December 1, 2014

Bienvenidos a España!

Gijon, Spain
¡Buenos Dias mis amigos! Now that I have finally started to settle and get comfortable here in Spain, I figured it was time to blog! I feel like so much has happened lately, I'm not really sure where to begin, but for the sake of time (and your patience) I'll save the vacation details and pictures from Amsterdam and Barcelona for another time. Just know that I LOVED Amsterdam! 
Sneak peek - Amsterdam
     First - How I ended up in Gijon, Spain. What an experience. Basically,  I had interviewed for the position while still in Greece, and it seemed the position was mine if I should so choose it, but I told them I wanted some time to think about it, and see what other positions were available. I had sent my resume to numerous schools in various countries, and was receiving replies here and there, but the Spain option seemed like the best fit for me up to that point. When it came time to leave the island, as I mentioned in a previous post, I already knew I was going to head to Amsterdam to stay with my friends for a week. So I did just that, and we had our adventures in the aforementioned locations, and had a fabulous time!! By the way, gallivanting with your friends in other countries is never overrated!
My friend Angel bought me this necklace. It's a compass with the coordinates for where I was living in Greece!
     Now, I left Greece on Tuesday, October 13th. I already knew ahead of time that the friends I was staying with in the Dam would be leaving the following Tuesday (21st) for vacation, and I would need to find a place to go. Since I naturally tend to stress about these kinds of things, I told myself not to worry, and I just went with the flow of our day to day. It was very liberating. I let the others plan our itineraries, and I was just along for the ride, all the while figuring that God would work out the details, and a job would present itself sooner or later. It wasn't until Thursday (while in Barcelona, with limited internet access) that I wrote the school in Spain and said I would accept the position if it was still available. What I didn't expect, was for them to tell me it was already fulfilled with a candidate that they felt would be an easier transition, and who was already living there. I was a little shocked, because the more I thought about it, I could have sworn that this job felt like the right one, like God had his fingerprints on the details. But, ok, since all of my friends and family were praying with me about the decision, I just figured it wasn't meant to be. 
     I had also interviewed with a Russian agency to be a governess for some families that were living abroad in Spain/Switzerland, etc., so I felt that that might still be an option. However, my mom told me that she had prayed specifically that if it wasn't meant to be, that maybe something wouldn't work with the connection or Skype with Russia (since all of my interviews had to be on Skype). Sure enough, every time I tried to interview for that agency, (at least three different occasions in two countries!) something wouldn't connect with the video, and the lady I was speaking with kept telling me that this had never happened for her before, and she couldn't figure out why it wasn't working, but it was necessary that they had a recorded video of me on Skype to send to the individual families. Without technically saying so, I think we had both given up by that point, regardless of my repeated efforts to try different methods. I'm going to also safely assume that that wasn't meant to be either. (Note to self- be careful what you ask mom to pray for). 
     So, I was out of options, and the previous blasé, go-with-the-flow attitude I so proudly held had disintegrated and left me in complete panic. I had 5 days to find a place to live, or else I literally had no where else to go. I was determined that I wouldn't go back home, because not only would I have felt like a failure, but I knew once I was there, I wouldn't be able to afford to come back. I was writing everyone at home for prayer, and they were more than faithful and encouraging through the entire process! (I think that's what enabled me to hold it together).  I exhausted every option I could think of. I even wrote a local church there in Amsterdam to see if they knew someone I could stay with. I sat on my computer for hours applying to jobs.  My relative in Switzerland that I had planned to visit at some point happened to be traveling out of country solely that week. Of course. At the time, I had completely forgotten about my distant relative in Sweden even being an option, and I still wasn't hearing any responses to my applications. I even started applying to countries that I really had no desire to ever live in. Also, despite all my efforts, I still couldn't get Spain out of my head. I do have some friends living in germany though, and while I was excited to see them, (and planned to in the future), I hated the thought of asking at such last minute to come crash at their house. But, alas, desperate times call for desperate measures as we well know, and I finally wrote them and they were more than gracious to take me in! So, I was thrilled to have a plan B, however the underlying problem was still there, because I needed a job! Primarily though, I HATE being a burden to friends and having to impose. I think that's what frustrated me the most. I knew if needed, I could stay at a hostile, or use Couch Surfers, but I wasn't very comfortable with the idea, and this was also an incredible test of my faith. I was determined that God would pull through. He always has, and He always would. I knew it. I just wasn't seeing it yet. (And don't let the calm nature of this text fool you. I was a wreck).  Never had my faith been tested in this way, or to this magnitude before. At least not when I was waiting for an answer, and my time was counting down quickly. I think my prayers turned into "please answer, please answer, please bring something, please answer..."
     In spite of all that, it's always so interesting to witness how He works in those situations. At the time, I had friends (unaware) that were all writing me the same bible verses, (specifically Matthew 6) to encourage me. I had people sending me the same song lyrics from the same songs, without knowing it, about His faithfulness. Then, Sunday morning (October 19th - 2 days to go) while I was crying and just praying because I couldn't believe that I had gone through ALL of this just to turn around and go back home, the bible verse of the day (on the Bible app) just so happened to be that same Matthew 6:34 - "Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." And while I had yet to see His answer, I knew He would provide something. (I also have to add, that in my limited experience, I've known Him to ALWAYS wait until the "last" minute. So really, it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise.) Sure enough, that night, while my friends had gone out to a dinner party and I decided to stay there alone and work on sending more resumes, (which I was hearing NOTHING back), I realized that I hadn't ever responded to the school in Spain after I had read their email about the position being filled, and I decided to write back just to say that I appreciated the time they had given me, and I wished them nothing but the best. This was around 9:00pm. I immediately received a reply, and it was the woman who interviewed me, saying the position was just suddenly available again, and asked if I was still possibly interested. Possibly? I didn't even hesitate. YES! I was interested! Hallelujah! I had my flight booked within 15 minutes for Tuesday morning (21st) at 7:00 am, and from there, I just sat in disbelief, and continued to for the next several days. It was like a dazed dream.
     So - that brings me to the present. Here I am, settled along the northern coast of Spain, in a small city along the ocean, teaching English to spanish students 5 days a week. God proved his AMAZING faithfulness yet again, and He has continued to take care of me in SO many ways here. It's weird, because if I'm being honest, I never once had a desire to come to Spain, and sure, there are still days where I find myself asking, "Why here? Why now? What is my purpose here?" And yet, with each day, I slowly fall more and more in love with it. It's colder here, (around the 50's during the winter, but seriously, I'll take it over Chicago's winter any day!) and it rains a lot! Like.... a LOT. (Thank you to my amazing parents who mailed a massive package with all of my winter/rainy gear!)
     But then there's the people... That's what I can't go on enough about. The people here are just - wow. They touch my heart. They are the kindest, warmest people. I'm constantly amazed with how helpful everyone has been. From the first day I arrived, there was a woman who didn't speak any english, who took me around the city to show me the area, and help me with anything I needed, just so I wouldn't feel alone or scared. They continue to be this way. I might meet someone for the first time, and they'll text me, and tell me to write them if I ever need help, even if they have to work or whatever, they'll make time for me, and come to me wherever I am. I'm ashamed to admit it, but since I'm naturally not that servant-hearted, that attitude continues to blow me away. Furthermore, God provided me with an apartment before I even got here, (my boss just happened to know of a girl who was looking at that moment, and for a cheap price! Right in the center of downtown, a 2 minute walk from the beach, and a 5 minute walk from work). Then, He gave me an amazing spanish roommate, who has the sweetest heart, and who leaves me little Spanish notes all over the apt, and sits to ask me questions, etc. to help me practice my spanish. She's constantly helping me.  Also, another prayer request I had before I came here was the issue of not having wifi in the apt, because everything I do with my phone is through wifi (I didn't want to pay for the international data), and sure enough, without me ever asking, as I was being picked up from the airport, my boss told me that wifi was being installed the very next day! 
