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Dabbing, Dancing and City-exploring: An October update from Catalonia

(Picture: Fiesta del Pilar in Zaragoza, 12/10/16)

***For more pictures of my time in Catalonia, head over to Instagram: chouchou21 ***

Listening to:

  •  The 1975, I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It. Bit of a mouthful! But prepping myself nicely for the concert in London later this year!

 

  • Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Go Robot

 

  • Owl City, Fireflies- oldie but a goodie.

 

  • Shakira, Bicicleta- I told the school kids that my favourite singer was Shakira and they all laughed in my face. In five seconds my street cred shrunk to minus numbers. Totally unfair, Shakira is great.

 

Watching:

  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Dèlia, Agnés and I went to the cinema last week to watch this fantastic-themed film. The plot was a little strange but the general story was a beautiful one. A lovely ending, especially- I think it’s based on a book! Worth a watch!

 

  • To Rome, With Love- a brilliant Woody Allen film based in one of my favourite places. The film follows different families- a little bit like Love Actually- in a very funny, sometimes sad, but always romantic way. Loved it.

 

Reading:

All you book worms out there please don’t hate me. I haven’t really had any time to read anything. But I’ve just been browsing for books, so my plan is to tackle something asap. I promise!

 

 

” Don’t think about what you’ve left behind” The alchemist said as they began to ride across the sands of the desert. “If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back…

– Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

 

 

Dear readers,

 

It’s nearly been a month since I landed in Spain and so much has happened. The last time I wrote down my feelings I was apprehensive, excited, but most of all worried about the unknown. Now that a few weeks have passed I’m feeling a lot more at ease and have experience so many different things that I’ve barely had time to sit down and process it all! Finally I’ve found a bit of time to give you an update about how I’m doing. Hold on tight, it’s going to be a long post!

 

Family:

 

One week in I felt like the most welcomed guest in the family and three weeks on I feel like a fully-fledged Catalan daughter. The family has been wonderful to me and I couldn’t be any happier.

 

Agnes especially has been a dream mother. She has organised all of my important papers and taken Delia and I to places like the cinema for a bit of relaxation. Not to worry anyone but I caught a horrible case of a ‘virus de viajero’ (Foreigner’s virus) where I lost quite a lot of weight due to me adapting to a new climate and water, as well as ‘La Pasa’ (The bug- the perks of meeting 600 students a week is catching germs from them. Yay.) etc. Agnes was the first to whisk me off to A & E and spent the whole morning with me there where I was treated immediately and the next day I felt like a completely different person. I’m so much better now, so all good! She’s sorted out my NIE, my Spanish phone sim and has rung up so many hospitals to work out how to get social security. I LOVE THAT WOMAN. I must say that now that I’ve experienced Spanish bureaucracy and the emergency services system, I feel like a proper Spaniard. Or should I say, Catalonian?!

 

More than that she has been a really caring person to talk to. She’s helped me so much with my Spanish, spoken to me about traditions and prepared some amazing food. I’ve had so many different Spanish and Catalan specialities, including Paella, Empanada (from Galicea), some kind of Catalan pizza called Escalivada, Brazo de Gitan (Gypsy’s arm- a traditional Catalan cake like a Swiss roll), Panadon d’espinacs, and so much more! And if that’s not enough, if I’m ever hungry I’m allowed to just dip into the fridge and have whatever. It’s a dangerous move on their part. 😛 Yep, I’m definitely putting on weight this year.

 

But it’s not just the food that I’ve had- I’ve had the chance to try some super Spanish wine and Agnes’ favourite, Muscatel, a kind of dessert wine and night cap for Agnes! One night she poured me some when I was eating roasted chestnuts (a local favourite here!). Yes, my host mum tried to get me tipsy. Yes it was brilliant. (Just kidding, readers, drink responsibly!) I only had one small drink and I slept like a baby.

