Monthly Archives: October 2010

la aduana (customs)

I got a letter on Wednesday night (yes, night… like at 7PM) to serve as an international arrival notice. I read the letter (all in Spanish) and it was talking about importation taxes and special documents and invoices and it was pretty confusing. They were holding my package (which had 2 hoodies, a jacket, my new debit card) because they thought I had bought them and they wanted to tax me.

Since the letter was pretty confusing I got my roommates to read it and try to figure out what I needed to do. Both of them were pretty confused as well, and they have never received a letter like that before. Cristina and I went to the local post office last night to see if they knew anything, but no one could really give us any answers. I went to the website in the letter, and I didn’t really have too many options. I decided to go to the customs office to resolve everything. They only gave me until Tuesday to pick up my package or else they’d send it back to the US. Their hours are only 9-2 on Monday-Friday, and Monday, my free day, is a holiday, so I was cutting it close. They hardly gave me any notice! I felt really rushed.

I took a bus to the “barrio del aeropuerto” (neighborhood around the airport), and I went to the customs office. I explained the situation, he looked at my student visa, and stamped my letter. He sent me off to the post office to go pick up my package and to pay the postage fees. Once I got to the post office there was a huge line and tons of random people everywhere. The postage system here is really disorganized at times. Some people said that they were in the line for one hour to pay their taxes and pick up their packages. Others told me that they called all three numbers on the letter and no one ever responded. People complained in general about the whole process really! Haha

Thankfully I didn’t have to wait in the line, because I had already worked out my tax situation. I had to wait about 45 minutes to get my package, but at least I didn’t have to wait in that long line! I met some American girls that had to catch a plane to Morrocco in about an hour and they still hadn’t gotten their package! Craziness!

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halloween

Today we got to give out prizes for the pumpkin carving contest at my school in Colmenar Viejo.  They were all so good! I was really impressed when I looked at all of the entries. Everyone who participated got to pick out a prize and they also received a certificate from the school. The other auxiliares and I went around to every class this morning and we gave out all of the prizes (balls, marbles, stickers, spider man notebooks, glittery pens and pencils, etc). The kids were so excited!! I really enjoyed seeing how happy they were!

After that I did a lot of Google-ing for my afternoon class, because my 3rd class of the day had a test. I ended up finding a short story, a crossword, and a word search for them. I don´t think I´ll need it all, but it´s always good to be prepared!

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comfort food weekend

This weekend was very “American” food oriented, and it was great! Jackie and I went to an American store in town and we bought baking soda and powder (since they are hard to come by) for making different things, some pancake syrup, bisquick, Mexican salsa, POPTARTS!!, and a few other items that we’ve been missing.

Jackie spent the night on Saturday and I made pancakes in the morning. They were just like the ones I make at home! It was nice, and it made me feel like I was at home.

The next step is to make some biscuits! Before I do that, I want to find an oven thermometer. The oven I have in the apartment is so old that it either never had the degrees on the knob, or they have been worn off. Who knows? Baking is precise though, so I don’t want to just hope for the best and crank up the dial. More to come on the baking front, I’m sure!

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a little bit of Halloween

Today in class I laughed SO hard. On Thursdays (at FGL) the classes take turns having one hour of art (each Thursday the classes alternate). This week and last week we decorated pumpkins to hang on the corkboard in the classroom since Halloween is getting close.

Jack-o-latern

Image via Wikipedia

The teacher I work with, Ana, had some Halloween music that she played while we worked with the kids. Some of the songs made me laugh, but the funniest thing was when I put the ¨Thriller¨video on from youtube and EVERY single student knew the words. That´s amazing! These kids are 9-11 years old and they know a song from 1982(ish). It´s really interesting to see what these kids know about US culture and what they don´t know.

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my crazy spanish life

Friday was rough! First of all, my apartment has been without internet for ~one week, as we switched providers and there was a sort of “configuration” period I think. The internet was supposed to start working on Thursday night around midnight/1 AM and no dice! That’s made it hard to call home!

