Monday, April 25, 2011

boats, baguettes, and bland alliterations... Venice!

Warning: A person who has been forced to eat Spanish food for the past four months wrote this blog. It will contain large amounts of reference to food that most people have the opportunity to eat everyday. You have been warned.

Eve and I spent these last few days in Venice, Italy, which I have to say has probably been my favorite trip, although it is hard to say with Morocco in the running… not.

The Thursday before leaving I didn’t have time to go home for lunch due to group projects. This was kind of a big deal because lunch in Spain is similar to dinner in the US—it’s the time of day the family comes together at home for some downtime. In Spain it’s so expected all of the stores close (yes, those siesta rumors are kind of true). As soon as I walked in the door for dinner around 9:30 Mañola had me in her arms. She wouldn’t let go of me as she started screaming (don’t forget she’s hard of hearing), “You leave tomorrow! I’m going to miss you!” She then started beso-ing (those European kisses, yes also a true rumor) my cheek as I flailed around with my giant backpack. My cheeks turned pink with the warm feeling that rose from my stomach.

Friday morning our plane left Seville at 6:30 am, so we were pretty tired when we got to Venice. We found our way to the hostel we rented for the first night and were pretty thankful right away to only be staying there for one day: Clara, the hostel-owner, had mistaken bubble=wrap thrown on top of some old plywood planks for a mattress—a confusion my neck was less than pleased about. Nevertheless, we napped a good part of the day before walking around of the city, which is simply beautiful. Tourists do clog the streets as a few people had advised us before leaving, which was a little odd to get used to, but it’s very understandable why anyone would want to travel here—IT’S GORGEOUS! We tried to use Spanish and wore our scarves to feel extra cool and European. It worked great—all of the hostess men outside of restaurants invited us in (yes, that is their job), and more than one called us “espagnolis” which means Spaniards (no, I’m not at all positive that’s how it translates). We were called Spaniards more than once here which we took to be a compliment, until we considered how quiet, clean, well-kept, and composed Italians are in comparison-- Spaniards have started to look a little insane….

The next morning we took the metro=boat-taxi to the apartment we rented for the remainder of our stay. The taxi and the apartment were awesome! We got to see so much from the boat and having our own quiet place with a kitchen was indescribable! After taking long, hot showers and getting ourselves together we went to the grocery store and stocked up on tons of vegetables, coffee, PASTURIZED MILK!, cheese, TORTILLAS!, pasta, and eggs. I had forgotten how much I love being able to cook my own meals and control how much butter, oil, and meat (yes, I did have to say that) goes into them. We were so happy with our cooking we photographed every meal: salad, scrambles, pasta.
The view from the boat taxi-- an outdoor market

You have to pay for bags in grocery stores in Europe, so we used Eve's suitcase to hail our food back to the apartment... it was heavy.


Eggs, strawberries, T-swift (of course), and TORTILLAS!

Pasta with asparagus and other goodies!


Before the trip we had looked up what to do in Venice and the number one piece of advice was to put your map away and get lost. Well, we followed this advice, almost a little too much. The first night we had found so many little pizza shops that served 2-euro slices, we thought it would be a great thing to do for dinner the second night. We figured we’d head towards what we figured was the residential area, find a local pizza shop, and call it a night. Well, that didn’t happen. We probably walked around getting lost and dead-ending at waterways until we finally walked back towards the places we had seen in the touristy areas. It was worth it though—we got a 13inch pizza for 5 euro. Pleased with ourselves, we started walking back toward our apartment when we passed a bar playing Elton John and Janis Joplin. We kept walking but then decided to turn around and get a beer. It ended up being one of the best choices we could make. It was a TINY bar, but everyone (a crowd ranging from ages 18 to probably 75) was dancing, singing, and enjoying themselves. We stood outside, speaking Spanish (still trying to play off the European card), and sipping on our beers (which were much better than the Cruzcampo and Keystone Lights I’ve become so accustomed to) when some Italian boy came up to us and asked us where we were from. We started talking to him and his friends who were all very nice (boys AND girls, don’t start making those faces, folks, I see your brain wheels turning!). We met a couple girls from England, as well, who were teaching English in Venice and we’re also very friendly. We had so much fun and could not stop talking about how great of a night it had been—we’d made more Italian friends in one night than we had Spanish friends in three months!
Our little bar!
The next morning, we woke up, made eggs (a God-send), and headed out to see the Piazza San Marco church and square. The line was INSANE and tourists everywhere made me feel like I was in a bad Where is Waldo? picture. We, therefore, gave up on the church and decided to re-do our search for the residential area—this time it went much better. We walked for a really long time and finally arrived at a beautiful park. It was so GREEN!, by far the most grass either of us had seen in Europe. We rested at the park for awhile and then made the long trek back. We, of course, stopped for gelato and when we got back to the apartment we passed out napping and needed coffee to wake us up to make dinner.  We, of course, cooked and ate again—this time eggplant, pasta, and salad. We could hardly eat even half of it, but thoroughly loved every bite! After dinner we had planned on going out in hopes of meeting some more friends (this time preferably some of the good-looking Italian boys we’d seen on the streets), but instead, after laying down on the bed to digest a bit, we both realized we wouldn’t be moving the rest of the night—the only boy we met was Stieg Larsson as we read our Dragon Tattoo Girl books like some true old ladies. Clearly this host mom thing is rubbing off on me too much.
leaving our apartment (this was our street!)
Piazza San Marco

Like I said, tons of tourists. Can you spot Eve?

Me with a giant cat outside the military base

Our last day we had a lot of homework things to do and studied at a hotel that had Wi-Fi. We walked around the city some more and shopped, ate a slice of pizza and packed up our things for Barcelona.

