I just want to say a huge thank you again to everyone who donated to this cause! Our organization, Refugia’l, managed to raise a total of 6,600€ for the residents, with 1,300€ of that coming directly from my friends, family, and generous acquaintances back home. An extra big thank you to the people at ECOH Inc., who together accounted for a significant portion of the funds raised. You’re all beautiful humans.
3 weeks have never flown by so fast. I feel like I just arrived in Athens, but somehow today is my last day. If I had the money to survive here longer, I would love to stay and keep working at the refugee residence.
I love Greek food, but I do not like these little cactus fruits someone in our house has picked up from the grocery store. I’m not actually sure they’re Greek, but I’ve never seen them before.
Things are starting to come together at the school residence. We’ve arranged for a meeting with all the volunteers this week so we can create a schedule of activities each day. I’ll be teaching English classes every day at 5, and helping out with whatever else needs doing before and after.
For now I’ll just be teaching kids, but I hope to offer some classes to adults soon.
We’re slowly making a dent in Donation Mountain, too. Between the projects here and some smaller occasional tasks at other camps, we’re going to be busy. We now have some work at a small camp specifically for pregnant women, we’ll be going twice a week to the summer camp outside the city, and some of our Spaniards will be doing an activity making human towers (known as castellers, or muixeranga because they’re from Valencia).
I have my first English “class” today, which is really just a test to get a feel for the kids levels, and to get them comfortable with me. This is no challenge. The kids are all SO extremely friendly and energetic everywhere we go.
I lay out some colouring pages, markers, and worksheets with simple math questions in English. I bring colourful clay and hope no one tries to eat it. About 15 kids show up, and within moments are tearing the room apart. The 10 year olds are swinging the 2 year olds around. The 2 year olds are crying because they’ve pushed the markers so hard into the paper that they break. I try to keep some order but you wouldn’t believe how hard it is. I had a couple students in Spain that I thought were difficult but this is next level. The clay is a big hit but of course everyone has trouble sharing. Kids are flowing in and out of the room, their attention spans don’t last long and there are no rules about where they have to be. They always ask to bring entire colouring books or boxes of markers to their rooms. I hate saying no but obviously we don’t have enough supplies for that so I have to. Then I have to watch to make sure they don’t try to sneak it out anyway.
One of the mothers comes into the classroom and I smile at her, but she starts just screaming at me in Arabic, pointing at the clay. She’s holding the hand of her 2 year old son and I’m worried she’s mad that I’ve given a young kid something he might try to eat? I’m asking the other kids to translate for me, and piece together that no no, she’s angry because I didn’t give him any clay. I can assure you I did, but maybe one of the other kids stole it from him. He’s 2 so like…who knows.
She storms out, and one of the other volunteers tells me there’s an issue in the camp, where the Iraqi community feel they are treated more poorly than the Palestinian residents. I have no idea if that’s true in other aspects of the organization or not, but I assume they must have some reason to believe that. Though I am not denying 2 year old children play-doh because they’re Iraqi. Did I even know he was Iraqi? No. I feel better that this isn’t the first time she’s yelled at someone though.
After an exhausting 2 hours trying to keep the children entertained, speaking English, and from eating any play-doh, I help with some donation sorting and head home.
Later in the evening I meet a friend to sit just outside the Parthenon; under the stars, overlooking the city with a couple drinks in hand. Athens is a strange place, dirty, abandoned, crumbling, yet somehow bustling, illuminated, and beautiful from here.
I’m not an organized person, and I don’t really expect a squatter’s residence to be organized…but it’s a little strange here.
I heard the term “imposter syndrome” for the first time the other day, and it’s exactly how I feel here as an English teacher. The woman who said it was using it to describe her own feelings about her occupation as a travel blogger (which I ALSO relate to), and was saying that she basically feels she is winging it every step of the way. Sames, girl. Sames.
However, the “syndrome” part is key, as she pointed out that real imposters wouldn’t stress about it the way we do. That gave me a little bit of comfort, but still doesn’t actually say anything about my ability to be a GOOD teacher.
Each of my classes is different, I’ve received no training or even so much as a guideline…so I just show up to these people’s homes and try to teach them stuff. I have no idea what I’m doing. The first few weeks were fine, you play some games, build some vocabulary, get to know each other. I’ve basically been hanging out with these kids. Trying to be a “cool” teacher…but am I even a teacher? One parent referred to me as a professional once and I found it alarming. Me? Not me. Then realized that I’m an adult and that IS how they should see me…it just SO doesn’t feel that way. I’m hardly an adult let alone a professional anything.
