Monday, December 16, 2013

Eating my way through Spain

If you follow me on instagram or have talked to me at all in the past months, you'll know that I'm pretty obsessed with the food here. Food is one way that Sevilla is very different from my experience in Barcelona. Barcelona is full of international and fast food. Sevilla is full of tapas and traditional Southern dishes. I have tried as much as I can. Not eating pork has gotten in the way a little bit (they love their pork here) and it has gotten me some weird looks from the waiters. I don't eat pork? How do I live? Anyway, after some hits and misses I have found my favorite and go to tapas. I can now recognize most of their Spanish names and I no longer need to phone a friend or ask to see an English menu. I will say that my friends and I have complained a little about the lack of flavor and the lack of variety of food here. It is very difficult to get spicy things. For us, when they say it's spicy we all nod and say "so it'll be flavorful". My friends and I have begun to consciously seek out international food restaurants. So far we have gone for Indian and Mexican food. They've been okay, but honestly, no one does Tex Mex like Chipotle. So here is a collection of food for your viewing pleasure. Word to the wise, anything that is fried with goat cheese and honey is a must.
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Sunday, December 15, 2013


Months and months ago Emily, Stepanie and I took a day trip to Carmona. Carmona is a small town about an hour away from Sevilla. It is known for fantastic tapas, Roman ruins and a ton of churches. You can find more information here. I didn't really know much about Carmona so I took the trip more as an opportunity to continue to learn about my fancy new camera. We began with a pit stop for tapas. I'll be honest though, they were the worst tapas I had had since arriving to Spain. And I'd had a good amount of tapas. The resaurant didn't have half the things we ordered so I ended up with fried octopus. Now, I have no problem eating octopus but when a plate of fully recongnizable baby octopuses were placed in front of me I got a little queasy. This was not what I had expected. I ate them anyway because...well...I'm in Spain so why not? After that we checked out some Roman ruins, played with my camera and wandered around the town. Carmona was nothing mind blowing but it was a nice and inexpensive way to get out of the city for the day and to do something different than bop around Seville.
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Monday, December 9, 2013

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about my Job

My school:
I really lucked out with my school. I work in a primary and elementary school in Bormujos. Bormujos is about a 15 minute drive outside of Sevilla. Given the fact that some of my friends commute an hour or more to their schools, I feel very fortunate about my location. Everyone was welcoming and helpful from my first day. It has been quite the learning curve to create communication with my teachers about what they expect, but after a couple months I am definitely more comfortable. The first couple of weeks I was a mess. I didn´t know what was expected of me, but now I can put together a lesson plan in less than 10 minutes. Also, I´m great with flashcard games. Here's the kicker though, my kids think that I don't know any Spanish. So they have no idea that I can understand every single word they say. Now, I quickly realized it was way too difficult to play full on dumb American. So, if a student asks a question in Spanish I'll either repeat the question in English or simply answer it in English. Either the kids think I can magically understand them or they're just not saying anything.

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Colors and Autumn vocabulary with my kindergarteners

My teachers:
I work with 6 different teachers in 11 different classrooms. Needless to say sometimes communication can be a little difficult. Understandably, I work better with some teachers than with others. I've seen examples of brilliant teaching that I strive to emulate and also examples of poor teaching that I add to my list of things I will never do in a classroom.Technically I am not allowed to be alone in the classroom. However, I am comfortable enough now that if the teacher needs to make copies or grab something, I don't mind at all. I really admire when teachers take advantage of my leading the class to spend one on one time with students that need the extra help. But then there are the teachers (or teacher) who takes advantage of my time in ways that make me want to scream. Instead of grading papers or helping students, this teacher will just disappear to who knows where, making me late for my next class. Overall, I have created wonderful relationships with my coworkers. They are always ready to support me or give me advice on the best ways to take advantage of my time here. 

The classes:
I teach kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th grade. I like some classes more than others. My favorite class is one of my third grade classes. Every Wednesday, when I enter the classroom, there is a chorus of "Teacher Maddie" and then I get hug piled. I never realize how much I need that until it happens. It makes the week 10x better. Then there are the classes I dread. From disorganized and uncommunicative teachers to last minute changes in plans, sometimes I just want to throw up my hands and leave. I like a good challenge, but sometimes when a class goes the wrong way there is nothing you can do but give them something to color. Probably my favorite classes to teach are my kindergarten classes. They really make me want to teach kindergarten after this year as a Language Assistant. I get to be really creative with my lesson plans and activities, and to be honest, my students are really easy to please. Sometimes I think I have more fun than the kids. At 5 years old they don't understand much English, but when the somethings clicks, it's really fun to watch. 

