Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Let's Review, Shall We?

October 22: Bachata y Merengue
Well, I am a bit behind with my blog. So pardon the long post, but I am going to combine a few of the latest events. Nothing too exciting going on this week. I've been working a lot of hours at school, and also been bringing some work home with me (halloween preparations, etc). Outside of school, I'm keeping busy by going to dance class three tims a week. :-) Yes, you read that correctly. The girl who never ever dances is finally taking dance lessons...and LOVING it! I've been going for the entire month, and am actually learning pretty quickly. I can now say with confidence that I can dance the Bachata and Merengue. I've completely fallen in love with the music and I'm now even one of those nerds that practices infront of my mirror. But that is only temporary...until I find my Spanish soulmate to dance with. Other than school and dance, I spend most of my time out in the plaza or in the bars (which are more like cafes -- just for clarification). The time here has been going really quickly...and I wish it would slow down! It is hard to believe I have already been here almost a full month. Good news is, I have 8 more to look forward too!

Okay, now onto other things:

October 17: Fiesta en la Calle
Spaniards are notorious for being night owls. The fun doesn't really start until 1 or 2 am, right? I know this, and I've lived this. But despite the fact that I lived in Granada for 4 months in 2006, and have been in Ubrique just shy of a month, I still don't have the Spanish routine down. A few of the auxiliars and I thought we would try to have a true Spanish weekend, but were not entirely successful:

9:30 pm - Ate dinner
11:30 pm - Hit the bars
12:30 am - Wander around to waste some time
1:30 am - Return to bars
3:00 am - Head to Pentagono (a dance club)
3:05 am - Absolutely no one at Pentagono
3:15 am - Return to bars and ask why no one is at the dance club. The answer: "Its too early, wait till 4:00 am". (Riiiiighht...3:30...too early...why didn't I think of that?!?!)
4:30 am - Still at bar...but beyond tired.
5:00 am - Return home, hit the bed.

Maybe next weekend we will take part in the siesta (aka...sleep before we go out in order to survive the night). Nevertheless, it was quite fun looking like idiots as we wandered around town trying to figure out where all the people were. And although we met plenty of unusual characters, I came across some of my students' parents (wonderful people!), and had some enjoyable, lengthy conversations with them...and even got a few free drinks (water and coke, but still, with this exchange rate, each saved euro is fabulous!).

October 11-12: El Campo
Not only do I despise bugs with a passion, but I'm completely terrified of spiders...and not too fond of gargantuan beatles (which seem to be quite common out in the campo [countryside] of Ubrique). Nevertheless, there is nothing I love more than being outside, and I'm not afraid to get dirty. This weekend I spent three wonderful days (holiday on Monday) out in the country at a friend's ranch. The ranch, complete with a flock of sheep, a pregnant pony, and 30+ dogs (8 of which were brand new puppies), definitely allows one to live a little more on the "wild" side. But that is only where the story starts. After kickin it at the ranch for a while, we headed out to canoe/kayak around the nearest lake (which is surprisingly very large). After canoeing for a couple of hours, we returned to the ranch for almuerzo (lunch). After almuerzo, we ventured to a nearby pueblo, Algars, to go to the stables. We each took a horse, and ventured off into the sunset. ...You think I'm being dramatic, but it is entirely true... I've never really ridden a horse before, or really had the urge to do so, but I have completely fallen in love with it. Perla (mi caballo) was delightful: we trotted a little, galloped a lot, and meandered around while enjoying the amazing scenery. After about 2 hours of riding around, we returned to the stables, headed to the ranch to pick up our things, and went back to Ubrique. I couldn't have asked for a better weekened, and I hope this is just a taste of the many weekends to come.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

La Cruz de Tajo

Ubrique is situated directly in the mountains, which means that there is plenty to do and to see, and trails that run for miles (well, I should say kilometers) in every direction. However, last week, I of course wound up going for a hike up the only mountain and to the only spot without a trail to follow. I ventured up to the Cruz de Tajo. The Cruz (cross) is emblematic of Ubrique, and it is quite impressive as it sits directly atop a sheer rock drop off towering over town.

One of my students had said she had seen people hiking up there before, so a coworker and I decided if others could do it, we could too. So we embarked on what we thought would be a normal hike along a normal trail. To our suprise, the trail ended almost immediately, and we found ourselves among boulders twice our size, random mountain cacti, and millions of prickly shrubs. Nevertheless, it did not appear to be anything too horribly difficult or dangerous. As we continued to scale the mountain, however, it only got steeper and more difficult. At one point, we decided it was not worth the risk, but when we careflly turned ourselves around, two thoughts went through my head: (1) I already made it this far...what's another few hundred feet? and (2) What the heck am I thinking, I can't get down from here! So of course, if it is too scary to go back down, you just continue going up...right?

After almost 2 hours of complete vertical rock climbing (not hiking...), we made it to the Cruz (cross). It was well worth it. You can see for miles - Ubrique, other pueblos blancos, mountains, rolling hills, olive groves, etc. It is absolutely gorgeous, and I think everyone that comes to Ubrique should scale the mountain and make the journey up to the Cruz. It is not your normal everyday hike. It pushes the limits, yes, but once you make it to the top (and if you ignore the fact that you have to go back down), the reward is incredible. I plan to venture up at least one more time this fall/winter before the snakes return (we were lucky, we only encountered one), but will probably go a little more prepared...mentally and physically. And of course, should anyone want to come and visit me, I will be happy to be your local hiking guide. :-)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Quite Content

As of today, Friday October 3rd, I have officially been in Ubrique for one week. I am entirely unpacked and all settled in, and Ubrique already feels like home. I love my "piso" (flat) and my room (especially since it has a balcony overlooking the plaza).

While I have not had the opportunity to teach a class yet, I have been able to attend various classes and assist the teachers each day. I found out today that I will be teaching all grades, which includes kids from 3 to 12 years old. Undoubtedly, I have a challenge ahead of me...but I think it will be quite fun and rewarding. I think all the kids are wonderful, and so far, really seem to like me - especially the 10 year old boys who remind me daily "you very beautiful (pronounced boootiful) woman." One of my classes already gave me a welcome poster. Talk about adorable! :-) Bottom line: The kids are great and this is going to be a fun year.

And one of the best things about Ubrique (and its population of 18,000) is that the teachers and kids alike all know me, and we frequently run into each other. It is such a great feeling when the kids say "Hello Ashley" or "Bye Bye" when I see them in the streets or the Plaza. They quite often come running to me, yelling at their parents to come meet the "maestra nueva de ingles" (new English teacher). I am already quite attached to the town, the people, and the kids. If I love it this much after only one week, I'm a little concerned that after 9 months, I wont be coming home... I might just have to buy a flat, become an English teacher, and bribe my parents and friends to come live in Spain with me.

To bring this to a close, I would like to add just one, very interesting, little tid-bit. A bird flew into me today. Yes, you read that correctly. I got hit by a bird. What can I say? It all happened quite quickly. I was simply minding my own business, walking across the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, looked at the birds playing in the fountain about 30 feet from me. Then, all of sudden, something spooked them. No big deal, 5 out of 6 of the birds flew in a hustle right in front of me. However, one apparently miscalculated my position, and ended up flying right into the side of my face, hit my nose, then left my "bubble" with a couple pieces of my hair. I didnt quite know what to think. Nor did the witnesses (a few old gentlemen sitting in the plaza) know what to say. Anyway, I am quite honored to add that to my list of interesting events in my life. And I would be curious to know how many people can honestly say they have been hit by a bird while walking... Anyone? I must be very special...