I’m so cold. It’s so cold here in my new house. I left a glass of water on the counter, then came back to drink it, and it felt like it had been in the fridge. The water in the shower doesn’t get warm enough. I am in my clothes, a bathrobe, and a hat and I’m still cold. My nose is cold. I’m getting sick. All snuffly, headache-y and sore-throaty. I thought at first it was because of poorly washed dishes, but now I’m thinking it’s the drafty window near my head where I sleep.
I just need to complain a bit. But I know I’m lucky. I can walk, I have a place to live, I can vote. I cried after I voted today, just thinking about how lucky I am to be able to do it, after all the struggles that women went through to allow me to vote. And it’s funny that even now, it still feels like a privilege. I guess actually that’s kind of f-ed up that I still feel grateful to be allowed to vote.
I’ve been presenting myself pretty androgynously and asexually lately. Mostly because I’m completely confused about my sexuality. It literally varies by the day. So I’m fine with not dating anyone until I figure myself out, but every once in a while, I miss that little rush you get when someone pays you extra attention.
Except I guess what am I talking about—I got hardcore hit on by a woman the other day when I volunteered planting trees. I gave her my number too. But we haven’t exchanged much in terms of communication. But I guess female attention in my male-approval-seeking brain doesn’t count.
So there are my two contradicting paragraphs for you.
I’m 1/4 moved in to my new room. We’re bringing the furniture tomorrow. I brought boxes of clothes today, and after I put them down, I just sat and looked out the window. I felt no excitement, because I know how dangerous that is. Just a timid peace.
We’re in Omaha right now. The Midwest is a total bullshit place of farms and corn. Look what great stuff the white man did for these once-savage lands.
I just applied for a job as a union organizer in New Haven.
Seanen (Alani’s husband, who I am traveling with) is an absolutely outrageous person. He enjoys talking to people and doing ridiculous things just to see what their reactions will be. In the past few days, I’ve gone from cringing when it happens to watching in amusement. It is making me a lot friendlier, but in my own way, obviously. No getting in people’s faces, just more willing to chat than I normally am.
I haven’t been talking in my sleep lately. Possibly because I’m relatively calm in my life right now and possibly because the battery died on my tape recorder. I didn’t even bring it on this trip.
I’ll update when I can/if anything interesting happens.
Remember the first post I ever made? Where I said that maybe I’d record myself talking in my sleep and blog about it? Of course you do. You remember all of my blog posts.
I have done it. I have gotten a tape recorder, I have figured out how to use it, I have slept, and now here is the result.
It was so strange to listen to myself on tape. I’ve known I say and do crazy things in my sleep, but I’ve never actually heard it for real. It was like the unveiling of a mystery. And under the veil was something extremely stupid.
And now, with no further ado, here is what I said in my sleep last night:
*A loud gasp* Oh, oh, oh what is it, what is it, what is it? *A reassured sigh, goes back to sleep*
And then later:
"Turns from a blob of raw meat into a blob of…pasta. (Then, very quietly) Yummy."
It is probably obvious to everyone that I’m having a really hard time getting blog posts written. I’ve done a grand total of 1 since I’ve been home. This is partly because my blog is based on my life in Spain, and (hallelujah) I am not there anymore. (Fra, I will say again, you are one of the only things I miss).
I have become a big ball of laziness since I’ve been home, and today in particular, I fell into a well of self-pity. Instead of going to work, I went to Dad’s house and pet the cat that lives under the porch, watched Mona Lisa Smile, and cried. It was weird, because it wasn’t that crippling feeling you sometimes get where you can’t move or do anything except cry and feel awful. I just felt totally sad and stupid and, I don’t know, double stupid.
First, Lisa’s daughter and her 5-year-old demon are moving into my dad’s house within a month. That bomb was dropped Friday night at dinner. It is a thorn in my side, but mostly all the shit that could hit the fan in that arena of my life already has, so this is just a small splattering. I just won’t really be able to go to my old house anymore. Actually, this is probably a thing that will really upset me when it actually happens.
Second, my mom is driving me slowly, quietly insane in a way I can’t really put my finger on. It occurred to me today that now is the time to start looking for a job and hopefully move out. Does anybody want a roommate?
Third, Steve and I had a discussion last night about how we should probably slow down. This is the thing that makes me feel outrageously stupid and embarrassed, because I let my heart and daydreams get ahead of my head. I mistook relative comfort with a person for safety and commitment. But he is not ready to commit. He needs to know me better. Which is smart. I have the history of going into relationships somewhat blindly simply hoping it will work. (But there is also an element of blindness when you enter any relationship. You can’t know everything. But admittedly we know very little.) Also, he thought I was a year older than him and seemed genuinely disappointed when I wasn’t. I was like “fuck you”. Because I am smart for my age. 28-year-old people like to hang out with me.
So I am now terrified of rejection. I got so caught up in being happy about something maybe beginning that I forgot to be scared. Now I am scared again. As Brenna said “everything is perfect. What if the one thing that isn’t perfect is that there isn’t chemistry between you two?” That is freaky. I don’t want that to happen. BUT if it does, if this doesn’t work out, I am left being me. And I am pretty content with myself in general, so just being me, myself, and I is not a bad deal. If this doesn’t work out, I think it will just be a short, sharp pain, and nothing more.
I cannot gather all of my thoughts into sentences that make sense. But I will try.
Fra, I saw mozzarella en carrozza at a deli here and I had to try it. It was not good. I will make it for real someday for all my friends.
I have been emailing with the girl who will be the auxiliar at my school next year. She’s from Washington state, way on the other side of the country. She says her level of Spanish is pretty good, enough to have a conversation. She also said she has studied some Portuguese so she is “not worried at all about Gallego”. The phrase struck me as arrogant, but I will forgive her. She has no idea what is coming for her. Or, maybe, she will do great and understand everything perfectly. I do hope that for her. It would make her life much, much easier.
I still miss everyone I loved over in Spain. Especially when I’m at home alone at night. I get sad. And when I want to say some silly joke we had, like “que aprovoite”, which no one here would understand because why would they?
