Friday, December 20, 2013

The Basque Country

Merry Christmas everyone! I'm just finishing packing for Morocco, jamming to the Beyoncé album (which is SO good), and thought I'd post some pictures from earlier this month. About two weeks ago, we had a 4-day weekend, so I traveled to Bilbao with some other auxiliars. We ate tons of pintxos, visited the Guggenheim, and also made a day trip to the gorgeous city of San Sebastián. Here's a look:

The river in Bilbao

Pintxos: small foods (usually on bread) that you order with a drink. In Bilbao, they are very popular and displayed quite nicely. 

A variety of pintxos

This one has bread with sun-dried tomato, cheese, membrillo (like a crab apple jelly), cranberries and balsamic drizzle.

Coffee near our hostel in the old town.

The famous puppy outside the Guggeheim. It's made of living flowers.

Pintxos at a holiday food fair. I'm eating a mushroom stuffed with bonito (fish) and smothered in alioli and balsamic. SO good.

Behind the Guggenheim

(Sam, I think this statue was the inspiration for bucky balls.)

Being totes Basque in San Sebastián...or should I say Donostia? 

A view of the bay. Our weather was perfect.

Eating an amazing apple cream tart on the beach. 

"Merry Christmas"

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday! Don't miss me too much at home :) Like I said, I am headed to Morocco on Monday (via Madrid) and am looking forward to it! Our intinerary is Ouarzazete-Tinerhir-Fez-Marrakech-Rabat, if anyone is interested, though you will of course see pictures in a couple weeks. I'll be back in Spain on the 5th of January, so don't worry if you don't hear from me until then. Okay everyone, stay happy, safe, and warm. Love you alll!!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy Late Thanksgiving

We may be thousands of miles from our homeland, but Americans always git r done, no? Getting r done includes celebrating our beloved Turkey Day. Above, you can see the lovely group of people I got to spend Thanksgiving with this year. The holidays really are one of the most difficult times to be living abroad; not only are you separated from friends and family, but you're also missing the typical customs, celebrations, and Taylor Swift Christmas songs playing during Black Friday at Target (wait, that last one is actually incentive to move abroad.) That's why I'm very thankful for the friends I have here and the opportunity to get together and share our traditions.

 Before moving to Spain, I thought there was something kind of pathetic or lazy about so-called "expat communities" abroad. And while I admittedly spend too much time with other English speakers- from America, Britain, New Zealand, or Spain- I fully understand why these communities develop and the psychological need for us to have this kind of support group. Life is pretty insufferable when you have to work and live with people who, despite their language abilities and sweet dispositions, will never fully understand you. (Kendra, I know you are nodding in agreement, but also rolling your eyes at me from the mountains of Perú or Bolivia.) So as long as I eat typical Spanish food instead of McDonald's, try to live like a local, and speak a fair amount of Spanish, I feel like I'm allowed my little English indulgences, right?

 Hope everyone else had a great Thanksgiving and enjoyed the long weekend! Shout out to my Grandma for having her tree selected as the official Christmas tree of downtown Boise. It looks beautiful! Also, I sent out a batch of post cards a couple weeks ago, so be on the lookout for those. (And if you didn't get one, send me your address.)

 This week is looking pretty calm. Just three more work days and then I will be headed to Bilbao for our long weekend! Parting shot: My friend Beth and me at a Real Oviedo soccer match. As seen on TV, soccer fans are absolutely crazy, and one of them set off a firecracker just before half-time. I think it was an act of protest against the ref, who was making some awful calls. They ended up cancelling the match halfway through and forcing everyone to leave the stadium (and our team was winning!)...hopefully the next one will be better?

*Photo credits to my gyalz Nicole Belz & Beth Love*

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

October/November Photo Recap

What have I been up to this past month? Well, I've been to Madrid, had a few smaller trips & adventures, and helped supervise some fun school events. It's finally getting chilly- the horrible, bone-chilling cold that only occurs in humid climates- and raining quite a bit here. I can't tell if we just made an abrupt switch to winter, or if fall, I mean autumn (British English...), is still halfheartedly happening. With so many trees here, I was expecting an autumn fireworks show. So far the leaves have mostly failed to turn colors and the ones that have are like a dingy gold color, as if they've already started rotting before falling off the tree. Asturias is still beautiful, though! After taking a walk along the coast in Gijón, I'm so anxious to see the rest of the rugged beaches and sea cliffs in my region.

In other news, we got paid today! I was getting a little nervous, because I'm in the process of planning/booking two separate trips: Bilbao for a long weekend & Morocco for winter break. I wish I could see all my family & friends for the holidays, but that's just not how life is working out right now. Obviously I'm thrilled for Morocco; I just want to acknowledge how much I miss everybody! Here's some photos from the past couple weeks:

Seeing John & Yohann (& their friend Michael) in Madrid.
I'm headed to Morocco with these 3!

