Tag Archives: Alzira

Spanish Sundays – Easter week or Semana Santa

Semana Santa is the Spanish name for ‘Easter week’ or ‘Holy week’. During the 16th century the catholic church wanted to tell the story of Easter in a way the average man could access. They chose to do it using street processions depicting scenes from the death and resurrection of Jesus. That tradition lives on now in colourful street pageants throughout the week.

Semana Santa Alzira

Easter parade in Alzira, Spain

Despite appearances, the Easter parades are well structured and and each element carries its own symbolic relevance.

Drums being played in an Easter parade in Alzira, Spain

Drums being played in an Easter parade in Alzira, Spain

Each segment of the procession in Alzira is represented by a different brotherhood, each bearing their own standard.
Most include a band playing sombre music, sometimes only a single drum beat. The strange looking hats are representative of mourning.

A standard is carried to indicate the brotherhood responsible for the coming part of the procession

A standard is carried to indicate the brotherhood responsible for the coming part of the procession

The heart of the procession is the ‘imagen’, a carried biblical scene depicting a section of the Easter story.

An imagen is carried through the streets of Alzira, Spain

An imagen is carried through the streets of Alzira, Spain

Spanish Sundays is a regular feature of this website and provides a window into life in Spain. To view more articles like this use our on-site search feature and type “Spanish Sundays”. If you live in Spain and would like to contribute please send your article, accompanied by images, to submissions@ukteacherinspain.com


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Spanish Sundays – An invitation

Spanish Sundays is a popular weekly post looking at aspects of living in Spain and this week the invitation is open to anybody living in Spain to make submissions. In an effort to broaden the article to cover more of the peninsula anybody is invited to contribute.

Spanish Sundays posts are from 400-800 words and can include up to four images. If you want to share your experience of living in Spain send you article to:
submissions@ukteacherinspain.com
If you wish you can also send a short biography and a photo of yourself to be included with the article.

For now then, a look back over some of our recent Spanish Sundays articles.

Spanish Sundays – Fallas
Fallas is the regional fiesta for the Valencian autonomous region of Spain. With events running from the start of March until the 19th March it is allegedly the second biggest fiesta in the world after the Rio carnival.

Spanish Sundays – Fuengirola and Malaga
Fuengirola is on the Costa del Sol and is located in Andalucia. The sunrise over the sea is spectacular and a feature of this area of the Spanish coastline.

Spanish Sundays – A photo tour of Alzira
Alzira is located around 40km to the South of Valencia and 20km from the coast. Enjoying the coastal climate of the Mediterranean it doesn’t have the high and low temperature fluctuations of central Spain.

Spanish Sundays – Denia
Denia is a coastal town in the north of Costa Blanca. About midway between Benidorm and Valencia, Denia has a large marina and regular ferry services to Mallorca and Ibiza.


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Spanish Sundays – Fallas

Spanish Sundays is my regular weekly post that steps out of teaching and provides a window into Spain. This week, Fallas.

Fallas is the regional fiesta for the Valencian autonomous region of Spain. With events running from the start of March until the 19th March it is allegedly the second biggest fiesta in the world after the Rio carnival.

Fallas is about colour, ultimately about fire and consistently about noise. The noise of Fallas is something that cannot be described. From early morning fireworks to wake the city the noise never stops. Perhaps the most spectacular noise of them all is the mascleta. The video below is of the mascleta in Alzira at 2pm on Sunday March 15th, 2015.

No video can possibly do justice to the noise of a mascleta. (If you need to hop straight into the action fast forward to 4.30 and see the ground shaking finale.) An explosion of fireworks set off at 2pm each day the mascleta shakes the ground and the force of the explosions blows back on the crowd as the smoke fills the sky and blocks out the sun.

Smoke from a mascleta in Alzira, 2015

The smoke from a mascleta blocking the sun

But Fallas is more than just noise. In the final week before March 19th towns fill with the most intricate and brightly coloured models.

Fallas model in Alzira 2015

Fallas, Alzira 2015

Standing several stories high these models dominate the streets of every town. They reflect a full year of work in design and construction and sometimes have a satirical message. They exist just for a moment and then on the evening of March 19th, an evening known as the ‘crema’, they are burnt in an elaborate firework spectacle that last through the night with the final models disappearing in flames in the early hours of the morning.

You can see pictures of Fallas and watch videos but nothing on screen will do justice to the largest fiesta in Spain.

