My Flamenco Friend and I.

Last Saturday I did something I’ve been looking forward to for a while: I went to see a flamenco show. Countless numbers of shows are put on every week in Granada, but some of these are over touristy and according to natives, not as authentic as they should be.

I’ve never considered myself a dancer, nor have I ever felt compelled enough to give it a go as a hobby. I’m in fact a dancing couch potato. I’d happily sit in front of the TV to watch and gawp at how people can be that flexible and move different parts of their body that fast.  I’m unfortunately not a fan of Zumba either, although earlier today Sofia dragged me along the Vivo Latino dance class at the gym. As I have fatefully discovered in the body pump classes I’ve recently been going to, I was once again the whitest and palest person there. Never have I resented the presence of walled mirrors so much.

Despite my abysmal attempt to mimic the moves of the personal trainer at the front of the class (who had a stunning bum I must say) and feeling like a complete idiot, I daresay I enjoyed it.  I had dragged Sofia to body pump you see on Monday and she’s been complaining ever since about her arms hurting.

Revenge comes in different forms.

Maybe I’ll go next week. The woman did say patience was required to master all the moves, so I shall remain hopeful. The level at Vivo Latino was a far cry from what I saw last Saturday though.

Flamenco dance is a type of Spanish folk music which originated in Andalusia and is thought to have started among the gitano or gypsy Romani community in the region and it’s common to find people of this origin performing it today. The guitarist and the female singer who we saw were gitanos, or Romani gypsies according to Sofia’s careful identification of them. It’s made up of four parts: cante (singing), toque (guitar playing), baile (dance) and palmas (handclaps) the percussive sounds of which all come together to produce a lot of rhythmic noise.

Waiting for the show to start.

Waiting for the show to start

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Flamencooo – it didn’t disappoint!

The whole show lasted just over an hour, and as a spectator it was pretty impressive. The dancers moved their bodies so fast it was incredible. The rather good looking guy had a brilliant bum too (*pattern emerging). Sofia and I happened to be seated at the back of the audience under some blue strobe lighting which remained lit for the entire performance.  When the guy miraculously did some fast turns he focused on a point when stopping and he had nowhere to look but at us, which all added to the atmosphere.

After we went out for Tapas in the centre where more sophisticated and less studenty style food is served. Sofia had lent me some green woolly tights to wear which upon reflection was a big mistake. They went rather well with the playsuit I was wearing and it was a cold night so my black 20-denier ones wouldn’t have sufficed. But when I introduced myself as Fiona, the Shrek comparison was joked about and the green tights there and then became the bane of my life. I hadn’t actually ever seen Sofia in them…

My turn for revenge.

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My stars of the class

I am completely aware that I am rubbish at this whole blog thing. The truth is, if I was blogging every day like I suppose some hard core bloggers do, I wouldn’t have time to do all the important stuff I have to do like prepare classes and organise my daily bla bla journeys and type out new class lists for my new star system at school.

Yes. Maestra Fiona has launched a new sticker star system at school. It’s called ‘Fiona’s Little Golden Stars of the Class’. I am now awarding stars for classroom participation and good behaviour, although I originally wanted to start it for the latter. Some of the kids here just don’t understand that they need to say seated in class and not shout at me and interrupt me when they feel like it. This might sound a bit snobbish from a Spanish person’s point of view, because shouting and being very vocal is simply just part of Motrilian culture. I’ve decided though, that if the kids are learning English, they’re going to learn a bit of British etiquette too.

The whole star system was perhaps born out of my own frustration. In my occasional broken Spanish and foreign accent (which is undoubtedly strange for the kids to hear) I feebly give instructions to the kids when I feel like I have to. Maybe that’s why some of them get frustrated with me.

I still wouldn’t say I’m 100% brilliant at speaking perfect, fluent, error-free Spanish – in fact I’m far from it. I’m even further away from speaking what I am going to call ‘classroom Spanish’, such as having to remember to use the ‘plural you’ form of the verb when speaking to groups, giving instructions or to try and control some kids when teachers like Eugenia wander out of the classroom. I’ve noticed that when this happens, the kids don’t see me as the main teacher, even though I feel like I am. They therefore feel that they can play up in front of me and I suppose there’s naturally less authority in my voice. I’m not, strictly speaking, really supposed to speak Spanish in class. But when you’re in front of twenty five seven-year olds, some of whom sadly have learning difficulties or are extremely hyperactive, speaking English constantly at them isn’t always going to be the most productive way to achieve results.

