Advice, Ideas, Inspiration, Life, Random Thoughts, Self Reflection, Short Story

The Choice

It was one of those mornings…

The sun was sneaking its head above the fog. A lone car could be heard reducing its speed at an unseen stop sign then slowly accelerating down an unknown street.

Pure beauty. It was peaceful, it was quiet, it was… 



It was ghostly silent.

A morning scene had just been converted into a messy crime scene. Harmony was upended. Order was overthrown. The smell of chaos and citrus lingered in the air.

The victim was an innocent kitchen floor. 

A clean blue-tiled floor once occupied this house. What remained was now a soupy coalescence of orange juice, fruit, and leafy greens. The plastic cup that once protected the ingredients of the supposed breakfast was laying motionless on the floor. Standing above the destruction I could feel the smooth plastic lid of the blender gripped tightly between my fingers. It could have been a few seconds of standing there or possibly an eternity as I blinked in silence. 

Perhaps I wasn’t silent. Perhaps a few four-letter words escaped my tongue almost as quickly as the smoothie’s contents dove from the countertop and crashed onto the surface beneath my feet. 

It was supposed to be a healthy morning consisting of daily servings of fruits and veggies mixed with positive energy but inside I felt an unhealthy amount of stress. I could feel the volcano inside of my consciousness starting to boil. The magma was there and it was ready to explode, wreaking more havoc to a landscape that was already in a state of disrepair. 

I wanted to do a lot of things at that moment. I was furious, I was sad, I was thirsty. More than anything I just wanted the satisfaction of creating a smoothie. 

Why me? was the first thought that flashed to mind. Why did this happen to me? For a moment the world felt over to me. I was done with planet Earth and ready to move to Mars. I paused, took a few deep breathes, my eyes feeling watery, and then I asked a different set of questions to myself. 


Why did this happen? 

I pressed the lid too firmly onto the plastic cup. And why did I press too firmly? I wasn’t paying attention. My mind was somewhere else, thinking of everything on the planet but the smoothie. Heck, I was already planning my day for after the smoothie. It wasn’t the lid’s fault, not the ingredients, and not the chirping birds outside. It was an open and shut case of user error. 

Standing alone in the kitchen, I didn’t have a smoothie or clean shoes. I felt empty inside my belly and in my heart. Abruptly, however, out of the wreckage and vitamin-infused debris of an experiment gone wrong, something emerged in what at first appeared to be nothing. 

In this morning of utter failure, I actually did have something: 

A choice

This was a moment for me to make a choice, which could either benefit or severely hinder the day. The options felt clear: I could say yes to the internal magma and have a loud and even more destructive tantrum. I could walk away, avoiding the problem at hand. I could give in to the urge to call my mom and ask for help. Or, gulp, I could remain calm, clean up this filthy mess, and ask myself one more question:  

What is this moment teaching me right now? 

I was feeling so tempted to scream but let out an aggressive exhale instead. Three or five more breaths followed almost automatically.

Nothing I did could put the juice back into the blender. The deed was done, the past was now history, and what remained was how I wanted the future to look like. I lost my power to make breakfast, but I still had the power to control my emotions. I grabbed some paper towels, collecting the strawberries and banana slices. 

What was this teaching me?

I needed to be present, to pay attention, to be in the now. I wasn’t appreciating what was in front of me. 

Many years ago I took a yoga class and the instructor kept saying the same mantra: “How you do one thing, is how you do everything.”

I felt like she was exaggerating at the time but as I grew older I began to agree with her statement. This morning felt like her words we being tattooed onto my brain. The way I made breakfast this morning was the same way I brushed my teeth, the same way I talked to people on the phone sometimes, and the same way I drove a car. I wasn’t fully there. Part of me has always been somewhere else. 

My stomach was growling but my mind felt full. Wow, I thought to myself, did I just freaking learn something at 8am on a Tuesday? Heck yeah!

The day would turn out alright.

Long story short: 

In 2022 I want to feel more present in everything I do, in every interaction I have, and to more fully appreciate who I’m with. I will also try to not be so hard on myself when I make mistakes and keep remembering that everything has a silver lining. What I mean is, there is something positive we can create out of moments that appear dark (aka moments when our smoothie decorates the floor).

Thank you for reading. I sincerely hope you had a great 2021 and start the New Year in amazing fashion. If 2021 wasn’t what you wanted, then I’m sure you grew a lot and learned a great deal about yourself so that is something really positive. 

Take care and much love!


P.S. If you believe in NY resolutions, what are yours for 2022?


Lessons Learned From My Old Clothes

It was a warm afternoon in July when I came to a very important decision.

Relative to other choices people face in their lives (whether to take job, move somewhere new or end a toxic relationship) it wasn’t wasn’t that serious. It still was impactful. For me, this decision was months in the making. It started as a cloudy concept and slowly snowballed into an urgent necessity. 

I decided to donate a lot of my clothes to Goodwill. No big deal right? People did this all the time. For me, this wasn’t an easy choice. After taking a serious look at my wardrobe I instantly grew attached to nearly everything I owned. Each article of clothing wasn’t just something I wore, they were a part of my history and story. The clothing I had been clinging to and preparing to wear into oblivion carried a piece of me like DNA. They had an origin and memories were attached to them. They were worn during many phases and experiences in my life. 

Why now? Well, for one thing, life was entering a new chapter and I didn’t feel like the same person anymore. Times were different and I wanted to embrace the change by letting go and shedding a layer of skin (and clothes). It also just seemed like an opportune moment to replace these clothes with new ones, or perhaps other used ones from the same Goodwill store that I was about to visit. 

