Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A little more about school!

Sometimes I get so caught up in my afternoon and weekend adventures, that I forget to share details about the school day! I wanted to take some time to do this before I get back to the grand ole U.S.A.!

Yes, the stereotype is true: everyone is loud in Spain.... so that means the students are louder here. That has been something I still am not used to. It's not always that they are being disrespectful, much of the yelling and chatting is socially acceptable for students here. So normally I just keep to myself and try not to let it bother me. I have to tell myself *they have no idea that this is rude in my country, everything is fine*.

Another difference in the school here and the school in America is the emphasis on handwriting and language. These first graders know, Spanish, Catalan, and English! And they write in beautiful cursive handwriting! If it isn't legible or has errors, they must be corrected before turning them in. In America, the teachers tell me that the students will learn to write their letters correctly as they get older, and that the main goal is to let the students try on their own and do their best to gain an understanding of the concepts. It's interesting to see the different approaches, because I see advantages and disadvantages to both!

In America, the students often have buckets of supplies shared among the students. They may have a pencil box with some crayons and scissors, but they know there are always extras. Here, each student has a pencil case that hold their crayons, colored pencils, erasers (they call them rubbers), scissors, etc. They are very responsible with their things because they know it´s the only way to have supplies! They are neat and organized and keep up with their things remarkably well. Again, just different expectations.

This week Miss Carla has been doing a science unit about planet earth. Because she has been working with Miss Alex, her unit must be taught in English. She's been working hard to get the correct words and pronunciations for everything....I can't imagine trying to teach a whole unit in anything other than my native language! She asked me to listen to her lesson and write out suggestions for improving her English. I really only came up with a few things that could be phrased better, but she was so grateful! She's working on extra English courses this summer to specialize in English education. I'm so impressed by these bilingual and trilingual educators!!
Her lessons have been so cute! She had the students glue different green and brown paper in the shapes of the continents on a map of the world. While the other students took turns on the map, the rest of the class found and labeled different countries on inflatable globes. They loved these activities!! She also made a giant world map and color-coded the continents. The students practiced labeling the continents and the difference between a continent, country, city, etc.

Last school day is tomorrow... can't believe it's already here. So, SO bittersweet!

Monday, May 12, 2014

This past week....this is a long overdue one, I know!

(I kept meaning to sit down and do this...but it never happened...I´m a terrible blogger!! So here's a lot of catching-up....don´t feel obligated to procede if you didn't set aside half the afternoon to catch up on my life.)

Well this last week has been a little more relaxing...but definitely still fun! We have a student teacher (from Spain) here in our class. She just now got to come back from a recent appendicitis, so this is the first time I met her! Her name is Miss Carla. She's great too! At school the students have been working on phrases like "Do you like __________ ?" and responding with "Yes, I do." and "No, I don't." They have also been doing lots of reading comprehension practice. I have spent most of my days going around and helping the students by checking their papers, answering questions, etc. They have continued to work on their poem about the season. They memorized it to recite to Miss Alex. (some weeks they do this instead of spelling tests.)

Monday I have an extra hour before lunch, so while I was just checking out the shops of Sarria, I treated myself to a new dress for graduation!! (which is 6 DAYS AWAY by the way. crazy!!) Then some of us decided to check out an "American" restaurant on our lunch break. It was called "Peggy Sue's" and was decorated like a diner with oldies music playing. They served things like club sandwiches, burgers, chicken fingers, etc. It was cute...but I gotta say, if this was all I knew of American food, I would pity America! The cuisine was definitely lackluster, but we loved to feel the slightest bit of familiarity, regardless. That afternoon I went shopping with my host sisters, Catalina and Carmen! We had a great time! They took me to their favorite little shops near their house. I didn't buy any clothes, but I did treat us to some chocolate dipped shortbread cookies and a coffee from a local bakery. YUM. That evening we relaxed, watched part of a movie and just hung out together at the house. :) I really love days those kinds of days.