So the first week back after Christmas, I gave a power point presentation to the year 3’s and 4’s – arguably the worst behaved classes I teach – about how to behave like children in England. The angle I was going for was a ‘new year, new class’ thing, in which I tried to explain the new rules that we would all follow together over the next five months. I filled this presentation with pretty pictures of well-behaved English kids in their brightly coloured uniforms all putting up their hands and a smiling teacher who appeared to be speaking effortlessly to her contented pupils.

I told the children that I had visited my sister’s classroom over the Christmas holidays and that I was amazed at how well behaved all the English boys and girls were, and how I wondered why my children couldn’t behave in a similar way. This of course was a big fat lie, but it was so worth it for the silence that fell in Eugenia’s class.

(*Note, my sister is actually a teacher, so this doesn’t make me look too bad). I told them the stars were special stars from the school where my sister works, even though I had spotted them in the Al Campo supermarket in Motril when I subsequently had the whole eureka moment.

Seeing as I’m working with kids, the sticker star system was always going to involve an element of persuasion. The girl and the boy from each class with the most stars at the end of the year will win a special prize. I have, as of yet, absolutely no idea what this prize will actually be. I have told the kids it’s going to be something amazing from England, something that you can’t find anywhere in Spain. So please, if you have any ideas I’m open to any suggestions because so far I’m struggling.

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I’m running out already. The big ones they’ll have to work harder for…

 

So far, the I’ve seen a lot of improvement and I feel proud of the kids. The younger ones have been much better behaved, and a lot more hands have been going up in class. Last week, Ana, a year 3 who has problems with learning and keeping up in class, managed to read a whole sentence on the board in English, completely unaided. She obviously earned a star, which made both her day and mine. I’ve noticed that more of them  seem to have a greater interest in English too. Others (particularly the boys) have even managed to hold off their toilet breaks until break time, which confirmed my earlier suspicion that most of the time they just fancy a wander around to get out of class.

This side of Christmas, the teaching is going much better, and I’m enjoying it a lot more. I’ve felt more satisfied than I did last year, and when I see the progress being made, it really feels like my work is paying off. Just like the kids, I suppose I’m learning myself.

Learning that little children will believe anything you tell them.

‘Ta luego.

My (typically Spanish) late Christmas post.

I was meant to post this long long long ago… I wrote most of it whilst sitting in the airport waiting for my plane home. Being the unorganised and forgetful person that I am, I never posted it up when I got home, so here it is now.

(20th December 2014)

For the past fortnight I’ve been trying to teach the kids a bit about how Christmas in England is celebrated. I say ‘trying’ because in some classes it’s been a real struggle.  The kids here are vocal and expressive. Eugenia, (a year three teacher) says that they’re rude – that their upbringing is partly to blame and I can kind of see where she’s coming from. Across all the age groups that I teach, (being significantly worse among the younger ones) the children constantly interrupt the teacher, never put their hands up and only listen to their classmates when they can be bothered. They of course don’t realise that their being rude, as after all they are only kids, but when you’re trying to talk to a class of twenty highly energetic and occasionally uncontrollable children who constantly shout out and who do more talking than thinking and always seem to need the toilet every ten minutes, it’s hard to deny that Eugenia is probably right.

Never have I ever watched a John Lewis advert so many times in one week. The kids loved Monty the Penguin and when Eugenia spontaneously interrupted me herself by inquisitively clicking on last years’ Bare and the Hare, (kids must learn from their teachers, I suppose) I wasn’t expecting her to burst out crying and run out of class – emotionally, it was too much.

On Thursday, my last day before I flew home, it took me a good five minutes to successfully finish my explanation of a mince pie. Here’s a nice little excerpt from Thursday’s class:

“O, es como chocolate!”

-No, it’s not chocolate.

“O, es carne?”

-No, it doesn’t have meat. It’s a sweet.

“Es un dulce?”

Yes, a bit like how you have turrón here in Spain…

“Es como turrón?”

No, let me speak and I’ll tell you…

“Maestra, puedo ir al baño?”

-Do you really need the toilet Enrique?

“Si maestra…”

-Ask me in English

“Can I go to the toilet please?

-Alright, but be quick. Right, mince pies are…

Toilet breaks are so frequently taken in this school that I reckon the average child must miss out on about a week’s worth of lessons every year. Alejandro, my year five art teacher, told me that this is a very ‘Spanish’ thing to do – to take a wander out of the classroom when boredom sets in.

