How to apply to teach English in the Auxiliar de Conversación Program in Spain

The application to be an Auxiliar de conversación in Spain for the 2017-2018 school year is officially open, and will close this April 18th. The number of people applying this year already feels so different than last–in 2016 I applied in late February and was around number 3500. This year, they had already hit 1,000 applicants within 24 hours of opening. I stayed up and applied right at midnight and am still nearly number 400. That’s crazy!

One of the hardest parts about the Auxiliar program is the application. Maybe as a result of being free (though there are other free government programs that are not the disaster this process is), it’s pretty poorly designed and explained. I’m going to try to make a step by step guide to help anyone who was as confused as I was. I have information both for first year applicants and renewals down below.

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Spain – Two Month Update

I’m a little late with this, and it’s actually been about two and a half months, but oh well. Here are my updates!

Central Theme: I still love Spain! Shocking, I’m sure. 

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what Logroño looks like right now

I FINALLY finished everything I need to do to be able to stay in Spain long term. I picked up my ID card from the ayuntamiento on Friday and can finally stop worrying about complicated Spanish paperwork!

Spanish

My Spanish is getting so much better. I’m definitely not speaking perfectly, but I’m getting my point across, and I’m FINALLY at the point where I can speak without taking forever to think about each word I want to say before saying it. For more difficult things, like bank account problems, or maybe getting a kitten(?!?!) to make Brady less lonely, I have my bilingual roommate come with me. Also the more I learn the more I realize how little I know, but in most general situations I am totally self sufficient.

Social Life

My two roommates are awesome, I met a great British girl, and honestly I’m spending like every other weekend with Gareth. Other than the Katie shaped hole that will never ever go away, I’m really happy socially. Also though my schedule SOUNDS really open, I’m actually working from like 9-9 every day with the downtime during a siesta in the middle, so by the time I get home it’s late and I’m so happy to just hang out. Basically I am old and the Spanish nightlife is something I am no longer able to keep up with.

We did have a Halloween party, which was fun because Halloween isn’t really that big of a deal here, so it was an American/Auxiliar bonding session.

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Schedule

I teach at my school 12 hours a week, 4 hours a day on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I do private lessons from 4-6 on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Spanish lessons from 8-9 on Mondays and 7-8:30 on Tuesdays. I have Wednesdays off from the school but I have a Spanish class 1-2, and then private lessons 3:30-8:30, and then Thursday I work at the school, do private lessons from 3:30-6:00, and Spanish class from 7-8:30. It feels like a lot, teaching is exhausting but I LOVE my private lessons, the families are all so nice and the main reason I feel connected to Spain.

The school is still not ideal. I’m supposed to be an assistant but I’m being treated as a full teacher with my own classroom and such. As someone who doesn’t speak Spanish and is NOT A TRAINED TEACHER it’s pretty hard. So that’s my schedule. Also EVERYTHING closes from 2-5 which is the worst cause it’s mostly the only time I have off, and nothing is open on Sundays. I am bad at planning ahead and this leads to me eating a lot of rice.

Logroño

Logroño continues to be such an amazing place to live. A little while after Halloween they had a festival because it was the anniversary of the last “witch” to be hung in Europe–she was hung in Logroño. There were stalls selling tons of handmade crafts and food, and they put on a truly creepy show about the history of the event. And then, because it’s Spain, we all got to go on stage and drink mead from the cauldron.

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The weather is starting to change. At first the cold was killing me–and by cold I mean about 40 degrees. All through college I used to sleep with a fan in my window–even in the winter! My roommates hated me! I loved the cold. LA changed that. Changed me. When I first moved there I hated the lack of real weather–sunny and 75 was horrible. Now I love it so much. If the sky isn’t a perfect blue, I feel instantly depressed and lazy. That said, eventually I realized I would feel better if I bought a coat and scarf and gloves, and actually prepared for the dropping temperature. Shockingly enough that has really improved my outlook. Now I’m enjoying the diverse weather (though the fact that it gets dark at like 6 is still depressing). It’s raining right now and I have my big windows open, and I’m sitting in bed drinking tea. It’s really nice.

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Travel

Gareth and I hiked part of the GR 93, which was fantastic.

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We also went to Copenhagen, and it reaffirmed my total and complete love for Scandinavia. Iceland is still my favorite place I’ve ever been, but Copenhagen came close.

Upcoming Travel

It’s Thanksgiving week, and I leave tomorrow for London! We’re having a proper Thanksgiving meal with a Turkey and all the fixings. I can’t wait! I haven’t been to London since my birthday and I REALLY miss my friends there.

