Monday, January 30, 2012

Indie Films, volleyball, and a tiny bull with a scarf.

This weekend I didn't manage to go to the north of Spain due to insufficient planning on my part. I did find other things to do, though. Friday I spent all night studying Spanish in my room. It was kind of exciting. I managed to roughly translate a recipe for cream candy for the cooks at the primary school. It's difficult enough to explain how to make that stuff in English, much less in broken Spanish.

Saturday night I watched three short films made by Teruel natives in one of the old, single-screen cinemas in the city center. They were surprisingly good, as I was expecting much more amateur-level production quality. They were all a bit eccentric and "indie", which I found refreshing compared to the movies I've been watching with my roommate in the cinema. I'm getting better at understanding dialogue (or at least I think I am), but I struggled with one of these films because it was almost entirely dependent on understanding a voice-over by one old mumbling man. The whole experience of leaving the mini film festival was similar to leaving after a church service. Everyone had to greet everyone else with the same meaningless small talk as they slowly dispersed into the streets in search of dinner or their houses. I think there's something meaningful amidst all of the tired greetings, though. There was a sense of community and welcomeness there that even I felt I was becoming a part o f. Teruel can be an inviting place at times. If nothing else, being surrounded by a ton of warm people in the streets while it was snowing was a plus.

Sunday I went to La Copa del Rey (King's Cup), the championship volleyball game between Teruel and another team from Spain. I was strangely excited about volleyball for some reason. It's not the most invigorating thing to watch but it's interesting nonetheless. Teruel won three straight sets and won the big, shiny cup. The crowd shot streamers and glittery paper all over the place in celebration. One of the security guards was covered in shiny paper. It was cute.

There was a post-game celebration in the Plaza del Torico, home of the city's iconic little bull statue. The players showed up to shout a lot about winning. The most entertaining part was one player scaling the statue and dressing Torico in an orange scarf. Here is a play-by-play from my phone to assist your imagination:

Torico was still decked out in his orange scarf this afternoon:

This week at the language school, where I normally work in the evenings, the students are taking their exams. This means I get a week of free evenings to run around Teruel. I decided to go for a long walk around the city and take a few pictures. 

I also bought a nice copy of Don Quijote de la Mancha in one of the local bookstores this evening. I'm not sure if I'll even read it anytime soon (or that I'm even capable of doing so yet), but it is a decent little souvenir to keep from Spain. It came with a free bookmark that serves as an advertisement for another book entitled, "I also had a bisexual girlfriend." I like to think that this was a recommendation from the bookstore owner based on my purchase of the Spanish classic.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My presentation was a rousing success.

Last Friday I had dinner with some of my students from the language school in order for them to practice English. I understand their desire to use me as a practice dummy but it is frustrating to not get to practice my Spanish more frequently when I go out with people. The upside is that I got my meal paid for, I suppose. I need to find more people who either can't speak or have no desire to learn English. It's unfortunate that too many of my friends are English students and teachers. Despite not being able to practice as much as I'd like with conversation, I have contributed a substantial amount of my downtime between classes to practicing Spanish vocabulary and verb conjugations using a website called Memrise. It's a useful tool for learning and retaining things. So far it's working quite well.

This week I've been in the high school for the first time since I came back to Spain. I've noticed that I've become less frustrated with the students and their level of English and even lower level of motivation. Instead, I'm just bored and apathetic. It's difficult to motivate yourself after weeks of facing students who have no desire to learn anything. I suppose I get why teachers get burnt out so easily. It has made me question whether or not I could ever be a high school teacher for a substantial amount of time. It doesn't seem possible for someone to be exposed to the same material for six or seven consecutive years and still be unable to express even the most basic aspects of that material. Somehow these students are even avoiding subconscious absorption of English. Someone should do a psych study on these kids.

Yesterday evening I gave a presentation on the Spanish Civil War in the city center of Teruel. There was a surprising turnout, given that my presentation was entirely in English. It was the first presentation to be given there in English without a translator, so I felt kind of special. I talked about my interest in history and philosophy and how and why I ended up in Spain, as well as my research and perspective of the civil war. From what I could tell, most of the crowd followed my presentation well enough and they complimented me on my delivery. Apparently it is normally difficult for them to understand Americans but my accent was neutral enough. After my presentation, I received a lot of contact information and offers to meet civil war enthusiasts in Teruel. Everyone was excited to give me a list of books and films to check out and some even offered to show me around some of the civil war sites (monuments, trenches, etc.) near Teruel. Oh, and I get paid. Overall, I think it turned out fairly well. It's another presentation I can add to my CV and it has served as a great way to make knowledgeable contacts.

I have been looking at places I can travel to on the weekends as well. Unfortunately, I am limited to the bus schedule and the incredibly slow pace of the buses. I'm thinking about heading to the north of Spain in the near future and eventually Barcelona. There are fewer long holidays in the first half of the year in Aragon, it seems. Hopefully this weekend or the next I can make it up north to some city or another.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Better late than never, I suppose.

I knew if I whined enough, it would eventually come. It made my trip to the grocery store much more interesting.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Spain, round II

Plaza del Torico, December 2011

I've spent the last three weeks living it up in old Cantuck' and have since returned to Teruel. I've had quite the battle with jet lag again but I think it's safe to say I'm more or less back on Spanish time at this point. I was able to spend a little quality time with family and friends and especially Beth Anne during my short stay in Kentucky. I'm not entirely satisfied with the amount of time I got with them but it will have to do for now.

Nothing has changed here in Teruel and there is, disappointingly, still a severe lack of snow or extreme cold. You can't promise someone snow and not deliver. I know Teruel was the site of some of the coldest and harshest winters in Spain because I've researched it. The battle here during the Civil War saw more soldiers die from the cold than bullets. What gives?

I'm set to give a presentation on the 24th of this month in the city center. It's about my perspective of the Spanish Civil War as an American guy who likes to study history (or something like that). I'm still trying to figure out what all I'm going to say but I think it will be an interesting experience, if only for me. This will be an excellent opportunity to chat with some of the local civil war enthusiasts and figure out how much more I don't know about the topic. And, let's not forget, I get paid.

So that's that. I'm alive and more or less intact and back in Spain. I'm going to start looking at weekend trips to different places around Spain in the coming weeks, so I imagine I'll have more pictures and stories then.