Friday, December 17, 2010

El Clásico

A poll taken in my 3rd grade class the week before the match

I'm still playing catch up here, but there's just one more thing (I think) that I must document before this blog can join me in the present. The Monday after Thanksgiving was Spain's semiannual Super Bowl, known as el clásico. It is the two times a year that league schedules dictate that Real Madrid and FC Barcelona go head to head.

For those of you who don't know, these are the two powerhouses of Spanish soccer. Some even say the two best teams in the world, and I suppose that's not much of a stretch because the World Cup winning Spanish soccer team is pretty much distributed between Madrid and Barcelona. From the time that they can pronounce the word "fútbol," all Spaniards are a fan of one of these two teams, and I really do mean all. I don't know a single Spaniard who didn't watch the game, and there's no elaborate half time show so everyone actually watches the game, not just the entertainment.

El clásico is compared to the American Super Bowl for the sake of having something to compare it to, but that doesn't even come close to describing the magnitude of the event. Absolutely every citizen of this country roots passionately for one of these two teams. Some also root for their local team, but that's kind of like rooting for the Red Sox before 2004; it's just wishful thinking and hometown loyalty. They know that in the end it will be Madrid or Barça, and there is no fence-straddling allowed in the matter. For weeks before the match no one can talk about anything else. The week before a fight broke out at recess at work. A full, fist throwing brawl between nine year-olds because they cheer for opposing soccer teams. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I really don't see this happening over any Super Bowl, World Series, or NBA championship. Following the fight my third graders spent an entire class debating who was going to win, taking a class poll, and suggesting consequences for the supporters of the losing team. These ranged from losing recess to doing the homework of the winning team's supporters for a week.

That leaves a very obvious question, who's my team? I think I had only been in Spain for about a week the first time a Spaniard asked me that. Notice that the question isn't "Do you have a team?" It's assumed that everyone does, and in most Spanish families team loyalty is passed down in the family, almost like it's genetic. Whatever team's jersey your parents put you in when you're six months old is who you will root for your whole life. Having grown up without this conditioning, I've had to examine what I know about each team and pick a side. I didn't put too much thought into the matter because I really just like watching good soccer and was picking a side more just for fun, but it boiled down to a few things:
  • I've visited both cities and like Madrid much better.
  • I watched Spain throughout the World Cup and think that Casillas, who plays for Madrid, is absolutely amazing. I always played either goalie or defense when I played, so I definitely appreciate a good goalie. He's gosh darn handsome too.
  •  David Villa, the star of the World Cup team, has a funny looking soul patch, making him easy to dislike, and he plays for Barcelona

Therefore I am officially a Real Madrid fan. I have since found out that the fan base of the teams also divides roughly on a political scale, with liberals for Barça and conservatives for Madrid, which perhaps means I'm on the wrong side. But my understanding is that it's more of a historical thing (fun fact: Madrid was Franco's team).

 So after weeks of build up, game day finally came. The match is only aired on a pay per view type of channel that you have to pay more for, so most people head out to bars to watch the game. El clásico is the only thing that Spaniards actually show up on time for. If you're not in your selected bar an hour before kick-off, you're definitely not sitting, and there may not be standing room left either. I was lucky enough to not have to deal with this, especially since I was tutoring up until half an hour before the match.

My bilingual coordinator, Antonio, invited my coworker and me to his house where he and his wife were hosting a small party to watch it, and it was fantastically fun despite Madrid getting their asses handed to them 5-0. Antonio's son, a Madrid fan, got text messages from his friends after every goal, rubbing salt in the wound. The guests were actually divided between Madrid and Barça, so I had a good time arguing with Antonio's nephew about fouls and which goals were offside. At one point Antonio's wife, impressed that I actually knew what I was talking about, said "¡Tú entiendes bien!" Their nephew, who didn't want to admit that I was right about a bad call, replied, "No, ella no entiende nada."

