Friday, November 23, 2012

Huelga General 14N

I am going to try and sum up November in a nutshell, and that does not include Thanksgiving. This is because I’m having THREE Thanksgivings. The first was yesterday, the next is tomorrow and the final one is on the 30th.  Overkill I know. I am going to rewind to a few Saturdays ago when at one of the local bars a friend of ours prepared a lunch for about 50 people. It was a fantastic Peruvian dish! Even better was the spiciness; there isn’t much food here in Spain that is as spicy as this dish was. After eating a fantastic meal with friends, we participated in a “poetry” contest…to be truthful it was writing something down on a piece of paper and then going up to the microphone and reading what you wrote. The catch was that it had to include the word “eco” somehow. So, we wrote a “poem” of course! After the poetry contest we listened to flamenco music. I am always enthralled when it comes to anything flamenco, especially the music. It is difficult to understand the lyrics, but I love it!!
Peruvian Dish
Our Poem
 On November 14th, there was a nation-wide strike protesting ALL of the cuts the government has made. It was called the Huelga General or the General Strike. All around Spain, stores closed refusing to sell items, people rode on bicycles with bullhorns, there were multiple marches through the streets at different parts of the day, city buses were running on minimum services…it was pretty powerful to see Spain more or less shut down all at once to make a powerful statement to the government. I looked on the internet later to see what the situation was in Mallorca. Their strike looks like it was just as large as the strike was here. There have been extreme cuts in public education, so many of my coworkers didn’t go to work and nor did the children….so I couldn’t go either. I had to cancel my private classes because I take the city bus to other towns to teach and that was nearly impossible. Logroño is a small city, so a friend and I decided to head downtown to watch the BIG march at night. There were SO many people. Many of my coworkers said they didn’t expect so many people to come! When I went to watch, I saw many of my coworkers. Afterwards, I just couldn’t get over how many people protested that day!  The next day everyone was talking about the strike.

The picture of Gran Via from the local newspaper the day after

Last weekend for a friend’s birthday, we went to a town called San Vicente to tour a family owned bodega. My friend Andrea works in San Vicente and so we were able to get a free tour of the winery and try a few wines for free! We had a great time. After the tour, we went to get a pintxo with Andrea’s friends from San Vicente. The weather was poor, it was cloudy and sprinkling all day not to mention, it was COLD. For at least the past four weekends it has rained. We haven’t had a nice weekend in a month. Hopefully, that changes this weekend. Andrea’s friend José then gave us a tour of the small, quaint town. In San Vicente there is an old castle perched high on a hill with a wonderful view for miles!! With the bad weather we couldn’t see Logroño from the castle, but according to José when the weather is perfect you can see all of La Rioja from that spot. We asked José’s advice for a nice restaurant to have lunch for Emma’s birthday. He suggested a nice restaurant, which turned out to be a Michelin recommended restaurant!! It was decently priced, so that was a relief! We ate VERY well. Later, we went back to Logroño to take siestas before going out that night. All in all, I think Emma had a very successful birthday.

And finally, I’ve taken on a new private class in Arrúbal, one of the towns I work in. The town is 20 minutes away, but on the bus it takes about 50 minutes. I now give a private lesson to one of my students. I catch the bus at 7:10pm, get there at 8pm, give the lesson from 8-9pm and then I eat dinner with her family! It’s a nice set-up, this past Monday was my second class with her. Both times I’ve gone, MANY students from my school were waiting for me at the bus stop! I was shocked! Why are all these young kids in the street at 8pm?! Apparently, it’s normal in small towns. So, as soon as I step off the bus, all I hear is “Hola Estephanie!!!!” It’s cute. 

I stop this post here and I will write all about Thanksgiving after all three dinners have come and gone. Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October Happenings

Oh goodness…where to even begin?? I feel like it’s been awhile since my last post…I have a lot to fill you in on! First, it seems silly to even post this now since many of you back home probably still don’t have power from Superstorm Sandy. I must say that being here in Spain while Sandy was absolutely tearing up the east coast was nerve-wracking. I spent a lot of my time Monday night watching the live feed from the Weather Channel so that when I went to El Arco the next day I had trouble speaking in English to the kids because I was so exhausted. I’m talking about basic words…. like, Zoo. Man, that was an embarrassing moment.  I’m extremely sad to see the photos of Sandy’s aftermath, but I’m relieved that my family and friends are safe and sound.

