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Queso y chocolate e enfermedades

December 12, 2010

Hi hi hi sorry sorry sorry

Just got an email from Grandmother reminding me that it has been a ridiculously long time since I posted anything. Which I knew. But… I will explain…

Weekend before last was Madrid, which shortened my week my a day because I accidentally booked my return ticket back on Monday instead of Sunday. Which I didn’t really mind. But then there was a whirlwind of lesson planning and we left on Friday for Geneva and a day in Barcelona on Tuesday, and then we got to Sevilla on Wednesday morning. I got home around 11, fell back asleep around 12-12:30, and didn’t wake up until 7:30. I had a fever. My whole body hurt. There was coughing, etc, etc. I spent all of Wednesday and Thursday in bed sleeping and listening to podcasts and drinking a lot of water, only really leaving my room when Manuela would wake me up at meal times when I couldn’t really eat anything anyway.

This was really poor timing, as my portfolio was due on Friday for my teaching class. I went to my meeting – thinking I was prepared – I wasn’t, totally, and, being the last student, I ended up getting yelled at for an hour or so about how no one was prepared and we were all taking advantage of his flexibility blah blah blah I cried the whole time as I was in no emotional or physical state to endure any of that, we didn’t even talk about what the whole meeting was about, and I came back and lied in bed the rest of the day not doing anything more because I was angry than anything else.

So now I am trying to catch up on the rest of my finals-type work for the week. My last week in Sevilla. I leave for Barcelona on Friday, and I won’t be back here until I leave for the States on January 19th.


It’s a really strange feeling. This one big giant thing is coming to an end, and everyone else is leaving soon and I am surrounded by all of their emotions about that. But I have a looong time before I leave. I don’t feel all of the anxiety.

Anyway! Happy things! Switzerland was absolutely amazing. We stayed with the nicest, most generous friends of my sister’s. We were greeted with fondue on Friday night and the whole weekend kept being just as great. There weren’t a tremendous amount of touristy things to do in Geneva, which was actually great because we just wandered around the city and checked everything out. I saw the IB headquarters. And the WTO and UN and lots of other things. Lots and lots of other things. Which was just cool. We had lots of interesting conversations with Iris and John (our hosts) and spent a lot of time with their daughter Talia who was really, really sweet and wonderful and I spent a lot of time trying to befriend their cats. And we ate more cheese and chocolate than I thought could possibly fit into a single weekend. Previously I had thought that Spain was a cheesier country than Switzerland. No longer. No longer. It was a great, great trip. Great, great, great, great. And we can only really thank Iris and John and Talia (and Leah, their other daughter, too) because they really made it. I know we are all so so so so so so so thankful. I will be sending lots of postcards.

Statue in front on the WTO building.


Charlotte and some bicycles.

It was Sarah's birthday on Saturday. So we made her a list of 21 things she had to do, like make a snow angel.


The view from the top of the cathedral.

I realize I haven’t really posted about Madrid, which is shameful. I started writing a big long thing but… ugh. It was really great, too. Friday and Monday I had to myself and wandered around the city. I went to the Reina Sofia and the Prado on Friday, and the botanical gardens and a great little restaurant for my Thanksgiving dinner, attempt 2. Stephanie and Juan were really wonderful hosts, too, and we went to Toledo and Segovia and Saturday and Sunday, respectfully, which were both just totally beautiful. Monday I wandered, and walked onto a street exclusively of vintage clothing stores as it started snowing. It was magical, and I am not being sarcastic. I am not a huge shopper, but thrifting is just what I do and there is no where to do it in Sevilla.

Reina Sofia, in all her glory.



The botanical gardens in Madrid

Botanical garden greenhouse full of tropical hanging plants.

In front of the Prado.

Green wall in Madrid

Misters España in Toledo that we ran into. Think Miss America, in Spain, with men.

View from the top of a church of Toledo.

The cathedral in Toledo.

The view of Toledo from a hotel across the way.

Segovia's awesome aqueduct.

Segovia's cathedral.

And on a totally different note, I found this in my Vogue España jewelry supplement that came with the Vogue I’d bought for the plane.



“The Portland Farmers Market, in Oregon, offers an ample selection of local products.”

