Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Oh, what a stroopwaffle can do...

I worked all day, so I sent Allison around the city with a map filled with red x's, landmark names, and "Donde estas..." written on the top. The first time that I experienced being in a city and not understanding a word of what anyone was saying was in France...when I carried around a little one euro book around and awkwardly tried to pronounce the many lettered words. Anyways, I give her kudos. I was very relieved when we texted back and forth to meet up later at the Alonso Martinez metro and she appeared, unscathed and with a camera full of pictures. We got a cup of coffee as a pick-me-up, and then rode back to good ol' Batan for some food, shopping, and relaxion. While I was home I talked about cheap concerts that are going on as part of the October festival here, and so we decided to see the musical entertainment of the night-- Gustav.

She's pretty ridiculous. I would check her out.

Gustav--basically a super cute woman from Vienna mixing music, rythms, and sound effects on her laptop while singing with a powerful voice about what I'm informed of it very dark political topics (I don't speak Dutch yet...). I would say a little bit Rilo Kiley + Regina Specktor like?

Do to a wrong turn we ended up with nearly running into her and we said our congrats and thank-yous for her intense performance. Then we proceeded to our night out, which meant the "la latina" barrio--an eccletic neighborhood filled with some of the cutest and most unique bars and restaurants Madrid has to offer...complete with a young crowd) with the Americans. We wandered from place to place looking for a glass of wine less than 3 euros, and finally decided just to suck it up, wander into the nearest shop still open, grab wine, and sit in the plaza with the spaniards. I love this tradition of "botellon," or drinking openly in public. And the bars didn't seem to mind, as they were still packed inside and outside with customers. I still haven't gotten over how so many restaurants and bars stay open here; there are tons. In the plaza we were approached by english-speaking Quique with his Abercromie shirt who made a comment relating Obame to Kobe. Having a great time but wary of the last metro, Allison and I sprinted to catch the last metro, which leaves its starting point at 1:30. We got through the first switch but missed the second. I had heard of the night bus from Ricardo so I decided to ask another bus driver where to go...We followed his advice and ended up in shady surrounding without a clue how to get back. Luckily, after hailing a taxi we were back, safe.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Visitor from Amsterdam :)

Today-- I had my first really successful lesson today. I led a debate about school uniforms in complete Model UN protocol--Elaine would be so proud! The kids were phenomenal, getting up in front of the class and talking, having a moderated caucus and unmoderated caucus, and--this is the best part--one kid told me ¨We´re going to have a meeting at the cinema this weekend to discuss.¨ Hahaha. The bell rang and they all sat in their seats instead of jumping up and leaving, and one student even said ¨motion to suspend debate¨and they voted. I know this is a dorky post, but I really am so proud and it feels so good to see them working hard and learning. Sigh...

Allison Berger is here, in Madrid! Yay to my first visitor! Yesterday we went out for some traditional Mexican food... in Spain, haha. Well, it´s the same language at least. It was at a hole in the wall called La Panza es Primero (aka The Stomach is First) on high recommendations from a friend. We went with my roomie Alex, and then walked around Chueca, Gran Via, and Arguelles to get a little more of an idea about what Madrid is all about. Each neighborhood is so distinct, and this was my first time getting to know Chueca. Veryyy, verrry posh. Very, how would you say, european glamour-esque. Also famous as the gay district. Then, Gran Via is pretty much Times Square in Spain, and Arguelles is reminescent of Washington D.C. Have I mentioned how much I love this city!

Tuesday and Wednesday--
I was sick....ew... and pretty incapacitated. As the other posts suggest, I´m feeling much better now :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

A case of the Mondays!

A good friend here told me to think about the week starting on Sunday instead of Monday, and see what that does to your perception of it. Sundays in Madrid are like Sundays in many European countries and I'm sure in countries around the world--things shut down completely, forcing you to spend time either at home or in cafes with friends. So, mentally starting a week on Sunday is like mentally putting yourself in a state of relaxation from the beginning, instead of a frantic work mode.

Today was a Sunday, Monday week. I relaxed yesterday, hugging my computer in sweats, and I embraced staying in my apartment. I am working on creating a business for all the english functions I could possibly do competently--editing, translation, and tutoring is what it's looking like. I worked on that for most of the day, along with classroom plans, and catching up with people. Not the most exciting news to report, but, hey---I'm updating my blog...progress!

