This week after my first day of classes on Monday we have had reception/orientation stuff put on by the Basque government. Yesterday I rode with Esteban, my co-worker/program mentor, to a reception in Vitoria-Gasteiz. This consisted mostly of sitting and listening to some welcome speeches by, as Esteban put it, "big fish" of the Basque education department. Afterwards they provided pintxos, wine, soft drinks and dessert and we all mingled for a little while.
I had a super-exciting moment at school yesterday when we were getting ready to go, though. I was getting ready to meet up with Esteban to head out and I met the vice-principal of the school, and she turns to someone else and goes (in Basque) "he's over there." And I understood it!!! Get ready, complicated agglutinating language isolate, because I am SO going to learn you.
Then today was part 1 of training in Barakaldo, a suberb/satellite city in the Bilbao metro area. Some of it was incredibly helpful (concrete ideas of activities, how to plan classes/adapt material to the classes' levels, etc) and some of it was incredibly NOT (I'm looking at you, 1-hour segment on how to record people using a microphone and your computer and then post it online). A bunch of us (auxiliares) then went to IKEA, and I think I now have everything I need to settle in to my apartment.
The most exciting thing I learned today, though, was that we have a puente this weekend! For those of you not familiar with Spanish culture, a puente is when a national holiday falls on a day one day away from a weekend (i.e., Tuesday) and they make a "bridge" out of it by taking the day off in between too. In this case, the holiday is Columbus Day, which is also the Fiesta Nacional/Día de la Hispanidad (Day of Spanishness), which as you can imagine doesn't always go over so great in Basque Country. The important thing for me is this means I have Astelehena (Monday) AND Asteartea (Tuesday) off work!! Days off DO always go over great with me. Anyway, I may go to Donosti (yes, AGAIN, I know, I know!) and stay with a new friend there for a couple days.
One thing I've noticed is we (auxiliares) hang out in HUGE groups. This isn't necessarily a problem, except that we'll go into a pintxos bar and completely take it over. This makes me feel a little obnoxious, even though we're all good patrons and buy snacks and drinks and are not too loud and everything.
On the one hand, I wonder if now is time for me to be going out and making local friends (join a sports team! take dance lessons! something!). On the other, I remember that when moving to another country there's usually an adjustment period where you're just settling in and you tend to spend a heavier chunk of time with other people in your situation (i.e., expats). Plus, I genuinely like a lot of my fellow auxiliares a lot! Not to mention that I always find study-abroad or program people who won't be friends with their fellow countrymen at all because they're "trying to go local" a little snotty; I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. I guess my plan for now is to keep hanging out with my new friends but make sure I make an effort with my church and my roommates (I think we're all going to some open-house event at Mango this Thursday).