On Saturday Catlin Gabel’s Science Bowl team won 2nd place in the BPA Regional Science Bowl. Our team of Yale Fan (captain, senior), Brynmor Chapman (senior), Benjamin Streb (senior), Vighnesh Shiv (junior), and Terrance Sun (freshman) lost a closely fought final to the winner, Sunset High School, which will go on to the National Science Bowl. The Catlin Gabel team beat out 59 other teams from all over Oregon and Washington and pushed Sunset to three games before conceding. In addition, Yale Fan was one of seven students (out of more than 250) to be honored as an "All Star" for answering the most questions during the first four rounds of the contest. Congratulations to the team from Sunset, and congratulations to all our team members for excellent game play and grace under pressure!
Winter Overnight in a Fire Lookout, January, 2010
Arguably too much fun. Dufur. "Power Sledding." Off trail. The Lookout. Group photo. Dumbwaiter. Adventure. Our version of "Power Sledding." Jumping over trees. Or almost. Chopping wood. Fear. Bananachocolatemess. Snowball ambush. "Just Married."
We left Catlin Gabel at 8:30 am. Our original plan to ski in and out was foiled by almost complete lack of snow. We cancelled our rental skis and just walked in our boots. A couple of eager students examined the map (with a questionable degree of success) and decide how we would get there. The initial route took us through some deep snow in the flats near eightmile campground. Once we started up the hillside we beat our way through brush then wandered over to the old growth forest. I think it took less than two hours (with lots of stops) to get all the way up to the lookout.
Once at the lookout we suddenly found ourselves with an entire afternoon to fill, and an egergetic group of kids. We went on an adventure, hugging the ridgeline west of the lookout. Only two of our students had ever chopped wood, which is an abomination that needed remedy. We had a clinic and safety talk about chopping wood. Then we chopped an enormous amount of wood. We spent the rest of the evening playing games and making dinner. Cleanup was a little long and difficult. We prepared a lot of warm water from snow. A lot of warm water.
That night three girls slept on the bed (winner of rock-paper-scissors) and one on the cupboard. Three boys slept on the floor, one on the deck, and one kooky leader slept wonderfully under a tree next to the lookout. It was roomy and warm inside, though our porch-sleeper experienced wind and cold and did not sleep well.
On the second day we had a leisurely breakfast, cleaned the cabin, and headed back to the bus, sneaking up on the third group for a snowball fight. The pictures are good, but somewhat incriminating. Check out the slideshow!
In his plot for Noises Off, English playwright Michael Frayn plays on the concept of a play within a play, in this case a dreadful sex comedy titled Nothing On—the type of play in which young girls run about in their underwear, old men drop their trousers, and many doors continually open and shut. Nothing On is set in "a delightful 16th-century posset mill" that has been converted to a modern dwelling for which renters are solicited; the fictional playwright is appropriately named Robin Housemonger. Each of the three acts of Noises Off contains a performance of the first act of Nothing On. (Wikepedia)
Click on any image to start a slideshow.
Science News, February 13, 2010
(photo courtesy of the Oregonian)
CONTACT: Bill MacKenzie
The Catlin Gabel community—students, teachers, staffers, parents, alumni, trustees, and friends—began working together to figure out “What’s Next?” at a meeting on January 23. (Join the conversation on our website forum.)
The group of more than 100 met in the Barn for most of the day to figure out what was important to them and to the school and wider communities through self-reflection and a series of various group discussions led by past trustee and parent Mindy Clark. In addition, the event was streamed live on the website, and those off campus were able to participate online. Every idea and contribution was given respectful consideration at all times as the group worked towards final consensus at the end of the meeting. From smaller to larger groups, and then to the group as a whole, participants brainstormed ideas for what’s next, given a set of basic parameters. The final products were a list of events or activities that all agreed on, a list of what was agreed to be common ground, and a list of ideas that not every one agreed to, but that were important to some. No idea was thrown away, however—all ideas were captured and will be kept for future consideration.
Common ground—values that all thought should undergird what’s next—included attributes of multiple generations, physical activity, a learning component, a local connection to the community, a service component, financial sustainability, ability of students to run or organize the activity, and a way for the school community to bond or connect.
Projects, activities, or events that drew consensus were something to do with gardens, farms, or growing food (what one called a “Honey Hollow Farm resurrection”); a “Barn Raising” as a metaphor for building and working together on a specific project on or off campus; one specific event; a Catlin Gabel service corps; and an annual Campus Day connected to a worldwide day of service so that those who don’t live nearby can take part.
