Staying for More Punishment

Okay, so I haven’t exactly kept true to my goal of “one post a week.” However, I just NOW uploaded the remainder of my Semana Santa photos to Facebook so you can see what kind of time-lag I’m working with. I’ll (hopefully) be posting about Italy, Barcelona, Zaragoza etc within the next few weeks.

But first…

drum roll please….

 

I am renewing with the BEDA Program for next year. I’ll be working in the same school, but they are hiring another assistant to cover more hours. This means they are dropping my hours from 24 this year to 18 next year. Ugh. Also, I’ll only be working with children who are 12 years old and older. Maybe this will give me more time to prepare activities or even pick up more private lessons, but I’m a bit sad I won’t be working in infantil anymore.

Now I’m in the process of getting together all the materials to renew my NIE. Friday, I have my appointment to get my empadronamiento. This is basically just a way to register where you live and it may be necessary for the renewal. If I ever need to verify how long I’ve lived in Spain, it will also help. I will try to write a post with all the steps for the renewal after I’m finished.

Once Upon a Fallera

One of the coolest things I’ve seen in Spain to date was las fallas in Valencia, Spain. I’ve tried to remember how I learned about this festival in the first place and I believe it was from a Spaniard I met two years ago while I was working as a volunteer for Pueblo Ingles. I’m so happy I remembered his advice and saw the festival. Last month, I hopped on a bus with two friends for the 4-hour drive from Madrid. From the bus station we made our way into the center where we were staying. Even though I’ve been to Valencia before it didn’t take long to notice something was different.

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This looming creation is a “falla” and the festivals namesake. They range from big to small and from child-friendly to completely inappropriate.

This was one of the tamer fallas, but you can see nudity was not a big deal.
I love Europe…

Throughout the year, people in Valencia and the surrounding province work on creating the best falla they can. Each is judged and prizes are given out. Each one can cost a heck of a lot of money!

165,000 euros right there

165,000 euros right there

240,000 euros

240,000 euros

Another amazing sight was the street lights contest. The street Literato Azorin had some amazing lights. The surrounding Russafa neighborhood had some amazing street dance parties.

La Despertà wake up at 8am

Each morning during las fallas you can expect to be woken up with brass bands and noise on the streets. Hopefully, you got enough sleep the night before because people in the city set off firecrackers throughout the day. Also, if you want to find yourself a 1 euro beer for breakfast it’s out there waiting for you.

La Mascletà 2pm fireworks display

Each afternoon there is a giant fireworks display at Plaza del Ayuntamiento. People normally gather in the plaza to watch. My friends and I decided we would rather watch from the top of a church rather than packed in the streets.

During the festival it seems there are parades 24/7. The women and girls, or fallaras, as they are called, are everywhere. Most seemed to have this Princess Leia vs steampunk thing going on. The men wore traditional clothing also which sometimes reminded me of a pirate.

L’OFRENA FLORAL FLOWER OFFERING

A representative fallera from each group attends a ceremony in which they give flowers to be placed on a structure depicting the el virgen. Sometimes a representative comes from a long line of falleras. I was told that this is a reason some of the falleras may get a bit emotional. The ceremony is broadcast on television and we saw some teary-eyed falleras.

Els Castells fireworks displays

Inside the old turia riverbed, which is now a park, they set off an amazing fireworks display each night. Every nights performance gets increasingly crazier until…

La Nit del Foc

This fireworks display is the last and craziest. There was a light rain while we were watching, but it was worth it.

La Cremà

This is the night when all the hard work and money goes up in smoke…literally. Sadly, I worked Tuesday so we had to make it back to Madrid before this final night. On this night, nearly all of the fallas are burned in the streets. I think maybe one or two of the spectacular fallas are saved for a while at the Cuidad de las Artes y las Ciencias.

If you were at las fallas what was your favorite falla? Was there anything else you would recommend a visitor to see?

My Challenge

This week I will attempt to tackle the daunting task of summing up my adventures over the last month or so. I haven’t completed my post about las fallas and I’ve got a bunch to write about from my trip to Italy. I know that if I don’t start now I’ll be even more behind especially because by the end of May I’ll have finished the following new adventures!

Seen la feria in Sevilla

Ran a half-marathon

Traveled to undetermined destinations with my grandparents

Resort weekend in MALLORCA!!

