Monday, October 19, 2009

Then Will the Eyes of the Blind be Opened and the Ears of the Deaf Unstopped

Last night I was up until 4 AM talking on skype with Aaron and Eddie. I had to be up around 8 for work but I was having such a great time that I didn't really care. I had a great time catching up with those guys and I definitely miss all that laughing.

So speaking of the job, this is where I update you on that situation. As most of you know, I am an English teaching assistant in a public elementary school. My school is called C.E.I.P. Antonio Machado and it is located in Majadahonda which I've talked about before so MOVING ON. The schools are bilingual so about 50% of their classes are given in English. Science and English are both taught in English so those are the classes that I assist at my school. I work mostly with 1st and 2nd graders but I have 3 hours a week with 3rd graders. Going into this program I wasn't sure how I was going to do with little kids but so far it has been awesome. I was pretty nervous that they weren't going to really like me but I think I've done an OK job of at least keeping their attention. I'm hoping as I get more comfortable teaching them that I will be able to make things more fun and figure out the ways that they enjoy learning.

One of my first days on the job we were going through the five senses in the science book and I ended up trying to contain my laughter while the teacher was giving the lesson because of what was in the book.

This is the introduction to the section about sight. As you can see there are a couple of pictures to illustrate.

So that's all good, but then all of a sudden you continue to look at the pictures and you come across this example:

Now... does anyone see anything wrong with that picture?? I thought that was so funny. What would possess someone to choose THAT picture to illustrate the caption "I can see where I am walking"?

As far as the specifics of my job go, they vary from class to class and from day to day. This week I am actually leading all of the 1st grade classes that I would normally be assisting because their teacher is out of town at a conference. That's been a challenge because I still don't feel like I'm a very good teacher, but it went well today. Most of the time I just follow the regular teacher's lead and help with pronunciations of words or help the kids know what to do.

The reason they bring us to the schools is so that the students can hear a native speaker and learn about their culture. The hope is also that it will encourage the students to speak in English. We are supposed to pretend that we don't understand any Spanish because the second the kids find out we understand it, they'll never attempt to speak to us in English since it's so difficult. This causes a lot of problems for me. The kids don't know enough English to communicate most of their ideas so they just say them all in Spanish and I have to decide whether to ignore them or answer them in English in the hopes that it won't register that I just understood their Spanish. So far it has worked out but some of the 2nd graders began to catch on because I was answering too many of the things they were saying in Spanish so I had to back it off a little bit. It's such a difficult thing because a lot of times I really want to just speak to them in Spanish because they're pretty cute and I hate having to just look at them with a dumb look on my face.

Some of the parents really want their kids to learn English well so they hire us assistants to come their homes and spend an hour or so tutoring their children. It's great practice for the kids and nice for us to get the extra money. I had my first tutoring experience today and it was a lot of fun. I went to this family's apartment and spent an hour just hanging out with the student, talking and playing hangman.

Well after having such a late night last night I'm going to stop here so I can actually get some decent sleep.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Big Trouble in Little Canada

After reading my last post I'm realizing how much has happened that I need to share since last time. Every week is like a year right now because I can look back on what I wrote and feel like I'm already in such a different place as I get more settled.

I think I should dedicate at least one paragraph of this post to acknowledging the fact that I serve a very real and loyal God. Some of you read the note that I posted on facebook over the summer in which I basically confessed all of the fears that I was experiencing about trying to prepare for Spain. I was unsure how I was going to pay for a plane ticket, I was behind on applying for my VISA, I had no idea how I was going to be able to support myself for the first month here until they start paying me, I had no idea where I was going to live and most importantly I had no idea how I was going to watch the Redskins. In the note I talked about how I felt like God was telling me that Spain was the right thing and I wanted to make the decision to trust Him with taking care of the details. Almost immediately after posting that note things began to fall into place for me in some pretty miraculous ways. For example, I had to be fingerprinted in order to apply for the VISA and that process was supposed to take 7-10 days. I think I got the fingerprints back in the mail within about 2 or 3 days and I was able to apply for the VISA that same week. Also, I had to wait longer than I wanted to before I could buy a plane ticket so I was worried it was going to cost an arm and a leg. Through a series of fortunate events I was able to get a roundtrip ticket for $260. I have never seen anything like that before. I think I could go back and look at every single step I had to take to make this trip possible and it was as if I had some supernatural help the entire way.

