Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Leftovers for weeks!

Hi everyone! I know it's Tuesday and I'm just starting to write about the weekend, but I was so full, I couldn't bare to write haha. Just kidding, but honestly, this weekend I saw the biggest paella of my life. This weekend, one of my classmates and I headed to a small village named Zestona, where another one of our classmates lives with her husband and kids. It was her 13-year old son's birthday and they were celebrating with a huge lunch and she invited some of the people she likes from class. I figured it would be a normal lunch until they brought out the paella! I have seen big woks and large frying pans, but this thing was enormous! I know the picture here is not the best quality, but I wanted to give you an idea of the size of the pan in relation to the people and the table! My portion was HUGE and I couldn't finish it, but it was delicious.

Happy Birthday was sung in many different languages - Portuguese because they are from Brazil, Basque because we are in Basque Country, Spanish because everyone speaks it, English because I was there and Senegalese because our other classmate is from there. Quite a festive little lunch! In the end we (a group of about 18 people) only ate half of the paella, so I imagine they are still eating it!


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spanish Teacher...fingers crossed!

Well, I've done it. I've submitted my application for Grad School to get a Master's in Teaching with a focus in teaching Spanish. I'm applying to DePaul in Chicago, but won't know for a few weeks but obviously already have my fingers crossed. Once I hear back from them, I can start planning what I will do next year, because it is still quite up in the air. I am just writing this blog to share with you guys the essay I wrote for application, because I think it will give you an idea of how much I've grown to enjoy my job. The prompt was: state your reasons for wanting to become a middle school or secondary educator and speak to your potential for becoming a teacher. Here it is...
I may seem like an unlikely candidate for the Masters of Education, seeing as a I have earned a BS of Marketing and have the bulk of my experience in Corporate America, but after teaching in Spain for two years, I feel like I have found my calling.

There are many reasons I know I want to be a secondary teacher, but deep down I think the most important are the fact that I find it to be a rewarding profession and I desire to share my love of cultures with young adults.

In one word,I would describe teaching as fulfilling. When I worked at Pepsi Bottling Group, spearheading a 3-city multicultural marketing event was thrilling. When I landed my first sale at News America Marketing, it was exciting. However, neither of these emotions can compare to the feeling I had the first time a student excitedly told me that our previous study session really helped her pass her exam at school.

Working as an English teacher in San Sebastián, Spain, I've been rewarded with similar moments which made my heart swell. Nothing can replace the sensation I get when I've helped a student succeed or when I steal a smile from an uninterested student who finally wants to learn.

Working in Spain has also immersed me in the language and culture of the country. One of my favorite Spanish phrases is estoy en mi salsa which basically translates to I'm in my happy place. I would say I've been in my salsa since I arrived - be it traveling or celebrating a Spanish fiesta. I love experiences different cultures and want to share that enthusiasm with future students, just as my high school Spanish teacher did for me.

Along with desire, I have a great potential to be a secondary teacher because of my passion to learn. Upon starting my current job, I had no teaching experience. As soon as I began, I focused on how to be an effective teacher and spent house creating and implementing educational and engaging lessons. It is an ever-evolving process, but one that I love and want to continue.

I also believe that my interpersonal skills are a great asset in becoming an educator. I can effectively communicate with a wide range of people, be it corporate board members or 14-year old Spanish-speaking students. I relate well with whom I am speaking and tailor my communication style to them and the situation. I know this will play an integral role in not only teaching secondary students the language but also how to effectively communicate in Spanish too.

Another quality I have that demonstrates my potential is a strong work ethic. From a young age,I learned to work hard for what I want. I put myself through college by taking the earliest classes so I could work 8-hour days. I studied hard, graduated cum lade and secured the job I wanted in New York. Then I jumped the ocean and came to a country where I barely knew the language or a single person when I arrived. I've tried to make the most of my time in Spain by attending a daily 2-hour language class and living with native Spanish people. When I set my mind on doing something, I put my entire self into it.

