Tag Archives: year abroad

An Adventure!

So, I am now officially running the Great North Run for Princes’ Trust!

A dream come true, which will hopefully fulfill/plant dreams of hundreds of young people! Or at least some!

So, by way of training (I can’t run all the time/I’m too lazy to run all the time) today I went for an explore…

Note to self: next time you see fit for a spot of ‘exploration’ bring more sustenance than two small pears!

So I set off on the train this morning to Durango, and headed straight up towards Urkiola Natural Park.

I went here with my dad when he came to visit and its also home to the nearest climbing at an achievable grade. Unfortunately I am currently climbing partnerless, but that didn’t stop me from checking it out.

An hour and a half, plus a small wooded summit later I arrived at Atxarte Zona de Escalar (thats Atxarte climbing area). There was a cave, a quarry and even the odd bolt. There were some fantastic lines, but given that I was on my own and only my boyfriend had a vague idea where I was, I decided to give scrambling about to the top a miss- as much as breaking a leg would be fun, thats only if you’re rescued in time!

After that, the afternoon was still young, so I headed along, past more steep rocky walls (as you can see I’m no geologist) and eventually I ended up at Urkiola Sanctuary. I was pretty tired by this point (being a further hour or two later), but the sign posts did say that there was a 1011m summit only a mile away (1.6km for sensible metric using people). So of course I headed up the scrubby fell land towards that. The views were INCREDIBLE! But as I finished off my meagre rations, I knew it was time to be getting back.¬†

Mum, if you’re reading this, look away now!

Thank goodness for lovely old couples and hitch-hiking!

I managed to get a lift the 5 miles (8km I reckon) back to the town and after a well earned Mars Bar, I took the train back home to get to work on my dissertation. As you can see my work is going really well- this Blog is helping a lot.

Mumsie, you can look back now ūüôā

Anyway, I reckon my walk has hopefully improved my stamina, something I’ll need to run 21km in my target time of 1h 50. But the other thing I do need is sponsors! By July I need to have raised ¬£150, and so far I’m no where near this.

Just go to my page on Virgin Money Giving: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/CaitlinRipley and I will love you forever!


And meet Paul!


Short Extract from the House Hunt Saga

You may have noticed there has been no overly excited, exclamation-mark filled post about my new flat. There’s a very good reason for this: it doesn’t exist. Still, after nearly a month, I am flat-less. I’ve got a flatmate, Tamara, she’s fantastic. But she’s also in New York at the moment. We’re down to the final three, but I thought I’d throw in this little description of one¬†lovely¬†flat we went to see last week.

We’d initially turned down the option of viewing this flat, as the estate agents (who to be honest aren’t very good at there jobs) had put us off by saying it was too small. I’m 5’3” surely it couldn’t be that bad? So it was with this thought that we gave in and went to have a look, as well as discovering that really there weren’t that many flats about.

The flat itself was very central and on the top floor of its building, making it an attic. The first room we came to was a huge (for the size of the flat) sitting room with a big sofa and plenty of standing space. The doors were a little low, but that would only matter when I had normal sized friends to come and stay.

The first bedroom was also ok. Lots of light from the skylight and you’d only be in danger of knocking yourself out if you slept with your head towards the wall. There was no extra room for a wardrobe, so that was kept in the lounge.

As for the second bedroom, this was when things started to go a bit more down hill. The bed in the cubby hole (it was in no way an actual room) resembled a small sofa rather than a bed. Here too there was no space for any extra furniture, but there was no replacement. Compulsory floor-drobe in there then.

The kitchen was split into two rooms: one was simply cupboards with a large beam running through the middle at my face height. A little bit awkward. The other was easier to stand up in, but had the tragic problem of no oven. I pointed this out and Tamara seemed to understand my need for making excessive amounts of cake.

At this point, it was almost certain we wouldn’t get it, but there was one last room to see. The make it or break it room: the bathroom.

We’d been warned before that due to the sloping roof the bathroom was a little on the small side and the shower smaller than usual, but we’d expected something a bit like this:


In reality it was actually more like this:


Hulk Break Puny Human Shower!

Literally, it was¬†tiny. You would have had to sit down in the teeny tiny bath space they’d vague offered in compensation. It was the size of a bidet.

So we left, trying not to laugh and wishing it would have been ok to take a picture. Which it wasn’t. And we decided not to go for that flat.