Tuesday I had a long lunch break so I found another bakery to satisfy my regular chocolate craving. We usually go to the "Chocolat Box" but I wanted to switch it up. L'Obrador mostly had things like croissants and fruit pastries...and as beautiful as they were, I came for one thing...chocolate. I had to resort to a giant fudge covered walnut brownie....I know....rough life. It was still different from a brownie in America, but hey, I don't discriminate. It was super delicious. That afternoon Jessica and Caitlin accompanied me to check out the neighborhood of Gracía. My host family suggested I come here after I asked for a recommendation of places to shop that were unique and non-touristic. It had all kinds of shops...from expensive boutiques to very cheap overcrowded stores to artisans selling crafts. We made a stop in a market and got some delicious spanish candy Caitlin's host dad had introduced her to... when I remember the name I'll let you know. We walked around and shopped for a while, and we happened to pass by Casa Vicens. It is said to be Gaudi´s first "important work". Very cool!

Wednesday is our day to take one of the first grade girls' classes out to P.E., which is a loud, giggly adventure for everyone. For lunch, Caitlin, Jessica and I went to a very (locally) famous cafe called Tomás de Sarría. It´s been around for decades and is known to have less-than-friendly service. We ordered chicken with the renowned "patatas bravas"--fried potatoes with a cream sauce. It also came with a fried egg..so we just mixed it all together and indulged in a year´s worth of cholesterol. It was so worth it. DELICIOUS. And the service was pretty good! After school I walked the kids to music/home and then I went out and shopped around a popular nearby street, Mandri. It was a very nice area and a relaxing afternoon.

Thursday we took the OTHER first grade girls out for P.E. This little doll was sitting by me in the sun. I made a comment about having so many freckles (which are fairly uncommon here) and she looks at me and in her limited english and super sweet voice says "yes...but you are more beautiful with them." *dies.* so sweet.

 Here's a few of the cuties. Love these little girls.

As a reward, the boys got to spend some time playing with legos, cars, animals, etc to practice their english conversation skills. Miss Alex, Miss Carla, and I went to different groups and practiced speaking. I built a lego minion and inspired some little lego prodigies. ;)
After school I took the metro to Badalona to meet with the church there. I had some extra time so I got off at Gracía again to check out a few more shops around there. I found a store that caught my eye and went in. The shop owner was very friendly and SPOKE ENGLISH! We talked for a really long time. He's from Senegal, lived in Paris for quite a few years and then Belgium. Now he´s in Barcelona and takes trips back to Senegal to bring different jewlery, bags, crafts, etc to sell and help support the artisans! So cool. Definitely got a couple things. =) Church was great! It's always such a blessing to be with people who love the Lord. It's amazing how uplifted I am just being with them--even when they discuss in another language!

Friday was a long and crazy day at school, but we survived! ;) The kids were definitely in weekend mode a little early...and who can blame them? We've had so many abbreviated weeks for holidays lately! After school Autumn, Caitlin, and I attempted to check out Tibidabo (a 100 year old amusement park up in the mountains). Sadly, the tram was closed, and by the time we walked to the next one, it had closed! But in the end, it worked out wonderfully! We got to see a very "posh" neighborhood up in the mountains, found a delicious popcorn store, checked out the mega department store--El Corte Ingles (where I got shoes for the graduation dress...success!) and then walked around the city center and ate a delicious dinner at a restaurant called Nuria. It was so good.

Saturday was jam-packed with touristy productivity!
Autumn and I had made plans to check out La Rambla! (Because you can't go to Barcelona and miss La Rambla!) Tiffany got to come along too. We met up at 11 and walked down La Rambla to the port. We stopped at souvenir shops, the huge market "La Boqueria", and some artist booths. We saw lots of human statues and street performers. We walked down to the port and found MORE artist booths. Then we walked to a restaurant recommended by both my lovely roommate Jordan AND the program coordinator. It was called Bo de B. We walked up to find 2 long lines. One for take-out and one to get a seat in the restaurant. It was tiny and SO popular...always a good sign! I got their Patatas Bravas (as Jordan demanded....I mean suggested. ;)) and they were SO good, too! Different than Bar Tomás, but definitely delicious. They had more sauces (pesto, a spicy sauce, a cucumber sauce, and balsalmic.) Again, all together it made for a delicious combination. It's amazing all the strange things I´ve tried because "Why not?! I'm in Spain!" We walked down to the Barceloneta beach and then back up to the city center for more shopping. That night we checked out the neighborhood of "Borne". It was very different! We happened upon it trying to make it to the Picasso museum before it closed. We were not successful with the museum, but it was very cool to check out that area! We found yet another open market, a very old church, and some recently discovered ruins of the older city. It was an important site for many of the wars in Spanish history.

