|Valencia from above: Volando voy, volando vengo, vengo!|
As you read this, I am already there (here?) settling into my new home for 2014-2015 in Daejeon, South Korea. For the last few months I've been reading up on my host country, taking private Korean language classes (the modern Korean alphabet has an amazing history, invented in the 15th century to improve literacy!), and getting involved with the Asociación Hangul Hakyo Valencia... Yes, there is a South Korean cultural association in Valencia! Who knew!?!
|I'd wager that the most famous (even iconic) Korean thing is its flag, the 'Tae-guk'.|
But you probably didn't know all the complex symbolism behind it,
not just the yen and the yang, but also Daoist principles encoded in the four trigrams.
So I wanted to take this opportunity to say so long and thanks for all the fish, and to direct any new passerbyers to my blog to these five highlights from the blog on Valencia and Spain, which should hopefully be relevant and useful to you over the next year while I'm away...
(1) Valencia, the Land of Flowers, Light, and of Love (1)
• If I'm in Spain for only a short time, would you recommend I visit Valencia? And for how long?
Yes! You will love it here. I'd recommend 2 days at the bare minimum. (I don't know how these cruise ships visitors do it.) 3-5 days is probably the ideal length of stay... Or a lifetime should you happen to fall in love with it. (Oh, and please consider Valencia during Fallas to be an entirely different visit. You have to see the city outside of Fallas, too.)
• If I want to learn Spanish, is Valencia a good place to do so?
It is a great place to learn Spanish! While you will see and hear Valencian (i.e. a dialect of Catalan), Spanish is the most commonly spoken language in the city, and everyone speaks it and is happy to speak it with you.
• What neighborhood(s) should I look at to live in?
I tend to recommend that newbies look in the city centre (esp. El Carmen, but also Sant Francesc if you can afford it), Russafa, or Benimaclet, depending on their spending money, tolerance of noise/excitement, etc. For a more fine-honed recommendation, take a look at this neighborhood map:
Be aware that parts of El Mercat, with its infamous “barrio chino”, 2-3 streets of prostitution (an area labeled “Velluters” on some maps), is a rough exception. (On the other hand, if you avoid those 2-3 streets, El Mercat, particularly on the big avenues, is also a nice area.) Oh, and I'd avoid living near the Valencia city beach (a.k.a. Cabanyal) no matter how much you love fun in the sun – it's a bit dodgy at night and is far from the city center and most other attractions.
• How can I get a job teaching English in Valencia/Spain?
My road to teaching English was so unconventional, that I hesitate to give advice on this. Still, a word or two of advice, since people keep asking me about it. First, the two most desirable things employers are looking for, other than being a native speaker, are: 1) a university degree (preferably in English, though I didn't have it), and 2) classroom teaching experience (of any kind... it is no small skill to know how to stand in front of people and act confident and capable). After that, the next two useful things to have are 1) some kind of English teaching certification (this is usually a must for teaching primary or secondary school in Spain, though not so important for teaching in the private academies), and 2) a willingness to teach kids (who are often the largest and most consistent student base for most academies).
Oh, and here's the usual rub: for some academies (like mine) you will need a work visa, they won't sponsor it; and for the others that are willing to hire you 'sin papeles' be ready to be treated poorly, at least in terms that you won't have social security and the pay might not be great. Of course, that's just the sober reality. The good news is that the economic crisis has been a boon for English teaching, thank you Ana Botella, so there is employment for you here somewhere. But be prepared for chronic underemployment and only part-time income at first.
(2) Fallas, a City on Fire (2)
• My general page on "Valencia and Fallas in a Nutshell"
• For my most polished, professional publication on Fallas, see this article on the festival's three main industries – pirotecnia, indumentaria, and artistas falleros.
• For a more lived narrative of Fallas, review my 2012 Hangover and 2014 Hangover posts
• And my interview of famed artista fallero Manolo García
(3) Teaching English as a Foreign Language, a.k.a. TEFL (3)
• "Teaching English as a Second Language: Ten Ready-Made Lessons" – 1) Tongue-twisters, 2) "The History of the English Language in 10-minutes", 3) Dictation exercises, 4) Christmas handouts, 5) The Amazing Verb To Get, 6) Baseball idioms, 7) Latin and Greek expressions in English, 8) grammar of "to be" and "to get", 9) "English Pronunciation" poem, 10) "In the Jungle" kid's handout
(3) Spain, the Land of Excellent
Beaches Mountain Hiking (3)
• "La Alberca and the Sierra de Francia"
• "Valle de Tena and Towns in the Spanish Pyrenees"
• "Spanish National Parks: "Parque Nacional de Ordesa," A Natural Treasure in the Spanish Pyrenees"
• "Linares de Mora and the Sierra de Gúdar"
Don't get me wrong. Spaniards have long loved their "casas rurales", "pueblos con encanto", and there has certainly long been a tradition of hiking the 'Camino de Santiago'. But it's only really been in the last 20 years that trail maintenance has improved in many of Spain's previously unnoticed sierras, and hiking is starting to become a real industry here. For this reason, even though it is not a central focus of the blog, I'm highlighting Spain's hiking tourism here, to encourage you all to add it to your list of must-dos when visiting.
|One never needs to travel far in Spain for beautiful mountain views. |
El Garbí, seen here, is a classic hiking day trip from Valencia.
(5) My publications page (5)
Highlights would include my year-long photo collaboration with 24/7 Valencia, regular guests posts for The Spain Scoop, reposts by Expatica.com, and the article on Fallas that I got published in Roads & Kingdoms. I encourage you to check it out, read them, tell your friends about them, etc. Really, folks, I make no money off this, so the only payment you can provide me are your kind words in the comments below
Don't worry Valencia! I love you! You are my home! I will be back, I promise!