Ein Wochenende in Wien

Hallo aus Stuttgart! I didn’t really mean for it to, but it seems that my blog’s become biweekly since I moved to Germany! I have much less time here, so I need to make the most of it to travel. That, along with work, doesn’t leave me much time to write!
This weekend I went to visit my friend Elle, who lives in Vienna. I booked this trip two or three months ago and really looked forward to it, and it didn’t disappoint!

Vienna is about 700km from Stuttgart; you can get there by a ten-hour long train journey or a seventy-minute flight. Since the flight actually worked out ten Euros cheaper, I went with that! (Sorry, environment!) It’s been one of my furthest and most expensive trips, but it was well worth the effort and cost! I don’t know that I’ll ever have the freedom, friends in the same situation in different cities to visit, or free money (my Erasmus grant) to travel like I’ve had this year so I have to make the most of it!

I took Friday off work and got a horribly early flight (I left my house at 4am!), which gave me a full three days in Vienna. It turned out that packing my bikini in the hope of swimming in the Danube was a tad optimistic – the weather had been beautiful until the Thursday night and was mostly overcast or rainy over the weekend! It must have known I was coming.

To escape the rain on Friday morning, we went to the Musikhaus. The Musikhaus is a museum dedicated to all things musical; the many famous musicians who lived in Vienna and music and sound in general. I’m not very musical at all but when in Vienna…! The museum was really interactive which, being a big kid, suited me well. (I always look at the family friendly page in guidebooks when I visit places!!) I learned a lot, not just about music but a lot of new music-specific German words, since we decided not to be lazy and took the tour in German.
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Vienna is famous for its patisseries, so it would have been rude not to have indulged! A hot chocolate and half a slice of cake was pretty much a meal! Sachertorte is the very famous Viennese cake but I don’t like marzipan so we had Mozarttorte, which is chocolate sponged sandwiched with pistachio-cream. Apparently it was Mozart’s favourite cake; I think he’s a man of good taste.
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Friday was a truly musical day because although it’s normally sold out months in advance, we managed to get half-price student tickets for the opera. We were sat in the Gods and couldn’t see a lot but we could hear! The Vienna Opera is one of the most famous in the world and is in the “1000 places to see before you die” book. Neither of us are really in to opera and weren’t sure that we could stand a full four hours of it, so were glad to go to a medley concert, with lots of different styles of music (and only a few operatic pieces.) The concert was great but all of the rooms were opened up for us to look at in the interval and they were equally, if not more, impressive than the music!
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The weekend got even more cultural on Saturday evening, when we went to the Vienna film festival. We didn’t spot any celebs but we did see a live screening of Romeo and Juliet (the ballet version) from Russia. Saturday was a beautiful day; sitting outside in shorts at gone 11pm and watching ballet while drinking cocktails, I felt a thousand miles away from Stuttgart and the world of work and attic life, and a million miles away from England!

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Sadly on Sunday the weather broke again halfway round our walk through the palace gardens! The palace was beautiful rain or shine; I know, I experienced both! On our way home, the heavens truly opened! This seemed hilarious until I had to pack these wet clothes into my suitcase with my dry ones:

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I could happily have spent a week in Vienna but sadly I had to leave! My flight back to Stuttgart was indirect, via Zurich. The first leg of the journey was uninteresting but we spent three hours on the plane in Zurich without moving anywhere. At one point, the pilot started repeating the football commentary down the radio. Apparently the weather radar on the plane had broken, and at gone midnight it was eventually decided that it wasn’t fixable and there were no other planes available. We were all bussed to and put up in a 5 star hotel for free for all of 4 hours and only 200km from our destination… the situation was laughable, but the Germans were all so elated from their world cup win that the Stimmung was still pretty good! I arrived back here with only 3 hours sleep, so I’m stil a bit spaced out and trying to catch up!

It was really lovely to spend time with a friend and speak freely and comfortably in English for a few days – although we both noticed that our English is suffering through lack of use! Examples of good Denglisch are: “Shall we catch the Bahn, or?” and “It’s so cool, the Ballet!” I’m really enjoying my German life but I’m getting really excited to getting back to Nottingham and normality and living with my friends in September. A big thank you to Elle for having me!

Next stop, Munich this weekend! I’m going to visit the family I satyed with an an au pair last summer.