 

Anyway, stay tuned as I attempt this time-management tango.

Travels and Teaching

It’s only Monday and I’m already daydreaming about the next weekend. Two friends and I will arrive in Valencia to experience las fallas! I have found mixed reviews of fallas from several Spaniards. I’m a bit worried that it will be a crazy guiri-fest, but as a closet pyromaniac I’m still excited as all hell! I will be sure to post something more after the trip, but essentially las fallas is a major celebration where giant and ornate wood structures are burned for all to see.

I have several trips planned because the week after, I’ll be traveling through Italy for Semana Santa. I’m trying to work out a trip to Sevilla to visit a friend in April. Probably the craziest thing I did this weekend was book a groupon deal for May in Mallorca with three friends. Ironically, my new swimsuits arrived in the mail today.

All of this reminds me that I need to be careful with what little money I have!

Things have been going well in the school. Last week was “English Week” and the theme for this year was the Middle Ages. I spent last week talking about knights, castles, crowns, and princesses with my infantil classes. I even found a pretty cool jousting game. I let children decide which shield, horse, armor, and strategy we used. Then everyone cheered as we watched if we were able to unseat our opponent.

This week I’m teaching the five-year-olds about different types of marine life. Tomorrow, we will be playing a fishing game in class if everything works out. I bought magnets, string, and paper clips. I’ll attach the magnets to rulers, using the string, and I’m bringing pictures of different animals to color. Once each student has chosen their animal (fish, shark, turtle, seahorse etc) they will put a paper clip on them and put them in the center of the floor. My idea is that there will be three lines. Each with one “fishing pole.” On the other side of the room there will be three bags, or buckets if I can find them. The team who picks up the most animals and places them in their bucket wins.

See you after las fallas! If you have ever been I would be interested in your story!

“It’s a Tough Way to Learn” or “When Crap Happens You Write a Blog Post”

Moving to Madrid is one of the most exciting and freeing things I have ever done. I know that I have grown here in ways I hadn’t in the US. The only trouble is that you often achieve this type of growth after facing some pretty tough situations.

Besides the obvious difficulty of balancing living expenses and entertainment with the salary of a Language Assistant, I’ve learned some things about safety and personal property.

While we were having the time of our lives in Morocco, someone was cleaning our apartment of electronics. My room didn’t lock from the outside with a key. There were two rings which I latched my luggage lock through. In theory, this may have worked if they didn’t have wire cutters for the rings. My laptop, Ipad, and external hard drive were gone when we returned along with thousands of dollars worth from three other roommates. Now I live in a room which locks with a key. We still don’t know who robbed us, but it’s possible that someone saw our posts on Facebook about being away for the puente. Also, the police told me that even if they found my things they couldn’t give them back to me since I didn’t have a copy of any of the IMEI numbers. After that, I’ve sent an email to myself with the IMEI for all my electronic devices.

Not long after that, I was sitting in a McDonald’s with some friends when two young boys came over to our table. The boys didn’t say anything, but they held out sheets of paper which made it look like they were asking for signatures. As soon as I saw them approach I placed my hand over my phone, which was on the table. One of the boys was standing next to my roommates when a friend of ours ran over to the other side of the table, grabbed the boys hand, and slapped my roommates phone out of it. They used the piece of paper to distract and cover the phone while the other hand grabbed the phone.

Now for my most recent experience. This past Friday my Samsung Infuse was stolen while I was in a bar in Sol. Sol is a notorious place for pickpockets since there are so many tourists. When you are there I would suggest to always keep your purse in front of you and closed. I believe I became too comfortable in the bar (and probably had too much to drink) and didn’t close my purse all the way. Within a span of about 30 minutes since the last time I had checked my phone, it was gone. On Saturday I went to the Yoigo stand and asked if it was possible to keep my old number. The woman there said it wasn’t. However, I talked with an agent at Yoigo today after I saw their website who said I should have told her I needed a copy made of my SIM card and then I could have kept my old number and saldo (amount of money I have left to use). Right now I have two numbers with saldo floating around because the agent told me it was not possible to transfer the saldo from my old number to my new number.

Now, I don’t really want to focus on the negatives so much as that I want to share some things worth noting for future or current teachers here. Be aware of your surroundings. Take precautions. We all know it’s common sense, but sometimes we may let our guard down….and others could take notice.

