Archive | January, 2016

Peace Day

31 Jan

 

Last Friday they celebrated Peace Day at my daughter´s Kindergarten. All the children had to come to school wearing a white shirt.

One little boy showed up that day in a colourfully striped T-shirt. Because his father had forgotten about the white shirt assignment, or simply couldn´t be bothered, I don´t know.

I imagine the teacher seeing that boy walking into the classroom in his multicoloured shirt, amid a sea of white. I imagine her raising one eyebrow and sighing. I imagine her thinking what she´d like to tell the dad, like, for real.

But – it was Peace Day. So, you know, what can you do?

 

 

 

Aiming For The Bicycle Guy

13 Jan

Do you know that song from Hozier called Someone New?

I fall in love just a little, oh a little bit
every day, with someone new

Keep that in mind, I´ll get back to it in a second.

Today I decided to finally get that rattling front light on my bike fixed, and get something done about the chain falling off all the time. So I went to the bike shop of an ex-student of mine. I arrived there at 10.55 am to find the lights on but the door closed. There was another customer waiting, saying he´d been there for half an hour. A note on the door said the shop owner was out for breakfast (well, almuerzo) between 10 and 11.
“He´ll be right back,” I assured the other customer.
“Well, he´d better be. And I hope he´s got my bike fixed,” the man grumbled. “Next time I´m going to another bike shop. I know one just a few blocks away.”
By 11.10 am I decided to choose pragmatism over loyalty (yes, that took me only 15 minutes, shame on me). I asked the grumpy guy where that other shop was, hopped on my bike and took off.

The other bike shop appeared to be a lot closer to home and a lot bigger. In front of the counter a few older men were engaged in little-village-conversation, and behind it stood a man who I assume was the shop owner. He called to the back: “When you´re done, can you take a look at that girl´s bike?”
A few minutes later a slender young man emerged from the workplace in the back. Thick black hair, brown eyes, energetic gait. But the most notable thing about him was how he seemed to radiate peace and happiness.
He studied the bike, asked me some questions, and told me to come over to the counter, where he literally pushed one of those older men aside to make some space for me. I wrote down my name and gave him my phone number. “We should have it fixed by Friday,” he said, with the friendliest smile in the world. And then he gave a thumbs-up with both hands as I said goodbye and left the shop.
That´s how today I fell in love just a little, oh a little bit.

And I wondered, as I have done many times before, why so many people look down on vocational education. Why they tell their children to “aim higher”. I thought of all those doctors I´ve seen these last few years, locked up in their little offices, frustrated, burned-out, prescribing me the wrong medication (no joke), failing to diagnose just about everyting that was wrong with me (unfortunately no joke either), snapping at me, trying to get me out of the door within 5 minutes because they were behind schedule, etcetera, etcetera.
How´s that for aiming higher?
I´ve come across some marvellous, decent doctors too, of course. But you can tell the ones who chose medicine out of vocation (there´s that word again, see!) from the ones who were told to “aim higher”, while their heart was with something else.

How can you possibly aim higher than being like that guy at the bike shop, who happily goes around making money doing what he likes? Who, maybe one day, will have his own shop and avoid a burn-out by going out for long almuerzos, who knows.

 

 

 

Pass The Cambridge Proficiency In English Exam: Check

6 Jan

(Number 5 on the list)
In 2015 I gave myself a useful present: a 40-hour course to prepare myself for the Proficiency in English Exam.

 
I did this for three reasons:
• I love English.
• I´m an English teacher, but not a native speaker. So that certificate will be a great help when I start looking for a job again.
• I´m often asked to prepare people for language exams, so I thought it would be a useful experience doing an exam myself.

So that´s how I got to spend eight Saturdays in a row bent over linguistic exercises. My fellow students were a bunch of bright and brilliant twenty-somethings and one sweet-tempered middle-aged woman. Most of us were strangers to each other, but again that Spanish magic happened, the way I´ve seen it happen so many times before. You put some Spaniards together and within a few hours they will have managed, with the skillful use of casual conversation, to tie a group together that is ready to collectively celebrate Christmas, New Year´s and each other´s birthdays. Whenever I get to be part of that experience, I always feel blessed for living here.

 
Our teacher was a loveable Scottish girl, who repeatedly expressed how sorry she felt for having us all locked up inside on a Saturday evening. But those were needles worries, because it always seemed to fly by.

 
The exam took place at the end of November, in a fancy hotel. It took just about the whole day, hours and hours of intense concentration. I was tired but in full Border Collie mode, so I managed all right.

Today is Three Kings´ Day, which is a big thing in Spain. The Three Wise Men bring presents to all those supposedly well-behaved children, the way Santa Claus/Father Christmas does in the English-speaking world, and Sinterklaas in Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands. But apparently those magic kings also have some leverage with the people at Cambridge, because we´ve just found out that our results are already online.

And I passed!

Thank you, Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar!