Tuesday, November 30, 2010

To teach is to learn twice. ~Joseph Joubert, Pensées, 1842

I know it may sound kind of strange to some of you, but, until recently, I have never considered being a teacher. Well, yeah, when I was a kid, but not seriously. I originally decided to study Spanish and International Studies, with minors in French and German, to be able to market myself well to foreign relief services. I have always enjoyed helping people, so I figured this would be the best way to do it. This option is still not out of my mind. However, I have noticed a trend recently. Wherever I go, literally wherever, Spain, Germany, Mexico, Italy, God has given me opportunities to teach. It doesn't have to be in a classroom atmosphere. For example, in Mexico, I sprained my ankle the second to last day that we were in the village of La Morita, putting in the foundations for a church. I couldn't do much to help, so what I did do was have the local children teach me words in Spanish, and I would say what they were in English. We all had a great time. I think the kids were just thrilled that, this time, THEY were the teachers. Sometimes, I think that is the best way to teach. Have the children teach you, since they will, in turn, learn the subject matter better themselves. Plus, the teacher always ends up learning something too.

Here in Spain, I have 2 students. Henar is 12, and Teresa is 9. They both come from different families and have different interests. Henar loves music, plays the contra bass (kind of like a cello), and loves teaching me card games. Teresa, on the other hand, is a little shy, but loves sports, math, science, and loves to smile. I gave her some of those snapz bracelets that are all the craze now, and her face literally lit up. Especially once I told her they were from the States. Teresa's mom tells me that she just adores me. I seriously don't know why. I just go, do my job, and enjoy it.

Their respective families have been so welcoming to me as well. Teresa's family has invited me to eat with them once a week; one meal to speak in Spanish, and the next week's meal to speak in English. They have both invited me to do things with them for Christmas, and talk about sending me packages once I get back to the States. I joke that I have three families here: my host family, Henar's family, and Teresa's family. I am totally okay with that. I think it helps me learn more of the culture, of cooking, of the language, and of the dynamic of families in different cultures.

So I teach Henar twice a week (usually) and Teresa once a week. Then I also go to her family's house for supper one night a week. On top of all that, and my own classes, I go to an elementary school once a week. It is the school of my host mother's niece, Maria, who is 8. I speak a half an hour in one classroom, and then speak another half an hour in a another classroom. Well, I don't really speak, as the children as me questions. A few of my favorites include:

"What is your favorite sport?" (I'm not a sports person)

"What is your favorite food?" (So hard to decide...)

"Have you met Justin Bieber?" (No.)

"Have you met so-and-so from the Lakers?" (No. I have to explain that America is very big so it is difficult to meet everyone)

"What is your favorite Spanish soccer team?" (I have to explain that soccer isn't as big a deal in the States as it is here)

The most popular one? "Do you have a boyfriend?"

These are all from 4th and 5th graders. I walk out smiling after every class, just because I get so happy just being around the children and teaching them words. They love the fact I have a bearded dragon, that I have traveled, and that I love the LEGO video games.

Today, when I went, there was a miscommunication. The teachers thought that I was in Germany. So the kids didn't know I was coming.

I felt like a rock star. "DOKIA! HOLA DOKIA!!"

Made me feel really special. I needed that too, since I have had a problem with a professor here. But that is a whole other story. Maybe next blog post.

Anyway, two girls in one of the classes found out I actually do speak Spanish. (Previously, the teachers had told their students that I don't understand Spanish, so they have to speak English). I told them it is a secret though. Just between me and them. Their faces just lit up. A secret with the teacher! How special are we!

So I think God is showing me that maybe I am supposed to be a teacher. What do you think?

Snowflakes are kisses from heaven. ~Author Unknown


I looked at my host mother, Begona's face. The excitement present in her eyes was slightly bewildering, as I sat with my spoonful of yogurt half way to my open mouth.

"It snowed last night!!"

Obviously she didn't hear the night before. I was SO excited. I wanted to run to their rooms, and be like 'IT'S SNOWING!' But I decided that I might scare them if I did so. Instead I took pictures and shared my excitement via Messenger with my boyfriend. And all my facebook friends. :P

Funny thing is, they had a huge snowstorm back home in Fargo. Lots of snow, ice...classes canceled, which is always a big deal in Fargo.

