Monday, November 11, 2013
it’s been far too long since i’ve posted on here – but, i’ve been busy (read: on holiday in spain)! here in franceland, vacation days are plentiful. usually, schools go for about six weeks, and then the students get a two week break. this pattern continues from the beginning of september to june. as a teaching assistant, i have the pleasure of benefitting from this lovely little schedule, which means i get 8 weeks of vacation this year (fall break, christmas break, winter break, spring break). the halloween break snuck right up on me… i felt like i’d only just started work (because i had) and then boom! two weeks of vacation. being the proactive little traveler that i am, i had to take advantage of the time! i was pretty exhausted from the constant vagrancy of september, so i decided to go easy and plan a trip to see two of my friends from nashville, who are living and teaching in madrid for the year! it was much simpler than planning a big tour through scandinavia, which was my other idea.
before i left, however, i did have a very interesting teaching experience. as the only english assistant in the school, i was offered the chance to teach an optional english camp during the first two days of the vacation. the school puts on this program each semester, and they usually find a native english speaker to plan the lessons and run the two-day camp. this time, i had 15 high schoolers, ranging from 10th-12th grade, to entertain for a total of 10 hours. i was exceedingly pleased with the lesson i created, which centered around a “roadtrip across the usa” theme and touched on all aspects of language acquisition (reading, listening, writing, conversing, public speaking). in theory, it was great. in reality….. it was alright. some things just didn’t work in practice like they had in my head (ie – group vocabulary research, roadtrip itinerary creation). if i had known that the students expected these camps to be mainly focused on speaking practice, i would have planned differently… however, considering the fact that i was given literally no guidelines or instruction, i thought it was pretty successful. the first time trying something is always going to be awkward, and now i know better for next time!
the moment my camp was over on tuesday, i hit the road for my vacation! since excideuil is so far out into the country, it’s kind of a process to even get to an airport. i’ve found that the best thing to do is get into bordeaux for the evening and then fly out the following day, so that’s exactly what i did. plus, i got to hang out with my friends in bordeaux for a night, which is always, always a plus. :)
europe is so fun, because international flights can be amazingly short! we crossed a mountain range and completely changed cultures in less than an hour… i’m not sure we even got up to full altitude. but anyway, i got to madrid in about an hour and fifteen minutes, and promptly got to partying! the friends i was visiting, mitchell and nicole, met me at the airport, brought me home to drop my bag, and then led me to this fantastic area of madrid called lavapies. this particular neighborhood just haaaappened to be in the middle of a week-long event called “tapapies,” in which dozens of bars were offering signature tapas for 1 euro each. convenient. we ended up bar-hopping through lavapies for a couple nights of my stay, because it was just too good for one visit.
the majority of my time in the city proper was spent walking (as is my habit in new cities), visiting some seriously fantastic art museums (mostly for free, thanks to the handy free-admission hours that most museums offer throughout the week), and eating. my lord, did we eat. here in excideuil, it’s hard to cook for just one person… i invariably end up making the same couple meals, because they’re easy to make in small quantities. but in madrid, we got to cook for four, which led to some wonderfully creative dinners and snacks. it was great to get to see my friends and spend some quality time together in such an exciting and vibrant city!
consequently, we did get out of town on two separate day trips, which were both fantastic. one of the days, we took the train out to avila, a medieval city with a giant wall surrounding the old town. we did a little taste test of the typical pastry of the town and then walked along the top of the walls for over a kilometer. it was interesting to see how closely it resembled the walls of the chateau in angers, where i used to live. they were constructed around the same time, so i guess that was just the style back then! our other day trip was to toledo, another town about an hour south of madrid. we went on a sunday, so it was pretty quiet, which meant fewer tourists but also earlier closing hours. we saw a lot, but i definitely want to go back one day and see all the churches and museums that were closed! even so, it was great just to walk around and see the tiny streets and hidden plazas.
my last day in spain was halloween, which was so fun. i went with nicole out to the school where she teaches, so i could visit her classes and help spook the kids in this haunted classroom experience one of the teachers had set up. it was so entertaining, because the kids immediately came up to me and started asking questions and trying to figure out who i was. i even bonded with one of the girls when i told her i was from the same town as taylor swift. i was particularly interested in seeing the differences between her school and mine here in france – the educational systems are really quite different! all in all, i’m happy with my decision to teach middle/high school… as cute as the primary school kids were, i just don’t have the energy for that kind of mayhem every day!
if you would like to see photos from my trip to spain, check out this facebook album, starting at picture number 77!
after i got back to excideuil from vacation, i worked for 4 days (for a grand total of 10 hours) and then had a 4 day weekend, thanks to armistice day. #france. my upstairs neighbor, mathilde, invited me to her house for the break, which was super kind of her. we left friday afternoon and made the 5 hour trek up to her town, which is called ‘les sables d’olonne.’ it’s a beach town on the atlantic coast, and it’s so lovely! luckily, we had a few hours of sunshine on saturday and sunday, so she got to show me the beach, the boardwalk, the harbor, and some of the more rugged coastline. the weekend was filled with exceptional food (oh, how i missed home-cookin’) and lots of french practice for me (note: conversations in loud bars and comedy shows containing political satire are even harder in a foreign language). mathilde and her parents were so hospitable and fun – i had a great time. (for pictures, click here!) and now, somehow, my christmas break is only 5 weeks away. so, naturally, i’m already planning. that’s pretty much how things go here… finish one vacation, start planning the next!