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6 posts categorized "Penny Savryn"

Blog For Birthday Week

This post will be the written manifestation of what my daily life is like here: the first half devoted to life at school, the second half to life outside of school. It will include the same emotional swings as a day in the life here does. And I don't mean that dramatically!

In my Advanced English Bachillerato classes I gave them yet another assignment.  I’m really enjoying creating these assignment sheets.  Probably also am taking some pleasure in knowing I’m not on the receiving end for a change.  For the rest of the year--2017--they're going to develop short stories! My lesson plan (adapted from a creative writing teacher in the US): bring in about 10-12 books, preferably fiction, have each student look through a book to find a word, preferably one they don't know too well, write it down, pass the book to the next person.  In the first group, they wrote 10 words down. The rest of the groups progressively diminished their word count. I felt 10 was a bit much, a bit too difficult, so 5 sufficed.

After writing their words down, they had to stand up (keep them energized however I can) and pick the opening sentence of one of the books. They had to take a picture of it or write it down (some students actually did not have their phones! miracles can happen).  I didn't specify preface, introduction, first chapter, didn't matter. I then asked them what think is a story. Then what they think is a short story. Did not do the genre-explaining justice oops. I'm learning. Then I told them that the opening sentence they chose is the opening sentence of their story and they have to incorporate the 10 (or 5 or 4 or 7) words they have written down into their story. To soften the blow I said “those of you who wrote about wanting to expand your vocabulary on the blog, here you go, take this opportunity to not only learn new words, but also work on incorporating them into sentences.”    

I think they found the task a bit daunting, but I stressed that this isn't "write a story in a week, go!" In one week they have to just have ideas for their stories or some sort of plan. In another week they should have a first draft (they thought this meant a chart or storyboard maybe? That was interesting.  I gave them my definition of a first draft and said it means it can be rough, very rough). In two weeks (another vacation) they'll turn in their revised story. On the assignment sheet I emphasized that what they're practicing is revision: writing, revising, writing revising, etc. I wrote the words over and over so that they'd get the point. At the bottom of the assignment sheet I included my definition of revision: going over something with the intention of making it better. That definition certainly needs revision (I crack myself up!!!!).  

When two students were laughing I asked them what was funny, not as a challenge. They said they'll have trouble STOPPING themselves when writing. Another student stayed after the bell rang to tell me her ideas and chat a bit. I'm pretty lucky with this group of students.

Week after week it becomes more and more clear to me that effusing passion is the most engaging way to teach. When I'm excited, they perk up; if I'm just plowing ahead, trekking through the mud, and avoiding quicksand, they feel the tense, rough road ahead. What a performance teaching is. Very funny to experience as someone who never liked the spotlight, kind of :)

As for the second half here, it was my birthday this week.  Did I give that away already?  I had a wonderful birthday even though I'm far away from most people I love.

I went to see Cyrille Aimee as part of the Madrid Jazz Festival. Aimee is a French jazz vocalist who won a Montreal vocal competition that put her on the map. Her set was awesome and the venue was awesome. Sala Clamores felt just like a jazz nightclub should: dark lighting, red lighting, a bar with overpriced cocktails that take a long time to make, the logo of the place in bright lights behind the stage, a middle-aged male owner running around in a t-shirt that says "give all" or something motivational like that.

I went to the bar to order cocktails and they were delicious. Aimee's set was a lot of fun. It was the first stop of this tour for her and this band (a female pianist!).  They started with a great rumba version of “I Could've Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady.  Perfect opening number for a set. Later on, Aimee showed some serious vocal and arranging chops on a solo number where she looped her voice using that machine that I don't know the name of. Ed Sheeran uses it too... You sing or play a phrase of music that the machine records and can play aloud while you record the next part you want to play with that first part.  Even more people took out their phones for this number; everyone perked up and realized they were witnessing something special.

Other fairly well-known songs performed: “Whatever Lola Wants,” “Off The Wall” (Michael Jackson), and “Oye Como Va.”

I also, on my birthday, went to one of my favorite cafes. This is part of wonderful life in Madrid: I get home with enough time to turn the day into something totally different if I so choose. On the Monday of Birthday Week, the second half of my day involved cappuccino, truffle mortadella, manchego cheese, churros y chocolate (birthday week, bear with me here).

Only in Madrid.

An Assortment

I have no idea what to write this week.  A lot has been happening.  I’m getting into the swing of teaching, realizing how important it is to be organized (laughing), etc.   I felt good after I paper-clipped sheets of paper together -- that’s me getting organized (still laughing).

