Thursday, October 21, 2010

Too Much "Agua".

Thursday night, we had a welcome dinner in our flat.  After spending the ENTIRE day in Jarandilla, I was in dire need of a meal, drink, and good company!  Mamen cooked bacalao dorado (cod with potato chips and eggs).  Jose Miguel made an empanada.  We also had bread with a tasty spread, and small appetizers.  After dinner, I taught everyone to play beer pong, which was a total hit! Spain doesn’t have red SOLO cups!  They have cups that are either too big or too small.  I ended up buying liter sized cups and cutting them in half, which gave me a perfect sized cup!  While it took about 15 minutes for everyone to understand the rules – the game went off without a hitch!  It was an instant hit!  After dinner and beer pong, we went out to a few of the bars for dancing until 4am or so.  All in all, we had a very fun night!  From what I understand, dinners like these happen quite often on Thursdays with this group of friends!  In the States, Thursday means “Thirsty Thursday” and I do believe that that is exactly what Thursday will mean in Navalmoral as well (plus food!).

Me, Oscar, Ismael, Jose Miguel, Emma, Maria, Dioni, Mamen
Mamen y yo
First Beer Pong Game Ever!!!
Maria, Emma, Dioni, Mamen, Oscar, Me, Jose Miguel out for dancing!
Free shots at Canterville! :)
This past weekend, Maria and I decided to stay in Navalmoral after a crazy Puente weekend spent partying in Salamanca the weekend before.  However, it was anything but a quiet weekend!  Friday was relatively quiet as we slept most of our day away after Thursday’s welcome dinner.  We looked into getting internet for the house, only to realize the process is going to be much more complicated than we originally though – as we need a phone in the house to have internet.  Our friend, Ismael, is helping us figure this out now as our Spanish skills just won’t cut it when dealing with a situation of this matter!  Friday night was I worn out from doing absolutely nothing during Friday day, so we sat at home and talked to Ismael for a relaxed evening.  

I made the mistake of telling Ismael I wanted to drink Agua de Valencia (champagne, vodka, gin, and orange juice) because I didn’t get to have a glass in Salamanca – SO Saturday evening was spent drinking Agua de Valencia.  Man was it good!  We actually played “Agua de Valencia Pong” which isn’t a good idea, as Agua de Valencia is a killer!  Also, I guess we had our music up too loud for our neighbors’ liking because they called the police on us!  Not sure, if it was the music or just the fact that we had two parties in one week – which both got a little crazy!  Anyway, the police came, yelled up to the flat from outside on the street, and said the neighbors had complained about our music. Wellll that was the end of Agua de Valencia Pong – we resorted to just talking and discussing Spanish and English words… dictionaries come in very handy! We also cooked tortilla española… so cliché, but so good!

Beerpong with Ismael.
Tortilla Espanola!!! (so cliche, but so good!)
Just after the police were called to the flat!
Sunday.  I hate Sundays.  When I studied in Salamanca, I never left my house on a Sunday.  Sundays in Navalmoral will be just about the same.  Sunday is the Lord’s Day; for everyone to be able to enjoy it as they should, NOTHING is open on Sunday.  No grocery store, no shopping center, restaurants – maybe.  It’s a good thing that no one has to work, but it’s just a big pain that you can’t go out and buy anything! All I wanted yesterday was a Coke and I couldn’t get one!  Well, until 18:00/6:00pm when Maria and I met our friend Dioni for a drink at La Bodega de Jamon.  He said “let’s get a coffee” and Maria and I both got Cokes! I do believe it was the best Coke I’ve ever had in my life!

Maria and I ordered in Chinese food so we could watch Big Brother “Gran Hermano 12” that started yesterday in Spain.  It is the same concept as the Big Brother in America, but it’s just really strange at the same time. This season, there are two houses side by side and only a few participants know there is another house.  There is one set of boyfriend/girlfriend on the show – but they are in opposite houses.  One house is from the future, another from today.  The futurist house is COMPLETELY white, plastic furniture…it looks like something from “The Jetsons!” (I’m just waiting for the flying car…)  The other house is very nice, with a swimming pool, gym, and huge recreational outside area.  The boyfriend has ONLY girl roommates and the girlfriend has ONLY guy roommates.  AND they have only the opposite sex’s clothing. They switched the luggages around and so the house with all girls and one guy will have only guys’ clothing, the other house will be the complete opposite. Everyone is completely different in the house – and many different nationalities are represented.  It will be interesting to see the season play out.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why I Need a Car.

