Monday, December 23, 2013

Holiday Spirit

Since my last post, the holiday spirit seems to have only grown in Madrid. This past week of school was full of it! Consequently, this meant a lot less time for academics; it was a pretty easy week to say the least.
The Nativity Play
The students have been preparing for weeks for their Christmas concert. Every class sings a Christmas song (in Spanish) and each grade comes together to sing an English Christmas song.  My 5th graders sang "Let it Snow" and my sixth graders sang "We Can Make a Beautiful Christmas" by Big Time Rush (a little modern but a fun, catchy song).  Since the auditorium is pretty small and each student is allowed to invite two family members, the concerts are split up by grade: pre-schoolers went on Monday, 1st and 2nd on Tuesday, 3rd and 4th on Wednesday, and 5th and 6th on Thursday.
On Friday, the 6th graders preformed their "Belen en vivo" (live nativity scene) for their fellow classmates.  This nativity went from traditional to modern very quickly.  The scene started off with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus who were shortly joined by the angel Gabriel, a donkey, and a cow.  But then... more characters came.  By the end of the sketch a lottery ticket, 2 Christmas trees, Christmas candy, a soldier and gypsies were present at the nativity scene (just to name a few). Haha not so traditional anymore. But I must say it was quite comical, especially when the 4 gypsies were played by actually gypsies.  After the play on Friday morning, every class had their own Christmas party.  The students were allowed to bring food, drink and travel to the other classes to mingle and wish a Merry Christmas to their classmates.  It was fun to let loose with my students and to dance, sing and joke around for the afternoon.
School ended early on Friday, and afterwards all of the teachers were invited out for a holiday meal. Most schools in Spain host a special holiday meal for their staff. We ate a lot of delicious food, drank good wine and had a great time. I especially enjoyed it because I don't get many opportunities to talk to the teachers who can't speak English in the school because I'm not allowed to speak Spanish when I'm working. So I got the chance to get to know some of the teachers that I normally don't talk to and I really enjoyed that. I'm blessed with lovely co-workers.
Celebrating Christmas with some of my favorite coworkers!
I spent the weekend in Madrid, resting up for my big Christmas vacation which starts today! I leave for Italy tonight, then will move on to Paris for New Years and finally make a quick stop in Belgium before coming back to Spain on the 6th.  I don't think I'll have a chance to update again until after break so I'll just say Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to everyone reading from home :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's beginning to look at lot like Christmas...

It's true! It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Actually, Madrid started putting up Christmas decorations at the end of OCTOBER! Did I mention the giant Christmas tree in Puerta del Sol was set up by November 12th? As many of you already know, I am one of those people that thinks the Christmas season should not be stretched outside of it's limits (Black Friday-New Years Day). But that's okay because the Madrid didn't light up their Christmas lights (or Christmas trees) until December 1st, and that's when all the Christmas magic began.

The Christmas tree in Sol!
I'll admit that I'm a sucker for snow.  It just doesn't feel as Christmas-y without that magical white stuff! But, Madrid rarely gets snow, so I'll have to do without it for now. Disregarding the lack of snow, there is plenty of Christmas spirit to go around! First of all, we are learning Christmas carols at our school. Well, the word "carol" is a stretch considering most of the songs that have been chosen are extremely modern. For example, the sixth graders are singing "Beautiful Christmas" by Big Time Rush, an American boy band. Ever heard of it? Me neither... until my kids started learning it. Either way, the kids are excited about it and there will be a big Christmas concert before winter break! That will be fun to watch.

Also, the city of Madrid does a FANTASTIC job on Christmas lights (economic crisis what?). Nearly every street in Madrid has a string of Christmas lights and no two streets are the same. One street may have holly and berries while the next has Christmas bulbs. Not to mention the GIANT Christmas trees throughout the city. I have counted 5 so far (Plaza España, Puerto del Sol, Grand Via, Callao and Atocha).  All the trees are different, lit with different colors and designs. The lights are such a spectacle that there is something called the Navibus, a seasonal bus that runs from 6-10pm every night during Christmas time. It costs 2 euros and is a 50 minute bus tour through Madrid that highlights the best lighting displays. I hope they're using at least some green energy....

Madrid also has all of it's Christmas markets set up. In many of the major plazas, they have booths on booths set up next to each other selling everything from handcrafted jewelry to fresh mistletoe to those cheap-o gifts you should NEVER buy for your kids because it's just junk. These markets obviously attract a lot of people, so there are also a lot of food vendors, balloon salesmen, street performers, etc. Also, many Christmas markets are supplemented by a ice skating rink (sometimes real, sometimes synthetic ice) and/or a merry-go-round. Spaniards sure do know how to celebrate.

Madness at the metro
This past weekend was a long weekend due to Día de la Constitución which was on Friday. For this reason, it is notoriously one of the busiest weekends in Madrid all year. People come from all over to take advantage of their long weekend, get Christmas shopping done, and make a trip out of it. Police know this is coming and take extreme measures to manage the large crowds like shutting down Vodafone Sol (the most popular and central metro stop) and closing off most streets in the centre to cars; pedestrians only.  Alexa, Makeda and I experienced these massive crowds first hand on our way to the Imagine Dragons concert (which was incredible by the way).  We tried to get on the metro at Gran Vía, the second most central metro stop.  This was a terrible idea.  We were literally body-to-body with thousands (yes thousands) of people trying to get on and off the train. We were moving so slowly that it took us 20 minutes just to get to the metro platform. It was a nightmare. I put up a picture that captures the madness. This is just a little taste of how overcrowded it was this weekend in Madrid. I'm glad it's over and things have calmed down now.

Well there is plenty more Christmas to come! Hopefully a Christmas cookie party will be happening this weekend among other holiday festivities. Merry Christmas everyone!