Tuesday, October 6, 2009
On Friday I went to Puente Genil to see Frieda! It was wonderful. We didn't stop talking for two days. There was lots to catch up on from the summer and lots to think about for the year to come. She was very glad to have me there since she is now going it alone. Of our group of girls, she is the only one left there. I told her she'll have to come visit me in Granada and she happily accepted the invitation.
While there, I also saw some teacher friends that I used to meet up with on Thursdays. One of them is being so kind! He's driving to Granada this coming weekend to spend time with family, so he's offered to bring me the rest of my stuff!!! I brought as much as I could carry back with me, but a lot was left behind. On Sunday, he and his wife came by Frieda's house and we loaded everything into their trunk. All ready for the journey. What a relief.
I am realizing that as much as I hate to move, it's a good thing that I do it so frequently because otherwise you might see me on the show Hoarders. hahaha. On top of what I've brought to Spain, I've acquired things from friends. At Christmas, Marta gave me a bag of winter clothes and when Julia left to go back to the States, she left lots of clothes, medicines, toiletries, etc. I won't be letting any of it go to waste.
I'm finally able to sleep with no problems. Now that I'm amovin' and ashakin' I'm having a hard time finding time to sleep! Work is going well. I've spent a few days in class with my boss. She has great methods. I hope I can pick them up quickly. She has leads for Andrea and I about private English classes we can give. There are several places that have extracurricular classes I can take. Lots of dance, art, music, languages. There's even a class where you can learn to make puppets, no joke. I doubt I'll be signing up for that one, but I'm trying to decide what I want to learn most. A Spanish class is really important and I'd love to learn 'Sevillanas', a typical Spanish dance, or Salsa. Plus, my friend Toñy and I are going to trade English lessons for Cooking lessons. I'm not sure if I'm going to have time for all of this, but I'm sure going to try!!
My work schedule for now is going to be Tuesday through Thursday mornings. At some point, Andrea and I will switch and I'll work Wednesday through Friday mornings. Both schedules work for me since I'll always have Mondays off and I'll always have a four day weekend!
Friday, October 2, 2009
I'm finally able to sleep, but I don't have time! There's more stuff to do in the evening and school in the morning. Buying a coffee pot is on the TOP of my list. At school I will be spending the majority of my time in class with the kids, so I'm not going to be able to function in my normal groggy state for the first couple of hours. :-) I'm working with a girl named Andrea. We are still waiting on our schedules. We would both ideally like to have Thursday and Friday off instead of Monday and Tuesday, so we will probably switch halfway through the year.
My roommate is gone for a couple of days, so I've been nesting. Cleaning and reorganizing has been kinda fun. When I get more of my stuff from Puente Genil it will be even better.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I'm getting used to all of the new noises. The apartment is located on a street with lots of bars and restaurants, so there's quite a bit of foot traffic. Hopefully it's pretty easy to get used to. It's nice having everything so close.
My school is a 20-30 minute walk. It's not super close, but I only go there 3 days a week. Thursday is my first day. I'm not too nervous because I have been there several times to visit, but I am excited to see what my new schedule is. I had been under the impression that I would be the only person placed at the school, but in fact, there is another girl. We'll be able to split the week between us. One the first half, the other the second half.
As soon as I know I have 3 days free, I'm going to go to Puente Genil, where I lived last year. I can't wait to see my old roommate Frieda and I'll get to pick up some of the stuff I left with her last year. One of my teacher friends has already called to check up on me because he heard I had made it back to the country. I'm sure I'll meet up with them as well. How great is it to already have friends here! And I'm ready to meet more!!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I´m back - in more ways than one. My travels have brought me back to Spain and with my newest adventure, I´ve renewed my effort to bring you along with me. Especially those of you I promised to put in my suitcase. (Sorry, no room. I actually threw away my last pair of socks because I didn´t have the patience to fit them in my bags!)
I was already a bit worn out when I started my trip, so the 28+ hour journey felt like days. I slept when I could on the planes, but it didn´t add up to much. On my long flight from Philadelphia to London I did have a very nice flight attendent. I asked for tomato juice, he suggested a Bloody Mary...I asked for chicken, he suggested white wine. Very nice man indeed.
Granada was my final destination. (My favorite place in the world if you didn´t already know!) My friend Toñy was the greatest and met me to help get my bags to the hostel. It was wonderful to find out I didn´t lose as much of my Spanish as I thought. I´m pleasantly surprised to realize how much more I understand this year! I guess it took a summer away to fall into place.
I even got to bed at a normal spanish time so my body will adjust to the time change quicker. I slept fairly well, considering my body is very confused (I´m six hours ahead of Michigan). This morning I woke up and decided to go for a walk through Granada. First, I tended to some errands and then looked for flyers for available apartments to rent.
