Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My apartment
















Here are photos of my new apartment. It's definitely colorful! I love my new space. Especially my reading nook. My bedroom is starting to take form and this is the living room/kitchen after my roommate's Halloween project.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Nesting

My roommate has been gone for a few days, so I've been nesting. Cleaning and putting things away. It's nice to have the place to myself because things tend to look worse before they look better when I start to organize.

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!

~Haley

Friday, October 2, 2009

Definitely need a coffee pot....

Started work yesterday and we thought we had an orientation today. It turns out the orientation is Monday. Typical disorganization, but it got me out of work. Instead, a bunch of us went for coffee to get to know each other better.

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

Spoke too soon!

As I just finished telling you that I understand so much more this year, I am now telling you I stuck my foot in my mouth! Now that my Spanish friends know that I understand better, they are speaking to me faster. Today I'm tired after spending a couple of days talking and listening and am having a harder time understanding everything. Yea! to new challenges!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Moving In

I am happily writing you from the comfort of my new home! I moved in yesterday. I have plenty of space and a nice haven to relax in. There's an extra twin bed if anyone wants to visit! For the time being, I have one roommate, Ana. She is Spanish and studying translation. A perfect resource for me as I look into doing the same. We had another roommate, but she's changed her mind and decided to move elsewhere. In the next week or so I'm sure someone else will be moving in to fill the room. If not, there's another bed for someone to sleep in when they visit.

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

And the adventure continues...

(Sept 25th)
Hey everybody!!

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

Part 2: Zalamea

After the xmas party, I had a fairly quiet weekend. My girls left town one by one and then on Tuesday I went to Cordoba to meet my friend (and co-worker) Marta. Marta and I were set for a road trip adventure. She is a fairly new driver and this was her first trip taking a brand new route that she wasn’t certain of. Neither one of us cared; we had each other and were excited to get to her grandma’s house. The plan was to go to Zalamea (pronounced Tha-la-MAY-ah) in the province of Extremadura. I had never been there before and always love seeing new parts of Spain. I was very nervous to meet her family, though. They were being so great for taking me in for the holidays, especially when they had never met me before.

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.

Part 1 of much more to come: Christmas in Spain

I have so much to share. I’m going to try to break it down into chewable parts! So, take your time and enjoy.


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

Crucigrama

I have to share. I just finished my first crossword puzzle (called a 'crucigrama') in Spanish! It only took a Spanish-English dictionary, an English dictionary, a Spanish Thesaurus, Google pages in English and Spanish, and 1 1/2 hours! Luckily everything I need is at my fingertips on the internet. Happy days.

I'll have a new Xmas post for you all soon!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fieldtrip!!

Christmas is almost here and I have so much to share. A lot has happened recently. Last week was my last week of work until January 8th. I didn’t do a whole lot of actual work though. On Wednesday all of the students in the school (over 100 12-16 year olds) went on a field trip to Granada to the Science Park. I got to go along with six other teachers. I will certainly be volunteering myself for any other field trips in the future. It was a blast and it didn’t cost me a dime. The students have to pay to go, but part of that money is put toward feeding the teachers! Sign me up!

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.

Besos

Thxgiving photos 3











Bottom to top this time: Me with Lynn (from Belgium) on the right and Juancho (Spanish) on the left. Next, this was day two's meal. You may notice that Julia is eating soup as the rest of us are going back for more turkey! Days two, three, and even four were not 'pretty' days. haha I actually have more photos of days these days, but the girls would vote me out of the group if I showed them. And the top photo is of Giselle and Lynn smiling about day four's pizza!




Thxgiving photos 2












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.



THANKSGIVING PHOTOS!











This is our fat turkey that JUST BARELY fit in the oven. The pots are the stuffing, mashed potatos, and green beans that kept blowing a fuse! The table is pre-food with what Frieda called our 'wonky' candles. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I can take a pretty good guess.




Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas vacation is almost here!

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

Forgive me for the length - I've had DAYS to think of stuff to add. Enjoy!

The best Spanish Thanksgiving EVER!!!!

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.

