¡Hola! España

We have arrived in Madrid – to flamenco, hot chocolate and churros, and the delicious freedom that comes with free, (hopefully…) unlimited wifi.

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Out the AirBnb window

We’re AirBnB-ing it near the Estación de Atocha (Madrid’s largest railway station). We were met by Ricardo, who is from Portugal. He has left his 2 children in Portugal because he had concerns they wouldn’t adapt or pick up the language (?!), so he was interested to know how Matilda has moved through life in Australia, China and now Spain. She moans constantly and her dream is to live in one big house surrounded by all her family, and she constantly makes me wonder if I am a cruel parent for dragging her round the world all these years.

Saying that, although she is all in a muddle after 2 months in Oz with family, I think the years are paying off now she is older. She turned 11 right before we flew, and this is the first overseas travel we’ve done where she has jumped straight back into it, and we’ve had none of the drama and tantrums (me) that have sometimes plagued our past travels.

I booked Madrid for a week as initially we thought we’d have paperwork that would be done more easily in the capital. That plan changed, but now we have a chance to explore before we transition to our new life as unemployed folks who cannot afford to travel!

I’ve been hit by terrible jetlag so our first few days have been slow, and yesterday (Monday) was bureaucratic – SIM card etc. We have discovered not much (business-wise) is open on the weekend in Spain. Also, similar to Asia, things don’t open until mid-morning (gah). Can’t say much about the evenings yet as I keep falling asleep at 5:30.

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Metro trumpet player

Getting around: we got a Madrid Metro Tourist Card on the first day. I am not sure we will end up taking enough travel to justify the €40,20 (1A/1C), mostly as the main line from our apartment to the city is closed for maintenance. We met a friendly local girl while we were trying to buy the ticket which made it all worth it. She is teaching English, has worked in Costa del Sol and was able to give me some advice. It made our first day a little bit special. On the 2nd day a random guy played the trumpet in the carriage for our entire trip. So the Metro has made our “good beginning” in Spain.

I think I’m going to cave and also pay €31 to do the Madrid Tourist Bus. These are good for getting a feel for a place, and the city does feel like it is kinda sprawling. I also want to get Matilda excited about the history, and it’ll sound better coming through headphones than from me!

SIM card: Spain’s prepaid mobile plans are even more rubbish than Australia. I really thought Telstra had the monopoly on “world’s worst Telco”, but there you go. €15 for 28 days with 1.5 paltry GB, 50 mins talk and NO SMS with Vodafone. Other options are apparently Orange and Movistar.

So, it’s been less museums and history and more bureaucracy and falling asleep on the couch at 5:30pm so far!

Viva la adventure lol.

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Roadschooling

We’ve come back to Bundaberg for a week with Nanna, and this is a chance to get stuck into our roadschooling adventure. The enormous challenge at the moment is the absence of wifi. Mum doesn’t have it, and Telstra being the monopolied rip-off merchants they are don’t offer a prepaid service that meets our needs. They also have very interesting methods of calculating data use. How the heck they think I used up 6GB in 1 week checking email, social media and using Google Maps, The End, is beyond me?

Anyway, we’ve made use of the Bundaberg Library, which is a lovely space (today they randomly had a highschool brass band playing) and I’ve finally been able to subscribe to Mathletics. On the road I have also purchased a bunch of workbooks which, given the state of flux we are in puts my mind at rest for the time being. My biggest challenge at the moment is finding a free online curriculum organiser that will help me keep track of things.

Our rough curriculum at the moment is focussed on getting into a routine.

Maths

I’m being very boring with an hour of Maths each day, starting with revision: New Wave Mental Maths (who have helped us uncover some main problem issues), followed by a unit in Nelson Maths. Now we have Mathletics we might focus on that as I think she’ll be more motivated there. I’m still stuck in teacher-mode, worrying about which grade she should be doing, but trying all the time to shift my thinking to the level where she is being challenged, but not being completely overwhelmed.

Language

An hour if we can, letting Matilda choose the language: English, Spanish, Chinese. I added about half an hour of grammar to this today with a Grammar Rules workbook I picked up in the local newsagents (much to her disgust). Once we get to Spain she will focus on Spanish and I will need to keep an eye on English. Chinese is a little more problematic. I think we are going to have to rely on a serendipitous encounter for this.

