I am back in Spain for another year. I will continue to do updates like I did all last year.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Hello everyone, first I have to apologize for how long it has been since my last post.  Every week I intend to write one but then life gets in the way but after a helpful reminder from my mother I have finally written one.  I have a few things that I haven’t posted that I will just combine and put in this post.

The oldest thing that I neglected to post about was the fireworks show from Pilares that I videotaped from my apartment; I think it is pretty cool since the fireworks were over the Ebro River which is just behind the Basilica.

Now, I will jump to Christmas holidays.  I again went to Benilloba and had a great time with my aunt and cousins.  The weather this year was chilly but not as cold as last year.  We had a great time catching up and chatting around the fire and eating wonderful food.  And, I was extra happy because they said my Spanish level has increased which I am happy to know since I really don’t speak much Spanish in my everyday life.  This might be surprising to some people but I speak English for my government job and also for my private lessons and with my roommate Carlos.  The times are rare that I am forced to speak Spanish continually and that is also why I like to visit my family because I am forced to switch my brain from English to Spanish.  I stayed for a few days then went back to Zaragoza because some of my private lessons wanted to continue during the winter break.

On New Year’s Eve I went out with one of my roommate’s friends, Silvia, who I have gotten to know well.   We went to her friend’s apartment on the outskirts of the city where we ate dinner (which was at 10:30 p.m., the typical Spanish time for dinner is anytime after 8 p.m.)  There were a total of 16 people and we watched the bells chime in Puerta del Sol (where I was last year) and this is the first year I have eaten the grapes like you are supposed to eat them, on each chime of the bell, or the 12 seconds more or less after midnight.  When I was younger my grandmother would have us eat 12 grapes on January 1st in the morning when we got up for good luck. When I got a bit older I learned the real custom but we still did it our own way.  This year I learned the history of this tradition and the fact that it is a relatively new tradition.  One year in the early 1900s the grape harvest was especially fruitful and so for the grapes not to rot and go to waste it was promoted to buy grapes and eat them for good luck and so the tradition was started.  After dinner, watching the bell and a little more chatting we went clubbing.  I was a bit worried because almost everything closes here in Spain on holidays and if we went somewhere far from my house I might end up having to walk home since there is no public transportation and taxis would be hard to find.  Finally, we ended up at a club that was only a 5-minute-walk from my house and so it was no problem when at about 6 a.m. I went home.

A week after New Year’s Day I went to visit my Aunt and Uncle who live in Barcelona.  As I was waiting for the bus I heard my name being said aloud.  I was very tired so I thought I was just being paranoid but then I turn around and 7 teenage girls who are my students in Pedrola were waiting to go on the same bus.  After mentally groaning, I smile and ask them if they are also going to Barcelona.  They smile and laugh and shake their head yes but none of them say a word.  Some of their parents were waiting with them and they point to me and say in Spanish, “That’s Paige.”

After the bus I went to my Aunt’s apartment and I stayed 2 ½ days and saw the Barcelona Zoo which like most city zoos is really depressing.  It does not give the animals enough space and so they are all looking at you with sad eyes and there were even protesters outside the ticket booths which should have been a warning sign!  Tia Maria told me that they want to expand the zoo but that it is going to cost a lot of money that the city, of course, doesn’t have.  The next day I finally got to go inside Casa Batllo which is one of the famous houses designed by Gaudi that is on the Passeig de Gracia.  It was really cool and they had electronically guided tours, I chose to take it in English so I wouldn’t miss anything.  If anyone reading this comes to Barcelona I definitely recommend visiting this house.  It is a privately owned house and they are restoring the house with the money from the entrance fee which is a bit expensive but still worth it.

Took this one for you Sara! It's Lucy!

There is a cheetah in the background.

There was also a cool dolphin show at the zoo.

