So here I am, I have just completed my second week of work and have already had the chance to enjoy one of Spain’s many national holidays.
Yesterday, we celebrated El Día de la Hispanidad; known also as Columbus Day in America, it marks the day that Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas in 1492. While I’m not convinced this is reason for celebration, I do admire what the day has come to signify in Spain in more recent years. In 1913 the president of the Ibero-American Union, Faustino Rodríguez-San Pedro, created the name of the festival in order to highlight the cultural links between Spain and Latin America and create a sense of union between the two societies. It has come to be known in Argentina as el ‘Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural’ (Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity) and ‘Día de las Culturas’ (Day of Cultures) in Costa Rica. In 2010, the United Nations declared 12th October to be Spanish Language Day in order to celebrate multiculturalism and honour a language that unites so many people across the globe.
For me, it meant a day off work and a much needed lie in. However, as is often the case when you live in a Spanish ‘pueblo’ the lack of transport links meant that any hope of further exploration was pretty much off the cards. My friends and I had hoped to spend the day in Toledo but unfortunately, the near impossible task of getting there without a car, combined with the fact that as it is a national holiday (and it is Spain) everything was completely closed, left us confined to our little town for a relaxed day of Netflix, eating and not much else. The added bonus of some cold weather and the first rain since I arrived was just the perfect icing on the cake.
Anyway, on the topic of work (and days off) let me talk a little about my first experiences as an auxiliar de conversación here in sunny Tomelloso. My first week was spent mostly talking about myself and Scotland in front of countless blank, staring faces, hoping they were registering even half of what I said. For the most part however, the kids are engaged and genuinely interested in my culture and my life at home.
‘Who knows what a kilt is?’ *Kid in the back raises his hand* – ‘A skirt for boys!!’
Generally, the work is easy at the moment as I am mostly being used as a human tape machine, reading out scripts for listening exercises and correcting pronunciation. I’ve even been featured on the school website! Having said that, my school works on a bilingual program, meaning that all classes are taught in English, including maths, science, history and even P.E! I suspect it will be a different story when I’m standing in front of a class of budding mathematicians as I struggle to even carry out simple mental maths without the aid of a calculator. Next week I start extra classes with five to seven year olds for a couple of hours each week which I’m sure will bring a drastic change of pace from secondary school classes and with it, a whole new set of challenges.
Despite the minor inconveniences of small town life and the strange experience of standing in front of a class for the first time, Tomelloso is really starting to feel like home. I’ve managed to establish a small group of friends hailing from all over Europe, and together we have already sampled a little too much of the local wine as we attempt to communicate in our best broken Spanish. I have survived bank meetings, staff rooms, Spanish spin classes and for the most part, I am not totally lost!
Here’s to the next 8 months of ‘pueblo’ life and national holidays!