Week TWO

2 weeks down, 30 to go. But who’s counting(other than my mom :p)!?

This week I finally started my job, and it’s been quite…interesting [and enjoyable]. I have 0 experience teaching to a classroom, and practically 0 experience with kids, so it’s definitely going to be a learning experience for me too (and I'm excited!). For those that don’t know, I’ll be working with all of the grades at the school, from age 3 to 16, spending an hour with each. 

Fun fact -  School for 17 and 18 year olds in Spain is not mandatory and my school doesn’t have them - read more about the school system in Spain here.

Not surprisingly, I enjoyed my time with the oldest kids the most because I felt the most comfortable with them, although I was surprised at how shy some of them were. The 11-12yr olds were also great because they had the most enthusiasm and weren’t afraid to test out their English on me.

At least one student in every class has tried to trick me into speaking Spanish, or answering a question that they ask me in Spanish which would acknowledge I understand it (I’m supposed to pretend I don’t) - so far I haven’t slipped!

The 3 and 4 year olds are extremely cute, and it was fun doing the itsy bitsy spider with them, but honestly I did feel like my presence there was a bit pointless and perhaps the school would be better off scheduling me to spend more time with older kids instead.

There are a few grades I didn’t work with because the teacher was absent that day, so I am excited to meet the rest of the students next week. I think a few more weeks of this and I won’t feel awkward anymore :p. 

*This post (and this will probably be a trend) contains some clichés regarding nature and my sentiment towards it… clichés are cliché for a reason, and I’m on an island where there’s nothing to do but spend time in nature, so get used to it people.*

Thursday - I watched my first film completely in Spanish with no subtitles… won’t be trying that again for a while :p. A friend I made - Miguel - happens to live 3 doors down from the AirBNB where I’m still staying, and I came over to watch a movie. I didn’t want him to have to watch something he’d seen before, so we skipped past his DVD collection and browsed the collection of completely-legal ;) films on his external hard-drive (hence the lack of subtitles) looking for a film that I could maybe understand (many of the films were from various other spanish speaking countries, or parts of Spain, and Miguel said the accents would be too strong/different for me to understand). We settled on a 2-part miniseries called La Piel Azul, in which coincidentally Miguel’s girlfriend’s grade school classmate plays a supporting role.

Overall I enjoyed the directing, and the ample amount of nudity, but being a person who hates the anxiety that comes along with thrillers, I’ll probably test the progression of my comprehension with a comedy next time.

Although this was a 4-day weekend for me, I already have two tentative trips coming up soon and no extra work lined up yet, so I couldn’t justify hopping on a plane this weekend. And why should I, when I’ve a whole island to explore? 

Friday - Ok, now I get cycling.  Sitting in a car I’m usually sleeping, texting, talking, giving bad directions, pissing the driver off by putting my bare feet on the dashboard, or pretty much anything other than appreciating what’s out the window for more than a millisecond. On the bike it was a different world. I experienced the smells, the sounds(I ditched the headphones here and there), and the terrain as I battled a constant up-hill the whole way there. It was amazing. Sure, I biked all the time in Chicago, and it has smells and sounds and terrain of its own, but I’d never experienced nature like this. I’ve experienced similar feelings with running, but I don’t think I could handle these hills and definitely couldn’t cover these distances. Man, now I can’t wait to give the off-road biking a shot. 

For my first trip I went with a relatively short route - 8.4km (5.3miles) each way to a small village north of here called Es Grau.

I biked through the village, checked out the viewpoints, found a good spot by the sea to eat my “lunch” and headed home.

On the left, a look around the tallest point, on the right: lunch.

The village is the size of a Chicago city block (with a population of 167), built on a hill so every street is either uphill or downhill (well that’s pretty much true for all of Menorca) and everyone has a great view.

A grocery store, a couple cafes, one bike/kayak shop, and that’s it. Outside of the village there's a large national park here so I’ll definitely be back. Oh, and there is just one communal recycling/garbage area at the entrance to the village conveniently hidden by the town’s sign (this detail’s for you Dmitri Mittens).

Friday I also got to play tennis! I went to the club where a friend of mine plays to meet the coach and get my level assessed (they have 3 levels here) so I could play in upcoming tournaments and leagues. I couldn’t find my rackets after moving out of my apartment, so I brought some other racket I found at my parents house with me to Spain. The coach took one look at it, and gave me his racket to use saying mine was for “abuelos” (grandpas). Cool. The courts at this club are interesting, as rather than the concrete I’m used to, they are carpet (synthetic material, actually like a hard carpet). The balls bounce more-or-less the same, but there's sand on the carpet for "added traction” which really just makes it slipper-af. 

I’m also really excited to try playing padel next week, a sport that’s very popular here. It is like a mix of tennis and squash, and is supposedly easier than tennis so I should be pretty decent. 

Saturday - This day consisted of mostly just hanging out and drinking, first during the day at the fish market where there’s living music every Saturday during the day, and then in the evening at a few different bars with some new friends I made and their friends (who all coincidentally attended the school that I’m teaching at). 

That's the fish market on the left

You enter into a large open area (atrium?). As you can see there's a man with a guitar, tables all around the side with merry people, and you can enter the surrounding building on either side to grab tapas and drinks.

For the family members and other concerned parties reading that I “drank all day” in shock, I should mention that here in Spain drinking culture is nothing like the shots-shots-shots culture in the US/Chicago and I've been leading a very tame life relatively speaking. A beer here (usually sold in small half-pints), a glass of sangria there, the pace is slow and overall in my 2 weeks here I haven’t even caught a buzz :p. Alcohol is really cheap though, and I’ve been enjoying a lot of white Vermouth on the rocks (something I fell in love with in the US but could never afford to drink regularly). Fernet could be found at all establishments too, phew. 

Anyways, it was a pretty chill day and I learned a few important words hanging out with the Spaniards such as: cubata (simple cocktail liquor+soda), cotillear (to gossip), zorra (bitch/slut, or female fox), enrollarse (to make out), and more.


Sunday - More hiking, more beach! I won’t write too much here because it was a similar routine - meet at the grocery store buy snacks, consolidate cars and drive over, park, hike 30-40min, relax at the beach for many hours, and hike back.

There was one amazing moment I have to mention - I had decided to do some yoga after lying down for nap #2 on the sand and feeling some back pain… and at one point I got perfect balance in tree pose (not a hard pose, but tough in the sand) and, staring into the sea, all I could hear and see was the waves and I was in that state of tranquility that I've heard about but personally never actually experienced (cliché, I told y'all).

Left: note the red color of ground Right: I liiiike

We went to Cala del Pilar on the northwest side of the island. What stood out about this beach was the red rocks, ground, and consequently sand.

More photos from this trip at the end of the post!

Following the hike we went to another town on the shore to grab a drink and watch the sunrise.

After our drink, sweaty/salty as we were, we decided to go to Ciutadella to meet some of the other Auxiliars (Language Assistants) on the island for dinner. Ciutadella is the other large city in Menorca, directly across the island from Maó (about 45km away) and it’s “rival” city. Over the weekend while talking with some new [local] friends they told me one theory about the rivalry: Ciutadella was attacked by pirates way-back-when and called for help from the other cities and Maó only sent TWO people, so when Maó was attacked shortly there after, Ciutadella sent NONE. Also, Ciutadella used to be the capitol, but then it was moved to Maó so I guess there’s resentment going both ways. Let bygones be bygones ay?

Anyways, this was my first time checking it out and I’ll have to come back to explore more. It is equivalent to Maó in population (close to 30k), a little smaller/cuter in size, a LOT flatter, and a lot more touristy. I’ve also heard there is more to do (re: nightlife) so I’m sure I’ll be visiting plenty. Three of the auxiliars met us for dinner, it was nice meeting them and hopefully they’ll join us on some of our other trips. Overall solid day.

Monday - Holiday - no school, woo! Unfortunately my body was being a wuss and my left foot be hurting (plantar facetious), ruining my plans of another bike ride. The last time this happened was after John Brown and I had spent 4 days in NYC walking 10-15miles a day… but I guess the terrain here might be a little rougher. I’ll have to stretch more before the next hike!

That evening my plan was to drink a bottle of wine and try out the Katleti recipe my mom sent me. I cooked the Katleti (they turned out okay, bland but edible) and drank the sparkling wine (mmhmm 1.50€ Lambrusco) but ended up having a much more delicious and interesting dinner. A fellow guest at the AirBnB  - a gentleman from Argentina here on vacay - prepared some pork in the oven that was oh so tender and amazing (and the sauce, oh the sauce. lemon, olive oil, salt, vinegar. simple, delicious). Also present at dinner were our two wonderful hosts, and two other girls staying here, a french girl who now lives in Spain (Valencia) also here on vacation, and a German girl who goes to a wine college here on an internship (she had to leave her previous living arrangement and has just 10 more days left after being here all summer). Dinner was great, conversation was interesting, and eventually it moved into intellectual and philosophical discussion in Spanish and after about an hour my head hurt trying to pay attention and I had to call it a night :p

Culture note of the week - Like the siesta, another custom that somehow evaded me during my time in Barcelona is the double-cheek-kiss greeting and parting. I’ve always enjoyed extended goodbyes, making my way around the table or room, shaking hands and giving hugs, maybe even a single-cheek-kiss if I’m with my “russian” friends, so naturally I’m a fan of this custom here too.

More photos from my ride to Es Grau: 

Photos from the hike: