Be in Getxo
You all must be wondering what I have been up too. I know it has been a while since my last post. To be honest, it has not made sense to give any updates until now. Like the expression, before you can run you must walk, every day I make small steps. In Basque, there's an expression for this as well. I'm not going to attempt to spell it because as you can see in the title, Basque words are pretty complicated. It loosely translates to little by little.
But the past two weeks I have made a few big leaps. All the steamy questions will hopefully be answered in this post if I don't ask me. Who knows maybe it will be a subject for an entire post.
What is it like living here?
Well for starters let me set the scene. If you have never heard of Getxo, imagine if Chico and Santa Cruz had a baby, that's Getxo in a nutshell. Getxo includes a total of 4 small communities which are Neguri, Gobela, Las Aranas, and Algorta. Neguri and Gobela are mostly residential while Las Aranas and Algorta are closer to the beaches, typical bars, and supermarkets. Over the past month and a half, I have been living in Algorta with Carmen, my old host mom. As I started this post, I confirmed my spot in my own apartment. I have since moved in and now live in Sopelana. Only 10 minutes away from Algorta by metro, the small residential surf town next to Getxo is a surfer paradise. More on that update soon.
You have the ocean, the mountains, and the bars. With the ocean comes with the surfer and skater culture. Spending time in nature is also a huge part of the culture here. I intend to buy a surfboard and start surfing again as I now live only 5 minutes away from the ocean. Peter, you surf? Yes, while I studied abroad here two years ago, I took a surfing course and loved it. Beer and wine range from 1.20 to 3.20 euro. Although it's possible to find places with 1 euro glasses of wine, at my previous home, just below there were two bars, a fruit, and a bread store. At the bar, I could get wine or coffee. Sometimes I would have a shot of espresso before going on a run.
I also enjoy going to a bar called Layback, especially after taking in the sun and watching the sunset.
The beach and Layback is only a 10-15 minute walk from my previous apartment. It is on the cliffside of Playa de Urrunaga and has fantastic views of the Bay of Biscay. For some reason recently we have had fantastic weather here in the North of Spain. It did rain almost every day in January and beginning of February. In comparison, last year it rained every day for six months and even snowed at in the city and on the beach. The previous two weeks the highs have been in the 70s.
What have I been up to the past month and a half and what does a typical day look like here?
The past month and a half have been stressful but at times very relaxing.
Every day is work, from practicing my Spanish, to making friends and networking with other teachers here, and figuring out exactly how I am going to stay here for a year plus. Here in Spain and Basque Country, the pace is a lot slower than in the U.S. With that comes stress. At the same time, it is very relaxing. If I have nothing to do and it's not raining, I have five different beaches close to me. Sometimes I will casually walk to Layback around sunset just to people watch and drink a glass or two of wine.
Days here right now for me start around 8 or 9 am — a stark contrast to my days waking up at 5 a.m to rush to work. For breakfast, I have a cup of Basque coffee and also a cup of juice. It is very strong, and I am up all night if I have it past 12. I switch between having oatmeal mixed with yogurt and a combination of eggs and egg whites, bread, and bacon. An interesting thing is I have only been able to find one market here that has egg whites.
After eating, I typically go on a 40-90 minute run and average 5-10 kilometers. Staying active is very important when living in another country. Not only is it healthy for weight control from all the bread I eat, but it also is excellent for unwinding from culture-shock and stress. I love running from my apartment through the old port to the pier. The old port is beautiful and reminds me of a miniature Santorini. There is even a famous painting of a merman and depending on the tide is partially submerged. It is quite funny. At any time of the day, I run past a crowd of people hanging out at the bars or walking their dogs. Dogs here are super popular, and practically everyone keeps them off leash. They are all well behaved.
Lunch here is equal to dinner in the states and Carmen will make me traditional Basque cuisine. The Basque diet is very Mediterranean, and I will typically eat a salad with a protein for the second dish. We will have fish or shellfish roughly three times a week. You can find onions, potatoes, garlic in almost every meal. Olive oil is also used in every meal as well. Two of my favorite recipes is lentils with chorizo and rice with muscles.
For the most part, I love all the food here, but there are a few things I can not stomach. Those are sardines, white pickled asparagus, tuna, and mayonnaise. They also happen to be significant aspects of the food culture here. So sometimes I will try them to see if my taste buds have adjusted. One time, Carmen tried feeding me wine and tricking me into tasting a Pintxo with tuna fish and sardines.
In País Vasco (Basque Country), we do not say tapas; we say pintxos. Pinxo's can be as small as pieces of squid or shrimp on a toothpick or an intricate combination of ingredients on a slice of bread or even a small sandwich. My favorite is bread, Jamon Serrano with a fat slice of brie and drizzled with balsamic vinegarette. Additionally, every Thursday most bars participate in "Pintxo-Pote," where you get a free pintxo with your drink order.
Well other than running, eating and drinking what else have you been doing? I thought you were supposed to be teaching English?
I have been using the money I saved up before I left to go out and have fun and meeting new friends. Since I did not come with a program that helps with the visa process, I can not legally work somewhere here until I get my British passport. But what I can say.... is I recently signed a 6-month contract to teach kids in China online with a company called DaDa ABC. I started this week, but I am still in the "probationary" period with limited hours. Once my first two weeks finish, I will be working 3 hours Monday-Thursday. With this job alone, I figure I will be able to support myself without using my savings.
Once my British passport comes in, I will be ready to start the process of establishing myself here for the long term. What about the approaching Brexit? I am hoping they either reach a deal or completely end it from happening. I recently saw on BCC that there is a chance of a second vote to stop the process of the UK leaving the E.U. Never the less, from my research there is a system in place for people that are already here. Once I do that, I can start the long process of getting my social security set up. Then I will be able to sign a work contract.
In the meantime, I have been networking and slowly meeting all the long term English teachers from the U.S, England, and Ireland. From what I know there's about 30 of us here for the long term. It is a small community here. Again like Chico, once you meet one American Expat here, you will soon find out they know your other friends. I have even become good friends with another Chico alumnus who also happens to be from the Bay Area. Since meeting her, she has introduced me to many people here.
Have you experienced any culture shock?
I have been going through culture shock. Also partly another reason why I haven't talked about my daily life here. If I was writing weekly, there might have been some dark moments. I think it finally hit me week two — the first drop. The high from the initial arrival and festivities of Tres Reyes was gone. I realized how lonely I was without a core group of friends.
But don't worry though, since then I have made two core groups, and I also have really chill roommates in my new flat. At some point, I will do an entire article on culture shock. It is a classic topic for travel blogs, and everyone experiences it differently. It's not all sunshine and rainbows and some days are pretty hard. At the same time, I love living here.
Posts to be on the lookout for, "Be in Sopelana" all about my new apartment, "Be in Santoña" all about celebrating Carnival and "Be a DaDa ABC Teacher." Now that I am almost settled here in Spain and have a job, I hope to be posting more frequently.
Be curious. Be courageous. Be chivalrous.