Monday, December 3, 2012

The Ups & Downs

DECEMBER???  Time, what gives?  Where do you go and why do you go so quickly?!

I was pretty negligent to my little blogosphere this month, but that was probably okay.  It has been a bit of a rough past few weeks.  The honeymoon at school is over, I had my first ever, very serious homesickness (for which there is no Walgreens immunization shot), and then some computer problems.  Truly it was probably better that I've waited until now to write something, otherwise it would just be a big ugly pity fest all over this pretty teal page.

I have no reasons to be shocked and I really shouldn't complain because I've known that I don't like teaching from the beginning. I didn't choose Education in college for a reason, afterall.  That said, I'm seriously passionate about education and my biggest challenge has been trying not to play the comparison game. If there's one thing I hate, it's people who constantly compare their culture to their new one in a way that says "Well, so, mine is better".  I've been trying very, very hard to accept the Spanish education system, roll with the punches, and just keep on smiling.'s been next to impossible not to compare and not to get frustrated. 
It's not all bad, though. I do still love working with the preschoolers.  They are the sunshine in my life -- at least when they aren't peeing themselves, or running around the room in circles (me chasing them) to avoid putting toys away, or punching each other in the face and crying.... Yeah other than that they are just adorable!  And they are still innocent and sweet and not nasty and mean like the other kids I have to work with (aka ESO).  Last week I felt a little more appreciated by my middle schoolers again and saw a glimpse of why it was that I liked them so much in the first week.  I even consoled 2 crying boys with some much needed hugs that they wouldn't have received from my co-teacher (who actually caused one of the boys to start crying in the first place and then just stood there awkwardly as the poor kid sat at his desk in tears while 22 classmates stared at him in silence).

Maybe it's because December is a short month with the preparation for Christmas concerts taking up a lot of time and the holiday break coming up, but after November I've decided that I need to just take a deep breath and go against my nature and take on a new mantra.  This battle I am not going to win. I cannot fix the Spanish education system by complaining about it incessantly, nor could I make any significant change in 9 months at one school.  But I can help the kids that want help, try to help the ones who would otherwise be ignored, love those darling little 3, 4, and 5 year olds, and not take it all too seriously.  Laugh more, frown less...Be more like the guy in this music video maybe?

'Murican Things
 As I should have guessed, my homesickness came on Thanksgiving.  As much fun as most of our American holidays are (July 4, Halloween...St. Patty's...Cinco de Mayo...and all the rest that we stole from some other country so that we could have another party) there's just nothing like Thanksgiving.  Even though I never gave two flying F's about the Macy's Day Parade before, I found myself getting teary-eyed as I played the 2011 intro to 4 classes on Thanksgiving Day.  Matt Lauer hasn't looked so appealing to me since the 90's when he copy-catted that sly fox Carmen with his 'Where in the World is..Matt Lauer?' stint on the Today show for the first time.  Anyway, let's just sum it up and say that I shed a lot of tears that weekend and ate a lot of chocolate...oh and yeah my lady gift didn't do me any favors that weekend either.
On the bright side of it though, a few friends came to my apartment on that Friday for a Thanksgiving dinner international style.  It was just the remedy I needed after Thursday and everything turned out so fabulous.  Even though we didn't have turkey, chicken was just as good. And wine, wine, wine.
Then on Sunday, I had my first visitor! My friend Tia's friend is traveling Europe and she stopped in Madrid just for a day/night.  It was a really nice dose of home at a time when I really needed it.
I truly have no complaints about how I celebrated the holiday here, I just got a little too caught up thinking about where I could have been, which is no way to spend one's time abroad.

On another note, I've been so happy to keep following The Pack even though no one cares about the NFL here.  There's an Irish pub that shows the games on Sundays, except they don't always have the Packers.  Between that place and my mom's excellent maneuvering of the coffee table, I've watched more games than I expected I would.  And without a state full of Cheeseheads around me, I've converted a Spanish friend and now have someone to watch with.  Just need to replace his Miami Dolphins memorabilia with some Green and Gold and then it will be official.

Computer :(
I managed to somehow erase my entire iPhoto library last week.  Like actually, delete and recycle trash, poof, goodbye 5.5 years of memories via photos.  I wish that I didn't care so much about my pictures, but I just can't help it.  I love to look back at old photos and remember something that I had forgotten about, or tell a good story, or let the picture tell the story itself. Pictures are so powerful.  As sad as it is, I didn't allow myself to get that upset because thanks to my Facebook addiction, the majority of them are saved there.  Only lost are all those embarrassing pictures of me and friends doing unmentionables on Water Street or thereabouts that only an idiot would post to Facebook....It wouldn't be so bad that they're gone now if we knew what had happened most of those nights in the first place. #College

I seriously need to blog more. I hate doing massive updates. I can't even be bothered to read any of this so I don't imagine anyone else will be either!  BUT in some exciting upcoming events - I have my 2nd guest visiting this weekend!  Andrea, a friend who studied abroad at EC from Mexico, is coming to Madrid from the north of Spain.  I love being a host and I can't wait to show off this city. 
AND I'm going to Berlin for New Years! I'll be seeing from friends from college who either live there now or who are just visiting.  I'm so excited to have my first trip out of Spain and my first New Years outside the US.
Plus, expect an update on the school Christmas concerts in the next few weeks!  It's sure to be a cute-fest.