Super cool.

After this, we walked back toward the city center and happened upon a traditional Catalan festival. We saw a few of the performances on the steps of the Barcelona Cathedral. And we got our picture with some of them! So fun.

(Note the progression of my sunburn throughout the day...haha. When I came home my host family was so concerned...they just have no idea how normal this is for a fair-skinned chica like myself.)

 We walked through some more shops and headed home. We were exhausted!!

Sunday I attended the church here for the last time (until I return of course). It was so good to see everyone...they feel like family already!! They have all been so kind, welcoming, helpful, accommodating, and fun to be with! Some of us are going to hang out Tuesday night so it´s not quite goodbye yet...but I still cried! Ha! Sometimes I´m pitiful.
Sunday was my host sister Carmen's 1st Communion. I met up with the family for their big family lunch. It was definitely an experience! Everyone was very friendly and made sure I always found the English-speakers in the group. The party was at a large, old home in the mountains that Rafa´s parents own. It was beautiful! We got home LATE and everyone was exhausted when this morning rolled around...but we have to hit the ground running because it´s my last 3 days in Spain and Rafito´s 6th Birthday is Wednesday! :)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

La Sagrada Familia, An Ode to Breakfast, and a Historical Long Weekend!! Whew!

Finally an update! I had some downtime over the long weekend, but no wifi, so here's another late Sunday evening post.
This week has been full of adventure! I'm really feeling comfortable at the school and I finally know my way around the building. I'm figuring out the crazy schedule and got to do some fun things with the students!


I worked with a group of 6th grade boys who are advanced in English. I planned some conversational games, which we didn't finish, so I look forward to working with them again next time! It's interesting to note that the students who started learning English in Pre-K (who are now 1st graders) know just as much, and really more, English than the 6th grade students who didn't start learning English until Kindergarten or 1st. Although the older students have been studying it longer, the younger students who were immersed in the language sooner have picked it up much quicker! I wish I had done that with Spanish as a child! Maybe then I wouldn't be fumbling over my words every time I encounter a non-english speaker. Haha.

After school I went with Jessica to L'illa (local mall). I had been wanting to check out some Spanish stores like Zara and Mango. We had fun looking, but managed not to spend anything! Our favorite store was called "Cooked"...the logo was a dead chicken and everything. We thought it was hilarious. If we weren't so cheap, we definitely would have gotten a pair of "Cooked" pants!

That night for dinner I had gazpacho! Yes, the famous chilled vegetable soup....interesting, but good. However, it was hard to get used to cold soup.


I had the pleasure of taking the boys who worked hard and finished early out to an early recess/2nd breakfast. These boys are just so sweet and friendly! They always greet me with a very proper "Hello, Miss Sarah"when they see me. It's so cute! I also love how they still run around and play "futbol" the moment they get outside--even though they all have sandwiches in hand.

After school many of us went to La Sagrada Familia. We toured the Cathedral and saw some of Gaudi's scale models and drawings in the room underneath. It was fascinating for sure! There's just so much to sit and look at in a building that detailed! Afterward I checked out some of the classic souvenir shops located all around La Sagrada Familia. That was interesting for sure...the shop owners are NOT shy and tend to follow you around the store offering suggestions of what you need to bring to your family members back home...how thoughtful, right? ;)



I decided I needed to dedicate a post or at least part of a post to breakfast in Spain. So here it is...my...

Ode to Breakfast. 

We leave the house around 8:30, so around 8 we are all usually in the kitchen eating together. There's normally some toast, homemade jam from Abuela, a teeny cup of espresso and a little pitcher of warm milk waiting at my seat, and chocolate milk for the kids. This particular morning (like many others) included some Spanish music. They introduced me to a song "Sara" that sings about "dulce (sweet) Sara"(listen here on Youtube) , and of course LaBamba was played. Classic. Around 10:30 at school we all break for second breakfast. The students bring a sandwich or fruit. The teachers are served complementary breakfast in the lounge. There's a coffee/tea bar, fruit, and either sandwiches or croissants. Fridays are usually croissants and chocolate, and with it being a long weekend, Wednesday was like a Friday, so we had croissants! Yum. It's so funny, 10:30 is exactly the time I get hungry every day (in the U.S.), too, so it works out quite well. On Mondays and Fridays, Miss Alex and I get to watch the kids on the playground while we eat. The other days we usually eat with the teachers.