As I scrubbed through my closet and dresser the unwanted clothes began to pile up. Before bagging them up and giving them away, I stopped and gave them a long look. In a gesture of not forgetting and honoring them, a blog post felt like the right thing to do before parting ways.

Besides a link to my spending history, they also taught me a lesson and gave me a mini slice of wisdom that I didn’t want to lose. 

So, if you don’t mind me going on a small tangent about things I used to wear, here are some stories and lessons I learned from my old clothes: 

I bought these pants at a Zara in Murcia, Spain in 2015 with the intention of finding something of high quality, stylish, and inexpensive. They looked cool and were affordable, but they were impossible to iron and faded after a few washes. I ended up buying a different pair of pants after a few months. Lesson: Sometimes it’s best to spend a little extra on quality one time than to spend a little less on multiple low quality items. 

This shirt was my “one day” dress shirt. I purchased it thinking that one day I would like it and eventually wear it. That one day never came so it was time to let it go. Lesson: Don’t hold onto things that don’t bring you happiness in the present.

This sweater was a random discovery when I was living in Spain. I stumbled upon a thrift store while getting lost between alleyways. I was teaching English at the time and I thought the look would make me appear more “teacheresque.” I looked more like a poorman’s version of Mr. Rogers who was hopped-up on caffeine but it did make me feel more professional. In the end I felt the quality of my work improved. Lesson: Dress like you ARE the person you want to be, even if you don’t always feel like you are.

I bought this tank-top in the Spring of 2016 at a Pac Sun a few days before going to Coachella with friends. I didn’t think I would wear it after the festival weekend, but somehow it stayed with me for over five years. It brought some wonderful memories but I didn’t identify with the item anymore. It felt like it was time for another 20 something year-old to sport it.

Lesson (1): Listen to your intuition and heart. Lesson (2): Pac Sun is an underrated brand. 

This had been one of my favorite shirts since buying it at Proof Lab in Mill Valley sometime in 2016 or 2017. For years this would be a go-to t-shirt. It never shrunk nor had it developed any funky aromas. Overall it was a wonderful shirt. The only reason why I gave it away was that I felt satisfied with the experiences we’d shared and it was time to spread its positive energy with someone else. I packed it away with love, feeling like my new go-to shirt was out there waiting for me (maybe at Proof Lab).

Lesson: When we are generous, we receive generosity. 

I bought this shirt with stimulus money. I was unemployed and being supported by the federal government at the beginning of the pandemic. It was an uncertain time but this shirt gave me a feeling of hope and optimism. I felt good wearing this shirt because it fit me really well. Now that I had gone back to work I felt like a new chapter in life had started so I want to donate this shirt to the fashion gods. I hoped it would connect with someone in need of some luck. Heck, the brand was Lucky so that must be a positive sign.

Lesson (1): Be thankful for what we have and don’t ignore the simple pleasures in life.  Lesson (2): You don’t have to play baseball to wear baseball shirts. 

Some other items included a pair of black sweats that were so worn-out that the pockets were missing. They were good for comfort but bad for going to the grocery store or library. A couple shirts which were gifts from friends were included and the only reason why I gave them away was because they had shrunk and therefore I felt they were now meant to make an 8th grader really happy. 

Clothes, if you one day learn to read, I just want to express my deepest gratitude for keeping me warm and for being with me over the years. We’ve been through the best and worst of times together. Through the joy and loneliness you stuck with me. You didn’t let the rain or other unexpected foul weather get you wrinkled (except the pants, you never got unwrinkled). You’ve seen me in my highs and lows in life. There were times when I wasn’t my best self and you didn’t judge me. You just gave me a hug and that was more helpful than I could have imagined. As I write this segment I’m becoming aware of another lesson you’ve taught me: Actions speak louder than words. You’ve never spoken to me, but based on all you have done for me, I feel blessed.

Please be well, stay clean, and I hope someone else appreciates you as much I do. 

The bag with my clothes and memories was now closed and I’d just parked the car. It was time to let go and drive away from the Goodwill parking lot. 

I was excited for my clothes and for myself to start a fresh chapter that perhaps would smell like lavender detergent.

Minutes later I returned home. To my dismay, I realized I had just given away everything in my closet.  

Final lesson: Remember to own at least two shirts, maybe three.

The End 


Thanks for reading my blog! I appreciate you. Do you have an article of clothing that brings you back to a special moment in life? 

Have a great day and take care.


Europe, Life, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Spain, Teaching, Travel

Dear Murcia,



fullsizeoutput_26f5Hey, how’s it going?

Did you get a haircut?

We’ve met a few times but unless you’re regular of MuyBici stations, El Palmar, Esparragal, or various plazas that serve cheap coffee, you probably don’t remember me.

I normally don’t write letters to cities, but today I’m in the mood to get some things off my chest.

Since 2014 you and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship.

I’d crash in one of your pisos for six to eight months, work as an English teacher, then head back to the United States filled with good memories and ready to continue towards something else.

Each time I reunited with the place where I grew up, discovering what should have been that something else was quite a challenge.

Each summer, after saying farewell to you, I’d find myself in limbo and not really knowing what to do next.

This being said, my overall goals have never changed:

I want to challenge myself, to keep learning, and I also want to pursue as much happiness as possible.

Keeping this framework in mind, I have found myself gravitating into your city limits for four consecutive years.

Each experience has been different and the people who I’ve encountered, the bonds that have been created, and memories that have been shared are all things that I feel truly grateful for.

You’ve stood my side as I tried my first tapa, rode my first ALSA bus to Alicante, danced in Sala Revolver, drank my first Estrella Levante, and taught my first class of students.

You’ve helped me grow as a Spanish speaker, English teacher, salsa dancer, traveler, friend, and overall as a person.

