It’s My Class and I’ll Cry If I Want To

I didn’t just cry.  I bawled.  It ain’t easy.  Learning a new language is very difficult even when you are immersed in it.  Two days ago my Spanish teacher here in Granada pushed and pushed iCrying schoolgirln front of the class, asking me the same question over and over as if the answer was with me and I was just holding back from her.  She made me the center of attention, criticized a paragraph I wrote and told me (actually reprimanded me), “You need to think in Spanish. Not in English.” I started to melt down.  I panicked.  How can I think in Spanish if I’m not from here and I don’t completely understand the language?  At that moment, I didn’t know my name much less the difference between ser and estar and how to conjugate verbs into indefinido, perfecto, conditional, etc.  The whole reason I was in the class was to learn to think and speak Spanish.  Yet I was failing.  I felt like a little girl again.  I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes and I was afraid to blink so I stared forward and tried not to move.  It was too late, I blinked and they went streaming down my face.  I was frustrated with myself, really annoyed with her, and it all came out in that moment.

Before moving to Granada I felt somewhat confident about learning Spanish. I had studied it for three years in high school with a very strict teacher who helped me to achieve a 92% on the New York Regents exam.  That was one of my proudest moments in high school.  My teacher had been really tough and pushed us throughout the year, prepping for the exam.  I also studied the language for two years at Villanova University as part of my liberal arts degree.   Now that we are spending the year in Spain I was excited to learn and to enjoy the process.  I think that’s why I got so frustrated – I was flailing or failing at something I actually LIKED and WANTED to do.  Something I chose to do.  I wanted to be a role model to my kids.  There have been days when they’ve come home from school frustrated, telling me they had cried.  I want them to learn resilience and now I’m the one having trouble adapting and feeling afraid to get back up.   I let my sons and daughter know I had a hard day and I could empathize with them.  I’m only studying two hours a day. They are at school for five.  They are studying math, science, social studies, Spanish and French.  I’m only taking Spanish.

It’s been awhile since I’ve learned something completely new and one of my life goals is to learn a new language to keep my mind sharp.  I’m starting to suffer from short term memory loss and at my age, I am very aware that things could head down hill fast if I don’t keep my mind going and continue to challenge myself intellectually.   But it’s not easy.

I was surprised at the visceral response.  My husband later confided that I looked so upset, he was afraid I might punch the teacher in the face.   I suppose in the past I had been studying as a means to an end.  In high school it was to get a good grade to get into college.  In college it was to fulfill a requirement.  But now, it’s something I want and something I need to do for myself.  And that’s where the frustration lies – not being able to do something I want to do.

The tables have turned and the kids have become my role models this week.  I have to get up and go to class – no excuses.  I have to find other ways to study and remember the information using the apps and resources available to me – Duolingo, flashcards, class materials, and watching TV in Spanish.  I will continue to talk to the local people and not be afraid to fail.  Setting smaller goals might help me too. “Becoming fluent in Spanish” might be setting the bar high for the next week or month. Perhaps trying on a new tense each day and practicing.

I salute anyone who has had the courage to learn a new language.  I have plenty of friends, many in LA who speak more than one language and I’m blown away by their ability to speak clearly and concisely and think in two (sometimes three) languages.  It takes confidence and the ability to put yourself out there and make yourself vulnerable.  Learning a new language requires patience and practice and resilience.  You’ve got to want it and to work for it.

I’m going to try my best to get back up and start again.  This teacher is not going to bring me down.  I’ve got this – but I can’t say I’m sad we are visiting London this weekend where I can regroup and feel confident again!

 

 

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Granadas In Granada

Our carmen here in Granada, Spain has several fruit trees in our backyard including a granada tree (that’s a pomegranate in img_0264
Spanish).  We have over 50 ripe ones so today my eight year old and I decided to try a couple new recipes using the granadas as well as the ripe lemons.

We picked the fruit off the tree and opened them up to find beautiful, red seeds, that were sweet and delicious.  I sent my older son to the local, organic market with a list in Spanish – plain low fat yogurt and miel (honey in Spanish), we made a delicious dip for our Granny Smith apples.

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We used the lemons by combining a teaspoon of olive oil with plain yogurt as well black pepper to make a great salad dressing.  We made a salad with arugula, tomatoes, chickpeas and pesto chicken and topped it off with my little man’s salad dressing. Yum! Dinner is served.

Playing Hooky with Hockney

Since we took our kids out of school in Granada and brought them to Madrid to see the Oklahoma City Thunder play Real Madrid last night we figured we needed to add some culture to our trip in order to justify the absences.  We stayed the night at the Novotel Madrid Center located around the corner from the Barclaycard Center.  It was perfect because we had three beds in each room that were really comfortable plus a rain shower.  In Europe a family of five has to get two rooms.  The Novotel was the most reasonably priced (133 Euros) and caters to business people and families.  There is a variety of restaurants available down the street for breakfast and we even found one that served eggs or huevos. That’s not always easy to find here.

We took the 20 minute walk through the city with the kids to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, one of Madrid’s acclaimed art museums.  We saw art by David Hockney, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Salvador Dali and Paul Klee.  And that was just the first floor! (or floor 0 as they call it here).  We were excited to see a painting by Mark Rothko since I had the opportunity to teach a lesson about him as an art docent last year in California. We also caught a special exhibition of Gustavo Caillebotte.

Visting one floor of this museum is plenty when you’re rolling with a crew like mine (2 boys 11 and 8 and a 10 year old girl, oh, and a husband). They were actually pretty interested and I figured less is more in order to make an impact or lasting impression.  We used the headsets so we could move at our own pace, learn more information and find what inspired each of us.

I do recommend heading there if you get the chance to visit Madrid.  I’m in love with this city and all it has to offer!



3 Days in Madrid with the Kids

Last month we visited Madrid as a family and I’ve been meaning to blog about it for some time.  We really loved Madrid. The architecture, the bustling city, the history, art and food were all amazing.  We stayed at an Airbnb (See my previous blogpost) which was centrally located next to Plaza de España.

Day 1
We started off our trip on City Tour Madrid which is a double decker version of the Hop On-Hop Off Bus. That way we could all listen to the tour in English and relax while we got an overview of the city.  The first stop we got off was The National Museum of Natural Science which my kids really enjoyed.  It was relatively small and easy to navigate for about an hour or two – dinosaur bones and artifacts from every era.

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We stopped off for sangria and paella in Plaza Mayor which was built in the early 1600’s. There are plenty of choices for food, and the kids loved seeing the performers and running around the cobblestone area.

Our second stop was the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium where Real Madrid, the soccer (or fútbol) team plays.  Honestly, I wasn’t that excited about seeing a stadium, but I ended up being really impressed!   Madrid is very proud of their team and the extensive tour included the trophy room, videos of the most famous plays, the field, the players seats, even the locker room.  My kids (ages 11, 10 and 8) were pretty fired up, especially my daughter who is passionate about the sport.

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Day 2 

Since we had been traveling so much my back and muscles were aching from planes and trains so I booked a massage.  I was hoping to find a spa that would give me the Spanish experience but after plenty of online research I found Kenika Thai Massage.  It is located across from the soccer stadium in an office-type building. The staff was so warm and friendly and offered tea.  The massage was just what I needed – plenty of pressure and my masseuse worked out the kinks.

That was until I jumped on a Segway!  I think that was my favorite thing I had done since being in Europe. My youngest son is a huge fan of the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop and he’s always wanted to try one.  The kids were actually awesome on them!  The tour guide took us through the city and into Parque del Buen Retiro known as El Retiro Park.  It was so beautiful with a lake and rowboats, roses and even peacocks.  We learned so much about the history of the city. The park is so big and it was really hot so for us the Segways were perfect.  We cracked up as we whizzed past people and the kids kept high-fiving pedestrians as we passed them.  We stopped a the Mercado San Miguel where you can try so many different Spanish foods or grab a quick beverage.

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That evening we hit a Flamenco Show  at Essential Flamenco which was in a very small, img_7826cozy, cave-like environment where we sit very close to the perfomers and feel the drumbeats and really experience the dance.  There are so many choices in Madrid but we chose a show that was on the earlier side since we have the kids.  Plus we got free sangria! My kids all had the opportunity to learn the Flamenco in 2nd grade at their elementary school in Los Angeles.  I was so glad they could appreciate it!

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We ended the night with Churros y Chocolate – one of Spain’s most famous dishes and I think their best.  What a concept. Love them both!  We ate and watched the street perfomers. Madrid is such a fun, lively city!

Day 3:

We took a tour of the Royal Palace with headsets in English.  The kids seemed to be totallyimg_0178
interested in this grandiose attraction and were curious about the way the royal family once lived.  They had really never seen anything like it and neither had I!

It was really hot in Madrid so we grabbed a late lunch and walked Gran Via, a main drag in the city.  Afterwards we all enjoyed the air conditioning, Wifi, and pool at our apartment building.  I relaxed while my husband took the kids to the movies see The Secret Life of Pets, or Mascotas in Spain!  He thought it would be in Spanish but it ended up being in English with Spanish subtitles.  It was still a cool, new experience.

The next morning my husband headed out to rent a car for our trip to Granada but there was not an automatic car that was big enough for us!  So he took my oldest son and I bought trains ticket for myself and our other two kids.  We were sad to say goodbye to Madrid…but guess what? We are heading back this week! Stay tuned!

A Fun Scene From Paul Blart. You’re Welcome!

 

Mascotas!

 

The Point

I’m reposting this because really, this is the whole point of this crazy trip.  This is the reason we rented out our house, sold our cars, and embarked on this insane journey. Life is so short.  Not all of us are happy with our decision every single day.  Sometimes our kids hate us.  But I do hope that one day, it will mean something to each of us as individuals.  We’ve all been challenged already in so many ways and that has brought us closer.  My hope is that my kids stay close.  That we will all have stories to tell, and to laugh about, for many, many years. I want to see the world and show my kids the world and that can be a really scary thing.  It’s much more fun having those you love by your side.

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