Advice, Hacks, Life

How To Stay Positive During The Coronavirus

Over the past handful of weeks the news, social media, and the majority of conversation topics have been hovering around a now infamous c-word. The taboo word is in the title of this post so we don’t have to repeat it again. Like you, I’m becoming aware of the severity of the issue. I’m not sure how you feel about the matter but inside my mind is overheating from reading, listening, and watching reports about the topic.

Depending on where you live you might already be under a shelter-in-place order, quarantine, or practicing social distancing. Whatever your situation is, we all have felt the effects of the c-word and it’s not making life easier.

On the one hand, this really is unfortunate and I deeply hope that no one who is reading this has gotten sick or knows someone who’s sick. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling down then watching the news to get even more depressed about what’s happening.

This being said, there is a positive side to all of this. We will prevail and overcome the challenges that have resulted in trying to “flatten the curve”. Being forced to be at home for an extended period of time as an opportunity to do some things that we’ve neglected, put off, or haven’t ever done before. We must stay positive and a good way to do this is through distraction. Here’s a list of some ideas of things we can do to pass the time while waiting for all of this c-word madness to go away.

Disconnect with Your Roommates

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Most of us don’t live alone. We either live with our parents, roommates or children. Rather than remaining plugged-in during this extended period of time, consider this a chance to connect more with each other. A puzzle, board game, card game, drinking game, cooking, or video game with the whole group will be a fun way to get over the at-home restlessness.

Call a Friend or Loved One

We all probably have at least one good friend or family member who we haven’t spoken to in a while. If we didn’t have much to say before, then here’s a great ice-breaker: Man that c-word really sucks right? Boom! You’ve got a good topic to chat about. Rather than liking a couple of their posts on Instagram or Facebook, I’m sure they would love to hear your voice.

Learn Something New

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

You said you’ve been wanting to learn Korean since the beginning of the year. Suddenly, with all of this downtime at home, the moment has presented itself to download some nifty apps like Duolingo or Memrise. They are either free or inexpensive so give them a whirl. Additionally, if you’re a cardholder at the local library, then you get free access to every online course for Lynda.

Organize Your House

That lengthy project to shuffle around all of your furniture or throw away expired items in the medicine cabinet makes a lot of sense right now. Also, we have years of memories hidden away either in external hard-drives or floating around in cloud storage. Maybe it’s time to dive in, see what’s all there, and organize them.

Organize Your Life

Organizing life can feel deflating, but it’s worth it!

If you’re like me, your life might be a speeding train that doesn’t have a clear destination. Perhaps you’re overdue to review the goals you’ve set for yourself, create a new ones, or have a deep brainstorming session about them. Whatever you need or want to do, I’m positive that this bonus time will work in your favor.

Get Creative

The next time you visit Safeway (one of the few places allowed to stay open in my area) I highly recommend investing in colored markers, paint brushes, or water colors – if you don’t already have these goods. Creating a work of art, no matter the skill level, is a fantastic stress-reliever. Once you get in a flow, then the hours pass by really quickly. Given the circumstances, I’m sure we all have plenty of inspiration right now.


Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash

Speaking of flow, practicing or learning to meditate is a pretty awesome tool to help lower anxiety and boost concentration. Taking time between activities to meditate can be a nice little addition to your stay-at-home routine. Spotify has some great free guided meditations and for those interested in paying a little fee per month then Headspace is a nifty app.

Read Something

We all have a book sitting on the shelf that we’ve been meaning to open. Maybe we don’t have any books in our house so we must resort to going online for our literary pleasure. My favorite websites to pass the time (that aren’t news or social media) are: Medium, Culture Trip, Thrillist, Mental Floss, & McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. If you own an e-reader then your local library offers e-books for free and so does Project Gutenberg. There’s also a pretty cool blog called There Dan Was that critics are raving about as well. 😉

Write Something

Another source of creativity is writing. Maybe you’ve been meaning to start a book, right a memoir, a joke, or a blog to rant about that pesky c-word. Now’s your chance to let the writing juices drive in the carpool lane.

Be Thankful

This worldwide event has been scary and it might seem like life has taken a downward spiral. Remember, in spite of everything, that we still have shelter and a device for reading this article. We have loved ones and, contrary to what the news feeds us, life is still good. It’s important to give thanks for what we still have (which is a lot). There is always someone who has it worse and this change to our life is temporary.


Thank you for reading this blog post! There are countless other activities that we can all do to pass the time but just in case you’ve been stumped for inspiration I hope this post was useful. Have a wonderful day, wash your hands after reading, and stay safe. By the way, keep up the great work!

-Daniel Catena

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!

