Saturday, 5 December 2015

Christmas!

Hola de nuevo! Sorry I'm super late with this again, I keep *thinking* about writing it, and then I just don't. But I do have a few photos and stuff to put in this one to make up for my lateness.

 So school has been really fun recently; last Thursday I even went with a few of the English classes on a big school trip to the Gijon Film Festival, and we saw a new film called 'All The Wilderness'. It was a bit of an odd film, but films at these sorts of events often are, because they're being celebrated as being 'different' and 'interesting', so I embraced it and thoroughly enjoyed it. All The Wilderness was a bit like Perks of Being a Wallflower, in that it was, in essence, a sort of coming-of-age story and how one teenage boy was coping with things that had happened to him in the past. But it also reminded me of Perks of Being A Wallflower because the film had some quite dark and serious themes running through it, and the coming-of-age stuff was a sort of cover for what the film was actually about- coping with death and sadness. It was incredibly effective, and although some of the students didn't really like it, I think they all followed it, and enjoyed it all the same. 
 I really liked going on the school trip, because I got to talk to lots of the students in a non-classroom-y setting, which was mostly them jibbering in Spanish and then quizzing me in broken English about various things! Some of the girls even saved me a seat so I could sit with them during the film (I know, adorable.) Some of them wanted selfies with me and wanted to know all about how I learned Spanish in England and school etc, and I now even have about 7 of them following me on Instagram!! It was just a really lovely day.
 Something else I've particularly enjoyed recently at school is that now it's December, I can start talking about Christmaaas!! I'm so excited about going home for Christmas, so it was really fun talking to the students about mince pies, advent calendars (of course I told them about my awesome PlayMobil one), Christmas pudding, and the importance of brussel sprouts! In order to have a bit of context for talking about how I celebrate Christmas, I asked my friend who I give conversation classes to, how Christmas is celebrated here. The main differences, are that here in Spain, traditionally Christmas Eve (la Noche Buena) is the day when Christmas Dinner is eaten, all the family gather together, and they'd have the leftovers for Christmas Day. Also, Santa Claus is not really popular here- I was told that sometimes they get a couple of 'Santa' presents, but mostly they receive their gifts from the Three Kings; they leave out offerings for them and their camels in the same way we leave out mince pies for Father Christmas. Also, one of the funniest questions I was asked was about Christmas Stockings, because the word for stocking is the same as 'sock', so several children asked me how on earth Father Christmas is supposed to fit all our presents into a sock, which I found quite amusing to explain!
  The great thing about fun lessons like these, is that the students actually listen, behave, and want to learn about it, because it's such an important celebration and they like to tell me how they celebrate it, and ask me hundreds of questions! They were so good in fact, that the quick, 10-minute Christmas song-learning activity I had prepared turned into a full group singalong which had all the students sat on the floor watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on the smartboard, and singing all the words! I can't wait for next week when I can do another one with them!


Plaza del Fontán Marketplace Mistletoe
  It's really beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas now too ("eeeverywheeere you go...") because the past couple of weeks have been so gorgeous and cold and frosty in the mornings! I sit in the staff room wearing a tshirt most days, and one of my teachers always looks at me in shock and says "How? How are you wearing short sleeves, I look at you and I get cold!" but the school is always 100 degrees so I refuse to wear winter clothing unless I'm sat outside when we go for a coffee at breaktime, but even then it's beautiful sunshine! My advent calendar is doing a great job at making me feel festive, and I've whacked out the Christmas playlist on Spotify for when I get ready in the mornings so I'll be in full Christmas mode when I come home in 2 weeks. Yep- TWO WEEKS! *happy christmas dance*
The lovely mountain view from my bus-stop