Lastly, I think that my firsthand experience with the language and culture will be an asset when I am a Spanish teacher. I believe that learning a language is more than just memorizing the words and that culture, literature and people play a priceless role too. Knowing the word for dance is great, but to tell my students about a tanned color-fully dressed woman dancing flamenco on a hot night in Seville brings a different dimension to their learning. My goal is not only to teach them the language, but to open their eyes to the world.

When I moved to Spain, I never expected to fall in love with teaching but it has truly happened. Ever since I realized it,I have done everything I can to make myself the best English teacher possible. At the same time I've been soaking up the culture and rigorously studying the language so that I can become an inspiring Spanish teacher when I return.

So, that's it! I hope it shares my love of teaching and inspires them to admit me! Thanks to everyone who helped in the editing process. I will keep you all posted :)


Thursday, February 18, 2010

My split personality

Have you ever thought that you had a second personality? Well, maybe it's not that normal to think, but this weekend confirmed it for me - there are two Amandas in me! One is Amanda, good old American girl, chatty and really outgoing, and the other is Uhmunduh (that's how the Spanish pronounce my name) who is kind of shy and gets nervous when she speaks in Spanish. Righty-o, I have two personalities.

Most of you know the regular Amanda, so you would be suprised to meet my Spanish personality. I guess because I can't speak perfectly in Spanish, I get jittery when I start talking to new people. I'm great at the introducing, telling about my life and all that jazz, but if I were to start having a conversation about who knows - politics or something like that - I kind of clam up.

I noticed it this weekend when Erika and I were at the parade in Hondarribia for carnival. We met up with two of her friends who only speak Spanish. I had met one of them before and she noted how much my Spanish has improved since last year. Still though, as soon as the conversation turns to Spanish I seem to turn off my quirky comments and silly anecdotes, but I guess with more and more practice they will come back.

I've started to make more of an effort to hang out with Spanish-speaking people as well as talk to the bartenders at the coffee shops and such, just to practice. Everyone says my accent is spot-on, but I of course keep wanting to improve my grammar and vocabulary! An on-going quest it seems :)

Nothing too exciting this week, I just got to thinking about my dual-life and thought I would share it with you all - those who know the real Amanda!

Amanda and Uhmunduh

Oh and PS - the picture is of me and Heather, on a day we happened to have the same eye color, but I thought it kind of reminded me of a split personality hahaha!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Today is more than Valentine's Day!

Hi everyone and Happy Valentine's Day, but also, Happy Carnaval! I didn't go out last night because this morning, my boss Erika, picked me up at 10am and we headed to Hondarribia to watch the Carnaval Parade there, which had most of our students in it.

Last year I had all intentions of going but I partied til too early in the morning and couldn't manage to get myself up, so I promised myself I would go this year and see the kids perform.

Erika and I arrived and it was snowing - how can it be snowing at the end of February?! Well, it stopped by 11 when the parade started, but it was still freezing. I figured that sine Hondarribia is such a small town (think Castle Rock) that the parade wouldn't be big or long, but to my suprise it was a huge hit! People came from the neighboring towns and there were more cars in town that I have ever seen in my life! Probably more cars that all of Hondarribia owns haha.

The majority of my students danced with their dance school. It seems like the majority of Hondarribia kids go to this one dance school, so it was a good way to see them all in one swoop. This year, under much secrecy, they dressed as Pippy Longstocking - each age group in a different color variation of Pippy. It was so sweet, because I was standing right on the side of the road, and all of my students got to see me. They were all SO excited, most stopping mid-dance to wave to me. Kinda makes your heart swell. I kind of felt like a mom, so excited to see my kids dancing and snapping pictures like an over-excited grandma haha. Regardless, they are all cheeseballs and were really smiling and kept waving or pointing me out to the rest of my students. You can see in the photos that they are either looking directly at me smiling or pointing :) Hooray Amanda came!