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Celebrating Halloween with 1b

What do I teach?
Actually, I teach more science than English. Sciences are bilingual in Spain. So I teach 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade science. I have become an expert in animals, the five senses and food. It's interesting, but I'd rather just be teaching straight up English. It's way easier for me to come up with my kindergarten and 6th grade English lesson plans than my science ones. In my science classes I am teaching science through English. So, the focus is more on understanding the scientific concepts than on the English itself. Also I constantly ask myself, when are kids ever going to need to know the English words for vertebrate and invertebrate? I mean, really.

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Thanksgiving vocabulary with 6b
I like what I'm doing. I like the majority of my classes, students and teachers. You should hear the horror stories some of my friends have told; I count myself lucky in my placement. I become more and more comfortable everyday. I am seriously considering renewing for a second year because I feel like it would be such a shame to put in all this work and accumulate all of this knowledge simply to never utilize it again. So there you have it, a not so brief overview of my job.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Trip to Ikea

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I thought it was important to give Ikea its own post because it was my first time ever going to an Ikea. Who would have thought Sevilla, Spain would include my first Ikea experience? My word of choice to describe the overall experience is overwhelming. From the moment I walked in, until the momemnt I left, my head was spinning. Catherine, Emily and I went in with lists a mile long. Our apartment was nice, but we have quite a stingy landlord. That meant a lot of practical stuff was missing and Ikea was the cheapest way to take care of the problem. So we started on the first floor which is filled mostly with the show rooms. Now, I had no idea that the actual stuff to buy was coming later, so I thought this was it. I wandered through bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and I thought there was no way out. After that, there is a cafateria. Ikea has a full blown cafateria! We thought we could just breeze on by that and get to the actual shopping. When we hit the shopping section of Ikea, I didn't even know where to look. Even though it was categorized by room, there was so much stuff. We quickly realized how tired and grumpy we were and headed back upstairs for lunch. Once we were energized and properly caffinated, we headed back to the shopping section. We filled our cart to the brim. I couldn't even tell how much money we´d be spending. But, I promise, it was all stuff we needed. Then, as if the shopping section wasn´t enough, we hit the warehouse. The warehouse was filled with the DIY furniture. I grabbed a night stand, Catherine grabbed a hanging rack, and we headed to the check out. Now here´s the thing about Ikea, it's deceptively cheap. Based on all the stuff we had in our cart, I thought I'd be paying hundreds of euros. Turns out, my stuff was under 150. And I got A LOT of stuff. So now our apartment is properly furnished and now I am fully aware that a trip to Ikea is no laughing matter.
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Super Tourist

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Since Catherine and I didn't have any apartment appointments set up the weekend of my five day apartment hunt, I decided to take a me day that Saturday. It had been a crazy whirlwind of orientation from the second I set foot in Sevilla. I slept in past noon and I really needed it. Between jet lag and orientation, I was lacking in the sleep department. After a nice long shower (because I knew those wouldn't happen after I had my own apartment and would be paying for electric), I set out on a day of sightseeing. Here's the thing about Sevilla, I had come in expecting something like Barcelona. I was dead wrong. The south of Spain is your stereotypical Spain. It's the land of bull fighting, tapas and Flamenco. When you think of Spain, you're most likely thinking of the South. Barcelona is different. First, it's in Catalunya, so it really doesn't want to be a part of Spain at all. Second, Barcelona is a cultural and international hub. It's Sevilla on crack. I'll write more about my difficulty with getting accustomed to southern life later. All that is to say, I had prepared myself for a day of sightseeing like I would in Barcelona. I was ready for tons of walking, getting lost, and at least one rude man whispering something obscene in my ear as he walked by. Oh, and I had a hand on my bag to deter pick pocketing. I was over prepared. Sevilla is small, so the walking wasn't that bad, if I ever felt lost I just oriented myself by the river, getting cat called rarely happens here and although pickpocketing happens in touristy zones, it's nothing like Barcelona. Pleasantly surprised, I meandered my way around the winding streets and made my way to Las Cetas (a.k.a. The Metropol Parasol). The Metropol Parasol is a giant work of architecture that fills what was once a car park and kind of a dead zone in the city center. It's very modern and about half of the city likes it and the other half doesn't. You can find information about it here. Underneath is a museum of Roman ruins found during the construction of the building. Here is more information about the museum. I'm a huge fan of Roman ruins so I spent a lot of time in the museum wandering around and feeling proud about how much I new about ancient roman cities and towns. Then I went up to the top of the Parasol to get my first view of Sevilla's cityscape. I'll be honest, I was disappointed. Here's the thing, a law was passed a loooooong time ago that nothing can be taller than La Giralda, so the city is pretty flat. Not my favorite cityscape that I've ever seen. But it was nice to orient myself. After that I grabbed some food and headed home to rest because when I first arrived to Sevilla, it would get HOT during the afternoon.
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Everything you ever wanted to know about my apartment