Today, Thursday, October 14, 2010, I am in the high school for my first full day of teaching.  I have four classes today.  The first class went very well, with students of 4ESO. (I have no idea what that means!)  The students were split into two groups- one to come with me and Roberto, the other to stay with Trigoso. I was given questions to answer about myself and the students were to listen and fill in the blanks like “what is your father’s name and profession” “who is your favorite singer” and “what country are you from”.  They kept asking “can you spell it”?  Even after spelling my name multiple times, the answers they wrote on the board were “Whittiy” and “Whitdney”.  When I said my last name, they said “Oh, like Peter Griffin from Family Guy!” They loved saying “Carol” and they thought I said I was from United Kingdom – how they got that from United States of America I will never know! My accent, while I think it is very clear, gives them such a tough time.  However, I guess I should be happy that they are excited to have me in class.  One girl said, “Your name is Whitney, my sister told me!” (her sister is in the primary school with me!) as the teacher was introducing me.  One of the questions was “what is your phone number” to which the teacher said give a false one – good thing, because at the end of the class, three boys stayed around to ask me if the number I gave was real or false!  They are 13 and 14 years old! I had told  them I have one horse (ok, dad, I claim the horse in Spain!) and after class one of these boys said “I have two pet horses if you want to come ride one day with me! But I need your real number…” The teacher said NO! She will not go riding with you!  To say the least, the class was very fun; the girls wanted to learn and for the boys I was a novelty.  The second class of the day was with Laura and Roberto – again we split into two groups – I stayed with Laura.  We talked about Halloween and Thanksgiving, questions about ourselves – likes dislikes family – it was mainly conversation, as speaking with a native person is much different than listening to a Spaniard teach English. It was just break time – 20 minutes – and I had a café with Antonio, my tutor.  In a few minutes I will go to have class with Antonio and the students in BachA – students in an optional 2 year English/college prep course – followed by BachB with Roberto.  The students should be very good at English and will be able to more or less speak normal to me. I’m looking forward to the Bach classes very much! I also just learned, I don’t know how I am getting home today – as Juan Antonio who I normally ride with on Thursday has a meeting after school – so, I could be staying in Jarandilla for the weekend! Time will tell…
The two afternoon classes were very good! We talked about teenagers and how high schools give students “babies” to care for during a weekend or in the case of Helias a “baby egg!” I think it was informative.  I was told to read a passage about this process out loud and in my normal talking voice/speed – the students looked at me as if I were a talking machine or a robot! They just couldn’t believe I could read it aloud like that! J The last class of the day was with Roberto again and we played the same getting to know you game from the earlier class period.  The English language of these students was much higher so it was easier to facilitate.  The one that got them was “my mom Carol owns a construction company” – they said “oh, like Extreme House Makeover!” Well, at least they understood the building houses part! I also learned that in British English they pronounce “Z” differently so every time I said “Z” they thought I said “C”.  They also called me a liar when I told them I had 1 brother and 1 sister as they had heard differently throughout school!  After class, another one of the teachers in the school told me that his younger daughter had come home from school the day before and said “Do you know an American girl, Whitney? My friend is working with her in a play and she said she works at the high school too. I wish I could work with her.” It makes me feel so good about myself when kids know me or have heard of me! It’s definitely a good feeling.
Well, it is now 5:30pm and I am still at school. I was pawned off onto a first year teacher named Beatriz, who couldn’t have been nicer! She took me to her house, fed me, and we watched tv! I tried jamón flavored chips and I am dying to go buy a bag at the store! Beatriz told me that Alejandro Sanz and Shakira have houses in Jarandilla!!! Que chulo! She showed me Alejandro’s house from her balcony! - La Tortuga by Shakira and Alejandro Sanz - Looking for Paradise by Alicia Keys and Alejandro Sanz
Alejandro's house is in the mountains in the clearing above the yellowish building...

I got home around 18:30/6:30pm to Navalmoral.  I was waiting on Paco to take me – only to find out Paco wasn’t at school for the meeting! Another teacher who was going to Caceres ended up taking me home.  I am so grateful for all of the teachers’ help and hospitality, for reaching out and taking me under their wing.  While it wasn’t too fun waiting around all evening, it was fine thanks to the good people who helped me pass the time.

*That's why I need a car - I don't want to spend 12 hours in Jarandilla ever again!!!! Well, unless I am being touristy - but being stuck in the school (the day the internet was down!) wasn't the best way to spend my evening!!!

Here are some pictures of Jarandilla de la Vera were I teach. It is a beautiful place in the Sierra de Gredos Mountains!
Jarandilla de la Vera - this place is so old!!

