Category Archives: Teaching English

I was not expecting this!

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And by this, I mean the COLD! Coming from Oklahoma, where we often have below freezing temperatures, one would think the 30’s (in Fahrenheit) aren’t too bad for February. However, the problem in Valencia is that the older apartments are not properly equipped for several weeks of cold weather. Mi piso only has single paned windows, AKA: it’s the same temperature inside as it is outside. You can imagine how unpleasant this is! I don’t mind the cold when it’s outside. Sure, I don’t like it, but it’s not the end of the world. The problem is when I come home and I still have to wear two layers of clothing! I carry my mini space heater around my apartment with me as if it was a baby. Luckily my mom bought me a blanket (throw, if you will) at the airport that I also carry around with me like the pacifier for my baby. I remember when the weather first started dipping into the 50’s and 60’s in mid-October and I laughed at the Valencians who were wrapped up in scarves and winter coats. I now realize that when you are accustomed to a certain type of weather (warm!) that when it’s below your norm, it’s awful! So no longer will I scoff at those who have winter coats in 50 degree weather! I have become one of them. But the weather is unusually cold for an unusually long time this year. All of Europe is suffering from extreme cold. Northern and Eastern Europe have it way worse, so really I don’t have a lot to complain about.

Of course, this all started the week my best friend came to Spain for my birthday! Coldest temperatures in Valencia for about 7 years…but luckily it never rained and the sun was shining. Could have been worse 🙂 It was so great to show her around the city, introduce her to my friends, and just catch up on life in general. We hit the highlights of the city, including the City of Arts and Sciences, Central Market, the city center, and a few museums. For the weekend of my birthday (4 February) I had a dinner with a lot of friends at a nice Spanish restaurant. We had tapas, bocadillos, sangria, and coffee. It was very delicious! People even gave me presents, which was so nice. That was definitely not expected! I got a beautiful dress and scarf from my favorite store, a nice travel bag and wine, a silly birthday mug, a handmade passport holder and a huge box of chocolates! We went to my apartment after dinner for some wine and two wonderful friends surprised me with a cake and a nice card. Then we all went to a club near the port of Valencia and danced the night away! At one point I looked around, and realized that most of the people I’m friends with in Valencia were all together. I’m happy they all got along and hopefully some new friendships were made.

For my actual birthday (6 February), I had to work, but my best friend took me to lunch! Later that day, we went to my awesome Spanish friend’s house and made dinner. There were 5 of us in total, and my friend gave me some Spanish books, which I had been wanting! One was a Spanish-English slang dictionary and it is absolutely hilarious. We spent a long time reading the translations of words like “bootylicious” and “TGIF”. It wasn’t unusual to not be with my family on my birthday, but to not see them at all was strange. Usually I see them in the beginning of February to celebrate at some point, but this time it was only Skype, emails, and cards. Which are also very appreciated!

It seems that every few weeks I get frustrated with teaching. I know that the kids are learning something, but sometimes I think that they aren’t really paying attention and could care less if they were there. I try and do new things to hold their interest, mixing it up with games, chalkboard teaching, exercises, songs, etc. But there’s always one each class who makes things difficult. It’s nearing the time of their next exam, so I’m trying to prepare them. We will see how they do after the practice exams next week. That helps me know what they need to review or learn more of. As long as they don’t cheat! I always stress that the practice exams aren’t for a grade and it’s to help ME know what I didn’t teach them properly. Some of them realize this, but others still try and cheat just to not get too many answers wrong. But we will see what happens after the actual exams.

I finally started taking Spanish lessons! It does make me realize how hard it can be for students learning another language, because a lot of it is repetition. I have a private teacher who is awesome, and it’s really nice that the lessons are customized to my needs. She knows what I need to learn (which is a lot) but uses each lesson to introduce whatever I need to learn and always gives me homework. I do need to study more on my own though, but slowly I am improving. Every week I am able to understand movies, radio, TV, people, etc. better and that is a good feeling.

Hopefully during the next post, I won’t be wearing two layers of clothing and a blanket! The weather is supposed to be improving and I am waiting anxiously for this to happen. I hope the beginning of February is going well for everyone, wherever you may be! Espero que 2012 es el año es un feliz para todos!

 


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Live life simply.

