Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Song Requests!

I think listening to music in English is an activity I'll keep doing with my new Thursday night students, Sonja and Marcos.  Last Thursday we did Natasha Bedingfield's "These Words".

The first time I played the song, they each had a blank piece of paper and wrote down as many words as they could recognize.
The second time, I gave them a sheet of lyrics with a couple missing words.  They listened while following along with the lyrics, trying to fill in the blanks.
Then we went through the lyrics - line by line - and translated the song.  I explained any strange vocabulary (such as "killer hook") or verbs ("had some studio time booked").

I haven't picked a song yet for this Thursday, so I'm open to suggestions (for this week and future weeks, if you think of a good one later).

Although I have an iPod loaded with music, it's harder to find a good song than you'd think:
  • The words have to be clear and understandable
  • The song can't be too fast
  • It should be between 2-4 minutes (since you listen to it a couple of times)
  • Have a concrete theme for 12&14 year olds 
    • (Some of my alternative favorites are a bit too vague.  "These Words" was easier for them to follow after I explained that it was about the artist trying to write a song.  Lots of the songs I listen to, I couldn't even tell you what they're about...they're open to interpretation)
So if you think you have a song that fits the above requirements, por favor, post a comment.

sun, sun, sun, here we come

It'll be mid-80s all week here in Madrid. woo hooo!
We had a gorgeous weekend, too, and today it's currently 29 out (about 84 f).

I can't even picture how hot it'll get in June/July if this is April.

The rest of Morocco plus Extremadura and bday weekend posts are still coming... just wanted to make you all jealous of the weather. ;)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Backpacking through Morocco: Part 3 - Marrakech

[Note: This post is part of a series.  Find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.]

March 30, 2010

We had a wonderful breakfast in the hostel the next morning: delicious Moroccan bread, a square pancake-type thing with butter and honey, freshly squeezed orange juice, and coffee.  Mike´s train was supposed to get in around 7:30am in Marrakech, so we expected him to arrive by 8:30 or so.  At 10:30 Mike still hadn´t arrived and we started to worry.  Izzy checked her facebook to see if he had written anything, and had told us that he got the train ticket, and to expect him the following morning.

We decided to leave the hostel for a bit, and come back in an hour or so to see if he had arrived yet.  We wandered around the medina:
  En la medina

Un burro: ¡qué mono! 

We got back to the hostel around noon, and Mike arrived shortly after that.  He was dead-tired, but was also really hungry, so we sat up on the roof of the hostel and had tea, and then we walked through the medina and had lunch up on a patio overlooking the main plaza.
La vista

La plaza

 La mezquita (mosque)

Later that afternoon Mike napped while the rest of us spent more time up on the roof.  That evening, we had dinner at a famous restaurant, Restaurant Dar Essalam.  The menu's blurb about itself read: 
"An authentic 17th century palace, superbly preserved, in the historic heart of the Medina. From 50s on, such notables as Winston Churchill, Alfred Hitchcock, Charles Trenet and Sean Connery have enjoyed delights of true Moroccan cuisine."  
The meals were the most expensive we had all week, but it was probably the fanciest meal I´ve eaten in my life, and had it been the same meal in Madrid, the total would have at least been double what we paid.

 Chicken Cous-cous

 Yo, Mara, Jimmy, Mike, Izzy

There was live music during our meal, as well as a few acts.  One was a woman that danced with a tray of candles balanced on her head.  I grabbed a clip of that:

Since we were to leave for the desert the following morning, after dinner we packed our bags and headed to bed.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

missing classes, being robbed, and failing the road test.

So I'm currently browsing some ESL sites, trying to find activities to do with Sonja and Marcos tomorrow (Pablo's cousins, my new students).  I stumbled upon a website that has list after list of conversations that cover a mountain of topics, and some of them are quite entertaining.  Like this one, for example, under the "Health - Missing Classes" category: 

A: Hello, is this Professor Clark?
B: Yes, I am Professor Clark.
A: Hello, Professor, this is Kalia, and I am in your literature class on Monday mornings.
B: Yes, how are you doing?
A: I was partying hard over the weekend, fell down the stairs, and need time to recuperate.
B: That sounds painful. Are you going to be OK?

