I am back in Spain for another year. I will continue to do updates like I did all last year.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Palermo

I just want to start by saying I am writing this to use in a lesson in one of my classes so the more colorful and incriminating events have been edited out, jaja! We are talking about our last trip and I had to write an update on my trip so two birds, one stone.

We left Zaragoza on Friday night and got to Barcelona to have dinner and we took a little walk around the train station. The hotel was very nice and there were a lot of English speakers in town for the Formula 1 race that was on the weekend. We had to get up early to get a taxi to the airport since our flight was at 9:30. 

The flight was very short only 1 1/2 hours without any delays so we arrived in Palermo just after 11.  The Italian boss came to pick us up and then we went to the hotel to drop off our bags. Afterwards we went to one of the Italian teacher's homes where we ate authentic Sicilian food which was both delicious and plentiful!

Since we were tired from our travel the Spanish group took a short siesta after lunch and then we decided to explore the city a bit on our own before meeting a different group of Italian teachers for dinner.

While on our short walk we saw a woman shouting to someone above. At first I thought she was shouting to someone on a balcony above but as we got closer we saw she was actually shouting to a man who is in the jail that is in downtown Palermo. It was a very interesting and funny experience to see, I wanted to take a photo but then I thought better and decided I didn't want to get cursed at in Italian.

We got back to the hotel and met a big group of Italian teachers who were taking us to dinner. We went walking to a different part of the city and had dinner at a pizzeria while we waited for the Belgian group to arrive. We finished before they arrived so later we went to a different pizzeria so they could eat something. I had a great time talking and I think I did an ok job as interpreter/translator for the 2 other teachers whose English was not so good. Between my Spanglish, and their Spanish, Italian and English we were able to communicate effectively and have a lot of laughs too. I was laughing so much I thought they might think I have problems, but we were all having a good time. After that pizzeria some people wanted to go to a bar but when we got there they were closing so after chatting a bit more outside the bar we went back to the hotel.

Sunday morning two more Italian teachers met us to take us on a walking tour of the city and explained many of the historical monuments. 
The biggest theater in Italy


A carriage for a bride




One of the seasons (summer I think) displayed in the most important intersection in Palermo.


Famous Plaza in Palermo


Extremely old church


Inside above church


Mosaic floor
Then the Bulgarians joined us for lunch at a delicious outdoor seafood restaurant. Of course being authentic we had the whole fish with the head and tail. I think people were impressed when I knew how to eat the filets without making a mess of the dish (which is thanks to Tía Maria who taught me on one of my visits). Best fish I have ever had!

We then went back to the hotel to get ready to go to the beach. The last group, the Germans joined us at the beach. I was glad I had my 30 SPF sunscreen because it was very hot and sunny! People thought I was crazy for putting 30 on but then at the end of the afternoon I was a little red and they were asking how it happened. After a cold water compress I was morena by dinner time.

That night we went to a beautiful tented terrace with a fountain inside and beautiful plants to decorate the inside. After we went to a cool bar to chat more.

Monday morning we went to the primary and infant schools. We looked at all the classrooms and learned about the Italian education system and what they were doing to incorporate the ideas of the Comenius. We had lunch at the school, homemade by one of the teachers which was again, delicious. Later we again toured more of the school which is much bigger than the one in Pedrola and talked to some of the teachers and students.

All the members of this meeting after we danced with the kids!

For dinner we went to a beautiful outdoor terrace which overlooks the whole city. We had a kind of tapas style buffet and later we went dancing. We also saw an old theater where artists work and live.
On the terrace before nightfall. View of Palermo.


Palermo at night


Tonterías in the theater

Tuesday was a day to go to a town an hour away from Palermo which had a famous church and historical museum. I saw the most important painting from Sicily which was a very small portrait similar to the size of the Mona Lisa. We had a hilarious lunch and then went to catch some more sun on the beach.

Since it was our last night most of the group came out with us after dinner for drinks and then back to the hotel.

Wednesday morning was our formal meeting to discuss the future plans of Comenius projects and to give feedback up to that point.

Overall a wonderful trip and I met lots of great people. I didn't take many pics because there were a lot of other cameras and I should be able to get the photos.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Travel Plans

Long time.....no posting, sorry.

I am not sure if everyone has heard but I changed my flight from beginning of June to the end of August.  I plan to travel the south of Spain and spend a few days exploring Morocco, specifically Marrakech.  It was a very last minute decision but I am very excited about my August adventure!

