Tuesday, September 29, 2009

First few days in Spain


I had my first day of class yesterday, and it went pretty well. This week we will be learning some Macedonian to better understand what it´s like to learn a foreign language (like I didn´t know what that was like already...). I also picked up the alphabet fairly quickly, and we made name tags for ourselves in Macedonian. There´s a pretty diverse group of people in my class (including another ling major yay!), so it should be a pretty interesting four weeks.

My teaching practice for the first two weeks is at night after class, which means I have mornings free for for a while to do some touring around and study. Technically, since I don´t have to be at my TESOL class until almost 2 pm, I can sleep in and relax in the mornings. Tomorrow I will probably be palnning in the morning, as I will be teaching in the evening. My first clas is a Beginner English class. The people we teach sign up for a month´s worth of classes here at the school, it`s only like 60 Euro something, and they know we are teachers in training, but they still get lots of English education in the mean-time.

This morning I went to La Pedrera, which was amazing. They have all sorts of models set up to show the design, as well as an apartment that was pretty neat to walk through. I got some great pictures of the terrace, and some amazing views of the city from there. Tomorrow, I am thinking about going to a cafe near Sagrada Familia just for a snack afte I finish up teaching. I hear it´s great lit up at night, and I don´t think I really need to go inside, since it`s pretty touristy. There is also a Chocolate Museum which I`ll visit Thursday morning as I tour around more of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.

So far, I have managed to avoid getting lost anywhere. My  tactic is to plan out my trips and check the maps before I leave my flat, and that has been working pretty well. The area around the school is very easy to navigate. The only thing about the streets in Spain, is that the street names aren´t on sign posts, but on buildings on the corner, so they´re a little hard to see at first. The schools is only 3 metro stops from my flat, and a few blocks from Passieg de Gracia (so if I feel like buying some Armani or Chanel right before class, I can....). There´s also some really good little cafes nearby. Yesterday I picked up lunch in one, and ate a "bocate con bacon", which is just some really nice fresh bread, what I think is crushed up tomato that gets spread on every sandwhich every where in Spain, and some ham and bacon. Needless to say, it was incredibly yummy. I also indulged in my default drink here which is cafe con leche. Served with sugar, it´s just simple coffee and milk, but perfect.

I´m glad I get to finally use my Spanish, although, if I didn´t know any I probably wouldn´t need it since Barcelona is such an international city. Still, it´s nice to improve at least my Spanish listening skills, and I´ve been able to use my Spanish in all restaurants, etc so far. I am staying with two other people in a flat. One of  them used to work at the school I am taking my course through and usually has someone from the course stay with her each month, and the other person is an Irish guy who works at HP. They both keep everything super tidy, so that´s a nice change, and also necessary given the space we have. My room is fairly small, but it´s not like I have that much stuff, so it works. I have my own desk in there to study, and the living room is pretty nice to lounge around in.

Well, I think that´s a pretty good update for now. I`ll keep you posted on how teaching goes tomorrow!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Arriving in Barcelona!

Well, I am quite tired of travelling for an entire day, but am in my flat in Barcelona, and already have my suitcases unpacked and feel at home! My two room-mates are very nice, and the pace is only a couple metro stops away from the school I will be taking courses at, so that will be really nice.

As far as how the actual travelling bit went, I will leave you with the following observations:

Apparently, arrows on signs have a different convention here in Spain. What I would interpret as a "down" arrow is what they use to convey "continue forward", which of course greatly confused me as I was trying to  find the check-in kiosk  for my flight. They apparently have multiple check in terminals, and no train, so my 90 minute layover in Madrid turned out to be me searching for where to get my boarding pass for an hour, then literally running through security all to Gate E *81*, but I made it just in time to hop on the plane for Barcelona.

Now I'm here, and we're going out for some entirely far too needed coffee.. Yum yum.

Tomorrow is the first day of class, so I'll try to update you on that.

Nos vemos!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Time's A-ticking!

I can't believe I will be leaving in less than a week! I have pretty much everything ready to go, it's just a matter of completing my packing. I still have to finish some of my homework for my TESOL class. We have a text book How to Teach English (really creative, I know) that we must read the first 6 chapters of, and then answer questions on for completion credit. Some things were a breeze with my linguistics background- parts of speech, phonetics charts, etc. The one thing I am not a huge fan of so far, is the author will say "This might make you seem too ____, but too much of this will also make you seem ___" and doesn't really offer too many ideas for a middle ground. I guess the book is much more about learning your own personal style, and just being aware of how your students might view things, but sometimes it can be a little wishy-washy.

