My Spain Story

The first great travel novel I ever read could have been , “Go, Dog, Go!” We all start somewhere. My parents attest that I was running before walking, and they’ve chased me everywhere from gymnastics practice as a kid to various countries around the world. Go, Cat, Go!

But my Spain story starts about 30 years ago, back when my mom was a junior in college. Her cousin decided to elope, and my Grandma McCrae, furious for not being invited to the wedding, told my mother that she could choose anywhere in the world to study abroad for a semester. She chose Rome and ate gelato on the Spanish Steps while studying fashion and pasta for an academic semester.

When I graduated from high school and was preparing to study journalism at the University of Iowa, my mom told me the same thing (just no eloped cousins in this part of the story). Spain escaped my lips faster than I could let her words fully process in my head. It was settled – I would go to the land of toros, tapas and sunshine to study Spanish and the art of the siesta.

I chose Valladolid as my destination of choice – a former capital once inhabited by Cervantes and Columbus – and spent the summer of 2005 with a host family, attending language classes at the Universidad de Valladolid.

While I was there, I learned enough Spanish and enough about the siesta to want to go back. As my mom embraced me a few weeks later at O’Hare Airport, I simply announced, “I am moving back to Europe.”

And there it was. I found a job teaching English in Sevilla and haven’t looked back since, moving to Southern Spain’s capital in September 2007.

I began teaching at a rural high school, where I found that I actually liked teaching, and that I was good at it.

I used my weekends and long breaks to travel to places I’d been longing to travel since I was a kid – Ireland,  China, Germany and every corner of Spain, racking up 30 country stamps in my passport.

 

In the meantime, between tapas and siestas, I met my boyfriend, the Novio.

One year in Spain turned into two and three, and as my teaching program expired, I had to make a choice: Fight bureaucracy and stay in Spain, or chalk it up to a great experience and go back to Chicago?

I fought the law, which is hard on Americans wanting to live and work in Spain, and the law handed me a loophole.

Six years, four jobs and what is apparently a marriage later, I’m finding olive oil to be an appropriate substitute for butter, that teaching is my thing, and that Spain might just be my final destination.

If you’d like to read my story from the very beginning, visit the archives page for easy navigation by month – all the way back from July 2007!

I’d love to hear from you about anything Spain related – teaching, settling in, traveling. Send me an email at sunshineandsiestas@gmail.com

Comments

  1. Corey says:

    Hi Cat, what program did you go through to teach abroad? and other random questions like how much are you getting paid per month and is it enough?? I’m trying to decide what I want to do next fall, and teaching in spain is definitely on my list- you can email me at beauhollow@hotmail.com

    Thanks!

    • Corey says:

      I just realized that was a stupid question “is it enough?” well, it probably is seeing as you’ve been there for years…I think I mean more along the lines of insurance, rent, traveling, yada yada..I don’t want to be asking my parents for grocery money haha

      • Hey Corey, and anyone else, I did three years in Sevilla with the Auxiliares Norteamericanos program (http://www.educacion.gob.es/sgci/usa/es/programas/auxiliares_us/aux_us.shtml). This consisted of working in a local and public high school for 12 hours a week, assisting English teachers plan and implement bilingual curriculum. Yes, the pay seems like next to nothing, but you have to realize that the cost of living, even in a city like Seville, it far lower than in the US. I paid 240 euros a month for rent and utilities, about 100 for groceries, 25 for transportation, etc. I also made up to 500 euros a month just for tutoring, which is both legal and widespread in Spain.

        For anything else, email me! catherinegaa@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

  2. Colin Culbreth says:

    Hi Catherine,

    I tried that link you provided, but it says “404 error, page not found — all in Spanish)

    My name is Colin. I’m an American and speak fairly proficient spanish (little rusty). I am interested in Teaching English in Spain, but I hear for an American it’s nearly impossible. And to get a visa, you need a job… and to get a job, you need a visa. So it’s frustrating. I read your blog online, and was curious if you could offer any information.

    I have a masters in Education, 16 months teaching experience in South Korea (ESL), and am a licensed teacher in the state of Washington in the USA.

    I would really appreciate any help or advice.

    Thanks so much,

    Colin Culbreth
    Masters in Education
    cculbret@gmail.com

  3. I’m enjoying your blog. I made the same choice you did 28 years ago, and my Sevillana friends from that period are still among my closest, most intimate friends. It was a life changing experience. Now, I go back periodically to Seville to live with Spanish gypsy friends I made along the way. I’m a writer. My debut novel is scheduled for release in October, 2012. It’s set in Seville. (www.scentofsorrow.wordpress.com) Happy blogging. I’ll be tuning in.