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Spanish Sundays – A photo tour of Alzira

Alzira is located around 40km to the South of Valencia and 20km from the coast. Enjoying the coastal climate of the Mediterranean it doesn’t have the high and low temperature fluctuations of central Spain.

For this week’s Spanish Sunday blog post I am taking a photo tour of the town of Alzira.

Church dominating the skyline of Alzira

Mare de Déu del Lluch

The first sight on approaching Alzira is the church that looks down on the town from a hillside to the south. Mare de Déu del Lluch has views to Valencia in the north and across the Ribera Alta countryside towards Xativa to the south.

Rio Júcar, river in Alzira

The Rio Júcar flowing on the inland side of Alzira

Alzira is built on the banks of the Rio Júcar. With fertile orange groves all around the town and stretching towards the coast, the marsh lands growing rice for paella, much of the industry around Alzira is based on farming.

A steam train preserved on the northern edge of Alzira

Preserved steam train in Alzira

Alzira is on the main train line connecting Alicante and Valencia. Services into Valencia are frequent and well priced. During the day the service runs on the hour and delivers passengers to the centre of Valencia for around 7€.

Arabic walls from the time Alzira was a moorish settlement

Ancient Arabic walls

The inland edge of the town still retains the ancient Arabic walls. Remembering a time before James I liberated the town from the Arabs, these walls are just one of many Arabic influences in the design and architecture of the town.

The plaza Mayor in Alzira, the centre of the town

The Plaza Mayor in Alzira

The Plaza Mayor, or main square, in Alzira is fringed with orange trees. Bars and restaurants serve a variety of food and drink and the plaza is always busy, even through the winter months.

The town hall or ayuntamientio in the old town of Alzira

Alzira ayunamiento (town hall)

The old town of Alzira is a maze of narrow cobbled streets. Amongst the bars and churches is a central square that is home to the ayuntamiento (town hall).

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In the land of the blind…

In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. Welcome to Spain, a land where a failure to enforce regulation encourages any cowboy to step forward as an expert.

I moved into my current house here in Alzira last summer. Just on the edge of the town and in a pleasant urbanisation, many aspects of being here are fantastic. With a south facing aspect and sun on the terrace all winter there’s plenty for which we can be grateful. Today however has uncovered once again the scourge of Spanish society – the cowboy workman. With seemingly nobody enforcing regulations, pretty much any tradesman, despite the sign writing on his van, could well be a complete and utter cowboy.

My first experience of this was soon after arriving here in Spain. The gas boiler I had at the time wasn’t working, so without hot water or heating, I called the landlord. José, my genial landlord turned up about a week later to take a look. He spent twenty minutes running water from each of the taps in the house and checking the pilot light before declaring that it was clearly not working and he would need to call an expert. Now, I imagined a boiler suit wearing official with a badge to denote his professional affiliations, so was a little taken aback when a gentleman in his mid seventies turned up with a black tar cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. After establishing the fact that this chap with his thickset, yellow, nicotine stained beard was in fact the expert, I led him through to the boiler and watched him perform his magic. In this case, with the lit cigarette still burning from the corner of his mouth, he lifted the front of the boiler and gave the gaze of what he clearly considered to be an expert analysis. With the cigarette waving dangerously from the corner of his mouth he tapped on any exposed pipes. With nothing happening he turned to me and asked if I had a spanner. When I was unable to oblige he changed his request to a screwdriver. Having provided him with the tools of his trade he then proceeded to bang ferociously on any pipe using the aforementioned tool. When the boiler still failed to light he shrugged and announced, with the pride normally associated with a job well done, that I would need an expert.

Which brings me to today’s events. Today’s clowning around started at around 9am when two guys turned up to install a new immersion heater. I had suggested to the landlady that a gas boiler may be a more sensible option when I complained that the 40 litre immersion was insufficient to service a family home. Today saw the installation of a new 70 litre immersion. The two tradesmen turned up at 9am and after a little poking around at the old system decided they needed ‘materials’. Now, to anybody living in Spain, a workman short of materials in the morning is an accepted code for “we’re going to a bar for breakfast and may be back before lunch”. The nearest DIY store is about two minutes away. Clearly these were large materials as they both left and took the van. Two hours later they returned looking well breakfasted and carrying the two bolts that had been missing at 9am.

The ensuing drilling, draining and general procrastination took until 3pm. Two men worked for six hours a piece, on paper at least, in order to install one immersion heater. (Let’s not discount the breakfast time as I’m sure they won’t when they submit their bill!)