I wouldn’t be the man I am right now if it wasn’t for your patience and willingness to accept me.

I’m saying these things because I want to say thank you for everything.

I’m also writing this letter to you because it’s time for me to say goodbye.

My contract for this school year has expired and for the past five day’s I’ve been enjoying temporary retirement.

In fact, as you read these words I’ll have already moved away from Murcia and taken a train to Barcelona, where a scheduled flight back to the US will take off on Thursday.

“See you later” has been said to friends, suitcases have been stuffed to the brim, and anticipation for seeing family and friends back home has been growing.

After being away for seven and a half months, it’s time to come back to California. It’s time to reconnect with my family, to catch up with childhood friends, and to create new memories.

It’s time to take what I’ve learned this year and apply it towards new things, and new challenges. It’s also time to start focusing on a new set of goals.

I can feel the limbo creeping back into the front page of my mind as I write these words.

Inside I can hear a song repeating in my brain.

It’s called “what the f*** am I going to do now?” and honestly the melody needs some fine-tuning.

I’m looking up at the sky to see if there’s a smoke signal or perhaps a carving in a tree that’s meant to point me in the correct direction.

Right now my future goals aren’t out of oven yet, and the ingredients I have at my disposal are lots of research, self-reflection, advice from loved ones, and frankly just living.

I hate to say these words, but there’s a chance that you won’t be part of these future plans, at least not immediately.

Maybe we won’t live together anymore. Maybe we’ll just visit once and while. Instead of generating income with you, maybe I’ll spend my generated income from somewhere else to come and say hi to you.

We met by coincidence, and honestly I couldn’t have ever predicted that we would have spent so much time together. Life can be interesting that way, and it’s as unpredictable as the restaurant service in your restaurants (sorry that was I low blow, I know).

Inside I know that we are destined to meet again. It’s just too early to know when yet. Right now the only place I want to be is back home.

I hope from the bottom of my heart to continue to learn, love, make mistakes, grow, and simply be alive with you again.

Until that day happens, thank you once again for everything.

Un beso and abrazo,

Daniel Catena

p.s. Thank you to everyone at IES Marques de los Velez, Nuestra Señora de los Angeles, and Vicente Medina for helping me be a better teacher. Thank you to Lola, Jesus, Pepe, Toñi, Elena, Marga, David, Paco, Lucia, Lindsey, Matt, Ambra, Lisa, Lieven, Estela, Asun, Rali, Maria, Jessica, David, Zamai, Maria del Mar, Isa, Susana, Jose Antonio, Maria Jose, Ascension, & many others for being great friends and for helping me be a better person. If your name isn’t mentioned here, I apologize and want you to know that you are still important to me too.

I hope to see you all again soon!

Fiction, Short Story, story

A Street Corner Named Desire

The corner of Avenida Abenerabi and Calle Marquez de los Vélez on a chilly Spring day.

I’m not quite sure if it’s Spring or just a blustery fall afternoon as I continue with some meanderings known as walking to the store.

I need to pick up a carton of eggs and various random food-related products. White earphones are giving me a strolling soundtrack as I reach the end of the sidewalk. The walking signal is red, so I make a quick halt in front of the crosswalk.

Scanning both sides of the normally busy street, I see that there’s not a single moving vehicle in sight.

There’s time for me to hustle across the intersection and continue towards the market. My feet inch towards the starting line, but suddenly an elderly woman and a young child take position next to me.

They do their citizenly duties and obey the no-walking sign.

Inside I want to beat any incoming cars and cross, however a voice starts telling me to think twice.

I’m thirty-one and an ESL teacher. Get your shit together and stay here.

Damn, the voice makes a lot of sense. If I go for it, then the grandmother would have to explain to the boy that I’m an asshole, and not abiding by the law.

My conscious wins the battle and I decide to play a positive role model.

Fine. I’ll wait it out.

It will be good to follow the rules, maybe even cool?

A few moments at the crosswalk go by, and a gaggle of more pedestrians can be sensed building up behind me on the sidewalk.

One guy in a Vespa scoots by us in a buzzing salut, followed by more gaps of nothing.

Time feels like it’s standing still with us on the corner as the light stays red.

I’m starting to remember that the traffic lights in this city are all on a timer, and not based on motion sensors.

Someone breaks the line and scurries across the street as if he was being chased by a buffalo.

The pedestrian damn is about to break. Once one street crosser gets defiant and proves that it’s alright to cross on a red, then the rest of the herd starts getting fearless.

A lady with a bag of peppers and a couple teens with saggy backpacks lose their patience and race to the other side.

In the corner of my eye I see that the grandma is still holding her grandson’s hand, patiently waiting for the signal to change.

I’m going to lead by example. My instincts be damned.

All of my natural desires are yelling at me to make a run for it, to say bye to this street corner from hell.

The light stays red and now I’m sure that the city planner is working for the Illuminati.

This is all in some diabolical masterplan or some twisted sociological experiment.

Just fricking turn green you bastard.

As nothing happens, I start hoping that whoever set the crosswalk timer has some terminal illness, or at the very least a drinking problem or hopefully a bad back.

As a guy with a wrinkled polo shirt blows past me, I find myself alone with the old lady and the boy. If I left now then I’d not only be a rule breaker, but maybe the old lady would say that I’m an asshole and a complete psycho.

I’m here for the long haul.

I close my eyes and pray for the light to turn green.

I don’t even want any eggs anymore.

The store has probably closed or changed ownership by now.

As I open my eyelids the lady and the boy have already made it halfway across the street, the red signal still glaring in the background.

The woman’s soft wobble match the beating of my now deceived heart.

