Thursday, December 15, 2011

School Experience!

A not so terrible, but extremely unorganized video blog about what it's like teaching in my school.

I forgot to mention that I feel completely at home in the first grade classes, so I feel like kindergarten or first grade is where I want to teach when I come back to the States. I love talking to them, and how excited they are about everything. It's the same things I love about teaching my 6 and 7yr old summer camp classes. (By the way, I'm totally bummed that I can't work that summer job for the rest of my life. This is my last summer...probably.)

Here are some pictures of the turkeys my 2nd graders made for Thanksgiving, and one of my first grade classes.

I love how different they all are, and especially the rainbow turkeys. Because it's always more fun to be thankful when your turkey is part of the celebration. Here's some of my first grade kids.

Happy (late) Thanksgiving and an early Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Let's talk about food

So, I made a video about a recent shopping trip, and now you can all see what I eat every day. It's not fancy, and is mostly like college food again, but it works. Today I spent 6 euros on my feel better food (bread, cheese for grilled cheese, chicken ramen, yogurt, water, and some chocolate). It was pretty awesome, and makes being sick a little bit better. Having internet here to watch TV shows on is pretty much like Netflix, so that's awesome too.

Sorry for moving the camera too fast! I'm still getting the hang of filming myself.

Accion de Gracias...otherwise known as Thanksgiving

**This was a draft that I got distracted from finishing earlier**

I now have internet in my piso, and as much as I'll miss teaching the man at the internet cafe English, I am THRILLED. Love being able to communicate with people whenever I want!

I also love getting mail here! It makes my day when I get a letter, and any that I get I hang on the door of my closet. It's now the door of fame, and if you want to be on it, send me a letter. Or a postcard. Or a picture with some stamps. Or a care package. Anything!! If you want the address, let me know. Or, if you want to see that I am alive and well here, feel free to Skype with me!

Also, Thanksgiving here was completely successful! I gave presentations about American Thanksgiving to my 6th grade English classes, and then made handprint turkeys with my first grade English and a 2nd grade class. We wrote what we were thankful for on the fingers.

So American! I love this class

Saturday, we had the Roquetas Family Thanksgiving Dinner. It was pretty awesome, considering most of us had never cooked large amounts of food like that. I made mashed potatoes, and helped with 2 chickens, and made gravy from scratch with Jess, which was way more successful than our attempt to make spiced cider from scratch. I'm learning to cook without recipes....Tom, this is a huge deal! I forgot to take pictures of all of that though, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

All the girls at dinner.

Mi familia. I love this group of people.
The night was so fun. Talking, eating, laughing, drinking, eating, laughing, hanging out. It was exactly what we all needed, and made me a little less homesick. Getting to talk to my parents on the phone on actual Thanksgiving was definitely the highlight of it though! I loved getting cards from my mom and brother too!

PS: Aunt Betsy, I got your card, and I loved it and the pictures! I'm writing you back once I have paper here that's not graph paper ripped out of my notebook!

Love you all!

Amsterdam, with a little Malaga to start it off.

Since we had a long weekend, I met up with my friend Amanda to go visit Amsterdam. (Yes, I know we should have picked a better time since it's super cold there) Since we don't live that close to each other, we decided to meet in Malaga the day before our flight left from there. Malaga was amazing! It's on the southern coast, so we had pretty nice weather, and the city was decked out for Christmas! Compared to Amsterdam, it was about a million times  better, which was actually a little depressing. Amsterdam, I had high expectations for Christmas kinda failed. I could tell you a long story about everything we did, or I could show you some of my 300 pictures and then elaborate. One of those is easier, so that's what I'll be doing!

Since we had most of the afternoon, and all of the evening in Malaga, we did lots of tourist stuff. We visited the Cathedral, which was gorgeous as usual. I love walking through old cathedrals. I find them so calming and I always feel close to God in them. I stopped to say a prater and light a candle for Tom and his master's thesis, which seemed to work out well for him since he's defended it and is done!!

La Pieta in the cathedral. So cool.

I love orange trees. This is the pathway up to the Alcazaba.

In the Alcazaba. Ignore the crazy hair.

