Friday, October 30, 2009

The world is our classroom

Today, I faced Madrid with new inspiration.

Last night, over a cup of coffee with my friend Blanca, I was absolutely inspired. Blanca said, "Sarah, the world is your classroom! You want to learn spanish? You have a million teachers! Talk with your neighbor, ask your baker how his children are doing, say hello to the fruit-store man."

Yes, of course! What had I been waiting for?

Today, I went to the post-office to pick up the package my mom had sent me from the States (which made my whole week, by the way!), and instead of trying to conceal the fact that I was a foreigner, I struck up a conversation with the man behind me. As soon as he found out I was American, he wanted to tell me everything he could about Spain. I learned a new phrase southerners like to say about their beloved land, "Nunca al norte, Siempre al Sur" (never go north, always go south). It made the 45 minute line at the post office go by a lot quicker...yes 45 minutes...the place is a zoo!

With all these new-found teachers, I'll be bilingual in no time!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I have found a fountain of love, and it is called teaching.

Anyone who feels alone, unloved, or underappreciated should go to his or her nearest elementary school and apply for a job.

There, anything you do becomes "the coolest". Anything you wear is "the prettiest". And finally, anything you say is "the smartest."
You also get notes like this:It reads, "You are a very very, got teacher and are beautiful," followed by two pictures, one obviously "yes" and the other "no", and "Con todo cariño de Eva, by Eva"
So, maybe I'm not that "got" of a teacher since she thinks "good" is spelled g-o-t, but I'll take what I can get, people!
The best part of my day today?
When Laura (one of my fourth graders) ran up to me in the hallway, gave me a massive hug, looked me in the eyes and said "I loff jew"...[I love you, for those of you who can't read Spanish accents]. I think my heart is still melted on the floor at San Ignacio.
p.s. First grade funny occurence of the week: We drew pictures of "Our Family," but when I got to Christina's picture I couldn't find her. There was, however, an incredibly frightening rabbit human. When I asked Christina about it, she explained to me that I was confused; that was in fact, her, with a rabbit mask on. Silly me!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

oooh german.

I had another exceptionally silly day today with my first graders. Gustavo and I performed our rendition of "Lunch time, Fred!" which was about a zookeeper feeding his animals.

The performance started off weak, and we could tell the kids were not interested. We were sweating it, wonder how we could regain their attention.

Then, German saved the day. On the "Lunch time, Tiger" page, German raised his hand and stated, "yo se lo que dicen los Tigers en ingles!" (I know what tigers say in English!). He then placed his "claws" by his face and let out a true Lion King roar. Again, I used all of my effort to not laugh histerically. Next thing I know, Gustavo and I and the whole class change into monkeys, penguins, and bears...and we had a blast doing it! And you know what? I think the kids learned the names of the animals because it was so fun!
The cherry on top? When asking to interpret the picture on the last page (Fred had run out of food for the animals), German again raised his hand and said, "Se acabo la comida, entonces se quito la ropa" (His food ran out so he took his clothes off.)

"What a version!" Gustavo replied.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

kids say the darndest things!

I just finished my second school week in Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola...don't be fooled: "colegio" does not mean college. It means elementary school! Spanish children are lively, to say the least. While the fact that they are so rowdy could drive the sanest of people bonkers, I find their incredibly charming baby-spanish-accents counteract tendencies to get angry.

I'll give you a few examples. Yesterday Paula, one of my first-graders, came up to me and told me "Yo puedo cantar una cancion en ingles!"... (I can sing a song in english!). She then proceeded to sing me a "Hannah Montana song": or so she said. The lyrics went something like this, "Bahfweojf a;lsdfjf dlfasdln adfalefji dlkcnhmmmm badeebadooo ballyshaaaakaeioefoif". I mean absolute and utter gibberish. I had to hold back my intense desire to laugh, especially when she asked me to translate what the song meant into spanish.

Today, another one of my first graders, Beatriz, told me (in spanish), "Sarah! Donovan went to sleep in his desk and was dreaming of hot girls!!!" I smiled and nodded.

Janire, perhaps the most talkative child I have ever come across yet also the most precious, looks as if she's about to explode if she thinks of something exciting she wants to share with you. She grasps her hands together and her eyes widen as big as saucers. Upon being asked what is so exciting, it's obviously the most exciting of news. Stuff like, "Sarah!!! MIS PRIMOS SE VAN A QUEDAR EN MI CASA ESTE FIN DE SEMANAAA" (Sarah!!! MY COUSIN'S ARE SPENDING THE NIGHT THIS WEEKEND!!!!)

Then there are the kids that don't have to say anything. Luis, for example, frequently likes to take off whatever article of clothing he finds unnecessary (a shirt for example), ties it on his head, and spins around in the back of the classroom as if his two teachers were blind to him.

I often spot Beatriz half dancing/half mouthing song lyrics to herself at her desk. She always ends it with some gesture of surprise, which suggests to me she doesn't truly realize what she's doing.