Members of the What’s Next steering committee will consider all the input and come back to the entire Catlin Gabel community with proposals for consideration. Whether it be one event, or many, or what shape it will take, remains to be seen. But what’s definite is that the community will decide, and try it out, and see what works. A new tradition may be born, or it may take time, but we will do it together.
Susan Koe, co-chair, parent
Don Vollum '84, co-chair, parent, trustee, alumnus
Stephanie Broad, parent
Li-Ling Cheng, faculty MS, parent
Roberta Cohen, former faculty-staff, parent of alumni
Annette Cragg, parent
Spencer Ehrman '68, alumnus
Qiddist Hammerly, student
Herb Jahncke, faculty LS, parent
Karen “Kitty” Katz '74, staff, alumna, parent
Debbie Ehrman Kaye '73, alumna, parent of alumni
Ted Kaye '73, alumnus, parent of alumni
Art Leo, faculty US, parent
John Mayer, faculty LS
Heather Renjen, parent
Robin Schauffler '68, alumna, former faculty member
Colleen Shoemaker, parent
Tom Tucker '66, faculty MS & US, alumnus, parent
Peg Watson, former faculty, parent of alumni
Patrick Wheary, parent of alumna, current grandparent
All interested teens and parents are invited to a Summer Adventures Fair on Wednesday, February 3, from 3:45* to 7 p.m. at Catlin Gabel School, 8825 SW Barnes Rd., Portland (next to St. Vincent Hospital). Meet with representatives from a wide variety of summer programs for teens, including summer camps, travel abroad, outdoor adventures, local internships, and academic experiences.
Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Julie McMurchie at 503-348-7149.
After you attend, we would appreciate your downloading and filling out the evaulation form below, and emailing it to email@example.com. Thanks!
*Catlin Gabel families are invited to attend the fair early, starting at 3:15 p.m.
What started out as a cross-country ski trip turned first into a snowshoes trip before finally becoming a backpacking trip, but what a trip it was! We met at Catlin Sunday morning, loaded up the bus and drove to Hood River to rent a few pairs of snowshoes. While in Hood River we ran up what looked (and felt) like thousands of steps to discover a playground before we got back on the bus.
When we arrived at the Billy Bob Sno-Park we distributed group gear and left our little yellow bus, heading up the road towards the Five Mile Butte fire lookout. It was drizzling heavily, and our packs were heavy. We continued up the icy road for a ways before taking a break and munching on candy peach rings.
As we were putting our packs back on, several students proposed the brilliant idea to go straight up the side of the hill to get to the fire tower instead of following the road around to get there. We consulted the map and everyone agreed this was a good idea so we started walking up the muddiest slop imaginable—there were literally rivers of mud flowing down the hillside. Eventually everyone made it to the top, and we celebrated with more peach candy rings before the last push to get to the lookout tower. It was pretty exciting to finally see the tower in the clouds.
We climbed up the narrow, steep stairs and into our lookout tower to start a roaring fire in the wood stove and peel off soggy layers. The tower swayed gently when the wind gusted and the clouds and rain created a very isolated feeling, but it was warm and cozy in our little 15 ft. x 15 ft. room, perched 40 ft. above the ground.
Several of the students stayed down on the ground to start building a giant wall of snow. The rest of the group got settled in the tower. Everyone played an endless, silly game of Uno. Several of the students elected to run around in the snow/rain in just their shorts, which evoked barrels of laughter from everyone.
As the sky grew dark we prepared dinner, which was followed by several rounds of Hide & Seek, made all the more exciting by the dark and the fog. When we finished we found roasting sticks for s’mores and headed back up the tower to savor our dessert and get settled for the night. We sat around in a circle and talked about the day. As the clouds cleared to reveal a blanket of stars, students were lulled to sleep with Edward Abbey’s description of life as a fire lookout ranger.
We awoke to the rosey golden glow of sunrise bathing Mt. Hood in warm light. The skies were clear all around and we could see the broad backs of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier to our north. Who would have guessed we would get a blue bird day after the storm the day before?
We started breakfast and soon the savory smell of frying Spam filled the room, accompanied by fluffy golden pancakes and hot cocoa. Although some of the students were hesitant to try Spam when it plopped out of its can onto the cutting board, most of them boldly stepped outside their comfort zone and sampled the crispy delicacy. And they realized it’s pretty good when you’re roughin’ it.