I’m not sure if it’s Spring, but I do know that I’m a sucker on a street corner.

The light finally turns green, but then I realize that I left my wallet at home…

The End?

Europe, Ideas, Life, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Spain, Teaching

This is El Palmar

One morning at IES Marques de los Velez, in El Palmar, Spain…

As the door to the classroom opened, and a flow of sleepy students seeped through the entryway, I tried my best to give each person a smiling “good morning.”

It was 8:25am and English class was this group of twenty-something teenager’s first class of the school day. I was already two coffee’s into my morning, and not even the sweet nectar of caffeine could help me maintain a genuine smile. This indeed was early, and the fuzzy look on everyone’s face told me that this class was going to start slowly.

Chairs began to screech along linoleum floors, chatters of half-asleep El Palmar teens began to rise as backpacks flopped on the ground and people took their seats.

I brought my own chalk, had a powerpoint saved on a pen drive, and had already decided that today we would kick-off with a game that would wake them up.

“Everyone be silent please!”

The other teacher in the room gave the group an authoritative stare as she sat down with the rest of the group, leaving me the only person in the room still on their feet.

These four words would be everything that she would say for the next fifty-five minutes, and now her “assistant” (myself) was in charge to teach whatever the material was for the day.

My job title was on paper “English Language Assistent” however as the most powerful person in the room had just sat down to grade homework assignments, apparently I had just been knighted.

It was the end of January, and promptly being granted this promotion at the beginning of class was to be expected.

Back in November however, when I took a bus to IES Marquez de los Velez for the first time, this came as a surprise.

I paced into this same classroom for the very first time, on this exact day of the week, almost three months ago, with an expectation that I would be assisting a teacher in whatever activities or lessons that she needed.

On this fateful morning, after introducing myself, showing the group a quick powerpoint about where I grew up in America, and fielding a couple questions, I was looking at the teacher with a look of “ok, I’ve done my part now, you can come back up here.”

She didn’t stand up.

She didn’t do anything. She just looked at me like I was a penguin at the zoo.

I was in front of the class, now facing twenty-something blank stares. The comedian had just said his last joke, but the Netflix special still had thirty minutes left.

I felt like I had just been put up to a flame to be sacrificed.

I had to think of something instantly, to act like the sudden awkward silence was intentional and that this was all part of the class that I apparently was now fully responsible for.

There was a foam ball in my backpack, so we started playing a “get to know you” game where each person had to list three of their hobbies.

The fire started to die down and the lamb would live to graze grass a day longer.

After the first hour had finished, I told myself that this was a one time thing, and that the other teachers who I was supposed to “help” would work with me, and I would be their “assistant.”

Sit down. Nothing. Peguins.

I learned last November that I wasn’t going to be an assistant. Not even a co-teacher. I was basically now the teacher.  I would prepare every lesson, and I would be the person in charge for fifty-five minutes while the seven teachers of the English department would grade papers.

Since November, with thirteen different groups, and about three hundred different students, I suddenly had a role that had previously been something from imagination.

I didn’t have time to wonder whether this high school in a town called El Palmar, Murcia had decided to take advantage of the foreigner by making him shoulder all of the responsibilities.

There was only time to to prepare lessons, and to get to work.

I came to Murcia to learn, to make mistakes, and to become a better teacher. This was now my stage. If teaching wasn’t my goal, then things would maybe be different. Maybe I’d be upset or maybe I’d hold a grudge.

This was a secret blessing, because now I got to mess up on a daily basis and more importantly I had been given many chances to build my confidence in the classroom.

Three months later I found myself alone again, in front of a group of the same sleepy teenagers, while the main teacher had just done her job and told them to calm down.

The imaginary spotlight was back on the comedian again.

Perhaps the sun had started to rise already, and maybe somewhere in the city center of Murcia there were people enjoying a tostada in a cafeteria at some random plaza.

In January the training-wheels were officially off my imaginary teaching bicycle. In fact, perhaps some of these young English learners needed a quick refresher of what the word “wheel” even meant.

Warm-up, sliding projector screen, chalk stains on my jeans, workbooks, group speaking activities.

This was how the morning was going to go.

I was ready, and honestly being ready didn’t feel good, it felt great.

These kids didn’t know what they were about to get themselves into.

It was a secret between me and the people eating tostadas.

I could almost smell how delicious breakfast might be as the silence in the room became interrupted by the cracking of my weak vocal chords.

If the warm-up I prepared sucked, I had another in my back pocket. If the projector decided to not turn on, there existed a plan B.

“Alright, everyone…”

Smiling, making eye contact, ok if I did something wrong, this was me, Daniel Catena, doing his best to try and help Murcia’s youth learn English.

Welcome to El Palmar.

Ideas, Life, Random Thoughts, Short Story, story

An Almost Death in the Morning

Blackness at 8:30 in the morning.

My eyes are heavy, my hair looks like a scene from a made-for-tv disaster film, and the taste in my mouth is reminiscent of someone who has just spent seven hours in bed.

Without breathing my right hand claws for an unseen, but instinctively familiar wall switch.

My senses are instantly invaded with brightness.

Eye-lids flicker.

My feet start moving forward.

Who? Me.

What? Walking.

Where? Bathroom.

When? 8:30 in the morning.

Why? Who the hell knows, it’s too early.

Familiar words get picked from the apple-tree of my memory. Bathroom, sink, mirror, carpet, toothpaste, shower…Shower!

Why? Shower.

That’s right. I’m here to take a damn shower.

I’m facing the the curtain of the shower and somehow between the doorway and here my clothes have disappeared. Maybe I never walked in here with clothes.

More vocabulary.

Curtains, tub, soap, shampoo, faucet, water, spider…Oh shit.

