Archives for posts with tag: Teaching

Just finished my last day of teaching this week! Remembering how uncertain and alienated I felt walking around the halls during my first week at my school made a dramatic contrast with my last week of reluctant and warm-hearted farewells.

My last week of teaching coincided with a visit by a group of British exchange students. I chaperoned one of their field trips to Baelo Claudia (a Roman ruins site) and Tarifa. Here are a couple of pics from the trip…

North Africa’s coastline in the distance/ Forlorn seaside ruins of Baelo Claudia/ Flock of sheep using a palm tree as a windbreaker

Julia and I are off on a field trip of our own to Berlin this week! So excited to celebrate this year, and the end of our heinous commutes!




Job perks. I was recently striving to think of any that this Language and Culture Assistant position receives. Oh yes…living in Spain! And recently, I realized another one…food! The kind that the kid’s parents’ bring in to school for teacher appreciation. For example, about a month ago, a mom with two troublesome kids casually left a cake in the teacher’s room- I like to think of it as a peace offering, or perhaps a bribe- the teachers certainly weren’t complaining! And then yesterday, in celebration of Día de Andalucía (Andalucía Day, technically on the 28th, commemorates when Andalucía legally achieved its status as an autonomous region within Spain), a corps of kids’ parents made ham and olive oil sandwiches for the whole school! Woohoo!

But the food I am writing about today was made by a kid’s mom who happens to be from Syria, loves to cook and has major kitchen skills! Word of her one-woman catering business has been spreading from teacher to teacher in the school, and I had been hearing about this delicious Syrian food for months before finally, on Wednesday, my bilingual coordinator invited Helen and I to join his family for a catered lunch by this talented lady! They generously let me take some pictures before commencing the feast…

This was the best hummus I have ever tried in my life! It was super thick, and had to be thinned out with olive oil. The garbanzo bean flavor was so intense!

This is a salad with guess what? Falafel! I had never seen falafel formed in this almost-doughnut shape, nor ever tried it sprinkled with sesame seeds. They were super crispy on the outside, and the seeds added a nice complexity. Yum!

This is a picture of the crowded table. I liked the Spanish touch of the baguette- the people here eat bread with every meal, even if it is Syrian I suppose!

You can see a tiny corner of one of the desserts in the bottom right corner. It was an almond cake so saturated with honey that it was dripping all over everybody’s fingers. It faintly reminded me of honey-slathered cornbread.

Cheese empanadas and spinach pastries

Syrian veggie pizza. I found the presence of this dish incongruous with the others- I mean, how authentically Syrian could pizza be? But the Wikipedia page on Syrian cuisine assures that manaeesh, the name for Syrian pizza, is popular for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

So now I am in the school loop, and can contribute to extolling this lady’s talents with the other teachers. Here’s to hoping she’ll be catering our next staff luncheon!



Over Christmas break, I gleaned some menus from my family’s take-out drawer to use in a class activity where the kids role-play a scene in a restaurant , and then answer various questions about their specific menu. The distinction between a take-out and sit-down restaurant was complicated by the presence of some menus from restaurants that offer both options, such as Applebees or Mimi’s Café. One of Applebees’ slogans, “Food fast, not fast food” confused a lot of students. One group’s entertaining answer to my question, “Is your restaurant a to-go restaurant?” was “No, I go.”I obviously had a lot of explaining to do about the types of restaurants in the U.S.!

Julia and I have found an unlikely source of “food fast, but not fast food” here in Spain- Julia’s school! Early in the year, Julia discovered that her school offers an occupational elective for those students thinking about careers in food service. During their lessons, the class creates several dishes, which they subsequently package in plastic containers and drop off in the teacher’s room to sell for about 1 euro each.

Julia also quickly discovered that the teacher’s demand for this food greatly outstrips the student’s supply, so that obtaining these little containers involves a strategic and aggressive offense. The promise of freedom from the kitchen on a week-night moves the teachers into what Julia calls a “furious frenzy.”

First, Julia has explained, timing is of grave importance. If she is not in the teacher’s room when the goods are delivered, she can kiss her chance of nabbing some food “adios!”

And then, even if she finds herself in the fortuitous position of being in the right place (the teacher’s room) at the right time (the moment the students deliver the food), she is not guaranteed to score dinner for that night. Teachers frequently mob the students at the door, leaving only empty trays to be set down on the teacher’s room table.

And then, even if the trays do make it to the table with some containers of food intact, there is the competitive snatching and grabbing to contend with. Julia once picked up a container, indecisively set it down for a moment to consider whether or not to buy it and found it whisked away by another teacher from right under her nose. There is no room for uncertainty in this battle of colleagues.

So what is all the fuss about? Is the food really that good to elicit Black Friday-like throwing of elbows and cold disregard for the fellow competition?

Here are some of the trophy dishes Julia brought home on her successful days:

Smoked Salmon Pasta with Goat Cheese

Roast Pork Ribs with Rice Pilaf

Huevos a la flamenca, or Flamenca-style eggs- baked eggs with a variety of cooked vegetables and ham

“Spring rolls”- a typical spring roll filling in a French-style crepe

Apple strudel

Gachas dulces- toasted cinnamon and milk porridge

Other dishes we have also tried but aren’t pictured include lobster bisque, shrimp fettucine, and ham and cheese Spanish tortilla.

I have been supremely impressed with the good quality of some of the dishes. Others are perhaps not so stellar taste-wise but do give us a glimpses into new Spanish gastronomic territory, such as a stew we recently tried that was surprisingly punctuated with squares of pig fat with some hairy bristles still attached!

All in all, we have loved occasionally having a ready-made dinner after a long day of work and tiresome commute! The students at Julia’s school have unexpectedly blessed us by providing us with some food fast, saving us from resorting to the evils of fast food. Fight on, Julia!



Sevilla, food, and travels have been the A-list stars in this blog, and I’ve thoroughly neglected Jerez, the city I actually work in! I suppose it is the commuter’s curse to only know the confines of their workspace, and in my case, the train station, in the place they commute to.

Two weeks ago, Julia and I staged our own Bring Your Friend to Work Day, and she accompanied me along the marathon of 2 hours of train rides, 1 hour of walking, 10 minutes of Metro-ing, and the 7 hours of working that is my typical Tuesday.

Here are some pictures from our day…

This is the beautiful Jerez train station. It is about a 20 minute walk from the station to my school, and about 15 minutes from the station to the city center.

This slightly frightening statue welcomes visitors- I’m not sure what his story is.

Julia snapped this picture as we were leaving school. This is the gate to I.E.S. Fernando Savater, the secondary school where I work. This gate is always locked, and there is another locked door beyond this to get inside the building- maximum security- those kids aren’t escaping!

I gave my first test last week! I think was about as nervous as the students posing questions and striving to give them fair grades! When Julia visited, we gave some class presentations about Christmas in the U.S. The kids were horrified that we don’t have turrón and polvorones (a popular Spanish Christmas cookie). I assured them we had our own share of delicious ways to celebrate the season! I don’t think we sold them on eggnog though…

After school, we strolled over to the city center with Helen, the other language assistant at my school .As Jerez is known for its sherry wine production, it was fitting that they were constructing a Christmas tree of sherry bottles in this plaza.

I’ve posted before about the popularity of belenes (nativity scenes) in Spain. Here is Jerez’s main belén. The people figures in the photograph are life-size.

Another perspective of the belén

I have to take the Sevilla metro to get to and from my train station in Sevilla. On our way home we checked out this 3 Wise Men light display…

…and Christmas tree complete with flamingos and Sevilla-themed ornaments. It seems as if no corner of Sevilla has been neglected in decorating for the holidays!

On Saturday, I took a much longer 25-hour journey home to California! I have a couple of back-posts about sweets (surprise!) that I intend to put up while I’m home, so I won’t completely disappear during my break from Spain. I hope you enjoyed this sliver of a look into my daily grind in Jerez!



Nothing too interesting to report about this week. It has been nice feeling more and more familiar with the teachers and kids at the school and getting used to the commute. My classes run the gamut of eagerly interested students to the bad boys in the back row who do not want to participate. Most of the classes have 3o or more students! And I have one class of 16-year-olds with 4 girls and 26 boys!!! I’m having to get back in touch with my middle-school-self to remember what I would find interesting and engaging in the classroom. I really enjoy the work so far- it is challenging and fun at the same time.

Today, Julia and I ventured to the wonderful world of Ikea! It involved only a short bus ride from the city center before we arrived at the land of fabulous and cheap Swiss design. Our plan was to stock up on blankets and comforters as winter is slowly creeping in at night here. Inside, the store felt so familiar, that I would be startled when announcements would come on in Spanish instead of English!

It was Julia’s first time ever to an Ikea! We thought she should get a button, like the kind they hand out at Disneyland for people’s first trip.

We made sure to stop at the cafeteria for lunch- check out the bocadillo (sandwich) the width of my shoulders for only 2.50 euro! Now we know where the cheap eats can be found!

Some experiences feel the same everywhere, such as a shopping trip to Ikea. It was fun to feel a bit of home today!



Yikes! It has been a busy week and a half! What have we been up to here in Sevilla?

1. We went to Paris! For 5 days, to visit our friend Joanna who has quite an interesting job with the American embassy. Although we meant it to be a 4 day stay, fate intervened (aka a national transportation strike in Spain) and we had to stay an extra day. What a pity!

2. We (finally!) started our jobs! After 3 weeks, it feels like a very delayed start on the whole reason why we’re here. The teachers love putting me in the hot seat, and leaving me to the mercy of 30 Spanish teenagers to ask me questions such as what is your favorite color? What is your opinion of the current economic crisis? Do you have any pets? And do you have a boyfriend? The 12 year olds are sooooo cute! The 16 year olds, well, I have to admit I’m still a bit scared of them. At least all of the teachers I have worked with so far are extremely friendly. And I only have to work 3 days a week!

3. And, very importantly, we got internet for our apartment! So now I have no excuse not to update the blog.

Voila! And there you have it! Our last week and a half. I’m thinking of publishing a couple of successive posts on our Paris trip, if you’d like to read about our culinary and visual discoveries!



Sun, cathedrals, street vendors, men in capri pants, women in Zara, late nights, cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, gypsies with rosemary, tinto de verano…these are the characters and images that populate the streets of Sevilla in September. I’ve been here in Spain for 11 days. In that time, I have signed the lease on an apartment, walked a good portion of the city, eaten copious amounts of gelato (with an occasional break provided by frozen yogurt from Yogurtlandia!) and managed to embarrass myself a couple of times with my rusty Spanish. I am here to be a language assistant in a middle school in Jérez, a town of 250,000 south of Sevilla known for its equestrian school and sherry bodegas.

I’m living in the historic city center with my roommate from college, Julia. She’s teaching in a teeny-tiny town northwest of Sevilla called Valverde del Camino. It’s famous for its leather goods. Here we are in the Plaza de España, an impressive tiled wonderland built for the 1939 Ibero-American Exhibiton. It’s surrounded by a gorgeous Golden Gate Park-like place called Parque María Luisa.

For the past 10 days my mom was here helping with the apartment search, general settling into Sevilla matters and, of course, to do a little sight-seeing. This picture was taken at our adopted breakfast spot, Bar Alfalfa (yes, a bar is a perfectly respectable place to have breakfast here and yes, people are sometimes actually drinking at 11am on their work breaks!). This particular bar has amazing café con leches, fresh-squeezed orange juice and tostadas (toasted mini-baguettes with different toppings like tomato, cheese, ham, etc. and usually olive oil) for amazing prices. I have been there 10 times already! My mom left on Saturday, and Julia and I are already missing her- she was a strong connection to home!

I am so excited for this journey, and also anxious. I look forward to sharing it with you all! Thanks for stopping by the blog and please never feel shy to leave a comment!