Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How do you know when it's fall in Spain?

(First of all i'm able to post this in the middle of a Wednesday because we stayed home from school today because there was a strike. My town is too small for a manifestation where people actually hold signs and shout and stuff, the closest was in Vigo I think, but my sister and I just caught up on sleep and hung out at home. I must admit I don't fully understand how my sleeping in will help education reform, but okay.)

Also this title should really be "How do you know when it's fall in Marín?/in Amy's host family's house" but the more general Spain sounded better.

Being away from home when seasons change is a weird feeling.

The official start of autumn may have been back on September 22, but there wasn't a visible change other than on the calendar. However, by now I'm starting to notice some differences from the past couple weeks. 

1) My window fogs up in the mornings (and I draw hearts on it). (I only notice on weekends though, since on school days it's still dark when I get up).

2) The naval academy uniforms switch to black. This one is very specific to Marin. I don't know if I've said this, but the Spanish Naval Military School is situated here. This means that when walking around town you're likely to see small groups of uniformed men and some women out and about. Earlier, they always wore white, but now with cooler weather they wear a (presumably warmer ) black uniform. I haven't gotten any pictures though so these are from online.
not my photo, but this is the summer look

again not my photo and but these are the black uniforms. or dark blue maybe.

3) The scarves come out.  Yay winter clothes shopping!

4) Hedgehogs also also appear. apparently the dog food bowl is a warm and provides tasty meal (seems reasonable if you like dog food).

5) It's voting season here, too. Just a couple differences I've seen is how the candidates advertise themselves. I'm not sure why but instead of one big poster of their face and name, they fill up the same size with lots of little faces. And there are cars with speakers on top that just drive around announcing political news like voting dates or promoting a candidate.

sorry for the poor quality, but you can see what i'm talking about

again poor quality but see the speakers on top? this was just driving past my house, so the big gate bars were blocking the view.

6) The weather changes. More rain- maybe 40% of the time (I just made that statistic up). There are still sunny days though, and often it will drizzle in the morning and clear up by afternoon. This might seem like a negative to some people, but I like rain. Probably because from Texas it still seems like a drought is miraculously being cured whenever I see rain even though here one obviously doesn't exist. And it's just so peaceful and soothing

The fog fills up the valley so I can barely see the town and none of the river or mountains beyond. It's a strange feeling, like the house is being wrapped in a (somewhat chilly) blanket. One of my favorite things is watching clouds float down to eye level from my window since I'm on the hill. Oh yeah have I mentioned it's really hilly here? Well it is.

7) The water bottle doesn't go in the fridge. It's the details that count right? We keep a big water bottle to pour water from in the fridge- or we did in the summer. Now it's cooler and water is fine at room temperature so it can stay on the counter. No picture for this one (since it would just be a water bottle... on a counter. yay.)

[Edit: maybe I was too hasty in assuming a picture of a water bottle on a counter would be boring. You can decide for yourself.

8) Halloween. Just like at home, the supermarkets here fill up with costumes and jack-o-lanterns. Well, it's just half an aisle, but it's still a lot considering they don't even really celebrate it. This j, but here the real holiday is Samhain or All Saints Day which I don't know how is celebrated (yet).

 This coming weekend I'm going to Ponferrada for an AFS orientation and I'm really excited!  It'll be great to see kids in some of the other cities and catch up since Madrid and I know it's going to be super fun.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wish I Had a Better Title But It's About School

Hello my chummly wummlies,

(don't question why I'm adressing you all as infants in Great Britain. or why that is how I assume infants in Great Britain are adressed. All of them, even the ones in Wales).

Anyways. This is just getting embarrassing and I haven't even written the actual post. Today I'm going to talk about School in Spain. Yippee.

To start on a semi-logical note, the first day of school was exactly 4 weeks ago.  That day we only went for about an half hour to get our schedule and meet our class. I was in the wrong class for 25 out of the 30 minutes we were there, finally a teacher realized i was in the wrong place and spoke some spanish and sent me somewhere else, where I copied my schedule off a board, all in spanish/galician abbreviations and written fast so I had know idea what it meant. I was in the right class in the last two minutes, just enough time for everyone to stare at me and the teacher to make them say Hola to their new American compañera and then leave. Talk about a good start. 

