me encanta

I am really, really happy. Things are starting to fall into place…Melissa and I may venture into a tutoring business together under her uncle’s English study school, I have made it past the first round (somehow) to volunteer for the Asociación Contra el Cáncer de Sevilla and am now working on scheduling an interview with a psychologist, I have gotten an email back about working as a PR intern for a company called, and I’ve had plenty published by Cafe Abroad. I’m getting along with Melissa when she’s actually here. She makes me speak in Spanish, but we often cook together and just spend a lot of time talking. I’ll miss Eva when she goes, but I’m excited to meet another person and speak lots and lots of Spanish.

My job is going well. The kids are little snots and my lessons are often too difficult for them, but they get really excited to see me. They always ask if I’ve brought my American dollar or more pictures. One little boy in my 1ºESO class brought in his new backpack to show me yesterday. It was black, red and has a Chicago Bulls emblem! I was super excited. The teachers are all really fantastic and have been giving me great advice, and they’re eager to practice their English (though I really need to work on my Spanish!). Today we’ve got a Halloween party in the gym that’s a fundraiser for the greek and latin students so they may go to Greece. Perhaps they need a chaperone?

Thursday I joined the other auxiliares at La Carbonería, a really popular tourist bar for good reason – there’s free flamenco every weeknight and the tourists are often the ones getting up and partaking! I wasn’t in the mood to drink, as I had to work the next morning, but the bar was really cool. The first room, where the flamenco is held, is like a rustic cabin with a huge fireplace and a piano. The following is partly outdoors with long wooden benches and a bar that seriously offered anything you could think of. The outdoor patio, where we sat, was covered by ivy and palm trees and had plenty of room for all 10 of us. It was great listening to the drunk boys behind us singing the alcohol song and some crazy bachlorette party. Naturally, Kelly and I ambled home at about 3:30 am. The bars here are just so different – much more relaxed and cheaper and just a better time. Maybe it’s like Acapulco – I hate dance clubs, but it was something I wasn’t used to at home, so I always wanted to go out.

My plans to see my friends in Huelva fell through, as Jessi was sick, but I dragged Eva out with me to Alameda on Saturday. The girl told me she’d had two beers and three tinto de veranos the entire time she’d been here. Cómo? I could easily put that away in like half a night. I took her to Alameda, which is the bohemian part of town, full of dive bars and crazy characters and a ton of fun. We found a place where the beer was cheapest and the clientele the strangest. Dogs were wandering in and out of the place, which was so blinding from the lights reflecting off the while tile around the bar and on the walls. We were going to go home since Eva was tired, but it was only 12:30, or 11:30 with daylight savings time, so I convinced her to have one more up the street at Naima Jazz Cafe, a small bar with live music and cheap beer.

It was easier to walk rather than take the night bus back to Ronda de Triana, but we were intercepted near the bus station by a group of people who were looking for our neighborhood. I told them we could walk with them in the direction, but we somehow walked all the way to a famous bar on Calle Betis called Lo Nuestro. Like Carbonería, this bar is mentioned in a ton of travel guides because this is where the locals go to dance sevillanas, a dance that originated here in Seville. It’s kind of like flamenco but not so moody. As Eva drank a coke paid for by our new pals, one of the women tried to teach me how to dance like a local, but I looked so foolish. The energy in the bar was phenomenal, though. As the group, all engineers from the same firm in Pamplona working on a presentation down here, left, Eva told them we were leaving and they convinced us to have one more at Al Alba. One more turned into like 5 more, as we stayed until they kicked us out. I was so eager to meet people and speak Spanish, and I did. I think Eva had a good night, too. It’s not often I can speak in Spanish 100% without reverting back to English when I need to, and having a little liquid confidence didn’t hurt, either. One of the boys told me two of his friends though I was pretty, but one was a mute nerdy dude whose name I don;t even know, and the other was a 40 year old. Mmmm no thanks. We ventured to Buddha del Mar, but it was dead and not exciting. Eva told me she needs to go out more, and I said I did, too.

Sooooo life is good. My crush from Huelva who goes to school here remembered (or perhaps found the slip of paper) about cafe abroad and has sent me an email, so maybe I can hang out with him. Tonight we have a Halloween party at IES Heliche, then I teach two hours tomorrow, going out with the other auxiliares for Halloween, then it’s time to visit Brian and Matt in Ireland! I’ll be in Dublin for a night, Galway for a night, then travel back to Dublin by bus overnight to take my flight back home early.

Spain and (a lack of) Discipline

I love my job. I really do. Even when it’s a pain  to plan lessons that teachers won’t let you give and you waste an afternoon looking for an internet cafe that’s actually open, I look forward to taking the bus in the morning with the students and arriving to class late (as the buses, like everything here, are quite unreliable) and getting poked in the hallway so students can say, “Hello, CAT!” to me. It’s fantastic. Really, really fantastic.But things in Spain are so different. Yesterday, in IBach, which is like junior year of high school age-wise, we talked about the students’ favorite subject. Naturally, none of the students liked English best, but when I asked them why (an ESL’s teachers favorite question), they said they have no choice – they have to take it. They could care less, which makes me feel like I’ve been failing IES Heliche because I can’t finish lessons. I spend a lot of my time going over directions several times or waiting for replies. I’ve resorted to using the attendance sheet to just call on people so I don’t stand up front looking like an idiot all the time. Most of the time I can’t understand them due to the echo anyway, but I think they probably make fun of me a lot, too.Today, no one bothered to inform me that the 4ºESO, aka the only level I teach today, has some kind of field trip to Sevilla to see a museum or a play or whatever. So, in my first class, half the alumnosgot up and left. And the teacher didn’t tell me until afterward that they had some activity planned. Apparently half the teachers didn’t know the activities department had been planning this trip for 4ºESO kids with good behavior (though I think walking out on a teacher while she’s in the middle of a lesson is NOT good behavior and rather rude). I had another class later with no students, so Angela took me along to her 2ºESO class. I hadn’t prepared anything, but she wanted me to teach them requests. Ok, fine, but I need some kind of prompt or at least a three-minute review of what I have to do. I may have a journalism degree, but I know NOTHING about grammar. At least not how to introduce it. I know Spanish grammar rules because they were actually taught to me, whereas English I just…learned. But it was impossible for me to teach anyway because the kids in the class are like monkeys. I tried to teach them a sign that would tell them to be quiet, and they loved it. The first time. After that, it was hopeless. Kids were fighting and hitting and calling each other names and walking out of class, and Angela didn’t do anything. I don’t think that she’s necessarily apathetic, but she knows it’s a cultural thing. In Spain, children are revered and thus able to do anything they want. Angela has been called out several times for raising her voice in class to calm the kids down, but this is outside the teacher’s code she says. Rosario, a girl who should really be in 4ºESO but hasn’t passed her classes two years in a row, came up to the chalkboard and banged the hard, wooden side of the erased against the board several times. The noise was obnoxious, but it shut the kids up for a while. It was then that I heard at least the same noise in at least one more classroom. I’m not the only one with this problem. Stupid hormonal 14 year olds.Thank goodness for Halloween lessons next week and a long weekend (aka IRELAND!!!!)

Como se dice, I’m not that depressed?

Ok, so things have turned around completely since my last post. I think I was just really overwhelmed with, well, everything, but now I feel like I really love what’s going on here in Sevilla. Everyone tells me I just need some time, and I know I’m not the only one who feels like this. I think my big issue now is money…I need to find some way to generate more income because I’ve already spent a lot of what I’ve saved just on rent and getting necessary things for day-to-day life. That doesn’t include my new cafe con leche habit, the shopping I do on Calle Sierpes when I’m bored and beer that I actually pay for (I’ll clue you in later…). I greatly appreciate the support from mama and dada, Nikki, Twin, Flip and Helen. your kind words and willingness to let me vent made me feel a million times better!!!

I’ve found some leads for things to do with my time, and I think this semester I may try and work at a bar if I can’t find anything else to do. Money is money, and if I save now, I can pay later. Kelly has convinced me to do all kinds of promotional stuff for Cafe Abroad, so we’ve been busy trying to plan a launch party in addition to actually writing the city guide! Hmm. On Wednesday I just had a few classes, but I stayed at school for extra time to help plan some sort of Halloween activity (too bad the only costumes I can find here are super slutty). I am trying to figure out a way to make pumpkin pie, but it’s difficult to find canned pumpkin and cook without an oven. I also had a cafe abroad meeting, which mostly consisted of me and Kelly wondering where the other two girls were, marveling with the grape juice Jose found for her, and trying to figure out how we can get CA to pay for us to make 20 shirts for beer pong night at Fundicion.

