One year in Spain

I’m so happy to share that today marks the one year anniversary of my life in Spain! I think I’ve got things pretty good after one year. I have a job/income, a roof, good friends, and I’ve seen and done many new things. Every day is another learning opportunity and I’m incredibly thankful!

When I look at this list of some things I’ve done in one year I just can’t believe it.

  • Two trips to Sevilla (one was for la feria)
  • Valencia for las fallas
  • Casablanca, Fez, Tangier and Chefchaouen, Morocco
  • Barcelona
  • Zaragoza
  • Toledo
  • Mallorca
  • Trips to Alicante (one for Hogueras)
  • Ibiza
  • Florence and Rome, Italy

In addition to the places visited I completed a half-marathon and finally began to like children. For any close family and friends who read this…you know what I mean. I’ve improved my horrendous Spanish a bit and also found out that I can live on my own without starving to death.

I can only hope the next year and years following continue to get even better. 😉

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?

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 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.