A weekend in Mainz

Hi everyone! It’s been quite a while since my last blog post but I’ve been so busy working, socialising and travelling that I’ve not had time to write. Who knew that working a full-time job could be so time consuming!? I’m ashamed to say that I’ve even started doing some of the things that I judge other people as being lazy for doing. Yesterday, for example, I even bought ready-grated cheese. A new low point.

Since I last wrote about the world cup madness here in Germany, my national team, England, has been knocked out. ImageRepresenting in Germany!

This photo was taken before the second group-stage match against Uruguay (which we lost 2-1)… I definitely looked a lot more sheepish on my way home! There are lots of public viewings like this one all over Germany, and there is always a good atmosphere. Despite being with lots of people, and the flags were definitely a conversation starter, I actually felt pretty lonely that evening! Stuttgart is a really mulit-cultural city; everywhere you go, you hear different languages and see different types of dress. But, that evening, I was the only English girl at the viewing. I actually saw more Uruguay supporters!

Last weekend I made a trip up North into the neighbouring Bundesland/state, the Rheinland (bet you all recognise that one from school history class!) to visit my uni friend, Emily! She lives in:

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You could be forgiven for not knowing Mainz… I didn’t, either, before I visited! Mainz isn’t a very famous city, but I think it’s a bit of a hidden gem! I would definitely recommend a visit. Sadly I didn’t manage to take any of Baden-Wurrtemberg’s beautiful weather with me and it was overcast and rainy all weekend, but it was still lovely!

I went to Mainz to see the city, but also to catch up with my friend, so we spent a lot of the weekend gossiping over Kaffe und Kuchen, or, in true German spirit, beer!

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I always thought that having a hot drink and a cake (afternoon tea) was a very British tradition, but apparently it’s also traditional in Germany. This was our excuse, anyway, to do it twice in as many days! Maybe, like Christmas trees, it’s another tradition we got from Albert!

On the topic of food (one of my favourite topics), I had my first Currywurst of this trip at the weekend. I loved Currywurst when I first tried it last summer in Munich, so I can’t believe it’s taken me almost a month of being here in Germany to have it again! It’s German sausage in a spicy tomatoey sauce, and it’s  a relatively new thing but Germany has become famous for it. Lots of people think it’s disgusting and some German people have told me theiy’re embarassed by it, but I think it’s delicious! Although, apparently “real” Currywurst can only be eaten in Berlin, and I haven’t been there yet to try it!

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I’ve really had my share of curry this weekend, because we sourced the ingredients to make Madras from scratch. Curry is incredibly popular in Britain, but not so much in the rest of Europe, and it’s one of the things that lots of expats really miss. You can’t buy ready made sauces like you can in the UK’s supermarkets; usually you can’t even find the ingredients to make it from scratch. We were (perhaps a bit too) excited to find spices and powder and coconut milk at the market and made this beauty. It should have served four, but we devoured it between the two of us!

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In between eating and drinking, we did see the sights. Emily lives in a flat almost in the centre of town, so it was ideally located for sightseeing. Her flat is big, airy and proper (as opposed to my attic) and I realised  just how much i’m starting to miss being able to stand up at the sides of rooms! Still, I’m staying positive about it; I don’t pay rent and beggars can’t be choosers!

Although Mainz is quite small (it has a population of 200,000), it has a huge cathedral. Unfortunately, although it looks a bit like the Disneyland castle from the outside, it’s not nearly as impressive inside. In fact, I’m really glad that entry was free because it’s probably one of the least impressive cathedrals I’ve ever been in. The third picture is actually of the interior of another church we stumbled across.

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The town hall and castle were both impressive looking buildings, but sadly they were both closed to the public, as was the Roman theatre.

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Mainz, like Stuttgart, is about as inland as you can get, but I’ve sat on a beach in both! In Stuttgart, we have a rooftop beach bar, and in Mainz there are two man-made beaches on the banks of the Rhein.

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The Rheinland is one of Germany’s main wine-producing areas, so I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t drink any while I was there. To make up for it, and just so I could tell you whether it was any good or not (it is), I’ve bought some from the supermarket back here in Stuttgart! Most of the free space in and around Mainz is dedicated to vineyards; they are even in the garden of the the district planning building …good planning!