Kayaking the Río Sella with friends from Gijón

My kayak partner & BJZ roommate, Daron!

For Halloween, the bilingual teachers and I put together a scavenger hunt for the students. They had to complete a set of tasks related to content they were study in their bilingual classes. Activities included "spooky" math problems and Pin the Tail on the Cat. The kids had a lot of fun!

Halloween costume: Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain.

John & Yohann came to visit after Halloween.
We visited some Romanic ruins above Oviedo.

The coast near Gijón is beautiful- with sun or clouds.

Some of my auxiliar friends from Oviedo and I went to the city of Avilés and found this ridiculous fountain. From L to R: Idaho, England, New Zealand, California, Maryland, and Scotland.

Roasting chestnuts is a tradition in many cities here.

This week, we took some of the older students on a combined language-science excursion to Gijón. The weather was a bit rough, but we still managed to enjoy parts of the botanical garden.

We watched an Australian film called "Satellite Boy" in this absolutely random building outside Gijón. It's called La Laboral and it was built during the Franco era. It's a multi-use complex that is equal parts Harry Potter castle and ancient empire-themed Las Vegas casino. It was great to get the kids out of the classroom for a change of scenery and a little experiential learning.

That's about it for now. Let me know what you'd like to see/know more about. Food pics? Cultural differences? Spanish or British slang? Leave me a comment! Loves

Monday, October 14, 2013

Life & León

I'm sorry, but I love titles with alliterations. They're cheap and cheesy, so hate me if you want. (No, love me!)

Things are going well here in Oviedo! I've been in classes for about two weeks and I'm really happy with my school. We have a bilingual program, which provides an interesting opportunity for me to work in English-language content classes (biology & music, for example.) So the job is going well, as is life outside of the classroom.

I've gone out a couple times with the other auxiliars here (or "white gurlz", as I refer to everyone who isn't Spanish) and there's always something to do in Asturias. They had a wildly successful culture night last weekend, a local fashion week, and there will be a film festival next month in Gijón.

My most exciting adventure lately was to León. It's a city located just south of Asturias (in train, it's about 2 hours of breathtaking scenery away from Oviedo) and that's where my now ex-roommate San is from. She moved out after a week, but we're still friends, so she invited me to spend the weekend with her family. We visited León, and other places, like Astorgas, and the village where her grandpa lives where we had a delicious barbecue. Seriously, like 6 kinds of meat, and I had to try them all...:0

We spent the rest of the weekend eating tapas and seeing the sights- cathedral, gypsy market, parks- in the capital. Like in Granada, the tapas are free with the purchase of a beverage, so you can get your drink on and eat dinner for like 5-10 euros. It's the best.

Tapas: creamy mushroom tostada, goat cheese & bacon sandwich, and potato lasagna :)

Palacio Episcopal by Gaudí

We went to this great "palace", which has a restaurant, bodega, and small hotel. It has views of the mountains and beautiful agricultural valley.

Blurred Lines: the wine room

Where they roast red peppers to sell.

Picking figs at San's grandpa's house.

The facade of this building is covered in scallop shells, a symbol of the Camino de Santiago.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Oviedo: My New Home

Hey peeps, I'm finally moved into an apartment in Oviedo! It's in a great location, just on the edge of the historic old town and close to the city center. Here's my address, if anyone wants to send me a card or look it up on google maps:

Michael Larkin
c/ Padre Suarez, 13, PRL IZQ
Oviedo, Asturias, 33009

I'm living in a shared flat; so far, there is a Spanish girl (doing graduate studies in English,) an Italian guy, and myself. Supposedly, "two Turks" are coming on Friday, so we will be quite the international apartment. (I seriously hope some of these people teach me how to cook/feed me delicious food.) The two roommates I've met are really nice, and one of them helped me register myself at city hall today. I like our apartment because it's in pretty good condition, has a big, quiet green space behind us, and is close to everything: my bank, my favorite grocery store (MERCADONA), a park, and some of the big party streets are just adjacent to us, which means no taxis or sketchy walks home at night. Here's a view from my bedroom:
So peaceful!
I've just spent the last two days getting settled in, grocery shopping and unpacking. Besides that, I have just been walking around town, exploring things. Oviedo has some gorgeous architecture and it is very well kept. Someone told me it is the cleanest city in Europe, actually. I like that there is a mix of styles here, in contrast to Badajoz, where everything basically sprang up uniformally during the 70's-80's. I met up with the assistant who worked at my future school last year, because she is still living in Oviedo. Her name is Holly and she has been really helpful, even inviting me to this beautiful beach on Sunday. So far, I am very impressed with the natural beauty of Asturias and the kindness of the people here. I hope I still feel that way after meeting my students next week! Here's some other pictures of Oviedo (sorry the picture quality is not great!):

Green spaces, sculptures, old & new buildings...Oviedo.
Any Woody Allen fans recognize this building??

I'll keep you updated with my life and travel plans. Love you all!