Besos, Haley

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Post coming

Hey there. Just want to let you know I have a long and sassy blog written about my Thanksgiving here in Spain. I'm having a hard time getting it posted though. Any day I should have internet in my house and then it'll be much easier. So, I'll get it to you just as soon as I can. Today I'm off to Sevilla for the night with some friends. I just might have more stories to tell you when I get back!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The adventures continue

Hey all! Quite a bit has been happening here. A few weeks ago I was starting to get sorta bored and one day I was really lonely, but the dam has burst. Last weekend I went with 4 others teachers for two days of presentations on Mountain Adventure/Trekking/etc. and then a day hike. The hike lasted 5 hours. We covered 6km (3ish miles) and climbed to a height of 1,900m (6,000ish feet). It was great. We had a rustic breakfast to start and then after, a big lunch was provided. It was funny; a day of healthy exercise wasn’t complete without a follow up of a couple of beers and a cup of coffee. I signed up for another trip next weekend. It is a day of presentations and then we’ll visit some local Cultural Heritage sites. I don’t understand the majority of the information presented, but it gives me an opportunity to connect with the teachers outside of school and to stay busy over the weekend. This weekend, I think I’m going to go home with my friend Marta. She teaches here in Puente Genil, but most weekends she goes back to her home town to spend time with her family. This time she has invited me to join. I’m looking forward to meeting her family and seeing a new town. I’ve been so very lucky that Marta was placed in P.G. this year. We keep each other moving. A couple of days ago we joined the gym together and she has promised to show me how to cook a few things. She thinks it is a tragedy that I eat store-bought ‘tortilla de patatas’. Tortillas here are basically potato omelettes, but a little different. It is practically the national food, so I’m gonna give it a shot.

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!

Besos,

Haley

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

PHOTOS 4!!!!



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!

Besos,

Haley

PHOTOS 3!!!



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.

PHOTOS 2!!!






First one is my rocking chair! Second one is the back of my house. It is a very old building. They've done some remodeling inside. Third is my entry way. Left to the kitchen, dining/livingroom, terrace. Right to spare room. Straight to spare bedroom, my bedroom, and bathroom. Fourth is the spare room that I shut off because I just don't need the space. Fifth is the spare bedroom. It doesn't have it's own door. It is in between the bathroom (left) and my bedroom (right). I put up my maps already as you can see.

PHOTOS!!





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.

Settling In

I finally have all of my stuff from Granada and am settling in quite nicely. My roommate didn't stay long. Her job moved her somewhere else, so I have the place to myself. It is pretty quiet but I'm trying to find ways to keep busy. I have a book of short stories that I am reading, in Spanish of course. The goal is to pick one story when I get home from work and read it out loud while I'm preparing lunch. Thankfully there isn't anyone to hear me! It's pretty bad, but with time it will get better. Then after lunch, I read the story again, but this time the English version to see how much I understood. And pretty soon, I am going to try to translate some stuff for one of my classes. The teacher needs to translate the second year Science textbook for next year. It isn't the whole book, just chapter titles, activities, definitions, basic ideas. Generally, I'm just here to assist the teachers. For instance, he (Joaquin) would translate the text and I would correct his errors. But, he asked me if I wanted to correct his translations or translate it myself. I said I would like to try to do the translating. I welcome the challenge! In truth, I need something to throw myself into. Plus, I’ll get a chance to see if it is something I enjoy.

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

Photos are coming

I forgot to tell you that photos are coming. The cable to connect my camera to my computer is in Granada still. Hopefully I can post some of my house and town soon! Besos

It´s official, I have 2 heads and 4 eyes....

I can´t believe I´ve been here for two weeks already! It doesn´t feel like it in the least. I finished my first week at school. It was exhausting and great. There are so many facets to my job and I am always doing something different. 4 of my 12 hours are spent in class with a teacher. 2 of the classes are with first level; one is Natural Sciences and the other Math. Then, I have 2 English classes; one with third level and the other with fourth level. There are four levels in the school and they correspond more or less with 7th-10th grade. In these classes I do a lot of pronunciating of words. The students spend a lot of time alternating between repeating what I say and staring at me. Many of them are very good at doing both simultaneously. My other 8 hours are spent outside of class with teachers. These hours are split into 2 parts and sometimes overlap. With some of the teachers, I help them go over materials they plan to teach, in English, in their classes. Other teachers simply want help improving their English. The school in is the beginning stages of being a Bilingual School. In this type of school, students don´t just take English classes, rather, in addition to English classes, they also have some of their other basic subjects taught partially in English and partially in Spanish. However, it is just starting and their proficiency level of English is still very low and their desire to learn English is often lower. Lucky me. ;-) I need to use my novelty to my advantage to try and get them interested.

