Time Flies

I cannot believe my time in Barcelona is already over.  I slacked on blogging my last week, but all I wanted to do was spend time with my host family. So, let me catch you up on my last week and my travels back to Kentucky.

On Monday I spent the day at school and home with my host family.  We played every game imaginable on the ipad, hide ‘n seek, soccer, and anything else the twins could come up with.  

On Tuesday we had one last journey in Barcelona. After school we walked to the FC Barcelona Futbol Stadium.  This was probably my favorite place I saw in Spain.  We got tour the stadium; we were down by the field, up in the box seats, in the team chapel, in the guest locker room, and the museum.  After we finished the tour, we grabbed dinner on the go and headed to Park Guell.  Park Guell is an outdoor park with tons of mosaics designed by Antonio Gaudi, which is the same architect from Sagrada Familia.  His house is also a part of the park.  The view was beautiful and the details were amazing.  This was my second favorite part of Barcelona.  Overall, Tuesday ended up being a perfect last day to go on an excursion in Barcelona.

Wednesday was a very bittersweet day.  It was my last day in Barcelona, my last day teaching at Colegio Reial Monestir de Santa Isabel (RMSI), and my last night to spend with my wonderful host family.  The school hosted a special lunch for all the WKU student teachers.  We all got to eat lunch with our cooperating teachers, and got recognized.  They gave us a t-shirt and yearbook as well.  My class of 4th grade boys made me a huge card, which I absolutely love.  After school, I went home and spent every minute with the kids.  We played every game imaginable until Pablo and Jorge learned how to take selfies on my phone.  We had a traditional spanish omelet for dinner, which is delicious, and before I knew it, it was time for bed.  The next morning I had to meet at the school before the kids get up, but all 5 of them got up to say one last goodbye.  My family gave me a necklace so now I know they are always with me when I wear it.

On Thursday morning it was time to say goodbye to Barcelona.  After 8 hours I was back in the US, 6 hours later I was in Nashville, and by 9:00pm Thursday night I was home in Kentucky.  

I can say for a fact it was not a goodbye, but a see you later.  I cannot wait for the day I can return to Barcelona and visit my spanish family. They hold a very special place in my heart, along with everyone at RMSI. This opportunity has truly been unforgettable and much too short.  I have loved every minute of my time abroad.  

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Tapping into My Irish Heritage

This weekend was one of the best weekends of my life; I went to Dublin, Ireland. As soon as the plane landed I was already planning another visit. We got into Dublin on Friday night, checked into our hotel, and went to get dinner. Our hotel was a beautiful old building that looked like a castle on the outskirts of the city. We ate at traditional Irish restaurant with live music.

Early Saturday morning we woke up to begin touring the city. Naturally, things were going to well until we got on the wrong bus. We bought a 2 day pass for a tour bus to hop on and off to see all the sites. We wanted to go to the Kilmainham Gaol (jail) first, but after riding around on the bus for an hour we realized it wouldn’t take us there. Eventually we got the correct bus and toured the jail. Thomas Clarke (assuming he’s an ancestor of mine) was one of the last people executed in this prison in 1916. All of the tourist attractions close around 5 in Dublin, so after riding the wrong bus, standing in line, and touring the jail, we didn’t have enough time to see anything else. We made it back to the city center to shop and eat dinner before we called it a night.

Since Saturday was a little backwards, we were on top of it Sunday and got to see everything we didn’t on Saturday. We started the day at the Guinness Storehouse where we got to tour the brewery, learn how to pour the perfect pint, and sample some Guinness. Next we toured the Book of Kells at Trinity College. The Book of Kells is the oldest manuscript of the 4 gospels written in Latin to be found in Ireland. Our last stops were the Dublin Castle and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We ended our day in Dublin eating at the oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head.

Everything about this weekend was perfect! I loved Dublin, the people, the music, and the food. I cannot wait to return again one day!

Slowing Things Down

This has been a slower week in terms of seeing and doing new things, so I thought I would take the time to write my general experience so far, but first let me catch you up on this week.

I taught my first secondary class on Tuesday.  My cooperating teacher wanted the students to practice speaking English by doing a debate, so that’s just what we did.  This is the lower group of 15 year olds, but they did fantastic! I forgot how much I missed actually teaching a whole group, rather than pulling a few students out of class to practice speaking.  The activity was very simple, but the students still enjoyed it.  In my primary class of 4th graders and my advanced secondary group of 18 year olds, I assist the students during class activities, and pull students out of class to practice speaking English.  It is so odd for me to be in a class of over 10 students, to teach whole classes (around 20 students), and to not adapt or modify any of the material.  I am so used to prompting students to answer, giving options, using pictures, and teaching in small groups (1-5 students).  I have forced myself to refrain from using these strategies, and am learning a lot about teaching large groups.

I have spent a lot of time with my family this week, and have loved every minute of it.  On Tuesday I went to La Rambla, the tourist Street with shops, with some of the SPED girls, but other than that I have been busy playing hide n’ seek, jumping on trampolines, and playing soccer with the kids. Today, my host mom’s brother, Iñaki, arrived in Barcelona to visit.  He has lived in Australia for two years and comes to Barcelona once a year.  He is easily the kid’s favorite uncle, they have been talking about him coming to visit everyday I have been here.  They knew he was coming sometime in May, but had no idea what day, so this was a huge surprise!

Tomorrow (Friday), the SPED girls and myself will leave for a short weekend in Dublin, Ireland. I have been anticipating this trip for a while, so I am very excited! I have been researching and planning our days all week, and cannot wait to get there!  We will get to Dublin around 8 on Friday night and will leave around 10 on Sunday night.  It may be a short weekend, and we may be exhausted after it, but it will definitely be worth it!