Anyway, onto happier topics! Like… GRAPE STOMPING. Last weekend, a large group of auxiliares went to the pueblo of San Asensio to see AND participate in the grape stomping festival. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was hoping that it wasn’t going to be outside because it became very cold and it was raining. To my relief, the grape stomping was inside! It was a large pit full of grapes and two of us at a time hopped in and started stomping the grapes. I couldn’t help but laugh the whole time because the men in charge thought it was so funny that a group of foreigners had come to the small pueblo to stomp grapes. They joked around with us. But, my laughter began to HURT when Andrea and I tried to get out of the pit. I can’t even describe that moment except awkward, embarrassing and downright hilarious.

For five euros, we were able to get a wine glass and try three different types of wine from this particular winery. The wines were FANTASTIC and then they had a section of wine that was free. Needless to say, by the end of the day many of us were a bit piripi or tipsy. We indulged in chorizo sandwiches, and stuffed peppers. I left San Asensio a very happy girl.

The week before we went grape stomping there was a protest throughout La Rioja against educational budget cuts. These protests are becoming more frequent, but this protest was unique because the protest was for the parents and the students. Students didn’t attend class. I was in Agoncillo that day, and only about 15 students showed up and there were maybe 10 teachers there. The reason I find it worth mentioning is because at recess, all of the parents whose students were absent appeared at the school with their kids. They all entered the playground and the entire group: teachers, students and parents stood in a large circle and had a minute of silence. I can honestly say I was very moved.  I was also in a state of culture shock, because although I’ve become accustomed to witnessing protests here, something about that moment was so powerful that I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. Perhaps it is because that would never happen in the United States. The idea was SO foreign to me. I also participated in the minute of silence. As we say here: muy fuerte.

Our classroom completely empty the day of the protest

Fast forward to Halloween, or…yesterday. I HAD THE BEST DAY EVER…and I wasn’t even wearing a costume. We spent the entire day celebrating Halloween. In Arrubal AND Agoncillo we carved pumpkins. I think they turned out great! Arrubal is smaller so the entire school participated. The way they participated was each taking turns scooping out the inside of the pumpkin, because it isn’t the greatest idea to let them try and carve the pumpkin. We closed the blinds and turned off the lights and our Jack O’Lanterns were very spooky. Then, with the older class in Agoncillo, one of the teachers had created a mini-Halloween party as a surprise. During recess, she decorated her classroom with black spider webs, lit orange candles and had a Jack O’Lantern in the center of the classroom. Another teacher and I decided it would be fun to try and scare them. She and I hid under desks in the back of the classroom and after all the children had sat down in the dark waiting for their teacher to tell a Hallowen story, Merce and I popped out from under the desks and made scary noises. Of course, everyone screamed and then laughed. It was so much fun. Then I got to listen to a Halloween story in Spanish. Following that, I went to the oldest class and we made Halloween decorations with tissue paper.  School was AWESOME.

Even better, my teachers saved a pumpkin for me to carve on my own! It came from the garden of one of my student’s parents….so, last night with a couple of friends we carved the greatest pumpkin EVER. It’s extremely scary! After carving the pumpkin, I met up with a few friends to eat dinner or rather, eat a mix of snacks that ended up filling us up as if it were dinner, and we changed the name of all the foods into something more Halloween related…for example: red wine = blood. Gross, I know…but it was Halloween!! Finally, the night ended with a Halloween party downtown. Oh, and I did end up wearing a small costume…I bought a light-up pumpkin headband and everyone that was out thought they had a free invitation to poke the pumpkins! Not okay. Happy November! 

Making the Present Continuous tense FUN!
Carving Arrubal's pumpkin

A controversial jack o'lantern

Arrubal's Jack O'Lantern

Agoncillo's Jack O'Lantern

Surprise Halloween party in Agoncillo  

Laura and Antonio carving our pumpkin


Happy Halloween!!