Secondly, I couldn’t put money on my phone on Friday because the Vodafone system was down most of the day. I had to call people, but I couldn’t use my phone because I had less than 1 euro of credit. Thankfully by the end of the day I stopped by a Vodafone store on my way to meet up with someone who wanted to practice her English (more below) and they said that the system was back up (around 8PM). I was only phoneless for a day, but it felt like a lifetime! It was hard not to call people back or respond to their text messages since I needed to save my last little bit of credit in case of an emergency. That’ll teach me to wait until the last minute to add credit… I’m not used to prepaid phones!

I met up with the woman that wanted to practice her English and we had some tinto de verano (red wine with lemonade) and we had a really nice chat! She works in a primary school too, and she wants to improve her English. We’re planning on meeting up every Monday night, so that’ll be really nice! We are going to do about ½ of our meeting time in Spanish and ½ in English so that we both get to practice. I’m not sure how long we’ll meet, but I think that it’ll be around an hour or two.

After meeting up with Maria (that was her name), I met up with Jackie (another language assistant from Texas) and we ate at a Mexican restaurant in the center of town. We’ve only been there twice together (I went once before then), but we are already treated like regulars. We always have the same waiter and he’s always joking around with us. It’s nice! We walked around after we ate and spoke Portuguese in the street. It was fun! Afterwards we parted ways and we both headed home.

This is where the stress started!!

I get on the 4 line to go home and everything was normal. I rode the train for a few stops and I got to an area that was probably only 3-4 stops away from home and chaos ensued. I looked at the cars ahead of me and I see EVERYONE running out of the cars and people were yelling and screaming. I couldn’t see anything, as I was in the last car, so I just bolted and I ran as fast as I could to get out of the subway and away from its opening. Thankfully the exit was in the opposite direction of whatever was causing the problem. I’m not sure what happened, but I thought that I heard a woman scream TIRO! (gunshot) as she was running, but there is no way to tell what really happened since my adrenaline was pumping and I was in shock (and it’s hard to think in Spanish when you are freaking out).

I ran so hard that by the time I got out of the subway and a couple of blocks away I couldn’t breathe. I flagged down a taxi and told him what happened as we headed back towards my apartment (which was pretty close to where I exited the metro). I told the driver what had happened and he was so nice. He was trying to help me calm down and he tried to find a news channel on the radio to see if they said anything. I didn’t think that I’d hear anything for a while since such a short amount of time had passed since the incident.

Since I don’t have internet, I haven’t been able to do any research to see what was going on. This whole experience was really scary, but I’m just glad that I got away from whatever it was and I’m safe! All of the news articles about threats of terrorist attacks in Europe make this even scarier to me, but I haven’t heard anything on the tv yet… so I wonder what really happened? I’m starting to think that it was nothing at all, and someone thought it would be funny to scare everyone… I’ll update again if I find anything out.

On a brighter note, I received a care package from my mommy last Friday! I picked it up on Saturday morning at the post office (which is only one block from my apartment), and now I have some goodies!! I got some Dramamine (for my lovely bus ride home from Colmenar Viejo), a robe, some books, a smoke detector, and some pepper spray (haha). Very useful items! Love you, Mom!!!

Just for fun, here is a list of things that I miss/don’t miss from the US (other than people, of course):

Things that I miss:

1)      Having a car

2)      Having A/C and heating

3)      Cheap tennis shoes

4)      Understanding old people (haha – old people here are very nice, but it’s hard to understand them when they talk sometimes!)

5)      Having a clothes dryer (I miss fluffy warm towels and pants that fit!!)

6)      FAST food – I don’t eat fast food very often here, but seriously… I went to McDonalds with a friend and it took like 20 minutes or more! The sad thing is that they’re all like that.

7)      Reliable internet/technology! Wifi is really new here, and it’s not so good yet.

8)      My iPhone/mobile internet in general

9)      Baked potatoes with butter mmm

10)  Longhorn (I have yet to find a nice juicy steak here)

11)  Chick-fil-a

Things that I don’t miss:

1)      Rushing all the time (things here seem more relaxed)

2)      Homework!!

3)      The lack of public transportation/good sidewalks

4)      Having to drive over an hour total every day to get to work (2x a week I walk 15 minutes to work, and the other 2 days I have about an hour commute which is the same amount that I was driving at home every work day)

5)      Atlanta traffic (haha) – there’s no traffic on the metro… well, there can be a lot of people at times, but it’s not that bad

Sorry for such a long post, but a lot has happened during my internet-less days!

