Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Please let this be a normal fieldtrip...

....With the Friz? No way!

And  yes, I do think of that show every time I go on a field trip. Xplorations camp, you've ruined me with watching episodes at every lunch!

Anyway, I got to take a field trip to the Sierra Nevada with the 6th grade at my school. I was really excited because 1) I got to go someplace new that had snow! 2) I've gotten to know most of the 6th graders between all of my classes and 3) Who doesn't love field trips??

We had to be at the school by 7am, so one of the teachers offered to pick me up at 6:30am. Apparently, Wednesday was the only day I didn't wake up on time. Either my alarm didn't go off, or I slept through it. Waking up late on the one day I needed to be out early sucked. Luckily, I live on the main road to Almeria and the highway, so the bus was able to stop at the bus stop in front of my house and pick me up after it left the school. It was one of the weirdest moments in life, and I am so thankful for the relaxed Spanish culture- none of the teachers minded, they just teased me about it and then it was done.

The Sierra Nevadas were AMAZING. I'm pretty sure we were close to Mulhacen, which is part of the Sierra Nevadas, which are part of the Penibaetic Chain of mountains. It's also the tallest mountain in the Iberian Peninsula, and the 2nd tallest in Spain. The first is in the Balearic Islands. See how well I retained that knowledge from class after getting to put a location to a name?

We started off with snowshoeing through a forest, which was totally fun since I've never snowshoed before, and most of the kids hadn't either. I got to help about half of them put on their snowshoes, and now I know what it's like to be a parent and take your child somewhere with snow gear- a huge hassle to even get them ready to go. But the kids loved getting to be in the snow and it was so much fun to watch them play. Some of them even decided to get me covered in snow, so I've officially been accepted by them.

Afterwards, we headed to go sledding. I'm pretty sure most of the kids had never sledded before, and I'm somewhat of an expert, so I was thrilled that I got to go sledding with some of them. I love getting to be a kid! Watching them wipe out and laugh and have the time of their lives was so funny- these kids were the most excited I've ever seen them.

Once we'd all had our fill, we headed down into the ski resort town to have lunch and then go tubing and ride ski bikes I got to have a hot lunch with the teachers since the school was paying for all of us, which was exactly what I needed. I was so thrilled to go tubing with the kids, since it's my favorite thing about winter next to Christmas and snow angels, and the kids loved having the teachers hang out with them. I also tried the ski bikes, which are bikes without pedals and wheels and with skis instead. I am not a fan. Too much work, but I tried them since the kids wanted me to and they thought it was HILARIOUS. Note: most of my pictures are the kids waiting in line. It's hard to take pictures while tubing, or good action shots from behind a mesh fence.

We finally got home at about 8:30pm, so it was one of the longest teaching days of my life, but so cool. I love getting to experience new things, and a day in the Sierra Nevadas was something I didn't think would be possible. I even got to try new winter sports- now I just need to try snowboarding and I can be well-rounded with my winter sport attempts!


If you don't know this already, I am NOT fluent in Spanish. I earned a minor in Spanish at OU with a solid 3.0 average....which means I always got a B, no matter how hard I did or didn't study....which probably says a lot about me and my Spanish skills, but I'm too tired to figure that out right now. Anyway, I was supposed to have 2 weeks of immersion classes and a homestay before departing to my current hometown, since I knew I needed quite a bit of help. 

With the visa drama, I got 1 week of classes mixed with orientation. I took a beginner class (because you can only do so well on a speaking test when you're jetlagged and sleep deprived and 1 day in a new country) and a grammar class that I adored. Which is ironic, because I HATE learning grammar. But I guess if you put me in a room with a hilariously awesome teacher and 3 other girls, I'll actually get some practice and learn some new things. I'm pretty sure that one day with him made conjugating the preterite tense easier than all my years of college Spanish did. 

So, after 1 week, I felt confident enough to order food and get a taxi and MAYBE carry on a conversation. Then I had to buy a cell phone, find an apartment, deal with a landlord, start work, learn where to buy a bus card, groceries and all the other things you have to do when you move to a new city. I started to feel slightly confident in my grasp of Spanish.

