Sep 30, 2008

lizard eats woman

Gaudi's lizard in Parc Güell, Barcelona. Originally uploaded by Shehani

Schmap has shortlisted another one of my photos. The last photo of mine they shortlisted, Jamon, was published in their Salamanca guide. I was flattered and my vain ego was well stroked. This time, however, I'm not so keen to agree with their free use policy. They are a for-profit business that earns money through advertising. The travel guide earns more money if they don't pay people for the "unlimited" use of their photos. Schmap is very polite about permission and credits every photo but I just don't agree with the idea of for-profit businesses not paying producers for the use of their content. So, this time around, I didn't give them permission to use my photo.

I love this shot. It looks like the lizard is about to eat the woman's arm. This photo was taken during a public holiday and so the park was packed with people. It was rather difficult to get in any shots without the throngs of people. Parc Güell is Antoni Gaudí's masterpiece of whimsical structures, serpentine staircases and gorgeous mosaics of ceramic tiles.

Sep 28, 2008

a toro drive by

I took this photo of the unofficial emblem of Spain en route from Cordoba to Sevilla. There are 89 such toros standing on low hilltops so they are clearly silhouetted against the Spanish sky. These 14 meters high Toros de Osborne were erected by the Osborne sherry company beginning in 1956. According to wiki, a new law was passed in 1994 which prohibited giant roadside advertising, and so the toros were slated to be removed. By this time, however, these signs were nationally renowned. Public response resulted in the signs being allowed to remain but they had to be completely blacked out of all reference to the original advertisers, Osborne. Eventually, a court decided that the Toro de Osborne had become a part of the landscape and was of "aesthetic or cultural significance" thus turning it into a figure that belongs in the public domain.

Sep 26, 2008

sorry we are open

I saw this inconspicuous sign advertising an even more inconspicuous store in an alleyway in Lisboa, Portugal. Are they really sorry? While he does seem to be pointing at 'sorry' for emphasis, his grin seems a little devious...

Sep 25, 2008

in praise of melancholy

Not everyone wants to be happy. Eric G. Wilson, for example, writes in praise of melancholy. He is afraid that American culture's overemphasis on happiness at the expense of sadness might be dangerous, a wanton forgetting of an essential part of a full life. "The American dream of happiness might be a nightmare," he writes, "What passes for bliss could well be a dystopia of flaccid grins."

If you avoid life's profound lows, how do you appreciate life's profound highs? Isn't life about riding this tension of opposites? As a counterpoint to my many posts on ways to cope with depression and cultivate happiness and joy, I want to present a writer who ventures bravely into the darkness and brings us back another view of life.

excerpts from In Praise of Melancholy:
There is a fine line between what I'm calling melancholia and what society calls depression. In my mind, what separates the two is degree of activity. Both forms are more or less chronic sadness that leads to continuing unease with how things are — persistent feelings that the world is not quite right, that it is a place of suffering, stupidity, and evil. Depression (as I see it, at least) causes apathy in the face of this unease, lethargy approaching total paralysis, an inability to feel much of anything one way or another. In contrast, melancholia generates a deep feeling in regard to this same anxiety, a turbulence of heart that results in an active questioning of the status quo, a perpetual longing to create new ways of being and seeing.

Melancholia, far from a mere disease or weakness of will, is an almost miraculous invitation to transcend the banal status quo and imagine the untapped possibilities for existence. Without melancholia, the earth would likely freeze over into a fixed state, as predictable as metal. Only with the help of constant sorrow can this dying world be changed, enlivened, pushed to the new.

Melancholia pushes against the easy "either/or" of the status quo. It thrives in unexplored middle ground between oppositions, in the "both/and." It fosters fresh insights into relationships between oppositions, especially that great polarity life and death. It encourages new ways of conceiving and naming the mysterious connections between antinomies. It returns us to innocence, to the ability to play in the potential without being constrained to the actual. Such respites from causality refresh our relationship to the world, grant us beautiful vistas, energize our hearts and our minds.