 

(https://fr.pinterest.com/martaromeu/catalan-food/)

 

 

As for Pau, well he’s a pretty darn good cook too- he prepared the snails dish for me! He has introduced me to new foods like rabbit and quail and is always buying local snacks for Dèlia and I after school. At the beginning of the month we went to the weekly market and he bought some local pears called ‘Limonera’ especially for me to try. From that day on he regularly cuts up local fruit and gives them to me as an ‘after eight’ (is version of an afternoon snack), which is so lovely of him. More than that he often prepares lunch for school and I’ve had some pretty interesting combos as sandwiches fillings, including Spanish omelette and ham, chorizo and tuna and the crowd favourite of Olives, cheese and chicken. Everyday I open up my sandwich waiting to see what he’s made that day. It’s become a bit of a game in the family!

 

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Pau teaching Dèlia and I how to eat the snails correctly

When he comes in from working in the farm/ enjoying his coffee and brandy concoction with his friends he always pops in to say ‘Hey, you!’ and tells me about his day. He’s educated me in so many ways- politics, history, geography, agriculture and life in general. He once told me about his days in the army under Franco’s government in Cadiz and how he was a rebel, taking part in resistance movements in the mountains and hiding from authorities in schools. He’s basically an Action Man. In fact, wherever I go him and Agnes are quick to teach me about the local culture or local people. They’re such an international household, having done so many exchanges before (with kids from Poland, Ukraine, etc) that they’ve got so much knowledge to impart about new cultures. They’re just so interesting to talk to! I’ve benefited from them so much and it’s only been a month! Obviously they’ve also taught me a lot more Catalan, to the point where I pretty much understand what they talk about amongst themselves. (Yay!) And also I’ve had my fair share of giggles with their English phrases, like ‘Open head!’ from Pau (he tries to say ‘open mind’ but mixes ‘mind’ and ‘head’) and when he mixes ‘kitchen’ and ‘chicken’ which is pretty damn funny. They never take themselves seriously so whenever we’re together it’s always fun and games! Last night we joked about Julien the French assistant and since Delia has a little crush on him (*SPOILER*), we talked about the new addition of the French son-in-law to the family. Delia was mortified, we were in hysterics. But on a serious note Pau seems to be a really modern man in that respect. He accepts dating and boyfriends as important ‘new experiences’ and always stresses how young people should be respected and given freedom (within reason!) just like adults. I have mucho respect for that man!

 

As a family we’ve done quite a lot together, we’ve gone to the cinema, had various animated family meals together. Yesterday, for instance, both sets of grandparents came round and we had a nice lunchtime chill! After the first exhausting week of work the family treated me to a concert in Lleida- a tribute band, Brothers in Band, performed Dire Straits hits for three hours (!). FYI the Spanish crowds are a lot more animated than the English ones! It was a great night and I really enjoyed myself. We also went one night to an English conversation club with older people from a local village which was really nice- everyone was friendly. Though I stupidly started a bit of tension between two people when asking them about Catalonian independence. Oops! But they got their revenge when they asked me the obvious question of, ‘So what do you think about Brexit then?’ Yep, they rubbed it in good and proper…

 

Apart from that, Dèlia and I go on regular walks with friends and have spent time with her friends chilling in the local bars over chips and coke! I’ve started going to Aerobics with her a couple of times a week to get out out of the house and also have a proper excuse to dance to some zumba-style music. Shakira is included, of course…

 

And if I’m not hanging with the family I’m chatting with someone in the village. I once went to church with a neighbour which was apparently a weird thing to do for a young person but a) I got to speak Spanish and b) the lady was so lovely, I really enjoyed myself. The two Ukrainian children, Elusha and Daryna, who live close by also like to pop round to practice some English with me. Apparently they enjoy it and I love seeing them, so win-win! For a small village there’s always something to do here!

 

In general the family has been so accommodating with me, offering to drop me to train stations and cities to explore, they’ve helped me out with work and have given me moral support when balancing lots of things like TEFL, lesson planning and language learning. My absolute saviours.

 

It’s sad to think that in two more months I’ll be moving on from them. It hasn’t been long and I already feel so attached that I’d love to spend the whole nine months with them.