My real job here finishes this month, I am very happy to be done.

For the months of June and July there are opportunities for me to work at different Summer English camps which I hope hire me and of course I will still have some of my private lessons from the school year.

This week I am going on a free trip to Sicily since I am going as a teacher of the primary school.  The students are NOT going, just me, the headmaster and 2 other teachers.  The primary school is part of a Comenius program which puts different schools from Europe together to share culture.  The official language of the Comenius program is English since there are 1 German school, 1 Belgian, 1 Bulgarian, 1 Italian and of course the school here.  I will be going to act as an interpreter/translator since the 2 other teachers going do not speak English, in addition to contributing my own thoughts and ideas.  We leave this Friday and I come back on Wednesday.  Of course I am thrilled because in my past 3 trips to Italy I never went to Sicily not to mention the fact that I don't have to pay to see the island.  While I am not 100% sure about my responsibilities I am still excited and I hope that my Spanish level has improved enough to do the job required!  I plan to take lots of pictures and I will try to do a blog entry as well.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Valentine's Day and Carnaval

The high school cafeteria celebrated Valentine's Day with "Concurso de Piropos" (Pick-up Line Contest) and I won 2nd place.  It was supposed to be in Spanish but I submitted mine in English.  Someone translated it for me so everyone could understand.  The judge was the woman who runs the cafeteria, who is very nice.  I teach her daughter who is in the 5th grade so people say I had an unfair advantage, haha.  My prize was a Valentine's Day themed Rubix Cube.  I won with a nice pick-up line not a spicy one.

For Carnaval I went to Tarazona to celebrate.  It was a last minute decision so my costume was a bit of a hot mess.  I was a scary pirate, I guess, here is the photo:


Sunday, February 5, 2012

MishMash


Hello everyone, first I have to apologize for how long it has been since my last post.  Every week I intend to write one but then life gets in the way but after a helpful reminder from my mother I have finally written one.  I have a few things that I haven’t posted that I will just combine and put in this post.


The oldest thing that I neglected to post about was the fireworks show from Pilares that I videotaped from my apartment; I think it is pretty cool since the fireworks were over the Ebro River which is just behind the Basilica.

video

Now, I will jump to Christmas holidays.  I again went to Benilloba and had a great time with my aunt and cousins.  The weather this year was chilly but not as cold as last year.  We had a great time catching up and chatting around the fire and eating wonderful food.  And, I was extra happy because they said my Spanish level has increased which I am happy to know since I really don’t speak much Spanish in my everyday life.  This might be surprising to some people but I speak English for my government job and also for my private lessons and with my roommate Carlos.  The times are rare that I am forced to speak Spanish continually and that is also why I like to visit my family because I am forced to switch my brain from English to Spanish.  I stayed for a few days then went back to Zaragoza because some of my private lessons wanted to continue during the winter break.

On New Year’s Eve I went out with one of my roommate’s friends, Silvia, who I have gotten to know well.   We went to her friend’s apartment on the outskirts of the city where we ate dinner (which was at 10:30 p.m., the typical Spanish time for dinner is anytime after 8 p.m.)  There were a total of 16 people and we watched the bells chime in Puerta del Sol (where I was last year) and this is the first year I have eaten the grapes like you are supposed to eat them, on each chime of the bell, or the 12 seconds more or less after midnight.  When I was younger my grandmother would have us eat 12 grapes on January 1st in the morning when we got up for good luck. When I got a bit older I learned the real custom but we still did it our own way.  This year I learned the history of this tradition and the fact that it is a relatively new tradition.  One year in the early 1900s the grape harvest was especially fruitful and so for the grapes not to rot and go to waste it was promoted to buy grapes and eat them for good luck and so the tradition was started.  After dinner, watching the bell and a little more chatting we went clubbing.  I was a bit worried because almost everything closes here in Spain on holidays and if we went somewhere far from my house I might end up having to walk home since there is no public transportation and taxis would be hard to find.  Finally, we ended up at a club that was only a 5-minute-walk from my house and so it was no problem when at about 6 a.m. I went home.

A week after New Year’s Day I went to visit my Aunt and Uncle who live in Barcelona.  As I was waiting for the bus I heard my name being said aloud.  I was very tired so I thought I was just being paranoid but then I turn around and 7 teenage girls who are my students in Pedrola were waiting to go on the same bus.  After mentally groaning, I smile and ask them if they are also going to Barcelona.  They smile and laugh and shake their head yes but none of them say a word.  Some of their parents were waiting with them and they point to me and say in Spanish, “That’s Paige.”