I have a job interview with a company that provides online English lessons to business people in Vietnam. I would get paid in American dollars and work as many hours a week as I’d like. They provide lesson plans for me to follow, and I am given a random student for each 45 minute session. Seems pretty legit. I did a quick Google and found reviews of the company from other teachers. Apparently it’s super easy but I’ll hate my life in 4 months. That’s okay, though! I just need money now!
The interview is actually more of an info session, but I’m “hired” anyway. I have to go through some un-paid training first, but it’s not like I am low on spare time. Por qué no?
I also picked up another job as an “app tester”, but it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. My job is to walk around Barcelona and input shop information. Like a sad version of the Google Street-view guy. The game-to-be is called Forbidden City, and I think my job is to create something like the pokéstops in Pokémon Go. Any restaurant, bar, convenience store, fruit market, etc. that I find, I input the name, address, telephone number, then take a photo of the entrance, and categorize it. Super easy right? True, but I look like the biggest weirdo when I’m standing outside of a laundry mat, taking a photo of their sign, and can’t explain to the disgruntled employee/probably owner what I’m doing because I don’t speak any Spanish. On the bright side, I’ve learned to ask for a business card in Spanish, because phone numbers can be pretty hard to find for the smaller shops. Now I know the words for both card and business. On my way to full fluency, I tell ya.
Oh yeah and I get paid 0.15 per shop. Yup. If I log 500 shops in 2 weeks I am paid 0.30 for them all, but that seems extreme. I’m sitting at like 60 and I’ve been at it (kinda) for just 5 days. Whatever. Even if I make an extra 20€ a fortnight, I’m happy.
Salaries are paid monthly here, unlike what I’m used to at home where I’m paid every 2 weeks. Having to budget yourself (especially when you’re broke af) for an entire month is really really hard.
I am jumped by a man with a knife on my walk home from the bar. He grabs me by the arm and holds the knife up to my neck.
Turns out it’s a plastic knife, and just some kind of HORRIBLE Halloween prank, but terrifying all the same. Lindzee is with me and of course once we realize what is going on we erupt into a fit of laughter with my almost-murderer. Realistically though, that shit is not okay. In North America, especially right now as murderous clowns are roaming the streets of the USA, that’s a prank that could get you arrested. I love how relaxed Europe is when it comes to hosting things like the Correfoc, but not so much when it comes to making me feeling like I’m about to be stabbed. I need to learn how to swear in Spanish.
But of course this is only happening because Halloween is coming up! Spain doesn’t actually celebrate Halloween, they have another holiday called Castanyada. Stalls are set up along the streets, where people sell chestnuts or sweet potatoes roasted on open fires. Panallets (a dessert featuring pine nuts) are also a tradition of the occasion. I will be eating a lot of fun snacks this coming Monday…
The day after Castanyada, November 1st, is a public Holiday specifically for people to visit graveyards and the resting places of their loved ones. Children sometimes get the day off for Castanyada, but both schools and workplaces are cancelled on November 1st. Which means I won’t have classes. There are SO many holidays here in Spain.
Halloween has only become a thing here in the last few years. Globalization, am I right? I’ve spoken to a lot of my students about it and the degree of celebration varies. The rich kids with the yacht are wearing full on costumes and trick or treating around their neighbourhood. The really young ones have made some Halloween themed crafts at school but won’t be trick or treating, and some of my students barely know what I’m talking about. Best believe there are a ton of epic parties going on this weekend though. Clearly geared towards expats, every clubs and bar is going all out with decorations and prizes for the best costumes etc.
I can’t really afford a true costume, so I’m going to H&M or Pull and Bear to purchase as much cheap gold stuff as I can, and will go to a convenience store to find a toy shovel…making me… a gold digger! GET IT GUYS?!? If this doesn’t work I’ll just be extra lame and purchase a generic gala mask…but I’m trying not to be THAT boring.
