Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chapter Three: I will not call this chapter "When in Rome."

Chapter Three: I will not call this chapter "When in Rome."

Hello once again audience!  When we last left off, I was hiking, tutoring, tasting cheeses, and thoroughly enjoying night time jogs.  My neighborhood is safe, low traffic, and is far from downtown and typical ruffians.

This is the same view that I shared with you in the first chapter, but at night.  I remember when I first saw this place I made a mental note to come back at sunset and night time.  This is a view pointing South (if my intuition doesn't deceive me).

So I'd like to tell you about my trip to Rome, however, I will not say the words "When in Rome."  If you've been reading through the other student's blogs and thumbed through their pictures and albums, you've probably heard the phrase.  You don't need to hear it from me.  This is the occasion that I will not do as the tourists do.

Always know where your towel is...
Thanks again to the WKU Sisterhood for helping College students like myself make studying abroad a reality.  Standing in front of the great Colosseum of Rome, I present to you the customary red towel.

And now to tell you how I got there...

3:55 A.M. was when my day began.  I grabbed some granola bars and a banana and slung on my backpack to wait for called taxi on the sidewalk.  I wasn't alone when I stood out there.  Further down the street, a wild boar trotted across the street.  My Host-father told me on my first day that it is typical for wild boar to come from the hills and roam the neighborhood at night.  Especially since I live closer to the hills.  I wasn't close enough to take a picture.  I didn't want to get closer to it because I might have frightened it and then it would have ran off into some traffic.  Or maybe it would have done the same to me.  Either way, I let old Pumba go on his merry way.

There was a taxi ride, I met up with my two traveling pals Rachel Bowen and Nichole Dwyer at the airport.  There was a brief wait at the airport gate, and we were flying to Italy.  I fell asleep before the plane even left the ground and proceeded to doze on and off for the rest of the flight.

I stayed at Papa Germanos.  It was a nice Hostel with friendly receptionists.  Given it's ten minute walk from the metro/train/bus station, and it's great price, I couldn't have found a better place. 

In Italy, there aren't crossing lights for many crosswalks, so you have just walk.  Cars won't stop until you are in front of them.  It's slightly intimidating.

East of the Vatican museum we had lunch at a cafe/restaurant. I had a salami pizza with pieces of salami the size of cup coasters.  It was spicy, juicy, and everything that I had hoped for.  I also had the best cup of espresso I've ever tasted there.  I couldn't tell where the foam ended and the coffee began.  As a former barista, these are the kind of things that I look for.  I hypothesize that the rich flavor comes from the use of whole milk and the ratio of coffee to water used in espresso shots.  You see, the drink was in a cup just the size of my fist, which is a typical size for coffee drinks in Europe.  American coffee shops prepare espresso differently because people typically order 16, 24, or 32 oz. lattes.

I was told that Rome is a very photogenic place.  I agree with that statement.  Let me show you why I agree with that statement:

The Vatican Museum

For a three hour tour, you can't look at the ground, ceiling, or walls without witnessing intricate and inspiring works of art.  Michelangelo and other artists contributed for years to make the Vatican museum a stunning and  unforgettable place.  I'll let the pictures say the rest...

The Colosseum
 This is not where Russel Crowe ran dust through his fingers.  That was a movie set.  The Colosseum concluded a tour that we had around historic ruins of Rome, where we learned a lot about the famous Julius Ceasar and the other emperors who came and went.

In the end, Italy was a rush, but it was a comfort to return to Barcelona.  The air is fresher, the traffic is safer, and at least in Barcelona I can fumble my Spanish phrases and use English to communicate. 

Otros: Old Bridge is the name of a gelatto shop near the Vatican museum.  They happen to sell the best gelatto in the universe.

Next time on the blog: dragons, science lessons, roses, and harbors.

Until next time...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Chapter Two: One week already?

Chapter Two: One week already?

