Friday, November 29, 2013

European Thanksgiving

I am aware that this post is late, but I have too much to be thankful for not to share. So, better late than never, right?

I also decided that I had too much to be thankful for so it couldn't merely be a Facebook post. It had to be a blog. About my (European) Thanksgiving.  

Things I am thankful for this year:

1. Snow
My day started out with a walk along snow-lined streets to the metro. It was the first day it snowed in the city and it made me super excited. I didn't get a picture of the snow covered palace on my way to school, but I did snap one on the way home (although most of the snow was melted). Nevertheless, I was so thankful for the snow - my first white holiday. 

2. Thanksgiving Meals
I can feel my loved ones back home laughing about this post - I am not a fan of Thanksgiving food. I'm not the greatest fan of white potatoes of any sort, turkey, yams, etc. But I knew I would miss it anyway. My school made this amazing feast for Teacher Appreciation Day. All with food that is usually not traditionally eaten in Spain. They even put marshmallows (my favorite part of Thanksgiving) in the yams! They even had pumpkin pie! This was an amazing thing that made me so incredibly happy. 

My plate of turkey, green beans (with ham), stuffing (with ham), mashed potatoes, yams and marshmallows, gravy and cranberry sauce. Yes, my school is that awesome!

3. My coworkers/my school
I work with amazing people who have made my transition to Spain an easier one than it could have been. My school does amazing things (like Thanksgiving feasts, complete with decorations and a traditional American meal). Also, the students are such a joy. I couldn't ask for a better place to work.

My fellow Valdebernardo Auxiliares, our bilingual coordinator and myself. 

4. My CIEE Family
These are the first people I met in Spain. In two and a half months, I have been with some of them through the thick and thin of adjusting to life in Spain. I couldn't have better people in my group and am so appreciative that I got to meet them first. Because of CIEE, I have people in Spain I can call anytime of the day or night if I ever need anyone. I always have someone. 

Also, I would like to take this space to say that I am thankful for the time I got to spend with Stephen, a member of my CIEE family. He unfortunately had to go home early. On behalf of your CIEE family, we miss you and hope you can eventually make it back to Spain. Feel better soon, man.

5. My friends (yes, Brett, even you)
I couldn't have a better support system of people back home. Yesterday, when I got home from work, as I was missing my family because I'm in Europe for Thanksgiving, I discovered a Christmas card from my friend Erin and her adorable family. It made me so happy! 

I'm thankful for all of my friends. I know we have been through a lot together this year (and in years before), and I am thankful that you have stood by me through everything. Thank you for supporting my dreams and for being there for me while I am in Spain. I know we have our differences (yes, Brett, I'm looking at you, haha), but I couldn't ask for better, more loyal, more supportive people.

Here is a picture of three people who have been there for me a lot this year. 

Andrew and I.  Andrew, my best friend, we have been through so much together and you are an amazing person. I am so thankful I have gotten to know you and not a day goes by where I don't miss you.

Sorry for all of those who aren't in the pictures. I miss you guys just as much, maybe even more.

6. Chico's English Department
I have no picture for them, but I want to let everyone in the department, students and professors alike, that I love them and I am thankful for them. I miss my long, literary discussions with you guys. 

7. Char 
Char. What can I say about Char? I have no photo of her either, but without her, I wouldn't be in Spain. In my freak out moment about post-graduate life and grad school, she was the bright light that convinced me to get out of Northern California and go to Spain. I guess I owe her my life right now. Without her, I wouldn't even want to know where I would be. Thank you, Char.

8. My family
I am so grateful for them. So, so  grateful. Thank you guys for supporting my spontaneous decision to completely change the direction of my life and move to Spain. I appreciate all that you have done for me. Miss you guys so much!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ruminating On Words

As my friends here will tell you, I have the hardest time with the fact that strangers don't smile at you when you make eye contact (unless they are creepy old men). I miss that more than anything else. 

The purpose of this post
As I'm sure many people (if not everyone) have experienced when moving to a new country, I have ran into some cultural and language barriers and differences that have made me long for home. Getting closer to the holidays, it has been especially hard. 

But, as I was missing home and looking at photos today, I was reminded of someone and something very important to me.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of reading some of my late Aunt Kathy's (my dad's cousin, but so close to being my aunt) journals. Today, I was reminded by some of the words she had said in there. But first, let me tell you a bit about the similarities I share with my Aunt Kathy.

1) She lived in Europe when she was just a bit younger than me, something that most of my American born family members (most of my mom's family was born in Europe) never experience. (Her and her late husband (my dear Uncle Jim) lived in England and my late but so great Uncle Ron lived in Germany. If I'm forgetting anyone else, I'm sorry, I have a lot of family members).

2) She had a great love of books. Although her and I had different taste in literature, it's so rare when you find someone with such an appreciation of the written word. I knew whenever I saw her she would have some new book to talk about (even if it was usually a Nicholas Spark's book).

3) We both love this time of the year. So much! Aunt Kathy had one of the most caring hearts out of everyone I know, she definitely exuded the Christmas spirit that so many people don't have. Plus, her house was always the best decorated with hand painted Christmas villages, a beautiful tree and everything. 

So, like I said, a few months ago, I got to read some of her journals. In her journal from earlier this year (from before she knew she was sick), she had written that she was going to choose a word for the year and live out the meaning of that word. She chose the word trust. Her and I may have different visions of what the word trust means, but, in that moment, I decided that I was going to finish the year out for her and be the example of trust. 