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

There was an Italian, a Spaniard, a German, and an American living together....

No, this is not the start of a joke. It was almost my life. Finding a place in Cordoba proved harder than I thought. I was THIS close to renting a place with a Spanish guy, an Italian girl, and a German guy. I even gave them a holding fee to keep it for me until the next day. If I hadn´t, they were going to show it again in mere minutes. But, as soon as I left and thought about it more and talked it out something didn´t feel right about it. I can´t say exactly what didn´t sit right, but I do know my gut was telling me it wasn´t the place for me. And if there is anything I have learned in my short time here on earth, it is that my gut is usually right! So, I gave the keys back and went on my way. This is not to say that I was without worry and/or frustration. By this point I was super tired from sleeping in a different bed every night and traveling constantly. Then I had my orientation for work. I met people that had decided to live in the city and commute and I met people that were living in the small towns near their schools. I met an American that was looking for a roommate in Puente Genil. Again, I felt conflicted. Finding spanish people to live with is not that easy. Most live with their parents until they have finished University and then have families of their own. I do not want my spanish to suffer by living with an American, but I also don´t want to live in a box on the street! There were a few assistants at the orientation from the previous year that spoke about their experience. So, even in my sleepy haze, I knew that the only this that would help me figure this whole thing out is INFORMATION. I´m just that type of girl. So, I pulled one of the returning assistants aside and asked her what she thought given her experience. I basically asked her if she thought it would be better to commute and live with Spaniards (hopefully) or live in PG with an American. She felt it was very important to live near the school and in the village. You get to know the people you live near and become a part of the community. If you live in the city, you can´t attend after hours school events and you are always worried about the time and the bus or carpooling schedule. In the end, she thought it best to live with an American if necessary in the village and force myself to get out and interact with the community. After this, I decided to take a leap of faith and go to PG for a few days to find a place to live. The American girls that live here in PG have been a lot of help, but they are not the type I´d want to live with. They have been a little evasive in meeting up and joining together to look for apartments. That´s fine. I like knowing they are here, but I´d rather they not become my circle of friends that I see everyday. If that happens, I won´t get out and interact with the locals. But, luckily, one of the girls gave me the number of her new landlord saying that he had another apartment for rent. I put him on the list. Another bit of luck was that one of the assistants here was gone for the weekend and offered me his place to stay in while he is away! Super cool. I have an apartment to myself for a coule of days...and for FREE. I love free. Yesterday I called a bunch of numbers about apartments. An apartment search would normally be daunting, but add on the fact that I have to talk to these people on the phone, in spanish. I really hate speaking in spanish via the phone. But, it was a great test for me and I accomplished it. Unfortunately, everyone I called said they had already rented their places out. Argh. Today is Saturday and nearly everything shuts down over the weekend. That leaves me to wait until Monday and Tuesday to continue looking. Not good considering I don´t have a place to stay past tomorrow. But, I tried one last number that hadn´t answered. He then gave me another number. And that´s when the sun came out from behind the clouds and I heard the choir. (Or something like that.) What I am trying to say is...I HAVE A PLACE TO LIVE! I´m on the outskirts of the town in between the center and my school. I even have a terrace outside the backside of my house with a view of the countryside and the olive groves!! The owner is wonderful. She and her family live upstairs. She so warm and helpful. I think we both feel good about the situation. Her husband travels some and she wants to feel comfortable and safe with who is living in her house. Already, she has been very helpful, offering to show me where the market and closest stores are and said if I have to go to the far away big grocery store some time I can go with her in her car. For the month of October, I am going to share the house with another girl (I think she is Spanish). They already said she could stay there for a month while she looked for a place and neither of us mind sharing as it is a month´s time paying half of the rent. With how cautious my landlord is being, I am comfortable that it will be a good situation. The girl has a couple small dogs, so it should be nice having animals around. Hopefully they aren´t crazy or anything! Anyway, it is only a month and that frees up some money for me to get some basics things and get set up. I am SUPER excited. I move in tomorrow. I can breathe now. And I´ll have a washer!!!!! I desperately need to wash clothes. I thought I was only going to be gone from Granada for a few days, but it is turning into a week or longer. This Thursday or Friday I´ll be able to go back to Granada and get my stuff and bring it back to my HOME in Puente Genil!! So, all this said, I´ll have an address soon. And hopefully I can get internet in my HOME soon so I can write more often in smaller blocks! haha. This is looking like a novel. For now I have found an internet cafe and can communicate when I need to. That makes me (and my parents!) very happy.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Apartment Searching

