Monday, January 26, 2015

The Things They Say (11) "You're a what?"

'You're a fucker!'

Now that's not something I've ever heard in a class of seven year-olds in the UK, so I'm pretty intrigued to know where they've picked up this sort of language here in my class en España. I hot-foot it towards the back of the class where a group are playing Headbandz.

It's a great game to build their vocabulary (as you can see). The children take turns to select a picture card (without peeking at it) and place it in a headband that they wear. The other children can see what the picture is but the child wearing the headband can't. This child then has to ask questions, 'Can you eat me?' 'Do I have any legs?' in order to guess what it is. If they fail to guess then the other children all shout together, 'You're a chicken!' or 'You're a bag of crisps!'

Or other things.

As I said, the cards only have pictures on them so the children can't read the answer, they have to know the word. What the-?

Alex is removing the headband. I slip the card out of its slot and put it behind my back.

'What did you say Alex was?' I ask in a traditional 'teacher' voice which tells them that I already know the answer so lies will be useless.

Luís is first off the mark. 'He's a fucker!' he says, all cherub rosy cheeks and gap-toothed smile. Mantequilla wouldn't melt; my niece, Betty, wanted to take him home last time she visited. The others are nodding all around him. Then a very strange thing happens. They all start to clap. Not a 'round-of-applause', but a steady, slappy little clap with wrists joined together.

'You're a fucker!' they chant and laugh.

'I'm a fucker!' Alex joins in.

We're all having such a jolly time. Well, some of us.

I sneak a look at the card in my hand. Then I fish my phone out of my pocket and pudge my way through to my English-Spanish dictionary and my Spanish vocabulary is increased by one word while my stress level decreases immeasurably.

'Seal', in Spanish, is 'Foca'.

What a bunch of little focas they are!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

What big teeth you've got...

Valencia. City of oranges. City of paella. And for one month only...

City of Dinosaurs!

I didn't have time to enter the exhibition itself today (this little monster is parked outside), so I can't give a view as to its quality. But if you're planning a visit to la capital del Turia this month, and you have an interest in dinosaurs, then this might be for you.

The exhibition runs until the 26th of October and you can check out its website here I'll post a few snaps from inside next week.

The exhibition is on Carrer de Nino Bravo, facing the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (the Opera House).

 Until then...

Hold tight!

Ride 'em, cowboy.

He's behind you!

What big teeth you've got...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

They think it's all over...

Fallas, that is. 19th March, every year, la crema and it's over. Right? Well, not quite...

We visited Alicante last week to see the annual Los Hogueres de San Juan fiesta and were confronted by...

You'd be forgiven for thinking...

Although, there were a few subtle differences from (the 'real') Fallas. Certainly the crowds were much smaller than we usually meet in Valencia city, but then we were in Alicante on the first day of the celebration. And the statues certainly didn't reach the heights of the larger ones in the capital.

But there were mascletas and bands and food and a crema... and more food.

So if you want to sample Las Fallas without the crowds and the cost, check out Los Hogueres de San Juan in Alicante next June. And keep your eyes open...

I imagine this would be useful for seeing round corners...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Faces of Fallas 2014

I always enjoy visiting Fallas before they are completed. There's less of a crush, and a chance to see the artists at work...

Here's a selection of snaps from the weekend.

The stage is set.

Not the time to lose your head.

Now, when you said, 'Shoeshine...'

You're getting too big for your own good.

Pretty in pink.

Take aim...

Look at...!

I can see the future...

Brush up...

Who are you looking at?

Nit de Foc!

Night of Fire. There's really not much more to say; the pictures tell the story. Burriana, a quiet little place really... 

Oh, and don't wear your new coat..

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valencia Loses its Shine...

Palau de las Artes Reina Sofia.

The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) is the 'crown-jewel' of modern Valencia. At the eastern end of the (now dry) River Turía bed, it stands like a collection of recently-landed space craft. The Museo de las Ciencias and the Hemisferic are impressive buildings, but the most spectacular of all is the Palau de las Arts Reina Sofia (the Queen Sofia Opera House). Designed by local architect Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2006, its white-tiled facade glitters brightly in the sunlight...

Museo de las Ciencias.

Hemisferic (left) and the Palau de las Artes Seina Sofia.

Well, it used to...

In 2013 parts of the tiled covering began to buckle, and then fall off. The cause of the problem (and therefore the target of the finger of blame) is fiercely disputed. Some point to recent high winds while others cite the heat, as if a modern retelling of the 'Sun verses Wind' fable was being played out in the centre of Valencia.  In an update to the tale, yet others blame 'the wrong type of glue' (used to stick the white ceramic tiles onto the steel shell).  