Not really knowing how I’ve managed to make the shower function, one foot was about to step into the tub when an unexpected guest was waiting for me to enter: A spider with a leg-span of maybe a nickel. There are only a handful of things that make me fearful in this world: getting attacked by a zombie shark, being ejected out of an airplane, mayonnaise, and of course spiders. There’s hardly any rationality behind this, but many life decisions have been influenced by these fears.

The water has been running for a few moments, and has now reached the ideal temperature for me to lift one leg into warm liquid.

The spider wasn’t perched high enough in the tub, and soon a volley shower drops are rendering it incapable of climbing to dryness. I enter the shower, feeling secure that by now there was no way this little bugger would be able to touch me.

The wave of relief that originally swept through my mind isn’t lasting.

Looking down I see that the spider is soon to be a goner. It couldn’t swim, couldn’t move it’s body, and within a few moments it would surely die.

I try to ignore it and pretend to look for shampoo.

Hot shower water sends streams of guilt down my scalp.

Maybe this little bugger has a wife with little baby spider children, and all he wanted was to find a fly for breakfast. Maybe this little creature on the verge of dying isn’t a spider at all. Maybe it’s someone I used to know who’s been reincarnated with eight tiny legs.

Part of me wants to watch it get sucked down the drain, but I know that this wouldn’t be right. He’s trapped in a massive colosseum in the form of a bathtub and doesn’t deserve this fate. If I ever find myself stuck in a similar situation I would pray to every God that existed for help. He or she is just being a spider, and if I let it die then I would walk out of the shower feeling dirtier than when I entered.

I haven’t even had cereal yet and soon I’ll have a death lingering over my conscious. Let mother nature or a spider-sized lightning bolt decide its future, not me.

We always keep a comb in the shower, so without thinking more I picked up and scoop the motionless creature out of the raging storm, flicking it onto the bathroom carpet. One miniature leg starts to fidget, followed by another. It would live to scare me another day.

Drying off afterwards, maybe that spider was a criminal and had it coming.

It’s too late now.

Maybe he’ll tell his spider buddies not to mess with me anymore.

Looking in the mirror, for the first time in my life, I finally feel like I’m thirty years old..

California, Europe, Ideas, Life, Montana, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Teaching, Travel



A few weeks ago I started getting my normal itch to write something in this blog. It took about three weeks to finally sit down and actually start putting something on a digital canvas. For the past year my posts have been following this trend. Perhaps it’s because I’ve hit a point in my writing where there isn’t much inspiration, or maybe it’s because the ideas in my mind pop and disappear like bubbles in some imaginary ocean.

After writing and erasing, then writing again and erasing again, finally inspiration to post something came into the picture on July 15th, 2017. On this day one of my best friends Sebastian married another close friend named Megan. They asked me to officiate their wedding which was a true honor and something that I’ll remember forever. A couple days later another great friend in Murcia, David (from Gijon), passed an exam to become a tenured teacher with the Spanish government, which is an accomplishment that required over a year of studying. This past Saturday, two other very close friends got married in Missoula, Montana. Kyle and Charley are two amazing people and I was given the honor to being a groomsman during their ceremony.

These people all worked very hard, practiced great amounts of patience, and dedicated large amounts of time towards planning up until the final moments of these important events in their lives. They all had a plan, and they stayed committed to it, and also to each other. Seeing how happy my friends were to finally be married, and for David to go against the odds to get a secured position as a teacher in Spain, makes me feel waves of respect and joy for what they have just achieved.

Now that this week has passed, I have come to the conclusion that the best things in life don’t come easily; you have to work for them. Whether it’s a dream job, a date with the good looking person sitting next to you on the bus, or a quest for internal happiness, the road to gaining what you want takes time.

I’m writing this post to say congratulations, not only to the people who I just wrote about, but to you for all that you have achieved but maybe don’t give yourself credit for. Congratulations and cheers to you for being who you are, even if I may not know who you are. Maybe you haven’t achieved your goals and don’t want to hear the “C” word just yet, but that’s perfectly fine because you are one step closer. If you have a goal or dream, but haven’t reached it yet, then you should be happy because at least you’re trying. If you aren’t trying, then maybe it’s time to start?

Maybe you don’t know what your goals are, and that makes achieving them more challenging. As I write this post a new goal has washed up on the shores of my consciousness but by the time I finish this sentence it will have washed away into a swift undertow in the form of a period mark. The one fragment of these goals that keeps staying stuck in the sand is that I want to one day be a teacher somewhere in my country. I just don’t know where, when, or what.

One thing that might help me narrow this decision down is that I’ve just received my assignment as an English teacher in Murcia, Spain for the upcoming school year. Despite wishing to have been assigned a primary school, the Spanish Ministry of Education will be sending me to work in a secondary school (high school). At first I was frightened by the idea of working in a classroom with teenage English learners, but this is probably a blessing in disguise; I want to be out of my comfort zone. It will be my first time teaching in a high school, so let’s see what happens. This won’t be happening until October, and barring any Visa issues or sudden zombie attack then I should be heading back to Murcia for a third year of teaching English.

As I finish this post I don’t really have a concrete goal that stands before me, despite saying that I want to become a teacher. This is kind of why we are alive, to find what out what our purpose in life is. Inside I believe that we are all destined for many things, but the key is to find what out makes you happy.

Once again, congratulations to Sebastian, Megan, David, Kyle, & Charley, I love you guys. Also, congrats to you for finally being able to go back to whatever it was you were doing before reading this blog post.

Thanks for taking time to read this blog, more updates are coming (hopefully sooner than a month from now).

Have a wonderful day/evening/night.

