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19 posts categorized "Samantha Becci"

Happy Birthday, Plaza Mayor! ¡Felicidades por 400 años!

So this year is the 400th anniversary of Plaza Mayor, and to celebrate, the city of Madrid put on an amazing light and projections show.

The projections told the story of Plaza Mayor from its founding to the present day. At one point the plaza went up in projected flames; at another it transformed into a music box. Standing in the square, surrounded by buildings, with projections on all four sides, it feels like being a part of the show. Having all the people in the plaza surrounded by the story turned the audience into active members of the show, shouting "bravo" or clapping or screaming in fright (the little girl next to me screamed the entire fire scene). It was very immersive, and a very cool example of bringing history to life (especially since it utilized such modern technology).

Here's a photo...


...and a video from the show:

***Password to view is PlazaMayor400***

Happy 400th Anniversary, Plaza Mayor! May you be around for 400 more!



Around Town, Now Featuring: Rain

I tend to organize my days around meals. On the weekends, that means brunch and dinner. 

When I heard I needed a costume for my school's Carnaval celebration, the first place to look that popped into my head was El Rastro (a huge outdoor market right in the center of Madrid that runs 9am-2pm every Sunday--you're welcome). As my friend and I wanted brunch at a reasonable brunch time (which in Spain, is anywhere from 11-1:30), we decided we would rastro from 10ish-noon, then head to Panela (a not-too-pricey brunch place of dreams in the posh Salamanca neighborhood). 

As it turns out, if you head to El Rastro by passing through metro Embajadores, there are these amazing sections of wall painted in all different styles (by, I presume, different artists). They are stunning. 

Here're a couple photos:


My friend the boat


As they say, "a concrete jungle"


Anyway, we got a bit carried away playing with the murals. Which was fine until we realized we had paint/plaster ALL OVER US. It was somehow dry, yet still able to spread onto all of our clothing and purses. I fundamentally disagree with the formula and manufacturers of this wall paint. I for one certainly hope it was not certified as waterproof.

Anyway, after 20 minutes of tissue wiping and hand sanitizing, we were starting to get hungry, so we only ended up poking around the market for just a little over an hour, then were on our way to brunch.

So we arrived at Panela, only to find out that it is not open on Sundays. Heartbreak. Well, being the hungry munchkins we were, we quickly decided to go to another little place, Crepes and Waffles (a huge international chain that started in the Americas), which was a solid choice because their food (and waters! and juices!) are fantastic.

A sample:


It's called "Hidrátate"


Dessert (of course) 

As I was still costume-less due to our limited time at El Rastro, after brunch we popped into a little bazaar-market. I'm on a budget, so when I saw a €2 tiger tail there, that made my decision. I will be a tiger for my school's Carnaval celebration next week. Sunday shopping trip success.

The New Auxiliar in Town

One of our auxiliars had to return home for good over winter break, leaving my school short an assistant. Because of the short time from when the auxiliar notified the school she could not return after winter break to the start of classes in January, we had to find someone who was either an EU citizen or had legal permanent residence/visa that would allow that person to work in our school. Luckily, one of our teachers is married to an American citizen who was studying education in grad school. He was up for the job, and we met our new Auxiliar a couple weeks ago.

Which meant we could *finally* finish our meet the auxiliars bulletin board which we had been working on since October (a day in the life of an auxiliar at our school involves a lot of one-on-one time with students or lesson support with teachers and not much time for crafts). So when a fellow auxiliar and I had to come in our day off (we are making up some days), we got to work on all things decoration/motivational poster inspired.

How'd we do?



City Life

Last week, a few friends and I decided to finally go to trivia night at J&J's Books and Coffee (J&J's is half bar-half bookshop run by English-speaking expats, unclear why they leave the key bar component out of their name). We hardcore bombed. The categories were World Leaders, Music, Complete the List, and Famous Painters. We, uh, got 10/40 right. However!!! That put us solidly in the middle of the pack (so it really was quite hard). We can't even use the excuse of the pub quiz being about Spanish history/pop-culture, as it was at J&J's, the expat bar. Oh well.

At the very least, we got some good Irish cider and incentive to return (we must redeem ourselves, after all!).

Oh, and the best part about J&J's pub quizzes? You grade each other's answers then and there after all the rounds are finished. Our neighbors were especially creative, citing a Wheat Thins lover as the artist who painted Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring. Snaps to them.


Happy New Year, 12 Grapes Later

Though it's not quite New Year's for us in the states, a quick update from my phone :) we ate our grapes (celebrating the Spanish tradition, one for each month of the year) this evening when it turned 2017 in Spain! Twelve grapes later, we are feeling pretty lucky. Cheers!

The music note that drops in Nashville

The Belén (Christmas Take 2)

As soon as I returned to school after the puente holiday, I began helping the art teacher to set up the nativity whenever my other teachers could spare me. The nativity scene (or belén) that my school set up was tied to India, the country that classes were paying special attention to this year. Every age of student created artwork for the belén: the young ones (infants age 3 & 4) painted stars and wrapped string around them to hang in the air above the scene, the next age level created snakes, the second and third graders painted elephants, the older students created houses and people figures out of cardboard and chess pieces.

Part of the goal of the project was to teach the children about the beautiful traditions and culture of India as well to bring awareness to the difficulties facing a country that is relatively newly-independent. As with any project, sometimes execution was a bit wonky (let's just say there was a video clip made in which the sixth graders said, "Our project this year is set in India. In India there is a lot of poverty. Merry Christmas!"), but I do think the children learned a lot about Indian history and gained a lifelong interest in another country's culture and way of life. The kids loved reading stories about Divali (the Hindu Festival of Lights) around Halloween, which was extremely fun for me.

The belén! It was setup right outside the comedor (dining hall), facing the front desk.


