Life Update

So much to say! (I think…)

This weekend has been a complete BLAST! It’s Jose Luis’s birthday so we packed up the family and rounded up all the kids and we caravanned it all the way to the campo of Madrid to his Uncle’s house. There, we had an enormous feast of some of the best barbecued Spanish meats my tongue has ever tasted. The fun didn’t just stop there: It lead to the entire afternoon bathing in the gorgeous, rock-clad, waterfall-surrounded swimming pool, and playing tennis on their private court. It was a relaxing day but it was terrific fun. It wasn’t even my birthday and I’d say it was my favorite one yet!

Yesterday, the family and I went swimming for a while and then Marta, Jose Luis, and I went to Dia de la Musica festival here in Madrid.  We met up with other friends, like Luis. I didn’t know any of the bands except one, Russian Red, whom I LOVE and have been listening to for years and years. I finally got to see her and I have to say I was disappointed. Now she’s really famous here in Spain and having just released her second album on Sony Records, she seemed like she was just trying too hard and it wasn’t pretty. However, when she played songs from her first album, we all went crazy! I’m glad I saw her even if she’s kind of a sell-out now. Overall, the entire day was splendid, like it always is here with my friends.

Jeana was here last week and we had a good time. I didn’t get to spend too much time with her because I was working but it was nice finally getting to show her Madrid. Kevin right now is traveling but he’ll be back on Wednesday to stay with us until after Gay Pride here which we are all attending since it’s the First/Second biggest in the world (it only compares, and competes, with the Gay Pride festivities in San Francisco).

After all of this, I too will be making my way home back to Madrid. I tried to find a job here. In fact, I got two. But in the end, it’s best if I just come home.

My experience here (year one) is coming to an end much quicker than I or anyone ever expected. Already my group of friends has slightly changed since so many have left.  But that’s okay because that was expected and now I’ve got amazing friends from all over Europe that I can always visit (and who can visit me if anyone dares travel across the entire ocean just to come to Denver, CO).

Let me sum up my first year as a teacher:

Teaching in the public schools really has been great. The people are work with have become some of my best friends (honest!) and have all treated me really great, especially for being a foreigner. Everyone has been really supportive and willing to help me with whatever it was I may have needed.  As for the children, they are terrific. I’ve grown to love the little boogers.

I have also given tons of private lessons to some of the coolest kids I think I’ve ever met. I feel especially proud of these kids because I’ve gotten to spend four hours with them every week, individually, and so I’ve really seen them grow.  It hasn’t been just about the English either, I’ve gotten to play with them, talk with them, and yes, I have noticed a huge improvement in their English.  A few weeks ago, one of my pupils (that’s British for students!) got the highest grade in his class on the exam! I felt so proud! Also, the parents continually tell me that the children love my classes, and I know that I love them just as much as they do. We really have fun.

So there is Jose Miguel and Luis. They are my Tuesday/Thursday lessons. Then there is Lucia and Alvaro. They are Monday/Wednesday lessons. And then there’s Robert who is my Friday lesson. With Alvaro and Robert, I’m able to have complete conversations with in English. At the beginning of the year, this would have been impossible but now they are really able to communicate and do it well! Lucia, who is my youngest, easily has the best pronunciation and everyday surprises me with some random word that she knows in English. Jose Miguel is my second oldest and who always asks “How much time is left?” But the kid really knows his material and when it comes down to studying for tests, we really don’t have to because he knows it all. Luis is going to be a star for Real Madrid, just wait, that’s all he ever talks about. The entire year, whenever I made him write sentences or tell me things, he’d always talk about Real Madrid. For example:

Graham: Hey, Luis, [this is us practicing the future] what do you want to be when you are older?

Luis: I want to be a football player for Real Madrid.

Me: No, tell me something OTHER than being a football player.

Luis: I want to be a news presenter for Real Madrid

Me: Okay, tell me something OTHER than something related to Real Madrid.

Luis: I want to be a football player!