 Last weekend I went to Parque Principado- a big INTU Asturias shopping centre! - with a couple of friends, and it was so nice to just wander round the shops. There are plenty of good shops in Oviedo city centre, but they're all quite well-dispersed and some can take quite a while to find, so the shopping centre was lovely! It had a huge variety of places, and the McDonald's even had its own fancy little coffee bar which sold Macarons (or should that be McMacarons?) and posh pastries! I liked the shops so much I actually went there again yesterday morning, as there is a bus every half an hour from a bus stop just over the road, which takes you to right outside the entrance of the shopping centre. That is one thing I do like very much about where I live in Oviedo, it's *so* well-connected, I can get on practically any bus I need to in a maximum of 15 minutes' walk. Anyway, yeah! So that's another thing found which I can do at the weekend, and I expect I will explore more of it in the weekends to come. 
 I've also been walking to the library in the old towny bit near the Cathedral a lot recently, just to print and copy various things when I forget to do so at school! But it's been quite nice because although I explored that area thoroughly at the beginning of my stay here, because that's where all the Town Hall important places are, I haven't really been there much since, so it was a good opportunity to remind myself how much I liked it! I had a wander round the market in Plaza del Fontán, which this time of year is overflowing with people buying and selling poinsettias (reminded me of you by the way Mum) and sprigs of mistletoe in little beribboned bags. All very pretty!

The market just outside the library!




Last week I also had to go and find the special courier parcel-delivery collection place to collect my surprise advent calendar ( :D ) which meant I had to wander round a far-flung part of Oviedo I had never explored before! But luckily, it was on my way to the house of the little boy I give English classes to, so I could hop on a bus and get off a couple of stops early to go and find it. Once I had found the first street I had to walk up (Google Maps is despairingly bad here for some reason) I only had to walk in a straight line for 10 minutes and there it was! Since I had expected it to take me a lot longer than that, I had a bit of time to wander about taking photos of the very colourful and funky-looking buildings in the square nearby!




That's about it for my recent adventures! A friend is hosting a Sunday roast tomorrow, so I'll be going to that in the little town she lives in nearby, and I can't wait for amazing UK-style food!
Hopefully I won't be quite so late with my next post, but if nothing happens between now and next week, I'll probably wait until after Christmas to write again. 
Feliz Navidad!
xxx

Pretty sunset with the view of the mountains and the cathedral




Thursday, 19 November 2015

Hello again! 
Sorry this one's a bit late again, I wanted to be able to write a decent amount for once! I continue to have a lovely time here in Oviedo; the weather has been simply gorgeous, my lessons have been easy to teach, and I was helped along by a mid-week parcel from home as well!

I had a four-day weekend again last week, as the teacher I work with on Mondays was unable to come into school, and said I needn't bother coming in either! I took advantage of the extra time, and did my first proper food-shop at Carrefour, which is like a monster Asda selling everything under the sun. (Everything....except mincemeat. But I'll come to that later.) I also spent my Sunday afternoon with my friend for our regular maccy's meetup in town, which was lovely as always!

If anything, one thing which was a bit more of a challenge this week was working out what I was going to do in my classes, since there aren't really any other celebrations in England until Christmas now. However, my teacher friend who drives me to and from school most days, has spent a lot of time in the USA, and so suggested I do Thanksgiving! Now, aside from the wonderful Thanksgiving episodes of 'Friends', I can't say I know a lot about Thanksgiving, but the story turned out to be very straight-forward, and I learned a lot as well! And, with my bilingual classes, I even got to watch a few clips from 'Friends' to ahem..."practise their listening skills." They all found it very funny when Joey gets the turkey stuck on his head, so I'd say it went well!!

Going back to Carrefour: I wanted to let the teachers at school and maybe some of the students, try some typically English or Cumbrian food or sweets, since I'm spending my year eating dinner at 3pm and tea at 10pm (still weird). However, as hard as I tried, I could not find any ingredients to make the things I wanted to! I had originally planned to make my own Cinder Toffee in time for Bonfire Night, but nowhere had Bicarbonate of Soda, and golden syrup was nowhere to be seen! So I enlisted my parents, and they sent me 3 huge bags of cinder toffee, and 6 bars of Kendal Mint Cake- brilliant!! Unfortunately, Kendal Mint Cake doesn't stretch far enough for all my students to try a piece, but I did manage to give a bit to the majority of the teachers, to which they all replied "Ooh, minty!?" but I think it was a hit :D Luckily, there was enough cinder toffee to sink a ship, so all of my students (well, the well-behaved ones that is) got a small piece each, and several rushed up to me at the end of the lesson to ask me "What is it? Can I buy it in Spain? How do I make it!?" so I apologise in advance to many sets of Spanish parents whose kitchens may be filled with overflowing pans of toffee this week!!
One thing that I am still struggling to cope with however, is mince pies (I told you I'd come to it!) since it is almost impossible to find currants or sultanas here, let alone mixed peel or a lonely jar of mincemeat, and I'm blowed if I'm going to spend £20 on postage to get a jar of Waitrose's Own Mincemeat from Amazon!! I really really really want to make some so that my flatmates and teachers at school can maybe try some since the sweets were such a success, so I think this weekend I'll be exploring some more supermarkets in a vain attempt to find some. Fingers crossed.