The game ended with all Madrid fans eating their words, shaking their fists, and looking forward to the rematch next spring when they will have home field advantage. I'm just looking forward to watching good soccer and arguing with Spaniards again. I already have a seat reserved at Antonio's.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I know I'm a little behind here, but I absolutely must write about a few other things before getting to my Swiss, French, and Belgian adventure this past week.

Two weekends ago I had probably the most memorable Thanksgiving of my life. It had quite a build up, as I spent the entire week telling my students about this holiday we have in the United States in which we eat ridiculous amounts of turkey and potatoes with our families. My friend, Caitlin, who lives in Almuñécar, a town about an hour east from here, was gracious enough to host the dinner. All I really had to do was make the sweet potato casserole (which turned out perfectly) and show up.
So on Friday that weekend (like all things in Spain, we did this a little late) two other friends from Málaga and I headed out to Almuñécar. The guests included three Americans and about eight Spaniards, who were mostly Caitlin's coworkers. For all of them this was their first Thanksgiving, and they were very curious to experience for themselves what they have seen in movies so many times. After helping with the final touches on most of the dishes, we served dinner to oohs and aahs.

The food was amazing, and Caitlin deserves a trophy for plucking the turkey (Yes, it came with feathers still attached. Not very many people ask for whole turkeys here). We had all the necessities: turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, banana cream pie for dessert, and plenty of Spanish wine to go around.

However, what made the dinner truly memorable were the priceless reactions from our Spanish friends. When I told them what the sweet potato casserole contained they were skeptical that a sweet vegetable dish would be good, but by the end of the meal they were sold. All agreed that Thanksgiving is a fantastic tradition that they would like to celebrate for years to come.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am not exactly the biggest patriot, but living outside the U.S. is gradually changing that. I was excited to have shared American pastimes with others, and whether or not the "family" I celebrated with is actually my blood family, I am thankful for the experience.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Little moments

Just a few of the little moments from my day today that are the reasons I love what I do:

Prior to making hand turkeys for Thanksgiving, I was explaining to my six year olds, in a mix of Spanish and English, "Tomorrow there is a holiday in the United States that we don't celebrate in Spain. It's called Thanksgiving, and there is a big dinner with lots of food." At this point one of my more outgoing students, Ana, interrupts me with (in Spanish), "I can't go, I'm busy tomorrow." What a shame, I had bought her a plane ticket to go to my parents' house and now she can't make it.

Fast forward to a private lesson this evening with a 27 year old. I'm telling him a much more accurate version of the story of the first Thanksgiving than I did with any of my kids, and I find myself explaining the meaning of the phrasal verb "to freeze to death." I explain that this is when you get so cold that you die. He exclaims, "Like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic!" Yes, yes indeed. That is just what happened to dear Jack. He then flails his arms in the air, pretending to slowly sink as Rose lets go of his hand. He was now making fun of me because I had previously divulged just how in love I was with Leo when the movie came out when I was ten. Mission accomplished? Yes, he now fully understands the meaning of "to freeze to death."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Call me crazy...

I'm going to run a marathon. There. I said it. The words still sound crazy to me, but I'm going to do it. La Maratona di Roma on March 20, 2011 to be specific.

This race looks absolutely amazing, and it's just the excuse I need to go back to where I studied abroad. The course goes through the entire city, passing the Colosseum, Vatican, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Circus Maximus, you name it. I could not think of better scenery to keep me going for 42 kilometers. Check out these pictures from previous years:

Since being in Spain I've been gradually getting back into running, made easier by my new gym membership. For the past two weeks I've been to the gym five days a week (It's amazing what you have time for when you work less than twenty hours a week between two jobs) and I plan on sticking to that schedule. As my runs get too long to do on a treadmill I'll start taking them outdoors. Málaga is definitely lacking in running trails, but it does have a beach with a walking path that continues down the coast far enough to meet my needs.