Units of Inquiry

We’re not doing so well on this as we haven’t had time. We’re focussing on Australia, makes sense as we are here, but although she is discovering a lot of new things (museums, art galleries, rainforest walks), we have not had time to follow it up. She has collected about 3000 brochures and the plan is to put them together into a sort of journal/record of the trip, but this is a bit low on Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Science, Society & Environment, Geography etc

This is a bit annoying as I have to do more work before she can. I’ve decided to check out the ACARA (Australian Curriculum) and Scottish curriculum topics and see what she should cover as these are the most likely curriculums she will end up in for Secondary. I want to try to incorporate these into the UOI as much as possible.

Music

Gah, don’t even speak to me. Only plus is that she is missing it and keen to start learning again when we get to Spain.

All in all, it feels like it’s more work for 1 student than for a class HAHAHA

Español

Ms10 and I have been learning Spanish in preparation for our move to Spain. We are using the Duolingo app, which is fantastic, and we are posting 10 words a week to our vocab wall. So far, SO much easier than Chinese!

Our Spanish vocab wall
Our Spanish vocab wall

Sewing

My grandmother was a sewer. Inevitable with 6 children, the eldest born during the Great Depression. My mum was the baby, and often tells how every stitch of clothing she owned until she got her first job at 16 (including her underwear!) was made by Nanny. One of my aunts became a professional seamstress, and my mum always had a sewing machine set up in our house.

One of Dad’s birthday or Christmas gifts for Mum was a proper sewing desk/cupboard contraption that he picked up at a clearing sale. Mum made my sister and I a lot of outfits, usually in coordinated fabric. One of my favourite outfits was a retro circle skirt. She made it from her old honeymoon dresses. She sewed us coordinated bike shorts outfits in the early 90s, and I think the last thing she made me was a blue pinafore dress. I wore it to our Year 7 disco and copped such horrendous teasing I never wore it again. I’m trying to remember the last time she sewed us something, and I’m thinking it was probably as I entered high school, and my sister and I started complaining that she was making us look daggy and embarrassing.

Mum used the sewing machine as an office after that, typing up church flyers and newsletters. I spent most of 1995 in Mum’s sewing room, making costumes for a Christmas play. I made outfits for my baby cousins. The effort this required my aunts (from the other side of the family) never fully understood or appreciated. I think this was my final sewing project. After that I started senior high school, we got a computer and the room became my assignment room.

I don’t know where any of the clothes she made are now. Probably handed down to the cousins, and subsequently discarded. Shame.

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Planning for Europe

Only 11 week to go in China. Ms10 is sick today, so I have spent the morning researching Europe.

We’ll most likely be based in Germany, but I don’t want to commit to study, work or school until we are “on the ground”. To keep things flexible, I intend to “roadschool” Ms 10. We’ve started planning already – we’ll subscribe to Mathletics, continue to use the Chinese language site she uses at her current school, attend German summer camp…the only hard part (for me) is planning a series of integrated research projects that cover as much ground as possible so she’s not behind heading into middle/secondary school, but are also relevant to our travels. Through these projects I plan to teach writing genres, research skills and ICT.

I worked as PYP Librarian at a school in Darwin a few years ago, and after 2 years working in a school using the National Curriculum for England & Wales, I have developed a MASSIVE appreciation for the International Baccalaureate. I’m going to use the chronological history of Europe to give us a direction, but borrow from the IB PYP “Transdisciplinary Themes” (2nd wheel in from the outside of image below) to develop the 4 – 6 consistent elements we will investigate at each step of the timeline.

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IB Primary Years Programme

I also plan to use their “Transdisciplinary Skills” (now called “Approaches to Learning“) that cover Thinking, Communication, Social, Self-management and Research skills. I feel strong connection with their 5 essential elements that detail what students will learn – a balance between:

  • Knowledge
  • Concepts
  • Skills
  • Attitudes
  • Action

The one thing that I can’t get excited about is the IB learner profile. It’s cheesy, and boring. I work in a school that is pursuing IB DP accreditation, and this part of the IB seems so forced.

I’m not sure how detailed I will get with the planning. I want to escape the miseries of teaching, not do them for fun! There is a great planner online at Footscray School in Victoria that links all the elements of the PYP together in one document. I think I’ll need something organised to keep tabs on what she covers, but to be honest my preference is for her digital “space” (blog, website, tumblr) to reflect that.

You can find out more about the PYP here.

 

Skippy & Blinky come to visit #blogjune 6

A small import section has popped up near the entrance of one of our local supermarkets. They seem to have a fetish for Australiana – Aussie beef, Goldeb Circle juice, Margaret River shiraz…and now Skippy & Blinky have popped in to say hi.

