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Posts tagged “teaching in spain

The End of the World and a Thing or Two About Cha(lle)nges

2012- the end of the world.  I think I believe that in part, but as a colleague of mine said recently, “2012 will be the end of the world (as we knooow iiiit) as we personally experience it.  It will be a shift in personal perspective, the end of one stage and the beginning of another.”

Since 2012 started I’ve had the profound feeling that it was going to be a year of change. Well, was I right or was I right:  change has been all around me.  And I’ve witnessed that my life isn’t the only one being affected by this theme- friends and family alike have been bombarded by change (buying houses, moving, moving abroad, getting married, babies, changing jobs, new romances, etc).

A thing or two about changes in my opinion: they’re humbling, surprising, enlightening, exciting, invigorating, challenging at times, easy other times, reflection-inducing, and some of the times will catch you off guard so fast you won’t know what hit you.

So, here is a list of the changes (some of them challenges) that have come my way since 2012 started (most have occurred in the past 2-3 months!):

1) I received my British passport! Tea or scones, anyone? I feel like Jason Bourne with my multiple (well, 2) passports.

2)  JIPAR- mi amor and partner in crime. In order to be with my favorite person on earth, who is from Spain, we’ve had to figure out on which continent we wanted to be.  It was easier this time for me to go there, so…

3) …I applied to and was accepted into a program for Visiting Teachers in Valencia, Spain that was set to start in September.  My acceptance of this position led to…

4) …leaving my wonderful teaching job in NC, packing up my life, JIPAR packing up his life, and me moving to Spain in June to start my Masters program and then start preparing for the move together to Valencia in August. Unfortunately…

5) ..I had to check the “unemployed” box for the first time in my life since after the budget cuts Spain’s government performed mid-July, I found out there would be no job in Valencia because they had decided to cancel the program and reallocate the money for better usage.  Thus JIPAR and I began to scramble to create a Plan B…. (skip to number 10 if you want to find out what we came up with!).

6) Finished my coursework for my Masters in Granada… WOOHOO!

7) New look: I cut off ALL of my hair (and left it in Sevilla).

8) Am soon going to be a sister-in-law!!!  Congratulations to my lovely sister and her fiancé!

9) My car just turned 200,000 miles. 🙂

10) And the last change… drumroll pleeeease: JIPAR and I are moving to Nicaragua in November to work at Buena Vista Surf Club, a little eco-hotel in San Juan del Sur. We’ll be there until May cooking and helping manage the place and will try our hand at teaching surf lessons (JIPAR) and leading yoga classes (me).

SHEW! It’s been a CRAZY summer trying to figure out a next step for our lives, but I know in my heart and my bones that whatever is next and this next phase of life is going to be as beautiful (and even moreso!) as all of the plans we had made and were changed.  Just as my sister said: I’m so lucky to have been given a situation of despair and desperation (suddenly unemployed in a foreign country with no immediate family around and no plan B or even C) to one with multiple choices. The universe is always at work 🙂

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Anais Nin

Here’s to risks, letting go, changing, and blossoming!


Mala educación

Ok, the title to this blog actually has nothing to do with the intense Pedro Almodovar film of the same name. Nothing as melodramatic. I wanted to put down some favorite moments experienced in the classroom this year. Have fun!

In math class a couple months ago, while we were reviewing fractions, we were learning the correct pronunciation of fractions. I was teaching how to say one- half, one- quarter, two-fifths, etc. So, to get the students to practice this terminology, I would write a fraction on the board and have one of them tell me how to say it in English. Standing at the front of the class and looking at the students, this is what it was like from my perspective, going down the line of students pronouncing the fractions:

Carlos: “one- half”
Manuel: “two-fifs”
Javier: “tree-sevents”
Álvaro: “one-turd”
(No one else notices (obviously), but at this I start convulsing with chuckles while I try to continue with the exercise.)

Every time I’m with group A of the first years, if there is any possibility of reading, the moment I say “Does anyone want to volunteer to read?” about 15 hands shoot straight up like rockets. The view from the front of the room is spectacular! To see such enthusiasm at such a young age…. Why can’t all my classes be like that?!

This is not my story, but it makes me laugh hysterically every time I think about it:
My co-worker and dear friend Eva helps out with Natural Science classes. One day they were studying the cell and its parts. To learn the vocabulary, she says the word and the students repeat after her. They were going at a good rhythm such as the following:

Eva: “Nucleus.”
Students: “Nucleus!”
Eva: “Membrane.”
Students: “Membrane!”
Eva: “Vacuole.”
Students: “Vukyuall!”
Eva: “Hmm… let’s try that again, “Vacuole”.”
Students: “Vukyuall!”
Eva: “One more time… “Vaaa-cu-ole”.”
Students: “Vuuuk- yuu-alll!”

You can imagine her chuckling inside at the thought of some random English speaker walking by to hear a classroom of kids screaming something so inappropriate.

