The Tale of Chompers the Car

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This is going to stray from my usual topics of travel and food, but I just can’t resist sharing this with you!

I’ve never been one to name inanimate objects. I leave that to my sister. For as long as I can remember, every car, cell phone, and iPod of hers has had a name. Heck, even my electronics have had names – despite my disdain. One particular object, my car, was given the name “Chompers”. The name Chompers was a combined effort of my sister and my friends, and was inspired by the license plate frame I USED to have on my car. To make a long story short, my dad was really into collecting shark teeth for a while and bought a license plate frame depicting the jaws of a shark. My friends told me I should name the car “Jaws”, and my sister suggested Chompers (or maybe it was the other way around?). Chompers seemed a little less sinister than Jaws, hence, my car became known as Chompers (ugh – why?). I’ve never quite understood why one feels the need to name objects, especially electronics, but I’ve certainly gained some insight as of late.

It all started with me staying the night at a friend’s apartment this past week. My close friends and I have a rotating weekly get together. Since I live in a rural area, I sometimes stay the night depending on where we meet. This week was a bit of a drive for me, so I decided to sleepover at my friend’s place. I also didn’t have work the next day, so I’d scheduled a doctor’s appointment on my day off. Staying at my friend’s house was the ideal situation. I would be able to spend time with my friends, and arrive at the doctor’s office with time to spare. Or so I thought.

The next morning I woke up to go to the doctor’s office. I packed my things, ate breakfast with my friends, said my goodbyes, and walked outside to my car. Despite the limited parking, I’d found a spot close to the apartment complex the night before. As I walked to the street and began the well known ritual of scrambling to find my key chain to unlock my car door, I realized I didn’t see my car. Wait. what? My car was GONE.

As you can imagine, a slew of four letter expletives ran through my mind, yet I still felt oddly numb. This couldn’t be happening. Sure enough there was a sign a few feet from me stating, “No Parking Monday-Friday 7 AM to 4 PM”. At that moment, I suddenly realized that every one of my previous visits had been on weekends, thus parking at this spot was never an issue. After calling to cancel my doctor’s appointment, my friend and I reconvened to plan our course of action. Evidently, the street I parked on was used for loading and unloading for students at a foreign language school up the street. (A foreign language school?! C’mon! Betrayed by my own flesh and blood.) After speaking with personnel at the school, I was given a number to call, and eventually found out that my car had, in fact, been towed.

Towed?

TOWED?!

Gosh, if there was ever a time to wish for a parking ticket this was it. Heck maybe even a speeding ticket. At least I’d still have the car.

After getting the address of the tow lot, my friend selflessly drove me the 20 minutes to retrieve my car (of course the lot was 20 minutes away). Upon arrival we saw a sign reading “Vehicle Impound Facility”. It sunk in even more. My car had been impounded. I don’t know why the word “impounded” carries such gravitas, but it seems to strike a nerve more than “confiscate”, “seize”, or “expropriate” ever could. Ugh. My car had been impounded, and now I was dealing with the consequences.

As we continued to the facility, I couldn’t help feeling a bit nostalgic for my car. Weird, right? It’s a machine. Yet as I continued through the lot, I saw all of the other cars that had been impounded. Some were missing windows, some were missing tires, some had been completely totaled from accidents, and my poor car was here among them. I couldn’t help but feel like I was part of some bizarre Disney storyline in which I was visiting a car graveyard. My poor car. Taken by strangers in the morning, to a strange place, and all because of my carelessness. Poor Chompers.

There was a lot of administrative work that needed to be done before I could have Chompers back, but after obtaining a notarized letter and paying a steep fine, my car was finally returned. Although the day was incredibly stressful, I learned some valuable lessons. One, I have amazing friends. Driving me to the impound lot was but one step in time-consuming process to regain my car, and my friend stayed with me until the end. Two, and this is just something I feel the need to share,  it’s important to act with kindness and respect in the midst of confusion and chaos. Even though I was only there for a fraction of a day, I witnessed how difficult it can be to be the customer service at an impound lot – dealing with frustrated and emotional people. I can’t imagine doing that every day, and I now have a high level of respect for these individuals.