One way that Spain has changed my running is how I measure my runs. The treadmills at my gym use kilometers, not miles, so I have adjusted. The metric system, of course, makes much more sense, but beyond the practicality of it, I really prefer kilometers. I feel much more accomplished having run 12 km than 8 miles.

I was a sprinter in high school, so getting serious about long distance running is new to me, but there's nothing that a good training schedule and a bit of determination can't tackle. I'm not looking to make some fabulous time, my goal is simply to finish and to not walk. I'm confident that I can do that.

If anyone would like to join me either in running the marathon or just for a weekend in Rome, all are welcome! If you need a little inspiration to get in the running mood, watch this:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I don't want to live in Spain

When I was in elementary school my best friend owned and rode horses. I went with her quite often and the two of us had a blast riding together. However, she and her mom always told me that I wouldn't be a real rider until I survived my first fall. Fortunately (unfortunately?), in all the time I went riding, I never fell off, so I guess I never truly became a rider.

I now find myself in a parallel situation. I am living in Spain, or so I thought. I have an apartment, two jobs, a gym membership, a cell phone, a bank account, and I'm even a legal resident. But a Spanish friend recently enlightened me that contrary to appearances, I'm not really living in Spain. He says that you haven't really lived in Spain until you've stepped in dog poop. Walking in the streets here is often quite an obstacle course, navigating your way around the lovely remnants that dogs leave behind, and that their owners don't think to clean up. I've been diligent thus far and have managed to avoid stepping in one, but if I must do so in order to really live in Spain, I guess I don't want to live in Spain. I'm perfectly content keeping up my facade.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I spoke too soon. I was just bragging about how fantastic my three-year-old is and today she didn't want to be in the same room as me. It's very difficult to teach a "class" consisting of one three year old. Most English classes for kids anywhere close to that age rely on games and the kids interacting with each other as much as the teacher. For the past few weeks since the class started it's been just me and Maria. I guess I was really lucky up until today that she was entertained by the games I managed to come up with for one person. But today was the the last straw. I think she was probably woken up from a nice siesta to come to class because she was tired, cranky, and clinging to her mom from the moment they walked in the door. We finally detached her from her mom's hip and appeased her by joining the class next door where her older sister was.

Unfortunately this wasn't my first crier either. There's a boy in my 5-6 year old class, Angel, who has been getting progressively worse. It started one day when his mom was about five minutes late to pick him up. All the other kids had gone and it was just him. He and I were still playing a vocabulary game, having fun (or so I thought), when he burst into tears because he thought no one was coming for him. Another teacher and I of course immediately began soothing him, assuring him that she would be there any minute, and telling him that everything was okay. My hypothesis is that this gave him a taste for the attention one receives when throwing a tantrum, because in every class since then he has started crying in the middle of the class saying his head hurts, his arm hurts, his whole body hurts. We're talking huge crocodile tears and pitiful wails. Normally when kids do this, if you ignore them and continue like normal they will stop, but not this one, and to make it worse he completely disturbs the other kids in the class to the point that they stop everything they're doing. I have to stop class, take him out of the classroom, get him a glass of water, or turn him over to his mom, who gives him a lecture, tells him to shut up, and sends him back in. He'll come back in, still sniffling, sit down, and start all over again, to which the other kids exclaim, "¡Otra vez!"

So the little ones have been an adventure lately, to say the least. I have Angel's class again tomorrow evening, so we'll see how that goes. I can't help feeling that I'm the problem because there's so much of this happening to me, but my director insists that these kids have developed an allergy to English, not to me. I'll take the other smiling faces in my classes as proof that he's right, because my self-esteem needs the boost.

At least things are going well in the day job. I have a class of 6th graders that I get to do a lesson with once a week. It's a nice change because they're several years older than the rest of my students, and it's also fun because the teacher allows me to completely write my own lessons and do whatever I want. Today we did a lesson on typical American food. Everyone wanted pancakes by the end of the class, but I don't think I sold them on the idea of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

On a completely unrelated note, my flatmate and I finally got gym memberships today, so that should make running much more convenient. There aren't very many places to run outdoors here, and there just aren't many people who do it. Five and a half kilometers today!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

So, what do you actually do?

