Wednesday, September 29, 2010

First Thoughts...I've had a lot.

So, the long journey across the pond is over, and an even longer journey has just begun.  With the help of good people, I was able to arrive safe and sound.  Goodbyes were said in St. Louis, crys and all, even I shed some tears.  I’ve never really been sad to leave Missouri, but this time was different.  The unknown is scary.  Not knowing where you are going, having no place to live, no connections, etc. has been HARD. I don’t have a study abroad company helping me out, and after three different home stay experiences, I can honestly say it’s weird to be on my own in Spain.  I never realized how difficult it would be to just pick up my life and move.  Anyway, today was a new day, and I think things are falling into place a little more each day.  Tomorrow begins orientation and I hope to learn even more.
For you Salamanca 2009 girls, I totally “judged but not judging” everyone near me on the 8 hr. 44 min flight across the pond.   On my left, sat a Spanish woman who slept the entire trip.  She only spoke to order a “zumo de naranja” (orange juice).  Across the aisle, there were three men from Greece, who were anything but boring.  It was these men who gave me the first sense that I was actually going back to Europe.   What set me off?  Body.  Odor.   I noticed it about 45 minutes into the flight.  They kept standing up and sitting down, each time, I held my breath.  Several hours into the flight, a flight attendant came by and told them she had been watching them during the flight, and that it was a law they must stay seated.  Their response: “8 hour flight. Long. Legs hurt.”  They continued to stand and sit as they pleased, but always looked up and down the aisles to make sure they were in the clear.  It was a pretty rough flight, I was only able to sleep about an hour and a half.  I didn’t have my own tv screen, so I only had two options to watch throughout the trip.  First movie, Just Wright (which I had never seen, I enjoyed it) and the second The Devil Wears Prada, which I slept through.
I had arranged to take a shuttle with another language assistant, Allison, from the airport to Mendez Alvaro bus station in Madrid.  It was such a good deal.  Jorge, our driver, took our luggage which included my 65 and 50 pound bags and Allison’s two 50 pound bags.  It was so nice not having to worry about lugging them on the metro, which would have been impossible.  The AeroCity shuttle only cost us 25euro together, which is SO CHEAP! Normally, a taxi would run about 35euro or more for one person.  Allison and I talked about our previous European adventures while we waited for our respective buses at Mendez Alvaro; it was a conversation full of study abroad trips, home stay stories, Allison’s hitchhiking and couch surfing experiences (two things I don’t think I could ever do!), facing the language barrier, auxiliar experiences, etc.  I hope to see her in Valencia this year sometime! It was also during this time that I had my first Fanta naranja of the trip – I wasted no time!  So tasty.
I took the 2 hour Avanzabus to Navalmoral.  We stopped in Talavera de la Reina, for Salamanca 2008 friends this is where Mary Angeles is from, before making it to Navalmoral.  I was so happy to see Talavera was a bigger city that would only be one hour away should Navalmoral prove to be too small.
I arrived in Navalmoral around 6pm, and was welcomed by a fellow auxiliar (assistant) from Canada named Michael.  He had offered me a place to stay until I could find somewhere for myself.  We walked from the bus station to his apartment, which is about four blocks away.  First thing I noticed: a dӧner kebab restaurant!!  (A kebab here is a Moroccan influenced sandwich type thing with shaved meat off of a skewer, with lettuce, tomato, sauce, etc.  In Salamanca, I ate kebabs almost every morning at 5:30am…. But, here it will be a staple in my diet at any time of the day.)  We dropped my luggage off and immediately went on a tour of the “pueblito” of Navalmoral.  It is actually much bigger than I expected. Thank goodness.  I have yet to take pictures, but I will! There is a main street that is only for pedestrians, similar to the streets of Salamanca!  Michael pointed out some good landmarks, church, phone store, chocolate and bread stores, etc.  I was desperate for a shower (go figure!) so we returned to the apartment to freshen up before diner.   We went for a nice meal at a new restaurant, Mama Soul. I had lamb shish kebabs which were actually really good and flavorful unlike other Spanish meals I’ve had.   Then, it was back to the apartment for a well-deserved sleep.  Having been awake for nearly 24 hours, it was a rough first night.
Day two was not so enjoyable; as it had set in I would be living here for 8 months.  However, I now have a Spanish phone with Yoigo phone company and a bank account at Santander bank.   Two of the three necessities I needed to get done early are finished, the third is obtaining my NIE residence card in Cáceres where I go tomorrow for orientation.  Hopefully Michael will help me out with that as I’m completely lost on how to begin.
I was able to skype with my family for a few hours in a local café and it was so nice to see and talk to them.  Two of my Spanish friends from Salamanca also talked to me and told me to relax and take it easy—It is nice to know they are only two hours away should I need to go “home”.  I talked to the waitress at the café since I was the only person there, and told her I was having a hard time, especially because my Spanish isn’t up to par!  She told me to just relax and that it would be fine.  I feel like she will be a nice contact, should I need a friend. 
Michael was cooking dinner as I got home, so we ate the food we had picked up at the grocery store earlier in the day.  We split groceries, and I bought Fanta for the house. Last night, Michael and I met up with a few of his closer friends here.  Everyone was so nice, but I was just in a crappy mood to feel comfortable.  I was clearly the outsider, the newbie, and had just been here 24 hours.  I could barely speak because all I wanted to do was cry!  It was such a horrible feeling that I hope I don’t feel here again.  I told myself that tomorrow is another day. And it is.
Day three has been much better.  This morning, I received a phone call from the realtor I had been speaking to via email.  Paquita was so helpful this morning.  I was able to see two places, a one bedroom and a three bedroom.  The three bedroom place has two full baths, so if I can find someone at orientation to share with, it would be ideal. It would cost us each about 200 a month with utilities.  Both are in a good location, furnished-pots, pans, bedding, etc. I even saw ice trays…. This morning felt like my own little version of House Hunters International. Which one will I choose?
I spent the next few hours walking around the town. I went to the far left, well what I call the left of the town, and found SuperSol, a Wal-Mart like store.  I walked up and down the aisles thinking about what I needed to get when I got my own place.  I also scoped out shopping bags on wheels to take to the store, so I don’t have to risk my bags breaking!  Best part about SuperSol? I found some melocoton tea, PEACH TEA! Yes!
I ran into Maria, an assistant from Scotland, walking on the street on the way back from SuperSol.  She and I had talked previously online, and it has been so good to meet her. She and I are at the same point in this journey and have been feeling the same way.   Scared, nervous, anxious, confused… She is living with a Spanish girl, Mamen, and they have offered me a place to stay too! I will seriously be considering this, as it would be such a great fit!  I will let you know after orientation, as there is another girl coming to live in Navalmoral.
Currently, I am sitting in a café with Maria, and we are catching up on our lives back home. For her, there is only 1 hour time difference – for me, 7.  I have been able to skype with family again, they say it is nice to see me smile again. J I feel so much better today.  If each day gets better, I know this experience will be so worth it!
If you want to talk to me, I have a local Missouri phone number through Skype. It is free to call from your USA cell phone or landline. 573.415.0021 If I am on my computer, I would love to talk to you!!!
Thanks for your support. All the kind wishes have been read and reread over and over again as I embark on this journey.  To be continued after orientation… besos!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Una Semana.

