Monday, May 28, 2012

Belchite, Escucha, and Sarrión

Friday was my very last day in the primary school. The teachers all left for Turkey as part of their international project they're doing and won't be back until the day after I depart for home. It was depressing to have to say goodbye to them and then just kind of stick around. I don't feel nearly as integrated into the high school, and the teachers that I do feel more comfortable around are gone to Andalucia as part of a student project. I still have the language school, though, where my coworkers and students are always really friendly. Unfortunately, the last two weeks have been day after day of saying goodbye to each class of students, as each day is the last I'll be there with that particular group.

This weekend, I went to Zaragoza yet again and stayed with the other Italian teacher from the language school. I met her family, which was really entertaining, and we all set out on a busy day trip to Belchite and Escucha. She had been wanting to show me Belchite for quite some time, but due to various scheduling differences and whatnot, we hadn't been able to go. I'm glad that during my last weekend, I finally got to check it out.

Our first stop was seemingly in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the countryside a decent distance from Belchite. There was a bunker of sorts and some trenches from the civil war. It was quite different from the other places I'd been to, so it was a welcome addition.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Protests in Teruel

Yesterday in Spain there were widespread strikes and protests against the recent cuts in education funding, which have been quite significant. So I was stuck with the director of the primary school I work at in Albarracín and one other teacher as a result of the rest of the teachers striking. We took fifty or so kids hiking in the countryside around Albarracín because we couldn't follow the regular schedule and classes, which require several more teachers at minimum.

As we were leaving the school to go hiking, we saw the students and teachers of the high school joining up with parents from the village, wearing green shirts in solidarity. I don't really know they chose green outside of having some color for everyone to wear and because they wanted to avoid other colors with potentially negative connotations (red, for example). The little preschoolers also marched, all tied together by a rope so they wouldn't run off all willy nilly. I wasn't sure how to feel about the little children being a part of it all because they obviously weren't conscious of what was going on with the protest, much less the political and economic atmosphere of Spain. But it is something that is going to affect them and is currently affecting their quality of education, so I guess they may eventually appreciate the opportunity to be there, if only retroactively.

Monday, May 21, 2012


On Friday, I headed with my roommate, David, and his ladyfriend, Irene, to Huesca. Huesca is Irene's hometown and also the capital of the Aragonese province of the same name. The Pyrenees mountains run through the north of it and it makes up part of the border between Spain and France. The city of Huesca has about 20,000 more people than Teruel is much flatter, but overall isn't that drastically different in atmosphere. Zaragoza is definitely the outlier of the three Aragonese capitals.

We arrived late in the evening, so I didn't get a chance to see much of the city outside of some dimly lit streets and tapas bars. Irene introduced us to one of her best friends and took us to a local tapas bar called Da Vinci. It was quite the popular venue. We had to stand around a little table in a sea of people and yell our orders to an impressively composed waiter. He recited all of the specials without skipping a beat and added up our bill in his head by listing the price of every individual tapa from memory and giving us the sum. All of this was while he was getting beat and battered by passersby in the cluttered little bar and waiting on no telling how many more people aside from us.

I got to meet Irene's parents and they gave me a little room to sleep in. Her mom was ridiculously worried about me being comfortable and having enough blankets and whatnot. I guess that's just how moms act. It really puts me on edge sometimes, though. I told her all I needed was a bed or a couch and I'd be fine. She took that as a suggestion that I would rather sleep on the couch instead of a comment on how little maintenance I required.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Beth Anne comes to Spain (Part Two)

Following our day trip to Valencia, Beth and I returned to Albarracín for another day of work. Fortunately, I only had to work for the first bit of the day and we were able to explore a bit of Albarracín at the expense of our delicate skin. Summer in this part of Spain (at least from what I have seen) is devoid of clouds. There is the occasional wimpy fuzzball of a cloud here and there, but nothing to protect you from the sun. We were already a little burnt from Valencia, so getting burnt again was anything but pleasant.