 

 

School:

 

I’m now into my third week of teaching and it seems to be going well so far. I have survived, thank goodness! The kids seem to like me and the teachers are very happy with my hard work and planning so I can’t complain! Pilar even said that I’m the best assistant they’ve had so hopefully I’ll be able to keep that up instead of turning into the worst. Fingers crossed!

 

But it hasn’t always been an easy ride. The first week was pretty exhausting due to work deadlines, me getting lost (it happened so many times!) and the kids were a little tricky to adapt to. Unlike my experience in France, I’ve been given all of the students from all levels which means that some are more enthusiastic to learn English than the others and more than that some are more able to speak and interact in English than the others. The first week was pretty difficult in the sense that I found it hard to strike a balance of good activities that everyone would be able to cope with. What’s more is that some of the kids were a little crazier than others- they were more hyper, sometimes more talkative and some even had a little bit of attitude. But having spoken to the teachers it seems like the kids are like this with everyone and not just the strange Brit assistant who they think they can doss around with. Phew.

 

I don’t know what happened exactly, maybe the kids have gotten used to me now but things have improved a lot. The kids are a lot more willing to interact but not in a disruptive way. They try to speak as much English as possible and even in the corridors they say ‘Hello, Nupur!’ and try to have a little conversation with me. I really appreciate the effort that they’re making! They still find my accent really funny, especially when I say ‘Taboo’ and sometimes they can get a little noisy or excited, but I’ve found much better techniques to deal with this and it all seems to be going smoothly now. So basically, I’m very happy here!

 

Every class has a few tricky students but I guess the real mission is trying to keep them occupied and engaged. And I must admit, even the bad ones can be quite entertaining at times. Even though you shouldn’t laugh, some of them have come out with some great one-liners and I really struggle to keep a straight face. In general I’ve found that I remember either the bad kids or the good kids. It’s just the way it is and I’ve noticed that the bad kids share the same names in each class- coincidence?! A student in 4th of ESO (Year 11) called Ramón (one of many naughty Ramóns…) is particularly hilarious. He speaks English really well but he’s a bit of a class clown which can be problematic at times. Funny enough, he did actually apologize to me this week for being disruptive and now he channels his humour into something positive and I end up in stitches on a Friday afternoon! This really helps when your throat is hurting from talking all day and you’re exhausted from having to be all upbeat and enthusiastic for six hours a day. I’d never admit it to him but he’s actually my favourite despite being a bit cheeky.

 

Luckily the teachers have given me the freedom to do whatever I want with the kids and so far it’s working out and I do have odd moments where the kids talk more than I do. I’ve covered topics like London, Music and Food which have given me the chance to play some fun games with them and even rock out to music like the Spice Girls here and there. The kids think I’m mental when I start singing though!

 

Asides from that I’ve really enjoyed teaching the students and have gained a lot from working with the different ages. The A Level students are probably my favourite because they’re a lot more enthusiastic and willing to talk about more complex issues, but even the younger ones show a passion and given the right topic, they really blossom. It’s pretty funny whenever one of them gets something right- for some reason they’re all into ‘dabbing’. And as a kind of victory dance they all stand up and dab. It’s really strange.

 

As well as that, the people in the school seem to be a lot more tactile and friendly than in English schools. I’ve had school kids winking at me and at each other in the classroom. Around every corner there’s a couple sucking faces. There’s one couple who seem to make out after every period and at the start of registration. It happens so frequently at the same time intervals every day that I’ve started using them as a personal watch to tell me when the start and end of lessons are. At least they’re useful for something because otherwise it’s just a bit too much for my mornings, especially when getting up at 6.30am for an 8am lesson!

 

In terms of the staff, they’re all lovely and some of them are willing to speak to me in Spanish whenever they can. Admittedly, there are some who try to break into English and few of them succeed grammatically, but I appreciate their effort! The English teachers especially have been so welcoming and have constantly checked up on me to see how I’m doing, physically and mentally (!) and have invited me to numerous events like school trips and evenings out. They’ve always told me that if I’m not feeling well I can take time off too- it’s nice to know that they care about my wellbeing. During my awful virus they constantly made sure to see if I was okay and my mentor, Teresa, has been especially wonderful, sorting out all of my documents in advance and making sure that everything has been done on time. I absolutely love her sense of humour and her random comments about how students have descended into anarchy since the end of Franco’s dictatorship and she gives me comments about students in front of them. My favourite comment was when she was explaining my timetable and pointed to a certain teacher’s name: ‘Be careful, eh. She’s very demanding.’ LOL. The Languages teachers all seem to get on well so that’s a bonus!

