Friday, April 6, 2012

Only in Spain...

So little time has passed since my last post, but so much has happened. I must start with el presidente. The President of La Rioja made an appearance at my school on Friday the 23rd of March. I was in San Román…. the smallest town in all of Spain (maybe this is a small exaggeration, but bear with me). Not only did the President appear but so did his bodyguards, mayors from surrounding towns, and newspaper and TV reporters. They all crammed into a small room attached to our miniature school. During our snack time, the youngest student who is three years old asked Javier, the professor, what the bodyguards were doing in the school and Javier told him they found out he was here and they were looking for him. Needless to say that student was attached to my leg whispering, “Estephanieeee, I’m afraid of the bodyguards”. Poor kid.  After our snack time there was a knock on the door and the President came in to visit us. As did his entourage. Some of the kids took cover behind desks. First, I’d like to point out I was dressed as casual as possible…flaunting my purple Holy Cross sweatshirt and jeans. Javier already knew the President was coming so he was dressed well. Glad to know I’m giving off a positive impression of Americans. The President spoke to me for a couple of minutes asking me what my job was etc. etc. and then at the end of the conversation he asked me if I understood Spanish….ummm President Sanz, if I’ve been conversing with you in Spanish this whole time one would think I understand Spanish…but I replied, yes I do sir. During recess, he did a mini press conference on camera and then decided to take a photo with the kids, Javier and me. Before the photo was snapped, he turned to me and said, “Just think, you can show all your friends and family in the United States this photo!” I HAD no idea where these photos were until an hour after I originally posted this blog because my super listo friend Angel found them randomly online. I'm still shocked because I tried very hard to find these photos and came up with nothing! Anyway, that was a very strange day. Javier and I were still stunned after he left. Did that actually happen??? In one article that appeared online mentioned me! Woooo!!

That weekend four friends and I had SO much fun. We went skiing!!! Granted, the mountain was very small…we did the same 5-6 runs all day. The tickets and rentals were cheap and it was a gorgeous and really warm day. I wore jeans, and my thin Northface jacket. It had been awhile since I had been skiing so I was pleasantly surprised how quickly it came back to me. Despite the size of the mountain, we had a fantastic day. I got really burnt though on my face. I did put sunscreen on but forgot to reapply. My bad.

A little less than a week later was the countrywide strike opposing new laws. Every part of Spain shut down more or less. Buses ran on minimum service (one passed once every hour), workers didn’t go to work, and there were constant marches through the streets throughout the entire day. I was still able to go to work in Ribafrecha and the older students and I had fun playing a competitive English game: cut out sentences from a “story” and put them in the correct order. It doesn't sound that fun, but these Ribafrecha kids were COMPETITIVE. That morning the English teacher María told me there was one student in the school that had lice. TAKE COVER. I think I’m in the clear now, but I was pretty worried during the day. After school, I had to cancel my private lessons because the bus was running once an hour and it was a mystery when the bus would appear at the stop, it could have been 5 minutes after I got there or an hour later. My roommates and I watched the news and saw what was happening in other parts of Spain. In Madrid the streets were literally clogged with people. I don’t think people could move. In Barcelona, things got a little violent and out of control….but, for the most part the same thing was happening everywhere. The next day, everything went back to normal, but of course everyone was talking about it. That evening, friends and I got tapas and talked about the strike. Thank goodness the tapas bars were open!

The following day, all of my schools’ younger students went on a fieldtrip to La Grajera. It was funny because in each school the students weren’t aware the bus was going to the other schools to pick up more students. They didn’t realize our school is really four different schools in four different towns. We learned about different types of birds, pinecones and squirrels. The kids were fascinated but were especially excited when they had free play. They stayed separated as schools….typical. Overall, the fieldtrip was a success. I was driven half-insane on the bus ride back listening to Spanish road trip songs…one was the equivalent of “who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?” ON REPEAT. The other teachers on the bus and I had our fill for the day.

That weekend we decided to mix it up and went to a small, but gorgeous town in Pais Vasco for coffee and late breakfast, in Laguardia. Yes, just like the New York airport. Very picturesque with mountain views and old stone buildings throughout the town. I was so sad I forgot my camera. The next day we went to a vineyard. Except, we didn’t do our research and we didn’t make tour reservations…we went to Haro, a city a little less than an hour away from Logroño around midday. In Spain, from 1:30-4:30 everything closes. That included surrounding vineyards. This vineyard was open, but we missed the tour. So, instead we tested their wines; a great activity for a rainy day. On our way to Haro, our friend Adrián got pulled over by the Guardia Civil for running a red light. His licensed had also expired so we were prepared for an interesting encounter. Shockingly, Adrian was great at schmoozing with the cop. He told him we were really lost and which vineyard we were looking for. He said please, give me the ticket I don’t care, but PLEASE tell us which way we should go. The cop felt bad, and decided not to give him a ticket and in addition he stopped traffic so we could make an illegal left hand turn. In our defense…it was true. We were really lost, but I doubt that excuse would have worked on an American cop. Those two offenses guarantee you a pricey ticket.

Easter break has officially started. My last day of school was on Wednesday and we did an Easter Egg Hunt. The kids were beyond thrilled to win chocolate eggs. In order to keep their egg they had to scream “Happy Easter!!” Before the hunt commenced, the kids did an intense obstacle course in the gymnasium created by the PE teacher. That alone was fun, and I was in charge of monitoring an area where the kids could have potentially fallen 4 feet. Some were really confident saying, “don’t worry Estephanie, I can do this”. Others weren’t very coordinated and needed the help. Every kid left the gymnasium with a chocolate egg and most of them had gobbled their eggs up before the school day ended. I won an egg too!  Unfortunately, I cannot include any photos of the kids and put them on the Internet, but take my word for it, the pictures are adorable!

In Spain, Holy Week is a very big deal. There are religious processions everyday. Hooded men and women march through the streets banging on drums, holding candles and they carry large religious figures that weigh about 1000 kilos. The traditional dress for these processions is a vivid reminder of the costumes worn by the KKK, but, of course it has absolutely nothing to do with the KKK and the KKK actually stole their costume idea from this Spanish tradition. Even knowing that, it still kind of gives me the chills to see them. Yesterday was the first procession we saw in Logroño and of course it began down pouring five minutes into the procession. They had to postpone the processions for that evening. There are more today and tomorrow. On Monday, I’M OFF TO MALLORCA!!! Happy Easter everybody!