There’s a lot to love about small town Spain but the lack of regulated and professional tradesmen is not on the list. At some point I imagine the regulations will come and customer expectation may even be the driving force for change. Until then, we will have to continue to enjoy the theatre of ‘have a go’ workmen trying in vain to fix the nation’s electrical and gas appliances.

In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king!

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Teaching posts and all the info. you need about teaching abroad

Teaching posts in Spain and the links that give you the information you need, all in one place.
If you have any other questions about living or teaching in Spain then please do post them in the comments box and I will reply.

Primary teaching post
Secondary English (plus humanities) post
Secondary Maths (plus science) post

As of 10th March 2015 the teaching posts above are now filled. If you are interested in applying for a teaching position in Spain please send your Curriculum Vitae together with a covering letter to: recruitment@ukteacherinspain.com

5 things NQTs should know about working abroad

5 things to know about renting in Spain

5 tips for your interview with an international school

Relocating to Spain with a family – a guide

Teaching in a British School in Spain – a FAQ

A comparison between teaching in Spain and teaching in the UK

Applying to teach in Spain – which school should you choose?

5 things I never worried about when I taught in England

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5 things I never worried about when I taught in England

1: Wildlife
This winter we are told has been a perfect breeding ground for the processional caterpillar. With toxic hairs that easily take to the wind it is one of the most poisonous creatures locally. We go from caterpillar season into the summer when funnel web spiders and a variety of non-lethal but evil looking scorpions provide a playground distraction to any child armed with a stick.

Caterpillars

Processional caterpillars

2: What’s for lunch?
Food is such an important part of Spanish culture and parents expect their children to eat all of their lunch. Lentils as a starter and fish as a main course provides a midday motivational challenge for any duty teacher. School dinners in the UK always felt like something functional, a midday fuel up to carry us through the afternoon. I’d be misleading if I suggested every day was equal. However, a day that starts with a chicken caesar salad, has a traditional Spanish rice dish such as “arroz al horno” for a main course and finishes with fresh oranges makes school dinner feel less like fuel and more like a dining experience.

Traditional Spanish rice dish

Arroz al horno – a rice dish made with pork ribs and blood sausage

3: Wind
A windy day in England meant that the children were a little more bubbly than usual. Teachers walked around with long faces muttering glib asides about animals and children “having the wind up them”.
The tiniest bit of wind in Spain puts us on tree watch. Mediterranean pines are notoriously fragile. Dry and top heavy, the slightest breeze can cause weighty branches to topple. In fact, there is a general preoccupation with weather. Rain, wind, cold and sun all bring their own concerns.

4: Food consumption
Spanish culture provides for five meals each day. A light breakfast in the morning, a mid-morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack and a dinner are considered essential pit stops in the working day. Ensuring all the children have been provided in the main meal of the day but also in the two snacks that take place in the school day is one of the most important responsibilities of the day.

5: Buses!
Each morning 15 coaches arrive at school. Each carries up to 58 children, many of whom will be clutching notes instructing which bus route they will be taking home. Maybe they are going to a grandparents house after school, or a family house in the mountains or by the beach. Other bus changes will be telephoned in to school during the day. The task of getting over 800 children on to the right transport is a complex nightmare that somehow seems to pull perfectly together in the last few minutes of every day.

And aside from all of the above we still manage to spend focusing on teaching and learning and making sure that each of the children gets a great deal from attending our school.

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5 things to know about renting in Spain

One of the primary concerns people have when relocating is understanding how property rentals work. This article gives a flavour of what to expect in Spain together with some examples of properties available in the town of Alzira in the Valencia region of Spain.

For rent sign - Se Alquila

1: Furnished or unfurnished
Property in Spain is usually let as furnished. This is a contrast to the UK where many landlords will prefer to rent unfurnished. The side not to this is that many landlords will take out any furniture that is of good quality and replace with cheaper alternatives. If the furniture is not up to standard the tenant should be prepared to complain.

2: Length of rental contracts in Spain
Rental contracts in Spain will typically be eleven months long. The length of the contract though is relatively unimportant. If the tenant is paying the rent on time and in full and has not caused any problems at the property then the tenants have rights to remain in place and expect the landlord to issue further contracts.