I realize now that sentence was all cognates. Just in case you didn’t get it, though!

Totally bizarre. But I totally loved it. Oooobbbbbvioooously.

Anyway. That is all. For now. Back to finals work ugh ugh ugh ugh.


Ultimas Clases

November 30, 2010

Today marked the beginning of the last week of my teaching…

Kind of relieved. Things have been all busy and stressful. But also kind of sad…

Just look at these kids….

These are my oldest kids: U.S. high school freshmen equivalent.

Today we learned about American Christmas and learned Winter Wonderland. They are much, much more willing to sing than my language classes ever were, but they will also be performing it in December (after I leave, otherwise I would definitely be there).

Anyway. I had a  great, great, great weekend in Madrid, Toledo, and Segovia with Stephanie, Juan, and their dog Izzy. It was really, really nice to be with family and in a home with American niceties – something I never really thought about missing before I came here.

My last last classes are on Thursday. Can’t believe it!!

Día de la Acción de Gracias, Restaurante de Alicia

November 25, 2010

Well it’s Thanksgiving here in Sevilla. Just any other day, feast at some supposedly swanky hotel, hosted by CIEE. I am excited for the piles of food. Please let there be mashed potatoes! Please let there be pie! (Please let there be wine!) These are the only things that I am asking!

But mostly…

I am thankful for all of you.

Even if you are some stranger happening upon this blog for some weird, weird reason. You, sir or madam, are probably spending too much time on the internet. But I appreciate you anyway.

Thank you, thank you.

Today in my classes (three on Thursdays! Wee!) we did Thanksgiving warm-ups. My older classes had to find words in the word THANKSGIVING (there are 353 different possibilities). With my sixth graders I tried to get everyone is a circle to say what they were thankful for, but there were a few trouble makers. After I and the get next to me went, we had to sit down and I yelled at them in Spanish. Translating from English that they probably didn’t understand. But still in Spanish. I do not speak Spanish during my classes. I kind of proud myself on it. I mimed throwing up today for my older students to explain what that meant. I will do it all! Just no Spanish!

But I was very terse and probably angry-looking. For the first time, really. The class was much better from then on.

Which was really something to be thankful for, since yesterday their usual teacher said she hadn’t taught them any new material since the last time I was there (in three classes! How is that possible? I had thought) and it turned out they had done everything that I had planned for the day. Oh well. Got through it.

Yesterday in my teaching class, we had this absolutely amazing speaker come in that went through a grammar lesson with us (in Spanish, naturally) that was designed to give the students more autonomy over their learning, gradually realize how it to use the grammar feature… It sounds really boring. But he was awesome. He is an awesome teacher. And I probably learned more from the packet he gave us (or definitely could if I go over it more closely) than I have from any grammar book (or teacher…) about that particular grammar skill. It was awesome.

So I was more stressed about my lessons today. They were both about grammar, and I wanted them to be as good! I tried. Multiple steps. Adding more information gradually.

I am not sure the kids totally, totally got it. They are so used to doing things page by page in the textbook that they are repeating answers before I say them. And they seem to have memorized all possible textbook instructions, so when we do things a different way it is really hard for them to wrap their heads around. But it was really good, I think. Better, at least.

Who knows.

Back to making my Madrid guide for tomorrow! While I listen to Alice’s Restaurant. In Spain.

I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving already.

Esquimal y hijos

November 24, 2010

Three Eskimo & Sons folks making more wonderful music if you have any interest in listening.

Which you probably should.

Nothing much of note today, except I naturally didn’t do the lit presentation that I was up late last night finishing, and rushed to put together this morning. Oh well.

Working on that also sacrificed working on my lesson plans, so I have been doing that all afternoon.

I guess Sunday is catching up to me.

Mama and sister will be here in a month! Eeeee!

Clases, Escuelas, Trabajos

November 23, 2010

Here is Sarah and I today in the teacher’s lounge, being all official. Me eating all of the little chocolate delicious things that I bought (8 for a euro?!?!). Sarah was supposed to eat more than one. She did not.

