The holiday season in Ourense has brought with it many rainy days, Christmas dinners, and holidays lights in the shape of umbrellas all over the city. Bo Nadal, Merry Christmas in Galician, is strung in lights in the main square of the city along with a Christmas tree made of lights. I spent the month of December celebrating the winter holiday in Ourense before a long journey back to Omaha.
This is a photo of the Plaza Mayor in Ourense during the holidays. Every single street in the city center of Ourense has lights hanging above. Some are in the shapes of ornaments and others in the shape of umbrellas.
On my second to last weekend in Ourense before I headed home for Christmas in the United States, I went to see The Grinch with my friend Tanner at the movie theatre. We were pleasantly surprised that movie prices and concessions are much cheaper than in the US, and there was even a small candy store inside the theatre to scoop a medley of gummy candies. Following The Grinch (in spanish of course, we went to a restaurant nearby for some dinner. We had planned to go ice skating as well, but when we got to the ice rink in the mall, we noticed the majority of the clientele was under the age of 10.
The following weekend in Ourense, I was invited by my bilingual coordinator Jose Luis to attend the As Lagoas teacher’s dinner at A Taberna, a restaurant in Ourense that is in the Michelin Star guide. In the photos below, Jose Luis is wearing the blue sweater and my friend Alissa is wearing gray. She is a German teaching assistant at As Lagoas on a year long fellowship just like me.
The As Lagoas teacher dinner at A Taberna consisted of duck pate, fish, and mushroom appetizers and a main course of cod (this was my choice) with vegetables and potatoes. For dessert there was a variety of cakes, flan, and cheesecake, and coffee served.
Below I have written out the menu for the evening in Galician:
- Mousse de foie de pato ao bagazo
- Tostas de pan de algas e anguia afumada
- Cogumelos silvestres en revolto
- Bacallau á prancha
- Viños: Tear dos Dodi D.O. Ribeiro & Regina Viarum D.O. Ribeira
Dinner began at 9:30 p.m., and although I was the youngest in attendance, I was the first to leave at 12:30 a.m.
Following the dinner at school, I decided to commit the rest of my weekend to the highly important endeavor of baking Christmas cookies.
In the end I made 210 cookies. I brought plates of cookies for two of my English classes who have been extremely kind and inviting towards me, my ethics class who will be my students for the whole school year, and one 4ESO music class that are highly entertaining.
I also brought plates of cookies for my bilingual coordinator Jose Luis, the ethics teacher Javier, the music teachers Manuel and Raquel, the two front offices, and all the English teachers I work with daily: Maria José, Chus, and Angela. Above is a photo of my English student Carla with the cookies that I sent home with her uncle Manuel.
In each of my English classes during the final week, I taught about Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Christmas in the United States. The highlight was each class singing Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel and oohing and awing at videos of driving in the snow in Omaha. Following each presentation, I asked my students to take a photo with me since it would be my last day with 4ESO (sophomore) and 1Bach (junior) students in English classes. I will still see these students in the hallways of course, and I am lucky enough to have some of them in bilingual music and ethics in the coming term.
I have had such a wonderful semester teaching 4ESO & 1Bach students at As Lagoas. I am so impressed at the intellect, creativity, passion, and humor possessed by these 16 & 17-year-old students. Even on the most difficult days, when both my patience and the patience of my students was low, we would laugh together at the chaos before continuing with the lesson plans. These students will be so missed next term. They have shown me how rewarding it is to be an educator. This is an experience that I am loving every single day.
I wanted to share a few photos of the entryway at As Lagoas decorated for Christmas. In a Catholic dominated country and especially in a medium sized city far from a large urban center, there is little debate about celebrating various winter holidays. Christmas is celebrated by the majority.
Javier is the teacher of ethics, a class taught in English, at As Lagoas. Every week, we spend two hours together: one prepping for ethics class and one in class. Javier has become a great friend of mine over the last few months in Spain.
Recently, he has been dealing with some illness in his family that has him driving to the hospital an hour away in Vigo most days. I’ve expressed my condolences to him over the past few weeks as his life has becomes quite chaotic and simple things like planning for class become nearly impossible as he juggles many responsibilities.
In hopes to share the Christmas spirit and lighten his load, I brought Javier a large box of Christmas cookies and Lindt truffles to take with him on one Monday evening before he went directly from school to the Vigo hospital. When I gave him the sweets and told him that I wanted him to bring them to them hospital to share with his family, it really did seem that one simple gesture was able to lighten his load and deliver some of the relief and kindness that he deserved.
The following day at the end of ethics class, Javier brought me a Christmas present to thank me for my cookies and chocolates. He brought me chocolate cookies and a Spanish National Lottery Ticket. He told me that everyone in Spain buys at least one ticket hoping to win a piece of the €680 million “el gordo” jackpot. Although my ticket didn’t win, I was blown away by Javier’s kindness. Simple acts of kindness make a world of difference!
My losing Spanish National Christmas lottery ticket for “el gordo”!
After teaching a full week of school, I packed my backpack and carry-on suitcase and walked to the Ourense train station. I boarded the five hour train from Ourense to Madrid. I spent the night at a hotel near Barajas (MAD airport), and I left for the airport bright and early.
Thanks to instagram stories, I discovered that my friends Natalie and Janey were on my same flight from Madrid to Chicago so we hung out until it was time to leave.
NINE and A HALF hours on a VERY long flight later, I arrived in Chicago. One more flight brought me from Chicago to Omaha where my momma met me at the airport gate. On our way home from the airport, we stopped so that I could get a cheese runza, frings, and a small chocolate milkshake.
I feel so lucky to be back in the Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A. to spend time with my family over the holidays. Our smaller Shih Tzu Scout is sick with heart failure, and there is nothing more that I wanted for Christmas than to spend some days curled up beside him.
In the midst of 1000 piece puzzles, overflowing crockpots, flu shots, and preventative tamiflu, I am so thankful for time with my family during this holiday season.
Happy Holidays to all. There are more adventures in Spain and Europe to come in the New Year. Thank you for reading! Until next time, ciao!