Thursday was a busy day again – they’re all busy! Classes are getting even better, except for Pilar, although we are managing to distract her and got quite a lot of good language today – just not enough actual practice as she talks the whole time!!
In the afternoon we visited a local library /resource centre called “La Fundacion German Sanchez“. The presentation was a little overpowering (read long and text heavy!) and and I was so tired that a dark, warm room with relatively comfy seats was the not the best place to be! I think most of us had heavy eyes but we managed (I think) to maintain levels of “alertness” sufficient to not appear too ungrateful!
We were given a bag full of advertising material which included some great posters, which I, unfortunately managed to lose in a hotel room in Madrid – gutted! The visits to the resource centre, the library and especially the reading activity workshop for the under fives were interesting though. It was great to see so many families taking advantage of the (free) opportunities for their children to access reading whether they be hard copies of books or on-line reading activities. It was also wonderful to see the joy that these activities gave to the children. Schools can request topic boxes of books that the Fundacion will put together for them and there are reading groups for adults as well as other activities to promote reading for all ages.
However, like the Montessori school, it was nothing particularly new to us. The same things happen here in NZ and in other countries around the world. What seemed sad was that this was something that was not provided by the government but by a privately funded organisation. I don’t know if the government also provides such a service for the general public and for schools, we certainly saw public libraries in all the cities we visited, but the fact that the Fundacion exists suggests that there is a gap that needs to be filled.
Time for a beer!
Once I had had a welcome hot shower and Kate gave my feet a massage, we went out for a wander. It was a beautiful afternoon and we made our way via several shoe shops to La Puerta del Sol where we were entertained by the many street “statues”and cartoon characters who tout for the odd coin thrown in appreciation (or exasperation) by generous tourists!
We continued on to the Plaza Mayor where we found a sunny spot in a cafe and then spent a pleasant couple of hours in the sunshine drinking wine and tasting a variety of tapas.
La Plaza Mayor is beautiful; as you walk through one of the small archways that give you access from the surrounding streets you are faced wth a huge square surrounded by high ochre coloured apartments – tiered levels with ironwork balconies that look down onto the central with a statue in the middle. It is a delightful though busy and noisy place to sit by mid to late afternoon and probably gets even busier as the madrilenos and the tourists hit the restaurants by ten o’clock! It is ironic that the first public event to be held there was a beatification of Saint Isidror, Madrid’s patron saint, and then it was used later by the Spanish inquisition for executions of heretics.
There are people everywhere; children running around with balloon creations made by the many street vendors, young and old couples in their own worlds, tourists of all ages; families, singletons, school groups, young and old, travellers of all nationalities, colour and creeds, exploring the world, wandering, laughing, joking, pondering the world around them, people-watching, drinking, eating, celebrating, chatting,…. The cafes and restaurants are hidden under the arches but their sunshades and tables line the square and you can always find a sunny place to sit. There was the noise of laughter and chatter all around as well as the incessant and infuriating squeaking of one of the street vendors to whom we were tempted to toss a few coins just to send him to the opposite end of the square. But he is part of the scenery and atmosphere of the place so we decided to put up with him!
As the sun went down we headed back to the hotel. It has been a long day and I am ready for bed!
Viernes el 19 de abril
Arrived barajas airport, Madrid, very tired, very hot and sticky afyer 30 hour flying, met up with Rebecca, Lorraine and Sandy and managed to negotiate the Madrid Metro with all our bags! No mean feat as the train was pretty busy. I was very quicky reminded of the “Metro mentality” of holding easy exit doorway positions as we endeavoured to squeeze past “door holders” who made no effort to move and make space for us – stared intently at techno devices as if we did not exist!
I parted company at Plaza de Espana to go to Santa Domingo and almost fell foul of Metro thieves; as I was riding an escalator it suddenly shuddered to a halt. My suitcase was cumbersome and now I would have to carry it up the escalator stairs! A young boy from the family behind me came to my aid and lifted the suitcase for me to help me carry it to the top. “How kind”, I thought. “Muchas gracias, muchas gracias” I said gratefully.
Two escalators later, the same thing happened – this time a lady who was in front of me came to help me. It was rather awkward and I had to lift my arms to help balance the suitcase. I felt my shoulder bag being pulled from behind and turned round to find nimble fingers pulling my glasses case and my headphone case out of my bag! I glared at the owner of the fingers and he dropped them quickly back in the bag and said someting like he was just picking them up because they had fallen on the floor. I shouted angrily “Dejalos, dejalos!”. The woman abruptly dropped my suitcase and the children and she disappeared into the ether.
Shaken, I checked that they had not taken anything. All good; my valuables had been hidden in an inside zipped pocket and the thief had not got that far!. I had been carrying my bag over my shoulder and acroos my chest which meant it was more difficult for them to get into, but their ruse of unbalancing me and getting me to lift my arms so that the bag was exposed may well have worked if there had not been so many hidden interior compartments to my bag!
It was a worrying and timely reminder that “No somos todos iguales” as one lady had warned us on the metro and how easily these people target their victims. I was on my own, quite heavily laden, clearly tired and in an unfamiliar place. They work together, build a modicum of trust by “helping” me initially, so that the second time I was off my guard. They clearly have a knack of being able to jam the escalators; at first I thought that they were just kids larking around and since escalators are notorious for breaking down, I thought nothing of it.
Anyway, I soon arrived at the Mercure to find my two beautiful sisters waiting for me. It was so lovely to see them. We hugged each other tightly and got down to catching up!
Well, I have not really had time to get excited about this trip as I have been so busy. Even the orientation day with the rest of the teachers on the trip didn’t really get me feeling that it was real. Now I am here in Auckland airport waiting for my flight and am allowing myself to get just a little bit excited about the fact that in just a few hours time I will be on the of the side of the world.
When I was told about the Salamanca Immersion scholarship and decided to apply I didn’t want to hope too much that I would get it in case I was disappointed. It has been a hectic and long term and I have to admit to being absolutely shattered and looking forward to sleeping as much as possible on the flight!
I am also a little apprehensive about staying with my host in Salamanca and not being able to communicate – you know those awkward silences when you can’t of anything to say or the frustrated panicky silences when you are trying desperately to finish off the sentence you have ambitiously started? If I understand the information I have been given correctly, I am staying with a single lady which is great but also quite daunting; what if
we have nothing in common? It is often easier to keep conversations going when there are children around, with just the two of us I am worried that I won’t be able to think of anything to say…
But nothing ventured, nothing gained and I have a fantastic opportunity which I am going to grasp with both hands and both feet! I may well be more exhausted when I return than now but I know I will have learned heaps about the language, the culture and myself.