I realized that I've been falling short, so, from here on out, I'm going to be more trusting and more trustful even when times get me down. I trust that I will be okay, that my Spanish will improve and that people will smile at me when I get back to the states. I invite you to do the same and to pick a new word for 2013. Don't be skeptical for the remainder of the year and trust people that you should and trust that things will fall into place. 

Okay, now a work story about trust
Working with kids have made me experience trust firsthand. They are some of the most trusting people. Them trusting me after not really knowing me and not speaking the language that I do should be a sign that I'm doing something right. It should also be a lesson on how I should trust.

One day, when I was still felt like my students were quite skeptical of me, I heard one of my kids say "Brittany! Ayuda! Ayuda!" and come running to me with another one of my kids. The boy he was with was crying and they started rapid firing Spanish at me.

Although I had know idea what they were saying (although it turned out to be something to do with slingshots), they trusted that I would know what to do. They trusted me through language barriers. They knew that even though I had no idea what was happening, I would take care of it.

I need to trust that even though sometimes my poor Spanish skills elude me, I can convey what I am saying.
I need to trust that this experience will better my life.
I need to trust that I will be okay if I don't eat at TBar for a year. 

I just need to trust that everything in the end will be okay, like it ended up being for the boy who got hit in the eye with the slingshot because he trusted me.

I need to trust.

If not for myself, then for my Aunt Kathy.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

TIE, Traveling, Snow, and Celia, or, Why I haven't been a loyal blogger

I'm sorry to all of my religious readers out there - I have not been a good blogger. But this girl is back and here to explain why I have taken such a leave of absence. It's all been for (mostly) good reasons. 

Wait, I'm Still Not Legally Here?: The TIE Process

Okay, so, the visa process was hell. And I mean HELL. And that's me being nice. An understatement. But I made it to the Spain end of that process, knowing that my visa would expire 90 days after it was issued. Ough! I thought it would be a simple process, but, seeing as this is Spain, nothing is simple. I had to get an Empadronamiento from the government, collect paperwork, make a bunch of copies and go somewhere in the middle of nowhere to get fingerprinted. But now that harrowing process is done and I pick up my official TIE card in two weeks.

Oh, the Places You'll Go: El Escorial and Segovia, Traveling and Snow

The last few weeks, I have been fortunate enough to do a bit of traveling around Spain. I visited El Escorial last weekend and today I went to Segovia. I loved both of these and you can see pictures of them here.

In El Escorial, I got to experience snow. Now, I've seen snow before - kind of. I've done the requisite ski trips and such and, once in fifth grade, the teacher let us outside for 5 minutes because it was "snowing," which means slush in Northern California. But I'd never seen snow come down in flurries like it came down in El Escorial. And it was amazing. It stuck to the trees and made everything beautiful. And, all though my parents may argue this point, I can say that my first real snowfall that I will always remember happened in Europe. I got to see snowfall in Europe and take pictures of it - all while wearing the wrong outfit since I'm a California girl, of course. 

In Segovia, I got to see a lot of super cool, super historical buildings and structures, such as the Roman Aqueduct of Segovia. I also got to see Alcázar, which provided some inspiration for Walt Disney's Cinderella Castle (which I didn't know - I always thought Neuschwanstein was the sole inspiration - another castle on my bucket list). I also got to try Cochinilla, which is a famous Segovian dish of baby pig. Yum! (Apologies to my best friend, Andrew).

The Hanged Man Was Well Hung: Nightmares of Private Lessons due to Celia and Ruben

While all of my other friends are jumping for joy at the fact that they get payed to sing songs and play games for money, I have to deal with nightmare children. Two in particular, Ruben and Celia. 

Ruben is a hand full. He is very creative and very active and very smart, but he wants NOTHING TO DO WITH ENGLISH. This makes my job difficult. He doesn't want to play games or sing songs. He doesn't want to write anything or say anything. He doesn't want to. And his mom mostly wants me to help him with his homework and prepare him for tests. One day, right before I got there, he lit his textbook on fire. So, that was fun. Then, last week, he wouldn't listen to me at all. He kept saying "English BOOOO!" over and over again and me trying to punish him by making him copy and telling him to sit down was not working. I eventually opened the door and told him he had to stand by it, which of course made his mom curious. Thankfully, his mother was pissed at him and took away his soccer privileges for the week. This was a moment of pure satisfaction, which makes me sad - I have lost the ability to feel sorry for an eight year old in trouble.

Now, the really fun stories - Celia. I learned the hard way that this girl likes to cut people's hair. That was my first run in with her. Apparently, she does this a lot at school. She also ran around like a crazy madwoman that day (her sedated grandfather lazily read on the couch) tearing up my flashcards and breaking crayons. The next day she was the perfect angel, giving me hugs and writing "Celia loves Brittany" on all of her papers. She continued to be angelic, but refused to speak English, insisting that she didn't understand anything, while repeating everything I said in English in Spanish because she thought I couldn't understand her. "Only in English at this table, Celia." "No entiendo. Sola en ingles en esta mesa. Vale." She still continues to do this, so, I mostly work with her brothers while she draws and scribbles and says things in Spanish. To her credit, she always tells me her colors in English. This past week, during a game of hangman with her brothers, she was drawing the hangman game we were playing. All of a sudden she taps me on the shoulder, giggles and points. She had drawn a penis on her hangman stick figure. And not a small it-could-be-something-else type one. This was clearly a penis. I was a bit mortified and she kept giggling. This girl is 6 -  I don't even think I knew what a penis was when I was 6.  So, that happened.

So, there you have it. I have been ignoring my blog due to the Spanish government, cool trips, and nightmare children. Tomorrow, I will try to write a blog on language barriers and the use of the Oxford comma, which I am clearly a fan of.