Earlier this week, the director of my school (Manolo) asked if would meet him and his family for coffee on Thursday so we could talk about me doing private conversation lessons for his kids. So, I met him, his wife and his kids and some of his friends yesterday evening for coffee. I sort of thought we would just meet for maybe an hour and talk about the specifics, but it ended up being more. First we had coffee at a cafe and we were chatting and such. He has 2 daughters and one of them is 21 and one is i think 13. We finished our coffees and they said, "let's go get some wine." So, we went to a wine bar and had some wine and tapas chatted some more. Then they said let's go somewhere else, so we went to another bar and got more wine and beer. My director doesn't know a whole lot of English, but he's trying to learn and he can speak a little bit. We we're speaking in Spanish most of the time, but my director said, "after a few more of these (glasses of wine) I'll speak English perfect."
Anyway, we were getting pretty tipsy at this point, but we still hadn't said a word about English lessons. I was kind of confused. I thought maybe I was mistaken that he wanted lessons for his kids and was thinking, hmm, maybe they just wanted to hang out? After this bar we went to yet another bar for more beers and we were just chatting and joking and Manolo's wife was asking me how to say bad words and things in English and they were teaching me swear words in gallego. I told them a few different ways to say boobs in English. They told me there's a saying "se vive como puta madre" (i think?). It's a good thing, it's like living like a son of a bitch. Finally they discussed giving lessons for their kids at the very end of the night. I thought it was funny how casual everyone is here. I feel like if i was meeting someone about private lessons in America we would discuss that for an hour and part ways. Needless to say, by the time I left them I was quite drunk, but the night was just getting started. In Spain, young people don't really start to go out to the bars until 1 or 2am. I got home at around 12ish, so i called Victor to see where he was because he had gone out skating with some friends. A week or two ago Victor was out skating and met some other skaters here and they became friends pretty quickly. Some of them think he's really cool because he's from San Francisco and there's a ton of famous skate spots in San Francisco that are in skate videos.
I met up with him and the skaters at a bar called Fifty-fifty (which is a skate trick). The bar is skate themed and all the skaters hang out there. All the shot names are skate tricks too; it's pretty funny. Victor had initially met a guy named Hugo who is really nice and knows all the skaters in Pontevedra. We hung out at the bar for a while and took some shots with Hugo. Hugo and I talked about learning Spanish and he told me that in Galica especially everyone had a different accent. Some people speak more Galician and some people speak more Spanish and even the different provinces in Galicia have different accents and in Pontevedra, not everyone is from the city of Pontevedra. A lot of people have moved here from other small towns in Galicia. I thought that was so interesting because I've noticed that I can understand some people perfectly and they say, "oh your spanish is so good!" and some people I can't understand at all and they think I don't know a lick of Spanish. Victor and I hung out at the bar for a while then went home at around 3:30am. Victor had work this morning at 9... i feel bad for him.
Speaking of learning Spanish, I went to Cuenca last week and I think that was good for learning and practicing Spanish. Only 10 kids from my school went, but when we got to Cuenca we met up with a bunch of kids from other schools in Spain. There was a school from Asturias, Valencia and Cuenca. We took a charter bus from here to Cuenca and it took like 12 hours to drive there. That part was pretty boring. It was a little bit awkward at first on the trip because i think my director thought i didn't know any Spanish, so i think he would say that to people when he introduced them to me and then nobody talked to me because they didn't know English. Then, i said to him that he can speak spanish to me and i understand as long as he doesn't speak really fast. It was still a little awkward because all the other teachers that were on the trip knew each other already and would talk with each other really fast (and they're all from different regions and have different accents) and they would talk over each other. So, most of the time when the teachers were talking to each other, I didn't understand. If i talked to people one on one it was fine. Other than that, the actual trip in Cuenca was cool. The whole old town is up on this rock hill and it looks really cool. We saw the casas colgadas, which means hanging houses. They are these houses that are built on the edge of the rocks and it looks like there haning off of the cliff. We went to the science museum and the kids got to built a rocket out of plastic coke bottles. We went to the abstract art museum which was a pretty hilarious experience.