So for the next two days I went another class and started to settle in a bit. I explained to all my teachers that I don't speak much spanish and I'm from Texas USA and so on. The only problem was that I was in a technical drawing class, meaning I wasn't in the biology track like I wanted, I was in the engineering track which I most definitely did not want. So my host dad came inside the second morning to talk to the secretary and get me where I should have been. Turns out, that first class from the first day that I had to switch from? That was the right class all along. And the worst part of school is when you're the new kid and don't know anyone and also even if you wanted to you don't know the language so that's not very fun, and I got to do that twice. Right as I was learning the names of my class and finding someone to copy notes from I switched and had to start all over. (Also the school secretary was definitely really annoyed with me because I literally had to talk to him about some problem every single day that first week. Where was I supposed to go?, Can you put in the other class?, Where is that?, Oops I lost the important paper that says I switched classes can you give me another?, What class is starting now? It was bad). 

This is what I scribbled of my schedule that first day. I had NO CLUE what any of it meant.
me that first day....

Anyways, some of my normal routine: I wake up at 7:30. My dad drives me and my sister to school at 8:15, it starts at 8:30. and we get out at 3 mondays and wednesdays and at 2 tuesday, thursdays, and fridays.  My schedule varies every day- some classes I have 4 times a week, others twice. They're only 45 minutes long (that's something good about block schedule- having sat through 1.5 hours per class last year makes even really boring classes i can't understand seem to go pretty quickly).

Matematicas (math): It's not that bad, so far we are doing things I learned in Algebra 2 so I can keep up. However, math is NOT the universal language. Long division is done differently here and the symbols in an equation are different and decimal points and apostrophes are switched and it makes things quite confusing. (i.e. " 1,000 ÷ 4.5 " is written "1.000 : 4'5 " ).  Not to mention I don't know how to say "take the cube root of one ninth and subtract it from both sides" in Spanish. The thing I most dislike about this class is that I start my day with it 4 out of 5 mornings.

Lengua y Literatura (Castellano, aka Spanish): It's like English class, but in Spanish. (my describing skills are just top notch, aren't they?)

Atencion Educativa (literally educative attention): it's like a study hall. you sit in class and work on homework or study or just sit there etc.

Ingles (English): I'm so good at this class. Except not really because apparently Great Britain has some weird grammar issues they should immediately deal with. For example you would not say, "I live in Example Street, USA." it is "I live on Example Street, USA." right?! wrong according to everyone here. and I really don't think "unuseful" is a real word (blogger's spell check feature agrees with me). However my classmates still enjoy my capabilities as a human dictionary (and the fact that I bring my handy-dandy spanish-english dictionary to all my classes and am allowed to use it).  My teacher is a little crazy in that he goes off on long random weird tangents (probably just to use more english words), but he's nice.

TIC (technology and information communication) : It's like a computer class but we've only used them once. The teacher reads us lectures about hardware and software and binary code and morse code  and types of printers.

Fisica y Quimica (physics and chemistry) : This is pretty much my least favorite class. The teacher talks in a really different manner, so even the rest of the kids have trouble following, let alone me. I had a test in this last Thursday and I'm pretty sure I got about a 1 (out of 10). 

 Bioloxia e Xeoloxia (bioloy and geology) : This class is taught in Galician (hence the X's). So far we've been learning about more geology, tectonic plates and stuff, and personally I really enjoy biology so I'm excited for when we move into that. Also, because I've studied this before and anyways since it's science a lot of the English words share latin roots with the romance languages and because my teacher doesn't have a bizarre accent and because I'm understanding more and more Galician, I understand more of this class than I do in Fisica which is taught in Spanish.

Lingua e Literatura (Galician) :It´s like English... but in Galician.

Ciencias para o mundo contemporáneo : Literally "sciences for a contemporary world" but so far I can't really tell the difference between this and biology/geology. We only have it twice a week. (I suspect we have it as a school-wide requirement, so that the students who aren't taking the biology option like me still learn science). 

Educacion Fisica : Physical education aka gym. The first couple of weeks of classes my teacher didn't realize I was an exchange student, she thought my parents had gotten jobs and moved here so she was kind of grumpy about that since with the Crisis jobs are scarce. That was awkward but finally I realized she hadn't understood my original introduction and now she likes me. In fact she likes me so much she tries to set me up with "guapos chicos" to be my boyfriend (including her son). Also because all Americans are experts on Baseball she made me explain the game to the class.... on the very first day. I knew relatively no Spanish and being quite nervous promptly forgot the few words I did know as well as all baseball facts that I do know from (hi Dad) my childhood. I think the most I managed was drawing the field on the board (the kids in class thought there were 5 bases, how silly of them) and saying "the ball... the person runs.... goal..." (in spanish) with some strategic pointing. On a similar topic to gym, I joined a volleyball team here. We'll see how that goes...