Beth Anne comes to Spain...finally (Part 1)

Beth Anne came to visit a couple Sundays ago and brought with her incredibly warm and sunny weather. I made the long journey from Teruel to Madrid to pick her up. They have recently jacked up the prices of all of the public transportation in Madrid, making a trip to the airport by metro almost ten euros. The bus that goes from the airport to the city center used to be two euros and it ran us five each. It was definitely worth it all to finally see her again after about four months, though.

We stayed in a hotel in the Puerta del Sol in the city center. I arrived a day before and quickly determined that it was an excellent location from which to see the city, but a terrible place to try to sleep. There were people out all night, yelling in the streets. So I may have managed about three hours of sleep before I just got up and showered and jumped on the metro. I arrived at the airport over an hour earlier than when Beth's plane touched down. As a result, I was tired and half asleep by the time she came through the gate and found me.

Before I showed her some of the major sites in the city center, I had to feed her and get some caffeine in both our systems. One of the magical things about Spain is its coffee. I have tried all manner of coffee in the States and have yet to like it (at least not enough to drink it habitually). I think Beth has had a similar experience. For her first few coffees here, I had to order an extra packet of Nesquik for her. After a few days, she was drinking it normal. We are both going to have some serious caffeine withdrawals soon.

Friday, May 4, 2012

More research and a ceramic factory

I'm finally at a point where I feel comfortable enough with my Spanish that I want to talk to people in person about the civil war. I've been reading a lot of things and finding a lot of pictures and whatnot, but I've neglected to actually talk to people because, most likely, I wouldn't understand them to my liking. Though I have talked to random people about my interest in the civil war and why I want to research it, I haven't taken the time to meet with people who actually know what they're talking about.

Today I had the opportunity to meet a local lawyer named Alfonso, whose name I had heard long ago in relation to the topic. He's something of a local celebrity as far as The Battle of Teruel goes, and knows a lot about the war in general. He is a middle-aged, bearded man with a great voice for talking about just about anything. I followed nearly everything he said, but I was occasionally distracted by how nice his voice was. I didn't have anything specific prepared to ask him, so we just talked in general about the war and he gave me some book titles to look into. He helped me put a lot of things I had read previously into perspective and gave me some of the post-war story as well. 

I plan to meet up with him in a couple of weeks and he is going to show me his collection of civil war trinkets. He goes on walks through the countryside where the soldiers were positioned and searches for little things. He has all sorts of bullet shells and buttons and badges. He said he has three or four buttons from American soldiers there as well. I told him about the mortar shell that I was given as a gift and he told me there was little hope of me getting it back to the USA without being detained indefinitely or something. I kind of agree.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day Holiday - Zaragoza and Tarazona

As Beth is coming next weekend and I'm going to be traveling a lot with her, I decided not to travel too far from Teruel for the long holiday that we had this weekend. It turned out to be pretty exhausting anyway. I ended up going to Zaragoza, as I was invited by one of the Italian teachers at the language school, Mirabel. She introduced me to her son, Gabi, who is about the same age as me and has very similar musical tastes. He plays guitar quite well and does a great job imitating the English/American accents when he sings.

Mirabel fixed some pasta for lunch using one of her authentic Italian recipes. It was delicious. Her husband is Italian and they lived in northern Italy for a few years, so she apparently cooks Italian-style dishes quite often. Her daughter is about a year older than me and is studying her final year of chemical engineering in Copenhagen, Denmark, so I got to stay in her room. It’s so much bigger and, despite all of the girly photos and whatnot, is still manlier than my tiny Tweety Bird room in Teruel. I also had the opportunity to study the Periodic Table of the Elements in Spanish.

Mirabel struck me as a very nervous woman. She was constantly worried about whether or not I was comfortable or satisfied with any given situation. I tried to explain that I'm usually content with whatever situation, but she didn't seem to understand. This was a trend the entire trip and became quite tiresome for me. Apart from that, we got along just fine and she was extremely hospitable.