It’s been a lot of fun reading the students’ posts on the blogs I created for them.  They all seem to be very open to learning and they all sincerely desire to speak and know English “better.”  I push them by assigning them articles to read that could be read in a US college course, I think.  For this week, they can choose between two articles in The New York Times to read and respond to.  One is about the recent race for Governor of Virginia.  One is about First Amendment rights.  So far the students who have read and completed the assignment have all chosen the second article about a baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay male couple.  They also had to pick out 5-10 words they didn't recognize and define them, as well as pick out two sentences they enjoyed reading and write why.  In this way I hope I'm helping them to expand their vocabulary and take ownership over their thoughts and feelings about writing/reading.  Feel empowered, if I may go that far...

One student in particular let loose and wrote that it’s not okay to discriminate against anyone period.  They wrote that anyone who discriminates, according to their standards, should not be allowed to talk, essentially.  I felt like this was a perfect opportunity for me to engage as a teacher and impart the knowledge I have on this particular subject, thanks in large part to my astute, legal-minded lawyer of a father.  I asked this student where to draw the line on free speech.  I wrote that if we suppress one kind of protest, that same argument can be used to suppress a different protest, one that they may support.  I included in my comment links where they could read briefly about the Nazi rally planned for Skokie, Illinois in the late 1970s.  One link led to an essay in a 1986 issue of the California Law Review, in case this student would like some background information or insight into legal-speak (wouldn't we all).  I should have also included a link to an article about students who stopped a university president from speaking because they felt the university was not acting the way they wanted it to.  The university president -- who wrote the article -- pointed out the irony of the students’ protesting to block his (free) speech.  Anyways, I hope this student finds this topic interesting as I do.  Makes one wonder, what’s the root of it all anyway?

In other classes, some lessons have gone over better than others.  My presentation on Neoclassicism was a lot of fun because at the end, I showed a picture of Beyoncé that related to my college thesis and it sparked an interesting discussion.  It was awesome to hear the perspectives of young students in Spain on the subject.  This past week, because the class was about to study the American Revolution, I decided to tell them about Hamilton (the musical), Lin-Manuel Miranda, and In The Heights.  I thought they would enjoy In The Heights because of the Spanish that is spoken throughout and the setting of Washington Heights.  I thought it’d be cool for them to see an important aspect of my New York culture too.  When I played a clip of the Hamilton performance at the Tony Awards, they seemed a bit bewildered by lots of people on stage dressed in old-timey costumes dancing around and singing.  I don’t know, it was hard to gauge how that one went over.  I saw some lit up faces, others laughing (perhaps making fun of it), and others half asleep yadda yadda.  Always a mixture, I guess.

Now I’m going to write about some of the many wonderful things in Madrid.  I saw some very interesting films thanks to LesGaiCine Madrid taking place this past month.  Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? is about a gay Israeli man who flees his family kibbutz to go to London where he contracts HIV.  The movie moved a bit slowly, but was both upsetting and enjoyable to watch.  The main character is resilient and thoughtful and admirable.  The director (in attendance) afterwards explained that Saar, the main character, was the first person he’d ever met with HIV who didn’t blame anyone for it.  He said usually other men he had met with HIV were angry with the person they had gotten it from, but that Saar wasn’t because he knew why and knew he was responsible.  Haven’t fully processed the takeaways of that film yet, but I recommend other people see it too.

And for the cherry on top of this post:  I went to the Prado for the first time since returning to Madrid.  I was struck by the Velázquez room with Las Meninas, as usual.  I’m not sure if these two other paintings in particular were in that room the last time I went, but they were remarkable: women on horseback with long, sparkly, beautiful garments laying over the horse’s side.  The detail with which Velázquez painted is truly something.  Remarkable.  I’m always struck by his work.  I think it has something to do with knowing I’m in the place where he created.  And because he’s such an art historian’s artist, so to speak.  He clearly loves and is obsessed with art (yes, present tense), and that passion just jumps out of the artwork and into my soul.  As cliché as that sounds.  I love it.

The Nickelodeon Express

Last weekend I went to Parque de Atracciones in Madrid! It is so unbelievably easy to get to. Back home it’d be at least an hour drive to the nearest theme park. The metro ride was about 30 minutes long and an easy waltz over to the park’s entrance.