Steering myself away from food now, I can't believe it's only a month until I come home for Christmas! 4 piddly little weeks and I'll be en route to Stansted airport. Hoooww have I been in Spain for this long already? It seems to have flown by, and I don't know if that's a good thing or bad thing- part of me wants to live in Oviedo, and part of me wants this year to be over and done with so I can carry on with life back home! I've been so happy here so far, and my Spanish has improved dramatically, but, despite not being homesick, there are definitely a million things I miss about home. Especially at Christmas!

That's all for this week! Sorry there hasn't been any photos this time, when you go to the same places all the time you sort of run out of things to take pictures of haha. Speak soon! xxx
PS- Helen, I started writing this as soon as you told me during mine and Alex's phone call!!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Better late than never!

Hola a todos!

As you might have guessed from the title, I completely forgot to write this until now! Although, I haven't had internet for the past 2 days so perhaps it wasn't entirely my fault. Luckily it is fixed now, thank goodness because I was sure I'd turn mad if I had to spend any more time playing Candy Crush on my phone or watching peculiar Spanish television (there was The Big Bang Theory, but listening to Sheldon in Spanish is not something I intend to make a habit of!!)

I've had a lovely week-and-a-bit, all my lessons have been running smoothly and after about a month of desperate trips to Santander down the road, my bank account is finally sorted so I can pay my rent. WOOHOO! I know I'm not the only Year Abroad student to have had problems in this respect by far, and I can tell you now that it *does* get easier. I was lucky enough to find a branch in which the man spoke a little English, so he helped me every time I returned with some new disaster. To be honest I think my ever-obvious Englishness was a source of quiet amusement for him.

In my lessons last week, I did of course cover Guy Fawkes Night, and I have to say how jealous I was seeing everyone posting on Facebook about fireworks and bonfires! I think the students were interested in it, because of course they don't celebrate it here, and predictably all the boys demonstrated the effects of gunpowder with fabulous sound effects! I had to laugh though as at one point a girl asked me if we had the day off to celebrate- pffft! She looked completely shocked when I told her we didn't have very many bank holidays or festivos, buuuut they did seem to like the idea of half term, having two weeks holiday in the middle of October!!

The weekend was lovely as well, as the sun came out and I could happily wander along the road to Carrefour to do my weekly shop, and then on Saturday night me and my flatmates ordered Chinese takeaway - something which I have sorely missed about Leeds! - and watched Aladdin (in Spanish of course) on the TV. I found it interesting that so many of the lines lost their meaning in translation, like for example, the Genie turns into a sheep and says he feels sheepish, which of course would not make sense as the words are different! And again, he buzzes around Aladdin's head telling him to "Bee yourself", which again would not be funny unless you understood the English play-on-words! Even so, it was was a nice evening as we don't often get the chance to all sit down together, so perhaps we will do more often in future.

Autumn has arrived in Oviedo!

I'm finding it hard to believe it's almost the middle of November already, I'll be coming home in just over a month! There are a few similarities between Asturias and England, but one of my favourites has got to be the weather. I know the majority of people go to Spain for the southern sun, but when I leave my flat in the morning to walk to get my lift to school, I love nothing more than it feeling like an English November morning; cold, crisp and beautiful wintery sunshine. All it needs is a touch of frost on the grass, and perhaps I'd forget I was even abroad! (Although I suspect the palm trees might give me a hint)

Cold, sunny, clear skies outside my flat
I'm sure I'll have more to talk about this time next week, and I might even remember to post on time! That's all for now, Happy Belated Bonfire Night!

Hasta luego xxx

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Hit the 6 Week Mark

Buenos días!

