Thursday, 27 September 2012

La suerte irlandesa

Well after a difficult few days in Spain, I have fallen in love with it all over again! I didn't blog at all during my flat hunt because I'm weirdly superstitious... it was as though if I told the world I felt good/bad about a flat then it would be a failure. Yes I'm a freak. Moving on.

Day one hunting: simply tearing numbers off billboards and calling numbers. That's how it's done in Spain, it's not something weird or dodgy, rather most people post offers of lessons, cleaners, carers and flats on posters all round the city. Quite handy actually and no expensive estate agents required.
Day two: Succession of strange houses including one where I wouldn't have a bedroom door and one where the girl had a ten minute phonecall before saying hello to me while I stood awkwardly in her hall...
Day three: Slightly better. A day of "This flat is perfect, except--"
Day four: Other wise known as the best frickin day ever. Three great houses in a row, concluded by one where the people had sought me out themselves on the online flat hunting site. The Spanish girl who lives there hopes to study in Belfast one day and the other girl is coming from Ireland this week. It's 5 mins from the bus station, doctors, all shops you need near by and bus stops AND ten mins from the beach. I move in tomorrow! I knew the Irish card would pay off.

Flamenco music on top of La Guajira
Meetings with the other auxiliares have started as well :) I met with Thomas, a guy from Wales who has only studied Spanish for 8 months (!!Brave!!) and we went to a rooftop flamenco performance outside the Alcazaba with an America guy, Cliff, who helps out new auxiliares and a group of his Spanish friends. And I'm now hopefully meeting a few erasmus for drinks and tapas :)

Lessons learned during flat hunting:
1. Good shoes are 100% essential. Running shoes saved my life and yet the blisters still remain....
2. Your instincts are almost always correct, if you don't like how an area or house feels now, you never will. There's one part of the city I just can't make friends with and I knew I didn't want to live there. That's why a day just walking round the city first was very helpful.
3. I hated this advice but it is true-  Don't take the first flat you see just because you want to get one. Unless you stumble upon a dirt cheap mansion it's better to see a few options to get the feel of the general housing standard in the city. Then you can decide if you're being short changed or getting a good deal.
4. Yes it feels like shit going to house after house and not finding what you want. Feel free to be moody and eat comfort food. Donuts. And chocolate. In fact I think chocolate donuts should just be freely supplied in every estate agents.

Hasta luego amigos :)


*EDIT: Oh also forgot to mention. My description says I fully expect to get lost constantly. Well this week was a blinder for that. I've never managed to walk in an exact circle before when I thought I was going in a straight line, and yet I've managed to do that three times this week. An. exact. circle. And I even had a map! Urgh.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

La Desconocida Amable

I have been in Spain for 24 hours exactly.

After no more than two hours sleep on Friday I was up just after 5am to head to Belfast International airport.    My mum left me at the airport and we both tried to hide our faces and say goodbye quickly to avoid tears, but as the plane sat on the runway I was in bits! As soon as we set off I felt immediately more calm but the fear returned when I arrived in Malaga and had to make my way to the central bus station. I managed to hold a conversation with the taxi driver (however he tended to ask me questions such as where I was from AFTER I had already told him so perhaps my Spanish was worse than I thought) and navigate my way around the station, using broken Spanish to look for help.

3 hours and a beautiful bus journey later I was in Almería and ready to meet my responsable. However she was no where to be seen and I stood awkwardly wondering what to do next. Luckily she found me a few minutes later and we were off in a taxi to the hostel.

After leaving me to get some sleep I Skype'd my mum and the emotions returned. After saying goodbye I started to realise just how alone I was- not a great feeling! I had a quick shower and headed out to look for water and some food as all I'd eaten since 7am was a thin (but delicious) sandwich. Wandering down the 'Rambla' I started to hear some music and decided to have a nosy. A large flamenco dance was being performed in the centre surrounded by Spaniards young and old. A girl in her mid twenties turned to me to comment on it and I didn't understand a word she said. She apologised saying she thought I looked Spanish but I managed to carry on the conversation to tell her that I had just arrived to work and this was my first night. When she found out I was looking for a flat she paused- "...tengo habitación- quieres verlo?" Her flat was just round the corner and she took me round to see the flat.