I always finish Thursdays with the year fives for art. I begin this class in the most monotonous way (albeit by Alejandro’s request) – by re-running the presentation of classroom phrases and vocabulary which I made at the start of the year, when none of the kids knew how to ask for simple things or understand basic instructions. I’m drilling the stuff into them slowly, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve noticed an improvement in a lot of them. After the mince pie fiasco earlier on in the day, I subsequently introduced a new slide which shockingly stated that there would be a toilet ban for every kid in Alejandro’s art class in 2015 when Maestra Fiona is present.

The silence that fell was incredible.

Breaking the news to my year 5's.

Breaking the news to my year 5’s.

Instead of a nativity play, music performances have been taking place throughout the week and parents are invited to come and proudly watch their little ones. There have been recorder performances, with a rendition of Greensleeves which (I can truly testify) has been practised long and hard by all since early October. Goodness knows how the music teacher copes with a class of twenty kids with recorders.

There have, however, been some awkward moments this week in class too. In Spain, as in Italy, Christmas Day isn’t really celebrated. It’s 6 January when the Three Wise Men come and drop off the presents. When explaining this to the kids, I frantically made up some stuff about how the Three Wise Men always get lost on their way to England as the days there are shorter and so there’s obviously no big bright beautiful shining star to guide them like there was in Bethlehem.

It so worked.

I’ve never spent Christmas away from family or friends and to do so in a country which doesn’t really celebrate 25th December like we do would be weird.

The fam have been asking me what I want for Christmas over whatsapp. In truth, I don’t really know. I don’t exactly care that much either about the fact that I don’t know. The John Lewis advert really was a good’n this year and I guess I should only practise what I’ve preached to the kids really: presents shouldn’t matter, because Christmas is a time for el amor real. Everyone always says sentimental stuff like that about Christmas, but it’s only when you’re away from home do you actually appreciate its meaning.

Even if Monty didn’t spend Christmas at his real home, at least he’s found real love.

Feliz Navidad everyone, año prospero felicidad.

This is why I get stares in Motril.

This is why I get stares in Motril.

The Staff Room.

So I’m sitting in the staff room. It’s Monday morning. Break has finished, the smell of coffee is still lingering in the air. My coordinator has just sent me a whatsapp explaining that she won’t be in the next lesson with me as she’s not feeling too great. It’s obviously the Motril winter bug that everyone’s catching, even though it’s moderately sunny outside. That, or the fact that there are only five more days until the start of the Christmas holidays and she’s feeling a bit drained.  (There’s no half term in Spain, so I guess this is a valid excuse).

After two and a half months of being the student-turned-teacher, my experiences of this school have been challenging yet rewarding. From a foreigners’ perspective, it’s been interesting and occasionally laughable to see how this primary school differs so much to our bog-standard, functioning English ones. I shall go into a bit of detail, using the staff room as my source of analysis.

Out of the five box-sized computers that there are in the staff room, three aren’t plugged in, one is plugged in but does not work, and the other is plugged in and works. This one solitary working computer was replaced over the weekend with one which boasts a flat screen monitor (very fancy stuff for this school) but I assume this doesn’t work either because no one has used it all day. Instead, the one that is plugged in (which doesn’t normally work) today seems to be working.

Sorry if I have caused you unnecessarily amounts of confusion about what works and what doesn’t.

The printer which sits next to these two computers is rather temperamental. Teachers walk into the staff room asking others or myself the same question, “Does the printer work?” I always give the same response, “It was working a moment ago but maybe you should check.” Last week, when they all had to prepare the Christmas reports for the kids, there was havoc. Never have so fewer teachers been present in the staff room. They were all in the photocopying room.

The printer didn’t work.

Two computers. Guess which one works.

Two computers. Guess which one works.

Despite being broken, the computers are well labelled for good measure.

Despite being broken, the computers are well labelled for good measure.

The coffee vending machine definitely works, but works incorrectly. Twice I have requested a coffee without sugar. Twice I have tasted two super sweet coffees.

Occasionally the school secretary marches into the staff room and shouts in her thick Andalusian accent and I understand nothing. She doesn’t realise she’s shouting, of course. She’s the perfect example of a crazy Andalusian. Sometimes they shout and don’t realise that their shouting. She almost comes across as angry. Of course, like a lot of the older-aged teachers, she doesn’t talk to me. This has probably been the most disappointing thing in the staff room – and about this school itself. The older ones aren’t exactly over friendly. A lot of the time I find myself playing the role as instigator of most conversations.

