Week Four: Teenagers, Trap Music, and Trash Bags
This past week has been another hectic whirlwind.
If you read my previous post, you may recall that I was briefly staying with a family before and during my bedroom fumigation for bed bugs.
I really enjoyed my time away from my apartment, not only because of a bug-free bed to sleep in, but because I got to experience the family dynamic for the first time in awhile.
My parents moved all the way from the Southern United States to Alaska two years ago, and as the youngest child in my family, it has been more than a few years since I have had a sibling stop by for Sunday lunch or Friday dinner.
That Friday, one of the family’s sons stopped by with his girlfriend around dinner time, (an early 10:30 pm here in Spain), to drop off their puppy before heading out for the night. They invited me with them, and before I knew it, I was the only foreigner at a small birthday party in Madrid.
Looking back, I find it so funny that one of my biggest concerns returning to Spain was having to cheek-kiss strangers hello and goodbye again.
after this past week of meeting a million spaniard, it’s safe to say it is a skill in which you can proudly endorse me on Linked In.
I had a lot of fun trying to follow all of the conversations spiraling around me. Spaniards speak quite loud and rapidly, almost like social machine guns, and my head was swiveling from side-to-side attempting to catch every word.
I am getting so good at understanding Spanish, and now I can sit in a room and understand almost everything being said.
I even noticed myself no longer needing to rely on Spanish subtitles when watching Netflix.
My speaking is still a bit rusty, however I’ve improved a great deal over the past month just by living with locals.
On Saturday, I returned back to my flat following the ‘fumigation,’ which I discovered was essentially just the spraying of a pesticide that I googled only to discover that it is one bed bugs are forming an increasing resistance against.
Just so you can compare, this is what my room looked like when I added my own flair after moving in.
And this is what my room looked like when I returned after the ‘fumigation.’
They say the fumigator will come back for another treatment,
but with my landlord, anything is possible—unless its a reasonable request.
Until then, everything clean is staying in trash bags. I feel like a homeless lady with a home, as my room is currently a collection of different colored trash bags.
Luckily, I now have some baby pink and lavender bags to keep the place as chic as possible.
Now rewinding all the way back to the Sunday before my bed-bug saga began, I had that surprise meeting I meant to write about earlier.
That day I had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the girl who inspired my move to Spain.
It all began the summer after my semester abroad when I spent the majority of my internship reading travel blogs, dying to find a way to return overseas—mainly to Madrid. I quickly found a blog belonging to a U.S Expat named Cat (www.sunshineandsiestas.com), and I spent weeks combing the pages and reading about her incredible story of moving to Spain as a language assistant nearly 11 years ago, falling in love (with the country and a Spaniard), and never leaving.
Her story gave me the confidence to pursue the move, without any certainty of anything that followed (and bed bugs aside, I’m pretty hopeful).
Now Cat spent most of her time living in the Southern city of Seville, but she recently moved to Madrid with her family. It was such a surreal and cool moment for me to meet her and her son, because as you will see I tend to fan girl over real people who have made their dreams a reality, versus generic celebrities.
This Friday marked the end of my second week working as a language assistant in a Spanish school, and I’m sure you are all dying to know what it’s like.
I’ll quickly tell you the good, the bad, and the humorous.
I’ll go into greater detail about school life in the coming weeks, but for now life has been a very hard adjustment. I’m not sure if I’m legally allowed to leave my apartment without losing my security deposit or having to owe every months rent upfront. AND my landlord is trying to blame the existing bed bugs my roommates and I to potentially later shift any costs onto us.
It’s safe to say I have learned my housing lesson here the hard way.
But for now, back to school.
I commute a little over an hour each day to school each way which turns into an hour and half coming home most days, because the return bus is always late.
This past Friday, traffic was so bad that it took me two hours to get home (yikes)!
As a result, I tried to bargain with my school to arrange my schedule to give me one day off, but alas here I am working five days a week. Thankfully, the earliest I have to wake up is 8:30 am, and I can easily lose track of time on the metro and bus by listening to music.
Some of my students really love me. There are some kids which are really kind, and I can see building a strong relationship with which is my goal as a teacher/assistant. Being a pre-teen/teenager is hard. It’s the age where you are constantly being told you aren’t good enough, and as someone who’s been there, I’m hoping I can help build their confidence instead of tearing it down.
The other language assistants at my school are very kind, and will sit with me at lunch. I think most of the teachers don’t think I can speak any Spanish, and therefore avoid me like the plague to avoid practicing English. My first day at lunch in the teacher’s lounge felt somewhat like the scene in Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan decides to sit in the bathroom.
Also—I’m not sure if it is because I am an American, or just generally inept (probably the latter), but I have never learned how to peel and properly cut fruit. Thankfully, it’s turned into a joke with one of the assistants from France to teach me how, and we tackle a new fruit every day.
Here’s where things get a bit more dismal. I have a blocked class every day with a different group of high school freshman and sophomore aged students. This is an optional class which parents sign their kids up for instead of them having a longer lunch break (technically not sure if this is legal with my contract, or how much money the school is profiting off of me).
Therefore, there is no subject, no plan, and no grades. I essentially have to plan things to do, which isn’t even the hardest part. The hardest part is I’m alone with a teacher who suffers from poor classroom management skills and often needs help from other teachers to control her own classes in Spanish.
Basically I have a group of students I have to see twice a week during this time who are 14, but have lower English levels than most of the toddlers I show songs and flashcards to. They don’t want to do anything during this time except talk loudly amongst each other, and don’t understand enough English to do simple activities or fun games. I even tried to yell loudly over them to get them to quiet down to no avail.
Dealing with my housing situation at the same time, and the attitudes of the kids this week was hard, and I’ll admit that I felt like running out of the class or crying at the desk at times.
But I can’t show any signs of weakness in front of them, or they will know they can continue to act this way.
On my first day at school two girls in my 4 ESO classroom (Sophomores in US Highschool) asked me if I was the most popular girl in high school, because I ‘look like I have it going on.’
One girl in my 1 ESO (seventh graders) raised her hand to ask if I have a boyfriend to which my coordinator kindly told her was not appropriate to ask.
I didn’t know what was funnier, their questions or the truthful answers.
In high school, most of my close friends went to other schools and I spent most of my time at school battling an eating disorder, and as a result keeping to myself. If anything, it was probably one of the loneliest times of my life.
My school is so fancy, that I have to pay a monthly stipend (keep in mind my salary is barely a livable wage—thank you savings) to eat lunch at school. Because no outside food is allowed on the premises.
If you know me in real life, you know I am allergic to everything. This meant I had to go speak with the cook in Spanish to communicate food allergies, and she looked so defeated and told me I must come down, working my way through a sea of toddlers, EVERY day to get food that is safe for me to eat.
Keep in mind she describes my food options to me in Spanish and most of the time I have no real idea what will end up on my plate. It is a guessing game you don’t want to play when you are a picky eater like myself.
I also know I must look super cool walking my plates of food all through the school to the teachers’ lounge, strolling by the teachers with my steak filet on a day they are eating something far less appealing.
Sure way to make friends here.
I also don’t know how funny this is, or if it’s just ironic,
But at my school I am forbidden from wearing sneakers and jeans. I had to go spend more of my own money just to buy clothes for work.
But the fancy school does not want to spend money on photocopies, so I essentially cannot do half of the activities they teach us at the mandatory workshops I must attend for my program…wait for it…unless I want to spend more of my own money.
After enough complaining, I’ll spare you and leave you with some pictures of the funny things my students wrote when I asked what they would like to learn more about, or any questions they may have for me. Enjoy!