Sunday, November 14, 2010

A [Nontraditional] Blog Entry.

I wanted to introduce you to my current song favorites that I have on replay. I know you are all missing my "wiki wiki" and Justin Timberlake hits, so this will give you an insight into what I would be listening to in my car if I were in the States (or if I had a car in Europe!) Enjoy!

Hands - The Ting Tings

Firework - Katy Perry
(I saw her perform this live for the MTV Awards in Madrid and have been hooked ever since!)  

Loca - Shakira

Only Girl (In the World) - Rihanna

I'm currently listening to these songs while Going the Distance is loading on my computer! I'm also busy working on Thanksgiving lessons which are coming up in two weeks. This upcoming week, I am going to be staying in Jarandilla all week to help with the Comenius that is coming. There are going to be teachers and students from 12 countries and 14 schools represented! I'm pretty excited as it will be a fun filled week surrounded by my students, traveling around and exploring (and tasting) all that Extremadura has to offer! 

PS. Yesterday, we went to watch Ismael play basketball. It was fun seeing a bball game in Spain and not soccer! It made me want to shoot around sometime when I have free time in Navalmoral. BUT, the real reason there is a PS>>> Last night, Maria and I went out with some of Oscar's cousins (plus Oscar, Oscar's brother, and Ismael) and we had an absolute top night! While I wasn't feeling the best, we managed to stay out until 5:30am, dancing the night away in Boulevard. The pictures below don't even do justice to the crazy fun time we had! (and might I say, 100% sober fun on my part!)  I was pulling out crazy dances including, "the microwave", "shopping cart/mercadona edition", and the ever popular "basketball dance" -- several Spaniards even joined in! :) I will leave you with a few pictures from the eventful evening with los primos de Oscar!
Maria, Yo, Oscar, Jose, Cousin, Cousin, Cousin's Friend, Ismael, Pedrero
Jose, Oscar, and Maria in Boulevard!

Friday, November 12, 2010

So I'm Behind... [several weeks.]

Where do I begin? This was the question I asked during my first blog because I had so many new things to talk about and so many thoughts running through my head. NOW, I ask this question because I've been doing so many crazy things these past weeks that I have been a bit perezosa on my blog entries...and on keeping my room clean. I need to get on that... but when I have a few minutes of "me time" I'm going to update you on the past weeks, and I do mean weeks! 

Week 5: Normal Week + WIFI IN CASA!
You never know how much you miss something until you don't have access to it. Or, better yet, when it's only in limited quantities... you can never get everything finished in the allotted time. I'm very content now with internet in the house. It's only 20euro each for Maria and I to split it. And, with internet, this means more communication back home (which I'm sorry to say that I don't have as much free time to talk to friends and family as I would like...hopefully this can change over the next weeks!)

Bad news: Paul the octopus, who determined that Spain would win the FIFA World Cup, DIED. It was all over the news. What a sad day. 

Paul, seen with his honorary World Cup trophy, RIP.
This was Halloween lesson week in Jarandilla. I made a Bingo game that all the kids enjoyed. I gave Halloween pencils from USA to give as prizes and they. were. a. hit! "Oh my gosh, an American pencil. How cool!" It was fun sharing USA traditions with Spanish children. On Friday, Maria and I went to a primary school in Navalmoral to do more Halloween lessons. It was a long day after a fun Thursday night out, but in the end, it was worth it!
Don't you want to play Halloween Bingo?
Thursday after school, I went with Rafa, one of the teachers who lives in Navalmoral, to his country house. We picked kiwi; if he didn't pick it before the weekend, it would be stolen as the following weekend was Calabotes. Now, I have 50 kiwi sitting in my kitchen, waiting to be eaten.

Week 6: Calabotes 2010.
What is Calabotes? Calabotes is the Spanish tradition of Halloween. Instead of dressing up in costume and going door to door trick-or-treating, Spaniards go to the countryside to have picnics, botellons, and to roast chestnuts.  Well, Calabotes 2010, I introduced my Spanish friends to roasting marshmallows--let's just say, they were a huge hit! The thought of marshmallows, chocolate, and unknown crackers with honey called "graham crackers" all together is just loco, but they all managed to eat ONE (yes, just one...because they are "too rico!"  Thanks to the package my family sent me, we were able to enjoy all types of American goodies this weekend (and are still enjoying them!) including EasyMac, Ramen Noodles, Hershey's Chocolate, Reese's, Chocolate Chip Granola Bars, and an assortment of Halloween candy. It was such a nice package--that has actually arrived to the house--we are still waiting on my new cell phone that was mailed exactly 28 days ago. It's lost in Spain somewhere...and it's a pain trying to located it. Anyway, I am diverging from my point.
Opening "The Package" from my lovely family!!!!!
Maria and Mamen, my roommates, enjoying the American goodies!

