Tuesday, September 30, 2008

El mercado

The market of my neighborhood.
El mercado de mi neighbohood.

Did you ever notice that the same thing that feels daunting or exhausting can also be fun and exciting with just a simple change in attitude? I'm not saying everything is like this, but I sometimes think more than what most people are willing to admit.

Yesterday, in addition to deciding to plough out of the metro, I also decided that I was going to stop beginning every Spanish spoken sentence with pardoning myself for my inability to speak much. The reality is it isn't a secret, in fact it is quite obvious once I try to get past the first or second sentence.

My first sentences are usually carefully planned and crafted so I might even sound like I speak better than I actually can, I'm not sure. But, if I start off saying apologizing for my inabilities one of two things usually happens. People either immediately get annoyed and treat me like an idiot (which I often feel like I am in Spanish... and I hate that) or they start speaking English to me. Now, the first one is helpful for instant gratification, in other words, they slow down, decrease the vocabulary, or just don't want to deal with me and start pointing themselves or something like that. I usually manage to get what I want, but don't get to practice speaking.

Secondly, people switch to English. I ALWAYS feel bad when a Spaniard makes the switch to talk to me. I mean really, when did I ever do that in my country.. well except for those two Guatemalan guys that helped out with the Len Ct. house when we first got it... they taught me a bit.. fuego.. fuego!!!.... Anyway, those very nice guys aside... obviously I didn't speak Spanish to the many Spanish speaking people in the community because I couldn't, but I willllllllll!!!!! I swear next time I am home I am going to El Dazante (from danzar the verb to dance) and I am going to sit and have a conversation over some delicious Mexican food (which is NOTHING like Spanish food for those who didn't know) with some of the many Mexicans that frequent the place.... I love that restaurant.

Fui el mercado. Vi Frutas, verduras, carnes, jamóns, juevos, quesyos, miel, pescados, mariscos, pastitas, pan, nueces y muchas más, fresca toda. Me mucho gusta el mercado de Rusafa. Yo hablé español e incluso conseguí elogios.... Ahora estoy feliz. !También fui a la oficina de correos y hablé solamente español, no inglés!!

To translate try....

Ok... It's not the best Spanish ever, but I am learning so I will make many mistakes and that's the way it is, not much I can do about it except accept it and move on.

PS... the TV goal has already failed... I hate the boob tube and can't deal. Going to try to conquer some newspaper articles during the commute instead or I guess mix the two. Jajaja.. I am always changing my mind....lol...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I had a great weekend and am still having it in fact.

In NY, I have a friend Pat who has been a big part of our teacher's union. On the back of his truck, he had a bumper sticker that read, "Union, the people that brought you the weekend.". A brilliant idea the weekend is, I have to admit, but... I also have to admit the 3 day weekend rocks!!! I like this.

My work days are rather long or at least rather late and I am limited as to what I can do on those 4 days as I don't get home until 10:15, if I go straight home from the metro. Then I have Friday, Saturday and Sunday for meeeeeeeeeeee!!! I think I can get used to this. The thing is Spain has funny (funny as in annoying, not jaja) hours for shopping and other important errand like missions. So I will have to be careful how I use my mornings, but I think I can do that. I say I think because I find it a bit difficult to wake up, have a few hours to get ready for work and to actually use the time wisely. I find myself wanting to kick back, have a nice breakfast, answer emails, read and write blogs, etc... Not so in to getting up and getting out before I actually have to, but I think I'll learn.

Julie is moving in less than two weeks. I am really going to miss her. Neither of us expected to get along as well as we do and to find such ease in our living situation and our friendship. I am looking forward to visiting her in Belgium in a couple of months. I already have two new people moving in when she leaves. They're people I met from the "crew" that hangs out at the bar. Well not only the bar, for example last night, another friend had a party at his place. The company was fantastic as was the food and wine. I even got to make a version of my spinach-artichoke dip that went over really well. Some of the Spanish people at the party loved it and asked me for the recipe!!! I was quite flattered and almost embarrassed to tell them how easy it was to make. We all had great time was had as usual.

