Friday, October 31, 2008

A Project

it came with black stickers shaped like a jack-o-lantern's eyes and mouth.
watch authenticity take shape:

calabaza brains

i went for a classic face...we're maintaining tradition here

after a quick run to the "chinos," we add a candle
*(please note the extracted seeds to the right -- we are ovenless. how to make toasted pumpkin seeds?? oh thank god for roommates' boyfriends who live with their parents and have luxuries like common kitchen appliances)

...and roommate number three is here!

Happy Halloween from Spain!!

My Apartment Looks Like This

much anticipated pictures...

you can check out more (whole albums!) at

the foyer/entryway. bathroom on the right, my room ahead on the right, living room ahead on the left, kitchen to the left, Ruth (my roommate)'s room behind to the left.

my room!

my window


view out my window


living room


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Notes from Primero A&B Bilingue: Love, InventionATION, "Intimate" Questions, and a New Hero

(my teaching schedule changes every week, but i spend at least a few classes every day with the first years in the bilingual program, so i know them best of all and like them the most. they are twelve.)

-- it's been funny to observe the first years, since the last time i was in a sixth grade classroom was, well, when i was in sixth grade. the girls are just starting to develop crushes on the boys, but the boys (as we all know) are a little slower on the proverbial uptake. their interactions are hilarious. the girls will try to sit closer and closer to juan or pablo or alejandro -- they scootch their desks closer, or ask to share books, etc. and the boys are like "HEY YEAH LET'S TALK ABOUT FUTBOL!!!!!! ...what are you doing so close to me?" the poor girls try so hard and the little guys have noooo idea.

-- the kids are encouraged to make up words if they don't know something in english, because there are so many cognates, and it's better for them to try than to not ask questions because they're shy or don't know the words. lately they've discovered that the spanish ending "-ación" is easily translatable to the english "-ation." which is good for words like "rotación/rotation" in PE class, or "corrección/correction" in math. but now they think that "-ation" added to any word makes it English. the other day in PE we did abdominals, ("abdominales"), so they did their situps whining about having to do "abdominalations."

-- the girls always ask me if i have a boyfriend, but i'm not supposed to let them ask me questions about politics, religion, or relationships -- my co-teacher sheila thinks it's rude and doesn't want them learning to be pushy with newcomers. but every day, without fail, they ask if i have an "intimate friend." I have NO idea where they got this expression, but they seem to think it's a common synonym for boyfriend or spouse or partner. it's hysterical. they're like "CHOO HAFF INTIMATE FRIEND???!" although lately of course it's become "intimation friend." i can't even correct them because it makes me laugh too much.

-- the very first day they asked me about my pets, and clearly i told them about my cat tito and my very strong attachment to him. every day one girl, laura, asks me if i've brought a picture of tito. they're all on my computer, so i have to disappoint her every time she asks. but the other day as i began to walk away after she'd asked me, under her breath i hear her say "¡Viva Tito!" now whenever pets or cats are mentioned the cry goes up, "¡Viva Tito!" it's so damn cute.

Friday, October 17, 2008

An Observing Adventure. Or, The Old Man and the Octopus

today i went down to Puerto Chico, a big long pier along the bay where people go to walk ("dar un paseo"), ride their bikes, sit and read, meet friends, fish, etc. The fishing part is what we're dealing with here.

i brought my journal, and was sitting having a lovely time writing, looking out over the water at the mountains on the other side, with the sun going down over to my right behind some spectacular gray-blue clouds. i saw lots of dogs and had serious pet envy. a fat woman dressed head-to-toe in purple came and sat on the bench behind me and filed her nails for a long time.