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Graffiti is legal in Mainz and some beautiful murals have been created in the subways. To show you just how big this graffiti is, I’m the dot in the corner of the picture and at nearly 5 ft 7, I’m not short!

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I’m planning to spend this weekend in my home from home, Stuttgart, to rest up and save my pennies/cents for my trip to Vienna next weekend! Life’s exciting at the moment! Bis bald.

 

World cup madness

Hallo aus Deutschland! Since I last blogged and as I’m sure you all know, the world cup has kicked-off! According to my reliable source in the UK (my Dad), there isn’t the usual madness at home this year. As Gary Lineker said before our first match, “Expectattions are low!”  This is not the case in Germany; the Germans have high hopes this year and, football fan or not, there’s no avoiding the Weltmeisterschaft!

The German colours are absolutely everywhere.

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They’re on houses:

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This family don’t want to commit their support too early!

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But there’s no doubt as to which team this household’s supporting!

They’re on cars:

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…And not just the sport-shops but all types of Laden!

pic9There seems to be a bit of a World-cup themed window display competition at my top-shops. This one is the butchers; it was so sunny (not rubbing it in-honest) that there is so much reflection that you can hardly see, but this is a life-size football fan tending to his barbecue! 

I can’t even eat a biscuit without learning the name and number of a German player and I’m starting a sticker collection because they come free inside my Hanuta packets. It’s not just biscuits, but chocolate bars and crisps too. Kinder even has a new limited edition range of chocolates in the form of the German footballers! I’m not too sure whether junk food promoting sport is ironic, or if it’s good that it’s advertising exercise!

It’s not just the German team’s matches but all the matches that people are interested in.

pic 6 “ALL World Cup games live”

Away from football now, I’ve already completed my first week at work! The work is varied and the topics are interesting, but working in an office is, of course, very different to teaching and I’m really missing moving around and interacting with people. However, it is really nice to come home and put my feet up, without having to plan! I finish work at half past four every day so I have a lot of free time in the evenings, which is lovely.

I’ve been using this free time to explore the city a bit more. Since the weather has been so nice, I’ve spent a lot of my time sunbathing in the park in the centre of town. Now I’ve got a bit of a tan, I’m determined to keep it!I’ve also met a lot of new people and I’ve already discovered some of Stuttgart’s best secrets! On Wednesday evening I went to a bar which has different free live music each week. This week’s band played quite soothing blues/folksy music which suited my Wednesday night mood perfectly!

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On Friday, I went out and found myself at a rooftop bar with a beach theme! It was dark but the views of the lights across the city were beautiful and it was fun but a bit strange to be on a “beach,” complete with deckchairs, parasols and sand, in the south of Germany!

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Faux-pas of the week: My faux-pas  is particularly embarrassing this week because it’s something we learned to avoid when we very first started learning German! I was invited out for a coffee at “Halb neun/half nine.” In English when we say half 9, we mean half past nine. However, when the Germans say it, they mean half to nine. You’ve already guessed it; i turned up at the cafe almost an hour late! Thank goodness the person was really nice and understanding about it!

I’m going out now with my housemate to join in the madness and watch Germany play football! Bis gleich!

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Grüße aus Deutschland! I’ve been in Stuttgart for 5 days now, and I can’t really believe it’s been that long. I still feel like I’ve only just arrived! However, when I think of all the things I’ve already done in that time, I’m surprised it hasn’t been longer: I’ve already left and returned to Germany once!

I’m living in one of the outer suburbs of Stuttgart, an area called Heumaden. I have a room in the attic of the same building as I’ll be working in, the positive of which is a very short commute and the negative is that I’ll never really leave work! I’m trying to think of living in an attic as arty and cosy, but in reality I’ll probably get sick of only being able to fully stand up in the middle of each room! So, next time you see a pretty German house with a sloping roof, spare me a thought, stooping in the attic!

I’m sharing the flat with another intern, Petter, who is from Norway and a headless statue, Isaac, who lives in the corner of my bedroom and is pretty scary to wake up to!

Image…Nothing says “Welcome” like a headless statue!