At this point almost all the advice from the university was ringing in my ears- Don't visit a house alone, say yes to all invitations but only if it's safe. She was small; I figured I could take her. A family walked out of the apartment block moments before we went in and I checked out all the exits. When we got to the flat I asked if she could leave the front door open for safety reasons and she immediately understood. She told me all about her year in France when she did the same thing I had done and when she found out I had been out looking for food, she invited me to have dinner with her! Spanish tortilla, salad with lots of seasoning and oils and bruschetta. Next she took me to buy water and told me to call her any time for anything, whether I want the flat or not- coffee, help, going out.

As far as I was concerned this was the best possible start I could have had. My main fear was that I didn't have enough Spanish just to joke around, chat and maintain my own personality- in other words that I wouldn't be able to make friends. But this reassured me that things were going to be fine :)

Others things I've learned so far:

  • Skype is a godsend. 
  • Trying to switch between English and Spanish is farr harder than just speaking Spanish. 
  • A smile can get you far. 
  • It's apparently ok for taxi drivers to touch your leg. 
  • You probably shouldn't try to get into the taxi, in the first place, on the driver's side. 
  • You have to peel your fruit with a knife in Spain. If you don't they look at you like you have three heads and you are vomiting out of each of them. 
Time for a siesta. Hasta luego! 


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Packing Packing Packing!

In two days time I will be in Spain! Where has the time gone? I have exactly 26 hours before I have to get on a train to Belfast to stay with my uncle for a night before heading off for the airport at around 6:45am the next morning. The waves of panic are well and truly here.

First of all, the last time I wrote in this blog I had heard nothing back from my school.....Well two days later I plucked up the courage to call and had a lovely (if somewhat highly liguistically challenged) conversation with my 'responsable'- that's the person who's in charge of my role at the school, and to an extent my well being outside it. She's been very helpful ever since and is picking me up at the bus station in Almería to take me to my hostel!

On Saturday I celebrated my 21st birthday and leaving party and last night I had a small leaving get together at my work. It's been an emotionally and alcoholically charged week to say the very least.

Luckily this is not me. 
So it's actually rather nice to be kept busy with a spot of packing! I've been searching the internet constantly for packing list ideas and so I thought I'd add my own to the Google whirlpool.

I'm lucky in the fact that my mum is bringing over a second suitcase with extras after a few weeks but whatever I've put in my main cases are the things I could happily live on even without the extra luggage.


  • Essentials: Keys, Mobile, Ipod, Boarding Pass, Passport, Hostel reservation, Purse, Contact lenses.
  • Make up bag: Foundation, eye liner, mascara, lip balm, compact mirror.
  • Extras: Make up wipes, sweets, book, notebook, travel diary, pen, travel sickness tablets, sunglasses, painkillers, hairbrush.

Hand luggage (handbag must be able to fit INSIDE hand luggage) 

  • Equipment: Laptop, DSLR camera, External DVD drive, small digital camera, Harddrive.
  • Bag of chargers. Keep all chargers in one zipped bag and they're easier to find: Ipod, Phone, Laptop, Camera, Ipod adapter. 
  • Extras: Diary planner, Adapter plug, deodorant, Spanish diary, folder of essential documents.
  • Change of clothes- both for when you get there AND for if your bag is lost. In my case- a summer dress, one change of underwear, a change of top and a pair of leggings. Toothbrush, Toothpaste. Travel towel.