My class today was… okay. I was really kind of excited for it. I planned a lot of group work, and I was going to teach fixed expressions (sayings, like “That was a ball of laughs!” or  “He was over the moon about it!” or “I would give my right hand to go to that Shakira concert!”) and I found examples from Harry Potter! And I though – well hey, perfect – the movie just came out, I am sure they have all read the books. This is going to be awesome!

Turns out that Spanish 14 and 15 year olds don’t read Harry Potter. What?!

The difference in language level in the classroom is pretty amazing, too. There were some students who understood my directions immediately, but others were trying to put the phrases in order, or say if they were true or false, or just turn them into any other English classroom activity. I understand why they are in that pattern of doing things. I get it. But it was so hard to throw something new at them! Anyway, some students understood the directions immediately and did the activity. Other could just not understand what I was telling them to do (Read the sentence! Find the fixed expression!) and kept trying to put them in order or something.

We got through it, though.

I was really impressed when, when the students had to make different sentences using different kinds of linkers, that one group made sentences about world politics: one about South Korea bombing an island and another about Obama getting elected. And then at the end of class, one boy asked me if I was democrat or republican and then made a joke about liking Sarah Palin. I guess I knew that American politics were discussed abroad. But this is a 14-year-old boy making jokes about things that are not often on the news here (I have watched the news, and I think I have yet to see Sarah). I was impressed.

Anyway. Next week I am teaching them “Winter Wonderland” and all about American Christmas, so this was really my last lessony lesson with them. I can’t believe how fast the teaching has gone, and the whole program.

I am so excited to not have homework anymore.

Un milagro

November 22, 2010

The other night, I went to dinner. Everything was normal, except the dining room table had moved right in front of the tv by the couch. “I do not understand this,” I thought to myself. “That table is way too high to be a comfortable coffee table, and I do not want to sit this close to the tv.”

Hesitant, I sat down. And then a miracle happened. From some mysterious source, the beneath-the-table was warm. So warm! And the floor-length table-cloth that I had failed to notice previously kept the heat nicely on my legs, feet, and toes. Genius!

I figured it was just a space heater, but I went into the dining room/living room on Sunday to do some morning reading (that didn’t get very far…) and did some investigating, and it is actually this big round board thing with a round heating implement in the middle. Like it is made to sit under tables with long table-clothes and warm legs, feet, and toes during meals.

One has appeared at Amy’s, too, and apparently she learned in her grammar class that this miracle has a name (that I naturally forgot) and is some kind of wonderful Spanish genius. Delightful. I have started looking forward to meal time much, much more.

In other, less delightful news, these past few days the unmotivated train has run over me. It has yet to stop, really. It must have so many cars. These times happen, I know that, I have been told that, I have experienced that. But usually I don’t have too much to stress over and once deadlines start creepin’ or I lay around long enough I get my act together. But this dismotivation is angry and stressed. I am not sure why I am so angry. I have had many, many seemingly pointless homeworks to do in the past that I have done complacently. But I am angry. And there are a lot of them. And I am stressed. And I get myself so jumbled as to whether I should get these pointless things out of the way or if I should do my lesson plans first and then more on to the frustrating, pointless things. And instead of picking one I flounder back and forth and then lose myself on the internet for hours (like writing blog posts instead of doing homework) and never actually do anything and just get madder at myself. It’s a terrible cycle.

I have found some fun things though.

Northwesty food clips!

And this! Melissa Clark’s pie crust making video! Ah! Adorable!

And the blogroll! Ah! I don’t even have all those ones bookmarked already! Another miracle!

They kind of continue like that.

I guess nothing that exciting. You catch my internet distraction drift.

I’ll get back to work now.

First, here I am actually on a camel:

I was pretending to fall off. hahaha I am so funny.

Marruecos Marruecos Chef-Chauen y otras noticias

November 21, 2010

Part 3:

Last Sunday (I really can’t believe it was just last Sunday) we spent our last bit of Morocco in Chef-Chauen, probably the most beautiful town we went to. There was a long drive to get there through beautiful countryside – rolling green hills, not exactly what I had thought of Morocco. And the little white and blue town was right in the hills towards their peaks. There was a big creek running through it where women were doing the laundry, and lots of shops similar to the ones we had seen everywhere else.