 Another good week gone by, can't believe I've been here for 6 weeks! Had another fun week of Halloween lessons, and even got to watch a bit of Harry Potter with a few of my classes (I said it was to improve their listening skills, but honestly, who doesn't want to watch a bit Harry Potter now and then?) so now I'm all geared-up for a couple of weeks of Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night! It's bank holiday yet *again* tomorrow so luckily I have fewer classes to plan, and more time to plan them, which is nice.
 Can't tell you how weird it's going to feel on the 5th of November and not going to see any fireworks though, really going to miss trekking down to Hyde Park in Leeds with everyone, buying a ton of sparklers and trying not to get shot down by one of the many inevitable people who brought their own fireworks to the show! 

School decorated for Halloween!
I didn't do anything other than school festivity for Halloween either actually, although I've found a goldmine of old Doctor Who episodes so instead of celebrating I've been immersing myself in David Tennant and Billie Piper (the golden age, let's be honest.) 

I did have my two private lessons again this week, which are always so lovely. Learning farm animals with my four-year-old pupil with the help of a few colouring pages, as I had naively believed I would be able to leave him to do that by himself, giving me time to work out what I could do next. However, he handed me every red crayon in his pencil case and insisted furiously "Pintas! Pintas!" and then proceeded to colour over all of my colouring with his own crayon! Adorable, but perhaps not quite what I intended, so this weekend I managed to find a book of English children's songs with a CD, so hopefully I will be able to use that to more success!
My conversation classes with the English teacher are particularly enjoyable as it feels more like I'm going to see a friend for a chat (albeit a friend who occasionally asks me about relative pronouns and the like.) This week I had the pleasure of meeting her family as they gave me a lift home. Normally, you can't help but feel a little bit doomed when they ask "Do you speak much Spanish ?" and while you plan to answer "A bit", your friend replies "Oh yes, very well!" *gulp*, but they were very kind and all seemed pleasantly surprised and encouraging over my attempts at fluent conversation! 

The short walk to the shop down the road

Despite having plenty of time on my hands, I very rarely get much done, since I'm usually a bit drained after a morning of unruly children, but me and a couple of other language assistant girls (from that WhatsApp group I mentioned a while back) made plans to meet up on Saturday. Unfortunately one couldn't make it in the end, but the remaining two of us spent the afternoon shopping, and of course, went to Primark and Maccy D's as a kind of pilgrimage. I think that's one thing I definitely miss about England is the shopping. There are some shops in the city centre, but not the ones you can spend ages meandering about in, and I sort of miss the Leeds Student Union's little card shop and going to Muffin Break for lunch. But anyway, these little weekend meet-ups seem to be becoming more frequent, so hopefully I won't be spending the majority of my Saturdays in bed eating nutella on toast :D

And with that hope, I'll be off! It's getting a bit more difficult to find things to talk about really, so fingers crossed for my Guy Fawkes Night lessons being worth a good post next week!

Besos xxx

Iglesia de Noreña, outside of my school





Thursday, 22 October 2015

Halloween Games and the Great Asturian Weather

Hola de nuevo!

 Now that my teaching has properly kicked off, I've been super busy this week which is why I'm a little later than usual with this post! I've loved it this week though, I thought I'd be a lot more stressed-out after a full-blown week of teaching, but I actually had a lot of fun! I'm one of those people who loves making lists and planning, so imagine my delight when I could not only plan the activities for 11 lessons, but rush in a teacher-ly fashion to and from the photocopier, printing and collecting various worksheets and seating plans! I know it sounds lame, but it was so satisfying picking up a huge stack of paper still warm from the printer, knowing that it was all entirely my own work and I was ready to go.
 Now of course, things didn't always run totally smoothly! Some of my classes are completely angelic, and a pleasure to talk to; they learn the words, they want to use them, and they try to speak it as best they can. Others...well, they seem to be training as apprentices for Satan. They talk over me when I try to help, and then stare incomprehensibly at me when I tell them in my most simplified English (which by the way, they've been learning since they were 4) the instructions for a task. It never occurred to me that I'd have to tell people off! I feel a complete fraud when I put on my best teacher's voice and say sternly "Sit down, be quiet and do the work. It often helps if you pick up your pen." But hey! Part of the learning curve, right? My teachers are all really lovely and help me as much as they can, so thankfully I haven't been in that situation too much! Mostly, this week has been hours of playing Halloween games and teaching useful, practical words like "Goblin" "Cauldron" and "Werewolf". 

