December. Yep, still on the beach, but the swims are few and far between, and also my first experience of the Andalucian rain. It’s as if it still has an English quota of rain but likes to throw it all down in a few hours, and rapidly return to the relaxing, tranquility of the sunshine.
My Spanish learning was steadily, but far from quickly, improving, and I felt a lot more confident. My vocabulary was developing and I was continually adding to my ‘bag of tricks’. I found I could hold a basic conversation if the topic was about food, football or England. There is nothing more rewarding for a language learner than those first few conversations where you can put across your point of view and follow and develop a certain line of discussion, even if it is the tenuous, impossible, clutching at straws argument that ‘England can and will win the Euro’s this year’. I took a week of Spanish lessons at Spark with the *insert numerous positive adjectives* Nico. The classes involved lots of speaking and activities and I found my Spanish in the classroom was a little ropey but I was by no means out of my depth, and from here I was introduced ‘El elephante Trompita’, cheers Nico. The classes were always really interesting and full of energy and I always left brimming with new words and phrases which I couldn’t wait to replicate out in public.
Andalucía is famous for many things and their adoration for ‘dressing up’ is a major one of them. They seem to exploit every opportunity possible to don their disfrathas (costumes) and it is quite normal to see a pack of ‘monkeys’ pass you in the street on a Tuesday afternoon in Cadiz. Being an Andalucian adoptee it was only a matter of time until I had to kit myself out and head out to a ‘casa rural’ for a party. It was my housemate’s cumpleaños (birthday) and I found myself dressed up as a Roman, as you do. The party was filled with cows, geishas, cheerleaders, transvestites , transvestite cheerleaders, transvestite cheerleading cows etc and was surreal to say the least. I got plenty of practice as the night wore on to review and regurgitate my ‘Me llamo Adam’ (my name is Adam), ‘Soy de Inglaterra’ (I’m from England), ‘Si, me gusta España’ (Yes, I like Spain). Most importantly though I was introduced to the Andalucian hospitality and watching them in party mode really is like watching the masters at work. The BBQ laid on was also incredible, the simplistic combination of carne (meat) and pan (bread) was a winning combination and kept the party going, (of course with the aid of a fair few beers), until the first signs of light and beyond. Superb.
My mum arrived towards the end of December and after negotiating a hire car and setting off from Cadiz at 5.30am with little to no ‘right hand driving’ experience, i met her in Malaga airport. Driving over here is a pleasure as the roads are, on the whole, quiet and the drivers are, on the whole, respectful and patient in comparison to other European countries. The drive from Cadiz across to Malaga is incredible and the journey not only hugs the coast in places but also takes you through the sierras and gives you a brief tease of the mountains of the Sierra Nevada.
I was looking forward to witnessing my mum relive my initial buzz of arriving here and it was fascinating to see all the things I saw for the first time, being seen by somebody else again for the first time. We took a leisurely drive back from Malaga, which included a failed attempt to get into Gibraltar (Policeman: ‘Where’s your passport?’ Adam: ‘What?’) and a lazy afternoon in Tarifa watching the waves roll in. The day was trumped though back in Cadiz with a faultless Atlantic sunset that throws out the most amazing colours and is a must ‘must- see” for anybody visiting. I didn’t let my Mum rest on her laurels, she was going to learn Spanish with me, I immediately gave her the tools she needed for café communication and I made no attempt to let her take the easy way out, ever the teacher. Within the first few days she was ordering ‘Café Americanos’ and successfully negotiating ‘la cuenta’ (the bill) and even got chatted up by the butcher in the local supermarket.
The natural friendliness of the Andalucians (with the exception of the bus drivers) makes this a fantastic part of the world and to use a sentence quoted by most visitors, ‘I will definitely be coming back her very soon’ is no surprise to hear for those of us who are lucky enough to live here. School term had ended and I was heading back to England for Christmas, I couldn’t wait to see everybody back home and indulge in a typical ‘all you can eat’ style visit. As I sat on the plane before take-off reminiscing of the three-month adventure, I had a revelation; I had never seen a Spanish person catch a fish.