“No hablo Español!” – Visits from Home and Struggles of an Extranjera

¡Hola a todos! First up, I must apologise for the total radio silence on my part. Due to a rather unfortunate incident involving my phone and a toilet, I have been living in the dark ages for the past two weeks. However, after a long struggle with an online sim card company, multiple visits to the local Orange retailer and a trip to the nearest Apple store (2 and a half hours away in Madrid) I can now say that I am a proud owner of the new iPhone 7. It feels like Christmas!

 

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Classic Castilla-La Mancha windmill shot.

In other news, I must also mention that last week my parents and younger sister came to visit during the schools midterm holidays. Unfortunately for my little sister though, Spanish term dates don’t necessarily coincide with Scottish ones and she had to spend a week in small town Spain while many of her friends were off gallivanting in actual ‘holiday’ destinations. To add insult to injury, she was dragged round garages and car dealerships every day, aiding me in my fruitless task to find a suitable ‘runaround’ for the year. As I have mentioned before, while it has it’s benefits, ‘pueblo’ life in Spain can be tough and transport links here are pretty shocking. There are so many beautiful and interesting things to see so close to my town but access to these places without a car is near impossible and there is a half hour journey to the nearest train station which is necessary for almost any trip outside the bounds of Castilla-La Mancha.

Although our time together in Tomelloso wasn’t necessarily the most exciting we did enjoy a lovely weekend in Toledo and another in Madrid. They say you haven’t seen Spain until you have visited Toledo, however it seems that this beautiful and historic town is constantly overlooked as a tourist destination in Spain. Sitting atop a hill and surrounded by the river Tajo, the history in this place is almost tangible; from the glass floors of restaurants and shops looking down into ancient Roman ruins, to the quaint cobbled streets of the Jewish quarters, Toledo is a city where the past and the present exist side by side. We spent our limited time there getting lost (literally) in the maze of narrow streets, taking in views of the famous landmarks and of course, sampling the local food and wine.

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The beautiful cobbled streets of Toledo

In Madrid, we were lucky enough to be joined by an old school friend of my dad’s who has lived there with his wife for over 25 years. It was wonderful to be taken on an authentic tapas crawl or ‘vía crucis’ of the city, ending up of course at the famous chocolateria, San Gines for some much needed churros. They took us to some wonderful bars and restaurants which we would never have found otherwise and to which I fully intend to return on my next visit to this fabulous city.

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Despite (or perhaps due to) the home comforts of having my family with me in Spain, I must admit, last week was the first time I truly felt like I was struggling with life out here. Although I work minimal hours each week, I start very early every day. Additionally, the fact that I was working as a full-time translator and spokesperson for the entire family combined, with the effort of attempting to negotiate multiple failed car sales, left me disheartened and utterly exhausted each night. I have also been struggling a lot with frustration at my inability to speak Spanish to the level at which I feel I should be capable. I have been studying the language since I was 16 years old, including 2 years at university level and some days I just feel like such a novice. I keep being told that one day it will just “click” and I will be able to communicate comfortably in Spanish without constant concentration but honestly, this mystical epiphany of understanding feels further out of reach each day. I even feel like I’m losing my grasp on English sometimes! I can tell you, there is nothing more awkward than completely forgetting the pronunciation of a word in your own mother tongue while standing in front of a class of expectant students.

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Calle de los Cuchilleros, Madrid

Although I am happy here and I wouldn’t change it for the world, the departure of my parents left me feeling for the first time, a little teary, homesick and very far away. However, onwards and upwards my friends as next week we have another school holiday, which means a long weekend for me and my little band of ‘amigos’ and our first adventure outside of Tomelloso as a gang. ¡Hasta pronto, Valencia!

Besos, Betty

*Photo creds to Lynne Henderson, Instagram – lyn500*

 

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