Sunday, December 30, 2007

Night fog, delusions, library

1. On a Friday night out in the city, Aran and I pass the cathedral tower that is shrouded in a thick mist. All around us, the air is cluttered with tiny specks of sparkle.

2. Learning more about Spain´s history, while enjoying another woman´s stories of travel in Miranda France´s ¨Don Quixote´s Delusions: Travels in Castilian Spain.¨

3. The massive library around the corner of the flat, that holds English newspapers, DVD´s, music, and books. And it´s all free!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas food, movies, and laziness

Note: I´m on holiday until Jan. 7, therefore not at school and will be found lazing about in my apartment until then. Unfortunately, my blogging will be sporadic, but hey, it´s the holidays!

1. Turkey, stuffing, vegetables, muffins, cabbage, mashed potatoes combined with a Spanish tortilla to add a bit of cultural flair, and a tiramisu cake plus Irish coffees make for one marvelous Christmas dinner, a full and satisfied stomach and plenty of hours on the couch.

2. Watching ¨It´s a Wonderful Life¨ on Christmas Eve.

3. Just being lazy. Not having anywhere to go. Reading on the couch, snacking on baked goodies and Spanish sweets from the grocery store, watching movies, and staying in bed until I decide I should probably get up before it gets dark again.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Lisbon, Portugal, Pictures

Above - Lisbon dinner

Above - Lisbon dinner

Above - picturesque cafe alley in Lisbon
Above - Lisbon

Above - Lisbon´s castle lit up
Above - Sintra, Portugal (tile bench)

Above - Sintra

Above - sloping streets of Lisbon
Above - Lisbon
Above - Me holding the pineapple tree

Above - Me lifting the pineapple tree

Above - Me and pineapple tree

Above - Lisbon

Above - Santa trolley

Above - giant tree in Lisbon park

Above - Lisbon

Above - are the people real or not?

Above - first day in the hostel, Lisbon

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Simpsons, Spanish treats, countdown

1. Watching Simpson Christmas episodes in two of my classes today.

2. Having some wine and Spanish biscuits and sweets from the headmaster of Lourdes yesterday.

3. Knowing that I have 5 more classes to teach in 2007 and I won´t have to listen to whining Spanish children for another two weeks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas bingo, shoppers, snow

1. Not teaching from the book, therefore not having to lug all these books around, and therefore not having to really think, but just watch the kids color away the hours before the Christmas holidays.

2. On my walk to school, I see all kinds of people with wrapped presents peeking out of their shopping bags.

3. The first flakes of winter drifting from the sky slowly and sparsely, yet making the sidewalk wet.

Monday, December 17, 2007

No fumar, calamare bocadillo, darts

1. While checking emails and playing pool at an Internet cafe on Saturday afternoon, I noticed signs everywhere ¨smoking is prohibited¨. Yet, during the entire time Aran and I were there, the owner never took a cigar out of his mouth once and kept the door open so that the freezing cold air could somewhat mask it. These are the times when I´m glad that I come from a country where when there is a sign that ¨smoking is prohibited¨smoking is indeed prohibited.

2. It seems that Burger King is a bit more fashionable in Spain. Teenagers would rather sit around a plastic table with plastic chairs and rustle their hamburger wrappers while sipping cokes out of paper cups while paying more money than it´s all worth, while I can sit and nibble on a calamare sandwich for half the price while sitting at a wooden table with wooden chairs. Different countries, different fast foods.

3. To escape the frigid afternoon, Aran and I find a nice cozy underground bar with a dart board.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Decorations, almost over, gloves

1. For the last ten to fifteen minutes of class, I´m allowing my students to color and decorate my classroom with pictures of Christmas.

2. I´m tired, and yet another week is nearly over.

3. I found a pair of gloves that I´ve been looking for this morning. A pair that Alicia mailed to me in Hungary and that are mittens/gloves with an opening top so that my hands can actually function and stay warm.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Packages, gnocchi, happy game

1. I received not one, but three pieces of mail on the same day. There´s nothing better than mail from a familiar address while abroad. A package with real brown sugar, vanilla, and real chocolate chips with some amazing Smart Wool socks that I can´t get enough of, plus more, from my parents, a birthday-Xmas card from none other than Jer (Koszi Jer!!!) and even though it´s mildly less exciting, a package of information on Spanish lessons from another language school.

2. Aran and I made a combination of gnocchi and caprese salad dinner in an attempt to replicate the one that I ordered in Lisbon and it turned out to be just right.

3. Today, while playing a Christmas bingo game, one usually obnoxious student said, ¨This game¨

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hearty dinner, new reading, feeling rested

1. A dinner of mashed potatoes, chicken, roasted vegetables, and Irish coffees.

2. A new book about Spain, that I ironically enough, bought in Portugal. I can spend free moments leafing through it learning about the Basque Country (Euskara), different day trips to go on weekends, and a little about Spain´s history.

3. Despite having traveled the entire weekend, 16 hours on a train, and hiking up and down Lisbon´s hilly San Franciso-esque streets, I feel refreshed today. Maybe it´s the fact that I´ve gotten out of Dodge for a bit and that gives me energy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Away from computer, warm weather, a few of my favorite things

1. I´ve been away from the computer for what seems like a really long time and actually, it feels nice. Either the Internet server isn´t letting me access Blogger or I´ve been away from the school. It doesn´t bother me.

2. It was 65 degrees Fahrenheit, 18 degrees Celsius in Lisbon this weekend.

3. Swordfish, Indian food, pizzas...things that seem to be inaccessible here in Valladolid, but were happily available everywhere you looked in Lisbon.

4. New pictures to post...coming soon!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hippo, birthday card, and Christmas lunch

Yikes, I just had a four day weekend away from the blog...

1. I find that Aran has bought me that red-sweatered, comical stuffed hippo in the window of a stationery shop for my birthday. I can´t stop giggling when I realize what´s in the bag.

2. Michelle has made me a birthday card with all of my colleague´s signatures on it. We share the same birthday, so I got her a box of Chip´s Ahoy and some magic candles to put in her cubby hole at work.

3. A nice Christmas lunch with the language school at the most massive table I´ve ever eaten at and getting to talk with people I don´t usually see.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Teaching groove, optimistic glory, and blocks

1. When someone asks me how my day teaching was, I can honestly say that it´s been alright, uneventful, or even a bit amusing.

2. As I listen to other people vent about every little detail that´s pissing them off, I feel relieved that I´m more often than not, an optimist.

3. While teaching my adult students last night, I learn that ¨blocks¨ as in a reference to how far away something is (i.e. she lives 4 blocks away)...means ¨manzana¨ or ¨apple¨ in Spanish. I savor a ¨student moment¨ in a class where I´m supposed to be teaching.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Moon, window hippo, and Halloween candy

1. As I walk home, the moon is surrounded by that glowing halo of light and from where I´m standing, it´s evenly centered between two lines of trees that run along the street. There are no cars coming, but I pause briefly to gaze at the dark wisps of cloud that pass over the moon making it bright white one second and mottled the next.

2. There is a stuffed hippo wearing a red sweater in the window of a stationery shop and he´s sitting directly beneath a display light so that it looks as though the spotlight is on and he´s about to perform.

3. David brings in a package of candy corn that his mother sent him way back in October. Because his roommate didn´t know David´s last name and told the postman that there was no David by that name, the package got sent back to the U.S. Better late than never.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pink, playing along, and hot wine

1. Spanish men are not afraid to wear pink shirts or pink ties for that matter. It´s actually a pretty common occurence.

2. An older gentleman starts talking to me at the bus stop while we´re waiting and I can only pick out two or three words he´s saying. Instead of surrending and throwing out my, ¨lo siento, no hablo...¨, I decide that I´m just too tired and play along as if I understand the conversation. I make a guess that he wants to know about bus number 8. And as it pulls up, I point to it and he smiles and never appeared to have a clue that I was an idiot or foreigner or both for that matter.