My search for a place to live has begun. I left Granada yesterday to come to Cordoba to check things out. Unfortunately, it rained all day yesterday and wasn't exactly conducive to walking around to look for apartments. So, I buried myself in my room at the hostel and did some footwork on the internet. It is amazing how much better connected I am this trip. I have even set up an online phone system so I can call anywhere in the US for free. All I need is an internet connection and a headset. One very cool thing about this system is that my friends and family (that would be you!) in the US can call me for free, too. I now have a local Cheboygan, MI phone number that you can call and it will ring on my computer where ever I am in the world! If you would like that number, you can get it from any of my parents or send me a comment, email, etc. so I can send it to you. It came in handy the last couple of days. As my last post said, I got a spanish cell phone (in the future I may refer to this as a mobile - they use a lot of British English translation here). I also brought my American cell phone with me to use for the first week during my settling in period. Well, when leaving Granada, I had the lovely experience of getting pickpocketed. Argh.... I knew the guy tried, but I checked the pocket and didn't think he got anything. Wrong. He managed to grab my American cell phone. Before I left home I told myself I should write down my numbers in case I ever lost the phone. I got through the letter 'C'. Oops, that isn't very far. So this wasn't a welcomed experience, but it wasn't anything to get too worked up about. I suspended my service temporarily and I still have a Spanish cell phone...right? Wrong. Once I got to the hostel I went to use it and forgot that I need a pin to unlock it after it has been turned off. The pin was in Granada. The planets weren't exactly aligning in my favor. Thankfully I was able to call my cell phone company, my parents, and eventually my friends in Granada to let them know all was well.

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

I made it!!!!!

Hey everyone! I made it safely to Spain. I am in Granada with my friends Juanmi and Toñy. Tomorrow I am going to Cordoba to look for a place to live. I wish I could stay here in Granada longer, but I can come back any time I want to visit. Juanmi and Toñy have been a HUGE help. Today, Toñy and I went around town. To my benefit she is sick and didn't go to work, but not so sick as to stay in the house all day. Now I have a spanish cell phone! I wasn't looking forward to figuring all of that out in Spanish. I'm still a bit rusty when it comes to communicating. It gets easier all the time, though. We had breakfast at a local cafe where I had my FAVORITE thing... toast with tomato. It is way better than you are thinking. It is fresh baguette bread toasted with tomato that is prepared more like applesauce. Put some olive oil and salt on top and there you go. Mmmmmmmmmm. After breakfast we even bought the tool for me to try to make it myself. Granada is the same as I remember. I love turning a corner and remembering something from one of my visits. So far I don't feel overwhelmed in the least. How wonderful to have a support system already in place. I'll be living a couple hours away, but I'll never be alone. They have already invited me back for Christmas so I won't be by myself. Yea!

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)

Haley

Saturday, August 30, 2008

6 cities, 4 time zones, and 1 tired chica in a pear tree

I have started my US tour. I started in LA on Monday. SO much fun. Ate all kinds of good food, got to spend lots of time with my friend Kevin, and even went overnight to San Diego to visit with some old friends. Everything we could fit into three days, we did! Thursday was my cross-country day. I woke up in LA and proceeded to stop over in Phoenix, El Paso, Dallas, and Detroit. Then drove to Grand Rapids with my friend Mel who was so great to come pick me up. Needless to say, the trip was exhausting, especially after not sleeping much in California! Sleep would have been a complete waste of short and precious time. :-) I'm so happy to see everyone in Grand Rapids again! Mel and I didn't stop talking for a minute on the drive from Det. to GR. Last night I went in to Leo's (where I used to work) and had dinner. HEAVENLY! I've been dreaming about what I was going to eat. It was as good as I remembered. Tomorrow is their yearly picnic and I'll be going to that. Burgers, beers, and friends, sounds good to me. The next stop is home to Cheboygan!!! I can't wait to see my parents and grandparents. And of course I'll go to Petoskey to see my sister and Cedarville to my aunt's restaurant. That'll be torture. haha. Shrimp jammers from Pammi's are calling my name already!

