October 2016 – First Month of School!

Contrary to popular belief (i.e., if you’ve only read my most recent blog posts and looked at my recent Facebook photos), I am actually teaching here in Spain! I wanted to provide a quick recap of what life is like working at IES Villablanca.

IES stands for Instituto de Educación Secundaria, which essentially means a combined middle and high school. IES Villablanca is a bilingual school. This means different things for kids of different ages, but essentially between 1-4 hours of class per day have to be taught in English.

And that’s where us auxiliars come in handy! I’m one of six English language and culture assistants at IES Villablanca – four of us (Carol, Jake, Scott and I) are from the US, Georgie’s from England, and Leila is from Ireland. While we never work in the same classroom together, we do take our breaks and spend our free periods in the teacher’s lounge together and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them better.

My schedule is a bit unique in that I’m working on an A/B week rotation. During A weeks, I help out with 5 music classes and 11 physical education classes. During B weeks, I still have the same 5 music classes, but I also have 5 prep periods and 6 periods where I’m teaching English literature and history.

In terms of the work itself, it varies greatly. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been asked to talk about Harvard, life in America and growing up in Boston. I’ve also been tasked with teaching a workshop on Greek dancing as well as explaining in detail the different parts of the ear and how one perceives sound. This is precisely what I enjoy, though – the fact that no two days are the same at IES Villablanca.

I’m working with six different teachers and it’s been very interesting to see their unique teaching styles and ways in which they interact with and discipline the children. I’ve also gotten closer to the kids as I spend more time with them. One physical education class already knows my love for Beyoncé, and many students will say hi to me by name in the hallways, which just makes my day. In fact, one student saw me in the metro station near school and ran all the way down the up escalator to say hi to me and tell me about his day.

TGT: I’ve been keeping a journal recently, marking down Three Good Things for each day, so over the past month, some TGTs include:

1) Going on a wonderful hike on the outskirts of Madrid with Jenna and HikingMadrid 2) Having really wonderful and in-depth conversations with my flat-mates about a variety of topics 3) Running in my first race (a 10k, up and down one of the main streets of Madrid!)

Hasta pronto,
~JK

 

Mallorca – A Different Type of Solo Travel

After spending a week in Madrid after my trip through Sevilla/Lagos/Lisbon, I came to the realization that if I wanted to go anywhere else before school started, I’d have to go there by myself (because many friends already had different and overlapping travel plans). I absolutely love the beach/swimming/anything aquatic, so I figured that the Spanish island of Mallorca would be a great (and relatively inexpensive) place to go.

I found discounted Ryanair flights and booked an Airbnb (which actually turned out to be cheaper than any hostel I could find, and more centrally located!) My Airbnb host was a wonderful woman named Patricia who gave me lots of helpful hints for what to do and where to go in Mallorca.

I soon realized, however, that traveling solo and staying in a hostel is incredibly different from traveling solo and staying in an Airbnb. In Mallorca, I was truly, 100% by myself. There was no one with whom I could go to a communal dinner, no one whose plans I could join to explore the city and no one with whom I could strike up a quick conversation.

And as a result, for the first time since crossing the Atlantic, I felt quite a bit of homesickness. I really do credit my wonderful roommates back in Madrid with keeping the homesick feelings at bay during my first few weeks in Spain. I joke that living with 6 other people is kind of like being back in Quincy house again. I love working on my computer in our common area (as opposed to my own bedroom) and it’s so nice to have people to talk to and unwind with at the end of the day.

But even with the twinges of homesickness, I was able to have a blast by myself in Mallorca. I rented a bike during the first few days and was able to follow this incredible beachfront bike path for what must have been about seven miles around the island. I went on a snorkeling day-trip, wandered around the gorgeous cathedral and marveled at the island’s historic castle.

I was craving a bit more adventure, and after checking out TripAdvisor, I saw an ad for a cliff jumping adventure package. To be honest, it looked a bit sketchy (and I wanted to sign up for the next day) so I decided to call to get a better feel for the company. They answered all of my questions and I ended up getting a spot for the next day (probably because this was the middle of the week!) 18 hours later, I was in a van with a driver, and three Swedish tourists and we were off on our adventure.

This turned out to be a remarkable experience. After about an hour drive and 10 minutes of hiking, we arrived at the cliffs. The “smallest” cliffs were about 3m high and the tallest ones we could jump off of were about 10m tall. They started us out slowly – we simply jumped off the cliffs into the water, swam a bit, and then climbed up some rocks to do it again! After a few jumps at each level, we would increase to the next highest cliff. The day ended with a wonderful zip-line across two rock areas (except during this zip-line, you had to jump off into the water halfway through!)

The loneliest parts of the whole trip were when I would wander to find dinner by myself. It wasn’t all bad, though, because when I ordered a whole serving of croquettas I realized I would be eating them all! I also tried a delicious ice cream shop per the recommendation of Patricia and got to watch part of a soccer/fútbol game with some of the island’s locals.

Overall, Mallorca was a beautiful, action-packed trip that showed me what it’s like to truly travel by myself and explore a city on my own.

TGT: 1) Cliff jumping/rock climbing adventure 2) Biking all around the main/touristy parts of the island 3) Touring the inside of the Cathedral

 

Hasta pronto,
~JK