3. With the help of cinnamon sticks, cloves, oranges, lemon, brown sugar, and some 75 cent table wine, we´ve created some amazing mulled wine for our Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Smiles, carousel, and a curious cat

1. I´m happy and I don´t know why, but I feel like smiling as I walk down the street.

2. There is a quite large, yet very old-fashioned carousel being set up in Plaza Mayor. I assume it´s for Christmas, like so many other decorations that are draping the city in festivity.

3. There is a white cat venturing out of an apartment window and climbing through the attached flower box. He looks unsure, so decides to hop back inside where it´s warm.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Scuba Kat, sibling helper, and perfect pesto

1. Today it´s raining and instead of avoiding puddles, I´ve been stomping into them gleefully having come prepared with boots instead of regular shoes.

2. I see two young children waiting at a bus stop and I assume they are brother and sister, when the sister holds her arm in front of the little boy before he gets on the wrong bus.

3. A spaghetti dinner with the most delicious tasting pesto. If Spain can do one thing right, it´s anything to do with olives, olive oil, and olive related products.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Vanilla sky, new threads, cozy

1. While walking home from work, I smell a heavy scent of vanilla in the air and whether it was born from factories or someone´s kitchen, I´ll never know, but decide just to savor it.

2. I´m wearing a new cream colored sweater today that I bought in Salamanca and it´s keeping me warm as the temperatures start to drop even lower.

3. This morning, my blanket is wrapped around me perfectly and the temperature in my room is not too hot or not too cold. I also realize this with one more hour to stay in bed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanks givings, have a seat, and past cities

1. Even though it´ll never beat Thanksgiving 2005 abroad in Hungary, planning the contents of Thanksgiving 2007 abroad in Spain make me look forward to the weekend.

2. Getting on the normally packed number 8 bus to my afternoon/evening classes and having to blink because there´s nobody on the bus. Every single last seat is available and I can sit down.

3. Having a dream about going back to Budapest and realizing how much I love that city and how I really do want to go back.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Small world, shopping, and simply standing

1. At a bar on Friday night, there´s a Lithuanian guy sitting at our table who is suddenly out of the conversation when his friends leave to get a drink. I start talking to him and realize that he´s worked very close (Darien, to be exact) to my hometown in the U.S. We start talking about 75th street and how he thinks Bennigan´s has the best ribs he´s ever tasted.

2. Walking into the shops in Salamanca with Ann on Saturday and realizing that we have the entire shop to ourselves as it is the tail-end of siesta.

3. Ann and I watch the people in Plaza Mayor, Salamanca. Just about every Spanish city seems to have a ¨main square¨ or plaza mayor. I joke to her that I´ll start a photo collection of all the plaza mayors in Spain. But mostly, we just stand there eating our sandwiches, observing all the well dressed people (the men with the men and the women with the women) just standing about as if they´re waiting to be seen or waiting for something to happen. It´s in these moments that I see cultural differences.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Saturday in Salamanca, late morning, blue sky

NOTE: I missed my computer time yesterday (I´m making up for it today), because I skipped out to meet Aran for lunch.

1. Thinking about a day trip to Salamanca tomorrow with a friend. I know nothing about the town, but I´m excited to travel and move away from all things work-related.

2. This morning is the first Friday morning that I´ve not had to be at work until 3:30, because my colleagues and I have no Young Learner´s Course this morning. As a result, I feel a bit more rested and fresh.

3. The sky is of a color blue that I´ve never seen before. A color that people would pay for in the shape of a gem to sit and gaze upon their finger. It gets me thinking about how many shades of sky there actually are.

November in Spain, morning light, and passafires

1. Seeing my breath in the air, people armed in winter accessories, the temperature on the clock at one degree Celsius, and yet there are still palm trees standing tall, seemingly untouched and unfazed by the cold.

2. The horizontal sunrise line gradually moves higher and higher across cathedrals and plaza columns on my morning walk to Spanish class.

