The Journey

 

Lately I have been so full of so many emotions. I never thought I would be in Galicia for such a long, extended time. I came here planning to only stay for a year – enough time to figure out what my next step would be.

I will soon be ending my third year as a Language Assistant. This place has become my home.  I’ve made some wonderful friends, seen beautiful places, and most importantly, I have grown in so many different aspects. As much as I love this place, I know it’s time to step away and discover where life will take me next.

I don’t know where I will be going next or what I will be doing – it’s bittersweet, overwhelming, exciting, sad, and scary all at the same time. However, I do know that if I don’t take the leap now, I’ll never know.

What is meant to be, will find its way. 

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¡Vuelta al cole!

A few things:

  1. Like always, summer has come and gone so quickly! I had a great experience au pairing in A Coruña – I couldn’t have asked for a better family to work with.
  2. Last month I celebrated my 3 year Spain-iversary. I never intended to stay here for more than 1 year, but here I am!
  3. Summer has come and past and it’s back to school for children (and teachers)!

As I pointed out, I have now been living (and working) here in Spain for three years. I have learned so much about myself, Spain, Galicia, improved my Spanish (picked up a little galego), and have had the opportunity to explore new places.

My first year as a language assistant I was working in a primary school (ages 3-12) in Serra de Outes, a small pueblo about 30 minutes away from Santiago. I adored my students and coworkers but hated the commute and hours.

My second year I was placed in a trade school here in Santiago. It was a completely different experience after being with elementary schoolers. My students were learning about computer science – programming, designing, etc. I loved being able to walk to work in 15 minutes and I made some really great friends. However, I missed the little ones.

This year, I am back in a primary school (ages 3-12 once again), and I absolutely love it! Children are exhausting, and you need a lot of energy to keep up with 15 three year olds running around in a class room, but for me, working with children is one of the most rewarding experiences. They are so curious to learn and explore and I am always greeted with, “HELLO NICOLE!” whenever I run into students in the hallway. I am currently at CEIP de Pumar-Urdilde, which is about 20 minutes away from Santiago. It’s a very small school, classes tend to have less than 20 students and my coworkers are very welcoming and friendly.

The Countdown: 1 Month

May is quickly approaching, which means I am nearly finished with my second year as a Language Assistant. This year has been full of new experiences, opportunities to improve my Spanish (as well as learn some Gallego), new friends and memories.

The longer I live here, the more my love for Spain, and more specifically, Galicia grows. Of course, there are days when I am frustrated or homesick and ready to hop on the next flight to Seattle, but those moments pass almost as quickly as they come on.

The end of May means a few things.

1. I will have completed two years as a Language Assistant

I have never particularly been interested in teaching and to be honest, it took me a while to get the hang of it. Teaching is a never ending learning experience, but thus far I have learned the importance of making learning fun, and the importance of patience.

2. A visit to the U.S. is in store

Originally, I had planned to stay in Galicia this summer, but my little brother is graduating from UW this June. As he is the last of my siblings to graduate, his commencement is something I can’t miss. I am SO proud of him and eager to see him walk across that stage!

Not only will I be visiting, but Fernando will be traveling to the U.S. for the first time! When my parents asked him what he is the most excited to do in Seattle, his response was: “To try an American burger.”

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3. I landed a summer job

I will be starting a new summer job in Coruña (about an hour away from Santiago). I will be nannying (the cutest) three year old boy name Roi. He is such a happy boy and absolutely loves going to the park!

4. The 3 Musketeers reunite

This is HUGE for me. Last year, Lindsay, Mariam and I had countless adventures together despite the fact that we were living in different parts of the country. Lindsay is finishing her first year of nursing school (so proud of you Linds!) and Mariam is finishing her second year as a Language Assistant (like myself). This year has been so different with 2/3 of the group here in Spain and I am SOOO excited to be back with my girls.

