Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

Yes, well, this is my last birthday in the land of the 30-somethings. Woo freaking hoo.
Nothing too crazy for the celebratin', just hanging out.
Did anyone catch the hostile comment left in my last post? I was going to comment on the comment but decided against it and instead just deleted it. I had no idea I could inspire such hate, such venom.
Moving on, yes, I did make my Zurich connection with minutes to spare. We were about 4 hours late getting in to Chicago because of a freak thunderstorm, so we had to land in Milwaukee, where there were blue skies and sunshine, and hang out on the tarmac. We could have DRIVEN to Chicago and back twice during that time, but US Customs regulates that no one get off or on the plane. We also were not allowed to be served any beverages during that time. Even though, you know, they were the EXACT SAME beverages we were drinking up in the sky.
It's wonderful to be home and the jet lag has not really been so bad. I watched Spain beat Germany in the Euro Cup final championship game yesterday- very exciting, as they haven't won since 1964. ¡Viva España!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Spain Post #4

Well, I´m off to Madrid tomorrow, home on Sat. Please cross all of your fingers and toes so that I make my connecting flight in Zurich. It´s very tight and I really don´t wan´t to get stuck.

I wanted to also share with you the celebration of San Juan here in Spain. They celebrate the Noche de San Juan, which is the longest night of the year (summer solstice). Instead of celebrating his death, they celebrate his birth. In the south of Spain, they make bonfires on the beach and people jump over them 3 times. Sometimes the tradition is for a man to carry a woman on his back, piggy-back style, walking on hot coals. In the north, they make a strong drink of aguardiente and sing a song while stirring it while it´s on fire. We actually did this in one of my classes. They also pick herbs and wildflowers, soak them in water and then bathe with the water. On the northern beaches, it´s bad luck to get in the water without the blessing of San Juan. I think it´s probably just too damn cold to get in the water much before now.

I am surprised at how much Spain is like the US, and equally amazed at how it still feels like a "foreign" country.

I was observing the playground happenings in the Cánovas Park. The playground has that foam stuff on the ground, and cheesy equipment, but all in the shade. THe moms are all dressed to the nines and the kids are in some crazy color combinations, the boys in little espadrilles. I quite like it, but I know that it would be way too "metro" for the average bear back home. I´m sure that if one were to get dressed up like these moms in a similar setting in the states, the other moms who were there in cut-offs and tee shirts would talk about the dressed-up mom. "What´s SHE all dressed up for?"
Still need to get used to saying "vale" instead of "ok".

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Spain Post #3

A few observations on the day to day life here in Cáceres:

1. The woman really do use fans. Seriously. They carry them as sort of an accessory, like an umbrella, but they do use them.

2. I´m seeing lots of people dressed as though they are not afraid of color. They love their shoes here! I myself have bought 3 pair.

3. It is not uncommon to see Spanish women dressed in dresses and little heels as they are out and about. We´ve seen several weddings and boy are they all dressed to the nines!

4. People don´t walk around eating and drinking like we do. If you want a coffee, well, you go to a cafe or a bar and you have a coffee. They seem to take care of their things more so than we do. The conductor on the train will yell at you if you have your feet on the seat.

Did anyone see the Spain-Italy soccer game for the Euro Cup? They were 0-0 for the entire game and went into overtime. We were watching at a bar and then finally decided to leave because it was so late and we were afraid we´d be there all night. So, about halfway home, I heard this roar of people cheering and figured Spain had scored, but I didn´t hear anything else until I was almost home. There was this huge roar, people came out onto their balconies (where I live there are mostly apartments) and were cheering "ES PA Ñ A, ES PA Ñ A!" They were banging on pots and pans, people where honking their horns, lighting fire crackers, singing "Ole, ole, ole ole, me gusta España....", waving the Spanish flag, which they just don´t do here otherwise.It went on for about an hour and a half. So, so, cool to be part of it.

My new favorite snack is a piece of good bread, like French bread, sliced length-wise and toasted. Spread tomato puré on it, but not gopped on, a drizzle of olive oil and some thin slices of cheese, like manchego, which is like a milder parmesan and from sheep.

To answer Bellaza´s question, yes, my lectures are all in Spanish, so I´m learning lots.

I feel bad that I´ve not kept up with reading your blogs, but I´ll make up for it upon my return.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Spain Post #2

It´s quite hot here right now. 34 to 40 degrees centigrade, which I have trouble making the conversion.
We visited a museum on the outskirts of town of Wolf Vollett who was a German artist in the tradition of Yoko Ono. He made a lot of "happenings". Very interesting. His philosophy was "La vida = arte= La vida". It was in this national park type of place called Barruecos, which are these humongous rocks. The land here is very harsh, hence the name "Extremadura" (extrema , extreme and dura, hard).
The way of life here is so much different. My days have pretty much been like this:
1. Wake up at 7 or 7:30. Drink my cafe con leche out of a big bowl and eat some pan.
2. Walk to our meeting point, which means I walk through this beautiful park called Canovas, which I think means canopy. It´s got palm trees and benches and a fountain, so pretty.
3. Catch the bus to the university.
4. Have classes with amazing professors who are teaching us all about Spain in the 21´st century.
5. Go home for the main meal at around 2. Have a siesta.
6. Go back to class or do something with the group.

