Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in Madrid and New Years too

I had actually prepared a somewhat meaningful post, but in lieu of not having my notes with me, a quick summary of the past month or so will have to suffice.

In more ways that not, the last month was like the previous months. Students were still students. There were still conversations that flew waaaay over my head. Yoga was still painful. However, I did get to do a bit more travelling. I took advantage of a four day weekend in early December and went to Salamanca and Avila. In Salamanca, I ventured outside of the city into the countryside and took some phenomenal pictures. With some friends, I went to the pueblo of Pena de Francia and observed the city from "such great heights." I believe at one point, we were actually up in the clouds.

Avila was the other city that we visited. It is a city that exists within a city wall, well at least the older section of the city. I enjoyed seeing it, but I don't think there was much to the city beyond the wall. Truth be told though, I 'm done with looking at churches and other old buildings. I know that Spain prides itself on its history, but I'm really more into modern things, like modern architecture, modern art work, etc. If I never see another church, I'll be ok.

I returned from my Salamanca/Avila trip quite refreshed with a new dish to add to the list of Spanish cuisine that I've tried: cocido. It's a soup made from the broth of different meat, with parts of bread and vegetables floating in it. Other than it being too salty, it was alright.

On the 22ncd, we had a lunch (read: snack) with all the teachers followed by an improptu Christmas/popular song session. It was really fun even though I wasn't familiar with many of the songs. Little by little I will understand Spanish culture.

And now I am here in Madrid, up at 5 am typing out my holiday plans. My sisters are with me and shall be here for a week or so. I've never spent New Year's day in a big city before, so I might just take advantage of my being here in Madrid.

Well Christmas is gone, but have a fantastic new year. I hope that 2010 brings good tidings and great surprises.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dare I say

That I'm starting to make friends here?

Monday, November 23, 2009


I love (some) kids, but never want any.

When people ask me about my future, I usually just say that I'd be satisfied with a husband and a plant, and one of those things is optional.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Setting goals

So I've been living here long enough to say that I feel comfortable here. Things to accomplish before I leave Spain.

1. Run run run

As I mentioned in a previous post, I detest running. However, it's one of the best kind of exercises out there, it's free, and I see results. Sooo, I'm making it a goal to go running at least three times a week for no less than 30 minutes each time and to enter into another race. Today I started on my running kick, and really surprised myself by running 45 minutes or so. Dare I say that I rather enjoyed that run.

Extra motivation: My sister lost 13 lbs and is putting me to shame.

2. Go to a concert (featuring a Spanish artist)

I'd really like to go to a Dani Flaco concert, but I don't know if that's possible. That just means that I'll have to find another artist that I like who's having a concert. I wouldn't mind seeing Julio de la Rosa.

3. Go to Galicia

I don't know why, but I'm dying to go there.

4. Go to Portugal

Another place that is calling my name.

5. Go to Morocco

Methinks that I just want to be able to say that I've been to Africa. Seriously though, I've heard that Morocco is cool and I would like to determine that for myself.

6. Learn Spanish

This is perhaps the most important goal of mine. How will I determine that I've learned Spanish? Why I can understand all the slang that the kids are using. Also, when I fully participate in conversations around me. Aaaaand, when 95% of the verbs I use are conjugated correctly. And, when I reduce my American accent.

7. Find something to do for next year that allows me to pay off student loans, live outside the country, and be happy.

Right now, this one seems like a tall order.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Geez Louise

I like Spain so much more than I imagined. Now, if only I could find a way to extend my time here...



Well I had fun with the students yesterday. We (2 other teachers and I) decorated part of the high school the day before . The next day was dedicated to playing Halloween related games with the English classes. I think the kids enjoyed themselves. I did.

Mango, this one's for you.

So, I ran in my first race (of sorts) last Sunday. I s-u-c-k-e-d. And by sucked, I mean sucked. I came in dead last, though by some mixup, the officials put my running partner as coming in last.

I thought I had enough stamina to run in a 6k, but obviously not. I'm pretty sure I saw a tortoise go past me. And he had one leg bandaged.

But anyway, the spectators were really supportive and kept saying that finishing was the most important thing. And my running partner said that counting from the back, we were the firsts. What an optimist. Haha, good times though.

So after the race, there was a raffle ' un sorteo' (add that to the myriad of Spanish words that I learned) and even though some 30 or 40 prizes were given away, I didn't get a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g.* Menos mal though since most of the food that they were giving away was fattening. Anyway, my running mate won 2 bottles of wine and 2 boxes of cookies, so looking at the situation from another point of view, I won 1 bottle of wine and a box of cookies. What more could I ask for?

For a while now, my vision of hell has been of a place where I would have to run non stop. Something like an everlasting treadmill. Only God understands how much I dislike running, yet I still think it's the best exercise for me. So I plan to run again. Just after I've practiced more and psyched myself up.

*Actually, I got a fabulous shirt which I have worn every day this week. It's pretty sweet.

We didn't really find mushrooms...

But I found this:

Oh the carnage!