A: I sprained my wrist, but the doctor says it will be fine.
B: How many days will you be out of school?
A: The doctor said I should be good enough to return next week.
B: I am glad you let me know that you will be missing class. Get well!

"Crime - Being Robbed"
A: Are you all right?
B: No, I'm not.
A: What's going on?
B: I was just robbed!
A: Are you serious?
B: Someone just robbed me.
A: Did he hurt you?
B: He took all my things, but he didn't hurt me.
A: I can't believe that.
B: I need to make a statement at the police station.
A: I'll take you, if you'd like.
B: Thanks. You're very kind.

"Crime - Picking a Suspect out of a Line-Up" (Seriously, what foreigner would need to know this? These topics are hysterical!)
A: Did you see who the suspect was?
B: I got a perfect look at the suspect.
A: Would you be able to pick him out of a line-up?
B: That'll be easy.
A: Please take a careful look at these five men.
B: Okay.
A: Is the suspect in this line-up?
B: I see him.
A: Which number is he?
B: The suspect is number four.
A: Your cooperation is very much appreciated.
B: I'm happy to be of assistance.

"Driving - Failing the Road Test"
A: So how did I do on my driving test?
B: Do you want the truth?
A: Of course, I do.
B: Well, you really didn't do all that well.
A: How bad did I do?
B: To be completely honest, you failed your test.
A: How?
B: There were a number of reasons.
A: What were they?
B: Basically, you just can't drive.
A: Can I have another try?
B: You can take it in a couple weeks.

Wow, I could probably keep reading these for hours.  I'll give it a rest for now, though.  I linked you up above, so you can keep reading them if you want to/need to procrastinate*/are bored in class.

*Apparently there's not a single-worded verb for "procrastinate".  The dictionary gives "dejar las cosas para más tarde" which translates to "to leave things for later".  

Monday, April 19, 2010

¡Ya se puede votar!

You all remember Laura Lebrón, right?

She made it in the top 5 of the semi-final round, and thus is now a finalist.

In this last round, each user can only vote once a day.  The contest ends April 26.  Votes would be appreciated, and can be made HERE.  You just need to click the button "vota por Laura" located underneath her video.

Gracias a todos!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

para que sepáis

This weekend I'm headed to Extremadura - the last program trip of the year - but this time with all the new spring WIPers too.  So 24 year-long students + 52 spring kids = a whole lot of 'mericans.  Pero vamos a ver.  We'll get back later Sunday night, so you won't hear from me until Monday at the earliest.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Backpacking through Morocco Part 2: Marrakech

[Note: This post is part of a series. You can find Part 1 here.]

Monday March 29, 2010
The next day we headed to the train station around 10 to buy tickets to Marrakech.  The next train left at 11:50am, which didn´t give us time to go find lunch in Rabat as we had hoped, but to arrive in Marrakech with time to find our hostel before dark, we had to take this train.  As we hadn´t eaten dinner the night before nor breakfast that morning, we were quite hungry.  We ate a bunch of pastries and such at a café in the train station while we waited for our train.  (btw, food in Morocco is super-cheap!)

Waiting for our train in Rabat

This time we couldn´t find a compartment with four empty spots, so Mara and I went in one compartment while Jimmy and Izzy found another.  About a half hour into the ride, Mara started taking some pictures out the window of the scenery.  It wasn´t anything special, just grassy fields or little pueblos, but it was certainly different scenery than what we were used to.  Then, a Moroccan man sitting across from us asked if he could ask Mara a question.  We said yes, he could.

MM: What are you taking pictures of?
Mara: Uh - just the scenery... nothing specific
MM: Why would you take pictures of broken buildings? That is not a good picture.
Mara: Well, when I´m traveling, I usually take pictures of everything.  I think this scenery is pretty.
MM: My friends would not take pictures of bad things.  For example, are you going to show these pictures to your friends? To your family?
Mara: Probably.
MM: And this is what they´re going to see of Morocco. But Morocco has many beautiful things to see, buildings, landscape; many good sites. Why do you take pictures of this?

