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Thursday, April 7, 2011

This Blog Has Been Moved!

Dear Reader:

If you are wondering why you haven't received any updates recently on my life here in Spain, it's because I have moved my blog! After careful consideration, I decided to uproot my blog from to You will have to re-subscribe to get email updates (but it's easy! don't panic!). I hope you enjoy the new site:

Read about my weekend in Murcia....
...and my colorful dust-fight while celebrating Holi!

See you on wordpress!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

El Cuenca--City of the Hanging Houses and Modern Art

Two weeks ago my friend Linnette called me up to see if I wanted to make a spontaneous trip to Cuenca with her on our Friday off. I agreed. Then she told me that we'd be taking the 6:45 am bus because she had to be back in the city in the early evening to tutor. Please remember I have Fridays off... so 6:45 is, well, on the early side. But Linnette promised me a coffee once we got to Cuenca, so I couldn't refuse the offer.

Cuenca is a precious city. It's situated to the south-east of Madrid and takes two and a half hours to arrive by bus. There's the more modern city with then the older part of the city rising in front of you, a jumble of houses resting precariously on a hill. As with many of Spain's older cities, Cuenca was originally a strategically located Muslim stronghold. In the early 12th century, the Christan kings overtook the city. Cuenca has seen quite a bit of ups and downs, from being a leading textile manufacturer to being known as a holdout for those fighting against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. At one point, the nuns and monks of the town were murdered due to unrest in the area. It is famous for its cathedrals, underground tunnels, the 14th century "hanging" houses, and its affinity for modern art.

Linnette and I had three missions for the day. The first was to secure a cup of café con leche. This mission was harder than we thought possibly. We arrived at 9:30 in the morning, and had to wait until 10 before getting our cup o' Jose. Sadly before being able to complete Mission #1, we had to start Mission #2: The Hanging Houses.

Our final mission was to see the casas colgadas, or the hanging houses. These houses were built in the 14th century. They get this name because they were built on the side of a ridge, precariously "hanging" over the river far below. Since the bus terminal was in the new part of town, we had to walk up into the older part of Cuenca. Along the way, we met a nice older gentleman out for his morning stroll. He was a very nice man, and explained to us that if we walked up the hill across the river from where we wanted to be, we would have a nice view. It wasn't that bad of a walk, and it made for an excellent view!

 After such a successful completion of two missions (and feeling fully recharged on Jose and half a palmera), we set off on Mission Stone Bench.

Mission Stone Bench was given to us by one of Linnette's Spanish co-workers. Linnette was told to "go to the tathedral that's on the main square. Go down the road that's opposite the cathedral, turn to the right, find the street "Bajada de las Angustias" ("Descent of the Distress"), head toward the church that's at the bottom, and along the way you'll find a stone bench." At this point in the story Linnette's getting confused, "So we're looking for the church at the bottom of Bajada de las Angustias?" "No, no," she's told. "You're looking for that stone grandfather made that bench, and I was married in the cathedral on the square."

Cool story. So we went. We followed the crazy directions... and we found the stone bench! Mission #3
completed. What a successful day!

The rest of our time in Cuenca was spent walking around, enjoying the sights and great views of the surrounding area, and discussing life. We also went to the modern art museum which is located inside one of the remaining Hanging Houses. There was even a detour to see the tunnels that have been built all under the city, first as storage, then as passages between the churches, and finally as bomb shelters during the Civil War. The tour guide was pretty awful, really nervous and a whole bunch of "well, you aren't from here, so you're not going to understand" (I'm not kidding--she said that---at the start of ever explanation...), but the concept was quite cool. It added to the mystic of Cuenca. Overall, it was a wonderful trip--an extremely enjoyable day outside the city.

But next time: not so early, OK?

Interesting culture note of the day: There are more perfume commercials during the middle of the day than there are car commercials. Where in the States, if you see a ridiculous commercial, you know it's gotta be a car commercial, here in Spain it's a perfume commercial. And, boy, can they be weird.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Every wonder why Florida is called "Florida"?

