How my trip to China fell apart
|Foggy night in Vigo|
This weekend while I was FaceTime-ing with my roommate from college, we got to talking about our plans to travel around the Middle Kingdom together in June. He gave me the green light to go ahead and start the visa application process, which involves buying plane tickets before you go down to the embassy in Madrid to apply. Later that evening, once I started seriously looking into the procedures, I learned that China has been cracking down on people who apply for visas outside of the country they got their passport in.
I’ve also been losing a lot of sleep over my Spanish residency (or lack thereof) come June, as my TIE card expires May 31st. I was planning on getting a round-trip ticket to Beijing, but I feared the worst upon returning to Madrid because I would be leaving the Schengen Area after an eight-month stay and returning a mere three weeks later. Non EU-resident tourists must leave the Schengen Area for 90 days after spending three months in the region. Many language assistants claim we get an “automatic tourist visa” once our TIE is up to travel freely, but I don’t buy it. (And I don’t want to risk getting deported or being blacklisted from returning.)
In the end I had to cancel my China trip, but thankfully I did this before purchasing any non-refundable plane tickets.
International travel plans this spring
|(Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
For Holy Week, Germany is on the docket. I won’t be doing any huge traveling, just a long weekend to Köln (Cologne) and a daytrip to Aachen of Charlemagne fame. While in Aachen I’d like to visit Europe’s version of America’s Four Corners: the Drielandenpunt where the countries of the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium all meet.
Galician coastal village hitlist
|Countryside near Fisterra|
Just to the north of where I work in Boiro there are two lovely fishing villages called Muros and Noia. The religion teacher at my school is from Noia, which has historically been Santiago’s port, and she raves about the town’s excellent empanadas and the Sunday market.
If there’s a spring weekend with only sunshine in the forecast, I will be dashing out the door to walk the Camino again, this time to Fisterra on the coast. I’ve done this pilgrimage before, two years ago when I first walked the Camino de Santiago, but I was miserable the whole time as my feet hurt terribly and it endlessly poured rain. I never continued on to the lighthouse at the end of the world or to Muxía, one day’s walk to the north. Hopefully I can rectify these mistakes this spring.
Ferrol is the black sheep of Galicia: not only does it have a reputation of being really ugly and boring, it was also where longtime dictator Francisco Franco was born. However, I’d like to form my own opinions on this important Spanish naval base, which was laid out in a planned grid in the 1700s and has two forts or castles nearby.
Betanzos, to the south, seems like a charming Galician village with a lovely Gothic church and restaurants that serve tortilla de Betanzos, or a juicy potato omelet that oozes out when you cut into it.
Taking language tests
|(Source: Emilio Quintana)|
Also, a friend and I are planning on taking the CELGA, the language exam for the Galician language, probably at level 3 which is halfway between beginner (1) and native (5). We’ve lived here for two to three years and both of us have dabbled in galego throughout our stay. Plus, the test only costs 15€, so why not try?
|I miss scenes like this from the south|
I’d love to have a week or so to really do the region of Catalunya justice, hitting up pretty Girona, Dalí-themed Figueres, Tarragona’s Roman ruins, the Gothic monastery of Poblet, and maybe off-the-beaten-track Lleida. Oh, and the Art Nouveau monuments in Barcelona that aren’t by Gaudí!
I’ll need to swing by the south one last time, and fortunately RyanAir flies directly from Santiago to Sevilla. Revisiting old haunts and catching up with teachers in Úbeda is definitely in order, and I’m contemplating going back to see the Alhambra, the Mosque-Cathedral, and the Giralda. Hopefully my allergies to olive tree pollen won’t murder me while down there!
But it will inevitably be time to say goodbye to Santiago: one last meal of octopus, one last stroll through the cathedral, one last outing of tapas with my friends, and one last night in my apartment. I’m not looking forward to saying ata loguiño to my favorite city in Spain, but I at least I’ll have a few days in Madrid to go out with a bang.
What to do with the rest of my life
|Waves in Sanxenxo|
I remember my junior year freaking out about “what to do with my life” but thankfully I came across the teaching gig I’ve currently got in Spain. Four years later, though, and things still aren’t very clear; I’ve just put off making Big Life Decisions until now. I have, however, been reading through the incredibly helpful archives of Sell Out Your Soul—career advice for liberal arts majors trying to break into the business world.
Hopefully by the time I move back home I’ll be ready to begin hunting for a job as I’m more than ready to move out on my own and put down roots somewhere, anywhere, that last longer than eight months.
What are your travel or language goals for this year? Tell me what you’re gonna be up to in the discussion thread below!