3. My two adult students ask for the name of the thing that Maggie Simpson has in her mouth. I explain that it´s a passafire. As the two women laugh and talk in Spanish, I can understand that they´re creating their own meaning for the word. Something roughly like, ¨when the baby cries, it´s like a fire, so you need to pass something over quickly to stop the fire.¨

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Teacher voice, ´za, and student compromise

1. Getting pushed to near breaking point by students, but then remembering that lashing out does no good for anyone, then lowered my voice to a gentler decibel.

2. Coming home to the smell of baking pizza.

3. After a much too loud argument among my students about who gets to clean the blackboard, Angela smiles sweetly and raises her hand. ¨Idea...Gonzalo today, Pablo Wednesday, Paula on Monday,¨ she says. I was pleasantly surprised and took her advice.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The other side of the desk, long underwear, and ARRRR...

1. Going to my first Spanish lesson, sitting in the desks my students normally sit in, and getting extremely giddy about being a student again.

2. My nine year old students refer to ¨tights¨ as ¨underwear.¨

3. Another student adds ¨pirate¨ to the list of professions we have written on the blackboard.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Good job, animal hybrids, and Sunday trip

1. Positive feeback from the Director of Studies about my classes at Lourdes.

2. An advertisement in Madrid with a red silohuette of a ¨horsechicken¨ that amuses me so much that I want to take a picture. I can´t help but think how top heavy the horse head is compared with chicken legs.

3. Coming home on a bus from Madrid with Aran and Ann with a good meal in our stomachs, many pictures, and realizing that I´ve found an antidote to the Sunday blues.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Autumn, Christmas, and wise words

1. Yellow leaves whip through the sunny morning air like twirling golden stars.

2. Workers have begun hanging green and red glass ornaments nestled in garland from the buildings in Valladolid´s main square, and even though I know it´s still fairly early for all things Christmas, I can´t help but be excited, anticipating this year´s holiday in a new and very religious country.

3. Remembering a piece of advice my dad gave me about being careful not to burn bridges.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Teenage enthusiasm, present, and ride home

1. Watching my normally indifferent and lethargic fourteen year old students squealing with laughter during a warm-up game before the lesson.

2. Opening my fridge to see that Aran bought me three portable bottles of Coke Light, just the way I like them.

3. Leaning back in my seat on the bus after a long day of teaching, while letting the bus driver take me closer to home and a warm dinner.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My very own, a special treat, and foreign transactions

1. I find a laminated worksheet listing all the English tenses that I bought in Budapest several months ago and realize that I can hang it on the wall, because it is indeed my very own classroom and I can put it anywhere I want.

2. On my way to my first class, I stop at the grocery store to grab a Coke Light to give me the kick I need to get through the rest of the afternoon/evening and as a bonus, I´ve made it in time before the pre-siesta rush.

3. My bus card is low on credit and I´m still somewhat nervous to ask for things in Spanish. However, when it´s over and I´ve managed to communicate, ¨I want to recharge...for 5.80....thank you...see you later...¨ I feel that rush from accomplishing a micro-mini chore in a foreign country. I

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Making life easier

I´ve decided that I have got to start writing more. But it´s hard to do it when I´m jumping all over town with only several minutes to spare on Internet. So, I will continue my posts in the theme of another blogger who I discovered about a year ago. She delivers her observations and thoughts in digestive bits of 3 each day. These bits are something beautiful and positive, even though they may appear little to an ordinary observer.

A few days ago, I read my online quote of the day and I was told that happiness is not a trip to Paris or getting a successful job, because more often than not, expectations will not always be met. Happiness is in the traveling....not to Spain or France or Turkey or wherever a dream destination may lie...but in the traveling through life and the little things you encounter each day. I can´t remember who said it, but it´s stuck with me for a week now. Between reading Clare´s blog ¨Three Beautiful Things,¨ the above paraphrased quote, and my desire to write and capture my time in Spain, it´s become time to chain myself to a chair in front of the computer for at least a few minutes everyday and write....starting....tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Promised pictures

I really haven´t taken that many photos, what with being occupied by a pesky full time job and a even peskier full-time cold. So here are the few that I´ve immortalized...

Below is my apartment living room...Ha, it was worth the wait! I love the window.