The first thing we saw upon entering was the Nickelodeon Express! I was enchanted. And frankly my day was already made. The ride was a small train of about 6 or 7 cars that went around the Nickelodeon Zone of the park. Each car had a different Nickelodeon character on it: Tommy Pickles from Rugrats, Jimmy Neutron, SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer, Wanda from Fairly OddParents. It was my childhood-self’s heaven. Who am I kidding, I’m still obsessed! I could hardly contain my excitement choosing which car would carry me off to a far-away land that SpongeBob and many others call home. His pineapple under the sea was in sight. We were off.

The Nickelodeon Express!


The Nickelodeon Express comin' round the bend!

I was intrigued by this Nickelodeon Express for a myriad of reasons, first and foremost being its design. The departure station, if you will, was designed with Taj Mahal-like arches and orange or desert-like color. It felt simultaneously fantastical and arabesque. And Greek? There were lyres at the apex of the arches. The mish-mash of styles signaled something awesome. Second, I was struck by the emphasis on Nickelodeon. The “Toon Town” of the Madrid park is sponsored by Nickelodeon! I had no idea that world of my youth existed in present-day Spain. It was interesting to see a conglomerate other than Disney command attention. Thirdly, the characters. I can’t remember the last time I watched an episode of Jimmy Neutron let alone seen that show referenced literally anywhere. What a blast from the past. And I mean that in the best way. It was comforting. Here the entertainment of my childhood was alive! In America, it’s as though some of it never happened. Though I must give a shout-out to Target for its recent Nickelodeon-inspired t-shirt and to SpongeBob. Because, SpongeBob.

So, we were not the oldest people on line for the Nickelodeon Express. Come on, there were so many parents older than us. But I was definitely relating most to the 2-feet-tall toddlers sandwiching us in line. I definitely smiled as much as they did on the ride too. The train took us above and around the Nickelodeon Zone. We didn’t just see SpongeBob’s home, we also saw the Nickelodeon Shop, the SpongeBob-themed sprinkler playground (Juegos de Agua), the Magneto de Jimmy Neutron, a replica of the Holland Tunnel that is part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ride—Licencia para conducir de las tortugas ninja—(the tunnel wasn’t real, I know for sure because there was no traffic in sight), and a “New York” street. I was simply fascinated by this park’s construction. Five minutes later we were dropped off at the Arrival Station, which is also the Departure Station, and ready to go deeper into the park.


As we walked further in there were podiums with pictures of Nickelodeon characters, primetime spots for photographs. Snapped a few, of course. With Patrick Starr. The food stations throughout the park are worth nothing here. They were clearly influenced by all things American culture. One cafeteria, La Posta Burger, was decorated with the black and white tiles typical of a 1950s American diner. The color scheme also recalled these diners with the sea-foam green and dulled yellow. Another cafeteria highlight: Ford-T. Nothing about Ford-T, however, resembles the Model Ford-T. As I write this I’m thinking that the photographs inside could have been from the 1920s, so perhaps that’s where they connect the theme to the restaurant. The place reminded me more of Disney’s Animal Kingdom with a wooden, this-is-fake-order-your-food-using-a-number interior, bamboo poles, and plant-life.


Major highlight: the Raffaello Photo Booth. We put one of two euros in, the machine kept spitting the second euro out, and we never got back the first one. So, we left the park without the beautifully crafted canvas of ourselves by Rafael that we deserved.


We waited two hours to go on the El tren de la mina rollercoaster. I thought I was crazy for waiting that long, but there wasn’t much else I wanted to ride. The coaster lasted about a minute, but it was worth it. I could not stop laughing hysterically because of the girls behind us screaming the entire time. It may be the craziest rollercoaster I’ve ever been on (note: I refuse to ride ones that go upside down, too high, etc.). I’m still proud of myself for doing it. If you like being dropped from high altitudes, flying high above Madrid, hanging upside down from a cart, and going around and around on a ride called Vertigo, you’ll find things you like here! And if you like objects and wandering, you’ll be pleased as well. The gift shops did not disappoint: SpongeBob t-shirts, mugs, pencils, towels, stuffed animals, plates, bowls, cutlery, magnets………….. Minions abounded! Minion everything. And they had a bunch of Star Wars things.




All in all, Parque de Atracciones is quite similar to amusement parks in the USA. You are inundated with capitalism. I haven’t fully gotten over the euros I spent on the games trying to win prizes. But the day ended perfectly. On line at the Casa de Bob Esponja, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was going to go inside of SpongeBob’s pineapple house and meet him! He was dressed as Frankenstein for Halloween. I gave him a hug, we took a photo, and went right on into the gift shop to purchase the photo. You’d think I was right at home.