Tata for Now!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

¿Cómo se Bama?

We are 2 days post election and I am still on a high!  There aren't really words to do justice to how I feel this week...But I'm going to try to find some anyway! I will try to keep it short because I'm ready for a break from politics too.

It has been a very, very long time since the last time I was proud to say that I'm an American.  Actually, I take that back; I don't think I have ever felt that way.  Most people who know me know that I am not a patriotic person and in-your-face "patriots" really make me want to vomit.  So Obama beat Romney...that makes me happy.  Does that make me finally a little bit proud to smile that I'm a US citizen?  Not as much as some other things that happened Tuesday night. 


Congress has a record number of women in it now - 20 in the Senate and 77 in the House.  Yes, those numbers/percentages are still extremely small (just 20% in the Senate and 17% in the House) but it's something.  Rape Rupert Murdouch was defeated!! Elizabeth Warren elected!! And I have never been more proud to be a Wisconsinite because I was floored when I heard that Tammy Baldwin beat Tommy Thompson.  I didn't think it would happen.  After Scott Walker, I guess I lost a lot of faith in my fellow Wisconsin men and women.  What an amazing victory for both women and the LGBT community - the first openly gay senator!! From Wisconsin!!  All smiles over here.

Then Minnesota, Washington, Maine, and Maryland all passed same-sex marriage amendments.  In the case of Minnesota, they voted "no" on an amendment to officially define marriage as between a man and a woman and in the other states same-sex marriage is officially legal!  Today I looked at an article with photos of couples' reactions as the news was announced and my heart just felt too big for my body.

Marijuana. Oh Mary J.  I had no idea some states were even voting on anything having to do with her.  All I have to say is - Tax that shit.
We can't win them all of course as California did not vote to end the death penalty nor did they approve a law requiring GMO labels on food.

Today I feel new and I feel so much more hope than in 2008 and it has absolutely nothing to do with Obama.  The last year has been a political roller coaster for a lot of the country, and especially us Wisconsinites.  I had been quickly growing more and more depressed about the ability of my country to truly move forward as it seemed that people's answer to hard times was to revert to mind-sets that I thought we'd left behind 60 years ago.  Tuesday's results have left me speechless and restored a little faith in how I think about the American people (hey, just a little though...we still got a long way to go).
All in all, it was such a successful night beyond the Obama/Romney race.  The choice for president is always a choice for the lesser of two evils.  The system needs to change. The two-party system is what makes my country divisive, not the two people who represent one side or the other.  I agree with everyone who says that we are too divided right now, and I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to rejecting someone just because they aren't a "democrat" or vice-versa, so I will be the first to admit that a change begins with me.  I just hope the Romney loss won't leave my "republican" friends feeling the opposite.

Some photos from the Election Party I went to, organized by Democrats abroad:
Hanging with the Prez

Prepared for an all-nighter together

5:30 am Celebrating

Monday, November 5, 2012

Meandering Mind

Leave it to a puente* to get my sleep schedule all out of whack. Usually I'm dying to be off in dream land by this time at night, but I had 4 days to get into bad sleeping habits (a.k.a. up until 4 or 5 am and sleeping until 2 or 3pm).  As I'm laying here awake, I started to think a little one usually does when there's nothing else to do and I can't allow myself to do anymore useless Facebook stalking and I've already watched too many episodes of Downton this weekend (I'm thinking to myself in a British accent if that tells you anything)...

I was thinking about dreams.  Seems odd to think about dreams when I can't fall asleep, but anywho, for some reason I recalled a question I had to answer in my interview for the Americorps job last March about what my dream job and aspirations were.  I was so stumped by this question and I still am pretty sure that my answer was the reason why I didn't get the job.  I said that I didn't have a dream job.  I remember that as the words came out of my mouth, the interviewer immediately wrote notes down on her paper, and I knew that what I had said wasn't the answer they were necessarily looking for.  But tonight I'm thinking about this again for whatever reason, and I'm wondering to myself why this is such a big deal?  It's not just a question you get randomly in 1 out of 100 job interviews.  It's a pretty important thing to people, and it seems like something we need to know about others in order to get a really good sense of who they are. 
Of course I have dreams and aspirations about my life (which I did try to explain in the rest of my answer, fyi) but I don't understand why there has to be such a focus on them.  I guess what I mean to say is that sometimes I feel like there is too much pressure to be a success and to have a dream and to do anything and everything in your power in order to achieve that dream.  Don't get me wrong because I believe that this can also be a great thing.  But what if you're like me and you have an idea of where you want your life to go...but you accept the fact that life is crazy and sometimes it finds us before we find it?  Doesn't this seem much more logical of an answer than "Well my dream is to spend 2 years in a Master's program studying this amazing topic that I have been passionate about my whole life, and then after that to land my 'dream job' doing this very specific thing that I have already been living in my mind for my whole adult life".  That sounds robotic and droll to me.  But for me to say "I have no dream job" sounds lazy.