For our descent we opted for some variety and scenic views and walked down the road. Well, some of us walked and some of us slid down the ice. There were some bumps and bruises earned along the way. At the bottom of the hill we discovered a perfect sledding hill to slide down on the ice before making our way back to our little yellow school bus. A wand on our windshield, left by the Upper Schoolers, greeted us. It felt good to take off our packs and get on the bus. With a twinge of sadness that the trip was over we headed off down the road, back to our families.
Alumni, parents, students, and friends of Catlin Gabel are encouraged to join the workshop online.
To participate in chat, you will need to register a user account when prompted.
We also welcome you to make suggestions for how Catlin Gabel can keep the spirit of the Rummage Sale alive through a new activity. Post your ideas on our website forum.
Beaverton Valley Times article:
Seniors Kevin Ellis and Yale Fan were surprised today with the announcement that they had been named semifinalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search. They each received a $1,000 check this morning from a representative of Intel, and the school received $2,000 toward our programs in science and mathematics. They were two of five Oregon students receiving the award, out of 300 semifinalists named nationally. Kevin and Yale are now in the running to become national finalists, which will be determined later this month. More details are below in the Intel news release. Congratulations, Yale and Kevin!
U.S. Corporate Affairs
FIVE PORTLAND AREA STUDENTS NAMED INTEL SCIENCE TALENT SEARCH SEMIFINALISTS
Students to be surprised with announcements Wednesday, Jan. 13
HILLSBORO, OR, Jan. 12, 2010 – Five Portland area students will learn today that they have been named semifinalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS) and may be on the road to becoming tomorrow’s elite scientists. The Intel STS is America’s oldest, most highly regarded pre-college science competition and heir to more than six decades of science excellence.
The students will learn of their awards at surprise Intel-sponsored Prize Patrols at their schools on Wednesday morning.
The local semifinalists include Catlin Gabel students Kevin Ellis and Yale Fan, Alexander McCarthy from Liberty High School in Hillsboro, plus Joshua Steinberg from Oregon Episcopal School and Franklin Zhao from Westview High School.
This year’s 1,735 entrants hail from 37 states and Washington, D.C. Each of the 300 Intel STS semifinalists receives $1,000 with an additional $1,000 going to their school, resulting in $600,000 in total awards at the semifinalist level. Intel implemented the school award in 2000 and since then has contributed more than $2 million to help improve math and science in U.S. high schools.
“Intel is determined to encourage and showcase America’s brightest young scientists,” said Aubrey Clark, Intel’s Education Relations Manager in Oregon. “Becoming an Intel STS semifinalist shows the world that a student has the potential to become one of tomorrow’s great scientists.”
STS alumni have received more than 100 of the world’s most coveted science and math honors including six Nobel Prizes, three National Medals of Science, 10 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, and two Fields Medals.
From the 300 semifinalists, 40 finalists will be announced on Jan. 27, 2010. The 40 Intel Science Talent Search Finalists will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, DC in March to attend the Science Talent Institute where they will compete for more than $500,000 in scholarships.
Their week-long stay will include an in-depth judging process, visits to historic sites and cultural institutions and meetings with leading scientists and engineers. Students will also have an opportunity to exchange ideas and insights with each other and prominent members of the scientific community.
The finale of the Science Talent Institute is a black-tie banquet honoring the forty finalists, which will take place March 16, 2010. The evening will conclude with the announcement of the top 10 Intel scholarship winners of the 66th Annual Science Talent Search, with the top winner receiving a $100,000 scholarship and others receiving a minimum of $7,500.
Intel’s long-standing commitment to education is fueled by its mission to invest not only in its business and industry, but in the future of young people. Through education programs such as the Intel Science Talent Search, Intel works to inspire and educate children in communities around the world in the areas of science, mathematics and engineering.
Intel, the world leader in silicon innovation, develops technologies, products and initiatives to continually advance how people work and live. Additional information about Intel is available at www.intel.com/pressroom . Intel is Oregon’s largest private employer and its Oregon site is a global center for semiconductor research and manufacturing. Additional information about Intel in Oregon is available at www.intel.com/community/oregon.
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Intel and the Intel logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. * Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.
Senior Kevin Ellis won a Best of Category award in computer science at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2009 in Reno, Nevada. Intel presented Catlin Gabel with a check for $1,000 in recognition of Kevin’s outstanding achievement. The funds are intended to further support excellence in science, math, or engineering education at Catlin Gabel.
Senior Lauren Edelson’s op-ed, “Taking the Magic Out of College,” was published in the New York Times.
Sophomore Megan Stater placed first in the recent Oregon Music Teachers Association Classical Piano Festival.
