Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Creating a Space

This is the first truly independent, long-term move I've ever made on my own. Mom and I  moved a lot together, and I've relocated several times temporarily: to Indiana for my pilot's license, to Valencia for a study abroad, to Brazil, obviously. But this time around, I'm all on my own. No real support network to speak of besides a makeshift Facebook group; no instructions. I was one of the few people in the program here in Valladolid to receive an email from my job before actually showing up the first day! So I count myself lucky. But, still, in terms of applying for a residence card, opening a bank account, finding an apartment...that's all open to interpretation.

With so much to do, it's hard to appreciate what I've already accomplished. I mean, in just a week here I've created a new life for myself. When I look at it that way I feel impressed and more or less content. But normally I'm always thinking about the next thing to do: run errands, buy things before everything closes for siesta, prepare for work, be social, clean house. I mean, just the idea of building a kitchen from scratch is a heroic task in and of itself, let alone figuring out all the other aspects of my new apartment and, even bigger, my life here.

Apartment projects: like installing a new light fixture

My own kitchen drawer. I even bought a cheapo French Press!

One funny thing to figure out was laundry. I knew from my time in Valencia that it's typical here to dry laundry on lines outside. In Valencia though they were on this really nice rooftop terrace. In my apartment, the lines are strung out a window over this no man's land between apartment buildings. It was hilarious, but I basically had to lean out as far as I could out of a window and close pin various towels and sheets onto this tiny line. It's on a pulley system so I can move things down the line, but it's so squeaky I'm afraid something is going to snap at any second. It's been out there for hours though, and nothing has gone wrong. So far so good. :p

Laundry madness! And new Ikea buys. ;)

I have to say though, as exhausted as I am, I'm pretty happy with things. My job is great! I love where I work. I teach outside of Valladolid in a small village of maybe 2000 people called Mojados. I carpool with Javier normally to get there, and it only takes us about 15-20 minutes. Several of the other teachers have offered to give me rides as well, so I really lucked out. The school is small, just 100 students, but it's incredibly modern and nice. Every class has a computer, white board, and smart board. There's a small café and even a nice lounge for the teachers where I now have my own locker and mailbox. There are even more computers there to use! Huge 180 from Brazil!

Ok, so the place has a really shiny appearance. That's great and all, but it wouldn't mean anything if the people in it were terrible. Luckily, the faculty is awesome. There are about 15 teachers, two of which teach English. They have all been extremely nice to me. I work with maybe 4 of them.

Official mail box!

I thought I would just be helping with the English classes, but this institute has a whole line of bilingual education. So I also help in PE (with a world championship winning basketball player as the teacher! surreal?), music, and computer classes. It's a lot of fun, and it's very easy work. I mean, my second day of class was spent playing tag and translating stretching techniques into English. Ha! Also, *drum roll!* I don't have to work Fridays! Not to mention, I only work 13 hour weeks. Vacation?

Given, this is all at school. Most people who work on a part-time grant like this also give private classes to make some more money. I've been receiving a lot of requests, so I think I'll schedule a few hours a week for that as well. If I could make an additional 100 or so euro a month, that'd be stellar. At the same time, I don't want to burn myself out. I think with my 700 base stipend and a bit more from lessons, I can live just fine. I want to sing again, take kick boxing, travel, and go to language exchanges. I want to have fun! But we'll see, things might be tighter than I'm imagining in the coming months, and I still have to wait until mid October to even receive any money at all! Such a strange program.

I'm just so glad I work at a nice place. I feel valued and useful. My first day I dived right into classes, basically teaching the English classes half and half with Javier. People seek me out for help with lesson planning, vocabulary, or just to have coffee. It's been a good first week, I'd say. I'll post pictures of my room next entry! I'm sure by then it'll be a lot homier and not so stark.


  1. Wow, where do I start. You have done so much so quickly. I can feel how positive you are through your blog, it is absolutely wonderful!! I am very proud of you Lauren, I am very happy for you. Btw what is a language exchange? I can't thank you enough for your blog, it is fantastic, it makes me smile. Love you and miss you.

  2. A language exchange is just a meet up in a bar or café with people who want to practice their language skills. So, I'll meet up with people who want to practice English, and then I'll get to practice my Spanish too. It's just a social get together really.

  3. which is pretty much the ideal forum to actually learn a language - great read & i'm glad to hear you're settling in quickly and smoothly