In the end, I know that I have never dreamed about a job (Work? Gross).  I've dreamed about seeing things and learning more and growing up and meeting wonderful people and making a difference.  I never imagined myself doing any of these things in a specific career, just in any way that life allows me to.  That is what would make me happy, and isn't that what our dream job is supposed to be afterall?

*puente - Spanish word basically meaning a long weekend due to a holiday

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Perdona the Interruption

One of my personal goals this year was that I wanted to try to “roll with the punches” of my job/work environment. Why?  Well, with some reflection I realized that in almost all of my previous jobs, I spent a lot of time focused on what goes wrong and how I think things would work better.  It's true that some of my former places of employment did need a lot of improvement (such as South Shore...which closed down before the summer even ended)That’s not to say that I haven’t liked things about those jobs, but it just seemed that I spent more time focused on the negative than the positive. So I thought ‘This year let’s try something new…’

Well.. I tried...but I'm freely admitting there's one thing that I am really struggling to take a positive spin on.

But I will get to that in a second.  First, I want to talk about how great things are!  I’m enjoying being at school more than I ever imagined I would, despite feeling like I’m living the life of an old woman when the thought of staying up until 11pm on a weekday makes me want to cry.  The kids are great and I’m shocked to admit that my favorite class is the equivalent to a 6th or 7th grade class in the US (*GASP* after I’ve practically sworn on my life that if I were ever a teacher the middle school classroom would be my living nightmare). 
This week I was given my SEVENTH revised schedule, but I think the 7th time’s the charm; hopefully there won’t be any more changes.  I can't keep them straight anymore and I've grabbed the wrong schedule at least three times when I head out of my apartment and end up going to all the wrong classes!  I’m working with 3 of the 4 high school grades (basically ages 12 – 17) and then 3, 4, and 5 year olds, with one or two primary classes thrown in the middle.  It’s kind of funny having to switch from high school students to preschool, but then I realized that a 17 yr old’s brain isn’t that much different from the 3 year old’s…

So the kids are great, the other auxiliaries and I are getting along splendidly, and I like the teachers I’m paired with…what could I possibly have to complain about?  Two main things: Interruptions and Nuns.  Or... maybe it can be consolidated into one – a nun who interrupts a lot.
Let’s clear something up though: Interrupting ain’t no thang here.  What I mean is that it’s as normal as the morning announcements or recess or socializing in the hallway before school starts (all things I associate with my US school experience).   
Students from other classes will interrupt a different class just to ask someone in the room for a ruler or a pencil.  I mean they literally open the door while the teacher is in the middle of the lesson and say “Perdon!…Does anyone have a ruler??”  Other teachers interrupt for any number of reasons: to ask a student a question, to give a book back to someone, to ask the teacher they are interrupting a question, etc., etc.  And yes, they do knock. However, a knock in this case doesn’t mean “Can I come in?” it means “I’M COMING IN!!” Oh, but they are always courteous enough to say “Perdon” when they interrupt.  They are really sorry and haven’t realized that they would be such a disturbance, so the fact that they have said ‘excuse me’ makes it all just dandy.
Now the Nun, well she is actually the headmistress of the school.  And being the headmistress AND a nun I guess gives her the right to interrupt and do whatever she pleases.  Two weeks ago she interrupted a class I was in with 10 minutes left to make the students clean up papers off the floor and take signs off from the wall that they had made for their class elections because it was the “parents’ meeting” that evening.  God forbid parents see that anything fun might be happening in these classrooms!  Then last week she interrupted a class I have in the most awkward classroom in the history of classrooms (it doubles as a short cut to the teachers’ lounge and a classroom, so when the doors are shut that means you cannot walk through because there is class going on, but when they are open then it is basically an extra wide hallway. I don’t think I even have to say at this point that the door being shut doesn’t stop anyone from continuing to use it as a hallway).  She came in with a man who looked like a sales person of some kind, said “Perdona” and then went to the back of the room and began to open cabinets and closets and talk to the man about whatever it was they so urgently needed to discuss while 8 year olds were attempting to have English class.  She also interrupted one of the other assistants and I the other day when we were talking during our break in the teachers' lounge. She stared at us while we talked and then just suddenly said “No te entiendo!!” [I don’t understand you!] in a tone that suggested we should have been speaking in Spanish.  It was a pretty confusing situation considering that 1) we weren’t having a conversation with her and 2) we are ENGLISH LANGUAGE ASSISTANTS, hired by the school and paid for by the parents to SPEAK AND TEACH IN ENGLISH! 

