Hello to everyone who hasn’t been put off reading by last week’s miserable offering, and thank you for sticking with me! I’m still feeling a bit up and down but on the whole I’ve felt a lot better so, you’ll be relieved to see, this shouldn’t be such a tortuous reading experience!
I’ve now completed my first week of work and, perhaps surprisingly, it’s the best part of living here. I’m not happy unless I’m busy, so I like to have purpose and something to keep me occupied. I’ll probably look back at this next week, with lesson plans and private classes and intercambio language exchanges coming out of my ears, and laugh (or cry, my mood’s not so reliable at the minute!) but at the moment I’m feeling very lucky with my placement.
I have to travel from Logroño to Fuenmayor, a little pueblo about a 15 minutes drive away, but usually one of the teachers gives me a lift – also a good opportunity to practise my Spanish! Not many of the teachers speak much English but they’re very patient and attentive as I try to contribute to conversations in very slow, careful Spanish! There are about 400 students and 60 staff so I’m feeling right at home as it’s a pretty similar size to the school I went to. I’m struggling with names and feeling guilty as, of course, everyone knows mine! But since all the male teachers seem to be called Jose, Fernan and Fernando, just in different orders and combinations, I can have a good guess!
I work for an instituto (aka secondary school) for children aged between 10 and 19, so I teach quite a broad range of ages. I prefer working with the older ones because they’re more able and interested in talking about adult topics. Scintillating conversation topics with the younger ones include favourite colours and what we eat for breakfast but they did come out with some occasional corkers during the introductory question and answer sessions, such as “Who do you like best, me or Juan?” “Do you have four children?” and my highlight of the week: “When I grown up I want to be tall and beautiful like you” (A* for you little girl, flattery will get you everywhere!).
My work days vary as some teachers expect me to prepare for and teach for the entire lesson, whereas other use me as a human dictionary. I am often not told what or whether to prepare until an hour before my class, but slowly I’m adapting to the Spanish being slightly less organised! I had to laugh inwardly when I was offered a free teachers’ diary as “none of us will use them.”
They’re very relaxed, and they’re also very kind. I haven’t yet had to (or been allowed to!) buy myself a coffee at the canteen, and when they heard about my problems with my landlord, one accompanied me to the consumers’ advice office. It transpires that there’s nothing I can do, but I’m grateful none-the-less. Regarding the rent situation, I’m feeling a lot better. It’s not extortionate, and I have a beautiful flat with nice flatmates and in a nice, central area. I’m still upset that I allowed myself to be conned but I’m adding that as a point on the learning curve!
I’m also managing to sleep and eat a bit more, which probably plays a huge part in contributing to my better mood. I’m still not feeling too settled and a bit stressed with the amount of tasks I have to complete to continue working legally, get paid and get my Erasmus grant! Spain is incredibly bureaucratic, which, along with its “Mañana, mañana” attitude, means that nothing can be achieved very quickly. I have now been to the foreign office 3 times, filled in forms, photocopied forms and my passport multiple times, been scanned and interviewed, but still don’t have an NIE (tax number)! Stage 4 is to go to the bank to pay for a certificate to say I don’t owe any taxes (yes, really) and then perhaps I’ll finally be awarded the elusive NIE! The whole situation is fairly exasperating.
Also exasperating is my postal problem, largely caused by myself! When I sent my family and friends my address, I missed out the number of the building, so my post was undeliverable. I have been to the sorting office to locate them, to no avail, and after a stressful conversation with one of Spain’s only miserable women, I was given the postman’s mobile number. He was much more of a jolly soul, and promised to keep a look out. So to anyone who has posted me any post, I really do appreciate it; I’m so sorry for my blunder and I’m desperately trying to find it!
Aside from work, I’ve also found an intercambio partner. The intercambio scheme is run by the university, and pairs up native Spaniards with native speakers of other languages. The idea is that you meet for a relaxing cup of cafe con leche (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SluVUMq0Q4g) and spend half the time speaking entirely in one language and half the time in the other. The lady I’ve been paired with is really friendly and encouraging. She’s in her mid-late 30’s so conversation topics are different to those at school or in my flat, which I’m glad of.
Tomorrow I have my first private class, which is a little bit nerve-wracking, but as I said – I like to keep busy (…and earn money!)