Saturday, September 29, 2012


It's been a busy couple of days: Mom and I retrieved Gwen from Barajas on Thursday; and then Friday we drove the five hours back to Lugo, whereupon I went to sign the contract for our apartment. Promise that I've got more words and pictures coming! But honestly, right now, all I want to do is 1. cuddle my dog and 2. sleep.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

pulpo a la plancha

One of my favorite things to eat in Spain is el pulpo, or octopus. There are a variety of ways of serving it (and I still haven't tracked down the most typical Galician octopus, pulpo a la gallega), but the most basic and unadorned is probably what I had for dinner last night, pulpo a la plancha. Basically, it's octopus coated in olive oil, salt, and garlic, then grilled. No frills.

And as my mother wincingly pointed out, no way to avoid the fact that you are eating tentacles, coated in suction cups.

Other than eating sea-critters, I've been meeting the other language and cultural assistants as they trickle in, and continuing my (feels-like-it's) interminable hunt for an apartment. Probably the most notable event was my visit this morning to the school where I'll be working. It was a bit intimidating, for sure, but everyone seemed very nice and incredibly welcoming. And the kids are way, way cuter than my high schoolers.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

early days

la Praza Maior's chariot, by night
I was going to leave this until tomorrow (two posts in one day, what?) but then figured eh, all I'm doing is sitting in the hotel drinking Rioja, so I might as well get these pictures online now.

la Praza Maior

cathedral's facade

el río Miño

new kicks, new continent

I went for my first run in Lugo this morning. I'd like to say I took it easy, since between a flareup of an old injury and the chaos of the move I haven't run in a few days, but apparently my competitive streak sees the circuit around las murallas as a very hilly, sandy track, and I became determined to pass all the people. So it became a modified hill workout.

Also, I'm calling my new kicks the Incredible Hulk shoes, because they have the same color scheme.

Other than running, I've met two other assistants, one American and one English, and we've been exploring the city together. I don't have a place to live yet, but I'm (reasonably) (kind of) (mostly?) confident it will work out.

Friday, September 21, 2012

road tripping

Originally, Gwen was supposed to arrive the same day the mom and I did. With this in mind, we rented a car so we could, you know, get her to Lugo and stuff. As I mentioned before, the kerfuffle with her papers means she won't be arriving until next Wednesday; but we still had the car. Why we didn't cancel it and take the bus, I don't know, but either way, yesterday we drove the five hours from Madrid to Lugo.

the first time I have ever driven in Europe!
Despite the length, it wasn't actually that bad. After we got out of Madrid, there are zero (yes, zero) turns to make until the exit for Lugo. The cattle fields of Castilla y Leon (pictured above) weren't the most diverting things in the world to drive through, but we did see a lot of castles from the road, which was pretty cool. We weren't really in the mood to stop, since we started out on ahem, Spanish time (which is to say two hours late), but on the way back to get Gwen, we plan on exploring some of 'em. The drive got more interesting once we cleared the flatlands and hit the mountains--everything changed from bleached-out wheat to vertiginous green slopes, populated with wind turbines and electrical towers accessible only by mountain goat.

By the time we got to Lugo, we were too tired to do much more than check into our hotel, hit up Carrefour for dinner fixins' (and wine), and collapse. Today we've done a bit more exploring, around the old quarter and las murallas, but knocked off the touristing for some quality siestas.

I match Lugo! meant to be?

flowers, balconies, and Roman walls
Next up: acquiring a cell phone. As soon as I feel sufficiently reinvigorated from dawdling around the hotel room, it's off to Orange to get a phone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

madrid, madrid

I am here! Along with my faithful Cheeto backpack, a dusty carry-on, and my favorite shoulder-bag.

Getting to where I am (lounging in a hotel bed in Madrid; showered, fed my first bowl of salmorejo, and libation-ed with a nice glass of red, no less) was a bit more of an adventure than I feel like getting into right now, but I will leave you with this teaser: if it weren't for the incredible grace and kindness of complete strangers, my mom, our rented station wagon, and I would probably still be making loops around the M-40/A-2/E-72685672/QB-red-red-one-two-hike.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

(a very quick) update on bureaucracy

squash blossom, fall

I just realized I never posted an update on my visa. So here it is: I got it! I've also acquired and apostilled all the documents I'll need to apply for my residency number. It was pretty painless.

More painful, unfortunately, is Gwen's immigration status. Due to what I refer to as a "miscommunication" when I'm feeling polite (and a "Please explain how you completely failed to mention this requirement when I asked how to bring my dog to Spain," when I'm feeling a bit punchier), G. will not be flying over until a week after I arrive. I will miss her little face terribly, but I'm trying to look on the bright side--she'll get to have a blast chillin' on the farm with her granddad, and I'll have more time to get set up in Spain before adding a furball to my list of responsibilities.

PS. Both of these pictures are from my recent trip north. I took them at and around my godmother's beautiful farm.
PPS. I will quit putting every picture I take through Instagram soon. Cross my heart.

sunshine, lion

Thursday, September 13, 2012

what I talk about when I talk about running

Yesterday, I drove up the curves of the Old Blue Ridge Parkway, back north to the Mountain Kingdom. (In case you couldn't tell, I've also given into Instagram. I kind of hate myself, but ooh, filters.) Due to the vicissitudes of work and my departure date, there was only one cross country meet I could make it to, but I was determined that I was going to be there.

ladies first
Cross country (and track, which will always be my first love) was one of the few things that made my two years in the Mountain Kingdom bearable. It's hard to even put it into words. Running has always been my most reliable lifeline to sanity, but coaching, sharing that love with a bunch of kids who are just starting out--that was such a wonderful way to give back to my sport. It's funny, because I had the reputation of being the "tough" coach (in fact, my goodbye video from the team was an ode to my alleged viciousness when yelling at them during races), but I also think I was the one who talked the most about running because you love it. Not to win, not to have a line on your college applications, but because the act of moving your arms, moving your legs, breathing in and breathing out, brings you joy.

Coaching was also an excellent lesson in practicing what you preach, vis à vis the sport of running, but more generally about life. Throughout my running career, I've always been my own worst enemy: negative thoughts, complaints, lack of mental toughness, neglecting to make even a token effort at push-ups, you name it. But when you're supposed to be setting an example for 30-odd fifteen-year-olds, you kind of--can't do that stuff. You must be positive. You must never complain that it's 95 degrees in the shade (not that there is any on your loop) and you are doing repeat 800s. You must claim that hill repeats are character-building, the same way your coach did to you. You must proclaim your adoration for long runs. You must never, ever shirk push-ups or core workouts. And through making a show of doing all of that, you are forced to internalize it, in order to not be a giant f-ing ball of hypocrisy.

Because of that bratty pack of children, I've accomplished more in running than I would have dreamed of before I started coaching. I've raced a half marathon. I've run sixteen miles. I've done ten miles of two-mile repeats. I set a 5k PR. I believe I can run a marathon. But even more important than all of those numbers is the fact that they gave me something to look forward to, every day. I can't imagine my time there without my teams, and I hope that, when I get back from Spain, I'll be able to continue coaching. Along with traveling and running itself, I love it more than just about anything.

finishing strong

Monday, September 3, 2012

It's September, which means that this is really happening. Not this is happening some time in the distant future, but that this is really happening in fifteen days. Two weeks and a day.