Then I started getting to know teachers and kids at school, and they wanted to talk to me. I basically felt like I was starting at zero. I loved that kids wanted to get to know me and tell me things, but when they spoke fluent  Spanish, I was stuck. I did a lot of nodding and smiling and referring them to the other teachers. It sucked, and it still sucks sometimes.

I have some awesome teachers who've taken it upon themselves to push me to converse in Spanish though. They put up with my mistakes, and when I have to change to English, and they teach me new phrases and nicely correct my stupid grammar mistakes. I also started going to an intercambio where we speak in Spanish for a half hour and English for a half hour, which has been really helpful to be with people who all want to improve their language skills, because no one makes me feel stupid when I make mistakes.

I think the biggest barrier for me improving my Spanish has been me. I want to be perfect, and I feel so dumb when I speak in Spanish because I have to go slowly, and I make stupid mistakes, and sometimes I can't even get numbers right. (Seriously, I gave too much money at the post office today, Luckily she was super nice about it and laughed and reminded me what she'd said...and of course I totally understood then.) If I can speak in English, I can communicate what I want to say, but sometimes no one will understand that. I do a lot of charades in class, and I've realized I just need to get over myself and my fear of looking foolish. I did a pretty great job acting out directions as I gave them (in English) to a class of 2nd graders, and it was pretty awesome to see kids who got it. They felt pretty cool too. My first grade art kids are getting better at responding to questions about colors in English, and they love answering me in English, and I love when they do. There's a lot of high fiving and excited smiles going on when I talk to them, and I love it.

This experience makes me think about how I reacted to people who were learning English in the States. I know a lot of us want everyone who moves to the States to know our language right away, but sometimes it's not possible. It wasn't possible for me to learn Spanish before I came, so how can I expect people to learn English right away? I also think that I sometimes dismissed people who weren't fluent. I didn't have the patience to take the time to talk with them because it was hard to cross the language barrier, or too much time and effort, but I would be so hurt if someone did that to me. I know I make mistakes as soon as I make them, and I feel stupid, but my teachers and friends are patient with me, and never write me off. I have so much more empathy for ESL learners now, and that's a great thing. I need to make sure I tell them when they're making progress, because I love hearing from native speakers that my Spanish is getting better. Ana's fiance doesn't speak English at all, so hearing him laugh at a story I told in Spanish and tell me that I'm getting better means so much more.

It's a cycle of positivity- I get positive or constructive feedback, and I want to continue practicing. I've gotten so much better at past tenses, and I've almost grasped the differences between por/para, which is a BIG DEAL for me. I need to pay all this positivity forward, and hopefully I can do that in a bilingual ESL class. First, I just have to master Spanish....poco a poco...little by little.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Trip to Guadix

I was supposed to go to Morocco for the puente, but that didn't work out. My teacher friend Ana invited me to go to her hometown of Guadix for the weekend with her and her boyfriend, and I'm so glad I got to experience life in an older Spanish town.

Guadix from the top of the town.
Ana and Jose are both from Guadix, so they did a great job showing me the important things in their town. Ana informed me today that I'm now an expert on Guadix since I've been to the cathedral, the barrio de cuevas, all over the town, and to the big cemetery in the town. (By the way, I got to see friars (I think they're friars...they had the long brown robes) for the first time. There's an order that takes care of the cemetery and they live on the property).

The first place we went was the cathedral, but it cost money to walk around so we didn't go. We went on Sunday morning, and it was absolutely gorgeous, but I didn't take any pictures. As we were walking, there were beams of light coming through the stained glass windows, and one beam landed right on top of the votives in front of a chapel. It couldn't have been planned any better- totally felt the Holy Spirit there with us! We listened to a little bit of the misa (mass) in the smaller church, and that was pretty cool, even if I didn't understand most of it.

In front of the cathedral

Right under the tower.
There's a statue of Christ on top of the tower that moves! It does one rotation every day, which is pretty cool.  My pictures of the cathedral aren't that great, but it's absolutely GORGEOUS.

We also walked around one of the squares in the old part of the town, and it had gorgeous buildings! One was the police

Ana y yo en una plaza con el catedral.