Petter has been really welcoming and friendly, and has introduced me to the city and his friends, which I really appreciate. Living in an outer-suburb, we need to use the public transport to get into the centre. The S-Bahn (like a cross between a tram and a train) is fast and reliable but very expensive. A return journey costs just under 7 Euros if you buy single tickets, but Petter helped me to get a monthly Verbundspass, which is much more cost-effective. Germay is famous for being beaurocratic, but I found the process simple. I left with the pass the same day I applied for it, and the lady complimented my German, so I won’t be complaining!

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On Thursday I went downstairs(!) to the office to introduce my coworkers. I’m going to be working for a foundation that does a lot of legal work, but I’ll mostly be doing translation. German business correspondence is very formal but thankfully everyone seemed quite relaxed and open.

In the evening I found myself at a Flohmarkt/flea-market in a converted warehouse, which is usually used as a disco so there was also Bier. True to the stereotype, beer seems to be a really popular beverage here in Germany! It was a little bit surreal and definitely not what I expected to be doing on my second evening in Germany but it was fun and I met a lot of nice people!

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Some of the people I met at the market invited me on the trip they were planning to Bodensee, which is a lake on the German-Swiss border, on Sunday. Travelling was also not on my first weekend’s to-do-list but spontaneity can be great and it was a really good opportunity to make get to know people and to get to see some more of the country.

We first went to Konstanz, on the German side of the border, to explore the town and take a dip in the lake! It was 33 degrees so a swim was more than refreshing!

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We then crossed over the border into Switzerland to see the Rheinfall, which is the largest plain waterfall in Europe. It is 150m wide and watching all the water flow at 700³/s was both impressive and quite scary!

Faux-pas of the week: “Fall” has a double meaning in German; previously I only knew the other meaning, which is case/instance. I spent most of the day not knowing where we were going!

Having covered a lot of ground in the heat and spoken only in German (which, thankfully, has come back to me quickly) all day, I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the day! However, thanks to a very hot and stuffy room and early morning bell-ringing practice at the church over the road, I wasn’t allowed a lie-in this morning! I’m feeling happy and accomplished but definitely not rested and fresh ready for my first day at work tomorrow. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

Fin

Faux- pas’ of the week: I thought I’d get the embarrassing bit out of the way early this week! No, that’s not a misplaced apostrophe; sadly there have been more than one this week and I’ve been making one of them all year!

On Friday, I (finally) learned that in Spanish, there is a personal a used before the names of people, pets and sometimes cities and countries, to show respect. This had never come up in my grammar lectures at Uni – or rather, I’m sure it must have been but since my grammar lectures were taught in Spanish and my Spanish was terrible before coming here, I probably just missed it! Not long after moving here all the way back in September, I did start to notice this a cropping up but assumed it just came before the object of the sentence (which isn’t really as stupid as it sounds – lots of things in languages “Just are!”) and tried to use it like that. It’s not really possible to translate because we don’t have anything similar in English but I suppose I’ve been saying things like “Have you seen my very respectable keys? (Has visto a mis llaves)” and “I’d like a respectable cup of coffee, please! (Quiero a una taza de café por favor)”

My second mistake did, thankfully, occur just this week and was only internally embarrassing! A colleague asked me if I was excited for my despedida. This comes from the verb despedir , which means to fire someone from a job.  I must have looked horrified for the split second it took me to consider that she definitely wouldn’t be so unprofessional or horrible as to say something like that, and as she continued I realised from the context that despedida actually means leaving party! There’s a word I won’t forget!

I’ve had not one, but four leaving parties … and my last day isn’t until Thursday! Of course, the Spanish are famous for knowing how to party and all of them involve good food, drink, sometimes music and (in the case of the one I had with the other teachers, mucho vino!)  The students brought in food and pop but the most touching thing is that all of them seemed to want to include me in their conversations! At this rate, by the time Friday comes, I’m going to have to wedge my hips into the airline seat! My diet has been temporarily abandoned because I don’t want to offend any of the students by not eating the food they’ve made (best excuse I’ve ever had!) and I need to eat as much tortilla as possible while I still can! I went out on both Friday and Saturday nights this weekend, and since Spanish parties are marathon nights out which can last until six or seven in the morning (the fame is well deserved!),  so much dancing must surely have burned off a lot of those extra calories …and don’t anyone tell me otherwise!

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2 It’s not too late for firsts! I tried snails for the first time at my leaving party with the teachers, and they were so good I wish I hadn’t been scared to try them before!