I love snow; always have. Though I tend to get sick of it around the end of March. The way it seeps into your socks, no matter what kind of boots you wear. The challenge that you undertake every time you need to drive somewhere. How ugly it looks when it is melting, with the sand underneath making it look like white mud. However, I just love the beauty of it falling, and how quiet the world seems to get. It is as if the world stops, just to contemplate the wonder of whiteness that is falling from the sky.

I am going to Germany tomorrow, and am terribly excited. I am excited to spend time with Dan and Sarah again, enjoy Gluwein, but also...to romp in the snow a bit. Yes, romp; in the snow, I tend to be like a puppy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

4 Stories: Old Photos

Next 4 Stories installment from Freckled Nest!

I. Childhood Boredom

I have always been obsessed with taking pictures. When I was younger, and bored, I would take my mom's camera and take pictures of my room. I have pictures of my Garfield collection, of my bed, of my books, of my toys... Yeah. Kinda funny.

II. "A picture is worth a thousand words"

If you haven't realized it by now, I love taking pictures when I travel. I think it is the best way to show friends and family my experiences. I also LOVE taking travel pictures that have stories behind them. "After this picture, I tripped." "This is the Mexican doctor I had to visit when I sprained my ankle in Mexico." I think the best part of pictures are the stories that lie behind them.

III. National Geographic

I LOVE NG for the photography. On their website, they have a section called 'Your Shot'. I have always wanted to submit a picture and get it picked by others to be in the NG magazine. However, there are many talented people out there who have better cameras, so I may just have to wait. However, I just love looking at the way other people look at life.

IV. Scrapbooking

I think if you love photography, most often you are also a scrapbooker. They kinda go hand in hand. I love scrapbooking. However, I try to make the page compliment the pictures, or tell the story that is being told in the pictures. For this reason, it takes me a long time to scrapbook. I have a hard time just throwing pictures on a page and leaving it. The page has to reflect the pictures, the story, and the environment in which the picture was taken.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book. ~Irish Proverb

 Before I left for Germany, I was stressed and tired. I missed home terribly, was frustrated with classes, and was just ready to hear something other than Spanish. I needed a vacation, a rest, a time to just relax and be myself. God gave me that opportunity when I went to visit my good friend Sarah and her husband in Germany. He is there in the AF for the US military, and they have lived there for about 2 years now. I was their first visitor. Poor people :P

I was supposed to arrive at about 10pm. However, with the delays with the French air strike that had happened the day before, the flight was delayed. I ended up flying in at about midnight. I almost missed the flight too! In Madrid, they don't announce when they are boarding or changes about a flight. They just let you find out after you have been waiting. So I had been sitting and reading another book by Carlos Ruis Zafon (one of my new favorite authors), when I had to go to the bathroom. I walked by and noticed that my flight was finishing boarding! I quickly grabbed what I needed and stood in line. I got to know some nice French people. This woman just wowed me. She teaches English in France, I think, but also spoke Spanish fluently too! I want to be like her when I grow up.

Poor Dan and Sarah. They had to drive an hour to get me, and then we had to drive an hour back to their place. We were all tired, but we laughed a lot. Once we got back, I got to take an American shower. That is to say, I was able to leave the nice warm water running. Here, in my host family's house, I have to turn the water off when I am soaping up or whatever. It was SO nice. Then I got to sleep in a nice American bed. It was weird sleeping without noise outside my window though :P

The next morning, we kinda took it easy. We talked about their upcoming trip to Spain, like where they wanted to go, what I said they HAD to eat (queso manchego, sangria, bread...), warned them about the different coffee, and places they had to visit in Barcelona. Then we decided, after Sarah and I had 2 cups of coffee (we were happy), all three of us went to Uli's Gut Stub: Restaurant and Car Wash. I was like, I speak German, I should be able to order. But the only thing that came out was Spanish, with a mixture of English. Poor waitress, probably thought I was on drugs or something. When I did speak German, it was mixed with Spanish, and probably had a Spanish accent. But the food was delicious! Then we went to the Wasgau Grocery store, to get Gluewein (wine you drink after heating it up = AWESOME), beer, and stuff for the next day. Then we went to Bernkastel Kues.