Hello and welcome to my posts.  I'm Evan Wolfe and this is my blog!  Why write a blog?  In case you haven't heard, I'm studying in Barcelona, Spain.  It's a great way to keep you up to date on my discoveries.  This time last week I had gotten off of my plane and taken in more unusual sights and sounds than I have ever experienced.
If you are new here, this is my second post.  I had already written a first post but I wasn't ready to share this with the rest of my audience until it looked more aesthetically presentable.  As a former (Freshman level) graphic design major, the color of the text has to contrast the background just right or it will bother me.  This is the scheme that I settled with after some tinkering around with the features.

My gratitude to:
  • The WKU Sisterhood.  I may not be a sister but I am thankful for your help to make these adventures possible!
  • Gustavo Adolfo Obeso Rodriguez.  Sr. Obeso was the first to get me interested in the Spanish language, and the culture of different Spanish-speaking Countries.  What I learned from his class inspired me to travel.   
  • Dr. Fred Carter for giving me the chance to be a part of this program.  
And now for the feature...

The School
As I promised you last chapter, I would tell you more about Santa Isabel (Full name Colegio Reial Monestir De Santa Isabel.  It is a Catholic Private school that teaches students from Kindergarten to their Secondary years.  The students learn Spanish, English, and Catalan throughout all of their subjects.  By First grade the students will begin learning English. My host-father told me that one of the reasons that he chose to send his children to Santa Isabel is because he wanted them to learn English.  Most of the students are confident and eager to speak to you in English.  Also, the students are required to ask questions in English or ask for assistance with phrasing.  The students are learning the British form of English, so there are some minor differences from American English.

The Spanish accent that almost everyone speaks with is very catchy, and you will find yourself speaking occasionally with a Spanish accent. As I read this back to myself in my head, it is in a Spanish accent.  It's completely unintentional.

Because the students are learning every subject in English,  there is a great emphasis on summarizing, note taking, and graphic organizers.  I was surprised to see 4th and 5th grade students utilizing these note taking strategies that I've typically witnessed in High School and College age students.

Teachers  in Santa Isabel have different classes during the day, and instead of the students moving to different teachers for math or reading, the teachers do all of the moving from classroom to classroom.  The teacher work and break schedules are staggered so that they can cover for each other in the event of a teacher needing a substitute for a class or two. 

I work with a teacher who teaches Science and English to 4th, 5th, and 6th grade boys.  We have one English reading class that is all girls.  Currently we finished up the circulatory and respiratory system in Science, and reported speech in English.  Lately I've been leading the activities and helping the students with their reading.  I also give exams to students where I will ask the students questions about a given picture and they have to respond to the questions in English, using full sentences.  This trains their ability to communicate contrasts and answer "who, what, when, where, why, and how?" questions.

I'm getting ready to teach a Science lesson to the students as soon as they finish their current Science exams.

Tutoring the kids

I live with a host family who has two children.  Usually we ride in a car or on the bus together and at home we have a snack, do homework, practice spelling words, and then play a game.  Games that I've used so far are charades (The student reads the card with an English word a picture on it and acts out that word while the other student guesses in English what the words is), I spy, and a simplified form of Pictionary where the students take turns writing the words after guessing the drawing.  We also read a selection of picture books that I brought from home, where we all take turns reading a page.

The Weekend
Plaza De Espana

 This picture was not taken by me, but you'll see some pictures that I did take of this place from a different perspective. In the months preceding my arrival to Spain, this picture was on the background of my computer.  On Saturday I had walked around this location and taken pictures but I didn't realize this was the same location as this picture that was on my desktop until I had reviewed my pictures on the computer.

I think it looks good at night.  The statue is just out of view from this picture.  It would be situated on the upper right corner of this picture.  The towers that you see in the first picture are behind me in the other two pictures.  It was a pleasant night walking around Plaza De Espana.  I took the metro to get there and it was the easiest thing that I've done since I've come to Spain.  I had come to Plaza de Espana to see the magic fountain but I had missed the show.  The magic fountain is a water and light show that plays to music.  I had hoped to see it, but I didn't make it in time.  I'm not worried.  To me, exploring and traveling is about seeing the quaint cafes, parks, and scenery that catch your eye along the way.  When I was younger I had dreamed of exploring large cities on my own, immersed entirely in new places.  To me, that night was a success. 