Jarandilla de la Vera

Main Plaza in Jarandilla

Sunrise in Jarandilla

Jarandilla Parador - an old castle that is now a government owned hotel.

Primary school that I teach at - Conquistador Loysa

Inside the school - these are the kindergarten classrooms

Overlooking Jarandilla from the high school - IES Jaranda

IES Jaranda

Entrance hall in IES Jaranda

Another view from IES Jaranda - looking toward Alejandro's house! ;)


This past weekend was Puente.  What is “Puente”? Puente is what the Spanish call an extended weekend.  When there is a holiday that falls on a Friday or Monday, they call the weekend Puente.  Well, since I am a language assistant, my Puente began on Wednesday evening, as I only work every third Thursday – and they gave me my first Thursday of Puente weekend OFF!  So, I had Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday to do absolutely nothing! Where did I go? Salamanca!

Thursday evening, Maria and I went out with Mamen’s friends in Navalmoral.  For dinner, we met with Diana and Jose Miguel, two of our new friends in Navalmoral.  We had a wonderful dinner of bacalao dorado (cod cooked with chips and eggs) and a sartén (pan) of huevos rotos (broken eggs) fixed with pimientos, fries, and chorizo.  Both were extremely tasty, as we shared them Spanish style – all eating from the same plate!  After dinner, we went to bar El Abuelito (The little grandma) where Mamen says they start drinking every Thursday night.  We then went bar hopping to Canterville, Boulevard, and MundoPop.  The night was spent with new friends (Mamen, Diana, Jose Miguel, Oscar, Ismael, Dioni, and Maria of course) sharing drinks and overcoming the language barrier, which of course got easier as the night went on! It was such a fun night out! Today is Thursday and I couldn’t be happier to see where the night goes.
Oscar, Maria, Jose Miguel, Dioni, Mamen, Ismael, Me in Canterville

Friday morning, we took a 7:15 bus to Caceres to do NIE paperwork again, step 2 of 3.  Having gone out Thursday night until 5:30am, it only gave us about an hour to “nap”.  It was such a long morning spent in the international immigration office, but we accomplished what we needed to do.  Now, I must wait until Novemeber 22, when my international identity card will officially be complete!  For lunch, Maria and I met up with another auxiliar, Kristen, who lives and teaches in Caceres.  We picked up some food at the supermarket and cooked at Kristen’s flat.  We finished with just enough time to run to the bus at 14:00/2:00pm and start our journey to Salamanca!
After the four hour journey from Cáceres to Salamanca, we were exhausted.  But, we were in Salamanca, and nothing was stopping me from going out.  We stayed with a friend whom I met in 2008, Tasos, who offered to let us stay with him for the weekend.  After tapas on Calle Van Dyke and getting ready, we set out for our first Salamantina night.  Friday night, the Spanish national team “La Roja” was actually playing IN Salamanca against Lithuania!  How weird to think that the team who won the EuroCup and World Cup were in the same town as us!  We watched the game on a big screen in the Plaza Mayor as we waited in line to take a picture with the “La Copa del Mundo” – The World Cup trophy!! We were also fortunate to see different memorabilia from years past, including the EuroCup trophy from 2008! It was such a cool experience! The rest of the night was spent in Irish Rover, Paniagua, Chupiteria, and Khandavia.  It was surreal being back in Salamanca – such a good feeling seeing old friends!
Plaza Mayor packed with people watching La Roja vs Lithuania.

Watching the game as we wait in line for our picture with the World Cup trophy!

EuroCup 2008 Trophy

Spain's 2010 FIFA World Cup Trophy

Jorge, Me, Nacho, Maria outside Chupiteria.

Having a drink with Whitney in Paniagua! Viva Las Whitneys!
Saturday, we walked around the cuidad dorada, looking at the famous Rana/frog, The Astronaut, Casa de las Conchas and Calixto y Melibea garden.  We had a nice meal Tasos had prepared for us, complete with pumpkin soup, barbequed chicken with rice, and ice cream!  We met with two other auxiliaries later in the evening and had churros con chocolate in Valor! I enjoyed showing everyone Salamanca as I know it.  We saw a religious festival/ceremony happening in the street as we walked from Valor to the Plaza Mayor - I can't wait to see Easter celebrations as they do similar things in the streets, but 10x bigger and better! Saturday night, 12 auxiliares from Extremadura all met together in the plaza for a much needed night out!  We started at Paniagua, Chupiteria, Gatsby, Camelot, Irish, Cubic, and Khandavia.  It was a typical night out – with group photos in the Plaza Mayor and at “the statue”!  I danced on the speaker at Camelot for the first time – something I had only seen my 2008 house mates Annie and Emily do multiple times!  I am now part of the club. J
Casa de las Conchas - House of Shells

View fromCalixto y Melibea garden - looking toward San Esteban Monastary on far left

Maria and I in Plaza Mayor by day

Religious Ceremony in street in Salamanca

Plaza Mayor by night!!!