           The day after orientation (Friday) ended everyone shipped out to their placements all over Andalucía to find their new homes. I was one of the lucky ones who got to stay put in the same hotel as the one we stayed in for orientation. I slept in and then set out to meet my potential roommate Catherine. We had connected over Facebook. She was looking for a roommate in Seville and I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do about the housing situation. We met up and went for some coffee. Luckily, we hit it off right away. It was a little bit like speed dating because of my time crunch. I only had five days in my hotel, which isn’t a lot of time to find the apartment of your dreams. We took the weekend off because it’s hard to do anything in Spain on weekends. I took Saturday to go sight seeing (post coming soon) and Sunday to meet the bilingual coordinator from my school. Monday Catherine, her boyfriend and I met up to begin the hunt. It was a mess from the start. We saw about seven apartments that day. Each one was worse than the last. We went our separate ways frustrated and sad. I was pretty sure I was going to be living in a little box with just my luggage to keep me warm. Tuesday we went back at it with a positive attitude. We saw five or six more apartments that day, but we went with the first one we saw. It was the right size, was in the perfect location and it had its own personal patio. I ended up moving in the next day because my time in the hotel was up.
            I had a couple days to myself in the apartment until Friday. Then we spent nearly a week entertaining guests. Catherine and I were a mess. We had barely moved ourselves in, there was no way we were ready to host people. So we did a giant Ikea trip and prepared ourselves as best we could. Our two guests were friends of Catherine. Well, one girl was a family friend and the other girl was a friend of the friend. They were wonderful! I felt bad that we were so stressed and busy. We were both starting work while they were staying with us, so we didn’t get much of a chance to spend time with them and show them around. Now the piso is, more or less, set up and beautiful. Since we’re both pretty busy little things have fallen through the cracks like arranging our kitchen. But we have time. So now that the place is presentable, here is a virtual tour. 
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My Room
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The Living Room
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The Kitchen
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The Patio
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We do laundry inside that shed
        As I spend more time in my piso, I love it more and more. It is quickly beginning to feel like home base, something that is so important to me in a foreign country. The location is right between Plaza de Armas (a major bus station and my ride to my school) and Calle San Jacinto (a main street in Triana with food and shopping). Oh, I live in Triana. So I’m across the bridge from the center of the city. This means it’s a little more quiet and residential. Actually, since I’ve moved here I haven’t really been into the city center. Triana has everything I need.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Reflection: On Patience

One of the most important things that I have learned about myself over these weeks is patience. Things in the South of Spain move slow. Businesses aren’t open a lot of hours, most of them close for a siesta (a.k.a mid day nap), so you get used to putting things off until tomorrow and being okay with that. I am an instant gratification kinda gal. That kind of thing doesn’t fly here. It might be the little things like a later eating schedule or waiting in the ridiculous lines at the bank. Or it might be something big like finding an apartment or having internet (which I still don’t have as I write this post). So these past weeks have been a very valuable lesson that I have been eating up. The American lifestyle is all about go go going. The more you can get done in a day the better. A two hour mid day siesta? As if. Banks closing at 2pm and being closed on weekends? I’m pretty sure our country would deteriorate. But this is the reality of Spain. I try to marry my American drive to the newly discovered Spanish slowness. If something doesn’t get done right away, instead of freaking out, I am slowly learning to simply wait. I have also learned to plan ahead. I’m already a pretty organized person, and I put this to use now more than ever. Many businesses (mostly banks) open at 9am and close around 2pm and nothing is open on Sundays. So I have begun to do my shopping and errands in the morning and then do things around the house in the afternoons. I also take full advantage of my days off, because most of the time I work from 9am to 2pm. I have also learned to revel in my down time. At college I rarely took naps. If I wasn’t doing homework I was working on something for an extracurricular activity or applying for jobs. Now, I take full advantage of my siesta. After work, I’ll get home, spend some time making lunch and then take an hour or two to myself. For the first time in years I am reading for pleasure on a regular basis. I love it. So, instead of complaining and fighting against the Spanish lifestyle I am intertwining it with my own American up bringing. This means that, not only do I get things done, but I have also learned the value of a well deserved nap.   photo 177fa712-9628-4779-91d6-a9bdae8e1831.jpg

Coming Attractions:
-Everything Apartment related
-My trip to Ikea
-Everything you want to know about my job and my school
-My day as a tourist in the city
-My trip to the Cathedral and La Ghiralda
-Lists and reflections

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The First Post From Sevilla

Hello! I am here! I just finished a five day crash course orientation and now I'm resting in my hotel room preparing for another five day whirlwind of apartment hunting. In this post I'll recap orientation, post some pictures of pretty places and try to make funny jokes about being an American in Spain.

