Teaching English??? Can’t everyone do that?

27 04 2010

Over lunch the other day I stumbled accidently into agreeing to teach private English classes. One minute I was joking with the boy that one day they could watch SpongeBob in English and the next, I’d been seconded as their English teacher and their Mum was working out what days they had free. Then on the weekend she asked Marina if they could start the coming Monday.

I tried to explain to Marina that I don’t actually know how to teach English – something she didn’t comprehend. Because isn’t it easy? I speak it – so surely I can speak it to them and they’ll learn – after all isn’t that exactly what they do on a daily basis with me?

They do a mountain of grammar in school here and can explain phrasal verbs by the time they are 8, whereas I did more than most which was miniscule, so I’m learning it all the first time now. Secondly, teaching is actually a skill set – something people go to Uni for several years to learn. Thirdly, I barely have enough energy to struggle in Spanish let alone help someone else struggle through English and feel responsible for it.

But when Wednesday come around, the kids came with their books from class, ready to ‘learn English’.

Since I can’t teach them what comes next in the book, I thought I might pick another topic to tackle with the. Here’s the killer: I actually don’t have the vocabulary to talk with these kids. I might know the word in English but without resources, pictures, books or vocab lists – all of which will take a stack of time to find since I’m not a teacher with access to school resources…

So – in order to increase my Spanish vocab – and their English vocab – I’m on the hunt for word lists in English. I’m starting with soccer/futbal so we’re ready for the world cup. If you have any ideas or word lists of vital vocabulary – send them on through!

So then there were 3 – now there’s 4…

26 04 2010

After spending 5 months solo in class – I now have classmates. While I was on conference I got a call that I would be getting four hours a day with another student. The next week it turned out he needed a bit more revision before hitting my level, but since they’d said I’d have four hours, I got my two regular solo hours and two hours of communication together (the ideal mix). By Wednesday our communication class acquired another student – and next week, one will go and two more will come (admittedly only for a week). They’re also further ahead which is great. Feeling so much more pumped about class!

La Batalla de Los Flores

26 04 2010

May is the month of festivals – and the first is the Battle of the Flowers, which takes place on the last Sunday of April. The ´´battle” is between the women, dressed in traditional dress on large floats making their way along the city`s ‘Avenida de la Victoria’, and the rest of us! The floats are decorated with paper flowers, the typical horseshoe-shaped arches as seen in the city’s Mezquita and images of the city’s patron saint, San Raphael.  The women carry masses and masses of flowers and as they pass through the crowds, they rip the flowers of the stalks and peg them into the crowds – who promptly pluck them out of the air and peg them right back.

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The Mac Magician…

23 04 2010

I had my Pute for all of three days when it died. Completely died. I went to turn it on and initially there was a start up chime, then nothing. No screen action. Dead as. I knew Dad had experienced problems with the battery so even thought it was plugged in, I lived in hope and left it till the evening.

I turned my new Mac on this Thursday, only to find that the screen didn’t start. I left it a few hours and tried again – while I got the start up chime, the screen was totally blank. And before you ask, it wasn’t dimmed, nor the battery flat. So I did the Mac support checklist – and nothing. What I did find was page after page of people telling endless stories about incredibly expensive unfixable things that have gone wrong with their computers – Doom tellers.

Friday I went into the Mac shop and she said that the technician would have to look at it either than night or the Monday. With dance class, I didn’t think I’d get there but we arrived to a cancelled class so I took advantage, bussed home and bussed back in with the computer – and Tiffany the wonder friend who comes along whenever I have a crisis 😛

The first thing the Mac chick said was that it looked more complicated than she’d originally thought and only the tech could sing in the computer and he was tied up drilling o soldering something (I know – way to make someone freak out) so I could come back on Monday or wait an hour or so for his €65/hour service. How do you say no to €65/hour if it means giving up on a new computer.

As we were window shopping and praying (amazing how often those to things go together) I realized that God had alredy actually provided that amount extra. Expecting nothing easy we came back an hour later to meet the tech (English speaking – q huge blessing because one of my biggest concerns buying the Pute was the level of tech support I’d be able to access here). And when he turned the Pute on it functioned perfectly!


Didn’t even pay the €65 for an inspection. He did mention that there are the problems the Doom tellers mentioned and if (a whole list of potential disasters) go wrong, to bring Pute back.

But I was so stoked that God made a time free before the weekend for me to go, the presence of a friend to keep me from freaking, the English speaking staff, the free cost and topped it all off with a functioning computer. Now I feel a lot more comfortable when (not if – I haven’t been cured of my pessimism) something does go wrong, I have the tech support there.


23 04 2010

When I left Oz a dear friend gave me what all girls need when embarking on adventures far and wide – a bottle of hot Fuscia Nail Polish appropriately named Kinki in Helsinki!  Feeling ashamed of my distinct lack of adorning in this land of perfectly premed princesses I pulled it out the other day and did both my hands and feet.

I thought I’d done a pretty good job until the 20months came looking exceptionally worried to point at my hands and pronounce ‘Pupa, pupa!’ which roughly translates in to English as ‘owieeee!’ I guess to him it looked a little more like the colour ‘bloodied and battered’.

Para chuparse los dedos!

22 04 2010

The locals consider this a unique gastronomical gem – and each Spring temporary Caracoles bars open up on corners and plazas all over town. And never one to miss a new cultural experience, my cousin and I hit the Bar in the Plaza for our very first taste of Snails. They serve fat ones and little ones in salsa and in broth – and you dig the meat out with a toothpick before you slip him down your throat. When we got there we asked for instructions to the delight of all the guys watching the Atletico/Liverpool game (who thought we were hilarious half time entertainment). Before we were done we were both well informed on the history and delicacies of snails, and loaded up with offers of personal tours to the ‘best’ parts of Cordoba.