 

Julien, the French assistant is also there so I have a great opportunity to practice my French! I still get comments in English classes about how amazing he is- learning Catalan, salsa, being good-looking. Which is great but really hard to reign in hormonal girls when trying to talk to them about British food! I feel like that boy could stand there and stare at them for an hour and he’d still be classed as the best assistant going. Though he’s still Mr Henchman whom everyone loves, I should probably admit now that I have a rather dubious admirer of my own. (*warning* Totally not bragging- I feel really embarrassed every time this is mentioned!) Yep, the 14 year-old Mark who happens to be Dèlia’s friend’s younger brother admitted to his mother last week that he was, and I quote, ‘In love with Nupur’. CUE THE BLUSHING AND GENERAL PANIC. Apparently he’s a big salsa dancer (!) and wants to ask me to dance with him at the big Fiesta Major (town celebration) in the village this week. #help He’s actually a really lovely kid, and a little shy around me, but he makes the most effort in the classroom so I’m happy. But hey! There’s me thinking that Mr Fancy pants French man was getting all of the attention!

 

In case you were wondering whether the gawking was worth it, have a look at the twitter page where the ever so crazy Xavier has decided to put up pictures of the assistants. I swear Julien’s pic has been shared so many times. Mine is awful, just to warn you in advance:

 

https://twitter.com/InsLaSerra/status/782876279980843008

 

https://twitter.com/InsLaSerra/status/783976427091820544

 

 

Suffice to say, the school is a little bit crazy. But in a very good way. As of the summer, the school has decided to replace the simple school bell with music. I didn’t know this, so you can imagine how shocked I was to hear the Star Wars theme tune playing in the morning. Other great hits have included Braveheart, Titanic, traditional French and Catalan music, Game of Thrones, Adele’s ‘Hello’, Coldplay and to mark the Nobel Prize win, a little bit of Bob Dylan to brighten the day. I think it’s genius.

 

As well as work I’ve also started tutoring. If you’re English word gets around fast here and so I was approached by two clients to teach English. It’s always nice to earn a little pocket money so I appreciate the classes and they seem to be quite varied. One is prepping for the Cambridge First Test whilst the other just wants to do some English speaking practice, which takes much less time to prepare for! In the beginning I was really tired from school and stressed having had to plan lesson for the week but thanks to free periods at school I’ve managed to find a really a good way to get school work done at school (I now spend much less time on lesson plans!) and prepare work in advance to make sure that I’m always on top of work.

 

Of course, I couldn’t end this section about work without reminiscing over some entertaining moments in the school:

 

Favourite moments and comments of the month:

 

  • This isn’t really a favourite quote but I was so shocked by this comment that I thought it had to make an appearance in the post. I asked a student innocently, ‘So, what is your favourite hobby?’ His reply was very simply ‘Smoking weed’. Interesting. Considering this was the only thing he could say in English, I found this quite striking. In fact, not too long after I found out that lots of young people, as young as 12 openly smoke weed outside the school gates. Unfortunately because they smoke ‘outside’ of the school, teachers are unable to really act. But in general there seems to be a very lax attitude towards kids smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol. Make of that what you will.

 

  • When allowing the GCSE students to ask me questions about myself, Ramón decided to ask me ‘Do you play Pokemon Go everyday?’ and then started to sing the oh so annoying song. For those of you who don’t know this reference, enjoy…and by enjoy, I mean, don’t enjoy. Because it’s a terrible song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfc42Pb5RA8

 

  • ‘Laura, what’s your favourite TV Show?’ ‘My favourite TV show is Keeping up With the Kardashians because I like Kim Kardashian’s butt.’ I tried not to laugh out loud but I failed.