I get back to Spain on Sunday and leave that Friday for 10 days of Christmas Markets! Gareth and I are doing Berlin and Amsterdam, and then I’m meeting one roommate in Prague for a few days before we’ll head to Poland and meet our other roommate for the weekend. I’m SO EXCITED. If you know anything about me it’s that I LOVE Christmas. And Thanksgiving. And markets.

About four days after I get back from Poland my mom arrives for the holidays, which I’m so excited about I can barely type the sentence. She’s never left the states! She’s coming to SPAIN. She didn’t even come to LA. I can’t wait to show her around,  I think she’s going to love it here. Also our moms will be meeting for the first time, which is exciting and scary and wonderful.

The Election

Also, the election happened. I haven’t said anything about it because I really don’t know what to say. Actually, I thought that was true and then I started typing and the words were flowing. So this will be a separate post. Not a happy one, but that’s the general theme of the entire election, so why stop now.

GR-93 San Millan de Cogolla to Anguiano Hike

So we left off with us making the decision to go home, and we were waiting for the bus in San Millan. And waiting. And, guess what? No bus appeared. Either we were in the wrong spot, or the online bus schedule was wrong, but it was clear there was no option but to walk to Anguiano, and catch the bus from there as originally planned. I’m not gonna lie, at this point I was pretty nervous. I stretched and thought about crying and finally decided to pretend I was on The Challenge and just power through.

On the bright side the bus stop was right by the monastery, which was so pretty in the morning.

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We had a huge day ahead of us, so we prepared with a huge breakfast. This slightly improved my mood, as did the chocolate Gareth started forcing me to eat at random intervals. And I am SO glad we did the second day. Yes, by the end I was limping along, positive I had irreparably damaged my knee, but the second day was so gorgeous. We walked through the forest for a few hours, and didn’t see a single other person. We walked on a mountain rim, and saw an amazing mountain pass, with a path through it. Probably we’ll need to come back one day to climb it, because it was incredible.

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After about four hours of walking we passed a town that had a bar that was miraculously open, and we stopped and had a snack and a glass of wine. Then we walked about five more minutes and saw a trail marker. I ran up to it, sure we had another hour or two at most, because I was naive, and the wine had improved my view of the world. I found that we were halfway. Halfway.

There’s no picture of this marker because honestly, the discovery stung a bit. We’d been taking it slow because of my knee and suddenly I was worried we were going to miss our bus back to Logroño. But the next hour or so was all on flat ground, and we passed through a town and then walked on a (really pretty) street for quite a while. It was a nice break, and still really gorgeous.

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Eventually Anguiano was in sight, but not before the path led us up a long and winding mountain. It was really incredible–we could see the trees with all their colors everywhere, the village across the river, and there were cows EVERYWHERE. Up until this point we had encountered many a cow, but always with enough room to just casually (or frantically, if you are me and not Gareth) walk by them. But now we were on a MUCH narrower path and there were about five cows just chilling along the way. We tried to herd them a bit before G climbed up a trail behind them and dropped a rock down. (To be clear NOT on them, just so the noise disturbed them and they moseyed away.) Then we were on the real and actual final stretch. We had to walk back down the mountain which was the final straw for my knee. Before the descent, however, there was a marker saying only 2 kilometers left, which gave me the motivation I needed to get it done. THAT SAID, that marker is a huge lie and it was much, much more than 2K. Just FYI.  I commandeered a stick as a crutch and hobbled along like a crippled 90 year old woman. Also I slipped and fell in mud/possibly poo hahaha. So imagine how amazing this trek was that I was STILL amazed by the beauty and so happy to be there.

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the lying marker

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At the end of the final trail there was a gate to the bridge that would let us cross the river into town. We were done, except for the last cow in our way. Gareth went to herd it and discovered that no, it was not a cow. IT WAS A BULL. He attempted to tell me this in a calm and reassuring manner, which my brain interpreted as him calmly telling me to GTFO of there. So in about .5 seconds I had slid between the fence that was keeping us all in and was dangling on the mountain ledge. G walked over, asked WHAT I was doing and if I would please come out so we could carry on walking. Oops. In reality this guy seemed way less interested in us than any of the cows were. That said, Gareth and I have made some cow enemies over the years…

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Anyway, we went through the gate, into safety, across the bridge, and INTO ANGUIANO!

