t peppers/onions but we ended up with chicken wings!

Friday was the last day of the seminar and the focus was Re-Entry and Creating an Action Plan for students. We learned about factors that impact re-entry and how to support students through that process. We spent a lot of time on Friday morning reflecting on our own seminar experience and developing an action plan for how will we incorporate concepts into our project we are implementing at home. I enjoyed lunch with some of the amazing ladies I got to know during the week at Dionisos a Greek Tapas restaurant, and I must say it was one of my favorite places to eat that week! I can’t wait to get to Greece someday! The afternoon was free to explore a bit so Dustin and I walked around and ended up at the Mercado de San Miguel for some fresh squeezed juice! To finish off the seminar on Friday I got to attend dinner and a Flamenco show. This is a form of Spanish folk music and dance from the region of Andalusia in southern Spain.

 

 

Madrid Part 1

I had an amazing opportunity to head to Madrid, Spain to attend a CIEE for an International Faculty Development Seminar (IFDS). I attended the seminar because I am leading an initiative to develop study abroad courses for our pharmacy school and hope to teach two electives in Valencia, Spain next summer. The seminar was entitled Learning while Leading: Supporting Intercultural Development through Study Away. Dustin tagged along to keep me company while traveling (thanks to Delta miles!) and he ended up working with a colleague in Madrid the whole week while I participated in the seminar.

We arrived in Madrid around 10am (Spain time, 4 am EST) on Sunday after an overnight flight which neither of us got much sleep. It took about an hour to get out of the airport and through immigration/customs. I’ve done two overnight flights before but this one made me way more exhausted than ever. It might have had something to do with the teenager next to me that kept getting up about every 30 mins and chatting very loud when she was in her seat during the flight. We decided we couldn’t really function without taking a nap, so we took about an hour nap and then went out to the flea market called El Rastro; this market is opened every Sunday in an area of town called La Latina. I bought some Spanish shoes called espadrilles and we got a small bite to eat.

After the market I got ready to attend the Orientation/Welcome Dinner and Dustin worked from the room and headed out for Thai take out at a place called Lemon Grass.

 

On Monday the conference session in the morning focused on setting the stage for intercultural learning. We discussed the literature on study abroad programs and they highlighted more recently literature supporting the importance of facilitation of intercultural activities in addition to the immersion experience. I really liked this quote they shared, it sums it our discussion very nicely,

People don’t learn from experience; they learn through reflecting on experience. –Thiagi.

We also discussed the core intercultural competencies, developing intercultural learning objectives, and figuring out the faculty/facilitator role in intercultural learning for our students. We then created vision statements for what we want to be as intercultural learners and facilitators.

After the morning session, we split into two groups for lunch. Spaniards like many Western European cultures have a large lunch in the middle of the day and even many stores (especially small businesses) shut down for “siesta time.” Many go home have lunch with their families, take a nap, then return to their stores around 4:30 or 5 pm and stay open into the evening. In the afternoon one of our seminar leaders led us on a walking tour of Madrid to less touristy neighborhoods, the goal was to become familiar with our immediate surroundings and to consider the role of diversity in study abroad and recognize the cultural differences even within the “host” culture. We did see a few touristy sights along our way, but then spent some time reflecting in a neighborhood that is home to a large immigrant population.

Dinner was on our own, Dustin and I walked to grab something quick for dinner since we were exhausted and ended up with some quiona salad and ice cream (dairy free sorbet for me).

On Tuesday the morning seminar was on self-awareness and how we make meaning. We practiced framing and frame shifting. We also learned a technique called Describe, Interpret, Evaluate to use when evaluating new situations and to use with our students. We had lunch on our own so I went with a group of people from the seminar to the same Thai Restaurant Lemon Grass that Dustin tried on Sunday.

In the afternoon, our seminar group headed to Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, a local university where we talked to Spanish higher education administrators to learn more about higher education in Spain and to consider the relationship between education and culture, how this affects the student experience abroad, and how we as educators can help students learn from and through these differences.

We went to dinner as a group and had some Spanish tapas, there wasn’t much protein for me since I can’t eat eggs right now, so I went again for Tapas with Dustin afterward at Cantinia La Traviesa. We had patatas bravas (potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce), Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Prawns), and croquettes. The restaurant was very good, some of the best traditional Tapas I had there.  But after three days, I was pretty much over the quantity of potatoes in this culture, ha! I was craving some green veggies!

