The Middle of the World

After the auxiliares meeting in Raleigh, I was really jazzed up to go to Spain again. One of the resources we got at the meeting was a list of the summer courses for Spanish teachers in the US that are offered every year in Spain. And after 3 hours of reminiscing about España, I was chomping at the bit to go. Unfortunately, that particular bit of professional development is going to have to wait for a future summer, because my summer 2013 is already taken with another trip: Ecuador!


Yes, at the end of May I will be spending 13 days in Ecuador on a trip with my college. Our home base will be Quito, the capital, and the students and other faculty will be taking a week of Spanish classes at our host language school (I’m not sure what I will be doing just yet. Sitting in on an advanced class to observe the teaching styles, I think, but I’m hoping to be taking a history or literature class). On the 2 weekends that fall on our stay we’ll be travelling: to the Equator, to the market in Otovalo, to the cloud forest, and to the volcano Cotopaxi. I have never been to Ecuador, not even to South America, so I’m really stoked.


We’ve already started thinking about fundraising. We’ll be doing a lot of soda-selling and things, because the more money we raise, the less of a strain it will be on the students and the more they will want to come. I’ll be going regardless, although I can’t say it would be bad to have to accept some funds towards the journey!


I’ll leave you all with a little factoid. This will be my first overseas trip that does not involve exchanging money. Ecuador uses the US dollar for currency!

New Blog!!!!!!

Well, not really. If you look closely, you can see that my 80-some past posts are still here, but the URL has changed. I am now “An Academic Abroad”, for a few reasons. One, I’m not in Spain anymore, and two, I was starting to feel really constrained by my blog title/URL. There is so more than just Spain that I want to blog about, but still having to do with travels and academia, so I decided to migrate. Welcome to my new home.

The auxiliares meeting in Raleigh on Friday was really awesome. It was so much fun to talk to other people who had been to Spain, and I got a TON of great information from the consular and the NC Public Schools World Languages Chair. It’s so interesting and great to me that I walked into a room of 15 strangers and had an instant connection with all of them, simply because we had all at one time tasted Fanta Limón and eaten jamón and said “Barthelona”. The consular told me that I had a “nice northern accent” as well (he meant my Spanish accent – I told him I had been living in Andalucía). Plus, I got to go to Raleigh, and that was pretty awesome too.

The weather here is starting to change, and it almost feels like fall. Soon, the two girls I met at the Raleigh meeting, plus several other of my friends, and over 2000 other people will be off to Europe where it is still incredibly hot. Safe travels, everyone!

Fall 2012

What we’re experiencing here is a brief slowdown in blog posts due to the fall semester starting up again. I am totally swamped with planning and things to do to get ready for this school year, so I haven’t been blogging as much as I would have liked to.

One thing I did do was sign up for the Returning Auxiliares conference, which is actually a series of meetings all over the US and Canada, set up by the Spanish government for all new and returning language assistants. I think this is a great idea; this program and its participants have SO much untapped networking potential. I know I met a lot of auxiliares while I was in Spain, but I’d love to keep up those connections outside of just Facebook. It’s also going to be fun to see who is in my immediate area who went through the program just like me. I’ll be going to the Raleigh meeting on September 7th – I wanted to do the DC meeting too, but it is on the same day as Raleigh, and Raleigh is closer.

So, any other language assistants reading this blog who are planning on going? I hope everyone goes to one, even if it’s not the same one as me. And, if you are coming to Raleigh on the 7th, let me know!


I’m sure my title will bring a lot of interesting traffic to my blog, but I wanted to write about the news stories I’ve been reading lately about the three suspected terrorists arrested in Cádiz. I know that whenever I read about terrorism in Spain, I think about the March 11th, 2004 bombings of the Cercanías train in the Atocha station of Madrid. It is very similar in impact to the US’s 9-11, although the shorthand for the 2004 bombings is 11-M (once de marzo). There are songs in tribute to the victims, and Spain has a version of “truthers” who think that the bombings were an inside job (although all of the Spaniards I met that held that belief were nice sensible people . . . not at all like the American truthers that get on TV. Perhaps I need to meet a crazier set of Spaniards . . . or I need to watch less TV).