So Mara, innocently taking pictures of the scenery, was all of a sudden forced into a defensive position.  We felt as though he was accusing us of giving Morocco a bad name, which clearly wasn´t the case at all.  And I mean - it was only our second day in the country... what kind of damage could we have done to Morocco´s image?  And little did he know, we´re fair, open people who will share experiences as they are.  So it was an awkward start to our next five hours together in the train, but things smoothed out from there.

Turns out this Moroccan Man´s name was Emad (Ee-med), and he was on his way to Marrakech, as well.  He hadn´t spoken English for 13 years (which was hard to believe, because for going that long without speaking, he had retained a lot - but kudos to him) and thirteen years ago, he had only studied English for three years.  When some people from our compartment left, I went and found Jimmy and Iz, and they joined us.
 Landscape from the train window

We were in the last car of the train, and later Iz & Mara discovered that both the doors on the end of our car were open.  This provided enjoyable hours with a nice breeze (it had gotten a bit hot in the compartments. Claro que no había AC...).  When I finally found out where they had gone and what they were doing, I had to give it a try, too.  I got to stand outside of the train (on the steps) and stick my head out, as our train continued chugging along - it was awesome!

When we got to Marrakech, we showed Emad the address of our hostel and asked if he knew where that was.  He asked some people in Arabic, and said we´d have to take a taxi to get there.  Then, before we knew it, Emad had talked with a taxi driver and gotten us a ride for 50 dirham (~5 euro - and to compare, when Mike came the following day, his taxi was 150 dirham. Goes to show how they can easily rip off the tourists.  You can also barter with taxis, but clearly we got a lower rate because Emad was talking to the driver in Arabic.)

Our taxi driver dropped us off in the middle of a busy plaza.  Later that day I began to realize that the whole city was that busy.  Marrakech was very overwhelming to me; in the streets there were always cars, bikes, donkeys, motorbikes passing whomever they please, people crossing the streets with traffic coming straight at them... not a lot of order.

We tried finding our hostel, but in the end, payed a kid to take us there, as we had read about in one woman´s review of the hostel ("You´ll never find it - just save yourself the trouble, find a boy on the street and pay him to take you to the hostel!")  And truly, I don´t think we would have found it ourselves.  It´s back through a narrow path with tall walls on both sides, so a taxi couldn´t have even taken us there.

The hostel was gorgeous, and the man who works there, Najib, was incredibly helpful and nice.  After we put away our stuff, we had our first Moroccan mint tea up on the roof.  It was delicious.

View from our room, looking out into the common area

Izzy, Jimmy, Mara: tea on the roof

On the roof, later that evening

That night, we finally ate a real Moroccan meal.  My meal started with a Moroccan soup, then cous-cous with lamb, later there was fruit (delicious slices of orange with cinnamon sprinkled on top), mint tea, and pastries.  After dinner we walked around the city´s main plaza for a bit.  Lots of fruit stands, people, bikes, motorbikes, etc.

Later we hung out up on the roof of the hostel for a bit, chatting with other hostelers, before heading to bed.

Backpacking through Morocco Part 1: Getting to Marrakech

The last few weeks before Semana Santa, I got lots of warnings from people when I told them I was headed to Morocco*.  A friend from my Complutense class told me they buy blonde girls for camels there.  I laughed, until I realized they were serious.  Two more people, including our coordinator Amy, told us the same thing.  Amy also said that Mike should accept no less than 100 camels for Izzy and I, since we were worth far more than one :)

We were also warned that people will follow us down the street, offering a tour or to help us find our hotel, looking to be paid.  Since all of us are white, we were also told to expect stares, as well as cat-calls to the ladies.  Morocco's Wiki travel sections "Cope" and ""Stay Safe" summarize the type of place we were headed to, but since we did our research ahead of time, wore Muslim-appropriate clothing, and stayed aware, we avoided any major problems or surprises.

