My time in Ourense is coming to an end. My program, and coincidentally my lease, are over today, so I’m moving on out. This summer, after a short stop in Barcelona, I’m going to be improving my English teaching skills by working for a non-profit organization in Italy called ACLE.
They teach English at 1- or 2-week summer ‘camps’ all over the country. ‘Tutors’ like me are hosted by families in each village or city, so it’s going to be a great immersive experience. All that traveling means I’m just taking a traveling backpack for 3.5 months (with a 10kg plane weight limit)! A new challenge! I’ll also have limited access to internet (not really sure how much) and no laptop, so bear with me on updates.
After the summer, I’m moving to the coastal Galician city of A Coruña. I’m going to do another year with this program, but this time working in a city junior high/high school. I visited last week to apply for my identity card extension and look for an apartment to share. It was my first time there, and it’s a jump from Ourense. It’s much bigger, much classier-looking, and much busier. Good and bad. There are beaches right in the city, which is cool, but fewer mountains and green spaces than in Ourense.
Which brings me to . . .
Things I appreciate about Ourense:
-I love my apartment. It’s close to the center, in a neighborhood (O Couto) with lots of grocery stores, near parks and rivers. One of my roommates is my best friend here. There’s enough space in the kitchen to cook and enough space in the living room to host people. We have balconies with views of the neighborhood. And the apartment itself is cheap (550 euros a month for a 3+ bedroom, 2 bathroom place with heat included).
-Related to the above: cost of living. Truly it’s probably one of the places in the world with the best quality of living. Rent is cheap, you can buy a decent bottle of wine for 1.50 euros, my phone with 2gb of internet is 9 euros a month, etc. Galicia has one of the lowest costs of living in Spain, and Ourense is one of the lowest out of the cities.
-Being settled and knowing the city. There’s a lot to be said for having adapted to a place, to have a sense of where things are and how far apart they are, and to have a few cafes and bars that I know I like.
-Having a (small) community of people I recognize and know. I certainly didn't make as many friends here as I expected, but it's a small city, and you run into the same people over and over again (for better or worse). It's also been nice to get to know my private students and their families. They have really been kind, and saying goodbyes to them reminds me again why I like teaching--you connect with some great people.
-Walking even 10 minutes from the city center gets you to the countryside. There are houses, but they might have chickens, sheep, garden patches, and/or grapevines.
-The natural landscape. Ourense is surrounded by green mountains, full of rocky walls covered in moss, and split by rivers and creeks. Not to mention the awesome termas (hot springs), many of which are free!
And things I appreciate about my current school (which is in Escairón in Lugo province):
-The classes are small, between 8 and 19 kids in each grade.
-The kids are generally good, interested, enthusiastic . . . My class of 9th
graders is terrible, but there’s always one bad one.
-One co-teacher in particular is just a great teacher. I’ve been lucky to watch how she teaches, how she interacts with students, how she deals with bad behavior. She creates enthusiasm in her students, and I still can’t exactly figure out how she does it, but it’s nice to have a kind of role model.
-The drive to the pueblo is beautiful. Pictures wouldn’t do it justice. The road winds along the Sil River Canyon, through foggy mountains and across a plateau with more mountain views. We come across lots of random dogs walking along the road determinedly on their way somewhere. We’ve sighted deer, a dead wild boar, a loose horse wandering, and herds of sheep walking down the road with two dog friends.
-Generally, by teaching kids from the countryside, I’ve learned a lot about their country lives, about farming, about traditions they have, about living in a settlement with only 6 other houses. I also identify with them a bit since I grew up in the country.
I'm tired of saying goodbyes. In five years, I've had 5 year-or-less work contracts, and lived in 3 countries and 5 different houses/apartments. I've met so many interesting people and learned so much, but it's emotionally wearing. I'm not particularly attached to Ourense, but leaving is still hard, especially considering the unknown future ahead. But as the umbrella gifted from a private student says (translated), "Thousands of adventures await you around every corner."
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