My favorite float/group of the parade was the American tribute. Driving in 'Force One', Barack and Michelle (played by a lovely tall man with face make-up), the President and his First Lady saluted the crowd as a brass band played the National Anthem. Of course I sang it haha, but no one else knew a single word. Following the autocade was the Statue of Liberty, but with a Basque twist. This lady liberty wasn't holding a torch, instead she was gripping a bottle of Basque Sidra (cider) that from time to time would splash into the cup she was holding in the other hand. I loved it!

A lot of people watching the parade were dressed up, but I refrained. I went out on Friday night with some girlfriends dressed up. I went as a devil and Heather as an angel. We were quite a hit because most people dress up on Saturday night but we were sporting costumes a day early. It was quite a fun night, but I paid for it the next day when I was soooo tired.

Tomorrow is also Carnaval day in some smaller cities, but I think I am all carnavaled out! It's only 2pm and I've already seen a two-hour parade and done a blog, so I will consider it a successful Sunday! I hope you're enjoying your Valentine's Day/Carnaval!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

¡Feliz Día de San Valentín!

A very single Amanda is wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day! I spent the week making valentine's with the kids, pop-up heart cards that they seemed to think were the coolest things ever. The girls, of course, gobble it up, and I was surprised at how many boys actually were excited to make them too. I did have a group of boys who cut out their hearts and then drew daggers or bloody arrows through them - not so romantic. I made sure they knew that their little 7-year old girlfriends probably wouldn't want to receive such a scary card hahaha.
Also, my mom had sent me some lick-a-stik valentines and to my youngest students, I gave them the treat, explaining that in the USA we exchange presents of love on this day. They celebrate Valentine's Day here as well, but not to the commercial extent that we do in the States.

My 13-year old girls were perhaps the funniest, because the thing they are most interested in this month is if I have a boyfriend. I don't, but they will just never accept this answer, and constantly ask about my love life haha. I always make examples of the arts and crafts we are doing that week, so when my girls saw the Valentine I had made, they suspected that I made it for my boyyyyyyyfriend and wouldn't let up haha. I embarrass them equally as much as they go red when I ask them about their boyfriends!

Overall it was a fun week - arts and crafts are always a good time and all of the classes really liked it, so that makes me smile. I hope you have a very Happy Valentine's Day and are surrounded by the people you love!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

EL blog y LAS palabras

A few days ago, my Grandma Jodene sent me a cute email about Spanish. As some of you may know, every noun in Spanish is either masculine or feminine. For example, they say 'la mapa' for the map and 'el libro' for the book. Usually the trick is that if the word ends in 'a' it is feminine and if it ends in 'o' its masculine, but there are some tricky words that end in a consanant and you can't tell, you just have to remember.

So, the joke starts with a student asking whether the word for computer is masculine or feminine. Without telling her class the answer, the teacher split the class into boys and girls and asked them to come up with a reason why it should be one or the other. The boys presented first and said that computers should be feminine - la comput because 1) no one but their creator understands their logic, 2) the language that computers use to communicate with each other is incomprehensible to anyone else, 3) even the smallest mistakes are stored in long-term memory for possible later retrieval, and 4) as soon as you commit yourself to one, you find yourself spending your paycheck on accessories for it!

The girls thought it should be masculine - el computador - because 1) in order to do anything with them you have to first turn them on, 2) they have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves, 3) they are supposed to solve your problems but half the time they ARE the problem, and 4) as soon as you commit to one you realize that if you would have waited a little longer you could have got a better one! The girls won hahaha. I thought it was quite a cute and clever joke that anyone who uses a computer will chuckle at.

The funny thing is that in Spain, they don't even use the word computador or computadora, both of which are correct, but instead they used 'el ordenador'. I learned computadora in high school, but apparently it means nothing in this type of Spanish. There are a few other words that I have learned that kind of strike me as funny when you think of them with as masculine or feminine. For example, earrings, a quite girly thing, is actually named 'los pendientes' and another is lipstick which is called 'lapíz de labios', another masculine word for a non-masculine thing...unless you know guys who sport earrings and lipstick!