Next, is my classroom at IH and the faces my students have drawn. They´re on the wall and they get stickers if they´re good. Bribery: my latest experiment in teaching.

On my way to work one afternoon, I couldn´t help but notice how vibrant the rose garden was in comparison with the gray October day.

Below is one of my favorites so far. Aran and I were walking around in Campo Grande, when we turned a corner only to witness a flock of white birds swooping low through the sky to reveal a starburst of orange sunlight through the trees, petals falling daintily from a flowering tree and a gaggle of peacocks minding their own business in a peaceful rose garden at exactly the same moment. Of course, that couldn´t be captured on camera, but I had to try for some post-moment glow.

To finish, is what I could call my second home: my very own classroom.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lessons, transformations, and observations

My blog has only been alive for a few weeks, still young, stumbling on spindly fawn legs and I´ve already changed its name.

Valladolid isn´t really the moon anymore. Maybe that should have been the title to an entry, but not my blog. Things have become somewhat familiar now: the bus lines, the main squares, the absence of dinnertime crowds. Therefore, I´m going back to the familiar, back to what worked before. A continuation of lessons...this time in Spanish!

It´s quite possible that I may get more readers this way. Those looking for actual Spanish lessons may happen upon this blog and realize that unfortunately, I don´t offer Spanish lessons. I´m looking for them myself!

On another note, I´ve been wanting to jot down the little differences or strange things I see each day, but I always tend to fall asleep before I do. So I present you with a short bite here and now:

olive oil is in absolute abundance in the grocery stores

a good variety of chocolate is not

city maintenance cuts off the tops of trees making the city look full of bony hands reaching for the sky

everyone wears nice shoes here

everyone also seems to find a spare minute to window shop

I do promise to get some pictures up soon. I´ve been carrying the camera around with me to get shots on my way to work in the afternoon.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sick Days

Either there´s something strange in the air here in Valladolid or the children are passing a string of sicknesses around, but most of the teachers here have picked up some kind of bug.

I´m still coughing without a voice, Colin´s determining whether the color of his phlegm is normal, Michelle is going through my aspirin faster than I am, and others have decided to resign themselves to their apartments for the weekend instead of an impromptu jaunt to Madrid.

Luckily there is no teaching for our sorry sick bunch on Fridays, but we still have to make a somewhat lengthy appearance at the school to plan, meet with parents, and take a Young Learner Course. Yikes. Today, instead of hunting for an apartment, I spent some time planning for the entire week ahead of me.

I´m sure my eyes are a bit red and my pulse is racing from the adrenaline of trying to get too much done in such a short amount of time, especially on a Friday night abroad. Gone are the sweet Friday afternoons spent doing nothing. Instead, I´m organizing and at school, preparing for a job that might just kill the remaining granules of my voice.

Still trying to figure out the best equation for managing my time in this crazy schedule that´s been so quickly unloaded onto my shoulders.

At least I´m not alone in this. The bug will pass. Hopefully soon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rough day

It´s barely started, but I´m just not here today. I´m losing my voice and maybe coming down with something, because I just feel SPENT.

Perhaps my students are noticing my absence of first week energy, because they´re making excuses to leave class. Well that was just one. I have to go somewhat easy on myself.

A little disorganization at work, a lack of voice, and attempts to adjust to the strangest eating schedule I´ve ever had, not to mention wanting to be able to communicate in a foreign country for once and not being able to are taking their toll on my soul.

If there were a genie in a bottle here right now, I´d wish to be thrown back into bed where I could drink tea and read for the whole afternoon.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Move-in, fiestas, and birthdays

Today I´m moving into my apartment. Finally. Sigh of relief.

It´s been a three day weekend, Friday being a holiday in honor of Chris Columbus, who discovered the Americas. I didn´t even consider the possibility that Spaniards would celebrate the Columbus day we know and love (a day off school) in the U.S. But it all makes sense now. My adult student reminded me that good old Chris was exiled here in Valladolid for the mistreatment of Native Americans. There is also a museum that I have yet to find and see documenting his life.