Okay, so now I will get to the purpose of this blog; just to discuss some general obersvations since I have been here. 

First off, school is 9:00am-5:00pm with a 30 minute recess break in the moring and a hour lunch break in the afternoon.  There are not school buses here, so students walk, ride the metro or city bus, or get dropped off by their parents.  The students who live close to school go home for lunch, which is what my host family does. This is a private, catholic school, so uniforms and religion is a part of the day.  The students stay in the same classroom throughout the day, while the teachers move from class to class.  The class Schedule is different everyday.  Similar to the United States, the students have PE, art, computer, and music class throughout the week.  I would say the students are learning at about the same level here as they do back home, with the exception that the students in Spain know three languages.  At recess, they do not have a playground like in the United States.  Their playground is a cushioned Green surface like a soccer field, and the kids play soccer the whole time.  Boys and girls are seperated in primary classes (grades 1-6).  Preschool starts at 1 years old and goes until 1st grade, primary is 1st-6th grade, and secondary is grades 7-12.  In Secondary they are divided in the classes based on their ability levels.  Although there are many differences, students still have homework and tests, participate in sports after school, and hangout with their friends.  

Before coming to Barcelona, I was used to waking up at 5, going to school at 7, leaving school at 3, working until 6, planning for the next day, and going to bed by 10.  The Schedule is much different here, and I think I’m getting used to it.  I dont have to wake up until 7:30-8:00, school is 9:00-5:00, and then I don’t have to work or plan for the next day.  I have been learning that going to bed at 11:00 is a little early.  Their day may be longer, but they get so much more out of each day and still get the same amount of sleep as I would in Kentucky; I may go to bed later, but I also wake up later.  With the long days, the eating Schedule is also different.  I typically have a bowl of cereal and coffee before school at 8:30, then from 11:00-11:30 we have breakfast at school (small sandwich and coffee), lunch is at 1:30, then we have a small snack after school, and dinner is around 9:00-9:30.  Lunch is the biggest meal of the day (3 courses), but I have also learned dinner is 2-3 courses.  It seems like they eat more than we do, but the portions are smaller, and the food is so much healthier. So far, I have tried almost everything and loved it all.  I need to learn how to cook some of these meals because I will miss them! 

Although there are many more differences, some small some big, I have jumped right in and embraced the cultural changes.  If I didn’t want to step out of my comfort zone, try new things, and experience a different lifestyle I would not have signed up for this opportunity.  I am loving everything about Barcelona!  Just as I suspected, I have not been homesick at all, but I do miss my dog, Millie, terribly.  If Millie could be here now, I think I could easily stay in Spain much longer.

I am learning and experiencing so much during this journey, and am so grateful for the opportunity!

Rome, Florence, and Venice

This past weekend was a longer weekend than usual due to May Day on Thursday, which is like our Labor Day. So, the SPED girls took advantage of this and conquered 3 cities in Italy in 4 days.

On Wednesday after school we flew to Rome. By the time we go there and got to our hotel, it was late and we were tired, so we decided to make an itinerary for the following day. We woke up early on Thursday to catch the tram into the city. Since we only had a day in Rome, we decided the bus tour was our best bet at seeing everything. Luckily the bus stopped at all the major sights, so we could ride around the city and get off to see everything on our itinerary. The first stop was the Vatican. The line moved fast and we were able to see the church and St. Peter’s Basilica. Unfortunately, the Sistine Chapel was closed for the holiday. Next, we saw the Colosseum and Roman Ruins. By then it was time to take a break for some Italian pizza and gelato. The remainder of our day in Rome was spent riding the bus all over the city, walking the tiny streets, shopping, and the Trevi Fountain. I was so excited to make my wish at the fountain; I guess we will see if it comes true sometime soon! As our first day in Italy came to an end we walked to a restaurant near our hotel for some pasta before we called it a night.

Friday morning came early as well. We were off to the train station to go to Florence. Once we arrived in Florence we quickly found out our hotel was in a village about 20 minutes away. With that being said and knowing we only
had a day in Florence, and it was supposed to rain in the afternoon, we decided to carry our backpacks with us. The good news about this decision is that we got to take a bus your around the city and walked around before it started raining. The bad news about this decision is that my back is still sore from carrying my bag around all day. We stood in line in the pouring rain for over 2 hours to get into the museum with Michelangelo’s Statue of David. Obviously the wait and water was well worth it. We bought bright colored ponchos to keep us and our bags dry and had as much fun as possible standing in a line, in the rain, with heavy backpacks. My shoes may have been soaking, my feet and back may have been aching, but I still loved Florence. We finally arrived at our hotel where we were able to dry off and have dinner before bed.

Saturday and Sunday were the days I anticipated the most. I was so excited to get to Venice, and it exceeded my expectations. We once again hopped on the train early in the morning for the last stop of our trip. My pictures don’t do it justice and my words cannot describe how gorgeous Venice was and how much I loved it! We checked into our hotel and were off to explore. We took a water taxi to the opposite side where San Marcos Square is located. We went to the duchesses’ palace and many shops in that area. Later in the day we walked around the whole island, shopped, and took many pictures. We ate dinner at a little place near our hotel. On Sunday we had another day to enjoy Venice. We did a little walking and decided it was time for a Gondola ride. The ride was about 40 minutes, but I could’ve stayed on it all day. We got to see all the smaller water ways, which were so calm and pretty. We walked back to San Marcos Square to go up into the tower that overlooked all of Venice. We ended our long weekend with pasta and gelato overlooking the water in Venice. As if you can’t tell already, Venice is my favorite place thus far.

After all the traveling, I was ready to return home and home meant Barcelona. I loved seeing the look of excitement on my host family’s face when I entered the living room. It’s crazy how quickly a place and people can become home and family.