There is Juan-D, though. Juan-D is one of the older teachers who is the most friendly, who was the most welcoming when I arrived here and who has a passion to learn English, to the extent where I was on the cross-trainer once in the gym in Motril and he started asking me all sorts of things in English. Whenever I talk to him, I have to repeat what I say about ten times really loudly, because he is deaf in one ear. Imagine doing this on a cross-trainer.

At other times, when I have left school early after finishing my day, I have spontaneously bumped into Marino, the school’s headmaster, wondering around Motril. I wonder what he does and where he goes on these meanders because whatever the reason, it’s obviously more important than being the big daddy boss of the school.

Just about to pop to class, gotta deliver another Christmas presentation for the tenth time and show the kids the John Lewis advert.

Hasta luego amigos, Christmas is nearly here, go spread some Christmas cheer.

Wish they’d try do that a bit more in the staff room. I blame the computers for dampening everyone’s spirit.

Looking for the translation, finding my feet.

Like any year abroad student, I plan to do a lot of travelling over the next few months. I’ve already been to Malaga and popped over to Almeria, though having recently stuck a postcard on my wardrobe door which has a map of Andalusia, I can’t wait to visit other famous cities throughout this region.

I thought this post should be on Granada itself. I’ve now been a habitant of this city for a good three weeks and I’ve already fallen in love with it. When I was in Motril, everyone spoke of Granada as if it was something beautiful; they spoke about Granada with a smile, almost in awe of it. I could really exaggerate and say that I could almost detect a slight twinkle in their eyes…

Thing is though, amigos, I’m not exaggerating. Granada is amazing. I’m wondering why I didn’t live here before. The authentic streets, the Albayzín, (which is the old, more traditional part of the city), the Arab tea shops, the clothes shops, the tapas bars, its’ magnificent cathedral, the Christmas markets which have just started up…it has everything. The Sierra Nevada, whose mountain tops are already covered in snow, majestically overlooks both the traditional and more urbanized part of the city. Having lived in what I shall call a ‘dormant’ town for six weeks, where nothing really goes on, it’s a bit of a contrast, and it only makes me appreciate where I now am even more.

The Albacín, with the Alhambra, Granada's main tourist attraction, in the background

At the Albayzín with the Alhambra, Granada’s main tourist attraction, in the background

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Me trying to do photography.

Me trying to do photography

All of this obviously sounds amazing. I’m going to be realistic, though. It is only now do I fully realise and only now how I’m prepared to admit that my year abroad here got off to a slow start. I was reluctant to live in Motril because I thought I had to – it is where I work, I had perfected my Spanish loads during my first couple of weeks there, but that’s about as far as it ever went. I guess it was hard for me to admit that, at the time in Motril, I wasn’t really enjoying myself.

Being a bit isolated in a strange new town isn’t always what you expect at the start of your year abroad; the year that everyone hypes up and talks about so much. Sometimes I almost feel that there’s a pressure to make sure you’re constantly enjoying it.

I’ve already dipped in and out of a few ‘year abroad’ blogs where I’ve read that this isn’t always the case.

Now that I’m in Granada, I’ve finally found my feet. I have longed to find the equivalent of this expression in Spanish, because I have always offered a literal translation in conversation and upon doing so, I receive an odd look. I have even joined a gym here, which is quite classy and modern. Already has a hot Spanish man spotted me in the gym and has offered his services in helping me to achieve the perfect Spanish squat. To gain access at the gym, you use a fingerprint scanner, but mine never seems to work. This might be because a photo of my face isn’t on the system, as the webcam spontaneously broke when the woman was registering me.

I say spontaneously.

So, I’ve decided that I want to do all the touristy stuff there is to do here before hopefully conquering other Andalusian cities, says the bla bla car queen that I now am. (Yes – I’ve still been hitching lifts to and from work and, so far, so good).The great thing about Granada is that it isn’t actually that big – everything is kind of in walking distance. Last weekend I had the pleasure of going to the Hammam al Andalus baths here with a group of girls. How blissful it was. I had my first proper massage with scented oils and we each helped ourselves to mint Arab tea. I shall definitely have to return.