In the end, I still don’t care for the idea of naming electronics, but perhaps Chompers will be the one exception.

What about you? Have you ever had an experience similar to this? How did you deal with it?

“Many people pray to be kept out of unexpected problems. Some people pray to be able to confront and overcome them.” – Toba Beta

Sunset on the Prairie

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I often identify with the saying, “I’ve left my heart in so many places.” The more I travel, the more I realized this to be true. I especially feel this sense of nostalgia every time I visit Manhattan, KS. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting friends and driving around my old college town this past weekend. I also took some time to visit one of my favorite Manhattan spots: the Konza Prairie.

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There’s just something about it, isn’t there? Something that fills me with peace about how far I’ve come, but also reminds me of the continuing journey ahead. Press on.

“It’s from which you get your strength. The red earth of Tara.” – Gone with the Wind

Photos by Megan Coffroth

Cuenca

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My time in Spain as a CIEE Language and Culture Teaching Assistant was spent in the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha, particularly the province of Cuenca. I lived in a small town about one hour from the capital of the province, which is, coincidentally, also named Cuenca. Many of my students often talked about taking weekend trips to Cuenca for shopping, family visits, etc., so I knew it was somewhere I would enjoy. One Sunday during October, my host family took me to visit this charming city. I was so lucky to be able to go on a beautiful fall day. The colors of the leaves on the trees were really quite stunning.

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We began our morning on the outskirts of the historic part of the city. In case your unfamiliar with the setup of cities in Spain, most of them have a central historic area with the newer, urbanized area surrounding it. I know, I know, it makes perfect sense for a city to be organized this way. However, I would consider the U.S. equivalent (downtown) to be very different from a historic city center. In other words if you love history, be sure to go to the city centers.

We parked the car along the bottom of a gorge. The oldest part of the city is surrounded by several gorges formed by the Júcar and Huécar rivers. After a healthy 15 minute walk, we ascended into the historic center. It was a very calm Sunday morning, and not many people were out in the streets, but we could hear some noise coming from the Plaza Mayor. FYI, someone, somewhere was playing an acoustic guitar while we were walking (I love Spain).

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Our first stop in the city center was the cathedral. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace and Saint Julian is in the center of the city, thus making it difficult to miss. Constructed from 1182 to 1270, the cathedral is the first Gothic style Cathedral in Spain. Certain features reminded me of Notre Dame in Paris. We decided to take a tour inside the cathedral. The mid-morning positioning of the sun allowed for some remarkable stained glass reflections. We also heard the haunting melodies of the monks singing somewhere in the cathedral. It was beautiful.

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Our next stop was the Museum of Abstract Arts. The museum is housed in the Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses). These buildings are what many people think of when they think of Cuenca. The houses were built in the 15th century right on the edge of the gorge. The houses now contain the museum, allowing tourists to not only enjoy the arts, but also the picturesque view across the gorge.

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Brigitte Bardot, 1959 – By Antonio Saura – My favorite painting in the museum!

After enjoying the Casas Colgadas from the inside, we made our way to the Puente de San Pablo (Bridge of Saint Paul). This bridge was constructed from 1533 to 1589 over the gorge. The purpose of the bridge was to connect the city of Cuenca with the St. Paul Convent. The bridge allows a marvelous view of the Casas Colgadas.

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After spending some time on the Puente de San Pablo, we headed back to the car. I was able to snap some pretty cool pictures along the way. There are lots of other things to do in Cuenca – these are just some of the highlights I want to share. So, if you ever find yourself in Castilla-La Mancha, make sure you visit Cuenca!

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Have you ever been to Cuenca? If not, would you like to go? Which locations top your list? Also, if you’re interested in more of what Castilla-La Mancha has to offer, check out my post Castilla-La Mancha highlights.

