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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Things I miss about America

1) American Food. Definately. Spanish food is edible but consists of lots of fish and very little spices.
2) Communicating in english.  My spanish is decent but I have to substitute a lot of hand motions as well.
3) American Servers who rely on tips and excellent service.
4) Driving my own car. Metro and Train transportation gets real old.
5) Central Heat, radiators simply won't cut it.

Observations about Spain

just a random compliation of observation of the spanish culture:

1) Caga Tio - this is a crazy christmas tradition just observed in the Catalan region where we are staying.  It is simply a log, decorated with a painted face, legs, and a felt hat.  On Christmas Eve, the family must remember to feed Caga Tio with biscuits or cookies.  The next morning, Caga Tio has to use the bathroom, so the children help by hitting him with a stick and singing the 'sh*tting song' eventually Caga Tio exretes and leaves his presents for the family in his remains. Weird.
Caga Tio
2) Resturants Servers are paid the same wages as everyother employee.  Tipping is only done at fine resturants.  Because they are not relying on tips for their pay, servers tend not to be as friendly or concerned about your food service as they are in America. 

3) Futbol is truely the dominate sport of the country.  People are beyond passionate about this sport, it has been described as a driving force that shapes their culture. Whole towns and cities have futbol game viewing parties and celebrations, its like the superbowl for every game.

4) The average teacher is required to work 18-25 hours a week.  The school week is sitll 40 hours long except classes run according to a college type schedule where the schedule varies everyday.  So teachers are hired according to what subjects they teach.  The SEK teachers generally teach 4-5 classes a day with sometimes having to do lunch duty or recess duty. The rest of the school day can be spent doing lesson plans, running errands, or chilling in the teacher's lounge.  Plus, average salary is about $40,000 a year for starting teachers. Niceeee

5) Spanish people love their dogs. I have never seen more well-behaved dogs or spoiled dogs in my life.  People bring their dogs everywhere, grocery, movies, metro. etc..

6) Christmas is celebrated January 6th.  December 25th is still celebrated but it is a smaller tradition with usually a family dinner and minor gifts.  January 6th is the supposed 12th day of christmas and celebrates the arrival of the 3 Wise Men with their gifts to Baby Jesus. This holiday is much larger and more extravagent. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Park Guell

This weekend, we decided to be tourists in Barcelona.  We rode the double decker bus around the city and saw a huge amount of the city attractions.  Park Guell was definately my favorite, literally an oasis of garden luxury and history in the middle of the city.
Park Guell is named after the artists Gaudi's great patron, Count Guell.  Initally, it was meant to be an elaborate residental garden for the high society of Spain but numerous economic troubles were encountered.  Eventually the park was donated to the city in 1923 and is now an unique public area featuring the best gardens mingled with Gaudi's larger than life sculptures and mosaic tile work. 
me and chrissie, waiting for the train, as usual we missed the first train

Park Guell's highest point, You can see the Mediterranean Sea behind us!

Ceiling Decorations

Mosaic Tiles

Entrance Statues

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Town of Vic

This week is a national holiday in Spain so without classes, we have been touring the neighboring towns.  The teachers suggested we visit the town of Vic  to see their traditional Medival Market.  Monday, all eight of us plus some of the UK students took a train to Vic for some sightseeing.  Vic was so adorable! It was a slightly larger town than La Garriga with shopping and several Universities.  However, for one week of the year, the whole town practically transforms into "medival land" complete with street preformers, costumes, friars, juggles, kings and queens, castles, tents, jousting, and flags everywhere.  It was cute to the see the town so passionate about being a whole community.  Plus the booth shopping was pretty good too :)