Lauren Reggero-Toledano’s Spanish V Honors students presented their research project, "The Hispanic Presence In Oregon: From the Great Depression to Today," to the Latin American studies program at Lewis & Clark College. Kudos to seniors Sam Bishop, Kalifa Clarke, Abby Conyers, Becky Coulterpark, Lauren Edelson, Eddie Friedman, Ollie Garnier, Molly Hayes, Leslie Nelson, and Leah Weitz, and junior Josh Langfus.
Seventh grader Conner Hansen received his second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
All five Middle School robotics teams came home from the league tournament with trophies. Three teams are advancing to the state championships on January 17. Veteran 7th grade team the Green Dragons won the Champions Award, the top award at a local tournament. This award recognizes the team with the best overall score covering robot performance, robot design, research project and presentation, and teamwork. Green Dragons Maddy Bunnenberg-Ross, Claire Fitzgerald, Sophie Paek, Jillian Rix, and Chloe Smith are headed to state.
The other veteran 7th grade team, Team Delta, scored 305 points on the course (the highest of any Catlin Gabel team) and was the first runner up Champions Award winner. Max Armstrong, Evan Chapman, Conner Hansen, and Elliot Lewis are on their way to state as well.
First-time 6th grade Team Echo members Julian Baynes, MacGregor Beatty, and Jake Hansen pulled off the Young Team Award, which qualifies them for the state tournament.
The 6th grade Screaming Eagles with Harry Alterman, Anna Dodson, Alex Richardson, and Calissa Spooner won the robot performance award for the team with the highest scoring robot that didn’t qualify for state. The 6th grade team Catlin Gabel Champions with Nicolas Bergen, Jack Bishop, Justin Tung, and David Vollum brought home the Research Project award for the team with the best research project that didn’t qualify for state.
Congratulations to recent 6th grade Poetry Box winner Hayle Meyerhoff for her poem Lonely. (Click on poem title to read or listen to the winning poem.)
Twelve Lower School chess players participated in the annual Ridgewood Elementary fall invitational. Avi Gupta, 3rd grade, took second place in the overall tournament ratings. Grade level prizes were awarded to 5th grader Lila Reich–second place, 4th grader Ben Karp–second place, 3rd grader Avi Gupta–first place, 2nd grader Evan Karp–first place, and 2nd grader Jimmy Maslen–third place.
Fifth grader Claire Rosenfeld, 3rd grader Layton Rosenfeld, and 2nd grader Will Attig were among 50 winning contestants from all of Oregon whose art pieces were selected for the “Super Hero” exhibition in the Jordan Schnitzer Art Museum in Eugene. There were well over 400 contestants. The winning art is on display at the JSAM through May.
Thanks to a generous anonymous gift from a Catlin Gabel community member, the entire 7th grade class attended a presentation by activist Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea. The class began the year by reading the young adult version of Mortenson’s book. Elayna Caron was inspired to write, “After reading Three Cups of Tea, I was really moved, but not as much as I was last night. Greg is one of the most amazing people out there. How he dedicated his whole life to changing these people’s lives — I don’t see how he can do it, but at the same time, it made ME want to go out and change the world. He was talking about the soldiers being more afraid of the children’s pens than of bullets. It really makes sense to me now, why they would be scared. This was an amazing, amazing experience.”
IT support technician Johny Nguyen completed CompTIA certification, the industry standard for computer support technicians. The international, vendor-neutral certification proves competence in areas such as installation, preventative maintenance, networking, security, and troubleshooting.
All Kinds of Minds named Catlin Gabel a School of Distinction.
Alumna Sonja Lapinski '99 featured in Oregonian newspaper article, "Pet Talk: Reaching beyond Oregon to help animals"
Edited from a longer piece published in the December 2008 All-School News newsletter.
Students and parents frequently ask me about the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs and how they compare with each other and with Catlin Gabel. Prospective students and their parents ask Traci Jernigan Rossi ’83 and Marsha Trump in the admission office about these programs, too. To help explain to our readers, Karen Katz ’74, communications director, interviewed me about the programs.
What is the history of the AP and IB programs?
In the 1950s educators identified a widening gap between student achievement in high school and college expectations. The AP program was developed to offer college-level curricula and assessment to students in high school. The International Baccalaureate Programme was created in the 1960s at the International School of Geneva to develop consistent curricula at schools in different countries for students whose families moved around the world.
Can you describe the AP and IB programs?
The programs are quite different from each other. One commonality, however, is that both programs establish a point of comparison for students in different schools. AP and IB are offered in a mix of small and large private, public, and international schools.