So far it has been great. We went to Salamanca yesterday, which is sooo beautiful. We went to Trujillo today, which if it had been much cooler would have been much more enjoyable.

More later.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spain Post #1

Hello from Spain.
After a hellatious time at the Heathrow Airport, I am here. We spent a fabulous weekend in Madrid, a much different experience than being here on a canned tour with students. We did 2 interesting walking tours. One was a tour of the Barrio de las Letras, where we got to see the traditional craftsmen of Madrid who are still working. For example, we saw where they make churros, a guitar maker, a silver smith and an iron works/foundry. Very cool, very ``off the beaten path``. In the evening, we went on a tour of the taverns and learned about how they evolved and the legends and customs surrounding them.
Right now I am in Caceres, a small city in Extremadura, to the west of Madrid. I am living with a delightful older woman and attending classes.
Mas later. We are getting ready to go and I´m paying by the hour.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Fiddle Dee Dee

What's going on with me these days?
Well, we had our 13 year old cat put to sleep today. He's been ill for some time now- kidney/liver failure due to complications from feline diabetes. He was not able to keep food down and was starting to crap all over my house. I brought him home in my jacket when he was 6 weeks old to the day. A woman I worked with had a cat who had kittens and I picked the one I wanted. I remember counting the days and circling the date on the calendar that I could go get him. I miss him.

My mother in law was diagnosed with stage 3 lymphoma and starts chemo this week.

I have a mountain of school work to do.

The girls and I are supposed to go camping this weekend with the Brownies.

I leave for Spain in 9 days.

So, what am I doing tonight? Going out with some girlfriends for dinner and "Sex in the City".

How very Scarlet O'Hara of me.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Small but Mighty

My very first teaching job was teaching bilingual kindergarten at one of the poorest schools in our district. For the first month and a half, I was in a trailer with no bathroom. I had 26 kids- 24 at all times, and it was like a revolving door. Probably 6 or 7 that I had at the beginning of the year had left and 6 or 7 different kids came to take their place. It was crazy, but I was young, inexperienced and desperate for a job, so who was I to complain?
One of my students was this itty-bitty girl, Sharnice. She was a young kindergartner- had a late spring or summer birthday. She had little braids all over her head and a twinkle in her eye, but you hardly ever heard her speak. She often times could not sit still with the rest of the group and would get up and walk around the room. Her home life was tumultuous. I believe she lived with her great grandmother and her boyfriend, who would haul himself out of bed to walk up the hill to get Sharnice at dismissal time, which was like 11:30 (days before mandated all-day kindergarten.) He wore slippers and a cowboy hat and smelled like a distillery, but was a nice man all the same, and she was pretty attached to him. He didn't quite have the pick up procedure etiquette, however. Instead of waiting for the kids to be dismissed, he would stand outside of the trailer and bellow "Shah-neece!" I would very primly pop my head out and say in my best kindergarten teacher voice, "Are you here to pick up Sharnice?" Oh, I could do perky.
About the middle of the year, this man suffered a heart attack and it really kind of rocked Sharnice's world and she got kind of clingy with me. Her mom was in jail and I can't remember the deal with the rest of her family.
One morning, she was hanging out with me as I got ready for the day. She didn't chatter at me like some kids may have, just stood by me and trailed around after me.
After being with me and being virtually silent, she said something to me. She had a really soft little voice, so I didn't quite hear her at first, so I asked her to repeat what she had said. So, she said a little bit louder, "I found a little baby mouse in my house this morning." I did an internal "ew", but since she had initiated conversation, I prompted her- "You did? Really? A little baby mouse?" She looked quite pleased with herself. "Mmmmm hmmmm, " she nodded, grinning. "And I squished it!"

I wonder whatever happened to Sharnice. I hope she's happy.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Here they come.....

Dear Helicopter Parents:

Yes, I mean YOU! You, who "hover", thus earning yourself the quippy title "Helicopter Parents". You, who have the greatest of intentions and want whatever is best for your child, as long as it means that they get good grades and possibly extra credit. Notice that I did not say "earn" good grades, because, while many of you pay lip service to the whole "getting vs. earning" of grades, the truth is that you desperately want your children to get All A's All the Time. You spend an inordinate amount of time looking at the online gradebook we have been forced to use gladly employ so that you will quit asking us for an updated grade report every other whip-stitch for your benefit. You send me "concerned" emails when your kid's grade dips below the coveted and much more acceptable "A". You express "disappointment" because your kid was "doing so well". You wonder if your kid can do extra credit in a last-ditch effort to pull up the percentage points to the 90's. See, that way, it appears that your kid is doing really well in Spanish, when really, he's basically a B student with average language skills who could do much better if he studied more and didn't rush to get last night's homework done during the first 5 minutes of class.

Please loosen your apron strings a bit and let your kid earn the grade he earns. He's old enough to operate a large, gasoline-powered vehicle. I think he can handle his Spanish 2 class. It will be ok.

Very snarkily yours,

Mrs T