Had to include this wonderful part of the Nickelodeon Zone


And THIS incredible part.

A ride you will never find me on.

Actually Teaching

That is what I’m doing. Actually Teaching, with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for “Penny”! [I hope my parents are proud of me right now for that Music Man reference…] Anyways, I was rereading my first two posts and becoming annoyed with my writing style. Last week I had trouble with content. This week I have a ton of things to write, but I’m bothered by how I’ll probably write them. You could say this process is interesting. I’m having a lot of thoughts.

On Monday I had my first small group of students. I was alone with them in a classroom. I felt fairly out of place. Aren’t I the student? Where are the people I’ll sit next to? Should I make it look like I’m doing something while I stand as opposed to waiting awkwardly for the students to arrive? The students entered and I asked them to help me put the desks in a circle.

The English teacher said she will always have something prepared for me, but I can do whatever I want. If I prepare something else, that’s totally fine. She is very laid back. Which is nice for me, someone who likes to be in control. She gave me a worksheet for the students, and as it was the first day and I had no idea what I would be doing, I used it. First, though, I would lay down the law of my classroom: Be Respectful, If You Misbehave I’ll Send You Back To Class, Find Something You Enjoy About What We’re Doing. I got the most pleasure from telling them this last one. The line I rattled off with all of my groups: “I know you all have lists of a bajillion things you don’t like about school,”—here I listed some things to connect with them, to show them I was a student once too (I still am)—“but my challenge for you is to find something you enjoy.” Sometimes I pleaded with them: ANYthing! But I kept it cool. I think it worked. Unclear with this class because they are not in the bilingual program. The difference between them and the students in the bilingual program is striking.

We went around talking about which words on the handout refer to appearance and which refer to personality: tall, balding, intelligent, moody, to name a few. They eventually wrote down sentences describing themselves. I had them swap papers with the person next to them and introduce each other. This way they would read “I am tall” but have to alter the sentence to say aloud “she is tall.” Improvising seems to be crucial in the classroom. When I mentioned the Be Respectful “rule” to this class, one student rolled her eyes. That alarmed me. I didn’t expect to encounter resistance so soon. I didn’t expect to have to put aside my personal feelings so soon. Luckily that was the only obvious instance of disinterest. The teacher told me the students were “very happy” after class. I was surprised. Pleasantly.

In my Bachillerato Advanced English courses, I decided to make a TON of work for myself and create a blog for each of my two classes. I cannot pinpoint exactly when this thought occurred to me or when I began to make the blog, but I worked hard on it and felt amazing when I showed my creation to the students. First I announced the idea to the class as a whole. “We’re going to have a class blog!” I said that with a lot of enthusiasm, I promise. Most reacted with excitement. I think there was maybe one student I remember looking a bit apprehensive. But I plowed ahead and voila! A blog was born. Without Judy Garland, unfortunately.

This past Wednesday was the day to show the students the site. I planned to see all of the students in mini groups as opposed to explaining the blog to the entire class. The blog has guidelines and questions to prompt the different kinds of posts they can write. I had students read aloud the homepage, but sped through everything in order to see the whole class in 55 minutes. The day before it occurred to me that maybe I should bring them some candy. I always loved when my teachers did that and I won’t see them the week of Halloween for a school holiday so…chocolate come to me! I theorized that I could classically condition them. After debating when to give the chocolate—at the beginning, in the middle, at the end—I decided that the end made perfect sense. After I virtually walked them through the blog and told them they would have to post aka write at least once a week, I gave them candy! Now they know: blog = candy, right? Pavlov would approve for certain.

I felt incredible. I was excited about it, so the students were excited about it. When they entered I told them energetically to take a seat quickly because I had to kick them out in “literally 5 minutes.” They fed off my enthusiasm and were focused and quiet and excited which I know I said already but I could sense it. I want to hold on to that feeling. It will be hard to achieve it all the time, but I will try, because there’s nothing like it. I asserted myself as an enthusiastic, caring, cool (I hope) teacher. The head teacher of the class told me after that they too were all very happy. She told me one of the students said I’m “very prepared” and “we are very lucky to have her as our assistant this year.”  The kid who said that apparently always acts like he knows everything and has no interest in classwork. He was wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers sweatshirt and so I took that as my opportunity to engage with him. “I can’t believe you’re wearing that! You know I’m a Warriors fan!” [this was in my Intro to Penny PowerPoint]. He just smiled and then I did too.

Here are some photos that have nothing to do with the content of this post and everything to do with my current life in Madrid.

