Saturday, October 31, 2009

happy halloween!

Forget the fact that halloween is an American holiday...happy halloween, Spain!

Truly, there is enough enthusiasm here for our spooky tradition that even the most homesick of all american puppies would be at ease. Not to say that I am homesick. Since I passed the acceptable age for trick or treating, I haven´t cared much for Halloween anyway.

But--as one of the three American assistants in my school, of course I had to feign serious interest, as being an American on Halloween is nearly the equivalent to being Jesus Christ on Christmas day. We began planning over 3 weeks ago for our school party, but despite the fact that we began so early, yesterday nonetheless arrived in total chaos. We had decided to act out the story ¨There was an old woman who swallowed a spider¨, but instead the old woman would be a witch. Not very creative, I know, but the story uses simple vocabularly and tons of repitition. I, dressed as a dead bride (thank you, Pilar), was to narrarate, while Hallie and Alana (the other assistants) played the witch and carried the animals to the witch´s belly. What nobody told me, however, was that this ¨play¨ was to last 30 minutes. So when the first round finished after a mere 5, we were at a loss as to what to do after the one game we had planned finished in 5 minutes as well (a swine flu-friendly version of bobbing for apples).

Here is a piece of advice for anyone who is ever caught in a similar situation, that is, with 50 pairs of young spanish eyes staring at you and waiting for entertainment: chant. I have found in my experience that there is nothing that excites and pleases a group of children in this country more than chanting. I have theorized that this pleasure comes from Spain´s unfaltering appreciation of soccer--a sport that requires serious chanting. So we began: Trick or treat! Trick or treat! I want something good to eat! ..and you know how the rest goes. The room immediately broke out into holy mess of children chanting together, and the chanting didn´t stop. Boys began to form chains, arms around each others shoulders, while the girls jumped and squealed in an attempt to not be trampled. In America, someone may have called the police. In Spain, everyone rejoiced. They were having a ball.

Needless to say, the next round of students heard a much different version of the old witch story, complete with improvised conversation amongst myself, the witch, and all the animals she swallowed. We couldn´t deal with such pandemonium 6 times throughout the day.

Tonight, for the real Halloween, I will go into the city for a party at a friend´s apartment. She is American, but her roommates are from all over Europe. We shall see if the enthusiasm persists..

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

what luck!

Today is a very special day, as the internet works at school.

The elementary school I work at (Benito Perez Galdos in Fuenlabrada, Madrid--check out the super savvy website at has a whole lab full of computers, but it is rare that the internet is in functioning order. I shall now dedicate this posting to my school, which I hold very dear to my heart, despite the fact that it rarely ever has its shit together.

It has been a month since I began working in this ´colegio´(not to be confused with college..), and every day I find something new to love about it. I work with the first and third grades, basically just hanging around the classroom and helping the profesores with their lessons. Most of my time is spent with the first graders, singing songs and jumping around like a monkey to communicate with them. They rarely ever understand me.

I think I need to explain... Six years ago, the Spanish government decided to begin converting the schools here to¨bilingual¨ schools, upon realizing how far behind they are than the rest of Europe in this aspect. That is to say--they decided that certain classes were to be taught in English, and these classes would eventually be Science, Art, and Physical Education. The problem was that very few teachers spoke English well enough, so the idea was to bring over a native speaking assistant to bridge the gap. So here I am.

The elementary schools here begin with preschool, but Benito Perez Galdos offers the bilingual program starting in the first grade. This means that my job is very difficult, as this is the first year my students have been exposed to the language. They are not supposed to know that I speak any Spanish, but children´s minds are easy to trick. They speak to me in Spanish, and although I understand what they say, it does not occur to them that I know the language. Mua ha ha ha.

Virginia is the profesor of English, Art and Science in the first grade. I love her for many reasons, the main one being that she says ¨plastify¨ in place of ¨laminate¨. I´ve been thinking about correcting her, but I sort of like plastify better, and have been using this new word quite a bit myself. Who knows, maybe it´s the British english?