Anyway, Dave and Clara will be moving in probably a few short hours after Julie leaves. I think it will be a good situation as well. They are both very cool, intelligent, aware people and I look forward to getting to know them better. He is from Kansas and she from Hungary. The thing about the bar crew is they are very international and I get to meet people from all over... Italy, Hungary, Germany, the US, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Argentina, France, ummmmm... more I'm sure but I can't think of any right now.... jaja.. Belgium!!!

I went shopping this weekend at a place called Carrefour, which is like a French version of Walmart. There were things I needed to get now that the weather is turning and I am committed to staying for at least the year. It was a strange feeling to have to buy things I know I have at home, but what can I do. I needed a blow dryer, socks, an alarm clock (tells the temp in C & F too), and a bunch of other miscellaneous things that I have been missing... like a lamp for my bedroom. I also found peanut butter... not the chunky kind that I like, but ok... I'll live with it.

Today I will clean some and prepare for the week ahead. I start my new schedule tomorrow and I want to be organized and ready. I have to meet with my boss at lunch time to discuss some important details about the job and such. One detail includes her promise of Spanish lessons for me. I really need to go back to studying regularly. I can't stand it when the Spanish people I meet switch to speaking English because I can't understand everything they are saying to me... some, but not everything. When they are kind enough to "make the switch" I always feeling so guilty and so "American"... I am getting super frustrated, which for me usually leads to motivation in my more recent years anyway.

I have come a long way in my life especially in the area of education. There was a time when I didn't even think I would graduate high school. I dropped out of college a few times, was kicked out once, then finally woke up and learned how to and why I should apply myself. It's been years since I have felt the negative consequences of my educational hardships. I have to admit though, this whole "'never learned a foreign language thing" keeps bringing my those times to the front of my mind. I wonder if I will be able to leap this barrier as well as I have so many others.

As always, I will do remain dedicated to do the best I can.

Above photo is an example of the paella John made.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The weather has been dreary the past few days I guess it is the beginning of the rainy season though I was under the impression it didn't start until October. Anyway the other day while I was teaching it started to rain so hard it was almost to noisy to teach. Yesterday morning I meant to buy an umbrella, but forgot so of course, it rained. When I got out of the Metro it was drizzling and I feared another down pour might happen. Luckily it didn't until I got on the bus and by the time I got to Puerto Segunto, the rain had stopped... pure luck and much gratitude. My boss gave me an umbrella just in case.
Now it is rainy and chilly and I am thinking, "What do I wear?".
On a totally different note...
A lot of things have changed in my life over the past couple of years. Some are enormous and quite obvious and others are more discreet or personal. One of the things that has changed is that I barely ever watch TV anymore. This is true for well over a year, not just since I have been here. I just became completely disinterested and nearly disgusted with almost every program I had been watching. It's not the first time this has happened. When I was 21 before I moved to Key West, I was a soap opera addict...lol.. Well, it's true, I think I watched about 3 or 4 a day. It was easy to do because I worked nights and had the house to myself by day. In Key West, I didn't even own a TV and never missed it for 3 years. I think I watch TV most when I am feeling depressed, unmotivated and/or uninspired. I am feeling none of those things now, so watching TV is of little interest to me except it is starting to catch up with me.
There are two reasons I am beginning to feel obligated to watch the boob tube again and the actually contradict each other a bit.
1- Listening to the TV in Spanish is a really good way to practice listening, but it is work. I have to really pay attention to get only a small portion of what is said. The variety of accents makes comprehending some people very difficult. On the other hand, at least I can now recognize there are accents... jaja... for a long time I couldn't tell the difference.
2- I have not been watching the news at all. I have no idea what is going on except the little bits and pieces I hear here and there. I mean I haven't been reading the news, listening to the news or watching it... I guess I just needed a break. Sometimes the news is so overpowering and depressing to me I just can't take it, so I back off. Economic crisis, war, election, hurricanes, bombings, etc... I barely have heard anything since the beginning of July. Guess I need to catch up some.
Another goal starting this week... watch more TV because it can actually be good for me? Yes, it is true. Half an hour a day of EuroNews or BBC and then a half hour a day of something in Spanish. But, to be reasonable I will say 4 or 5 days a week. I just can't bring myself to watch everyday, but I can swing most days. I wish I could say I could watch the Spanish news, but I fear it won't help me get the information I think I need to know but maybe sometimes I will add it to an English speaking news program.
It's time to pay attention to something beyond my immediate world again, there is too much going on for me not to be a part of it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Three days into the new job and I am totally exhausted. The kids are great, some more of a handful than others, but I feel like I can learn as much from them as they can from me. The learning is one of the things I love most about teaching.. Language aside, there is such a difference between these kids and kids I have taught in the past. For one thing, generally speaking, they are so organized. I know it's the first week, but I can already see that they take better care of their things. Each child brought in a notebook and pencil case with his or her own supplies. They all use erasers and actually carefully erase every little mistake. Even the little ones... it's unbelievable!!!

