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The End is Near

...Well almost...not quite...or is the end the beginning?

semi-overcast 14 °C

Un mil disculpas. I've been meaning to sit down and get another blog entry out, but somehow life keeps getting in the way. My last blog entry ended with Carnval - the end of February. Now here we are and as I start this blog, it's the end of April (oops, beginning of May!) and nearing the end of our teaching grant and time in Spain. Of course from then until now, lots of things have been happening with our lives.

Let's start with the most important! April 30th...Marleigh's 11th birthday! At the moment, we're in the beautiful (although rainy) city of Oviedo, in the region of Asturias. We have yet another 'puente' (short holiday) and we decided to take advantage of the time and drive to northern Spain. Northern Spain (at least the part we're seeing) might as well be a different country than southern Spain, much like the difference in topography and people in Oregon.

We pulled the girls out of school for a day to create a 5-day holiday. We left Plasencia on Thursday, April 26th and headed north. We spent a night with our CouchSurf friends in the village of Duenas. This family was our first CouchSurf experience and every time we stay with them, it's like we've known them all our lives. How is it that one can meet someone, converse in another language (as best as we can) and become instant close friends? I don't reall know -- but it's happened and we feel blessed.

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On Friday, we left Duenas and headed north to the region of Asturias. We climbed up the mountain pass (the Cantabrian mountain range, similar to the Alps) and the view was breathtaking...absolutely breathtaking.

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And the villages, tucked into the mountainside were equally as enchanting..

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From there we headed down the windy pass toward the city of Oviedo. First we had a meeting with the director of the Oviedo TEFL Centre to learn more about English teaching in the region (can you tell that we're falling in love with Spain???...sigh...sigh) and then we met up with another language auxiliar (from Maryland). We stayed with her for two days as we explored the amazing city of Oviedo. In spite of the continuous drizzle and rain (it's a lot like the Pacific Northwest), the city and historic monuments were enchanting.

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We visited pre-Romanic monuments...

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and stopped by the infamous statue of Woody Allen

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Woody Allen has been called the Prince of Oviedo and rumor has it that he visits a couple of times a year. We're in agreement that Oviedo is like a fairy tale; an enchanted and enchanting city that smells of sidra. We rank it as one of our favorite cities and we'd love to spend more time there.

From Oviedo, we headed north to our next CouchSurfing host, who lives in a tiny village half-way between Oviedo and coast. Before heading to her village (near Pravia), we went to the coastal village of Cudillero. This is one of the most picturesque and interesting coastal villages. It's located in a protected cove and rather than build out the city goes up - and up - and up. There is an expression that goes something like this "La gente de Cudillera tiene piernas como piedras" (The people in Cudillero have legs like rocks). Why? Because of all the walking up and up and up and down and down and down makes sturdy and strong legs (and I suppose over time shaped like pillars/rocks).

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From Cudillero, we drove to this tiny village of Santeseso. If you've ever had one of those experiences that causes you to ask "Are there really any coincidences in life?" you'll understand our experience in this tiny village. We're wondering how these things happen. We were to be the first Couchsurfers for Ascen and her three lovely boys. She then told us that at the last minute she accepted this group of five and two of the five were from Oregon (HUH?). When they showed up, one of them told us that he used to live in Bend (HUH? HUH??) Furthermore, he is the son of a well-known person, a well-known rabbi...okay -- the only rabbi, but who's counting...and of course we have mutual friends and spent time talking about Bend, Sparrow Bakery and all other things Bend. Really??? really! You have to understand that this village is literally in the middle of nowhere...I love the expression in Spanish: "El mundo es un panuelo" the world is a hankerchief...

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It was such a fantastic experience and ended on Marleigh's birthday. To close out the trip, we headed back to Duenas to spend another night, as it's the half-way point between the North and our home in Plasencia. Maria bought a beautiful birthday cake for Marleigh and bought her a fantastic book on Origami. Muchisimo gracias por todo!!

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What a lovely trip we had...meeting wonderful people and seeing incredible sights. We hope to return to northern Spain when we begin our summer travel. But in the meantime, we still have about a month of teaching left, and the girls have about 6-weeks of school. We will have a short trip to Cordoba in the middle of May and then a trip to Sevilla the first week of June (Ansley will be taking her ACTs) before the end of the school year.

So -- things are winding down and we're trying to slowly detach. We have a car to sell, pounds of papers to sort through and have to do some serious zen work prior to figuring out how to pack up our Spanish lives, put it all in our suitcases and take it all back to Oregon. The girls are more than ready to return to their schools and their friends and have been amazing troopers through this year.

In general, it's been very, very good -- but it's also been very, very difficult at the same time. I won't even try to put my words or sentiments in their mouths and bodies, but I think I can say that it's been stressful. Having the coursework in Spanish is not the root of the stress...the girls are well-versed in Spanish and while they don't think they're fluent, they're accomplished in Spanish. They can manage their way around and although they search for vocabulary words and mix up tenses (as we all do), it's an ongoing process and takes time and practice and mistakes are all part of it. But the system of education is very, very different than the United States. In general it's more difficult, more theoretical, more rote, more tests and a different/more difficult grading system. Still, through it all Ansley and Marleigh have wonderful attitudes and will have tons to share with their friends back home.

We do have our flights back to Oregon, by way of Frankfurt and will be back in Oregon on August 20th and back in Bend on August 21st.

Hasta entonces, un beso y un abrazo - Shari, Andy, Ansley and Marleigh

Posted by farmgirl 13:27 Archived in Spain Tagged spain teaching asturias assistant plasencia intercambios

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