Questions/Comments?Contact Us

19 posts categorized "Penny Savryn"

Jamón Chips

We need to talk about jamón chips.  Jamón potato chips. Jamón-flavored potato chips.  They are heavenly. They are so weird, but you don’t even think about that because they are so delicious.  They are salty, but not too salty (while you’re eating them) to the point where you’re wondering why they’re so salty and what preservatives and flavoring methods have been used.  No. No, no, no. Ruffles jamón chips are deliciousness in a purplish-maroon bag.

Jamon bien
Image from https://www.pepsico.es/brands/information/products/ruffles/08410199008329

Everyone here eats them.  Well, maybe not everyone, but at least some people in every sociologically-determined group eats jamón chips.  My point is that they’re just not local fanfare for tourists. Everyone here knows jamón is a big deal. You can have it serrano-style, ibérico-style, York-style, the list goes on.  You can have it on sandwiches, in crepes, on eggs, on a box, on a fox, in a house, with green eggs and ham, I say! It’s one of the symbols of the city/country. Museo del Jamón is a temple for locals and tourists alike; cheap bocadillos of jamón (and other specialty meats) abound along with cañas of beer.  If you haven’t seen legs of jamón hanging from some type of surface, you may as well erase Madrid from your list of “Cities I’ve Visited.”  BUT, if you have tried a jamón chips, feel free to write that one back in.

Crunchy, crispy, jamón chips can be purchased in bags of all sizes.  For as little as 60-cents for a small “individual-sized” bag—do not be fooled, these are not sufficient for one person—and as much as probably no more than €1.50 for a “large” bag.  That large one may satisfy two people, but I’d buy another just to be prepared. And buy some more for your trip home! And some more for your family members anxiously awaiting souvenirs!  And then maybe some for your coworkers! And heck, why not a lifetime supply to always snack on!

I’ve never seen them in the U.S, and this concerns me.  I’m sure I will deeply miss jamón chips. They satisfy a savory craving unlike any other.  For now, I will focus on the fact that they are right at my fingertips (and then lingering on them until the ceremonial hand-washing occurs—this would ideally take place after the ceremonial hand-licking, and yes, your entire hand, because crumbs will accumulate all over as you reach in for these treasures).  

Just be sure to have a glass of water nearby when you decide to indulge.


For this week’s post I’m just going to briefly touch on something I’ve been thinking about for a while here:  the omnipresence of English. No, no, I don’t mean tourists or expats speaking in English. I mean the integration of the language into daily Spanish life.  Every week I pass yet another advertisement or sign of some sort that uses English.

What strikes me the most is the fact that the opposite does not seem to occur in New York.  In some neighborhoods it does. For example, in Washington Heights there are ads translated into Spanish because the predominant community there speaks Spanish.  One of my favorites is a New York Lottery ad at a bus stop that I cannot find a picture of, unfortunately.

But what’s different is that these ads exist in English and are translated to specifically target Spanish-speaking communities.  Here, neighborhood differences don’t seem to determine whether or not there’s an ad in English or with an English word. Check out how in this ad for an upcoming production of Young Frankenstein the whole thing is in Spanish except for that word “casting” thrown in there.  It’s located near the Royal Palace.





Or how in the window of this glasses shop they’re advertising “New Sun Collection” -- and this one’s not even close to the city-center.




This is one of my favorites.  It doesn’t really count because it’s the name of a store, but I have to share it.  Reader, meet Aristocrazy.




This use of English is the kind that has a match in the States.  One widespread use of Spanish in the U.S. is Rafael Nadal’s Nike/clothing line.  “Vamos, Rafa” is on hats, t-shirts, etc. But here, “Ready?” is at the bottom of advertisements for major internet-provider and phone network Vodafone.  These ads extend beyond the city of Madrid into the outer-cities of the province of Madrid. They are on billboards and bus stops.

So many English words have been adopted into Spanish, and this brings me to the next major area of English-incorporation:  speaking. Often you can hear native Spanish-speakers refer to “un show” or “un text” or “un email,” “un brunch,” etc.  Sometimes English words have been translated into a similar Spanish version.  “To troll” is trolear, “to Google” is googlear, but often one will hear English words as they are.