So basically I just love two sets of people, one in the US and one in Europe, which means I can never be with everyone I love all at once. But who can ever be with everyone they love, unless the only people they love are on their bowling team or something.
Ok, the blog juices are going. Maybe I can update more frequently and talk about what it’s like re-settling in. Because I know the entire internet is holding their breath waiting to know.
I said goodbye to Julian, the English teacher, and his wife last night. It’s the last time we’ll see each other before I leave Spain. He has basically become my Spanish dad in these past few months. I like his wife a lot too, but I’m not as close with her because we didn’t spend the entire year at school together.
I gave him a hug, and immediately started crying. I gave his wife a hug, and as I was saying goodbye to her, he took my face really gently in his hands and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I think he started crying too, because he got in the car right away and said “it’s time to go now”.
I’m going to remember that kiss forever. I feel so sad today, like I’ve lost something.
Krissy, I keep thinking of you on your last day at school, and Andrea, after reading your post, I am thinking of you at work on a day you don’t want to be there. And Brenna, I’m thinking of you walking outside when it’s too hot out, and Travis, I’m not sure what you’re doing, but I’m thinking of you, too. And loving you all, and hoping that everything gets better.
I’m thinking of the day when nobody will miss anybody. I know that is impossible, but soon it will be true for us.
Today I said goodbye to the three 16-year-olds that I was very close with. They came to Lugo and we walked around the city, ate dinner, and hung out. It’s mildly weird to do in theory, but I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to them at school, and we’re so close in age and my position is so nebulous that I was just like “fuck it. Let’s hang out”. And that is what we did. It was really nice. They are absolute sweetie-pies and understand my stupid jokes better than most Spanish people I’ve met.
We cried and hugged when we left each other. Two of them cried a lot. I had no idea I left such an impression on them. And I’m amazed at the amount of love they let themselves give me, when they knew I would only pass through their lives for a second.
Wednesday was my last day at school. The official last week is next week, but I don’t have any classes because of various activities the kids are doing, so there is no point in me going.
I got several cards from the younger kids, including an actual homemade yearbook from the freshmen. They pasted their pictures and each wrote a comment, and at the back wrote summaries about various things we did this year. It was so absolutely wonderful. When they gave it to me, I was so excited and so happy that I wanted to hug all of them, and started to, but it turned into me giving two kisses on the cheek to all of them, because Europeans don’t really hug.
That sounds kind of weird, kissing a bunch of 14-year-olds, but here it is fine. The day before, when I told the sophomores that I was leaving, all the girls, of their own free will, lined up to give me kisses, so I think it’s normal.
The freshmen girls were totally fine with kisses. Some of the boys were clearly uncomfortable with it, and some of the boys were way too comfortable with it. After I kissed everyone, two of the boys, Manuel and Miguel, came up to me, dead serious, and gave me two more kisses. Then as everyone was leaving, Manuel gave me another two kisses. It was so funny.
That afternoon, before I left the school, I read the yearbook they gave me, and when I got to Manuel’s comment, which was “I am the naughtiest. Thank you” I started crying. Mostly I cried because they are such cute and funny kids and they’ll be such wonderful people. I mean, they already are such wonderful people. And I basically just cried out of happiness that I got to meet and teach such cuties.
Yesterday I went to the coast with my favorite English teacher and his wife. Mostly we just kind of got drunk and talked about ridiculous things. I had an absolutely wonderful time. We are going to see each other again one of these upcoming days, and as we said goodbye, we said “bye, see you soon”. And I realized what a luxury it is to be able to say that instead of “bye, I don’t know when we’ll see each other again”. It makes me teary even thinking about it.
Yesterday at school I heard two new additions to the Spanish “I shit on _____” swear construction:
Me cago en vuestras almas: I shit on your souls
Me cago en su mierda: I shit on his/her shit.
On an unrelated note, I’m getting along much better with the teachers at school. I feel much more comfortable there. I’ve even spoken some Gallego to some of them. Because I do actually speak some Gallego.
It can be looked at as a shame that I’m only becoming comfortable now, but I’m certain that it couldn’t have happened any earlier. I needed all that time to get used to these strange people in this strange country. So I will just enjoy the time while it lasts.
On another unrelated note, I asked my Spanish friend to tell me on a scale of 1-10 how funny I sounded speaking Spanish with my US accent. He told me I was an 8 speaking either English or Spanish. I feel like that is about the equivalent of a somewhat-exaggerated French accent while speaking English.
Sooo I should probably just ask for help when I need it, so I’m going to. Remember how when I left for Spain, I was afraid that you (my friends) would forget me? Maybe you don’t remember, but I do. I’ve been feeling like a gloopy glob of doo lately and miss my friends, and I guess honestly, a little bit, I do feel like you are forgetting me.
Now. This has absolutely nothing to do with how you have been acting and everything to do with how I am feeling. It is not that you haven’t been paying me attention (in fact, I feel like I have been receiving a lot lately. I got to talk to Andrea for the first time in forever the other day!). It is that I am super insecure and a little bit panicky in my life right now. And I want love from the people that matter most to me. So if it ever occurs to you to say something to me, or if you want to talk on skype with me (I want to talk on skype with YOU!) then, say so. I guess basically, I just want to talk to everyone on skype this weekend.
Basically, this is not a post in any way to make you feel guilty for all the time you don’t talk to me (which is most of every day, and that’s how it should be). And it’s not a post to make you feel constantly guilty in the future for not talking to me. It is just a post to ask for love, instead of withering into an unloved raisin without having reached out to anyone at all.
And when I say “you”, you know who you are.
I’m not sure how obnoxious this post is. I’m sorry if the answer is “extremely”.
Today I tried to do a presentation about US food for the 12 year olds. I was all by myself, without a teacher. They couldn´t be quiet for one minute. I sent some kids out of the room for throwing pencil cases, and finally, with 15 minutes left, I turned off the powerpoint in the middle of it and told them that we would sit in silence for the rest of the class. That is what we did. I folded my arms and stared at them for 15 minutes. I occasionally had to send kids into the hall or to the library, where there was a teacher on guard duty.
