Autumn in Palma

It’s autumn here, not fall. The influence of British English in schools makes itself most present in the strange mix of Brit/Spanish accents of the teachers and the word usage differences. Film not movie. Autumn not fall. So far my interactions with the teachers I’ve been working with have been stellar. It’s still unclear how we’re getting paid but all of that is in the hands of the great Spain beaurocracy that takes it’s sweet time figuring all things out. In the meantime, I am so grateful to have real people who truly care about their students and the work we are doing. At least, most of them try. But teaching three year olds – or, acting as their handlers – is a challenge that grates on even the most composed teacher. I work with one class of the little buggers every day in each of the schools and they are a real handful. Their energy is seemingly endless, their cries of joy or anger are overwhelming and their mob mentality often overtakes them in both excitement and despair. For example, Marta at Miquel Porcel uses “Ducky” the duck puppet to explain things to their spongy minds, but at the beginning of every class when Ducky makes his appearance, the kiddies shriek like banshees with smiles that don’t seem to quite match the terrible noise that comes out of their mouths. So Marta puts Ducky away until they calm themselves and tries again, and again. And that’s how it is with the threes.

In the older classes, the kids challenge the authority of the teacher in more thoughtful ways by refusing activities, immersing themselves in strange inner-dramas and ignoring attempts to reach out to them in English. But, that is a minority of the students I work with, thank goodness. And even when kids refuse to participate they often have some type of reason. Francisca, a 4th grade girl at Joan Miro, refused to color her picture of a house and kept asking me for another activity in art class. Since I’m not supposed to speak spanish with any of the kids, I asked her to repeat in English and she stared at me until I walked away with a gleam of angriness in her eyes that disturbed me. After almost 30 minutes of slow demolition to her picture, she finally snuck up to the table to grab a clean one. She hadn’t been asking me for the other activity, she just wanted a clean slate to start on. She was desperately behind the other kids who were starting their chants of “I’m done. I’m done. Come check!” I squatted next to her and started a rapid-fire drawing session to fill in the sky and ground and felt partially redeemed for our mutual misunderstanding. Dealing with misunderstandings is just one of the challenges to this position. Since so many of the kids in my schools have very little exposure to English, they simply do not speak well. And that is why I think I can really help here. At least I am going to convince myself of that for now. I worked one on one in a question and answer activity with 5th graders at Miquel Porcel and it reinforced my conviction that kids really need some type of individual attention to thrive in a classroom session. It felt good to be able to provide that opportunity to them.

Last weekend we had our couchsurfing hostess over for a dinner of fish, glazed carrots, asparagus, salad and bread. It was an experience I hope we can continue having because I really enjoy making food and cultivating friendships. Our apartment is plenty big for visitors and I hope we can host tons of dinner parties. I also made a tasty lentil soup for the weekend because it was a holiday on Sunday and that meant we didn’t have work on Monday and all the stores were closed on Sunday (as usual) and Monday. So we ate soup for the whole weekend and it turned out pretty well. We also went to a bank last Friday to try and open an account but we found out that the banks all close at 2 so we were out of luck. I walked across town in search of a health food store that I found just as I was giving up. I was finally able to buy some vegetarian proteins so I can mix things up a bit instead of always relying on eggs and cheese to survive.

Andy’s birthday is on Monday and I am still considering what to get him and have been diligently searching for cheap flights to cool locations on a weekend in the near future so we’ll see how that goes. I would really love to go to Paris, but still need to work out the details. We are going to try and find a blues club tonight in old town to listen to some music. Love to all.

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