So, the Cádiz terrorists. The story caught my eye since I had lived there for the past year. Two of the three suspects were arrested in Ciudad Real while on a bus trip from Cádiz to Irún (Socibus Secorbus!!! I took that bus line!!!). The third was arrested in La Línea, where all three of them lived (well, technically, the two bus guys lived in San Roque). Many things about them are in dispute; for example, the suspects who took the bus were first reported to be Russians, then Chechnyans, and then simply, “from a former Soviet satellite”. The motive for their bus trip is unknown, although it is what prompted their arrest, as the government had been aware of their terrorist links and feared that they were going to Irún to cross the border into France. Even their suspected terrorist activities are a mystery, since police found only 100 grams of explosives, which the Minister of the Interior insisted could be enough to blow up a bus when mixed with shrapnel. Police also found materials during the search of the suspects’ homes that bomb-sniffing dogs indicated had once held explosives, but had been recently cleaned.


Although the suspects had military training – evidenced when one of the Russo-Chechnyan Soviets put up quite a fight during his arrest – and even documentation on flying drone planes, it’s unclear whether these men were actually members of Al Qaeda or another manifestation of the “lone wolf” that Europe has seen so much of lately, most tragically in the Brevik Norway shootings and the Toulouse anti-Semitic gunman. Of course, both possibilities are frightening, but I would actually feel more reassured if it turns out that these were unaffiliated terrorists. Trying to identify and stop members of a known violent group must be hard enough, but successfully stopping someone working alone gives me hope that tragedies like those in Norway and France can be avoided. However, the fact that these suspects seem to be working, if not alone, then at least without coordination from the main Al Qaeda network, means that it will be difficult to prove criminal intent, especially since the men were arrested before actually blowing anything up. It’s not that these men didn’t do anything illegal – there are pages and pages of very dense laws on the books having to do with the production and possession of explosives. But we’re wading into some interesting legal territory here, and I’m interested to see how it develops.


My news feed on the right has a few articles on the arrests. The first is from the Christian Science Monitor and summarizes the events in English. El Mundo gives some early news in the second article, but the third El País report is definitely the best, although it is in Spanish (sorry guys). The fourth article from ABC is a bit newer and discusses the search for explosives in the houses and businesses of the 3 suspects, and the fifth article isn’t about the Cádiz terrorists at all. Bringing this post full circle, article #5 brings us the news that the newest installment of the “Medal of Honor” first-person shooter will include . . . scenes intending to reference 11-M. Although they don’t come out and say, “This is Atocha and these are the 2004 bombings”, they reference Madrid, and that screenshot of the train station looks and awful lot like Atocha, doesn’t it? As the cut scene goes on, a group of men with vaguely Arab features blow up a train.


Most interesting to me is that the writer of article five is barely restraining his disdain for what he suggests is a sales tactic. And the first comment? “Come on, they say that this looks like 11-M, when they put Arab features on the one who set the bombs it’s just for show. They should put Iberian features on him, since the ones who did it were from here instead.” [Translation mine]

Por fin

It only took 5 days, but Spain now has a medal – two, in fact! Mireia Belmonte García won silver in the 200-meter butterfly, and just today, Maialen Chourraut won the bronze in the K-1 kayaking competition. Spain’s basketball team gets to play Great Britain in about an hour, and tennis and handball should be watched closely as well.


It is hard for me to believe that just one year ago, I was getting ready to go to Spain. I read the posts on Facebook from the new crowd of auxiliares, and it makes me both proud and a little disbelieving that I was doing the exact same thing, and that here I am one year later, a former expat! I’ve made contact with the person who will be taking my job, and both she and I are super excited about the upcoming year.