Advanced Placement is a registered program sponsored by the College Board, which also administers SATs. The AP classes are promoted as college level courses, and some colleges give college credit to students who do well on AP exams. You don’t have to take AP classes to take the AP exams. In fact, we do not offer AP classes, but many Catlin Gabel students take the AP exams and routinely score 4s and 5s (the range is 1 to 5). Paradoxically, we were recently identified by the College Board as having one of the best student success rates in AP math, science, and technology in Oregon and were nominated for the Siemens AP High School Award. However, it turns out we cannot receive the award because Catlin Gabel does not offer AP classes.
The International Baccalaureate Programme offers programs at three age levels: a primary program for students ages 3 to 12, a middle years program for students ages 11 to 16, and a two-year “Diploma Programme” for students aged 16 to 19. In the Portland area only the Beaverton International School offers the middle program. No local schools offer the primary program, although a couple of schools are applying for certification. I will focus on the Diploma Programme, which is offered to juniors and seniors in the United States.
Let’s get back to AP and college credits. How does that work?
Individual colleges decide whether or not they recognize AP credits; some do and some do not. There are ways to advance in college without taking AP tests. Colleges offer their own placement exams, particularly for languages and math. The downside of AP is that you can test out of freshman and sophomore classes that are beneficial building blocks for future academic work. I am a good example of this because I tested into junior English when I entered college. But I feel like I missed the boat by not taking freshman and sophomore classes. I had to learn the hard way about critical writing and constructing a solid research paper. When I entered graduate school I had some catching up to do.
Are Catlin Gabel students at a disadvantage because we don’t offer AP classes?
No. We offer college level courses that allow students to enter higher-level classes in college if they choose. If you are wondering if our students are at a disadvantage in terms of college admission, they are not. College admission offices look at high school profiles to ascertain graduation requirements, grade distributions, college acceptance records, and most relevantly for this conversation, what classes and extras are available to students. If the high school offers an AP program then naturally the colleges seek applicants who have stepped up to the challenge. But if you don’t offer AP classes—and many of the finest schools in the nation do not—then the students are not in jeopardy.
How does the core curriculum for AP differ from Catlin Gabel’s curriculum?
That’s an important question because that’s how Catlin Gabel really distinguishes itself from AP. Students in AP classes are evaluated based on their test scores, pure and simple, so the curriculum is geared toward the test. AP classes emphasize absorbing knowledge and memorizing facts that will appear on the tests. At Catlin Gabel we emphasize depth of understanding, constructing knowledge, and making discoveries. The facts are put into context. In truth, and I am not embarrassed to say this, our students do not do as well on the AP history exams as they do on the math, science, and technology exams because the history test questions are so fact oriented. Our students are accustomed to writing, questioning, discussing, reasoning, and putting history into context — not just memorizing what the teacher or textbook tells them happened on such and such a date.
How does the core curriculum for IB differ from Catlin Gabel’s curriculum?
IB is more akin to what we do at Catlin Gabel. The program is progressive in its approach to learning with an emphasis on critical thinking and providing a liberal arts foundation.
Sounds like you are pretty impressed with IB. Convince me that Catlin Gabel is a better choice.
First of all, I congratulate schools that raise expectations for student achievement. That is vital to turning around education in this country. During rough economic times, I applaud public schools that have figured out how to challenge their brightest students through either the AP or IB programs.
To answer your question, the IB program is impressive, but there are several shortcomings compared to our program. The IB diploma requirements are standardized, and students are, for the most part, locked into a prescribed set of courses. At Catlin Gabel we offer a more individualized approach. For example, a student who is passionate about a subject area can take classes beyond the requirements. Remember, the Diploma Programme is only a two-year program for juniors and seniors. Many students in the IB track are not accepted into the Diploma Programme or fail to meet the criteria for earning the IB diploma, which can be a mark against them in applying to colleges.
One of the capstones of the IB diploma is an extended essay the students write at the end of their senior year. Our students write extended essays in ninth grade and even earlier if they attend our lower grades. IB classes cannot go into as much depth as we can because they have to follow a rigid curriculum. They have set scoring on their tests and projects so their teaching is more standardized. To earn the IB degree, students submit exams and papers to graders in a country other than their own. That means feedback on work is delayed, which is a real detriment to learning. Our students receive feedback quickly through post-test reviews, one-on-one conferences with teachers, and peer edits. Swift reinforcement and critiquing is so important. The IB program and how it is implemented varies tremendously from school to school based on the caliber of the students and the teachers. The local school board, parents, and students have no input into the IB curriculum. To put it in business terms, Catlin Gabel is much more accountable to our clientele
Who is admitted into AP and IB programs in public schools?