5. Galicia will receive 2 visitors in July

This past summer, my brother and I talked about how cool it would be for him to come visit Galicia as I have told him about the culture – pulpo, tomando uñas cañas en las terrazas on a sunny day, foliadas,  and The Camino. We talked about how fun it would be to experience these things together and throughout the year he told me he would visit – I didn’t think much of it until one day I received a text saying that him and his girlfriend purchased their plane tickets (yay!!!!!).

Carnaval de Laza

Last year I celebrated Carnaval in Cádiz, Andalusia, Spain with my two best friends.  This year, I kept the festivities local.

Carnaval in Santiago isn’t really a big deal, so on Monday, my friends and I squished ourselves into a car and made the two hour and forty five minute journey to Laza, Ourense. I was not told where we were going and to bring ‘ropa que se pueda manchar’ (clothes you can get dirty).

La Farrapada

‘La Farrapada’ is a giant mud war that takes place in the Praza da Picota. Rags are thrown across the plaza with the intent of hitting and dirtying the other opponents. Upon our arrival, I was immediately grabbed by a man dressed in military gear and I knew what it meant. I was going to be thrown in the bathtub of mud. I was warned by the boys that it is better to go with them rather than to resist, so I willingly went (after I removed my valuables from my pockets). Luckily, the man only made me put my feet in the water. However, on the way back, I was pegged in the face with the rags more times than I can count!

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Praza da Picota – La Farrapada in action
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Tricked and thrown in the bathtub of mud for the SECOND time.

Baixada da Morena de Cimadevila acompañada das Formigas, Toxos e Cobelleiros

After lunch, we made our way up the hill to see the musicians play and get some dancing in before the red ant and flour fight. Toxo is a plant typical here in Galicia. It is a pretty yellow plant, with needles. During the Carnaval of Laza, they hit people with the toxo (ouch).
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A little before the fight, Alexis and I heard bells and went to watch the peliqueiros. They run the streets swinging a whip (and sometimes hit people with it if you cross their path). Their costumes are absolutely stunning.

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Los Peliqueiros

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The flour and ant fight starts at twilight – when the sun sets but there is just enough light to see. At the end of the day, we were all absolutely filthy – but it was such a blast!

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Post flour and ant war.

Galiza

I have returned to the land of pulpo a la feira and umbrellas!

I touched down in Santiago de Compostela on September 24th. The city hasn’t changed a bit… And yes, the rainy season is among us.

Summer

The whole summer I was anticipating my return to Spain, however I had a wonderful time spending it with family and friends. I was able to snuggle with Kobe every morning, go camping with my musketeers before Mare headed back to Spain, attend a number of Sounders matches, eat delicious breakfast (breakfast in Spain is quite different), go hiking, and see family that I hadn’t seen for a year.

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Lindsay and baby Cabo
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Spending the afternoon teaching my nephew Jakob how to swim.
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Enjoying the best pumpkin beer with my favorite person in the world at Octopus Bar.
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Dick’s Burgers, nom.
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Hiking with Laura.
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Sounders match with the family
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Heaven on a plate.

 

Galicia and Changes

A number of things have changed since last year.  For instance, last year I was working in a colegio (with 3-12 year olds) in a small pueblo called Serra de Outes located about 40km away from Santiago.  This year, I was placed in an instituto right here in the city. The students in IES San Clemente are roughly my age, and are studying computer science; something I know very little about. However, I am definitely learning as much as my students are and couldn’t be happier with my school placement.

Secondly, I’ve got myself un novio gallego (I have a Galician boyfriend). We are slowly but surely turning our piso into a home and we spend our time arguing about which fútbol team is better (obviously it’s Barca) and trying to get the other to switch teams.

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Fernando is a Sounders supporter!

 

Life, Currently

Thus far, I’ve really been enjoying being back in Santiago. I’ve been meeting a lot of new people; many of which are language assistants like myself, getting used to working in an instituto, giving clases particulares, eating a ton of pulpo, and exploring this beautiful region.