The thing is – excited as everyone is about this broth, it really tastes like salty

seawater and looks like the Caracoles could have been boiled in their own pee. The salsa was better but the real challenge is the face, some were less clear than others, but each had it’s own tiny little face – some so perfect they could have been cartoons, with little mouths and tiny antenna. I guess you thinking it might have been more prudent to pay less attention but I figure if they’re going to die for the gastronomic arts – they ought to be appreciated!

The last one, Wilbur, was the finest specimen I have ever seen. His perfectly formed face smiling away til the end…

Reaching the Couches

21 04 2010

More thoughts on the life of a couch surfer. My cousin lives from bed to bed amongst a huge community of fellow travelers, volunteers and couchsurfers (http://www.couchsurfing.org/).

From her conversations she seems to live in the kind of generous sharing growing community that resembles another community I read of in Acts 2, a different motivation but a similar life. There’s a lot of talk about reaching ‘new generations’ ‘next generation’ ‘post moderns’ In a new world, being authentic, sharing a life – marked by Christ in that community.

If people are receiving the message I heard – don’t travel, do waste time, don’t waste resources.. then where are those that are going to reach this community? What better way to serve if this is your passion than sharing your life and wasting time with people.

What other communities might we not be reaching?

Wasting Time Well

20 04 2010

I don’t think my cousin understands the word idle, but she does understand the word ‘pace’. She’s travelling the world, vastly different things, seeing totally diverse worlds and meeting an amazing array of people.

When I think of a traveler, I think of someone who has suspended life and it’s administrative requirements and hassles for a break. But those who live travelling live with that same administrative baggage the rest of us have – only nicely tucked up in their backpacks.

For my cousin, that means that she’s had to learn to get done what is essential and relax with what isn’t possible. To enjoy a day that brings a morning of waiting, and to pass a day wondering and soaking up a city. It means learning to live in the moment and not deal with the things that might come, or those that will until they arrive.  Her reflections are thought provoking, entertaining and sometimes breathtakingly beautiful: http://lightandwander.wordpress.com/

I heard lots growing up about the wastefulness and selfishness of travel and the pilgrim vagabond in my heart rebelled. What is essentially wrong with travel?

I understand we live in an age of incredible spending on fun, enjoyment and experiences. I realize how uncritical we can be of the way we use money. And to be honest, most of my travelling was done in that Spirit…

But there is a way of travelling that is different. Yes – it is enriching, self-enriching, and unflinchingly so.  But does that make it a bad thing? My cousin works – not for wages, but in a way that really contributes, seeking the bettering of herself and others.  She knows stuff, and not in a way that gathers information like stamps, facts to file away – but in a way that changes the way she lives – affected by people, and with an integrity to her thought. Because she travels only with herself and a few belongings, he can’t build her identity from what she has, or what she does – it has to come from the integrity of how she lives out what she is.

That’s the kind of travelling I want to do – whether it be living in the one place or circumventing the globe.

Here comes my Pute…

12 04 2010

I bought a computer a month ago. It’s a plan I’ve had since before I left Oz – especially given that the day before I left Oz, my hard drive died and I’ve been running it as a slave dry on my laptop which has only 400MG free.

The problem is that the second hand computer market here isn’t great, so I got a good deal – on EBay Australia. Now I’ve been waiting for someone to come over who can bring my computer. Finally, it is arriving at conference and I’ll begin the uphill task of learning to use a new system (without the ever-present all knowing technological instructor – my Dad)

The thing is, now I need to think of a name for the Mac. Pute is good – but it needs something more.

Exams exams – I hate exams

9 04 2010

I’ve never been very used to exams, but I’ve never had that may either. But I’ve never really thought of myself as someone who struggles hugely with them. I was wrong.

In Spain’s – exams are how they teach. All my student friends are always studying for exams. And not just small tests or quizzes – proper, large percentage exams. I don’t know how they manage to spread out 100% in so many large chunks?! As well, the means of ‘encouragement’ here is really different. One of my friends was failed in a Math exam and was so rocked by it given her capacity in the area,  that her parents came to the school to speak with the teacher. His answer was of course she’d done well, but he did want her relaxing – he wanted to give her something to aim for. This isn’t uncommon.  There seems to be a thought that if someone goes worse in exams they’ll be spurred on to study harder, do better and achieve more. Yeah right!? Failing has never made me want to do anything but give up. I think my first attempt at Spanish in Uni pretty well demonstrated that…

So how do you deal when you don’t fit the system you’re under? My school doesn’t have that approach, but they do love exams. Every fortnight. I tried to explain that since I’m getting half the hours, I should be examined half as often. Falls on deaf ears. The response is the it’s just exercises that you do in class and helps you learn. I think not. I have up to 1 ½ hours, doing exercises and unable to ask or clarify things I don’t understand in the moment I hit them. Then I get marked on an exercise that is assessing one part of the grammar, and might have totally conquered that particular structure – but for every stray article or incorrect word ending or spelling error, I lose a mark. So at the end I end up deflated and defeated and having learnt very little from the whole exercise. Since I study just as much with our without the exams – and marks don’t propel me to learn more (being unable to communicate is compelling enough) I just can’t the value.

But this is part of learning Spanish culture and I’m sure there are a lot of Spaniards who spend their whole education in a system that isn’t building them up. And on the whole, my teacher is incredibly encouraging by comparison – having become well used to teaching a few of the more precious foreigners like me, who need to be coddled 🙂