Everyday sends me "The Spanish Word of the Day." OK, so I know most of the words that come into my Inbox, but it still serves as a good reminder, and, occasionally, I learn a new word. Surprisingly enough, there are times when the new word helps me more with my English etymology (of which I am a HUGE in-the-closet fan) than with my Spanish. Or maybe it shouldn't be so surprising considering that the English we speak today has more than a few "loan" words from Spanish. Below are two that I considered interesting enough to share. Don't worry: I know I'm the etymology geek here, not you.

florido, adjective
  • flowery; in bloom
  • The state of Florida was given its name by the Spanish navigator Juan Ponce de León. He landed there on April 2, 1513 which was Easter Sunday, or Pascua Florida in Spanish (from the Spanish Pascua, meaning Easter, and florida, meaning flowery). To this day, April 2 is a legal holiday in Florida.
  • Nowadays the word florido is generally used to refer to flowery language - lenguaje florido
álamo, noun
  • poplar (as in the tree)
  • The Spanish word álamo means poplar in English. The old fort in Texas was named Los Alamos after a grove of cottonwood trees which grew there. The cottonwood tree (populus deltiodes) is related to the poplar. The prairie was often a hostile environment, so a cottonwood tree was a welcome sight to the pioneers. It provided much needed shade and wood for cooking and it also meant that there was probably water nearby.

  • I have taken on a new clase particular, or tutoring. It's one hour a week, with an 8- and 5-year old sister/brother duo. They both attend a bilingual private school. The girl (8) speaks a fair amount of English. She's adorable. Her brother (5) is obsessed with the solar system. This dude knows all the names of the planets--which astounds me. He doesn't talk as much as she does, but it's ok. The hour is probably one of the easiest in my life. I play board and card (Uno!) games with them. Despite the fact that the little boy started to cry tonight when he lost Uno, it's a breeze. It's refreshing to be with kids who still enjoy learning, and find me at least somewhat fascinating. The little girl tried to leave with me today. I really want to find them stickers and  one of those watercolor books where you wet the paper and color appears. 

  • Work has gotten hard (again). I'm at that point in the cycle where I would rather lay in bed and ignore my alarm than get up and go to work. For instance, the other day, My Coordinator and the jefe de estudios (vice-principal), who already have a long history of resentment, got into a verbal fight right over my head in the teacher's work room. MC wouldn't stop hounding the VP about a piece of equipment from the English Department, and the VP ended up calling her a lier and inculta,or uneducated. It was vicious, needless to say. There's constant back-stabbing, negative feelings, and complaining going on all the time. I find it pathetic that so many older adults are so insecure about themselves that they choose to pick on my Spanish, my culture, or the way I dress to make them feel better. I'm also extremely tired of having to listen to the teachers yell at the kids for half the class period. Sometimes the kids are being noisy (and, hey, there Spanish (homo no volumous controlus)), but more often than not the teacher just gets on a rant and nothing gets done in class. But enough with this negative paragraph. Here is lo bueno, the good; I have learned to leave the negative feelings I encounter at work: my life begins after work, and it's a great life. I do what I'm paid to do, and I leave. No need to continue fretting. 

    To leave this post on a positive note: This weekend Madrid is celebrating the Indian holiday Holi. This Hindu holiday is often known as the "festival of color" because of its usage of colored powder to celebrate. The people throw vibrantly colored powder and water on each other to welcome spring, among other reasons. I'm very, very excited to get a taste of what this festival would be like if I were in India. Obviously, I will be in Madrid--but whose going to argue with water and color?

    Recently, the Education Department of the Madrid Region has started posting ads that feature young, elementary-aged children declaring that "when I grow up I want to be..." with a listed profession. Under each kid there's a statement reading "By studying in English, So-and-So can reach his dream."
    So why do I care? Because that's my job! Right there! On a poster! I am in one of the schools listed that are "helping kids reach their dreams." I think it's pretty cool, and even though this technically means its propaganda, that the government is trying to open up people's minds to the bilingual program. Also, the kids in the pictures are really cute. 

    I also made my second Spanish potato tortilla, or omelette, the other night--y ¡me salió super rica! (It turned out really well!). I feel so bad-ass.

