Thursday, 4 March 2010

Delia Smith, eat your heart out!

Having found myself with an unexpectedly free day, I blitzed next week's lesson plans, wasted some time (as usual) on the net, then thought "OK, what now?"

A quick squint in the kitchen cupboards gave me an idea. When one of my flatmates recently moved out, she left behind half a jar of peanut butter (hope she didn't want it back!) Can't stand the stuff on its own, or on bread, but I hate waste so I (w)racked my brain trying to think of something to do with it. DING! Peanut butter cookies! Google searches told me I probably needed butter and eggs, but I had neither and no money to buy any, so I cobbled together the contents of various vegan versions from the net and set to work. Flour, peanut butter, bicarb, sugar, olive oil, cinnamon and nutmeg were all whipped together in a bowl which may have been a little too small resulting in bits of the mixture regularly flying out of it and across the kitchen. But finally I had something that I looked like cake/biscuit mix.

As there are no baking trays here, nor did I have any greaseproof paper, I had to turn the main tray from the oven upside down and coat it in butter! Thus making them not completely vegan, admittedly.

But nearly an hour later, and with the kitchen fairly coated with flour, there were 16 blobs that vaguely resembled cookies happily baking. And 12 minutes later, there they were. Now I have to resist the temptation to eat them all! I think my student tomorrow morning will be getting a little present!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Tales from my students

I felt like I needed a somewhat more light-hearted post than my last rant, so I thought I'd relate a couple of stories from my morning classes today.

In my first class, we played "2 Truths and a Lie" and it was up to my student to come up with 3 stories about herself and see if I could work out which was the lie. The outcome is irrelevant to this story (though I guessed correctly), but one of her claims was that she used to teach "Fluid Mechanics". Having been taught in my old job always to "trade test", I said "Fine, so give me a brief lesson in Fluid Mechanics." And she did! Not exactly a brief lesson either. All I can say is that in 20 minutes, she made me understand things that several years of maths/physics/chemistry lessons had failed to do! I can now tell you that a particle of water has a specific weight of 1 gram per cm³, oil is the lightest at 0.8g per cm³, and mercury is heaviest at 1.3g per cm³. And that in order to work out the total energy of one particle of water you need the following equation: H = h + v²/2g + P/γ (H = total energy, h = height, v = velocity, P = pressure, γ = specific weight of the relevant liquid). So basically, the higher a drop of water falls from, the more energy it has! This, she explained, is necessary in order to work out how high to build a hydro-electric dam so that when the water hits the turbine at the bottom, it creates enough energy to actually work! Clear now? Good. Cos I'll be testing you later.

The second story is a touch more disturbing. One of my students flew to Tenerife with 10 friends for Carnaval weekend. As I'm sure you all know, THE thing to do at Carnaval (apart from drinking and not sleeping) is to don fancy dress. The group of friends in question had decided that on the 2nd night they would dress as cowgirls. They had jeans, boots, ten-gallon hats, checked shirts and toy guns. All of these were bought in advance. Now you may remember I said they flew to Tenerife. None of them had checked-in luggage so when they hit security, imagine the fuss when their luggage was found to contain around 17 toy guns. The airport police threw them straight into prison  listened to their lovely explanation about the fancy dress party and let them board the aircraft with said guns in their bags! As if this weren't shocking enough, when they returned from Tenerife, they went through airport security with the exact same items and were thrown straight into prison no-one even noticed. Their bags went through the X-ray machines, out the other side and they were on their way! Yes, I know they were toy guns. Yes, I know you can't kill anyone with them, but as the police pointed out (before letting them continue!) if they pulled one out on the plane and started waving it around, who was going to know it was only a toy? One for the national press, if you ask me!

Beyond a joke?

Grrrrrrr!!! AAAArrrgggh. Etc.

I know cancellations are part and parcel of choosing to have mostly private students, but this one pretty much takes the biscuit. Let me explain....