But you never know, soon that overly excited, exclamation mark filled post might appear… Watch this space!

A Recipe for..?

This weekend I spent a FANTASTIC time with one Miss Katie Weaver. Course mate, cat lover and crazy girl.

The weekend was very badly planned with a last minute change in location to Burgos, a city half-way between us which neither of us knew anything about.

Given that I have had a mixed experience on off-the-cuff travelling, I really did expect something to go wrong: one of us would get stranded in the middle of Spain, we’d be unable to find a hostel, we’d get stalked by creepy men…

But actually no. This is why I’m not writing a HUGE post about the weekend, because although we had a fantastic time: heading out for food with nice locals; visiting museums, castles and churches; discussing whether or not dinosaurs were a conspiracy theory (no question, they’re not); everything went according to our non-existent plan. Everything went well and successful. Other than the point I lost my driving license, but lets not talk about that shall we?

For two of our meals, we visiting a chain restaurant called 100 Montaditos, a bar whose speciality is it’s 100 different varieties of teeny-tiny baguette sandwiches.¬†

Numbers 95-100 are sweet varieties served in delectable chocolate bread, so on my three-hour return bus my mind drifted. How could I make these beauties? I came up with a recipe, which I tried out this evening…


250g White Bread Flour (minus one tbsp)

1 tbsp Cocoa Powder

1 tbsp Sugar (muscavado if you’ve got it. I didn’t.)

1/2 tsp Salt

Yeast as directed on packet (yeast here comes in sachets for 250g of flour)

30g Butter

200ml Water (although on a repeat try of this I might substitute 50ml for milk)

50g Broken/Chopped Chocolate


Mix together flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl, until combined. Make a well in the middle.

On the stove put 150ml of water in a pan and heat with the butter until the butter melts or water boils, whichever is first.

Pour the liquid into the well of the dry ingredients and mix together into a dough. Add the other 50ml of water (or milk) a bit by bit. Don’t worry if the dough looks a bit soggy, kneading it should rescue it back to bounciness.

Knead for ten minutes, until nice and smooth and doughy, then leave in a greased bowl (either oil or more melted butter). Roll it over, to ensure the dough is covered with oil/butter, then cover with a damp cloth and leave for an hour (or go out for a run, lose track of time and run off to meet a friend and leave it for several hours, it won’t hurt).

When you return if the dough hasn’t risen much as mine hadn’t (due to under-kneading first time round), knead again for a further ten minutes and leave for half an hour to an hour. If it¬†has¬†risen beautifully, skip this step and go on to the next.

Take your beautiful, chocolate brown dough and stretch it out. Sprinkle a pinch of chopped chocolate in the middle and fold and turn. Stretch it out again and repeat. Once all the chocolate is added, continue kneading until its hit ten minutes since you started on the chocolate.

Split the dough into six evenly-sized lumps and roll them into fat sausage shapes. Score a line down the middle of each one with a sharp knife and place them spaced out on a greased baking tray.

Cover them with a cloth and leave to prove for another hour (this bread making lark is slow isn’t it!). Put Love Actually on and relax, until you’re fifty-minutes in (the bit where Keira Knightley comes in with pie and munchies) and then you might want to pre-heat the oven to 220`C.

Wap the buns in the oven ten minutes later (Aurelia says goodbye to Colin Firth) and check them after 10-15 minutes. 

Do the traditional tap to see if the sound hollow and smell the bready-chocolatey goodness. They’re ready.¬†

I let mine cool in the oven and I’m just about to bring them out…

Slice and serve warm with strawberries and cream, nutella and oreos or just a bit of butter.

Que aproveches!

Tough crust, but I think they taste ok… More sugar, less baking time. Let me know what you think!


Katie really enjoyed spending time with me…ImageImageImage

New North Wales

Its hard not to compare experiences, in fact quite often that’s what helps you categorise new things in your life. For instance last week I decided Spanish tuna in a jar was ok because:

Tuna steak > Jar tuna > Tinned tuna

But when you come to bigger things, maybe its not such a sensible idea. Of course the obvious thing for me to compare my whole gap year year abroad experiences to is my year in Thailand (sorry I¬†will¬†keep going on about that), and something about that makes me feel rather uncomfortable. I am desperate to read my Thailand diaries, but on the other hand I find it quite fortunate that my weight limit wouldn’t allow me to fit anything more than the bare essentials (clothes, research notes, climbing gear, seven pairs of shoes…). I feel as if I would be checking up to see whether I’m doing this the ‘right way’ when really there is none. The ‘right way’ as such is to enjoy myself and hopefully at some point do my research. And spending 90% of the time being utterly confused is all part of the exhilarating adventure and the reason I chose my course.