Here are the pictures of the house:

After winter break I started back at the schools on January 10th.  It seems like every day that goes by less and less students pay attention to what I have to say.  I think the Spanish government is basically throwing the money they are paying me away.  I really enjoy living here so I am happy but the pay off for the government is next to none because the only people I am truly helping are the teachers I work with.  I might as well be talking to the wall in my classes for how much the students understand or try to understand me.  The lack of respect in class is also amazing, I don’t know how the teachers go to class every day, I would want to quit.  The students aren’t so bad but it is all little things that add up together to create chaos in the classroom.  For example, there is no chewing gum in English class because it is impossible to pronounce well with gum in your mouth, even for native speakers!  In the 3 classes of 14-year-olds, I swear it has now become a game to see if anyone can get through the class with gum in their mouth.  Every 5 minutes the teacher is yelling at someone about “chicle.”  I remember being in high school and yes sometimes people had gum but it was not an everyday occurrence to test the teacher’s patience.  As a result I have decided not to do a third year because I do not know where I could be assigned and while I like talking with the teachers in the car pool, I do not like the 35 minute commute each way plus 20 minute walk to and from the pick-up/drop-off point.  Plus, it is an added expense on a salary that is just enough to get by.
On the other hand, I am really enjoying my private lessons.  All of my students have an interest as well as an ability to learn and speak English.  I am quickly coming to the conclusion that it is just impossible for some people to learn another language.  Some people can and some people can’t and luckily all of my private lessons can and are learning from me.  I have 8 students in total, 7 teenagers and 1 7-year-old and so every evening except for Friday is full.  If most of the students in the high school were like the students I teach I am sure I would love it but unfortunately they are not.  I would not mind being a teacher if I only had students that were truly interested but of course it doesn’t work that way which is why I am not looking for teaching jobs back in the States unless it is strictly adults.  Plus, I think teachers have to have a special quality to catch the student’s interest and I know I do not have it because I get discouraged easily when I know they are not listening.

Well that was a long update but I just have one more thing to show.  My great-grandmother Lita asked me to show a picture of Yama, the yellow lab I live with.  She is very cute and a very well-behaved dog so I do not mind the fact that she is just really disgusting.  Disgusting but lovable!



  1. loved reading your post, keep us up-to-date... Miss our English classes at the EOI in tarazona last year!!! Armen

  2. OMG!!!! You are so funny!!! What a great update! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I laughed out loud several times and had to read to Michael so he could know what was so funny. You are just a card!! Thanks for the laughs!!!

    Our big update was the birth of Skylar Morgan Shaw. Grandparents of 3. When did I get so old???? Chelsea is doing fine and insists NO MORE CHILDREN!!!! We will see :) Michael has decided to really throw himself into his new job and see where it takes him. Steven moved into an apartment with two friends and says he is very happy. I also happen to know he is very hungry...:) I joined a gym... Ugh!!! Needed to do something. I put on a lot of weight from being so sedentary last year from all of the surgeries and it's killing my knees. I walk and move my arms in a pool. Just gotta do it!!!

    All is good and I'm hoping this is a big year of change for me! Going to try to get the house in order too! We all look forward to you coming home to stay!!! Love you!

  3. Hi Paige. I enjoyed reading your blog. Sounds like life in Spain as an English teacher of teens is challenging, to say the least! Something tells me that you're getting through to more of the students then you think! I have 19 6 year olds in my CCD class this year, they're so cute and loving but FULL of energy! I have gained such a tremendous respect for teachers since I've started teaching.
    Loved all your pictures! Sad about the zoo conditions. I'd want to release them all.
    All's well here. Brian is in Paris this week- both work and pleasure. He'll be home for all the St. Patty's celebrations/gigs and then he's off to LA again and in April to Las Vegas. Kelly and Sam and their dog, Harvey are fine. They're having fun setting up their home. They live about 5 minutes from where you lived as a baby! Not too much new with Dennis and I- I've been very busy working at our parish, helping both as a nurse and in planning our 25th anniversary celebration. Dennis is working on a process for a German company that will be keeping him VERY busy for most of the year. We've had such a mild winter so far, it makes me excited for Spring and planting! Hope all is well with you. Love and Miss You, Laure