Roquetas has nothing like this.
Afterwards, Jose drove us out the the barrio de cuevas (neighborhood of caves) where all the houses are at least partially caves in the rock. He lived there when he was little, and pointed out where his other family members used to live. It was so cool! Some of the cuevas don't even look like caves because they have a house outside the rock, and more inside, while others are houses for poor families and are basically caves with a door and window.

 If it has a white chimney, that's a pretty good way to tell if it's a cueva. There are tons behind me.

Looks like a regular neighborhood, but totally different when you realize you can't see the rooms that are in the caves.

Poorer houses, and tons of the mountains/hills around Guadix.

One of the cueva houses up close! I was fascinated. They're the same temperature inside (20 degrees C) all year, so they don't require a lot of heating or cooling.

Basic house in a cueva.

Not so basic house in a cueva.

We ate lunch at Ana's house with her parents, and her mom made us amazing food! Lunch is the biggest meal here, and also when you eat with family, so it was a great meal. We had a salad of tuna, lettuce, olives, tuna, and some other vegetables with sliced oranges that was pretty good. It's a different mix of flavors for me, but it's Jose's favorite, so that was cool to try something he really liked. For the main course we had paella marisco (seafood paella)! I absolutely LOVE paella marisco, and Ana's mom makes a delicious one. It was absolutely gorgeous too! It had mussels, clams, squid, octopus, shrimp, and even some small lobster looking things. Ana's dad and Jose enjoyed watching me deal with the lobster, because it was completely whole, and totally unnerving. I really can't enjoy having my food served to me with its eyeballs still attached, but I'm totally fine with taking it all apart to get the meat out. I ate so much, and was completely stuffed, and I loved it. For dessert we had fresh fruit, which was perfect!

La Calahorra
We drove out to another village called La Calahorra to see the Castle de la Calahorra, which was built from 1509 to 1512. It was for the Marquis de Zenete, and it's right on top of a hill so you can see it from far away and the castle has amazing views of the area around it. It's only open on Wednesday, so we weren't able to go inside, but I took picture of the outside! I love the round towers with the domes on top- so cool!

Walking up to the castle was a hike, but it was totally worth it to see the views. I can imagine that an enemy would have thought twice about attacking this place! There's nowhere to hide, and it's so steep!

One of the towers. It's not fancy on the outside, but it sure is intimidating!

No big deal, just hanging out in the window, trying to see inside the castle. There wasn't anything to see in my ruin of a tower.

Part of the Sierra Nevadas. I miss snow. How weird is it that this is only an hour and a half from the beach?

Random balcony on the side. Perfect for Rapunzel or Juliet.

Sunday we walked around town for a bit, and drove to see the cemetery. It was huge, with tons of tombs above ground and elaborate gravestones on top. They're all packed in tightly, and there's no grass anywhere. Very different from what I think of when I think of American cemeteries. Another thing that was strange to me was that they have the walls full of tombs. In the states, it's normally where we place people's ashes when they're cremated, but this was for full burials. In front, they have the tombstones, and most of them have color photos of the person buried there so that their family and friends can remember what they looked like. I really liked that idea. You could tell that people visited a lot because there were fresh flowers on almost every grave, and there were quite a few people visiting graves. Ana and Jose were visiting the grave of a friend of Jose's who died in a car accident in high school, and I was busy practicing my Spanish. (DEP is descanso en paz....Rest in Peace.)

Speaking of Spanish, I'm getting better. I spent most of the weekend speaking Spanish, and Ana and Jose were nice enough to tell me that I'm getting a lot better. The problem I have is with verbs. I know how to conjugate them, but sometimes I forget when I'm trying to get an idea out quickly, or I use the wrong tense without meaning to. They're both nice about correcting me, so I don't feel too stupid making mistakes. I really need to write about my feelings when it comes to learning a language by immersion, but it's hard to put into words sometimes.

Ana's mom spoiled us again with a lunch that was amazing. A big salad and then cannolinis with spinach, tuna and cheese and Bearnaise sauce. (I think that's what the sauce was) I didn't know if I'd like them, but they were delicious and I ate three. She even gave me some to take home, so I've got a dinner for tomorrow! Her parents were so nice and welcoming to me, and I loved getting to go home with Ana and be part of her family for the weekend. I can't wait to see my family in June!

