Getting Into the Swing of Things

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November 9th 2010
Published: November 16th 2010
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Kinda like the Taj Mahal right??
It's November 9th. Have I really been in Spain for nearly two months? Time has flown by, I think when there are so many new things to become accustomed to, it's easy to forget how fast it's all happening. Although, I am thrilled that I have a solid sense of my schedule and am in a nice little routine. My life has truly begun as a Spaniard!

I really couldn't be happier with my job. I think I said this in the last entry but I am teaching adults, at an official language school and they are fantastic! They want to learn and are curious about my topics of conversation. My friends from my program are all teaching children and they say most days are very unorganized and incredibly stressful because the kids are off the wall with energy. Most of my students are pretty shy to speak up in class but when they do, its hilarious. We were talking about bad habits one day and one of my students admitted that he had a bad habit of being gassy. He explained that he couldn't help it "because sometimes your stomach is full of combustion" and he can't avoid it.

Palacios Nazares
The whole class was rolling on the floor including me and the main teacher- this guy always has something to say! Usually the chattier students are older men; they don't have any inhibition to just shout out what's on their mind. My classes range from 17 to 70 year olds and the mix is quite interesting. The classroom definitely reflects the different age groups but when we have discussions, it isn't like the younger crowd is up against the older one or vice versa. They all work together nicely and can all discuss the same topics. The only time its hard is when they become so incredibly timid! And it's amazing, the main teachers will yell at the class like they are 7 year olds. For example, just yesterday, I was explaining a topic and I used the term "family bonding" and "siblings". The main teacher knew that the class didn't understand these words and so she stopped me and looked at the class and said "Do you know these words?". The class was silent. So she retorted, "WHY DON"T YOU ASK NATALIE WHAT THEY MEAN?!" I was completely caught off guard- this woman is a cheery mother of three
A Light DinnerA Light DinnerA Light Dinner

We were feeling very European this night...
and is consistently in good spirits. But she snapped. I think I have a new found respect for her...

I have started teaching English for a family in the next town over, a two year old and a six year old. I teach the children separately and when I have the six year old, her friend accompanies us. These two little girls are a trip and are very smart for their age! They love to crack jokes and goof around which keeps the job interesting. I have taught them the alphabet, numbers and some phrases "How are you?", etc. I usually teach them for an hour and with the little boy, 30 minutes is plenty. I have taught him red, blue and green by having him identify objects of these colors in the room. He is also very smart for his age and likes to think he can get away with certain things, which won't work with me!

For only living here a month, we have had three weekends of visitors! A friend Ali from our program came from Sevilla, my friend Cherrelle from MN also came from Sevilla the next weekend and we all went to

This. Is. A. Ceiling. !
Nerja together (a town about an hour and a half east of Rincon). And then two weekends ago my friend Courtney from my study abroad group 2nd semester in the DR came with friends Lisa and Ali from Cordoba and Jaen(city 2 hours north of Rincón). So with 3 weekends of visitors, I have only been out of town twice, to Nerja and Granada.

Nerja is a great little beach town with a lot of tourists from all over Europe. There is a huge plaza called "The Balcony of Europe" which looks over the turquoise Mediterranean. The beach is amazing and the food is phenomenal. The place has a distinctly Spanish feel; there are small winding roads and little shops at every corner. The restaurants have breath-taking views, perched a top a cliff that looks over the ocean.

I went to Granada last weekend which was a huge change from Rincon. The people and the atmosphere were incredibly different, the entire ambiance had a unique vibe. For those of you who don't know about Spanish history, basically Muslims, Christians and Jews have been dueling for the past 1300 years, the Christian church only taking permanent residence in 1492.

Views were the best of it all
Anyways, Muslims were largely in power from the 700s until 1492 and during this time they built all kinds of palaces and religious buildings, etc. When the Christian church regained power, they allowed Muslims to have the city of Granada, kind of as a "safe-haven" for Muslims. That being said, the Muslim influence is strong in this city as well as a prominent north African population. The restaurants, businesses and the city as a whole have a distinct Muslim and North African(largely Moroccan) aura. Granada is most famous for the Alhambra, an enormous garden filled with castles and palaces, a huge memoir of the Muslim presence in Spain. People come from all over the world to see these monuments and the deeply historical landmarks. This is one of those places that has pamphlets in EVERY language and different tours of people from obscure countries dotting the entire area.

