Ariana Who?

I’ve been a bit idle on the blogging front over the last two weeks. About as idle as being “far too busy with end of term exams, final year housing admin, Christmas concert preparations and affairs of the heart” can be – if you want my honest answer.

Looking about me now, it’s rather hard to believe that I’ve been working here for almost three months exactly. But for the sporadic Christmas decorations, the staff room looks much the same as it did back in September. It was about 18°C back then, too. I tell you, it’s been an unseasonably warm winter. Perfect for the Romanians who came to Extremadura for the harvest, but mystifying for the rest of us. It’s almost Christmas Day, and the leaves still haven’t fallen from the trees yet. Stranger still, some have started to flower anew in the warm weather we’ve been having, so there’s a mix of browns, reds and vibrant greens. And at the same time I’m seeing photographs taken by colleagues of mine who remained in Durham, showing the place beset by magical, snow-dusted scenes that seem to have leapt from postcards or travel brochures. It’s so very hard to imagine when I’m having to go into school in a light shirt every day, because I’m still overheating if I take more than one layer. Bonkers, I tell you.

The Christmas concert is tomorrow, and it’s scuppered any plans I had on exploring Plasencia with Madre, who came to visit yesterday, as it falls bang in the middle of her stay. Technically it’s on my day off, so I could be an absolute Scrooge and demand my rights, but I’m not that much of a heartless bastard, so I’m chained into conducting two potential disasters tomorrow night. My two 2° ESO classes wanted to do Shakin’ Stevens Merry Christmas Everyone and Ariana Grande’s Santa Tell Me (I’d never even heard of that one), but democracy being the troublesome beastie it is, everybody has to have something to do: singing, dancing and…. <sigh>…. percussion. Cue twenty two boys volunteering for percussion, six girls for dancing and two for singing. Bang, bang, bang.

Fat chance. De eso nada.

 In two weeks’ practice (or rather, three hours apiece), we’ve just about got them down… Just. But it’s going to be more trouble than it’s worth, frankly, and it’s bringing back bad memories of thinking myself capable of being a Musical Director last year. Ha! I’m not a leader. At best I reckon I could make a good Ulysses, scheming from the sidelines, but the responsibility of leading everything – the percussion, the choreography and the notation, not to mention the discipline – is a severe (if deserved) punishment for my unstoppable enthusiasm. That’s what an exec is for; dividing responsibilities. Still, I’m learning at a ridiculous rate; and as I’ve said before, I’ll come out of this year with all the makings of a bloody good parent. All I need is a Spanish girl, the One, and she’s eluding me still.

Ill throw down a summary of the year in a bit, but before that, I’ve another six hours of class to get through today. England’s calling, but my phone’s on silent until the madness that is the Christmas term is finally over. Then, and only then, will I have true cause for the Hallelujah. BB x

Go West

For once, it’d probably be better if, whilst reading this, you’re not hearing my voice saying it to you – because my voice right now is wrecked, and you wouldn’t recognise the guy on the other end of the line if you could hear him.

I put that down to three things: three hours of choir practice (most of which spent singing at the top of my range as there are no tenors or basses here), two hours of conversation with Upper Sixth-level students and one hour of wrangling with one of my two very-almost-out-of-control primary classes. First and foremost, I blame Ariana Grande, but that primary lot don’t help much. Still, I got my first hug from my two favourite kids in that class today, which was heart-warming, to say the least. Tasha’s been getting hugs since the get-go, and I guess it’s normal procedure for the female auxiliares, but not for me. It made my day, anyway. When they’re not launching a full-on assault against my sanity, my will to live and my voice-box, it’s nice to know they see me as a human being.

I catch myself saying to myself almost constantly: remember the Iraqi kids, remember the screaming, remember the chair-throwing incident… It can’t possibly get any worse than that. I think that’s probably the right way to go about it.

In truth I’ve not got all that much to report at the moment. In a couple of days’ time I’ll hit the road as it’s the December puente (when a national holiday falls close enough to the weekend to create an extended weekend; literally, ‘bridge’). This year it’s only (!) a five-day weekend as the national holidays on the 7th and 8th fall on a Monday and Tuesday respectively, but that’s enough for a mini-adventure at least. I’ve been juggling several ideas over the last few months as to how best to use the time – surprising my friends in Cantabria, Morocco or Granada was the main plan – but it wasn’t until last weekend that I hit upon a decision, and my decision is PORTUGAL.

Yeah. I don’t speak any Portuguese.

It’s only occurred to me recently to take an interest in this nation that just so happens to be lying RIGHT ON MY DOORSTEP. No, seriously, it’s less than half an hour’s drive in the car if you just keep heading west. I suppose the main thing that stopped me going in the first place was that, quite simply, I know nothing about Portugal. I can read Portuguese almost as well as I can read Spanish, but understanding it spoken is… well, it might as well be Russian. The odd word might sound familiar, perhaps, but otherwise it’s a different language in its own right. And rightly so. But, just as Andrew and I decided in Kiev, the mere fact that I don’t speak the language shouldn’t be a barrier in the slightest to an adventurer like me, so… there we go. I’ve booked a couple of nights at a hostel in Lisbon, and I’m leaving it until I get there to decide whether the plan is to head south and check out the Algarve whilst it’s still tourist-free (a tempting prospect) or the gob-smackingly-beautiful north, peppered with unforgettable villages like Monsanto, Marvão and Piódão. It’s a tough call. As always, I’d rather leave that decision until the day. I’d feel better, that way. Come the day, I’ll know which way to go.

As for the Portuguese, well, I’m not going in completely unarmed. In Kiev all I could say was a feeble ‘спасибо’ (thank you). I’ll brush up as many little phrases as I can before I go, as a little always goes a long way, however badly you pronounce it. I’m told the Portuguese are a fascinating people; proud, polite, gaudy and brilliant linguists. My bachillerato class also seem to think that the women have moustaches, but I’ll be the judge of that.

With any luck, I’ll return doubly keen to pick up another language and add it to my belt. I was planning on making my next big language attempt in Zulu, but it is a bit of a jump… Perhaps it would be better if I worked my way towards Zulu, say, via Portuguese…?

Oh Monty Python. How I miss you. BB x