As of right now, I have classes Monday through Thursday from 4-7:30. Then I have another another hour or so of tutoring before I catch the bus at 9:10 PM. This gets me home about 10... Beginning in October, I will have to go in earlier for a 12:15-1:15 class, then have the break for nearly three hours before I teach the afternoon classes. Going home is not really an option because of the bus schedule. So 4 days a week I will be working long days, but three days a week I will not be working at all. I hope it works out ok... I think it will if I can use my time properly. So now I have to try to find Spanish classes (that don't suck) in Puerto de Segunto during my three hour break. I am hoping this will work otherwise there is a possibility of my getting private lessons from another teacher for a half hour each day I am there.

I am feeling really really frustrated about my Spanish... I am tired of saying that I only speak a little bit. I want to be able to speak more and move on. Being around the kids this week really inspired me to learn again for a variety of reasons. For one, it would be nice if I could understand them better when they did speak to me in Spanish and it would be nice to explain some things to them too. But mostly because I am so impressed with their courage. Most of them just go for it. I love it.

Goal for this week is to get a concrete schedule that includes lessons for myself again, lessons that will actually be helpful and not as scattered as the school I attended this summer. I really was not impressed, though I did learn. I don't want to go back there... though I really had a great time!!

I wrote this last week and just edited a bit so I could post something... I know it's been a while. The job is getting a little easier each day I am having fun with it. The kids range in ages from 5 to 15. It's funny teaching the little ones, I not used to it, but for an hour each class, I enjoy it. They are so cute and curious. I know they only understand a bit of what I say to them but usually the watch very attentively and I become extremely animated.

As much as I enjoy working, I really did like taking 2 1/2 months off. I have never taken that much time off in my life.

My thought are scattered because I am tired.
I'll have to write more about it soon, though finding the time to do so is becoming more and more difficult.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

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My, My, My (Click on me)

My, my, my... what a week I have had. I don't know if I have written this before, but in the past I have compared my life to be a bit like a roller coaster ride. Lots of ups and downs, but never dull moment. I simply don't allow for dull... quiet or tranquil sometimes, but never dull. Lately, however, I feel more like popcorn being cooked in a machine. My ups are very up and my downs are very down. Sometimes when I am feeling up I feel like I bang my head on the top of the pot and come crashing down only to be bounced back up again. It'll help if you try to visualize....

With that said, I will tell a bit about my past week.

Last weekend was so much fun, but thoroughly exhausting. Because the team was in town, we were up late every night... or early in the morning is more like it. This is fairly common practice here in Spain. People don't even eat dinner until between like 9-11, then they relax and start heading out. I am not used to that at all and it's hard to acclimate and damnit lack of sleep makes me cranky, even if it is due to too much fun. Anyway, in addition to being out late and laughing my ass off, I also went on two job interviews and finally decided to take a job that starts tomorrow. This added to my ups, but also created a little stress for me because every school year brings it's own stresses but a new job, in a new country, with a TOTALLY new population of kids that don't even speak the same language as me (well at least not what I am used to) is a lot. Ups, ups, ups... downs, downs, downs...

