El albergue

El albergue

Friday, January 27, 2012

Highlights of the School Week!!!

Monday was a rather uneventful day, although it’s always fun to see the bright little faces of my students after the weekend is over.  Of course, Monday morning they tend to seem rather more sleepy than bright and shining, but then again their appearance is probably a fairly accurate reflection of my own, so let’s just leave it at bright and shining.  However, during my afternoon tutoring session with two older students, I got to hold the pet bunny rabbit of the one is whose home we were studying.  That may not seem like anything super special, but there’s just something about cuddling a soft, warm, furry little body close to you and stroking it quietly.  I guess maybe I was missing my two cats back home.  Who knows.  However it may be though, I think I had a big grin on my face like that of a happy toddler, because my students were deriving amusement from it.

Tuesday, near the end of the day, I was reading a book one-on-one with one of our special needs students in the library corner of the class, when she realized I was wearing sparkly earrings and decided to investigate further.  I let her finger my bright green studs, slightly wary of any motion even hinting at pulling, when all of a sudden, she somehow got her finger in my ear!!!  Not exactly an awww moment, but it definitely was the most memorable event of the day.

Wednesday, during assembly, when we have the second graders on the ground in the front of the class to answer a set of questions like “How are you?” “What’s the date today?” and “What day was yesterday?”, I happened to be perched on a chair in the front, and one little boy was sitting right next to me.  Now, this little boy isn’t just any little boy from my class.  No, I would say he’s by far the most huggy little guy I have ever met in my entire life.  Sometimes I have to practically fight him off to be able to move about unhindered.  Well, this morning, since he was able to position himself right next to me, he had both his arms wrapped around my right leg and his head nestled against my knee for about half the assembly time.  So ridiculously cute.

Thursday, since my third graders were out on a field trip, I got to go help out with the preschoolers for a little bit.  Sure, they didn’t understand me very well, and I often got a sort of shyly blank stare in return whenever I asked one of them a direct question, but they were so adorable when we were playing our little preposition game – the teacher and I would say something like “Put your head UNDER the table,” and they would mill around in excited confusion until they saw us lead the way.  And even then, there was always someone who still didn’t quite get it and would sort of end up alone in the middle of the floor hopping from foot to foot, probably thinking something along the lines of “I just KNOW something really fun and cool is going on right now, but I have NO clue what it is!”

Friday, I don’t have to go to school, so I don’t have any personal highlights regarding my kids, but I’m sure the regular teachers (who don’t get the day off)  are mentally storing away plenty of their own.

Monday, January 23, 2012

This is Madrid

This is Madrid.  The capitol of Spain.  The busy, yet still warm and inviting center of an entire country.  The big metropolis where you can find just about anything. 

Here, you can find salsa clubs, where people sway about the floor in small circles as they try to avoid the elbows and toes of their extremely close neighbors.  Where the rhythms are catchy and unmistakable and the chance to see some excellent dancing nearly always certain.

Here are the dusty convenience stores run by hard-working Chinese immigrants, where you can find just about anything you might possibly happen to want.  And if they don’t have it, the one right down the street surely does.

Here are the jazz bars, where you can go catch the regular live band performances of either slow and artsy styles or the swinging sound of Dixieland.  Where the band might be composed of four gray-haired old men, with one young ‘un on the drums, who enthusiastically whale away at their respective instruments, the lead singer jerking his head around energetically whenever he enters another seizure of scat singing.  Where you can just barely make out the faces of a couple of the musicians over the heads of a standing-room-only crowd and around the corner of a mirror-encrusted pillar.

Here are the quaint little novelty shops, the best often having to do with food.  Here, in fact, is Happy Day bakery, the tiniest little 50s-themed shop that happens to sell the most enchanting cupcakes and muffins.  Also here are the plethora of adorable little book shops with artistically arranged displays of second hand novels and brik-a-brak that make you long for an entire afternoon free for their perusal.