I’m working on that “Travels” menu up at the top of the page . . . very slowly. Perhaps once the school year begins again and I have an office to think and work in again, I’ll work more on those pages. Right now the only one that is finished is Alcalá de los Gazules, but I have a Cádiz city page in the works, and eventually I want to have a page for every place I have visited. The perfectionist in me doesn’t want me to write them unless they are stellar though, which is why it’s taking so long. I go to write something, and then I think, wait, where was that place? When did I go there? What did the tour guide say about the history? Then I need to do research and I get distracted, and the next thing I know, it’s 5 hours later and I still haven’t written anything.


What I did do was finish my scrapbook. It turned out really well, and I had fun making each city name look like some famous emblem; one of the Ls in Sevilla is the Giralda, Bilbao has the Guggenheim coming out of the top of the letters . . . I still have quite the collection of maps, and I’m looking forward to putting them up in my office. Perhaps I haven’t mentioned enough, but this year I get my own office at work. No more sharing with other teachers who just want to talk to you . . . ahhhh. It’s a nice feeling.

Seoul 1988

The year and place in my title being the last time Spain began so poorly in the Olympics. It is day 4 and Spain has yet to medal in anything. According to the linked article, this is not new, as Spain tends to win a lot of medals in team competitions, the finals of which are at the end of the Games. However in 2008, Spain had won a gold by the end of day 1, thanks to Sammy Sánchez in the road race, then won a bronze the next day in fencing. In fact, Spain won a total of 18 medals in Beijing. In Athens, Spain won their first medal on day 3, and went on to win 18 more medals.


In some disciplines, there is still hope. Spain played France yesterday in women’s handball and tied 18-18, and the men’s basketball team beat Australia 82-70. In others, Spain is definitively out of medal contention, such as Melania Costa, who didn’t made the finals for the 200 meter freestyle, although there are other swimmers still in contention, such as Mireia Belmonte in the 200 butterfly.


The political cartoonists are having fun with the whole Olympics-in-an-economic-crisis theme. Here’s a series of cartoons depicting some new Olympic sports, such as the “economy throw” (shotput is called cannonball throw in Spanish), the “risk premium jump“, the “shooting for a job” (archery is called shooting at a target in Spanish), and  “uphill rowing” (with a very threatening crisis-gator at the bottom of the slope). Really reinforcing the fact that these Olympics are not taking people’s minds off of the economy, what with the lack of medals and all.


In other news, I have too many friends who are still in Europe. I go on Facebook and I’m spoiled every time for the evening broadcasts. I suppose I could just not go on Facebook . . . but then how would I have found this amazing article of the faces Olympic divers make in slow motion??

How the mighty have fallen

No remarks from my cousin, please. I must admit I had a liiiiiiiittle too much fun watching the Eurocup with him while my family and I were at the beach. He studied Italian in college and when Spain beat Italy 4-0 I probably sang “Campeones” a few times too many. Now I find that Spain is OUT of the running for the medal in soccer, after ONE ROUND, losing to Honduras 1-0.


That cuts down on my Spain-watching quite a bit. Men’s basketball began today with a Spain-China matchup, which they won 97-81. They play again on Monday against Australia. Cycling has been going on these past 2 days as well: Alejandro Valverde and Luis Leon Sánchez both rode in the road race yesterday, although neither medaled (Vinokurov won that one). There will be some time trials on Monday to watch and some track cycling starting Tuesday to finish up.


Another sport to watch for Spain, which I didn’t mention in my last post, is handball. Handball is an interesting sport, and it is very popular in Europe, both men’s and women’s teams. I like to think of it as water polo, but without the water. Or you could think of it as basketball with the goal on the ground and a goalkeeper like in soccer. The women’s team for Spain lost to South Korea yesterday 27-31, and the men’s team beat Serbia today 26-21.


So far Spain hasn’t won any medals, but the JJOO are still young, and we can only wait to see what tomorrow brings!