there were lots of men fishing -- every few yards was another guy with a long fishing rod, sitting on the big metal things they tie boats to. the one closest to me was a tall old man with a tweed golfer's hat -- the kind the farmer wore in "babe." he looked lonely, sitting there with his fishing rod, just quiet and patient. all of a sudden his rod bent down in a big curve -- such is the sudden excitement of his chosen sport! some kids on bikes wheeled over to see what was going on, and quickly a small crowd formed. i of course couldn't resist joining, so i hurried over to the line of people all leaning over at the same angle to look along the pier at the commotion. a neighboring fisherman ran over with a big round net at the end of a rope. a murmur came down the line of anxious obvservers -- "es un pulpo! ha enganchado un pulpo!" ("it's an octopus! he's caught an octopus!") the man next to me said surely the guardia civil (civil police officially, but much, much more to spaniards) were on their way to charge him up to 200 euro; although fishing octopus cannot be illegal here, i've seen enough droopy, gelatinous carcasses in fish markets to know that for sure. i later asked my roommate and she said it's illegal to catch them off the pier. but that octopus must have known, because he was holding on so hard under the water -- i didn't see it, i never saw it come above the surface. but that old man was pulling and pulling, and the octopus was not having any of it. secretly i was rooting for the slimy guy. i could just see him with every little suction cup hanging on to the pier for dear life...they're supposed to be very, very smart. poor little (big! he must have been big) guy. finally, at the height of the struggle, SNAP! the fishing line broke. the octopus was victorious. i cheered inside. the crowd dispersed quickly -- nothing more to see with a broken fishing line and an octopus that was surely hightailing (hightentacling?) his way out of there. the kids on the bikes were the last to leave, lingering to chat with the old man, i think hoping for a relapse of excitement. but soon they drifted away as well, leaving the little old man by himself again. he sat back down on the bollard (i looked it up -- the things you tie big boats to), with his rod re-baited and ready. although i think he sat a little straighter this time.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Arrival/Adjusting/First update

Hi everyone!
So I'm trying out this "blog" business...a little embarrassing, i know. but i figure a departure from the mass-emails might be a nice change.

so i'm here in spain as part of the Auxiliares de Conversacion program, which brings native english speakers into the spanish school systems to supplement the english/bilingual programs here. my contract is from october-may, but if i like it i can extend for another year and stay on. i'm in Santander, which is in the province of Cantabria, up on the north shore of Spain, next to basque country. it is just gorgeous here -- the city is very new, as it's been completely destroyed by two huge fires, one as recent as the 1940s. there are 6 or 7 big beaches right in the city, and behind the buildings you can see the green hills and mountains of the Picos de Europa range. i hope to make it out there some weekends for some hiking etc. we all know city life isn't exactly my cup of tea...! usually it's pretty rainy here (hence all the greenery), but lately it's been sunny and very warm. no complaints there!

i finally arrived in Spain just about 2 weeks ago, and it has been quite the adventure since then. i arrived thinking i had a place to stay, as i'd been in touch with a landlady and the potential roommate, and had even sent in my $300 deposit. but once i got here, i found that the landlady had lied about many things...even though the house was beautiful, and it was out in the countryside (which is green and hilly and gorgeous, much like western mass!) with horses nearby(!!) , there was no convenient way for me to get to and from work. not only that, but the landlady asked me for the entire year's rent up front. she then proceeded to scream at me on the phone for over half an hour when i told her i couldn't/wouldn't pay that, saying it was all my fault that it wasn't working out, that she was keeping my deposit because i didn't understand that this was a business for her, blah blah etc etc. it was very stressful and really upsetting. so i decided i couldn't have anything to do with someone like that, even though the roommate (who turned out to be the landlady's daughter...more drama...) was wonderful and the house was perfect.

so i had to stay in hostels for about a week, looking for apartments and feeling very lonely and ready to come home. if i hadn't found my apartment, i would have seriously been on the next plane home. some of the places we saw were unbelievable -- holes in the floor, paint peeling, no lights, a sofabed for a bed...i was feeling so discouraged. but finally i found this place!

my apartment is small, but has two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, entryway, and living room. it's decorated for a little old lady, as one used to live here, but it's clean and in a really ideal location for me. i live with one spanish girl, who is very nice, albeit a little overbearing. but she's out with her boyfriend a lot anyway, so i get the place to myself pretty often. i have a big bedroom if anyone wants to come and stay...plenty of room for an airmattress...consider this an open invitation!

i stared work last week, and although i was a little nervous -- i was told i'd be teaching PE, math, and english...when have i EVER taken a PE class?? and math?? -- but it worked out beautifully, and i absolutely LOVE the job. i only work tues-weds-thurs, and i'm mostly with the first years (who are 12 -- i work in the equivalent of a high school/middle school) in the bilingual program, and they are just wonderful. they are the "creme-de-la-creme" according to one of the other teachers: smart, sweet, well-behaved, and enthusiastic (although very energetic and boisterous -- discipline isn't huge in spain, at home or in school). one has to be a top student all around to be in the bilingual progam (where they take extra english classes, and have math and PE given in english), so the kids are great. they love having me there, they cheer when i walk in the door and love to see pictures of home. they were disappointed, though, when they found out that i didn't have a swimming pool.

i think that's about it for now. i've come down with a cold, so today is a lazy sunday to spend at home. i have wireless at my apartment, so email is the best way to get in touch with me. i'd love to hear from any and everyone! ( i hope everything is going well at home. i'll write more later.