TIE Cards, First School Day, No Pasa Nada

Dear friends,


I write this to you at 12:30 pm, while sipping a caña (small beer) in a coffee shop/bar (writing inspiration/motivation can strike you wherever). A waiter stops by to ask if we would like to order anything by listing off in Gallego all of the great food options of the day. He’s done this a few times even though I have said no already, so I’ve memorized half the list: octopus, tortilla española, bocadillos (sandwiches)…

Blake and I have adopted a policy I read about in Beginning French by Les Americains: every time something goes wrong, we get a drink. Lost baggage? Order a drink. Lost in the city? Order a drink. Cultural faux pas? Order a drink. Thankfully, we hadn’t had an occasion worthy of the new rule…until today. 

To be here past 90 days legally, one must have a visa and apply for what is called a TIE identification card. Think USA drivers license. So step one: We got the visa. Step two: apply for TIE. Jazmin checks out (give them a Fulbright letter and off you go). But Blake…hey, where is your visa NIE number? Oh wait, the Chicago consulate didn’t give you one? That’s going to be a problem. So after visiting the police station and the Ofice of Foreign affairs, talking to my Fulbright coordinator, and speculating about what might happen to Blake (must leave the country in 90 days or else), I’d say we have earned this drink. No thank you waiter, no lunch, just the drink and the free tapa I know you’ll give us if I wait. Thanks. 

All things considered, this is the worst that has happened so far, as things have been going well. We have a Piso that I love, we have wifi at home, and we have learned to shop and cook for ourselves here.

I have even visited my school! The school I spied on so many times though Google maps, wondering what it would be like when I got there (that sounds a little creepy now that I think about it…) I now know from actually seeing and being there! It’s even a mere ten minute walk from home!


I actually decided to visit the school two days ago, a little early, to get acquainted. I’m glad I did. I met the director (principal), the courses director, my bilingual coordinator, other teachers, and I got a tour of the school. Everyone is attentive to my needs and questions regarding the school, the students, and the city. Everyone has been kind me and they truly include me as a colleague. All this done the day before I had to be there made the first official day (yesterday) an easier breeze. 

First day at school!

Technically, yesterday was a half day in-service, but I still got the chance to see teachers in motion. What do I mean by this? I mean, teachers got their schedules, went for coffee, and then rewrote their schedules together! I was blown away by the flexibility of the schedules! At a coffee shop during the middle of the day at that! So I sat back, sipped my cafe con leche, and let Carmen, my coordinator, do her business in rigging her and my schedule in our favor. The others tease Carmen for her need for control, but I’m glad I’ve got such a person on my side. Together, with part time Emilia, we run the English classes of the school. 
The only part of my schedule I don’t like is that I will probably have to teach past 3pm at least one day per week. This is a technical high school that gives students vocational training by day, but also a technical school for adults by night. They probably need the English classes more, but I’m used to a secondary schedule that ends at three (lunch time here), and I’d rather not be the inevitably hangry newbie teacher they don’t need. Whatever happens, I’ll still try my best for my students. I’m also not very fond of the fact that the school is under construction during the year, but we will get through it. 

I do like this job-training school for students. There are four families at my school, each representing their specific area: maintenance of heating and cooling systems for appliances, automobile maintenance, marketing and commerce, and renewable energy/energy efficiency.  A new family is being added this year as well: aircraft maintenance (includes some drone work). (English classes are a mandatory side subject.) Co-ops are included, there are workshops in addition to the regular classes, and almost all the tech I’m used to (smart boards, projectors, computers–even my own teacher desk and computer in the teacher lounge!). As I understand it, at 16 years of age, students can either choose to continue the usual high school route that is geared toward university, or they can choose a formacion profesional, a school like mine. 

In the meantime, you’re probably wondering what Blake is up to. We have visited English language schools around here for job options for him. We’ll see how that pans out. Until then, he writes, explores, and takes care of the Piso. We are also creating private English class flyers. 

What does not stop surprising me is the no pasa nada lifestyle, the hakuna mattata attitude of the people. This is probably good for me, although my personality has not allowed me adopt such a motto for myself yet. I still chafe at the idea of a class without a syllabus, squirm at turf act that I dropped my folder in front of the lady at the police station, and chew my nails about Blake’s lack of a NIE number. Still, the beer helps and I’m far from alone in these problems. #firstworldprobs. 

We’ll figure it out. 
First student day of school on Monday! 
We will keep you posted. 
All the best,