- Last Tuesday, Student A called to cancel that evening's class and also to cancel tonight's class - at 7pm. She said she would let me know by Sunday if that was going to change.
- Nothing heard by Sunday.
- Monday, Students B&C who I teach from 4 til 6 on a Tuesday, ask if there's any chance I can teach them later.
- I say, this week, that's fine as my 7pm class has been cancelled. I move Students B&C to 5 til 7.
- I email Student A on Monday evening out of courtesy to thank her for giving me advance notice of her cancellation, as it has meant that I can accommodate Students B&C's request to have class later.
- Student A emails back to say that she REALLY REALLY needs to reinstate the 7pm class because she has a delegation of people coming for work this weekend and will have to speak English to them, so needs the practice.
- Being the nice person I am (doormat?), I email students B&C and ask if I can move them back to 4 til 6, so I can reinstate 7pm class with Student A.
- They, very kindly, agree.
- Tuesday, 4-6, I am teaching Students B&C. I'm aware that my mobile is frantically vibrating in my bag and finally give in and look at it.
- At 5.45, 75 minutes before class is due to start, Student A has texted/rung to say she's very busy at work and can't have class!

So I basically messed Students B&C around for NOTHING! It's infuriating. It's made worse by the fact that Student A paid me upfront for 20 classes and we're still only on class 15, after nearly 6 months, due to regular cancellations. I didn't have a cancellation policy with her, unfortunately, so the money just keeps rolling over until I've finally managed to give her 20 classes. At the rate I'm going, I'll have retired or moved back to the UK before we've completed! I can't ditch her, and I'm trying to be accommodating so she doesn't ditch me, because if we stop having class, I'll effectively owe her for 5 classes and would have to refund the money which, needless to say, I don't have!

Right, time to breathe and get a large drink, I think.

PS - If you want to leave a comment, please visit and leave the comment on the actual blog. Otherwise, it looks like no-one's reading it, or commenting, which makes me sad. And you wouldn't like me when I'm sad!

Monday, 1 March 2010

I'm seeing stairs!

Yup, stairs, not stars!

Really, I should have the tightest buns and the most toned thighs ever (sadly, most of you know that I don't). And why should this be the case? The Madrid Metro, mainly.

Here's why, using today's excursions as an example:

7.30 - leave flat, go down 8 flights of stairs (4th floor flat, no lift). Walk to Metro.
7.40 - Enter Valdeacederas Metro: descend 4 flights of stairs
8.00 - Exit Rios Rosas Metro: ascend 4 flights of stairs
9.30 - Enter Nuevos Ministerios Metro: descend 3 flights of stairs (and 3 escalators)
09.50 - Exit Sainz de Baranda Metro: ascend 5 long escalators, but walking cos I was late, then 2 flights of stairs to street.
12.10 - Enter Sainz de Baranda Metro: descend 2 flights of stairs
12.20 - Change at Manuel Becerra - 2 flights of stairs
12.30 - Change at Ventas - 2 flights of stairs and a long walk
12.40 - Exit Pueblo Nuevo Metro: 4 flights of stairs
12.45 - 10 minute fast walk to academy to get paid (that's why I was walking fast!)
13.00 - 10 minute walk to Pueblo Nuevo Metro
13.10 - Enter Metro : descend 4 flights of stairs
13.20 - Change at Diego de Leon - long walk and 2 flights of stairs
13.30 - Change at Cuatro Caminos - 1 escalator (ok, I stood on this one!)
13.40 - Exit Valdeacederas - ascend 4 flights of stairs
13.50 - Get home - ascend 8 flights of stairs
18.50 - Leave flat : descend 8 flights of stairs, then 10 minute walk
19.00 - Arrive at student's flat : ascend 6 flights (has lift, never uses it)
20.00 - Leave student : descend 6 flights then 10 minute walk
20.10 - Arrive home: ascend 8 flights.

Tired yet? Cos I bloody well am!