Europe, Spain

Spain: Week 2 Recap

Monday, October 5

On Monday, I spent a lot of time talking with my school coordinator about necessary next steps. There’s a lot of confusion on both sides, primarily due to limited communication from the Xunta. This is my first-year as an aux, and this is the first time they’ve hosted an aux. It seemed like a collaborative effort, and we both figured things out together. We decided to meet for coffee in the afternoon so we could meet in person and talk through some more logistics. This was a positive experience, and I felt comfortable about the position for this first part of the year. She also lives in Poio just across the bridge, so it’s convenient to walk to both now and when I move to Old Town. She’ll be carpooling me to the school each day, as there is not public transportation. I learned more about the school. It’s for students age 3-11, and there are only about 60 students. This is reminiscent of the school I attended for most of my life. The younger students only speak very basic English, understandably at their age. It’ll be a challenge, but I’ll be working alongside the English teacher not all alone. The older students are on to more complete sentences but still low beginner level. Another nice part about my school year being split is that I won’t be doing high school classes two days and then elementary classes the other two. This will allow me to focus my energy on techniques and lessons for very young learners for this part of the year, and then older and more advanced learners in the second half.

After we finished having coffee, I went back to the grocery store because I heard they had vegetarian plant protein meat substitutes. These are a staple in my diet as I don’t eat meat. I was super excited to find them! Unfortunately, they’re pretty expensive, so I didn’t go all out with them. But, I got a few products to try, and I’ll report back.

Tuesday, October 6

Today is the big day: the TIE (tarjeta de identidad de extranjero) appointment. I was up late last night, so I was pretty groggy getting up at 8:30 AM. Despite this, Benjamin and I were out the door by 9. His appointment was at 9:30 and mine was at 10. It was about a 30 minute walk to the extranjero office, which is located within the Policía Nacional building. The TIE process is still pretty confusing to me, and I reached out for a lot of support in understanding the different steps from people in the auxiliar groups. There’s also some helpful blog posts out there, and I’ll try to come up with a summary as a standalone post at some point soon.

It was a rainy morning, so it wasn’t comfortable getting there nor waiting outside in the rain. I’m not sure if this has always been the waiting area, or if this was due to COVID protocol. I’m thinking the latter. When we arrived, we told them our appointment times, and then we waited. There is not as much of a sense of urgency and being on-time in Spain, so it was no surprise when Benjamin wasn’t called into his 9:30 appointment until 9:50. There was some miscommunication on the waiting area, and a grumpy employee who made it clear he was not impressed. Benjamin’s process was a little more complex as it is his second year in the auxiliar program. For example, he had to leave to pay an additional tax and will have to have a second appointment once the first round of documents is processed.

For me, I was extremely nervous and my breathing and heartrate were pretty escalated. I was assigned to another employee who was quite kind. Although she didn’t speak English, she was patient with me trying to communicate and understand her instructions. At one point, when I was likely quite flush and agitated, she took a deep breath and said “tranquilo” which essentially means “be calm.” I had just about everything I needed, which I can go over another time. It included things like my passport and copies, my contract from the school, the empadronamiento, a tax, etc. One thing I didn’t have was a copy of my plane ticket coming into Spain, which they ended up wanting. After everything was processed, they took my fingerprints (but only my index fingers?) and had me leave to go to a nearby copy shop to get the ticket printed. After that, I brought it back and waited until she was available again. Then, we were done for today. In a month, if all processes correctly, I will come back to pick up my TIE.

I was extremely anxious through this whole process. A mix of it being a bit of a big deal needing to get the TIE, a language barrier for something important and complex, not getting enough sleep, and so forth. Overall, I managed it okay and did the best I could. On the way back, we picked up a few staples at the grocery store and then stopped at a cafetería.

While at the TIE appointment, I had missed a call from the scheduling department for my COVID test. They called back shortly after I got back home, and there was another language barrier. One thing I did understand though was “hoy” (today) – in three hours. She told me my appointment was at 6:48 PM, which confused me. Either there was some misspeaking of numbers, or it actually was at 6:48. I planned on arriving at 6:40 with fingers crossed. Thankfully I had nothing planned because this was pretty quick and unexpected. I rested for a little bit, and then left for the 45 minute trek to the Hospital Provincial de Pontevedra.

I got a bit lost trying to find the testing site, so I ended up going into the hospital to ask for some more direction. While I helplessly tried to understand all the vocabulary I didn’t know, the information attendant saw my confusion and graciously walked me over to the site. It was a bit shady – at the end of a long parking lot and in a small white shed. Regardless, I lined up, gave my name, and had the nasal and mouth swab. I’ve had quite a few COVID tests so far, and they are never pleasant. Yet, it was a necessary evil, and thankfully it was done.

After this, I headed back home and rested after about 6 miles of walking today. I made dinner later in the evening, and then sat in front of the window for a bit and had some self-reflection. That’s a wrap for today.