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.

Besos,

Haley

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Emotional Rollercoaster

So my emotional rollercoaster has begun. I have less than two weeks until I start my CA/MI tour. My time is getting extremely limited with a lot still to be accomplished. I am at the same time excited for what lies ahead and getting sad at the thought of leaving all of the friends I have made here in Carlsbad and will soon see again in MI. Last night while hanging out with friends I shed some random tears and we decided it is too early to be starting that! haha They have all been so good to me and opened right up to welcome me in when I got here and it will be very hard to leave.

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

Another website

Also, if you go to http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puente_Genil you can see a few photos of Puente Genil. Most of you won't be able to understand the text, but the pictures are pretty. :-)

Whirlwind of a Week

This week has been packed full! Every waking moment I'm busy working or with my nose to my computer screen doing some kind of research. I found a lot of websites and photos online. The more I learn, the more excited I get. Sometimes it is a great thing to not get what you want. I would love more than anything to live in Granada again, but then I wouldn't get to try out a whole new experience. Puente Genil may be a lot smaller and not super close to a city, but it is within a couple of hours to so many cities. It will be a lot easier to take weekend trips to see all kinds of new stuff. It appears that my school is on the outskirts of town and is probably the school all of the kids from the rural areas go to. It's right next the the Genil River. This is great. Some how I keep managing to stay connected to water. Right now I'm in the desert and there is a river running through town 2 blocks from my house. Next, I'll be inland Spain working, and maybe living, next to a river. I'm trying to figure out the whole housing situation now. My friend in Granada is such a huge help. I'm incredibly lucky! We've come across a few apartments for rent and we're narrowing down which neighborhood I should be in. The school looks to be 2+ miles from the Center of town. I'm probably going to need a bike or a moto to get around whether I live in the center and need to get to school or live in the skirts and want to go to the center to grocery shop, see a movie, meet up with friends, etc. My biggest decision now is 1. Do I rent an apartment from here in the U.S. and then try to get roommates to join me -or- 2. Do I wait until I get there and try to find someone who has a room available? There are good and bad sides to both of these options. I would prefer to be able to see the apartments in person before I settle on one, but my temporary housing options are going to be limited as there are not a lot of hostels/hotels there. When the right option comes along I guess I'll just know what to do. I'm really not letting the lack of concrete answers get to me. I know I'm going to the 'land of tomorrow' so I better get used to things working at a much slower pace. This is not to say I'm at complete peace! I've barely slept for a week and I have to remind myself to stop staring at the computer screen long enough to eat. I easily get lost in my research and planning. I'm usually up late and have been getting up daily around 7AM (this is EARLY for me!!). Coffee has become my friend and having to go to work is a major inconvenience. haha. The next thing on the to-do list is turning in all of my paperwork to the Consulate to get my visa. This week I'm going to Houston to do just this and then I'll go stay with some friends in Dallas for a couple of days. The roadtrip will do me good. Lots of thinking time. Plus, I have lots of spanish conversations I want to listen to for practice.

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

I got it, I got it!!

I got my placement letter today! I am in a town called Puente Genil. I'm doing research on it now. So far I know that is has a population of about 30,000 and is an agricultural town. It is centrally located in Andalucia (Southern region in Spain). So, it may not be a big city, but it is within 2 hours from 4-5 main cities. The school I was placed in is a High School, so I'll have kids between 12 and 18 years old. Soon I'll have some photos and more information. Eeek, I'm so excited. Now it is time to book my plane ticket and work on housing, temporary and permanent. I can't wait to share as I figure it all out.

~Haley

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

Not today

It didn't come today...maybe tomorrow?

Hurry up already

My nerves are shot today. I'm supposed to get my letter by Wednesday. I've been on a forum on Facebook where a ton of assistants in my region have been talking to each other and sharing information. Friday a handful of lucky people posted that they had received their letters. Today a ton more people have gotten theirs. It is 1:30 right now and the mail doesn't come until 3ish. I want SO badly to get the letter today. But, I'm in Carlsbad, in the middle of freakin nowhere, where the post office laughs at you if you want to overnight something. If I see the mailman coming up the driveway, all I can say is 'poor guy'. :-) I'm planning to go to Houston on Sunday night to apply for my visa. Then I'll go to Dallas for a couple of days to visit some friends. I just need the rest of my information.... Deep breaths....