Suffering the gloom, inevitable as breath, we must further accept this fact that the world hates: We are forever incomplete, fragments of some ungraspable whole. Our unfinished natures — we are never pure actualities but always vague potentials — make life a constant struggle, a bout with the persistent unknown. But this extension into the abyss is also our salvation. To be only a fragment is always to strive for something beyond ourselves, something transcendent. That striving is always an act of freedom, of choosing one road instead of another. Though this labor is arduous — it requires constant attention to our mysterious and shifting interiors — it is also ecstatic, an almost infinite sounding of the exquisite riddles of Being.

To be against happiness is to embrace ecstasy. Incompleteness is a call to life. Fragmentation is freedom. The exhilaration of never knowing anything fully is that you can perpetually imagine sublimities beyond reason. On the margins of the known is the agile edge of existence. This is the rapture, burning slow, of finishing a book that can never be completed, a flawed and conflicted text, vexed as twilight.

Sep 24, 2008

Keeping the horribles at bay: an interview with Honeybottom pt 4

Today's post is the final installment in a 4 part series on depression, Keeping the horribles at bay: an interview with Honeybottom.

In Keeping the horribles at bay: an interview with Honeybottom pt 1, Professor Honeybottom, a Chartered Herbalist and a former Registered Nurse, explained the difference between depression and sadness. In part 2, she talked about how changes in diet, exercise and sleeping habits can help to relieve depression. In part 3, she recommended lifestyle changes and self help strategies.

In today's post, Honeybottom tells us how she beats the blues in her own daily life.

Nature is my true tonic. I remember the first time I realized this was when I was going through a small personal hell and felt so incredibly sad that I almost couldn't move. I forced myself to go and lie down outside, where I just laid there quietly sobbing into my blanket. I realized an ant was on my arm...the next thing I knew was that 1or 2 minutes had actually passed and I hadn't been consumed with my grief. 1or 2 minutes! That was huge; that little ant placed me in the now...there was no room for my overwhelming sadness. Nature had used up the room.

I gladly walk, bike or lie outside everyday. If I feel myself just stumbling through a day I'll pick one thing that I must pay attention to... noses, ears, hands; everyone that I come in contact with I'll note. These silly little exercises keep me focused in the moment and usually come with a little pearl of wisdom at the end of the day or at least a funny experience to recount.

I surround myself with people I love and realize that I am not responsible for their experiences. This has taken me my lifetime to bring into my reality. I try everyday to be radiating something that is good for the planet; regenerative and bright. Everyday can't be a winner.

I divide up my daily processes into three parts, everything, every process/experience on the planet can be divided into these three groups;
Custodial: That which promotes and uplifts life. Pertaining to higher than planetary forces.
Maintenance: That which maintains proper functioning of the body and the planet.
Expendable: That which is not of use to the human or planet.

It is understandable that our daily mental processes would be divided up amongst these three frequencies. When I go to bed at night, before I close my eyes, I try to find and identify those top processes that I had during the day. Sometimes it's difficult and seemingly takes forever. But it's worth it: even the smallest moment shouldn't be overlooked. A fantastic day is when I can keep at least two-thirds of my day in Custodial and Maintenance. It is not easy. Everyday is a struggle. But also a new chance at it.

I'd like to thank Professor Honeybottom for taking the time and energy to give us advice on how to cope with depression. I found her ideas both interesting and refreshing. I hope you did too. If you'd like to read more of her work, she has a graphic novel series on health and the body, called the Naked Truth.

Sep 21, 2008

heading for the hills

Yesterday, M and I spent a very pleasant day up in the mountains. Sierra de Guadarrama with peaks reaching almost 2.500 meters (8.200 ft) lies to the north of Madrid. The trip there takes a little over 2 hours by train and it's our favorite retreat from the city. First stop, Cercedilla, which is reached from Madrid on the Cercanías line C8b from either Atocha or Chamartín. From there, the Cercanías C9 serves a number of the mountain villages, travelling from Cercedilla to Los Cotos. Many of the stops along the way are great places from which to begin a day's outing but we usually get off at Navacerrada and take El Camino Schmidt trail down to the saddle, Collado Ventoso. Then depending on how much sun we have left, we have a number trails to choose from to get back down to Cercedilla. Yesterday, we took the rocky and steep red&white trail, Vereda de las Encinillas down. Today, my butt, legs, ankles and feet are very sore as a result. 

snapshot of wall graffiti from the C8b to Cercedilla

little village on the way to Cercedilla

going up the mountains on commuter train C9

vista of Siete Picos

a view of the Pista Forestal, an old troop service road built during the civil war.

some lichen on a rock

purple flowers exploding from the ground.