Thurs: Went to four hours of class, made fliers for CA, walked all around the city applying for jobs with Melissa and making her speak in Spanish to me. I decided to meet Lindsay and Kelly at David’s apartment for drinks before I got dragged to Buddha. It was overrun with Erasmus and American students, but I had a great time and finally met Spaniards. The next day I work I had on the struggle face…

Fri: worked, cleaned the apt and made lunch for Melissa, ran errands with Eva (aka went to the Bazaar and Dia), finished my lesson planning and fell asleep before Kamal called back.

Sat: Walked around town with Eva from 1030-1. Walked around the town and Feria de las Naciones with Kelly from 1-5. Met Laura, Aly Rapoport’s cousin who is an auxiliar, and grabbed a few drinks before heading to Alameda to go out with her friends. I talked with her for three hours in English, which she said was the most she’d spoken since she’d been back in Sevilla. This made it difficult for me to get to know her friends until I’d had a few beers, most of which I didnt’ pay for because her friends were really nice or we just left without paying. Alameda is a great area, and the people were great, and the tapas we got were great, too. Laura knows all about the city, so she pointed a lot of places out to me. I made myself go home at 4am because I am lame.

Sun: One of my coworkers invited me to the horserace at Pineda, a country club at the southern end of the city. Rafa is quite older than me, so I took Eva along just in case. Rafa paid for us to get in and watch all the well-to-do bet on horses and watch the races. It was a lot of fun, and quite an experience. I loved watching all the little kids dressed up just as much as the race. Rafa helped me with my Spanish in exchange for coming with him, as he is unmarried. In addition, we met a woman from New York who is a proprietor here in Meijas, just near Malaga. She told me about how she came here for a vacation and has stayed for ten years. Perhaps me? Her horse won the race, too. Be jealous, mom.

I’m gradually starting to feel more integrated into this city. I don’t need to take a map with me everywhere, I know where the best deals are for food, internet, bus tickets. I know which way to look when I cross the street. I found a really fantastic gym close to my house with tanning, pool use and classes included (which is good, considering how much nutella I’ve been eating this week!). Soon I will have too many things going on to even plan lessons thoroughly, says Silvia! I don’t know what my outburst was for the other day. I expected to have a little meltdown, and now it’s over with. I’m already considering staying here another year, and probably staying at Heliche. We’ll see how things go..

sin titulo

So, I had a minor breakdown yesterday. Ok major. I knew that eventually everything was going to kind of come down on me, but I expected the magicness of Sevilla to hold onto me more than just two weeks. When I had been in Valladolid for a week, I couldn’t take anymore Spanish being spoken to me and I wanted to go home. I’d been to Spain, it was cool, and now I could leave. Being away from home for six weeks is one thing…but I’m here until June 1st, like it or lump it (If I quit, I have to pay the government back for every centavo I’ve earned).

As I was getting home from work yesterday, I ran into Melissa, who was leaving for class. She informed me that I was to stay at home that afternoon and wait for the landlord to come by and fix one of our blinds on the balcony. The last time he came, he told me 4 pm and he was there at 4:20 (it’s typical for Spaniards to be a bit late). But I waited. And waited. And waited. Nevermind that I had my own things to accomplish that day, like looking for SOMETHING else to do with my time (since 12 hours a week is NOTHING). And by the time Melissa got home around 10 pm, I was still sitting on the couch, watching crappy Spanish tv and eating the pack of cookies I bought on saturday. I had to face it: I was depressed. I had an amazing city right outside my door, and no desire to experience it. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t make friends. I would meet someone who I thought I could have some kind of relationship with and never hear from them.