Day 1:
I arrived. International flights are the best/the worst. I always feel disoriented until I get a full night's sleep after a transatlantic flight. However, I love the flight itself. When you're flying you disconnect from the rest of the world. You have no obligation but to sit and pass time. I love the concept of reading, dozing, listening to music, etc. and having no other obligation because up in the air no one can contact me. I love the forced disconnect. I also used the flight as a way to shake off the emotional release of leaving my home and beginning an entirely new life. 

When we arrived we picked up our bags and were shuttled off to the hotel. We had a quick welcome talk from the directors of the Teach in Spain program and then had dinner. We were split into our different provinces. Believe it or not, there are only 12 of us in Sevilla and not all of us are staying in the city. Don't let that number fool you though. Although there are only 12 of us in Sevilla through CIEE, there are over one hundred teaching assistants in the province of Sevilla through the government program. 

Day 2:
I still felt a little hazy throughout the day. It made the orientation lectures really difficult to sit through. We spent the first half of the day sitting in a classroom as the directors educated us on our TIE's, about Sevilla, the Junta (the government), and more. It was valuable information and I'm glad CIEE gave it to us; I just wish I had been more awake. 

The second half of the day was much better. I got in a nice siesta (nap time is very serious here), and woke up ready to conquer the city. First we took a tour of La Alcázar and Los Jardines de Murillo. La Alcázar is a palace that has been constantly renovated over the centuries. There are traces of many cultures in the architecture. Here's a link with more information about La Alcázar and here is a link to more information about Los Jardines de Murillos. I wish the tour guide would have gone slower because I didn’t have time to set up pictures and simply look at all of the beauty around me. I could have spent a long time just looking at some of the floors in the palace. I definitely plan on going back on my own so that I can explore at my own pace. That being said, the tour guide was a stitch and a half. He spoke Spanglish at us and cracked the funniest jokes. He also knew a lot about La Alcazár and was full of useful information.

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After that we took a quick downtown tour (mostly I just got super turned around) and made our way to dinner. So. Many. Tapas. I always know my stomache is in for some adjusting when I go abroad. But everything is just so good! I ate squid. And not for the first time. I’m that worldly.

Day 3:
Another day of lectures. By this time I was pretty rested and antsy to get started on the practical things of living in a city. The internet was broken in our hotel (it was like the world ended for every participant in the program) so I was ready to get a phone plan set up with some data. After the lectures I had a nice siesta and headed over to a different hotel for some rooftop pool bonding and free wifi. After that came more tapas and a flamenco show. I was surprised by how unexcited I was by the flamenco show. I love music and dance so I was really looking forward to it, but in the end, it didn’t move me as much as I had thought it would. Maybe it was the jet lag and the small, hot room. I plan on seeing more shows in different venues because flamenco is a large part of the southern Spanish culture and I think I will like it more with a change of scenery.

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Day 4:
I got a phone! All was right with the world. That’s all for day 4. But not really. We had some more lectures and then we went and visited a school in the city to see what our teaching positions could potentially be like. That got me really excited and now I can’t wait to get started! After that we had some free time and met up for our farewell meal of…more tapas.

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Day 5:
While most of the program participants left to their respective cities and towns across the south of Spain, I’m still here. The people staying in the city get to stay in the same hotel while we look for apartments. I felt pretty lucky considering some people had to wake up at the crack of dawn to make their buses and trains.
I met my future roommate today too. I will completely admit that the success of my housing in Spain will be due to good luck. She messaged me out of the blue. She is a Teach in Spain Basics participant and was simply reaching out for a roommate. We met, had coffee, and I was thrilled to find out that we had a lot in common and I think we’ll get along great.
Now I’m chilling in my hotel room and unwinding from the craziest of weeks. It’s not over yet though. I am seeing apartments, opening my bank account, getting my foreigner identity card and learning the ropes. This whole starting a life in a new country thing is HARD.

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Monday, September 9, 2013