Barcelona Bucket List

After weeks of waiting, I’ve finally discovered the family I’ll be staying with until December (before they get fed up of me and ship me off to someone else). Excitingly, it’s a couple with two children at the school: twin girls, and a two year old, who of course does not attend yet. I’ve learned I’ll be staying in an area called Sant Cugat del Valles, which is a mere 20 minutes away from the city centre on the metro. The school is called Escola Santa Isabel, and is a primary school, which is exciting for me as it will give me an experience in a field I’m hoping to spend my life teaching in: albeit not in the same language.

School daze

Weirdly, after visiting my old favourite teacher Rev. Campbell at church on Sunday, he told me that his daughter had just come back from Barcelona, where she had been working as an Au Pair. After speaking to her, I found she had been posted to none other than Sant Cugat del Valles: the world is quite small sometimes. She told me it was a brilliant place to stay, an affluent area, and a good distance from the city should I fancy nipping in to Barcelona of a Saturday afternoon. All in all, I’m very pleased with where I have been placed. Since joining a forum, where I can chat with some of the other Conversation Assistants, I’ve learned that some are up to two hours inland, which will be nice: but not quite Barcelona, as advertised. However, those who are further out seem to be placed with other CAs – I have not spoken to one yet who is living in close proximity to where I’m placed. So, I suppose, being inland has other benefits.

I’ve been making a scrapbook to show the children, and am going to have a short-term loan (which in our family, means ‘keep for an indeterminate amount of time, until the other family member realises they might want it back’) of some children’s books from my sister. Even if the kids don’t enjoy reading about Meg and Mog, I’m sure I will: part of the appeal of teaching children is you get to re-experience things that, as an adult, you can’t socially be seen doing. I can’t go to my local book group and give a presentation on The Tiger Who Came To Tea, much as I’d love to (and I suspect most would love to hear an in-depth debate about the meanings behind why Sophie’s family kept tins of Tiger Food in the house).

"Excuse me, but I'm very hungry. Do you think I could have tea with you?"

I’ve been looking, as well, into things I want to do in Barcelona. ‘The Barcelona Bucket List’, I think will work well as a title. So far, however, it’s not very difficult to achieve: at the moment we’re resting on ‘Going up to the top of the Sagrada Familia’ and ‘Managing not to get pickpocketed.’ All very well to fulfill, but boring as a list of aspirations. Any ideas?


The Final Day

I’m currently in the process of pinching myself, trying to force myself to believe that it actually IS real: I don’t work in a dreary, soul-destroying, life-sucking job any longer. My final day was yesterday, much to the surprise of a few regular customers (‘But you’ve only been here a few weeks’…no, a couple of months, but it feels like the longest few months I’ve ever had). I still can’t quite believe it, and enjoyed the relaxation of a lie-in this morning (I’d forgotten what they felt like), followed by a day doing WHATEVER I WANTED.

Whatever I wanted consisted of being bored to tears, in these few simple steps:

1. Watch Moulin Rouge. Cry. Wish Ewan McGregor were my husband.

2. Watch Jeremy Kyle. Wish I could have that hour back. Wonder why Lacy/Tanisha/Mercedes have boyfriends, and I don’t.

3. Pay in cheque. Possibly highlight of my day.

4. Get talked into spending more on a camera than I really should, but decide it’s worth it as the other useless one I got broke within minutes.

5. Come home. Sit and become distracted on internet. Learn Spanish for ‘jog on’.

How do people have no job? I got bored after ten minutes. Anyway, I actually did have a bit of a wander today, looking round York, making the most of what I can before I leave the country. As my packing rate at the moment is, well, non-existent, unless you count the socks I stuffed into a carrier bag in a fit of pique, I decided a procrastination walk was on the cards.

Walking around York with a camera makes you feel like you blend in rather more than when you are simply on your morning commute to work: tourists outnumber the average citizen at about 100:1. It has been something strange for me to get used to, as from being in Leicester, which attracts roughly 0.0001% of the UK’s tourism trade, it still feels like I’m in everyone’s way and am intruding on thousands of pictures. But then, they’ve got their own back, now, and got into mine. So here’s just a few snapshots of a beautiful city: and one I will certainly return to when I’m back in England for good.

