Monthly Archives: December 2011




So….got through Christmas. It was definitely made better by the presence of my fiance and spending it with some good friends, but still hard. We made the best of it, though. Our compensation for not returning to the homeland for the holidays?? A two-week traveling spree throughout Europe. Leaving tonight for Rome, next Cologne to see our good friend Jan and to spend New Year’s Eve, next Munich and finally…Paris.

Lots of details to come once we’re home. Hope you all had a marvelous love/joy/family & friends-filled Christmas and may you enjoy the rest of 2011. Cheers to wanderlust…and see you in 2012!


Las cosas que me encantan: dos besos


This is one of several posts in which I just want to talk about one of the many things that enchant me about Spain. (This happens to be one that I’m using to distract myself from the inevitable sadness and general mopiness I’m feeling [and going to be feeling more of] about having to say goodbye [for the time being] to a dear friend who’s going back to the United States tonight) but ANYWAY. Back to the point…today I’m talking about one of the many aspects of Spanish culture that I adore. Which would that be?

Besos. The way people greet one another in Spain is something I’m kind of fascinated by…and in love with. Now before you start thinking I’m a total creeper, just listen. When people meet each other they give each other “dos besos”  or one air kiss on both cheeks, that is, when a man meets a woman or a woman meets a woman…don’t think men ever do this to one another, but perhaps they might in family situations or with a dear dear friend (anyone care to give me the facts on that one?). It’s not a real kiss, and you don’t even have to touch the other person, though usually one brushes one’s cheek against the other’s during the action. For some reason, I just love it. There is something incredibly warm and inviting about giving people “besos” that kind of puts shaking hands to shame. Of course, I’m sure there are times when even Spanish people shake hands, but I haven’t yet been in that situation.

Ok, yes, I am American and therefore that makes me automatically very attached to my own personal bubble, which in some cases, yes I am. I don’t really care to have someone talk to me in normal conversation one to two inches from my face, no, but this particular way of greeting doesn’t bother me. On the contrary, I prefer it.  It goes for introductions (of which there are always so many in a  new place like this, and especially with lots of young people around) it goes for greetings for friends/family/acquaintances, as well as for goodbyes, whether for the night or for many days/months/years. I know some people do this already in the U.S. and to them I probably seem rather idiotic by the novelty of this, but in Nebraska, you’re usually not kissing ANYONE unless it’s your significant other, your grandma or a small child. That said, I’m really fascinated by nonverbal communication, and to me, the besos are an interesting illustration of the haptic (or touch) aspect of Spanish nonverbal communication culture.

It’s been fun adopting this new part of Spanish culture that is so different from that of Americans. As I’ve said before, I try to “do as the Spanish do” as much as I can within reason, and I pretty much give the “besos” to anyone new I meet. It’s gotten to be extremely normal between friends and people I know well, but for some reason it initially seemed a smidge awkward with people I work with, for instance when meeting the jefe de estudios (basically, principal) at my school, but it really shouldn’t have been, as it’s quite the norm regardless of your relationship with the new person you’re meeting. It’s definitely become second nature to me, now, though.

The tricky part, I’ve found, is when you’re meeting Americans or other non-besos-inclined persons while in Spain.

I’ve had many an awkward lean-in-to-air-kiss-but-then-they-don’t-as-well-so-I-don’t-know-how-to-respond-and-it-ends-up-in-an-even-more-awkward-“ok-then-we’ll-just-shake-hands-then”-moment with Americans, Canadians and people from other countries. It’s not that it’s a bad thing to not want to do the besos, but it definitely makes for awkwardness when one does and the other doesn’t intend to, jaja. Perhaps some Americans here just don’t do it at all, out of feeling uncomfortable or feeling weird about the closeness with strangers, I’m not sure.

I was staying in a hostel in Sevilla and was introduced to one young employee by another who said they would know something about finding a good flamenco show. I instinctively did the besos after exchanging names, though he sort of hesitated.

‘Oh dangit, what cultural faux pas did I commit now’ I was thinking to myself and the guy must have seen my reaction, because he pretty much read my mind and said, “No, no, it’s no problem. I’m just not used to Americans giving besos. I was just caught by surprise. You’ve traveled a bit, haven’t you?” (To my delight, as this to me, was a sign of me NOT sticking out like a sore thumb/American/tourist, which is always my intention.)

Anyway, enough of my ramblings about how much I love the Spanish method of greeting. One last petition to any Americans/other not-as-touchy-cultures: can we all just do the besos when we are in Spain? It would make for so many less awkward, first-kiss-esque, face bumping, unfortunate greetings. Gracias.

But what do you think? Do as the locals do, or “get-the-you-know-what-out-of-my-face/space”?

See? It's not so bad, people. Just an air kiss.

I heart my kids. :)


Admittedly, I have kind of failed on keeping up the blog this month….but you must forgive me. I’ll try to do better.

A post that has been percolating in my brain for the last month or so (terrible that I haven’t written it till now, I know, but in my defense I’ve been traveling, planning future travels and oh yeah, working as well) is one about “my kids.” They are the reason for my being here in Spain, and you know what? As much as they sometimes drive me crazy and exhaust me and whatnot, I absolutely love ’em.

A cheesy and generic sentiment, I know, but it’s true. It’s definitely not easy being a teacher, a teacher’s aide or an after-school tutor (the hats of all of which I wear at some point during the week), but the candid, adorable, funny, random antics of those kids make it well worth it. I’ve always enjoyed kids and used to be a Sunday School teacher for nursery ages as well as teach dance lessons to kids of all ages. Jake will tell you that I get distracted quite easily any time a cute little one passes us on the street. But I think being a teacher (or working in a school) takes that a step further, somehow.

At my schools in Alberite and Albelda, I teach kids ages 3-5, and 1st through 6th grade, while in the academy, I’m with kids from 2nd to about 8th grade. It’s quite a range, for sure, but the variety is fun. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to every age group. For example, my 5th graders are always really enthusiastic, curious (we had fun one day as I was explaining some winter weather terms associated with Nebraska winters….they now know the words sleet, wind chill and frostbite, haha and were awestruck that it actually got “dangerous” on roads) and have enough of a handle on English that we can do a lot. On the flip side, they never cease their talking and can sometimes have some attitude problems. My 3 and 4 year olds, on the other hand, probably don’t grasp too much of what I’m talking about outside of colors, numbers, and “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes” (to their credit, they are three and four years old. I barely knew those things in English at those ages). However, they constantly melt my heart with their wide-eyed, rapt attention when I read them stories, their darling trilled shouts of “Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrriannnna!” when I come in the classroom, and their predisposition to group hug tackles that nearly bowl me over. 🙂 Gosh, but they’re precious. I had a blast making snowflakes (and practicing writing/speaking winter words) with my 1st graders last week (picture below) and witnessing their excitement upon opening up each of their own, unique snowflake creations. My 3rd and 4th graders have so much fun learning and singing songs (or raps, at times) and always giggle when I act silly during presentations (I think sometimes my 6th graders/older ones give me pity laughs sometimes, but oh well, can’t please ’em all). No matter how my day is going, or if I’m sick or if I’m stressed, it always puts a smile on my face to walk into my schools and be greeted endlessly with “Hellos!” and “Brrrrianna!” at every turn.


A few of my 1st graders in Alberite showing off their creations. The boy on the right said "I can't smile because I have teeth missing." How precious! 🙂


Me and the group (and their snowflakes)! I usually don't look that crazed during class, just that moment caught me a bit weirdly...hah, at least I'm smiling!

More updates/pics of my sweet kids to come.