It is this cute little town on the Mosel River. Funny thing is, I have pictures of it from the River the last time I was in Germany! Isn't it funny how life goes in circles sometimes? The first thing we did was decide to hike up the hill to the castle, Burg Landshut. I actually have a picture of this castle framed in my home in the US! It was a nice hike; I said it was to burn off calories in preparation for spaghettieis. More about that later.

We finally reached the castle, and were rewarded with a spectacular view. Also, a nice view of the rainstorm that hit us. We took shelter in the castle. It was a beautiful sight, with the fall colors and everything. We had a good time, just waiting for the storm to pass.

Spaghetti Eis. God's Gift to Man
Once the nice fall rain passed, we went back down the hill. The grape leaves were so pretty with the rain. Everything just looked so fresh and new. We walked around for a bit, took pictures, found some good deals (like a peacock scarf for me!!!!) and ended up at a cafe. Last time I was in Germany, I had spaghettieis. It is ice cream that comes out of a machine to look like spaghetti, topped with fresh strawberry sauce (to look like tomato sauce) and white chocolate shavings on top to look like Parmesan cheese. It is one of my FAVORITE things ever. I love it. It is hard to describe. You have to experience it to know how utterly delicious this is.

The next day they took me to Mass on base. It was so strange being back in an English mass; actually understanding what was being said. And looking around and knowing that I belonged, knowing that I was 'one of them'. It was nice, refreshing, but strange. After breakfast, we went for a drive. 

I stopped keeping count of the twists and turns we took. I was just enjoying the beautiful fall scenery, with the trees and the hills. It was just gorgeous. We saw a sign for a castle, and decided to find it. We never saw another sign, but finally did end up at the castle. It was a beautiful day to hike up a steep hill. But the scenery was just worth it. The sky was a perfect blue, which brought out the beautiful fall colors. It was the perfect way to spend Halloween.

We enjoyed the beautiful scenery, and then decided to walk down. As at every German sight, there is a cafe at the bottom of the hill. Sarah and I enjoyed spaetzle together and our own coffees. Dan, who does not quite understand the joy spaetzle brings to our lives, had a peppermint tea. 

That night, we had steak. It was amazing. I haven't had a good meat and potatoes meal like that since I left the states. YUM!

Going to Germany was like going home. I knew the customs, knew the language, knew the food. I had a wonderful time with Dan and Sarah, laughing a lot. I felt so good as I left; completely rejuvenated.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I see skies of blue and clouds of white; The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night. And I think to myself what a wonderful world.~Louis Armstrong

Palma de Mallorca. For me, a name synonymous with beauty and relaxation. I mainly went to see the restoration by Gaudi in the cathedral, but ended up falling in love with this place. An island in the Mediterranean, it has been inhabited by the Romans, the Moors, the French, and now the Spanish. The influence of all these different cultures is clearly evident in the architecture, the art, and the life of the people. By the Germans, it is called "A Second Germany" because of how many Germans retire there. It was so weird walking down the streets and hearing German, Castellano, Catalan, and British English. My poor brain...that night I dreamt in 4 languages. It was like my brain didn't know what to do!

It was the first trip I took by myself since being here in Spain. I was extremely nervous, but it was going to be a fast trip. Get there at about 5pm, stay out till its dark, get up for Mass the next morning, and my flight would leave on Sunday at about 2pm. I expected it to be a fast trip, and that's it. I didn't expect to be so enchanted with the island, with the architecture, and with the sea. It was the first time ever I saw the ocean. When I laid eyes on it, it was all over from there. The simple beauty of the sea just stole my heart. Also, the smell! The fresh smell is something that cannot be captured or replicated. The smell that has enticed so many people before me captivated my senses. I missed its presence the minute I left Palma.