Advice, California, Coffee, Sausalito, Travel, Travel Guide, Travel Tips, United States, Where to drink Coffee

Where to Drink Coffee in Sausalito

Good afternoon or good evening, depending on where in the world you are reading this..

Not too long ago I wrote a blog post about eight things I learned while teaching English in Spain, and the quiet excitement it gave me was enough to make me want to continue this style of writing. The notion of doing a second list about something has been circling around my head for a few months now, but physically sitting down to do something about it hasn’t happened until now. Part of the problem was that I didn’t know what to make a second list about.

Maybe one about cats? About pop music? About ice-cream toppings?

After pondering for a fairly long time, drinking a cup of deliciously pitch black coffee, I came to the conclusion that there weren’t many things that I felt inclined to write about..

..except where to drink a cup of coffee.

I like drinking coffee so much that I’ve focused trips on this hobby, and also have written a blog post about how addicted I am to this mysterious dark elixir.

One of my favorite pastimes is hiding in a coffee shop, or place that sells warm beverages, to read and simply unwind. It’s a sensation that, for me, is impossible to replace. However, over the course of many happy years of hanging out in coffee shops, I have become selective of where to go in order to get a coffee buzz.

I’m by no means an expert of what makes a coffee good, but I think I’ve become knowledgeable about what makes a place to drink coffee good.

So, now that I’ve written a few hundred words of complete nonsense, and you are probably about to change windows on your web browser, here is my list of places where you should drink coffee in my hometown of Sausalito, California:


Cibo (Chee-Bow) means “food” in Italian, and this cafe brews arguably the finest tasting coffee in Sausalito. They roast their own coffee beans and provide guests with a comfortable atmosphere. White painted walls, wide glass windows, and a few different shades of red give Cibo an old-world minimalist feel and if you can score a table then it’s an ideal place to read or to do work. They prioritize quality, whether it be through brewing a near perfect cappuccino or with their small but great breakfast/lunch menu.

They are located on the local’s side of town, which is nice because you can escape swarms of daily visitors arriving from San Francisco or other far away places. The prices at Cibo are on par with everywhere else in Sausalito, and the only downside is that the place can fill up very quickly. On weekends be prepared to wait in a line.

Connect with Cibo:

1201 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965

Cibo’s Facebook


(415) 331-2426


Sausalito Bakery & Cafe:


Sausalito Bakery & Cafe is an interesting place. It doesn’t offer very much in terms of decor nor size, and the heat one feels from the kitchen’s bread ovens can be a little overwhelming at times.

This shouldn’t hold you back from giving this place a chance.

Where it fails to provide in beauty and atmosphere, it makes up in price, quality of product, and more importantly in location. Downtown Sausalito is beautiful, but it’s also beautifully expensive. It’s hard to walk around town without feeling the weight on your wallet, however Sausalito Bakery & Cafe is money saving oasis. You can order a coffee, not the best but good enough to give you a buzz, and a surprisingly wide variety of food options ranging from veggie frittatas to chocolate cookies. It’s also one of the few cafe’s in town where you can sit outside and feel breeze circulating from the Bay.

Located along Bridgeway Avenue, across the street from the The Trident restaurant, this establishment is at the very end of Sausalito’s downtown strip. If you can score an outside seat or a narrow table near one of their rustic wood paneled windows then you might be hooked for a repeat visit.

Connect with Sausalito Bakery & Cafe:

571 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965

(415) 331-9552

Osteria Divino:


According to Wikipedia, an Osteria is historically a place that serves wine and traditional yet simple style food. Typically in Italy these eateries were less expensive and provided local specialties. Osteria Divino is one of my favorite destinations in Sausalito, partially because this Florentine influenced restaurant lives up to its name: you can get a nice quality meal, glass of wine, or cup of coffee without breaking the bank. In the mornings this place is perfect for relaxing with a cup of steaming espresso mixed with water.

Located on Caledonia Sreet, Sausalito’s less-touristy and more local side of town, Osteria Divino is quite nice for brunch during the weekends but more importantly (at least for me) it’s a necessary place to start the day. In the morning there aren’t many people there, so sitting at the bar with a coffee and book is peaceful. At night this place changes flavor because on a regular basis one can find live jazz or latin fused music being played by a wide variety of local or international artists.

Connect with Osteria Divino:

37 Caledonia St, Sausalito, CA 94965


(415) 331-9355

Driver’s Market:


Driver’s Market opened in 2012 and their mission has been to provide a meeting place for people and also to offer delicious food with a heavy emphasis on transparency. Being a couple blocks away from both Cibo and Osteria Divino on Caledonia Street, this market has evolved into one of Sausalito’s primary shopping destinations. They strive to fill shelves with locally cultivated products and to ensure that guests know where the items in their shopping cart comes from. Their wine section is one of a kind, their employees are generally very personable, and they offer a positive atmosphere.

I hate to say that I seldom shop there, partially because organic and sustainable groceries come with a higher price tag, but Driver’s Market has become one of my dark-horse favorites for enjoying a cup of coffee. They sell dark or medium roast Equator coffee in to-go cups made from recycled materials at the checkout counter which is a nice bonus. I like to simply walk inside, pay for a pitch black coffee, then take advantage of their eating area, which is located next to their top-notch deli section. With wide windows it’s a great place for people watching and reading the newspaper. If the weather is favorable then an even better option is to take your coffee outside and take a seat at one of their outdoor tables.

Connect with Driver’s Market:

200 Caledonia St, Sausalito, CA 94965


(415) 729-9582




Honorable Mentions:

Taste of Rome & Poggio are also good for getting a cup of coffee. They boast excellent street views of Bridgeway Avenue and provide guests with a unique Sausalito experience.