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Today wraps up a very happy week for me. The kids were really good and I can see them learning and putting the things I have taught them to use. That is a great feeling as a teacher! Very satisfying. I want to share my happiness with you via these two things: this beautiful sunset from Barcelona and a song with extremely motivating lyrics. Please watch at least part of it! I promise, you will feel uplifted afterwards.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYR11V-qcHQ

Keeping with the title of my post, I think sometimes we just need to slow down and appreciate the things we have and live life simply. I want to leave you with this photo and lyrics from the link above.

“Sometimes I lay under the moon and thank God I’m breathing. Then I pray don’t take me soon, cause I am here for a reason”

It isn’t all rainbows and sunshine

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And how true that is! Today is a rainy, cold, dreary Monday in lovely Valencia, Spain. I guess I’ve gotten a bit spoiled with the beautiful weather we usually have here. Plus it’s a Monday. No one really likes Mondays, no matter how great your life is! However, I’m definitely out of the “fun, new experiences in a foreign country” mode, and switching into the post-holiday blues. Three months in is about when I started to realize that I haven’t seen my family and friends for a long time, but I still have double the amount of time until I see (most) of them again. That makes things hard sometimes. Especially with the holidays, even though I really enjoyed myself. Sometimes I think I get overwhelmed with everything! I need to become a list-maker. Maybe that would help me. I think about the things going on back home that I need to deal with or that worry me, along with the things going on here. To top it all off, it seems like at least 2 people per week ask me what I will do past June. In October, it was ok to say, “Oh, I’m not really sure yet! We’ll see!” But now, June is only 6 months away. I need to figure out what’s going to happen in my life past that point. That can get a bit stressful sometimes!

I am looking forward to my birthday, though! I’m going to try and celebrate it the typically Spanish way, with appetizers at my apartment, dinner, botellon, and then going out somewhere. However, I think I am more excited that my best friend is coming to Valencia for the week of my birthday than I am for my actual birthday! I haven’t seen her since September, and that is seriously way too long for us to be apart! I’m not sure Valencia is ready for the dream team to be reunited 😉

Stay tuned for the next blog about New Year’s Eve (Nochevieja) in Barcelona and two days in France! But until then, I leave you with this. Even though it can’t be all rainbows and sunshine, we still have to make the best of our situations and not take life, friendships, or family for granted. When I’m feeling down, I try to stay as positive as possible, porque estoy en España y me encanta mi vida 🙂


Feliz Navidad, Próspero año y Felicidad

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Christmas in Spain! What a different experience than Christmas in the United States. It’s times like these that I realize the things I really miss about home, but I also had new realizations. I know people say that Christmas in the States is very commercialized. I never noticed how extremely commercialized it was though! Half of my warm fuzzy “Christmas” feelings are really just buying and receiving presents. It makes you feel good to buy things for others, but let’s face it, we all like to get presents too! Christmas time didn’t quite feel the same when I wasn’t shopping, wrapping, and dealing with the terrible crowds. But I do really miss the Christmas songs, the decorations everywhere, cold weather, and most of all, being with family. People decorate here, but not as much as in America. And they decorate more with the Belén (nativity scene). I think the weather has been above 35 degrees (Fahrenheit) all of December. I’m used to Oklahoma being much colder at this time of year. This was probably the most homesick I’ve been since I’ve been here. Thank God for Skype! It’s probably the best invention ever. So I could still “be” with my family, at least for a little bit 🙂

It was nice to be with a Spanish family and see their customs and traditions. Christmas Eve was the main dinner, and I tried horse and pig’s feet for the first time. That was definitely interesting! The appetizers were the typical Spanish jamón (ham), cheeses, chips, and other delicious things that I do not know the names of. Dessert is probably my favorite part of Spanish meals. Flan, tarta de queso, fruit, a frozen lemon treat with cava (the Spanish champagne)….mmm! It was all so good.  And then, Santa came! He even knew I was in Spain and brought me a gift too 😉 The little cousins all loved playing their new games on the Wii, and actually so did I! They even made me a character on the Wii. It was all very sweet. Then, the young people usually go out and meet friends for a few drinks and to hang out. For me that was strange, because I’m so used to wrapping presents until 3 am with my mom. It was a great Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day I didn’t do too much, just another lunch and watching movies. Overall I really enjoyed my Christmas holiday in Spain, it’s just not even comparable to the holiday in America because the two are so different.