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Una calle de Madrid


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Surprise hot air balloons over the Palacio Real de Aranjuez


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Musings on the First Week(s) of School Redux

Wow, I have had an extremely hard time with this next post. The first draft was titled “Musings on the First Week(s) of School,” and it included a bunch of tidbits about…my first weeks of school. It just never felt quite right. As one reader said, “sometimes you’re connected, and other times you’re disconnected, so I think you need to choose one and go with it.” The day after this comment, which of course made me sulk, I realized I’d been pushing myself too hard. This blog isn’t academic. It’s not being graded. I should feel freer and write as though it’s my personal journal, which it is. Kind of. The theme here is still the first weeks of school, but I think I may have been tripped up by the lack of denouement. I’m realizing as I write this sentence that of course there is no denouement, for I just started this job.

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A slide from my PowerPoint presentation.

I created a PowerPoint presentation to introduce myself in class. I’m still not sure if it was too long, or who understood what, but I’m happy with the slides I made—as tacky as they may have been. The “I’m from New York City!” slide is a picture of the Imagine Circle in Central Park. And there are 3 whole slides devoted to pictures of restaurants and food {I’m sure no one who knows me is surprised to read this}. A highlight is one slide with four photos of the following stars (thanks, Google) overlapping each other in the center: Adele, a Jason Aldean album cover, Jay Z, and Beyoncé. Maybe 5% of the students know who Jay Z is. And that number may be pushing it. Is this what getting older is like?!

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More slides from my PowerPoint presentation.

The most significant part, or, the part I can’t get over just yet, of starting school has been the classroom atmosphere. I’ve felt confident, disheartened, defeated, and inspired all at once. This Kingda Ka of emotions (https://www.sixflags.com/greatadventure/attractions/kingda-ka, “You’ll be shooting up that impossible height so fast, you won’t even have time to think, so just hang on. It’s 90° straight up. And once you get to the top you’ll be plummeting right back down in a 270-degree spiral…There is very little that can prepare you for a drop of this intensity”) is, I presume, what teaching ages 11 through 18 entails most of the time. But to be honest, I think I was a bit naïve going into this experience.

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Even more slides from my PowerPoint presentation.

I envisioned the perfect classroom, students attentive and participating, filled with thoughts and curiosities. But I have been experiencing the opposite. I guess I was slightly spoiled by my community college students earlier this year. Most of my students are talking. Nonstop. It doesn’t matter what’s going on. There is always at least one student turned around at their desk with their back to the front, talking to the students behind them while simultaneously nudging the one next to them. And then there are the groups in the back corners of the room that are cracking jokes and commenting on everything. Or an individual comments on something which prompts a student nearby to laugh which prompts another student nearby to laugh and that’s it, it’s over. Oh and there are the students in the front and middle rows doing the same thing. So yeah, the talking is contagious. It’s more of a chat-room than a classroom.

Some teachers have the classrooms under control—this still means there is chatter—others don’t seem to care that much. Some know that they can’t possibly do much with a class of 30-35 students. One teacher will say “a ver, chicos” to get their attention a couple of times. He’ll trek onward, though, with discussion of the Visigoths and Justinian I. “In a class with this many students,” another teacher said to me, “I’m at my wits’ end.”  

In relaying my first-hand account of the classroom to a fellow assistant teacher, I decided to compare the talking to the plague. Ultra contagious. Rapid. It’s over. Dark, yes, but fitting. I know I’m not alone. I’ve heard other assistant teachers say the same thing about their classes. Systemic commentary. And beyond the chatting, every student always has a snarky response to something the teacher says. If the teacher asks a student to be the first to present their assignment, they react with disapproval or just flat out say no. This would’ve been heresy in my schools. I’m not saying that was a “better” way to handle a classroom, it was just the opposite. Apparently all of the kids in one class of 34 students get “high marks,” are “competitive,” and most of them passed a high-level English exam. So, the talking doesn’t indicate lack of interest or caring. And actually I have had their full attention. In those rare moments I try to make sure what I’m saying is worth it. Oh well, when the class is split into smaller groups I’ll be able to accomplish more.

I’ve started to go into class expecting the talking, and I think it’s helping. I can’t and won’t take it personally. It’s not malicious, either. It’s simply talking. I do perceive it as a total lack of respect for the teacher and classroom/learning, but at least they come to school? Idk. Maybe this is a horrible lowering of standards, and maybe I would rather students on their phones so at least they’re not distracting each other talking and joking around, but I know I went school with some gross and awful kids. I’m sure all schools have their fair share, but this will be a learning experience for me. I’ll have to work hard to make lessons interesting enough to hold their attention. I’ll have to suppress the urge to get angry and frustrated and retreat and give up. And I’ll have to stretch/alter my expectations for the classroom. I guess the personal growth has begun…

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Did you think I'd forget the food slides?!