I recall a conversation I had with a friend not long after I came home from studying abroad in Rome. She asked me a very general question about how the experience had been; something along the lines of "So, how was it?" I paused to reflect briefly and decide how to best summarize what the experience had been like without talking her ear off. My response, at least to start, was something like "Well, I went to class a lot, I read, I wrote a lot of research papers, but I loved my classes." I chose to talk about the "study" part of "study abroad" first. I think this is very unusual for an American's experience studying in Europe, but very typical of me. Most come here for a semester or a year to drink, party, and run around the cultural capital of the Western world. I did my fair share of that, but if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a huge nerd, and I love school. That was by far my favorite part about Rome; I had class in the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, and all over the streets of what still stands as my favorite city. My study abroad experience, therefore, had a very strong "study" component, not just an "abroad" one.

Fast forward two years to present day, and I am now teaching abroad. Just like I was in Rome, I am abroad. I am in a foreign country, speaking a different language, adapting to a different culture. But this time the other part of the experience is teaching, and again, I absolutely love it. Some of my fellow language assistants are here more so to live in Spain, and have no plans to pursue a career in teaching, which is perfectly acceptable. The program I'm in doesn't operate on the assumption that all its participants are born educators. We are assistants after all, and our responsibilities are not overly demanding.

Others of us, myself included, are here just as much for teaching as we are for Spain, if not more. I am a teacher. I couldn't not be a teacher if I tried really hard. I even have a fancy certificate from the University of Cambridge saying that I'm pretty good at teaching English as a foreign language. This is all to say: I LOVE MY JOB! Not everyday is perfect, but a lot of days I come home smiling at the thought of doing this for the rest of my life. If I had one wish for everyone in the world, it would be for everyone to love what they do as much as I love what I do.

Now, to answer the question that many have asked: What do I actually do? What is this job that I knew so few details about before leaving home? I have two jobs. The first, which I was contracted for before coming to Spain, is as a Language and Culture Assistant, or in Spanish (not a literal translation), Auxiliar de Conversación. I work in a bilingual elementary school, meaning that many of the subjects are taught in both Spanish and English. The teachers I work with are all "certified" to teach in English and supposedly speak the language well enough to teach it. This is not the truth at all. Unfortunately many of them lack basic grammar and their pronunciation is so horrible that the students don't understand me when I talk because they're used to their teacher's pronunciation. My job here is to assist the teachers with their bilingual lessons. What I actually do in class varies greatly. Sometimes I simply sit in the corner, helping the teacher with pronunciation while she teaches. Other times when I walk in the teacher hands me the English workbook, points to the pages for that day, and goes and sits in the back of the class while I take over the class, pulling a lesson out of thin air with zero preparation. I'm definitely using trial and error to find out what works and what doesn't for a group of 25 eight year olds. To give some other examples of what my days are sometimes filled with: last week I spent one lesson helping second graders make flowers out of tissue paper, making them tell me the color of the paper before I would help them. Another day I read aloud a story about a witch for Halloween, while running around the classroom (I almost just typed 'aula' if that tells you how much Spanish is invading my vocabulary) acting out everything the witch did. Much to my students' amusement, this involved 'tripping' over imaginary black cats several times.

My second job is at a small private school in the evenings. I have classes of 3 year olds, 5-6 year olds, 12-14 year olds, and a 27 year old engineer who I tutor. These classes are entirely mine, each meeting twice a week for an hour or so. I decide what to teach, what games to play, and what worksheets to use. It's a lot of fun and I think this experience will really help me develop as a teacher. My teenagers love hangman, my 5-6 year olds love Simon says, and my three year old loves arranging flashcards of numbers from 1-10 in order on the floor. If you didn't notice that, yes, I only have one three year old. Luckily she's fantastic, incredibly sweet, and has only cried for her mom once, very briefly, before I distracted her with a teddy bear game.

