El albergue

El albergue

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, the other language assistant at my school and I got to teach the third and fourth graders a little bit about this quintessential American holiday. I love storytelling and being silly, so of course I hammed it up quite a bit, even going so far as to draw a truly horrid and inaccurate map on the blackboard to illustrate the voyage of the Pilgrims from England to their new home in America. But despite my lack of cartography skills, I think the kids enjoyed learning a little bit about a holiday that doesn’t exist in their culture. Plus, the description of all the food we eat on this wonderful day didn’t hurt either. After listing all the pies and other dishes of amazing deliciousness, I distinctly heard more than one student exclaim, “I want to go there!”

Then, to focus the kids on what the spirit of Thanksgiving was about, we did a class brainstorming session on the board of all the different things they were thankful for. And then we made hand-turkeys!!! Some of the end products only marginally resembled the birds they were supposed to the modeled upon, but they still worked just fine as a place to write down what they were each thankful for.

Nacho is thankful for:
"my frands, (friends) Christmas, this school, my spader (spider)."
And of course, the turkey has an epic collar. It's only natural.

Ari didn't quite get the instructions...
More than one thing fell victim to her overly exuberant pencil and scissors.
"I'm thansful (thankful) for the hospitals."
"I'm thanful ... " ???YES???
"I'm thanful mi (my) fried (friends)"
"I'm thanful mothers"
"I'm thanful ho..." I think that might be house...
But she totally got an A+ for cuteness. I mean, that turkey has a bow!

 And finally, all the turkeys went up on a big poster in the downstairs hallway.

Yay Thanksgiving!!!

And just for kicks and giggles, here's another poster the other language assistant and I worked on to teach the kids a little bit about our lovely home state. It took a while, but it was fun!

Isn't it beautiful??!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tickets to the symphony

I have in my possession prime tickets to the symphony. To the most amazing audio dance there could be. And the best thing? They were free! AND I can use them over and over again. They never expire. They never go out of date. They are eternal, you might even say.

These tickets are perfect because the symphony is always changing its tune. The basic movements are often very similar. But the rhythms and sway change all the time. The instruments and musicians often change too. I’m never disappointed or bored.

Plus, the hours are perfect. I can take advantage of my tickets at any moment I choose. Seriously. Any time. Let me demonstrate…

I’m walking to the metro from my last private class of the day. I’m thinking of home. I’m ready to be there and not here. But then, the music starts. I hear the instruments tuning up around me. The symphony coughs and splutters to life as I begin to listen.

The wind instruments make a standout entrance in a forceful blast that sends dozens of crumbly leaves skittering across the sidewalk. They crescendo and decrescendo through the last leaves clinging to the tree limbs overhead.

The brass section makes its presence known. They blare out in the occasional car horn sounding across the open residential neighborhood. They blend a little better in the overall whole with the gentler revving and slowing of cars entering and exiting the roundabout.

The strings are soft and mild tonight. They shimmer through the hair falling over my ears. They caressingly bring forth a swaying vibrato with the long grass growing on the hills of the park.

The percussion lays a steady beat with the purposeful stride of my feet. They accentuate with the tinny clink of the key chain dancing by my side. The cymbals splash out a highlight in the muted crash of a basketball sinking through the hoop behind the rise.

There are even vocal solos tonight. A sharp tenor comes through, sounding rather like a dog. And a giddy young soprano shrieks out in laughing exuberance.

Slowly, the symphony fades to an end. The instruments fall quiet as I step into the metro. And there, another begins…

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Just do it!!

In an uncharacteristically short post, all I’m going to say is that you need to make this Thai peanut sauce NOW!!! Yes, that’s right, you need to get off your email, put aside all plans for the day, and make this amazingly fantastic delight that will change your life forever. Just do it!!! (You will never, ever regret it, I promise)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Moments to remember

My roommates and I went on a little trip through the north of Spain last weekend, and as usually ends up with trips of any sort, there’s just way too much for me to be able to tell you about all of it. So, rather than try to explain every single thing, here are a couple moments from our journey that I definitely want to remember in the future, moments worth sharing.

On every one of the various bus rides we took through the north country:
Everything I see is misty, soft, shadowed, blanketed, and veiled. It’s a world of wet – of lakes, streams, rivulets, and oceans. It’s a land where the wet below meets the wet above, and everything is…well, wet.
The dripping wisps of cloud drift through the crowded hills, completely obscuring what is far away and drawing a gauzy film over what lies near. Tails of mist disconnect and embrace the earth, insinuating themselves into the leaves of the many trees, the lone little houses spread out and scattered around, the blinking eyes of cows placidly chewing their cud in the green fields, the blades of the plentifully abundant grass covering every hillside, and the very particles of the soil itself.

On All Saints’ Day, in Gijón:
There’s a woman standing on the steps below us, steps that lead down to rocks battered by the waves of high tide. Her hands are clasped as she leans against the railing, her whole body expressing a certain sadness as her eyes tilt down towards the dozen red roses she has just cast into the water. The roses drift about according to the wont of the currents. First they spread out in a sort of red blanket, then they are swirled together in a wet bouquet. In their every change of direction, the woman’s eyes follow them, remembering no doubt someone she once loved, someone who is now gone from her forever.