I felt like skipping through the streets! Even grocery shopping was fun. I got all the ingredients to make my favorite tuna sandwich on fresh baked baguette bread. MmmMmmMmm. After lunch came a glorious nap. The siesta is a beautiful thing. In the evening, I went to see my first apartment and explored the neighborhood. Before the day escaped me, I sent some emails home. Now I am relaxing and happy it´s time for another round of sleep.
It´s amazing that this place doesn´t seem so - for lack of a better word - foreign to me anymore. It´s comforting to know where I´m going and what to ask for. I hope this helps me to find new challenges this year. I´m so grateful for the opportunites that I have here. They haven´t come free, but I believe them to be worth the sacrifices!! Thank you all for sticking with me and having my back!!
P.S. I bought stamps, so the first ten postcards I send out have no reason to stay on my desk!!
Saturday, January 24, 2009
I had nothing to worry about! I first met her grandma. Her name is Tini, but everyone calls her Abuelita which is like saying Gram, Granny, or one of the other variations we have. Marta’s Aunt Cristina was also there to welcome us. The four of us had lunch and then we took a little siesta. A couple hours later, the rest of the family arrived; Luis Sr., Maria Jose, and Luis Jr. Meeting all of these people would have been enough to keep me busy, but I had just gotten started. Down the block lives her grandpa from the other side of the family. At his house, there was Abu (another nickname for a grandparent), Marta’s 5 aunts and uncles with their spouses, and a handful of cousins. After about 5 minutes my brain was on overload and stayed that way for 2 weeks! Haha.
We stayed in Zalamea for about 5 days. It is a very small pueblo (village/town) where everyone knows everyone. Every time we went out I met more family friends. We were constantly going out for coffee, a beer, or visiting with the family at Abu’s house. I ate so well! There was always something to pick at. We had many different pork dishes, quiche, shrimp, fish soup, tortilla, paella, seafood salad, and much, much more.
So Thursday, the 18th of Dec, I went back to school for my last day of work for 3 weeks! I spent a couple of hours working on a project with one of the teachers, but then just sat around chatting. No teachers had more than a couple of students, if any, so they just put on movies and came back to the teachers’ lounge. At this point, they pulled out little plastic cups and a couple bottles of Anis, liquor that is popular around the holidays. Whoa. The principal didn’t even say boo! It is technically against the rules to drink in schools in Spain, but it is a stronger tradition to break out the Anis at this time of year. By the time I sat down at the table they were all telling stories and laughing.
A couple of hours later began the Christmas dinner and party. The last of the teachers got out of school at 2:30 and everyone met up at Hotel Carmen. It is the new, fancy hotel in town. We were seated in a cave-like banquet room. There were 23 of us there. I am happy to say there was only two names I was unsure of.
The food was fantastic. For appetizers we had a few types of ham* with cheese, olives, a couple types of sausage, fried eggplant with honey, and stuffed portabella mushrooms. (*Disclaimer- I have written ham, but this truly doesn’t do it justice. In Spain there are a ton of different types of meat from a pig that are eaten regularly and they are all very distinct and unique in flavor. But in the States we don’t usually distinguish all of these types in such detail and I want you understand what I am talking about. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that we ate an array of specialty ham and nothing resembling what you would find in a Lunchable!) By this time, I really would have been content without eating anymore food, but the main course was yet to come. We had the option of fish, shrimp and lobster stuffed eggplant, and two pork dishes. I, of course, went for the seafood. And this wasn’t all! For dessert we were served a light, fluffy something with a base of what looked like ladyfingers. One word: Yummmmmm. And then of course we had coffee because no meal would be complete without that.
This all took place over the course of about three hours. It was so much fun. Everyone was just chatting away and laughing the whole time. They were good in including me in on the conversation. It is difficult for me to understand Spaniards when they are in a group because they speak faster and use more slang and common terminology. I’m so happy I was able to go because it didn’t stop there. The hotel set up a tent outside and when we were done eating we joined another school for about 4 hours of dancing! I couldn’t dance to most of it. At first they played a lot of traditional music with Flamenco or Sevillana moves that I don’t know. But, as time went on, they started playing a little of everything. Everyone danced together and they even did a couple of conga lines.
Around 10 or 11pm, a group of the teachers moved to the dance club at Etiqueta Negra, which opened its doors that night just for all of the teachers in town that were having their xmas parties. I’m just glad I didn’t have to work like everyone else did on Friday because we sure didn’t get much sleep. I stayed at Frieda’s that night and slept in until she got home for lunch. Lucky duck.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I'll have a new Xmas post for you all soon!
Monday, December 22, 2008
The Park itself was fascinating. I enjoyed all of the exhibits so much more than I would have when I was in school. One girl on the trip is actually from England, but her family now lives here in Spain. She speaks English and stuck to me like glue wanting me to explain everything. (I later taught some of the teachers the saying ‘like white on rice’) Some of the other students are getting used to having me in class now and they kept pulling me in one direction and then the other. We got to learn about the human body; blood, bones, genes, organs. Then they put on a show with eagles, hawks, and owls. The birds flew right above our heads a couple of times. There was even a video playing at one of the exhibits of a woman giving birth and it thoroughly grossed the students out. Haha.