Mostly I am glad to have two weeks off of classes! I still have to grade exams, oral and written for about 60 students, and then do evaluations for the students. In Spanish. Before classes start. Even though I’m on break, I still have work to do. I guess this is what happens to teachers! But I would rather be at home (or at Starbucks!) grading exams than in class. I have a new class with 3-5 year olds. They are so precious, but ornery to boot! I have to do the entire class in Spanish, which is really helping me with the language. They understand me, but sometimes it is really hard to discipline in another language. The first day, they said things to me like, “Why don’t we know each other?” “Who are you?” “What’s your name?” (all in Spanish, of course) and it was just so cute I couldn’t even stand it! Since then, I’ve gotten multiple hugs, and one of the little girls said in the middle of class, “Guapa! Eres muy guapa!” Which means, “Beautiful! You are very beautiful!” That’s enough to melt your heart! I’m looking forward to going back to that class, and all my others as well. It will be good to get back into my routine after the break.

With the 8-10 year olds, I let them draw after their written exam, because they couldn’t leave. It makes me feel good to know that they like me, at least most of the time! Often a few students stay after class to talk about what happened in their English class at school, or to tell me a story, or maybe where they’re going for the weekend. I really love how sweet they can be!

 

And I suppose for this year, that’s all I have! I’m heading to Barcelona tonight to celebrate New Year’s Eve (Nochevieja) and then spend the rest of my vacation doing touristy things. It will be nice to have that much time in Barcelona, and maybe a short trip to Andorra or France. We will see 🙂 Until then, I hope everyone has had a very wonderful Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year!

❤ Besos desde España a todos! ❤

 

 

Now Where did November go?!

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To all my faithful readers (haha): I am terribly sorry that it has been over one month since I updated you on my life! I’m not sure where the time went. I thought the same about October, but honestly it seems as if the November days have literally flown past me. So clearly my time here is going much quicker than I would like it to.

Halloween was a fun experience in Spain. Really the only reason they’ve started the idea of “Halloween” is because of America. The influence of the American tradition of Halloween can definitely be seen here, but it seems like people who didn’t grow up with “trick or treating” don’t really like the kids coming to their houses begging for candy. It’s still not very common, but it’s definitely something that is up and coming. I was surprised, though, that even many twenty-somethings weren’t dressed up. They just went out to the discos in their normal clothes. But for me, it was nice to be with lots of friends on that night!

As far as classes go, I think each post will be more and more positive. There are good days and bad days, which is totally normal. When I can see them learning and really showing interest in the language, those are the days I feel like I really am accomplishing something. Of course that’s not all the kids, and it’s definitely not every day. I am still having trouble getting through to some of them; honestly I don’t see progress at all. That’s where I’m at a loss of what to do. They don’t even care at all. I’ve spoken to some parents and clearly the parents want their kids to learn English (that’s why they send them to the academy) but in the end you can’t force them. So I just do my best to get through to the ones who care, and encourage the ones who don’t. Positive reinforcement is much better than negative. I realize that they like to work for rewards rather than be “punished” for not doing anything. When they see their classmates receiving stickers for finishing homework assignments, they want a sticker too! It is definitely motivation for them to do homework! Next week we have two days off (Tuesday and Thursday). I am looking forward to a short break from the classes.

So instead of having a break last week for Thanksgiving, we have the break the first week of December. Honestly I’m not sure what the break is for, I will have to find out. It was extremely weird being in a country that doesn’t recognize Thanksgiving at all! It was my first time to be out of America for that holiday. The previous Saturday, some Spanish friends from OU and I had our own celebration. Thanks to my aunt, I had some of our family’s recipes for Thanksgiving. However, finding the ingredients was a different story. I planned on making green bean casserole, corn casserole, a sweet potato dish, and my grandma’s cherry fluff. Well, the corn casserole needed sour cream, creamed corn, and Jiffy corn muffin mix (among other things). But those three ingredients are literally impossible to find in Spain. Some of my Spanish friends didn’t even know what sour cream was! So needless to say, I had to omit the corn casserole from the menu. Also, finding a turkey was going to be an adventure as well. The large central market is supposed to sell turkeys, but our dinner was a last minute decision and there was no time to search for “pavo”. Plus I have never cooked the turkey, and I was a little scared of what might happen!! We made chicken instead, and it was delicious! Everything turned out great (I had to be a bit creative with some of the ingredients) except for the cherry fluff. There’s no Cool Whip here, only regular whipping cream. But something didn’t mix right and the cream just sort of, coagulated when it was mixed with the other ingredients. The flavor was still good, just a very bizarre texture. We tried to freeze it, thinking maybe it could be something different, but it didn’t freeze. Overall though, the dinner was a success. And I was happy to share the day with friends here!