Roasting marshmallows at Oscar's country house with Oscar (in black) and Chete (in red).

As I said, Easy Mac was a hit!!!!! Javier enjoyed it mucho!
We went on a three hour hike to visit some animals and walk off our BBQ!
The closest I've ever been to a huge bull! Terrifying!
Maria and I enjoying the beautiful sunset during Calabotes!
Stopping to pose for a group picture!
Can you see the rainbow in the Sierra de Gredos mountains?
Because we are guiris, our Spanish friends tried making Maria and me feel at home by celebrating Halloween out at the bar. Diana, Maria, and I all wore light up pumpkins on our heads and went out in Navalmoral on the Friday night.  We "pre-gamed" before we went out---which wasn't so great of an idea as the American drinking games did. us. in. (and it was only 12am.) Also, our floor broke this evening. Yes, broke. Right now, there is an area of 8 tiles missing because they popped up. Well, the abañil has now been to the house four or five times to give us prices and decide on a plan of action. Why do bad things always happen when Mamen is away? Maria and I can only converse so much... haha This week we get to pick out the new floor color since they have to replace all the tile in the entire living room. Never thought I'd be doing THAT.
Playing cards before going out! Maria, Diana, Yo
The table is very special to this region... under it is a heater called a bracero. You sit as Maria is sitting so you can stay warm since there is no central heating (or in our case, heating in general!)
Paco and I having fun with the calabazas on our heads!
Diana, Yo, Maria in Boulevard enjoying "Halloween"!
Ismael, Oscar, Maria, Yo, and Chete in the street in Navalmoral.
I had some free time after classes to explore Jarandilla de la Vera for the first time. While I had time to walk around in the mornings to areas near the school, I had about 2 hours to walk around the entire city. It really is a cute little pueblo. At the end of the adventure through the town, I ran into the 5th and 6th graders, who had gone on a field trip. They immediately began screaming my name, so I ended up walking back to school with them.  As we walked past the Parador of Jarandilla, one student handed me a chestnut that he had peeled for me to try.  Then, he kept asking, "do you like? Whitney, do you like? Here, toma. otro." It was so fun; I'm completely okay with this happening on a regular basis! :)
Peppers are always drying on people's balconies.
One of the many [old] fountains throughout the streets.
Someone ran out of more hot showers!
Whitney was here.
Extremadura is the home to many Spanish conquistadors.
Jarandilla de la Vera, Spain.
Parador of Jarandilla
Kiddos in Jarandilla.
Walking and eating chestnuts. Rough life.
Students leaving school. Rolling bags are so popular! ;)
Wednesday after school, I went with Divina, my tutora from the primary school, and another profesora Toni, to Losar de la Vera to go on a hike. Yes, I said hike. It was about 3 hours up and back... I still can't believe that I made it.  In Losar, there is a garganta called Garganta de Cuartos.  It is a clear stream that comes down from the mountain.  During the summer many people come to swim in the natural pools and sunbathe on the huge rocks.  We went on a hike to learn about the trees. (so not me!) BUT, the week that is coming up, I will actually be giving a tour of the area to visitors who are coming from 13 European countries including Tunisia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Italy, Norway, Portugal...etc. Call me "Tour Guide Whitney"! I learned a lot about Spanish plants and trees -- some of which are very strange!  The area in the Sierra de Gredos mountains is so beautiful though so I'm not legs maybe...but it was a cool experience nonetheless.
Losar de la Vera, Garganta de Cuartos
Hiking in Sierra de Gredos slopes.
Still hiking... this doesn't do justice to the steepness of the hills. AH!
One of the many weird trees native to the area...
the skinny hanging branch is all curled around is the root of the tree!
Losar de la Vera - finished the hike, looking back in accomplishment.