Filosofia : Umm I don't really have much to say about this class, so far it's about like how philosophy started  and that sort of thing.

And that's all my classes! I have 6 per day, with one 30 minute break in the middle 3 days a week and the other 2 days I have 7, with the 30 minute break and another 15 minute one. Here, you stay with one group of kids (who all chose the same option as you- either focusing on health sciences [me], tech sciences, or some social sciences options) and in one room for all your subjects, while the teachers move.  This isn't hard to get used to except for the fact that the classroom is so boring since the teachers don't personalize it individually. No motivational posters or calendars or books or clocks or flags or anything at all. Also, they don't have a computer and projector so no powerpoints or videos. Every single class is lecture style. And frankly that's not fun in English let alone a different language.And textbooks are really small and you buy them yourself and take notes in them.  I definitely have realized how much I took for granted  having interactive classes with activities and worksheets and powerpoints and all that stuff back in Austin.   Oh, and substitutes don't exist, no teacher = no class.  Grades are from 0-10 (or is it 1-10? I don't know) and below 5 is failing but 10 is impossible. Also asking to go to the bathroom during class isn't really a thing. I did once and I think everyone thought it must have been an emergency because they just don't. I imagine it's because the bathrooms are tiny and you better bring tissues because there probably won't be toilet paper, so it's a less than ideal place to be at any time.
I really truly don't know why my Galician textbook begins with a Harry Potter picture... but I like it. 

my  books

so skinny! they all together total the size of maybe one and a half of a US textbook 

Well I think that about does it for everything about school for me this year.  Hope my sentences made at least a little sense today. I'm still just doing really well over here. :) More posts will come eventually, they just seem to get stuck in the drafts folder.

OH and there is a boy who is on exchange from my school IN AUSTIN this year! (technically it's Round Rock but still, it's pretty cool).

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hola de nuevo

Well, once again I have no time to write and more pictures than I could possibly deal with and the result will certainly not be a cohesive, interesting, and totally up to date blog post of the last month so I'm sorry. 

A brief summary:

Most interesting foods I've eaten: Octopus (several times, it's a classic dish here and quite tasty) and Morcilla (a sort of sausage made with blood), and the only thing I haven't liked: pig's ear.

Favorite quote from my non-english-speaking host mom: "Oh, Language es como Sandwich con L!" (somehow she makes those words sound very similar, it's great). 

Frequently Asked Questions about USA:
Do you know Justin Bieber?
What is the capitol of New Mexico?
Where does Woody Allen Live? (NY, I looked it up)
Do you have Sears?
Is milk or newspapers delivered on bikes?
Does your school have cheerleaders?
Do a lot of stores in the US sell shirts with the Spanish flag? (here a really popular fashion is things with british or american flags on it, can´t say the same for back home regarding spanish flag)
Are newspapers really big there?
Do pumas live near you? ( idea why this one came up.)
Does your school have Prom?

Number of fish eaten: countless

Times I've looked out my window and thought, "I'M SO LUCKY": basically anytime I see my window. 

In the past weeks I've visited spectacular cathedrals, traveled to several Galician cities, seen my host mom interviewed on TV (for her novels), been interviewed myself (as a super quick thing at a street festival haha), made friends, failed a physics quiz, gotten a mobile phone, gone to the doctor, made wine from grapes I picked, eaten a tomato, gotten a haircut, walked on a 2000 year old Roman wall,  aaaand tons more.

This weekend marks one whole month here in Marin.  HOW CRAZY IS THAT?! (very crazy).  I promise I'm working on some posts with actual detail type news, maybe some things about how school is going, etc. 

 picture time!


sunset with Julia, and my sister Antia

local band playing in the street outside my house

sunset from my window

local dance for on the day of the patron saint, this is the church across the street from my school (the yellow building to the left)

love the bagpipes, they're very traditional Galician

Ramón del Valle-Inclán, a Galician writer and myself

Jonah and Julia from the US, me, Solveig from Iceland, and Antia in Pontevedra. The other AFS kids live in towns reasonably nearby and we've gotten together a couple of times on weekends.

my host mom is kind of super awesome