Algo se muere en el Almaaa

3ºBSara and Ana from 1ºbilingual and they cake they made me


Every beginning has an end. The end of a relationship, the end of the road, the end of time. And my time was finally up at Heliche this week. To imagine the 1200+ hours spent teaching, laughing, trying to keep the kids from acting like zoo animals, drinking coffee (or anise!) in the teacher’s lounge, planning and correcting have all accumulated into one big lump of happy memories and a very satisfying experience.
There are days where I leave Olivares defeated, exhausted and feeling like I’m doing nothing productive. But these past two weeks have proved to me how far we have to push ourselves to get results and how much those things are appreciated in the end.
I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of hugs, gifts and tears I’ve had in the last two weeks. It’s been strange, counting down the days, holding on to the little bit of time I’ve been afforded. I usually feel rushed and have this dreaded anxious feeling as things wind down. This time, I’ve felt calm and ready. I know it’s good that the Junta is cutting me loose – I need to move on. Thankfully, my coworkers and students provided me with two wonderful last weeks to say goodbye and wish me well.
Penúltima semana:
Tuesday and Wednesday were normal days, minus the extra squeezes and the constant questions about why I was leaving. It was a weird feeling to start realizing that this was, in fact, the end. Nieves ignored me, not because of anger, but I think we’ve been able to do a lot of things with this program together. There have been people along the way who have given us big pushes, added their personalization and helped us make this all a success. But since I started with the first group of bilingual kids, I feel that they are mine.
Thursday was a tougher day. I said goodbye to my bachillerato kids, many of whom have been my students for a few years, but I never really felt too close to them. Emilio and I spent our conversation hour talking about Zapatero’s “tizerazo” or cutting of the national budget by robbing teachers of the little money they already make. I then had my 3A group. It’s a small class, but they brought me treats and a big card thanking me with the sweetest little notes from each of them. I got a little sniffly with my Isidoro, who wrote: Thanks for never making me feel ashamed to speak in class. We had brownies, Serafin took my camera and took pictures, and I gave a heartfelt goodbye. I’ve realized that the people at my school have really made my experience what it was, and I relayed this to them. Next came applause, a big group hug and kisses from each.
I spent Friday finishing up lots of little projects: writing a personal card to each kid in my second year bilingual class and all of my coworkers from the English department and Equipo Bilingüe, putting together a slide show chronicling the last few years and buying candy and goodies. I felt prepared to deal with the week, knowing fully well that tears were inevitable and part of the process.
Tuesday rolled around, and my first year bilingual kids baked me a cookie cake and gave me a lot of beautiful gifts: jewelry, fans, a school bag, a dress. I showed them my sideshow, and it was easily the quietest couple of minutes that we’d had all year! I then went to Nieves’s class to have another hour with her. We played a game and then I presented all of the kids with their personalized letter and some candy, and Nieves began to cry. I had to ask her to turn the desk around. In music, I presented a song that I liked, just as the kids were doing, but I chose Dave Matthews Band’s “The Best of What’s Around.” After we read through the song, clarified vocabulary and talked about the meaning behind the song, I could barely contain myself while we played it on the projector.
The lyrics say, “Turns out not where but who you’re with that really matter” and I relayed to them the importance they’ve had on my three cursillos at Heliche. My kids are young and impressionable, and I´ve watched many struggle with trying to find out where they fit. I did all of this in Spanish, thinking it was way too important to do in english so that half the meaning gets lost. Emilio, being the person he is, chimed in: Not only could I leave the class to cat for a year, which I did, but we could never expect to have someone with so much heart and so much enthusiasm for her students. TEARS COMMENCE. I got into Toñi´s car, unable to say much, and covered in gifts.
Wednesday was a long day. Music class was normal after the previous day, my conversation hour with Fernando reflective. My 4ºESO students threw me another party. I´ve had most of them for three years, so leaving them was especially hard. They gave me a cute bag and new earrings and sang Sevillanas de adiós to me. I cried my way through the whole class, especially when Maribel clung to me saying she hates English when I don´t come to class (and English is four days a week!). Technology was a normal class, with neither Fernando or I recognizing the fact that we would soon be separated.

Felisabel drove me home, as usual, and she told me she had been thinking of me the night before. How so, I asked? She went with a few friends for tapas in Plaza de Gavidia, and sat near a group of two american girls and several Spanish guys. One was lively and laughing, well-dressed, and continually ordering beers and chowing down on tapas, while the other sat silent and sulking. She grabbed her friend’s shoulder and said, “That´s the one I have been telling you about. Esa es mi Cat. That´s my Cat.”