After the bus I went to my Aunt’s apartment and I stayed 2 ½ days and saw the Barcelona Zoo which like most city zoos is really depressing.  It does not give the animals enough space and so they are all looking at you with sad eyes and there were even protesters outside the ticket booths which should have been a warning sign!  Tia Maria told me that they want to expand the zoo but that it is going to cost a lot of money that the city, of course, doesn’t have.  The next day I finally got to go inside Casa Batllo which is one of the famous houses designed by Gaudi that is on the Passeig de Gracia.  It was really cool and they had electronically guided tours, I chose to take it in English so I wouldn’t miss anything.  If anyone reading this comes to Barcelona I definitely recommend visiting this house.  It is a privately owned house and they are restoring the house with the money from the entrance fee which is a bit expensive but still worth it.





Took this one for you Sara! It's Lucy!


There is a cheetah in the background.

There was also a cool dolphin show at the zoo.

video

Here are the pictures of the house:













After winter break I started back at the schools on January 10th.  It seems like every day that goes by less and less students pay attention to what I have to say.  I think the Spanish government is basically throwing the money they are paying me away.  I really enjoy living here so I am happy but the pay off for the government is next to none because the only people I am truly helping are the teachers I work with.  I might as well be talking to the wall in my classes for how much the students understand or try to understand me.  The lack of respect in class is also amazing, I don’t know how the teachers go to class every day, I would want to quit.  The students aren’t so bad but it is all little things that add up together to create chaos in the classroom.  For example, there is no chewing gum in English class because it is impossible to pronounce well with gum in your mouth, even for native speakers!  In the 3 classes of 14-year-olds, I swear it has now become a game to see if anyone can get through the class with gum in their mouth.  Every 5 minutes the teacher is yelling at someone about “chicle.”  I remember being in high school and yes sometimes people had gum but it was not an everyday occurrence to test the teacher’s patience.  As a result I have decided not to do a third year because I do not know where I could be assigned and while I like talking with the teachers in the car pool, I do not like the 35 minute commute each way plus 20 minute walk to and from the pick-up/drop-off point.  Plus, it is an added expense on a salary that is just enough to get by.
On the other hand, I am really enjoying my private lessons.  All of my students have an interest as well as an ability to learn and speak English.  I am quickly coming to the conclusion that it is just impossible for some people to learn another language.  Some people can and some people can’t and luckily all of my private lessons can and are learning from me.  I have 8 students in total, 7 teenagers and 1 7-year-old and so every evening except for Friday is full.  If most of the students in the high school were like the students I teach I am sure I would love it but unfortunately they are not.  I would not mind being a teacher if I only had students that were truly interested but of course it doesn’t work that way which is why I am not looking for teaching jobs back in the States unless it is strictly adults.  Plus, I think teachers have to have a special quality to catch the student’s interest and I know I do not have it because I get discouraged easily when I know they are not listening.


Well that was a long update but I just have one more thing to show.  My great-grandmother Lita asked me to show a picture of Yama, the yellow lab I live with.  She is very cute and a very well-behaved dog so I do not mind the fact that she is just really disgusting.  Disgusting but lovable!

Yama

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy 99th Birthday Lita!!

video

I hope you have a great day tomorrow.  Also, I hope you enjoy the video, I know it is a bit shaky but it is the best I could do working with kids.  This is one of my 6th grade classes, they were so happy to know that you can speak Spanish.  They knew that once I told them your name.  I told them they could sing in Spanish if they wanted but they wanted to try in English.  I am sending 99 hugs and kisses to you!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sendaviva and Halloween

First, I just want to apologize for any English spelling or grammar mistakes, I am sick with a sinus infection and double ear infection.  I should probably delay this post but I think it has been too long since I last posted.

Two weekends ago I went to Tarazona to visit my friends and we went to Navarra to a natural park called Sendaviva.  I didn't know what to expect since they described it having exotic animals and amusement rides.  As it turned out it was a zoo/amusement park hybrid.  We got there first thing in the morning and stayed till it closed.  We went to the circus which at first I thought was going to be cheesy but actually showed that they have some really talented gymnasts and acrobats.  Also, this park is known for having the longest zip-line in Europe, 600 meters.  I did not participate as I get motion sick easily and I had already done a zip-line in NJ at a camp in 8th grade.  All-in-all it was a really fun weekend.