Un beso por todos,

Dia de Andalucia

Tuesday, February 28th is Andalucia Day which is the day they celebrate our autonomous region. (Here's what I understand about this: Spain has autonomous regions, which are made up of provinces. I live in the Almeria province in Andalucia. Sevilla, Granada, Jaen, Almeria, Cordoba, Helva, Cadiz, and Malaga are the provinces of Andalucia.) Anyway, it's kinda like a statehood day where they celebrate the things that Andalucia is known for.
flags of Roquetas de Mar, Andalucia, Spain,  and European Union

Raising the Andalucia flag while the anthem played
The kids had been working on art projects for the past week or so, but I forgot to take pictures of most of them. (This is what happens when you leave your camera at home.) I did get pictures of the plates the first and second graders made, and they're so cool! Love the creativity...and that it seems like parents did it with their kids. I'm all for an activity the whole family can help with.

Picture's upside down so the projects are right side up.
Sadly, I missed the school market because the buses were on a weird schedule where 3 came right before I walked out my door and then none (that were in service) came for 40 minutes. So lame. But, I did get to have the typical Andalusian breakfast of bread with olive oil (aceite de oliva) or tomato (tomate). I'm sure none of you are shocked to learn that I chose olive oil. I'm not a fan of tomato, especially in the morning. The whole school got breakfast, and they loved it! Some of the kids were running around with seconds and thirds.

My first grade teacher, Ana, had made us both tissue paper roses for our hair, so I got to look like a Sevillana, which the kids, and the teachers, totally loved. It was big, and sat right over my right ear, and all of my little kids kept coming up and telling me how beautiful I was that day. It's the little things in life! But it did make me feel more like a participant in the celebrations, and not just a bystander, so it was awesome!

Each grade performed a poem about Andalucia, and we had some girls from the older grades dance in between, and the first grade also had some girls perform a Sevillana, which is a type of dance from Andalucia. Ana and I want to take flamenco lessons now- it is SUCH a cool type of dance, and I love all the precision of hands and feet.
Some of my first grade girls.

The group.

The rest of the first graders.
The poems were good, but I loved the little preschooler who messed up his line, then caught himself and started over. He wasn't even bothered by it- so typical of little kids. I was pretty excited that I could understand one of the jokes one student told. It had nothing to do with Andalucia, but I understood all of it!

One of the preschool classes. 
English recap: A teacher asks his students to tell him a word that starts with S. (D in the original joke). A student says "yesterday" ("ayer" in Spanish). The teacher says that the word doesn't start with an S (D) and the student says it does because yesterday was Sunday (Domingo)!

3 of my 3rd graders.
....I know....little kid humor. But I think it's funny, and the kids telling the jokes thought it was HILARIOUS.
Some of my 6th graders.

3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th grade girls dancing.
Overall, it was a fun day, and I got to learn about the different regions of Andalucia. There's a fiesta at the school on Tuesday, so if I'm around, I'll probably stop by that!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Carnaval en Mi Escuela!

Today was the Carnaval celebration at my school, so I decided to go since I don't have any plans for this Friday off. I am SO glad that I got to go. It was a gorgeous day outside, and warm enough I didn't need my jacket, so getting to stand outside and watch the students perform was so cool. We don't have an auditorium at school, but there's a raised stage in the patio between the buildings, and that's where all the events happen. Lots of parents came to watch and take pictures, so that was fun.

Carnaval was like Halloween in the States with songs. The kids were all in costumes, and they ranged from jobs, to skeletons to princesses to flamenco dancers to rappers. So precious. Most of them were themed to go with their performance, which made it all more adorable.

So, here are some videos and pictures of all the festivities!

One of my first grade classes. Note the clump of kids hugging me.

My 2nd grade did a project on the Solar System.
First and second grade in their job costumes.

 Please ignore that the sound cuts out when I zoom in and out. I wasn't aware of that until today, and it makes me sad!
Part of the 3rd grade skeletons.
This song has the same melody to a Portuguese song that is a HUGE hit here.

6th grade rappers. I love these kids.

Hope you enjoyed seeing a little bit of my students and our school!