Day 1: Sunday, March 28, 2010

Iz, Mara (Iz´s friend from UW studying in Barcelona this semester), Jimmy, and I flew to Tánger Sunday afternoon and took a taxi straight to the train station once we arrived.  (Mike, if you recall, wouldn´t be arriving until Monday, due to human error while purchasing his plane ticket weeks earlier.  He simply mixed up the day.)  We enter the train station and Iz heads to the first window.  The plan is to take the overnight train to Marrakech, where we had hostel reservations the following night.

Izzy: ¿Inglés o español?
Man behind counter (MBC): Eeenglish.
Izzy: Ok, could I get a ticket to Marrakech, for the 9:00pm train tonight?
MBC: That will be a problem.  Tomorrow should be alright.
Izzy: There´s no train at 9:00pm today?
MBC: No.
Izzy: Are there any trains to Marrakech that leave earlier than 9 today?
MBC: No.
Izzy: But there are trains to Marrakech tomorrow?
MBC: Maybe

So... we had to regroup and figure out our options.  Bus? Rent a car?  Jimmy was the only one of us four who could drive stick.  So that would mean he drive the whole way.  We walked to an information desk and asked the man behind the counter about rental cars, then the bus station.  When we mentioned the bus station, he told us "No, no, busses are very bad.  If you take bus, you will die. Very unsafe.  Why don't you take train?"  We told him that there were no more trains today.  He told us yes, there's one at 9pm.  We pointed to the man we had talked with earlier and said that he told us there were no more trains today.  A bunch of Arabic flew out of his mouth as the information desk man started talking with the MBC.  I crossed my fingers and hoped the MBC had been mistaken, or that we had misinterpreted his English.  Information desk man came back to us a few minutes later and from what we could understand, turns out they were doing some sort of construction on the rail.  They decided to stop running trains to Marrakech that day because it was a Sunday, so they figured less people would be traveling.

After talking with this information desk man, we decided to take a five hour train to Rabat, the country's capital, and then we would catch another train to Marrakech the following day.  We bought our train tickets, then had a little over an hour to go find something to eat.  

   Learning some Arabic on the train

It was nice meeting people on the trains, but knowing when to get off was another story.  There are no loudspeakers to announce city names when we stopped, nor maps or signs or anything in the train.  The stops along the way all looked the same; small unlabeled little villages.  So, we had to ask the people in our compartment to tell us when we got to Rabat, otherwise we would have had no idea.  The stops were quite interesting, as well.  When the train would start to slow down before entering a station, the passengers just open up the train doors themselves, while the train is still moving, then hop off at the station.  The stops were very brief as well, just enough time for people to hop off and on, and then it was moving again.  The train doors stayed open until a passenger decided to close it, or until a train-staff member walked through and saw one open.  Way more sketch than any US train, that's for sure.

We got to Rabat around 10:30pm and walked to the first hotel we saw, right across from the train station.  Rooms were pricey, but realizing we didn't really have a choice, we inquired about two rooms.  The WBC (Woman behind the counter... now you're catching on) told us they were all booked that night. Dang.  We asked where other hotels were, and she gave us a map of the city and marked them with a pen.  It was maybe a 15-20 minute walk to the next hotel.  None of us had eaten dinner, either.  We found the hotel. They had rooms. Really freaking expensive rooms, twice as much as the last place.  But we didn't want to sleep outside, so we got two rooms for one night.  We watched a bit of world cnn, the only program in English, then passed out in our beds.

*Though of course, I couldn´t blog about these warnings until after I made it back; didn´t want mother to worry...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

the suspense continues...

There was a note on the door of my logic classroom this morning saying that class had been canceled today and tomorrow.  Thus we wait another week for a new professor...

Monday, April 12, 2010

20 seconds of your time...

I have a Spanish friend in my history of science class, Laura, who has entered a video contest online.  She is a huge fan of the Crepúscula series, and the winner gets to fly to Toronto to meet some of the actors.

Why am I telling you this?  Because you can help out by voting for her!