Once I checked into my hotel, I quickly booked it down to the harbor and to the cathedral. It was almost sunset, and that is the BEST time to take pictures. That and early morning right after the sun rises are my favorite time to take pictures, because the sunshine is just so strong and beautiful. The whole evening, I was just thoroughly happy. First time I get to see the sea, and it is sunset. It is best to just demonstrate with pictures.

 I made it into the Cathedral in time before it closed to take some pictures and to see the baldechino of Gaudi. It is just simply beautiful.

After an almost sleepless night because of the snorer next door, I made it to church right as one mass was ending. I had an hour to sit, pray and take pictures. It was so beautiful, with the sun coming in through the stained glass right through the baldechino.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

Okay, so enough depressing stuff, right? Now on to other aspects of life. In addition to my first English student, Henar, I now speak English with Irene about once or twice a week, and I have another student that I will start 'teaching' the 19th, Tuesday. She is 9, so that will be interesting. But I love Henar and her parents. They love giving me apples and tomatoes, since they found out that I love organic food. When they found out that my dad is an organic farmer, they just loved that! Her dad gave me the greatest compliment one day. I was talking with Henar and her dad, and he was like, "You must listen well to the way people talk. You have picked up on the accent well." And a friend of Laura's, Suzanna, who met me when I first got here, said my Spanish has improved considerably. I need to hear things like that, because sometimes I feel like I am in a rut, Spanish wise. I just don't feel like I am learning as rapidly as I was before, but I'm sure I am.

Fall is finally starting here. The leaves are turning colors and it makes me happy. Fall is my FAVORITE season in ND. I love the colors, the smells, the weather, and especially the food. They don't really have fall food here like we do there. Squash, pumpkin, apples...I love all the ND produce of fall. Here it is chestnuts, grapes, and figs. I tried fresh figs the other day and they are delicious! Now that it is a little more chilly out, there are women selling freshly roasted chestnuts. The smell is amazing. I tried some yesterday on my way home from my lesson. They are very hearty and the taste is something you have to get used to. But now I can say I have tried freshly roasted chestnuts.

It has also been getting a little more chilly here, but not like in ND. It was a little colder here one day than during the others, and my host mother commented on it. I said, "This is normal for ND. This is perfect fall weather." She looked at me like I had horns growing out of my head. I don't think she would be able to handle our winters.

But it is eternally amusing to me to see everyone bundled up in their 'winter' jackets, with scarves and hats. They must think I'm from the moon, wearing only a cardigan over a blouse and a scarf. Come to think of it, maybe that is why I  have been getting some weird looks on the street.

One reason I like fall so much is that it inspires me more to write and do creative things. I have no idea why. I can only guess it is because the beauty around me leads me to contemplate. I have a couple ideas of stories, not about fall but about other things. I won't write them on here, but maybe I will have to start another private blog with my poetry and my stories. I mean, only if they are going to be read and enjoyed.

So my favorite class is Medieval Art of Burgos. The material we study is interesting, yes, but the teacher is also awesome. She has told me that she will help me to improve my writing in Spanish. She has also mentioned that if I have any questions, just to ask. I get scared because since I am one of only 2 international students in class that maybe I just don't understand because it is in Spanish. But she tells me to ask, no matter what; even if it is after class or via email. One day, she could tell that I was trying to figure out in my head what the heck she was talking about. So she stopped what she was saying, asked me if I understood, and explained it in simpler terms. It made my day; something so small but made my day.

In my class of Phonetics and Phonology, the professor loves giving examples and using us international students and our accents. The other day, he played certain songs, in both English and Spanish, to show that if you are used to hearing the sounds of one language, you will hear what you are used to in another. For example, in one English song, the Spanish speakers hear something entirely different, even though that is not said. I don't know if that makes sense at all. But then he also used Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail as an example. Totally awesome.

I love my Spanish Grammar: Syntax class. Not only does the teacher explain things well, but I just simply love grammar.

Literature of the Middle Ages. Love the material, but the teacher...well...the teacher is...I want to say 'Hitler in drag', but I feel like that's not nice. She is very...demanding, I guess is the right word. She is the one that told me I can't sleep in class and has not been very understanding to those of us in class who are not native Spanish speakers. But whatever. Can't win them all, right?