Malaga, I think I love you. (View from the Alcazaba.)

Christmas decorations as far as you can see. LOVE.

Rijksmuseum. And the park. 

Heineken Brewery. 

Fries with Mayonnaise. 

My delicious fried apple ball. I forget the Dutch name, but I love it.

Dam Square. I love the architecture. 

On our walking tour of Amsterdam.

This is Amsterdam. Lots of bridges, bikes and cool buildings.

Faro. I love this place.

Hidden garden in the middle of Amsterdam.

Anne Frank house. I want to smile, but felt weird. 
 Getting to tour the Anne Frank house was definitely the highlight of the trip! I've wanted to go there since I've read the diary, and after learning about the Holocaust, it was even deeper and more meaningful.

Our Lord in the Attic church.
 This church is amazing. It was a secret Catholic church from when Catholicism was outlawed in the 1500's (I think). This wealthy man built it in the attic of his house and 2 others and it has an organ and room for 300 people I think. I have so many pictures and things to talk about from this place. I loved this museum.

Heineken Brewery. Notice how I'm not standing in the bike lane.
I loved Amsterdam. I have more pictures, but I forgot to take pictures of important things, so here's the rundown of what we did.
Saturday: Heineken Brewery, walked around Amsterdam, explored 2 Christmas markets, and ate delicious food.
Sunday: Walking tour all over historic parts of Amesterdam, Anne Frank House, Van Gogh museum, Red Light District tour
Monday: Rijksmuseum, Diamond Museum, Our Lord in the Attic museum, shopping.

We left Tuesday morning super early (6:55) , and then immediately traveled home when we got to Malaga. I got home at 5:00, so it was a long day full of bus rides, but totally worth it! Amsterdam, I love you and I'm coming back for sure!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Teaching English and learning Spanish

I mostly love my job here. I go to different classes for an hour or a half hour every week, and I generally help out with the lesson for that time. My schedule is a little crazy because it's different every day, but I love it.

9:30-10: 1st grade English
10-11: 6th grade bilingual science
11-12: Plan time (otherwise known as an email and coffee break)
12-12:30: 6th grade English

9-10: 5th grade science
10-11: 3rd grade science
11-11:30: 3rd grade science
11:30-12: Plan time
12-1: 1st grade English

10-10:30: 6th grade bilingual science
10:30-11: same subject, different class
11-11:30: 1st grade art
11:30-12: Plan time
12-1: 2nd grade science

9:30-10: 6th grade English
10-11: 3rd grade music
11-11:30: 1st grade art

I help one teacher with 4 different classes, so we're getting into a rhythm, which I really like. She told me that she wants me to practice my Spanish, so usually she only talks to me in Spanish. She lets me do a lot with the classes, and since they're 5th and 6th grade, we can usually understand each other pretty well.

I love my first grade classes. I love how excited they are to teach me Spanish words and to learn words from me. I read a story to my first graders today, and they were totally involved in it, and then they sang their song about the colors of the rainbow in English for me, and it was totally precious.

My 6th grade English class on Mondays is basically me taking groups of students into the hall to practice conversation or pronunciation, and it is so much fun. They're loud, and sometimes out of control, but they love getting to talk to me. Since I have so many classes with 6th graders, I'm getting to know them and their personalities, so it's usually a pretty amusing time. They love telling me hi whenever they see me around the school. All of my students do, actually. One class was in PE in the courtyard when I walked through today, and they all stopped and started saying hi to me. So cute! The first graders love to give me hugs on the playground too. I love being with them, and I think they know that.

I definitely enjoy helping teach science, but since it's mostly from the textbook, and they are at a low level of English understanding, I can't use my summer camp background as much as I would like to. I am starting to figure out where the different classes are though, and I'm starting to do more in those classes.

I think the most interesting part is that I can't make it through a whole school day without speaking in Spanish to students. I usually slip into Spanish with the younger ones because that's all they speak to me when they have questions or want to tell me something, and with the older ones, sometimes I have to explain in Spanish what I said in English because it's a little complicated. I sometimes think that it would be easier if I didn't speak any Spanish at all, or was completely bilingual, but I am trying to make it all work. I think it doesn't help that I usually speak Spanish to the teachers, because they do want me to practice and get better, but in classes, I speak in English to everyone. I switch back and forth all day, and sometimes I don't even realize when I switch back and forth in normal conversation and in the same sentence. It's really cool, and I apologize in advance if I do it to you when I talk to you after I come home.

