In just under a week, I will have been here for exactly 2 months. That might not sound like a lot, and it isn’t, but it’s incredible to think about what’s happened here and how much things have changed.
Firstly, you’ll be happy to know I am no longer terrified of venturing into the city alone, even at night. Now I don’t curse myself for renting a flat far enough from the centre that I need to take a bus. I love Málaga, I love where I live, with my view of the Parque del Oeste, and I love that I’m only a short bus ride away from the centre where all my lovely friends are and delicious tapas and ice-cream and all the rest of it.
School is also improving, mostly due to the fact I’ve made friends with a couple of teachers, which is always great, and we sit and gossip in class which I love. But something that doesn’t make me sound like a lazy git is that every Tuesday I teach (on my own) two fourth grade classes back to back, for the full duration of the lesson (45 minutes). This happened from the get-go, which I was at first terrified about, since I don’t actually have any formal teacher training, or to be honest any proper experience teaching real things! It was all the more scary in that the science these kids learn (in a foreign language no less) is stuff I remember oh so very vaguely from my human biology A-Level classes. So to combat the inevitable boredom and lack of understanding, at the beginning I filled the time with games and simple vocabulary. However, I have since realised these kids are pretty damn smart, and have moved onto a combination of exercises and reading as well as the occasional games. And still they respond well, they listen, they nod enthusiastically when I ask if they understand, and they still clap at the end of every lesson I give!
Had a proper “OMG I’m loving this” moment yesterday, in the first of these two classes. The school is very ill equipped for students with mental disabilities or learning difficulties, and as a result, the children with these problems are left in class to be left behind by all the mentally able kids. Very sad, but I’m told the government/school don’t want to spend more money on assistants/helpers – three helpers for five hundred and eight children is more than enough right?! In any case, there is a boy in the first class who I believe has rather a severe form of autism. He avoids eye contact, doesn’t like being touched (it’s very normal here for teachers to give the kids a hug, chuckle under the chin, ruffling their hair, even little besitos (air kisses) on the cheek – nothing sinister, just little signs of affection…it is a primary school after all) and never ever speaks to me. He seemed frightened of me to begin with, probably because he had no idea who I was or what confusing gibberish was coming out of my mouth. Fair enough. Yesterday I was teaching the rest of the class about the difference between living and non-living things, and was wandering around the classroom pointing at things and asking them whether it was living or non-living. I momentarily forgot this child didn’t like to be touched, and lightly rested my hand on his shoulder whilst asking the class was he living or non-living. Immediately he just lent his head on my hand and squeezed it and smiled – like a hug with his face. I almost burst into tears there and then from sheer adorableness. I have earned his trust. It was a good day.
One of the first grade classes on Halloween!
Another first grade class that I have with my friend Eli, a great teacher, and her class just love her.
I seem to be getting more and more liked by the kids throughout the school – I told one class who called me “teacher” to the point of excess that they could simply call me “Mish”, at which point the excitement from being able to call me by my name tipped them over the edge! Now when I walk around school, if kids see me they all ask for high fives, say hello, or “hey Mish!”. I almost feel like a local celebrity! Ridiculous, but very fun!
I’d like to say that because of all this, my Spanish is now flawless. It is not. By any means. I have to keep telling myself that it is not going to happen overnight because I have only been here two months. I have however noticed a huge improvement in my understanding, achieved by sitting in the staff room at break and being too slow at translating in my head to actually join in with the conversation, so I basically sit there and audit. The andaluz accent, no matter what anyone tells you, is difficult to get your head around, especially when your entire first year of Spanish at university was taught by someone from Argentina! I am slowly working my way around it though, and can definitely interpret a hell of a lot more than I could when I first got here. Thank goodness. I don’t feel alone in this; even my friends Esther and Luc, who have been studying a lot longer than I have – Luc has already spent a year in Spain before this – sometimes sit there with blank faces just like mine when a crazy person in the street talks to us or if a waiter in a restaurant says something we weren’t expecting.
When it comes down to it, I’m definitely getting there, just have to be a bit patient. Man, I wish fluency would just hurry the hell up!
And now, some more photos :)
Kara, Esther and Luc singing “We are never getting back together” by a certain Miss Swift.
Post Karaoke high (L-R: Luc, Esther, Kara, Vivian)
Esther and I at the end of our working week – Thursday, for escapades at our local; Mañana bar
Luc and Esther having a little snooze on my couch during film night (the film was The Silence of the Lambs – god knows how they were sleeping!)
Three girls from my sixth grade class – Brianna, Victoria and Candela, stopped me for a photo when I was walking between classes today and told me never to delete it and never forget their names. Very cute!
A video which shows very accurately how I feel when listening to the teachers talking to each other at school.