    The following weekend, I will be heading to Murcia with three of my roommates to the home of Ana.She told me today that the weekend we will be there, her family is having a cook-off to see who makes the best croquetas (croquettes), albondigas (meatballs), and other such foods. I, being a Cultural Ambassador, have been invited to participate in this little adventure. After consulting with one of my cooking fiend friends, I am thinking about making crab cakes and/or stuffed mushrooms. Does anyone else have any other recommendations? The idea is that the food is an appetizer, something that you can pick on, and is typical of a region. I will take suggestions!

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    When The Americans Stormed Pamplona

    Back in Janurary, Natalie made my day when she told me that she'd bought her ticket to come see me in March. We started making plans. Less than a week later, Fulbright almost burst my bubble. They told me that the compulsory mid-year Fulbright conference was taking place the week that Natalie was visiting in March. After a few frantic e-mails, all was resolved: Natalie would be coming with me, and Fulbright would be treating her to four days in Pamplona if she could get herself there.

    Pamplona is located north of Madrid, and lies between Basque Country and the Spanish-French border. The city has a long history, dating back to Roman occupation. It's located in the Navarra region, and is most famous for the Running of the Bulls that takes place mid-July every year. Don't worry, there were no bulls to be found, and I was perfectly OK with that. Trying avoid raging bulls and insane crowds would not have been my idea of a good conference in Pamplona.

    Pamplona was a paramount pause of pure pampering. Oh, yea: It was that good. Just to give you an idea: We arrived early afternoon on Wednesday, and were taken directly from the train station to a really sweet hotel. From there we were immediately ushered into the "Princess Room" of our 4-star hotel for a 3 course lunch--with an actual salad!!!!! For those of you who have never been out of the country, or for those of you that haven't been to Spain, the word "salad" does not have the same connotation here as it does back in the States. For example, a "salad" could easily be chopped onion, tomato, and tuna, all drizzled with a little bit of oil. But these fancy Pamplona salads had greens and cranberries, as well as what you would imagine goes in a basic salad. Amazing. So exciting. They also poured us three different types of wine from the area. It was a good lunch.

    There was also reception after reception. We met the mayor of the town, who told us that if we're going to run with the bulls to "just be careful." Then there was the day that we had a reception in the Throne Room of the resident palace. It was just fancy. One of my friends , Jaselyn, she's from the Bronx, and she flips over castles and palaces. She loves them, and can't really explain it (but, hey, I get it: I grew up on Disney). We all have a running joke whenever we see one that it's her house. Así que she was on cloud nine the entire time we were in the Throne Room.

    The town itself was pretty quiet. There seemed to be a perpetual siesta hour, which means all the shops were closed. It was like the only people in the town were us Americans. Scary though, I know. Wanna know what's scarier? We didn't see a single open ice cream shop the entire time we were wandering the streets. It appears the ice cream shops take a hiatus in the winter. Oh, America, how I miss Thee! There were a few streets of pincho bars, some of those old buildings that seem to chock up everywhere in Europe, the plaza de toros (bull-fighting ring), and that's about it. I noticed that in the older sections the streets were wider, which, once I looked at a map, made sense. Normally, European streets can be quite small and windy. The city of Pamplona, on the other hand, has purposefully kept certain streets wider because of the route the bulls run.

    Part of the reason I suspect Pampy was so quiet (besides not being the height of their tourist season) was due to the fact that I was sitting in sessions for a good part of the morning. Therefore, by the time I was freed from my florescently lighted prison the town had shut down for the siesta. OK, so I'm complaining a bit, but really the conference was amazing. It was great to see everyone and hear how they've been enjoying their time in Spain.

    I mostly spent my time in sessions where I discussed my experience as an English Teaching Assistant in Madrid schools. It could be depressing, especially when everyone started telling their worst stories. The best session was the last session on Friday afternoon. It was when everyone got together and a small portion of the  Fulbrighters discussed what they've been doing with their time in Spain. There was the ETA who was working with Amnesty International. Then the one that had discovered milk machines (super fresh, not highly pasteurized milk that is replaced daily with fresh milk from surrounding dairy farmers) and her quest to find ethically responsible food (like Fair Trade). There were also the girl with bleached hair who explained how she was looking for life (small microorganisms) on Mars (dead serious--it was awesome). We were also given a presentation on how the social healthcare system is working here in Spain. Sadly, it was a bit disheartening, but I'm hopefully that some happy medium can be found in the near future that could be applied to the world.