Here is a video of what the Magic fountain show looks like:

Castillo Burriarc
Over the weekend I rode with my host-family to meet my Host-father's friends from law school.  We took a 45 minute hike to the historic castle known as Castillo Burriarc. 

After we returned from the hike, we ate at an old-fashioned Spanish restaurant.  I tried pig feet for the first time, along with a plethora of salted peppers and cooked vegetables.  Next to the restaurant was a patio that children could play on while under supervision.  There were also cages with various birds inside.  I took a picture of this bird because I had never seen it before.

Unless I'm mistaken, this bird is called a Las Perdius.  I looked up the name just to make sure and I found pictures of a different looking bird.  Can anyone help me out on this one?  Am I correct?

And now for questions that I like to think you have for me:
  • Did you experience a lot of culture shock in Spain?  I moved from California to Kentucky.  Culture shock is a regular occurrence.  But yes, I did in Spain.  More on that subject later.
  • How is your Spanish?  It is so-so.  I know enough Spanish to survive.  I can ask for directions, I can ask for how much food costs, numbers, dates, and some adjectives.  I can also tell when students are talking to each other on or off topic in class. 

When I speak to locals in Spanish, they can hear my American accent and they talk to me by using a little bit of English.

Gelatto is as good as everyone says it is.  Possibly better.

I have two favorite coffee shops:
  • Nyo's: it is across the street from Santa Isabel.  It is a popular location between us Toppers (Toppers being my fellow students from WKU) where we catch up on we've been up to.  Both inside and outside of the school.  Also, the espresso is just right.  Strong, but not to sharp and bitter.  They call it cafe.   
  • I have forgotten the name of the other one. It is quaint and has a nice collection of pastries.
Next time on the blog: I will tell you about my host family, the colleagues, and a cliche-free (mostly) recanting of my journey through Rome!  That's right, Rome!

Until next time...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Chapter One: Adjectives

Chapter One: Adjectives

Of all the adjectives that I have been thinking of using to describe the feeling of coming to Barcelona, I would say that it resembles one feeling: being starstruck.  To be starstruck is to meet a famous person you have always wanted to meet.  When you finally meet this famous person, you can't believe that you are actually meeting this person.  I couldn't believe that I had finally set foot on the other side of the world.  For over a year I have been telling people that I am going to Barcelona.  At last, it happened.  I have arrived.

The excitement began when we were approaching a layover in the JFK airport in New York.  It was the first time I had seen New York in real life.  I thought of all the movies that I have seen that took place in New York and at last I had seen it with my own eyes.  It was a foggy (smoggy?) day in New York, so maybe the Statue of Liberty was just out of sight from my seat on the plane.

After an uneventful stay in the New York Airport, we made our flight to Barcelona, Spain.  What started as a timid full-group shuffle from the terminal to the other side of the terminal became a whirlwind of tours, handshakes, meeting our host families, and a 7 hour jet lag feeling.

Regarding my host family, they are the best. Alberto is the father of my host family, and I am grateful for the time he has taken to give me a tour of Barcelona.  The insight of Spain that he has provided me, and all of Europe as well, has been riveting and informative.

Regarding the school that I am visiting, it is called Colegio Reial Monestir De Santa Isabel. I will go into more detail in another entry, but I will give you a quick rundown of thoughts and observations I have made thus far...

  • The students have more than 90% of their classes in English.  The students are required to read textbooks in English, give presentations in English, write notes in English, and take exams in English.  That is content integration every day.
  • In this school, the teachers move from class to class and the students only change classrooms a few times.
  • The school day begins at 9 AM and ends at 5 PM.
Finally, I give you these two pictures.  There will be more pictures in future posts, but I decided that these two pictures best express my first impression of this week.  I get to enjoy this view during my ride home from school.  In the second picture, you might notice a familiar place if you watched the Summer Olympics in 1992...

(Disclaimer: those are not two massive trees in the distance.  Those are just two twigs in the foreground.)

Next time on the blog: The scene, the cuisine, the school, and the tutoring sessions.

 Until next time...