Entering October: Waiting for My Luck to Change
Note: I wrote this blog post over the course of two weeks, therefore time references may be a little misleading/confusing to follow. Lo siento (I’m sorry).
It is only Tuesday (at least as I’m currently writing this), and I am not yet halfway into my third week as a language assistant.
Quite a lot has happened in just the past four days.
First and foremost, it seems as though I am stuck in my apartment, possible remaining bedbugs and all. There are a few good things to come out of this however, the most important one being that I can stay with my amazing roommates.
The second is that with the help of the same family friend I was able to draft a letter to send to my apartment stating everything false in my contract and all current conditions, so that the agency cannot refuse to finish treating my room or try to push charges onto me. AND this angel-filled family has decided to give me (on the condition my cursed agency allows it), a new mattress and bed frame.
(Update: My landlord won’t allow a new bed in fear of it having bed bugs. The irony doesn’t fail to surprise me)
I feel like even through all of this mess, I have some angels looking out for me.
Monday (October 1st) was the one-year anniversary of my grandmother’s death, and I felt like she has been watching over me this week.
As I previously mentioned, I work with some little diablos in my classes with teenagers. The students have a reputation for bullying the teacher who was placed as my supervisor in a room of twenty-plus adolescents.
I came into my first workshop class on Monday morning to discover a new supervisor in my class, who I assumed was a regular just filling in for the hour. More or less through whispered Spanish (Remember I am not supposed to speak Spanish in front of the students, but then I also can’t communicate with my colleagues), I discovered that my previous supervisor had left the school and this teacher was brand new.
As in the first task they ever gave her was to come be my makeshift chaperone without telling me anything beforehand.
I asked my coordinator what was going on, but he very formally just said that the original teacher had left the school last week.
This means one of two things:
1. The school fired her instead of helping her with classroom management or
2. The kids treated her so badly that she just up and quit.
Now keep in mind that I don’t work at an underfunded public school, but a privately-owned school where teachers must dress in business professional to teach elementary schoolers.
I was even more surprised this week when a girl I had thought was really sweet acted out in my class with a very strict teacher, even uttering a ‘What the F**ck’ directly to her which she slyly repeated when asked to copy down what she said to have her parents sign.
To make matters worse, I saw her the next class period forging the disciplinary note she was meant to take home to have her parents sign.
If I could instill anything in these kids it would be compassion and empathy, but it is ten times harder to try to do this when they don’t understand very much English, and I cannot speak any Spanish to them.
Through an unplanned chain of events over the past few days, I learned that over half over my school hours violate the rules of my language-assistant program. As in these paid-for workshop extracurricular ‘classes’ aren’t allowed, and I’m definitely not meant to be the sole teacher in a class with no subject or lesson plan.
This lead to an unintentional meeting with my principal and program coordinator which caused some a lot of uncomfortable tension.
My principal is German, and I’m not sure if it was just cultural differences, but she framed the situation as me not wanting to accept ‘the challenge’ that other language assistants embrace that is teaching a class, and that I was just wanting to cower in the corner and assist a teacher.
Oddly enough my job title is in fact ‘language assistant.’
What I really think happened is she though they could put me in these horrible classes where they make a lot of money off of me, and that as a typical ‘dumb American’ I would never catch on.
And honestly if the kids weren’t so horrible, I probably would not have minded getting to control all the lessons myself.
The past few weeks have been filled with many challenges,
and it took everything in me to keep my cool when she made it appear that I didn’t care about the students and implied I just wanted less work.
Yes, language assistants often take over for classes and develop activities to teach, but these all occur in legitamate classes, with a set textbook (subject) and teacher. Not a free hall where kids look at you like Satan for making them play a game in English instead of letting them gossip.
In the end, my schedule will change but likely I will have to come in very early (which is not fun with my commute) and there are no guarantees it will actually be better.
The good thing is that if things worsen, and I’m truly unhappy, they can move me to another school.
But I’ve learned the ‘grass is always greener’ delusion is not one to take lightly.
I’m trying to remain as positive as possible, but the rest of the week has been pretty brutal.
The principal chose instead to replace me, a native English speaker, in the English workshops with a Spanish native that has a certain level of English instead of simply placing us both in the classroom together to comply with the program rules.
She made it very clear in our meeting that if she hires a Spaniard with a C1 level in the workshop, then she doesn’t even need me. So for now, my only purpose is to be a practice Cambridge examiner, where I read scripts to students every day, all day.
Again, I’m learning that it all comes down to profit-margins at these schools and image. And I messed with theirs, so they are not happy and have even spoken about me and my seeming ‘unhappiness’ to my other coworkers.
So for now, I’m trying to simply survive work with a smile and kill them with kindness.
If you aren’t familiar with Machismo culture, it can be best summed up by the words manly men. More prominent in Latin America, although still very much present here in Spain, it’s a form of masculinity which transpires through various things such as catcalling and mansplaining. Now I have no desire to emasculate anyone or stand on a political pedestal, but I will vent about some of the uncomfortable and frustrating experiences I have had as a woman in Spain.
1. Setting: I was walking down my own street in a very safe and central neighborhood here in Madrid.
I was minding my business walking to a class for my program when I had to walk by a man (probably homeless or at least a drunk) outside a bar. Keep in mind I was in my nun-like work clothes and it was 3 pm. As I walked by him he proceeded to say in Spanish “What a fantastic body” and a bunch of other things which got progressively worse and more descriptive in nature. It’s one of those situations where you don’t know if you should be angry or afraid. If it had happened at night time I probably would have been more afraid.
2. This past week I took an Uber to lug the last of my untreated things (mostly shoes, jackets, and bags) to the laundromat.
I was loading all of my things into the dryer, minding my own business once again, when a man came up to me and using exaggeratedly slow and loud Spanish along with large hand gestures told me that I was putting things into a dryer and not a washer. Now I understand if he was solely trying to help me, and will admit it is a bit strange to load a bunch of shoes and already dry items into a dryer. But after the first time I politely said I am well aware (in Spanish), he again told me it was a dryer and there is no water. More hand gestures included. I attempted to ignore him, to which he responded by going up the attendant at the front and telling him I was confused about the machines.
I told the attendant I just needed to heat my things to a certain temperature to disinfect them, and the attendant was happy to leave me alone.
Minutes later, I was waiting with headphones in for my things to finish when the previous pain in the rear approached me to see if I could help him make change.
At this point in the day it was after 8pm and I was both hungry and fed up. A voice inside my head was urging me to tell him to ‘Vete a la mierda’ which basically means go to shit in Spanish, but I pulled out every ounce of composure I had to kindly trade him two 1-euro coins for a 2-euro coin.
The last weekend in September, I went out with my roommates to a club I’ve been eager to go to based on the reviews that it plays alternative music, which is unheard of in most Spanish discotecas. Usually, you are confined to Reggaetón, which is great, but isn’t always what I am in the mood for.
We started the night off looking for bars to visit first, and somehow ended up at a heavy metal dive bar just down our street.
My ears were buzzing, but they had 1-euro Sangria, and after a while the seven of us were all banging our heads to the terrible music.
My roommate got us free entry into a concert at the mentioned club, and we had so much fun dancing for hours and I struggled to keep up conversations in Spanish over the loud music.
One funny thing about night life here is that very boujee (expensive/fancy) clubs have entertainment that makes zero sense. For instance, on the way to our intended club we passed another one with tons of private security in suits and a red velvet carpet and rope outside. Of course, this club was not complete without the addition of avatars which were freakishly realistic. I’m guessing half of the night’s cover charges went towards their costumes.
So much has happened over the past two weeks that I haven’t had the chance to even slightly mention this past weekend, so I will get to that soon.
I apologize if this post is a bit all over the place, but it seems to be an accurate mirror of my current life.
And art imitates life, right?
When I started this blog to be an honest version of the good and the ugly things that happen when you take a risk, I didn’t expect for there to be quite so much…well ugly parts. Especially this soon.
But I’m thinking things will start to look up soon.
I’ll leave you with some of my favorite comical clothing finds from the past few weeks. I hope they make you laugh.