Blog,  Travel

España: A Kid at Heart

Weeks 23, 24, 25 & 26

March 2018

The month of March has flown by in a whirl of wacky weather and wonderful wandering. Every weekend in March besides the first was spent on a getaway. The second weekend of March my roommate and I went to Madrid for a night. To take advantage of the rainy weather– and actually get the chance to do something– we museum hopped for two rainy days in the capital. Then one of my best friends from home visited me! We took a long weekend to the Canary Island of Tenerife. We soaked in the sun on black sand beaches and watched the rough waves crash against the volcanic rock shore. The last weekend of March started our Semana Santa vacation. So for that week I went to southern France! What packed weekends of color and excitement. But the week days, while repetitive, had bursts of color and excitement too.

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For that only weekend I was home in my charming city of Córdoba, it was raining. It rained for three weeks straight. No lies here and no let up– three full weeks of nothing but rain. Of course it varied from the sprinkling drizzle, to howling downpours but, all the same, I wore the same black boots and green rain jacket every day. I had wanted to take a day trip to Seville that first weekend. (Considering it’s the closest city to us and has gorgeous sights, it’s hard to believe I haven’t visited it yet.) But in Andalucía, most sights are outside to take advantage of the mild winters and hot summers. So it’s really no fun to see the gardens and patios in the rain and cold.

In all honestly, I love the rain. I love when everything is glistening despite the gloomy clouds. The trunks of the tree stain dark with water and the lime green of the leaves contrast the rich browns.

But in Spain, there is not as much flora. The towns are all made of white buildings stacked side by side and the streets and side walks are gray. The rain casts a shadow and makes everything here becomes a black and white water color painting. The cold weather means no window boxes are out to break up the washed out scenes with a bit of green. Even my city doesn’t have too much green. But there are orange trees and palms sprinkled around Córdoba and some parks too, here and there.

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What has surprised me about the climate here is that winter doesn’t mean dead and dry, it means alive and humid. As I rode in my carpool to and from Córdoba for school, the well known landscape was changing. Winter here means that there is water and nothing gets cold enough to truly freeze. The fields of dry brush have flourished into picture perfect fields of grass. The weeds bloomed and grew on the sides of the road and the olive trees stood perkier. The rain freshened up the views of the usually dusty landscape.

With so much rain, I spent my first weekend hanging with friends and relaxing. I continued to draw and paint watercolors and I am now working on a picture of the beloved mezquita. I am trying to capture Córdoba in art.

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What makes living in Córdoba so grand is the company I get to keep. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights I didn’t eat dinner alone. Versions of the gang got together for dinner to enjoy good food and drink. On Friday night the gals of my apartment made Hungarian pizza or langos. There’s no sour cream to be found in Spain so Belinda and Kelsey whipped up a chunky, yet edible, version of sour cream.

On Saturday, Jane and I went to two art museums. I am completely enamored with Córdoba painter Julio Romero de Torres. His stunning portraits of Córdoba women had me enraptured. All of his painting have a similar style in rich red and perfect blacks. His paintings glisten with oil paint in layers upon layers of careful strokes. Jane was the ideal companion who appreciates art just as much as me. Plus she helped translate the Spanish placards and gave colorful commentary.

We laughed our way through the slick coated squares of Córdoba taking silly pictures and slow motion videos of opening umbrellas. We met up with another friend and ducked into a breakfast place when it started to torrential downpour. We warmed our wet limbs with tea and coffee. And I filled my stomach with a decadent crepe.

Both Devinne and Kelsey left for the States at the end of March so we had an excuse to go out to dinner Saturday night. We couldn’t stand to part so early so off for some beers and potato wedges we went. Returning to our apartment, we discovered some things about what’s free on Spanish television late at night.

On Sunday a ray of sunshine cast a bright glow over the city. I joined up with some friends for a trip to the pastry shop and got some carrot cake. Nothing screams spring to me as much as a rich carrot cake. We enjoyed the sun knowing it couldn’t last. We sat on a ledge overlooking the bridge and basked like cats on a window sill. Wandering without a path, we took pictures and talked. How truly Spanish of us. We even stopped for churros con chocolate when it reached five. No one likes to cook alone so we all traveled to the only grocery store open on Sundays and bought fajitas supplies. We cut and fried up some veggies and watched Matt make blood sausage with disgusted looks. Because who buys sausage for fajitas?

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Even though I knew the nice weather couldn’t last, I denied it with extreme optimism. I didn’t have my umbrella with me when leaving Patrick’s piso and it was pouring. Yet it didn’t matter with my face warm from my drink of Canary Island honey rum mixed with cider. I was flushed with the positive energy of friendship, lingering vibes of good conversation, and a full belly.

One of the Kids

I pride myself on being the young and fun teacher of the school. And it tends to show when I don’t actually have to be a teacher. When there are celebrations at school, I become just one of the kids. I am in my element. I have no shame and I delight in being able to chase third grade students across the yard or make a fool of myself while dancing to my absolutely no music. Even as the other teachers stand in their huddles and talk among themselves.

