Monday, March 21, 2011


Spain is back to its old lovable self with blue skies and warm weather. I spent Saturday with a book at Plaza de España and. . . got to wear a t-shirt. And the big blue block of beauty to the right is a photo of the cloudless sky I woke up to this morning.

Last week was the last week of the quarter so it was spent last-minute paper-writing mixed in with an unhealthy dose of procrastination via online episodes of Fringe. In private lessons we talked about St. Patrick's Day, which isn't really celebrated here in Spain, and I think 11-year-old Miguel might have attempted to touch my boob during a heated game of leprechaun-themed Memory. Not many men try this on me, though, so I may be mistaken.

With my youngest private lesson we worked on shapes by constructing leprechaun faces. I was unsuccessful in conveying the concept of a leprechaun to either Carlos or Leyre, who were
convinced it was some version of Santa Claus. Carlos told me "Si no es Papa Noel, no me interesa. - If it's not Santa Claus, it doesn't interest me." The lesson quickly turned into one on English Christmas
carols, while the leprechaun turned into what looked like a train conductor from the Village People. Carlos asked me to trade as he was unhappy with the outcome, but I rather liked it.

Laura C's brother was in town so last night we met up with a friend of his from high school at an Israeli cafe/bar a couple blocks from my apartment. The coffee idea was chucked for cocktails when we discovered it was Purim, and since it was 9 pm on a Sunday evening and this place is just the kind of lovely little comfy-couched hippie bar that's not (yet) cliche, we were the only ones there who had not been specifically invited to the party. Meaning we were unaware that fluorescent wigs were part of the evening's dress code.

Purim is a Jewish holiday in which you're supposed to dress in costume and drink wine and do various other things that are vaguely or not at all related to the holiday's actual purpose of commemorating some story in the Book of Esther. Today I saw the Facebook invite for the event and they explained this by saying that when the Israelites were exiled to Babylon when their temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the 7th Century BC, and they sang "By the rivers of Babylon," they were speaking of the concept of how when wine enters, secrets escape. "They would have said this as well about Mary Jo, if they had known it." Mary Jo is the bar's beer, nice product placement that, all in the name of Judaism. In any case it was cool to be a part of it because almost everyone there was an Israeli transplant, so they were excited to celebrate. I think a lot of times that happens when you're living abroad - the holidays from your country and spending them with people also from that country - become even more important. Solidarity and whatnot. St. Patrick's Day as we know it having been born in the good ol' U.S.A., for example.

Anyway, that's all.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weekly roundup.

Nothing too exciting to report on. Spain has become decidedly normal to me and I'm in need of a vacation. Or perhaps a nap. I wish this weren't the case because I loved it when I first got here, but I sort of feel like I'm languishing a bit. Ahh, the plight of a privileged brat, I know. But I don't feel like I'm challenging myself too much right now and I don't like it. Madrid's a pretty easy place to live and lately it's been feeling a bit uninspiring.

I think part of this might be due to the fact that I never have any time to sit down and read a damn book. I'm fiercely possessive of whatever moments I may have on the Metro for reading, but it's not quite as satisfying as going to the library, walking out with a stack of books, and calling it a day. Or a week, depending on how long it takes me to get through them. I also vowed before I came that I wouldn't read in English while I'm here. That's one huge challenge to immersion nowadays, in my opinion: the internet. Cursed be globalization and technology and innovation and it's simultaneous ability to open up the world to its people, and then supply them with instant access to the Washington Post. Pair that with a Subway footlong and the apocalypse must surely be near.

Anyway, my no-English resolution died quickly in the electronic realm, but I had found a really awesome bookstore on the way to one of my private classes and had been slowly but surely working my way through a chunk of books in Spanish, sponsored by my Metro commute. And then the inevitable happened. My friend (hi Jared) sent me a book in English and all hell broke loose. I abandoned my studies/typical procrastination methods and consumed the damn thing like it was crack. Or so I would imagine. I didn't realize how much I missed reading in a first language and it almost makes me wish I had a longer commute. Lately I've been thinking about getting a Kindle but I'm not sure how it works as far as getting the books. Does it require wireless? Somehow I doubt that Tuxtla is going to be very wirelessly equipped and in-home internet is expensive there so I'm thinking I'll probably be making use of the Internet Cafe when I need it instead. Anyone know if I could hook a Kindle up there? My book shelf here is getting too big and I don't know how I'm going to get it all home, so I need to find some kind of alternative.

Onward. Two papers to write before the end of the term on Thursday and then I breathe a sigh of relief until I realize oh shit my entire Masters thesis is due in a couple months. Last night I went over to Jessica's for a poker party and this morning I'm a hot mess of tired and lazy, but thank goodness I have an excellent attitude and will keep on trucking with a skip in my step and a beaming smile of happiness on my face. More or less.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Well, here it is ladies and gentlemen. My home-sweet-home for the coming year. I did the deed, I sealed my fate, I realigned the stars and accepted the job in Tuxtla Gutierrez.

I've never even been to Mexico. In high school I would see people come back from their authentic Mexican experiences in Cancun or Acapulco. Corn-rowed hair and peeling noses distinguished them from my own pasty self and marked their status as "cool". Now I'm gonna be the one with the corn-rows. Bitches.

But in all seriousness, I am excited to know another country and have some more responsibility at my job. I'm slightly nervous - and when I say slightly it's only because it's still a full six months into the future - but my backup plan for when I'm in front of the kids is just to talk really really fast and kind of slur a bit so they won't understand if I'm saying anything stupid. It's going to be a really good year, I'm sure of it.

I'll be teaching 5th grade for two different classes; each grade is divided in half and group A takes classes with Mexican professors in the morning while I teach group B, and then midway through we swap. So I won't be teaching English but rather core subjects in English. Really hoping that long-division is not a part of the 5th grade curriculum in Mexico.

My new home's claim to fame is that it is the capital of "Mexico's most southern and poverty-stricken province, Chiapas. A province dominated by indigenous Indian communities and largely excluded from any capitalist development. Ninety percent of indigenous households in the state are without electricity and running water." Just to be clear, I will not be living in an indigenous household. Chiapas is also where the Zapatista movement took place in the '90s. More importantly, the average year-round temperature is 25 degrees Celsius - like 80 Fahrenheit, and they are big producers of coffee. Boo-yah. I think we're going to get along.