My new flatmates, too, are adorable. Ana and Sofia are both studying the same master’s degree, and are just genuinely lovely people. I’ve been out a few times with them and their master friends, who are equally lovely too. I’ve already made my first British classic for them – toad in the hole, which turned out very successful despite making it in a paella dish.

My new flatmates, Ana and Sofia

My new flatmates, Ana and Sofia

Toad in the Hole - in a paella dish

Toad in the Hole – in a paella dish

There was no gravy though. I was tempted to buy Bovril when I saw it in the shop but then realised that although this is similar in colour to gravy, it is absolutely not gravy.

I miss gravy.

New abode on the road

It’s been over a week now since I’ve moved to Granada and so far, so good.  It’s about a fifteen minute walk from the city centre, there’s a cute little park nearby, banks, tapas bars and bakeries line the street.  The zone where students do their botellón (an outdoor pre-drinks party) is right at the end.

Much of my decision when choosing my new abode was based on the belief that there are supposedly two bus stops that serve a special bus for ‘trabajadores’ (people who live in Granada but work in Motril), which stops frequently along my road. I say ‘belief’ and I say ‘supposedly’, because having walked up and down the length of Calle Arabial, (which happens to be one of Granada’s main roads) I have failed to find any sort of bus stop. There is supposed to be one right outside the park, at street number 11.

Calle Arabial

My road. How many stops can you spot?

I have walked around and have even run through the park. I have closely examined the name of each bus stop on either side of the road.

There is nothing.

The guy at the information desk in Granada bus station should have at least added me on facebook by now.  The first week I asked him for the timetable for this special bus. He gave it to me. The second week, I asked him where about the stop was on the road, as I couldn’t find it. He said next to the park. Last week, when I went to enquire about a bus pass, I raised the query again about this mystery bus stop, but there was no new information to report.

I have, as a result, resorted to the wonderful and wacky system of bla bla cars. For those of you who haven’t heard of this, it’s basically when you lift share with complete randomers. You sign up online, look for a journey going from A to B at specific time, and contact the person via whatsapp, the only form of communication which is deemed acceptable by Spaniards. For practicality, I have tried to keep my outbound journey going to Motril with the same woman, but getting back has been a bit more random.

Last week was the first time that I’ve used bla bla cars.

It is, I suppose, a bit odd travelling with someone you don’t know, and before I didn’t think it would be something I’d ever consider doing, but seeing as its a lot cheaper and faster than the bus, I decided to go for it.

The website lists the drivers’ age, includes a small biography of them and you can read comments that past passengers have left which leads to their driver ‘rating’.

It’s a shame the bus station guy doesn’t work at the bus station in Motril, too. We would have buddied up nicely in a bla bla car.

It has been a bit exhausting on the social front, though. Every time I travel with a driver who I haven’t met, I find myself repeating my whole life story to date in Spain. I ask the driver the same questions, I respond to theirs with the same answers and if the conversation becomes too awkward for my liking, I feel obliged to make much needed comments about the weather, as is the custom in most social situations, (the temperature difference that exists between Granada and Motril always goes down well). This, I have noticed, is the job of the person who sits in the passenger seat. When there’s a bla bla passenger already sat at the front, I squeal with joy inside at the possibility of quietly sitting in the back, relieved that I don’t have to make conversation in Spanish for an entire forty minutes.

Call me lazy.

Olive oil Outbreak

I have vowed to myself that I will never ever go out for “tapas” in England again, (big big BIG inverted commas right there).

What an insult do chains like Las Iguanas and La Tasca do to this humble and historic appetizer, whose owners have chewed up and chomped on the complete concept of Tapas; spitting it out into bird sized portions of British food.

Granada is the only Spanish province where the true legacy of tapas is honoured and where it´s true value is upheld…because it´s freeeeeee.

The tapas bars in the student areas serve so much food for such a little amounts – hamburgers, calamares, fish, tortillas, croquetas, (which are like potato nugget things) – although such snacks are usually served with a handful of chips on the side or is literally all fried, most probably to make it cheaper and with it increasingly attractive to students.

It isn´t just the tapas, though. Here you can’t get enough olive oil. Salads are drenched, rather than daintily dressed with it and chopped tomatoes are mistakenly concealed in the form of tomate frito, together with nuts and seeds on shop shelves which are all salted and/or fried, stripped of their nutritional value.  Add two main popular breakfast choices into the mix – churros and tostada con aceite (toast with olive oil, which the teachers devour during break time) and you get the idea of how most food is cooked.