Wednesday, October 7

Today, I successfully got my first piece of mail in Spain! This was a package containing a gift from my mom to give to my host, José, to thank him for all his help. It was a stained glass image of Portland Headlight, a famous lighthouse in my state of Maine that is argued to be the most photographed lighthouse in the country. He was very grateful for the gift and invited me in for wine with his wife. We spent some time talking about what I’d learned about the school I’ll be teaching at and practicing some vocabulary around weather.

After this, I checked my phone and discovered that my COVID-19 test results were in: negative! This was surprisingly fast, as it was less than 20 hours from the testing time, and they had anticipated around 24-48. With this, I now have the go-ahead to start my position as an auxiliar.

After this, I spent some time trying to navigate my health insurance in Spain, which proved pretty challenging. The company is backlogged on sending out policy numbers and information. It was supposed to have been sent to my school, but it wasn’t and no telling when it would be. We tried our best to communicate regarding coverage and the policy number, but it was too complex of a conversation. They were able to find me an English-speaking employee, which helped a lot. He took my information and is processing my information. Hopefully, I’ll receive that soon. Insurance is notoriously a very stressful thing for me, so it was good progress to be able to handle it – and in a different language – without too much emotional turmoil.

There were some tentative plans to go out for drinks with some other auxes, but the plans fell through. Hopefully something will happen this weekend and help get us connected and socializing (in a safe, distanced way of course).

I spent a few hours working on travel blogging things, emails, sorority stuff, talking with my family, and so forth. It was a productive few hours, and then we called it a day.

Thursday, October 8

Today was a pretty bland day. I was up late last night, so I slept late this morning. I got myself out of the house to get coffee and breakfast and pick up some produce at the grocery store. I got back home and did a few more to-do list tasks, and then spent some time Netflixing, enjoying coffee, and doing some clean-up around my room.

Friday, October 9

Friday was a relaxed day, and I enjoyed sitting outside watching the sunset at the end of the day while listening to an audiobook.

Saturday, October 10

Saturday was a very busy and physically exerting day. In the morning, I met up with two other auxiliares, Isla and Monica, at the coffee shop near my current housing in Poio.

After getting coffee, we started on our adventure: to the beach! We didn’t have one selected but found one on Google Maps and started heading that way. For about an hour, we walked through mostly residential neighborhoods in Poio and then into some wooded areas and green paths as we got closer to the waterfront.

The first beach we landed at was Praia de Campelo, I believe. This didn’t have much of a beach feel and was attached to a port and boat launch.

We decided to keep walking along the pathway towards another beach. We ended up at three beaches that are all attached to each other across approximately a one mile strip. The first was Praia Cabeceira then Praia Polvorín and Praia Lourido. The last two ended up being our favorites, and we planted ourselves somewhere pretty much in between the two. We spent a few hours hear enjoying the sun, walking along the water, talking and playing games, and anticipating the change of the seasons.

Our biggest mistake was not bringing enough water, and I didn’t anticipate being in the direct sun so long so my sunburn started to quickly develop. I hid out in the shade and covered up in a hoodie and made the best of it. After a few hours, we started our walk back to Poio/Pontevedra. There was a long path following the waterfront heading back towards Poio. Then, we started walking in the downtown neighborhood center of Poio. It was a bit of an intense walk back being in the sun, dehydrated, and many miles into this adventure.

After we arrived back in Pontevedra, we went different ways, and I was on my way back home to a long, well-deserved shower, nap, and liter of water.

Sunday, October 11

I woke up Sunday tired and very sore. I was scheduled to go on another walk with a different auxiliar, Whitney, and two of her friends, Morven and Coorine. While I was hesitant about it, I decided it was for the best and would be good. I met them at a coffee shop in Poio and enjoyed my morning coffee a few minutes before they arrived.

I’m thankful that I decided to go for it because the walk and views ended up being beautiful and rewarding. Our destination was Área Archeolóxica da Caeria, which I found on a trail app and Google Maps. Yet, trying to locate it again the day of, it was impossible. I was starting to think this place didn’t actually exist. I was able to find a Wikipedia page that describes the rocks and the engravings and petroglyphs. They point to evidence of a town in the area during the Bronze age. As we started our walk, it was mostly through neighborhoods of Poio and very steep as we were essentially going straight up to the top of this particular peak in Poio.

These rocks that are a part of the Área Archeolóxica are mostly gathered in one area with a few signs describing the engravings. Then, continuing on only about 100 feet up the road, there are more rocks that follow a winding steep path that brings you to the top where you have beautiful views of Pontevedra.

We started our trek back, which included some paths and some neighborhood walking again. It was also steep going back down and a bit of a challenge at times, but it was still a good walk. We arrived back in Poio, went our separate ways, and I was on my way back to take a shower, go to bed early, and wrap up week two.

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