So in a nutshell, this is what my jobs are like. I hope this has answered any lingering questions about what exactly I'm doing in Spain besides eating and taking siestas.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Under the weather

Unfortunately I still don't have internet en mi casa, and probably won't for another couple weeks. My roommate and I ordered our router and internet package over a week ago, but we're in Spain: mañana mañana.

I promise to blog about all the wonderful details of my two jobs and 200+ students, who have already been kind enough to share their germs with me and give me a cold. But for now I don't feel up to it. I'm using borrowed internet, have no voice, and will unfortunately not be going to Granada this weekend as planned. When you're sick the last thing you want to do is pack a bag, get on a bus, and sleep in some place besides your own bed.

For all of these reasons I'm feeling a little bit pouty and feel like sharing a list of things that I miss from the States. Don't get me wrong, life is beautiful here, but if I could have the following things it would be even better:

  • Carpet (tile is hard and will be very cold in the winter)
  • Beer served in a size that takes me more than two gulps to finish
  • Mexican food
  • Not having to watch for dog shit every where I walk
  • People who appreciate the flow of foot traffic on sidewalks and don't stop with their granny carts in the middle of a three-foot-wide path to chat, forcing you to squeeze by them, only for them to give you a bizarre look and wonder why you could possibly have wanted to pass them anyway
  • My pets
Megatron and Dudley
Missing from the pictures is my running buddy, Duke, a handsome, hopelessly stupid, but endlessly sweet, German Shepherd.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night (probably because I can't breathe through my nose very well) and rolled over. Instinctively, I was very careful to not kick the bottom left corner of my bed because that's where my cat, Dudley (the larger brown one), sleeps. But then I remembered that I am in Spain, and he is not, and I got very sad. But I talked to my mom today and all pets are accounted for and doing well.

On a final note, today is my mom's birthday. I tried convincing her that she should go see Jackass 3D for her birthday; I know my brothers would gladly accompany her. But she insists that she would rather go feed carrots to my uncle's horses. Regardless, happy birthday, Mom! I love you!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I'm the luckiest girl in the world

It was a fun five weeks in Sevilla, but all good things must come to an end. Last Saturday I said goodbye to Isa, thanked her for everything, and rolled my way to the train station a couple blocks away. I’m still darn proud of myself for only bringing one suitcase, and even more for resisting the urge to shop while in Sevilla so that I could still fit everything into the one suitcase. It was a short two-hour train ride with three other girls from my program. We parted ways after arriving in Málaga as they went to the hotel the program had booked for us to stay in while searching for an apartment.

I was lucky enough to have my apartment already and took a taxi straight there where the (English speaking!) landlord was waiting for me with my keys and contract. A friend of mine lived here last year and put me in touch with the landlord. I have had my living situation arranged since before I even came to Spain, but I didn’t fully appreciate just how fortunate this was until this past week. All of my new friends have been desperately searching for a place to live, becoming more frustrated each day as the prepaid nights in a hotel draw to a close. Some have looked at as many as fifteen apartments, trying to find a place they’re comfortable with, roommates they can communicate with, and a price they can afford. I got to completely skip this step and move into my home for the next year while others were just beginning their search.
My beautiful new home

I did have one task to complete as soon as possible: I needed to find a roommate. Within 24 hours of being in the apartment I had accomplished this. Go me. I had been talking to a few people via various housing websites and one of them came to look at the place the same evening I arrived. By the next afternoon we had both agreed that we seemed a good fit, and as easy as that, mission accomplished.