So anyway, that’s that.  We will see how long I last but my patience is already paper thin at this point and I will soon be slamming doors in people’s faces when they try to interrupt me, whether they be nuns or not. 

School Stories
I’ve already shared a few anecdotes on my facebook, but for those who don’t check their Facebook or don’t have one or just missed out completely (and also so that in 5 years I can look back and laugh), I’d like to share them here as well.

Working in the Pre-K one day, a 4-year-old boy would not put his shoe back on. So, the teacher took his shoe and put it in the garbage (yeah I don’t know why either, must be a Spanish thing?).  He said to her “If you throw my shoe away, my grandma’s going to hit you!”

After school, I saw Stevie, a 3-year-old going on 30. I was teasing him a little bit when he turned his back, walked away without a word and stood behind his older brother. He looked at me and said “No tengo tiempo para tus tonterías”[I don’t have time for your foolishness].

The middle school girls are obsessed with Justin Bieber and Robert Pattinson. I was not surprised, obviously. But they get quite offended when they ask me what to them I’m sure is the most important question in the world: “What kind of music do you like?… JUSTIN BIEBER???” and I have to bring their world crashing down around them when I answer no.  Or an even sillier question: “Justin Bieber or Brad Pitt?” The fact that I even have to answer that is an insult to the beauty of the male form.  Ah, but then I remind myself:
This generation’s Bieber is my Timberlake, their Pattinson my DiCaprio.

Yesterday I gave awesome nicknames to 2 boys in my 7th grade class who are both named Nacho (short for Ignacio): Nacho Cheese and Guacamole.  Needless to say, they’ve caught on pretty well.

Today a different 7th grader from the other section presented me with a bracelet he made for me out of soda can tabs and blue ribbon.  Not to be outdone, another boy said that now he has a great idea for a gift for me on my birthday.  Yes! Shower me with gifts, young ones. 

Photo Updates
I also haven't posted any pictures here yet which I usually try to do.  I know a lot of the very few who read this probably could look at the pictures on Facebook if they want, or maybe already have, but it makes for a more lively blog this way I think :) 

My Casa
Hallway-ish area - one bedroom is to the left, other two to the right and then the bathrooms there in front
Bathroom 1
Bathroom 2 - The Forgotten Bathroom (we hardly use it)
Living room
My very orange bedroom

With some friends at the very first international Rock the Vote event

A protest at the end of September

Hanging out at the park
'El Rastro' - Huge market on Sundays

Monday, October 1, 2012

Planet of the [Toddler] Apes

Time is absolutely flying by! I can hardly believe today is the first day of October. I'm so used to noticing the change of the seasons by the colors of the trees and that crispy cool walk across the Bridge to class that it's hard to grasp that Fall is here.  The weather here is a little like home -- in the fact that one minute I'm huddling inside a warm jacket and the next I'm sweating so much I'm practically a stripper as I walk down the street.
So I have conquered the first week and a half in my school, and it is definitely safe to say that other than teachers and students, there's not a whole lot the same about La Inmaculada (the name of the school I'm working in) and the schools I grew up in.  Today was the first day of the "full schedule". Hey Scottie Walker, are you listening? I have a wonderful budget cut idea for you for that "expensive" little gnat buzzing around your head (AKA the thing the rest of us call education).  The schools here started on September 10th(ish) and the first 3 weeks of school are on "summer schedule" which basically means they start at 9am and the day ends at 1:30, just in time for lunch.  In other words, it is just incredibly silly to expect anyone to complete a full day of school coming right off of summer vacation. Genius?!
Maybe it's the uptight, schedule-obsessed American in me, but from what I saw in a week and a half, it's basically a waste of time the first 3 weeks of school.  But it also seems like Spaniards need a little more time than us Americans to get organized and on track.

