Hola a todos from Logroño, Northern Spain!
I’m writing this blog primarily to let my family and friends know just how I’ve come to survive each week on my own in the big wide world. But to anyone else who should happen to stumble across it, welcome! I’m Madeleine, but most people know me as Maddie or Mads. I’m 20 and I’m studying German and beginners’ Spanish at the University of Nottingham, but I’m from a town near York/Yaaark. I like tea, dancing, and baking (and eating) cakes. I don’t like rudeness, gherkins or bad spelling.
Having coaxed our first words of Spanish from us only 2 years ago, the university has thrown me and my course mates to sink or swim into the big ponds of Spain and Latin America. The year abroad team call it “A big adventure,” but I’ve been feeling a bit more apprehensive and, risking sounding as unenthusiastic as Karl Pilkington from “Idiot Abroad,” have been known to call it “My year in exile.” I’d say I’m quite an adventurous person, but by the end of second year I was just starting to feel settled in to my studies and life in Nottingham and whilst I’m very independent, I will really miss having my family, boyfriend and friends fairly close by.
Nevertheless, I arrived in Logroño (if any one could tell me how to insert that ñ without having to copy and paste it each time, that would be amazing!) on Sunday, and despite feeling like a very little fish in a big pond (Okay, I think I’ve exhausted that metaphor now!) I’m really pleased with how much I’ve managed to sort out since then. There are no taxi ranks outside Spanish bus stations, so it was thanks to a lovely man who knew a number and called one for me that I didn’t have to wander the streets with two heavy suitcases looking for my hotel!
Not one for hanging about, I went to view a flat on Sunday evening. Its Spanish owner spoke incredibly quickly, and had I never viewed a house before I’d have had no idea what was going on! The whole experience was quite disheartening and not one I’d like to repeat. The price was fair compared with other adverts I’ve looked at and the flat is big, clean and in a good location so I took it, and by Monday lunchtime the contract was signed. I was hoping to move in quietly while my new flatmate, a Spanish dentist, was working but accidentally interrupted her siesta. Stood outside sweating, having just dragged my bags across town in the afternoon heat, I was really unprepared and struggled to explain myself in grammatically awful Spanish! I don’t think she’s very impressed with her new flappy English compañera de piso, but is very helpful and chatty, not that I understand it all yet!
Tuesday was more encouraging. I told myself I wasn’t nervous to go into school to meet the staff but spent the previous evening desperately trying to cram vocab and grammar! But they were more than welcoming and pleasantly surprised that I can speak some Spanish, as their previous auxiliar de conversacion knew almost none! The headteacher insisted I joined in her birthday celebrations so I found myself drinking La Rioja’s famous wine and eating tapas in the staff room at 11am in the morning! The other teachers were also very friendly and offered me lifts, which is really helpful. They’re typically chilled; I was also told to wear what I wanted and to turn up when I want on my first day! I’d be lost without my diary; I like to plan, which is definitely at odds with the Spanish attitude!
I’ve also experienced the “tradition” of “Siesta, fiesta!” which was explained to me by one of the teachers! I can’t siesta yet but am enjoying the fiesta! I’ve arrived in La Rioja during the festival of San Matteo, which is pretty much a big week-long party. The shops are all closed (which is a bit of a pain for me – I’m still sleeping under a duvet cover with no duvet colour in it,) wine is 80 cents per glass and there are fireworks every night. Sadly it’s the last night tonight, but I’m looking forward to going out to meet some of the other auxiliares from America, so I’ll leave you to get ready for that! Hasta luego!
P.S. Apologies to the people to whom I promised this blog would be started on Sunday, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had chance to sit and write until now.