I learn a lot of Spanish by watching TV in Spanish with subtitles, or sometimes watching a favorite American show in English with Spanish subtitles. I really love some Spanish game shows to practice new words, and learn some random trivia. It's not being lazy, it's practicing my listening and learning to understand a Spanish accent!

I miss you guys so much, and I can't wait to be home for Christmas!! Here's a picture of me at the Alcazaba this weekend:
Just sitting on the top of the outer big deal.
Unos abrazo fuerte,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Culture Shock

I've been working on this list for a while, and I can't believe I forgot to write about this. Overall, I feel like I've adjusted pretty well into Spanish life and culture, but there are a few things that I didn't expect. Some are silly, some are awesome, and none of them are a huge deal, but they are things I notice. I'll probably keep adding to this list as I think of things.

  • Buying milk in "bricks" and not having it be refrigerated. Bricks are what you buy drinks giant juiceboxes. I'm totally fine with them, but not when it comes to my milk. I prefer to buy milk that's cold and in a plastic bottle.
  • Buying barras de pan (basically baguettes) every day or 2. I love fresh bread, and I'm so sad when it goes stale. I usually eat it too fast for that though.
  • Having no idea what the brands are. I could be buying store brand, or name brand for all I know. I usually just go with what looks best or is cheapest. This will hopefully last in the States.
  • An elementary school day here is from 9 to 2. It's awesome. The kids have a recess where they eat a breakfast or a snack, and then they go home for lunch.
  • Teachers here work 30 hours a week.
  • Always being concerned with bus fare. Not as big a deal now that I have my bus card, but I do have to reload it with more salvo fairly often.
  • I don't have a microwave in my piso! Shocking and a tragedy.
  • I had no idea how to use the washer at first...hooray for learning new Spanish vocabulary. I forgot to add in the spin cycle, so my clothes were DRIPPING wet.
  • Every apartment has a clothesline or drying rack for drying clothes on their terrace. Except us, we don't have a terrace, but we do have a drying rack. I thought it was tacky at first, but it's normal to me now.
  • Buying notebooks with grid lines instead of college ruled.
  • I teach British English. So I now have to learn new phrases in English too. (School bag = backpack, rubber = eraser, director = principal) Good thing I have a British roommate!
  • A teacher here told me she wants to go to Route 66 for her honeymoon. That's so random, and not that cool to us in the States, but it's super exotic for them here.
  • I've met almost as many people from the UK as Americans. Plus some Australians and Germans. We sang Happy Birthday in Spanish, English and German at a party on Thursday.
  • There's no tipping at restaurants. There's also no tax. You pay what it says and that's it. It's glorious,
  • Buy a drink (beer, wine, tinto, mosto) and get a free tapa. Tapas here are very small though, so it takes a few to fill you up.
  • Discipline in schools is different. Kids don't sit quietly very well.
  • Living in an apartment building with a locked front entrance. I have issues with this, because our lock is hard, and I've just started getting it open on the first try. I also have a video camera intercom to buzz people in with.
  • We buy so many huge water bottles. It seems wasteful, but you can't drink from the faucets here.
  • Eating dinner at 9 or 10 at night. Not only do they eat late, dinner is small because they eat a huge lunch. I still haven't figured this out.
  • Using 24 hour time on everything. I am getting really good at converting times though.
  • Having to recharge my cell phone with more salvo every few weeks. It's no fun when you can't call or text because you have no salvo (credit) left. Thank goodness for toques! That's when you call, let it ring once, and hang up without getting charged.
  • The school buses here are what we would call Charter buses. It's pretty cool.
  • I paid almost €4 for a little thing of peanut butter. I didn't know how much I missed it until it was gone. I ate it all in a
  • I still can't get used to having conversations in Spanish. Mostly because I can't believe that I can do it. I still make grammar and vocab mistakes, but I am definitely getting better.
That's all I have for now, but I'm sure there are more. I mean, it's only been a month and I've only been to 3 cities. (Sevilla, Almería/Roquetas and Jaen).