Whilst I’ve really enjoyed the leaving parties, having to say goodbye to people has been really sad. I felt a bit choked up today when I had my final class with one of my favourite groups (teachers shouldn’t have favourites, but they definitely do!) and a little boy presented me with this loaf of bread made especially for me at his father’s bakery. Don’t worry though, I might have spent the best part of a year here but I still have my British stiff upper lip!

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If you’d asked me if I spoke Spanish when I first came here, I’d have said something like “Not really” or “A little bit.” Now, I could answer quite confidently “Yes.” This weekend I was introduced to someone as “my English friend, but she speaks great Spanish” and a teacher said to a class “Madeleine speaks better Spanish than you do!” There were times I cried and times I felt homesick, out of my depth, and like a failure but in the end, it’s all been worth it.

I’ve enjoyed the last couple of months so much that it’s hard to remember those difficult times in October and January, although my less than cheery mood dominated my blog back then. I’m surprised that I still have readers and followers, or that anyone here wanted to be my friend! One girl told me she wasn’t sure I’d come back after my trip home in October, but I’m so glad I did! I’ll look back on my time in Spain with happy thoughts and that’s almost entirely thanks to the support from my friends here and to the teachers at school, as well and family and friends at home. When asked, I say I’d like to stay longer, and I really do mean it!

There are so many things I’m going to miss! Some of them are material, like the cheap coffee, the  pick and mix olive shop, the pinchos and the cheaper but beautiful clothes. (I had to add the clothes bit, or I would have been able to start that sentence “Some of them involve food!”) But other things I’ll miss are things money can’t buy and some are things I’ll never get back. There’s the great friends I’ve made, the feeling of satisfaction when I taught a student to pronounce his h’s… and the same feeling when I rolled my Spanish rr’s for the first time!  There’s having the time, freedom and money (at a squeeze) to spend my entire weekend travelling, partying, sitting in cafes gossiping or watching entire series! There’s the weather (as of about March) and the first view of the mountains as the bus leaves the city.

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There are, of course, things I won’t miss but these are much fewer. I absolutely hate living in a flat. Even if the walls weren’t paper thin and I could get a proper night’s sleep, I still feel cooped up and claustrophobic, like an ant in a little ant farm network.  My school is in a village town so I see the countryside every working day, but when I spend lots of time in Logrono I really miss open spaces. Finally, and it goes without saying that even though I’ve learned to fill it with indoor jobs like doing the washing or thinking of ideas for classes, I will not miss the siesta!

Fin, as I’m sure you all know, means the end. However, it’s not really the end of my European adventure as I’m heading to Germany next Thursday. Whilst I’m going with a fairly good level of German, (at least, compared with the level of Spanish I came to Spain with!) I’m sure there’ll be plenty more faux-pas’ to report!

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On Holiday in Hendaye

Hola, or maybe I should say bonjour this weekThis weekend I took a fairly spontaneous trip with some of my auxiliar-friends to Hendaye, which is a little seaside town just on the French side of the French-Spanish border, fairly near to Biarritz. We all live such hard lives here, working a whole four days each week, that we figured we deserved a beach break! It´s also one of the girls´birthday today, so that gave us the excuse we needed!

We booked less than a week in advance, so we were really lucky to find a beautiful beach house for less than 40 euros each for the weekend. We couldn´t believe it when we stepped out onto the balcony to these views:

The plan was to spend the weekend relaxing on the beach, which of course we did!

Hendaye is a really interesting town so we spent some of our time getting cultured too! On Saturday we walked to Chateau d´Abbadie, a castle just outside the town. Since people in the south of France also take a siesta, we had to have a picnic and a sunbathe while we waited for it to open after the lunch break. I make that sound like a bad thing; it certainly wasn´t dissappointing to relax in the sun with these views!

 

When I was on my gap yah I ate hoummous in the gardens of my chateau…

Antoine d’Abbadie was a scientist who made the first maps of Ethiopia. He built the house with wholes in to try to discover and measure a constant of refraction in optics. The experiment wasn’t successful, so he was left with a holey house as a reminder of his failure! I’m not sure if I find this really funny or really sad!

