Friday – el noche de San Juan esta noche!

I walked over to the entrance way to collect my first student who’d have just completed her listening assignment. ‘Celia!’ I called out, and a lovely looking lady turned round in her chair and smiled at me as she started to gather her possessions.

Having read through her profile I knew something about this woman and from the tone of her writing she struck me as being someone who was fairly kind-hearted (you can tell a lot about the way someone writes if they’re doing so without agenda). She instantly reminded me of Nicholetta Braschi (the female lead in La Vita è Belle – Life is Beautiful) and I felt very comfortable. The lesson went well and I was left with a warm glow afterwards.

Day to day lessons were perfectly fine, mostly enjoyable and generally rewarding. I’m having my second Spanish lesson today which is going to be absolutely vital as I am meeting someone for horchata on Saturday and she does not speak English. It will most certainly be fascinating to see how that unfolds.

So much has happened but I don’t have a clue what to write about, there isn’t anyone I can really dish dirt on right now sadly but I have to give a big shout out to The Croatian Creations who have been absolutely amazing to hang around with since I’ve been at school. My counterparts, colleagues and pretty much siblings I think. That feeling you get when you meet someone new and they remind you of someone really familiar to you…I don’t think it’s that they are necessarily similar to that person, more so that you’re bypassing the whole ‘getting to know you’ part. I definitely had a bit of growing pains with these guys as they were not very supportive of my amateur attempts to speak Spanish and would not stop laughing at me, my sensitivity about the whole thing didn’t help at all. I do remember one Wednesday night when I said bye to everyone and then as I walked round the corner some hot chick was staring at me and walked into my path, “where are you going?” she said and I suddenly realised it was my colleague and took her invitation to go out with them. That night we went to a botellón – which is essentially a mini piss-up in some public square or park or similar.

From the point I met Lucija, me her & Dea went to some American guys flat – he was a pretty cool guy and we started talking (started) about mixing and music and that kind of thing based on the Traktor sticker on his laptop. His two mates showed up, one French guy whose name was definitely Korean but pronounced in a really french accent. The other guy was named Alajandro and he was a really cool guy who liked to smoke out of apple/carrot pipes. From there we went to Deborah’s flat, she was a really cool, I think, Mexican girl who was maybe studying in VLC. In the flat was her and her two mates, one with dark hair and one blonde both wearing shorts which seemed incredibly small and both very easy on the eye (as was everyone everywhere at all times). We played some beer pong and listened to a Fugees album in it’s entirety, sat on the balcony speaking different languages and then strolled on down to the botellón. When we arrived I immediately got the general vibe of the place, it was strange but somehow cool and not threatening or anything. I mingled for a long time and met people from all over Europe and one girl from Morocco (if you learned a language at school just say you don’t speak that language, it’s way better if you speak a tiny bit as a surprise rather than the shockingly small amount of a language you speak being the surprise).

We were at the square/plaza/place until the very fragile hours of the morning and I dragged myself back to the flat after grabbing some piece with Dea, which was a lovely experience.

Advertisements

Valencia

What an amazing place so far! Yeah I’ve some had some dicey moments but overall it’s been incredible.

The culture – very much a sociable and bustling place, you’ll always find people chilling outside restaurants and cafeterias sat around tables. ‘Cafe culture’ is something I definitely enjoyed a LOT in my first week. Parking myself outside a little place and enjoying coffee or a small beer. The interaction with the waitress is usually amazing, often consisting of nothing more than:

“hello”

“hello”

“tell me”

“give me one beer”

“okay”

This interaction could be read as quite flat, maybe even rude but I can assure you it’s anything but. Just the phrase ‘hola’ has such power to it.

So yeah I frequented the same places quite a few times in my first week, namely for convenience’s sake (wi-fi networks). Went out to somewhere called 100 Montaditos (little sandwiches made from ‘petit pain’) and ended up getting drunk and having a quality night with this guy Jerrell from TX, USA. We got talking (I figured he guessed I was english because of my terrible Spanish accent) and shared a few drinks at this place and then went back to his host apartment and then spoke in Spanish with his Mexican host, one chica or maybe señora in her 40s who was really hot and had a real bad-ass kind of vibe to her but also a kindness. She asked me about my country, my city, my family and my life in general with real intent and a very keen ear. I loved speaking to her and in retrospect I am incredibly grateful to Jerrell for really taking me under his wing that night and being so hospitable.

That was my first wild night.

Ewen took me into town that weekend I believe. We visited Carrefour on the way which is like a supermarket on steroids, I took a photo of a 3kg box of Nesquik and they were selling giant €150 wheels of cheese. Over the street from this monster-size shop is Umbracle, which I thought was like the indoor Winter Garden in Sheffield – a huge semi-indoor complex with loads of tropical looking palm trees and such. Turns out that it’s an outdoor club. Needless to say this fact blew my little mind.

Fast forward to the weekend after and I went to Mar I Jazz (a jazz festival in a park in El Cabanyal) – what a blast! I had arranged to meet someone I’d matched on Tinder who seemed really lovely and friendly. Her bio said something to the extent of ‘let’s make friends, let’s not pretend we don’t want to just make friends sometimes’ and I really digged her philosophy. We had a short walk on the beach and then went into the park and met her friends. I was a little intimidated at first having just met these new people, everyone switching between Spanish & English a lot, and the fact that the girl and her curly-haired & freckled Canadian friend were really attractive. The music was a little far-out so we split and headed over the other side of the park for some more traditional jazz. I got speaking to Mitchell, a guy from the states and Kush, a guy from India. The guy Kush really made me laugh, the momentary pause while he searched for a word or retort made his jokes hit the mark. One thing I have found with non-native speakers is that they can’t take English for granted, they can’t be lazy and just throw a load of words out and let you figure it out.