When we were done we all went to the mall so the kids could be let loose for a couple of hours and the teachers could escape. The first thing the teachers did was go to the first restaurant they saw, order some food to snack on, and drink a beer! They very easily rationalized that we weren’t driving so it was a fantastic idea. I was super excited at one point because I actually made a joke in Spanish that everyone laughed at! It can be hard sometimes to make a joke, insinuate something, add your personality into what you are saying, etc because you are so concentrated on simply speaking and being understood. It was a good moment.
Next, we went to a Mexican restaurant to eat our meal. It was a very funny experience to have. When I was leaving the States, many people thought I would be eating food similar to mexican food in Spain, but I knew more about the food than the teachers did. To Spanish people a tortilla is an egg omelet. One of the teachers said her ears were warm from the spice and I tasted hotness ranging from mild to ketchup. :-) The principal was also worried about the time. We were cutting it a little close, so he made sure to ask the waiter about three times to bring the food out quickly. But before the waiter left the principal made sure they served coffee. Even in a hurry there’s always time for coffee in Spain. It ended up that some students came to track us down because it was time to go back to the bus and we were still in the restaurant.
The one downfall to the day was that I didn’t get to walk around Granada at all or see my friends there. It felt great to smell the fresh mountain air, though, and the view of the mountains and the Alhambra (Granada’s major site to see) was absolutely beautiful from the tower at the Science Park. I miss it a lot! Sorry, no photos of this trip. I completely spaced out and forgot the camera at home. Hopefully I can get some from the teachers and students when we get back to school.
Top to bottom: The finished product that is making my mouth water just looking at it! Jesus SITTING next to the turkey which made me much more comfortable than when he was STANDING with the turkey (I need to get that photo from Julia!). The set table with food and friends. The yummy gravy that we didn't run out of. And finally, our tasty bird on the smallest serving platter known to man aka a big plate.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Time has been flying by. Since Thanksgiving everything seems like a blur. Last weekend Julia, Frieda and I went to Sevilla for a night to see Julia’s cousin, Tavo. He is from Mexico, but working in Spain for a month. He was in Sevilla with 8 of his coworkers. There were 3 Mexicans, 5 Brazilians, and 1 Chilean. It was super fun meeting all of them. There were so many accents speaking the same language. One time when we were in a taxi with Tavo, the taxi driver was telling us something about Sevilla. I didn’t understand a thing he was saying because he had such a strong accent. Come to find out Tavo couldn’t understand him either even though Spanish is his native language! It made me feel better knowing it wasn’t just me. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend there, but we were able to have a couple of meals and see a little bit of the nightlife. It was fantastic to be in civilization again! Puente Genil can get pretty small when I don’t leave every once in awhile. There was actually traffic, diversity of people, and multiple-story buildings. It made me miss Granada (where I lived when I studied abroad) even more. I’m going to have to go back there to visit soon.
During the week I´ve busy with my private English classes I’ve been giving. I’m learning an incredible amount about my own language because people are always asking me ‘why’ and I can’t bear to keep saying ‘just because’ or that it’s just about memorization. For instance, the words demanded, poured, and worked. All end in the letters ‘ed’. But, each one pronounces the ‘ed’ differently. Demanded ends with an –id sound, poured with a –d sound, and worked with a –t sound. I have actually learned how to explain what words get what sounds. It is fascinating to me. I’m such a nerd sometimes. :-)
This weekend is the last full weekend before everyone starts leaving town to start their Christmas vacation. I get almost 3 weeks off! Then I work one day and get 3 more days off. Most people I know aren’t returning to the States for the holidays. Frieda is close, so she’s going back to Ireland, but the rest of us are traveling. Giselle is going to Rome, Julia is getting passed every couple of days from one coworker to another, Laurel is going to London, and I’m traveling too. I am very interested to see how Christmas and New Year’s are celebrated here. I’m sure there are things that are the same and things that are different. I just have to focus on wrapping up this week at school and then my next adventure begins.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; I would even say my favorite day of the entire year. It is hard to be away from my family around this time. I was prepared to be sad this year like I have in the past when I couldn’t get home. What I got was something I never could have dreamed up. An American girl (Julia) and an Irish girl (Frieda) and I ended up banding together to attempt a dinner party. None of us had ever put on a dinner like that, but we figured that if we all pitched in we could come up with something. So, after several calls to mothers around the world, we picked Frieda’s house to host the event because she’s the only one with an oven and has the most space. Can you even imagine transporting a turkey down the road, ha – without a car. A couple days before, we all starting calling dibs on who could make what food. I said that if someone could cook the turkey, I could search one out. A whole turkey is not a super easy item here to find in small-town Spain. Luck would have it that a teacher I work with found out I was looking for one. She was dropping me off after school on Wednesday and took me right to the door of the open-air market. She even told me what door to enter and which stand to go to and to talk to a man named Manolo. I walked straight in and said to the man, “I’m looking for a turkey”, he said, “I have a turkey”, I said, “A whole one?” All he had to do was nod his head for a great big smile to appear on my face. He actually had two, big and bigger. Our dinner had a guaranteed guest count of 3…us. So of course I bought the 7.4 kg bird…the 16 lbs turkey. I also bought a box of freezer bags so I could eat turkey until next year.