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The bus stop back to Logroño is right by the bridge and there was a bar about a minute farther down the road. Again it wasn’t a time they were serving any food, but it was the only place open. So they offered to make us some bocadillos, and we played cards and drank wine for a few hours until our bus. It was pretty excellent.

I cannot recommend this hike enough. It was INCREDIBLY gorgeous, had a seriously diverse landscape–sometimes we were in mountains, sometimes in the forest, by a river, or passing through a small village. Other than our start, mid, and end points, we only saw four other people the entire time, and they were all working on the land. We had the entire trail to ourselves, and that was as amazing as it sounds.

Pertinent Information:

It was SUPER well marked, though we did get lost once and it was pretty much the worst. We had just spent about 45 minutes going down a long, winding road to the bottom of a mountain. And then the trail seemed to be taking us straight back up, just on a direct/steeper trail. I was so sure it was a shortcut to get down to where we were from the top, but G ran ahead on the road we were on and there wasn’t another marker anywhere nearby us. So we took the incredibly steep trail, which led us… back where we started. It was pretty disheartening. We debated going back down the long, easy way, but I couldn’t imagine sinking another 45 minutes into it, and we were back down the steep path in about 20 minutes. And discovered the trail continued straight ahead, behind the road we had been on. We didn’t think to look down the edge of the road, but that’s where the next marker was. BUT other than that, we didn’t miss a beat and I can’t get over these trails Spain just has built in everywhere, no maps needed!

The buses to/from Logroño and Anguiano were super easy. We bought the tickets on each bus, and slept during the rides. The way there was about an hour and fifteen minutes and the way back was 45. I have no clue what the bus situation in San Millan is, and if you figure it out please let me know!

GR-93 Ezcaray to San Millan de Cogolla Hike

A few weeks ago Gareth came back to Logroño so we could work on our new goal to do all the best northern Spanish hikes, and do a few days of the GR-93. I heard about this route before coming to Spain and it was at the top of my list because it was supposed to offer amazing views with tons of fall foliage–basically all this New England girl could ever want. Spoiler alert, it delivered.

The portion we would be doing would start from Ezcaray, with a night in San Millan de Cogolla, and the bus back to Logroño from Anguiano.

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Day One

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Day Two

We left Logroño Friday morning on the only early bus (6:45 am) and we arrived in Ezcaray at 7:30 am. It was dark. It was FREEZING. Apparently it’s much colder in Ezcaray than the surrounding areas, which on the plus side means come winter there’s skiing, and on the terrible side means we were dropped off on the outskirts of a freezing, empty, dark town. Guys it was so cold. We walked the most intuitive way, and ended up in the town center. No food places were open yet, but there was a tiny shop open that served coffee and tea. We went inside and pooled all the clothes we had to try to warm up (read, I stole every article of clothing Gareth wasn’t wearing, and one he was). We had tea, watched Spanish news tear into Trump, and then when the sun came out and a few other shops opened, left to find breakfast. Also in the light of day this was one of the prettiest little villages I’ve seen so far!

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The great thing about this hike, and all Spanish hikes I’ve experienced thus far, is that they are all very well marked with paint. This route was red and white, and it became a game (though not a fun one because my competition was not nearly on my level), to see the markers first.

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The first day was amazing. We basically hiked up a mountain, down a mountain, walked through the town, and back up the next mountain. Did anyone else, as a kid, ever see mountains or hills in the distance and really want to climb them just to see what was on the other side? That’s what this was like. And these villages… I honestly didn’t know people lived in villages so small. I’m still not sure they DO because we never actually saw any people in the smallest ones. To be honest, we didn’t see many people in the larger ones either. It was strange. We didn’t prepare well, and only had a little bit of food for the journey, so every time we did see a person we asked if there was anywhere to buy any food and the answer was always no. Even in San Millan de Cogolla, the much more populated village where we spent the night, the nearest supermarket was 5 kilometers from town. What!

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Right at the end of the first day, my knee started hurting. I injured in a million years ago doing gymnastics, and we have worked out a deal where basically if I don’t use it, it won’t bother me. So I don’t do lunges or high impact activities, and it pretends it’s a fully functioning knee. But descending five different mountains in about six hours was pretty much its breaking point, and I hobbled the rest of the way into San Millan.

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San Millan, it has to be said, is COMPLETELY gorgeous. The walk in is along a river and a really cool stone wall/orchard. The village is fairly big, and has a few different monasteries (one of which houses the first record of written Spanish), and we saw more than five people just out and about, which is a real crowd in smaller Spanish villages. You might say San Millan was hoppin’. (But you shouldn’t because it was still only about five people.)