And then there are the moments that make every "I'm going to go insane moment" worth it. Today Nora would not let me leave without her giving me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. When I got to school this morning, one of my fourth graders Laura jumped out from out of nowhere and gave me a hug. Not to mention, my day is full of joyful shouts of "Hello Sarah!!!" in the hallways.

I love my job, craziness and all :) In fact, I'd say the craziness suits me.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

que casualidad!

This weekend has been really good to me! Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from a man named Kary Eldred who is a good friend of my Aunt Mary's pastor. Kary is a fellow Baylor Bear (sic em!!) and is married to a Spanish woman, Monica. They live in Madrid and attend Mountainview International church. In the email, Kary told me a bit about the church and invited me to come check it out. Although the past two weeks I had attended the same church, I thought I would definitely give this one a go, especially since Kary had gone so far out of his way to contact me and extend me a warm welcome to Madrid.

I got up this morning after very few hours of sleep (I ate dinner at Dani's best friend's house in Mostoles and we stayed up late watching Spanish, kind of odd) and made my way to Principe Pio Station. God really wanted me at church this morning because I literally made it to the train in the nick of time. I enjoyed the short train ride's sights of the beginning of Madrid's sierra. I somehow found the church and had a conversation with the pastor before we started the service. He was incredibly welcoming and is also an expat (from England!). Kary's family sat next to me, along with their friend Carmen who is from Paraguay.

I don't know how to explain the service and the feel of the church besides the fact that I simply felt at peace. The people were so genuine, and we had the common bond of Jesus despite the fact that we are from all over the globe. I'm so glad Kary emailed me (and that Aunt Mary emailed him!).

After church, everyone stayed to chat for a good 45 minutes. I met a Spanish girl named Blanca who just became a Christian this summer, after living with a family of believers in California. She's like the twin opposite of me in that she loooves english and is itching to get back to the States! So we decided to do an intercambio so we can both practice the languages we love!!!

After that, I went to lunch with Kary's family and Carmen. It was such a blessing! These are truly wonderful people.

To top it all off, tomorrow Dani, Cano (his best friend) and I are going to Avila. Google it: it's a romanic, walled city in Spain about an hour from Madrid. I'm incredibly excited to take a little road trip and be able to relax away from the hustle bustle. Check back soon for pictures from that adventure!

p.s. The pictures are from my Friday afternoon spent in Retiro park! I'm spoiled here!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

the simple life!

So I've been trying to pinpoint what makes life in Madrid so enchanting and I think I've grasped it. To a great extent, I'm a city girl. I love the hustle-bustle, the fact that you can see a million new faces every minute, and the buzz cities exude on every street corner.

Madrid is special, though, in that while it's an enormous city, the day to day life is nothing like that compared to a New Yorker's.

The other day I woke up at 6 in the morning (still jet-lagged) and there was not a peep on the streets. No one in this city was even thinking about waking up for another two hours. This is a great contrast even to the suburban-land of Mandeville, where Starbucks customers are ready to take on the day at 5:45 (freaks!!!!).

In the schools here, the lunch break lasts two hours (so people have the opportunity to share this meal with their families). In fact, I am currently on my 2 hour lunch break writing this blog!

I hang my clothes on a line outside of my window, with clothespins and everything. At first I was a bit embarrassed to bare all my skivvies out there, but no one else seems to mind hanging out every size, shape, and fashion of underwear they have!

I go to the grocery store every few days for what I need, and I bring one over the shoulder re-usable grocery bag to tote everything up to my apartment a couple of blocks away.
I walk everywhere. If I want to go to the most popular parts of the city, I'm a fifteen minute metro ride away.

I'm living the simple life here in the big city, and it's an incredibly refreshing experience. I am thinking clearer, breathing in the air, soaking up the sites.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Así es la vida

I’ve officially hit the two week mark here in Madrid, and I am catapulted back to what it was like here for me two years ago, two weeks into my journey. When I studied abroad, two weeks in was a difficult time for me: I had recently been robbed, I had had several discouraging experiences with the language, and I was beginning to miss what it feels like to “fit in”.
Thank goodness I have that experience under my belt to know that this is “normal”. The emotions aren’t near as extreme as they were then, but I have definitely felt a bit of loneliness and “out-of-placeness”. The biggest difference between now and then is that now I have the complete assurance that this place is worth every embarrassing language mishap, feeling of awkwardness, and inability to express myself. How are we ever supposed to grow if we never face challenges like these? Every person has his or her challenge that they know they must face, as scary as it may be. But truly, are we meant to live our comfortable lives without ever taking a risk? That, to me, is a much scarier fate.
Have I felt out of place here? Yes. But then, I remind myself I have also been able to witness a completely different way of life, that I might otherwise never have had the chance to know.
Have I stumbled in many a Spanish conversation? Yes. But, had I not attempted, I would not have gotten the chance to know these beautiful people who don’t share my native language.
I hope I can impart this view of challenges to the children I am teaching this year. Who knows what they will have to teach me, as well. Life is beautiful in Spain, every challenge included. At the end of the day, I rest in the fact that I am never alone, even when it appears so: “Y os aseguro que estaré con vosotros siempre, hasta el fin del mundo”—Jesus.