Me: *smacks forehead*

I don’t know if I’m going to give them lessons next year, but I hope so because we’ve all had a really good time.

As for next year, I have officially gotten my assignment. I will be working in a high school teaching History and Geography in English! I’m so excited for this opportunity for the following reasons:

  1. When I went to college, originally I wanted to become a high school history teacher. That is until I first came to Spain and fell in love with the language, culture, and undoubtedly, the girls.  Now I get to do all of that, but it’s even better because the job is here in Madrid!
  2. After a year of teaching the pequeños, I have realized that I don’t ever want to be an elementary school teacher because it’s actually really difficult. I have become really close to my little guys and I love them all. Even though we all have our favorites (and some of my favorites were the “bad” kids), I really enjoyed seeing these little kids go from knowing absolutely nothing in English to being able to ask me randomly, “Do you like The Beatles? and to me freaking out at their ability to speak to me in English when they aren’t even prompted to. Or those days when all the kids start singing Tonight’s gonna be a good good night (Black eyed Peas) and me being astonished that they knew all the lyrics in English. I remind you all that these are 6-7 year old children, first graders, with their first years experience with English.  But there were also days where I was incredibly bored and tired of them not paying any attention. I know that I would be much better off in a high school. Maybe that’s because I like the same music as them or have similar interests, but I know that I will be able to use my talents more there than just going over the daily routines of the weather, colors, date, body parts and “how are you’s.”
  3. Plus, I get a major pay raise, more responsibility, and I’m going to be able to learn a ton of Spanish history and get paid to do it! (I’m pretty nerdy, we all know this).

The reason I’m not excited for next year:

  1. My school is, as we say, tomar por culo, or in English, B.F. Egypt.  This means it’s really far away.

I’m now at the point where I’m really excited to come home. I miss my friends, family, and my little fat dog. I miss Denver, and the Denver Cruisers ride, the food, etc. After having been here almost an entire year, I need the break from this vida dura and be able to reflect upon it. Also, there are some things that are really starting to bug me about Spain. I think having complaints about a foreign country is, A) Normal, but B) I can’t decide if it’s culture shock or just my lack of patience.

Things I will miss this summer by not being here:

  1. My friends/family. Really my friends are my family, and it’s ridiculous when everyone calls Marta and Julian “Mama and papa.” The rest of us are the children, and all our friends are the adopted ones.
  2. Spanish ham and the cheeses!
  3. The city of Madrid, of course.
  4. The night life, the bars, the excitement on the streets. The botellons.
  5. The openness, the relaxed lifestyle, the no-worries attitude, the everything-goes way of life.
  6. The metro. It really is renowned.
  7. Speaking Spanish everyday.
  8. My rad apartment. You really gotta see this place if you haven’t.
  9. Doner Kebabs.
  10. Tapas, Tinto de Verano, Mahou beer, Gintonis, and Cien Montaditos

Things I won’t miss:

  1. Spanish Banks. God, they frustrate me to no end! They are worthless I swear!
  2. The way people walk, everyone is sooooo slow! Let’s pick up people!
  3. The lack of consciousness of “staring isn’t polite,” because everyone stares. I always feel really different (which we know I am) even if I’m dressed like everyone else.
  4. The inability to pour a full cup of black coffee.
  5. Football culture. Yah bro!
  6. Lack of convenience and instant gratification*

*We have everything handed to us when we want it in the United States. We are a complete instant-gratification, consumer society. Here, things take weeks or months. Maybe this is me complaining as an American or maybe I’m right and Spain is just way behind in terms of the service industry and getting things done.

Putting the whole year into perspective, it has been unbelievable. If I were going home to Denver forever and not being able to renew my job for the upcoming year, I’d be incredibly depressed. I don’t feel ready to leave this place just yet. I am looking forward to my summer spent at home to reflect, relax, and enjoy seeing those closest to me. But I’m extremely looking forward to next year for all the travels, adventures, and to meet all the people who will be crossing paths with me.

Write more later,

Graham

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