Here are the parade of seemingly random little fairs of artwork, jewelry, food, and whathaveyou, including a large scale fair for the celebration of Chinese New Year, where you can be sure to see anything from a stall selling hot sauce or ready-to-eat chow mein to chicken feet dangling temptingly at eye level from another stall to a vendor trying to sell lacy underclothing to the wandering crowd – where you can be sure to hear vendors banging drums or playing flutes to attract customers or the quasi-wailing of a demonstration of traditional Chinese singing.

Where you can leave the bustle and noise of a main street and almost right away enter the quiet of a residential district where it seems like the whole world is sleeping.

Where I am currently living my life. 

This is Madrid, my home for now.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sights and Sounds of a Weekend

It’s the little things that make this life what it is:

The muted, underwater quality of the swift tump tump tump of the heels on my boots as they hit the path around the park heading toward the metro on the way home from a private English lesson.

The snapshot of the sunset that peeks through apartment buildings, coyly showing off a glorious marbling of vermilion sky and deep purple clouds.

The relaxed twilight of my bedroom as I languidly open my eyes to greet a blessedly late morning (oh, Persian blinds, how I love you).

The half-muffled strains of Adele seeping into our apartment from some neighbor’s open window.

The high-pitched beep beep beep of the cashier’s scanner at the supermarket as they race to get all my items in, followed by the crash of the change drawer as it bangs open, jingling all the coins inside.

The odd poses that tourists twist themselves into as they try their hardest to get that most perfect of funny shots with the fountain in the Plaza de España.

The soft whir of the fan in our little portable heater as it blows out delicious warmth into the relative silence of our lazy-day living room.

The delicate wafts of steam that dance above my fresh mug of hot chocolate.

The dramatic audio ups and downs of conversation with friends packed in like sardines around the dinner table in our hole of a living room.

The feel of a friend’s nose next to my ear as they try to shout something over the loudly rhythmic beat of salsa music in the club.

The sleepy nodding of an early morning commuter’s head on the metro as we head back home after finally leaving the club at 6 in the morning.

The sizzle of my roommate’s breakfast sandwich on the stove when we get up at 3 pm.

The subdued shimmering pink orb of the sun slowly sliding towards the skyline as I sit behind the Templo de Debod reading in the last of the sunlight.

The happy song of some hidden birds in the trees of Plaza de España trilling out over the thrum of an idling bus.

...........These are the things that make up my life here in Madrid, the little things that define my days.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I’m so full!  Why?  Because I ate a lot, of course!  Ahhhhhh, what did I eat so much of…that’s the question is it?  Well, if you must know, I ate food.  Good, simple, fresh food made in our own kitchen at home.  First up, and the most filling factor in our meal, was rosemary bread.  It was my first solo attempt at making a loaf of yeast bread by hand, and although it came out rather tasty, it didn’t really rise at all, so it was incredibly dense.  I’m not completely sure why it didn’t expand into beautiful fluffiness, although it may have been old yeast, but I sure as heck did knead that dough into the most perfect state of “smooth elasticity” you have ever seen as I listened to some new music in the background that a friend gave me.  So kneading must not have been the problem…it must have been the yeast, simply MUST have been, because otherwise it would be MY fault.  Ah well.  Whatever the reason for its moist density, the bread was free from sticky doughiness and actually pretty delicious…meaning I ate more than my fair share of the steaming loaf.

Next up was roast butternut squash.  No funny stuff there, just straight up squash peeled and roasted in quarters with a little bit of olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper.  And yet simple as it was, it had a delightfulness all its own.  It also went very nicely with dish number three…

Cucumber, tomato, and garbanzo bean salad.  It combined the freshness of summer salad with the heartier feel always appropriate for winter with its mix of cool vegetables and boiled garbanzos covered with a stylish tahini dressing.  Tahini dressing, you say?  Just a spoonful of that delightful sesame paste blended with olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and wonderfully smoky paprika was the perfect pairing for the veggies and beans.  And yes, I ate a whole lot of this magical mixture too. 