We all work until early afternoon on Thursdays, so we decided to serve dinner Spanish style, at 9 or 9:30 pm. This meant I ran to Frieda’s house after school so we could get the bird in the oven by 3pm. And so began the experiment. We cleaned the turkey and got it in the oven. Set the timer for twenty minutes so we could adjust the heat as we had been instructed. So far so good. We then made note of the clock on the wall so we knew when to baste the bird. I left to wash up and get food from my house so I could be back in time for Julia to leave and give an English class. When I got back to Frieda’s an hour or so later she had a slightly funny look on her face and asked if Julia had gotten a hold of me. Apparently, when the timer ran out after those first twenty minutes, the oven shut off with it. Oops. So, I’m not sure exactly how long it was off, but we adjusted and figured dinner might be a couple minutes later going on the table. As a couple of hours passed, our bird didn’t look like it was cooking. This is when the first SOS call went out. The Irish mama got the call. She pulled herself out of her sewing class when her mother’s intuition told her the phone call might mean the turkey needed her help. So, again, we adjusted and figured dinner might be a couple minutes later going on the table. As the afternoon went on, we had several people call and say they couldn’t make it to dinner. We then proceeded to encourage guests to bring friends.
Arrival time of guests: 9:30pm. As time got closer, we needed to check the turkey to see if it was done. We didn’t have the pop up timer and we didn’t have a meat thermometer. What we did have -- two intuition-based, mother-recommended tests to “just know”. Seeing that our turkey intuition was in its first year of development and all mothers were several countries and/or an ocean away, we were going to have to wing this one. One test said the turkey was done, the other one said it wasn’t. We decided that it could use a little more time. Around this time, there were a few more food-stuffs to wrap up. On the stove we got the potatoes cooking and Frieda was working on her bread stuffing. Irish mama had told her she would need to use approx. 12 pieces of bread and that when properly mixed it should ‘be dry, but stick in your fingers and easily crumble out”. At piece number 16 she was starting to question the process. At closer inspection, the potatoes weren’t cooking at the desired speed. At even closer inspection, this was because they weren’t cooking. The breaker for the stove and oven blew from being overloaded. We turned everything off that was unnecessary and the breaker then blew about 10 more times. We adjusted and figured dinner might be a couple minutes later going on the table. We looked at the turkey again and decided that test number one was passing with flying colors and that test number two was never going to happen. Mr. Turkey needed to come out of the oven so he could sit and we could make the gravy. At this point the guests were trickling in and starting to chat. I had to pull Julia and Frieda away for a moment to get help pulling the turkey. A little while earlier they decided they should start sampling the wine to make sure it was suitable for the guests’ consumption. It was then suggested I find someone else to help me take the very HOT, very HEAVY turkey out of the oven. I agreed that would be a smart idea. Luckily, there was a very helpful Spanish guy up for the job. So, we continued with the loose ends. We turned the oven off to leave some electricity for the stovetop and little by little started to put the food on the table.
Final guest count: 8 – 3 American girls, 1 Irish girl, 1 Belgian girl, and 3 Spanish guys. Everyone gathered around the table and dinner was served at 10:30. We ended up with the juiciest turkey we could have asked for, mashed potatoes with the perfect consistency, gravy with the perfect flavor without anything extra added in, Irish stuffing that was the first thing to go, and so much more. Not only did we have edible food, we had DELICIOUS food. I couldn’t help but smile. The joke at my family’s Thanksgiving is that I can’t cook and thankfully I’m getting at least one good meal for the year. Well folks, looks like all I had to do was move to another country and get some international assistance to learn. It was the most amazing family meal. I was a quarter way around the world from all of you and I didn’t feel lonely. Everyone’s excitement was incredible. One of the Spanish guys (Jesús, yes, this is really his name) was like a little kid at Christmas or in a candy shop, maybe even a little kid in a candy shop at Christmas just because he was invited and got to be a part of the festivities. The funny thing is he wasn’t actually one of our original guests. We had invited some people from our favorite bar/restaurant (it’s called Etiqueta negra) and he stopped in there. They mentioned the party. He then nonchalantly called Frieda to say hello and ask “how she was doing”. She said we were cooking dinner and invited him to join. He said he’d be delighted and he’d be right over. She hung up the phone, took two steps, and the doorbell rang. Low and behold it was him. I can only imagine him standing outside of her door waiting for the invitation. And Frieda had no clue what Thanksgiving was about, but threw herself into it. She made sure we had candles and atmosphere. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. We didn’t call it a night after dinner, either. Around 12:30 Frieda and Jesús went downstairs to Etiqueta negra to check on our friends and see when they would get out of work. He went running around the bar showing everyone that would pay attention the photos he had taken of the party so far and of him so very proudly holding the finished turkey on a platter. What they probably didn’t notice in the photo was me “assisting” him in holding the turkey because I was so paranoid he was going to introduce it to the floor before we got to eat it. And Giselle, (an American whose parents are from El Salvador), invited some of her Spanish friends over after they left their Thursday night out with a group of teachers (this is the same group I usually join every week). They arrived around 2am, bringing another group of characters to join the mix. We talked and played games until we sent the last person home at 4:30. Frieda and I then crawled into bed at 5am, but not before we had one last turkey snack.