To further add to my good fortune, and my list of accomplishments for the week, I have a second job already. Not ten minutes after I had signed the contract, gotten my keys, and the landlord had left, he called me and said “I forgot to mention, I have a friend who runs an English school and he’s looking for a teacher. Can I give him your phone number?” After picking my jaw up off the floor I muttered every response in my English vocabulary (and some in Spanish) signaling an affirmative response. Not only did I get an amazing apartment dropped in my lap, but it also came with a job! The very next day my landlord’s friend called me, asked if I could meet him that evening to go tour the school, and start teaching classes the following day. I got a job offer based on the fact that I speak English fluently and call myself an English teacher. It was by no means an interview. It was more like “Here are the classrooms, here are the materials, this is what I’ll pay you, want to start tomorrow?” It all seemed organized and trustworthy (by Spanish standards), so my response was a resounding yes.

I am still completely in shock that so much happened so fast. To recap:

2:30pm – Arrive in Málaga, go straight to apartment, get keys, sign contract
7:00pm – Potential roommate comes to look at apartment

Late morning – Potential roommate calls, living situation confirmed
Afternoon – Director of school calls, offers job
Evening – Meet director, visit school, accept job

5:00pm – Begin teaching

And so my life in Málaga has begun. The rest of the past week has been filled with wandering around my new city, getting lost, unpacking, and filling the kitchen with food and apartment with life. My other notable accomplishment was getting my NIE, which is my ID number as a foreigner residing in Spain. It involved paperwork, photographs, and waiting in lines, but I’m now a legal resident of Spain. I also went to the elementary school I’ll be teaching at during the day, introduced myself, and was told to come back on Monday to start work. I still don’t know what my schedule will be like but I’m crossing my fingers for Fridays off.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Let's do that again: Lagos, Portugal

Boy do I have a lot to catch up on. It’s only been a couple weeks since I last wrote but my life now is 100% different (still in Spain, trying to learn Spanish, but that’s about it). Before I get started on all the excitement that my life is currently characterized by I have to back track to two weekends ago to one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in the world: Lagos, Portugal; a short three hour bus ride from Sevilla.

A huge group of us went to Lagos for a weekend of sun, sand, and sangria. When I say huge that’s exactly what I mean. We quite literally took over the beach, hotel, bar, whatever we came across. I think an appropriate title for the weekend would have been “America Invades Portugal.” To be accurate there were two Swedes in the group, but they blended in quite nicely. We arrived at each beach, American music blaring thanks to some ipod speakers, and promptly set up camp, laying out enough towels to cover a basketball court (That’s only a slight exaggeration).

Lagos was like a European spring break, in September. We spent three days on three different beaches, drinking beer and boxed wine, absorbing as much sun as humanly possible, and enjoying the refreshing Atlantic Ocean. All the necessary beach activities were accounted for: Frisbee, soccer, volleyball, skim board, and surfing. Oh, and of course tanning. I tried surfing for the first time (managed to do so without paying for the 35€ lesson), and although not a huge success I wouldn’t call my attempt a failure. I got the hang of “catching a wave” and was able to stand up, although only for a second or two. I will absolutely be trying that again sometime in the future. Unfortunately Málaga doesn’t have waves, so I’ll have to venture elsewhere.

On the second day we went on a sangria sailboat cruise. Sangria. Sailboat. Cruise. Those three words should be enough to demonstrate how fantastic this afternoon was, but really only pictures can do it justice. We had unlimited sangria (which did not run out as we feared it might on a boat), got to jump off the boat and swim, and got a tour of Lagos’ gorgeous seaside grottoes. Being in the smaller boat, cruising through such picturesque caves, I was reminded of Disneyland rides, but kept having to remind myself that it was all real and there were no tracks beneath my boat.

Our evenings were filled with fantastic food, more beer, and discotecas, in true American spring break style. We stumbled back to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning, some of us on more stable feet than others.
Black lights and white teeth

Speaking of the hotel, did I mention how beautiful it was? Despite having such amazing beaches a short walk away I did find time to go swimming here too.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend, and it was timed perfectly. There are 30 of us who arrived in Sevilla together and spent the last month taking Spanish classes, and beginning our Spanish adventure together before we split up all over Andalucía to teach. Lagos was our last weekend together, and I couldn’t be happier to have spent it with the people that I did.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ready to run?