The tapas, however, together with my choices when supermarket shopping, last week took its toll.

MIgas! Fried breadcrumbs with bacon

Migas! Fried breadcrumbs with bacon

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Pints and prawns!

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My first ever tapa in Granada included cooking chicken on a hot stone

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Tapping into student tapas

Having been all the more mesmerized by the astronomically low prices of the tapas here, I recently became a victim to some kind of olive oil epidemic.

I became, let’s say, pretty clogged up. A bit like a blocked kitchen sink which has had hot fat poured down it. You know not to do it, but you pour the stuff down it anyway because it´s convenient, maybe diluting it with water to be on the safe side. I´ve found that after living with Miriam, the bottle of oil is there for convenience too, to quickly fry or dress something for extra flavour, before adding a balsamic boost to balance things out.

It was quite bad the other week, though. To the point when I politely asked my coordinator to be excused for the rest of the day, muttering how I needed some sort of pastilla from the pharmacy to clear/empty everything out.  I ran out of school and took refuge in a nearby café, where I precariously ordered a green tea before heading straight to the loo, wondering why I was feeling so quepassaaaaiefkjkdsoawkljd.

I won’t go into any more details for fear of losing more much loved fans than I already have.

Anyway, after a much needed Skype session with mum, I realized that my body wasn´t used to this oil enriched diet, and I have since laid off the tapas and tomato frito. (Mums always know the answer…)This led me to reflect, however, about the amount of rather overweight people I have spotted when walking the streets of Motril. With an olive oiled enriched diet, Andalusian lentil stews and the abundance of exotic fruits such as avocadoes and chirimoyas, I expected to see a lot more slimmer people than I have.

I wonder if they’ve heard of the olive oil outbreak. Maybe they’re just all immune to it.

Giving it a go, in Granada city

If you have had the patience to read my rather slowly anticipated blog posts, allow me to say a huge gracias. I don´t have Wi-Fi in my flat with Miriam, and, when she suggested that she would ask her brother how to hack other people´s internet boxes (apparently he has such a skill) I knew we were never going to get it. As a result, my constant battle to pursue Wi-Fi in the public sphere has reached an all-time high. I have sat in bars, cafes, the local park, (now I take refuge inside the tourist office as I was attracting the attention of a strange Moroccan man) and obviously at school. I say ´obviously´, but Paco, the deputy head, assured me that Wi-Fi didn´t exist in the school.

I often wonder how many other things he is perhaps still unaware of.

I´ve decided that Motril isn´t the place to spend eight months of my life. Arriving in this working town, I was ready to start improving my Spanish and meeting new people, making new friends and generally having a great time. After five weeks, I can definitely say that my Spanish has improved, (I´ve already developed an Andalusian accent which a Spanish guy mocked the other day) but I´ve found it more difficult than I expected on the social front. Everything is in Granada, like everything, students of my age, foreigners, bigger shops, the authentic streets. Everyone speaks of it like it´s some sort of magical place. The tapas there is said to be better too. Miriam is a typical example of the type that lives in Motril. Her family live in Granada. She only lives here because of her work, often calling it a town de mierda.

So I´ve decided to move to Granada and making the commute by bus to the town de mierda.

No, I joke.

There isn´t anything wrong with this town. It does, after all, have quite a few chains of well-known shops. It is graced with a  Mc Donald´s status. There´s just not a lot to do here for people of my age.

Everyone at school has understood and applauded my decision to move. Miriam cried when I told her, but said it was for the best. I told her to come with me and find a new job, but she says she can´t. I´m going to miss living with her, who has formerly become my tía, (Spanish for ´aunty´, but used familiarly it´s like an affectionate term).

So amigos, I shall next post in Granada city, where I can safely say that I´ll be giving it more of a go *(horrendous link to title of blog).

Where I shall be in a flat with Wi-Fi. Say whattttt

Schooling it, winging it

Three weeks into my new job as an auxiliar de conversación, I have come to appreciate and embrace the hilariously laid back, incredibly flexible and arguably dysfunctional Spanish educational system. I have spent the majority of these past three weeks giving presentations on Halloween which has included singing the skeleton dance on YouTube about fifty thousand times.

I´m amazed at the lack of organization there is here. The teachers rock up at nine o´clock and go home at two, when the school day finishes. Some leave me completely unattended in class with the kids whilst they go and make photocopies or catch up with their marking. This was a somewhat daunting experience at first, (restoring order to a class of 25 kids in Spanish wasn´t what I was expecting) but maestra Fiona is slowly mastering the art of giving out orders.