In the abstract art museum they set up a little art project for the kids in the studio. They had little square translucent pieces of paper in different colors for the kids to arrange how they wanted on their white paper. The guy that worked there was around my age and was explaining the task to them, but when he showed them examples of other kids' papers that had done the same thing he brought out two papers and said "this one on the right is good, you see? and this one on the left is bad. Understand? see how this one is organized and this other one is just chaos?" I was thinking that was ridiculous because it's abstract art. How can you say one is right and one is wrong? Anyway, I wasn't alone; all the teachers were laughing at how ridiculous he was for trying to pin down a right and wrong way to make abstract art.
We also had a tour through Cuenca's old town with an group of 3 people dressed in old timey outfits and playing a little flute thing through the town. The following day we went to visit the elementary school in Cuenca that was hosting the visit.
|Manolo (the director) and I With the 10 6th graders from my school|
|The abstact art guy telling the kids that their abstract art is wrong|
|las casas colgadas|
|the kids making a rocket at the science museum|
|old timey tour guides|
|The kids from my school: From top left: Jose, Ibana, Pablo, Iamer. Middle row: Xoel, Laura, Maria, Andrea, Francisco. Bottom: Francisco|
|Visiting the Cuenca city hall|
|At the ciudad encantada. A place with cool rock formations (conan the barbarian was filmed there)|
The trip was good to get to know the kids from my school. I like them a lot. Yesterday at school Maria, Xoel and Andrea from the 6th grade class gave me a card and a gourd for Halloween and they tried to write the card in English. It was so cute. I told the English teacher that they gave me the card and she said she had talked to them and they were worried that I wouldn't have a pumpkin to celebrate Halloween like in the US and I would miss it because I'm in Spain. During a previous class with them I told them about Halloween in America and then they asked me questions about Halloween. They asked me if I carved a pumpkin this year and if i decorated my house and I said not this year, but I did before in California. So, they thought I would be sad without a pumpkin. It was sweet of them.
|Halloween card/letter that the kids gave to me|
The trip was fun and a bit awkward at times, but I think it was good to be around Spanish speakers for 4 days straight to have a full immersion. I think it did me some good with comprehension. I feel that I had improved a lot at understanding and speaking when i got back. I was talking to Emma about how I feel differently about my ability to learn Spanish after every experience I have with it. For example, when I have a bad experience where I can't understand someone and am having a really hard time expressing myself i feel like I'm never going to be fluent and 8 months is not enough time to learn. But, when i have a really good experience and have a flawless conversation with someone without saying "como?" every minute, I feel like I'm so awesome and I'm going to be speaking like a Spaniard in no time. I do feel like I'm in a good place right now though with Spanish. I've made a pretty big noticeable change from when I first got here. I just remember when I first got here and I went to Celia's house and she was talking to me and I didn't understand a single word she said and kept looking to Victor to translate. I felt like I didn't know any Spanish. But, it's been about a month and I've improved a lot. I can especially note the improvement when I have a conversation with Celia, which I was not able to do at all when I first got here. I feel more comfortable trying to speak now. I've also noticed that Spaniards are not so uptight with manners here. Like when you want to ask for something you don't really ask for it like you would in the U.S.. Like in the US you would say "can you pass me the salt?" here it, "give me the salt." People are always talking over each other here it's not like it's so rude to interrupt, people just don't let themselves be interrupted because they just keep talking. They're not as concerned with being so delicate here and it's kind of nice that I don't have to worry about offending people. It makes me more comfortable in terms of learning to be able to just say what i want without worrying if it's rude. Like saying "I don't understand, speak slower."
I've noticed that as i start to think more and more in Spanish that my English gets worse. I've also started to form some of my English sentences like Spanish ones. For example, when I mean to say "it doesn't matter" I catch myself saying "it is of no importance" because in spanish it's "no importa." Anyway, I think it's time to go because I've been sitting here for too long. This sunday Victor, Emma and I are planning on making a huge batch of bagels. Victor really misses bagels.