Thursday, my last day, was just as I expected it to be. I arrived to school with Nieves looking sullen and helped her with a few tasks. She stuffed a present into my purse, and beautiful scarf with purple and green flowers, and said, quite frankly: “I´m not saying goodbye, so don’t talk to me today!” I tried to say goodbye to the school´s directors, but was turned away, so I went to find Mercedes, the woman who runs the cantina during recess and makes coffee for me when I ask, even going so far as to bring it to the teacher´s lounge for me. She thanked me for the brownies I made her and wished me a good summer. I don´t think she had realized it was my last LAST day until I announced, to which my open arms were met with a long hug and tears. “There won´t be anyone like you,” she said.
My coworkers from the department gave me a lovely bracelet with matching earrings, all met by tears and well wishes and big group hugs. I felt like I was in the receiving line of a wedding: one by one, more coworkers came to give me endless compliments – even ones whose names I didn´t know! Lucía said it best when she drove me to school for the last time the week before: “No one ever saw you adapting here and coming into your own. But you´re one of us now, and that´s why we´re sad to see you go.” Regardless, I know (and knew) that I´m leaving with having made a good impression on the school as a handworker, someone who puts her heart into her job and who maintains good relationships with all.
My last hour of class I will remember forever. Felisbael practically had to drag me out of the office, where I was making photocopies for Luis´s class, telling me that there was no time. When I got to the classroom a few minutes later, I hear chiding and shushing, and the lights were off with no students to be found. Upon opening the door, however, I had balloons emblazoned with “We love you!” thrown at me. I was in tears, Felisabel was in tears, and Mercedes was in tears again. The kids threw everything together at the last-minute, covering every detail – including tissue! They had written me messages on the board, brought in cakes and goodies, bought me gifts and awarded me several certificates. Each took the time to tell me what they will miss about our classes together. I was overwhelmed, both by the gesture and from all of the kids sticking cameras in my face, blubbering.
The party began, kids chowing down, me trembling as I cut the cake. Maria made me a CD with, what else, Sevillanas, so we cleared a space on the floor and began to dance. They sang Sevillanas de Adiós and I bit my lip, thinking of how far they´ve come in just two years. I took it all in, hoping the class period would stretch a bit longer, and I was able to get out of dancing using the “I fell and banged my knee up and the doctor said no” excuse until the very end.
when the bell rang, we had a big group hug and I gave each a hug and two kisses. On their way out, some of the girls started singing, “Algo Se Muere en el Alma (Cuando un Amigo Se Va). Yes, something, however small, dies within you when someone leaves, when you leave, when there´s a change. But, like in college, I have things to look forward to, too. Maybe they should rename it, “Algo se muere in el alma (cuando está vacia tu cartera)?”

18 May

If there are two typically Spanish things, it’s futbol and fiesta.

If you’re lucky, they both happen the same day. May 18th, if you’re a Sevillano, may very well have been one of the best days of your life. Here’s a play-by-play of last Wednesday:
7:15 – Wake up to shouts of, “QUE VIVA LA BLANCA PALOMA!” Or, long live the white dove! and the subsequent release of cannons. The mass of the Virgen del Rocio, or Virgen of the Dew, starts promptly at that hour. I was at Kike’s house, so I covered the pillow with my head and tried to sleep it off.
The pilgrimage to El Rocio, a beautiful and famous hermitage in the middle of Southern Spain’s famous national park, happens every Wednesday before pentecost in both Triana and Olivares. Around here, most girls are named for the famous virgins, and I have no shortage of friends and students named after the white dove, Rocio. Faithful followers rent of by big trailers, spruce them up with pictures of the Virgin and brightly-colored flowers, and make a long trek on foot towards the hermitage, a journey of 67 kilometres. People come in droves to see the simpecado, a gold-laden statue of the Virgin, passed around on Pentecost Sunday.
8:00 – Grabbing Juan Bosco, I set off for the long way home. Instead of cutting through the center and through Triana, I was relegated to practically the highway because the entire Police force of Seville was directing traffic. The carretas, the trailers which carry the pilgrims, had completely clogged San Jacinto. I quickly got dressed amidst cracks of whips sticks and more cannon booming.

8:50 – From my table besides the window in La Sonata, I ate my tostada and had my coffee listening to tambourines tingle. Women in short flamenco dresses with stiff leather boots and men sporting straw hats emblazoned with their hermandad stood around smoking, greeting friends and making sure they had everything together. Many wore green and white (the colors of Triana) braided necklaces bearing a round, silver image of the virgin. Triana and Olivares joined about ten other hermandades that day in camino to the Aldea de El Rocio, as the small municipality is called, and it is among one of the most famous. Sevillanas played and the hermanos filled the streets. I walked to the bus stop and watched carretas join a long line, all numbered, waiting for the official salida at 11am. Sadly, the simpecado, which is often pulled by bulls, had not left.

Most people make the trip to El Rocio on foot, choosing to sleep in the fields at night and leave the trailers for storing food and drink and taking refuge during inclement weather. Rocieras, another version of Sevillanas, keep the troops motivated, and some go on horseback or carry the carretas with tractors.

