Oh, The Places I’ve Been (And Am Currently)
After a long writing hiatus, I’ve decided to make some updates! Though I suppose you all know I’ve arrived safely back to Spain, almost two months ago now! I didn’t fall in a hole or contract ebola (too soon?), I’ve just been settling in. This year I have been doing all the things that I never had to do last year – contact landlords for an apartment, go on several apartment viewings, set up Wi-Fi in the apartment (which takes a very long time, FYI), and get empadronado at the city hall, just to name a few. But let’s back up a little, to August 21st, to get the full picture because life has been very full since that date!
I introduce Rachel Short to the land of Spain
I landed in Madrid Barajas airport, picked up my two large suitcases, and bummed around the airport for a few hours waiting for Rachel, my former coworker from Cahill Contractors, to arrive. Having no easy way of contacting each other, there was a lot of room for error, but we happily found each other and set off to explore. Our first stop was Segovia where we would spend two nights. This would be Rachel’s first taste of a foreign city and country and without fail, it impressed her! As soon as we spotted the old town sitting atop the hill, I knew this place wouldn’t disappoint. We spent two days exploring the city – the palace, the aqueducts, the cathedral, the gardens, the plaza, and everything in between. We ate twice in one day at our new favorite restaurant, El Fagon Sefardi, where an Israeli tourist informed us they had “the best tapas in Spain,” with which I wouldn’t argue. Oh, the sugar-coated breads below? They’re called fartones. Hehehe. #mature
Rachel and I hit the beaches of Santander
After Segovia we made our way north on the bus from Madrid to Santander which has a totally different feel from Segovia. I knew what to expect, having spent lots of time in Santander, between studying abroad and visiting. But this year, just like last year, the summer weather absolutely blew me away. The warm weather, blue water, and pristine sandy beaches were like something out of a dream. We spent time at Sardinero, walking distance from our piso, and we took a boat out to Somo, a town on the other side of the bay. Every beach day was absolute perfection. During our time in Santander I had to handle some Spanish bureaucracy to renew my foreign ID card (NIE) and it set off a full day of extreme stress. Rachel was a great friend and helped me push through! In the end no hizo falta ponerme tan agobiada – it wasn’t necessary to get so frustrated and overwhelmed!
Rachel and I part ways – she for Paris, I for Revilla de Camargo
(Clearly one of us was luckier than the other for the next leg of our journeys!) Rachel was a brave soul and took off on her own to explore Paris for 10 days. Her Instagram account was full of macaroons, cafes, adorable streets, and people. And in the meantime I headed off to do village life for 18 days. My next stage was set up through Workaway.info, a website that connects volunteers with host families around the world. I had been in contact with a family outside Santander, in a small town called Revilla de Camargo, and they needed help babysitting their two young children. The timing worked out perfectly, and I was to care for the kids in exchange for free housing and meals. I can’t give the experience a glowing review – the days were long and a bit unorganized, the kids fought a lot, and I wasn’t always sure of my role. In the end I dubbed myself the “make sure the kids don’t die” person – I didn’t need to give discipline or structure, just play with them in English. This is harder than you may think – at times all I wanted to do was put one of them in time out because of their behavior. It was hard to sleep at the house, between noises, crying kids, AND the allergic reaction I had to something in the bedroom. I was grateful for the hospitality of the family but resolved to not do anything similar again. I did get to see some corners of Cantabria that I otherwise would have missed, including the Guerras Cantabras reenactment – history dating back to around 20 B.C.! The pictures below are of that event, NOT of the family’s home – yes it’s in a village, but I didn’t live in a wooden hut. 😉
The family drops me off in my new city, Castro-Urdiales
….And I spend the day showing them around the town where I didn’t even live yet. It was a little awkward having a family of four trusting me with directions and recommendations when I’d only ever set foot in the town to see a couple of apartments previously! We spent the day at the beach and had some pintxos, then there were kisses and hugs and goodbyes and “no, Dina isn’t coming back home with us, this is her new home now” explanations to the little ones, along with promises to keep in touch and for me to come back and visit soon. (But oh, how happy I was to get some space and start my life!) They drove away and I headed up to my private hostel room to get to work on the apartment search.
The apartment search goes successfully, plus I get a roommate AND friends
After considering living with native Spaniards but seeing some rooms and roommates that were less than appealing, I was in contact with the French assistant who would be arriving and we decided to search together. I would be arriving first so I did all the apartment viewing and talking to the landlords. I saw six pisos total and ended up choosing the first one – the cheapest, cutest, and best location! I live in the historic center of town, complete with cobblestone streets. It’s actually quite noisy here but there’s no car traffic, only pedestrians. I bought a lovely bicycle too! In addition to a cool roommate, I also started meeting frequently with the other auxiliares in town – Ashley, Borja, Mike, Mechelle, and our English academy teacher friend Ben. Bonus – Mike and Mechelle moved into our building so we’re neighbors a la “Friends” – we stop by each others’ apartments frequently!
I finally start school after the longest summer of my life
I’ve finally met all my students and teachers at Dr. Jose Zapatero Dominguez, or “El instituto Zapatero” for short. It’s a 10 minute bike ride from my apartment. I’ll be working only with the bilingual classes because my school has an English-Spanish bilingual program. That means I get to help out in PE, chemistry, art, and technology classes in addition to regular English classes. And I’ve been invited on an art museum outing coming up next month with the students! I have taken on additional work at a private academy as well as a few other private tutoring sessions, so life is now full of English classes with a large variety of ages, grocery shopping, biking, cooking, and exploring! Year 2 is off to a great start.
PS: I’ve already had a couple of visitors in my new city – come visit! You will love it!