Extremadura Auxiliares in Plaza Mayor

Proof that I danced on the Camelot speaker!
Maria(Scotland), Kim(Scotland), Laura(England), Me

Sunday.  After a long night out, we awoke the next morning to a steak dinner with potatoes and peas, mushroom soup, and ice cream!  What a nice wakeup call, right?!  We got ready and went to the Salamanca soccer game with some other auxiliaries.  What we thought was a “short walk” turned into a 45 minute brisk walk, along the Camino de Santiago (a pilgrimage that takes you on a hike across all of Spain-taking about 40 days!).  Maria and I bought soccer scarves: mine of Salamanca, hers of España.  Our seats were in fondo Sur – on the south side behind one of the goals.  The only other time I had been in the Salamanca soccer stadium was in 2008 when a group of us study abroad girls were invited to attend their practice!  There were only 6 of us in the entire stadium – this time was much different! I think there were 7,000 or 8,000 fans in attendance for the Salamanca/Granada game, which they say is a small crowd.  But, the atmosphere was incredible! People were constantly singing, beating drums, blowing whistles, waving flags, and throwing their hands up and shouting/cursing at the players.  I’ve never been a fan of soccer, but if I could attend more live Spanish games, I could totally be a fan! Sunday evening, we went out again – it is Salamanca – the town that never sleeps!
Soccer game poster - Salamanca vs. Granada

Granada 2 / Salamanca 1 - still a fun match!


Paniagua - everyone writes on the walls!

Khandavia with Helen and Javi

Monday afternoon Tasos made spaghetti bolognaise – some of the best I’ve ever had!  Maria and I walked into the plaza to find several other auxiliaries who had just arrived from Plasencia.  We spent the afternoon walking to el Rio Tormes and the streets of Salamanca. I found Carmen, my ISA director from Fall 2009, in the street near ISA and we caught up about all of the ISA-ers from Fall 2009. We had a drink at Don Quixote Café with Seodhna, an Irish girl who’s Salamanca life parallels mine – with an obsession with Irish Rover and its bartenders! She is also teaching English and we were able to share stories about Salamanca, students, and Irish Rover.  It was so nice actually sitting down with Seodhna and not just chitchatting at the bar like the past. After meeting with Seodhna, Maria and I ran across town to see Lourdes, my host mom from last fall, at her place of work.  She was peering out the window waiting for me, as we spotted each other while I was in the crosswalk!  It was like no time had passed.  It was so nice catching up with her.  Hopefully next time I am in Salamanca I can have a famous Lourdes meal!  I failed to remember they had a restaurant, so next time I’m in Salamanca, I will be eating at El Fogón and visiting Lorena, my old host sister. 
View of Cathedrals and Old Roman Bridge

Everyone searching for the Frog. (it's on the far right column about half way up!)

visiting with Carmen!

Don Quixote Cafe

I had been looking forward to Monday night for quite some time – as Monday means BP in Irish! However, this past Monday there was no beer pong as David and Oscar were in Barcelona for the Puente weekend.  After some tasty tapas, with a wonderful garlic sauce in Calle Van Dyke, we headed out for the night with the other auxiliaries. We spent most of the night at Medivo’s barre libre GRATIS para las chicas – free bottomless ladies night!  As you could imagine, we had a few sangrias too many!  Since most of other auxiliares were leaving Tuesday morning rather early, it was an early night – for everyone but me!  I headed to Irish Rover to see a few friends – and ended up seeing a few more friends I didn’t think I would see: Mary Angeles, AIFS student director from 2008 and Yussef, a friend Gina and I met in 2008. (Yes, Gina and Rachel – I saw YUSSEF! When I asked him for Hamza’s new number… he said “As you know I do not speak to my brother” – I’m sure you can hear him say it now! Rach – I also saw los jemelos!!!  Ow ow) I then went to Paniagua to meet with Nacho, which was the end of my night.
Megan, Melissa and I in Medivo

Two things I love: Yussef and Irish!!!

Two Irish Rover Girls - Mary and Whitney :)

Tuesday morning around 9:30am, Maria and I boarded a bus to Caceres which would then take us to Navalmoral.  We need to look for a better schedule between avanzabus, alsa, and renfe – as it took us way too long to get home when Salamanca is only 2 hours from Navalmoral!  After arriving home, Maria and I watched the Spain/Scotland soccer game that was taking place in Maria’s hometown of Glasglow, Scotland, just around the corner from her house!  However, at half time I called it a night as the weekend’s festivities had worn me out!
As you can imagine, Wednesday morning was horrible – as I had barely slept the entire weekend and found it almost impossible to sleep at times on the bus.  But, I only had 1 class with 3rd and 4th graders so it wasn’t too horrible.  I’m teaching these kids a play called “Pretty Ritty” that they will perform when the group of English speakers from surrounding eco-friendly European schools comes to visit. I had to speak in Spanish at times to explain what was going on – I think they found it quite entertaining as translating a play can be really difficult! But, I think it made them more comfortable with me as they could see I am still learning too.  After school, I came home to take a longgg siesta!  Wednesday night was spent skyping with family and friends back home, viewing pictures from my cousin Abby’s wedding through skype with my mom, and talking to Kortney in Colorado about our obsession with Salamanca.  It was a nice afternoon! (As you can see, afternoons, evenings, and nights all run together and are all intertwined.  The Spanish life style is definitely more night friendly and 19:00/7:00pm or 20:00/9:00pm are still “por la tarde” or afternoon… not night!) On the walk home, I saw two friends, Oscar and Ismael, who I decided to go to a bar with and have a drink! We went to a place called La Bodega de Jamon- yes, their ham was very good!  It was a nice hour or so with friends, which we mainly spent organizing our Welcome Dinner “La cena de bienvenida” which is happening tonight, Thursday! We are all bringing different things for the dinner – I’m in charge of cerveza as I told them about beer pong and they want to learn to play!! I think the dinner menu is wine, beer, bacalao dorado, crunchy meatballs, and dessert.  I’m very excited to learn to cook bacalao as it has been one of the best comidas I’ve had in Extremadura so far!  It will be an interesting night, to say the least!  I will let you know how it goes!
I could not have planned a better Puente than the one I spent in Salamanca: the Copa del mundo, el partido de futbol, mis amigos salamantinos, and the feeling of being “home”.  I cannot wait to spend another weekend in Salamanca.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hello, girl. English?

Classes have begun. I have officially been a “teacher” for two days.  Mondays and Thursdays I will be going to the high school IES Jaranda.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be spent at CIEP Conquistador primary school.  Divina, my tutora, picked me up from Navalmoral and drove me to Jarandilla for the first time Monday morning.  The drive is so pretty as Jarandilla is a the base of the Sierra de Gredos mountains.  I will have the pleasure of watching the sunrise each day during the 20 minute commute from Navalmoral.  I don’t know if this is really a good thing—waking up early isn’t my cup of tea! But, it is so pretty and I am happy to see it.  We pass lots of tobacco fields and pine trees on the drive to Jarandilla as well. Pictures will come soon…