9:50 – The bus driver pulled into the first stop in Olivares and said, this is as far as we can go. I was easily a 15-minute walk from school, with heels and with treats for my students, so I trucked along the town’s main street until I ran into the trailers. Olivares’s hermandad is also well-known, but the carretas are simple, pulled by tractors and briming with smartly-dressed Olivarenas who waved to the people gathered on street corners and on balconies as if it were their maiden voyage. Since school had been cancelled for the first two hours, I met a few of my compis in front of the hermandad’s church, Nuestra Senora de las Nieves, and watched the remainder of the parade go by.

A carreta leaves Olivares, in front of the hermandad rociera’s chapel

10:30 – Two of my students, Rocio and her cousin Carmela, were missing from my first class, and even though I had a few days left, they had already said goodbye to me. The rest of the school day was fairly normal: classes, private lessons, and by the time I left Jaime and Maria’s, I was exhausted and feeling stressed.

10 pm – I arrived to Kike’s house exasperated and with three boxes of brownies still to make. I was greeted in the plaza with shouts of ATLEEEEEEETI and VIVA ER BETI! Sevilla FC and Atletico Madrid were duking it out that night for the championship of the Copa del Rey. Kike watched while I poured over boxed brownies with scant cooking supplies. Sevilla won 2-0, and I could have cared less. The city of Sevilla, however, did care, and car honking, screaming and red and white fireworks continued until 3am.

Pff, I’d take siestas over virgins any day.

For a video of the salida of the Virgen from her temple, click here

Live versus Living

In Spanish, like in English, there exist many tenses. If you’re an English speaker, you might say, My name is Cat, and I’m writing a blog entry. The first half is present simple, used for facts, habits and every day occurrences, while the second refers to what one is doing at this very moment; in other words, the present continuous.

Manu, the very same one that called me poor for not having any Play Mobile toys, is currently dealing with this very difference and failing miserably. In Spanish, you see, people ask, “Illo, que haces?” or, Dude, what are you doing? There isn’t much difference in the two tenses. For that reason, I always say, “Vivo en Sevilla.” I live in Seville.
But recently my friend Christene, another third year auxiliar, noticed I switched from saying “I am living in Spain” to “I live in Spain” while speaking English.
As I spend my last two weeks at IES Heliche (I’ve only let the tears loose once), I’ve started reflecting on my life in Spain and how I feel that, after three years, I finally am a resident of Sevilla.
In my barrio, I’m the vecina (neighbor) to the new gastro bar down the street, always invited in for a buchito of wine or a few slices of creamy brie cheese. At the bank, the grey-haired banker while call me over to his new office with a “CHICAGOOOO!” and deposit my check for me. It’s not necessary for me to tell the waiters at La Grande, El Colmao or La Tiza my name – they write my name in chalk or permanent marker to start tabbing up my bill. Soy Trianera. I live here.
With next year’s uncertainty with jobs, living arrangements and all, I’ve been savoring what I can of Triana: the flamenco chords that mix Semana Santa bands around 10pm, the old ladies pushing their carritos towards the market on Friday mornings, the clatter of beer glasses in the middle of the day at the bars below my window. I love this place, and my heart is here.
There’s a bar we used to go to a lot called Las Golodrinas. This is the word for swallow, and there are hundreds of them in this neighborhood. The bar is trypical Triana: tiles and virgins covering the walls, regulars eating their pinchitos at their normal tables. It’s the Sevillano version of Cheers. And this tile has always made me choke up a bit:

Translation: If I get lost one day, look for me in Triana. Don’t go to my native Asturias; perhaps you’ll hear the sound of bagpipes sighing in magical resonance. Look for me in a tavern in Triana, where our friend Paco, who smells of basil, gives us a good wine to drink of humility and temprance. IF I get lost one day, there you’ll find my soul.
Triana, me tienes enganchada. I live in Triana.

…y se acabó: Saying Goodbye to IES Heliche

If I have learned anything in Spain, it’s to not believe anything until it’s signed, sealed and delivered. Or, in the Junta de Andalucia’s case, signed, stamped and hand-delivered. But even without that piece of paper giving me a job back, I know the chances are less than a finding a Spanish vegetarian. I’m out of a job come the end of the month.

I did expect this all along, and I’m ready for something new. Really. I mean it. But it’s hard walking into my school, ticking off days, cleaning out my endless papers and lesson plans knowing that my days are numbered. No “Hola, Bicho Medio Gato Saborilla” greetings in the morning, no more having my tostada ready and waiting when I eat at the bar down the street.

I’ve been telling my coworkers and classmates little by little so as not to overwhelm myself or cry or both. Most expected me to come back, and I’ve gotten a lot of sympathetic looks which remind that, even when I feel distraught and worthless, I’m appreciated.

In the meantime, I’ve been exhausting every trámite possible to stay here. I keep running into brick walls head-on, really, but I’ll keep going until I get something. Forty-three CVs and counting…desearme suerte!!

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