It’s Been a While

Hello everyone!

Bad, bad, BAD me for not writing a post in months. My procrastination turned into a cycle of sorts. “If I write a post now I need lots of time to cover everything that I’ve done.” eventually led to “There is no way I can write about everything that has happened since September!” Here it goes, dear friends; a brief summary.

It seems I’ve eventually settled into an everyday routine. I live in an apartment with 7 other people so sometimes it is the furthest thing from normal, but it’s going well. I’m teaching 28 classes (24 hours) a week in the school and 5 private classes a week. The students in the school range from 3-5 years and from 12-18 years old. One of the first questions people ask is which age group I like the most. I can’t choose because each age level has reasons why I love them. The younger children are very loving and energetic although they can be rowdy. When they see me on the street they stop and wave. This weekend I saw one of my 5 year old students walking with her mother. When she saw me she started waving and tugging at her mother to show her that I am her teacher. Sometimes I even get besos on the cheek or a “Te quiero mucho!” They are most challenging to prepare classes for since they have a short attention span. The older children can be really fun to talk to, but sometimes it’s difficult to converse with them. It’s also frustrating when they don’t prepare the assigned topic. Some days are fun though. Last week in the 12 year-old classes we talked about extreme sports, I showed them a video of me skydiving, then we made origami hearts.

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The teachers in the school are very kind and have made an effort to make me feel included during and outside school hours. I feel very lucky.

In addition to the school classes, I give 5 private lessons a week. The ages range from 5 to 37. For the younger students I normally charge 22 euros a class and for older students 18 euros. Even with all of this the money situation is tight. At the end of every month I find myself scraping money together and playing “let’s see how long this loaf of bread can last.” I don’t regret my decision to come to Spain. Far from it. I’ve decided to renew my contract here for next year! Bring on the vida española!

I’ve made some amazing friends here so far. I’ve been lucky enough to travel with several and even found myself in a recording studio with my violin! Okay, so I didn’t play very long, but it’s a start, right?

I’ve started cooking a lot more. This includes cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for my roommates (substituting chickens for turkey), and various weekend breakfasts.

french toast last weekend, for example.

Travels

I’ve returned to Sevilla. Oh, what a marvelous city!

Plaza de España

Took a trip to Toledo.

Made it to Valencia

Morocco was spectacular and also the most terrifying driving experience! I was able to add camel to my “weird things eaten” list. Luckily, one of my roommates is from Casablanca and we traveled with him and another friend from Tangier. Having Moroccan friends with us really made things easier. We even met the mother of one friend and the father of the other.

Breakfast in Tangier

The amazing blue city of Chefchaouen

Tannery in Fez

Casablanca

For the future

I signed up for the Madrid half-marathon so I’m in the process of shaping up and training. I’m also looking to get back into bellydance and I’ve been searching for classes here.

That’s all for tonight, but I’ll do my best to post more regularly.

I’m Getting on a Jet Plane

I’m currently sitting in the airport in Philadelphia. I’ve finished my cheesesteak and it’s the last “Amurican” meal I’ll have for a while. Within a couple hours I’ll be in the air and headed for MADRID! Next you hear from me, I’ll be on a whole different continent and plotting a whole separate course.
Leaving is bittersweet. I’m sticking to my decision to test out these dreams and try them on for a while.

Wish me luck.

Suspending My Disbelief for a Moment

Hello all!

I’m really sorry I’ve been incognito for a while. I made it through skydiving! I have been dealing with a few personal things….yeah.. I’m not going to go into it so much, but this past Monday I finally received the confirmation that there is nothing left for me here to hang on to. My flight for Madrid leaves on September 4th!

 

I am still in disbelief.

 

Everyone who needs to know at work now knows. I’m so lucky that they have been so supportive. Today, my manager told me that he was talking about replacing me anyway…. but because I was almost certainly about to be promoted to a new position I had applied for. Oh well.

I have to write my letter of resignation tonight, but I really have no idea where to start! There are so many feelings and thoughts running through my mind right now. I’m also worried about when I should actually tell my students that I’m leaving. I don’t want it to turn into some kind of crazy countdown. O_o

 

I guess I should let all of my friends know and plan some sort of bon voyage party, right?