On the way back from school, Cata casually pointed out a Churreria! CHURROS! FINALLY! THE REAL DEAL! I asked if we could stop and she kindly obliged...and helped me order. :) They were fantastic....in a sugary greasy kind of way. Mmm. We watched him make them right in front of us. It was very cool!

Wednesday night we packed up and went to Costa Brava! (about an hour or two north of here)
We stayed in Vilamacolum with Elena's parents in a beautiful restored home from the 12th century!! It was absolutely amazing. If I had known what an incredible place we'd be staying in and what fun adventures were lying ahead, I would have had no worries about my lack of wifi and technology for the next 4 days! ;)
Gorgeous home!

:) Girl beds pushed together for real slumber party style.


we visited Empuries, a lovely coastal village started by the Greeks in the 6th century BC! We saw aqueducts, ruins, gorgeous beaches, apple orchards, and historic homes.


We visited Palau (and a few other teeny villages along the way). This is where my host family's vacation home is. It's still in the restoration process, but it's got tons of character and is surrounded by a breath-taking countryside. I believe it dates back to the 11th century. We were able to visit with some family members who have a "castle" next door. It was phenomenal! It had a small chapel attached and incredible views from the terraces. It was like nothing I've ever seen.


We went to Cadaques! This coastal village is famous for being the summer home of the surrealist painter, Salvador Dali. It was an old fisherman village, but with it's growing popularity it has become a trendy destination for the nearby Spanish and French populations. It's full of shops and restaurants and is all situated right on the sea. It was stunning! Of course, we had to get gelato.

They also took me up to a lookout point in the Pyrenees Mountains. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever done! The Tramuntana (very strong north winds) were in full swing and we all thought we were going to sail off into the sea! It was the kind of wind that you sends tears streaming down your face and makes grown men climb to the top of a rock just to stand up and scream into it. The views of the mountains and sea where incredible. One side of the mountain had calm seas, and the other side had waves crashing against the rocky shores. I just wish there were photos to do it justice...but I'll definitely never forget what I saw! I'm adding it to my mental list of places I want to hike!

That evening I rode back to Barcelona with Elena's sister and spent the night at my apartment.


I went to church and had the pleasure of going out to lunch with some wonderful new friends! We had Chinese (and tons of it!) and then walked around to the mall to get...gelato of course. ;) They were so kind and generous, and I really enjoyed my time with them! I look forward to spending more time together with Lisette and Luis for sure! What a blessing it is to now have friends in another country!

I got back to the apartment around 5, unpacked, grabbed my computer and went to a local cafe and bakery to get some coffee and go through my pictures. Since the coffee was the size of my thumb and the cafe didn't have wifi, I walked around for a while, found another DELICIOUS cafe and treated myself to another coffee (this time with milk to make it last longer...I'm learning here, ok?) and a "cronut"....which appears to be a combination of a donut and a croissant---how brilliant are these guys, huh?? I opted for Dulce de Leche which was just gushing with caramel...it was phenomenal. Definitely going to try out Santa Gloria again! So many yummy looking pastries and the coffee was superb! I came home, skyped JD, went and got an italian sandwich "para llevar" (to go) and came back to finally get this posted!

It's been a long, crazy week...but I am loving it. The trip with my family was definitely just that...a road trip with family. Of course there were moments of mild chaos, but all-in-all I am so, SO grateful that they willingly and eagerly took me along! When else in my life will I get to see these tiny ancient villages in the Spanish countryside?! Whether it was letting me shop all afternoon or driving part of the way down the mountains to let me explore my way down on foot for a bit, they definitely went above and beyond to make sure I saw the best of the Costa Brava/Northeastern Spain area!

Looking forward to another week here! Spain's totally got my heart, but I still can't wait to be back with family. Enjoying these blessings and opportunities while I can, though! God is so good! :)

Hasta luego! I'm going to do better about staying updated this week!