Today I woke up very early to head to school and print out my worksheets. It such a diverse subject world that I'm in right now. I taught Health and Sickness first period with an activity that tried to make the students interact and present material themselves (direct quote from the teacher was "Spanish students don't know how to do group activities¨). The second period I worked on Global Classrooms explaining how to research a country and the protocol that goes along with the innerworkings of the United Nations. Third period I edited English papers with fiction stories about a boy who has a job he's embarrassed about. Gotta love it. I also asserted my authority today, something I've been remiss about doing in the past since we're technically not supposed to enforce it as teaching assistants. It felt a lot better not being so passive, and also I feel like kids respect you more when you are able to discipline (for the right reasons and in the correct way, of course).
We'll see where tonight takes me. I want to try an Argentinian tango lesson at 8...and if not I would like to see a play here sometime soon. This whole month is a festival where many differnt theatre companies come and perform.

I'll let you know!


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Living the "madrileno" life

I walked into school Thursday with the intent of being my most enthusiastic, positive self possible. The day before I had been feeling a little down since the material I was trying to present seemed to be boring the kids to death, and it was also very elevated language~ even for native English speakers. I took it very personally that they seemed dismayed and like they would rather be any place but there.

I have the philosophy that you can transmit your energy to other people, and that even the most subtle difference is noted and reciprocated in others. For example, if I walk into the classroom and feel stressed, or tired, or sad about something, that energy (or lack thereof) is noted subconciously if not conciously by others, and their behavior and attitude bounces off of yours. Therefore, especially as a teacher, it's up to you to bring the most positive attitude into the classroom with you, and then to keep the energy up as if you were on the bleachers at Beaver stadium during an exciting game (by the way I heard we won yesterday--wooo!).

I didn't really have class with the kids too much on Thursday, but I know that on Monday I'm going to try a fun activity and see what happens...I'm trying to bring as much creativity to the table as possible.

That night I went around exploring La Latina with a new spanish friend named Edu. He's works in marketing/advertising and is really interesting to talk to. Plus, it's great to have a friend from Madrid to show me around. I love the La Latina neighborhood. It has a unique bar and restaurant on every corner, and they are all amazing! It reminds me of my mental image of a San Francisco/ Los Angeles scene...even though I've never been there. We ended up eating in a new organic restaurant (yay!) with buffet style food (yay!) that was incredibly delicious (yay yay yay!).


Friday afternoon I was determined to find a cafe with wifi that felt cozy so that I could write and get work done. I had been on the search for a good one, but with all of the smokers here it was hard to find one where my eyes didn't hurt from the smoke and my lungs weren't turning black in the gray haze.

I decided to center my search on Tribunal, since it is an area known for its cute cafes, and I hadn't really gotten to know the neighborhood yet. I was walking down the street when I found a used book store. Even though I told myself that I wasn't allowed to buy any more books until I was done reading the ones that I had, my book buyer compulsion propelled me into the store before I could say "no mas libros." The store has that old library book smell, with some of the books yellowed from pre-Franco days. It also has a funky mix of music--contemporany Spanish to Broadway musicals to "Shout!" (which brought up memories of many a Kleeb DJ'ed party). I found another Mario Vargas Llosa book, and also bought one recommend by the sales clerk. Then I asked him if they had free wifi, and they do! The best part is they have an espresso machine with free espresso!!! So I sank into on a plush green velvet chair with my computer on my lap, books at my side, and an espresso in hand. That is going to be my official writing place from now on I think.

That night I learned first-hand what it was like to be a Madrileno. I met up with Erin and her co-workers at a "teturia" in Lavapies, a diverse neighborhood with some of the best ethnic restaurants in all of Madrid. On the way I saw a 9-11 conspiracy exhibit, and one radical american talking about it to others. I tried to talk to him to discuss his point of view, etc. but he was wrapped up in conversation. It was interesting hearing some of the Spanish points of view though. Erin left to go to a club, so I ended going out with her co-workers to malasana, the best partying street in Madrid, to meet up with one of her co-workers Chilean boyfriend and his friends. We stayed at the bar to around 2:30-3 until with got kicked out, and then we walked to calle Huertas, which has things open until very late. We ended up at El Son, a salsa bar, and I finally got to dance Salsa! We stayed there until 6:30 when the place closed! Then, we all went to get churros at a Churreria. I ended up taking the metro back to my place at 8 AM! It was definitely the spanish way to party. My poor American body still isn't accustomed, therefore I slept until 5:30 PM on Saturday. How horrible! But, it was worth it for such a fun, "cultural" night.


Like I just said, Saturday didn't really begin for me until 5:30, so I had to scramble to get some errands done. I'm also working on editing the English of scientific documents written by non-native speakers, so I worked on that for the majority of the night.