Yesterday in class we played a spin-off of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”. It was a detective game using the atlas. The kids really enjoyed it and got into the mystery of it. So today in class, my favorite Javier says to me in a detective-like voice in Spanish:
“Ahli, (that’s how they pronounce my name), what were you doing yesterday after recess?”
And I said, a little perplexed because I didn’t know if I had done something stupid, like trip and fall, “Hmmm… I went out for breakfast…?”
Then Javier states, in a very matter of fact tone: “Because we saw you from the window of the high school, and you weren’t in the high school.”
Me (still perplexed) “Well, I…I….”
Then, before I could say anything else, he looks at me and does the “I’m watching you” motion with his hands pointing from his eyes to me. And he adds, “I’m the detective, now!”

I’ll keep adding moments as I remember them or as they occur in the next month. These were my favorites, so far. I’ll also add to this list all the random moments that they have made me laugh uncontrollably with the faces they make when they think the teacher (or me!) is not looking. I’ve had to hide behind papers or turn my back various times to compose myself!! It’s great fun, working with adolescents :).


The Incident of the Lock and a Guy Named Fali

Caution: The following may seem as unbelievable as “The Never Ending Story”, and it really did seem like the never-ending story at some moments. However, please note that all of the events truly happened. This is just a recounting of real events.

It started out as a normal trip to the grocery story. We had our grocery bags, we had our wallets, but we forgot the list. Upon going back to get the list, I stick the key in the lock and turn it. At the precise second of starting the action I felt something a bit off, but continued to turn the key anyway. When I reached the point at which the door should have opened, I pulled. Nothing. I tried it again. Still nothing. I looked over at Beth- “it won’t open…”. Try again… you can guess what happens. Nothing. So Beth takes the key and tries. No dice. What the heck is wrong with the lock?! The key was fine- it entered and came out with no problems. But it was like the lock was stuck.

Thoughts started racing through my mind. “I don’t have my cell phone!” “Where do we go at 8pm at night? Nothing’s open!” “What the hell do we do?!” “”Who do we call? And how do we call them?” “I don’t even know how to begin to explain this in Spanish!” “This can’t be happening. It’s just a dream.” Well, it did happen. And it was happening. At 7:43 at night on January 27, 2009.

We stood there, perplexed by our situation, still wanting to believe the door would open. The only thing I could think of was to try and find a locksmith asap. Doesn’t Spain have Triple A? Apparently not. So we walk to our little neighborhood tool shop to talk to the nice, little, old man there that Beth met last week. Luckily he remembered her. But how the heck do you say “locksmith” in Spanish?! Stumbling through our description of the problem we start to get a little more panicked with each passing moment. The man and his wife finally understand we need a “cerrajero” or locksmith, but they say “Good luck trying to find one at this time of night… everyone’s gone home.” Blast.

I think it was the desperate look on our faces, but whatever it was, he decided to follow us around the corner to help us try to open the door. His face was as surprised as ours was when it didn’t work. Then, a ray of light! As we were standing there, the old man suddenly turned from our ground floor apartment door towards the street and yelled “Guapa!” (Pretty girl!). Beth and I looked and saw a hunch backed, rustic man in his 40’s coming out of the building across the way. “Guapa! Vente pa’ acá!” (Pretty girl, come over here!) We realized then that the “pretty girl” was actually the man who was walking towards our building.

“Este es un cerrajero.” (This man is a locksmith.) WHAT?!! You’re pulling our legs right? What a coincidence! Actually, I know it’s not deep down, but seriously, this man literally just appeared out of nowhere, came out of the woodwork. The old man leaves us with our new helper. He takes the key and tries, then dashes out the door and yells up to someone in the window upstairs. He runs back in with some tools and gets to work. Then another guy comes in and they start talking back and forth in fast, slurry Andalusian accents.

They run in and out a few more times to set up shop outside our door. For the next two hours, brothers Fali (nickname for Rafael) and Jaime (HI-may) completely manhandled the door using tools I never knew existed and long railroad-like stakes to drive the middle of the lock out.

All the neighborhood was out in the street watching the foreign girls get their door beat down. Since there was only 1 lock and 4 of us, Beth and I ended up talking with Jaime most of the time while Fali worked the lock. This little man ended up being the neighborhood gossip, catching us up on all the inside scoop, from the lady that lives in their building who likes cats and feeds the wild ones in the city, to the “girl who was a girl, and wasn’t a girl” that lived in our apartment a while before us.

To ease our desperation, Beth and I decided to bring back some beers and sandwiches from the bar across the street. Entering the bar full of all men, we knew that they already knew what was going on… however none of them came to help us. We got some beers in plastic cups, told the barman to put us a variety of little sandwiches on a plate and promised to bring the plate back when we finished. Then, back to the “shop”, where we enjoyed conversation, sandwiches, and beers with our new friends. Man, only in Spain.

2 hours later they had made a little bit of headway, but still could not get the lock out or the door open. Finally, Jaime took the hammer, knocked the lock, and it went loose! HOORAY!!! They performed quite a job on the door and surrounding plaster walls. So when we finally walked in our house with a newly found appreciation for it, moldy walls and all, we found pieces of plaster and lock all over the floor. But who cares!! Home sweet home!

Now we just have to communicate all this to the landlord….