    I'm very, very pleased with the Fulbright Commission here in Spain. Those running the ETA program are in a tough position. Technically, I am a Fulbright Scholar. However, I work for the Education Department of Madrid (La Comunidad), not Fulbright. This minor difference has huge consequences. For example, Fulbright has not power to help us in our schools. They are merely the middle-man and help supply more TAs for la Comunidad. At the conference, my Fulbright Coordinator, and those working with her, had to hear a lot of frustrated young adults describing not always pleasant experiences. I really admire how they managed to stay positive, were genuinely concerned about what was going on with us, and, rather than brush off our complaints completely. I hear someone's voice who I love very much telling me that it's "because they don't have to deal with it that they are being so nice," but I disagree. The people we were working with made suggestions, told us what they could do for us, and generally just handled getting yelled at for something that's not their fault very well.

    The Comunidad, on the other hand, did not do so well. The representative literally shouted at us that it was "our fault" that Spanish teachers were not cooperating, that some TAs still hadn't received their pay checks from the Comunidad, etc. The yelling got so bad, that the head of the Fulbright commission had to take the mike away from the representative. I had been considering renewing my contract for next year, but after getting yelled at (and finding out from the very same woman that I would have to spend more than 80 euro getting my paperwork expedited to the States because she decided to wait until 2 weeks before the deadline to tell us) I decided it wasn't worth my time.

    On Thursday evening, I mediated a Round Table that brought together ETA representatives from the Valencia (southeast), Cantabria (north), and Andorra (small country between France and Spain). It was a hit! They had slotted us for the last session of the day, so I tried to keep everything light and fun. We gave a bit of background for the Fulbright scholars that aren't involved in the ETA program, but then we focused on the good, the funny, and the best. I received a lot of compliments after the session, so I feel pretty good about the whole thing. I mean, I guess I wasn't a Speech minor for no reason!

    The worst part about the conference, after the Comunidad de Madrid, was that Natalie and I are really bad at taking pictures of ourselves. Natalie: we have a bad, bad habit. We must do better next time.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Marching Forward

    Wait. Check the calendar again: Can it be? Is it for real? Are you sure you didn't read the date wrong?!

    IT'S MARCH! 

    I can't believe it. I am in denial. No, I'm more than in denial. I am Denial. I mean, sure March is a good month (the best part being that it's a countdown to my birthday in April) but the point I'm getting at is this: When the heck did it get to be March? I just can't believe that March has sprung itself upon me. Dios mio, the number of time-flies and how-it-just-keeps-moving cliches I could use here. 

    It's just that March, much like the signs of spring that are being spotted all over the city, somehow sneaked up on me. It's been such an eventful half month (*gag* It's not only March, it's already half way through this dang month). Let me enlighten you as to how. 

    First, my good friend from high school, Dana, came to visit. She's been teaching English in a small town in France. She got in contact with me a few months back and we made plans to meet up in Madrid. We had a blast, despite having my third sinus infection in the past 6 months. I showed her around town, we reminisced about high school, and made biscuits. 

    Then, Natalie came in the following Saturday morning, and we had our own little high school reunion over tapas and cañas. At one point, we even printed out a picture of the fourth member of our high school gang and took pictures with Saba all over Madrid. In such instances, Facebook really is a blessing. We were able to put the pictures of the four of us on Facebook and have her feel a bit closer to us.

