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

Monday, August 9, 2010

A rose by any other name...

Before I get too far into this blog I should address the multiple meanings of the title “Teach, Learn, Run.” I see it as a list of things that my life is and will be comprised of in the next year, and hopefully for many more beyond that.

Teaching is first and foremost my profession. I will teach the English language. I will teach about American culture, and I will teach a valuable life skill that will open up a whole new world to my students that they will be able to navigate confidently. They will be children at the time that I teach them, but if they continue with what I teach them they will go far in life. I hope I’m not being too ambitious, and I hope it ends up being every bit as fulfilling as I imagine it will be, but only time will tell.

Learning and teaching go hand in hand. One of my biggest goals in the next year is learning and becoming as close to fluent as I can in Spanish. Just as I am teaching a foreign language, I will be acquiring one myself. But that’s not all the learning I’ll be doing. Among my wide variety of expectations and aspirations for the year are learning about Spanish history and culture, how to cook (well!), learning about my students, their lives, and their frame of mind. But most importantly, (this sounds really selfish) I will learn about myself. I will be more independent than I have ever been, and I look forward to discovering how I will adapt to that.

Last but not least, I will run, metaphorically and literally. To say that I am running away from my life in California is not really accurate, I’m just choosing to have wings rather than roots, at least for the time being. On the more literal side, I will run, as I always have. For those of you who don’t know, I was a runner in high school, a sprinter to be more specific, and I was damn good at it. One choice I made that I will always wonder about (not a regret, just a curiosity) is whether or not I could have been a successful runner in college as well. By the end of my senior year I had decided that I wanted to focus on academics in college, which made sense because I had accepted a full academic scholarship to UC Riverside. After my last track meet ever, my coach told me that scouts from UCR had asked about me. I brushed them off and chose not to reciprocate the interest. I don’t regret this because I wouldn’t give up any of the experiences I had in college, but I sometimes wonder how things would have been different.

But back to the present day, one of the key ingredients in my life is running. Transitioning from a competitive sprinter to a leisurely distance runner was and still is difficult at times, but running makes me feel healthy and well, and it gives such an amazing natural high. Call me a masochist, but I absolutely love being sore after a good workout. You know, the kind of sore where you try to get out of bed the next morning and you collapse on the floor because your legs don’t work; or the kind that makes you realize you have muscles in places you’ve never used them before. This all makes me very happy. I have been known to quote Elle Woods because I really do believe these words: “Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t kill their husbands.” So to my future husband, you don’t have to worry about me killing you.

I’m excited to find new places to run in Málaga. I’ve discovered that I enjoy the act of running, not just the aftermath, much more when I’m exploring new places. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying running in Central Park, and tonight I ran through Riverside State Park for about two hours (Which, unlike the Riverside of my alma mater, is actually along SIDE a RIVER; who would’ve thought?!). I found an all weather track, which I did a mile and a half on before getting bored of going in circles, and then I continued up the Hudson River, which was much more scenic. I do have to say though, that I very much enjoyed the track for the way it smelled. There’s really nothing like the smell of an all weather track under your feet; I wish there had been some starting blocks and hurdles for me to play with.

If anyone is wondering, yes, the parallel between my title and the novel Eat, Pray, Love is intentional. I’m about half way through the book right now, so I can’t go into it fully, but there are elements of similarity between her story and mine. It’s a true story about a woman who got out of a very bitter divorce (this is the dissimilar part) and spent a year traveling on a journey of self-discovery (this is the similar part). I can’t relate to everything about her story, but I really like the passion, motivation, and fearlessness she exhibits and I hope my story ends up being equally inspirational. (Although unlike her, I don’t have a publisher footing the bill for my traveling so that I can write a book about it. Bummer.) I’ll let you know when I finish the book what my final thoughts are on the matter.

(Which reminds me, I love that I take a subway everyday instead of driving, because that means more reading time! It makes me happy to see so many people reading on their way to work. I kind of have a restored faith in humanity knowing that more people actually read books than I would have imagined.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Falling Into Place

All the pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place. I realize that’s an odd thing to say considering how much I’m going to be moving around in the coming months, but I can’t help feeling that way. I have a week and a half left in New York, a week at home in California, four weeks in Sevilla, and then I finally get to Málaga. I won’t have a permanent address until almost October, but I feel completely settled into my life in a way that I never have before.

This month in New York is my first time living alone, which I thought would make me lonely. But I’ve been busy enough that this isn’t a problem; I have enough homework and lesson planning to make sure that can’t possibly happen. Instead I find myself growing into my independence and feeling more and more like a responsible adult. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’m experiencing this for the first time at 23, but better late than never.

Maybe I feel like everything is settling down because I’m finally living out the plan I have been putting together for so long. But I think it’s mostly this class. Yes, it’s one of the most intense classes I’ve ever taken, but I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to succeed as much as this. I know I can’t really say this yet considering I’m still training and haven’t even started my job yet, but I LOVE what I do. Apparently I’m pretty good at it too. We get lots of feedback and evaluations and mine have been quite positive to say the least. We have written assignments, which trainees often have to resubmit because they do not meet minimum standards of the course, but so far mine have passed on the first try. Yesterday was a more difficult teaching day because some surprise new students really disrupted the established dynamics of the class; getting them to participate was like pulling teeth. But I still went home feeling inspired to come back with better lesson plans for next time. In fact, I am finding that I leave everyday happy with how things are going. I love planning my lessons, I love teaching them, and more than anything, I love seeing my students’ progress.

However, I don’t want to jinx myself by tooting my own horn. I’m confident in my performance thus far in the class and have received mostly positive feedback, but it can very easily come back to bite me in the ass. I’m just over half way through, so I don’t want to get caught talking like I already have the qualification under my belt. This is “boot camp for teachers” after all and it's not over until it's over.

There is more to this blissful state of being that I’m in right now, which will be revealed at a later date. Suffice it to say for now that things seem to be falling in my lap and life is beautiful :)