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In my research I couldn’t find anywhere in San Millan to stay, but I found a few options on airbnb in Berceo, which was only 1.5 kilometers away. The only downside is you have to walk down a fairly busy street, which was fine during the day, but after seeing the way people were whipping by at night, and how dark it was, we played it safe and had dinner at the one restaurant in Berceo instead of heading back to San Millan.

Berceo kind of freaked me out at first. There was no one around. Small Spanish villages often feel like ghost towns, or like you accidentally just wandered into Roanoke. Add to that the fact that there was nowhere to buy any sort of groceries or pharmacy related items, my knee was killing me, we were trapped and couldn’t safely get to San Millan, I started feeling like we were in a horror movie. We found the one dinner place, and were two of about four patrons there when we arrived at 8:00. They told us the kitchen was open yet, because this is Spain and 8:00 is still way too early for dinner, but they were super nice and gave us snacks while we waited.

So we played cards–side note, the most common deck of cards here only has 40 cards in a pack! There aren’t any face cards, and the whole thing is pretty confusing. We invented a bastardized version of golf, drank some more wine (which helped me switch from thinking we were in a horror movie to a tiny romantic village), and by the time the first of our three courses arrived, I was feeling much better.

Better mentally that is, physically my knee was at about a code red/black. Whichever is worse. We went to sleep knowing that we might not be able to continue the next day, and planned to walk to the bus stop in San Millan to assess how I felt and potentially go back to Logroño. There were only two buses from San Millan, one in the morning and one at night, and the smaller villages we were passing through didn’t even have people, let alone bus service. So we woke up early, walked to the bus stop assessed. I decided I was being insane and if I could barely walk for five minutes, a seven hour hike up and down a bunch of mountains was a terrible idea.

Read Part Two here!

How to move your cat from the US to Spain

I think any travel obsessed pet owner has wondered at some point or another how complicated it would be to move their cat or dog abroad with them. When I decided to move to Spain I knew there wasn’t a chance I’d be willing to leave Brady behind for an entire year, so I dipped my toe into research to see just how tough it would be to get him a pet visa to Europe. And despite my fears that it would be incredibly complicated, it was actually much easier than I had imagined. There are three main steps.

1. First up was his rabies vaccination and international compliant microchip (ISO). The vaccination for cats has be done at least 21 full days before traveling to the EU, but can be no more than a year. Make sure the vet you go to has experience dealing with international travel requirements/paperwork. Cost: Appointment: $45, vaccination: $19.50, ISO chip: $55.

2. Second vet visit has to happen within ten days of travel. During this visit, the vet fills out your pet’s health certificate. Vet visit: $65, health certificate around $80.

3. This health certificate then has to be brought to the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) to be certified. It was easy driving distance for me, but I’d imagine if you’re far away you could overnight it (I’d call to make sure, obvs). In LA they were really helpful when I called. ($20)

The surprisingly hardest part of all was finding a flight that would allow a pet in the cabin internationally. I automatically booked through American, because I’ve flown with Brady on two round trip flights with them before. However when I called to book him in, I found out they don’t let animals in the cabin on transatlantic flights, and I’d have to fly him in cargo. I started freaking out because of the millions of pets in cargo horror stories I’m sure we’ve all heard, but before I could really process this they took me off hold and told me it didn’t matter anyway, because the day I was flying the weather would be too hot for any animals to be permitted in cargo, regardless. She said pretty much any flights around then would be (and this was mid/late September). The cost of a pet ticket was $100.

I spent a few hours wondering how anyone moves cats or dogs abroad in the physical sense. If it’s still too hot in September, it must be too cold pretty soon after. Also, they’re stuck in cargo! Then I heard Lufthansa allows small pets in the cabin on international flights, as does United and Swiss. I had Ultimate Rewards Miles that could be transferred to all of them, so into research mode I went. Swiss made the most sense with my schedule, so we had a nice little layover in Zurich before landing in Madrid.

Now that we’re here, the last thing I’m unclear on is if I need to get him a kitty passport in Spain. That’s what is used within the EU, and I’m not sure if his documentation expires at any point. I’m pretty sure if I ever want to take him to the UK, who are a bit more strict, he’ll need one. I also have to look up what I’ll need to do to move him back to the states, if that’s where I end up once the program is over.

Obviously do your own research because requirements can change, but this is a good starting point for what the process will look like, and a good price estimate. It ended up costing more than I expected ($384.50 total), but was so so so worth it.