Wednesday I crashed hard!!! I didn't exactly realize why at the time, but I completely lost it. My laptop has been giving me some difficulties, especially with the wireless issue. A big reason that I want wireless is because I am living on the 9th floor with a gigantic terrace, actually three terraces, and I want to be able to sit out there and use my computer without being confined to the indoors. I would like to be able to write, do research, chat, talk to my friends via Skype, etc... I have spent an unreasonable amount of money to get it to work for me and it continues to give me a hard time. To add to that, when the cable guy came hear to install everything, I had to ask him to leave because he was... inappropriate at best. This makes me nervous to call the cable company again... I don't want that guy back here and I don't want to report him because he knows where I live... anyway... a bit more stress there. Then, my power supply wire broke, I had to get another one and it was over 100 Euros!!!!! that's like $150!!! I was pissed and it just made me break down. I lost it....

In the end, I bought the stupid cord, stopped at the local bar (which I will have to write about sometime) to have a drink before and vent to friends before I went home. I got the power working and then spent hours on the phone with my friend in Madrid who first listened to me vent some more, then helped calm me and finally had me laughing and giggling by the end of our conversation. It's rare to find a friend who is willing and able to be there in times of insanity, especially when distance is such an issue. I should mention here that I am very grateful.
The next day I realized that I was having... let's say, hormonal issues that I just wasn't recognizing in the moment. I share this because just knowing that helped me feel so much better because I knew for one that it was only temporary insanity and for two there was a legitimate reason for my breakdown... HORMONES!!! Eckkkk.
Biggest fear: actual nervous breakdown.... it is my wholehearted belief that having mini-breakdowns every once in a while helps keep off the big one that requires some sort of long term lock up... ok kidding... kinda... I know and love people that have been through this type of trauma and I always kinda wonder how far behind them I might be.

In the midst of my little breakdown, I went into work two days this week to assist with a little curriculum development, get to know the materials the academy has, fellow teachers, my boss, what is to be expected of me, etc. I really like the place a lot. Ironically for me, it's called "The American Cultural Academy". It's like an extra-curricular program for kids either during one hour of their two hour lunch break from school, or after school. I will be teaching from 12-1 then a three hour break and again from about 4:30- 7:30. Ummm yeah... that's 4 hours a day... :) With a three hour break??? ¿Is this my life?

Did I mention it is Monday through Thursday??? As in no Friday... making TGIF better than ever and perhaps even adding a TGIT in to my life... or I guess I should say TGIJ (jueves) or GDEJ... I don't think I need to translate that... you probably get the gist. So, hear is the scary part of the job, I mean besides the fact that everyone there speaks Spanish primarily and I have a 3 hour break in an unfamiliar town (about 45 minutes from here by metro and bus)... I have a variety of age groups that I have to teach, beginning from 4 years old going up to 15!!! FOUR!!! OMG!!! ok... I haven't taught kids that young in... forever and even then I was the assistant not the teacher. Additionally, for most of these kids, I will be the first introduction to English the will ever have... no pressure though... ahhhh.

In spite of it all, I am excited about the job. My boss seems equally as excited to have me, a certified teacher from NY. She lived in LA for a few years about 15 years ago, and loves the culture of the US (not the politics). Part of the deal too is that I will be tutoring her kids 1/2 hour a day, bringing the work week to a whopping 20 hours. One of the boys has dyslexia and she wants me to work on some issues with him. Because of these reasons, she has offered me a good amount of money to come work for her. Still no where near what I make in NY, but certainly enough to live on here and with my three days off a week I might even get to do a little traveling... well nevermind might, I will. First trip will be to Belgium to see Julie who is going back October 10th. I can not tell you how much I will miss her.

After not working for 2 1/2 months, I am ready to go back. I am ready to teach and to be around kids again. I feel prepared to take on the responsibilities that go along with teaching more so than many other jobs.... I have let go of the Spanish Bagel store (though I still love to go in and say hi the Serg... :) ). I have let go of the need for WiFi (for the time being).

Some wise words were shared with me this week, and I have kept them in my head to remind myself not to get wrapped up in my own nonsense...

"Remember water is stronger than stone... be like water my friend."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

¿¡ Antwerp en españa !?