    Yes, we are ridiculous.
    On the 5th, we hopped on the cercanías, or light-rail train, and headed north an hour outside of Madrid to visit the town of El Escorial. Sam, being an excellent planner and what-not, had managed to look up the weather for Madrid that day. It looked pleasant enough, high 60s-ish. Too bad I forgot to look up the temperature in El Esocrial... there was snow on the ground! It makes sense, considering that the main attraction of the town is a huge monastery built at the foothills of the mountains by the Spanish monarchy in the 16th century. 
    I'm all about the snow... Dana, however, is all about stomping it!
    The monastery was breathtaking. It was a huge complex, including a monastery, a library, a palace, and a basilica. My favorite little historical tidbit was when we learned that King Phillip II, who commissioned the entire thing, did so because he wanted to subcontract monks to give thanks (for him) to God for all the blessings He'd bestowed on the monarchy. That just tickled me pink. ¡Qué clase! as my roommate Raquel would say. You gotta love a monarch who apparently is too busy doing king-things, but still feels a health-serving of Catholic guilt. Solution? Hire some monks! Ok, well, I thought it was funny.

    Another surprise about El Escorial was the crypt underneath the structure that holds a good portion of Spanish monarchs. In fact, in the one part that holds kings that ruled (and the queens that gave birth to sons who became kings (...) ) the people running the show are waiting for the current king's parents to dry out enough to transfer them into their awaiting coffins. In another part we saw a beautiful and mournful monument to all the royal babies that died before reaching adolescence. 

    Dana left on the Monday before Natalie and I headed to Pamplona for my Fulbright conference. But before that, Natalie and I decided it was time to spoil ourselves. Earlier in the year, Ana came home with a pamphlet for the only Arabic baths in Madrid. The baths were built many, many years when Madrid was part of a Muslim kingdom. (Note to self for a future post: Spain's Muslim roots.) The company running them nowadays runs them as a spa and have a Middle Eastern restaurant attached on the side. An added plus, these baths are down the street from my piso, and they've been calling my name ever since Ana told me about them. Right before Natalie came, I reserved a combination package that included the baths, dinner, and a belly-dancing show.

    Natalie and I arrived a quarter to 8 at night to start our Experience. Our bathing companions were a mixture of ages, but mostly couples. We were given blue shoe coverings and shuffled down the hall to changing rooms. There we changed into swimsuits and rinsed off before entering the baths. There are three different temperatures of baths: the Warm Bath, which had water that was like a slightly cooled bath, the Hot Bath, with Jacuzzi-temperature water, and the Cold Bath, which had water that was chilly. There was also a vapor room and a "resting" room (because you need a rest from relaxing in the baths...). The vapor room was too hot for Natalie, but I was able to enjoy it's healing powers with my sinus issues. In the resting room  they served sweet jasmine-mint tea. The entire layout is underneath the actual building itself, with low lighting to imitate late afternoon light.

    There was a massage room up a small flight of stairs to the side, where the staff would call in 6 to 8 people at anytime. At first, with everyone in the baths, they felt a bit crowded. However, once people started drifting off for their massage, it was much more intimate. The massage was wonderful, much more like a back rub: relaxing, calming, and absolutely perfect.

    Because of the resonance of the walls, we were asked to maintain silence throughout our time in the baths. However, 1) we were with Spaniards (who talk all the time), and 2) I haven't seen My Natalie in over 4 months. The nice part was that, even if people were murmuring, the sound of the fountains and splashing water was the more prominent sound. It was very relaxing.

    My favorite part (after the massage, of course) was being able to move from each bath. There was actually a point where Natalie and I spent a fair time with our legs dangling in the Cold Bath because we were so warm. The Warm Bath was probably the most comfortable. Dinner was decent, but nothing special. The show was also a nice touch. Made me want to go back to taking belly-dancing classes.

    The last note on this blog will be about March 8th was día de la mujer--women's day. My school did various projects, including printing out photos of famous women and asking the kids to write about a heroine in their lives. The best one that I heard was written by a 13-year old girl from one of the other classes in the building. She apparently is an orphan who also deals with severe health problems. her essay started with "When I asked my aunt who was a heroine in my life, she said that I was the true heroine." The essay went on to explain that despite all the difficulties in her life, the girl continues to pursue life. At the end she wrote "Teacher, please don't read this in class!"