Wish Me Luck

Sometimes I feel compelled to do crazy awesome things. In two hours I’ll jump out of an airplane. I believe this is a perfect thing to do after the couple of weeks I’ve been having…
Adios and wish me luck!

Travel Challenge: Food

In response to Ailsa’s challenge this week, please find my photo from Seville, Spain. It’s a replica of La Giralda… made entirely of SUGAR!

That’s an insane amount of azúcar right there!

Okay, now that’s out of the way we can talk about something we might actually eat. Whenever someone asks me what Maryland is known for, I kind of have to respond with two answers: Football & Old Bay.

It’s difficult to explain exactly what eating Old Bay is like. Or to convey the sheer amount used in food locally. It’s a salty mixture of different spices and used primarily on seafood, but I’ve seen it used on french fries. We even use Old Bay to rim our bloody marys around here. See for yourself. It’s kind of a big deal.

This is basically the Holy Grail of Old Bay usage. Crabs steamed with so much Old Bay that it makes your eyes water and your fingers burn.

Old Bay Galore

We even have an Old Bay parking garage

BEDA Classes

Hello everyone!

I’ve received my BEDA Group assignment and I’m in Group 6. Who else is with me!? Don’t be shy now.

Also, I received the contact info for the coordinator at the school where I’ll be teaching. I sent her an email to introduce myself and to ask about the age range of my future students. It turns out I’ll be teaching 12 through 17 year-olds! Now, I’ll be honest here. I am pretty nervous about this. I’m much more comfortable teaching people around my age or much older. That’s what I’ve been doing for several years and in a few different places. I’ve always been the young girl with all of the older friends. Or the youngest girl in the office. That sort of thing is natural for me. Understanding children is not, but I am excited about discovering how.

Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Children kind of freak me out. Please don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t like children. I just get all super awkward whenever it’s time to interact with them. I’ve always felt a bit of jealousy for the people who can just go right up any child and attach and engage themselves with them. It seems to be a gift. It’s a good thing a bit of nervousness is healthy! Please pay no attention to any future kid-phobia freakout manifestations. I know I can do it. I might just have to work at it harder than most. This will definitely help push me out of my comfort zone; teaching children, a new country, a new language, a new life.

Something funny happened today. I received another Auxiliares de Conversación email today which informed me I was still “admitida.” However, I was asked not to be discouraged since they were making placements from the wait-list which began around application number 1404. The reason I found this a bit humorous is because when I applied I’m pretty sure my application number was 5,000 something. Yep, don’t worry. I won’t be discouraged. I’m super happy BEDA worked out!

If anyone has any tips, tricks, or suggestions on what to expect in this 12 to 17 age group PLEASE feel free to add your input! I’m kind of starting at square one here.

Euro Venture 2011 Pt. II Spain “Try Not to Be an Idiot Foreigner Next Time”

This is a continuation of the story here. It’s been interesting how many details I’ve remembered while writing these posts. Hopefully having them here will be a good way for me to remember the little bits.


After my morning journey to the hostal and jet lag beginning to kick in I found myself completely exhausted. I showered and napped for a while until I couldn’t ignore my stomach and my hunger. I roused myself to make myself Madrid-presentable. Both adapters shot sparks around the room when I tried to plug anything into them. After that, they both seemed to be completely worthless. That’s the last time I buy from that Amazon seller. 


While out wandering the streets, I found myself at a chain called “Casa del Jamón“, or “Mundo del Jamón“, or something like that. The serrano and melon hit the spot, but the waiter raised an eyebrow when I ordered vino tinto AND cafe together. 

“Urr…” It seemed he was looking for a polite way to tell me I was an idiot foreigner. “Just to let you know… Most people prefer to drink their cafe after the meal. It is best that way.”

“Oh, yes, I understand. It’s just I have terrible jet lag right now and I’m afraid I will fall asleep if I do not drink it sooner.”

“I see. Really, it is best after the meal. Are you certain?” 


In the end, I drank my wine and coffee at the same time. 

Don’t worry. I won’t do that again. 