Things I want to write about, but don't seem to have the time...
  • my new job, which starts today... I'll go in to set up the classroom and get things ready and help with some curriculum development. I will tell more about it soon.
  • how bad my new roomie, Julie rocks this world!!! She is the bomb and the cat's meow all wrapped in one.
  • the fact that I just spent the past two days with a basketball team and owners from Antwerp, Belgium and laughed so hard... so hard my face actually hurt last night... seriously... it hurt... and the funny part was I only understood half of what they were saying... but they were drunk and telling jokes and just so funny, "they" being the owners, sponsors and coaches... the boys, or players, were quiet in comparison, though still funny as hell.
  • that while hanging out with these wonderful Belgians I was treated to several fine meals, a catamaran trip, dancing, tapas, countless drinks.... oh yes and two basketball games, one against Ibiza and the other against Valencia... Ibiza won, Valencia lost... Julie and I cheered on the players with the men... really...
  • ¿me? How on earth did I get here?... and how many times was I asked that question this weekend? Why are you in Spain?... lol... ¿Why not?

¿¿¿Maybe I just came for the upside questions marks???

  • The meals were outrageous, and I really wanted to write about that... but I have to get ready for my new job which I already mentioned I wanted to write about, but...
Thinking of you... all of you.
¡¡¡ Yo tengo WiFi, yipppeeeeee !!!
Click on ¿¡ Antwerp en españa !? for a link to the team...

Friday, September 5, 2008

I got a job... I am psyched, it seems like a good deal. I don't feel like writing about it though. I think I will go get some sun. More soon...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Today was a strange day. I went to 4 hours of Spanish classes then decided to pay a visit to my Spanish Bagel friends. Serg was the only one there and he pretty much only speaks Spanish and Valenciano so I got to talk to him a bit which was nice. Luckily I was already a bit "warmed up" from class. I find it very difficult to get into the mindset of speaking Spanish, but once I get warmed up I can say a lot more. Anyway, they still don't need any help but he said he would let me know when they do. Afterward, I went for a rather enjoyable bike ride and whistled a lot, which is something I never do... I was also humming rather loudly and the people I was passing could hear me and I knew it, but I didn't care... also something I never ever do.

When I got home, I sat down and spent two hours looking over my CV (resume) and sent a few out to different companies. I also called the man I interviewed with in July. He said he would be making decisions over the weekend. I need to start working in a large part because of the money, but also I feel like if I don't go back to work soon I may never want to go back again. Obviously retirement isn't really an option... at all.... plus I miss working... there I said it, I really do.

Sending out resumes always makes me anxious.... then sad. Then I got more sad when I realized today was the first day back to school. Something inside of me felt very lonely, like how could I be missing it? Yes, this is what I want and where I want to be right now, but still... So now I feel like a crazy manic person who whistles on the street then goes home and freaks out. As my dad would say, "What a whacko!". Though he would never say it about me of course... I don't think... at least not to my face... as of yet... would he?¿?¿

Afterward Julie and I met in el centro for tapas and a couple of clara con limón... yummers, beer and lemon soda. This is something I was introduced to by a friend back in December when I first came here. The tapas were simple, homemade potato chips and some tuna on bread... patatas fritas y pan con altún. I love Spanish food, I really do.

I guess I feel more sane now than I did this afternoon. I also have resigned myself to the idea that I am not getting WiFi..,. at least not until I get a job and can afford to pay for someone to hook it up and get me the proper technical crap that I need. I bought I bought a router but doesn't work at all and apparently there is an activation fee involved.. blah, blah, blah. So WiFi is just one of those things I have to give up. Could be much worse than be attached to a wire... I remind myself to be grateful for everything I have, because sometimes I forget how fortunate I am.

I also discovered that if I open Blogger in Explorer rather than FireFox, my spellcheck and photo uploader thingy work. I figured this out on my own too which felt good, though I was feeling a bit betrayed by my machine earlier today.... another example of what I can choose to let make me crazy or to be grateful for... I will continue to try for the latter always.

The above photo was taken two weeks ago in Benidorm about an hour south of here. The place was run down, but I really love the shot and the message... I don't think a translation is needed.