Friday, June 27, 2008

News is on the way!

I got an email today saying I will get a letter in the mail by July 16th with information about my placement in Spain!!! Oh, the relief. Can't wait to find out where I'm going. :-) :-)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not quite a tan....

So...the weather has been beautiful and hot. It is a bit too much sometimes, but overall, I'm grateful for the sunny days. The other morning I went with a friend for breakfast in the park and then a ride on his motorcycle. Wow, was that great. 9-10 O'Clock in the morning is perfect here. The park is on a river and there just happened to be local firemen practicing dive-rescue training when we got there. Oddly enough, I knew a bunch of them there from the firefighter training center I work at once in a while. I love that I'm getting to know people and run into them when I'm out. As for the bike ride, the wind on my face was downright dreamy. I wasn't planning on that much outdoor time though and didn't get a chance to slather on the sunscreen before leaving the house. I was getting scared as it neared noon! Luckily, I did have it on my face and chest so I didn't fry completely. My skin must be getting used to it because I got a little red on my arms at my shirt line and a spot on my forehead. Whew!! So, I won't say I have a tan exactly, but hopefully I'll look sun-kissed when I return. :-) The freckles are already in full bloom, now I just have to get out of the restaurant once in a while.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Only 97....

This last week, we have seen over 100 degree temps everyday. I'm sure it got to 108 once or twice. I found myself looking at the forecast the other day and seeing the prediction for tomorrow...97 degrees. The words actually came out of my mouth, people! I said, " It'll only be 97 on Friday". Who woulda thought. When I was leaving MI, everyone talked about the heat I was going to encounter, but they all said, "yeah, but it's DRY heat". How right they were. I can actually tolerate these temps because I'm not sticky, icky. I actually wore jeans out to the store yesterday and wasn't dying. Mind you, I am grateful for my wonderfully air conditioned car and house. I used to be such a wimp during that inevitable hot, sticky, hide-in-your-house week every August. This year when I come back I just may be that tourist we make fun of in long sleeves and pants when it's 75 out. :-) Then again I may punk out when the humidity gets above 10%. (The other day I think the humidity in MI was in the 80% range and here in NM is was about 6%. Don't quote me on that, but you get my point.) I can't wait to come back to visit and have a little moisture back in my skin and big poufy hair!

Love you lots,

Haley

Thursday, June 5, 2008

(Sorta) Update

Hey there. I want to give an update on my job in Spain. Unfortunately, I don't have much more to tell. I still know I'm going to Andalucia (the southern region) and I'll start the last week in Sept or the first week in Oct. From my understanding, I am waiting on a letter that I will get in the mail from the Andalucian government. I've been accepted by the Spanish government, now my name (and hundreds of others) has been passed to the Andalucian govt for them to place me in a specific city and school. It is kind of like if I was accepted by the U.S. govt for the program and then they send a bunch of names to MI, NM, etc for them to place people and handle the details. As soon as I get that letter I can make an appointment at the Spanish Embassy (probably in Houston) to turn in my paperwork to get my visa. Then a few weeks later when I get my visa, I can purchase my plane ticket.

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

Spain bound

I finally received news today. I have been accepted for the job in Spain!!!! I do not have all of the details yet. This is what I do know. It is a teacher's assitant position. I'll be placed in a school and could work with kids, adults, or something in between. The southern part of Spain, called Andalucia, is where I will live. I requested this province, so am very happy to know they placed me there. It's exciting to see from here what city I will actually be living in. I'll at least be within hours of Granada and Tarifa, two of my favorite places and also places where I have friends.

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!!!!

Besos,

Haley

Friday, May 16, 2008

Patience is a virtue

Well, no news today. They are running behind on the applications and the new list of accepted candidates won't be posted until Friday or Monday, most likely Monday. I'm sure I'll check a zillions times before then, just in case--wouldn't want to miss it. I am disappointed, but don't have any choice but to wait it out. I feel like I got it, but it isn't the same. There's a difference between, 'I probably got it' or 'I'm almost certain I got it' and 'YES, I got it'. So, it is probably a good thing that I work like a fool the next three days. With any luck, it'll keep my brain occupied. I did finally get some sleep this afternoon. A sleepiness swept over me when I got home from work and I embraced it! 4 hours later I woke up to the sweet sound of rain. Very nice after a week of tossing and turning. I'm going to try to get a nice, snug as a bug sleep again right now. I'll be sure to post again when I get word.