The festivities didn’t end there. Julia and I stayed at Frieda’s house the whole weekend and the other girls kept coming back to visit. Friday we had another mini Thxgiving dinner, Saturday we had turkey sandwiches, and Sunday we opted for pizza. I’m pretty sure we remade the Irish stuffing three times. Yummm. Every moment of the day has been recounted at least twice, the good parts 3 or 4 times. I can’t tell you how much I have laughed and smiled in the last 4 days.
I have SO many photos. I’ll include a few so you can get a feel for how it all turned out. I hope you all had a fraction of the day that I had!! Love and miss you.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Other than my weekend activities, my weekdays are filling in, too. I have started to give a private English class and will start a second one next week. It is a very interesting dynamic. I have studied Spanish for 12 years (it doesn’t seem possible that it’s been that long!), but now am teaching English and have to explain grammar that I haven’t thought about since I was in Elementary school. Plus, they tend to learn British English here. I have to be aware of the differences so I don’t lead them too far astray. For example: Say the words ‘little, Saturn, and thirty’ out loud. If you speak anything like I do, there isn’t the sound of ‘t’ in any of those words. They come out more like ‘liddle, Sadurn, and thirdy’. But when anyone gives me too hard a time about my accent, I just point out how they talk! In Southern Spain, they rarely pronounce the ends of their words and skip a bunch of letters in the middle. For example: Uno, dos, tres ends up sounding like Uno, Do, Tre. And the phrase ‘More or Less”/”Más o Menos” = ‘Ma o Meno’. And the word for ‘nothing’/’nada’ is pronounced na’a, without the ‘d’. It’s fun though. I am for sure going to have a Spain-spanish accent when I come back to the States. Plus, they tell me that if I can get to the point where I truly understand the accent in Southern Spain, I should be able to understand any Spanish there is! We’ll see if they are telling me the truth. In the two months I have been here I already understand SO MUCH more. The first week I remember thinking I’d never be able to understand anything on TV or a political conversation (you wouldn’t believe how fast they talk). The political conversation is still out of reach, but I started understanding a few words, then a few phrases, and now some actual conversations on TV. It is still exhausting trying to pay attention to a group of people talking, but I’m gaining speed on that too. Thursday nights a bunch of teachers get together for drinks and I’m to the point where I can participate in the conversation. I’ve been around them long enough now that I’m getting familiar with how they speak and that makes it easier to understand what they are saying. Other times, no matter how hard I try, I just don’t get it. There is one teacher I work with that is super cool and tries to talk to me, but for the life of me I can’t understand what the man is saying, try as I might! I’m not sure if he mumbles, or what. There is another teacher that I may never understand for the pure reason that she talks at the speed of light. I’ll admit I go with the ‘smile and nod’ method with these people. J It depends on the day as to how well I can communicate. One day someone will tell me I have a very good accent, the next they look at me like I have two heads when I open my mouth, the day after that I’m told I have an impressive vocabulary, and immediately following that someone talks down to me like I’m 4 years old because they think I’m incapable of forming a complete sentence. It’s quite the learning curve.
I can’t believe Thanksgiving is only a week away. If there is ever a time I love to be home, that’s it. My family will be able to shave off a few pounds of the required mashed potatoes this year. Marta and Sonia found out Thxgiving is my favorite holiday, so they said we could have a dinner here. I’m not sure about finding the right foods, but we’ll pull something together. I’ve heard about a bunch of Americans trying to find turkeys. It’s a pretty big deal to find one that is dead, feather-free, and lacking head and feet. As long as I have my mashed potatoes, I’ll be a happy chica.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the latest chapter of my adventure. Love and miss you all!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
First one is my bedroom. Nice big bed to stretch out in. Second - lots of closet space. Third is the bathroom with a window that opens to the terrace. This is also where my washer is. No dryer - all clothes are hung out to dry. Hope these photos help you understand where I am and how I'm doing!