bread booth

unidentified meat booth

local townsmen

potato on a stick...we ate alot

chrissie and her favorite snack


     I have been spending my time at the school spilt between the bacculauerte (senior high), sixth grade and kindergarten classes.  While I am being certified for elementary education, it is super interesting to see a variety of grade levels.  However, the staff and students freely admit that SEK school is operated very differently than regular public schools in the rest of Spain.  But, the public schools sound very similar to american public schools so I'm glad for the chance for see a different educational viewpoint.
   Bacculauerte: I have never such students with intrinsic moviation to educate themselves. Seriously, these students completely understand the importance of studying and application for their future.  These classes are almost completely student centered.  The teachers estimate that they spend roughly 20min of class lecturing and introducing material and the rest of the classtime is spent working in group projects or the students self-studying material.
   Sixth Grade:  These students are SO LOUD.  The students practically crawl and fight among each other attention, its a very "me-focused" atmosphere.  Classroom management is almost non-exsistent.  However, somehow the students still manage to learn? I'm not sure I could manage in their school systems. This school does promote use of technology, all the students bring laptops and the ActivBoard is used at all times.  The students are completely comfortable using technology and embraced it. 
    Kindergarten:  These students were so adorable and incredibly talented between switching between English, Spanish, and Catalayn languages.  The classroom was so familiar that I could have almost been in an american classroom. The same posters, alphabets, and phonics decorated the walls. 
     Overall:  School curriculum and state standards are a HUGE deal in american...well..not so much in Spain.  The teachers admitted there was a state curriculum but the standards are so general that there is a lot of freedom to teach.  The state curriculum is treated more like a "suggestion".  Which is a crazy notion for american teachers!! However, the SEK school is incredible successful and their students are admitted into almost any University of their choice, which is the ulimate goal.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bonjour Paris

       For a quick weekend visit, myself and chrissie took off for visit to the famous city, Paris. We knew almost nothing about the city other than scenes from movies, and our language skills were equally as limited.
        We traveled using RyanAir, the eurocheap fare, which turned out to be much nicer than expected.  We were dropped off in the middle of the city and took off walking...straight into a shopping mall.  It was COLD in Paris, no one warned us.  We immediately bought overpriced hats and scarves before braving the weather again.

the buildings were beautiful everywhere!

Charles de Gaulle, famous french serviceman

haha, tiny cars everywhere!
         First stop was the Arc de Triomphe (we stumbled upon this monument clearly by luck).  After a few pictures, and continued walking aimlessly until we spotted the Eiffel Tower, we were overjoyed!  The tower is huge and bronze and massive!  We took a million pictures and tourists from all over the world were found at the base!  After meeting up with some friends, we were starved and pick the first over-priced resturant we found and devoured food. It was a long day in cold weather and lots of sights :) 

arc de triomphe

first sight across the river!

          We woke up early Saturday morning to cold and rainy weather which was a slight bummer but oh well, we had new hats to wear anyway.  We visited a Christmas market for adorable gifts and morning coffee.  Took the metro (we're almost city professionals) to the Lourve to see history's finest art.

rain in paris park

Venus de Milo


Mono Lisa
           We proceeded to more casually strolling and found street performers, Norte Dame, and the Seine River.


cold weather!

Norte Dame

Street Vendor with crepes!
        Finally, we returned to the Eiffel tower and waited in line for a chance to ride to the top!  It was sooo high up in the air! We rode a tram to the middle section and then switched to a vertical elevator straight to the top. The view was crazy amazing and since we went a night we got to see the whole city light up in lights! So pretty! We took some quick photos, real quick, because it was freezing and super windy!

waiting in line
view at night!

very top level! freezing!!!

yay! go tops!

so pretty!
        Overall, the city was great to see! Crossed several items off my bucket list.  But it was safe to safe that I was glad to return to Barcelona and its warm weather and friendly citizens :)

happy to be back in spain :)


Spanish people love LOVE love some futbol (soccer).  In Barcelona, you must be a futbol fan, either the Barce team or Espana team.  However, its a well advertised fact that Barca is currently the #1 futbol team in the world.  Naturally, we thought we should check out a game for ourselves and it was well worth it :)  It was a massive stadium filled with very enthusatic fans.  Everyone was sporting a extremely eye catching jerseys and scarfs with lots of yelling and song chanting.  Overall, it was great fun, plus Barca team dominated 4-0.
outside the massive stadium
me and chrissie!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ciao for now!

Off to paris for a long weekend with my roomate Chrissie! We're meeting her sister and her friend in Paris to sightsee for a long weekend.  But first we have to walk to La Garriga..wait for th 4am night bus to barcelona...take the areobus to the to paris... take the shuttle to the city....then find our hotel.  We speak rougly 8 french words between the two of us. Should be interesting! Wish us luck! We will return on sunday! xoxo

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Colegio do SEK Catalunya

       The school SEK is actually a franchise of school first founded in 1892 by an ambitious creator.  Currently, there eight SEK schools all over europe including Finland, Madrid, Germany, and England.  They pride themselved in setting themselves apart from the average school system.  They are all private institutions yet not religion based.  All the SEK schools require uniforms and expensive monthly fees which guarantees the level of "class" and "economy" of the and smart kids. 
        SEK de Catalunya is a great school with a huge campus set right into the side of a mountian.  Majority of students travel over an hour to attend this school.  SEK offers the International Bacculuarte program which a prestigious and rigious course study for juniors and seniors in high school.  Once completing this IB program, the students are fully prepared for any university abroad or local.  SEK de Catulunya also a has huge focus on its students becoming trilingual, all students speak english, spanish, and catalian quite fluently upon graduation.  Class begins roughly around 9:30, but as I mentioned before time is a rather flexible idea in spain, there is a first snack break at 12:30 and then classes until midday lunch and play break from 2-3:300, classes resume after lunch till 5:15 with a small afternoon break.  Most students don't even get home till after six pm.
          An obvious observation one might make about this specific school...lack of doors. Not kidding.  This school was remolded during the 90's when a educational trend about not having doors to encourage movement, free flow of thoughts etc... Basically its get very LOUD.  While the rooms are sectioned off, there is no door in the entrance way, and the walls are all glass so it is easy for others to watch progress.  However, a perk is that teachers feel comfortable leaving students to run quick errands since there is no privacy. Also, each classroom has no less than 8 windows which is a nice luxuery. 

For my fellow educators

Teaching Observations:

Culture: Sometime it is difficult for the outsider to observe a classroom without fully understanding characteristics of the culture. I am having a great time in spain but there are definately large cultural differences that are cleary visible in the classroom. Two obvious differences: volume level and attitudes.
             Firstly, Spanish people are very LOUD and in result...their children are LOUD students. Seriously, the spanish teachers must have selective hearing or are just plain deaf after spending extended amounts of time. My teacher Lorenzo doesn't even seem to notice the volume level with the high school student while I am considering wearing earmuffs. 
            Secondly, the families in Spain have a very different attitude towards teachers.  Families are the clients and education is meant to be catered to the students.  Spanish parents teach an attitude that teaches the students to "watch their own back" "seek first to help themselves".  As a result, it creates a classroom of alpha dominate students that see no point in sharing crayons or slowing down material for a struggling classmate.
             Lastly, while I love observing the teacher inside me is dying to step in and "correct" these differences but I am a guest and more importantly an outsider of their culture.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Typical Day

A typical day at SEK collegio:

- 2:00 am Stayed up way too late with Chrissie skyping our friends due to the extreme time difference

--8:00 am Alarm goes off for school....hit the snooze button repeatedly

--9:00 am Finally get out of bed and scramble to get dressed in a combination of black on black outfits

--9:30 am Rush to the teacher's lounge to find my teacher, Lorenzo

--9:30-11:00am teaching english prep and college exams to various levels of students

--11:00-12:00pm Midmorning break with coffee and sandwiches for teachers and students

--12:00-2:30pm British Culture Classes

--2:30pm Finally the long break in the day for lunch and relaxtion, lunch is digusting, the school is obsessed with making everyone be healthy, this means no salt, sugar, butter, or salad dressings. Ew.

--3:30pm More english classes

--4:10pm Technology classes with the lower levels

--5:15pm School is out!!! Mass exodus of teachers and students alike

--5:30pm school grounds is practically deserted and the students teachers are left to wander and play

--6:00pm Kitchen staff drops off our dinner...which is usually gross, she speaks no english but we managed to explain that boiled fish is gross and that we would like more white bread and pastries.

Evenings Consist of starving and discussing cravings for american food, hiking upward into the mountians, strolling around La Garriga for shopping, ordering pizza, visiting the UK students, facebooking, watching the two channels our television provides us in english, taking a train in barcelona, prepping for tomorrow's lessons, laundy,and a random other activities.

Overall, its an enjoyable time in Espana :)
Balconey view before school in the mornings

We made pbj sandwiches!!!

Chrissie also equally excited about her sandwich

Calmari Salad...Gross

Other gross casseroles

Laundry on the dryers in spain

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving in Espana!

Boys checking the mini chickens

Thanksgiving Dinner


teaching the UK students to square dance
I was worried about being homesick in Spain for Thanksgiving, but it turned out to be a wonderful day overall :)  We organized a huge grocery shopping trip into town for our efforts to find food for a Thanksgiving dinner.  Spain people do not eat turkeys, so we had to settle for three miniture chickens instead.  We invited the 10 UK students to join us. The majority of them had almost no clue what the holiday meant to americans but they were eager to celebrate with us. We chowed on sweet potato casserole, mac & cheese. green beans, corn and much more. We ended then night exchanging dance moves with the UK students, sooo much fun!