~Haley

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Today's the Day

Ay, ay, ay. Today is the day I'm supposed to find out if the job I want in Spain is mine. I got my hopes up about finding out two weeks ago and have had to wait until now. I'm excited and nervous. I really, really don't want to have to keep waiting. I haven't slept well in a week. This morning I have to go into work, which will either be like watching coffee brew or a welcome distraction. Yesterday I said I wouldn't get online to find out if I got it until mid day after I put in a couple of hours at the office. Haha, nice try. It was the first thing I checked when my eyes opened. No news yet. I'll be sure to post when I find out. Deseenme la suerte! Wish me luck!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What's next...

In the meantime, I’m going to have to ease up on the travel to get ready for a bigger change. I had wanted to make a trip back to Michigan in the next month or so, but I just won’t be able to do it quite yet. But don’t worry; if I decide to flee the country, I’ll be sure to visit first. J I do miss everyone a lot. There’s tons of good stuff that has come to me in my move, but it has been strange starting from scratch creating a support system. I always know I’m a phone call away, though. The very best thing about Carlsbad has been the weather!!!! There have been (few) times where the weather is the same here and MI, but that only lasts a short time. There was one day in particular that gave me a taste of home. It was mid morning, about 50 degrees with the light smell of moisture in the air and the birds were singing away. It felt exactly like an early May day. Ahhh. Our low extreme tends to be MI’s high extreme. As spring progresses, the differences stretch. I’ve gotten used to it to a degree. Last week we had 3 90 degree days. I knew that was great, but was put back to reality of how great when I talked to friends back home and heard they got 5 inches of snow. Yikes. People here start complaining about being chilly and I just smile and remember. I’m sure they are sick of hearing about what I would be dealing with if I was “where I came from”. It’s hard to hold back when I’m in such constant awe of the warmth.

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.

Love,
Haley

Las Vegas, baby

And if that wasn’t enough to ease the travel bug that bit me, just when I got back, some people from work decided to go to Las Vegas for a bachelor/bachelorette party. So, early March marked the start of another trip. (How’s a girl to refuse?!) There were 13+ of us when all was said and done. It was a crazy time, as Vegas should be. We didn’t see any shows or anything, as our time was limited, but we didn’t sleep a whole lot, either. At least not when it was dark. It was a great feeling to be included in the festivities by my new friends. I was even hoping they would be able to meet a friend of mine from back home, but it didn’t work out with his work schedule. (We’ll still find a way to meet up on this side of the country Fozzy!) It would have been nice for the new crew to meet someone who really knows me and gets me, but it’ll happen yet. I’ll be here in Carlsbad for a little more time. I’m working on my next step, but I have some decisions to make before I figure it out. If that sounds cryptic, there’s a reason…I don’t want to jinx it! I have one opportunity in Spain that I would really, really like to work out, but I won’t know for another month or so. If that doesn’t work out, then I’ll go to plan B. For now I stay put. As soon as I get more information, I’ll let y’all know. Until then, I could use all of the good thoughts, white light, prayers, etc. that I can get.

Chicago/Milwaukee

I left El Paso and landed in none other than Chicago. The plan was to go to Milwaukee to help Erica (my cousin) out for a few days watching her son. To my delight, Melissa (a friend from Grand Rapids) said she’d love to meet me in Chicago for the night before I went north. Yipee! She brought a friend of hers and we all went to Second City, a comedy show, and laughed before, during, and after!! It was fantastic spending time with Mel and Sam. I wanted it to last a lot longer, but I also wanted to get to Milwaukee to see Erica, Chris, and my little man Braden. I was looking forward to some one-on-one Auntie Haley/Braden time for sure. I had only seen him once on my drive out to NM since he was born. He was a joy to take care of and we were finally figuring each other out when it was time for me to leave. Of course! *

Still Kickin

Hey Everyone! I know it has been a long while since you’ve heard from me. Life got me a little side tracked. I’m going to start back with an entry I began to write a while ago and never finished/posted. Then I’ll make a real effort to bring you up to speed from there. Love ya, Haley


*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….