Mientras Tanto

19 11 2010

The brilliant gleam of the new in Madrid has worn thin: the seductive beckon of unremarkable routine can offer too attractive a monotony to brush off like it ain’t no thang. Yet the medley of thangs continues, relentlessly, to occur, whether or not it falls subject to meticulous blogging.

The conversation of how to intermingle working with minors in a government-funded position with the Rights of the Blogger has come up several times, always concluding on a similar note: best to avoid it. I attribute part of my pause in daily wordiness to that phenomenon; this enormous part of my experience here has got to be treated as a bit of a delicate taboo. It isn’t that there’s anything specific I’m omitting – very few students ever get thrown in the Chokey, at least at José Luis Sampedro – but the weight of what I necessarily represent given my unique position can loom, heavy and ominous, when I consider regaling my clamoring international readers with sordid tales of what those sweet little beasties did this time, goddammit.

The other day, I noticed with alarm the extreme frequency with which I was talking about my job while not actually working, and made a pact with myself to immediately staunch that particular river. It grows more obvious with each day: teaching English is a means for me. That’s not what my Fulbright Personal Statement would have you believe, but let’s be straight up here (Straight BlogTalk with Torkington: Like It Ain’t No Thang). With each day, I’m allowing those myriad ingrained traditional understandings of What I Ought To Be Accomplishing With My Life to wither, and doing my damnedest to concentrate all my love and energy on unfurling leafy tendrils into self-development. I am a writer, I am a photographer, I am a chef, I am a linguist – but, more importantly, I am happy, day-to-day and long-term, in a way that makes sense for me specifically.

How ’bout THAT for stinky cheese, dear readers?

It’s okay to be a bit jealous. Let’s go out for cañas and we’ll talk about it.

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José Luis Sampedro Second Impressions

14 10 2010

Two solid weeks into teaching has me thoroughly enmeshed in the swing of things.

I assist in 19 classes a week, which amounts to a heavy workload; as such I consider it massive good luck that I adore the freneticism of the Auxiliar working style. It’s highly unusual that I know exactly what the plan is for each hour of the day – and here my fellow Auxiliares let loose a snigger at my understatement – but I find that I am absolutely most comfortable flying at top speed by the seat of my pants. It’s undeniable uncertainty, but the lack of rigidity means a high amount of wiggle room for the ambitious Auxiliar who just might be dreaming of brewing up a workshop series on critical thinking skills. You will be kept posted.

Quite a few general musings on the distinct qualities of the Spanish educational strategy have been posted on other Fulbright blogs, so I don’t plan on directly addressing them here. I’m also trying to allow space for my understanding of the experience to develop. I feel so differently about teaching this week than I did last week, and even then was significantly far from how I felt the week before that. Every day I wrap my head further around the quirky aspects of how the institution functions, along with how my aspirations can fit in – and flourish! – amongst the expectations and limited resources I confront every morning on campus.

I’m designing and executing a pair of classes centered around music each week with Patricia’s students. My first selection was Mika, both for the general likability of the tune as well as the clarity of the vocals. We filled in blanks, identified parts of speech, sought out synonyms, and discussed a few key points (“Does this song, indeed, make you feel relaxed? Why or why not?”). Today was the first round of student requested artists, beginning with Green Day. Almost every single lyric is an idiomatic expression of some variety; I couldn’t be prouder that my students now understand the phrase “bumper-sticker philosophy.”

There’s so much more – Laura (the other Fulbright at José Luis Sampedro) and I are slowly developing a joyful working friendship, which we hope to soon expand into the culinary realm. The other two Auxiliares, James and Heather, are a whirlwind force of expertise and dead-on impressions. I ride my patinete every morning and feel akin to the adolescent boy I never was. And, underlining it all: the students are, by and large, totally and mischievously delightful.