  4. I hope to have advanced reading copies available in June. I’ll send you an arc. Do you read ebooks?

  5. Absolutely missing it. La feria is where I learNed to appreciate fino! and I agree about the kindle. Loving it! I ‘ll send you a copy as soon as I have the arcs. Enjoy La Feria. I’ll have a cup of La Gitana to remember.

  6. Michi says:

    Just tagged you in a “getting to know you” blogging series, should you want to participate. I hope you’re having a wonderful time at feria, can’t wait to read posts about it! Ciao guapa! ;)
    http://iheartmondegreens.com/2012/04/28/getting-to-know-you/

  7. Love, love, love your blog and everything spain! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Sam says:

    Hey Cat,

    I’ve nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award – congratulations! Follow this link to see the post and learn more about the rules for this award: http://wiesagtman.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/very-inspiring-blogger-award/
    Thank you for inspiring me!

    Sam
    Sam recently posted..Very Inspiring Blogger AwardMy Profile

  9. M says:

    Hi Catherine

    Recently found your blog and enjoying it very much – entertaining, interesting and enlightening!

    M & S
    M recently posted..Things we miss about ÓrgivaMy Profile

  10. Shane Gomez says:

    Wonderful story Cat. You have some really engaging blog. Will be following you starting today.

    Thanks!
    Shane Gomez recently posted..Estrellas De MendozaMy Profile

  11. Love your story. Spain is one of my favorite countries on the planet. Since we travel one dish at a time, Spain has plenty to offer. I had a great meal in a small town of Ubeda spring lamb. The best I’ve ever had. Thanks so much for sharing.
    Judy at Two Broads Abroad recently posted..Naples, Italy: Pizza and Street ArtistMy Profile

  12. Bo says:

    Hi Cathrine, came across your blog via Sue Sharpe on twitter. Love your story and really nice to find another free-spirited American in Spain. Hope to meet one day in this great country.
    Bo recently posted..Curious AlteaMy Profile

  13. WHat a terrific story! I want to know what your Mom said when you told her you were going back… !!
    Mrs. Chasing the Donkey recently posted..Sunday lunch at Hotel BoskinacMy Profile

  14. paul murphy says:

    Cat

    Hi, I have sat on that exact spot in the Plaza de San Nicolas in Granada on many occasions, usually at sunset (many years ago now in the 1970s, before it became the “go to” place for student drinks at night) in the quiet, watching the sun go down behind the snowy Sierra peaks, bloodshot sky and the Palace. Last there last year when I got up early and went to see the sunrise for the first time-see my blog. Enjoy reading your posts, I too love the Plaza de Espana, last there a few years ago with my now ex-wife, so sad as well as happy memories. Was in Seville for a day last month and met up with Fiona Watson who I am sure you know. Paul

  15. Enrique says:

    i happened to stumble upon your blog because I was looking for other bloggers who share my passion for Andalusia and I’ve begun to love every bit of it. I’ve been seduced by Seville and can’t wait to go back to Southern Spain.

    http://www.hardcoreviajero.com/2013/09/05/seduction-has-a-name-sevilla-2/

  16. Raymond says:

    Spain seduces. I too can’t get enough of Spain. I’m missing Spain again.

  17. traveltheworld says:

    Hi Cat!
    Read your story…pretty awesome how a simple trip turned into a new and different life. My boyfriend and I are travelling throughout Spain in the month of August. We are spending 3 days in Seville then leaving 1 day for a day trip! Any specific “hidden gems” we should get to…?

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Ofu! It will be very hot in August and many restaurants will be closed for the whole month. I’d try and avoid being outside during the day, and seeing as much as you can in the morning and evenings (that’s what siesta was invented for!). The rooftop bars are nice for the evening and dusk, and the gardens of the Alcazar have a concert series called “noches del Alcazar” which are really nice. Calle Sierpes and Tetuan, as well as main plazas, get sun shades, so be sure to drink plenty of water and bring sunscreen! If you’re here towards the end of the month, let me know!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] up at the Consulate of Spain. Five years and daily cravings for Cruzcampo later, she writes at Sunshine and Siestas about Sevilla before escaping the summer heat by heading for rainy Galicia to run an English [...]

  2. [...] commenters on other blogs. Once I found Cat, I thought I’d found a kindred spirit. She’s the kind of blogger I hope to be: dedicated, funny, irreverent, full of life, amazing at Spanish (with an Andalú [...]

  3. [...] commenters on other blogs. Once I found Cat, I thought I’d found a kindred spirit. She’s the kind of blogger I hope to be: dedicated, funny, irreverent, full of life, amazing at Spanish (with an Andalú [...]

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