Today is Queensland Day an my sister’s birthday. My birthday is on Australia Day. Coincidence? Perhaps. My parents were very patriotic and into their Aussie folk scene aka country music… I spent my first few birthdays in Tamworth at the country music festival. I saw Dolly Parton once, and met Slim Dusty, John Williamson and Macca from Australia All Over.

You can tell you’ve been away from home for a while when the cheesiest cultural iconography from home brings a lump to your throat. My hometown recently hosted the Clydesdale spectacular amd Highland Games – in a fashion most Highlanders would find nauseating.

It’s funny which elements of ‘home’ we miss the most. A lot of it for me centres weirdly on smells and food. I miss the Gold Coast, which is bizarre as although I was born there it isn’t really ‘home’.

I miss sausage rolls and fish and chips, which I rarely eat. I miss great coffee, which I used to take for granted. I miss clean air, which is a cliche, but I’m a country kid who feels claustro in Brisbane, so China’s smog is a nightmare.

I miss running into people I know, and newspapers. I miss walking into town to buy a latte and newspaper on Saturday morning. I miss BBQs. I miss driving. I miss long country roads.

I miss my nieces and nephews

I am feeling very weirded out by how I am suddenly developing all these feels for Australia this time abroad. Normally Scotland steals all my affection, but I’ve noticed a wane. I think it’s the combination of having a daughter who is old enough to pine for the country she considera home (Australia) and the big blows we’ve been dealt by UK immigration in the past 12 months.

We are booking plane tickets for our summer hols this weekend. We had planned to go to Scotland, but I think we are going to go to Oz.

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Wheels

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We have bicycles at last. Lame call by me as we should have bought back in August when we arrived, but I was put off by older staff who told me it was illegal for M to ride here and any accident involving her would be my liability. This was devastating, as probably the sole decent thing about our previous stay in China was the cheap price for cool, retro bicycles, and the thrill of being free to explore.

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Anyway, we have them now! And their matching (by chance), which my daughter still thinks is cool (yuss!). It cost about 850rmb for the two, and it was worth every penny to have some other poor mug have to assemble them. That’s a job born in hell.

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We rode right round the harbour. Shame about the air quality, but the gardens amd architecture were amazing. Disappointingly the gorgeous (enormous) buildings every 100m or so were amenities blocks and not food. Luckily I’d packed Blytonesque snacks, so we had a picnic feast of biscuits, nuts and a chocolate bar on (probably peed on) grass.

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Good morning, Vietnam

We wanted to go home (Australia) for Christmas. I knew the wee one would want it, and I needed to stock up on supplies of things I haven’t found in China. Our original plan was to surprise family in Scotland, but both plans foundered on the rocky reef of flight costs: over $4000 for both of us return, and only a 2 week break.

So on impulse I got us tickets to Vietnam instead. A few other staff are going, and as it’s cheap it means Ms 9’s dad (whose funds are rapidly depleting) an come with us.

Haven’t researched anything, just heading there rather blindly and hoping for the best!

The unbearable sweetness of bread

We are officially in our 5th month in China. Last time we lived here (in 2009-2010) we stayed only 4 months due to some alarming issues with the school. So this is a milestone! I know a few more words of Mandarin, and I am surviving without normal bread and department stores.

I still haven’t figured out how people survive the 2 years (standard teaching contract), or how people stay 5 years or more. I like many things about China, but I can’t imagine closing the door on fresh air, wide open spaces, good coffee and decent bread for that long.

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Time has actually flown by here, and I’ve tried to figure it out. Firstly, I am full time in the library. There’s no ‘covering classes’ or filling in for teachers who don’t arrive. The staff at my previous school were all a lot older, and there was a gang of them who knew each other from home. Staff here are nearer my age, and many are single, which makes a huge difference.

Ms M is has a smaller class and has made friends who have already hosted her for sleepovers and birthday parties. This means I am meeting more parents away from school. I am also older and have been out of teaching for a while, so I have finally lost the mad idea that I cannot socialize with parents. There are so few expats in this city you can’t afford to draw those sorts of lines.

The other plus is having someone from ‘home’ visit us. My family are hopeless at this. None of them have ever lived away, so they simply have no idea how significant a visit can be. For a couple months we’ve had Ms M’s dad, and while the apartment has been cramped, we’ve had a third sidekick for our adventures in Chinese food and shopping.