 

  • An old crowd favourite: Jordi decided to tell me how much he loved his ‘beaches’ in Spain, though he didn’t pronounce the word in the correct way. I’m sure you can imagine how he said it and how much everyone else in the class found it hilarious.

 

  • Xavier, a staff member at reception found it hilarious to break into a song with me one morning when he asked to borrow my pen: ‘I have a pen. I have an apple. Apple Pen.’ I didn’t really know the correct response. So I joined in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9TpRfDdyU0

 

  • The amount of times that I’ve been asked ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ is pretty shocking, but the time that I was most alarmed was when Arnau from Year 7 decided that during a class about ‘introducing yourself’ it would be appropriate to ask, ‘Nupur, what is your mobile number?’ followed by a wink. When he saw that I was a bit weirded out, he then replied ‘I am good boyfriend’. Not going to lie, I found it a little funny. Young boys have no limits here. But in generally I’ve found that students, especially male students, are a lot more confident, borderline arrogant here. You’ve got to reign them in a little.

 

  • During a Music Quiz for the A Level students, the group had no idea who the Rolling Stones were so I thought it would be a good idea to draw the iconic image of the lips with the tongue sticking out. Great. Except not. Because I’m no Picasso and unfortunately my tongue and lips looked more like a penis than anything else, which worked in the sense of getting everyone laughing, but not in the sense that I was dying of embarrassment at the same time. Typical Noopster. Not even a month and she has made an utter fool of herself.

 

  • When asking her to describe her class, Arès from 3rd of ESO decided that the best way to do this was to say ‘My class is shit.’ Having seen my shocked face (Spanish people are more lax with swearing, like the French!) she then changed her mind and added ‘Only a little bit shit’. Okay then, Arès…

 

  • This morning with the kids I asked them to describe their favourite style of music. In 2nd of Eso (Year 8), Mark (the boy who has a crush on me) and Ramón (another lovely student!) decided to tell me that they loved Reggaeton music because they love it ‘when butts start moving. We love twerking’. I nearly fell off my chair. As well as that I asked how music made Mark feel, he replied ‘It makes me feel hot.’ Enough said.

 

  • This isn’t really appropriate but due to my love of Game of Thrones I should mention that there is a kid in school called Joffrey and everytime I see him, I get a little bit too happy inside. He probably thinks I’m a massive weirdo but his attitude with the other kids during break sort of reminds me of the King himself.

 

Travelling:

 

 

  • Reus and Tarragona: This week I was lucky enough to participate in a German-Spanish exchange which meant that I could accompany the German kids on a school trip. We firstly headed off to Reus by coach, the birthplace of Gaudí, which ironically contains none of Gaudí’s great designs! It sounds a little morbid but our first stop was the Instituto Pere Mata (http://www.reuspromocio.cat/institut-pere-mata) which is essentially a private mental hospital. The reason behind this was because the building itself was designed by the famous Modernist architect, Llius Domenech I Montaner who was a contemporary of Gaudí. His art nouveau style captures nature in all its glory with flowers and animal designs, all handmade and some painted on the walls. Our guide gave us a tour around the whole building and I was surprised to find out that the most expensive room in the facility costs a whopping four thousand euros a month! An hour later and we were in slightly happier surroundings. In the centre of the town we got to look around the main shopping area and then headed to the Gaudi museum in the main square. There we got a glimpse of Gaudi’s life and learnt how the brilliant architect came up with wonders like the Sagrada Familia, set to be finished in 2026, I think!

 

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Mental Hospital in Reus: Arte modernista (Art nouveau style)

Next stop was Tarragona and I really fell in love with the place. It reminded me of a little city in Italy with its narrow backstreets and numerous plazas full of little shops and gelatarias. Admittedly a lot more touristic than Reus, the city boasts of Roman ruins, including an ancient amphitheatre, a stunning cathedral in the heart of the city and a view of the sea which is enough to melt your heart. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to see the whole of Tarragona but I’m sure I’ll be back to explore it in its entirety. Instead the teachers, Julien (the famous French assistant) and I spent time in the Ramblas (main street with restaurants and bars) and sat down in Regine Tarvern bar to have a slap up lunch. It still amazes me how cheap everything is here. For 11 euros we each had a massive starter, main meal and dessert with a drink. Obviously I ordered sangria…. This was a perfect way for me to try some more traditional Spanish food so I went for the rice and lobster combo followed by prawns fresh from the Tarragona fish market, all washed down with some wine and Crema catalana (Catalonia’s answer to Crème brûlée). Delicioso!