Waking up for 10:30 feels impossible, which is pathetic because I went to sleep at midnight. Well, I tried, but with my job starting at 4pm or later every day, I’ve been staying up late. Today, 10:30 feels like 6am. I’m apart of a Facebook group specifically for TEFL teachers, and someone posted an ad offering 1€ yoga classes. This is what has brought me up at such an ungodly hour. I need to start doing something fitness wise, because between all the time I spend sitting on the metro, and my inability to cook causing me to eat basically nothing but sandwiches…things aren’t looking good for my health. Not to mention all the Estrellas…
Lindzee and I meet at our half-way point metro station and head down to the address listed on the Facebook page. I was expecting someone’s damn basement or like a park or public space, but somehow it’s in a legit studio. Way too cute for this to be 1€, I don’t understand. Especially when it’s a class of 5 people. He’s not exactly profiting here.
All of the instruction is in Spanish so I spend a lot of time peeking at what other people are doing instead of focusing on my breathing and such, but I think that’s okay. I pick up a couple of Spanish words in the process. 10/10 would (and will) do again.
I find myself walking through the shopping area at my home station of Clot. I have -5847373€ to my name, so I can’t really buy anything but I accidentally purchase a cheap necklace and a cat hair lint roller thing. At least the second purchase is practical. I’m really not used to having cat hair on ALL of my shit, and I’m not a fan. Having a cat is fun, but it’s not as glamorous as it seems.
Then onto my Monday lessons. I did some rearranging and instead of having the 3-back-to-back-class-Monday-of-death I’ve had for the past two weeks, I now only have 2 classes. My evening class switched to Thursdays and I’m stoked.
Or so I thought. They text me two hours before their lesson would have started to tell me that they’d like to start their new schedule next week instead, and still want me to come tonight. They’re by far my favourite and most chill class, so I forgive them, but now this means I have to run around all over Barcelona tonight. At least I know it’ll be the last time.
In anticipation of my soon-approaching first pay day, I do the math for all the hours I worked and am relieved to find that I’ll have enough money to cover my rent! Success!!
Another day on the grind. Workin’ that hard 11 hour a week life here in sunny Barcelona. NOT so sunny today, actually. An epic thunder storm hit last night and woke me up. This place is just the worst, I tell ya.
Today my first class starts at 4:15, about a 45 minute commute from my house. The metro system here is such a dream that I don’t even mind. In some ways, all these private lessons I’ll be teaching are a great way for me to see the whole city of Barcelona. So far, it’s been a lot of chi chi neighbourhoods. Yesterday I taught a lesson to two young boys, and was let into their home by a Filipino nanny. No parents were home. These kids also mentioned that they had a yacht, and have definitely been to more countries than I have. Pretty sure there English is better than mine, too. (I did that on purpose, don’t worry.) They’re living the life…and they’re just 7 and 9 years old.
I also taught a group of adults yesterday; a family, actually. Two parents and their 25 year old daughter, who teaches English to primary schoolers. It’s the most chill vibe ever. They invite me in for tea and we just discuss politics, travel, Spanish culture, and other random stuff. I don’t even need to be paid for this, but I mean, please do.
I don’t know anything about these people until I get there. I am only given a name, age, and address from Caroline. Then I show up to provide…my service…OMG. Do I have a pimp? I have a language pimp. I wonder how much her cut of this pie is. These rich people are probably paying 50€ /lesson and I’m being tossed 17€…
meh, I’m still down.
Today’s lessons are with sisters, each have one individual hour back to back. The first girl is easy as pie. She’s super outgoing, has 100 things to talk about, and a great level of English. Her sister is much quieter and I struggle a little bit to find topics of conversation, but we get through. I make a note to come up with some games or something to do next time. Just to have something in my back pocket if it gets awkward.
I rush from these lessons to my last for the evening. My metro card is getting a work out. This is one of the classes that I’ve had to cancel in order to accommodate my new job, but I told them I’d complete this week. I feel bad explaining to my class that I won’t be there next week, but I do my best to make a ton of notes for the next teacher. Realistically, they’re probably getting an upgrade.
I even get paid! I wasn’t sure this would happen, but I’m given 45€ cash in hand on my way out. That’s 22€ per lesson, which is super legit. It feels SO good to be paid for something!! Some income!!
Paycheques in Spain (or at least for my job) are sent out monthly, not bi-weekly like at home, so that’ll be an adjustment for sure. I won’t see any more income until November. Pray for me.