Moral of the story?  I’m not quite sure. The dominance of English sparks a lot of thought.  I’m fascinated when I witness two people from different European countries here communicating in English; it’s the go-to, default language.  It’s clear that I’m lucky to have it as my native tongue. Funny, though, how I wish I had experienced Spanish from a young age the way people here experience English.  

Granada: Part II

Let’s talk about tapas.  Tapas in Granada are, as some would say, next level.  Tapas in Granada are when you pay 2-euros for a drink and are gifted a plate of something substantial.  In Madrid, when you order a drink, you usually will get a bowl of olives or potato chips with it.  In Granada, IN GRANADA I SAID, you may get any of the following plates with your ~2-euro drink:

  • Paella (Bodegas Castañeda - special housemade vermouth from a barrel as well)
  • Potatoes with ali-oli (Bar Aixa)
  • Meatballs with patatas fritas (La Porrona)
  • A mini hamburger with patatas fritas (La Botilleria - amazing, would eat sit-down dinner here)
  • A piece of bread with a slice of jamón, olive oil, tomato, and olives (Taberna La Tana - for wine lovers and everyone)
  • Sliced chorizo in a wine sauce (Bar La Riviera - you get to choose the tapa you’d like!)
  • Patatas caseras with bacon, onion, and a creamy cheesy sauce (Bar La Riviera)
  • A plate of fried sardines (Bar Los Diamantes, go early otherwise very crowded, one of the most well-known in Granada)
  • Tosta with guacamole and squid (El Cambalache, this was incredible)

And there is so much more!  So much more, the list goes on and on.  Moral of the story: after your beautiful day seeing the Alhambra, go on a self-guided tapas tour!  Start early to avoid crowds.  Or go late if you like the crowds!  If you see people outside an establishment with drinks and a small plate of food, it usually means you’ll get that plate of food free with your drink.

Now let’s talk about ice cream.  Helados San Nicolas, right by the viewpoint, which will seem like an outdoor party.  Vendors abound at the Mirador, people gather for the view of the Alhambra and the rest of the city.  I had a beautiful purple cone of lavender ice cream while looking at the Alhambra from a few ways away.  A bit more peaceful.  And there’s a splendid backdrop of the Alhambra in the shop for a photo-op!

The special dessert of Granada is the Pionono - a very VERY sweet little cake with sweeter sweet stuff on top named after Pope Pius IX who was supposed to come to Granada but didn’t (according to a tour guide?).  The dessert remains.  I enjoyed a spontaneous eclair from a bakery in Plaza Larga even more.  Be free with your food choices.  You never know what could surprise you.

So what are you waiting for??  Go get some tapas in Granada!  The Andalucian weather is just one of the many draws.

IMG_9952 IMG_0265
IMG_0260 IMG_9991 IMG_0130

Granada: Part I

Granada is a stew of religions.  A stone-roaded, twisty-streeted, living history map.  Coca-cola signs hang above bars in circles of the signature Grenadine white-and-blue ceramic style.  Street names change at every intersection, even while continuing in the same direction.  A small archway leads down a tiny street of shops, formerly a silk market.  Around the corner is the Aljibe de Trillo, which holds just some of the secrets to the city’s genius water system.  Teterías (Arab-influenced tea-rooms) calmly await visitors.  Carmens abound with orange trees and special views of, oh yes, the Alhambra.  

The Alhambra sits atop the city, guarding and guiding it as it has for centuries through all sorts of transitions.  The complex dates to about the 13th or 14th century (though there may have been construction earlier).  Now you can visit: Generalife (palace and gardens), Palacio de Carlos V (16th-17th-century Roman-style palace with circular inside and small art museum), Palacios Nazaríes (the most well-known with incredible patios, ceilings, and the quintessential tiles sold in souvenir shops around the country), and the Alcazaba (lookout point with flags and views of the city and surrounding mountains).  Quranic ideals flood the Palacios Nazaríes and Generalife in particular with patios of ponds, greenery, and fountains, paradise in the sacred book of Islam, as well as script from text itself.   