A fuller view of the nativity. See the Indian flag in the background? A fellow CIEE auxiliar painted that!

One of the most exciting parts about the Christmas celebration at my school (It still feels strange to me from an American perspective to have holidays that are so tied to the Catholic Church; when I mentioned Chanukah, I had to explain the holiday to all of my students because they had never heard of it), though, is that the children all learn songs to perform in front of their parents. I work primarily with third grade and fourth grade (though I have classes with every other grade except first grade), so I learned their songs with them. They perform two English songs and a Spanish song, and third and fourth grade's songs were "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," and "La luz que nace en ti" ("The Light that shines from you"--literally it would be "the light that's born in you," but from what I understand of the song, I think the literal translation makes it sound like it is referring to the light that you shine with/your individuality and loses the point that the light is shining out of you, connecting you to all who see your light). They all had adorable dance moves to help remember the words to the songs; my kids would all "hop" on the line "at the Christmas party-hop" in "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." 

The children had so much fun, and the songs and belén were incredible. Seriously, the art teacher and religion teacher are so creative; no wonder there are so many Spanish master painters and artists.

Now all that's left to say is ¡Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo!

Nollaig Shona Duit (Christmas Take 1)

Puente: literally "bridge," puente is the day (or a holiday weekend with this kind of day) that bridges a holiday (like the Immaculate Conception, which fell on a Thursday) to the weekend (so taking the Friday off after the Immaculate Conception). 

This makes for some incredible travel opportunities!

Having studied abroad in Dublin, I knew I wanted to get back while I was in Europe. It panned out beautifully that a friend of mine was directing a show for the Trinity College Dublin Drama Department's Debut Festival over the puente, so I traveled to Éire Thursday evening with a fellow CIEE auxiliar. 

Of course, the most important part of our visit was making sure we got to our favorite pubs in Christmas style. One of my favorite pubs (The Gingerman) always explodes holiday decorations (Halloween is exceptional there). 


While at the Gingerman Pub


(As you can see)

Unfortunately, we were tired from traveling and a bit low on funds because of Christmas shopping, so we didn't get to do 12 Pubs of Christmas (we, uh, tuckered out around 4). However, what matters is not the number of pubs you go to but rather the number of quality friends and drinks you have at one pub. 

From St. Stephen's Green and Mall (where we saw the cutest all-male senior choir raising money for a hospital) to Old Library and the Book of Kells to Hodges Figgis to the General Post Office on O'Connell Street, I hope my friend (who was studying at Trinity at the time) and I showed off the stunning history and beauty and humor that is Dublin.


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The all-male senior choir!!!


Happy Christmas, all!


Thanksgiving Part 2: After School Special

Given the state of ham in Spain as the most loved, most eaten food, a few friends and I decided to forgo meat (turkey) in favor of pizza and pumpkin bread for our Friendsgiving extravaganza. If anything feels like home, it’s eating Domino’s pizza with friends at midnight.

If anyone has any suggestions for my food baby, I’m taking names.

Now on to Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life and planning my trip to Lolina Vintage Café, which is celebrating the revival by converting its store into Luke’s Diner for a week :)

Look at the pictures on their Facebook: Lolina Vintage Café


Thanksgiving Part 1: School

If there is any holiday that tests an American’s endurance for living abroad, it is Thanksgiving.

For one, having to work on Thanksgiving like it’s an ordinary day is just not very fun. Plus, social media is a no-go unless you want to be bombarded with cute photos of people at home eating delicious food, playing with their pets, and just generally not doing anything. Most importantly—

Only the U.S. gets a Snapchat turkey filter on Thanksgiving. Spain does not get the turkey filter.

I love the turkey filter; it is so sad not to have the turkey filter.

To be fair, there are a couple perks to working on Thanksgiving, such as getting to explain the holiday to your students and hearing them become excited to learn about you and your life. If there is anything that can make you feel better about yourself than third graders showering your family pictures with compliments, I don’t even want to know what it is. I am the luckiest teacher in the world ♥

One of the pictures that my kids loved:

When I was the same age as my students!


Please Let Me Plead the Fifth (#USexpatproblems)

Sometimes you’re from the U.S. and something major happens in the U.S. and all your fellow teachers want to talk to you about it, and you just want nothing more than to talk about anything else.

Even my third graders had opinions about the 2016 Presidential Election. And they're too young to know the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, so I can't even plead the Fifth with them. Sigh.

Needless to say, coffee breaks were a little dicey for a while, and I wished more than anything I had lied during the first few weeks of school and claimed to be Canadian. Pro travel tip: Always tell people you’re from Canada. There are no negatives to this (besides, you know, lying). I mean, remember that awesome morale-boosting Twitter hash tag from a few months ago? Go Canada.

Anyway, I took a welcome escape to Segovia this past weekend, where I could be a tourist and ignore my nationality for a little while. Pro life tip: Find a beautiful, fairytale castle whenever suffering from never-ending streams of questions to which you absolutely do not have the answers.

The Alcázar de Segovia was the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Historically, it was a royal residence for the Castilian monarchs, including Isabel I and Ferdinand II.


Alcazár de Segovia




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Alcazár de Segovia from afar




Castle from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves


It was a gorgeous day, and Segovia is so beautiful. The aqueduct was incredible (and supposedly two thousand years old!); legend has it that the Devil himself was responsible for its construction. The cathedral was gorgeous, and with the bright green trees surrounding it in the middle of the stone Plaza Mayor, it looked like it was in its own little world. Everything in this little city was full of history and beauty. As I told my friends who were with me, I am starting to experience some serious city-envy!



 Not really, Madrid is still my favorite. Even if Antonio Machado lived in Segovia and there’s an awesome museum about him there.


Other photos from La Granja:





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