I go home and hit the grocery store on my way. Groceries are mad cheap here. I don’t pay more than 1-3€ for any item. Like a whole bag of spinach is 1€. That’s blessed. This will be a huge game changer in my quest to save money, assuming I actually decide to cook. I can’t cook for shit, but somehow survived Australia with what little skills I had. Granted, I also got pretty fat. So many Mr. Noodles. New goal: cook healthy meals at home, cut out Mr. Noodles. Save money. Save myself from obesity.
I’m feeling pretty shitty about these jobs I’ve had to cancel. I’ve told my Tuesday/Thursday class that I won’t be able to continue, but that I can work this week until they find someone new. They’re surprisingly chill about it, but I still feel awful. I tell my Monday/Friday class and they just don’t respond to me at all. Fair.
I take the afternoon to get my life organized, plan a lesson, and get some lunch. Realistically, I should go grocery shopping, but the little market across the street from my house is closed, and I don’t feel like going to a big grocery store today. I walk in that direction, but I find a sushi restaurant offering a Menú del Día for 9.50€. Hard to say nah.
Most epic Menú del Día of all time. I get a drink, salad, miso soup, tempura (like proper tempura with shrimp and everything), 6 pieces of maki, a dessert, and a coffee. WHAT?! I don’t even take the dessert or coffee because I’m too stuffed. I will be back.
I get ready to go teach a lesson. This is a strange situation, because I’m working a job I’ve just quit. I’m honestly unsure that these people are going to pay me, but I’m not sure that I care. I need some experience anyway, and to be fair I just totally ditched them. If they offer me money I will not even politely fake decline it though.
I am so nervous to teach adults. They have expectations and an understanding of the world. I have 4 students; 3 women and 1 man. Two of them are definitely a lot older than me and it feels weird to be teaching them, but that’s not the worst thing that could happen to me. The man starts talking AT me in Catalan when I introduce myself, presumably to explain that he isn’t very good at English. He looks extremely nervous, and his English skills genuinely are a step or two behind that of the other group members, but that’s okay. We’re in this together buddy, I’m terrified too.
I have a loose lesson plan mapped out, including an activity in the homework book, assuming that if we don’t have enough time in class they can finish it at home. Well, about 45 minutes into my 1.5 hour lesson, we’ve done all the shit I had planned. I’m low key panicking. I move to the next activity in the book and am literally reading it as I go, asking people to volunteer the correct answers and hoping for the best. This turns out surprisingly well. I remind myself that I am indeed a master of the English language, and don’t need an answer key for intermediate level English. I got this. I check in with the class to see if they’re bored or want to do an improvised conversational lesson instead, but they’re content working in the grammar book. Aiight homies, works for me.
The next 45 minutes fly by quickly, and I feel relieved but also successful when the lesson is over. I think it went quite well despite my lack of preparation.
I’m kind of sad that I won’t be able to continue with these lessons, actually. Great learning experience for sure. All of my new private lessons are only an hour long, so that should be a little easier too. Children though…
Now, to celebrate my second day as a teacher and not dying, I go to meet Mikaël, Lindzee, and her visitor friend from home at the open mic bar. A lot of the same people are performing this week which is cool. Everyone last week was so rad. There is one new guy that tries to do some stand up comedy and fails miserably. So much so that it physically hurts my body I am cringing so hard. He knows he’s brutal. But I guess that’s part of the fun of open mic! You never know what you’re gonna get.
We then move on to Espit Chupitos, the crazy shot bar, as we’re trying to show Lindzee’s friend all the cool spots in Barcelona. Espit chupitos is fun, but it’s full of obnoxious tourists. It’s always like this, but especially bad tonight. I can say this. I’m a local now, duh.
Two guys from Toronto are there repping ALL the Jays gear, and I’m like to need to relax (but also, Go Jays Go!! It’s the Wild Card game tonight!).
We do a coupled different flaming shots, and one topped with an absurd amount of whipped cream, and then get the hell out.
Next stop is The Mint, where the bartender once proposed to Lindzee. They do 4€ Mojitos that are pretty rad, and because of the recent “engagement”, we’re VIPs.
We end up at Club Opium which I’ve never been to, and is terrible. Everyone looks 16. I suppose it’s only a Tuesday night…perhaps that’s why. It’s funny to me that clubs in Europe are such a thing, because at home, I couldn’t tell you the last time I stepped foot in a place like this. Here, it’s kinda the norm. Maybe not on a Tuesday, but you know what I mean.