North American Cultural Ambassador Program
I am here in Jaén helping teach English to students in a public elementary school. I applied last Fall. The program is considered a continuing education grant and really provides a lot. For example, I have already received my free private health care card and a student visa to live here for one year. The program has days off in place (we only work four days a week) so that we can explore other parts of Spain and Europe. We work with the schools to establish a work schedule of 12 hours a week. We receive a stipend for our work that will cover most basic expenses. So, yes, I am super excited to be a part of this program. When I applied I chose Andalucía, an urban center and primary/elementary-aged children. When I was notified that I was accepted I did not know where I would be living. I found out when I received a letter telling me to report to said school on October 1st in Torredelcampo a small town outside of Jaén.
First Days in my New City
I arrived in a torrent of rain about two weeks ago. The rain was unusual but very much appreciated. Jaén is one of the # 1 producers of olive oil in the world. This year it was too dry so the rain was seen as a blessing for those who depend on the olive oil crop for there livelihood. I decided to stay in a hostel for the first week since I was arriving the weekend before starting work in Torredelcampo. The first day I did what I love to do, which is throw my map in my back pocket (with the hostel clearly marked, of course) and head out to explore, choosing streets that look interesting. I saw the famous and enormous cathedral and much of the Casco Antiguo or old part of the city. I also stopped for a café con leche and immediately felt at home as the men around me started to discuss the latest news in soccer! I will write about teaching in Torredelcampo in my next entry, but here are some of my first impressions of Jaén:
1) Jaén is nestled in the mountains. At night you can see a large cross and remnants of the Castillo de Santa Ana (Saint Ana’s Castle). It is gorgeous.
2) Every time you get a glimpse of the outskirts of Jaén all you see are rows and rows of olive trees. They call it the “mar de olivas” or ocean of olive trees.
3) Although this city is really small it seems to have everything that I need…stores, restaurants, cafes, etc.
4) At night the city is a little bit sleepy. I have only been here for a little while, so maybe when I experience more weekends, I will know more about the nightlife.
5) The people here seem extremely friendly and helpful.
6) Outside of the city is a paved path that extends all the way to Cordoba. My roommate, who is a personal trainer, took me there for a free session. Five minutes by car and you are running under the hot sun, surrounded by olive trees. Not bad I say.
All I can say is that I am starting to like it here!