¡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.

Bo Nadal: My First Galician Christmas

Felices fiestas! Last week I had the opportunity of celebrating Christmas with my Galician family. As much as I love living in Spain, I have come to realize that being away from family during the holidays, birthdays/big celebrations, etc. will never get easier. To combat the homesickness, I took the advice of my dear friend, Lindsay and baked up a storm all the while listening to Christmas playlists on Spotify. As cheesy as it may seem, it was literally the best way to handle the homesickness.

Christmas in Spain

Christmas here isn’t as popular as it is in the United States.  Spaniards typically celebrate Los Reyes Magos which falls on January 6th.  Before going to bed, children leave their shoes out for the Reyes, and wake up to find gifts left behind.

During the holidays, La Loteria de Navidad is HUGE. I didn’t participate in it, however, Fernando did. I was extremely amused watching Fer as they called out the winning numbers on TV. To his disappointment, we did not win el gordo.

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Christmas in Santiago

The weeks prior to Christmas, I admired the beautiful decorations and lights set around the city.

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On Christmas, we made our way over to Fernando’s aunt house for an amazing Christmas dinner.  Although I missed my typical Mexican tamales, rice, and beans with my family, I absolutely loved all the marisco (necoras, percebes and mejillones) and Albariño!

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Gastronomy: Percebes

Galicia is famous for its gastronomy.  For instance, we have Padrón peppers doused in olive oil and sprinkled with salt, caldo gallego, and my personal favorite; pulpo á la feira.  Galicia is particularly famous for its excellent quality marisco, or seafood.

Percebes, or goose barnacles are filter-feeding crustaceans that live attached to the hard surfaces of rocks and flotsam along the coast. They have a strange appearance, slightly resembling a foot and toe, but that is exactly how they got their name. Percebe derives from the Latin words: pollicis (thumb) and pedis (foot).

Due to a small production and the risk percebeiros take to harvest them, percebes are quite expensive. This video has been beautifully put together to capture how much hard work goes into a harvest.