Monday, February 18, 2008

A long time coming...


Today is a momentous day. We finally have internet in the piso!! As many of you know, I changed apartments to live with a couple girls in a slightly newer, much cleaner place. We moved in at the beginning of February and had some technical difficulties, but are finally joining the modern world with our very own...not stolen while perched in the freezing cold on the balcony...wifi! :)

It kind of goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway...a lot has happened since my last post, so this could end up being arduously long and tiring. Well, grab a cafelito, and suck it up because here it comes...in themes.

Vanessa goes back to school to learn her a, b, th's (that's right, Sevilliano's have a lisp, love it.)....

I spent three weeks in an intensive Spanish language school to get my Spanish back up to snuff. While I am no where near fluent, and in fact still have rather awkward moments where I stare blankly at people and run to grab one of my roommates, I can understand the majority of Spanish that is spoken to me and express myself...well, mas o menos. I've been told that if you learn Spanish in Andalusia (the southern region in Spain), you will be able to understand it anywhere in the world, because the accent is just that difficult. I think this might be a bit of an overstatement. Throw in a "vale" or a "tio" and you've got yourself a ready-made local idiom. I think I can fool people with a few phrases, but once we get past the pleasantries, my American accent shines right through.

My class was a wonderful international hodgepodge comprised of a Japanese girl (talk about culture-shock...do not envy her!), a cute Belgian boy (spoke 3 languages fluently- that's hot;), a Swiss girl (my daily coffee break companera), a German girl (Ana, the architect), a Nigerian nun (her laugh was infectious), and a couple American girls.

I'm pretty sure I have already raved about my profesora, but I might just have to do that some more...there were many things about my professora that I loved. She has a masters in linguistics and teaches Spanish to foreigners 4 hours a day and then has the rest of her time to spend with her family. There is a constant flow of new people coming from all over the world into the school...different ages, different nationalities, different professions and reasons for needing/wanting to learn spanish. Inma infused the teaching of her language to a group of struggling scholars with such passion that I have been inspired to add another career-option to my list and as I have the desire to live abroad, maybe in Spain, or in otras lugares, for a bit longer in my life, teaching english seems to be the best common denominator right now...which brings me to my next section...

Experiments in Illegal Immigration: Vanessa teaches herself to teach English and the beautiful irony of Spain...

Pretty much all of the friends I have made here have been through Mara and they are all girls in her program (teaching English in local schools for the spanish gov't). One of those girls had a couple requests for private tutoring but her schedule was already full so she passed them off to me. So far this has resulted in two different jobs. One is pretty simple, two 1 hour sessions per week with a woman in her mid-30's who wants to start working for a man who owns a bunch of rental properties all over the world. She is really sweet and has two adorable little boys and she pays me 18e/hour. Pretty sweet, considering that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I spend a good amount of time preparing though, because I don't want to be ripping anyone off.

The second job is one that epitomizes Spain better than any haphazard expression I could come up with. I am teaching a class of 6 Spanish civil servants and military men at the Ministry of the Interior just outside of Sevilla. Their jobs range from customs officials to under-cover drug-traffic control agents. I have to enter through a guarded gate and be escorted to the classroom, but the irony is, I have NO papers. I have no visa to live here, let alone work here, and they could care less. So I went for my first day on Tuesday, and the guy who hired me was not going to be there because he just had back surgery, but the other 5 were supposed to be. I got to the gate and the guard did not have my name so they asked for my passport and I regrettably gave it to them (they wrote my info on a post-it though....I mean, do I look like a threat to national security?). I was already 5 minutes late by this point, for my FIRST day as a REAL teacher...I was flustered. I kept repeating the same few phrases to the amiable-enough-looking guard...despite the fact that all he said was "no" or "no puedo entrarte"...and finally I convinced him to walk me to the classroom to prove that I wasn't lying, that I was supposed to be there, I mean, I had a purpose, I was a MAESTRA DE INGLES for crying out loud!

