The start of November was incredible, it was ‘November’ it should be cold, dark and miserable but instead I was having to dose myself in sun cream and consistently cool myself down with a swim in the sea. If this was how winter in Spain is then I was definite I had made the right decision. My first big Spanish language challenge was to find an apartment, difficult enough in any circumstance, let alone with the language barrier. I had a scrappy piece of paper with ‘where’ (donde), ‘how much per month’ (cuanta por mes?) ‘can I see the apartment’ (puedo ver el piso) and ‘when’ (cuando). Easy?
Most of my conversations ended up with a barrage of Spanish in my ear followed by a mumbled ‘lo siento, repetir por favor’ (sorry, repeat please). After consistent mutual misunderstandings and confusing spluttering’s, not to mention my precious credit, I had to, on a number of occasions, simply apologize and hang up. The more successful calls ended up with an address and a time…brilliant…although either the address didn’t seem to exist or I ended up spending an hour outside an address where nobody had turned up. Both of these issues I have no doubt was down to my misinterpreting the information.
One Sunday however I hit the jackpot. Everything sounded great, I had checked the address beforehand and the location was ideal and when the girl on the phone told me that her dad would meet me outside McDonalds, I knew it was looking good. When he turned up I was so happy to hear him greet me in English and hold the conversation solely in English, this isn’t a regular occurrence down here. Despite my determination to practice and learn Spanish, I was relieved that the important job of landing an apartment could be communicated in English.
I accepted immediately once I had viewed the place and soon met my new housemates. There are four of us here in total, two guys from Andalucia and one from Vigo up in Galicia. From a Spanish language point of view I could immediately tell the huge differences in accent between the two locations. Learning Spanish here with them is great for picking up the local dialect. The Andalucians tend to use a much more laid back approach to talking, and they are especially fond of the ‘th’ sound for the majority of the letters of the alphabet. This has been a touch difficult to understand throughout my stay here but I now occasionally find other non-Andalucians looking at me strangely when I pronounce a word induced by my 5 month Andalucian upbringing.
All was good, I was settling in nicely at work at Spark, I was going to Spanish classes there on a general Spanish course and my daily bus commute over the luscious, pristine turquoise waters of Cadiz was and still is always a pleasure and never a chore. However, I started to make enemies, wherever I go in Spain I always make enemies, and they are always in the form of little men sat at the front of a bus with a steering wheel and a ticket machine, bus drivers. They pretend to not understand ANYTHING I say even if what I am saying is ‘El Puerto de Santa Maria’ and where the bus is going is ‘El Puerto de Santa Maria’, there price is only ever a string of vowels whispered into the window with the back turned, followed by an exaggerated and patronising repeat in my direction and a return to the back of the head treatment.
On the whole though I was very happy, and my Spanish learning was definitely improving, this month was by far the month of greatest improvement , as I was constantly being exposed to certain words and phrases over and over again, this ‘casi-total’ immersion always gives you access to the things you need and hear on a regular basis. I had managed to open a bank account, change my phone tariff and my trips to the supermarket were becoming much much easier, most importantly I had mastered the ‘sin hueso’ (without stone) olive purchase, so no more crunched teeth when tucking into an experimental bocadillo. December was on it’s way and was sure to bring some new challenges and some festive fun, and also my Mum was coming over from England so it would be interesting to see how she fared.