Sunday, July 22, 2012

Arts, crafts, and la noche

I appear to be extremely lucky with my school. When I emailed them after getting my placement, to my surprise, they got back to me within a day; a day later the outgoing assistant had emailed me; and the day after that, my coordinator emailed me, too. I woke up today to an email from my coordinator with a video about Lugo de noche, ooh la la! I know a not all schools are that responsive or helpful, so I feel super, super lucky.

The assistant this year only worked in English classes, but it looks like I'll be splitting my time between English and Arts & Crafts! I am so excited to be doing art projects with a bunch of elementary-school students. Before college, I was extremely involved in art at my school--I was in an accelerated program, did some nerd camps, and took the highest levels available. I honestly thought I was going to be a Studio major (well, probably Studio doubled with something else) but alas, I didn't feel very comfortable in my college's art department. So I haven't done too much in the last couple of years, other than doodle and get way too excited about designing flyers for my old job.

But hopefully the kidlets will provide some impetus to give my chalk pastels some love again.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Introductions: Dog

And now for the pretty, cool, vivacious, and flirtatious one that dudes hit on all the time...Gwen.

look at that face

I adopted Gwen from my local SPCA on February 2, 2012. I know--who adopts a dog when they're thinking about moving to a different continent? But honestly, in the beginning of February, I didn't think I was going at all. And I was so, so lonely. Like I mentioned before, I lived in a rural area. There weren't a lot of people my own age (or many people, period), and I was tired of going home and staring at the walls. Alone. Cooking dinner. Alone. Watching bad TV. Alone. Going for trail runs. Alone. You get the picture.

I don't know too much about Gwen's life before the SPCA picked her up, since she was found as a stray, wandering around town. What I do know is that whoever had her before I did, must have loved her very much--she adores people and has perfect house manners. Seriously: she didn't get on the furniture for a week. I thought dogs that don't get on furniture were mythical beasts, like unicorns and Crumple-Horned Snorkacks. However she got from staying off someone's couch to the SPCA, though, I'm glad she did. Gwen has brought more light and joy into my life than just about anything (even though she has decided my wake-up time is 5:45 a.m., enforced with toe licks and jingling of dog tags; yeah, I'm a morning person, but that's a little too much morning).

Gwen's favorite pastimes include napping, looking cute, shedding, trying to chase the bunnies that live in our neighborhood, getting belly-rubs from my track team, and going on trail runs. She does sing to me whenever she has feelings to express (and she has a lot of feelings), but I have not yet succeeded in teaching her "I love you." Gwen is what I usually refer to as a city Siberian, as opposed to a pulling-a-sled-through-the-Alaskan-wilds Siberian. She hates precipitation (good thing we're going to Galicia!), she doesn't like running up hills, and when she's tired, she pouts.

one second after I snapped this, she started glaring at me, because
there's snow on the ground? she should be inside? obviously?

Taking Gwen to Spain will be a totally new challenge. It will mean less traveling for me, since I can't exactly throw her on the bus. It will also complicate my search for housing--not only do I have to find a place I like, I have to find a place that likes her (and someplace to crash in the interim). She's a picky eater, so I have to find some type of Spanish dog food that she'll deign to eat; if she gets sick or injured, I'll have to navigate finding an English-speaking vet. Spain and the U.S. are in the same rabies zone, so she won't have to go through quarantine--but there's still the stress of flying her. And on it goes.

But I think it will be worth it. I can't imagine going back to a regular alarm clock, anyway.

My lie: I have a ring made out of a Portuguese escudo, bought last summer at Lisbon's Feira dos Ladros, not a Spanish peseta.

Two truths and a lie for Gwen: her many aliases include Fluffbucket, Gwensicle, and Gwennifer Lopez; the only vegetable she will eat is frozen green beans; like many Siberians, she doesn't fetch--seriously, why should she chase something a human is throwing away?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Drumroll, please

Gwen and I will be spending next year in Lugo!

I know--where? I still don't know too much about my future home, other than what you can find out with a quick Google. There appear to be 1.5 miles of Roman walls, a cathedral, a river, and 80,000 more people than the location of my last pre-coffee job, so I'll take it.

thanks for the pic of las murallas romanas, Wikipedia

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Introductions: Girl

Since I skipped the introductions and went straight to my emotions last post, I'm going to back it up a little bit (not like that). In this and the next two posts, I will introduce this blog's main characters: a girl, her dog, and a part of Spain that you have probably never heard of, and almost certainly never been to. (Don't worry: I haven't either.)

revisiting the place where it all began (kind of): Pena, Portugal

That would be me. I'm a Virginia girl, who graduated from its flagship university in 2010. Since then, I've been working in a rural high school, helping silly students figure out their futures. My favorite part of this, hands down, has been getting involved with my school's cross country and track teams--I love to run, and missed not having a team in college. (I am in no way speedy enough for DI!) After my school year finished in June, I moved back to my hometown, and have been working in a coffee shop. But not any coffee shop--the most intense coffee shop in the world. Let's just say I spend a lot of time memorizing things like the differences between our three Rwandan Cup of Excellence coffees: one is "full-bodied with complex sweet acidity," another has a "smokey, spicy aftertaste," and the third has an "aroma of raspberries with a flavor of dark brown sugar and dark chocolate."