The bar where the teachers and I have a coffee every day
 Something else relatively exciting that began this week was my first conversation class as an English conversation tutor! I have two appointments in a week at the moment, one with a really lovely lady who works as an English teacher outside of Oviedo, who I have the pleasure of meeting every Friday simply to chat to so she can practice and modernise her English, and the other is with the adorable 4-year-old son of one of the teachers at my school! Quite a contrast, since one is practically a native speaker, and the other has only just learned to speak his own language let alone another! But I had huge fun watching Peppa Pig for an hour, and by the end of the class, I am pleased to say he could, just like Peppa's brother George, say "DINOSAUR!" with great enthusiasm! :D I've been told there might also be others who want to try to arrange sessions with me or for their children, so possibly that'll be a thing by next week too!
Another thing that properly happened this week was the infamous rainy Asturian weather! The photo above obviously isn't representative of this, because luckily so far the weather has been beautiful! Everyone here tells me that October here is always guapo (a word which, in every other part of Spain can only be used for people, but here they use it for everything!!) but at the start of the week, it absolutely tipped it down. Cats and dogs, stair-rods, you name it, it was coming down, so much so that my ill-judged speedwalk to the bus stop one morning wearing my completely un-waterproof coat over my head, had to be stopped as I dashed into the nearest chemist and bought the first umbrella I could get my hands on! 
 I'll be continuing with my Halloween-themed lessons next week, but I'm quite looking forward to moving onto Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night, since they obviously don't celebrate that here, so the next couple of weeks should be pretty good! Whew, that was a bit of a muddle of things, hope you are keeping up- I tend to write this the way I would say it, so I apologise if it's a tad hard to follow haha!

Hasta pronto! xxx

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Onward and Upwards

Hola a todos!

Had yet another fabulous week here in Oviedo; my first glimpse of the infamous Asturian rain, a little meet-up with some lovely new people, and the start of another week at school! Here we go...

 This weekend just gone was some national bank holiday, a teacher did tell me...possibly something to do with celebrating the Spanish discovering America? Or just celebrating Spanishness in general? Either way, since I don't work on Fridays, and the weather took a turn for the worse, I could enjoy four days of the uninterrupted #studentlife that I've become so partial to in Leeds. It gave me the perfect opportunity to unwind and begin haplessly organising as much as I possibly can for the coming weeks, in between my busy schedule of sitting in bed watching Friends and drinking tea, of course.
 However, I did manage to do a couple of productive things - honest!- one of which was get in contact with some other 'Auxiliares de conversación' from the UK. After exchanging emails with one of them, a WhatsApp group appeared and a few of us decided to meet for coffee and tapas in Oviedo on Saturday, and it was lovely! There were only four of us, but we sat for a few cups of sidra and a cafe con leche for a couple of hours before crossing the street into a tapas restaurant, and had a hearty Spanish meal (although they could not tempt me with their mussels and prawns with their heads still attached!) and a great deal of chatting, and by the end of the night we all agreed to meet again soon. It was good to meet people in the same situation as me, and I welcomed the speaking in English too! Not to mention I got to eat this sensational masterpiece of a pudding: la Tarta de la Abuela, loosely translated to Grandma's Cake, is a delicious Spanish dessert made of layers of creme caramel, chocolate and biscuity sponge. Yum.


 The second 'productive' thing I got done this weekend was to activate my Spanish bank card, however since I have absolutely no idea how to work the online banking system, and have no intention of trying on my own, I can't *really* do anything useful with it until I get paid and have to go to the bank to pay my rent. But never mind, I feel there are more important things to be had than anxiety-filled phone calls about Spanish banking, so I'll put that one on the back burner for now. 
 I did want to get at least *something* done in those four days however, so I had my first encounter with the Spanish post office! There is a large shopping/cinema complex 5 minutes down the road from my flat, called Los Prados, so armed with my carefully - if cluelessly -selected Real Oviedo FC shirt (don't worry, the recipient already knows he's getting one so I'm not giving anything away!) I walked across one evening to have a look. All I had to do was ask for an envelope, write my address on the top and the destination address on the bottom, and voilà! All done. This gave me plenty of time to discover, to my absolute delight, a pet shop that sold *actual pets* just upstairs! I don't know how long I spent oohing and aahing over them, but safe to say I've left part of my heart with the tiny, fluffy, ginger kitten that called to me through the glass...


video




 I expect I will be back there now that I know there's a supermarket *and* a pet shop there, and I might even brave a Spanish film at some point! 