Other things I’ve done the past month include a Medieval Fair and Moorish lookout tower in Montroi, paella and the lake in Albufera, homemade paella in Montserrat, meeting a hardcore DJ from the Netherlands (and experiencing the music for the first time), weekly visits to Thomas & Johnson’s for Intercambio de Idiomas, frequent visits to various markets around the city, always meeting new and interesting people, and I finally went to La Almoina, the archaeology museum in Valencia! It has really been a great month. La Almoina was really incredible. I was there at least an hour, and I didn’t see everything I wanted! I would like to brush up on my history of Valencia (all 2000+ years), and then I think I will appreciate it even more. The museum is under the modern ground level and you are able to see the original two main roads from which all of Valencia is planned.It’s so interesting! I know they give tours of the museum, so I think I will try and take an English tour next time I go. One great thing about Valencia is that all the museums are free on Saturdays or Sundays, so there’s no excuse to not go. I wish I was able to take better advantage of the museums, because so far I’ve only been to four. Luckily I have a lot more time here to visit them all, hopefully more than once!

And as much as I love Valencia, there are of course many things (and people!) I miss in America. I have met a few Americans this month, and it is nice to talk about things we miss from home and our experiences in Valencia. A fellow American introduced me to a booth in the central market that sells a few American products, e.g. Dr. Pepper and Kraft Mac & Cheese! I’ve been trying to hold out and not buy them, because of course they’re insanely expensive, but I think this week I will make a trip and get a can (or two) of Dr. Pepper. There’s also a restaurant/pub, owned by Americans, that has a language exchange on Tuesday nights, and supposedly they have killer cheeseburgers, nachos, and hot wings. I will most likely be there on Tuesday dining on some authentic American food! Once again, I love everything about Valencia, but there’s nothing quite like a good cheeseburger. 🙂

So, that was a fairly brief update of the past month, and I will definitely not wait another month to update! I’m sure too many awesome things will happen between now and Christmas for me to abandon my blog for so long. Also, it’s interesting to note that today is my 2 month anniversary of being in Spain!

Bueno, hasta pronto mis amigos!

Where did October go?

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October is flying by! Each week goes so fast. Not that I’m extremely busy or anything, just time goes by really quickly. I’m in my fourth week of teaching already! I will be glad when I feel like I have control over the students. It’s funny, my classes either want to talk all the time (mainly to each other, in Spanish) or I have to beg them to talk. There’s really no in between, which I think is interesting. My most challenging class is still the youngest (9-10) partly because there are 12 of them, partly because they don’t understand everything I say, and lastly because they are 9 and 10! I enjoy the intermediate level kids a lot. They are all very willing to learn, and always ask when they don’t understand or need me to repeat something. The intermediate plus (my most advanced and oldest class) is fun too, because we can talk about more topics, make jokes, things like that. I can tell they are on a higher level, but it’s harder for me because I have to teach more grammar and complicated things. It refreshes MY English!

My next big challenge is conquering Spanish. Sometimes I think I’m doing well, and then other times I feel like I’ve made little to no progress. I realized I am only able to communicate  basic ideas and problems. I can recharge my bus ticket, ask the time, answer questions about myself, go grocery shopping, etc. But I can’t tell stories about people, explain how I’m feeling, make jokes, etc. Basically I can’t be myself in Spanish. I’m just waiting for the day that people will be able to see my true personality! Right now it’s just body language and my attempts at Spanish, which for the most part people appreciate. But not being able to communicate with people I really want to talk to is getting frustrating. I’m not expecting a miracle, I’ve only been here almost 4 weeks, but I will definitely have to start studying more and practicing as much as possible. Luckily I have Spanish amigos who are wonderful! A few of us have decided to have weekly dinners/language exchanges. Two Spanish and two English speakers making dinner, having fun, and practicing English and Spanish. I think it’s something I will look forward to every week!

I still haven’t done much exploring of the city, which I really need to! Besides getting lost last weekend (oops) I haven’t wandered around to see random things. One of the main attractions is the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences). It’s a modern museum complex and a huge tourist attraction (for more info – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciudad_de_las_Artes_y_las_Ciencias).