Other than loving Virginia (wine), always smelling like coffee, and running, what makes me tick? Traveling, of course. I've been an addict since I was thirteen, when my dad took me to Europe for the first time. Since then, I've bounced around most of Western Europe, taking goofy pictures and eating an astonishing amount of food. I studied abroad in Lisbon, Portugal, the fall of 2008, and worked in Rome the summer of 2009. Long-term, I would like to work in international education--studying and working abroad were two of the most profoundly transformative experiences of my life, and I would love to help other students find their own ways out of the comfortable embrace of the good ol' US of A.

Despite the value of these profoundly transformative experiences (yeah, I'm gagging, too), to say nothing of the jet lag or number of times I've humiliated myself in various Romance languages, I actually hated Spain the first time I visited it. The summer before my first year of college, my family was visiting some friends in Portugal. A few days into the stay, my dad decided to pack us into the car and drive through the westernmost hinterlands of Spain. Almost as soon as we left, I got sick, and spent the rest of our Spanish sojourn curled into a miserable ball in the back seat of the rental car. Things I remember: fever dreams of sun-baked fields and combine harvesters; trying to find food in Salamanca during siesta; getting lost in Extremaduran mountains; and touring (i.e., trying not to pass out on) the walls of Badajoz.

Obviously, things went a little better the next time, and even better the time after that. Which gets us to where we are now: me getting forms notarized and apostilled and god-knows-what-ed, so I can move somewhere that seemed, initially, as inhospitable as a place can be. Life, man. It's funny.

obviously feeling right at home in the Templo de Debod

Bonus! Two truths and a lie: synonyms of my middle name include massacre, butchery, and carnage; I have a ring made from a 100-peseta coin; I have illegally crossed the US-Mexican border.

Monday, July 2, 2012

On excuses

It's around 3 p.m. on a Monday, and I have just gotten back to my desk, after finishing a third-round interview to become an admissions counselor at a perfectly lovely university. Throughout this interview, the man I'm speaking with says things like "You're our girl" and "We just need to work out the final details" and "We've been having some great conversations about you in our office."

I feel vaguely ill. I am almost positive I will get an offer from them. I try to be excited--beautiful campus! wonderful co-workers, who were so helpful when my car broke down at my second interview! a 401(k)! dental insurance! barbeque on the daily, since it's in Carolina!--as I open my email.

And there it is. An automated email from, offering me a place in Spain's North American Language and Cultural Assistants program.

I read the email. I get up, lock myself in my bathroom, and cry. I don't see a way that I can make this work financially, due to some recent emergency expenses, including a major repair on my car. I resign myself to declining my spot--someone else can go to Spain in my place, someone with a $0 balance on her credit card, no reservations, and no 40-pound Siberian Husky to fly over.

But I'm miserable. I'm still miserable when my phone rings around 5. It's the university. My stomach flips over, and I send the call to voice-mail.

And then, over the course of the night, I realize (or several people slap me up side the head until they make me realize) what an awful attitude this is. One of the things that struck me most was said on a website for professional women, on whose mercy I had thrown myself for guidance: "Don't let your car be an excuse." This might seem super, super insignificant, but for whatever reason, that illuminated the filaments of my mental light-bulb. Don't make excuses. Don't let four tires hooked up to a metal box keep me from pursuing something I care deeply about. Don't let the balance in my IRA do it, either, or the fact that I adopted a dog. If I want to take the job at the university--fine. Retirement accounts, financial security, this stuff is important to me, too. But don't make excuses for it.

The next morning, I accepted my place in Galicia, emailed the university to withdraw my application, and started researching everything from visa requirements to what kind of microchip my dog needs to get. (In addition to being a personal finance nerd, I am also extremely Type A. In case you couldn't figure that out.) And I was thrilled! Sure, parts of me still have reservations--Spain's economy is, you know, falling off a cliff and stuff, so I'm still battling paranoia that the program will be canceled in October or something--but none of them would have been as excited about strategizing for my recruitment territory.

So let's do this thing.