Two weeks ago--Burgos

2/4 of my hosts and what great hosts they were.
Someone shares my dislike for taking pictures.
My other host.

I went to Burgos, which if I understood correctly, is competing with several other Spanish cities to be considered the cultural capital of Spain.

Anyway, I was invited there by a very nice family that I had met the weekend before. They housed me and took me around the city.

Stand out things:

The architecture
There are tons of examples of old European architecture. If you're interested in Roman, Gothic, Baroque, or neo classical architecture, then Burgos would definitely be one the places to visit.

The shops
I needed a sweater and some gym things. I found them and more for a reasonable price.

The food
Burgos is famous for it's morcilla, or blood sausage.

The cathedral
They say it's the most beautiful cathedral in Europe.

The castle
The castle has this cool map of the city engraved in the metal encircling the look out point of the castle. See the first picture.

And most importantly, if I'm not mistaking, Burgos was the home of El Cid, an almost mythical figure in Spanish history.

Monday, October 19, 2009


This weekend I went to Burgos. I'll write more about that in a following post. For now, I just want to mention the three songs stuck in my head besides the theme song for Fisica o Quimica.

The last song has added significance because it is about the train attacks that occurred March 11, 2004 in Spain.

1. Esclavo de sus besos

2. Lejos estamos mejor

3. Jueves

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Water for me

Coffee with some fellow teachers. Good times.

Joder! Spain might have to deport me.

On the weekend

Sunday, I met up with some friends at a chiringuito to "cook" (I just cut up vegetables and stirred the food cooking in the pots on the stove) setas 'mushrooms'. It was quite the experience and I enjoyed myself immensely. A chiringuito, as I understood it, is a house where people gather to eat or just spend time together. These houses can be located anywhere: on the beach, in the mountains, on the countryside, etc. As you can see from the pictures, this was a pretty nice chiringuito. It was spacious with an open floor plan. There was a kitchen, and then a big gathering room downstairs. The upstairs was not partioned and was being used as storage for the peña's stuff. A peña is an association of people who get together to eat in these chiringuitos. I'm sure there's more to the word, but for this post that definition will suffice.

Anyway, the meat of this post is that setas are the speciality in this region. So we used setas to cook the entire dinner. We made arroz con leche with setas, lomillos planchados with setas, tortilla 'omelet' with potatoes and setas, and appetizers with setas. The only thing that we didn't make out of mushrooms was the drink. I will say that as odd as it was to have dessert made from mushrooms, the whole dinner was delicious. Definitely one of the best ones that I've had since I've been here.

What can I say, Sunday was good. Good food and even better company. What more could I ask for?

What are you going to do with your life?

I do not know. Stop asking me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

There are just some sounds que no me salen

I totally sympathize with my students. Just like they have problems pronouncing God, and other word that I can't think of at the moment, I have the hardest time pronouncing:






--any word with double Rs

--any word with a final r.

Thus I have a long list of things that I need to improve. Poco a poco, no.

Switching topics, I spent the afternoon trying to find exercises to teach the kids English vowels. Since English has 11 vowel sounds and Spanish has only 5, it's natural that they find some sounds both difficult to distinguish and produce. Any ideas about how to go about teaching them?

Spain Spanish kills me

In a good way.

I just didn't think that making the lisp sound would be so hard.

Today, I spent an hour reading out loud to my housemate and having her correct my pronunciation. Without a doubt the hardest words for me were the ones with -gua (ie agua) and the ones with that infamous Spanish lisp: presencia, imprescindible, incandescente. Major props to the Spaniards who actually do the ceceo. My mouth can not move fast enough to pronounce these words and have them sound good. Either I forget to do it, or there is something about having an /s/ in the word that bars me from creating that sound. In any case, sigo intentando. Tomorrow is my Spanish class, so hopefully my teacher will practice these sounds with me. I will speak fluently if it kills me (and it just might).

I love the Spanish accent. It's so crisp. I especially love how the older men talk because they tend to stress the latter part of an utterance in a way that seems uniquely Spanish. Before, I used to claim that my favorite Spanish accent was either that of Cuba, the DR, or PR, but the Spanish one has superseded them all, followed by the Argentinian which is just so melodious.

So as it stands, the differences I've noticed between Spain Spanish and Latin American Spanish are:

-Vale, hombre, vaya, gilipollas, hostia, de puta madre, capullo, menudo, la madre que me pario, madre mia, estar en el quinto pino, majo/a, joder, tio/a

- Dimunitives: In Latin America, diminutives seem to be much more widespread ie playita, camita, mihijito, etc.

- Different terms of endearment: I have yet to hear a Spaniard utter mijo/a. Instead, it's carino.

- Juice is zumo not jugo here. Bocadillo is sandwich, tarta is cake, torta is a slap.

- z and s do not sound the same. The former is an unvoiced interdental fricative like the -th of
thin. The latter sounds the way it does in English.