I've been in Spain for three weeks now and have spent the last two weeks living in a Spanish homestay consisting of a 31 year woman, Isa, and her father, Joaquin. Not the traditional family, but they are wonderful, and I really shouldn't have much to complain about. I get three meals a day here, which for the most part are great.

(Side story about food: Their idea of a "salad" is chopped up lettuce tossed in a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise. Eww, I know. Isa noticed that I don't eat much of the salad when she makes it, so she thought she would solve the problem, which she thought was a scarcity of sauce. So last night the salad was lettuce absolutely drenched in ketchup and mayonnaise. I just couldn't stomach it. She was so proud of herself and really thought I would like the new version. I felt bad telling her it was actually worse. Moral of the story: communication, communication, communication. End story)

Like I was saying, my home here is great. Isa even took me to meet her mom the other day, who is equally sweet, called me guapa, and insisted on taking a picture of Isa and me. Living with Spaniards is helping my Spanish more than any classroom ever could. Isa is fantastic about explaining things in as many ways as possible until I understand. We watch Desperate Housewives (Mujeres Desperadas) together every day during lunch and comment on the latest drama on Wisteria Lane. Joaquin tends to forget that he needs to speak more slowly in order for me to understand, but it's getting easier.

So yes, the homestay situation is great. But at times it is frustrating. I just reread my blog entry from when I was in New York, Falling Into Place. I was extremely content in my independence, and somehow, amidst all the moving around that my life is currently characterized by, I felt "in place." That is definitely not the case now, and I feel like I've regressed. Living in a homestay has in some ways taken away my ability to act like an adult. I know I'll probably be eating these words in the future, but I can't wait to do my own dishes and laundry again, and to be the one who stops by the store after work to pick up milk and bread. The whole "being taken care of" things does get old, and apparently for me it takes two weeks to get tired of it.

Additionally, the lack of permanency in my life is starting to get to me. To recap, since mid July my life has consisted of:
  • 4 weeks in a sublet in New York
  • 1 week at home in California
  • 1 week in a hotel in in Sevilla
  • 4 weeks in a homestay in Sevilla
  • Finally, on September 25, my own place in Málaga for 8 months
I know I know, this is the opportunity of a lifetime and I should stop crying about it. But I find myself craving for something very strange, which I have deduced could be one of two things. (1) Maybe I'm done with Sevilla. Three weeks has been more than enough to see what it has to offer, and I'm not digging much deeper than that because I know it's only a temporary home. I've done my best to fill up the last two weekends with excursions away from the city. I'm ready to move on. Or (2) I'm craving something that is a foreign concept to me: to be settled. I want to unpack my suitcase, put it away, and not think about packing it again for a long long time. (Hence the question mark at the end of the title. Awesome points to who ever can name the artist of the song) I want to start a life somewhere, to start a daily, weekly, monthly rountine. My next stay, although still technically temporary, will be counted in months rather than weeks or days, so hopefully I will be able to accomplish that goal.

I paid the deposit for my apartment in Málaga today and I can't be more excited to have done so. Somewhere in a city that I've never been to, there's a bedroom, a kitchen, a living room that I can now officially call mine. It's a step in the direction I want to go.

I'll end with some pictures from the last few weeks at the beach (Matalascañas), Roman ruins in Italica, and one of the oldest cities in all of Spain, where bull fighting originated, Ronda.

The oldest bull fighting ring in Spain, built in 1785
Puente Nuevo in Ronda
Amphitheater in Italica, the 3rd largest city in the world at the height of the Roman Empire
Amazing mosaic in Italica of the gods who represent the seven days of the week

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A tribute to Saint Anthony

I went to Sevilla's cathedral the other day (which is the biggest one in the world, they have the certificate to prove it).