Okay, next post. This one will be on my trips to Astorga and Leon. And believe me, there are some good stories in there.

Home is not where you live but where they understand you. ~Christian Morgenstern

When I think about blogging, I come up with all this amazing stuff to write. When I actually sit down to do it, I forget it all. Maybe its the whole white blank box that scares me. So I hope that now, since I have started, it will be easier...

I have developed a routine here in Spain. Wake up, consider just staying in bed for about 15 minutes, and then groan and get out of my warm bed. After I catch the bus and make it to campus, I walk through the doors wondering what I will actually understand today. Somedays are really good; others are just plain horrible. Like this past Wednesday. I had stayed up the night before writing this paper for class, and had been terribly, horribly homesick all week. It took all my strength to even sit down and write in Spanish for a class that I don't really like and a professor that (I believe) doesn't like me. I got up early on Wednesday to get on campus to print my paper off. Class starts at 9 on Wednesdays, so I got on campus about 8:15. Then I find out that the room in which you buy paper to print stuff, as well as the computer room where you print said stuff, don't open till 10. I don't cuss usually, but this time I audibly said, "Shit." I worked so hard on this paper only for this to happen.

Once class starts, the teacher asks us to hand in the papers. I tried to explain to her what happened, but she didn't really seem to understand. Luckily, everyone else in the classroom did and helped explain it. She looked at me, obviously wondering if I was telling the truth, and said, "Bring it to my office after class." During class, since I was so exhausted and had been visited by the Period Fairy while in class, I dozed for like 3 minutes. After class, she asks me why I was sleeping in class. I told her that I wasn't feeling well and hadn't been sleeping, which was half true; the other truth is that her class is boring. But you can't really say that to her. I jet out to the paper room to find that the computer wasn't working and couldn't print stuff off in there. The computer room was packed and couldn't find a computer. After such a morning of frustration, I said to heck with it. I took the bus back to El Centro (my area of town). I went and bought a few books and then came home. There was no way that I was going to face the rest of the day without my computer or a good book. Luckily,  I received a package from my best friend with the new VeggieTales movie in it; it helped me so much!

So yeah. Some days, I am happy to be here, enjoying hearing and speaking Spanish. Other days I am tempted to just pack up and sneak out at night and fly home. It doesn't help that I have been having a hard time making friends. I have been trying, but 90% of them live an entirely different lifestyle than I do. They love to go out and drink and party and get drunk. The look on a French girl's face when I told her that I don't go out was classic.

Finally, I just decided that I was sick of sitting in my room all the time, feeling sorry for myself. I now have pretty much every weekend planned out till I leave. This coming weekend, October 23-24, I am going to Palma de Mallorca to see this by Gaudi. I am excited since I am going just by myself. The following weekend, the weekend of Halloween, I am going to visit an old friend, Sarah, and her husband in Germany. Sarah and I met in HS in shop class, and have been friends ever since. They are living there because he is in the Air Force (I believe). I am SO excited to see her, and visit Germany! I love Germany so much. The food is awesome and the people are great. Plus, I think it will help just seeing a familiar face. The weekend after that I think they are coming to Spain, and I will meet up with them.

The weekends after that are kinda up in the air. A friend from NDSU who is studying in London may be coming to visit Spain, and we may meet up in Santiago de Compostela. Then I may be going to visit her in London for Thanksgiving. At some point, I am going to visit my friend Tanner in France. He is an old friend who is now an English teacher there. But, the highlight of all of this is that my beloved sister and 3 of my many cousins are coming to visit me and celebrate Christmas and New Years with me. I AM SO HAPPY! I miss my sister so much, and am so excited to share Spain with all of them!

To alleviate my boredom, my beloved boyfriend sent me Civilization IV, a computer game. I am SO grateful for this. I have also been reading a lot, and probably will start taking up writing again. It is good for me to learn to be on my own and not depend on people, but this has also helped me realize how much I love my family and friends. So this whole loneliness thing is good, right?

My next post will be on aspects and events of life here, just so you have more to read! :)