I would really like to take The Grammar Book that I used in my TESOL class at CU, but it's one of those huge, heavy, hard-bound books and I don't think I can justify taking it with me to Europe. It's so weird to have "homework" again. I am so glad I still don't have any on a regular basis. I always did my homework in school but it has certainly been nice not having any the last few months. Definitely something to think about when I decide to go to Grad School. Hopefully, by then I will have had enough of a break that I'll be excited to write essays again! :)

As for preparations, I picked up my Euros today at the bank, and have everything purchased that I need. Now it's a matter of packing my clothes. I pretty much have all of my school supplies ready to go, though, as well as first aid kits, laundry, etc. I didn't realize how much of this stuff I had just lying around until I started looking for it! I will definitely have to clean up my room before I leave, as it's been getting a little messy what with me moving everything around and searching through everywhere.

In other news, I very much enjoyed Talk Like a Pirate Day this Saturday. It was kind of a weird day, because I had to work in the morning, and the servers were down. After that I got home and dressed as a pirate, and enjoyed dinner at Carrie's. I have been joking because my trip to Barcelona fits right in between two of my favorite holidays: Talk Like A Pirate Day and Halloween! Luckily, I will not miss out celebrating either of them! I will leave Saturday, so if you have any specific advice for over-seas vacations, feel free to leave it in the comments!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Prepping for Barcelona, Spain

September 26 draws near, and I have begun preparing for my departure. I have most of my work taken care of, and have instructions written for co-workers to make sure things get done in my absence. I also have a great packing list prepared, thanks to Catherine who found some cute packing list stationary when she was cleaning out her desk.

As far as preparing for Barcelona itself, I spent a good few hours perusing Tourist Guide: Barcelona, which has everything from restaurant recommendations to safety guides. Barcelona is a big city, which is not something I am totally used to. Although I've been to Europe before, and am at least a little more travel weary than others, I wanted to make sure there weren't special things to watch out for. After reading their safety precautions, I am not too worried. I plan to avoid most of the "touristy" places anyways, and on my spare time I intend to be traveling with fellow classmates instead of by myself. As long as I dress appropriately and am aware of the people around me, I should avoid most of the pitfalls most tourists find themselves in.

My primary purpose in going to Barcelona is to receive my Trinity TESOL certification, but obviously, to also experience Spanish culture. This includes eating some yummy stuff! Thanks to the website mentioned above, I have the names and addresses of some really good tapas places. I can even mark them out on a map and plan out my metro trips before hand, which is a plus. Anyone who knows me knows I can get lost, but if I pay attention and do my research I do pretty well on my own. The site includes some great tips on what to do at a traditional tapas restaurant, as well as what not to do.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Seattle and Chicago: Food Post

I didn't have room in my last post to go over all the amazing foods and such I experienced on my last vacation, which is what this post is for!

First up, is Seattle. If you're like me and from a land-locked state, fresh sea food is always a novelty. We ate at the Crab Pot and ordered one of the "Feasts". Yes, the food was just like it sounds. They basically bring out a bowl of fresh sea food boil with Cajun spices. Our bowl included two types of crab, shrimp, clams, potatoes and mussels. It was delish! We were each given the following items to prepare for our meal: 1 Bib; 1 wooden block and gavel to crush our crab; lots of butter. It was a blast. I have a new-found appreciation for everyone who has to prepare shrimp from scratch. Mine was already cooked, so it wasn't that hard to take the head and legs and such off, but it was a lot closer to the "animal" than I usually get in cooking. Smashing the crab legs up was certainly a lot of fun though. I, of course, sent little pieces of crab flying everywhere because I'm clumsy like that.

We also had some amazing food at Pike's market. They have a cheese shop and we could see them making it right there. Their macaroni and cheese, of course, was superbly awesome!

The last day we were there we went to Ivar's, which is where everyone my family goes to every time they're in Seattle. Instead of eating in the restaurant, we just got ours "to-go" and ate outside. We basically stood in line for a few minutes and then got to shout our order to the cooks. We got some yummy fish and chips, and of course, the classic Ivar's clam chowder. So YUMMY! Seriously, their chowder is the best I've ever had and if I lived in Seattle it would be bad for me because I'd go there for lunch all the time! In case you couldn't tell, I am recommending this place for anyone who plans to visit Seattle. :)