Yet another beautiful fountain on a roundabout in Oviedo

 Because of the bank holiday, I only started back at school again today, and I have a week of observation ahead of me. This morning was very helpful, as I could simply sit at the back of the class and work out the general ability and level of the pupils, and could make notes on what they were learning and if they were having any particular difficulty with anything. For now, it seems the hardest thing will be helping them to know the difference between 'He has got' and 'They have got', and a bit of pronunciation stuff. (Because in most Spanish words you pronounce every letter, lots of the students were talking about their trips to the park with their 'free-ends', which was quite sweet!) So nothing too bad, and as it's October, I am most looking forward to talking about Halloween and all that sort of stuff. 
And even better news is that I've arranged with my teachers to go home for Christmas a few days earlier, so I won't have to travel home on Christmas Eve- Yay!

That's all again for now, see you next week when I will hopefully have spent a few days describing witches and ghosts to great extent!
Hasta luego xxx

PS. You know you all love a good cat video.


Monday, 5 October 2015

Touristy Things and First Day

Back again! I think I'll probably post once a week, but thought I'd better do this one now before I get busy at work, become crazily stressed and forget everything.

The last few days before I started work and my parents returned home, we decided to do a bit of touristy exploring, given that usually the idea of a holiday is *not* to wander around various government buildings feeling bewildered. So! We took a day trip to a place on the coast called Luanco, which was lovely but very different to Oviedo with its crashing waves and that amazing salt-water smell you get at the seaside. However, it wasn't quite what you imagine when you think 'Spanish seaside' as Asturias is next to the Atlantic and not the Mediterranean, so the sea was rough and cold enough that despite the nice weather, there were no people on the beach.
 It was a simple enough day, we wandered along the promenade, had lunch, wandered back, took a few photos. But it felt good to not have to do anything. By the time we'd passed the beach again, it had disappeared under torrents of seemingly angry seawater, which smashed against and over the walls, flooding the pavements and threatening passers-by. Again, something which marked us as 'weird English people' was that we didn't start shrieking and running for cover, because it was remarkably like the Solway Coast on a windy day - minus the beautiful blue sky obviously - which is something we're pretty used to by now! (Although this did not take away our annoyance that we all looked windswept and mad in our photos.)



The other touristy place we visited was La Basílica de Covodonga, a
Hogwarts-lookalike cathedral up a mountain, which was pretty impressive! Part of the site was built into the cliff-face, from which you could visit a little chapel and a small museum. Not much to say about this place other than that, although I did take plenty of photos!

That was almost a week ago now however, and today was my first proper day working in Noreña at the school there. Frankly, last night I was a chaotic mess of nerves, if only because the thought of having to catch a different bus from a different place seemed absolutely terrifying to me; I am told that public transport can smell fear. 
However, I spent my Sunday afternoon in Gijón with my two lovely flatmates, going to see a cute little film - English with Spanish subtitles, so not too much to worry about! - called The Book of Life, and then walking along the beach and through the old town in the evening. It was a nice evening, and despite the fact that everyone else was wrapped up in thick coats and scarves, it wasn't cold either! But I digress.
I got to the school just after 10am this morning, and after having been suspiciously greeted by a local cat - which I deemed a good omen of course - I was ushered around the school and shown the classes in which I would be assisting. "A week of quiet observation and learning" I was told, however my teacher (who was absolutely lovely) had not been told of my arrival and with that was asked to introduce myself and talk to all three classes in a row without any prior preparation. Aaaaaahhhhhh!!
 But in a surprising turn of events, I really enjoyed it! One class was more enthusiastic than the others, but all of them asked me questions, mostly "Do you have a favourite football team?" to which I, who has not the faintest clue about football, had to mumble something about which team my brother supports. It was basic stuff, colours, family, pets, favourite music etc., but it was interesting to see other people learning my own language. All of the teachers I have met so far - although don't count on me for remembering their names - have been super friendly, a couple even knew where Cumbria was! There are a few who live near me in Oviedo as well, so they have offered to give me lifts into school a few days a week, which is more than good news. Tomorrow I meet a couple of new classes, and am actually excited! That's all for now, I know that was a lot to take in, but I'll leave you with a few photos from Gijón, whose views were spectacular.
Hasta luego xxx



Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura








Saturday, 3 October 2015

¡Bienvenido!

Greetings!
This is a little blog I've decided to keep while I'm on my Year Abroad in the lovely city of Oviedo in Asturias, Spain. I've never written a blog before, so this should be interesting. Or fun. Hopefully both. 
I've been in Oviedo for juuust over a couple of weeks now, and have to say I'm rather enjoying it! Arriving on the 20th September, I was expecting - as everyone had told me - a scene similar to a rainy Cumbrian countryside. However, the weather has been absolutely fabulous and, much to the shock of the locals, who presumably think 23 degrees is fairly wintery, I have been enjoying exploring this beautiful city without a coat or umbrella! (Their ill-concealed glances may also be due to the fact that I may be the only ginger person in the city, I am yet to find another.)

La Plaza de la Catedral

I have only just begun to fully appreciate everything though, as for the first week or so I was inundated with terrifying floods of Spanish bureaucracy. After thousands of seemingly repetitive and confusing emails from several different people, it became clear that it was not quite so easy as 'moving to Spain'. I had attempted to find somewhere to live through various websites whilst still in the UK, and in the end simply found a flat through an Erasmus student group on Facebook. After a somewhat baffling discussion where I pretended to understand the ins and outs of arranging a contract in Spanish, I signed it and now have a very lovely flat to live in! Then came the 'Certificado de Empadronamiento', which was simple enough despite the obscure location and the piles of photocopies of my passport, and then the dreaded NIE (or, Número de Identificación Extranjero). Having been given no other explanation than "obtain an NIE from the local authority" I walked from the ayuntamiento (town hall) across the city to a series of government buildings, hopelessly confused, until a nice lady talked me through the process. Apparently you have to ring a hotline to make an appointment to get your NIE, to then be told that there is a waiting list of 4 weeks. Hardly practical given that I was due to start work in less than a week. After yet another stream of frantic emails, my appointment was booked, and I arrived armed with an alarming amount of paperwork. My reward? 15 minutes waiting in silence before being given a tiny, blue piece of card (inexplicably laminated on only one side by the way). I won't bore you with any more of my tedious encounters with Important Adult Things I Had To Do, but suffice to say, I was exhausted.

Luckily, all of this came with a silver lining. Traipsing across Oviedo meant my Dad got to play at being navigator, leading us through the city on a sort of accidental scenic tour. Above anything else, Oviedo seems to love statues. Everywhere you go, there are tall dark figures posed on the concrete; a lady in crinoline from a classic Spanish novel, a man with a rocking horse holding an old-fashioned camera, and also, somewhat surprisingly, Woody Allen.  Fountains were another thing! Beautiful water features at every roundabout, in every park and at the end of long tree-lined avenues and plazas, calming and simple.

It also gave me the chance to find everything I would need around the city, thankfully only a 25 minute walk away, which normally I would cover by bus, but the annoying thing about buses is that in order to catch one, you need to possess some innate magic to know where they go, where they stop, and when. So, knowing my track record of getting lost even in Leeds where I've lived for 2 years, I choose life. And walking. 

La Plaza de España

 From this at least I seem to have managed to find all the important things - supermarket, post office, somewhere to buy adorable notebooks, and a petshop to look into when I miss my cat (don't judge me) - and I've managed to recover from having to actually *speak* to shop assistants when I need to buy fruit and veg. So all in all, not a bad start! I did a bit more touristy exploring with my parents but that can wait until next time. I hope I remember to update this, because I think I'm going to enjoy pouring my rambling thoughts out to anonymous - if any - readers.

Hasta luego xxx