I’ve been in Spain nearly two months now and have just now realized that much time has passed. I guess it’s safe to say that I’m settling in, getting used to a routine, becoming more comfortable teaching in front of the classroom, planning lessons, getting around Madrid and just living life in a new country. At the risk of sounding cliche, this has become an opportune time for self reflection and to evaluate what I want to accomplish and experience during my time in Spain and Europe. I’m here until the end of June 2014 at the minimum and will have substantial breaks for travel during Christmas and Easter holidays but in between those free times, how should I pass my time? Sure, I could jet set off to a different country on the weekends if I wanted since Europe is so easily accessible by cheap flights but now I find myself leaning more towards the idea of spending weekends throughout Spain and truly getting to know the country that I am calling home for now.
I stumbled upon this idea in a way that was quite surprising which was through my students. One way to really get Spanish students of ESL talking is to get them to talk about Spain; the food, travel, must-dos, etc. This goes for my middle school kids as well as the adults! When leading an adult conversation class, I asked them where I should visit in Spain and what I should do there and that took up the entire 1 hour 15 minute class! Spanish people are passionate about their homeland and are so eager to talk about it and share with other people. You had best believe I’m taking notes.
This past Thursday, my flexible group of 2nd year students were learning how to talk about “going on a school trip” and to get the conversation started, the teacher asked them “Where have you gone on a school trip?” and wrote down all their responses on the chalk board. She then asked me if I had been to any of those places and when I said no, the kids got so excited! “OH! Amanda! You must go! You must go and see it! My favorite thing to do there is…” and that was the most animated they’d been all week! They were so excited to share their stories with me that for our next class period together, they’re going to bring photos of their field trip to show me. Who knew 12 and 13 year olds could be your best travel guides?
So now that I’m getting an idea of how I want to travel, when will I do this?? Well, no news of that just yet, I’m having problems with my bank not wanting to give me my debit card so I’m kind of forced to be sedentary until then so it looks like it’ll be late November or early December that I will get to travel outside of Madrid. Fortunately, this city is completely massive and overwhelming with so much to see! The history of this grand place interests me seeing as some parts of the city date back to the 1200s and to think, these places are a few blocks walk from my front door!
In trying to evaluate my time here, I realized I was approaching blogging in a way that wasn’t suiting to who I really am. Thus, the name change from “Eat Well Travel Often” to “Books and a Backpack”. It may seem trivial and it’s NOT that I don’t love to eat because trust me, I do, it was just that I realized I found myself more focused on reading and books than I have been on food. I’ve been a bookworm my whole life and carry an English degree so why shouldn’t I write about books and literature if that’s what I find myself most passionate about in my day to day life?
I’d already decided before making it all the way to Madrid that I definitely wanted to read A LOT more while here. I mean, I only work 16 hours a week and have a few private classes in the evening so given the copious amounts of free time, my first response was that I was free to SOOOOOOOOOOO much recreational reading. I no longer need to follow a syllabus (not that I didn’t enjoy all my English classes!) but now I get to read what I want in my cornucopia of free time. Another perfect component of this plan is that Madrileños read on public transportation all the time. I commute by train to school almost every day, that is if I don’t ride with another teacher by car, so that gives me substantial time to read daily during time that would otherwise be spent staring out the window at grafitti and dry land.