To put it simply, if it weren’t for Spanish, I would have studied in Italy. Ever since around 8th grade I have wanted to learn Italian and move to Italy one day, and before this trip I had started to think that was a dumb idea, but now I am determined to retire in Venice… I could sink with it.

an outdoor vintage market-- very cool!

Like I said, we went shopping... if you know me well enough, you know I have trouble taking that very seriously... this thing had poofy-ness under it & made me feel like a fairy in Midsummer Night's Dream

Mechanic shop in Venice... get it?

Really cool store-- Venice is known for glass blowing. These are Coke bottles converted into high heels!


Monday, April 18, 2011

¡locura en sevilla!

Spring has hit Seville! And when I say spring, I mean summer, at least in my book. It has been at least 80 degrees everyday, and last Friday it hit 90, leaving me shocked at the amount of sweat my body can actually produce. Also, it turns out I am very allergic to orange blossoms and encourage everyone to buy stock in Kleenex because I have been greatly helping their cause.

Classes have been going well, though, I’ve come to realize how prevalent tradition is in Spain. I’ve known this for a while, but it’s amazing how much it comes out in the education system. Classes run the same way everyday no matter what, and teachers re-use materials that they’ve had for years without any modifications. This applies not only to the classes I’m taking, but the English ones I’ve taken over. Workbooks are God, and after taking education classes at CU that drill the idea of creative lessons filled with read-alouds and story writing within a “community of learners”, I have been very discouraged by the regularity of lecturing and fill-in-the-blank activities . As early as first grade students have their teachers shuffled around for each subject: that’s to say that instead of having a cozy homeroom feeling where Miss Honey (Roald Dahl reference for those of you on you’re “A” game) reads you a story from a rocking chair, you’re teacher changes every hour and you don’t move from your desk (which is in a row) besides recess. Fighting this system has not gotten me far—the students don’t know how to react when you tell them to get out of their seats, and the collaborating teachers always look up from the back of the room as if I’ve just lit the chalkboard on fire. Also, I’m realizing how much language effects behavior== encouraging words and politeness are not key to Spanish. Saying “gracias” after every meal, offer, or compliment is very foreign and considered “over-polite”. This means that when you get an answer wrong in class there is never a “Well, I see where you’re coming from, but…” or “Interesting way to look at it, however…”—No. More often the teacher interrupts with “No! Pay attention” and then calls on someone else. My eyes have popped out of my head as if I were hit with a chalkboard on more than one occasion.  Needless to say, I’ve come to value the education I’ve received and the one I hope to give others one day.

On a lighter note, the past weekend (April 8th… sorry I’ve been slacking!) was a blast!! On Thursday after class, sick of caring what Spaniards think of us and ready to let loose a little, Greg, Eve, Amanda, and I were on a mission to pretend we were back in the states. How you ask? Well, we found cups, ping-pong balls (I’m pretty sure it was the only existing pack in Spain), a plank of wood, and well, beer. Classy or not, we set the plank of wood up in a plaza near our house outside of a playground (we’re drawn to children?) and played beer pong. Like mashed potatoes loaded with butter, it might not have been the best idea, but it was a true home comfort. We also got a lot of exercise in chasing after loose balls… all of us were a bit out of practice.


On Friday, the school we teach at hosted a “Día de Deportes,” pretty much a very competitive field day. We had no idea how important this day was for the school until we saw all of the children cheering and crying when the “winning team” was determined. It was fun to spend time with our students outside the classroom and see how school pride translates here. Also, some of the events would never fly in the USA, like having students run at a central mat from six different directions (needless to say some collisions occurred) to eventually go through a hoola-hoop. After the events, we went out to dinner with one of the teachers we observe and practiced some Spanish. Sarah, Eve, and I were really on a Spanish kick and decided to watch The Notebook in Spanish—it was cool to see how they translated things since we knew pretty much every scene and line. Turns out it’s a great chick flick no matter the language.

The "best student in the school" carrying the school flag before the games began.

Everyone watching the sporting events
 Saturday Eve and I met up with Gabby and here friends, Lily and Jessie. It was sooo fun to see Gabby! We had breakfast and toured the cathedral. I hadn’t actually seen the whole cathedral yet, so I was glad I actually figured that out… I would’ve felt pretty dumb if I’d left Sevilla without seeing the whole thing.

That night, we drank wine and caught up in the hostel… old habits die hard I guess.

Gabby and I hanging out with Christopher Columbus

The next day was Greg’s birthday and the weather was great, so we all got on a bus and went to the beach. We took a picnic consisting of bread, Pringles, peanuts, oranges, bananas,  and wine. The combination of the sun, salt, wine, ice cream bars (following the wine and sun) and good friends left a smile glued to my face as we raced into the water, froze at how cold it was, got in any way, and then ran out to lay in the sand some more. The mere 17 euros I spent on the day proved money isn’t always key to happiness.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation... more or less...

 "You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around-- and why his parents will wave back."-- William D. Tammeus


Mom and James at Plaza de España

James eating a montadito!

Underneath the Palace Alcázar

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words-- but since I just can't help myself from talking... -- you can see that the fam came for a visit which was quite lovely, and I have become just oh- so- artsy! The last part was a joke, the first part wasn't. Seeing my family was sooo great. It was a little bittersweet since I still had to go to class during the week and didn't get to spend as much time with them as I would have liked, and seeing them leave brought big tears to my eyes, of course, but time is starting to fly around here and I'll be home soon!

Here are some pictures I took in Cordoba, a small town in Southern Spain that I visited last Saturday.