“I am a passionate traveler, and from the time I was a child, travel formed me as much as my formal education.” – David Rockefeller

Photos by Megan Coffroth

Easy Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Smoothie

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I don’t have an attention-grabbing picture to post, but I’d love to share a smoothie that I’ve been obsessed with lately. I’ve been on a health kick and looking for ways to incorporate my favorite foods in a healthy way. This recipe is also a great, easy way to use bananas that are getting pretty ripe. I have this smoothie at least twice a week, and I think I’ve finally come up with a recipe that I love. I hope you enjoy it as well!

Ingredients
1 Medium banana, sliced
5.3 oz of Nonfat plain Greek yogurt (It’s actually quite delicious if you use a fruit flavored yogurt too! I tend to use Oikos Vanilla or Strawberry.)
1/4 cup of Whole grain old fashioned oats
1/2 cup of Skim milk
1 tblsp of Peanut butter
1 tblsp of Unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tblsp of Honey

Blend until smooth. I’m sure you could add other things to make this smoothie even more delicious. Any suggestions?

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles M. Schulz

Shifting focus

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I used to have an “About Me” page on my blog, but in this ever changing world, it’s been difficult for me to keep it updated. Thus, here is my attempt at sharing some updates about me. I originally started my blog as a way to keep my friends and family updated on my adventures in Spain. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing all of my experiences with you, the readers, and getting feedback via comments and e-mails. In fact, I enjoyed blogging so much that I’ve decided to continue! The only problem is I’m not in Spain anymore…therefore, the focus of my blog is shifting.

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Many things have happened within the past year, and so it is only fitting that my blog reflect those changes. Last May, I graduated with bachelors degrees in Biology and Modern Languages (Spanish). I studied Biology because I new it would provide a way for me to reach my ultimate career goal: becoming a dentist and helping provide healthcare to under served areas.  I studied a foreign language because learning about different cultures fascinates me, and I think it is beneficial to know Spanish in today’s global community. After graduation, I spent my summer working, applying to dental school, and preparing for my upcoming trip to Spain. As evident by my blog, I loved my experience in Spain and I look forward to returning someday. However, I now have some exciting news to share…I’ve been accepted to dental school! After five years of challenging undergraduate courses, studying for the DAT, and spending a large amount of time shadowing other dentists, I’ve finally been accepted to a DDS program, and I couldn’t be happier!

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I’m not quite sure what this means for my blog, but if you’ve enjoyed reading about my interests in Spain and seeing my photos, I can assure you that these types of posts will continue. I love learning about Spain, Mexico, Central, and South America, and I hope to continue to share my thoughts on the cultures in these regions. I’ve also just recently begun to dip my toes into photography and cooking, so I’m excited to see what I can learn. Just be expecting some dentistry related posts too!

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Photos by Megan Coffroth and a-thousand-words.tumblr.com

A Sevillian Carriage Ride

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This week I’ve been feeling particularly homesick…for Spain. I think it’s time for another post about one of my Spanish adventures. This post is about Sevilla (Seville), particularly the Maria Luisa Park. I visit Sevilla for the day with my host family. We drove from Granada to Sevilla in the morning and spent the afternoon in Sevilla. We then drove to Cordoba that evening. It was a whirlwind of a trip with so many new things to see!

Upon arrival in Sevilla, we walked around for a while before finding a horse drawn carriage tour. We spent the large majority of the tour in Maria Luisa Park. Stretching along the Guadalquivir River,  the Maria Luisa Park is a large public park in the heart of Sevilla. At one point the park was used for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, and contains several buildings constructed specifically for the exposition. Enjoy the greenery and Plaza de España in Maria Luisa Park!

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Sevilla is definitely on my list of places to visit when I return to Spain. As I mentioned, my host family and I only spent the afternoon there. However, there are so many museums and historic monuments that one could easily spend several days in this beautiful Andalusian city. Have you ever been to Sevilla? Do you have any suggestions for things to see? Let me know!

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Photos by Megan Coffroth

Strawberry Cinnamon Rolls

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I hope you’ve noticed that I’ve been posting a few recipes here and there. I’m challenging myself to try a new Pinterest recipe each week! Here’s a picture of some strawberry cinnamon rolls I made. Check out the blog A Few Short Cuts for this delicious recipe.

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“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.” – John Gunther

Photo by Megan Coffroth