Another funny thing are the bad words that are designated female. Like this one - 'la problema'. Sure you can figure out what that word means! Now can someone tell me why the problems have to be female?! Or what about 'la crisis'? Another pretty shameful term deemed to be feminine! If they are going to give us these words, they could at least give us diamond, but no, 'el diamante' is masculine!

It's become an every-day part of my life, giving a sex to a noun, but when I received Grandma's email it reminded me that there are some pretty funny things about this language! Glad we don't have it in English!

Besos! (Another masculine term, along with hug 'el abrazo'. Come on! Women need love too!)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

New Place, New Party

Happy Sunday everyone! I just got home from Bilbao and super tired! This weekend, my friends Emma (from Madrid) and Heather (from New York) and I decided that we are always going to the same restaurants and bars in San Sebastian and that we needed a change. Soooo, since Bilbao is only an hour away we headed there to pump some excitement into our lives. We left Saturday morning and headed to our hotel in the middle of the city.

I had been to Bilbao before, but never stayed the night. Being one of the bigger cities in Spain and the biggest in Basque Country, it was nice to be in a city atmosphere again. It's no NYC or Paris but it is more alive that little San Sebastian! We first started at the Guggenheim, because Heather had never been. I wasn't so tickled when I found out that the exhibit was the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit I had seen at the Guggenheim in NYC over the summer. It was a good shelter from the spitting rain though.

For lunch we gorged on meatballs, steak, fries and some Basque cider. When the waitress brought our lunch to the bar, it was in this crazy wooden contraption that holds the plate, has space for a plate of bread up top and has slits to put the knife and fork. Quite ingenious! Delicious and filling, we spent most of the afternoon wandering around the Old Part poking in and out of clothing stores and taking advantage of the sales (rebajas in spanish). At one store, I bought a pair of really cute sunglasses for 1.99€, although it wasn't even close to sunny ha.

After shopping and buying our new going-out outfits for the night, we headed back to our hotel to get ready. I don't wear heels very often in San Sebastian because it is quite a casual city, but decided to bust them out for the girls weekend. Dressed to the nines, we met up with a friend of a friend, named Amaia (pronounced Uh-my-uh) that lives in Bilbao. A really sweet girl, she helped us navigate the new maze of bars in the city. Amaia told me that my Spanish accent was quite good and that when she first met me she assumed I was Basque! Quite a compliment! Then she heard my grammar....hahahah. It's getting better! Dancing until 4am, I was ecstatic to get out of my heels when we finally got back to the hotel! It was quite funny because every bar or dance club we went to reminded us of a bar in San Sebastian...I guess this place kind of grows on you!

This morning we met up with Amaia in her part of town - the beach area. Bilbao's beach is about 15 minutes away from the center of the city, and doesn't mimick the Belle Epoque beauty that San Sebastian's Concha has, but Getxo (the name of the beach, pronounced get-cho) was quite impressive. Originally a rural area, this beach is now for the affluent Bilbao residents. The hillside was filled with massive homes, winding walkways that afford gorgeous views of the Basque coast and spotted with stone staircases that connect the low-lying beach to the busy bars up the hill. The only vice is that because Bilbao became an industrial hub for Basque Country in the 19th century, the beach faces a huge port littered with cranes and ships. Sitting at a bar with the sea in view was a great way to start out a Sunday. The little houses, all white and painted with the Basque green and red accents looked more like dollhouses and I couldn't get over the fact that people hung their underwear on the clothesline right on the street. A very posh and tight-nit neighborhood, you could tell we were not from the area, but it was fun regardless.
Emma wanted to leave town before dark, so we got home pretty early, and I have just been resting up in order to stay awake until at least 3am. As a good American, I am going to watch the Super Bowl! However, it doesn't start here until midnight, so I see a long night in the future! Since I don't really care who wins, I have decided to cheer for the Colts. Hope you are all enjoying your Super Bowl Sunday! Think of me...I will be at a bar, probably with a lot of Americans, watching the same game!