Antonio, 55 year old career military man, father of 4, grandpa of 1, walked me back to my classroom to verify my story and make sure I was okay. Problem was, no one was there. So now, not only am I thinking that I have stood up my class and they have all left in disgust, but also, I have this guard with me who now thinks I'm lying to get on a base. I start apologizing and giving him all the possible scenarios in which my class would not be there at 4:12, but he just smiles and says, "No pasa nada" and asks if I'd like a cafelito? We head into the cafe next door and spend the next 3 1/2 hours drinking and gabbing (in the best spanish I could possibly come up with) and meeting every 50+ officer whom he has been friends with for years. It was one of the most memorable afternoons I have had so far.

I love the Spanish work ethic (or lack thereof...4 cervesitas at 4:30, Antonio?...por que no, tia?), desire to care for anyone and everyone (I got 2 invitations to 2nd homes in Granada and 1 in Cadiz), the excessive compliments (Que guapa, hija!), and the habitual and careless use of dirty words that somehow seem to mean nothing (not giving examples here b/c they still mean something to me!). I plan to go to work an hour early every time just to spend more time with my guys. ;)

I've taught one class now and, let me tell you, it was one of the most nerve-wracking two and a half hours of my life as 5 men sat looking at me expectantly, like I was supposed to have all the answers or something!! Actually, it went very well and I absolutely loved the challenge, even as it proved more challenging than I ever thought it would be.

Party-time en Espana....como siempre!

I would say I gave it the good old college try, but I actually never even partied this much in college! Spaniards have an incredible stamina when it comes to nightlife and living with Mr. Fiesta (David) for 3 weeks translated into a never-ending string of bars and discos, free drinks and dancing until my heels wore down. At one point I realized that I had gone out every single night until at least 3 or 4 for over a week...and woken up to go to class at 8 (perfect attendance, btw)! That came to an end after an all-nighter in Cadiz for Carnival, during which time I came down with the worst cold flu I had had in years and had to sleep for pretty much 3 days straight to recover.

The next weekend I was all rested and ventured down to Rota (another beach town) for the whole weekend with some American girls and Spanish guys, who graciously hosted us in their family's beach homes. Mara and I did a return of Poison Ivy and Cat Woman (you were dearly missed, Matil), but this time she got sick (boo)! Nevertheless, Rota was beautiful and it was so wonderful to walk on the beach and dip my toes in the ocean. It felt like home. :)


(Mara and I love this pic b/c exemplifies our exasperation with Spanish men;)
(I found a little bike...weee!:)

This weekend some of the girls from Mara's program wanted to have a party for Valentine's day...La Fiesta del Amor (claro)...but they got a hate note from their neighbors so we thought it was called off. A few hours later, Mara got a next saying, "Meet at 10:30 on Calle Letis, Manu said we can have the party in his palace." So, naturally we thought she had mis-spelled the word and had meant to say "place," but NO, it was literally a PALACE!
...Manu had access b/c he is supposed to be selling the place for 3ish million euros...

We were escorted down a side street and hurriedly snuck into a little door, which served as the only outside edifice of the massive building. It was three stories, with an expansive courtyard in the middle, windy staircases, floor to ceiling mirrors in half the rooms, but completely unfurnished and slightly decrepit, with no electricity or running water, and illuminated only by candlelight and the lively chatter that could only be produced by the excitement of 50 naughty children. Adventures in Spain...just keep getting better.
:)
Thanks for reading the novella...I will try to post more frequently with this new-found luxury called "weefee" in Spain. ;)

Besos y abrazos a vosotros!

3 comments:

Anna Jordan said...

Vanessa,
It seems like you are having the adventure of a lifetime. Keep living it up!

xoxo - Anna

Katie Miller said...

Yeah Vanessa, you are alive!!! I love that you are teaching and that is kind of risky! What kind of foods have you been eating? I wish I was there!

Love,
Matil

Margarida Martins said...

Can't wait for Lisbon tales! knowing you a little closer is a great experience. We want you back in June for the "Santos"