Speaking of getting organized...
I am still waiting for a complete and accurate schedule of the classes I'm supposed to help with.  It's been a chaotic mess.  It seems like no one really wants to take the responsibility to organize the 3 Language Assistants (me and 2 others) and no one communicates with each other, just complains that things are unorganized.
I also spent the first 7 days like a lost little lamb in my school. My first day, I met the director of the school, Carmen Jesus (a nun), who asked me some awkward interview-like questions about who I am and then dropped me off in a classroom with one of the English teachers.  From there it was a giant question mark.  I didn't know where any classrooms were, who to talk to about what, and I wasn't introduced to any of the other faculty, and actually if it wasn't for the fact that the students have to wear uniforms I almost wouldn't know if a few of the other teachers were part of the high school classes or not.  There is no dress code.  Basically it's casual Friday everyday, only not even as dressy as that.  And forget about trying to figure out who the gym teacher is since so many people wear track suits.
I have been going to 2 classes pretty consistently: Infantil, which is Preschool ages 3-5, and one of the high school English classes.  The preschool is interesting.  I've been in all three classes, 3, 4 and 5 year olds, and they are all doing the same thing.  Repeating the types of weather and seasons, the days of the week, and vocabulary of the classroom (pencil, chair, table, and schoolbag).  Here's a link to "The Weather Song" that we've been singing everyday:

The 4 and 5 year olds are a little more attentive to what they're repeating, but the 3 year olds are just parrots.  They repeat everything the teacher says, even in Spanish.  Today she dropped something and made a noise to herself like "Ohohohh!" and it was like a wave through the classroom starting with the kiddie closest to her mimicking the sound until the whole room was filled with "OhOhOHHH!".  They haven't quite figured out what "Kate" means yet either since when she says "Who is Kate??" they all repeat "HOOESKAE".  And the recess. Ohh my the recess.  In the classroom they are fairly calm. Obviously they have the attention span of a fish and spend most of the time gaping at me trying to figure out who this strange new person is speaking in this weird language in this odd accent ("PERO quien es ESA!?" 'But who is SHE!?")... but when it comes time for recess they go absolutely insane.  The first day I experienced it I wasn't sure what I was witnessing. The play yard is pretty small, but there is a fake grass area for "soccer" (or rolling around on the ground which is what I've mostly seen), a slide and monkey bars set in sand, and then cement all closed in by a metal gate.  The minute they exited the classroom half of them ran for the gate, started climbing up, screaming and shaking the bars like they were a bunch of monkeys that had just escaped the lab.  Others climbed onto the windows outside the classroom and started banging on the glass.  Basically like a scene from Rise of the Planet of the Apes...the one where James Franco plays the hot monkey scientist.  I'm like the female James Franco in this school of Monkey Children... minus the genius part and the dashing good looks

I'm enjoying the high school class for the most part because I can joke around with them and have actual conversations, even though today they were so awful and I was reminded that they are a bunch of immature teenagers.
Overall I really like being at the school and getting to know the teachers and all the kids at all the grade levels. I think once things FINALLY get organized and I am consistently with the same teachers and the same kids, it can only get even better.  Who knew I would enjoy the classroom?  Scary. 
Next I'll have to update everyone on my first protest experience over the weekend (Me, at a protest? Never!) as well as my new reality show obsession 'Quien Quiere Casarse con Mi Hijo?' 'Who Wants To Marry My Son?' which is the most perfect combination of The Bachelor and that stupid MTV 20 minute long scripted show Date My Son or Date My Daughter or whatever it was where the parents comment on everything.  It's so terrible, but so hilarious.  I'll be sure to let you all know who gets kicked off next week!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

No Such Thing as a Weekday

I was waiting for my first full 2 weeks to be complete before updating again, but I realized that I've been doing a lot and the longer I wait, the longer this post has to be and the less motivated I will be to write it.  And I cannot have that!

I don't think it should be shocking to anyone that I got my "weekend" started early and went out Thursday night with Meagan, a fellow assistant, despite the fact that we had our first day of BEDA program training on Friday from 9am - 7pm.  Just like college - Up all night, Class all day.  No, no just exaggerating; we were quite responsible and only drank a couple shots, one VERY expensive drink (never again), and went back to my place at around 2:30am.  And trust me, 2:30 am is equivalent to the Brat Thirty of Eau Claire: The party is just getting started.

Friday - Our first day with the rest of the language assistants (at least groups 6 and 7 since there are about 300 of us in total).  What a terribly unorganized mess.  I will sum it up like this: About 40+ English speakers from everywhere and anywhere in the world, maybe only a quarter of them able to understand advanced Spanish, given directions on how to fill out legal documents and important immigration paperwork ALL. IN. SPANISH.  Half of them members of the European Union, some of them US citizens, some Canadian... all with different legal forms yet trying to understand and follow the same directions with no translator.  Oh, wait I'm sorry. There was a translator. She yelled "SILENCE!" and couple times and also kept telling us to get our papers out of our "carpets" (aka folders).  It was a mess.  And then after lunch we had to take an unexpected Spanish test.  I guess we also get a Spanish class while we are here so it was to figure out what level people are at.  However, all of that on 4 hours of sleep was not an ideal situation.