Aran´s birthday was yesterday, so we decided to take a break from the hectic pace of adjusting and take a leisurely stroll around Campo Grande, the park here that´s famous for its free roaming peacocks and peahens, not to mention forest ducks. I did get a few shots on my camera, but I´m still in the process of loading them onto my computer. There is a cafe in the center of the park where we both ordered cafe con leches, unwound, and watched kids and adults alike juggling, tossing, and kicking chestnuts around like the latest toy on the market.
We had dinner around nine and ordered a plate of food for four people seeing as we´d only eaten a bocadillo and tiny calamari sandwich for breakfast. The two of us polished off the platter without skipping a beat, proving once again that Spanish people don´t eat the size of dinner that we Americans do.

I´m off to grocery shop, do laundry, and unpack after living out of hotels and hostels for three weeks. I never thought I´d look forward to it so much.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

La Comida y Tapas

Eating has been a bit of a struggle here. Not in the sense that I´m not hungry, because after teaching five classes in a row through dinner, believe me, I have room in my stomach.

My first class doesn´t start until one and I don´t yet have a kitchen, so usually, I get a plastic box triangle sandwich from the grocery store for breakfast. Yum.

Lunch falls between my bus commute from school one to school two, so I gradually learned to buy two plastic box triangle sandwiches. By dinnertime, I was starving and ready to eat a bull.

After much trial and error, I learned that dinner doesn´t seem to be a huge deal here. If you want to go to a restaurant to eat, it´s going to be a tad fancier than expected, complete with three courses. And when Aran and I tried to go to a restaurant one night, we had to nibble on some tapas at a bar while we waited for the restaurant to open at 9:30. We were one of two groups of people dining at that location that night. At 10:30, exactly an hour after we walked in, the waiter glared at our food, at us, willing us with his eyes to leave already. Apparently, the restaurant was ready to close an hour after opening.

So, I´ve learned. I still eat my plastic box sandwiches, but I eat a big lunch that school one provides for 3 euro and then I nab some tapas at a bar for dinner.

I´m moving along, slowly but surely.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Apartment hunting and rusty Spanish

Apartments are not in abundance here in Valladolid. I´m still looking, without much luck. It doesn´t help that everything closes, including apartment rental agencies, between 2-5 for siesta. Right now, I feel like I´m running through an obstacle course, trying to climb up a wet muddy hill, racing around a hamster wheel that´s stuck.

I´ve started working, but it´s hard to concentrate on anything else when I don´t have a semi-permanent place to live yet. Wrinkled clothes from living out of a suitcase, and socks that have been worn twice, sometimes thrice are getting old.

This is not a touristy place and with my non-existent Spanish, I have a hard time getting by without relying on others. Even the Spanish people here are surprised that I don´t speak Spanish. It looks like it´s high time I started hitting the books.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Melrose Blvd... the name of the sign on my classroom door at IH. I have several groups of nine year olds that come to me in classes of eight! Then I have some teenagers and some adults at night. So far, they´ve all been cooperating! I have a circle of desks, a whiteboard, and windows that look out into the square. A flashing green pharmacy sign gets brighter as it gets darker. My classes here start at 3:55 and end at either 8:40 or 10:05pm. I´m still getting used to the schedule, but it´s making the jet lag hard to lose.

I teach one class of nine year olds in a school called ¨Lourdes,¨a very private and prestigious school. For the most part, they´re well behaved. Then, I have about two hours to commute to the other side of the city. It´s only about a fifteen minute bus ride, but the bus is usually packed with kids going home after their school day.

As for my Spanish, I might be able to take classes here at the school, but that hasn´t been organized yet. I am picking up words here and there, but still feel quite helpless. The city itself is pretty nice. There are more shoe shops and boutiques than a girl could ask for and a lot of Spanish architecture. Siesta or ¨lunch break¨occurs from between 2-5 here. Many things are closed and people go home to have lunch and a nap. This is what my adult students have told me.

Valladolid, located in the Castille-Leon region of Spain, has what its inhabitants call, ¨the purest form of Spanish¨in the world. Because I don´t understand Spanish, I can´t begin to differentiate between forms, but just go with it.