Jamón hanging from the ceilings! I think I like this country.



After I found some replacement chargers for my camera and iPod I headed back to the hostal to wait for my Penpal to arrive. I was nervous. What if this person I’ve known for years is crazy? What if she is totally different from what I imagined? Will we kill each other? Eventually, I heard an Australian accent drifting from the reception area. I shyly opened the door and went out to greet her. 


It was wonderful to finally meet her. I think we were both a little shy around each other at first while we both tried to figure the other out. She told me stories about her weeks of travel before meeting me in Spain. I told her about how I arrived at the hostal. We both shared our excitement about the upcoming program. We are quite different from each other. She seemed straight-to-the-point and bold whereas I believe I tend to be more shy and keep my feelings inside. 


We explored the area around our hostal that night. The streets were absolutely full of people. I remember wondering whether this was a very popular part of the city, but later I realized that people seem to take to the streets everywhere! 


We found some interesting things like giant balls where you were supposed to write your dreams on a sheet of paper and then drop it into a slot in the ball. We also found the Desigual store. Sometimes I wish I could pull off wearing all of their crazy creations…


A nice sentiment, no?






Our first dinner together was entertaining. My friend doesn’t really speak or understand Spanish so I found myself doing the ordering and translating even though my Spanish abilities were pretty horrible. In the end, we ordered and ate about six different delicious offerings of tapas. 



The next morning, we visited the Palacio Real. I wish I could illustrate how beautiful the interior is, but we were not allowed to take any photos. All I have are photos of the outside. 




In the afternoon, we travelled to Casa Patas for our program orientation. The “Anglos” enjoyed a flamenco show, paella, and the company of the people they would be spending most of their next eight days and nights with. The newcomers and program veterans all spoke excitedly about what was to come. The next morning we would all file onto a bus for a four-hour trip to La Alberca. 

Now, I Wait

This morning I made the couple hour trip down to Washington, DC to finish up my visa application. Luckily, things went without any problems and they told me I should receive my shiny new student visa within 5 weeks!

First, I had to find the Department of State Office of Authentications which, in all honesty, was completely different from what I was expecting. The office was a small location very similar to a mini MVA setup. You walked in, stood in line for a number, and then waited for your documents to be completed. There is a form necessary for each authentication order which I already printed at home. There were several computers set up there for this purpose. I ended up chatting with the girl in line behind me about our mutual visa methods and experiences. She was getting everything together to apply for her visa to work in the UAE. I would recommend getting there EARLY. I arrived shortly after the office opened at 7:30am, but the room was already filling up.

Call me Bond, James Bond.

 

After my FBI letter received the Apostille, I took it to the convenience shop right next to the office. They made copies of the newly Apostilled document for me. I already made copies of everything else at home.

Next, I walked back toward the Foggy Bottom metro to the Spanish Embassy and Consulate. I was lucky everything was so close. The walk was only about 10 minutes. I was a bit early so I waited in the waiting room until the Consulate opened at 9am. I was the first one to enter the visa application line and in 15 minutes was informed I would receive my visa within 5 weeks! Apparently, I take my medical and criminal background check letter to a police station when I get to Madrid. There, they will give me my real student visa. The one issued here is only good for 90 days. Oh, and if you make friends with the guard it seems he will let you use the bathroom on the Embassy side! 🙂

The Stories Will Continue, but First….Visa Things

Two days ago I emailed the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C. to find out if there is a limit on how old the medical letter can be in order to be accepted for visa purposes. I’m so glad I asked! The response I received (the very next day. Speedy service?!) said the letter could not be more than three months old. My letter was right about to pass the three month mark so I needed a new one. I called my doctor to see if they could just update the letter, but they said I needed to come in for a physical this time. The following day I went to my appointment, received my letter, and took it to Annapolis to have it notarized, certified, and have the Apostille placed. Now I’m good to go! All I have to do now is fill out the visa application, get passport photos taken, make copies of everything, and then run down to DC. Since I had the FBI criminal record check I need to get the Apostille from the Department of State. Then, I can copy everything and take it to the Embassy! That’s my game plan for next week.