First is my kitchen. Everything is brand new. Second is door to the terrace. On bright, sunny days I like to open it up to let the sunshine in. Third is my diningroom/livingroom. In spanish homes these rooms are usually combined because in the winter the heater is put under the table. Then you pull the table cloth (which is more like a blanket) up over your lap to stay warm. There is rarely central heating.
The first two are random streets in Puente Genil. The last three are from my terrace!! I have a view of the country side. There is a cover for when I want shade. In the one photo I've pointed a few things out for you. The writing is smaller than I thought, but if you click on it, it should open up bigger. One box is pointing to where I hang my clothes to dry and the other to where I work.
Work is going well. It is very easy. I basically get to talk to people. And thankfully, I like the people I am talking to. We laugh a lot and get a little bit accomplished in the process. I’m spending a lot of time reading out loud in English so they can hear how things are supposed to be pronounced. The hours I spend just talking to the teachers, so they can practice English, are fun and I learn a lot. Sometimes we talk about Spain stuff, sometime US stuff and often the differences and similarities between the two. The cool thing I realized is that I can use these hours to learn about things I have questions about. There are no rules or guidelines to what we talk about, so we get to talk about what ever we like that day. It is cool. Everyday hear is like an upper level Spanish class that they are paying ME to take. For people that don't like school, this wouldn't exactly be 'cool', but I love it. Sometimes I get to the point of overload, but that is how I'm going to learn. It is absolutely exhausting to talk to a group of people for several hours and understand what they are saying and try to be a part of the conversation. I still have difficulties expressing complex thoughts or things in the past. Ideally, I'd take a grammar class to review or get some good books to reteach myself, but it'll be a little while before that will happen. Everyone has been so patient with me. Last night, Marta and I went to Sonia's house for dinner and to watch a movie instead of going out. At one point Sonia asked me to put some food on the table in the other room. Or so I thought. I frequently understand parts of a sentence and then put them together to figure out what is going on. I understood 'put this on the table' and 'there are two pieces for each of us'. I was close. She actually asked me to take the food to the table, and serve it onto our plates, two pieces for each of us because there wasn't going to be room for all of the dishes. Close enough for me! We had a laugh when she realized I hadn't completely understood her.
One very big difference for me this time in Spain is that I am actually living here; not passing through, not a guest in someone’s home. This means I have to cook for myself. And as many of you know, this is not one of my strong points. J I have never had much need to learn how to cook meals. Oh, the times have changed. Now I spend 1-2 hours everyday cooking and doing dishes. Everything I eat comes off of the stove top. I DO NOT have a microwave-I do not have an oven-I do not have a toaster. If I want to reheat leftovers, they go back in a pan. If I want to heat water or milk, they go in a saucepan. It’s been a very steep learning curve! Also, common ingredients differ here, so I’m getting used to what my staples are. And HAM, I can’t tell you how many varieties of ham there are! It is going to take me a lifetime just to be able to tell them all apart. Little by little, though. Today’s dinner turned out pretty good, last week my big experiment failed miserably. Haha. And when all else fails, downtown there is a take-out pizza place that is pretty good and a take-out hamburger place that I’m saving for an emergency.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
One thing I have had a difficult time adjusting to is the noise level. Everything ECHOS is Spain. Their buildings are made of Cement, Brick, Tile, Marble, Metal.... They don´t have much use for material that absorbs sound like carpet, wood, drywall, wallpaper. Today one class was working in groups and I was trying to go around the room to help them pronounce their exercise, but couldn´t for the life of me hear what they were saying in any language. Even in the teachers´lounge it is difficult. When there are only a couple people in there, I can hear just fine, but get the whole bunch of them in there and I have to stand right next to the person trying to talk to me. No wonder Spaniards don´t require as much personal space as Americans do, they can´t hear each other if they stand very far apart! Another thing that shocked me was on my first day when the bell rang in between classes. I asked how much time there was until the next bell and I was told there is only one bell. Students actually just go to their next class. Frequently, students are in class before the teachers are. There are 6 hours of class everyday, but they are not the same 6 subjects each day. Teachers have quite a few hours a week when they don´t have class. They are not required to be in school if they don´t have class. For example, if a teacher does not have class the first hour, but they do have class the second hour, they can show up just before 2nd hour. And I mean ´just´ literally. One morning I arrived for first hour, which starts at 8:30, and the teacher arrived at 8:29, at which point the students were already sitting at their desks. This is not uncommon! And then if a teacher doesn´t have a fifth or sixth hour, they can go home. It is all very different and interesting.