Belize

We haven’t posted many travel posts recently because it’s been a little hard to get away with baby K in the last year. (Not sure when I have to stop calling her baby!) But thankfully Grandma was willing to watch her while I enjoyed a few days in the sunshine! Dustin’s team at work meets somewhere to work on projects and this time they were meeting in Belize specifically on the island of San Pedro. Since I normally try to make it to the beach a few times a year, I jumped at the chance to join him for part of the week. Right now I really needed some sunshine and relaxation.

Belize is just South of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The people here even travel to Sam’s Club in Mexico for groceries/supplies sometimes (seems crazy they have Sam’s Club in Mexico!). Belize hasn’t quite hit their tourism potential but the island of San Pedro does have quite a few tourists. Once I landed in Belize City, I then had to take a small 12 passenger plane over to the island. This was very low key, my boarding pass was a hand written slip of paper. The flight took about fifteen minutes. Once on San Pedro, I took a short taxi to the Coastal Xpress which was a water taxi. I could have walked there, but it was easier to just be dropped off since I wasn’t with a group and didn’t quite know where I was heading. Thankfully I was able to get an early flight to the island which put me at the water taxi only 10 minutes before it left. It took about thirty minutes to get to the resort with the other taxi stops. But once I was there it dropped me off right on the dock and Dustin was there to welcome me. The place they rented was a small resort that had 12 rooms. They catered to groups from companies like this or people taking a yoga retreat or something similar. It had a central kitchen/dining building, two other buildings with rooms, and a pool in the center. It was right on the water, but there was a lot of seagrass which made swimming a bit difficult right there. But you could hear the waves and the breeze of the ocean was on us at all times!

The rest of the day on Wednesday I enjoyed the sunshine and the pool while the team worked until dinner. On Thursday was their “fun” day on their meet-up. So I was able to join them on their snorkeling trip. We left in the morning after breakfast, boarded a boat that took us back to the main part of San Pedro. There we got on Lady Leslie the snorkeling tour company. This was a very nice sail boat. The staff was very courteous and took care of everything during the day. I would highly recommend them to anyone traveling to this area. We first headed to an area of the reef called “ Hol Chan.“ In this area we all got out and swam around the reef for about thirty minutes. We saw all kinds of fish, sea turtles, beautiful coral and a few sharks! The next stop was “shark alley.” I thought our captain was kidding when he said we would be shark bait, but he wasn’t. The boat crew fed the sharks fish while the group got in the water to snorkel with them. I thought to myself, “I need my hands and feet to take care of the little babe I left at home..so I think the view from the boat is just fine.” These were nurse sharks, which are a little different than other types but still dangerous in my mind! Their mouths look like catfish but they still bite then twist whatever they are eating.

After the sharks, the boat took us to another island called Caye Caulker where we walked through the town and had lunch. The lunch was amazing, we had lots of veggies, fish, chicken, and shrimp. It was all cooked in traditional Belize style. We still had a little bit of time, we found a restaurant right called the Lazy Lizard on the water that had some shade and tables actually in the water, so we were able to get in and cool off for a bit before heading back to the boat. The restaurant was at the edge of the inhabited part of the island, the other half of Caye Caulker is across the water way, it used to all be connected but was separated by a hurricane.  It was a 2 hour sailboat right back to San Pedro and then another fifteen minutes to our dock. We enjoyed the pool back at the resort and dinner in the evening. Friday and Saturday I enjoyed the resort while the team worked. They worked a little less on Saturday to finish off the trip. Dustin and some of the team did some kayaking on Saturday.  Saturday night we had dinner outside enjoying the ocean breeze before we headed back to the states on Sunday.

Overall Belize was beautiful and it was great too see. It’s not very commericalized at all, so if you are looking for a remote place to dive or snorkel, it’s a great place! If your looking for a big resort with all the ammentities and lots of beach..probably should head north to Mexico! :)   It was a short trip for me, but I was able to get a little tan (no sunburn for me!) and some relaxation. Until next time…

First Birthday Fun

 

Hi Everyone!  It’s crazy how fast this year as gone. Last week we celebrated K’s first birthday. We got her first birthday pictures the day before her party which is always fun!