I think what’s been even worse for me is that I’ce lost all sense of identity. Being a teacher, or a professional for that matter, is new, and so is not being a student. I’m not busy here like I was while I was studying. There’s no beach here to go sit on like in Vdoid. I try and tell myself to be like Carrie Bradshaw and go to a movie alone or see an art exhibit all by herself. But the problem is, I really want to do these things with people. I could do it on my own, but it’s not as fun. I could go sit in a bar and have a beer by myself, but I would drink it fast and then leave and then just have to pee really badly. I could go watch flamenco by myself (as I have tried to do many times), but never seem to leave the house. I had to face it: I’m unhappy here. It’s not the experience I imagined. Eva, Melissa and I all have opposite schedules, and on the weekends Melissa is gone and Eva likes to go to a bar for a beer and leave at midnight. I don’t necessarily like discos, but I want to live like a Spaniard. Isn’t that why I chose not to live with Americans?

Today, I was supposed to meet two girls I’d met a few weeks ago at the Sevilla Auxiliares meeting, so I got up early and did my things and went into town to get a new bono and new sunglasses (Weird, my $6 pair from Target only last two months). I stopped by the Discover Sevilla office, a company that is like a refuge for Americans and hosts trips to Lagos, Morocco, etc., where I met David, Blair and Lindsay. Like me, Lindsay is an auxiliar with the Junta. She studied here in Sevilla (Am I the only one who chose not to go back to their study abroad city and try something different?!) and is kind of experiencing the same things as me. Her job isn’t what she expected it to be, and she hasn’t made a lot of friends. It made me feel better knowing I wasn’t the only one. She’s going to try and set me up with some volunteering or another job, and she got my number and kept saying, You have to come to David’s this Thursday! or, I’m taking you to Fundicion with me! So we’ll see. We talked about going to tapear this evening, but it’s 9 pm and I haven’t heard from her. Wishful thinking? I don’t know.

My mom says I need to give myself a little more time to make friends and really get acclamated. I wish I were living closer to Jessi and the girls so I could have fun like they’re having. Kait told me her liver hurt. Aside from having a mojito on Saturday and going out Friday, I can’t even remember the last time I just had a beer. Quite sad. Especially when it’s so cheap. I don’t want to waste a year just sitting inside stalking Facebook and wondering what I’d be doing if I were back in Chicago. I don’t want to EVER think that about something I was 95% sure about in the first place.

So, please, keep in touch with me so I don’t feel as alone all the way out here in the middle of Spain. Thanks.

Just My Luck

Well, I’ve managed to do it again. Two years ago, on our first day in Valladolid, I locked Emily, Madre and myself out on our balcony. Emily climbed through the bathroom window and let us in. Apparently Spanish terraces lock from the inside.

This morning, I was cleaning off the terrace while Eva was having a smoke and I closed the door so that I could wipe down the windows. Eva said, “A few weeks ago, before you arrived, I locked myself out here. It took me 20 minutes to get in.” and I said, “You silly girl! How did you get in? Did someone come?” And she said, “No, but now we must find a way in since we have locked the door.” DUH. I stayed calm, thinking, Melissa won’t be home for a few days, but I at least have a sheet out here so we can keep warm and we could really scrub down the balcony. Eva can light one of her stubs when she wants a nicotine fix. Eva tried to use the broom to pry the door open, and I considered taking the door off the hinge. I didn’t find any hinges.

Then, I got an idea. I knew my keys were on the desk where I’m writing from. It’s right next to the window. I figured I could stand on the outside of the terrace’s wrought iron gate and grab them, after I’d maneuvered them to the side of the desk next to the window. I would have climbed through the window, but there are bars on them. My plan was successful. As Eva held me around the waist, I grabbed the keys and climbed back onto the terrace.

So now we had keys, and I was considering jumping from the first floor down to the street and walking in and retrieving my roommate. She wouldn’t let me. I flagged down a lady walking with some grocery bags, son in hand. I kind of explained to her what happened then threw my keys to her. She came and got us and told us to lay off the bottle. I just said, “Uh huh, ok!” But we were inside!!

Other than that mishap, things are fine. I met the Sevilla team for a drink and to discuss the semester’s work. One of them is from Chicago, so we got along immediately and have since gone and eaten together. I like teaching a lot, too. When I leave, the students will stand by the door and wave their hand and say, “Goodbye American teacher!” The other teachers in the school are all very nice, too. One of them invited me to a horse race this weekend, or out to a movie. Too bad he is about 60. Oh Raf.