- Word final d --> unvoiced interdental fricative ie Valladolid --> Valladolith; verdad--> verdath

- Intervocalic d in past participles formed by -ado is usually is lost. Cuidado--> cuidao; dejado--> dejao

- -gua approximates an English w. I do not care what my housemate says.

Oh, and Spaniards seem to talk with the front of their mouth much more than Americans. I'm not sure if this is a Spanish thing, or this is truth in all Spanish speaking places.

That's all I've noticed so far apart from the obvious use of the vosotros in Spain.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pix, as promised

I still haven't gotten the hang of using type while displaying photographs. Anyway, most of these pics were taken at the Plaza Mayor. The girls in the pix are my roommates. Nice girls.


The better part of this past week I spent in Madrid. It was quite nice to be back in a big city although by the second day or so, I was ready to return to my small town. When I first got my plaza, teaching placement, I was kind of disappointed that I didn't get Madrid. Now, I am so happy that I didn't. I realize that I would never learn Spanish and I would be even more disappointed if I spent a year in Spain and only walked away with the few measly words that I currently know.

Aside from that, Madrid is n-i-c-e. I tell people that it's cleaner than Miami, and I stand by that. They always have people out cleaning the street. The street cleaning brigade is hard to miss since they sport bright neon yellow/green vests and walk around with dustbins and brooms in hand. Also, there are trash receptacles everywhere so there is no reason to litter. You only have to look up to see billboards asking people to reduce their usage of plastic bags or electricity or what have you. Even the hotels where I've stayed seemed to be in to promoting environmental causes. In order to turn on the light, you had to place your room card into a socket of sorts. Thus, because you needed your card to turn and keep on the lights, chances are you wouldn't leave the lights on when you weren't in the room because that would have meant that you would have locked yourself out.

Heh, I got lost in my train of thought. Anyone who knows me knows that I favor comfort over fashion so that usually means a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops. But since I didn't want to stick out, I tried to find out what the Spaniards wore. Fortunately, I found that I could get a way with jeans, a t-shirt, and decent kicks (boat shoes in my case, but Converses would have sufficed).

Anyway, Madrid was nice. I went to the Palacio Real with my roommates for the weekend. We ended the night by going to Huerta which is a street full of bars and other species of night life. It was pretty cool. I got to hear flamenco music and such. On Friday, I changed lodging to a nice hostel right in the city center. I think Puerta del Sol was about 7 minutes away walking. I met up with a friend from high school and she took me around to her father's place. He lives in a pretty swanky apartment right across from El parque del Retiro. We ended the night by going to some mall right on the city limits (unfortunately I can't remember its name) and ordered tapas. I had goat and cow cheese, sardines in vinegar, patatas bravas, croquetas, grilled vegetables, and sangria. It was good. And then I went back home and "fell asleep."

Actually I tossed and turned all night. I feel bad for the kid in the bed next to me because he seemed like a light sleeper. I wasn't expecting a Madrid night to be so chilly and it wasn't until 7 o'clock in the morning that I realized that the blanket in the cupboard was for me. There was a moment when I realized that the guy to my left and the girl to my right had the same style blanket and their blankets were the same as the one in the closet. Silly.

By Saturday, I was ready to leave. Taking the metro to the bus stop was ridiculously easy and it was smooth sailing after that. Hopefully I'll know my way around Madrid a bit better by the time my sisters come.

Good times. Next post: pix.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More pictures.

These are some more pictures of the area surrounding where I live. It really is beautiful.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pictures, an explanation

So I've come to the realization that I'm not disciplined enough to keep up a blog.
Laziness + unreliable internet access = no posts.
I'll try and fix this, but as things stand now, this is truth.

I arrived in Spain, in Madrid on the 11th of September, spent the night there, and left Saturday morning for San Leonardo de Yague, Soria. The pictures in the post below are from the town where I'm currently staying.

Well, what can I say? It has been a pretty good experience so far. I spent the first three days here in a hostel, met a really nice girl who became my roommate, and have been settled, relatively, ever since. The apartment has 4 bedrooms, and two bathrooms, so we each get two bedrooms and our own bathroom. Pretty sweet! The only downside is that I don't have internet at home.

Anyway, I moved in and since then, my roommate and I have been communicating with each other in Spanglish or Espanglish as she says. I'm crossing my fingers that by the end of my term here, my Spanish would have vastly improved.

I started "working" on the 15th of September and so far, so good. The kids are pretty cool and even though most don't speak much English, they seem fairly eager to learn. I was kind of taken aback when I met some of them because I didn't know that high school in Spain started at 11 or 12. Thus, I walked into class and had about a dozen pre-teen eyes peering at me. Cute. It's been a looooong time since I was a pre-teen or even a teenager for that matter (I'm not trying to give away my age), so I had forgotten what kids like to do. Here, they like to ride their bikes around town, hang out with their friends, and visit the ruins of a castle that lie just beyond the pueblo. Their childhood kind of seems like the kind that you read about in storybooks, very innocent and fun. I've probably judged it to simplistically but time will tell.

Anyway, that's all I can think of at the moment. Will write more later.

Finally pictures