Monday, October 28, 2013

Mercado Medieval

A couple of weekends ago [and yes, it's taken me that long to upload the pictures. Internet problems are the worst] there was a Medieval Market in Soria. That Saturday was a national Spanish holiday, so I'm not sure if that was a coincidence or not, but it was certainly a festive environment.

This guy was accompanied by a troupe of musicians and a guy carrying a python.
Another musical group. The guy in the front was a juggler.
And there were plenty of opportunities to shop. There were stalls, with the vendors dressed in medieval costumes, from the Plaza Mayor all the way to the other end of the main pedestrian street. The first day, I tried the food - a giant banana chocolate crepe and some delicious ribs. Then on Sunday, I bought some jellies, some muffins, and some Christmas presents.

The food stall where I got the ribs. I wasn't brave enough to try octopus.
I think this actually may have been a hookah tent.
The enormous spice stand. It smelled heavenly.
Aside from the shopping and music, there were plenty of other entertainments. One smaller plaza in the middle had all sorts of things for kids to do, from pottery to some kind of medieval game. And the Plaza Mayor had this swing ride and a mini-bird show.

I wish I was young enough to ride this.
Every now and then, two of the ladies from the bird tent would have the hawks fly across the plaza.
The owls got to just hang out all day long.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dar un paseo

Or, to take a walk.

As much as I love the city, sometimes it's nice to get out into nature as well. I spend a lot of time outside, of course, walking from place to place, but then I'm usually surrounded by buildings and roads and cobblestones. And while those things are all nice and beautiful and Spanish, it does get a little monotonous, going along the same streets every single day.

So on the weekends especially, I try to go somewhere new. My apartment is really close to the river, where all these pictures were taken; I've been over there twice already and it feels so refreshing to wander through all this greenery [especially when the sun makes it feel a little warmer]. Growing up in the suburbs where trees are more often found scattered across front lawns, it's enchanting to walk under a full canopy. To look around and be surrounded by things that people didn't build. Walking around places like this makes me feel like I'm in a fairy tale.

I had lunch a couple of weeks ago with the other English teachers from my school. The restaurant was a ways outside the city and after we finished eating, we took a walk down a gravel road, which was not so nice walking in flats. But we said hello to some horses, were stared at by some cows, and saw a few tiny flowers that were still clinging to the last bit of fall. Everyone has said that we're basically in winter from now until March or April. I believe that at night - I never want to get out of my warm bed in the mornings. It doesn't help that it's still super dark when I have to wake up, even at 8 a.m.

Monday, October 21, 2013

(Spanish) Kids Say the Darndest Things

My first two weeks at the school, I introduced myself to all the English classes with the help of a PowerPoint. [Thanks to Google, I found a U.S. map with Texas highlighted, pictures of my high school and university, etc. I found it both reassuring and frustrating that I couldn't get a picture of my house online.] The kids had time to ask me any questions they could think of, some of which spoke to stereotypes of Texas, and some of which were too amusing not to share:

Q: Do you have a boyfriend?
A: No.
Q: Do you like Spanish mens?
A: I wasn't quite sure how I was supposed to answer that, especially with a roomful of 13 year olds. Luckily, the teacher picked up on the grammar mistake so we talked about singluar/plural of man instead.

Q: You live in Texas where a lot of people use guns. Do you have any guns at your house?
A: Um, no.

Q: How long does it take to drive from your city to Las Vegas?
A: Probably 3 days. [They were shocked.]

Q: Do you have a favorite singer? And then another student interjected - Do you like Justin Bieber?
A: This class, all boys, was very happy when I said no.

Q: What do you think about the economy?
A: I don't really remember what I said, but the gist was - I don't know much of anything the economic situation, in Spain or the U.S.

Q: What is the season for the NBA?
A: I told him November to March. And then later I realized that it's college basketball that does March Madness, so that was probably completely wrong, wasn't it? Oops.

Q: Do you agree with the death penalty?
A: No. The teacher seemed really flustered by this question and told me I didn't have to answer if I wasn't comfortable with it. I'm not exactly sure why.

Q: What is your favorite Spanish food?
A: Bread. They seemed disappointed with my answer, but that's really the only Spanish/not at all American thing I had eaten at that point.

