If you fancy an appropriate musical accompaniment as you’re reading this post, here´s your man: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDK9QqIzhwk
1st February will mark the halfway point of my assistantship and, since I arrived here slightly before my job started, as of tomorrow (Wednesday) I will have completed half my time in Spain. I won´t use the cliched “It´s flown by” because it hasn´t; stepping off the plane in September feels a lifetime ago. There have been some ups and some downs but I´ve learned from them both, and whilst I wouldn´t say my time here has changed me, it´s definitely taught me a lot. Here´s a list of thing´s I´ve learned so far:
1) Don´t buy the first thing you try
I arrived in Spain just over a week before I started my job, due to go on a training course in just a couple of days and without anywhere to live. As you can imagine, I was desperate to find a flat, and for this reason, thinking it fine and relatively cheap compared with flats in England, I took the first one I saw. My flat is nice but it´s too expensive relative to others in Logro, and my contract is very mean. In hindsight, I wish I´d taken the time to look at other flats and compare them, met potential flatmates and taken the contract to a translator before I signed. I think this is the biggest mistake I´ve made so far on my Year Abroad, so I suppose I´m lucky that it´s only a matter of money and not life or death.
2) Sleep trumps food
Of the many things I love in life, sleep and food are pretty high up the list!
Last year I lived with friends and, plans permitting, we would all aim to cook and eat together at the same time every day. Cooking was sociable, I enjoyed it, and I had and all the ingredients I could ever want so I would put a big effort into making myself a really good dinner most days of the week.
Here, everyone works different hours so we rarely eat together, and it’s not possible to buy the variety of ingredients available to us in the UK so I’m less motivated. There aren’t really any convenience foods like pre-made sauces so everything has to be cooked from scratch, which would be healthier if I did have the motivation, but often puts me off even more! Some days here, I get back to the flat after work at gone 8pm, knowing that I’m up again at 7am the next day; these nights are cup-a-soup nights (posted from home, you can’t buy them here)! I can’t just blame my desire to sleep – I’ve still not got used to the Spanish timetable and by this time I’m usually past hungry anyway!
…And people say workers eat better than students!
3) It’s OK to say stupid things sometimes(/a lot of the time)
When I first arrived in Spain, I thought my Spanish was awful when in reality it was a lot less limited than I thought. I was really shocked at how quickly people speak here and they talk over each other in groups; I thought I’d never be able to follow conversations. I was scared to add anything to a conversation because in England it’s rude to butt in, and I was worried that I would say something off topic because I hadn’t understood, or make stupid mistakes that they wouldn’t understand.
I soon realised that I was going to have to get over this shyness, or I’d forever be the irritating mute girl in the corner of the room, feel lonely, and learn very little. Since then, I have realised all of those fears. I disrupt the flows of conversations by commenting on minor things or misunderstanding words (see faux-pas of the week just below for a good example!). I regularly embarrass myself – I’ve told people that I’m horny, pregnant, and asked the butcher for human breasts (all by accident, I should add), as you might remember if you’ve been following the blog! But thats ok, because people here are friendly and open and willing to put up with me while I make a mess of their language. Thankfully, I know how to laugh at myself!
Faux-pas of the week: In the cafeteria, I asked someone who was leaning on the bar looking sorry for themselves what was wrong, to which they replied that they were constipada! I stood in shock trying to make the right noises while she explained about what a bad headache she had and how tired she was. It was only when she started talking about her blocked nose that I realised that constipada doesn’t mean constipated; it means having a cold!
This week one of the teachers gave me a list of false-friends like these, so hopefully I’ll make this sort of mistake less frequently from now on!
I’ve met a lot of lovely people and built relationships I wouldn’t have if I’d let my fear get the better of me. If, I need to know something, I ask, and if I want to know something, I ask too! The other day I asked about a wine and was given a free glass to try ….definitely worth the effort of speaking!
Trying to converse and making a mess of it has made me friends and taught me a lot …I won’t ever forget what constipada means! I have, of course, learned a lot of…
I don’t really need to explain this one, do I!
5) Home is where my heart is
Since I was young I’ve been really independent. I’ve always taken every opportunity to travel and had no qualms about leaving home to go to uni. Since then, I’ve only visited home once a term, not because I don’t love or miss it – I always miss my family and friends – but because I’m always so busy building my own life.
Spain has really strong family values and mothers of even fully grown men insist on them travelling back to their villages at least once a month. When they talk about their trips home, I’m always a little bit jealous. I’ve always been proud of my country (and of Yorkshire, of course!) but I never expected to feel as much love for Blighty as I do each time I land!