Once the Catholics took over the Iberian Peninsula, at the end of the 1400s by Ferdinand and Isabella (los reyes católicos), they continued using the Alhambra, described to us as a “city” by a local tour-guide.  But they destroyed the Great Mosque, and, upon that exact spot, placed a church.  Our tour-guide explained that a key to understanding the city is that the shift to Catholic rule did not entail eradication of all that had come before (though there was destruction).  So when he pointed out the Iglesia de San Gil y Santa Ana, he noted that the tower still looks exactly like a minaret, and still has the blue and white patterns from the time of Muslim-rule--it’s mudejar and reflects the coexistence of Muslim and Christian cultures.  

Today, the main cathedral of Granada is the second-largest in Spain.  We only got a brief look inside, but it seemed like one of the more interesting cathedrals in Spain visually.  The inside is a bright white--quite a change from the usual tannish brown stone.  The outside, though, does have that tan color, which makes the inside that much more exciting.  A mosque was here before, and it was destroyed and replaced with the cathedral.  According to Rick Steves, there was a plot of land nearby that would have been more suitable for the building of the cathedral, but the new rulers insisted on using the same plot as the mosque.  Also according to Steves, the “Ave Maria” at front-and-center of the cathedral’s facade was accepted by the Muslims because Mary plays a large role in the Quran.  This is just one of many tidbits of information that make Granada unique.  Though the religion in power shifted, there were still aspects of the previous culture that remained and kept it alive with the city’s inhabitants.

Instead of paying to go further into the cathedral, we decided we couldn’t pass on the Capilla Real--the burial site of Ferdinand and Isabel.  The right decision.  Though creepy in ways, the tombs of the Catholic Monarchs (as well as their daughter, Juana, and her husband, Felipe I) are aesthetically remarkable.  Carvings surround every side of the large cubes--the eternal beds of the royals--on which the monarchs lay.  On the tomb of Juana and Felipe, each monarch has an animal for a footrest and a pillow for their head.  On the other tomb, Ferdinand and Isabel have animals at their feet, but not below them.  All of the pillows are intricately carved with patterns and tassels.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Apparently some attribute Isabel’s large impression in her pillow, larger than Ferdinand’s, as a symbol of her intelligence.   

And if visitors aren’t already bombarded with the visual superiority of the monarchs, across from their tomb is the altar.  Not just any altar.  This is a humongous gold altarpiece filled with dioramas dedicated to various saints and biblical stories.  Two deaths of saints are centrally represented, one of which I remember for certain involves a beheading--one figure holds the head up next to the beheaded body.  Most interestingly, Ferdinand and Isabel are represented at each side of the altar on their knees praying.  The whole piece looks like a toy dollhouse, figures have skin-tones, eyeballs of color, vibrant outfits, and hairstyles.  The attempt at realism is alarming, as is the juxtaposition of this altar of colors-galore with the stone-gray tombs.  I’m not used to seeing life-size color sculptures of 15th-century monarchs.

Just beyond the tombs is Isabel's art collection, including pieces by Rogier van der Weyden, Sandro Botticelli, and Hans Memling.  Just before leaving are two sculptures of Isabel and Ferdinand kneeling in prayer.  These are the originals that were by the altar inside.  Ferdinand (I believe) didn't think they looked pious enough, or something like that.  Exit the Capilla Real, and you're back on the streets of incense.  To be continued...

A Potpourri

I saw La familia Addams this weekend.  Fun show!  It was fascinating to see how an American musical was translated not only into Spanish language, but into Spain’s culture as well (including a reference to popular words and recognizable social types).  Even if you miss some of the jokes and quick twists of the tongue, you can grasp the difference between a line of plot and a line for the audience’s enjoyment.  The latter is that moment when a character breaks away from the other ones, walks towards the audience, and digresses briefly about something, often using physical cues to signal something outside the story.  This could be an eye-roll or some kind of body movement--physical comedy--something that says “this is a joke that is not related to this musical but is related to the world in which we all live in and we should all laugh about it now!”  Concise, I know.

It was also interesting to be in that theater.  The stage seemed to be very close to the audience and at eye-level.  This was quite different from some spectacles on a Broadway stage.  I was wondering if this is what performance was like way back when.  In a college course, I learned about the evolution of the physical stage-audience relationship.  The beginnings of superstardom (mostly in pop music, I believe) coincided with the separation of stage and audience.  Intimacy out, gigantic stages in stadiums in.  This theater, though, felt like it could have been used in the 1700s for a royal night of music.  The show, therefore, was a fascinating mixture of that sensation with the modern musical.

