Saturday, May 14, 2011

I know it's finals season because I've enrolled in online Portuguese lessons, have taken up yoga, and have been vacuuming relentlessly. Tangible accomplishment, befriend me.

Last night was graduation for my 2nd of Bachilleratos. The occasion consisted of mass in the school chapel followed by special words of encouragement by various staff members in the downstairs auditorium, a presentation of the sashes along with a litany of kisses - my school's version of the American "Here's your diploma kid, now beat it." - and a video the girls had written and acted in. (Me too, I was in it. To be fair it was sort of just my face staring blankly into space, unaware that it was in the process of becoming a film star, but at least I was present. Very in character. See that girl on the left? That's pretty much what I looked like more or less).

This year's graduation was a big deal for the school because it's the last graduating class of all girls. . or is it? This part I'm not really sure about because the mother from the PTA kept mentioning it throughout the evening, but I definitely taught one boy along with all the rest of the girls in 2nd Bachillerato, so either he's being held back a year or the woman was just rounding off the low testosterone level. I feel for the kid, though, he's the only dude in the entire grade level and he seems to be not very fond of verbal communication. Or human beings. On the first day of school he also got mistaken for a terrorist by one of the teachers who hadn't yet met him, and the administration was all abuzz before it was discovered that he just needed a haircut.

It's true, there is a significant shortage of boys at the Bachillerato level of Madres Concepcionistas, but what the school lacks in gender equilibrium, it more than makes up for with nuns. The other day co-teacher Ana came up to tell me she'd just had a meeting with one of them regarding her son Carlos. The same Carlos I give lessons to on Mondays and who was responsible for the village people leprechaun, if you remember. The nun, who also I guess moonlights as the school counselor, told her that Carlos needs a man in his life.

You see, Ana divorced her husband three..ish years ago, and this is not okay by the nun. To each his own, alright, but Ana was close to tears over what the woman had said and seriously, Carlos is my little baby muffin love, he doesn't need a man in his life, he's got me and my bribes of gummy bears. He sees his dad a lot and is often with his grandma and grandpa as well. He's also, like I said, a sweet little baby muffin and I really can't see any reason for the woman to have said that other than the fact that, well, Ana's divorced.

I'm about to do something I despise. I'm about to make a sweeping generalization about Spanish women's rights in an effort to contextualize the psychological evaluation of Sister Who's-a-What regarding Carlos.

Once upon a time women in Spain were expected to be the desperate housewives of the European continent only instead of being desperate they clearly loved it and danced flamenco. Also Spain has sort of this thing with Catholicism which nowadays is not so very constant throughout the population, but for those who are Catholic, it's something they take pretty seriously. Back when Franco was Big Man on Campus he found an excellent way to tie these two together by conceiving of Barbie McBardem as one who should not only be the perfect housewife, but also raise her young burgeoning nationalists into fully functioning Catholic saints. Of course a man must be there to bring home the jamón, as well.

Well I think that still holds on to some degree here. It's not so strong that it describes the situation for every or even a majority of women, but I imagine that for Ana working in a very conservative Catholic school, it's fairly significant.

In other news, shout out to mi hermano Day-reek for being voted vice-president of his class and for rocking it hardcore in Texas. He is doing totally awesome down there and I am very proud of him minus the socks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I got in trouble for that last post (hi Dad), but even though I think it's scary and that the Bin Laden death-day-revelers were, in the words of my father, "yahoos," it does not mean that I don't love to pieces my country tis of thee. Go USA.

Anyway, this works out quite perfectly for me because it just so happens that two weeks from today I will be on board a flight to Chicago. I really don't want to talk about all the work that needs to be accomplished before that happens but I am excited to be attending the graduation ceremony at my Colegio on Friday night and to have received multiple personal invitations to next week's class dinner. Oh you guys, you make all this hard work so rewarding.

But for realzz, I really like my kids and as the weeks tick down I'm starting to realize they're not coming with me next year. Full disclosure: with some of them I'm quite certain it's for the best. That means you 3A ESO. But what about the ones who complain when their Spanish teacher comes to take over at the end of my class? What about the ones who have bonded with me so well they feel comfortable bringing up vocabulary questions about male genitalia? What about the ones who compliment me on my tan? (Keep it comin').

And what progress we've made this year. When I started out, my first day ended - and started, and continued - in panic and fear after the chaos of my 1A ESO students led the Spanish teacher to throw her arms up and proclaim the classroom a disaster before apologizing to me for their rabid behavior and excusing me to the teachers lounge. Juxtapose that with today, where in that very same classroom one of those previously delinquent boys politely hung his head in shame and pointed at a nearby student, indicating the intention of his aim, after a plastic bullet from his toy gun bounced off my upper arm. Oh you guys, you make all this hard work so rewarding!

Speaking of precious, today the music teacher told me that the boys in my 1ESO class had entered a song-writing contest, and chose to do so in English. This is feel-good teacher fun right here, my country tis of thee is rubbing off.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In the spirit of Mother's Day I'm procrastinating on school work, but I did manage to fit in an intimate conversation on gchat with Mama and to watch several episodes of Modern Family which I think qualifies as a holiday activity. In the photo to the left is my dear mother and I at the Como Zoo in St. Paul, MN. I visit this place every time I'm in town, and Mom's usually along for the ride because, well, she has to drive since there's a freeway.

I haven't seen Mama since August so I am so ready to be flying to Chicago in just 17 days(!) for Nicole's wedding. In the meantime I have to finish two research papers, a 60-page thesis, a presentation, and a history exam on top of teaching at Colegio and private lessons and university classes. I know that I can get it done and I will put in the effort, so I feel like I should just get a free pass on this one. It's the thought that counts?

I worked on one of my papers this afternoon on women's education during Franco and yikes. For those of you who don't know Franco was dictator of Spain for about 45 years ending in the '70s. He wasn't so big on women. Or I guess education, really. Freedom, human rights, not his thing. Anyway during his dictatorship he created the Sección Femenina to spread his ideas regarding the proper Spanish woman, and when it came to education policy that meant single sex classroom and gender-based curriculums and obligatory subjects for girls including such things as Cooking and Domestic Economy and Labors. Someone's gotta carve that jamón. No Phy. Ed., either, because sustained attention isn't really a girl's strong suit and she might get hit in the head with a football - but that's okay, her housework will keep her in shape. Incidentally teachers also shouldn't assign homework to girls because it might interfere with their attention to household duties.

As the Sección Femenina puts it, girl's education "Must be what prepares them to be the real complement to men. We will never have them competing with men because they will never be their equals and would miss their elegance and grace, which they need for their competence." Ahem.

So, anyway, big news for the world this week, huh? Bin Laden's death is big-time exciting for my students, who seem to think I have a direct personal phone connection to Obama and know all the inside details about what happened - or didn't as they would conjecture. This happened also with Lady Gaga when I first started: "But Megan, tell us the truth, is Lady Gaga a man?"

I'm not really sure how I'm supposed to feel about this whole thing though. I haven't read any
U.S. newspapers about it so I don't know what coverage is like in the States, but this photo on the right came from a Madrid newspaper earlier this week and honestly I think this may be the first time I've really felt embarrassed of the U.S.A. It looks like a college football game and it makes me genuinely wonder what was going through these people's heads. Am I being unpatriotic? I don't get it, explain it to me.

Maybe I just don't see it as a joyous occasion because I think for the first time since I've been abroad I feel like my family and friends are not as safe for being where they are. I feel like our country is inviting really really scary things by not having gone through any kind of legal process with Bin Laden, and then by having a bunch of people go out in face paint and act like buffoons. People in this photo: you are buffoons. Go wash your faces.