The other thing I talked about in my note on facebook was my fear about my friendships here in Spain. In the States I found myself very blessed in the people that I had around me. I had great community at home and at school, and I felt like I was being filled in a lot of ways. I was pretty nervous about giving that up and coming to a post-church country where Christ has very little relevance to people outside of their religious traditions. Well, I think I've explained before on this blog that the day I arrived I was introduced to a girl my age that was attending a great church, called Amistad Cristiana, in downtown Madrid. I landed here on a Friday and that Sunday I called her up and we went to Amistad together. While at church that day I met a girl that lives in my neighborhood and her and I have since ridden the metro to church together and have met up a couple of times to grab some food in our "barrio". So I already have my foot in the door with a great church community which is awesome. But it gets better. Even though I now have the connections at Amistad, I've actually been spending most of my time with some of the other auxiliars that I met at orientation. One of them lives very close to me so we often end up riding the metro together. One night after hanging out with everyone we were heading home and our conversation somehow ended up on the topic of Christ and it became apparent that it was something we had in common. So we were talking about that for a little bit and then we had to transfer to a different line. As we were walking to the next line I heard a couple of guys speaking English and my friend said she recognized one of them from orientation. So I struck up a conversation with one of the guys and he was telling us that he has been in Madrid for about a year now and as we were talking he casually mentioned something about a church that he goes to. I asked him about it and he told us he goes to Oasis, which is an English speaking church that meets on Saturday nights that I had actually heard about from a few different places. He and the other guys had just come from there. Considering my friend and I had just been talking about that stuff we were both convinced that it was more than just a chance encounter. I'm not sure exactly why we met him in the metro that night but I can say that there have been few times in the past that I have felt God moving so strongly around me. My specific prayer in my facebook note was that I would find a good community of friends while I am here in Madrid and so far it has felt like everywhere I've turned I've found His people around me and that is not exactly common here. I told a friend who has been here for 4 years about that and she told me that it is very rare to find Christians here, especially among Americans. I feel like I really had to share all of this as a bit of an update to that facebook note. I want to say thanks to anyone who saw that note and prayed for me. I hope God can use these examples as a way to show how well He really does care for us when are willing to put our faith in Him and do things that scare us.

Oh, and as far as the Redskins go... although I´ve found ways of watching all the games it turns out they aren´t really worth watching this year anyway.

So, just to fill you in on some of the things that I've been doing:

We had a 4-day weekend this week because today (Monday) was a big holiday in Spain. It is based on Columbus discovering the Americas just like in the States but it means something more here. That was the beginning of Spain's rise to power in the world so the holiday is basically all about celebrating being Spanish. Since we had so many days off we decided to take some day trips into some of the smaller towns around Madrid. Saturday we went to El Escorial and today we went to Alcalá de Henares which is the town where Cervantes was born.

Sunday was the weirdest day of the weekend because we celebrated Thanksgiving. Some of our auxiliar friends are Canadian and the Canadian Thanksgiving happens in October because Canadians are strange and they have strange customs. We had a big turkey dinner at one of their apartments and it was actually very fun and we had some great food. Whenever we're all together we have some funny conversations about some of the differences between our countries, but in reality I think that we all realize we are pretty much the same. It's like, if you have a sibling, you might argue with them when you're at home, but when Mom and Dad drag you to a stranger's house and they have weird kids, your sibling becomes your best friend. It's like that between the US and Canada while we're in Spain.

Friday night my friends invited me to go to a concert to see a group called Giulia y los Tellarini. If you have seen the movie Vicki Christina Barcelona, they sing the main song on the soundtrack. I knew they weren't going to be my kind of music but they were pretty cool to see live. The pleasant surprise was that they opened for another group called La malarazza. These guys were AMAZING. They put on a great show with a ton of energy. The guy who plays sax in the band did some ridiculous solos. It was really one of the more memorable concerts I've ever been to.

Ok, so I need to update you on teaching but it is getting very late and I have to work in the morning so it will have to wait until next time but there is a lot to tell there. For now I hope that is a good enough update. I'm starting to miss everyone from home so I'll expect at least a 2 week visit from each of you.


*Pictures: 1) Giulia y los Tellarini performing. 2) Scott Van Pelt on guitar and Hugh Laurie on trumpet anyone? 3) La malarazza doing their thing. 4) Those are some of the greatest hats I've ever seen. 5) El Escorial is in the middle of some really awesome mountains. I'm pretty determined to go hiking on them one day. 6) This is Alcalá and they were basically having a Renaissance Fair and the streets were way too crowded. 7) Suddenly Don Quixote appeared being led by a band of bagpipers. That was a strange experience.