Main Bag

  • Jeans
  • Shorts x2
  • Dresses x2
  • Tops x8
  • Jogging bottoms x2
  • Leggings x2
  • Tights x3
  • Socks x8
  • Underwear- enough for a full week.
  • Trainers
  • Pumps x2
  • Running shoes 
  • Sports bra
  • Belt/
  • Swimsuit/bikini
  • Hoody
  • Jacket x2
  • Cardigan x2
  • Hat x2
  • Scarf x2
  • Skirts x2
  • Heels
  • Boots
  • PJ's
  • Make up bag: Eyeliner, Liquid liner, Eye shadow, Nail varnish, Nail clippers.
  • Bathroom bag: Deodorant, Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, Nail varnish remover, Moisturiser, Floss, Razor, Sanitary towels, Tissues, Suncream, Extra contact lenses + fluid. Cotton Buds. Comb. Hand sanitizer, Tweezers. Hair bobbles, Hand bands.
First Aid Kit
  • I always bring a first aid kit anywhere just with little essentials and fill it up with anything else I have room for. I take all the pills out of their packets and if I need to keep the info slip I wrap it around the tablets and attach with an elastic band. 
  • Plasters, Paracetamol, Antiseptic wipes, Blister pads, Indigestion pills. Contraception Pills, Panty liners, Bandage.
  • I've also had room to put: Batteries and eye drops. 
And the rest...
  • Photocopies of all documentation
  • Good luck cards
  • Teaching materials
  • Grammar books
  • Travel Guide
  • Straighteners
  • Hair dryer
  • Jewellery/earrings
  • Ipod Speakers
  • Teabags
  • Knife and Fork
  • Handbag x2
  • Backpack
  • Photos
  • Blue tack + glue
  • Year Abroad study booklet
That's about the height of it! Ok looking at that list has scared me into action, let's do this :) 

Hasta la vista!



Monday, 3 September 2012

The Little Book of Spain.

I ran a 10k race yesterday and am now too stiff to do anything requiring more movement than typing. Consequently I felt this would be the perfect time for a blog update.

So as promised I thought I'd give you a little insight into my Spain-diary-list-reminder-thing.

I've already given you my Resoultions and mantra.

So what else is in it.

1. Why I'm doing this. This is just a very simple reminder that I can see everytime I open the book. It reminds me that I am getting paid a very reasonable wage to live on the beach in the South of Spain for at least 9 months. Talk about once in a lifetime....

2. Pre-departure checklist. When I initially wrote this I thought I was being over fussy but it's turned out to be quite a lifesaver organisation wise. It includes 4 weeks to go, 2 weeks, 1 week, 3days and night before. While writing it I remembered some pretty crucial things like backing up my photos/documents onto my hard drive, and ordering a credit card.

3. Packing. This too deserves a blogpost of it's own so I'll come back to this at a later date!

4. Arrival to do list. Arriving will probably be fairly overwhelming so a simple list of what I have to do in that first week should stop me from looking like a deer in the headlights. It includes: book into hostel, flat hunt, get bank account, get NIE, register with a doctor, get a local SIM, possibly register with FCO locate, attend induction, visit school prior to first day.

5. Personal documentation. Just a simple practical list of all the personal documentation I'm bringing with me. If any of it gets lost or misplaced it'll hopefully remind me to replace it asap.

6. Numbers and Addresses. I love letter writing even though I hardly ever do it. It's more considerate than an email or facebook message because you have to think about what you say before you write it down- you can't just copy and paste sections or delete mistakes. I intend to travel around Spain quite a bit and I assume a 3 hour train journey will go much faster with a pen and paper. The phone numbers are in case I lose my phone or the battery dies while I'm away for a few days. There are some people I can't do without :)

7. Places I want to visit. Okaaay, now the fun stuff! List number one are my top priority visits, the second list is where I'd like to go if I can. I'll just give you list one: Seville, Madrid, Valencia, Malaga, Murcia, Cabo de Gata, Granada.
All fairly realistic for my position, so hopefully I'll get more adventurous as the year goes on.

8. Useful websites. I have actually filled this out since I took the picture, mostly with advice from the British Council Packs however I haven't checked out the sites. I'll update again once I figure out which ones are actually useful.

9. Todo lo que quiero hacer. I've added the 'lo' now...grammar is very rusty... Yes this is the REALLY fun one- everything I really want to DO in Spain. It's not city specific so obviously I'll think of ones throughout the year for places I visit (like attend the Semana Santa in Malaga/Seville) but this is a list I can try where I'm living. The list is in full below and I'd love more suggestions!

  • Flamenco dancing
  • Spanish cooking
  • Eat tapas
  • Visit an art gallery
  • Go to the theatre
  • Go to a local gig
  • Go to the cinema
  • Watch the sunrise
  • Try out an intercambio
  • Keep a memory wall
  • Go to a festival/street party
  • Go cycling
  • Go to a live football match
  • Go to a discoteca
  • Have a picnis
  • Keep a diary
  • Keep a blog
  • Try salsa dancing
I'm intending to call the school again this week if I haven't heard by Wednesday... Wish me luck!