Europe, Spain, story, Travel

Torrevieja Bus Stations

At 10am in Torrevieja the sun was already hindering my eyesight and all of the layers I was wearing began to feel highly unnecessary.

If the bus that I’d been waiting before decided to be delayed by a few minutes. I would have considered shedding my winter jacket and throw it in the garbage. I didn’t feel like standing up, nor exerting more energy that would cause more temperature induced discomfort. Blocking heavy sun rays with my right hand, I decided to instead sit out my final handful of minutes in this southern coastal city next to a vending machine.

A grey haired security guard shifted weight between soft strides as he compared the knots of his shoelaces.

The taste of a slightly overpriced black coffee lingered in my palate as I pulled out my moleskin notebook in an effort to distract myself.

There wasn’t anything I wanted to write and soon the huffing from a Costa Azul bus line coughed it’s way into a nearby passenger loading platform.

The lady at the ticket counter told me to wait in front of platform number six, and this bus that just perched itself was waiting at number nine.

“Go ask the driver where it’s going.”

An elderly man with short white hair and a plaid button down shirt leaned forward in the seat next to me.

I stood up and tried to make eye contact with the driver, in an attempted Jedi mind trick to find out where his bus was going. It didn’t work and my hesitation prompted the old man to cajole me forward.

“Just ask the driver. Maybe it’s going to Alicante.” I smiled and nodded at the guy, as he seemed to be knowledgeable about the workings of Torrevieja buses.

I clutched my backpack and approached the driver. He confirmed that this indeed was my bus, seven minutes early and docked at the wrong platform.

Before handing the Costa Azul employee my ticket that cost four euros, I turned back to the elderly man.

“Thank you! You were right.”

The bus’ ignition was still running as I felt a sudden urge to initiate small talk.

“Where are you going to?”

In a half smile he did his best to glance up at me for as long as the pestering sunlight would permit.

“Me, well, I’m not going anywhere.”

Looking at the old man, the weight of my backpack felt a little heavier.

In a pretend laugh, “You’re just having a rest.”

He continued the half smile and gave me a one word “yes.”

This was probably a good time to leave so I said farewell and boarded the waiting bus.

The old man kept leaning forward as other travelers shuffled around the terminal.

The now crumpled up ticket of paper read “Alicante” but as the transport reversed away from the platform I didn’t really know if I was going anywhere, either.

California, Ideas, Life, Murcia, Random Thoughts, Sausalito, Teaching, Travel, United States

The Last Bag of Goldfish Crackers

When I was in first grade, my school’s Peruvian Spanish teacher Señora Buckley would sometimes reward us with Goldfish crackers whenever we did something correctly.

Did you count to six? Here are six Goldfish. Were you able to say “dog” in Spanish? Here’s one Goldfish…

Being only six years old, Spanish wasn’t necessarily a subject that I enjoyed. Power Rangers, GI Joes, and Ninja Turtles already took priority in my life so anything else would need to be crayoned into my seemingly occupied elementary school schedule.

I’m not sure if treat training was the best way of helping us learn, but it was a great way to introduce a delicious and baked snack into my diet.

Blinking my eyes, all of a sudden I’m not a six year old anymore. The memories of clamors of young learners trying to sputter Spanish have been replaced with the rhythm of some nearly forgotten 90’s pop song being softly circulated through aisle six of a Safeway grocery store.

Blinking again, I’m almost thirty-one years old and for some reason the plastic handle of a shopping basket is firmly gripped within the web of my right hand’s fingers.

The last blink induced a deep inhale, as I needed to recollect myself and bring my mind back to the present.

Standing in aisle six, I reach my free hand outward and grab a bag of Parmesan cheese flavored Goldfish crackers. Señora Buckley flashes in my consciousness as I hold a bag of savory vices and toss it in the basket. I want to take more, but one bag is all I can muster without feeling like a complete lush.

Part of the reason why I’m buying this bag is to feed my tastebuds. Another reason why I’m here is to say goodbye. I’ve come to Safeway to pay respects and bid farewell to some foods that I love, such as, well, Goldfish crackers, Siracha hot sauce, Tortilla Factory brand tortillas, and a handful of other items.

Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be leaving California and returning to Murcia, Spain to work as an English teacher for seven months. This will be my third school year in this part of the world, and it’s hard to believe that it’s happening yet again. I’m excited to be coming back to the place that feels like a second home, but the foods listed above won’t be available in Murcia. This is totally ok, as Spain has some great culinary staples that aren’t available in California either. It’s a fair trade, but saying bye to Goldfish is perhaps the toughest pill to swallow.