Saturday - Two other assistants, Meagan and Gabriela, and I met up Saturday afternoon to celebrate Mexico's Independence Day. I realized how cutely ironic it was to celebrate the independence of Mexico from Spain. But c'est la vie!  We drank some coronas at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant and then went over to a celebration organized by the Mexican embassy. Free Corona, cheap tacos mexicanos, and a mariachi band plus tons of people everywhere loving all things México! It was awesome.  We went out again for some more Madrid nightlife, but we planned poorly and ended up having to pay a ridiculous cover fee to get into the club and then were unable to buy drinks inside because, as Meagan and I learned on Thursday, they are too damn expensive for us and our peasant wages.

Monday - BEDA 'training' Day 2. Oy vey. Again, same amount of people not able to speak or understand Spanish. But no worries, we will just make you all sit here for 2 hours while some guy explains the history of Spain, its constitution, the economy, oh and don't forget - the taxes you will be paying while you are here - ALL. IN. SPANISH! Perfect!  And then when those 2 hours are over, you have a break, and then 2 more hours of a different guy explaining all about sports in Spain, how important they are, how you can make a difference as a sportsperson at your school, etc, etc... ALL. IN. SPANISH!  It was really unbearable, even for a person that has a pretty good grasp on the language.  After that torture, we really needed some drinks. Meagan and I went with British Dan to Retiro Park with Sangria in hand. 4 hours later, the Sangria had done its job. We ended up joining a pub crawl that one of Dan's roommates works for and got in free and enjoyed an open bar.  Open bars have a funny way of making the time fly and soon we were leaving.  After 2 hours of sleep on the floor of Dan's apartment, we headed to catch the metro when it opened back up at 6am.  Can I remind you that this was on a MONDAY.  Maybe it's because work life here hasn't really got rolling yet, but every day feels like the weekend.

Tuesday - After sleeping virtually half the day away (although not a Spanish day, since I feel like they don't even technically start until at least 11 here), I went to help Meagan move.  Poor girl ended up in an awful and awkward situation with the host family she was aupairing for. When things were clear that they wouldn't be working out (tantrum-throwing 11 year olds and a passive-aggressive mother) she told them she would be moving out but that she would stay through the month, as they had made a sort of verbal agreement of her September schedule already. Well, Passive-Aggressive Madre decided that she needed to leave the following day.  How nice.  I went to their place to help her move her 3 suitcases (and know how us girls are). I would not wish it on anyone. We had to drag the two bags to a bus stop, then from the bus stop all around the metro, from all around the metro to her friend's apartment in the city. Such a terrible situation and the family barely acknowledged us as we were leaving, clearly struggling with the bags as we went. 

Today was my first day in the school! More details on that to come. Tomorrow night I am going to a 'Rock the Vote Madrid' event for American expats and I am so excited! I have actually just been counting down the days to it. I'm going to get registered and have my absentee ballot sent for the November election.  Couldn't be happier to exercise my rights whilst so far away :) 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Here we are again! Blog time! Cannot even believe that I am writing yet again from Madrid, Spain.  A quick update to anyone who reads this and has no idea why on earth I am in Spain:
I applied on a whim to a job posting I saw on Idealist back in late March for English Language and Culture Assistants. I didn't hear a thing and actually I had even forgotten that I applied until June when I got an e-mail saying I had been hired.  I thought it was a little fishy at first, but after talking on the phone with one of the recruiters I decided that this is my life and the opportunity I had more or less been looking for so, why not!  And if I got there and it wasn't real..well then I would just travel around for a month or two or so..and then come back home.  Rough.

Three months later (and not without a few bumps in the road) I have arrived to Madrid! And I am NOT LIVING WITH A FAMILY!! If anyone remembers anything about my posts last summer, you will remember that by the end I was quite decided that I was done with host families.  I am so, so excited to finally be on my own in another country.  It's going to be a totally new experience.

Here on the end of my second day (almost the start of my third) I'm just amazed at how the mind works.  I am not going to lie that the whole week leading up to my departure I became more and more nervous and started to second guess my decision. I even felt like I didn't want to leave when the morning came to get on the plane. Not to mention the fact that I was going a little crazy thinking about all the things that could go wrong between the airport and attempting to get to my apartment all alone.  But, everything worked itself out beautifully - one of the other assistants in the program met me at the airport. We managed the taxi together (and the luggage) and I was able to get into my apartment no problema.  And already today I feel absolutely no jetlag (well...I guess it is 2:30am..and I am wide awake...I guess I'll get back to you on that tomorrow), I've already re-established myself with the metro system, and I feel completely at home. No worries. No second guessing.  Now we just have to wait and see AFTER classes start! :)  But it's truly amazing how we can psych ourselves out over things unknown. Deep down I think I knew I would be fine once I got here, but the waiting is truly the worst part because up until the point when you actually ARE fine, you can really go crazy convincing yourself that everything and anything will go wrong.