I have yet to take any pictures, because I´ve been so busy. But, once everything settles down a bit, I´ll be sure to write more and post some shots.

I have a long afternoon-evening of classes ahead of me, because one teacher quit without telling anyone and we´ve got to sub for him. Adios for now...

Friday, September 28, 2007

no hablo espanol

I´m in Spain with a Spanish keyboard and I´m desperately trying to retrieve all the Spanish I learned in middle school for three weeks. So far, I´m just stupidly pronouncing words I see as I walk by. Gracias is not ´gra-see-as´ but ´gra-th-ee-as´. Plaza is not ´plazah´but ´platha.´

I start teaching on Monday and I´ve got classes of nine year olds and 15-16 year olds plus some adults. We´ll only know until it happens.

Adios for now...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Anticipation and last night

When I first got back from Hungary in July, my bed in the U.S. seemed so foreign. Now, it's just like home again. And hopefully I'll warm up to a new Spanish bed.

I've got one hell of a flight itinerary ahead of me tomorrow, and I'll be happy if I make it to Spain. Chicago - Philadelphia - Barcelona - Valladolid complete with overnight flights, flight changes, storms, and other additives. Of course, I can't predict this outcome and I'm over- worrying, but I do have this sinking feeling in my stomach as I think about how the conditions just seem right for disaster.

But maybe that's just because I'm picking up and leaving again and with that, there's a lot to think about.

I'm off to bed. And off to Spain.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Introductions, countdowns, and autumn afternoons

Sometime after a flurried morning of nervous pacing, anxious conversations on the phone, and clicking on computer buttons that would just not click fast enough, I managed to secure myself a ticket to Spain. More importantly, I've secured a hearty bite of my future. For now. I think. I hope.

I'm going to the moon. Or so says the DoS with whom I spoke on the phone today.

Valladolid, Spain. Although the city is about two hours northwest of Madrid and is home to a university, worthy wines, peacock parks, a reputable language school (in which Aran and I'll be making our temporary living), Chicagoesque winters, not to mention summers, and hopefully (fingers crossed) siestas; its airport is far removed from all of this. The DoS chuckles on the phone and tells me that when flying into Valladolid by plane, "it looks like you're landing on the moon."

Just thinking about landing on foreign soil for another year abroad makes my throat catch and I idly consider if it'd help to strap on an oxygen tank for those first steps on the moon.

What makes it all a little more exciting is that I'm leaving Tuesday, 9/25, just a week after being offered the job, and a little less than a week before the start of classes. It's testing my nerves quite a bit, but wanderlust continues to steer me confidently towards suitcases and flight itineraries.

Today was a perfect early autumn evening. One you'd like to capture in a jar, like fireflies. My brother and I both managed to get ourselves jobs this week, just like our similar re-entry dates to the U.S. in July. Based on this observation, it should take roughly two months to find a job. If life were only that easy.

We drove downtown Naperville to have a celebration dinner at an Italian restaurant where we gorged ourselves miserable on bread with olive oil and parmesan, stuffed mushrooms, sausages, and pastas. Between bites, we gawked at the severely young looking high school kids filing in for dinner before the homecoming dance. And, together we were all baffled at their parents who first took several of the infamous "homecoming group dinner shots," and then proceeded to watch a football game at the bar, just a few tables away. When did parents get to join in on the homecoming dance group dinner?

We took a walk around by the river at which my dad commented, "there is one problem with this river. It needs to get better." We all agreed, seeing as you could hike through it and barely get the tops of your shoes wet. Even still, a wedding party was being photographed near it, while more straggling homecoming students posed by a fountain framed by late afternoon sunlight, girls awkward in their heels and corsages.

It was good to observe. All was pleasant.

Lastly, we followed a trail that gave us a favorable view of the college football game across the river. The band played enthusiastically, little figurines from so far away. The announcers started the game and the players were off. In between the football game and the trail where we stood, crunchy yellow leaves fell softly into the river.

Just when I'm about to leave, I began to appreciate the U.S. a little more.