This is not a sufficient post, but more to come later. I´d better be´s almost time for my 5 course family style lunch :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

the end of vacation

Today marks one month that I have been in Spain (...something I failed to mention in my first post--I have moved to Spain for those who are unaware), and also the end of my vacation...from technology.

After a month with out a cell phone, I finally broke down and got one. I have to admit, life with out a cell phone was quite a hassle at times. One day I tried to meet a friend in the city to have coffee, but there was some confusion about the meeting place. I won´t go into detail about the search, but needless to say I had coffee alone. Until now, I have done almost all communicating via email, which is a huge pain in my ass considering I do not have a computer, and the computer I use (Pilar´s) dates back to the 90s. I´m sitting at it right now, and as I type, it purrs and groans, sending soft signals to let me know that while it is still in working order, it could shut down at any time.

Anyhow, while I enjoyed my vacation, I suppose the end came in good time. My contract is with Moviestar, a company I remember from my days in Buenos Aires. I feel SO fortunate to have family here, my uncle allowing me to get a cell phone under his independent work contract. Most foreigners are not able to get a contract (for various reasons--time issues, residency issues, etc) and thus are forced to pay as they go, which costs on average (from what I have heard from friends) nearly 100 Euros a month. Yikes! My contact is costing 12 Euros a month for free usage Monday through Friday, 8 am to 8 pm. Beyond these hours, it will cost 18 cents a minute/message. Not bad.

So thank you Uncle Marcelo, for hooking me up with the goods. And thank YOU! cousin Isabela, for also hooking me up with the goods! Isabela was probably more excited for my new cell phone than I was, it´s arrival being the only thing that could get her out of bed at noon today (oh, teenagers). She immediately stored my number in her phone, and began sending me all the reggaton a girl could need. Now I can finally fit in with the young people (young people as in high schoolers) who like to park themselves on benches around town and listen to their cell phones as if they were boom boxes. If I ever get a camera, I will try my best to sneak a picture or video of this phenomenon, because its HILARIOUS. For now, I will just have to use words to describe it. Imagine..two teens, beyond uncomfortable in their own skin, sitting in silence while Don Omar raps from the tiny speaker of the hot pink cell phone sitting on the arm rest. In accordance with the super cool atmosphere they have set up, they must also be sure to act super cool--aka NO speaking, no smiling. This cell phone party is serious business. Sometimes, I walk into the kitchen and find Isabela doing this very thing, alone. When I find myself in this situation, I think, ¨when in Rome..¨, and we sit together in silence whilst the cell phone takes the stage.

My cell phone number is 649835096. Please call me, if you feel like it. It´s free for me, but will probably cost you a pretty penny.

Friday, October 23, 2009

first post

On Tuesday night, my 9 year old spanish cousin called me fat.

OK--that is an exageration. I was busying myself in the kitchen making a cup of tea for myself and my aunt (Pilar) when Alex walked in and said, in his broken but impressive english, -You´ve gotten more fatter, no?". At this moment, after, of course, nearly falling on the floor laughing, is when I decided to begin writing a blog.

Because these are the moments I live for. It´s the small things in life that really hit me with such weight (no pun intended), and these things must be documented and shared. Alex´s comment could not have been more hilarious to me--for a number of reasons. The first was the fact that he had just been to the orthodontist that day to get braces. Oh! how I wanted to quip back--Yea, well at least I´m not a metal mouth, braceface! Of course, I held my tongue. What was even more funny to me was that once again, Bill Cosby was right. Kids say the darndest things. I HAVE gained weight, thanks to an increase of sugar intake by about 5 times, and luckily I have my little cousin Alex to always provide me with the truth about such matters (Pilar was quick to assure me that I looked just the same as I did a month ago, when I first arrived). Even more, as I received this cruel remark, my hand was fishing around a tin box of cookies, as one cannot have a tea or coffee in Europe with out several buttery cookies, dunked and soaked of course. So there I was, caught red handed, when Alex dealt me the news, that I´ve indeed gotten more fatter.

And you know what? I don´t care.*

*I will start caring when my pants no longer button.