Lunchtime, in Oviedo:
We have been eyeing everyone diner in the packed out plaza, waiting for a table to clear out. Kels sees a group starting to stand up across the way, and we swoop on the table. Success! The two men at the neighboring table are eating something rather on the stranger side of looking. I can’t help but ask them what it is – sea urchins! They kindly offer us each a bite so that we can try this cold water delicacy. It’s so odd…it tastes exactly like the ocean smells, and literally melts away on my tongue. Weird.

Bus station, Santander:
…oops. Luckily, Kels has a rain coat she’s able to let me borrow for the time being…

The streets of Bilbao, nighttime:
We’ve been working our way around a couple of different pintxos bars, tasting an incredible assortment of delicious little pintxos, and now all we want is ice cream. We ask a friendly couple where to go. They point us in one direction. We get to that destination. Sadly, we don’t want frozen yogurt, we want ICE CREAM. We ask a group of young women where we might find some. First, they marvel at our desire to eat ice cream in this cold weather. Then they send us off again. We aren’t really sure if we’re going right or left or straight or what. We ask an old man smoking outside. Yes! Thank you, sir! Heladería Alaska! Girls, it’s right there in front of us! We have found our ice cream!

Serra exhibit, in the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum:
These giant steel sculptures make me feel like I’m Alice in Wonderland. They curve and slant and twist all around. They echo so wonderfully that I find myself filled with the urge to burst out into song…I may or may not actually sing a line of two…

Bilbao airport, in the security line:
Something is wrong, and Kels CANNOT get her boot off. She starts to giggle. I try to help her. We heave and ho. We’re laughing hysterically as I try to pull of that darn boot. The other people around us start to laugh with us too. It’s such a ridiculous sight, who couldn’t?

Bilbao airport, waiting area:
Well, I guess we now have an hour and a half extra to wait around the airport, because our flight just got delayed. Hey, what the perfect opportunity to play a great number of rousing rounds of Scattergories!

We got home late that Sunday night, completely exhausted, but happy we had gone on our trip. It was a good one, filled with even more moments than these, moments of reflection, delicious food, sleepy nights, and wondering wandering. Heck! It even had its moment of bird poop!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The poetry of life

Many people consider poetry to be a dead art form in the modern world. After all, nobody really reads it, right? I myself don’t tend to read it that often just because I generally prefer something along the lines of Dickens or Austen, although my mother tells me that I loved it when I was little. However, I am so frequently amazed at the moving poetry of life as it occurs around me, the sheer beauty inherent in so many acts of living and being. Really, poetry still exists.  It is alive and breathing.  It follows us everywhere we go; all we have to do is open our eyes and see it and allow it to move us.

Sometimes, life’s poetry comes out in actual words, in lines of deep meaning and emotion. For example, during an icebreaker activity at a recent Bible study, in which we had to create sentences out of the random assortment of words we pulled from a box, one friend wrote this simple phrase: “El pájaro negro suena al campo.” (“The black bird sounds like the field.”) Maybe to those of you more scientific and literal minded, such a sentence might seem like mere nonsense.  And yet for me, there is something in those six (or seven) words that thrills through my inner mind, something elusive that my spirit identifies with but can’t quite define, something that speaks of whole worlds residing in the simple song of a simple creature of the earth. Read those words again. Do you see what I mean?

Of course, if words of poetry aren’t for you, there’s all of Creation waiting just outside to astound you with beautifully complex poems of form and movement.  A couple weeks ago, I decided to rest by the side of the river in Toledo as I waited for my parents and aunt and uncle to tour the cathedral (I was tired and had already seen it). As I sat on a bench at the top of the cliffs dropping down to the water, my mind releasing the worries of the day and soaking in the peace and calm of the water below, a flock of birds suddenly took off from the lower slopes of the opposite cliffs. There were hundreds of them swirling about in flurries and floating to and fro. I looked down at them from above and felt like I was watching Nature’s soul dance about in sheer joy, swooping intricately in patterns I could not follow as it gave full vent to its passion, heedless of who could see.

Then, sometimes poetry comes out of something unexpected. Like a movie you go to see with your roommate that turns out to be poignantly beautiful and heart breaking. A couple weeks ago, Kels and I went to the little theater across the street to see a modern interpretation of the classic Snow White tale set in Sevilla, Spain, in the 1920s. We were rather surprised when we realized it was silent, but the lack of voice made the music and the visual aspect so much more impelling. Plus, the cinematography was beautiful.

There are many other ways that life’s poetry can be experienced too. You can feel it in the embrace of someone you love after a long separation or in that last sweet look when they turn around before disappearing into airport security on their way back home. You can smell it in the melody of aromas wafting around your apartment building during the lunch hour. You can hear it in the crunchy resonance of your feet on the park trails as you go for an early run. You can see it in foam twisting up in a passing swirl of wind from the fountain that someone has secretly tainted with soap.

So for those who claim poetry is dead – each moment, each experience has something of poetry in it. Life is, in and of itself, in many ways a poem. Sometimes we just need to liberate our minds from the mundane rut we so often fall into to be able to see it. We need to think, to feel, to see, to smell. We need to participate in the poem.