The view from the end of my road
Bootham Bar, a sight I pass each morning
Stonegate, usually a place to walk down with your elbows raised in preparation
I do love that York is a mix of old and new, and quaint snickets and alleyways lead you to this sort of view
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone...

And so it begins…

Quicker than I’d expected, I’ve been given detail of my last day at work: the 14th of September. This has really pushed my brain in to overdrive, with excitement, apprehension, and panic – how on earth am I going to get everything done? Also, another very upsetting part of this tale: I’ve been told I must hand my name badge in. How am I ever going to get on without my name badge? Also, what do they think I’m going to do with it? Parade around in my uniform, whilst shoving my chest at everyone in order for them to see that, at one point, I really, truly DID work at the bank. How exciting it must have been for me.

Anyhow, I just downloaded something that is already proving to be a great investment. I was told, when expressing interest in learning Spanish to get me by, of the Michel Thomas method of learning. This, the website proclaims, has helped Hollywood stars, politicians and business leaders. It helped Grace Kelly learn French. Which means if it’s good enough for Gracie, it’s good enough for me. He (when alive: he has now sadly passed on) alleges that his method uses no books, no homework, and as far as I can tell, nothing but your ears and your open mind.

I’m still relatively dubious about it, though I have to say after days of watching the BBC’s ‘Mi Vida Loca‘ (My Crazy Life) videos, in which you travel to Spain, hoping to meet your pen-friend, but she cancels on you at the last minute (leading to some strange mystery involving her sister, urbanisation of Gran Canaria, and guerrila journalism, which is all quite a lot to take in whilst attempting to buy tickets for a cruise down the canal), all in all, I’m preferring Michel and his European accent that I can’t quite figure out.

I’ve also realised I need to be taking things that I won’t have access to over in Spain, for monetary reasons, or for the simple reason I won’t be able to get my hands on it at all over there. So far I’ve come up with Nice N’ Easy dye in Natural Lightest Ash Blonde, and Marmite. Anything I might have forgotten?

Could you live without...?



Diary of una persona inglésa

From months of agonising over the fact that my life is going in completely the wrong direction, working day in and out until the late hours in a job going absolutely nowhere (sound familiar, graduates?): I had a welcome e-mail arrive in my inbox.

‘After considering your application for the role of Conversation Assistant in one of our infant/primary/secondary schools in Spain, Home to home has a great pleasure in announcing that you have been accepted on the programme.’

Or, to put it simply, in a month’s time, I will be jetting off to Spain until June 2012 to assist children with their English conversation. I’m incredibly excited that I can ditch the lime green shirt, and discussions with the octogenarians of York about the current socio-economic climate, or indeed the climate of our wonderful home county (‘It doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going/lovely day outside, isn’t it?/my gosh, isn’t it windy, eh?’). I know that I will miss the day-to-day goings on of York, a city I have just started to get to know, and its wonderful sights, such as this – every day, on my walk to work:

I do, however, know that York isn’t going to leave any time soon (unless Vikings conquer it again whilst I’m out the country), and when I return next year, I’ll look forward to attempting to find every street in the City ending in ‘Gate’. It might take me a while, though.

Spanish life and culture is very different to ours, that’s obvious. So I am very much looking forward to exploring it and getting to know families different to my own. I will be staying with a Spanish family, whose children will attend the school I am to be teaching at. I’m already planning my lessons, largely involving the well known classic ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’, and an introduction to the way we live over here (maybe telling them about benefits, Cameron, and kids quaffing White Lightning at the age of 11 in the park, isn’t the best way to highlight our culture).

This will mainly be a medium to update friends and family about my experience, so no obligation for anybody to read it: however, if aforementioned friends and family get the time, it would be lovely for you to keep in touch through my blog, as I finally get the experience I’ve been waiting for, and actually believe I deserve after this past year.