If I’ve got one complaint, it’s that I haven’t made a ton of friends. I wanted to go out last night and experience the nightlife, but no one was going out. Well, except Kelly, but she didn’t call me until 2 am and I was already sleeping. I need to suck it up and go out on a school night and just sleep during the day!

Applying for a Número de Identificación de Extranjeros (NIE)

So, I’ve been in Seville for a week now; Spain nearly a month/four weeks. It’s kind of just been one thing after another just being a pain in the ass, starting with the whole application process to be an auxiliar. From the visa requirements changing with no warning to receiving the wrong documents at orientation a week ago to apply for a DNI, I’ve run into problem after problem. So, on my shit list for now is: The Chicago Consulate of Spain, The Junta de Andalucía, and the Oficina de Extranjeros, as well as anyone who gives me bad directions and wastes an hour and a half of my time.

This morning, I got up at 6 am and was on a bus into town at 6:50. When I got to the Oficina de Extranjeros by 7:30, there was already a line forty people deep from around the world. Some people were from Romania, some from the Caribbean, some from the US like me. All over, really. It was still dark and I could barely keep my eyes open. The doors open at 8:45 so that you can get a number. Green is for renewal, Pink is for applying for a resident or student card, A’s are for requesting a resident or student card, B’s are for information, all other numbers are for all other inquiries. Or at least that’s what I think. Since I had gotten there early enough, I had a number in my hand by 9:15. I was A06. It was then I realized I was missing one of the photocopies, so I RAN into town (maybe five minutes) and found a copy shop where I could do this. Then I ran back. The number just called was A02. So I waited for about another 30 minutes. Inside the office, there’s a waiting room where people are just screaming about how slow the lines are and how inconvenient the Spanish democracy is. I have to say I agree. My brain wasn’t working, so I felt like I wasn’t even asking for the right things and was dreading being asked for the apostille the Chicago Consulate never told me to get.

After I got into the office where the delegates are, I had to wait for someone to get back to the station for five minutes. I asked a man and he said, Yes, student cards here. Wait for my colleague.” So I did, and she turned out to be very nice. Like the visa application process, I had forgotten the sheet from the Junta with my school’s name on it, but she looked it up online. After you’re given a temporary NIE card with your foreigner’s number on it, you have to ask for an appointment to turn in your pictures (the ones we get in the US are too big) and you have to pay like 6 euros, then you get fingerprinted and you sign some stuff and then you have to come back AGAIN to pick up the card.

The lady said, “I’ll have you come back today. So you need to go pay this, but not in any bank. You have to go to BBVA.” I figured this wouldn’t be a problem because BBVA is a very popular bank. And if Citibank has three locations, BBVA must have like 30. She told me the place wasn’t very far away and gave me directions. She told me the nearest hotel, but not the street. I ended up walking into every government building I could find to try and find this GD bank, and finally someone could give me a street. She was right – it was close – but I ended up walking FOREVER before finally finding it.

I also needed smaller photos taken. Because it was hot today and I didn’t bother to make myself look decent this morning, I knew they would look horrible. They weren’t bad, but no one seemed to know where a copistería was to have the pictures taken. I walked even further away from the office to this really seedy area, but the people were so nice and did it right away.

When I returned to the office about 40 minutes later, dripping in sweat and frustrated (also full from buying an enormous bag of chips to eat to make myself feel better), I saw this nice French boy who is working as an auxiliar. He is an EU citizen, so he didn’t have to wait in line like us Americans, but he was waiting to make sure a friend got his papers all in order. He stood in line to get a pink ticket for me while I used the bathroom, but once I got a pink ticket I was whisked right into the office with the delegates, gave the lady my documents, got my fingers all printed on the correct sheet and was on my way. This was about 1 p.m. I spent the better part of the day in some stupid office trying to understand what these people were telling me. It was hot and I was exhausted, so I skipped out on the beautiful sunshine to go home and sleep. I am so freaking lame.

Now, we just have to worry about how I get a package that my parents sent me FedEx without checking to see where there was, if any, a Fed Ex office. Anddddd I don’t think there is, so my stuff is floating around somewhere. Awesome.

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