Friday, September 28, 2012


Dear Fellow Americans,

If you find yourself abroad the following phrases will sometimes make even a grown man giggle:

"What's up?"

"There you go." (used in the context of "now you understand")

"Knock it off."

"I don't give a rat's ass."

Howard called and asked me to bring something to work. When I asked what was up he promptly burst out laughing and had to calm down before making his request.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

English & Company

Time for a little information about where I'm working.

The school itself is fairly small and has been open for 6 - 7 years now. The school consists of four people really: Maria and Howard are the directors/teachers, and then there's me and Charlotte. Maria and Howard are wonderful and clearly love what they are doing; their advice for me starting out teaching kids for the first time has been unbelievably helpful. The school is on two floors of a building on the Rambla del Passeig. Each of us has a classroom: mine is the "orange room" and has some really awesome windows which are constantly distracting the students, especially the kids.

The students vary in age going from around eight years old up to whatever the oldest adult is. We all teach a variety of age groups although the adult classes aren't starting until next week.

I love the fact that it's a small school and that the directors are teaching alongside us. That was something I liked about Kaplan in Cambridge as well.

I've found a place to live as well. For my first two weeks or so I was staying with Maria and she was able to help me do house-hunting and all other sorts of paperwork involved in staying here since she speaks Catalan. I'm now living with a couple who are in their last year at university. They speak some English but not enough to hold a very detailed conversation.

I will hopefully be making a trip to Barcelona this weekend, so more soon. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

America: the exotic country across the sea

The other evening Charlotte, one of the other teachers at my school, was explaining English and American pronunciation differences to her class and commented that the school had a new American teacher and this is how I would say something. The class got excited and asked if they could meet me. Charlotte said no, not during class. If they wanted to meet me they could introduce themselves when the class was finished. 

I was at the front desk as this was happening, talking to Howard (one of the two directors and also one of the teachers) about something. One of the adult students who will be starting in October was standing nearby and started staring at me before blurting out "I love your accent!"

I never thought that being American was all that interesting. Why would I? I've lived in America most of my life and from my point of view it's a very big country where we all have boring accents and have some really stupid television shows. I'm starting to understand some of my dad's experience of being an Englishman living in America: lots of comments on the intriguing accent and eager questions. "What area are you from?" "Why did you leave?" "How long have you been here?" "Are you going back?" Etc. Etc. I even get asked to say things so they can hear my accent or see if they can get me to say some Americanisms.

Interestingly enough I've been told by some people both in America and England that my accent doesn't sound entirely American: I say a fair amount of vowels with an English sound, but things like my "r" "t" and "d" sounds are distinctly American. My brother is the same way: people laugh sometimes when they hear us talking to each other and we bring out the English sounds from one another. This is almost certainly a result of hearing our dad's accent growing up.

Something I find myself explaining often  is American restaurant portions. I have been teased on many an occasion while eating out about the large amounts of food you get in American restaurants, followed by amazed looks when I say "Well of course they don't usually expect you to eat it all. One of the best parts of going out to eat is being able to take part of it home and have it again later." Strangely most people on this side of the pond assumed that Americans either eat it all at once or just throw away lots of food a la ancient Rome style wasting. Boxing your food to take it home is simply not done in many countries here, or if it is they will give you a surprised and strange look. So when I tell them that I worked for several months waiting tables before I left America and one of the most common questions I would ask customers at the end of their meal was whether or not they wanted a box, they are somewhat incredulous. 

It should be noted that posh restaurants in the States generally have much smaller portions and one does not generally ask to take food home from those places.

Seriously, one of the best things in university would be if a relative offered to take you out to dinner or lunch. Food! Enough food for more than one meal! I find it really difficult over here to see any restaurant food go uneaten. After all, it's food that was paid for and if it doesn't get eaten it will go to waste!

Before I left America my friends had fun looking at my British passport. We all had a good chuckle over the warning that "This passport remains the property of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and may be withdrawn at any time," as it gave us a mental image of the queen seated on her throne with a pile of confiscated passports behind her.

Over here people are fascinated by my U.S. passport. A couple of people have pretended to steal it because they want very badly to move to America. When I got my British passport I was delighted with the fact that I could now travel freely around Europe. It's only now that I'm starting to fully appreciate just how much of the world is open to me.

While opening my Spanish bank account Howard and I had a long wait and he had a lot of fun flipping through my passport and looking at all the pictures and reading all the little patriot tidbits that are printed in it. The preamble was especially interesting to him. I rolled my eyes and commented that we're forced to memorize and recite it in primary school which I hated. 

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. 


 I have this song sung at me with some surprising frequency:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

One Year Recap

I have been abroad for a year now! I got on a plane in Boston on September 21, 2011 and arrived in a very dazed and jetlagged state in London on September 22, 2011

I think this calls for a recap!

-Left New England right at the beginning of autumn so I saw some of the bright colours of Vermont before I left.

-Left Logan International Airport, had a six hour flight followed by a ten hour layover in Reykjavik and then a two or three hour flight to London.

-Entered Old England

-Brief Stay in London before going north to Yorkshire to the Reids and spending some time looking at some really amazing abbey ruins and eating amazing cheeses. Also saw my aunt get her certificate as a lay reader in Yorkminster.

Yorkshire Moors
Fountains Abbey by floodlight
Whitby Abbey: Interior
Whitby Abbey

-A couple of months in Nottingham with Tam where I fell in love with Bromley House Library, did some family history stuff including reading some of my grandfather's diaries, and taking side trips to places like Oxford and Cambridge.

Bromley House Library
Chatsworth House
-Back to Yorkshire again where I learned about Christmas pudding.

-Christmas, New Year's, then Prague.

-Prague: earned my TEFL certificate, stupidly fell for a scam and lost money. Drank lots of beer and made lots of art but not a lot of money.

Prague: Main Square in winter
Prague: Main Square at Easter
-England again: this time spending the summer in Cambridge working at a TEFL summer school with very long hours which meant I was nearly working constantly for the 2.5 months while there. However, did go punting and took a side trip to Ely.

King's College Cambridge
Ely: Exterior
Ely: Interior

-Next job search as the summer school was winding down which meant doing skype interviews with schools in China, Russia, Spain, Italy, and Turkey. Turned down by the schools in Italy, but offered a job in Vic.

-Flew to Vic really really soon after being given the job offer.

That brings us to the present moment. Here I am in Vic and will hopefully have settled on a place to live by tomorrow.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Welcome to Vic! A small university city in the provincial area of Barcelona. It has its own Roman temple. It also has me until at least the end of June 2013, if not longer.

Friday, September 7, 2012

We now interrupt this previously scheduled silence....

Hello World,

I would like to pause my lack of updates to let it be known that I have my next job now: I am off to Barcelona next week!