Week 7: MADRID for the MTV EMAs 2010!!!!!! 
A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. x infinity! What started out as a joke "I'm going to Madrid to stalk famous people and go to free concerts" COMPLETELY happened! After a fun night out on Thursday with "the gang", complete with another dinner in our friend Dioni's house, I headed to Madrid on the 7:45am bus, alone. However, I wasn't alone.  Two other English teachers, Maegan and Melissa, were in Madrid for the weekend as well and we were all taking on the adventure together! After making a quick trip on the metro to the Barajas Aeropuetro to look for Maegan's package that got stuck in customs, we checked into our hostel just down from the Plaza Mayor: "The Cat's Hostel", which was very nice. Even though we were put in the atico and the bathroom was downstairs, we managed to get a good night's rest and free breakfast for only 16euro!
Inside of "The Cat's Hostel"
We did "The Tour"(the one Zach took me on last year, and the one Zach and I took my mom, and the one Zach and I took Missy on...)  which started at Plaza Mayor, followed by a walk to Plaza Sol, Gran Vía, Puerta Alcála, and Parque Retiro. We met up with one of Maegan's friends from Illinois who is studying in Madrid and headed to Puerta Alcála for the MTV concerts! Gratis Concerts. We saw three Spanish bands: Efecto Mariposa, Fangoria with Alaska, and David Bisbal. David Bisbal is probably the only one you may have heard he signs many popular Spanish songs and one of the FIFA World Cup Songs "Flag Waving"- which he ended the show with as he said "Campeones!" with the Spanish flag wrapped around his neck. It really was a great experience as the Spanish love David Bisbal.  The Jackass crew with Bam Margera and Johnny Knoxville made an appearance and rode across the crowd in huge inflatable balls! It was such a fun surprise! We had pretty good "seats"...well, standing area! I'm so happy I'm taller than the average Spaniard so I could see over everyone! :) I took way too many pictures and videos (what's new?) After standing for practically the entire day, leaning back and forth and standing on my toes to get the perfect picture and view of the stage, a tapas dinner was just the right way to end the night... and boy was it tasty!
Maegan and I making friends in Plaza Mayor.
Metropolis Building on Gran Via.
Retiro Park

Jackass riding in inflatable balls across the crowd!

Efecto Mariposa.
Fangoria with Alaska.
David Bisbal singing "Flag Waving"!!!!
Satuday, we started off with breakfast at the hostel and a nice hot shower. I was so happy to be clean for the long day that was ahead of us. First, we went to the Plaza Mayor to meet up with Julia, a German girl who I studied with in Málaga last August. It was so nice catching up with her, even though it was 5 minutes, because it's always nice seeing friends from study abroad, especially when they are in different places than where you studied together! (just had a flashback to times spent with friends from Salamanca in New York, CT, Italy, Denver, and STL!) ANYWAY, I digress, back to the story. We went to see the Palacio Real, where the Spanish Royal family use to live, and then to Plaza del Sol to shop a little bit. I bought new boots from Bershka that are a bit grungy, but not too grungy) that I can pair with tall's very in style right now in Spain. We had a kebab for lunch (yum!) and then took our belongings to Maegan's friends house. We headed straight back to Puerta Alcála for more MTV concerts. Upon arrival, we found out they had been moved up --- not cool! We arrived just in time to see and hear Linkin Park sing two songs, one which was played live during the MTV EMAs. There were SO many people in the street that it was tough working our way up closer to the stage. BUT we managed to get closer -- taking after two boys who passed us up.  We began to say "Sorry, excuse me please!" and believe it or not, people actually said "sorry!" and moved to the side to let us pass! How stupid. haha After fighting our way up through the masses of people, we could bearly get fresh air (again, good thing I was taller!) and were constantly being pushed and shoved in a mosh pit type atmosphere. I've never been surrounded by so many people! The other girls had too much and decided to move off to the side, but I stayed and took all the people on for another 2.5 hours!

Julia y yo en Plaza Mayor.
Palacio Real.
Linkin Park Soundcheck.
While being alone in a crowd of 1,000s of people, I met two American girls, Michelle and Ashley. Michelle's family moved to Spain in February for her father's job and Ashley is an AuPair for a Spanish family! We all braved the crowd together and had such a BLAST jumping together and singing along! I hope I can visit them again in Madrid or that they can brave the pueblo and come visit me! Together, we all watched 30 Seconds to Mars and Katy Perry.  Kanye West made a special appearance and sang "Power"which was another fun surprise! Katy Perry was AMAZING and put on such a great show! I cannot get "Firework" or "Teenage Dream" out of my head. It's horrible; yesterday I hit replay on YouTube four or five times in a row.

We were close enough to be in the confetti after the 30 Seconds to Mars opening performance!
Kanye West and 30 Seconds to Mars.
View of the crowd from Puerta Alcala, down Gran Via.
Katy Perry singing Teenage Dream!!!!!
Ashley, Michelle, and me just before we left the mob of people!
We didn't stay to watch Linkin Park play again, because we were off to find a new adventure: La Caja Magica.  The actual awards show was being held in "The Magic Box" many metro stops away, just outside the center.  We went to see which famous people we could see leaving the venue after the show.  HOWEVER, plans soon changed as we noticed people leaving the venue early.  Just by asking these people for their tickets, we were able to actually go INSIDE and see the show LIVE!  While we only made it in for the last 15 minutes, I was able to see Katy Perry and Russell Brand leaving via elevator--when I was only an arm's length away from them!  After finding our seats, we were just on the first deck next to the stage. We saw Lady Gaga accept the final award for "Best Song" live from Budapest, Hungary, from the Jackass crew and Eva Longoria introduce the final performance of the night: Bonjovi! We had wonderful seats...I don't know why anyone would have left early, especially with these tickets! (But I couldn't have been happier!)  Unfortunately, after I snapped the picture of Katy Perry exiting the show my camera died. I took a video of the time I was inside the venue so I will have to upload it for you to see! I couldn't imagine getting into the MTV awards in the USA and 5 of us were able to do it in Spain!
Katy Perry and Russell Brand leaving the Awards!
Inside the Caja Majica - Jackass presenting the award for Best Song to Lady Gaga.
We ran to catch a taxi to take us back to the bus in time! We just made the 1am bus back to Navalmoral; we arrived at 3:30am, exhausted from our adventure.  Classes the next day were rough but I was excited to give lessons about "The Five W's" as they related to weekend activities. :) Not rubbing it in or anything to the students, but I think it got me some cool points! jaja