Sep 20, 2008

Keeping the horribles at bay: an interview with Honeybottom pt 3

Today's post is part 3 of 4 in the series on depression, Keeping the horribles at bay: an interview with Honeybottom.

Are there any lifestyle changes or self-help strategies that you recommend? ie: meditation, yoga, behaviour modification, strategies for breaking the pattern of negative thinking, etc.
I honestly believe that yoga should be part of everyone's life. There is a level of practise, style, pace for absolutely everyone. It strengthens, lengthens, and even massages the internal organs! The teachings and lifestyle that go with a full on yogic journey are all positive and up lifting. It makes my heart glad that there is those that powerfully emanate that into the world.

What you say, what you hear yourself say and what you hear others say about you has a profound effect on you. Science has recently proven that the speech centre in the brain rules all of the nerves of the body. Simply speaking positive or negative words gives you the power to manipulate the physical complex. Meaning; if you say 'I am old, I'm sick, I'm useless' this sets the mandate for your body to start to decompose. We live in a crazy world, where the amazing gift of free will has run amok and sometimes it is hard to see the positive or feel the positive. I make a note to never watch the news: that is just a big ball of negative. When I had a desk at a workplace I got my friends, partner, and work peers to write down five things they enjoyed or appreciated about me (I did this on days when the two of us would have a good connection) and I would keep them posted where I saw them everyday. I also carry pictures that calm me and uplift me. I use these links most of the time to bring my electrics or brain waves up the bar to a regenerative state.

Call–overs and mantras are powerful only when they are truly believed. So I suggest using wording you can believe in, ie: 'I am in stillness and calm' might not be true at the moment but, 'I am moving towards stillness and calm' might have more influence. I think the best two for those suffering from depression are: 'I am loved' and 'I am worthy of love and happiness'.

Of course! Yes you are and all patterns that are within the negative must be broken for you to stop falling out of love with yourself. If you find that when you become depressed you tend to stay in and try to sleep away days, force yourself to do the opposite. Go for a walk, go lie in the grass; if you must just sleep, sleep on the porch or at a friend’s. Try to break the patterning. If you find you fall deep and don't remember or care to help yourself, leave yourself reminders that you can't overlook; upside down living room chair, cutlery in the bathroom etc.

One thing I have encountered in my work is that some people feel guilty or ashamed at having to take medication for their depression. A word to those people: This is just a weakened system, like some people have a weakened digestive system, reproductive system, or any other system of the body; it is not you, it's just the equipment. I believe anti-depressants are necessary to quickly restore a feeling of balance to the mind. In the long term I would suggest working with your doctor or holistic practitioner, in helping you find an equally good outcome using more body friendly medicines.

Much research has gone into supplements like 5HTP (5- hydroxytryptophan), DHA and EPA from fish oils and high doses of Vitamin D. I personally know more than a few people who have been helped with these items. 5HTP cannot be taken with most anti-depressants and fish oils do have mild blood thinning capacities. High doses of any vitamin can cause imbalance elsewhere, so work closely with your health care professional when changing or adding any medications or supplements.
In the part 4, Professor Honeybottom will talk about she beats the blues in her own daily life. So stay tuned.

see also:
Keeping the horribles at bay: an interview with Honeybottom pt 1
Keeping the horribles at bay: an interview with Honeybottom pt 2

Sep 19, 2008

crushing euro

This photo was taken in Lisbon, Portugal

I prefer this type of euro social commentary street art to those elaborate self-promoting tags so ubiquitous in North America. What do you think?