Here is the site: http://antena3.123listas.com/lists/2454-los-fans-a-toronto-vota-el-mejor-video

Should you have a spare 20 seconds, I ask that you click on this link, look for "Laura Lebrón" and vote by clicking on the stars beneath her video.

(I normally don't publicize these kinds of things but Laura has been so welcoming to me, the foreigner in class, so I wanted to return the favor.  Plus, she is extremely passionate about the series...)

And free feel to vote as many times as you want - 10 minutes after voting you can vote again!


Sunday, April 11, 2010

x razones personales

As you may recall, I really like my logic professor.  He explains everything clearly, and talks at the perfect speed.  I'm able to listen and take notes, hardly missing anything he says (unlike my other Complutense class...)  Since I don't have a tutor for this class, my plan was to go through all my notes this weekend, and clear up any uncertainties this Wednesday during my prof's office hours.

Class on Friday was normal, until the end.  He had finished lecturing, then added a quick "Oh, and by the way, because of personal reasons, I have to drop this class."

Say whaaa?!

That's basically all he told us.  He had talked to the department the day before, and they will hopefully find someone to continue teaching the class by Thursday when we have class again.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

nuevos estudiantes

I taught Pablo today instead of Tuesday since I was still in Marruecos then.  His mom called me this afternoon and said that her sister was wondering if I'd like to start meeting with two of her kids for an hour weekly.  After that trip to Marruecos, I couldn't turn down an additional 15 euro per week.  Although I normally have my intercambio Thursday evenings, it's the only "free" evening I have (without other english classes or volunteering), so I gave her that night as my only available night to add an English class.

Today after Pablo's English class, his aunt and one of the cousins (Sonja) stopped by to discuss the details.  Sonja's mother and I sat down at the table, and here's how the conversation started:

S.'s mom: So I was thinking once a week, you could start with just an hour and we'll see if that's enough time.
Sonja: For what?
S.'s mom: This is the English teacher.
Sonja: For who? For you?
S.'s mom (to me, ignoring Sonja): So there's Marcos, who's 14 and Sonja here is 12.
Sonja: What?! Mom! Noooo!

So basically Sonja had no idea she was coming over to meet me, nor that she'd be starting English classes with a tutor.  Sounded like her mother may have previously suggested the idea, and that it didn't fly.  Which means I'll need to figure out some games/conversation topics/activities to do with a 12 and 14 year old that don't want anything to do with an English tutor...

Hopefully I can win them over; I really enjoy the time I spend teaching all my other students.  And if all else fails, with the slightly-boosted income I might not be forced to live off rice my last few weeks here after all.

And I shall leave you with a couple of pics of Pablo from a few weeks ago.  I had drawn an outline of a person, and read him instructions so he could practice listening and complete the picture (eg. "Cole has blue pants and a red shirt.)  For whatever reason, Pablo always puts on his pirate costume when I come over...hah
Coloring nicely


Cole's ridiculously long left ear, courtesy of Pablo

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Planes, trains, and automobiles... and camels" -Izzy

I'm back! I had a fantastic trip in Marruecos.  Imbibed lots of mint tea.  I saw bugs I had never seen before, smelt and tasted scents and flavors I had never been exposed to before, and for the first time in my life, struggled with an actual language barrier (My casi-zero knowledge of French and Arabic was well noted... so I signed up for French 101 next fall!).  With 10 days, we were able to visit multiple towns with a nice variety of surroundings: desert, mountains, city, coast.  We met a lot of great people every place we went, each with refreshing stories to share.  The trip was especially valuable because I experienced what it's like to be a minority.

In other news, I found 100 durham in my pocket while unpacking this evening.  Oops.  Only checked my wallet when we were still in Marruecos, I forgot about pockets.  A more detailed trip-summary will follow in the next few days, with pictures of course.  I need to catch up on the classes I missed yesterday and today first though.  The nice weather we're supposed to have this weekend probably won't help my productivity...

Oh, and incase you're curious, yes we rode camels.  We went on a two day - one night camping trip in the Sahara.