Posted by: Cat of Sunshine and Siestas | May 10, 2009

Mas Sonrisa, Menos Prisa


One of my bilingual students, Irene, asked me a question last Thursday in art class: “Will you stay here next year with us? Please?”

I had to explain to her the complicated process of retuning again for a third year. If you remember, the Junta de Andalucia, my employer, is reducing the number of assistants in each center and giving preference to new applicants, making my future at IES Heliche uncertain.

Her reaction? “Well, if we can’t have you back, I hope they don’t send someone boring. You’re really funny, Cat.” AWWW. I give you a sobresaliente.

So, after a quick nervous breakdown, I received an email from the Junta de Andalucia telling me my application to complete a third year at the high school had been accepted and my documents would be at my school shortly. HUGE sigh of relief! I spent Thursday afternoon at my school, eating lunch with my coworkers and attending a risoterapia, or laugh therapy I guess, workshop. Despite all of the problems in the administration at my school, I think my coworkers have been some of the most welcoming people in Spain. Neme offered me winter coats last year while I was waiting on one! I feel like one of the gang now, as I’ve been a member of the faculty for longer than some of the other teachers. And I get the benefits of no meetings and free fridays!

On Friday evening, I took four other Americans to my pueblito by bus to the Mercado Barroco, a yearly market set in the Barroque times. My town’s fame (whcih doesn’t surprise me in the least!) comes from a man famous for his cruelty and riches, Don Gaspar de Guzman y Pimentel. More famously, el Conde Duque de Olivares.

This man is celebrated in my little town of 7,000 – his painting adorns all of the nearby businesses, some of which bear his name, his palace is the top touristic spot in the town. Serving under Felipe IV, he inherited titles and created his own and wiggled his way to the King’s right hand. He became the first to be both a count and a duke, so many still refer to him as the “Conde-duque” the spanish words for both. Eventually he became royalty in becoming a minister and the head of Spain’s foreign policy, though his life at the helm was tainted with a lot of losses abroad – Spain’s renewed interest in conquering the Netherlands, entering war with northern Italy, and the failure to create a peninsular state. All these contributed greatly to the decline of Spain after its golden age. If it were not for his death of natural causes, he would have likely stood trial for treaty under the Inquisition.

Anyway, Olivares (the town, not the disgraced leader) holds a weekend-long barroque fair each year next to the Conde-Duque’s palace (know home to the town hall, a pena betica and a socio’s club) to honor him and the city’s history. The plaza is filled with brightly colored flags and booths selling everything from pancakes to mixed drinks. Anyone working in a stand was dressed in period gear, too! I was attacked every three seconds by another student or a creepy old dude working in a puesta. I think five young americans have probably never been all togther at the same time in Olivares before.

On all of the roads that fanned out of the main square, there were kiosks selling jewelry, velvety turron, Portuguese liquors and all kinds of other crap. Cubatas in hand, we stop only when free samples were offered or for me to snap another picture of my kids in costume. Lindsay have Americans a bad name in the church, Kelly got bored after about .2 seconds (the time it took to be cat called upon entering the fair) and we ate nachos with my 1ESO kids at Tabby, which was renamed Posada de los Gatos. A few hours later, and several alcoholic drinks later, we caught the last bus back to Sevilla and serenaded the bus driver, who I ALWAYS see when I leave early on Thursdays, with Barbie Girl. I could not make this up.

I love my kids, I really do. Even though they’re awful students, every single one of them sought me out and the reaction I got from all of my friends was, “Your town and your kids are so great.” They are, anyway, until you give them a quiz.

The Main Square decorated for El Barroco
Some of my kiddies all decked out
I dragged Lindsay, Bri, Kelly and Jenna to Otown, but we had fun!
Oh, then I went to Sanlucar la Barrameda for a day for the beach. Que vida la mia!
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