Friday, November 29, 2013

Not so traditional Thanksgiving

Leading up to Thanksgiving, I was completely dreading the day. All I could think about was that it was Thanksgiving and I wouldn't be home to celebrate it. When Thanksgiving finally arrived, it didn't feel like it was a holiday. I went to school like every other day, but the teachers made an effort to incorporate Thanksgiving into the day. 

Every morning, the students pray to start their day. Instead of the Lord's Prayer, they found a Thanksgiving prayer and recited it for their morning prayer. My teacher asked me to have a conversation with my 6th graders about what Thanksgiving was and what it meant to Americans. Luckily, my boys are patient because I had to stop a few times to keep myself from crying. They were very interested in the holiday and had tons of questions for me!

The school prepared a "Thanksgiving" lunch for us. I have no idea where the received their information because the only thing that was typical Thanksgiving was the turkey and gravy. They also served home fries, a vegetable lasagna, and rice pudding. Though it wasn't a typical Thanksgiving meal, I was thankful that they tried to make an effort for us!

Shannon and her host family decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner for a few of us and their friends. However, dinner was not until 9:00pm (In Spanish culture, the adults usually eat at 9 or later at night). Before dinner, Brittany and I decided to spend time with each other. We walked back to the soccer stadium to get pictures of the training facility and house. 

We walked around the entire stadium in order to find the training house, but it was too dark. We could hardly see it. We happened upon the Barca museum. We could see statues and a billboard that we wanted pictures of. The gates were opened, but there was security everywhere so we casually walked through like we never where we were going and that we belonged there. Unnecessary measures, I'm sure! When we got closer to the stadium we got caught in the middle of some of Barca's new recruits running during their practice.  Barca recruits boys between the age of 10 and 12 to start in their program. Many join Barca's team or another European team when they get older. Some here said that about 14 of the 16 players came through the training program.  (don't fact check me on those numbers, I can't remember exactly. If was way over half of the team!) 

As we were leaving, everyone else in the area started heading towards a large charter bus. At first I assumed it was a tour group, but everyone started recording and taking pictures. Then I finally noticed the television crew. I started freaking out on the inside. "Was this Barca's team? Is this really happening?" Of course, I was struck down to Earth real quick. I realized that it was the soccer team. I didn't recognize anyone. Barca has a B soccer team and basketball team. Judging by the height, I assume it was the basketball team. 

Fast forward to dinner......

There were 9 people there for dinner. It was really great company. All of the Spanish people were so excited to experience their first thanksgiving. They all had lots of questions for us. When dinner finally began, Marc, the host father wanted everyone to go around the table to say what they were thankful for. I knew there was going to be some waterworks. I knew exactly what I was thankful for, but having to say it aloud was going to be hard. Finally my turn came around and just as I expected, the tears came.

I am thankful for my family back at home. I am thankful to have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving in Barcelona. With graduation quickly approaching, I am thankful for my education.

After that, dinner was great! 

We all laughed and shared interesting facts about our homes and lives. At the request of the Spanish guests, the Americans sang the National Anthem.  Acapella. Horribly. We could hardly keep from laughing to get through the song. After dinner, we danced the night away. For a few hours, I was able to forget how homesick and sad I was. It wasn't home, but it definitely felt like home. 

Barca, Barca, Baaaarrrrrrcccccaaaaa!

I am a little behind on posts so I am going to try to check up on some things that I have done!

Last weekend, I went to the FC Barcelona soccer game against Grenada.  It was seriously the most fun I have ever had at a sporting event. The soccer stadium is about a 20 minute walk from my house. Shannon, Brittany, and I left a few hours early and luckily we did. Almost 100,000 people all trying to get to the same place is hectic. It was a massive sea of people dressed in navy blue, red, and yellow! We finally approached the stadium and it is completely breathtaking. I knew it was the largest European soccer stadium, but it is hard to imagine just how big it was. 

It is simply impossible to get a good photo from the outside. However, the inside was easier and quite frankly more astonishing!

We got lucky and found 3 seats next to each other in a really good location. Slowly, the stadium started to fill up and you could feel the energy starting to rise. I had never been so excited in my life! 

The game finally started and it was the most exciting two hours of my life. The game kicked off with Barca's song that everyone sang and clapped along. The song definitely amplified the energy and helped get things started. The game was intense and the crowd was even more intense. Though I didn't see a fight in the crowd, a player was ejected from the game in a dramatic fashion! I wish I could upload videos to show some of the crowd's reactions! They were priceless. There is no denying how loyal and the level of compassion that Barca fans have about their team! Though the game was intense, Barca won 4-0. In soccer world, I suppose that is considered an easy win, but the crowd never faltered. You would have thought it was a tied game the entire time. I would love to see a game against their rival, Real Madrid. I bet that would be unbelievably crazy! I couldn't believe how fast the game ended. I didn't realize that it was over, it only felt like halftime! At the end of the game, everyone walked in the street (which was not closed off to traffic), but no one seemed to have a care in the world! I couldn't stop smiling and talking about for the rest of the night.