Oh and today I broke a jar of salsa on the metro just a while ago. Goooo me! 🙂

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puente

This weekend I have a “puente.” Since Tuesday is a holiday, the school also has Monday off, so this weekend is called a “puente” (“bridge”). I was worried that I’d be bored, but so far I’ve had a GREAT time! My friend Jackie and I went to El Rastro this morning, then to a mall. The mall wasn’t too far by bus, but since it was Sunday everything was closed except for the restaurants. We found American, Brazilian, Japanese/Chinese, Mexican, and Italian restaurants there as well as a bowling alley and a movie theater, so not all was lost! I had a cajun chicken sandwich for lunch, and it was a lot better than a lot of the Spanish food I have been eating!

After the mall we decided to come back to my apartment and decide on our next venture for the day. We decided to go to the Prado, but we didn’t have enough time to go to the Prado and then go to this parade/concert that we saw advertized on the metro. We decided to go to the Prado another day and we went to an Irish pub for a while and then the parade/free Concert (Calle 13 performed!). It was really fun!

We did a ton of walking today and it was great! I think I’ve lost about 5 pounds since I’ve been here, so that’ll tell you about how much walking I’ve done! 🙂 We are going back to the mall tomorrow so that we can actually shop, so that should be good. I hope I can find something unique to add to my wardrobe!

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awww

My day at FGL (I’ll start using acronyms haha) was pretty much just like Tuesday, only I had a meeting and I did a lot more planning and organizing with Ana (the teacher I work with) for Halloween and other upcoming holidays.

My last class of the day was 5th grade English. When the class started I noticed that one of the little boys looked really sad and like he was about to cry so I told Ana and she went over to investigate.

She said “You’ll never believe what he told me. I didn’t expect that!” Then she told me that he had spent all of his recess time (about one hour) taking care of a ladybug farm that he made. He had a favorite ladybug and one of the other kids killed it! He was crying in class and wouldn’t talk. It was so sad!! Aw.

On the bus ride home I felt really carsick, so I’m going to start taking Dramamine after lunch! It was bad on Tuesday too because I had to face backwards. No good!

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second first day haha

Today was my first day at CEIP Federico García Lorca. It was fantastic!
My day started when I woke up in the living room. Why? I had to move all of my stuff (including my bed) into the living room because my floor is being repaired. Not so bad really… anyways – I took the metro to the bus station, got lost a bit, but met up with the other 3 teachers from my school while we waited for the bus to arrive. The commute all together plus waiting for the bus etc took about an hour and 15 minutes.

I only taught 5th graders today (and that’s all I’ll be teaching at this school). Having all older kids was very interesting! Some of the questions/comments I was asked/given:

Do you like Lady Gaga? Do you have a boyfriend? You look like Hannah Montana! What is your favorite soccer team? You are prettier in person than your picture on your driver’s license. (etc)

The kids were okay for the most part, although some were a bit disruptive and hyper. During lunch, I played on the playground a lot with the kids and they talked my ears off (in a good way!). It was so cute!! They told me about their little preteen gossip magazine that they had and all of the games that the other kids were playing.

After class I took the bus back to Madrid and caught the metro to head back to my apartment. A guy on the metro was totally drinking a beer! Haha
I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to tell later .

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terror alert

So I was checking out the news on CNN and other sources the other day, and I came across a lot of articles announcing a “terror alert” throughout Europe. The targets are pretty vague, but I still don’t know what to think. I don’t live near any huge monuments, but I have to use the metro everyday… Ah! I hope it’s not too serious.

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homesick

Yesterday I went with Dad to the airport and right after I left I started to feel homesick. While they were here it felt like we were just on vacation, but now that I’m all by myself I feel a lot different. I feel really lonely and a bit out of place. Don’t get me wrong, I have a couple of friends here, but hardly any so far. My roommates have been awesome, but they work full-time and they spend a lot of their free time with their boyfriends so I can’t just tag along with them all the time. I know this feeling will pass, but I’m definitely going through a rough patch right now.

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