Another girl came who was half-Mexican and half-German and cool as fuck. We sat around talking a little and got onto the conversation of meeting people online, someone slated Tinder and my match started defending it and saying how she’d been meeting people online for a long time and she had online friends whom she’d never met. It was really pleasant to hear someone speak so openly and freely and I could really relate to what she was saying. I told them of an evening I’d had with Fiona and Flora back in the UK one night where we (mostly I) were (or was) looking through girls profiles in quite some detail and speculating as to why they’d selected certain photos and what they were trying to convey about themselves. My match got her phone out and started showing round her snapshots of Tinder magic. Eventually the conversation started up and someone randomly piped up like, “yeah I mean I bet you guys met on Tinder!” I’d felt a little hot and uncomfortable the whole time this discussion was going on, that sense you have when the secret is going to get out. I felt really red and like I was going to explode when the guy said this. but immediately we laughed and admitted it and then everyone was really nice. “That’s a beautiful story!”

My match actually left at this point to meet friends and it was agreed that I was cool to chill with everyone else. I sat speaking to the half-German girl for a while and she told me a lot about herself, sadly I was a little buzzed at this point off the beer and some weed I’d smoked but I remember the way I felt listening to her. It was like she was bathing me in the hot glow of her heart. She spoke of challenges and experiences with such grace and was able to articulate her feelings to such a wonderful degree. I think I nearly cried but just said thank you and beamed her back the biggest and brightest smile I could, a natural sign of gratitude for her offering.

The two girls wanted to get dinner at the ones house nearby to the park we were in, I probably could have gone with them but I was a little spellbound by the Canadian girl so I think there was that awful mix of being slightly anxious but also trying to play it cool so I just walked back to Nazaret. She told me to get a bus but the bus seemed to go the opposite was. The walk home was pretty intense in parts and I followed a train-track on the wrong side and was suddenly at a stream which was a bit too deep to cross safely, and it was about 22:00 at this point.

Managed to download Cabify to get a taxi (think Uber). I asked if he spoke English and we chatted a little in English, he asked if I spoke Spanish and then he proceeded to speak at what seemed like an incredible pace. I led the conversation (tip: always lead if you’re the least skilled in something) and asked about Valencia and his opinions. I picked out some of what he said and explained the situation in England with regards to the Conservative acting in the interests of the wealthy and not the people.

When I got to the park it was really dark (no shit right) and it had got so much more crowded that it was earlier in the day. It seemed like I would never find these guys (she made a real effort to make an arrangement when we parted ways over where we would meet, I should have DEFINITELY got her number at this point as it would have made perfect sense) and so I stopped walking around like I was lost and just sat on a wall. They walked by within a few minutes and we carried on where we’d left off. I quickly realised how utterly ruined I was and how difficult everything was on account of this. The night ended up in a shady club which I really enjoyed eventually after being initially absolutely terrified of (dark crowded room playing strange music and everyone speaking a different language to your own). I was awkward drunk and not that carefree drunk where you just cut loose. No regrets, I had an amazing time with those guys. My Tinder match was an absolute babe and just wanted me to have fun with her friends (I called her the Social Alchemist) and the Canadian girl was beautiful and smiley and kind and a joy to be around. Maybe I’ll see them again.

All for now.

 

Spain – Day 1

Sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning I checked the weather forecast for Valencia and saw that there was heavy rain, a storm expected. Turbulence is usually expected during a flight, the experience of which is somewhat exhilarating, but landed in a storm is something else. Consider a heavy storm, now factor in the approx 180mph final approach speed of a 737-800. 

After collecting my bags I was met by my friend Ewen and we went outside to smoke and catch a cab back to the apartment in Natzaret. Ewen is pretty competent with his Spanish and conversed with the taxi driver throughout. At the start I was able to discern something of what was being said. The driver asked Ewen if it was my first time in Spain, I could have replied “no segundo!” but I was tired and my brain was working at a painfully slow pace so I just sat day dreaming until I heard, “I don’t know, Screech is it your first time in Spain?” 

We travelled through the area near to the airport which was something of an industrialised dystopia, some ideas that I’d made a terrible mistake ran through my head but I told myself I was tired and to relax and embrace this experience. 

Eventually we reached the area surrounding Oceanografic and ‘Le Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias’, the part of Valencia I had seen in my google image search results. This particular part of the city is beautiful in a very contemporary way. 

Having built a fantasy idea of what Valencia was like, based almost exclusively on google image search results, meant that there was something of a conflict within me now. How was this place so different from the clean, edited photographs? It was noisy and busy and, truth be told, far more exciting than this clean & polished image I had in my minds eye.

Upon arriving at the apartment I was shown to my room which was modest. I unpacked a few of my trinkets, amulets & other treasures and put some books on the shelf – the room had made a transformation and was now most certainly my room.

In Natzaret we went to a cafeteria/restaurant and drank a couple of coffees, all the while Ewen was instructing me on local customs and turns of phrase. 

We spent the rest of the evening drinking & smoking at the flat and we spoke in Spanish for a while. 

I’m not sure where exactly it sat within the course of the day but I did enjoy a soothing siesta at some point in the day and slept soundly that night.

More to follow…