What really surprised me was how touristy it was. There were definitely more foreigners there than anywhere else we had been to (I am sure Asilah has just as many in the summer, but when we were there it was just us and one other group that had this really jerky British guide who kept saying things like “Let my people go first!” and “They are going the wrong way but I am not going to tell them!” even though we definitely had no intended direction). I would never have expected so many tourists, being that it was November in a mountain village I can’t imagine would be very easy to get to. But all the same. It was adorable.

Again, we were basically just given time to shop. The worst part about all the bartering is that I ended up buying things I didn’t really want. When you have a rapport with your salesman, it is harder to walk away. And that is what happened there.

After the morning in Chef-Chauen we rode the bus back to the ferry and to Sevilla. The ride from Chef-Chauen took forever because we had to go right by the animal market, which was especially busy because last Wednesday everyone in Morocco killed a sheep for a religious holiday celebrating Mohammad. We were originally supposed to be in Morocco this weekend, but because of the festival (apparently no one works, the streets are filled with blood, and it really, really smells) we changed weekends. Thankfully.

It was a really busy week coming back. I obviously didn’t do any homework during the trip, and there was a lot to do late Sunday night and Monday. Lesson plans, especially. It is really hard to manage teaching with everything else I am supposed to be doing for my classes, which today is a lot, a lot of reading and a presentation with a partner who hasn’t emailed me back.

Thursday my teaching professor observed me for the first time, and it went really well. I didn’t do some things I was supposed to (like have a warm-up… oops), and I talked too fast, and I did too many examples.  But these were all things that I knew I could improve during the lesson, and even really before I did it.

I have really been enjoying teaching, more than I thought I would after we did all of the observations and the class. There are a lot of things that are really awkward about the way the program frames our relationship with the class, the professor, what they want us to do, and what the professor wants us to do. It is kind of messy, and it has been really frustrating. But when it gets down to just being in class, it’s just me and the kids  and I just do what I can. I have really good groups. I am really lucky.

This became especially apparent after Friday, when the TDP program when to Huelva capital about 40 minutes outside Sevilla. The program arranged for us to meet with a woman name Natalia who had done a study abroad program with CIEE in 2004 and was now doing their Teach in Spain program. She’s here for the year as an “auxiliary”, which a position a lot like what I have now – she goes into a few classes once a week to help the teachers. Except in a lot of her classes she doesn’t do a lesson plan or have very much control of the environment at all. Where the school I am teaching in is between a public and a private (I can’t remember what it is called in Spanish) and the kids are pretty privileged, she works in a public school in a very low-income neighborhood. She said that the class we sat in on was incredibly well-behaved because we were there, but that they are usually the best class she teaches. But they were not half as well-behaved as my classes are usually. I am not sure if I could handle her situation.

After her class, we went and wandered around Huelva for a while. Huelva has a reputation among Sevillanos for being dirty and smelly and ugly. We saw the downtown, which was really very cute, and then went to lunch. An amazing, expensive lunch all paid for by CIEE. I had woken up late that morning, thrown on paints and kept on my giant red t-shirt that I had slept in, thinking we would go to the school and a grungy tapas bar and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. I was wrong. Oh well. I had some amazing saucy meaty thing. There was a sea bass appetizer that was delicious, and some artichoke-y ham-y plate, and dessert after our giant meals. We all had a few beers during the meal, and then the waiter brought out complementary shorts of caramel vodka as an aperitif. They are candy. My professor ordered another round. I stumbled back to the bus around 4:30 pm. Oh, Spain.

Yesterday early afternoon I spent in a restaurant/cafe around the corner called conTenedor, complete with weird capitalization. I have kind of been wanting to go in forever. You could pick it up, drop it in Portland, and some installation, and no one would ever know the difference. I had been once before, but there is a really awkward waiter there who made the whole place less comfortable. But yesterday we sat on the couches, and Bon Iver – who I could call my favorite – was playing. And then that album ended, and on came Devendra Banhart’s latest, which I more or less listened to on repeat in August. It was beautiful. Portland in Spain, almost.

This place also has amazing looking food. Past was hanging from the ceiling, and they were making these amazing cakes in the morning. So we went back in the evening for cake.

It was a beautiful, stormy, rainy, perfect day.

Today, more homework. But first, here is the Alhambra I promised:

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