My series of Halloween presentations were launched during the second week, even though I was conscious that the actual day was over two weeks away. There doesn´t seem to be much of a curriculum that teachers follow, it´s whatever goes, according to what the teachers are feeling. For example this week I was very confused. I couldn´t remember if we were in week 1 or 2, so I decided to ask. The deputy head told me we were in week 1, which is what I had assumed as it was my third week in the job. I turned up to other classes according to my week 1 timetable, only to discover that other teachers though it was week 2. My coordinator seemed to think it was week 1, as I had started in week 2.

I never found out, and still don´t know. I hope I haven´t caused enough confusion for them to introduce a week 3.

Classes with Eugenia are crazy. Eugenia is a woman in her thirties who keeps on telling me she has to improve her English, but always speaks to me in Spanish, recounts her personal problems to me and always seems to be unprepared for lessons. She sporadically leaves me alone in class with a handful of screaming kids, before returning to restore normality by illegally speaking Spanish, seeking help with YouTube. Last week my anatomy lesson on the skeleton turned into boogying to Just Dance. She whispered to me at the front of the class that the most powerful organ in the body is la pene, (those of you with a lack of Spanish can guess) before abruptly ending the lesson to dish out Juan´s birthday cake, fifteen minutes before break.

I don´t think the kids learnt much about the skeleton.

Nevertheless, this bilingual school is pretty impressive. The kids have their science, art and music classes entirely in spoken English. Children have to ask to go to the toilet in English, and all basic classroom instructions are spoken and written in English. What´s amazing though, is that none of the kids seem to be able to string a sentence together in English, but they understand everything that´s going on. The other day I lead an entire lesson on vertebrates and invertebrates, conscious of the fact I hadn´t studied such stuff since secondary school so I had to familiarise myself with the topic before class. During my preparation, I stumbled across the words ´echinoderms´ and ´cnidarians´ in the textbook wondering a) what these were, and b) how to actually pronounce them. No one noticed I winged it.

The music teacher approached me the other day, asking me for a Halloween song she could play to the kids in class. I suggested the skeleton dance, and left before she had the chance to invite me to sing it with them.

Hasta luego kids, go celebrate Halloween with a bang. After that I never want to hear the word ‘pumpkin’ uttered again.

White kid meets tropical climate.

So it’s been about two weeks since I arrived in Motril, the land’s end of Spain. Africa is a stone’s throw away when you look to the horizon at Playa Granada and I’ve seen the heat move. It’s hot.

It’s very hot.

The weather here is bloody boiling. Durrr Fiona you’re practically opposite Africa, what were you expecting? I hear you all say. It’s like hot British July weather, (without the rain and storms and the hose-pipe ban).

I forgot the sun cream on the first day at Playa Granada where I independently verified myself as the white British breed sunbathing with my face under a towel, very much the ethnic minority.

This, of course, was before moving to the shade.

Despite the heat, I wouldn’t say I’ve had the warmest of welcomes here – it really has been mixed. People have stared at me in the street, non stop. I assume this is because I am particularly tall and white (I haven’t seen another pair of blue eyes round here yet) and my hair is forever getting blonder under the sun. I suppose I must stick out like a sore thumb compared to the tanned, small, brunette Spanish señoritas, a description which perfectly fits my amazing new Spanish mother, Miriam, with whom I am sharing my flat. Wait til I actually remember to lather on the factor 50 next time, they’ll think I’m albino.

There have been good bits, though. Alcohol is cheaper than a soft drink. Buy any drink out and you get a massive portion of tapas on the side. I’ve been told that the tapas in Granada is the best and most generously dished out in all of Spain. My tapas experience so far has been a true testimony to this. Last week I found myself cooking my own chicken on a hot stone with bread, even though I only asked for a tinto verano.

I shall delve into the topic of school briefly, as this is the main reason why I’m here…but more on this next time.

I felt like a bit of a celebrity in my first week. In the staff room, the analogy between my name and Princess Fiona from Shrek was inevitably established, so I decided to include this in my presentation that I did about 100 times to each class of kids (including a picture of the princess, not the ogre, in case you’re wondering). The kids are a combination of sweet, loud and energetic. They all seem to constantly need the toilet too.

I’m just thankfuI I don’t have to teach the music classes. Think recorder, and you’ll understand why.