Sep 18, 2008

first week back at work

taken on the staircase to Mirador S. Cristobol in Granada, Spain

He looks a little like I feel after my first week back teaching English. I'm still adjusting to my schedule. On Mondays and Wednesdays I leave home at 7:40 am, catch two metros, then one train, then a company bus to my first class. I commute for a total of 4 and a half hours to teach 4 hours at different companies. When my other new classes kick-in in October, I will commute 6 hours to teach 6 hours on Mondays and Wednesdays. I'm exhausted and I hate riding crowded metros with sweaty, stinky people. But I need to earn money so I'll need to suck it up and adopt a new attitude. I warn you now, I may not have the energy to post on Mondays and Wednesdays... but I'll do what I can. Tuesdays and Thursdays I only commute 2 hours to teach 3 hours so I'll have more time to blog. And Fridays, I only have the 1 class so far...

And so another new school year begins...

Sep 16, 2008

Keeping the horribles at bay: an interview with Honeybottom pt 2

Today's post is part 2 of 4 in the series on depression, Keeping the horribles at bay: an interview with Honeybottom.

How can changes in diet, exercise and sleeping habits help to relieve depression?
Well, we've touched briefly on toxins in food as being able to induce states of depression. Toxins are used on our food as fertilizer, insecticide, ripening agents, ant-ripening agents, preservatives, and in processing. Eat as much organic as you can get your hands on, or afford, or grow. Stay away from genetically altered food: it's molecular matrices do not fit with our own and will not promote life. Over eating will cause the bowel to back up, toxins flowing freely back into the bloodstream. Fasting will cause the body to move into healing mode, if the body is strong enough it will try to unload toxins from the tissues into the bloodstream for removal from the body. A cleansing body can put one into a state of depression while it deals with scarring thought patterns, and mental blockages which have manifested into physical disease processes. Healing begins from the head down from the inside to the outside from the highest priority area (most life threatening) then onto the next highest priority. So, if you're going to be cleansing or improving your diet make sure you have back up support (someone checking in with you) the toxins leave your system it may be rough.

Exercise is essential for us as organisms; oxygenation of all tissues is a must. Oxygen to the brain increases alertness and helps us to engage more fully in the moment. Our biological and physical make-up make movement essential to life. Lymph flow is not dependant upon a pump, like the circulatory system, but it depends on us physically moving; that's why trampolines and re-bounders are health inducing. Lymph nodes contain large number of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes act against foreign particles, such as bacterial cells and viruses, carrying them back to the node and there special cells engulf and destroy all foreign substances, damaged cells and cellular debris.

Sleep is usually something we are all short of. We know that the Earth's low frequency iso-electric field, the Earth's magnetic field and our own electrical emanations are all closely interwoven. They affect and interact with each other and any subtle change can be detected by all. We might not know what we are registering, but perhaps that just takes practise. Earthquakes and electrical storms are registered by the planet as global. They are registered by you too, even if you are never aware of it. Disturbances on the planet can affect us negatively or positively. It is interesting to note that when there is earthquake activity there is an increase in anxiety in the population, an increase in UFO sightings and feelings of being watched are prevalent amongst study groups. Earthquakes release a large amount of energy into the planets atmosphere and, after all, we are electrical creatures. Basically, what sleep is, is a series of alternating currents which help dislodge stagnant energies and recharge or absorb energy. Low frequencies, which are produced from light sleep or meditation right up to deepest dreamless sleep or the deepest meditation, are essential to our health. These frequencies can cause environmental synchronization and trigger the release of a growth hormone which is important for healing and regeneration and allow feelings of profound peace.
In the part 3, Professor Honeybottom will talk about lifestyle changes and self help strategies in coping with depression. So stay tuned.

see also:
Keeping the horribles at bay: an interview with Honeybottom pt 1

Sep 14, 2008

bubbles and acrobatics at Noche en Blanco

There were 200 events last night for La noche en blanco 2008. Here are a couple performances we caught along Paseo del Prado.