It was extremely unpleasant, but it gave me a feeling of competence, that I´m not just a doormat, and that one day I will be able to manage and discipline a classroom.
One problem is that the younger kids view me as a toy—someone from far away who doesn´t speak the language very well, who does fun lessons with them, and who does not give them any homework or grades, and never yells at them. They got a taste of something different today, that is for sure.
Today was the last day of school for the seniors. Do you know what they did? They stood out in front of the school and played the bagpipe and drank, beginning at 10am. They had an entire shopping cart filled with alcohol and mixers, out there boiling in the sun. They took a break at 2pm to eat shrimp in the school cafeteria, then went back out and continued drinking.
When we left at 5pm, they were plugging in a speaker system, blasting “Someone like you”, and the police were driving by, but not doing anything.
On a not-relevant note, I was told yesterday by the English teachers that when I say that I am from Connecticut, it sounds “exotic”. I was actually very excited about this.
So last week I discovered that the absolute worst place to be on a warm Saturday morning is the bus station in Lugo. It is full of outrageously creepy old men.
I was picking my friend Mickal up, and I got there ten minutes early and her bus was ten minutes late, so I ended up standing there for twenty minutes total, which the men take as a sign that a girl is not there for vehicular reasons.
Two men talked to me in that time, the first one was absolutely unintelligible. He looked like that old man that Aladdin finds in the dungeon who leads him to the cave where the lamp is. All toothless and grinning. I told him I was not from here and that I did not understand. He went away.
A short time later, a less crazy-looking man, who was probably in his early 70’s, came up to me and said (all in Spanish):
"Hello good-looking girl. Where are you traveling?"
I would have talked to him and answered his question because I am an innocent idiot who doesn’t like to just ignore people who talk to me, but the “good-looking girl” put me on edge. So I just looked away.
"Do you want to come have a coffee with me?"
At this point I was grossed out and shocked and i chose a strategy other than ignoring him, which was pretending I didn’t understand.
"I’m not from here, I don’t understand," I told him.
"Oh, you don’t understand me? but you are speaking perfect Spanish"
Here I almost told him that I’d learned enough to be able to tell people I didn’t understand, but just in time realized that would blow my rock-solid cover. So I said nothing.
"So if I asked you to come have a coffee, you wouldn’t understand me?"
"I don’t understand what you are saying to me." Oh, fuck.
He totally realized that I was understanding every word he said and hung around me for a while, protesting about how I actually did speak Spanish and continuing to invite me for a coffee, but I just looked really uncomfortable and didn’t answer him anymore. After a while, he realized he couldn’t force me to understand him, so he walked away.
I was left feeling totally disgusting but also trying really hard not to laugh about how poorly-executed my pretending not to understand was. It was funny because it wasn’t scary. It was morning and a lot of people were around, so it wasn’t frightening, otherwise, it wouldn’t be funny at all.
But like, what? Did he think I was a prostitute? That is more acceptable to me than him thinking I was just a regular girl who would maybe want to go have sex with him. But either way, it’s really annoying that a man sees a woman and thinks that it’s in his right to ask for sex from her—that that’s all we are for. I mean, I am just assuming he wanted sex, because why would he just want to have coffee? And why did he think I would ever say yes? I don’t know. I am not quite sure how best to analyze this event to identify the exact reasons why it’s annoying and a sign of a sexist society. Help me out, seasoned feminists. You know who you are.
The principal has given me permission to stay at the school through June. There was doubt that she would let me because she is a fanatic about insurance and legal issues. When I told the English teachers today, they made the loudest sound I had ever heard them make, in the form of “YAAAY!”.
I will not allow myself to be flattered by this. They love to get out of work, and when I am there they get several breaks each week.
But…I can’t help but think that maybe they want me there because I am doing a good job, and maybe, just maybe, they like me and want me to stay! They said they were going to go to the principal and convince her to let me stay if she had said no.
I was just asked to participate in the project they’re doing at the school where the teachers and students are re-creating famous paintings.We are going to do some Degas dancers.
This is cool because people are asking me to do things and acknowledging my presence and humanity.
On the other hand, it is not cool becuase now I have to shave my legs. I have been growing them (my legs, that is) since November and I was really hoping to leave them unshaven. I guess all along I knew that the part of me that caves to societal expectations (which is most of me) would win out, but a little part of me hoped I could be cool and hairy. You know, like a HUMAN MAMMAL.
Although. Two other people are dressing up as dancers. One of them is a female teacher, and the other is a student who happens to be male. If a male can dress up as a female, shouldn’t I be allowed to wear a dress and have hairy legs? Maybe if I was less scared here all of the time I would propose it. Maybe I’ll propose it anyway.
A: Lunch was delicious. B: Thank you. A: What kind of soup was that? B: It was tomato soup. A: That tasted so good. B: I put lemon and butter in it. A: The sandwich was good, too. B: Everyone likes bacon and tomato sandwiches. A: Especially on toast. B: And the pickles were great, too. A: Tomorrow we’ll have rice and fish for lunch. B: I can’t wait.
This next dialogue is called “hot bread”.
A: This hot bread is delicious. B: I like this restaurant because they give you free bread. A: Well, I think we are paying for it. B: No. Look at the bill when we get it. There’s no charge for the bread. A: It is delicious, especially with butter. B: I think we should just leave after we fill up on the bread. A: They probably wouldn’t like that. B: I’m eating so much bread that I’m getting full. A: Then stop eating the bread! B: Okay, just one more piece. Pass the butter, please. A: If I owned a restaurant, I would never serve hot bread before the main course. B: That’s terrible. I would never go to your restaurant.
I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything recently. (Or maybe I have, I just feel like I haven’t.) I know how excited I get when I see one of my friends’ posts on my tumblr feed. And I’m sorry I am not providing you with that joy. That’s not me being arrogant, it’s me saying I love it when I see your posts.
I am a plant without water right now. I can only squeeze the occasional drop of water here and there out of Spain. My water is in the US. So I am doing what I can to get by here, though most of the time I feel tired in a way that sleeping doesn’t fix.