Last week, I presented Halloween to most of the classes that I saw. [I forgot to add that on Thursday I wore my Halloween shirt, the only Christmas present I got from my parents 2 years ago!]  I must say it is very different from last year, the noise level is a problem.  Half the class time is spent with the teacher telling the students to be quiet and listen, it gets to be rather annoying that they never listen.  Of course not all of the students are the problem, some are very interested in having a conversation and practicing their English.  It is trying but I am being positive about it, in the future the teachers told me I will be with smaller groups of students, and only the ones who participate.  Needless to say I am looking forward to that day!  I do not know how this week is going to go since my pronunciation suffers when I have a stuffy nose.

This past weekend I also went to Tarazona.  We were supposed to go to a village called Trasmoz but in the end we didn't go because we arrived from Zaragoza too late.  I was looking forward to going but was also battling my infection so I was torn about the trip.  We went to dinner Saturday night and then Sunday morning early we went to see Jorge in a rally.  Rally for those of you who don't know because I didn't know before a couple of weeks ago is car racing but not like Nascar.  In rally they go one at a time for 4 or 5 laps and at the end they see who has the best time.  Last month we went to one in the Pyrenees and it was very exciting.  This just wasn't our weekend because on the first run his car's transmission broke and so his team was out of the competition.

The past couple of days I have just been trying to recuperate before starting back to class tomorrow.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The history of the Festival

I am not quite sure if my readers know the history of the festival that took place this past week.

The Virgin of Pilar is the female patron Saint of Spain and therefore is an extremely important part of Spanish but specifically Zaragoza's culture.  The basilica is visited by many pilgrims every year and they go to kiss the exposed part of the marble pillar that St. James saw.  The feast day is October 12 and it also coincides with Columbus day for Americans but Dia de la Hispanidad for all Hispanic people.  As a result all Hispanic Catholics celebrate the Virgin.  The celebration starts before the 12th but the 12th is the most important day because that is when the offering takes place.  People from many cultures and backgrounds bring an offering of flowers to the Virgin.  La ofrenda starts very early in the morning and lasts all day because the skirt made of flowers is enormous.  While it is mostly a celebration of Aragonese history and culture there are many types of dancing and music on display for all to see and participate during the 9 days.

It was a great time and then this morning when I got up I looked out and they were tearing it all down.  It was a bit depressing to see but it will be there next year.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Los Pilares w/ Pics and Vids

video
Jota



Raul and Vanesa at the vaquillas in Torrellas

Cool picture

The town hall last Saturday night with light show

The plaza during a concert

So many people

Nice picture till Vanesa ruined it, jaja.

At the carnival there was a ride that was from the "typical Spanish movie" Torrente I saw last year

La ofrenda

La ofrenda

Adding the flowers

People dress in the typical regional dress to bring flowers

La ofrenda

People waiting

La plaza

Completed


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Los Pilares

This is just a quick update....

The festival ends this Sunday and it has been a lot of fun but also a lot of noise.  I have had a headache almost everyday because I am not getting much sleep.  I will post pictures and video next time.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pedrola week 1

This was my first week back to work.  I started on Tuesday since my schedule gives me Mondays off, yay!  I work the mornings the other 4 days and have private lessons in the afternoons and evenings.  Everyone at my new schools are very nice.  I was nervous about being back in a grade school and high school but, so far so good.  Most of the kids are enthusiastic and the older ones are semi-enthusiastic.  My schedule is 3 weeks long and it rotates so that I am able to see almost all the levels.  These first weeks are just me introducing myself and then them asking me questions.  Sometimes I get crazy questions like "what do I think about the economic depression in the US?" to the more common "do you like Spain?"  They have been some funny classes and it is very easy for me.  I thought travel back and forth to the school would be an issue because this town has hardly any transportation options.  There are only 2 buses a day that leave from Zaragoza and the first one leaves at 1 in the afternoon, and since school is done at 2:30 not an option.  I am able to be in a carpool since about 50 teachers live in Zaragoza.  Tonight is the start of the huge festival in Zaragoza, it lasts for 10 days.  I took pictures last year and I will take pictures this year as well.  Last year the main concerts were split between the square and calle Independencia but this year they will all be held on the square due to the tram construction.  I am glad to be so close to the events but at the same time I know it will be difficult to sleep due to the noise!