We had both our families and some local friends over for her party.  She had fun opening the presents, she liked the bags the best!  She loves walking around with a small gift bag and putting things in it. She’s running all over the place and learning new things every day.  We are so thankful for the past year and looking forward to what God has in store for the next one!

Dustin & Melody

Christmas Recap

Since I took this week off, I actually have time to share some pictures with you of our Christmas celebrations! We spent the last week with both of our families and of course Baby K got lots of presents! We got to spend a few days in Dustin’s hometown, where we spent an evening with his Dad’s side of the family, an evening with his Great Aunt Linda, and we had our Hartzler Christmas on the 23rd. We also got to see Dustin’s cousin Nick and his family. Grandma Hartzler and Aunt Ashley dressed her up in this cute lamb pjs to open presents! Grandpa Hartzler raises lambs on their farm down the road from their home.

She had a blast and started to figure out the whole present opening thing! We even got a picture of the big kids. :)

On Christmas Eve we headed back south, with a quick stop in Columbus for groceries since we were hosting Christmas Day Dinner. Luckily the Dublin Trader Joe’s wasn’t as crazy as I expected on Christmas Eve! I got almost everything on my list, and we made it back to our house to have an hour of playtime before hitting the road again. We spent the evening with a stop at Great Grandma’s house in Harrison and dinner at Jaclyn’s in-laws with my family including my Aunts.

 

K did great after spending 5 hours in the car that day we were able to entertain her with one of her new toys on the way home! Christmas Day was fun, we had my family here most of the day, it was great to have quality time all under one roof.  Of course there was time to open presents here too. :)

Before everyone left we got some family photos.I would say this Christmas has been one of the best ones yet, quality family time with a super cute little princess. She’s growing up so fast! Hope you and your family had a Joyous celebration of Christ’s birth!

” Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room”

Christmas Letter 2014

Hello Family and Friends, we can’t believe it’s time to write our annual Christmas letter again. This year has flown by! To start the year Dustin spent a few weeks on the road traveling to Las Vegas and San Francisco for his new job at Automattic. He was able to spend some time at the Automattic Headquarters AKA “Hawthorne” and meet some of his new co-workers. February we spent preparing and anticipating Baby K’s arrival! In March we were blessed to meet our daughter after a few weeks of additional waiting. March 12th to May is pretty much a blur of sleepless nights, although Dustin did manage to take a work trip to Barbados while I was home with a colicky 5 week old. He won’t be able to live that down!

In June, we welcomed a brother into our family, as Jaclyn tied the knot with Sean! Our summer was pretty low key, Melody started back to work late May and it was a nice transition because the semester was over, so she was able to focus on her practice site and preparing for the fall.  Dustin traveled to Wisconsin for work, he probably could have gone somewhere more exotic, but the group decided to join up with the Milwaukee WordCamp Conference. This also helped the wife jealously factor!

In August we had to travel on the same weekend, so thankfully Grandma and Grandpa Hartzler were available to take care of Baby K! Melody made a whirlwind trip to Chicago for a training session, leaving Dayton at 7am Saturday and returning Sunday afternoon. Dustin headed to Dallas, TX to speak at the Podcast Movement.

By September, classes were in full swing at Cedarville, Melody coordinated two courses and kept busy with her clinical practice this fall. Dustin got to attend his first Automattic Annual Grand Meet-up. This year it was held in Park City, Utah. He had a blast getting to meet everyone that he works with online. As soon as he returned we headed to Florida to take Kenley to the beach for the first time! If you missed that post, here it is!

In October we added another brother to the family. Ashley and Brian tied the knot as well. It was fun to get to introduce Kenley to lots of family and friends with two weddings this year! Before we knew it Thanksgiving was upon us and then Dustin headed off the first week in December to Austin, TX for a team meet-up.

As we look back on the year, we can’t believe we have a 9 month old already! She is crawling all over the place, pulling up, saying Da-Da and the occasional sound that seems like Ma-Ma. The Da-Da is when she’s happy and the Ma-Ma is only when she’s upset, ha! We are so thankful for her, it’s amazing to see the world through her curious beautiful blue eyes. As we reflect on our Savior at Christmas, it amazes us that an All Powerful God took the form of a helpless child to come into this world to save us. The gift of God’s Son as a sacrifice for our sins has become even more real as we hold our precious child.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” ~Philippians 2:5-7~