A way of coping with all of this has been to try to see these experiences as lessons. Okay, I definitely wish that there was an easier way to learn than this, but if you let it consume you it’s possible to end up paranoid or sick. Maybe you would even pack your bags and head back to wherever you used to call “home.” After our apartment was robbed I was so devastated I became ill for several days. I found the main emotion I felt wasn’t even sadness, but anger. I wanted nothing more than to find whoever was responsible and pummel them with the blunt end of SOMEthing in a “How dare you come into my home, where I sleep, and take my things!” kind of way. When it comes down to it I just have to think, “I’m tough and I can handle this. Now let’s make sure it never happens again.”

5 Things I Learned in Morocco

Our group of nine set out by car from Madrid to spend the December puente exploring Morocco. The brutal 8-hour drive to Tarifa allowed us to see more of the Spanish countryside.

If you can find an inexpensive way to get to Tarifa, the southernmost part of Spain, taking the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco may be your best option. I believe it cost about 40 euro for a round-trip ticket. The ferry was very comfortable and there were bars, food, and a duty-free shop. We took advantage of the duty-free liquor since finding it in Morocco can be difficult and usually very expensive.

1. Take a Guide

We were extremely lucky to have two Moroccan guys with our group. Not only was it great to have friends with us that spoke the local languages, French and Arabic, but without a doubt, we had a better experience than if we had gone without them. Thanks guys! They made the arrangements for houses and in restaurants (see #4). They were able to show us around to different tourist sites and cool local spots. We even met several friends and family members. If you have made the trip without someone who knows Morocco well I would love to hear about it and whether you would do it alone again.

2. Eat camels, Not Ride Them

Have you ever wanted to ride a camel? You might change your mind after you view one of these roadside set-ups. The camels looked downright depressed. Although I didn’t actually board one I was ushered in between two grumpy camels by their handlers for a photo. In the end I had to duck to avoid some angry camel bites. HOWEVER, if you can find yourself a camel tagine that’s another story. We had one in Casablanca with cheese and it was amazing! I was happy to add camel to my “weird foods eaten” list. I think camel and jellyfish are tied for first now.

Now I know what happens when I type “camel vs jellyfish” into Google.

3. Don’t Expect to Get “Liquored Up”

As I mentioned before, finding alcohol can be expensive and sometimes impossible. If you can fit it in your luggage just bring what you need with you. If you don’t feel like lugging all that weight with you don’t worry. There are plenty of other things you can try in Morocco like avocado shakes, and of course, mint tea! Don’t forget to pour from well above the glass, like sidra.

4. Food is Cheap (Just Remember #1)

I don’t think I’ve eaten so much bread and egg in my life. In Chefchaouen we found a breakfast of msemen, cheese, honey, and tea for around 2 euros. During our travels I don’t think we really paid more than 4 or 5 euros for a complete dinner. As opposed to what I’ve found in Spain, the food in Morocco had plenty of flavor and a bit of spice. We ate very well and for almost nothing! Our Moroccan friends told us that prices are often different for foreigners and locals. When we went with these friends we had no issues with prices. However, one time we stopped at a cafe without them and we were charged a crazy amount for coffee, tea, and cake.

5. “If You Can Drive in Morocco You Can Drive Anywhere”

One of our friends from Tangier told me this during our trip when I mentioned my desire to drive in Morocco. The only problem was I didn’t want to drive in the city with the mix of pedestrians, motorbikes, animals and crazy drivers. In Tangier my friends decided I had to drive because one of the guys was staying behind. Oh, and they didn’t tell me this was their plan until we were walking to the cars. Let’s just say I spent my time behind the wheel shouting expletives at the friend driving the car in front of me. Okay, so I’m sure there are worst places to drive in the world than Tangier, but it was definitely “exhilarating.”

Have you ever been to Morocco? What did you learn?

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.

Settling In

I’m here! I have a place to live and groceries in the fridge and cabinets. I have a Spanish phone number. I’m meeting with everyone at my school tomorrow… I can’t believe it! The last couple of days have been very busy and tiring, but I wouldn’t trade that for the alternative. I’m meeting some others from the program in 30 minutes so this is a quick post, but I wanted to add some random photos. I’ll try to post more often!

 

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.