Hola a todos! I’m drafting this late on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Logroño because I’m anticipating a busy week this week! I’m trying to perk myself up with a mug of coffee because I’ve drunk myself into a sleepy state this afternoon …I’ll tell you more about later! Although even if I hadn’t, I might still be drinking coffee because whilst I’m still loyal to tea, coffee has found a space in my life since I moved here. (Don’t worry, afternoon drinking sessions are still quite rare!)
It’s taken me almost six months, but I’ve finally noticed that I really have adapted to living here. I’m now living a strange life that’s not quite Spanish and not quite English either! Drinking coffee is just one of the changes I’ve made, but I don’t think it’s the main one. Although, saying that, I am now drinking quite a lot of it! I’m a bit worried I’m developing a dependency because I usually have about two every day, and before the first one I feel exhausted and sluggish. To be honest, I’m more concerned about gaining weight from it than the effects of caffeine, because it’s usually made with full fat milk and, at school, with a generous dash of cream too! I realise this probably makes me a horrible vain person. Here, drinking (always espresso-based) coffee is a social norm. In the same way that we Brits are flummoxed when someone rejects an offer of tea, not drinking coffee is a strange notion to Spaniards.
In the cafeteria at school, the only drinks served are juice cartons for children, weird types of tea in strange flavours like peppermint and fruit that isn’t actually tea and, of course, coffee. So, really, it’s drink coffee or cry alone (an exaggeration, maybe!). Not only is coffee the social day-drink of choice, it’s also cheap. It’s neither of these things in Britain, so I’ll probably give it up when I come home!
My favourite coffee of the week because the waitor said “Mi corazón es para ti guapa/ my heart is for you, lovely” which at the time I though was quite sweet, but on reflection might be a little bit creepy!
I drink coffee out of choice, but my timetable has changed out of necessity! Those of you who know me will know how my day revolve around food! My day at school finishes at 3, which means I can’t eat until gone half past – which fits in nicely with siesta time. This puts my day back, so I’m not hungry again until 8 or 9 (actually, I’m always hungry; I have to judge hunger by when I absolutely have to eat again!).
I’ve also adapted my diet. I’m proud to say that I haven’t had any more food parcels recently, and I can’t remember the last time I ate gravy! Fruit and vegetables are incredibly cheap here and I get most of my protein from eggs and fish. I’m trying to learn to cook Spanish omelette (the one with potatoes) but all of my attempts have failed so far!
You, my friends and family, will probably be able to judge this from a better perspective, but I think my attitude to life and perhaps even my personality has changed too. I think I’m more self confident and assertive – if you can get by on a second (or in my case, third) language, you can do anything …and after you’ve made some of the mistakes I have, there’s not much that can embarrass you! Having the occasional shop or cafe worker try to overlook me or do me over (or worse, look down their nose at me) because they think they can get away with it because I have a foreign accent and imperfect Spanish has taught me to stand up for myself and be more assertive.
So I’m not the doormat I perhaps was before, but in many ways I’m more relaxed. Although I can’t bear not to be punctual, I’ve realised that being five minutes late isn’t the end of the world, which everyone here almost always is and which is something that really grated on me to start with. When in Spain..! I’ve learned to let things go, too. Living in a cheaply-built flat means that I’m surrounded by noise from every angle. For months I nagged my flatmates to keep the doors shut and not speak loudly at night …they didn’t remember, so I bought some ear plugs. Although, when my neighbour downstairs was playing music really loudly with a window open, I opened my window and played the same song with a 5 second delay… HA.
And voila, I’m Spanish …not quite!
A potential fau-pas of the future might be calling the club the disco, which I’ve started to do when I speak Spanish! In Spanish, it’s la discoteca, which must be where it’s come from! This needs to be resolved before I get back to England – it’s embarrassing!
A lot of my spare time this week has been dedicated to my year abroad essay, but on Saturday a lovely teacher I work with invited me to a traditional Spanish lunch. She lives in a beautiful old house in the equally beautiful village of Navarette, which is just outside Logroño. It’s such a small thing but it was really nice to be in a house again. Logroño’s 7-storey flats make me feel cramped like a little ant in an ant hill sometimes.
We drank Vermouth outside a bar before it started raining. In Spain, Vermouth is not served as shots but in big cups! After two glasses, my Spanish was flowing very naturally, and then we went to her home for food and wine from her very own wine cellar! I’d mentioned that I hadn’t had Spain’s famous sangria (which no one actually drinks and is marketed to tourists!) since I came to La Rioja and she’d made me some specially, which was lovely. My friend and her boyfriend are great chefs and made some delicious tapas (which is my favourite type of food!) as well as a sort-of paella made with pasta. Needless to say, I didn’t need dinner on Saturday!
The group of people at the lunch were, like almost all the Spaniards I know, very friendly and accommodating. Although I know they probably spoke more slowly and clearly than normal for me, I was very proud because I was able to understand almost absolutely everything and comment exactly what and when I wanted. This was one of the first situations I’ve felt completely comfortable in a group situation here, and where I’ve felt I was able to express the real me!
I’m going to finish by dishing out a dose of cuteness! My colleague and friend, whose name is Emi, recently took in a stray cat. She didn’t know it was pregnant and it’s since had kittens. As of Saturday they were just 5 days old. I don’t even like cats that much – I’m much more of a dog person – but these were just the tiniest and sweetest things!