 

I had a really good time and the German students were probably some of the most animated kids I’ve ever met- they were all singing in the coach with Julien,, to the likes of ‘I’ve got a hangover’ and Bieber’s classic ‘Sorry’. But even better than that I got to practice my French and Spanish the whole day! Successful day, me thinks!

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Beautiful Tarragona and that amazing view of the beach by the amphitheatre 

 

So there you go, sorry for the muy muy muy long post, dear readers, but so much has happened that I couldn’t leave anything out. Hopefully the next one will be a bit shorter, but let’s be honest, it probably won’t be!

Have a great rest of the week and speak soon!

Señorita Noopster x

 

Cultural Observations:

 

  • Food: So according to Pau, the typical delicacy found in the province of Lleida (where I live) is snails. Roasted on the fire and dipped in a traditional peppery, garlic sauce. Apparently it’s so popular that some people eat snails every weekend and even go out snail picking in the forests. I must admit, I was a bit freaked out when I heard this but I suppose that having tasted them they’re not as bad as they seem!

 

  • In general, I’ve tried some really great delicacies the past month but one of the favourites is ‘Pan-tomate’, literally tomatoes spread onto bread. Yes, I do mean that. When I first saw this I was really confused- I thought that the tomato in my sandwiches (Pau makes me lunch everyday. Best dad ever) was squashed, but No. It’s an actual thing here. Still very tasty but weird.

 

  • Having experienced Renfe (Spanish Train Company) and Spanish trains I can conclude that 1) They’re really expensive 2) But they’re really good and 3) They have films on the train!!!! The latter makes me very happy, if you couldn’t tell.

 

  • Rubbish: In Catalonia it’s obligatory to separate rubbish into bins for organic food, cardboard, plastics, etc. If you don’t your region is taxed more than others. Outrageous but I guess it works.

 

  • Everything works via whatsapp here. Even in a professional environment teachers don’t send emails to each other- in my school the languages students have a whatsapp group where they communicate. Same with friends and family- hardly anyone calls each other. It’s just the Spanish way! On the other hand, if you send an email people will get back to you very slowly, and if you get no reply (which is often the case), it means that the answer is usually an ‘Okay, that’s fine by me.’

 

  • This is something a bit random but also quite important to know about when living with a Spanish family. Firstly Spanish women are extremely house proud. You’ll always see spotless counters and worktops. Also, there is a general open-door policy where to remain ‘integrated’ in the family leaving your doors open shows that you’re happy with being ‘disturbed’ from time to time to have a chat. It just shows a bit of respect to the family.

 

  • There are so many festivals or holidays, particularly in wintertime, it’s unreal. So far I’ve had random days off in the week (like Columbus day- to mark Columbus’ discoveries of The Americas) due to local festivals. I’m not complaining at all! Due to La Castañada on the 31st of October, I’ll have Monday and Tuesday off. Likewise in December I get four random days off in the week. You bet I’m going travelling!

 

 

Miscellaneous:

 

This is a bit of a random section but I came across some cool articles and videos thanks to friends (mainly Jessi!) sending them to me. I thought that maybe you readers would appreciate them too:

 

 

 

 

  • I follow this really cool Facebook page called ‘Girls LOVE Travel’ and I came across this quote. A friend of mine asked me a question about long distance relationships and travelling and all that jazz. I thought that this quote was a good summary of my thoughts, not that I’m an expert on this topic (!) : …Because true love never keeps a (wo)man from pursuing (her) destiny” (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist). I hope that helps you, mysterious friend. x

 

  • Just a nice quote that I came across: Richard Webber on Greys anatomy said, « With a little sun and coffee, you will see that the world is still turning…”

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