    So, I'm fully confident that for whatever reason, I'm meant to be here. I'm just not exactly sure why, yet. Maybe I'll never know? I've continued to make more and more friends, and in different circles,  and some even threw me a Thanksgiving dinner last night so I would feel more at home. :)) I've met some Christian girls that I meet with on Tuesdays for coffee/bible study. (Another answer to prayer.) Oh, AND I joined a gym! It's interesting because the classes of course are in Spanish, but it's still fun, and I've started swimming again! I'm so happy to feel more settled, and have a routine...
My lovely roommate!
Our kitchen, after I went a little crazy with Christmas cheer at Ikea.
Our "Friendsgiving!"
     That being said, there are certainly challenges. For instance, the spanish! Very few people speak english here, so unless I'm with someone that can help me with the spanish, all of the little day-to-day tasks can be quite frustrating. Take the post office for example, wanting to mail a package overseas when you can't explain that to them, or grocery shopping, wanting to try on swimsuits and ask for different sizes (european - that I don't know) in spanish, wanting to go to the movies but everything is in spanish. (They don't even have english subtitles). There was one particular day I was already feeling frustrated, and I went into a little produce shop, and I was buying bananas, and I spilled my change all over the fruit, and I was trying to tell the cashier,  but the only words I knew were "mi dinero  esta aqui!" (my money is here!) but I couldn't communicate it to her, so I just gave up and said KEEP IT! HASTA LUEGO! :( 
      Then there's the cooking. Aye.... the cooking. I'm not a great cook to begin with, but getting used to the electric stove, and all of the European measurements, and not having an oven or common ingredients that we carry in the States, etc...it's been interesting, but I'm up for the task of learning. Oh, and let's not forget the hours here. Night owls! I love seeing their expressions when I tell them what time Americans typically eat dinner. They can't fathom it. They don't eat dinner until maybe 9:30/10:00pm at the earliest. And they stay out until 6/7:00am in general on the weekends. 
     And the teaching? That's a whole other challenge by itself. I've always known teaching isn't my gift. I love leading the classes and being with students. I teach all ages from 6 - 60's, mostly in the afternoons, and each class is a different age group/level, with no class being more than 5 students, and it's all primarily conversationally-based! I love that!  I've always loved that aspect of just being with the students. But coming up with lesson plans, and the art of teaching? I'm terrible at it. I'll be the first to admit it. And some days I just want to rip my hair out. Especially when my class of young boys are being little hellions and I want to tell them to go home, and never come back, because I'm not in the mood. Haha. (I'm just being honest...). But it makes me appreciate what teachers do, and grateful for all of the tips and help that so many of you have given me! It's encouraged me a lot, and I think the thing that helps the most is just knowing that I'm not alone, and that other teachers feel this way at first. Sigh... but as the Spaniards constantly remind me when I get frustrated about anything, "Poco a poco." Little by little. I'm taking everything a day at a time. So, that's the last month and a half of my life in a nutshell. Sorry for the novel. Sometimes I think that if I don't include a certain point, than I'm not capturing the true feeling and extent of what happened. 
My 2nd day in Gjon! (Before the weather turned...)
As always, I can never thank you enough for the support, prayers, kind words, and occasional letters/packages. If you think a college student loves care packages, try someone living internationally! Any time you want to send a letter, picture, or maybe even chocolate chips or peanut butter/ PB M&M's, don't let me stop you. Ah, the comforts of home. Enjoy them and hold them close, you lucky ducks you. 
VERY excited with my first piece of mail! 
Asturias (Northern "state" in Spain) is very famous for it's cider, or "sidra". Those green bottles are all from cider, and they have a very unique way of pouring it. 
One of my favorite cafes, DeFabula
I've never drank so much tea in my life as I do here! They have the best tea shops!
My favorite cafe - La Pause