Today my family and I celebrated Thanksgiving!  Come Thursday, November 25, I probably won't realize it is Thanksgiving -- as it will be an ordinary Thursday in Spain.  I took pictures of our meal today, I'll have to look at them to "celebrate"!

Pre-departure, I have only been blogging when it comes to official countdown dates -- today's count: 1 WEEK!  This time next Sunday, I will have already flown from St. Louis to Dallas, had my 45 minute layover (hardly to be called a "lay-over"!), and be en route to Madrid.  I hope they have good movies on my flight!

This past week I learned a few more details about my job: I heard from my tutors!  Antonio will be my tutor at IES Jaranda, the high school I will teach at this year, and Divina will be my tutora at
CIEP Conquistador Loaysa, the elementary school.  Both schools are in Jarandilla de la Vera, Extremadura, Caceres, Spain! (explanation: Jefferson City, Cole County, Missouri, USA) I will be teaching students anywhere from 3 - 12 years old in the elementary, and older students aged 13 - ? in the high school. I will teach 6 hours a week in each school for a total of 12 hours a week.  I will teach 3 classes per day, 4 days a week - 2 days in each school. We are still working out transportation details to get me from Navalmoral de la Mata (where I want to live) to Jarandilla (where the schools are).  They have even mentioned me living in Plasencia, a town about 45 minutes away from Jarandilla, because I could commute with Antonio each day.  Hopefully, we can work things out and I can live in Navalmoral because the cost of living is cheaper and it is closer to Madrid for traveling purposes on the weekends. 

Sorry, that was a lot of information, but Spain hasn't been in a hurry to update me on my situation, so I learn lots of information all at once. I learned most of that this past week, just two weeks before departure. Thank you, Spain. 

This last week is full of dinner dates, appointments, packing, and goodbyes.  I can already tell it will be hectic and too exciting to actually enjoy.  One last trip to Fulton is in the making for tomorrow night, Monday, to say goodbye to fellow Thetas and WestMO-ans (?) - which I am very looking forward to - my very own "alumni weekend" haha! 

I'm unsure when I will write again.  Blogging will be the last thing on my mind, as I gear up for the big move.  I guess my next installment will be FROM Spain! Que guay! ("how cool!")