Another thing to note: the audience at the end did not go wild the way most audiences seem to do nowadays.  I appreciated that.  In the era of everyone-gets-a-standing-O-on-American-Idol and everyone-has-a-great-voice-on-The-Voice, it was refreshing to be part of an audience that was not ready to stand up for just any performance.  

The next evening for a birthday I found myself at a restaurant called Amazónico.  Prices?  High.  Quality of food?  High.  Worth it?  Yes.  For a special occasion.  I had skirt steak and it was delicious.  Though it’s easy and affordable to find solomillo here, it’s not everyday auxiliares can drop euros on a nice steak.  What better opportunity to do so than at a celebration of a quarter-century of someone’s life?  None, you say?  And I agree.  Emphatically!  Additionally, we had samosa-style spring rolls with chicken.  Delicious.  We had a bottle of moscato.  Delicious.  To finish off the meal, we had two desserts:  1) grilled pineapple with cake and coconut ice cream and 2) a stone bowl filled with warm melty chocolate.  The chocolate was a bit dark for my taste but OH MY GOODNESS someone stop me I’m turning this into a food blog!  Hard not to.  Food gets me going.  I thought I had writer’s block until I started to write about this meal…  Is anyone surprised?

Before we part...I’ve been wanting to post this video for a while.  It captures fuzzy feelings I had during one weekend-walk.  I found myself gliding through a plaza, surrounded by the chatter of people and children playing, the clinking of glasses, the smell of coffee and wine in the air, sunglasses resting on tables, cigarettes “breathing” their final stilted breaths on the ground, metal chairs being dragged from table to table, and the song of a Spanish guitar.   


[As for the Super Bowl, I do have a comment:  MY EAGLES WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Chicken wings are not the easiest to find ‘round here FYI, but it can be done.  It can be done.]     

Fun Can Always Be Free

Last weekend was a fun example of how you can do so many wonderful things in Madrid for free! 

We made a plato of delicious rice (ingredients had already been purchased, no money spent) and packed it in a tupperware for a picnic in Casa de Campo.  I figured it’d be fun to take the metro to a stop near the park that I’d never been to before and just see what we could find.  We got off and found tons of restaurants surrounding a (dried up) lake.  It looked beautiful.  We’ll definitely return when it’s warmer.


Just a bit further in we found a lovely picnic spot atop a hill with views overlooking rows and rows of trees.  Casa de Campo is a magical mystery.  You never know what kind of landscape you’ll encounter, and you’re always bound to be pleasantly surprised.  We ate at a wooden picnic table while a family played soccer nearby.


After eating, we wandered up and over hills and on dirt roads until we found space to play frisbee.  It was nice to get in some kind of physical activity in a wide open space in a city.  The field was beautifully lit just before sundown.  The sun cut through the trees yielding lines of light and lines of less light alternating on the ground.  How fulfilling it is to be amongst natural beauty!  (Insert appropriate Walt Whitman quote here).


We exited Casa de Campo at a spot that would lead us to a special church in Madrid.  I had been there once before with a class during my semester here a few years ago.  Francisco de Goya--one of Spain’s most beloved and well-known painter--painted the frescoes that decorate the walls and ceiling of San Antonio de la Florida.  The imagery is dedicated to the story of a man who came back from the dead in order to clear the name of his father who had been wrongly accused of murdering him.  It’s a wild story with a wild depiction; Goya includes all sorts of madrileño social types (specifically, ones that San Antonio is supposed to represent) in the crowds witnessing the event, mixing the modern with the traditional (I’ll be giving a presentation on Goya this week, more on that to come…).  The main event of the story is situated around the inside of the dome at the top of the church.  The entire scene takes place behind a fence that circles around with the dome.


One major part of the church is how the city has gone about conserving the artwork.  According to a plaque in the church, the building was bombed during the Spanish Civil War, and serious restoration was needed.  At some point, whoever was in charge of the church did not take care of the frescoes, and so more restoration was needed.  Now the pamphlet at the entrance to the church makes a point of noting that the frescoes are being taken care of, and stands with information in the corners of the church have photographs of what that entails (fixing up some cracks, not being able to fix up other cracks, etc.).  