3: Deposit and agency fees
The landlord has the right to charge a deposit to cover for damages. This would typically be one month rent for unfurnished property but landlords may ask for up to two month’s rent as the deposit if the property is furnished. Be aware that deposits are not protected in Spain. The landlord holds the deposit. For this reason it is always worth trying to insist on a one month deposit if possible. The landlord holding the deposit is a system that really fails to work in the favour of the tenant and expect a debate when you finally leave the property. Unofficially (and this will normally be written into a contract as unacceptable) a standard practice amongst tenants in Spain is to hold back the final month’s rent when leaving so the deposit is physically on the table and can be discussed and agreed between landlord and tenant. In addition to landlord fees, if you are renting through an agent the normal practice would be for the tenant to pay the agency fee. Again, this will usually be equivalent to one month’s rent. It is acceptable to negotiate this with the landlord and with the situation as it is now with many properties vacant some landlords may agree to share this fee or the agent themselves may be prepared to offer a reduction.

4: Other monthly expenses in addition to the rental
When taking out a rental contract in Spain check the details of what is included. The property tax, a community fee if it is a property on an urbanisation, water and other utilities are all potential additional expenses. Unlike in the UK, the landlord would normally pay the property tax. You may well get the landlord to agree to include the community fee too. Utilities including water, gas, electricity and telephone would normally be the liability of the tenant.

5: Buyer beware
It is far easier to get something dealt with before you move into the property. Check the appliances, the lights and the hot water are all functioning. It is a buyers market and landlords will be keen to get tenants into properties so do be specific. If you think a piece of furniture or an appliance needs replacing then say so.

Finally, let’s take a look at three sample properties available at the time of writing in the town of Alzira.

Property 1 – 550€ per month:

Four bedrrom detached propertyThis first property is a large detached property on the edge of town. It has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a private swimming pool.

Property 2 – 500€ per month:

4 bedroom property with community pool

The second property is a modern house on an urbanisation on the edge of the town. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms and shares a community pool with other neighbouring properties.

Property 3 – 350€ per month:

4 bedroom 2 bathroom flat

The final property is an example of a flat in the town centre. It has large terraces. It has four bedrooms and two bathrooms but he lack of a swimming pool or other communal spaces helps to keep the price down.

Live and work in Spain: The most accurate, practical and comprehensive guide to living in Spain
by Heleina Postings

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Endings and beginnings

In the last few weeks I have had opportunities to reflect on endings and beginnings. One week before the end of the school term we moved house. In amongst all the activities of a school term ending it has made for a busy few weeks.
The house moving preparations began about a month before we actually moved house. There were two clear strategies in place. I was applying a pure energy to moving everything from one house to the other. With two weeks overlap where we had keys to the new property and were invited to move what we wanted prior to the official moving day, time around my working hours was filled with physically moving as much as possible to facilitate the final move. This was my strategy. It involved getting up at five thirty most mornings and taking a car load of hastily filled boxes from the old house to the new house. I succeeded in moving at least two car loads each day, one before work and one after work. My wife meanwhile was applying her own strategy to the moving preparations. It began in her own wardrobe with each item of clothing being reviewed, tried on if necessary and then a decision made as to whether it was to be packed, or put into a black bin bag and thrown away.
Both strategies for a new beginning in a new house are valid but arguably the strategy employed by my wife is more deserved of the ‘new beginning’ title.
And so we come to the end of the term. The last task for me was to deliver the whole school assembly to our primary pupils. The school has just received the data relating to the pupils completing their final year and again is sitting considerably above the best of the rest in the region. I started the assembly by inviting three final year A’ Level students to explain their own aspirations and then provided the link between hard work and the options that are available to us in our lives.
The assembly went well with input from our Year 6 pupils moving to secondary and time to say goodbye to the departing deputy head. As is customary we talked about ‘moving on’ and ‘new beginnings’.
Next week we have two non-pupil days to wrap up the term. In talking about ‘new beginnings’ in respect to a new school year I think we have the same two strategies available to us as we did when I moved house a week ago. We could blindly pack up all we have been working on this year and unwrap it all to start afresh in September. However, as with moving house, I’m not certain that would give us the energy that comes with a ‘new beginning’.
The other option is that favoured by my wife when moving house. To review each item before carrying over. I think my house move has taught me that the second option is more refreshing in creating that ‘new beginning’ and therefore at the start of next week I am going to invite an open feedback on what should be in the boxes that we pack for September. Which of our whole school strategies and systems have been effective and which do we need to review or discard before we move into the new academic year. With the School Development Plan reviewed in January this should provide an opportunity to check that we are moving in the right direction and that our plans are having the intended impact on teaching and learning. Hopefully, September will bring a new academic year that provides a genuine fresh start. Strategies that are effective in enhancing teaching and learning will be strengthened and those that are not having the desired impact will be left behind in the move.