Abrazos y besos de España!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mi vida española

Hola! ¿Qué tal? Estoy bien, pero siempre toda tengo muchas cosas para hacer o gente para visitar.

It feels like I've been here forever already. I haven't had a chance to be homesick because I've been so busy making new friends and doing things. I don´t even remember the last time I updated, so bear with me if things get confusing.

There´s a group of about 8 English teachers in Roquetas. It seems like one person would meet another and somehow we all became a group. There are 5 other American girls, 1 English boy, 1 Australian boy, 2 teachers from Spain, and some other people who usually hang out together. I´m sure that at some point I´ll update more specifically, but it is REALLY HOT in this internet cafe, and I can't stand it.

I spent the past weekend in Jaen for the feria, and it was amazing. Amazing, exhausting, hangover-inducing, fun. Gotta love eating the whole weekend, staying up until 4am to go on rides at the fair, and sleeping the whole time you´re on a bus.

Maybe the best way to do this is to tell yall what I´ve done for the first time since I´ve been here:

  • Ride that terrifying boat ride that's always at fairs. You know, the one that swings a lot and makes me want to cry just looking at it? OWNED IT. 
  • Rode a mechanical bull ride called Rodeo Americano. I did Texas proud...I think.
  • Learned to take the head and legs off of shrimp so that I can continue eating my favorite seafood.
  • Bought a bus card! Cheaper fares and no worrying about having change!
  • Taught my British roommate how to make French Toast and something else American. do people live without French Toast?
  • Learned how many groceries can fit into one of my grocery bags. (not a lot, which means more small trips)
  • Stayed in a hostel. It was super nice, minus the fact that we had to wake up early the first morning to see if we could stay another night. We could, so we all went back to sleep.
  • Watched a full football game on TV. It was Man U v. Liverpool. 
  • Been the only American in a group of about 10. The rest were Australian, Scottish, or British. One girl just wanted to know if Houston really has 6 lane highways.
  • Ordered paella. My goal of learning to make it probably won´t work out.
  • Discovered that I really like Tinto Verano, which is a delicious wine drink here.
  • Went to a regatta! It was really fun, but extremely hot.
  • Found my new favorite sandwich: bacon and rellano cheese. It´s like a grilled cheese sandwich but a million times better. Bacon here is more like ham though.
  • Discovered that potato chips are really good dipped in the yolk of fried eggs. 
  • Eaten lots of ice cream, and learned way too many new words about food.
  • Taught in a 6th grade class.
  • Been to an Arabic baths spa. It was the highlight of my entire week and I need to find one in the States
I am so glad to be working in my school. I love my schedule, and I love most of the classes and teachers. Kids love to come say hi to me and then walk away. I´ve actually been going by Rebecca here in most classes, so that´s a change for me that I´m still not used to. There´s a first grader who has my name, and she loves coming to say hi to me. I can´t understand little kid Spanish, but I do know that they like me and that I think they´re hilarious. One class says new vocabulary in Spanish first for me and then they try the English words. This is without their teacher telling them to do that.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Why I Never Update

I´m still looking for an apartment, and the hotel internet was terrible, so I haven´t been able to update as much. I am technically couch surfing at a friend´s right now, but we have a 2 bedroom to look at today, and if we like it, we´re moving in tomorrow! Cross your fingers that it all works out and that Tom (not the boyfriend, but my future roommate) and I can finally have a place. At least it worked out that we can look for places together since we both don´t want to live on our own!

I spent my birthday having tapas the night before and then running around on the beach and wading in the ocean at midnight. I´ll post pictures when I get them! Yesterday I hung out with Tom and we explored the ¨castle¨here and walked all around town and up the beach. I did finally get ice cream here, but it wasn´t as good as the place we went to in Sevilla, so that´s no fun.

Love you all! Miss you guys and I can´t wait to get internet in an apartment! I also can´t wait to wash my clothes and move out of my suitcases!!