I must say, one of the most fun parts of the visit was the statue of Goya across the street from the church.  Erected in the 1980s, it is in perfect condition, unlike so many other statues wanderers come across in historic places.  The dedication on the statue is legible and at eye-level.  Goya sits in a chair, brush and palette in hand.  It’s puzzlingly placed on a street with not much pedestrian-traffic, but I’m sure that statue is in tons of selfies (if the large tour bus next to it was any indication…).  Of course, I got my picture too!  

Tips For Teaching

This week I’ll switch it up and devote my post to some tips I have for future auxiliares.


One week a teacher told me she wouldn’t be in for our class the following week.  Instead of class, she told me she’d send me instructions for a game I could create for the class in two weeks.  Now, I’m pretty sure this is not the norm.  I was given a heads-up.  I’ve heard from other teachers that they’ll show up to their class only to find a substitute teacher or no teacher at all.  Others have said they’ll arrive to class only to be told they’re not needed.  While this can be frustrating, ultimately you’re still getting paid for these class periods you “don’t work.”  You can use this time to prepare for other classes that week or read that book you’ve been dying to read.  Ideally the teacher will tell you ahead of time and give you something to prepare during that period.  But maybe not!  Who knows!  The hustle and bustle of some other work cultures is not prioritized here.



In a slightly different way…  I graduated from college with a BA in art history.  I spend one-third of my school-week in biology classes.  ‘Nuff said.  Initially I was concerned.  Science was always my least favorite class.  I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t connect with it the way many other students did and do.  It’s definitely one of the most exciting classes I’m in here.  The teacher is a powerhouse.  She has the most command over the classroom of all the teachers with whom I work.  The students have a lot of respect for her and it shows; they pay more attention in these classes than in my other ones.  I’ve already learned a lot from this teacher’s style of teaching--lead-by-example teaching.  She rolls along with the subject matter with an almost frenetic energy.

On top of all that, the biology classes reinforce lessons that are important.  The teacher devotes class time to relevant information such as global warming, nutrition, and general hygiene.  Just last week I gave a presentation created by a fellow auxiliar on illnesses related to the digestive system and respiratory system.  Some slides talked of the dangers of smoking, of not brushing your teeth, of not flossing, of drinking alcohol, and so on and so on.  Needless to say, you only have to be a human being to connect with these lessons.  I’m currently creating a presentation on genetic mutations.  Not my forte, but I try to have fun with the formatting (font, font size, color, images, animation).

Moral of the story:  you may be in classes that don’t particularly excite you.  This may not matter at all.  All classes are an opportunity to learn as long as you keep an open mind.



Ha ha.  I crack myself up.  Something that’s not so funny?  Commuting over an hour and a half to work.  Personally, I don’t mind my hour-and-fifteen-minutes commute.  It gives me time to wake up and prepare mentally for the day.  This manifests in my listening to music the entire time.  When the program talks of placement in Madrid, that does not mean the city center (though it could!).  Madrid is one of seventeen autonomous regions/communities of Spain, so there’s Madrid the City and Madrid the Region.  Keep this in mind when putting down your suburb preferences.  Research them in order to make an informed choice.


I never liked stretching.  Some people call me go-with-the-flow, others call me rigid.  Regardless of your own malleability-status as you read this right now, being an auxiliar can do for you whatever it is that you need it to do for you--including forcing you to stretch yourself to be the best auxiliar you can be.  “Ask not what your auxiliar-position can do for you………..” -- that’s how the quote goes, right?

Another Week: The Nitty-Gritties of Teaching

This was an interesting week at school.  I feel much more integrated into my classes.  A geography/history teacher assigned a group project to make more use of me in the classroom, which is very nice.  In one of the classes, however, some students were clearly incapable of working independently in a group.  This group of boys was laughing and joking around the entire class period.  I have been focused already on one of the students in that group because he has trouble remaining silent.  He calls out, he has to comment on everything, he interrupts his classmates, and often he talks back to the teacher.  I have this class twice a week with two different teachers, one of whom, luckily, is their tutor (each class has a tutor, a teacher that devotes one period a week to talking with the students--kind of like group therapy, I presume).  This teacher and I are always talking about the behavioral issues in her class.  With her, they act appropriately, but without her, they get a bit out of hand.  While they have improved as a whole, there are still some students who are struggling.