RIP: Philz Coffee & Il Piccolo Cafe

Personally, the golden age of Sausalito coffee was in 2016 when both Philz Coffee and Piccolo Cafe were still open. Piccolo offered the absolute best views in town, sitting next to Yee Tock Chee Park and Philz became the heart of local Sausalito ever since it opened in 2012. Currently the doors to Piccolo are boarded up and the space is vacant. Philz Coffee has been replaced by Fireside Coffee, but out of personal protest I refuse to go there.

Thank you for reading!

These places are where you should drink coffee in Sausalito, California (in my opinion). I hope you found this information helpful. This list is based on my personal experiences and preferences, so you have the right to disagree with me. If you have your own list, then feel free to share it in the comment section below!  Have a great day and have great coffee!

California, Europe, Life, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Spain, United States

Last? week in Murcia

Today is Sunday.

While sitting in Piccadilly coffee, a Murcian version of Starbucks, I am enjoying the feeling of air-conditioning while organizing a jungle of papers in the form prior private English lesson plans.

Outside the sun is shining and the mid-afternoon temperature is sitting at about 95 degrees Ferenheit. Back where I grew up in the Bay Area of California this number would sound quite extreme, however in this part of Spain this is more like an appetizer for three months of a summer scorcher that happens every year. A common conversation topic is commenting about how hot it’s going to be here in August, probably reaching temperatures of 120 degrees on certain occasions.

As I organize my lessons the idea of experiencing such roasting heat isn’t crossing my mind, because in four days I won’t be living here anymore.

At the crack of dawn this upcoming Thursday I’ll be taking a train seven hours northeast to Barcelona, and then the following day I’ll be flying directly to Oakland, California.

In less than a week I’ll be changing my place of residence. Today I live in San Basilio, a neighborhood of Murcia, with Emili and Eva. On Friday I’ll be back in Sausalito, California and living with my parents. Instead of hopping on a public ride-share bicycle or simply walking between places, I’ll be driving everywhere or requesting a Lyft ride. The circle of friends who I’ve established through teaching English, dinners at Lola’s house, salsa dancing, and language exchanges, will be replaced with a close group of people who I’ve known since middle school, high school, music festivals, and from various jobs. Instead of planning lessons and teaching people English, I’ll be returning to Napa Valley Burger Company to work has a food service mercenary. If this was the first time that I’ve made a transition of this scale then I’d be a little bit terrified and anxious, however this isn’t so much the case. I have made a strange habit of changing scenery and moving back with my family after an extended time away.

It will be hard to say goodbye the life I’ve made here, but it will be equally as joyful to be with my parents and longtime friends.

This summer in California will be devoted to working as much as possible, being part of three important weddings for close friends (Sebastian & Megan, Kyle & Charlie, Mike & Peggy), and making up for six months of not being around by being as good of  a friend/son/employee as possible.

I only have three days left in Murcia, but I already know that our separation from each other will only be temporary because I’ve already accepted an offer to come back as an English Language Assistent in October. Barring any issues with immigration, visas, finances, or random life-changing events, I’ll be back here in four months and staying for the 2017-2018 school year.

Back in 2014 when I moved to Spain for the first time I didn’t know what Murcia was, nor could I have imagined that I’d keep moving back. It’s now midway through 2017 and I don’t know if I’ll ever get over this place.

One thing that I’ve learned, with help from my parents, is that you have to do what makes you happy. Murcia makes me really happy, the work I do here is gratifying, the life I have created here has been crafted through prioritizing things that I feel passionate about, and I feel fortunate to have made lifelong friends here.

California, and life in the United States, also make me very happy, so coming back will be a much-needed breath of fresh air. My roots will always be in the Bay Area, and the people there whose life I’m a part of are irreplaceable. This being said, I have to follow my heart, and right now it’s telling me that another school year in Spain is something that has to happen.

Maybe one day the tapas won’t taste that good, the women won’t be as beautiful, Estrella Levante beer won’t be refreshing, and the wonderful people here won’t be as welcoming. Maybe I won’t feel like a role model for local primary school kids anymore, Spanish will become a boring language, and possibly there won’t be room in Murcia to keep learning and to become a better person.

I feel slightly scared because it’s hard to imagine that day ever coming.

With a lot packing that still has to be done, cleaning, some last private English lessons, and a lot of pending farewells still hovering in my mind, the next three days will be busy with a side of emotional.

I feel grateful to have had another experience here, and to have shared memories with old and new friends. A lot more words could be said, but I’m sure you have more important things to be doing.

Cheers to you for making it this far in this blog post, you are awesome. Thank you for your time and reading comprehension skills.

To everyone in Murcia who is reading this, I hope to see you before I leave, but if we don’t get a caña before Thursday then we will share one together in October.

To friends or family reading this back in the states, I hope to catch up with you this summer!

To everyone else, I’m sure you are cool and worth meeting one day.

Have a great day/night/life 🙂

Lots of love from Murcia,

Daniel Catena

Life, Random Thoughts, Spain, Travel

Logroño Bus Stops

“Have you been saved yet?”

Uh oh, here we go..

Pardon me?”

“Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t know you didn’t speak Spanish!” The elderly Logroño woman with faintly blue hair blinked at me through her soft tinted sun-glasses.

“No it’s ok, I speak Spanish. What did you say to me?” I already know, I’m not sure why I’m asking.

“Oh ok, I asked if you’ve been saved yet.” 

I’ve been sitting in the Logroño bus station for over an hour, the last shower I had was a couple days ago, and it’s been a while since my last coffee. She probably sees my borrowed yellow travel pack and thinks that this talk is necessary. 

I hope someone saves me right now..

“Well I don’t think so…” 

“How long are you staying here in Logroño?”  

