Friday, April 29, 2011

The color green

Have you ever had one of those experiences in which something is returned to you that you never even realized was missing? You immediately seize and cherish this "lost" thing and wonder how you ever lived without it, when only moments before you had been perfectly content without it.

This is what England and Scotland did to me with the color green. In general Andalucía is lacking in parks, grass, and plant life. That's not to say that there isn't the occasional rose garden (see my friend and fellow blogger's documentation as proof), but you would be hard pressed to find vast expanses of grass to run around or take a nap on. Great Britain definitely doesn't have that problem.
Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow
St. James Park, London
Mary and me in Holyrood Palace Gardens, Edinburgh
I spent many an afternoon strolling through a park, ice cream in hand, or stretched out on grass, Kindle in hand. But these countries' greenness is much more than just well manicured city parks. I took buses between London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Glasgow and had the opportunity to see their rolling green hillsides. They are every bit as beautiful as rumor has it, and even more so this time of year because the sheep, cows, and horses that roam them all have the most adorable babies. Fast moving buses, unfortunately, made them difficult to photograph well, but here are my best attempts.
In the words of my English flatmate, you can tell that things are meant to live here. You are truly surrounded by the color green, by plants and flowers, by life. I loved every minute I was there.

I've been noticing more and more that everywhere I go, I'm drawn to parks. My favorite part of New York City is Central Park. My favorite part of Madrid is El Retiro. London has enough acreage of parks to have kept me happy for a lifetime. As I consider my many choices where to live next year, the color green just might become a deciding factor.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The one that ended too soon

I've discovered a thing or two about traveling over the years. In my experience, every trip ends up feeling like it was just the perfect length. I think that as you mentally prepare for a trip, you keep in mind how long you will be away so that as your travels are coming to an end you feel ready to go home. I used to be baffled at how a mere week long journey could wear me out when I once backpacked for six weeks, never staying in one place more than a couple nights, and managed just fine. It's all in what you're expecting going into it. You'll bring as much mental and physical energy along as is necessary.

However, this theory of mine was completely blown away this past week. I spent ten days trekking around England and Scotland. I of course knew ahead of time it would be ten days, and I prepared accordingly. I may have been running low on socks and underwear by the end, but I had no other indication that the trip should have been coming to an end. I wasn't homesick (for either Spain or the U.S.); I wasn't craving my own bed yet, and I was by no means done yet.

I may have fallen completely and utterly in love with Great Britain, its lush greenness, and its fascinating history. More detailed posts will come later, but here's a taste of what got me hooked. Let's just say I have never been more determined to revisit a place and dig into it deeper.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

All my bags are packed

Kindle, phone, iPod, and camera batteries are all charged. Boarding passes are printed. Hostel confirmation numbers are recorded. Laundry is almost dry and ready to be packed. Fridge is cleared of food that will spoil. Let the games begin.

My next ten days will include the following:

London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, with some Scottish Highlands in between. To say that I'm excited would be quite the understatement. You can look forward to a post when I get back with similar pictures, but with me in them.

Did I mention that my birthday is on Monday? I have no idea what I'll be doing, but I'll be in London, so that's good enough for me.

Ready, set, go.

Monday, April 11, 2011

In search of the greenest grass

This time of year brings out more than just the sun and flip flops. It's the time of year when the end of the school year becomes suddenly visible, and thoughts about what lies beyond June get more serious.
Metaphor anyone? What lies at the end of the path? Just me? Or another excuse to post a picture of beautiful Granada.

Actually thoughts about this started as far back as November when applications to renew my contract became available. Applying is free and comes with no obligations, so there's really no reason not to.

At this point I have absolutely no idea where I will end up next year. All I really know is that it will not be the United States. I would love to come back to Spain for a second year, but there's so much of the rest of the world calling my name too. My latest hobby is browsing TEFL job boards online and actually applying for some. I currently have resumes out in half a dozen countries, with some of the more promising opportunities in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Czech Republic, and of course, Spain.

I'm one of the most indecisive people you'll ever meet. I usually have trouble deciding what to have for dinner, so how am I supposed to pick a country to live in? The coming months are going to be filled with pro and con lists. This sounds simple enough, but don't be fooled. Take the following examples:

Location: When most people are job hunting this is one of the easier categories used to rank potential jobs. They either want a job close to home, or have somewhere in mind they want to set up a home. I fit into neither of those categories. I'm going to have to do some soul searching and see what's stronger: my growing love for Andalucía and Spain, or my burning desire to go somewhere completely new and foreign and set up a life again.

Language: Part of me wants to stick with Spanish speaking countries, to get as close to fluent in the language as possible. But another part would love to tackle a new language. I could make the slight shift to Portuguese in Brazil, or I could make the huge leap to Czech or Georgian in their respective countries. As a linguistic and grammar nerd I love the early stages of language learning when you memorize a few verbs, a handful of vocabulary, and just like that you can put together sentences.

Work Load: The jobs I'm browsing range from my joke of a job now, working 12 hours a week as an assistant and virtually no planning, to teaching full time in a university's foreign language department. Easy choice, right? Take the 12 hours of "work" a week, of course. It would be easy doing this again. But I don't know if my brain would ever recover after another year of this. I miss being pushed, being intellectually stimulated. My CELTA last summer left me completely over-prepared and over-qualified for this job. I was trained to lead classrooms of students to real language discovery and usage, and some days here all I do is sing "10 Little Monkeys" and dance around the classroom. That's not to discredit the baby steps that must be taken in teaching children a second language, but it's not always the most satisfying job.

I don't have to make a decision for a while still, so I'm spending my last few months in this job soaking up the sunshine, contemplating my future while gazing into this: