Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Trying to Adapt

This week there’s a lot of progress to report. I joined a health club and it’s only about five minutes away on foot. It also happens to be the nicest club in town. They have so many different class options—it’s great. Last Friday we tried a class called G.A.P., which is equivalent to glutes, abs and thighs. It was quite the challenge and my muscles are still feeling it today. Last week I also scheduled my first clase particular (English lesson) with a girl who is in one of my classes at school. We’re meeting on Wednesday and I’m not exactly sure how I should go about preparing for it.

There are two ways I’m familiar with that native English speakers, namely Americans, can teach in public schools in Spain. One is working directly with the Spanish government and the other is going through CIEE. CIEE is the study abroad organization I was on the first time I was here. Using them gives you the ability to preference your top location choices. Since I was only willing to come and teach here in Sevilla I thought it made most sense to go through them. The other American girl at my school is working directly with the Spanish government. Renee, the woman who was in her place last year, had actually been at the school for three years. After three years the government won’t allow you to continue teaching in that capacity so she was forced to leave. Renee is still living in Sevilla and recently got a job at a cultural center. I met with her last week to learn a little more about clases particulares. She gave me some great ideas of what I can be teaching the kids. I should probably look through that material so I have something prepared for my first meeting with Rocío. The problem is I don’t know what level she’s at or even what she needs help with. Hopefully, a getting to know you session will be appropriate, especially since we don’t have school tomorrow so I can’t ask her teacher and because I’m not sure what time I’ll be getting there on Wednesday. I have my appointment to apply for my tarjeta de residencia (residency card) on Wednesday and I don’t know how long that is going to take. I’ve got my fingers crossed that it will leave my enough time to make it to school and ask María Jóse what I should be working on. Vamos a ver (we’ll see.)

Friday night Briana and I headed to the centro to meet with some other girls in our program for dinner. We stumbled upon a yummy little Italian place. I’ve already had enough Spanish food…this could be a problem. We met at 9:30, sat down for dinner at about 10:00 and didn’t leave until we closed the place up after midnight. Much to our chagrin, the weather gods were not in our favor, which made us all decide to go home. After some confusion about whether or not there was a taxi line and sopping wet clothes we made it into a cab. Saturday was a relaxing day and I really didn’t do much of anything. On Sunday we went over to Antonia’s and she showed us how to make lentejas (a lentil stew.) It was one of my favorite dishes when I was living with her. I’m looking forward to mastering it on my own so I can make it at my apartment and also when I get home.

Everyone seems to use ollas rápidas (fast cooking pots) here. I’ve never seen them before, so I don’t know if they even exist at home. Basically, it has a lid that seals the pot shut and drastically helps speed up the cooking process. Normally what would take four hours to cook only takes 30 minutes. If these magic pots don’t exist at home I might need to buy one here and send it home with the rents.

After lunch at Antonia’s, Briana, Antonia, Antonio and I played a fun card game called mentiroso (liar.) Antonio was far too good at the game. He was putting his primo bullshitting skills to use. After mentiroso we played Parcheesi. I’ve never played it at home, so I don’t know if it was the same game. Either way, it was a lot of fun. Before we knew it, it was already 8pm so we decided to head home.

This morning we woke up bright and early, by my standards at least, and went to Sato Sport (our new health club.) After some cardio we decided we’d try out a Sevillanas class. Sevillanas is a very typical dance. For someone who doesn’t know a lot about dance, I’d describe it as an easier version of flamenco. We had been told it was just basic, intro classes so we thought we’d fit in. Wrong. Before the class even began we knew we were in trouble. Several of the women were wearing dancing shoes. We stood in the back, hoping we wouldn’t be noticed. Wrong again. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt that embarrassed. I had absolutely no clue what we were doing. To make matters worse the dance would often switch directions leaving Briana and me at the front of the class. That was when several other participants noticed our subpar skills and told us we should move to see the teacher better. I’m afraid my sightlines weren’t exactly the problem. It had more to do with being born with two left feet and the class going waaaay too fast. There were even several times when we had to pair up with partners. Oh goodness. I would try and look at the person to my right and just mimic their steps. Let’s just say I need to find a dance studio with a beginner’s level class before I step back into the Sato studio. I might ask Carmen or Antonia to show me the basic steps even before going to dance lessons.

Yesterday we were reading the CIEE handbook they gave us from when we studied abroad. They classified culture shock in four stages. The first being the honeymoon stage, the second is hostility, the third is humor and the forth is the home stage. There is no doubt that when I was here last time I was in the honeymoon stage the entire time. This time around both Briana and I decided we’re more in the hostility stage. This is when you’re really exposed to the culture and forced to adapt to it. We’re no longer living in our fantasy study abroad worlds when our host moms do all of the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. Now it’s our turn to be adults. It’s not that I’m not ready for that, but being a grownup at home is kind of different than here. I’ve faced far greater challenges here. Aside from the language barrier there are many other cultures barriers and differences that I didn’t notice the first time. This year we’re going to have to try and figure them out to help ourselves adjust. I’m very happy to be here. There’s nothing at home I’d rather be doing, but at the same time it’s been kind of difficult to adjust. I realize this is to be expected and I’m hoping we’ll move in the humor stage soon. I also find it somewhat comforting that many of the kids in our program seem to feel the same as we do.

Here’s an example of why we’re feeling the way we’re feeling. After going to the grocery and bread stores this morning, we stopped at the fruit and vegetable stand to make some additional purchases. It makes more sense to do it like that because the grocery stores simply don’t have as many options as the fruit/veggie stands and also the stands are significantly cheaper. So Briana and I walked up to the fruit stand. When I went last week I asked if I had to buy things by the kilo or if I could ask for a certain amount. He told me I could do whatever my little heart desired. Naturally, I thought it made more sense to ask for a certain amount of onions rather than buying an entire kilo. Frankly, I don’t even know what a kilo weighs so I could have ended up with half an onion or about 40. I figured since last time he told me I could do whatever I wanted, I’d try the same today. We walked up and I asked for 5 onions, 3 tomatoes (although we got 6. I guess tres and seis sound alike when coming from an American’s mouth), 2 peppers, 1 custard apple and 4 carrots. The storeowner and his other patrons seemed to find this very funny. I quickly learned the norm is to order by the kilo. I guess the choice is mine; I can continue to be made fun of and get the exact amount I need, or succumb to the Spanish way of life and guesstimate. For now, I think I’m going to continue to do it my way. They’ll just have to deal with it. ☺

Last week I signed up for a costume jewelry making class with Antonia. It starts in a few weeks and I’m really looking forward to it. It meets Mondays from 5:00-8:00. It’s through the Junta (government) and it was pretty cheap considering it begins in two weeks and goes all the way through May. I hope I’ll be able to meet some other people in the class and I’m also looking forward to spending the time with Antonia. Briana is taking an embroidery class. I think that sounds really interesting, too. Hopefully she can teach me how to do it at home.

At the moment I’m just trying to kill the time. The internet we’re “borrowing” from our neighbors isn’t working. This seems to happen daily, however today it’s a little earlier and a little longer than normal. Briana showered 45 minutes ago, but the light is still on indicating the water is still heating up. I guess I have to wait a little longer to shower myself. Distracting myself in the third book of “The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo” series doesn’t sound too bad.

Hasta pronto,

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