    Later that night, Natalie and I returned home just before a huge procession of women started down the street in front of my house. It was unbelievable. We were minding our own business when Ana and Laura started talking excitedly and walked out onto our balcony. Below us were thousands upon thousands of women marching, holding banners and dancing in time to the all-woman drum corp that was marching up the street. It was pretty awesome. The march lasted for good long while. Not only were their banners showing support of women's rights from different organizations, but there were also pickets with statistics about how much farther we have to come to achieve true gender equality. It was powerful to see all these people marching, and I had to wonder if I'd see the same type of activity in the States. I would like to hope so.

    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    23-F--An Important Date In Spanish History

    Spain, believe it or not, is a relatively young democracy. In the years following World War I, Spain went from one dictatorship to a monarchy, and then to a democracy with the exile of King Alfonso XIII in 1931. Between the years of 1931 and 1936 that the Spanish government became more "liberalized." Women were given the right to vote; there was a separation of church and state.

    During this time, a young military leader named Francisco Franco campaigned and was voted into power in 1936. He then started the Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936 until 1939. It has been described as "one of the bloodiest and most violent wars in recent history." There are even sources to suggest that Franco's bombings of Guernica and Durango were the start of "modern" war. Those holding out against Franco (the Second Republic) lost due to the support given to Franco by Hitler and Mussolini during those years.

    Franco's dictatorship lasted 35-years. This time in Spanish history is marked by extreme censorship, fear, and constant political "disappearances." As the people became more and more upset and started to revolt, Franco repressed them even further. The cultural changes that occurred can still be seen in Spanish culture today, though, of course is less apparent in those of my generation.

    Franco died in 1975. He named the (current) Spanish King, Juan Carlos as his successor, having educated the young king in his own personal leadership beliefs. However, Juan Carlos started converting the government into a democracy. Within three years, Spain had a new constitution and was a "full-fledge" democracy. By 1986, Spain was accepted in the EU.

    But before that, on February 23rd, 1981, the young Spanish democracy was challenged. Today, thirty years ago, another military leader, Antonio Tejero, walked into the Spanish Congress and shot 3 times into the ceiling in an attempted coup d'etat. Those bullet holes are still there today. For 18 hours, no Spaniard knew what was going to happen to their young country.

    For the Spanish, this day is something like the day JFK died or 9/11 for us: Everyone always asks, "Where were you? What were you doing?"My roommates have told me that their parents were called home from school early. People ran to the stores and bought up as many provisions as they possible could. Ana's father, who was part of the Communist Party, went into hiding. His family didn't have any idea where he was for a full 48 hours. Within 24 hours, and even with over 200 soldiers making his threat visible, Tejero turned himself into the authorities.

    There was a full 2-page spread about the events today in "ADN," a free newspaper for reading on the Metro. It talked about what happened in those hours, how the media played a hand in keeping the people informed, and, of course, answering the question: "Where were you?" Almost everyone remembers the tense, Purgatory-like atmosphere. Some were so young that it didn't matter, others went into hiding. My favorite: a 29-year old engineer from Barcelona: "It was 30 years ago today that I was conceived. My parents have always told me that they were looking to have another kid and, seeing what was happening, that day they just thought "We have nothing to loose now" and here I am today."

    Coming to theaters today is a film simply entitled "23-F." It talks about the hours leading up to the overtake of the government. I plan on going to see it. I'll let you know how it is.

    Sources from:

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    You know, "peine" sounds an awful lot like...

    I made biscuits today. That's right--me + biscuits. It was amazing. I had such a hankering for a good, big, warm biscuit. I couldn't shake it. I tried to tell myself how fattening they were. I tried to tell myself that it was just a whim. I tried to tell myself how hard it is to make biscuits.

    But I couldn't deny myself. Call it homesickness, call it a whimsical fantasy. Those biscuits-that little bit of home-was just calling me.

    So I made them! I made the dough the night before, then got up earlier than usual and baked myself a fresh batch of piping-hot biscuits with a tomato and mushroom omelet. AH-mazing. Don't worry, I didn't eat them all. I ate 2 and put them away.

    They were so wonderful that I had to make another batch for my friends when they came over earlier tonight. I admittedly ate more of those. They didn't raise as high as my first, but it's ok. They were still delicious--and that's what matters.