Looking at my watch, “Not long, I’m going to Gijon in a couple of hours.”

“Let me give you something to read, it’s about Jesus. By the way, do you believe in evolution or creation?” She sat down on the bench next to me, handing me a pamphlet with images of people smiling on a beach. 

I looked at the pictures as she pitched her reason for joining me. 

“How interesting.” I lied. “Well, to be honest I guess I don’t know what I believe in.” She blinked again, deciding to open her bag to give me a second brochure.

“That’s too bad you aren’t staying here much longer, we have a really interesting meeting coming up.”

“Yeah, too bad..” Maybe I could start being a jerk, but I have two hours before the bus arrives and maybe this conversation is helping her practice for someone who is genuinely interested. 

“What’s your name?” She stood up.

“My name is Daniel!” 

“Daniel! Did you know that your name is biblical? In the Bible a king sent Daniel to an oven, but he didn’t die because he believed in God. The king converted to Christianity because of this…” 

“Oh wow, no I didn’t know that. Thank you for telling me!”

If that piece of information didn’t convert me, then maybe nothing else would. She smiled and fatefully zipped up her bag.

“Your welcome, have a great trip.”

Life, Random Thoughts, Teaching, Travel

Eight Things I’ve Learned From Being An English Teacher

Oh hey there!

I didn’t see you start reading, why don’t you make yourself comfortable?

It’s been a pretty long time since adding anything to this blog, and for that I apologize. Sometimes inspiration falters and in other moments we get too busy.

Since the last time I wrote, which was maybe a couple of months ago, I’ve been continuing the life of an English teacher living somewhere outside of the USA.

The recent months have been filled with lots of private lessons, teaching at an academy with loud primary school students, spending time with friends, and doing a little bit of traveling.

Recently I’ve been hearing that people really like to read lists, whether it be about restaurants or maybe about football player rankings. I wanted to try a list out myself, just to see how it felt to write one.

Here is my first ever written list ( besides one used for grocery shopping).Since starting as language assistant two years ago, and now working as an independent linguistic gun for hire, I feel safe to say that a few life lessons have been learned since diving into teaching.

This is what I’ve learned (so far)…

We are all human beings

One of the most important things to always remember is that the person or people who you are teaching aren’t just students, they are people just like you. They might be only four years old and can hardly old a crayon but inside this is a little person who has emotions and feelings. I’ve caught myself many times just thinking of my students as just few extra dollars to fund my coffee addiction, but this isn’t right. We are all human beings who are trying to live the best life we can. The more you remember that they are individuals, then it not only makes you a better teacher but it also makes you an improved part of this planet.

Nothing lasts forever

Each time I finish a private lesson I try to be thankful, because in the world of private English teaching you can’t ever guarantee that you will see the person again next week. People get sick, bored, change their work schedules, or quite simply move away.  Currently I have a schedule that is comfortable and financially adequate to fund my love of keeping a low profile. At the drop of a hat this might change, so I need to not feel too comfortable and be always grateful.

Know how to manage your money

Since students do sometimes cancel, move away, or change life goals, it’s always important to keep track of how much money you are spending. Maybe this week I made enough money to go out to dinner a few times, but I shouldn’t make a habit of treating myself with money that hasn’t been earned yet.

Remember that you are valuable

In life it’s best to never cut yourself short of what you think you are worth. If you are a hard worker and talented at whatever it is you do, then why not try to get paid for it? I wouldn’t ever try and rip someone off, but I also don’t want to rip myself off either.

Respect your boundaries

Depending on where you teach English, whether it be in China or in my current place of residence, you will be confronted with numerous potential students who want to start a series of study dates. If I would have said “yes” to every person who has asked me to teach them, then I wouldn’t have time to write in this blog. I would be running around town, introducing strangers to my impressive friend-circle of phrasal verbs. It’s good and healthy to say “no” sometimes, in fact I think it’s important that people learn how to say this more often. If you are saying “yes” in order to be nice, then maybe you are setting yourself up for future problems. It’s good to always keep that in mind.

Be flexible

Sometimes people show up late for class, sometimes they need to change the day of class, and sometimes they forget entirely that there was one even scheduled. This is something that you can’t let ruffle your feathers. As stated before, people are people and no one is perfect.

Patience is a virtue

Sometimes you have to stand your ground in front of a bunch of screaming six year olds. The desire to enter a verbal cursing competition might be surging but you have to be calm. Some private students might be excellent speakers but very slow readers (or vice-versa ) and you have to let them finish each sentence even if it feels like you’re stuck in the movie Frozen. You are there to help them, listen, and be there as a guide.

Lists make you sexier

This probably isn’t true, but I wanted to make sure you were still reading and not completely asleep yet.

You just passed my reading test! Ten life points for you 🙂

Thank’s for checking out this blog and I hope you liked this list. We are always learning something, even without realizing it.

Have a wonderful day or evening.


Daniel Catena

Life, Poems, Random Thoughts

English Teacher Crosswalkings

I’m on a quest for a phrasal verb.

Give me an idiom and I’ll give you a high-five.

Give me a few in thirty seconds and I’ll charge you ten euros.

I’m walking down the street, looking like I don’t have any damns to give.

We make eye contact on a corner and somewhere I find one more stashed in my back pocket.

It was hiding next to the multi colored dice and plastic pencil sharpener.

I’m thinking of a person, place, or thing.

Before you can ask the first question, the crosswalk light turns green.

A mechanical voice is presenting us a choice to continue walking.

The mood is now becoming imperative.

I blink twice and you’re gone.

Give me one lie and I’ll tell you two truths.

The first is that you’re beautiful.

The second is farewell.