Besides being amazingly beautiful and full of fascinating bits of history, it proved to be of great service to me. I went with a group of other Language and Culture Assistants, and with our lovely student ID cards admission was free (a fantastic perk considering our less than fabulous stipend and the fact that we don't get paid for over a month). Unfortunately, I couldn't find my card. I dug through my purse and finally concluded that I had to have lost it at some point. So I reluctantly paid the 8€ admission. I was pretty bummed about having to do this, but forgot about it as soon as we walked into the cathedral. It's one of those places that draws a very authentic jaw dropping reaction; I looked from the floor up to the ceiling 42 meters above my head and had to turn in a couple circles before being able to say anything but "Wow."

 We spent the next couple hours wandering from chapel to chapel, climbing to the top of the 90 meter Giralda, discussing whether el Mausoleo de Cristobal Colón actually holds Columbus' remain or not, and enjoying Rick Steve's often comical descriptions of what we were seeing.
Columbus' tomb

 After exhausting the strength of our legs, we found ourselves sitting in front of the chapel where baptisms take place.

Looking over this chapel is St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost things. People pray to St. Anthony to help them find such things as faith, missing family members, a husband, or lost car keys. So I'm sitting in a pew in front if this chapel, with Anthony looking down at me, and I open my purse to get my water bottle out. I reach into my purse, and my hand comes out with my "lost" student ID card, no longer missing. How's that for creepy? Thanks, Anthony!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Empieza la vida española

I've been in Spain for a week now, but in some ways it feels like I've been here for months. I arrived last Monday after having met several of my fellow teachers in the airport. (Side story: these airport scenes were quite comical. A lot of us have been "friends" via our facebook group for a few months and can somewhat say that we 'know' each other. We would approach each other, trying to remember what this person's profile picture looks like, and say something like "Are you so-and-so? I think I know you." It was funny and awkward, but now we've spent an entire week together)
My first week has been filled with orientation sessions on useful things like how to set up a bank account, buy a cell phone, and get a resident card. That's all really boring stuff that none of you care about. The more exciting events of the week: A tour of el Alcázar, a royal palace built by the Muslims during the 12th century, torn down in the 14th century when the Christians conquered the region, and then rebuilt by the Christians with their own symbolism embedded into the Muslim architecture. (Okay so maybe that's not exciting for everyone, but remember: I'm a history major and a huge nerd.)  

Patio de las Doncellas, the "waiting room" for the king's visitors

Salón de Embajadores, the throne room
Another part of Spanish culture that I am quickly acclimating to is the art of the siesta. It's really an amazing thing that should be adopted in the US, especially in regions where it gets unbearably hot. Spain pretty much shuts down between 2pm and 5pm while everyone has a luxuriously long lunch break and takes a nap. It's genius. Once you get over the American attitude of "I want to do whatever I want, when I want," you realize how functional this society really is. It only sucks when you want to do something or go somewhere that isn't open during the siesta, but it's very easy to adapt to.

I am now living in my homestay with my Spanish "familia," which consists of my señora, who is 31, single, and gorgeous, and her dad. They don't speak any English, so my Spanish is coming long quite quickly. They are both really sweet. He sleeps in the living room supposedly because he likes sleeping with the TV on (which is probably true because it's on 24/7) but I think he just wants to sleep where the only AC in the apartment is. I can't say that I blame him, my roommates and my room feels like a sauna most of the time. Andalucía is in a heat wave right now, and it's been averaging about 104 F everyday. A ceiling fan just doesn't cut it.
Living room
My room

Lolita, who loves to lick my toes

I started my Spanish classes today. I'll have class Monday through Friday from 9-1, and the rest of the day is mine. It's a rough schedule, I know; I'm not sure if I'll be able to handle it. But such is the Spanish life.

Tinto de Verano, my new favorite drink
Flamenco show; yes that is sweat, his shirt is not supposed to be two colors
La Giralda