Week 8: After MTV Awards.
This week is just another week. Nothing exciting, just normal everyday life. I accepted a job at a private academy four nights a week helping as a tutor. It is fun to meet kids from Navalmoral and for them to recognize me in the streets! I also will be teaching a young teenage girl private lessons on Thursday evenings.  I have set up private classes about Thanksgiving at Maria's highschool in Navalmoral and the pay is AWESOME! I'm excited to be making money now, I just wish the government would pay me for October and November!

Tuesday, I went on another adventure...this one was a surprise.  The teacher who I ride home with from Jarandilla, had to go prepare a field trip to a nearby tree farm or something.  So, I had to tag along to lunch--from first plate of pasta, second plate of chicken wings and patatas, chocolate tart for desert, and finally the coffee. (yes, I drink coffee now....with milk!) Then we went on a one hour car tour through this tree farm.  I had the opportunity to see a cork tree, from which they can get cork for wine bottles once every 10 years, it is a very popular business in the area and very sought after.  I also got to see chestnut trees.  While I had seen chestnuts before, I had never seen the outside of a chestnut--which is a prickly, spiky ball that contains two or three chestnuts. It was actually a pretty fun afternoon--UNTIL--I was 15 minutes late to work in Navalmoral due to Spanish people never being in a hurry. So, then it kind of ruined my day, as I began to think about how I have to rely on people and how it's completely out of my hands if and when I get to return to Navalmoral every day. It's so frustrating. Later that evening, friends went out for the usual canas and pinchos, which was much needed, especially the canas con limon.  

I think Thursdays are going to be the longest day of the week.  I just arrived home from Jarandilla at 3:30 pm and have to work at the Liverpool Academy from 5:30-6:30 to be followed up by a clase particulare from 7:00-8:00pm.  The usual Thursday dinner will be starting at 10pm--so hopefully I can make it until then, because I am already super worn-out and cansada.

A chestnut, who knew!?
A cork tree; surprisingly, it actually feels like cork! haha
Looking at the Sierra de Gredos towards La Vera.
Losar de la Vera is the town that can be seen; it is 1,000 people smaller than Jarandilla.

Last night's private lesson went very well. I am teaching two children, Angela and Jami, and both kids are very fun and smart! It's harder when they are at this level I think, where I can't teach basic vocab or greetings nor can I have a full on conversation.  I also had a phone call from a man needing help once or twice to translate a paper he received in the mail! haha I think this is the best yet, and his phone call was hilarious! I will also begin a conversation hour with a man on Monday evening, which Maria and I will be splitting as he is coming to the house to hang out for an hour or so. I'm so happy to be getting more money.... which will come in handy as I gear up for the long break in December when I am going to England, Scotland, and Ireland. Tickets are booked and weren't too expensive, hopefully we can stay somewhere cheap as well! 

For Thursday's dinner, we went to the usual Thursday night dining out spot, Los Claveles, which specializes in game meats. It is such a tasty place to eat, and I'm always happy to eat there. If my dad were to come to Spain, I think it would be his favorite place! There are even antlers and horns from different animals on the walls, so he would feel right at home! :) We went out for social drinks after; I called it an early night around 1:30am or so, as I was worn out from the tiring week.
Diana, Mamen, Yo, Maria in El Abuelo - our first stop every Thursday after dinner!
After drinks and tapas on Wednesday night... the pictures are too funny!
(from top) Maria, Jose Miguel, Diana, Mamen, Yo, and Oscar playing around.
Pheww... this was nearly a short story. I'm sorry for the book entry, but when Iife gets hectic, all I want to do is sit on the couch and relax or, in true Spanish fashion, take a siesta. Sadly, I don't have enough free afternoon time to take a siesta -- hopefully next semester this changes and I have more time for siestas! :) Thank you for reading until the end... it really means a lot for your continued support. And remember, you are more than welcome to come visit (we have three couches and I would gladly give up my bed!) 

Hasta pronto amigos. <3