Plus – that’s right, we’re not done yet – a friend came over for dinner and brought “failed” brownies to share.  Those puppies were by no means a fail though.  They may not have been baked all the way, but that just meant that when you dipped into the pan with your spoon, you were greeted by the blessed sight of a fountain of fudgy delight oozing forth from the crustier outside.  It literally melted in our mouths, each bite begging for an encore, and before we knew it, we had almost finished the entire pan. 

Thus, I am ridiculously, and seriously, full.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Los 25 días de Navidad

Yay!  I finally finished my Christmas project - a video montage of all 25 beautiful days of my Christmas here in Madrid.  The only problem is that it refused to upload here.  So if you want to watch it, you'll have to catch it on my facebook page....sorry!

Monday, January 2, 2012

A tiny bit on Portugal

In between Christmas and New Year’s, my roommates and I went on a little trip to both Porto and Lisbon, Portugal.  We experienced so much, saw so many things, and tasted a ton of new foods and drinks, so much in total that there is no way I could ever recount it without filling pages and pages.  So, rather than bore you with every single detail, I’ll tell you about three of my parts of the trip.

I was excited to eat this thing
1.     Francesinhas.  These typical Porto sandwiches are not for the faint of heart.  Not in the least.  With sausage, chorizo, ham, thin steak, and something like pastrami, the inside of this monstrosity is nothing compared to the fried egg on top and the melted cheese dripping down the sides from the summit into a swamp of French fries and a spicy beer sauce.  I know.  Wow, right?  The three of us each tackled our own pile of deliciousness, and even though we were starving, only Kelsey was able to finish off every last bite.  Oh my.  It was so amazing.

Oh yeah, baby

2.     Fado.  Our first night in Lisbon, we got to go listen to some of the traditional local music, and it was amazing.  I actually took some notes while the music washed over me, so here ya go:

We enjoyed some sangría the group from our hostel who
went to fado with us - they were a great group
You barely make out the singer in front of the tiny restaurant’s doors through the near complete darkness, a few small lights on one side illuminating just enough to see the guitarists’ fingers flying around both the 6-string classical model and the smaller, drop-shaped 12-string Portuguese style and to see the singer’s head thrown back as they pour out their sad lament over love either lost of spurned.  The singer’s chin rolls slightly to the side and even farther back and their shoulders shrug with subdued intensity as their voice swells to the top of a crescendo and reverberates around the close blue and white tiled walls that rise over the heads of the rapt audience packed into tight clusters of small table or even standing in any open corner.  The singer reaches the crest of their crescendo and starts the descent down the other side, their chin and shoulders imitating the vocal descent as they gradually come back to their original posture of tender lament.  Between songs, the performing area is broken in upon by the doors opening inward and new costumers and listeners coming in, but in the matter of roughly 30 seconds, the light from the street is shut out again and the performers settle themselves for another song of touching poignancy – the female soloists outshining the males’ deeper rumblings with their greater lightness and quickness of tone change, or versatility (one in particular has a voice with willow-like softness – both pliable and firm).  And in the background, the two guitarists toil ever on, occasionally pausing to retune their multitude of strings, but generally streaming unbroken cascades of notes that intertwine with each other as well as the vocalist’s melody – it is really beautiful to hear the interplay between the more delicate Portuguese 12-string and the more robust classical, their individual pluckings combining into a veritable tapestry of sound.

That marker stands on THE westernmost point in Europe
3.     Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in all of Europe.  This windswept little bit of rocky coastline is gorgeous, with cliffs that tumble down from the lookout points into the spume of the ocean before you and crumpled up hills covered in a shaggy carpet of green behind.  The wind whips your hair around your face ecstatically, and there is one little promontory that beckons any and all comers to trek through its boulders and get a little closer to the sea.  Our tour guide took our group down there, and even though I was wearing leather boots, I trekked along with the best of them, because there was no way I was missing out on such a fun adventure.

Starting the trek down

We were having fun :)

I came, I saw, I conquered!
There were, of course, many many other things that we thoroughly enjoyed during our trip, and taken all together, I would say that they have most definitely placed Portugal on my list of favorite places in the world.  It’s worth a visit.