Sep 13, 2008

Keeping the horribles at bay: an interview with Honeybottom pt 1

When I first met the lady behind Professor Honeybottom, I was struck by her light. Her positive energy, good health, beauty and sexiness radiated an aura of love, acceptance and friendliness. She has recently begun posting a graphic novel series on health and the body, called the Naked Truth. Her observations, and presentation of the facts on anatomy and health are informative, entertaining and the sexiest I've ever seen. In fact, I think she might be the sexiest herbalist/nurse on the web! But what I am most impressed with are her wisdom and intellect. So I had a bright idea. Why not pick her brain on remedies and strategies for coping with depression. She agreed to do the interview and answered my questions via email.

Today's post is part 1 of 4 in the series, Keeping the horribles at bay: an interview with Honeybottom.

First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself.
I've been in the health care industry for over 20 years. I am a Chartered Herbalist and a former Registered Nurse. I have a fluid belief system and have been known to change my mind because of new scientific research, or a profound personal experience.
Growth is essential in all aspects, the only other option on this planet is death; we are moving toward one of them at all times.
I believe we should have the right to govern our own bodies and take responsibility for our health and healing. I also support the right to govern our own gardens: food is our medicine and medicine our food.
Oh, and I love furry animals and all flowers, even stinky ones.

Some people confuse depression with sadness, how do you think depression is different from sadness?
Sadness is an emotional response to an event, action or inaction. Depression is a state. A state that can be induced by:
  • Toxins in the system from food, environment, medication, dental fillings, vaccines.
  • An increase or decrease in hormone secretions.
  • Altered blood and tissue PH , which can be caused by an overly acidic diet, environmental factors and negative brain patterning.
As we are firstly an electrical machine, it seems the brain and neurons are the fastest to affect the system as far as healing or dis-ease is concerned.

In the part 2, Professor Honeybottom will talk about how changes in diet, exercise and sleeping habits can help to relieve depression. So stay tuned.

Sep 12, 2008

noche en blanco

In anticipation for tomorrow's 3rd annual Noche en Blanco Madrid, I'm posting a couple shots I took when Madrid first participated in the European White Nights festival back in 2006. This year's theme is illusion and magic and the events will take place from 9 pm until 7 am under a full moon. La noche en blanco has been defined as the greatest expression of public art that has ever existed in Spain, with massive public participation through 173 activities in over 118 different areas over the course of a single night.

The fountain of Cibeles surrounded by people, not cars for a change.

a ghostly Casa de America housed in Palacio de Linares.

Sep 11, 2008

beautiful flamenco cantaoras

A surprising number of my Spanish students don't like Flamenco and call it a bunch of "wailing" for tourists. So when I do find students with a love-on for it, I always ask them who their favorite Flamenco artists are. A few months ago one of my female students recommended Estrella Morente to me. When I had asked her for her suggestions her list was all male and consisted of the usual suspects, Camaroñ de la Isla, Paco de Lucia, Diego "El Cigala". Realizing this, she quickly added Estrella to the list. Morente is the daughter of a cantaor (male singer) and a bailaora (female dancer) and belongs to a family of Flamenco artists.

Montse Cortés is another famous cantaora. According to ImNin', she is considered one of the best contemporary Flamenco voices around. Born in Barcelona from Andalusian Gypsy family, she began performing in tablaos in her early youth.

Here's a taste:

I'm not a Flamenco nut but sometimes I'm in the mood for this brand of emotional, primal, and guttural wailing and if that makes me a tourist then no pasa nada.


see also:
Cajónes and Zapateado

Sep 10, 2008

spitting ice cubes

At around 1 am this morning the sky over Madrid spat out a violent torrent of ice cubes that shattered car windows and destroyed plants. Terra cotta rooftops sung in a frenzied cacophony of tings and pings. We had to close our metal shutter to prevent hail from crashing into our apartment. When we opened our door to take photos, we were pelted in the head and arms and our floor was quickly covered in white ice pebbles. Some even made it as far as our couch across the room!

what force!
my neighbour's unfortunate garden
the balcony hallway facing the interior courtyard of our corrala.
getting a handful

Sep 9, 2008

meditation slideshow

This slideshow is courtesy of Ten Second Meditation.