Q: What is your favorite food in America?
A: Pasta. We had talked about BBQ being typical Texas food, so one girl called out, "Why pasta when you have all this meat?" Does this make me a bad Texan?

And finally, in the classes where they asked what my favorite movie was, they had never heard of any of the movies I thought of. Salt? No. [Angelina Jolie? No.] The Avengers? No. Phantom of the Opera? No. I was relieved some of the students knew what I was talking about when I said I liked reading The Lord of the Rings.

Monday, October 14, 2013

El piso

My apartment! I finally made it out to the library, where I took advantage of the free and fast wifi to upload pictures. [And call my mom on Skype, kind of against the rules but I didn't get caught! There's actually some kind of security guy with a uniform and everything who told the lady next to me to take a phone call in the bathroom.]

The living room.
And dining room.
[Yes, I know most of you probably learned departamento for apartment. I don't know which country says "departamento," but I have never actually used it in a Spanish-speaking country. I'm always a little surprised at first to learn a different word for something, forgetting how many differences there are between American, British, Australian, and other forms of English.]

The kitchen.
I live in a lovely, wonderful apartment 10 minutes away from my school. I'm going to have one roommate, but she's not getting here until next Wednesday. Probably. My landlord isn't exactly sure.

My bedroom.
The problem is, the Internet connection is really spotty and the walk is almost entirely uphill. Some days I'm regretting my decision to choose the pretty (recently remodeled) apartment over the closer (and older, and with 3 roommates, and weirdly tiled bathrooms) one. I'm hoping the Internet situation is going to resolve itself soon which will make me feel a lot better.

My bathroom.
And of course, every time I walk into my seemingly brand-spanking-new apartment, with its big TV and dishwasher and dryer and private bathroom, I can't believe how lucky I am to be living in Spain.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Firsts

Well, I've been in Spain a week now. I'm getting all the logistical things straightened out (it really helped that there were only two days of school this week) and should have my own apartment tomorrow! To coincide with my earlier post, here are some of the new things I'm experiencing.

Airport Express! I saw 30 minutes' worth of Madrid from those bus windows.
The first bus ride. And the first glimpse I got of Spain! A ride on this wonderful creation cost about the same as the metro but was so much easier with two full suitcases and a backpack and a purse. Of course, right after I paid for my ticket, the driver pulled out the airport, so I stumbled into the first available seat and tried to keep all my stuff upright. Luckily for me, the guy I sat next to was part of the same program as me and had remembered the directions from the bus stop to the hotel (just a block down the road, but directionally challenged me would have had no idea which street to go down).

The first nap. Madrid hotel room, 3 hours after landing. 

I got these to see what Spain considers "Tex Mex," but they're really just the Nacho Cheese ones.
The first food. I don't think it's possible to travel abroad and not talk about the amazing, (somewhat) foreign foods. We had buffets at every meal provided for us in Madrid - so much delicious food. The fruits and vegetables! The fish - yes, I actually ate it! The chocolate pudding! And the bread! I haven't stopped eating fresh bread since I got to Soria. It's heavenly.

The building was originally a Jesuit monastery and was built in the 16th Century (I'm pretty sure that's right).

The first day of school. After spending 8 hours with 6 different classes, I think secondary school (the equivalent of 7th-12th grades) isn't going to be as hard as I originally thought. The school is housed in a beautiful old building, the teachers all seem really nice, and the kids ask some interesting questions. I didn't realize but in Spain, education is only compulsory up to age 16, and the students who want to go to university then take an extra two years called bachillerato (every time they say it, I just think of IB). A few of the kids in that class are actually 19 or 20, which makes me feel weird to be their (assistant) teacher.

Everyone squeezed into shop doorways so the band could get past.
The first holiday! Similar to what happened to me in Peru, I got to Soria right before the festival for their patron saint, San Saturio. The actual Saint's Day was October 2 - also my cousin's birthday. I felt like the whole city was celebrating for her since I didn't get to wish her a happy birthday in person! There have been bands playing pretty much all night long in the Plaza Mayor since Tuesday, kids running around in giant paper mache masks, and food stands selling delicious churros. My sadness at missing the new Big Tex and funnel cakes at the State Fair has been mitigated by all the festivities here.

The stage set up in the Plaza Mayor.