I still don’t know when I am coming home. It’s looking like it will be at the end of July. It will be wonderful.
I just checked my email and the program assigned me to Andalucía for the upcoming year. I think I am going to stay in the US next year, but seeing that word written there makes me maybe think twice. We’ll see.
On Saturday night we went out to bars. At one point, we were entering one of our favorite bars, which is almost at the end of a wide covered hallway off the side of the street. (Does that make sense? I do not know how to explain it better.) There was a big group of guys at the end of the hallway loitering and playing music and when we (a large group made up mostly of girls) entered the hallway, they started cheering and trying to get us to come hang out with them. We ignored them and went into the bar. As we entered, one of them yelled “and the last one is the ugliest”.
I, the last one, had already entered the bar. I turned around, went out, and yelled “fuck you” at them in English. I do not think they understood me, but it made me feel a little better.
I was bummed out for about 15 minutes, at first because I was personally offended. I know how great I am, and I think I’m pretty, and so do lots of other people, and obviously being pretty is not that important, but still. When something like that is said to you, it can’t help but sting for a little while. Then I just got mad. What right have they to say something mean like that to someone? What if they had said it to someone who was really insecure? Stupid jerks.
Then someone called the police on them and they were told to go away, so that’s funny.
Today, I divided the noisy-ass 12-year-olds into two groups, one of 7 and one of 8. The teacher took one group and I kept the other. They still behaved horribly, but it was much easier to deal with them in a small group. We spoke in Spanish and Gallego, and they speak so fast in both languages that I told them at the beginning of class to speak slowly to me so that I could understand. That resulted in me being spoken to extremely condescendingly by a bunch of 12-year-olds. It was kind of annoying, but at least I understood them.
I haven’t written in a while, so here is a doozy for you.
Here are some tips about how to act towards foreigners. This is mostly a conglomeration of my experiences that may be common among foreigners. But keep in mind:the majority of the foreigners you deal with will not be me. And people have all kinds of preferences. These are just guidelines that most sensitive people might already know, but many people don’t realize they need to do (or stop doing).
And whenever I refer to “foreigners” as “they”, I am sorry. Obviously we are not a cohesive group of people with one type of experience (intersectionality) and I’m mostly speaking from my point of view (intersectionality) which is a white girl from the US (if you don’t know what intersectionality means, look it up.)
Lugo is a small city (about 70,000 inhabitants), but it has one super-cool thing, which is the only fully-intact Roman wall in the world. It’s wide enough on top to walk around (it’s about a 25 minute walk the whole way). Here are some pictures:
aerial view, obviously.
view of one of the houses near the wall. You walk around the wall and can basically look into people’s windows. It’s cute.
Some people’s yards.
Maybe I will add more Lugo photos at some point, but there’s an idea of the wall for you.
The idiot train has made a stop and let off a passenger. It is me.
I am off the idiot train, but I still have my idiot baggage and I’m unsure what is in it, but at least I am no longer on that train. (You never know when you are on the idiot train, you usually just have the suspicion).
Why have I been let off of the idiot train? I will tell you, even though I don’t want to, because I’m really embarrassed.
I learned how to write down my lessons this week. Like, write down what I want to say, and exactly what I want to write on the blackboard. I was not doing that before. And my explanations sucked and the kids were usually left wondering what the hell they were supposed to do.
So I came to the conclusion myself that it would probably be good to write a thorough lesson plan and glance at it while I did class. Here is the surprise: it worked, and I felt calm and competent.
I have completely re-invented the wheel this year, as shown by this “breakthrough” of mine. No one ever told me that writing stuff down was a good idea, probably because they thought it was too obvious and patronizing to tell me. (I mean I write stuff down, but just a vague idea of what I want to do) I didn’t get far enough in the school of ed at Uconn to reach the “practical ideas for a classroom” part, because the first semester was basically bull. And I didn’t think of the idea on my own for a while. Stupid, maybe, but that is how it happened.
It’s like people don’t automatically know how to be parents when they have a baby, and people don’t automatically know how to be teachers when stuck in a classroom. Right?
With the 14, 15, and 16-year-olds, I did an Earth Day activity that went quite well. I attached a copy of it in case anyone in the world cares. It is for ESL students, but it could work well and be even more fun in the kids´native language.
It was actually a self-running discussion with the 16-year-olds. AND they were all interested and paying attention and speaking English the entire time. Score.
At 9:39, all of the teachers were in the cafe having coffee. (And by this, I mean five of us, because teachers arrive in shifts, and only those of us who had class first period were there). But that was alright, because none of the students were at school yet, either.
Once we all finally got there, the teachers discovered that none of the four administrators (principal, vice principal, etc) were at school today.
¨So we don´t have to go to class?¨ They said it like a joke, but were dead serious.
Several teachers stayed in the teachers´ room for five or ten minutes more, standing by the radiator and talking. Eventually, they all went to class. I don´t know who was with the students all that time. Classes started at about 10am today.
Also, when I was leaving the teachers’ room to go to the class with the 16 year olds, Julián, the teacher who I work with in that class, said “where are you going?”
I kind of panicked a little bit “we have class with 1st bac, right?”
"yes, but wait a minute". As in, wait a few minutes more after the bell had rung two minutes ago. This place! I want to be to class on time and I want the students to do so as well. If the teachers aren’t there on time, how can we expect the students to settle down and get ready for class? What the hell.
In other news, I am very seriously thinking about going back to the US next year and preparing to go to grad school to be a Spanish teacher. I want to be useful and be part of a faculty of teachers who I can communicate with. The idea of settling down in any way whatsoever terrifies me, though.
I spent a while this morning looking up pictures of black cats, specifically in sets of three, because that is what I’ve decided I want when I get a stable life and a place that allows pets. Was this a good idea? No, not at all. Now I have to survive today and the next day and the next two months without any cats.
Obviously this is not really a big problem compared to the ones I usually focus on, but I also think that things standing in the way of contentment are pretty significant barriers.
I haven’t spoken to anyone at all today, which might be the justification for this post.
