Q&A: Here at the end

How do you wrap up a life? Pack up your belongings; say your goodbyes to people, places and things. Eight months is both a short time and a long time, depending on how you look at it. As auxiliares we have to establish ourselves in the Spanish system as residents, and this alone makes the closing out process very different. Answering some basic questions on the last hurrah here in city, below.

Q: What do you have to do at school for the end of the course?
A: Nothing! We are actually not at the end of the course – our students end in June. Not sure why we bow out early, but some other communities (Madrid) work until the end of June. So our students are taking exams and finalizing projects. They all have a touch of summeritis, just like me! I did pack up all of the bilingual worksheets from the year and put them together for my coordinator. And of course, we are having despedidas and fiestas in every class until our departure.

Q: Have you had any trouble closing out accounts?
A: While I haven’t closed out my Spanish bank account, I have recently executed a bank transfer to my US bank. Since I’ll be traveling in Europe for 15 days after I leave, I wanted to make sure I had access to euros for spending purposes. Although several of the countries I’m traveling to do not use the euro, the exchange rate from euro to foreign currency is kinder than the dollar.

Regarding the bank transfer – I asked my Spanish bank how to do it and they provided me with two numbers, an IBAN and a BIC. Unfortunately the IBAN is only for Europe, so I had to consult with my US bank for two different numbers: my account number and the “Swift” number used for international wire transfers. I was pleasantly surprised to see the fees were not outrageously high (6 euros from my Spanish account and 16USD from my US account), since wire transfers are stereotypically pricey. In addition to the local address for my bank, the paperwork was done within a few minutes.

Other than that we will close up our apartment and hit the road.

Q: What are your must-sees before you leave Sevilla?
A: You know, I made myself a list of things I hadn’t seen yet but wanted to see before leaving. I used Jeff’s 85 Things to Do in Sevilla to help me out. Our scavenger hunt last weekend was a great way to circle the city (competitively!) and I saw my first bullfight on Sunday. I am mostly content with seeing some of my favorite people and revisiting some of my favorite places. Tapas here, a flamenco peña there, and taking in the gorgeous views all over the city.

Q: You probably have a must-eat list, too.
A: Por supuesto. This includes but is not limited to espinacas con garbanzos, caracoles (snails!), tostada, pollo con almendras, fresh squeezed OJ, gazpacho, cafe con leche, some more wine from Ana’s bodega, a real Coca Cola from a glass bottle (they don’t use high fructose corn syrup here – its amazing). I also have to eat everything that is still in our cabinets and refrigerator!


Q: Are you bringing everything home? Did you donate? Are you shipping anything internationally?
A: Yes, everything is coming home with me because next year if I return it will be to Madrid. So I have two suitcases and a backpack. Because I’m traveling for 2 weeks after the program is over, I have 3 different airline carriers and therefore 3 opportunities to pay more for that second checked bag. Ultimately, it was cheaper to send home the smaller of the two suitcases, and I also sent a box of books. I used Mailboxes Etc. and they use Fed Ex and UPS to ship things. The best part here is that you receive a tracking number and it also gets home almost immediately (mine took 2 days). It is significantly more expensive than using the postal system, but I wanted to make sure my things got home before I left Sevilla and made it there before I had to come back to Spain in September!

There are several options for donation here. You can of course leave things at your school such as school supplies and books. They have used clothing bins around the city, and we also have a huge gypsy population. So if you leave your rug propped up outside the dumpster, you can rest assured that within the next hour a gypsy will come along with their shopping cart to load up your stuff. Either way, I figure they will put it to good use.

Q: What will you miss the most? What are you most looking forward to at home?
A: In both situations, the answer is people. There are individuals, families and groups in both places that mean a great deal to me. As always, they are the ones that breathe life into a place and make their impact on me. I think I will also miss Sevilla as a city – it’s beauty and it’s proud Spanish heritage. And I can’t wait to see family and friends that I haven’t seen since last September. No time to be sad about it – I always circle back to one or the other, it’s only a matter of time 🙂

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now that’s a care package.

Well, it has arrived. The package that has been through all sorts of postal hell. My mom shipped it BACK to Spain. Why didn’t they just bring it with them, you ask? Because 1) receiving mail is awesome, 2) to make a point about the Spanish post.

Needless to say after 120+ days in circulation, it is nothing short of miraculous. It is America in a box.

There are Grape Nuts and Pop Tarts and Quaker oatmeal. There are York peppermint patties and Butterfingers and Halls coughdrops. There is Skippy peanut butter and Airborne and Cadbury Creme Eggs. There are almonds and Cup of Soup and Barnum & Bailey’s animal crackers. There is Trident gum and hot chocolate. There is Bigelow Earl Grey tea and Stash English Breakfast. There is my metal water bottle, and my allergy meds. There are books for my students, a puzzle map of the United States and playing cards. There are magnets and glue sticks and a potato masher (thanks, Dad).

The only thing missing is my parents themselves… but they’ll be here on Thursday 🙂

 

with love from Pennsylvania

My school is a love fest right now, and here’s why.

Bypassing the miracle of modern technology – I paired up with a former classmate and we launched an old-fashioned pen pal project with hard copy letters. We have 122 students from a high school in Huelva, Spain communicating with students in Emmaus, Pennsylvania and their letters have FINALLY reached their destination. I sent our letters on November 30 from my post office in Sevilla and they only just arrived in PA. Really, Spain? According to my cartero (postman), anything weighing more than a certain amount will get sidetracked (aka lost) in aduana (remember this word? CUSTOMS). So a word to the wise – if you need it there quickly, make sure it doesn’t weigh too much. *I will research the exact amount.

Some quirks:
– in the US we learn words like “carro” and “computadora” for “car” and “computer” .. here in Spain we use “coche” and “ordenador”
– remember when your professors told you that if you copied and pasted an English text into an online translator, they would know? They were right! We have some interesting conversations in the teachers lounge about translation gone wrong.
– in the US our math classes are given specific names like “Algebra” or “Calculus” .. here in Spain the students take “maths” and it encompasses all of these things.
– similarly, in the US the classes are assigned numbers, designating a level or a grade // eg. Spanish 4 or Algebra 3. My students are completely lost on this one!
– in Spain, our students take a class called “Lengua” which is basically Spanish literature and culture. In the US we refer to this as “English” .. and my students are wondering why Americans would write “My favorite class is English” .. they think, of course it is! you speak the language!

When I showed up with those manila envelopes in my arms, the looks of joy on my students faces and the explosion of energy in the room was beyond comparison. I laughed hysterically, explained “mashed potatoes” many times and had the best time watching their reactions. The US students wrote to us about Thanksgiving, and many sent fantastic photos of their dinners / families / themselves. In turn, my Spanish students will write about Dia de Los Reyes and how that works here in Spain.

Already they are boiling over with questions about Facebook and tuenti (Spanish Facebook) and email. My colleagues and I are trying to hold onto the hard copy dream as long as possible .. but soon we will begin to use epals.com to communicate online. We are hoping for photo and video exchange, and with any luck – some video conferencing in the future.

This confirms my belief that receiving mail is one of the simplest joys in the world. So thanks to the students (and their teacher) for their enthusiastic participation. It brings me great satisfaction to know that through this project some 250 students will think a little bit more about other languages and cultures. Remarkable things happen when you widen your perspective.

… and a special thanks to those of you who grace my personal mailbox with postcards and letters … it really brightens my day 🙂

4ESO could barely sit still ..