But there is another comparison I have been coming up with: a useful tool for explaining where abouts in Spain I am without the use of a map (no The Basque Country is not in Catalu√Īa!!)

I am currently living in the Spanish version of Wales. Yes Wales.

Firstly because of the language. Basque is to Castillian Spanish, what Welsh is to English: entirely unintelligible. I will be teaching in a Basque speaking school, which is the same idea of a Spanish person coming to the UK and ending up in a Welsh speaking school in deepest darkest Anglesey. Or somewhere like that. The only difference is that I haven’t found a word as awesome as ‘popdeping’. Yet.

Secondly, the climate. It rained last night and yesterday morning! Which isn’t very much to be honest, but I’ve been lead to believe that I am in the cold and wet area of the country (all the better for my weak ginger skin). This leads to the general look of the place: everywhere I’ve been in Spain before has been something of a dessert. But here! Green mountains, green trees, green grass. I went for a walk yesterday and the only thing to keep me believing that I wasn’t in Wales was the temperature and lack of sheep! Seriously, picture a cloudless sky in Wales and paint the houses white and you’ve got here.

Politically as well, The Basque Country has its own government a bit like Wales does as well as having its own nationalist movement. I’ve got to say I know very little on this subject, but it just means I presume all graffiti I can’t understand is some sort of racist propaganda telling me to go back to where I belong.

Lastly, there is the regional animal. To identify themselves with their home region, many Basques adorn their cars with stickers of this animal (and in one case, rudely positioned stickers) and what else should it be but la oveja: The Sheep. I wish I was joking!

It nicely finishes off the comparison, so therefore I re-christen this land New North Wales.

NB: New South Wales was taken, and we’ll just ignore that the Basque are the oldest civilisation in Europe. Old Wales doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

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I Heart British Council

If you have ever worked for British Council as a language assistant, you may already have some idea what this post is about.

This is not my first time away on this sort of placement (see my former blog getcaitlintothailand.blogspot.com for more details) so I have been through a selection process before and I am aware that finding teaching posts for the amount of people British Council deals with must be a fair task. However, that is their job!

Applications had to be in in November, 8 months ago. So how long should it take to look at the applications and work out who is suitable and who isn’t? Nothing about where they want to go, just whether they are the right person for the job.

Two months? Three? Especially as countries are dealt with separately and it is a very long running organisation you would expect it to be joyfully quick.

How would you feel at month six, still frantically checking your emails as if you¬†don’t¬†get this placement you year abroad is kind of screwed. If British Council turned around and said ‘Sorry Caitlin your application was unsuccessful, best wishes and lots of love from BC’ I have no idea what I would have done. I have no idea what I could have done. Last minute applications for an Erasmus university placement might have been possible, but I would be unlikely to be able to go where I wanted and on a suitable course. There might still be last minute jobs in South America (there were no¬†first¬†minute jobs in Spain), but then there would be the panic of flights, jabs and visas.

So, when I received an email saying basically ‘Are you sure you want to go to Spain? We’re not sure many of the applications are all that suitable, love and kisses, BC’ I was not best chuffed.

Luckily, about a week later, nearly seven months since my application, I received a confirmation email saying I had a place as a language assistant in the region País Vasco (Basque Country in normal English): my first choice. Surely they could have told me that earlier?

All I had to do then was wait until they gave me the details of the school or schools I was to work at. I thought maybe it would be a few weeks. I celebrated in the knowledge that I didn’t have to worry about what my next year would behold.

It is now July. They have put the date back three times now, to my belief. The deadline to hear confirmation is now the end of the month. ‘That isn’t long’ I hear you say. Well Monday wasn’t that long either. I was happy to receive details on Monday. Only I didn’t. And now I’m going on holiday. For a month. With no Internet.

Without confirmation I will be making very last minute plans about leaving the country.

The¬†most annoying¬†thing is, that I¬†have actually been contacted by a school. Soraluze want me!¬†They¬†seem to know where I’m going! WHY DON’T I?!?!

I’m not happy.