    Looking over my past entries, I believe I have committed a grave error: I haven't mentioned the adult ESL class that I've been heading for the past 2 months. The opportunity came in November, just before Natalie came. One day, I was just hanging out in the teacher's area at school, when relations were at their worst between those bilingual and those not, when the head principal of the school approached me. He asked me if I would like to lead the conversation section of an adult beginners English course. I immediately said yes.

    Part of being a Fulbright Teaching Assistant is having a "side project"--or something to keep you busy when you're only working part time. My side project was trying to involve the community, and to increase mutual understanding of culture through that. I mean, I did help head an ESL program for two years, after all. Guess I could use that experience somehow.

    Naturally this English class was just what I was looking for. My side project basically crawled into my lap and sat gurgling up at me. How could I say no? Since November I have been teaching adults every Monday night for an hour and a half. The best part of the class is who these people are. They are teachers that I interact with everyday. Suddenly, I wasn't a threat: I was accessible. No longer were the conversations that were held in English between me and my fellow bilingual teachers resented. After just one class, the atmosphere in the teachers' room changed. It was incredible. People became a lot more understanding of and friendly to the bilingual program.

    My adult ESL class is a joy to teach. I have such a cast of characters in there. They range from the ages of 30 to 60. They are all intent on learning. We have fun. We laugh. The other day, to learn the names of food, Anabel lent me some of those plastic food-shaped toys. We played a round of "This is a _____." "A what?" They loved it. My students, my colleagues, were torn between the ridiculousness of the game and attempting to remember what the word was in English for the vegetable they had in hand. Did I tell you I have a priest in my class? Oh, boy--is he a riot.

    The priest is a riot. He cusses like a sailor, then turns to me and proudly states, "I bet you don't have priests like me back home, eh? Well, when you go home, you can tell them that Spanish priests curse!" Every morning we go through the same routine every day (I mean, he is Catholic, what do you expect?) where he stops everything he's doing, focuses on me, and painstakingly pronounces, "Goo. Mooring. Sah-mahn-ta." I greet him in turn, always with a smile.

    This one student is just an example, naturally, to show you the color in my class.

    Class was proceeding as normally last Monday. We were going over daily routines ("I get up at...," "I get dressed," "I eat breakfast," etc.). After the very basics, I asked the class if there were other routines they would like know. More standards came up: "I brush my teeth," "I put on makeup," etc. Then came "I brush my hair" versus "I comb my hair." I explained that it's the same as Spanish: it depends on which instrument you're using. The class discussed it between themselves. One of the students then said the Spanish word for comb (peine) and the corresponding verb (peinarse-to comb one's hair).

    That's when I opened my mouth, repeated the word for comb in Spanish, mispronounced it, and, instead, said "penis." 

    Opps. I had a laugh, recovered, and continued teaching. Oh good times. The best part is that I don't feel embarrassed. That stuff happens all the time. Instead, it makes a great story. I hope you laughed! 

    The last event I will write about today was my field trip with a class that I don't teach. We went to Casa de Campo, which is still inside the city nowadays, but was the King's country place to escape the hustle and bustle of Madrid. I was invited Wednesday, and couldn't turn down a day of riding bikes around the park, rowing on the miniature lake, and then a free lunch while the kids went swimming in an indoor pool. 
    The line of bikes as we did an off-bike activity
    It was a lovely day. Crisp, but not too cold. I had a lot of fun. Gabi, the other T.A. at my school, and I headed up the back of the biking group, wearing garish yellow hazard vests. The ride was enjoyable and easy. It felt so good to ride a bike. I was pleasantly pleased that most of the kids in the class also knew how to ride a bike. I feel like doing so is a bit of a dying talent. 

    The kids behaved themselves, with only one temper tantrum. I was able to enjoy the company of my colleagues and to disfrutar de (to enjoy) the day. It was a lovely little excursion, a nice change from the monotony of school and routine. Add that in with some light exercise and a free (and absolutely delicious) lunch--it was a great day!

    Me, Gabi, and Ricardo (Arts Teacher)

    I also need to start taking more pictures again: This blog is starting to look a little too wordy.