Día de Andalucía was the last day of February (a Wednesday) but our school celebrated it on the Tuesday before. All of the sixth grades students ran and set up all these games for the entire school– it was so cute! There was a darts throwing game, two legged races, sack races, and other running games. Even on that overcast, coldly day, it couldn’t stop them from competing with enthusiasm. After a couple two legged races with some of my young chicks, I went to see the commotion in the middle of the playground.

King of the mountain had gathered quite the crowd of students from third grade to sixth grade. On a wooden bench that looked like a church pew, two students attempted to push each other off and onto the one of the mats surrounding the “mountain.” The line to become King was wrapped around the edge of the mats, students waiting and watching who might become their rival. As soon as I started looking curious, the students immediately yelled my name and made me get in line. Well, I got to cut in the front of the line but no one minded. I made a real show of getting ready to mount the bench, rubbing my hands, stretching, and jumping up and down. Once my slippery boots were planted on that bench I pretended to be afraid and I hid my face as a fourth grader– who only came up to my belly button– attempted to push me off. Let’s just say I was Queen of the mountain and defeated many a giggly student.

On the actual Día de Andalucía, we got a day off of school. The rainy weather “kept” me inside. I did laundry that I then hung in various places around the apartment because don’t have a dryer. We have an outside clothesline out the window and it’s very romantic. But not ideal when it’s raining for weeks on end and you live on the fourth floor and have a slight fear of heights and you have to lean out the window to hang clothes on flimsy lines. With my damp clothes all around, Hailey and I then planned our trip to France for spring break!

With all this rain, recess was sometimes inside during the month of March. One day I somehow ended up watching my fifth grade students during recess. After finishing our lesson, the bell rang and my teacher left to get coffee. I couldn’t just leave them by themselves, so I stuck around. It was good at first as they pulled out chess and checkers and set to playing a quick game.

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They begged me to put on some music. I obliged and when they asked if they could choose the song, I said “No, I’m going to play American music.” My “foreign” American music was popular songs they already knew all the lyrics to. They started dancing and doing that side hip flossing move that every young person is trying to master. But before I knew what was happening they started dancing on the tables! I waved my arms and it wasn’t hard to convey a look of shock and disbelief. “Get down!” I said with a frown and finger pointing to the floor. “What is happening?” I thought as more students clambered up onto their desks. “What have I done? Did I encourage this?” The answers to those questions are obviously “I have no idea,” I don’t know,” and “No, these kids are just crazy.” It’s hard to disapprove when I would have done the same thing if I was their age and the main teacher had left the room. But really?

Semana Santa Ready

The Weeks Before Spain’s Holy Week

The two weeks proceeding our spring break for Semana Santa meant one thing: Jesus. The students here have religion class a couple times a week and it was their religion class’s time to shine (and for good reason). The main hallway of the first floor was decorated with posters of Semana Santa‘s from the past couple years. Students also made mini pasos or floats with scenes depicting the Passion of Christ or the Sorrows of Mary. They were incredible and I really enjoyed seeing what the students created to display.

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One of my best friends from home came and visited me during her spring break. I still had school so she explored Córdoba on her own and then I joined her in the evening and made her try some of my favorite Spanish food. It was a bit of a hassle, but I managed to get some of my classes switched around so we could take a long week to the island.

It was a short three day week for me before going off to warmer, less rainy weather after getting to be a tour guide in my favorite city of Córdoba. The week after coming back was full of last minute exams and strong instrumental music. During recess instead of playing the usual too loud obnoxious American pop music, they played, equally loud but less obnoxious, classical compilations. This music got me pumped up, let me tell you. The strong trumpets and whining strings made me want to march down the street holding candles like canes.

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The excitement didn’t stop there however. Coloring pages artfully colored with the Passions of the Christ decked the walls. The halls constantly smelled like incense. And of course we can’t forget the variety of Semana Santa specific desserts: pestiños, torrijasborrachuelosloshornazos (de Jaén), and buñuelos. Easter never tasted so sweet.

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Because I missed class on Monday to travel back from Tenerife, I went to school the Friday before break. And good thing because I would have missed out on the free dessert. Plus it was a fun day! In class I talked about Easter in the US and did many Easter holiday games, vocabulary and coloring sheets. I had them all racing like chicks and hopping like bunnies. From first grade through sixth grade, it was so sweet. No age can resist a little friendly competition.

After racing like chicks with hands grabbing ankles across the gym floor, I put my bunny ears up and used my best teacher voice and said “Bunnnyy saysssss…” We hopped, wrinkled our noses, and wiggled our tails. When I said, “Bunny says hug your neighbor,” my fourth grade class couldn’t contain themselves and we all fell on the floor in massive bunny pile instead.

I think one of the joys of being a teacher is being able to be young again. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that these young chicks can have fun in your presence and include you like one of their own. It’s the little things in life that can make it the sweetest (maybe even better than dessert!). I’m truly a kid at heart and it’s never been more obvious than this past month. It’s something that I know these kids will appreciate in years to come. Even if they don’t remember all the little things, I’m hoping I’ll be able to leave a positive impression on a little bit of their primary school experience.  There is no harm in being one of the kids and you might discover you enjoy it.

Happy Travels-

Signature with Gray


8_My Expat Files_ A Kid at Heart, Cordoba Spain

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