Thankfully, I have made a friend in Puente Genil. Marta is a teacher at my school. She is a year older than me, this is her first year teaching, and teaches the third level English class that I´m in. She isn´t from P.G., so she doesn´t know anyone either. She did by chance run into a classmate from High School the other day, so now we are 3! Last night we ended up walking around town for an hour trying to find a certain office so we could sign up for an aerobics class. It´ll be great. We´ll be able to keep busy together. We even got to talking and Halloween and Thanksgiving came up. I said Thanksgiving was my favoriate holiday of all and they decided we are going to celebrate it together! This is awesome because it is a non-existent holiday here!! Now I have the girls to spend Thanksgiving with (we´re working on more people) and Juanmi and Toñy to spend Christmas with. Yipee.
There´s still more I want to share, but I´ll let this settle in for a minute first. I hope you are enjoying my tales of adventure because I am loving living them!
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I had to turn my focus to the apartment search despite the cell phone debacle. The hostel gave me a map and an idea of where to start looking. Today started out a little less wet, but the flyers posted were all a bit soggy. After a long walk I collected quite a few possibilities. Then I hopped on a bus to Puente Genil to see the town for the first time. It seems like a nice place. Not too sleepy, not to busy. It's too bad I didn't find a single posting looking for roommates. I talked with one local girl and she said there isn't much for shared apartments. I can't tell you how many times I've gone back and forth trying to decide whether to live in P.G. or Cordoba. Finally, I have decided (maybe :-) ). I had to think about it from a different point of view. The most important thing for me to accomplish here in Spain is to speak spanish as much as possible. My job requires me to speak English, so it won't happen much there. If I rent an apartment in P.G. and live by myself, I won't have access to the language and culture there, either. I don't want to end up spending all of my time watching Spanish television! (I am finding that their games show will be good learning tools.) So, for this moment, I've decided to live in Cordoba and make the commute to P.G. I have sent several emails out already inquiring about postings. Tomorrow when I get to Granada I'll have Juanmi and Toñy to help me make phone calls to those without email contacts.
I am taking each challenge one at a time. Once or twice I have caught myself wishing I had been placed in Granada because it would be so much easier. But, if I was looking for easy, I wouldn't be here. I am here for the adventure and the challenge. It will be good for me to learn a new place and meet new friends on my own.
For the next week I'll go between Granada and Cordoba. I have an orientation in Cordoba on Thursday and will probably start work in P.G. on Monday. I was supposed to start on Wednesday, but they told me it wasn't necessary because they don't have my class schedule finalized yet. My contact there said someone would pick me up from the bus station when ever I decided to arrive - whether that be Wednesay, Friday, or next week. Details, details. I love it. We'll see if I say the same thing when I am trying to get my resident paperwork processed! haha.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Tomorrow I'll catch a bus to Cordoba and stay in a hostel for a couple days. I can go to Puente Genil from there. I still haven't decided which city to live in. For now I'll walk around to check out different neighborhoods and collect some numbers. Like buying a cell phone, I haven't been looking forward to making phone calls about housing. It is hard for me to understand Spanish on the phone. But I'm in luck! My friends are going to help me with this, too. Hopefully by Wednesday, when I start my job, I will have figured it out and will have a place to live. For now I'm going to leave the majority of my luggage here in Granada. This is great because I have everything I could fit on the plane with me. I'm sure it was a sight to see me lug it all from the airport baggage claim to the bus and then down the street to a taxi and into the apartment. Ay!
It is amazing how quickly my brain is switching over to Spanish. After two days here it is hard to think in and write in English. So, bear with me if I throw in some Spanish words once in a while or get creative with the grammer and spelling. I'll try to explain as I go. If you have ANY questions along the way, ASK! It is hard for me know what to tell you. Email me, leave a comment, whatever. I haven't quite figured out my phone system yet, but as soon as I know, you will know.
Hasta luego! (literally, 'until later' or See ya later)
Saturday, August 30, 2008
I have 24 more days until I leave for Spain. I can hardly believe it! It isn't in the forefront of my brain right now because I'm doing so much visiting and traveling. But once I get back to New Mexico, I'll have six days to finish packing and make sure I'm prepared. Ay, ay, ay. How cool. Such a rough life. :-)
I'm off now to meet up with some friends and catch up. Hopefully I'll be seeing as many of you as I can very soon.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The plan is to leave Carlsbad on Monday, Aug 25th to fly to Los Angeles to visit my friend Fozzy. I've been saying I was going visit since I moved to NM and am finally going to get there!! I will leave there bright and (really) early on Thursday, Aug 28th and fly into El Paso, Tx in time to catch my flight to MI. Then I will go to Grand Rapids over Labor Day Weekend. My old job has their annual picnic and my parents work a ton that weekend so I think it will work out perfectly. From there I don't have exact dates yet. Mid week I'll go to Cheboygan and spend at least a week. My cousin's wedding is on the 6th of Sept near Lansing, so I'm super excited to go there. I'll probably return to Grand Rapids at the end of my trip. There is a Latino Art and Film Festival called Tulipanes 2 weeks after Labor Day weekend that I love to go to in Holland. It would be fantastic if I could make it there, too. I'm really lucky that there are a couple of events where my favorite people will be gathered while I visit. The picnic and the wedding are perfect timing to see my friends and family in the limited time I'll have.