Also, I was able to meet up with my friend Camila tonight. She was in my very first group of international students when I was a Peer Guide and now she is living in Spain studying and doing an internship in Madrid for a few more weeks.  It makes me so happy to be able to see people who I have not seen in years (3 in this case) and still feel like not all that much has changed.  And I am so thankful for these opportunities because I have said "We'll see each other again.." way too many times and although in my heart I know it's true, it's so hard knowing that that could mean months or it could be years.

All in all I am very content and antsy to get out and meet people and do things. 

Hasta la próxima!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Delayed Thoughts from March

I wrote this post over a month ago and for whatever reason, it never got posted.  I'd rather it not just go to waste, so I am posting it now :)

Since Mondays are basically the only day of the week that I have any free time after 3pm, I had a long list of things that I wanted to get done.  FINALLY I got my paycheck from work (since my boss had been in the hospital for 15 previous days with no one having a clue how to run/manage her business) so I quickly went to pick that up and decided to head to Festival to get a few groceries for the next 2 weeks before Spring Break.  There is a stoplight near Festival where quite often I have seen a man who holds cardboard signs saying things like "Cold, could use extra sleeping bag" or "Need work", or something like this.  I am not for certain if he is completely homeless, but my gut tells me so.  Yesterday I saw him with a sign that said several things, but the only thing that I could read said "Hungry".  I wondered how many people were driving past trying to avoid looking at him or simply pretending he wasn't there.  So I decided that I would pick some things up while I was getting my few groceries and give him a small meal on my way back home. 

Originally I thought I would just buy some kind of pre-made deli sandwich, but then once I was in the store I got way more into this good deed of the day than I had previously planned.  Festival has a really nice deli and a sort of "buffet" section with hot meals and soups that you can put in to-go boxes and pay for at the checkout.  So I start looking through the options and began critically thinking about what would be the best types of food to eat without a table or easiest with just plastic silverware.  I mounded up a huge section of mac & cheese with ham and three chicken strips.  On my way to the silverware I saw peanut butter and chocolate rice krispie treats, so I grabbed one of those, too.  At the checkout, I bought a bottled water and an extra apple.  I put it all together in its own bag separate from the other stuff I bought.  I got in my car and headed back towards the stoplight.  As I got closer I saw the light turn red and I quickly unbuckled so that I could do a fast "Chinese Fire Drill" type action once I got up there.  I saw a guy standing at the light, but when I got there it wasn't the same guy, just some pedestrian waiting to cross the street.   I thought "Dang it! He couldn't have gone far!" I mean, he had a whole bundle of things with him like sleeping bags and his cardboard signs and I'm sure some backpack or something so I started looking down the streets to the left and the right, but he was no where to be seen.  For a minute, I considered driving around the blocks until I found him, but then I looked at my already empty gas tank, thought about the rest of the things that I had to get done in just a few hours, and reluctantly decided that the moment had passed.  I am a terrible human who bailed on following through with a good deed.

Thinking about it now, I wish I would have just done a quick loop around a couple blocks to find him, but it is just so easy to let these kinds of things affect us for just a moment before we turn back to focusing on our own lives and personal dilemmas.  A lot of people use the phrase "Well, it's the thought that counts" which could easily apply to this situation. Why do we even say that?  It's not because we actually believe the thought really counts.  It's to make ourselves feel less selfish or guilty when we didn't follow through with something.  The only things that really count are the actions you do that have real, positive change or effect on others and the world.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Girl Scouts are like, totally radical, dude.

Well, apparently it's a lot harder to keep up on this thing than I thought!  But the strangest part is that I have had so many ideas running through my brain about what I want to write about, I found myself avoiding this thing all week long just because I didn't want to have to start sorting through them all and making a decision on where to start.  I actually found myself having a hard time falling asleep last week because I was laying in my bed counting Blog Titles instead of sheep...

I don't know how many people reading this were ever in the Boy or Girl Scouts, but growing up, being part of the Girl Scouts was actually a huge part of my life from about age 6 until 13.   Maybe it was the fact that the older you got, the more colorful and "cool" your vest had the potential of becoming, or the fact that I had a never-ending rivalry with another girl in my troop and I just HAD to have more badges than her......oooor maybe it was just those damn cookies...but it was a pretty big deal. 