I've been practicing those "incantations" I mentioned in work blues using this slideshow. The statements are timed for breathing in 5 seconds then breathing out for 5 seconds when the words slide offscreen.  Say half the sentence while breathing in and the other half while breathing out. For example, with this first incantation, I say, "I am completely.." breathing in.. "stopping.." breathing out. Hopefully this makes sense. I like this meditation a lot. It's a quick way to get centered. All 12 incantations take only 2 minutes. The slideshow is an aid to remembering the incantations and I personally like the beautiful painted vistas to look at. I've been quite down lately so every little thing I can do to keep calm and centered on the present moment really helps.. Try it out and let me know what you think. 

This slideshow has inspired me to create my own using my photos and flute music but I'll need to learn some new software skills to pull it off. Once I've got it figured out, I'll post my own version.

peace out

Sep 8, 2008

Virgen del Cisne procession in Lavapiés

Yesterday, I was at the right place that the right time and got another lucky photo opportunity. We had just entered Plaza Lavapiés on our way back from San Isidro Cemetery (photos to come) when we heard the brass horns and happened upon this procession making its way from San Lorenzo church on Calle de la Fe for a spin around the Plaza.

First came the pious boys and the priest...

Then a multi-ethnic procession of colourful traditional costumes...

Followed by the brass band in black suits...

Then the Lady herself floated by carried on the shoulders of her worshipers. The people holding hands in front of the idol are the vanguards clearing the way for Our Lady of the Swan.

Churona, the Virgen del Cisne (Lady of the Swan) is the patron saint of Ecuador and the object of great devotion in the South American country. This procession carries on a 400 year-old tradition of la Virgen del Cisne that goes back to the arrival of the Spaniards in Ecuador. 

See more on Lavapiés:

Sep 7, 2008

one wall, many types of windows

A wall in Toledo, Spain with an eclectic mix of windows of various sizes. For me, this photo expresses the myriad of perspectives and viewpoints that can exist in one's mind and the clutter that sometimes needs to put outside.

Sep 6, 2008

Golden hour in Retiro Park

Golden oldies

Golden path

Golden summer memories

Retiro is not just the playground for exhibitionists and perverts who like to watch. It's also a vital sanctuary from the masonry and pollution of city life.

Sep 5, 2008

I'm a moody ape

Taken at the Natural History Museum in London.

I relate to the juxtaposition of these two primal faces.

Sep 4, 2008

Madrid's TEFL market

After my last two whiny posts about work blues and the face of fear, I've decided it's time to take my head out of my ass and write something useful about Madrid's TEFL market. One of my American readers asked me for more information so I've decided to write up a post on the topic.

In my experience finding work teaching in Madrid as a non-EU citizen is easy enough, finding a school to sponsor a work visa is unlikely. A great number of teachers work here illegally (without papers). Check out Dave's ESL forums for the many heated debates on this matter - the pros and cons, the risk and rewards. For some the choice to work here illegally is intolerable, for others it is simply the reality and a price worth paying to be here in Spain. There are many North Americans and Australians teaching here... and there's still a lot of work here for EU and non-EU teachers although the industry is at times dodgy and the boom is definitely slowing down.

Madrid is a vibrant city and my Spanish students have been fairly easygoing, lovely people. I teach for two academies. Most of my experience has been at companies teaching adults although I have also taught classes in the academy. An article published in El Pais on Sunday July 27th spoke of a 20% decrease in in-company training for next year. In Madrid, a lot of companies use money for "training" on English classes. This is where the bulk of the work lies. Academies get these contracts and then they look for teachers to fill the positions. Basically, here a teacher rides the metro from one company to another, teaching classes. Sometimes you get blocks of classes, sometimes not. Most teachers teach between 20-25 hours per week which may not sound like much until you factor in the many hours of commuting from company to company and lesson planning - all unpaid.

For those looking to teach English in Madrid, I recommend getting your TEFL Certification here then using the school's contacts to find work. Spain is a 'who you know' type of place. This is the route I took in 2006 and was offered hours from the TEFL training center's sister language academy before I even graduated. Last year, the same academy offered me an in-company 18hour/week block outside of Madrid. This year, due to cutbacks, the company canceled all but the elementary level classes and reduced 18 hours of classes to 6 per week. Even my academy has felt the pinch and consolidated their two office spaces into one to save money. So times are a little tougher for everyone these days.

