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!

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A lovely evening in The City of Arts and Sciences

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This was my first time to walk across El Puente de l’Assut! I was very excited!

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!

The countdown begins

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So here we are, September 19, and I only have 9 days left before my one way ticket to Spain! I’m so excited to start this teaching job and begin a new chapter in my (postgraduate) life. There’s still so many things to do before I leave, like packing, moving, apartment searching, lesson plans….so almost everything! But at least I have my ticket, right? 😉 I’ve been doing more mental preparation so far. Reading blogs and my Spanish books have been helpful to get ready for the culture shock that I’m sure I’ll run into. But I’m also preparing for the beach, sangria, paella, and beautiful weather. I’m quite sure I’ll be able to deal with that culture shock just fine! One of my goals is to learn how to cook paella the authentic way. As they say, bon appetit! Or wait, is that in France…..just kidding 😉

Hasta luego!