Something I really enjoy as well are the Torres de Serranos. They were the original entrance to the city of Valencia, and built in 1392. The history of the city is just amazing to me. Part of that is due to the fact that I love history, stories, and archaeology. I have yet to go to the archaeology museum, but I can’t wait until I do! Valencia was founded in the 2nd century BC by Roman soldiers, (Valentia-meaning valour), and has been occupied by the Visigoths, Moors, and Catalans. Needless to say, there is a LOT of history in this city. I went to the modern art museum last weekend, and it was an interesting experience. I appreciate modern art, but I don’t love it. I love the contrast of new and old in Valencia. I really think that is one of it’s greatest qualities. You have the modern museum complexes, bridges, new buildings of the old universities contrasting with the old city streets, archaeology and ancient towers. It’s great!

Besides work and culture, I have been enjoying meeting new people, seeing old acquaintances, and living the Spanish life. I noticed that when Spanish friends go out to dinner, the bill is split equally. Say four people order 3 starters, each a main dish, bottle of wine (or sangria) and dessert. La cuenta is 80€. Well naturally, you each pay 20€,  no matter if your main dish was 8€ and someone else’s was 11€ or if you didn’t really want one of the starters that was ordered. It’s very different than what I’m used to doing with my friends in America. The waiter asks if you want separate checks, and you hear a chorus of YES. Point is, be prepared with your euros when you go out to dinner 😉 You don’t skimp on food at restaurants, meaning you don’t each for cheap. But the food is always worth it! I had the best meal since I’ve been in Spain. It was in Montserrat at El Timple. Stuffed mushrooms, salad, steak, white wine from Spain, shrimp and cafe bonbon. My mouth is watering only thinking about it!

And on that note, I leave you to ponder the ancient culture of Valencia, the challenges of teaching, and the makings of a great meal while I attempt to make a meal of my own. The week has only just begun and I am sure it will be filled with wonderful things!

Adios mis lectores maravillosa!

Two weeks in….

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And here we are! Two weeks into my Spanish life. The first few days in Barcelona were quite nice. What a beautiful city full of people, architecture, and excitement. There is always something going on, from random Medieval Fairs to a work out in the middle of the mall. Que bonito! It was a nice vacation before starting my job.

I started my first day of work on Monday, 4 October 2011. The first class of the day, also of my life, was a class of 14 kids, aged 9 and 10. Wow, talk about jumping in head first! With no teaching experience, I did the best I could with the resources I had been given. I know that it will get better and easier with time, but kids are definitely not easy. The older ones are a bit more disciplined, but they don´t necessarily want to be there. With one class, I went around the room asking everyone why they were taking this English class. The response of 9 out of 10? “Because my parents made me”. Great…so I definitely have to try and keep it interesting for them to learn and not hate English. The week continued, slowly getting better as I was more accustomed to hearing Spanish everywhere, paying for things in Euros, and taking the bus instead of driving everywhere. The week ended very nicely on Friday. I was waiting for the bus after teaching, as I usually do, when a nice older lady started to talk to me at the bust stop. Normally, I am terrified when someone talks to me, because I´m not sure if I´ll understand or be able to answer them. Surprisingly though, I understood a good portion of what she said! When the bus came, we even sat by one another, and she continued to tell me about her children, where she lives, where she was going. She also asked me what I was doing in Spain, how I liked it, etc. I found it difficult to answer some of the questions, but I was so happy that I understood! It is still weird to think in English but then translate into Spanish, because sometimes I have to reformulate my sentences to use vocabulary words I know in Spanish. But It was a very nice conversation that ended with her telling me I was invited to her house anytime I´d like! She also kept saying “eres muy bonita!” which means, you are very beautiful. And let´s face it, we all like to be told we´re beautiful 🙂

The weekend in Valencia was extremely vibrant! There was a celebration of Jaume I, because this was the weekend he reconquered the city of Valencia, which was previously under control of the Moors. I´m not sure about all of the history, but now it consists of the best firework show I have EVER seen! The Valencians are known for their pyrotechnics, and it was absolutely amazing. Sunday was a brief parade signifying the taking of the city by Jaume I.

Also, the weather was nice enough for the beach, so no complaints here!

                                            

And thus begins week two of work, apartment searching (even though I think this step is conquered), and Spanish learning!