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You know you’ve made it when you have so much money, the best way you can think of spending it is putting your initials all over the walls in gold leaf…

Basque people are famous for being cold (even more so than the Brits!) but our landlords bucked this trend completely. They gave us coffee and got to know us, and one morning they brought us a traditional Basque tart, which is pastry filled with some sort of fruity-flavoured creamy curd. It was nicer than I’m making it sound! They also introduced us to their son, and gave us a lift to the next town one night so we could go out with him and his friends! If only all landlords were like them!

Irun, Hendaye’s neighbouring and almost adjacent town, is on the Spanish side of the border. It’s really strange that in Hendaye, people speak French (well, not me, I quickly realised this weekend that my French GCSE no longer stands for anything!) but just two miles away, in Irun, absolutely everything is in Spanish. It’s funny that the language is determined by the political borders!

We happened to be in Irun during the town’s festival, and on Saturday evening there was live music. We watched a Basque republican band called Esrepublica performing rap-metal. One song was called “Death to the King.” It was interesting…
All I knew was that we were going out so I turned up to the concert in a floral dress and heels. I got some funny looks but, as the faux-pas I’ve made go, it’s certainly not the worst one!

My real faux-pas of the week happened on Thursday, which was the hottest day here so far! I’ve entered into a war of words with a crazy neighbour. It was too hot to wear many clothes at all so I just wore a sports-bra to run in, which isn’t not very revealing at all and is more like a crop-top, but apparently this was a big no-no! People were giving me dirty looks when I ran past them in the park (but ignoring the girls sunbathing in bikinis!?) and when I got back to my building, the old lady in the lift with me looked down her nose at me for the whole ride. She called me a puta (slag/tart), so I called her a bitch in my most pleasant voice. I understood her, she didn’t understand me; think I’m winning!

 

 

21, Spanish style!

 

Hola a todos, I hope you’ll all be pleased to read that I’m still managing to type with my aged fingers! I turned 21 on Thursday in Spanish style! I’m joking about being old but in the UK, 21 is considered a milestone birthday and the age at which, if there was any doubt at 18,you are definitely an adult! The Spanish have a very different view; when I told some colleagues how old I was, they cooed about how young I was and one man said “But you are just a child!”

I was a bit worried about whether I’d enjoy my birthday in a land far, far away (I think I must have seen Star wars and Shrek a few too many times!) from the people and things I love, but I had a really good day! It started well: I opened my cards and presents whilst eating my first birthday cake of the day for breakfast in bed, courtesy of my flatmates (thank you)! A big thank you also to everyone in their different parts of the world who sent birthday love in various ways, I really appreciated it!

Image A card in each of the languages I speak!

As I’ve mentioned before, I usually really enjoy work, so I wasn’t too sad to have to go in on my birthday. I enjoyed it even more than usual thanks to some lovely surprises! These began when I walked into the staffroom to find the other teachers singing happy birthday, which they’d practised in English! They also gave me cards and traditional La Riojan jewellery, which is so thoughtful and was completely unexpected, especially because the Spanish aren’t big card-givers like us!

Also unexpected was the party my sixth-form students threw for me! I walked into their class to find the lights turned off and all of them singing! Already, I thought this was really sweet of them, but when they turned the lights on I saw that they’d all brought in food from home. One boy had even home-made a cake, my second of the day!

A Spanish birthday tradition is to pull the birthday girl’s ears, and this is something I experienced first hand! My ears were pulled once for each of my 21 years! It was a lot less painful than birthday bumps but maybe they were just being nice!

ImageIf you’re interested, this type of party buffet is called a merendola

Perhaps the best suprise came halfway through the class (if I can call it that!) when I was delivered this beautiful bunch of flowers, almost half the size of me, from my family at home! They are looking even more beautiful now more of the lilies have come out!

ImageSadly after all this excitement I did have to take some proper classes!

I had my third and final birthday cake, this time in the form of muffins, at my after-school class. I was really touched that the mum had made them and bought a 21 candle especially! It was a backwards meal because I then went out for pizza and drinks with some friends!

I think it’s fair to say my birthday involved a lot of food, which was extra sweet because I’m supposed to be on a diet! I’d worried that I might feel a bit lonely but that was absolutely not the case!

ImageMy birthday weekend was hot, hot, hot! I spent it really embracing the Spanish siesta, fiesta lifestyle!

…Although I was upstaged by this bride in the club on my night out!Image