If you've already got your TESOL, TEFL or CELTA, my advice is to blast out your resume to all the schools then pick, choose and negotiate a suitable schedule and rate. Lingobongo is a good place to start. It'll cost 10 euros for a CV mass blast but it pays for itself. All the academies here want to pay you the least amount possible. None are great. Some are worse than others, obviously. Don't accept less than 15 euros/hr, especially if you have experience and certification. You also need to be here when you apply for jobs. I don't know a single teacher who got their job while still in their native country. It's a bit of a confusing, stressful, mad scramble for hours in September but there's usually enough work to go around. Teachers are still in demand here.

The best time to move to Madrid is September because most companies don't restart English classes properly until October. Once you have work you need to begin saving your money for the many unpaid, canceled classes due to holidays like Christmas, Easter and month-long August vacations. This is not a place to come to make money. It's a place to come for the sun, laid-back people and cheap travel around Europe.

Further reading with great information:
Dave's ESL Spain forums - a goldmine of information and tips from seasoned teachers about the industry.
Teaching English in Spain Links
TEFL teaching in Spain - dispelling myths
About the TEFL sector in Madrid, Spain

Sep 3, 2008

Face of fear

"Our faces of fear". Taken in Granada. I feel a little like this face at the moment so I decided to be dramatic and post this photo.

Sep 2, 2008

work blues

It's September and I need to start making some money. The TEFL market in Madrid is waking up from its summer slumber and I need to be the early bird pecking the ground for worms. It's a cowboy business with little job security or loyalty at the best of times but with the Spanish belt tightening, I'm not sure if this is still a teacher's market. I've got half my schedule filled but the blocks of hours aren't my ideal. Oh well. Can't get too picky at this early stage. This is the third school year I've weathered here in Madrid and you'd think I'd be a seasoned pro with no worries and some sort of job security by now. Nope, it's still a stressful chaos of uncertainty. It's a freelance dice game with no guarantees. For example, the large block of 18 hours per week I had last year has been reduced to a paltry 6 hours. Companies can change their minds last minute so no one can bank on anything. Currently, I've accepted classes from two academies and I'm still in negotiation with one other. And I'm getting some response from the mass blast of my CV I sent out a month ago but they seem to want to pay below average wages so screw 'em. I'm not that desperate yet. Fingers crossed. Hopefully it'll all work out. Chin up and all that. I just wish I didn't get the onset of depression and despair when uncertainty looms large. It's not very helpful.

So no surprise, I awoke with a knotted heavy heart this morning. To dissolve this heaviness I've been looking for more meditation techniques to get tranquila. Today I went back to Eric Maisel's podcasts and tried out his Ten Zen Seconds method, which combines Eastern mindfulness practices and Western cognitive psychology. By combining deep breathing and positive phrases (he calls them incantations) you can get centered. For example, you breathe in for 5 seconds and breathe out for 5 while saying, "I expect nothing" or "I make my meaning." The trick is to say half the sentence breathing in and the other half breathing out and to do it every day. Break old habits with new habits. So this is the latest addition to my 1 hour meditation regiment. I'll let you know how it works out.

If any of you have leads on other types of meditation practices, things you do to stay calm, I'd love to hear from you.

Sep 1, 2008

The street ran red

One of the pleasures of living in big cities is stumbling upon events by accident. On our way home from Retiro Park yesterday, M and I saw signs for The Human Race 10k. Paseo del Prado was closed off to traffic and spectators were beginning to gather so we hung around to see what was up. First a trickle then a torrent of jogging red shirts poured down Calle de Claudio Moyano and spilled into Paseo del Prado. What a spectacle! Thousands of Spaniards running but no bulls in sight! It was quite the advertising coup for Nike! What we witnessed was Madrid's participation in the world’s largest running event. 25 cities around the world and over one million people of all ages ran the 10-kilometre race to celebrate runners and their sport. Wow. I also loved that not everyone wore their Nike red tee but as you can see, most did and the effect was mesmerizing.
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