GOODBYE ECIJA

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With the Academy Directors

Friday night saw me bidding  a sad farewell to the last group of my lovely students who have been a part of my life since last September. I have to admit I shed a little tear (and so did some of them). My walk home, after handing in the keys to my boss, was filled with mixed feelings. I knew this was the last time that I would be treading the familiar route, one that I had walked four times a day, in all kinds of weather. As I walked I said a mental goodbye to the places I regularly walked past. Sometimes in the freezing cold, other times with sweat pouring down my face.

One of the things I am really going to miss about being there is the lovely long break in the middle of the day for siesta.  My break was usually 3 or 4 hours, depending on the timetable and whilst it was a bit strange at first, and I never used this as a siesta time, I soon developed the habit  of using these times to work on other projects or simply relax with a good book.

I arrived struggling to speak Spanish, and even more, the accent of Andalucia but now I surprise myself with how much I actually understand and am able to communicate. I think I surprised some of my colleagues and students too. Whilst I am by no means fluent I can get by very well. You can read about my early adventures in the Spain tab of my blog, but my most memorable occasion is the gas bottle episode.

I became accustomed to the fact that all the shops close for lunch and on Sundays, including many of those in Seville and Cordoba too. I learnt to organise myself around their opening hours and Sunday was truly a day or rest and recreation.

Whilst I still registered that the church bells peal out every hour, every day of the week, even through the night. I got used to it and it became a familiar part of daily life in a little Spanish town.

I loved sitting in the Salon (the main square that is more correctly named Plaza Espana) especially in the recent months when the daylight lasted until about 10 o’clock, and at the other little bars having a tapa and watching whole families or varying generations all eating together, the children and dogs all playing sociably. I didn’t enjoy the dog poo that I need to keep a sharp eye out for!

It’s been a great learning experience. Learning about the rich culture, both ancient and modern, learning about the people and the local customs. All in all it’s been a wonderful opportunity to learn first hand about life in a small Spanish town away from all the commercialism and tourist hubble-bubble of the larger cities.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. Thank you Educalia Ecija and all the fabulous people I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with during my time there.

Michelle

 

December…..first week

I’ve been here two months already, the time has flown past and two weeks today I’ll be boarding a plane in Madrid to head back to Darwin for Christmas where I’ll no doubt swelter and instead of the heaters will be lazing about in the pool to try and keep cool.

I’m very pleased to be able to say that this week I finally managed to become registered on the Spanish health care system. Only two trips to the Health Centre and one to Social Security and my task was accomplished. I’m definitely getting the hang of this local run around system that involves several visits and many photocopies of all paperwork.

I’ve also got a few thousand more words down on paper, enjoyed two social nights of informal conversation groups which was a mix of Spanish and English speakers, met new people and discovered a little cultural centre I had no idea existed before. The chap who runs it, Juan Manuel Luna Fuentes, presented me with copy of his book “Viaje A Nueva Icaria” all in Spanish I might add so on winter nights I guess it’ll be me and my dictionary trying to wade through it. I also learnt all sorts of fascinating stuff about flamenco which will be the subject of another post.

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Cobbled street just after midnight –  lit by the soft glow of the street lights

Temperatures have suddenly dropped to between 4 and 6 degrees each morning and late at night but I still love walking home in the dark as the city takes on another dimension in the glow of the lamp light. Don’t get me wrong, I am always offered a lift but it’s so much better to walk and after a night of chatter I enjoy the solitude. The streets are quieter and it’s as though I’ve stepped back in time as I walk the cobbled streets towards my apartment. It’s perfectly safe to walk at night and it burns the calories too!

The cooler weather means bundling up in more clothes, and I’ve taken to wearing several layers (which gives a Michelin Man appearance at times) although when the sun comes out it is lovely to bask in its warming rays and then I feel hot so need to peel off a layer! In my apartment I have two heaters going in the sitting room so I don’t turn into a popsicle overnight and, as I write this, I recall the days of typing in London wearing fingerless gloves – if it gets much colder I might just have to invest in a pair once again!

This week an ice-rink has appeared in the main square which is officially called Plaza Espana but the locals refer to it as the Salon and the Christmas decorations have been hung across the streets. I’m heading out now to explore the town and see what delights I can find at the market that I saw springing up in the Salon yesterday.

Michelle

A month today since I Ieft Darwin ……my new casa

The washing machine is whirling away, I’ve had a much needed shower (and been reunited with the old style gas boilers of days gone by) and the Spanish news is on in the background as I sit down to write this. The news is on so my ear can tune into the Spanish language a little more.

I started my day with what I now consider my Spanish breakfast, 2 coffees and toastada con jamon. I then ventured on a walk from centre of town to location of my new abode (even though I was not moving in till 4 pm) to check out distance on foot and then onto the academy where I shall be working. Took me 10 minutes each way and I was feeling very confident so decided to try a few side streets and ended up going in several circles but as I was not on a fixed timeline who cares.

Weather is perfect for walking. It’s actually very much like the Dry Season in Darwin with lovely days and cooler nights. I am not sure how cool winter will get but I am sure to find out soon enough.

My apartment is on the 3rd floor and there is no lift but that is very normal for Europe. I’m very lucky as it comes fully furnished complete with all kitchen needs and bed linen including flannelette sheets for when the cold weather hits and a hot water bottle plus a cupboard full of extra blankets. I have 2 bedrooms so room for guests but for the moment have got the desk set up there as my study area. Very nice to have space to spread out even though my possessions currently only take up 2 little suitcases.

Bedrooms, lounge and last flight of stairs!
Bedrooms, lounge and last flight of stairs!
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Kitchen, bathroom and the view as you enter front door. Lounge straight ahead, bedroom to left, kitchen and bathroom to right.

Lots of shops of all kinds close by where I went to stock up on a few basics for the fridge. I continue to be amazed at how cheap things are and what a great selection of fruit and vegies there is to choose from. I’ll be shopping in the local style buying my fresh stuff every couple of days.

Hopefully with all the walking I have to do and the great fresh produce I won’t pack on too many pounds! Although I did make a blunder at the bakery today as I thought I asked for one roll but instead came home to find four in the bag. It was at that point I realised the sign must have said 4 for E1 and when I asked for one the girl must have thought E1 worth! Oh well, they are delicious with the goats cheese I got from the deli next door – massive slice for E2 which would have set me back about $15 in Darwin.

Michelle