The AP and IB programs develop their own selection criteria that differ from school to school. It’s not uncommon for the programs to skim for the highest achieving students, which is fine for those kids, but what about everyone else? At Catlin Gabel we provide equal opportunity for every student to rise to his or her highest ability. One thing I love about Catlin Gabel is that students who excel or struggle in different areas are not segregated from each other. Students who are motivated to take advanced chemistry and biology as seniors hang out with students who finish the three-year science requirement and turn their focus to English and creative writing. We stay connected as a community and students value each other for whatever talents and interests they have.
How is teaching different at Catlin Gabel compared with AP and IB?
Our teachers can shape the curriculum to meet the interests of the students. They can shift the content of a lesson to make it meaningful and relevant to students by letting the students lead the conversation, try the experiment a different way, or present findings unconventionally. Of course, we have an end goal of what we want the students to learn, but getting there can take twists and turns that engage and excite. We allow our teachers the autonomy to teach what they are passionate about. That is the key to inspiring students. We depend on highly skilled, excellent teachers because they create the curriculum and are expected to teach to each student’s learning style and ability. Our teachers’ educations, our mission, small class sizes, student-teacher relationships, and the intellectual risk-taking we encourage generate the learning bonanza that makes Catlin Gabel exceptional.
Well, my experience has had its ups and downs. There are so many differences. Learning the language has, and continues to be, a challenge, but I am definitely improving. Also, its hard being so far away from all my friends and my family. My host family is really good. I have my parents, and three sisters, Elisa is 21, Leti is 19, and Maria is 12. We live in this tiny apartment, I have my own room, but it is quite small. We live in the north of Madrid, and really close to a Metro stop. The Metro in Madrid is AMAZING! I love it, the locals don't like it as much as I do, but even they say that it is better than most citys. My school is very different from Catlin. I am taking 9 classes (7 meet each day), I have no free periods, my teachers all love me because I am the sweet American exchange student, we have three major testing weeks in the year and in most classes 60% of your grade depends on how you perform on those tests, there are no extracurriculars or clubs or sports teams, my school building isn't really a building, its like rooms connected and then the hallways have a roof but no walls, so it is cold, but it never really rains, so its not a big deal, my teachers come to my class instead of me going to their room, my class has about 65 people in it. The people are different, but very nice. Spanish don't really do exercise (especially the girls, the guys do, but none of the girls in my class ever exercise), and I am used to always doing a sport during the year, so that has been a complete change. On the weekends though the kids my age do basically the same things that americans do: see a movie, eat dinner together, etc. The only difference is that sometimes they go to discos, but that is not too common, only like once every other month or so. The food in Spain is very strong, especially the winter food. They like their meat. I am more of a fish person so getting used to the strong food has been somewhat of a challenge for me. My family especially loves meat, ham or bacon is put on EVERYTHING, but it does depend on the family because some of my classmates don't like meat too much either so their family usually eats fish. Another cultural difference is never really having any personal space, like even if I am in my room alone, I can hear my mom talking on her telephone, my sister memorizing her homework (when Maria does her homework, she always talks aloud), and someone watching tv. The thing I think I miss most about my life in Portland was the freedom that I was given. Like, when I felt like it I could just go to a coffee place alone and do homework, here no one does that, or I could walk my dog in the neighborhood, here my family doesn't really let me do that. So it has been difficult transitioning into this new style of life, but little by little I am getting settled in and understanding the normal things to do and not to do.
I thought that everyone in Spain would be very fashion forward and dress in all the latest styles, wear bright colors, and always look put together. So I packed to be fashionable: my more fashionable jeans, sweaters instead of sweatshirts, flats and boots instead of converse, and blouses instead of tshirts. However, I wish I had packed differently. At school most people wear jeans, a t-shirt, converse and a sweatshirt (normally a zip-up). The sweatshirts are pretty much exactly like the ones that I didn't pack, same with the tshirts and the converse (I didn't bring converse so the second week I begged my mom to send over a pair). People are really relaxed at school and don't really care what they wear or look like. The only major difference is that girls wear their jeans the same way boys do - loose and sagging low so you can see their underwear. The first time I saw this I was kind of in awe, I had to keep reminding myself not to stare at peoples' crotches. Now I am gettting used to the trend, and might consider buying a pair of boy-jeans.