Blake Shelton and My Spanish Bank Account

Hello, blog.  He vuelto.  My first post (this one) will be a tale of failure and triumph.  I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner, but I arrived two weeks ago and hit the ground running.  I wanted to wait until I had some spark of inspiration.  I don’t want to write solely informational posts, or solely soul-searching ones either.  What pushed me to finally begin this word-focused journey was an encounter between a Spanish banker and myself.

At first I wasn’t sure if she was friendly, if I was annoying her, if she understood a word I said.  As I translated word after word in my head, she looked at me with a straight face.  I had no idea how I seemed: does it sound like I know any Spanish at all?  Does it sound like I’m crazy?  But in the middle of trying to open a bank account, I realized exactly what I was doing.  I was opening a bank account in another language in another country.  Me.  Opening a bank account in Spanish in Spain.  I felt as though I had conquered…something.  Not sure what.  But I realized after I struggled to say “I have a placement letter from the government” and “my program gave us a packet about the Expansion Account at this bank” that I had arrived.  I was experiencing the precise moments I had been thinking would solidify my experience living in Spain.  What defines living more than opening a bank account?  A lot of things.  But I hope you get the point.

Amparo and I spent a while together, or what seemed like a while.  I don’t have a Spanish cell number so I couldn’t receive a message to open online banking.  Amparo tried a few different things, made a few calls, but I could not receive the message.  As I felt defeated, I overheard Amparo say on the phone “extranjera.”  “That’s me,” I thought, “extranjera” (foreigner).  Ugh.  I am “extra,” not integral.

I said to Amparo, “Mi español es mejor que suena,” which hopefully means “my Spanish is better than it sounds.”  In a quick string of sentences she said that I speak well and that her level of English is low.  I looked at the stacks of papers across her desk, Spanish words floating everywhere, and felt comforted.  For the first time I stopped beating myself up about my Spanish ability.  “Wow,” I thought, “I am living my dream.  And even if my language level is not where I hope it’d be, I have enough to open a bank account, and that seems like a darn lot.”

Enter Blake Shelton.  On the bus ride back from the bank, Shelton’s 2013 hit song “Boys ‘Round Here” fittingly came on my shuffling music.  It’s a song about culture and place.  “Well the boys ‘round here don’t listen to the Beatles, [they] run Ol’ Bocephus (a nickname for Hank Williams Jr.) through a jukebox needle at the honky tonk, where their boots stomp all night.”  The boys ‘round Blake Shelton’s parts do X, but they don’t do Y.  Specific cultural activities take place while others, according to the song’s narrator, most certainly do not.  “The boys ‘round here, they’re keepin’ it country.  Ain’t...one know how to do the Dougie.”  The “Dougie” is a popular dance routine used in Cali Swag District’s 2010 song “Teach Me How to Dougie.”  The song repeats, “teach me how to Dougie, teach me, teach me how to Dougie” and directs listeners in its movements.  Every party at every university, every high school house party in the U.S. heard the Dougie at some point during the weekend.  Shelton’s lyrics, however, assert [yes, it’s been a while since I wrote creatively] that his group does not know how to do the Dougie.  “You don’t do the Dougie?” a female voice asks in the song.  “Naw, not in Kentucky,” Shelton replies.  

Cut to the music video for “Boys ‘Round Here” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXAgv665J14).  White men and women in denim and cowboy hats drink beer and dance in a barn.  Suddenly the doors open and a group of Black men look in at the party.  The partying people stop dancing and look at the men at the door.  After they look to each other, the men walk in towards Shelton at the center of the dance floor.  At first, the relationship between them is unclear.  But then, they hug and say hello.  Suddenly everyone at the party is dancing together and the Black men are teaching the white partygoers how to Dougie.  The music video shows that in his lyrics Shelton makes fun of the idea that one place includes all the same people doing all the same things and excludes anything or anyone different.

At my bank account opening I couldn’t have felt more like an outsider.  The account they were opening for me even includes the word “extranjera.”  But during the conversing about account numbers and my American telephone number, I felt proud of myself.  I felt as though I kind of fit into Spanish society.  If the Spanish language includes the word “extranjera,” then perhaps there is a place for me ‘round here.  


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