I don't have a much for new information Spain. I'm still waiting on my visa from the Consulate. I have met some people online that have lived where I am going and one girl who was placed at the school that I'm placed in. I'm working on getting every last drop of information they are willing to give!! Right now my biggest decision is whether to live in the small town where I work or commute from the nearest city. It sounds like most people my age commute, but it is a big expense and I have to decide which option is better suited to me.
Such terrible decisions to have to make!! haha How did I get so lucky?!
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I'm including a weblink here for anyone that would like to get a glimpse of where I'm going. Hopefully those of you without high-speed internet can still see it. I'm not sure if YouTube is dial-up friendly or not. The video is less than two minutes and the commentary is in Spanish. Just go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVm3VmqBzBY . Enjoy!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Oh, it also has a river running through it. How perfect is that? I'm inland and I still have water near by!
Monday, July 14, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Love you lots,
Thursday, June 5, 2008
So far, I'm still thinking I'll return to MI the first week in Sept, give or take. I want to have plenty of time with everyone before I go. I'm making progress here. I've started to go through storage stuff. I purged quite a bit when I moved to NM, but I still kept so much stuff that I won't need now. I kept things like kitchen dishes and bathroom towels, and books, so so many books. The housewares stuff isn't worth keeping if I end up staying a second year in Spain. But, that isn't something I'll know until a year from now, so I don't want to save it and then leave it for my mom to deal with. (She may have to take one for the team when it comes to the books. :-) She did raise me in a bookstore after all.) I'm also getting some bites on my car. I'm hoping to sell it as soon as possible. I'll miss it, but I'm certainly not going to need it across the big pond.
Well, that's all for now. I have to get up early in the morning to check off more things from the ever-expanding list before I go to work.
Til the next update!
Monday, May 19, 2008
School starts in October. I don't know when I'll have to be there for orientation. I'll be sure to go to Michigan before I leave. Tentatively I'm thinking of finishing work at the end of August and going to MI for a couple of weeks to see my people in Grand Rapids and then my family in Cheboygan. Then I could go to Spain a week or so early to visit depending on where I get placed. There's so much going through my head right now I can barely keep it straight. But never fear, I've already started my lists because that's what I do. :-) I'll try to posted more information as I get it.
Happy, happy, joy, joy!!!!
Friday, May 16, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Saturday, April 26, 2008
The job front is currently tolerable. I am serving at Chili’s still. I don’t care for the job itself. (I’ve had to hold back from quitting a couple of times.) But, it allows me to be flexible in my schedule and it offers a social aspect that is good for me. I’ve also started to do some office work for my neighbor. He runs a firefighter training center that is about to have a grand opening. They need the extra help and I have the extra time right now. The balance is good. Plus its kinda nice being able to help an organization that is dedicated to firefighters when I’m a firefighter’s kid. It all comes full circle, doesn’t it.
Well, that’s the update. I’m figuring out my next step, work is tolerable, making friends, and home life is good. As strange as it could be living with my mom again, it is going really well. And Cairo LOVES having both of us because we are on different schedules. There are few hours in the day when he doesn’t have someone awake to give him some lovin.
I hope all is well for everyone. Take care and I’ll try not to be such a stranger.
*I can’t believe it’s been this long since I last updated. A lot has been going on. I’ve done some traveling as I had hoped. January brought me to Santa Fe and Taos in northern New Mexico to see a friend. It was great to have someone living there show me around. And it’s beautiful! Mountains in every direction. Santa Fe has a strong Spanish feel to it and it felt great to be surrounded by that vibe again. It is also an art community with artwork EVERYWHERE and of every style and media you can think of. There is one street in particular that is lined with galleries carrying pieces of art in the $10,000 (some more) range where the sidewalk is packed down dirt. Talk about a contradiction! There are so many parts making up the whole of this city with a small town feel. We took a drive up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to Taos (skiing destination extraordinaire). By accident, we took the twisty turny route through the towns nestled in the mountain side. I’m so glad we did. The vista (view) was spectacular. It’s amazing to see the peaks in the distance and then an hour later realize you can’t see them as well because you’re in them!! And have you ever wondered what in the world they were singing about in the song Amazing Grace when they refer to ‘Purple mountains majesty’? They did not have a case of overactive imagination, it’s for real. One the drive out, the closer we got to sunset, the more the colors on the peaks changed and I swear they were a very majestic PURPLE. :-)
I was surprised at how cold it was while I was there. Though it was no comparison to what I would experience the next week….
The trip was wonderful all around. I was happy to connect with a friend, see the things I saw, and even eat at The Shed (a restaurant in Santa Fe where New Mexican cuisine is at its finest. Yumm.) Can’t wait til I can go back.
When I left there, I returned to Carlsbad to work for a whole 3 days, then got back on a plane….