A decision was quickly taken to remove all the remaining tiles for safety reasons, and in little more than a fortnight a team of workers scaled the walls and ripped them off.


... and after.

As the financial crisis has hit Spain, Valencia has suffered more than many other areas. The City of Arts and Sciences was dubbed an expensive 'white elephant' by many even before the economy collapsed. But Calatrava's problems don't end in Valencia; a string of other 'prestige' projects are also turning sour. 

The 'Ysios' winery, near the Basque town of Laguardia, has a stunning undulating roof... which is leaking. In Oviedo, his Palacio de Congresos cost him over 3 million euros in compensation when part of the roof collapsed. The Zubizuri bridge in Bilbao has had its glass walkway covered in black matting to prevent people slipping on it when it rains, while another bridge (over the Grand Canal in Venice) needed expensive repair work and has provoked a 4 million-euro claim from the Italian Treasury. 

Ysios winery's beautiful (leaking) roof.

Back in Valencia, a local politician (Ignacio Blanco) has a website showcasing what he claims to be Calatrava's (many) faults. loosely translates as 'Calatrava bleeds you dry'. 

The 'starchitect' isn't taking all this criticism passively. Far from it; the Spanish newspaper El País recently reported that he's moved all his money to Switzerland.

So, if the local Valencian is planning on making himself (and his money) scarce, at least he will leave the city of Valencia with a reminder of the times when the money flowed freely. 

Maybe not a such white elephant after all, more a traditional grey one.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What's in my Bag?

I was recently asked by the TES (Times Educational Supplement) to contribute a 'What's in your Bag?' piece. Here's a link to it, including those by other contributers:

And here's the full version of my bag's contents (before editing):


Here's my bag, and by way of explanation... this is my 'weekend' bag. On Saturdays and Sundays our school is open for 'weekend' school with different teachers and different children. So... seeing as none of the cupboards lock in my room, everything that I want to see again on Monday morning must squeeze into my bag.

Moving clockwise from bottom left...

1. My mobile phone. But not for the obvious reason. My mobile phone (luckily) came with a superb English/Spanish dictionary built-in, so when Pedro pelts across the playground screaming, 'Cabrón!' at Miguel, I can haul him in and give him a (metaphorical) clip 'round the ear. (Cabrón is one of the milder swearwords my dictionary can cope with, although it's essential in class as well so that I have half a chance of understanding the Spanglish that is the main means of communication used by my children.)
2. Memory stick. Not my choice of style or colour I'll hastily add. A gift from a child.
3. Thermos mug. Coffee in winter (yes we do have one), water in summer. I like to have the flexibility not to go to the staffroom at break. Especially if there's been a Cabrón incident to attend to...
4. El País newspaper. My homework. I'm a slow learner (even with a superb dictionary) so the Sunday edition lasts all week.
5. Valencia v Manchester United Champions League commemorative scarf. This usually hangs from the ceiling to generate 'discussion' between me and the Valencian children but always comes home at the weekend. This season I'm considering leaving it there...
6. Laptop. How did I ever teach without this?
7. 'Dave' the puppet. My class are 6- and 7-year-old Spaniards. Even the shyest child can't resist telling Dave off when he starts picking his nose. He's not really naughty, I tell them, he's just a bit of a scamp. (No, that's not the same as Cabrón!)
8. Hat + sunglasses = playground duty!
9. Highlighter pens, what Spaniards delightfully call fosfis (Foss-fees). I now call them fosfis too.
10. Permanent markers. We do a lot of singing. The children are always bringing in CDs to take copies of the music/lyrics home.
11. HD Flip video. We do a lot of videoing as well. The children love to see themselves up on the interactive whiteboard. I love them to hear themselves talking in English. 
12. IWB stylus. I want to see this again on Monday!
13. English/Spanish power converter.
14. Camera. I take lots of snaps whenever a child brings in a shell, leaf, snail, wild hedgehog. Then we write about it on the IWB, then we read about it together... We also do regular 'show and tell' lessons where everything else comes in. Bikes, skateboards, parrots, enormous paella dishes...
15. Blank CDs.
16. Secret supply of whiteboard markers. The stock cupboard is locked and guarded and opens (without much warning) at odd and infrequent hours...
17. Secret supply: glue sticks.
18. Secret supply: pencils...
19. Secret supply: This one's a secret!