As you possibly suspected (but more likely did not think about), I slept in my milk bed again last night. It doesn´t smell, so it´s really hard to work up the gumption to change the sheets.
There was a better word than ¨gumption¨ to use there, but I am forgetting all English words that aren´t useful in bare-bones conversation or cognates with Spanish, such as ¨excursion¨. So please excuse me.
Remember how I said I would ask my senior students what they thought about English langauge imperialism? Well I did, and it worked not very well. It didn´t work for pretty much every reason; I´m not good at beginning discussions, they are not used to talking about such complicated ideas, and you know, just every other reason as well. Although it was not a disaster as some classes and conversations have been. We wound up talking about bullfighting. They prefer to talk about things directly related to their experiences and things they are familiar with, although sometimes it feels really strange to talk about Galicia and Galician things in English. It shouldn´t, but it does. So that is what I will stick to from now on.
But I sure as hell made them think really hard about how to express themselves on the imperialism topic.
I brought up the topic to Julián in the car as we drove back to Lugo, and we had an interesting conversation about it. His point of view was mostly that cultures and languages are constantly shifting and changing, and that there is no such thing as linguistic or cultural purity anyway. So there´s not that much to fear from globalization. Throughout history, civilizations blend into others, or get lost, or are conquered. It´s like the Romans—they did pretty much what the US is doing now, and look how many Romantic languages we now have because Latin mixed with other cultures.
As he spoke, I recognized his viewpoint as that of a white male in a non-threatened culture (he is Galician, but does not speak the language and doesn´t seem rooted in the culture). I´m sure someone from a culture on the brink of extinction due to globalization would respond differently.
It was funny, at one point during the conversation, he mentioned that there are more ways to invade a country than linguistically or militarily. A country can invade another by sending people over to work there and spread awareness about their country. We were silent for a second, because I think we both realized what had been said.
I´ve been struggling with the imperialism of my position here; it´s like the classic imperialist or supremacist equation—send untrained people from the dominant culture to teach or correct those from the non-dominant culture. The person sent does not have to be an expert or trained in any sense—they are simply assumed to be intelligent and competant because they are part of the dominant culture, which obviously knows best. That is what happened here.
BUT. If I think about it on the flip side, I think it´s the Spanish government that requested us and brought us here, and they did not train us. So it´s the non-dominant culture internalizing this viewpoint and believing us to be already capable of teaching, simply because we are English speakers. I feel like a douche even using the words dominant and non-dominant here, but it´s true, simply because the US and Britain have managed to make English the most desired jewel in the world right now and the citizens of these countries happen to have the power to impart that jewel´s glow to others, so we are in turn desired.
This language I´m using is so obnoxious, but it´s the metaphor that popped out of my head in reference to this. Also, I never think of Australia, Ireland, Scotland, and Canada when referring to English speaking countries. I actually never think about Canada ever.
AND ALSO, we are all very green at this age. We just got out of college and have few viable skills and we have to figure out how to do jobs somewhere. So anyone who hires us is going to have to deal with incompetance and a learning curve, whether it´s a fortune 500 company or a teach for america school. So that thought makes me feel a little bit better about being here, because anywhere I went, I would suck a little.
Oh, and the seniors also told me that their first thought when they hear of an American person (their phrase, not mine) is of a ¨very very fat person eating a hamburger¨. They were using past tense when they told me this, so I can only assume that image has dissipated at least slightly.
The 12-year-olds were outrageously annoying today. They just do not stop talking amongst themselves, ever. And my tactic for dealing with this is to make lessons way easier. Which is probably not good. I had this bizarre yet interesting, I think, lesson planned for having them create towns in the shape of bodies and equating body parts to places in towns, since they are learning the vocabulary for both of those things. For example, ¨the eyes are the police station, because they see everything¨ or ¨the face is the museum because it is beautiful¨. And then they could draw it and shit. But they suck and talked and screamed and wasted the whole first 10 minutes of class trying to quiet down, so I just played body part bingo with them.
I guess also I was mildly embarrassed about my wierd-ass lesson plan, and I didn´t feel like explaining it. (Luckily, I wouldn´t have had to be embarrassed about the teacher hearing my silly lesson plan because she fucking left the room after 5 minutes). I was inspired by a science lesson we did when I was in 8th grade where we made a theme park using the different types of cells of the body and what their functions were. I had a great time with that project, and I thought these kids might maybe enjoy it too. But they´re too obnoxious as a group to do anything.
There is one problem kid in that class, Jonathon, who has a really hard time behaving and all of the teachers yell and him and throw him out of class. I´m ashamed to say that I threw him out once too. But he had gotten up and was in position to punch another kid (who deserved it), so what was I supposed to do? Anyway, I try and be really encouraging towards him and show him extra attention and praise him when I can, and he is really quiet in my class, and works pretty diligently and pays good attention. I like him a lot. Actually, I like nearly all of those children individually, except for one absolute demon; it´s just that together they turn into this roiling, screaming monster. I will look into taking advantage of the fact that we are two teachers in the room (sometimes) and splitting the class into two groups in two separate rooms.
I did a debate-like activity related to environmental law with the 14 year olds (that group is so focused. I can do any activity with them). I will wait until I´ve done it with a few other classes to report on it.
I am oh, so stinky. Luckily all of the children smell terrible after a long day, so no one knows whether it is me or them.
I never laugh anymore. I only ever realize this when I laugh really hard and it feels and sounds foreign to me. Which is sooooo strange. Because I am me. I think it´s entirely a function of me understanding so little of what happens at school, one of our friends here who makes me nervous, and, I´m sorry, but an absence of jokes about gas in my life. That strange word order kind of warped the meaning of that last phrase.
I live nearly entirely in my head which is full of feminist discontent and stress over my stupid-ass job, which I generally like, but is not funny.
Also, my mom is on facebook now. It is just a matter of time before she friends me and through inferrence finds out how queer I am. (Although she will likely find out this summer when I go on dates with freaking everyone in the world just to feel remotely desired again). And I can´t really not accept her friend request. She´s good about respecting my space, but she misses me, so I think it will just be a matter of time before she wants to have the overload of information about me as provided by facebook.
Here is a song I love at the moment. It is Italian and beautiful and sad.
Look at me, going to a professional training conference.
I went to a conference on Friday in A Coruña, one of the biggest cities in Galicia, for language teachers. I went with the special education teacher, who is my friend, a woman who used to teach French at my school, the principal, and a Gallego teacher.
The first presenter was a guy from the US who had developed a strategy for teaching English. He didn’t talk about his strategy, just did a motivational speech for teachers, so it was pretty useless. I did, however, love the presentation because he spoke amazing Spanish and had clearly mastered the language, BUT he still had several pronunciation mistakes that I make, such as the stupid United States “r” sound. Rather than make me feel hopeless about overcoming my pronunciation problems, it made me feel great, because that means I’m not an idiot; I am at nearly the highest pronunciation level I will ever reach.
While the United States-ian (I continue to be uncomfortable with “American” and surely will be for the rest of my life) made me feel great, another guy made me feel horrible. He was a French guy who does the same job I do. He gave a presentation about his work, not in Castellano, no. He gave his presentation in Gallego. And I was like “fuck you, you arrogant prick. Here I am barely able to speak Castellano at times and you’re whipping around up there having learned fucking Gallego?!”
Let’s see if I can explain myself better. It is great that he knows Gallego. It’s an endangered language, so the more people that know it and spread the good word, the better. But, fuck, man. You make me look and feel like shit because I struggle massively with it, and at times can barely speak Castellano with the teachers because I am so nervous around them. And fuck, man, your presentation could have been useful to me. I could have gotten ideas from it. But you did it in Gallego, you freaking show-off jerk. I hate that guy. I don’t know him.
I liked the United States-ian guy more, but one wierd-ass thing he said was when he was talking about how students can’t learn a language just by studying it—they need to be talked to as well. He gave the example of “I can’t just go to New Guinea and give a stack of Bibles to the natives and say ‘here, study this, I’ll be back in two weeks to test you’. I have to go there, give them the Bibles, and talk, talk, talk to them.”
…Well, no. You have to not be an imperialist pig, you imperialist pig. What the hell is wrong with you?
And speaking of imperialism, the conference was supposed to be about language teachers. Language teaching in general. But it was almost entirely about English.
How to put my feelings about this into words…the current craze in Spain for speaking English bothers me sometimes. People say things like “Oh, Spanish people speak really bad English” in a derogatory way, and it’s become sort of a national identity and national source of shame that Spanish people speak bad English. Which they fucking don’t. They speak English at the same level (or higher) than United Statesians speak foreign languages. And you don’t see us deriding ourselves for our deficiency in this category. Why is that? Oh, right, because we’re a freaking superpower bully and we have the privilege to not have to learn other languages because we’ve nearly forced the rest of the world to their knees bowing to our damn language. (I do happen to love English as a language very much, I just don’t like what speakers of it have managed to do.) United Statesians can choose to learn a new language. It is a choice, not a requirement. And that is a privilege we have.
The emphasis on English made me feel scummy inside because my job right now is to be complicit in this cultural overtaking and perpetuate this mad desire for learning English. Butts. It’s one thing for the native Spanish teachers here to teach English, but it is another thing for me to traipse over and start blah blah blah teaching English to these kids. That was not expressed well, but I’m not sure how best to state that vague thought. You can count on the fact that with my small groups of older, more advanced English students this coming week, I am going to open up a discussion about what they think of this scramble to learn English and the cultural take-over. I will let you know what they say.
Luckily, the United States has not permeated too much of Spanish culture. They are so much more chill than we are. After we ate lunch, the teachers from my school and I were walking back to the conference, when two of them saw a store they wanted to go in. We had like 20 minutes before we had to be back, so we went in and poked around while the principal stood outside, checking her watch. Well, we poked around until 4:05, five minutes past the time when we needed to be sitting in those chairs listening to a speech. We leisurely walked back, and arrived at 4:10 to a speech that wouldn’t start for another five minutes. At least half the audience arrived between 10 and 20 minutes late. I just sat there laughing to myself, because that is absolutely unheard-of in the US. You arrive late, you are a freaking leper for the rest of the conference. Not here.
Oh, and sorry to make this entry longer, but I went out for drinks last night with Maria, the teacher of the younger children, who has a tendency to just leave the classroom when we’re working together. She is much more fun outside of the work environment. I think she was surprised by how fun I was, too. She told me some crazy shit. Crazy shit. Like how one of the 8th grade girls is dating a senior boy. I’m pretty upset about that, especially since there is no formal sex education in our school (or in Spanish schools in general, I think). What they have instead are “tutors” which is a class every week with one teacher assigned to a few students. That teacher chooses what issues to talk to the students about. And Maria is the 8th grade tutor and I think she does a really good job informing them about issues and they feel close to her, so they go to her to talk when they have a problem. So hopefully the girl already knows some things about how—-oh my goodness, look at me. I just realized I am putting all of the responsibility on the girl. I’m not even going to delete or edit that because it’s a reminder to me not to be a fucking idiot. I’ve got something sexist in my teeth. On the flip-side of that coin, I know that the senior boy has a terrible tutor, because it’s Julian, who is afraid of the senior class and no way would ever talk about sex with them. Maybe this boy has had sex education in the past. Let’s all hope.
They can be very loud and annoying at times, but they are the only kids at the school who openly show me affection, which can be really refreshing when I feel like a huge pile of dung. The other kids do show affection, but in much more subtle ways because they have to be cool for their friends and they are also really shy in general.
I usually have an art class with the babies in addition to the English class, but this week I didn’t go to art with them, because they were working on something that had nothing to do with English. The teacher later told me that they were all worried and wondering where I was, and upset that I wasn’t there. Also, another day, some of the girls showed up late for class, saw me, and said “oh, we didn’t know Eliza would be here. If we had, we wouldn’t have been late” which is so obnoxious of them, but I must admit, it made me a little bit happy.
Other than that, I continue feeling entirely incompetent and unfit for this position. Still having lots of trouble planning classes. Dreaming every so often of being home.
I am a disaster with procrastinating when I need to plan lessons. I internally flop around and whine about how I am not at all trained to be a teacher and have no idea what I’m doing and I want to talk about issues of substance but am not quite sure how.
So I spend lots of time eating snacks and going on facebook and doing laundry and stuff when I should be lesson planning. It got so bad last weekend that on Monday night (we had Monday off) at 8pm I finally sat down to figure out what to do on Tuesday. Needless to say, I was panicking. As a first year not-even-teacher, I cannot be that lazy. I can’t relax into teaching classes—can’t just go in and improvise.
I ended up finding an article on the super-strict immigration law that passed last summer in Alabama and wrote some discussion questions on the topic. I am legendarily bad at having discussions in class, but I’ve got the pillow of the English teachers for when the shit hits the fan (mostly in Carmen’s class, she is really competent and calm and has things under control. Julián tends to be more nervous than I am, and in the senior class, I have to be the relaxed one, because I can feel that he is about to jump out of his skin.)
So I did my immigration discussion with the 15-year-olds. They did not love it, but they did not hate it, which I was happy about. They have a tendency to hate things, even fun shit I bring them. I introduced the lesson by telling them that I cannot keep teaching English language and United States culture as if it is a normal thing. The US is not a normal country and things are not fine. They are insane and bad. It is doubtful whether these kids understood me. I cannot wait to have students who speak my own language. It will be so much easier to communicate important things to them.
One student participated vocally. Others were paying attention but not answering any questions. I made them write three effects they think the law will have, and they came up with some fascinating responses. I forget what they were, I’m sorry, but it showed that they had absorbed and thought about the article. They were just reluctant to discuss it verbally.
So I am pleased with my first forray into talking about something intelligent instead of doing silly games in class. I might continue on the theme. I would love to talk about reproductive rights, but I’m nervous about provoking arguments. I don’t know which I am more afraid of, arguments or a silent, non-participating class.
Man, I do not want my roommate to come home today. I am having so much fun here by myself. I make very quiet messes, like I left a book in the middle of the hallway, because who is going to care? And I don’t clean my plate and cup from lunch, because I don’t have to. And I took up the kitchen rug because I don’t like it, and this apartment is about my preferences right now. I also left a pan of grelos, or turnip greens, out on the stove all weekend long. They were from a can and they are gross. I don’t think I’ll manage to eat the rest of them.
I love being here alone and I will enjoy the rest of my day as much as possible.
I talked to my family at their Easter dinner celebration last night via Skype. I was actually there for nearly all of it, as computer-body Eliza. There was only one awkward moment when they left my computer-body facing a 90-odd-year-old father of my aunt who is deaf and who I don’t know that well anyway, so I had no idea what to say to him, and knew that anything I said wouldn’t be heard. So we just looked at each other for a few minutes while everyone else cleared plates.
But otherwise it was really great. It was like I was there. And I was the center of attention at some points (like when I showed them around my apartment while they ate dinner. My 6-year-old cousin called it “dinner eater” while trying to say “dinner theater”. He actually didn’t eat any of his dinner because he was too busy making faces at me on Skype.) But also I was totally ignored while they talked about other stuff at other points, which is exactly how I wanted it. I was just a normal person at the party. I did do the Easter egg hunt in a computer-body which was really difficult. I found like 2 eggs.
Seeing the whole thing via video made me think about how much more often we need to video-tape our get togethers. Both with family and with friends. It was just a silly, ordinary party, but that’s exactly what we’re going to want to see. It doesn’t have to be the night of the best jokes, just a night of being together. I know that Brenna, Krissy, Travis, Andrea and I have talked about videotaping our get togethers, and I really think we should. Travis, I am looking at you, you have the video camera.
Yay for feminist Spanish graffiti! This one was in Granada,
and these two are in Lugo on the wall right next to the grocery store. In Gallego, they say “onward with the feminist fight” and “death to the patriarchy”. It’s nice to know that there are some people in this city, somewhere, that think the same way I do, except in Gallego.
And just because…Doo Pies, the donut restaurant in Seville. “Because you know what you want…COME AND VISIT US! …and recuperate your forces” (I’m not really sure what English phrase makes sense for the last part. I am terrible at translating.) I kind of wanted to go in this place, not even for the name, just because I wanted a donut and the only donuts in Spain are the grocery store kind in packages. It wasn’t the right moment for a Doo Pie, though, so we kept going.
Sorry, I guess I should have said I was going away for a week, but it felt kind of arrogant to say so. I’m pretty sure I told me mom, but when I got home yesterday, there was a panicked email from her in my mailbox wondering if I was ok. D’oops.
I went to Andalucia (Malaga, Granada, and Sevilla) for a week with my Italian friend Silvietta. It was fun, but it was definitely too much together time. I need to be alone to recharge my energy, and she hates being alone, so us as a pair didn’t work well. I got pretty grumpy after a few days. We talked about it, and we tried to give each other slack for our modes of being, but I think she was kind of disturbed when I would go silent, and offended when I didn’t speak to her. I simply didn’t have anything to say at those moments, but I think she took it personally.
So we are separated and nursing our wounds. I am pretty sure that we’ll be fine as friends, but we had some rough days during that vacation.
All that said, it was really fun at points. Here’s a photo review of the trip. The first ones were taken at our first hostel in Malaga.
I should have felt more safe using this towel, but I felt more afraid to use it.
The door handle of our room came off if you used anything close to normal force.
Bull dozer in a bull ring.
I like this picture. Not sure why. It’s kind of gross. We were walking by here on the first night, and some boys were standing there making noises at us and I turned to them and said “better not be doing that at us” in my most American accent. It was funny because they didn’t know what I had said so all they could do was continue to make noises except louder this time. But then Silvietta (who doesn’t speak English) told me that what I had said sounded exactly like the sounds they were making at us. Oops.
This was the hostel we stayed at in Granada. When we got there, they were preparing a going-away party for a girl who worked there, so they asked us to help blow up balloons and tie them to various things.