Day 1: high school.  I arrived to school to find my tutor, Antonio, was still in class for 20 minutes.  They took me to the teacher’s lounge to wait for him and told me I could get on the internet while I waited. YES! You don’t realize how much you take internet for granted until you don’t have convenient access to it.  Teachers kept coming in the lounge, and I didn’t know what to do!  I just sat there until Antonio arrived.  Antonio finally arrived after what seemed like an eternity and introduced me to a few people; we went on a tour of the school.  IES Jaranda is a nice sized school consisting of several buildings: 2 main buildings each with 2 floors, 1 gym, and the technical classrooms where cooking and nature type classes are taught.  I will talk to the nature classes twice a month to teach them vocabulary about nature, animals, trees, etc. as many of these young men are studying to be nature guides in the nearby national park.
Antonio and I were waiting outside the nature classrooms to talk with Juan Antonio, one of the teachers who will give me a ride to school.  Juan Antonio teaches boys aged 18-19 years old who are studying to be nature guides at a nearby national park. Suddenly, all I hear is “hello girl, hello. English?” as all the boys have come to the door.  Antonio simply said “Americana” and they all went crazy.  However, none of them wanted to practice their English, just to stare and say “hello!” Well, I guess it will be nice to talk to them during the year, it could be interesting. Maybe they won’t be scared to talk to me after a few class periods.  Seriously, I think everyone is scared of me because they are fearful they will have to say something to me IN English!
Antonio and I tried finalizing my schedule of classes and rides from Navalmoral to Jarandilla each day.  After we finished, I attended one of his classes.  The students were well behaved as this was a class studying to enter university.  We played a game where I asked them questions like: “If you were an alcoholic drink, what would you be?” and “If you were a celebrity, who would you be?”  Yes, I was asking these “high schoolers” what alcoholic beverage would they be because the drinking age in Spain is 16/non existant.  After asking the 15 questions, we collected the papers; I picked answers at random for the students to guess which classmate had said what.  It was hard for them to understand my “accent” because they have learned British English and all their teachers speak in British accents. Living with Maria, I know how different verbs and words can sound. They all had strange looks upon their faces when I would say words like “building” or “cartoon character”!  I think they are happy for me to be in the class though, as it is a fun time to learn English from a native Speaker vs. a Spanish/English teacher.
Day 2. Today I woke up at 6:30am in order to meet my ride, Eva, who would take me to Jarandilla for day 2 of classes.  Eva works at the high school, which is just as you enter Jarandilla on the hill to the left—the rest of the town is to the right, up on another hill.  Because the high school and primary schools have different schedules, I was 40 minutes early for school; I’m either going to be hanging around late or arriving early since this is the only way to work out the commute.  Oh well.   Eva took me to the high school – but today is Tuesday – so I needed to get to the primary school.  I decided to take off on foot – never having set foot inside the town.  Well, I overheard teachers talking yesterday about a bridge that could take me to the primary school… yeah, well I didn’t know where this was this morning.   It just so happened that I spotted this student walking up a dirt path as I was walking down the hill from the high school – I decided to take it.  I found the bridge…down a long dirt path, then up another hill, and into the town.  I was told “the primary school is next to the castle” so I just started walking in the direction of the castle (called a “parador” because it is government owned and now a hotel) well, about 25 minutes later I found it.  Seriously, in a town of 3100 people max, I don’t understand how it could take me so long to find this huge parador that is in the center of town. I blame it on the hills and my lack of physical activity these last few months!  I stopped to ask two different people “where is the primary school of Jarandilla” and they just said straight up the street… Had it not been so early, I might have seen the statue of a mother and child and realized it was a school.  Anyway, I won’t get lost tomorrow, it is impossible to be lost in Jarandilla!
I walked into the school, not knowing where to go.  The first lady I saw greeted me and said “Hi, are you the American girl Whitney?” It was so nice that she knew who I was! Everyone knew who I was and was expecting my arrival today! It was such a warm welcome. I went to the principal’s office and teachers just kept coming to meet me.  They all said they wanted to learn English and how excited they were to have me this school year.  Divina met me and took me to my first class of the day; 5th graders more or less with teacher Javier.  The students are 9, 10, and 11 years old.  Javier is so nice, and I have 4 classes with him in total. We went around the room saying “Hello, my name is ____. I am ____ years old. I like ____.” (most students said they like playing soccer or rollerblading, some even said English.)  Some spoke good English, for others it was difficult.  There seems to be a lack of discipline and respect in the classroom.  When a student would answer wrong, all the other pupils would laugh and say phrases that I assume were slightly hurtful – I couldn’t make sense out of the mix of whispers and shouting.  However, the student just kept going until they got it right and it didn’t seem to bother them! I guess that’s good. 
The little boys were scared to look at me when introducing themselves!  One little boy even refused to look at me he was so embarrassed!  In one of the classes, there is a little boy who lived in Ireland for 2 years.  His English is very good, as he was reading an R.L. Stine Goosebumps novel as he carried on a conversation with me! Our conversation? “Are you from New York?” “No…” “Puessssss, well have you seen the White House?” “No!” I guess he judged me then and there.  Europeans don’t realize the size of the United States… it’s practically 50 countries put into one.  
Tuesday afternoons will be spent with Divina and students aged 4, 5, and 6 in their first English class ever!  They are currently doing a program situated around “bug world” with characters of “ant, caterpillar, snail, butterfly, bee, ladybug” and I think it will be very rewarding being with these little kids to see how quickly they can learn English!
With two days down, I really think I am going to like my teaching experience in both schools, as each have something fun and new to offer!  I think I will be able to give private lessons in Jarandilla on Monday and Wednesday after school, as Javier comes to Navalmoral on those evenings and is able to bring me back home on his way to the language school in Navalmoral.  Tomorrow, it is back to the primary school for day 3. I couldn’t be more excited!
Day 3 went well! I only had two classes but they were good classes! The kids all greeted me with “hello!” as they walked into the school building in the early morning. I had a 6th grade class to start the day.  One of the girls even wrote down “Jefferson City” in her notebook to do research at home! Haha Several of the little boys were very talkative and kept asking if I could speak Spanish – because they would make a joke, I would understand part of it, I would laugh and then they would say “ella habla Espanol!!!!!” but, yeah. Anyway, next week when I am their teacher, we will only speak in English. I also had a class of kindergarteners and they are busy bodies! They kept showing me their work, and asking me “how do you say ___ in English” – when I would tell them “dog” or “cat” they got the biggest smiles on their faces!
I am looking forward to the upcoming weeks and starting real classes! This weekend is “Puente” or bridge, where it is a long weekend. Since I don’t work on Fridays, my Puente has already begun! I will be heading to SALAMANCA until Tuesday! I couldn’t be more excited to be “going home”.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Since Orientation.