The reason this has been on my mind is that I recently had to write a reference for a friend who was applying to be a camp counselor at a GS camp near the D.C. area.  It brought back so many memories of all my summers at Camp Ehawee, and I started to feel nostalgic.  I think I almost convinced myself I was writing the reference from a tent in Sacagewea during "Me Time".  And then this morning, I saw this article from

The headline reads:

Indiana Republican Rep Says Girl Scouts Are ‘Bent On Communism, Lesbianism And Destroying America’

I think I have finally figured out what it is about these kinds of Republicans: They spend so much time blaming the "destruction of America" on the LGBTQ community, "socialists" & "communists", Obama, and Planned Parenthood not because they actually believe any of this, but because they want to make as many distractions as they can before people start to say "Hey.. wait...a...minute....YOU'RE DESTROYING AMERICA!"
Whoa, sorry. I did not want this to become a political rant because I really do enough of that on my Facebook page, but this article infuriated me.  Really hate to burst this guy's white, elitist and heterosexual bubble, but I don't have a single memory from my 8 summers at camp involving the development of communist ideals, activities trying to convince me I liked the other girls in my camp session romantically, or anything having to do with changing my religious beliefs (in the article, he makes an argument that only 3 of the 50 Girl Scout role models have Christian backgrounds...therefore implying that they are the only true role models).  I can tell you what I did get out of those summers:

Leadership skills
People skills
Communication skills
Development of my hobbies and interests
Survival skills
Sunburns and embarrassing tan lines from wearing socks with sandals
Physical (not emotional) scars
Friendships - In fact, I met one of my best friends from middle school at camp when we did a Biking session at the same time.  Later, I moved to her hometown and she was one of the only people I knew, which when you are entering the 6th grade can be a huge relief since I think I speak for all of us when I say middle school is a bitch - especially for girls....(because we're bitchy). Here we are :)

I remember, Kye, the counselor who carried me from the pool house to the nurse's office when I stepped on an earring that got lodged into the heel of my foot.
I remember that Mork was always there summer after summer keeping everything running like clockwork.
I remember Thudd, the canoe guy and one of the only male counselors and how all of us girls would swoon whenever he came into the mess hall-- yep, whole lot of lesbianism going on there.
My favorite counselor was Goldie, and I remember that she was from Cashton.
I learned how to make pudgie pies and banana boats, and I learned the difference between wood ticks and deer ticks.

I remember that while I got along with almost everyone, there were a handful of crazy girls at camp too, and I'm certain it had nothing to do with their sexual orientation or political ideologies.  I went on a Houseboating session my last summer at camp and that was when I first learned that people will make up a lot of stories about themselves when they are starving for attention.  Another summer, there was a girl that needed some serious mental health evaluations who tried hitting another girl in the back of the head with a flashlight.  Later in the week, she also ran around swinging a broom at the rest of us.  Like I said -- there was some cause for concern.

Girl Scouts most definitely made me become a different kind of person than I would have been had I never participated, but contrary to this Indiana senator's skewed and bigoted belief, by no means did it form my sexual identity or convince me that communism is great.  Like all other human beings, I didn't choose to be straight and there's no way that singing camp songs or learning how to canoe was an attempt to brainwash me into believing that capitalism is evil and societies should be classless.
Now that I think about it, Republicans do a good enough job convincing me of that on their own.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The 2012 Intro

Quite a handful of people out there are legitimately concerned that the world will end in 2012.  I figure then I have no time to waste but to start sharing all the gems in this brain of mine before we are all obliterated.  I have less than a year to become a blogging sensation!

Seriously people, the world is not going to end in 2012.  The Mayans were pretty genius when it came to their mathematical and astrological advances, but they probably were in the middle of building the next calendar when Spanish conquistadors showed up.  Let's just say, they had bigger problems.  What really prompted me to revamp my blog was the fact that I used to write a lot.  I have a plethora of Facebook notes where I shared silly and embarrassing things that happened to me with my FB community.  I haven't written one in a very long time (not because embarrassing things don't happen to me anymore, but mostly because they are now almost all related to the influence of alcohol and even I'm too embarrassed to shamelessly embarrass myself).  My FB notes page has accumulated webs of Charlotte size proportions.  But when I traveled, it seemed I always had a will to write and a story to tell.  My everyday life isn't anything special, but as I get closer to the end of my college career, I begin to fear the juices in the creation side of my brain are going to start running dry if I don't keep them to good use.  My goal is NOT to make this my public "Dear Diary" because that is just....well to put it simply - Awful.  Dreadful, in fact.  No one wants to read that.  I don't even want to read that.....
"Dear Diary, today I woke up to the soft clanging of a silver spoon against a porcelain bowl.  I could only assume it was the early morning ritual of Rachel Perry, quietly consuming the luck of the Irish, (or Lucky Charm's in layman's terms) before she embarked on her day.  I forced myself back into a slumber, desperately wishing to return to my dreams of human-size penguins and talking dolphins....."

Yeah, no.

Anyway, my point is that I'd just like to get in touch with my thoughts again.  And there is some kind of shameless satisfaction in sharing them with other people.  If you choose to follow my ramblings, may the force be with you. :)