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...

 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


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