With my last bag of Goldfish safely guarded by the shopping basket, I feel grateful to be given another opportunity to work in Murcia. There are a lot of wonderful people who I can’t wait to see upon arrival into Spain, but there are a lot folks in California/Missoula/Bend who made this summer back home truly memorable. Between weddings, catching up with family, reconnecting with friends, and sharing some awesome memories, (and passing subtest one of the CSET), this summer was maybe the best I’ve ever had. There are a lot of people who I would like to thank for making this summer great and also for making this return to Spain possible, but making you read the full list would make you late for something more important.

I don’t know what will happen once I get back to Murcia, nor do I know if this is the best thing that I should be doing with my life. The only thing I know is that being in Murcia, like the bag of Goldfish that I’m about to barbarically tear open, is something that makes me feel happy.  This doesn’t mean that California or living in the US is something that makes me unhappy, I feel fortunate to say that I’m really happy there too. My heart likes being in different places, and right now it’s beating with a sound that says I need to be back in Spain. Maybe I should see a doctor about that…

Either way, I’m excited to see what happens.

I’ve been standing in front of the crackers for way too long now, and that combined with the fact that I haven’t brushed my teeth yet today is putting some protective Marin moms, shopping carts a safe distance away, on red alert.

It’s time to not say goodbye. It’s time to say “see you next summer.”

Friends and family in California and the United States, I love you a lot. Stay safe, wash your face before bed, and see you soon 🙂

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..

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, 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.

Life, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized

The Next Five Minutes

The next five minutes might be the only time in our lives when you and I ever share a single thing in common.

You’ve stumbled on this blog and I decided to take time to write a little bit of nonsense into it.

The next five minutes will go by quickly, and you will hardly know that they ever passed by. This happens to me a regular basis. Thinking that this will only take five minutes can happen twelve times in an hour and depending on your sleep schedule nearly three hundred times in a single day.

Where do all of those five minutes ago?

Sometimes we use them to have a quick meal, to go for a jog, to hide from our boss, to read the news, to listen to a song, or in many cases to think about what happened five minutes ago.

Looking back on thirty years of life, I know that I have wasted many five minutes. Perhaps I was too concerned about something that didn’t really matter or maybe I was too busy staring at birds on trees.

Five minutes really aren’t anything, but in some cases they can be everything that truly matters.

In the past five minutes, somewhere in the world, a person just kissed for the first time. Someone has gotten a promotion, been accepted to a university, dumped by their girlfriend, and finally told the guy next to her how much they care about them.

Five minutes ago a baby just saw light for the first time and in a hospital a terminally ill patient doesn’t know if he’ll experience a minute in this world ever again.

When I get old it might only take five minutes to reflect on what the hell this life was all about.

I don’t want to spend any of my five minutes regretting moments where I didn’t do what made me happy, or didn’t have the courage to do something I thought was right.

Five minutes are precious, and even though the past five minutes will never come back to us, I am thankful that they happened, and more importantly grateful that there are another five minutes of enjoying waiting around the corner.

I’m happy we got to share these past five minutes together, whatever you decide to do after this is purely up to you.

Go fly a kite, write a letter, or say something that rhymes just for the better. Whatever it is, live it the way you want to live it.

Enjoy the next five minutes, after sitting through this blog post you definitely have earned them. 😉

Thank you for reading, maybe the next post is coming in five minutes!

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

The Virgin of Wonders in San Basilio

I’m sitting in the house where I used to live.

Blustery Murcian breeze sends ruffles within the undercarriage of outside patio plants as I stare blankly through the glass of Lola’s living room window.

She is my friend and used to be my landlord up until about three weeks ago.

The room where I once slept, prepared lesson plans, and secretly watched Youtube videos of angry cats is now being resided by Teresa, a very nice woman from Brazil.

I don’t pay rent here anymore, however Lola and the rest of the house has welcomed me as a guest for whenever I happen to be in the neighborhood.

It’s hard to distinguish whether the noises I’m hearing are wind-induced or ghosts from over a year of calling this house home.

I want to still live with these great people, yet it feels exciting to be mixing up the everyday scenery.

In Murcia my address was named after the late Spanish poet José María Pemán, an Andalusian novelist who was one of the few artists to publicly support Francisco Franco in the 1930’s.

Living now in a neighborhood called San Basilio, you can send me mail to Calle Virgin de la Maravillas (Virgin of Wonders), named after a Virgin Saint for the Murcian pueblo of Cehegin.

With an Ecuadorian market that sells frozen bags of aji, a small deli, a coffee shop that offers espresso for less than a dollar , and access to public ride-share bicycles within a short walking distance, I feel very comfortable with the fresh residence. This combined with friendly new roommates (Eva and Emili) has made moving a pleasant experience.

