Sunday, 23 October 2011

First Day

The first week of school went very well but very quickly. I use the term “week” liberally as I only work three days a week. Tuesday through Thursday, I work from 9:30am to 2:30pm. On the first day of school, I was waiting at the gate with a few kids when I heard them talking about the Canadian teacher who was going to come teach English with “Teacher”-which is what they call Rafael. They were very excited. As much as it is a novelty to have a foreign teacher, many of the students are from different countries as well. When I was introducing myself to the classes, I met students from Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Nigeria, Ghana, Bangladesh, and Morocco. This is very uncommon for this area of Spain. Galicia is somewhat isolated from the rest of the country in the Northwest corner, they are not used to this amount of immigration. Rafael is embracing this wholeheartedly and we’re going to share about each of our different cultures. Rafael is the English teacher for the school, but also teaches arts and crafts and computers. He’s a very enthusiastic and passionate teacher and wants to incorporate English into his other subjects and projects. He cares a lot about his students and about improving his own English.

The school is of a decent size. There are three floors in the main building with a playground and shared basketball courts with the cummunity. They have another building with the offices, a kitchen and dining room, and the pre-school area. The children are in class from 9:30 to 2:30 with a short break at noon. Then they eat lunch in the dining hall and have extracurricular activities until 5pm.

There is a fantastic little coffee machine in the staff room. As many of you know, coffee is one of my favourite things in life. So now I am going to break down one of the most simple but key characteristics of Spanish culture that draws me in.
Café con Leche (literally means coffee with milk)

1 espresso (or about an ounce of very strong coffee)
1.5 oz of steamed or heated milk
Add sugar as desired

It is just a little slice of heaven for me. I seem to have one maybe 3 or 4 times a day. This doesn’t even add up to one large coffee in Canada so I don’t feel too guilty.
         On the subject of food, I had the most delicious meal on Tuesday.  After classes, we went to lunch at a nearby restaurant. The other teachers suggested that I get a fillet of steak with French fries and salad. Together with a half pint of beer and a post lunch coffee it cost me seven Euros! I think that was the best beef I have ever had….the cows must be different here…fewer hormones and more exercise.

¡Hasta Pronto Amigos!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Aquí Estoy

After one last meal at Swiss Chalet at the airport and a tearful goodbye with my Mom and Aaron, I sat down in my own row on a flight to Oporto, Portugal. I was grateful to have a multitude of “plane letters” to read from my wonderful friends and family. Soon enough though, the limited sleep and gravol kicked in and I was napping…until the flight attendant woke me up for dinner. Heaven forbid we miss a meal! (And this description is for you Mike) They served beef with gravy and vegetables with a side of shredded potato. I quite enjoyed the potato and gravy but skipped the diner roll and the chocolate cake that was for dessert, as I was still quite full from the rotisserie chicken.

I enjoyed listening to Portuguese on the plane. I could understand a few words here and there, but the pronunciation is quite different from Spanish. After a seven-hour flight, I arrived at 8:30 am local time in Oporto, Portugal. Unfortunately for me, I had just missed one of the three busses that went to Galicia that day, so I had to wait until 1:30pm to take the next one. Among other things, I caught some shut-eye on a bench and learned how to say thank-you in Portuguese (Obrigado if you are a male, Obrigada if you are female).

On the bus, I met a nice young man named Roberto (of course!) from Basque Country. El país Vasco, as it is called in Spanish, is a region that lives somewhat apart from the rest of Spain in terms of culture. I plan to visit there this year to try their supposedly very tasty cuisine.

Around 4:30 (Spanish time), the bus pulled over the hilltop and started to drive down into Vigo, where we should have been able to see a beautiful harbour and the Atlantic Ocean. Instead, we saw a sky filled with smoke due to the recent forest fires. Galicia is normally a very rainy region, however, they have had a very dry fall and as such have been having a lot of these fires.

My new friends, Mark and Diane, picked me up from the bus station and began giving me a tour of Vigo. From what I could see, it is a beautiful city. I am so thrilled to be able to live and explore here. We went out in their town, Porriño, for a café-con-leche and a walk around.
 Today, I am trying to adjust to the time difference. I start working tomorrow with the kiddies. I don’t really know what to expect but I’ll let you know how it goes!

YES, there are palm trees here!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Getting There

One of my favoured Spanish professors sent me a link one day about working in Spain after graduation. The government of Spain was hiring North Americans to come over to be language assistants for eight months. Reading through the criteria, I thought: "This is perfect! I LOVE Spain, I speak Spanish, I have lots of experience with kids....NO problem!" But of course, procrastination took form, as it always does with me, and I left it to the last minute to apply.

So in March, I submitted my application and prepared to wait. In April, I called the Spanish embassy to ask how far along they were, only to discover that I was number 4,865 and there were only 2,000 positions. I gave up on the idea and continued on with life. Midsummer, I got some emails saying that they had more positions that needed to be filled. Of course, I had not made any other long term plans yet, so I emailed back saying I was still interested.

On August 2nd, I received an email saying that I had been placed in the province of Galicia, in the Northwest corner of Spain. All I had to do was accept and they would start working on assigning me to a specific school. Naturally, I accepted and then prepared to wait. They specifically detail in the instruction manual to have "patience" during this portion of the process. That is a lot easier said than done....especially when it is the middle of September and you are supposed to be living in another country starting Oct 1st. On the 21st of September, I received the official letters I needed to go get my visa. After a few minor corrections, like changing my nationality from "American" to the correct "Canadian", I was able to take those letters to Toronto to ask the consulate to let me into their country. Now, with visa approved and plane ticket in hand, I am preparing to move to a lovely city called Vigo, Spain. I hope that you can keep reading from time to time.