September 30, Maria, Michael and I went to Cáceres for our two day orientation via an early morning, two hour bus ride.  Knowing what I knew of Spanish culture, I knew it would be interesting, as you’re “on time” when you’re 15 minutes late.
But, backing up a little bit.  After arriving in Cáceres at 9am, we headed to the international office to begin necessary paperwork.  Having obtained my visa in Chicago after two trips, I now have to work on residence paperwork – paperwork to let me open a bank account, rent a flat, etc.  The visa allows me to be in Spain legally as a “student” but do nothing more.  We spent 3 hours in the office working on NIE paperwork (National Identity Extranjero or something or other, like a Social Security number) and it was such a hectic experience.  And, that was the first of three trips to be made to Cáceres!  Anyway, I guess I should be glad that the first is over, and I know what to expect next time.  Total chaos.
While we were finishing up the last of the paperwork, I saw a girl come in and start talking to the secretary guy.  I immediately spotted her water bottle, which was none other than a MIZZOU TIGER water bottle! I asked her if she was from Missouri, and she looked so startled by the question!  But, yes! She, Allyson, went to Mizzou and is from Liberty, MO!  This is her second year in the program, and she is actually teaching in a town just 20 minutes from Jarandilla.  So the Missourians will both be in the “La Vera” region.  We figured out we both knew Phil Lankford, who both of us had taken to dances/formals, etc.  What a small world.
The four of us made our way to the hostel where we were staying for the night with the Auxiliares de Conversacion Program.  Maria and I were bunked in the same room with two other really great girls.  A group of us decided to go eat just off the Plaza Mayor of Caceres.  This “Plaza Mayor” is nothing compared to Salamanca, but the construction didn’t help matters.  It looks like a really nice place when it is in full swing.  We had a few drinks after dinner, well, Fanta naranja in my case, as I was still soaking up as much of it as I could.  We met with a few of Maria’s Spanish friends from when she studied in Caceres. It was such a nice afternoon. 
Orientation began about an hour late, and all it consisted of was us signing in, receiving a few papers, and getting a free bag to carry our books for the school year.  They reviewed the schedule for the next morning – yes, just a morning of orientation – and then we were sent to dinner.  The rest of the night we were able to enjoy Caceres, as we went to the bar for a few drinks…. In my case, several Fanta limon with vodka negro.  Seriously, it was so good.  (Kortney, I was sure to drink out of a straw to ensure no black teeth like Nochevieja.)
Friday morning, I learned some details about my job and about the Spanish school system, how it works and what ages are in what schools.  Basically, in short, Spain has colegios (primary schools) for kids aged 3-12 and institutos (high schools) for kids 13-16.  It is mandatory they take English in the primary school and high school.  In the high school, they are given optional courses in French and German and sometimes Portuguese.  For kids aged 16 – 18 there is a 2 year course they can opt to take after high school which is a college preparatory course where they focus on English and passing an exam for college. Anyway, I think this is how it works, if it isn’t correct, it is pretty close! 
I met Divina, my tutor, from the primary school where I am teaching on Friday morning as well. She is super nice! She teaches kindergarten English, so beginner English.  She has asked me to give her private English lessons, as she doesn’t think her English is really up to par beyond what she teaches to the kiddos, chavalitos! She told me the kids had been asking about me: Where is she from? What is she like? How do you say her name? She said they have been so excited to meet me and have me come to class. 
After orientation, Allyson and I took a bus back to Navalmoral.  This past weekend in Navalmoral was “Feria de San Miguel” – no, it is not a festival celebrating the beer!  Honestly, I don’t really know what it celebrates; just that San Miguel is a Saint that is important to this region, Navalmoral in specific.  Not like feria de Malaga, there weren’t people dressed in Flamenco drinking from wine glasses hung around their necks!  Instead, people were just all over the streets, being social until early (or late?) in the morning.  It was a huge celebration with bands playing in different plazas, games and rides for the kids, etc.
Maria and I celebrated San Miguel by attending one of the “Corrida de Toros Mixta” complete with bulls, bull fighters, and horses! I’m unsure what the exact term is for the men who “bullfight” while they ride a horse.  It was so different than the other 2 bullfights I’ve seen.  While they still killed 6 bulls, they didn’t do all the little things normally done in a typical bullfight.  (Gina, there was no “Tito” – no picador, the guy who stabs the bull while riding a horse who is covered in armor.)  Here is a video of different parts of the bullfight.  Besides the techno music in the background, the other band music you hear is live!