Afterwards, I grabbed Eternal Sunshine and headed over to my friend Liz, Anna, and Michelle's apartment in between Arguelles and San Bernardo. We played a game (called something like 5 letters?) which was hilarious even though I was horrible. Then, we decided to stay in, eat some popcorn, and watch a movie. It was perfect for the rainy night we had.


Well, here I am, on Sunday, trying to get things prepared for tomorrow for work and for tutoring. I really do intend to keep undating, so I'll write more soon!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wow...it's been a while

This post is dedicated to Hailey Apter.

Wow, so it's been a long time since I've posted. I haven't been living up to my goals of blog posting, but it my new month's resolution to get better. I'm sorry! Thanks Hailey for kicking my butt :).

So...as you can imagine, some things have happened from the time I first wrote (those crazy days of staying in a hostel, looking for an apartment, not knowing anything about the city other than the Sol metro stop, trying to get a cell phone is spite of Spanish siesta times, etc.) I have found an apartment with two wonderful roomates named Ricardo and Alex, two journalism students at the complutense *pictures to come.

I'm living in Batan, a little suburby area that about 10-15 minutes to the center by metro, a little sad that I can't walk into the center but I'm getting a lot of reading done during the ride! Also, my room is nice and big and I have a pretty view from my window. Again, the roomates make it all worth it.

I'm teaching in a bilingual school in Boadilla del Monte, a small town about 45 minutes from my apartment. I teach the 12 and 14 year olds, and I help out with all different types of classes (technology to science to history). It's pretty insane the level of English these kids already have, and the fact that they're learning all of their subject material in a different language is kind of unreal. In addition, I'm helping the older kids on Model UN. Every year in February we have a model UN conference in Madrid. These kids are going to represent a country and go to the model UN this year, speaking the whole time in English. How exciting!

Also, I'm trying to get a couple of projects done while I'm here. I would like to start a bilingual magazine (which is much facilitated by the fact that I have two journalists as roomies). I would also like to work on a project about immigration dialogue in schools, since immigration is becoming a big problem in Spain and they don't seem to know how to handle it.

I want to take a salsa class--not done yet--as well as sit in on a class at the university, but, as the Spanish say...poco a poco. I mean, I have an apartment, a bank account, and I just went through the final procedure to get my NIE spanish identification card today, so I feel like I'm on the right track.

All in all I'm feeling very busy but satisfied. I really love Madrid and it is a great city to live in. Also, the other fulbrighters are incredibly sweet people, and I'm even meeting other Spaniards/ people from other countries.

This is going to be a memorable year, I know that for sure.

P.S. I went to Valencia last weekend. Check out pictures on facebook!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Day 2: Getting my footing

I was in for a slippery walk around Madrid in my Old Navy flip-flops. Not the most comfortable for the slick stone streets of the city. I tripped twice, once on the sidewalk and once during a mad rush to the hostel so we could make it before check-out time. I got a cell phone from the sales clerk named Elvis, who incidentally interspersed all of the conversation with song bites that he sang (even getting the other sales clerks to sing along to one that he played out of his cell phone--"I got my mojo working"). Adena and I moved everything into her apartment (if you'd like a mental picture, take 3 flights of stairs, 3 suitacases weighing 50-60 pounds, and 2 smaller- framed girls- and then laugh). But we made it, and got all of her stuff moved in. Her roomate was so sweet to let me keep my stuff there so that we didn't have to worry about anything valuable getting stolen while it was at the hostel. The day ended with a walk around the city, where Adena and I found out about Grand Via and all of these other beautiful places that I didn't know existed before. Madrid started to grow on me in that walk and is growing on me every day. One of my highlights was an older woman belting "Besame Mucho" in the subway station. It's a very dynamic city, and each neighborhood is unique.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

All my bags are packed an I'm ready to go...

It's a couple hours before I'm off on a plane towards Spain. I haven't found an apartment yet, so I am a little more nervous than if I knew everything was already taken care of. Hopefully I'll have no trouble finding one with"superguay" roomates *very cool*. I'm staying at a hostel, and I should be able to get a phone card once I get to spain. Also, hopefully I can pick up the wifi from the hostel and send something via e-mail.

I feel like it's the first day of school again. It seems harder to leave this time and I'm getting the butterflies in the stomach, but I'm sure once I get there it will sink in and everything will be okay.

I hope that anyone studying in a european country or anyone who decides to come take a trip to europe can come and see me. I am incredibly blessed to have such wonderful people in my life and I don't want to lose contact.

Lots of love,