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!
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!
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.
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!