There was a serious amount of English spoken among the people at this hostel. This was a problem because Silvietta doesn’t speak English. We found some Italians and Spanish people, though. I had a conversation with a German guy who had been to Uganda. He said that English was the main language there, even though they had about 54 tribal languages. They couldn’t agree on which one to use as a national language, so they just picked English. I got all bothered about Anglo-imperialism, but he told me that he thought English worked really well there. It allowed them to avoid fights, and it’s not like they speak the Queen’s English—they speak it from the point of view of their own native languages. They mold English to suit their own needs, which I thought was pretty cool. It’s a tool, not something that’s crushing them, at least according to Hans the German Guy.
Also, news from some English girls I met in Seville, Britain is starting to debate abortion laws. Abortion is very accessible there at the moment, and no one thought twice about it, but the British loonies have noticed the success of the American loonies who have made a ruckus about banning abortion and are getting more vocal. So we have that to watch out for.
Also, the only English word for our nationality is “American”. But the Americas are enormous. Why are we claiming that we are Americans and that’s that? Here I say I’m “estadounidense” which is from the United States. Maybe I’ll just say that in English too.
We met two guys at the hostel named Rob (the blonde) and Tim (the other one). Rob was American and spoke English and French, Tim was English and spoke English and Italian. I speak English and Spanish, and Silvietta speaks Spanish and Italian. There was no common language among us. It was really bizarre at first, but we got used to it and all became friends. We went on a walk and got lost.
Granada is beautiful. I can’t decide if my insides were telling me that I would never be back again because I was so adamant on ignoring that message. I hope I make it back someday.
I’m actually kind of bored of adding photos, because the mechanism is not working very well. So here are some preliminary photos. maybe you’ll get more, maybe you won’t. They will probably all just be landscapes.
Yesterday, I asked Julian, the English teacher, what he was doing in class with the 16-year-olds.
"We’re working on question tags."
So apparently “question tags” are things you add onto the end of a sentence to emphasize your point, such as:
—You didn’t go to school today,did you?
—She’s tired today,isn’t she?
—They have a lot of money,don’t they?
—They don’t have a lot of money,do they?
And judging by that last example, question tags must be hard as hell for language learners. This got me thinking, do Americans often use question tags? I feel like we don’t very often, but maybe I’m just not paying enough attention.
Question tags seem overly British and polite, or something from The Room: “you didn’t get the promotion, did you?” I can’t remember any more question tags in The Room, but I know there must be some.
The only question tag I can think of that I often use is “right?”. Such as “you washed the dishes, right?” or, “you locked the door, right?”
Tell me what you think. I need to know about our use of question tags.
Brenna made a mistake by telling me she likes long posts. Sorry, everyone.
I went to Fisterra this past weekend, or ¨The End of the Earth¨ to the Romans. It was beautiful. I´ll post some photos later.
In a moment of down-time during the trip, I vividly imagined returning home and seeing Travis, Andrea, Krissy, and Brenna for the first time in months. I gave them all hugs (twice) and then we went to the Blue Colony Diner to sit around and say stupid stuff like we always do. I felt like it was really happening, but then I opened my eyes and they weren´t there. So it´s a new policy tonotvividly imagine seeing my loves because it makes me real sad afterwards.
Topic change—when I got back to Lugo Sunday night, I was invited to go watch a movie at a friend´s apartment. As I was walking over, the feeling popped into my head that that night, I was going to get into a fight with the two boys that were going to watch the movie. It´s not like it´s an inconceivable idea (I get into arguments with them pretty often) but I don´t know why my brain warned me of this time, why this night specifically. I´m not saying I´m psychic, but it happens to me pretty often that I get a feeling of something and then it happens.
So needless to say, I got in a fight with the boys that night. (It could have been because I was expecting it, but I did not want to fight—it happened pretty organically.)
The reason is because we watched a movie called ¨Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels¨, which could alternately be titled ¨Men Doing Things, More Men Doing Things, Oh Look—More Men Doing Things, A Black Guy¨. But I exaggerate. There were two white women in the film. They said about 12 words between the two of them.
I could not resist pointing out the bare fact that there were only two relatively silent, mostly absent women in the film. The boys had not noticed. The justification was given that the movie is about criminals, so it´s a mostly male cast. Pretending that justification makes sense for a moment, I´d add that there were no female police officers either.
The real kicker came when the protagonists called each other ladies as an insult. I made a sarcastic comment about how OK it is to exclude members of a group and then use the name of that group as a derrogatory term. The movie was paused so that the boys could give me a retort in rapid Spanish (which I didn´t understand the entirety of, which frustrated me further). I responded that women are 50% of the population and therefore should be half of the people who appear in movies. I was told by one of the boys that this was the stupidest argument he had had in 20 years. That is when I stood up, put on my coat, and walked out in the middle of the movie.
I fumed the entire way home. I know shitty movies like this exist all over, and if I let myself get mad at every one I see, I will cause myself to explode in a nuclear fashion, but I was insulted by what they had said to me. I have the reputation of being crazy here, and I think those boys especially are inclined not to listen to me. I can accept this by avoiding feminist conversation, but when the topic is opened, I lose me cool.
I do need to talk to one of them one on one so that we can explain ourselves—not about the content of the argument, but so that I can tell him why I react the way I do to him. A lot of it stems from my handicap in understanding and expressing myself in Spanish arguments, so I get frustrated and lash out at him in my anger. But no matter how much I beleive in the cause I am fighting for, it is not OK to hurt people´s feelings. And I think it is rude to walk out of someone´s house the way I did. So we have some making-up to do. I hope it goes civilly.
But I burn inside. It´s like my feminist awakening has tossed a match into the apparently limitless reserve of gas that I had inside me that I didn´t know how to release (I´m sorry, I can´t resist talking about this in the funniest way possible). So now I´m on fire, and I see no end to it. It´s actually an amazing feeling—nothing has lit me up this intensely before, and I´m driven forward with a passion that burns anyone and anything in my path. It´s terrifying and enraging and energizing and wonderful.