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...