Recently another teacher mentioned that all of the students in 1º ESO were just last year in Primary School.  This struck me.  And made sense of a lot of the issues some of my 1º ESO classes have.  This is why I feel more like a babysitter or a police officer than a teacher with some of the classes.  Constantly I have to direct a razor-beam of light with my eyes directly into the eyes of a student.  This signals: “Stop, now.”  If that doesn’t work, I may have to walk over to the student so they sense my physical presence.  If that doesn’t work, I may ask them directly what’s going on, even if the class is in the middle of doing something else.  I’m testing out different tactics, taking advantage of my role as an assistant (we don't call parents, but we can talk to the teachers who do).  Classroom management is clearly a skill.

Back to the disruptive student:  one particular moment from the week was during the geography/history class.  His group didn’t seem to be doing any work relevant to their project.  This student, A, had written down two bullet-points on a piece of paper about his climate, but was kneeling on his chair facing a classmate behind him.  I asked A to “sit like a normal person.”  I regret this phrasing, but he understood I meant I wanted him to sit down on his chair.  Then we lightly joked about his inability to behave properly.  He joked that he is “homosapien-sapien-sapien.”  When I moved slightly away from their group, he immediately perched back up on his knees on the chair.  I signaled this was not okay, but he was laughing.  At the end of the class, I managed to indicate to all the boys in that group that I was writing all of their names down.  T-r-o-u-b-l-e.

I talked to the teacher about this group and she told me that she gave them the hardest climate to present because they like to think they know everything.  And to address their behavior she walked around telling them all she was marking down how they were acting in class.  This spooked the group out a bit, thankfully.  I don’t blame this teacher for not wanting to get too involved in all of the hullabaloo surrounding disciplinary procedures, though.  I was happy that she told them she was grading them for this class period.  I told her how they had been playfully fighting, how one boy had tried to pull down the pants of another one, how one boy had taken another boy’s papers and put them under his chair.  Needless to say, this was a MESS.    

During another class, I was talking in the hall with a student about his Science Fair project.  The door to the class next door, the struggle-bus, opened and a group of students walked out with another assistant teacher.  That student, A, suddenly put his hands on the student I was speaking with and yelled in his face in a weird and joking way.  I said, “excuse me, are you in this class right now?” or something like that.  He looked a bit startled, but didn’t seem to really register what had happened and walked away with his group.  I spoke to this class’ tutor about both events because she really appreciates when I give her updates on their behavior without her.  And because I needed to vent to someone who knows the situation firsthand.  She told me she was going to call parents.

A day or so later when I arrived at school, A was next to the English Department.  He came over to me and apologized.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that was you in the hallway,” he said.  He seemed upset and I thought for sure his parent had laced into him.  I also, though, had my guard up, because a teacher once told me he is a bit of a suck-up.  So, I reminded him of how I also told him to sit down in his chair and he didn’t listen.  He nodded and understood.  I said, “thank you for your apology, but now I want to see you behave better.”  We shall see…

As for the older students:  in my bachillerato classes, the teacher and I worked out a lesson plan dedicated to MLK Day.  The older class knew a bit about him, but the younger class didn’t know much.  In the first class, we went over some of the “I Have a Dream” speech.  I had prepared an essay prompt for them based on one a professor I worked with in the past had assigned.  They have to respond to the question “Has Dr. King’s dream come true?  Why or why not?”  I am SO looking forward to their essays.  It has been really interesting to hear the perspectives of students here on topics in American culture and history.  Funny side-note:  on my assignment sheet, I got so carried away with the writing process I forgot to include a note about how they had to read and internalize the text before writing.  I was able to add “YOU MUST SPEND TIME WITH THE TEXT FIRST” at the bottom of the paper before copies were made.  To be continued…

In the younger class, I gave each student a personalized assignment for the blog.  The topics are as follows:  a motorbike culture two students are obsessed with, thoughts on royal families, Beyoncé, the negative effects of Netflix, avocados, and some series of videos a student is into right now.  To be continued...

It's Next Year!

