November Musings

November has been a fairly quiet month for me.

I haven’t done a lot of traveling, which has allowed me to grow my roots a little deeper in the city of Santander.

On Monday evenings, I tutor a lovely, intelligent 15-year old girl, Lydia.  I love going to her house to chat about life, weekends, music, friends…the typical high-school topics.  Last week, we read about the crazy American tradition of prom, which she proclaimed to be “like a fairy tale!”

On Tuesday evenings, much the same, I tutor another 15-year old girl, Raquel, the daughter of one of the teachers at my school.  I’ve adopted these two as my stand-in younger sisters (and they totally fill the role, even asking me questions me about my boyfriend).  Just need one more now…

Wednesdays are ballet class! It’s been 4 years since I stepped foot in a dance studio- and it’s so good to be back, without all the stress and rehearsal time that used to be a part of ballet.  It’s exactly the same as I remember-  except more fun!

The middle of the week also brings bible study.  A small group of us Fulbrighters have been meeting weekly to read through Ephesians.  This has been such a special part of the week for me, being away from family and life-long friends, it’s been a good time to check in with each other, talk about the frustrations of Spanish students, and ask how life is really going.   We all come from such different backgrounds and faith walks, which has made our discussion so enriching and challenging, in the best way possible. (And occasionally we head down the street to a bar for drinks and music afterwards).

Thursdays are my longest day of school, but I’ve started rewarding myself with a cup of coffee or tea at my favorite coffee shop.  I take my journal and sit in the candle-light with my coffee (and maybe a Nutella-frosted cupcake…) – a simple pleasure at the end of the week.

Fridays.  I’ve developed a new appreciation for this day of the week.  Usually they’re kind of a blur because I’m so tired…but the past few weeks, I’ve managed to summon enough energy to go to a salsa class (I’m pretty terrible) or the Fulbrighters’ favorite bar, Metropole.

Every Saturday morning, I’ve been meeting up with my Spanish amiga, Esther. Last week we had a typical American brunch together at my friend Sam’s apartment and I taught her how to make French toast [side note: when I bought maple syrup at the grocery store, the cashier asked me, “what do you use this for?”].

And Sundays.  My day of rest (aka laundry and cooking and school work).  But at the end of each Sunday, I get to go to “tiny” church (I call it tiny because there’s about 15-20 of us in a small room).  Definitely not the community I imagined myself joining, but it’s been such a blessing and comfort.  We sing and pray and pray and pray (there’s a lot of praying). A tiny church, but full of kind, strong, generous people.

November has also been a month of firsts:

  • First trivia night at a bar (we got second place!)
  • First time seeing Swan Lake (I’ll just say it’s my new favorite ballet and the Cuban national ballet is AWESOME)
  • First night out “dancing” in Santander (not one of my strengths, but I’m working on it…)
  • First double-decker PB&J (three pieces of bread, with one layer of PB and one layer of J on each side.  A personal invention, which I would highly recommend)

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I just want to say that I am so thankful for this month of firsts and for the time to put down deeper roots here in Santander.

“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” – Ephesians 1:15-19

Teaching the art of making french toast

Mi amiga

Mi amiga, Esther

All dressed up for a night at the ballet!

All dressed up for a night at the ballet!

Scarf, bread, smartwool socks. I'm a happy girl.

Scarf, bread, smartwool socks. I’m a happy girl.

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Three Stories

Three stories for you today.

A story about language:

As I was leaving my apartment on Friday morning, my old neighbor lady was out front doing some gardening. I thought I heard her say to me, “No tomas drogas!” (translation: “don’t do drugs!”). I gave her a confused look, so she repeated, “Tan pronto madrugas!” (translation: “you’re up so early!”)  – ahhh that makes more sense!  Cultural side-note:  this happened at 9am (on a holiday), which I thought was a reasonable hour to be out and about, but apparently not here.

A story about becoming Spanish:

I’ve been taking flamenco classes for about a month now.  It’s been a brand new experience for me, and I’ve had a wonderful time dancing away the school-day stresses.  Yesterday, the teacher handed us each a fan.  The women in my class, mostly mothers of young dancers, proceeded to gracefully whip them open and begin fanning themselves.  I stood there, feeling a bit befuddled (there is no training provided during Fulbright orientation on  how to properly use a fan).  Now if you’re a Spanish woman, you’ve probably been holding an abanico since you could walk and had the flip and the flutter mastered since age 8; but I, on the other hand, have never actually used a fan, much less know how to open it with the finesse of a Spaniard.  Since air conditioning is a rarity in España, a fan comes in quite handy on hot summer afternoon. After laughing about this cultural difference with the women in my class, they gave me some pointers on how to dramatically whip open the fan, “típical espanish” style.  A seemingly small accomplishment, but a highlight of my week.

And finally, a story from school:

Once a week I help out with a history class, taught in English, for the 10th graders in the bilingual program (the “cuartos”). They’ve been learning about the Enlightenment for the past week or so, and I was invited to teach a lesson on the American Enlightenment and Revolutionary War.  To start class on Monday, I thought it’d be fun to give the kids a sort of pre-test, to see how much they knew. There were five multiple-choice five questions, like “The United States won its independence from… (A) Spain (B) France (C) Great Britain.” Easy enough, right?

Here’s question #5:

The Enlightenment ideas of ___________ and ____________ formed the basis for the American independence movement.

A. socialism and communism

B. equality and liberty

C. religious freedom and feminism

Any guesses?

Well, the cuartos had no idea (“A” was as popular an answer as “B”), much to the dismay of their teacher, who had been trying to drill the concepts of “equality” and “liberty” into their developing brains for the past few days.  I thought I was being clever…turns out it was the trickiest question on the quiz.