Monday, September 26, 2011


It took a week, but I finally realized that I'm not actually coming home anytime soon. I think moving to a new town where I don't know anyone, missing Tom's birthday, not knowing how to go about finding an apartment, and not really having a reason to celebrate my birthday later this week all added up, and it just got to be too much. I spent all day today running around trying to do errands, and going back and forth on the bus, and by dinner time I just wanted to hear English spoken and not have to worry about what I was saying or not saying. I found the "official" English pub here and went and had cottage pie with fries and peas and it made life just a little bit better. Also, English accents make me happy. It was weird to be able to understand conversations going on around me, which just shows how little English I've heard since I'm here. Even in the hotel lobby, I hear German, and French and probably some other languages I don't know, but little English. It's weird.

Tomorrow I'll be going to start the process of getting me TIE (basically an identification card that lasts longer than a visa and expires when I'm done working) and then I'll keep trying to figure out the apartment situation. It should be a very long, very tiring day. This is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, and I cannot wait until I am married so that I have someone to share the pressure with. I think that the hardest part is doing it all on my own, but at least I'm doing it.

I need to go to bed, but Karioke is happening in the lounge, which is practically under my room, so it's not super quiet, which is annoying.

I am (hopefully) getting in really good shape. I got lost in Almeria today, and walked up and down quite a lot of hills, plus did my normal walking around Las Marinas and to the school. If I get the apartment I looked at, I'll have a short walk to school and the bus stops, a medium walk to different grocieries, and a long walk to the beach and the resturants/pubs. I guess that's a good thing. I still want a roommate though, so cross your fingers that one of the teachers at the school wants a roommate.

Picture update? I think so! Nothing too exciting to show, but still fun:
Train Station. All the little ones look somewhat like this. I saw about a million.

Spanish countryside between Sevilla and Granada.

Granada from the train. I will be going back.

No big deal, just standing in the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean. And some Spanish sunglasses since I lost mine already. LAME.

Love you all! Leave comments if you have questions about things or are confused. It's usually late when I do this, and I forget things.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

El Alcazar translates to "most amazing palace ever"

Hola! Estas 23:44 in Sevilla. (Hi! It's 11:44 PM in Sevilla) I am already exhausted from this week, and it's just started. It's been great though- I've made some friends who are all working in Grenada, which isn't that close, but at least I'm not a loner in the corner. Actually, that's not true. I'm in the corner with my friends. We had a tapas party tonight to meet other people in the towns, and we all just took the time to talk and get to know each other. It should be fun to see how we keep in touch and see each other. I guess that means we need to get cell phones soon!

Sevilla is beautiful. I'm staying in an amazing neighborhood, and when I walk to class or orientation, I get to walk past amazing buildings and fountains. If I knew what they all were, and the history, it'd be even cooler, but I'm not complaining. To start my history of Spain learning, I went to the Alcazar with a group of CIEE kids.

It was beyond amazing. The Alcazar was first built in the 9th century AD and it's the oldest royal residence in Europe because Rey Juan Carlos still stays there with his family when he's in Sevilla. It's been added onto and renovated as different powers and rulers lived there, but it has a lot of Moorish influence. Cool fact I learned: the Muslims used the color green to represent God, so there was lots of green in the decorations. I also learned that Sevilla was once the only gateway to the Americas! It's so weird to think about how far things have come. I'm having lots of "I can't believe I'm actually in Spain" moments, so expect to hear about them.

I'm sure you don't actually want to just hear about this place, so here are my favorite pictures from the trip:

The Puerto del Leon, entrance into Alcazar
An original arch from the 9th century Moorish palace.

Walking up to the main rooms. See how every section is different?

View of "los jardines" from a walkway on the wall.

One of the private rooms I believe.

View from courtyard into private rooms.

I love this courtyard! Apparently a Spanish Rey covered it up and turned it into a "salon de baile"

Arches in the private rooms

This is in the part built by the Catholic royalty. I don't think that this was a chapel, but I  could be wrong..

A door in one of the courtyards...

Me and the Alcazar are tight now.
I have 124 pictures from 1 trip, so if you want to see more, I'm sure you can.