I am now and will forever be a Barca fan. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rain, Rain Go Away!

According to everyone in Barcelona, it rarely rains. If it does rain, it is only for an hour or two at the most. This weekend, it rained for three days straight. Despite the rain, we decided to explore the city. 

On Friday, we went to the Mont Magica (Magic Fountain). They have a few shows with music and lights to go along with the waterso we decided to check it. We though the fountain was in front of the Castle at Montjuic, but we were wrong. Very wrong. The castle at Montjuic stands at the top of the mountain. The fountain was at the bottom. We went four metro stops past our location. On the map, we noticed that we could get to the fountain by a cable car so we went to the cable cars only to find out it stops running at 6. It was 6:15. I decided to use a map that we found posted on the side of the street. I took a picture of it with my phone and decided to test some of my navigation skills. During our walk, we could see the all of the city from the mountain.
This picture does not even begin to capture the unbelievable view! 
Luckily, I inherited some of my Dad's navigation skills because I got us to the fountain after a 20 minutes walk. We had to wait a few minutes for a new show to start. The first show used English songs and the second show used Spainish songs. The fountain shows were amazing! 

On Saturday, Brittany and I decided to take a double decker tour bus around the city since it was rainy and cold. The tour bus literally took us to every monument and notable location in Barcelona. The pictures didn't turn out great because of the rain. I will post some when I return to these locations on a day with better weather. 

On Sunday, we went to the City History Museum. There were artifacts dating back to the Roman city of Barcino. Underneath the museum are the remains of the Roman ruins of Barcino. It was the coolest thing I have ever seen. The elevator took us down and we got to walk through the ruins that they found.

A model of Barcino

Unfortunately, my adventures in the cold rain have lead to a cold. Hopefully I will be better by Saturday for the FC Barcelona soccer game!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

First Day at School

We arrived on Monday morning, 7:20 to be exact. The first day was rough. I was tired because I couldn't sleep much on the plane. I suppose I experienced some culture shock. We received a lot of information at one time. It was hard to adjust to not understanding the people and signs around the city. Though I am able to navigate, it was uncomfortable not being able to read an advertisement, a sign in the market, or have a simple conversation with a cashier. I was feeling homesick. I was a little emotional which our coordinator said was a symptom of the jet lag. Though I am still feeling homesick today, I am not as emotional as yesterday. The food is quite different here. I haven't had anything that I haven't liked, which is good!

Today (Tuesday) was the first day at school and it was a long one. In Spain, students go to school from 9:00 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. They have a mid-morning break for a snack and a longer lunch period. When we arrived at school, we had an orientation with some of the administration at school. We went on a tour of the school. I still got lost...multiple times. The school has four stories and has two separate wings (one for boys and one for girls). I only met two of my classes today. The first class is an Advanced English class for Juniors in high school. I will be tutoring in this class for one hour every Tuesday to help them prepare for their exit exam (which is equivalent to our AP exams in high school). I simply have conversations with them to help improve their speaking abilities.  The second class I met today was 5C, which is one of my regular classes. This class was 5th grade boys. In Spain, the boys and girls are separated at school. They believe that you must teach boys and girls very differently in the classroom. In Reial Monestir de Santa Isabel (RMSI), the girl's classes are labeled A/B and the boys are labeled C/D. The boys in 5C are very loud and wild. There are 28 of them in all. They were all very curious about me and where I come from. I felt like I was in an interrogation room. Though they are wild and loud, they are super sweet and welcoming.

  After school, I went to the city center with 2 other American teachers. We didn't get to stay long, but it was beautiful! There were many shops and restaurants. In the middle of town, there is a large fountain surrounded by beautiful statues. I can't wait to go back and explore more!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The BIG countdown is coming to an end!

Wow! I can't believe that I am leaving for Barcelona in 2 days! I have been thinking about this trip for months. I can hardly believe that it it finally approaching.

I am a big ball of emotions right now. I am so excited that it is finally here! I am sad to be leaving the teachers and sweet students at Oakland Elementary.  You don't realize how attached you will get to get students in such a short amount of time. I am nervous that I will forget to bring something important or do something that offends their culture. I am worried that I will get homesick because this is the longest period of time I will have ever been away from my family and friends. I definitely don't want to say goodbye to my parents, sister, and fiancĂ©. I am happy to finally fulfill my dream of traveling to Europe! I feel like I am on a roller coaster of emotions right now.

I am a bit overwhelmed with trying to pack my suitcase and keep it under the 50 pound limit. I have to constantly ask myself, "Do I really need this?" and "Can I buy this there?" I will have my fingers crossed that my suitcase meets the limit. #problemsofahabitualoverpacker