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Myself a learner

Myself – a learner

The sun already felt hot this morning as I drove to work. The oranges are ripening on the trees and the harvest is imminent.The air has been superbly clear for the last few days and the views extended for tens of miles. Wind farms and centuries old castle ruins littered the peeks of distant mountains, the ancient and the modern taking the most prominent positions side by side. The drive from The village of La Barraca to Xativa takes about half an hour. Even if leaving home has felt a rush the drive itself is quite calming. A single carriage road winds through the orange groves and from ten minutes outside of the town, Xativa castle can be seen looking down on the town. A rural area with dominant industries mainly based on the land, Xativa is a historical town with the claim to fame of being the first town in Europe to manufacture paper.

Today, school contained all of the usual management issues that make the day feel full: an 8.00am call from a teacher who was too ill to come to work, a concern about upcoming observations, issues with the school Internet and Intranet and two different staff meetings to prepare and deliver.

The highlight of my day though was to spend the afternoon in class with pupils from Year 5 and Year 6. In partnership with the school psychology team I am planning and delivering a course of lessons called by the school ‘Study Skills’, although I personally prefer the title ‘Learning to learn’. Apart from being more a more accurate description of what takes place ‘Learning to learn’ can be abbreviated to ‘L2L’ which seems to carry a certain SMS style kudos with the pupils.

We have just completed a series of lessons exploring our own barriers to learning and how we can manage these effectively to ensure that learning can take place. The pupils were incredibly astute in recognising their own barriers to learning. They have now developed a range of strategies to overcome these barriers with the emphasis on maintaining a positive and happy approach to learning. Today we were introducing the next unit of this work ‘Myself – a learner’. The children will be exploring themselves as learners which will give an opportunity to think about how we learn and to develop an awareness of different learning styles.

We began with the following fascinator:
“If your best friend scratched your father’s new car with his bike what would you do?
Pretend you knew nothing about it? Tell your father it was you? Tell your father what your friend had done? Something else?”
That provided a five minute energy filled discussion!
(Thanks to John Turnerfor introducing ‘fascinators’ as a way of hooking children in at the start of a lesson.)

We then used the BASIS questionnaire resource from Alistair Smith and Nicola Call’s ‘The alps approach – accelerated learning in primary schools.’ (ISBN: 9781855390560).
To those not familiar with the alps resources, BASIS is an acronym for:
Belonging
Aspirations
Safety
Individuality
Success

These aspects of a child’s self-concept are important if they are to be willing to learn. As a teacher it is an opportunity not so much to diagnose issues but more to create a conversation about the class and school environment.

As we were working helicopters and planes were fighting a fire that had developed on a nearby mountain side. We could see the flames and smoke through the classroom window and watch the planes dropping their water. Ringing in my ears were the words of Hywel Roberts from our recent training event. In demonstrating how as teachers we can sometimes squash the energy that pupils bring to school he gave the example of an elephant walking past the classroom. Clearly there have been times when at such a point we have been guilty of demanding the children’s attention with lines such as “Look at me! Haven’t you seen an elephant before. You’re not going to learn anything by watching the elephant!” I decided to resist the temptation to fight for attention with the mountain fire and instead we all took a couple of minutes out to watch and discuss what was going on. In a classroom where pupils have English as a second or third language it is incredible how much great language and vocabulary development can take place discussing an exciting event that wouldn’t normally be a part of our classroom curriculum.

Myself today, I learned something about Guy Fawkes. Caught totally unawares by questions that a teacher had hoped to answer using the currently non-functioning school Internet, a colleague instead went online using her mobile telephone to find the answers. I had always thought, I’m sure from some mis-guidance in a classroom when younger, although it is possible I just wasn’t listening, that Guy Fawkes (aka Guido Fawkes) was a Spanish catholic intent upon destroying the protestant British parliament. It turns out though that he was a home grown terrorist, born in York and that his name ‘Guido’ was only given to him when he opted to fight with the Spanish catholics. My own learning style today was to listen to a colleague reading from Wikipedia. I think probably “Let’s Wiki it!” is my current dominant learning style.

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