It’s Next Year!  Happy 2018.

We meet again, blog.  How does it feel to be back, you ask?  Good.  And overwhelming.  Mostly good.  It was wonderful to see family and over a gazillion works of art in approximately 16 museums in 3 cities.  I am, however, tired.  Grateful and tired.  Transitions are always difficult.  And the weather in Madrid has not been its usually wondrous self!

I desperately have to get the students’ papers together so I can get back on track with them.  It’s hard, though, when every student is on a different page.  I’m still getting some to sign up for the blog, some are still giving me drafts of their short stories, some are already revising drafts I’ve given back with comments.  My appreciation for teachers just grows and grows…

Back to vacation.  Here are a few (really not a substantial list at all...) highlight artworks/art-places seen:

Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère (drooled, my mom and I photographed our own stellar interpretation of the painting in front of the painting)

Manet’s Le dejeuner sur l’herbe

Delacroix’s July 28: Liberty Leading the People (I heard the people sing)

David’s Oath of the Horatii

David’s Napoleon Crowning Himself Emperor (such a big painting)

van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait (Als Ich Can ;) )

Chaim Soutine exhibition at London’s Courtauld Gallery

Museo Cerralbo (dripping with luxury, a must-see in Madrid)

Sir John Soane's Museum (why, a London townhouse filled with antiquities from ancient Greece, Rome, etc. of course!)

The furniture floor at the V&A in London (speechless)

The Morris Room at V&A cafe in London (spent more time with the Pre-Raphaelites)

Happy to see you again, blog!  More next week…  [not pictured: photos of my face, both with expression and expressionless, in front of treasured paintings]

Edouard Manet (1832 – 1883), A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882, Copyright: © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Jacques-Louis David, The Coronation of the Emperor Napoleon I and the Crowning of the Empress Joséphine in Notre-Dame Cathedral on December 2, 1804, 1806-07, Louvre, Paris
Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434, National Gallery, London

Until Next Year...!

Here it is, my last post before winter vacation.  How does one conclude a year?  Well, in Spain, you put 12 grapes in your mouth, one for each ding of the clock at midnight.  

This semester has been quite something.  It’s too soon to make sense of it, to process it all.  But I can say I am thoroughly happy with how my last week of school went.  A teacher I hadn’t been clicking with (read: I just stood during her classes while she lectured, sometimes being asked to define words) even sent me an email outlining her plans to incorporate me more into her classes.  Another teacher sent me a nice little holiday card via email.  I gave the biology teacher I work with postcards from a series devoted to women in science.  Roots have been planted in the school, I can certainly say that.

The plan for my bachillerato students’ short stories kind of fell apart, though.  I only see them once a week, so it’s hard to keep them on track.  I keep meaning to send them personal emails but just haven’t yet.  So, that’s on me.  I was able to go through the stories that had been given to me and write edits and responses to the writers.  I’m very curious to see how and if they incorporate my comments into their final drafts, which I’ll be collecting upon return in January.  I hope to get more organized for next semester!  But I’m also wondering how organized I am capable of being…  Mess fuels me.  It suits me.  I could be better, though, I could.

The most fun part of the last week of school was going tapas-hopping (tapopping, I tried…) with my fellow assistant teachers.  We had a grand time, walking from place to place, chatting over drinks and tapas.  I was thrilled to practice my Spanish.  Two of the assistants are fluent; they have spent either all or most of their lives in Spain.  When it was just the three of us at the end, I felt like I was really engaging with the language that I so desperately want to speak perfectly.  It’s a process.  A never-ending one.  And I’m trying to get used to that.

I caught the Fortuny exhibit at the Prado the other day (and then ended up on Calle Fortuny thinking how incredible it is that some of the streets are named after artists, the kind of mental and probably literal googly-eyeing one does when in a new and exciting city).  I feel like you know you’re truly living in Spain when you go to the Prado and end up not seeing Las Meninas…  At first I was distraught upon having this realization: how could I have been in the Prado and not seen it!  But then, I felt okay, because that means I must be a real resident now.  And I’ll see it next time : )

Well, that’s it for me!  I’ll be back in 2018 with more (more videos and pictures!).  Have a wonderful vacation everybody!

Keep Me Updated