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Published: October 13th 2015
This one is about my arrival in Ourense and that tricky transition period of beginning a new life in another country. On September 23, I took a train from Porto to Vigo, Spain. It was a way shorter ride than I expected. I took a nap, and suddenly we were there. Luckily it was the final stop, because we were somehow an hour early. I had booked my next train--to Ourense--a bit later in case there were any unexpected delays, so I had four or so hours to waste in the train station. I could have walked around the city, but I didn’t feel like hauling all my stuff.
I ordered a green tea (in Spanish) in the station café and got it, in the first test of my Spanish abilities in real life. Then I sat outside near the tracks and read for a while. When there was about a little over an hour before my train came, a train arrived and people started getting on. I glanced at the station clock, and realized that my clock on my Kindle was an hour off, and it was my train that had just arrived! I caught it just
fine, and slowly came to the realization that there must have been a time change between Portugal and Spain (fyi!). So, I made it onboard the final leg of my trip to my new city.
The train from Vigo to Ourense was really a beautiful landscape. It passed through green mountains and went along a river for most of the voyage.
This might be a good time to explain the region. Galicia (my region) is in the northwestern corner of Spain, and it borders Portugal to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and north, and the Spanish region of Asturias to the east. My city (Ourense) is in the smaller region of Ourense, kind of like a county if we consider Galicia a state (but in Spain it’s considered an ‘autonomous community’). Ourense is the most inland major city in the region.
Galicia has two official languages, Spanish and Galician. Galician is very similar to both Spanish and Portuguese, but is its own language. In this blog, I’ll probably randomly use Galician and Spanish, because even now I’m not exactly sure sometimes which language a word is in. For
example, ‘Rua’ is Galician for ‘street’, but when I first arrived, I just assumed it was a Spanish word for ‘street’ that I hadn’t heard before.
Galicia is known as the rainiest region of Spain, but of course also the greenest. It also has a Celtic heritage. The biggest industries seem to be fishing and agriculture, but tourism must be up there too. There is a famous pilgrimage route that ends in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, and there are tons of beautiful beaches and hiking areas.
Once I arrived at the station in Ourense, I went outside and looked for the pedestrian bridge near the station that would lead to the road my hostel was on. After going three blocks down the road in both directions, I could not orient myself with the map. There was no pedestrian bridge, and none of the roads matched up. I had also looked at Google Earth ahead of time, and it didn’t look the same.
I went back in the station to ask where Rua Pena Trevinca, which should have been right in front of the station, was. The employee grabbed a map, and
Family Biking Event in Ourense
They closed a street on a Sunday morning for families to ride around (similar to Open Streets in PGH)
showed me that the station we were at wasn’t even on the map, and he circled where I needed to go. Later I found out that there is another train station (the one I thought we were at) near the hostel, but the RENFE station (where I actually was) was north of the city center. The weather was nice, if a bit warm, and I was angry that I had made that mistake, despite double-checking that the hostel was near a train station. I thought I could see the city and just walk to the hostel.
Shortly (maybe five minutes) after I started, I began to regret my decision, because not only was I guesstimating the location, I was hauling my shiz, and it was heavy. Later in my journey (maybe 20 minutes later), I also realized that heading south did not necessarily mean the road was going to go downhill ;-). I don’t know where that assumption came into my head, but it was wrong. In fact, I had to go through the old city, which wasn’t only harder to navigate, but was also mostly pedestrian-only due to stairs up hills. Needless to say, it was
Bela Auria Festival in Ourense
This festival had lots of people dressed up in clothes from the 20s--it was really cool!
about an hour and a half journey to get to my hostel, but I eventually made it. As I walked, I saw a lot of the city, and I had a good feeling about it—clean, full of pedestrians, walkable (more so without luggage), dotted with plazas and parks.
The first night I met two of my roommates in the old neighborhood (Casco Viejo/Vella). It was my first time in the main plaza (Plaza Mayor/Praza Maior), and wow. The old neighborhood is full of grey stone roads and grey stone buildings, grey stone walls, and grey stone steps. It’s relatively well-maintained, but there are sections that have been graffitied. It seems old, but not ancient. Cafés/bars line the streets, and tables spill out into the pedestrian streets.
The roommates I met that night were the two guys. A bit of a back-story on roommates . . . Before arriving, I knew I wanted to live in an apartment with both English and Spanish speakers. I luckily met a couple in the facebook world who were also moving to Ourense at the same time as I was. The guy is from Uruguay and the gal is
from France, and she’s doing the same program as me, but teaching French. We wanted a fourth roommate, who ideally would be from Galicia, and we found him through the internet. Yes, it was a gamble, but so far they’re all great people!
The first night, I only met the guys because the French roomie stayed in to sleep. They told me in advanced English the apartments they had seen, and gave me the top three choices (just like ‘HouseHunters’). We agreed to go the next day to look at the top two and decide. To make a long story short, we ended up with the one that’s closer to the city center, and happens to be really close to my French roomie’s school. It took 4 days longer than anticipated due to the landlord being out of town, so I just extended my hostel booking.
The deets about my place: it’s in the O Couto neighborhood, furnished, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen (with dishwasher, washing machine, oven, stove) with eating area, living room with dining table and tv (with some cable included), extra ‘office’ that the couple use, a few small balconies. Our
rent includes building heat, and in total it’s 550 euros. We’ll have to pay water, electricity, and internet additionally, but I expect to pay around 200 euros a month on all my housing expenses. Pretty good, right? We did have to give two months’ security deposit because we weren’t able to get renters’ insurance that the owner wanted.
Some of the other things I accomplished the first week-ish were opening a bank account, getting a phone/phone card, getting a library card, and obtaining my empadronamiento (residency certificate in Ourense). Each of those were certainly accomplishments with my limited Spanish, and some needed return trips multiple times and days to check on things. And today we got internet (finally!), thus this blog entry coming into being!
I also have to go to another city, Lugo, this week to apply for my foreigner identification card (TIE). I tried to get it in Ourense last week, but they told me that because my school is in Lugo region, I need to go there. Although I’m only supposed to work 12 hours/week, things seem to suck up time here. I know that’s going to be a full day
hassle. But soon, I’ll be more settled and able to use my time more efficiently!
Next blog will be about starting my job and school life!
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