If you get lost looking for me in San Basilio you can find the entrance to my apartment building simply by looking for a dangling Santa Clause mannequin that someone has forgotten to take down since the holidays.

Listen for the sound of rollerblades with overused breaks or a strong American accent and you might bump into me on the corner.

Train your nostrils to the smell of cooking garlic or sound of passively aggressive hip-hop music through a third floor window.

As stated earlier I’m taking a break in my old house.

In a short while it will be time to hit the road and try my best to teach a couple of Spanish kids some common English verbs.

With one private and another academy lesson completed for the day, a strong desire to drink a beer is hovering over my head, however responsibility must linger around until the final class is wrapped up in a little over two hours.

There is more I could say in this post, but after skimming through it once, I guess there is also a lot less I could have written as well.

Only time and internet scientists for literary nonsense will be able to answer that question..

It’s time to go, so please remember to review your idioms and phrasal verbs 🙂

Thank you for checking out this blog! Have a nice day and have a great start to the year!

-Daniel Catena

Belgium, Europe, Life, Murcia, Spain, Travel


Once upon a time I found myself in Belgium.

By once upon a time I mean a few days ago.

With temperatures hovering at around 40 degrees F, I took at bus from Murcia to Alicante and shifted through airport security before sunrise. Half-Asleep, a Seal song could be heard echoing through the terminal and I didn’t know whether I should be scared or just continue walking.

This was the first official time that I had ever been to Belgium, and the purpose for the journey was to visit with a couple very close friends and meet their seven month old daughter.

Lieven and Claudia live in Ghent and invited me to stay in their guest room for a couple of days. I have a really bad tendency of not doing any research before visiting a new destination, and this weekend was a toast to personal tradition. Luckily Lieven, who is originally from a village outside of the city, already had a few ideas.

On Friday we strolled around Bruges, Saturday we took a train to the capital city (Brussels) and Sunday we took in some morning sites of Ghent before we bid farewell. The waffles in Belgium are inexpensive (one euro in some places), the fresh brews are delightful, Christmas markets with ice-skating rinks played Adele songs, and the fries were a pleasant start to whichever afternoon it was. Belgium is a very clean country with three official languages (French, Dutch, and German).  The people speak softly, everyone is fluent in English, and cars won’t hesitate to run you over. Lieven was a decent guide (jokes!) and seeing his family has been a major highlight since returning to Europe.

I want to say more about Belgium but it’s been a long time since updating this blog. Since leaving the United States there hasn’t been a single post about Spain and about what the heck is going on over here.

I truly apologize about that and will do my best to give an update in as few words as possible!

October 28th was my first day back in Murcia, Spain since last saying “see you later” to friends here back in February.

Coming back was surreal because inside I didn’t know why I was here again. Something deep down was saying that I simply needed to be here right now. With no real plan besides reconnecting with friends and revisiting the old schools where I once worked, I decided to enroll in a part-time Spanish course.

After one week I had a lot of free time on my hands, so for the first time ever I decided to promote my services as a native English teacher with hopes of making some extra money to buy cheap coffee. One thing has led to another and now I find myself working at an after-school English academy for children and filling in the gaps with conversation classes for students ranging from the ages of 10 to 50 years old. Four days a week I have been given the task of teaching groups of 6 and 4 year olds beginning level English. Despite feeling like each class has been a disaster, slowly each session has started to gel in it’s own vastly chaotic way. With my current salary and small list of vices (empanadas, ALSA bus tickets, Full House DVDs) I am earning enough money to break even here in Murcia.

Some people who have made this return special are Lola, Lucia, Zamai, David, Paco, Ascension, the students at Vicente Medina, Nuestra Senora de los Angeles, Lindsey, Gretchen, Rali, and a lot of others.

I left California in October not really knowing what I was going to do with myself. Right now I’m in Spain, not really knowing what I’m doing with myself.

In ten days I’ll be back in California for my Dad’s birthday, Christmas, and New Years. A few days after the start of 2017 I’ll be headed back to Spain until the end of the school year, which is mid June. The English academy hired me based on the promise that I’d stay the full term, and even though there are some visa issues that need to be sorted out, this is something that I want to accomplish. I also am going to continue studying at the Spanish academy, so that I can hopefully pass a DELE exam and have an internationally recognized level of fluency. We will see what happens 🙂

I feel fortunate to be back here, to see friends again, and to be working on something that feels meaningful. That being said, everyone from family to friends back home are all missed a lot.

Thank you for reading and for your time. To those in the Bay Area, let’s hang out when I’m back! Have a great day, I think you are really special. Brush your teeth and floss after dinner, ok? 😉

Love and abrazos,

Daniel Catena