After the corrida de toros, we went for drinks and food. It was quite late when we went out, probably 10:30pm, but lots of people were out, just sitting down to dinner like us.  We ate in this plaza that was crowded with people and tables and chairs. There was a huge table to our right with a band, playing lots of Spanish “band music” – for example, songs that would be Spanish equivalent to songs that a band would play at a football game or basketball game, that the whole crowd knows and can sing along to – like ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ or ‘Eye of the Tiger”. It was such a fun night in such a cool atmosphere.  Maria and I talked about Scottish and American cultural differences, which are vast.  High school seems to be the biggest in general, as there are more activities in American high schools and colleges than anywhere else in the world.  There is just a high school culture that is “so American”.  Maria asked me about “red cups” and if we really use them… I said, “yes, and they come in other colors, like blue and yellow!” haha The list goes on…
On Sunday, I had to move out of Michael’s flat, since he was moving into another one across town.  It just so happened that Sunday it chose to rain. all. day.  Those of you who know me best, know that I HATE rain. Well, I had to make 5 trips in the rain Sunday afternoon.  By the end, we were so soaked that it was almost funny.  In narrow streets, cars would zoom right past you, splashing the water all over your feet and all over my suitcases.  Not a fun experience, but we made it fun!  Maria and I lugged my suitcases up 2 flights of stairs to her apartment, something I wasn’t looking forward to moving again.
With that said, I won’t have to move them until next June at the earliest!!! Why? I moved in. Yes, I finally have a piso to call my own in Spain.  I am living with Mamen from Spain and Maria from Scotland.  I think it is going to be a very exciting year as we each have so much to learn from each other.  Mamen is an English teacher at a language school in Navalmoral, so it’s nice to practice Spanish with her and use English when necessary to clarify things.  We have a really nice flat with 3 rooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, spare storage room, terrace, and kitchen.  We have no heat.  We have no oven. BUT we have satellite television and are looking into wifi! Yes, satellite tele means I have been watching Jersey Shore Season 1 dubbed.  The Osbournes is starting soon…how many years ago did this air in the US?  Haha
Because it was raining on Sunday evening, Maria and I ordered Telepizza to the flat.  We had a peperroni and mushroom pizza that came with free chicken wings with la salsa barbacoa! We ate most of it while we looked at pictures of our friends and family back home. I showed Maria pictures from Helias Prom and Homecoming and we went through my senior yearbook.  It was such a fun night! I can’t wait for more nights like this this year. 
More about the apartment… I have a really nice sized room, all for myself! For the first time ever in Spain, I’m not sleeping in a twin sized bed! Rather, it’s an odd metric sized bed, between a twin and a full.  (Mom/Grandma-No quilts will be purchased this time, as I have no idea what I would buy!) I have a little night stand with a lamp, a nice big window, a free standing closet, and a chair.  The color scheme is a little wacky, but bright and full of patterns.  I have hung up many collaged pictures of friends and family from home and study abroad to remind me of all the good times I’ve had.  It is very homey; I think I will collage a few things for the bare walls, and then it will be very “me”.
We have hot water! Well, that is when you light the gas that heats the water!  (Angie, this is what we would always watch Mitae do from our window!)  Basically, I have to turn on a tank of gas-turn a knob-light the gas inside this metal box with a lighter-turn another knob.  I have to do the same if I use the stove…turn on the gas, light the burner, etc.  It’s just a lot of work for hot water AND a hot stove…I think the microwave will be getting lots of use.  Today, I guess the gas went out about 3 minutes into my shower because it went freezing cold.  After the shower, I turn the gas off so the apt building doesn’t explode. Well, today it wouldn’t have done anything as the tank was empty.

part of my room!

view from my window.

view of street from my window.
living room.

our kitchen. (w/o oven!)

the hallway from the entrance hall. (my room is last on left)

walking in Navalmoral, main street is just ahead. (one of the prettier views)

one of the main plazas during siestas = no one.
So far, I love my housing situation and being in Navalmoral.  I can’t wait for a Thursday night when we can all go out together and sleep in on Friday! I also am excited to explore Jarandilla, but this may have to wait until Spring as it is colder there as it is in the mountains!

More pictures and videos to come... :)