Granada is also famous for their free tapas! I loved this part. So, basically you order a drink and you get free food (tapas are basically like appetizers). And they certainly aren't stingy with the food either. We ordered four drinks, and fours sandwiches came out-FREE! No joke. Granada is

Just one portion of the serious gardens
full of college students so this concept works perfectly for those on a budget. The nightlife was pretty unique, the club we went to was full of people from all ages and backgrounds, yet I felt like my friend and I were stared at much more than normal. A guy even approached us asking if we were from Granada and a woman butts in and says "No way, they don't have the face of a Granadian" with a curious smirk. Okay. Rude. Whatever that meant, I felt as though the people were not nearly as friendly as those in Rincon and Malaga. This just goes to show that those with more sun and vitamin D are truly happier people. Granada is about 2 hours north of Malaga and is very close to snow-capped mountains, which makes the town very cold as well as the people. I even talked to some fellow teachers at school and they explained that people from Granada are much more serious and closed-off, they even have a word for them "mala follo". I was glad this observation was shared by all Spaniards and not just a figment of my imagination.

HALLOWEEN! This holiday is

Garden Party
celebrated in Spain, yet has only become popular in the past 15 years. November 1st is All Saints Day and has been celebrated for 100s of years, so Halloween has taken a backseat to this extremely traditional day. All Saint's Day is celebrated by remembering those who have passed by cleaning and decorating their graves with flowers and candles. Everything is closed, work is cancelled, and people are usually very sullen and serious. For this reason, Halloween has been a pretty awkward day to incorporate into Spanish traditions, given that November 1st is serious and Halloween is all about partying and dressing up. Children dress up in costume and are paraded around town, but trick-or-treating isn't terribly popular (yet)-poor kids! Bars and clubs are decorated with Halloween decorations and stores have orange clothing in the windows but of course it isn't like a Minnesota Halloween with trips to the orchard and pumpkin patch and people dressed up in very creative costumes, including the pets. Everyone in Spain still thinks that Halloween has to be scary and all the children are little ghosts and zombies and witches. I explained to my classes that at home most little girls are princesses and

My amazing task of the evening
fairies and little boys are things like Spiderman or Batman. I think they were confused since their impression of the day is to be something frightening.

So my school decided to have a Halloween party. At the party, there was a cake contest, refreshments and mingling. But what about some entertainment? Oh yeah, that would be ME.

My directors asked me to carve a pumpkin and tell a scary story. I agreed. So I brought my pumpkin and after the decorated cake contest (which I was a judge) I began to carve my pumpkin. Mind you, pumpkins in Spain are not the huge, perfectly round and orange gems they are at home. They are small, hard and an icky tan color. So, the carving process was not easy. Though the pumpkins were not to my liking, the audience was truly astonished. I had 60 people standing around me, watching in awe as I carved my little rock. It was like I was performing brain surgery- I had never seen people so amazed by such a task. Even when my directors were planning the party with me, they asked me with such hesitation- it was hilarious. They said, " there you think you could....I mean do you know how to....make a jack-o-lantern? " I responded, "Of course!" and they were in shock! During the process I even had several women asking me how exactly one should carve the mouth and the eyes. I didn't think this was such a foreign practice. Then I began to realize why all of the "jack-o-lanterns" were made by drawing on a face with a black sharpie....

I also told a ghost story which was a bust, I told it in English because thats what my directors requested but they didn't catch the ending so I felt like a fool, oh well! (It was the one about the lady who always wore a ribbon around her neck and her husband always wondered why and finally she took it off on her death bed and her head fell off). They didn't understand when her head fell off... FAIL.

Last but not least the glorious Picasso museum! Yes, PICASSO IS FROM MALAGA!!! I went and it was pretty neat, but basically only because I can SAY that I have seen a real Picasso. I'm not too hip on museums filled

This is Jacob, the German helper (German version of my job)
with paintings and only paintings, there were a few sculptures but...they weren't blowing me away. Mom you will like it though! I also went to a Henry Matisse exhibit in the Alhambra in Granada- again Mom you would've been so happy!

Thanks for reading...

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I was a cat- scary huh?

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