So, I’m in Spain teaching English. This should be an area that I have some amount of expertise in because I just so happen to have spoken English my whole life and have dedicated my higher education to the pursuit of understanding the ins and outs of this patchwork demogorgon of a language. However, beyond teaching for the first time being a challenge, I’m teaching British English; a whole different beast.
Pronunciation has been the biggest battle. All the pronunciation guides are written to phonetically express and British accent and the younger students love to point out and question why I sound so much different than the person speaking on the pre-made recordings.
Me: Can aaaaanyone… count to twenty?
Student: What’s twendy?
Student: It’s twen-TY, not twen-DY.
In unison: Twen-TY, Twen-TY, Twen-TY…
When I go back to The States, it won’t be my improved Spanish or an Andalusian accent that will mark my time here. It’ll be that I sound like I’ve spent the semester in England. Life has strange plans sometimes.
I’ve settled into a fairly regular routine. Monday-Thursday I am downstairs making lesson plans from 10 am-2 pm. Then it’s a two hour break to cook and eat lunch. Classes are taught from 4-10pm. At approximately 10:30, my host/supervisor and I warm up lunch leftovers for dinner. Then, because of the time difference, is the best time to talk to my friends and family in back home. I usually get to sleep around midnight or one and repeat everything again the next day.
Weekends I am encouraged by my host family, to the point of almost being booted from the house, to go explore. I load up my backpack with snacks, school work, and an extra battery pack for my phone, and take the metro into the city in search of a free wifi connection or whatever might be a good distraction from my classwork.
I can think of worse places to study.
This weekend I set my sights on the famous neighborhood of Triana on the opposite side of the Guadalquivir River from the main city center. Triana is characterized by small streets, and a huge neighborhood pride. Connected to the city mainly by the Puente de Isabell II, Triana has developed a separate atmosphere. I wandered through the neighborhood noting the covered market (aisles and aisles of fresh produce and restaurants built over ancient Roman ruins displayed through glass), the Ceramic Museum (which provides context for the dozens of ceramic shops in the area) and the rows of pale yellow, blue, green, and white houses and stores. Beauty was everywhere, but somehow I felt almost bored — “Oh look. There’s another incredible thing I should take a picture of. *sigh*”.
Crossing the bridge to return to the metro, I noticed two annoyed road workers cutting love locks off the railing, and throwing them unceremoniously into a worn 10-gallon bucket.
I am happy I saw this. Not because I’m bitter about being alone this Valentine’s Day and found it satisfying to see other people’s manifestation of love thrown into bucket, but because it was a good reminder of reality.
Seville is beautiful and romantic and soulful. At night, the stones of the cathedral and palace glow golden; there are more horse-drawn carriages than cars in the city center; orange trees perfume the streets; tiny details like street signs of carefully-painted ceramic tiles are everywhere. People lock their love onto bridges.
Seville is a real city. Practical maintenance needs to be done to the aged edifices, children in the horse-drawn carriages cry, the oranges are a hazard when they fall of the trees, and ceramic tiles are hard to spot when you need to know what street you’re on. Love locks need to be cut off the bridge.
A lot of people write about going abroad and finding only greener fields. This creates unfair, unlivable expectations for your experience. Going abroad won’t be a constant gelato and espresso fueled fairytale (I realize I’m being very Euro-centric, but that’s where I happen to be). It will just be your life… somewhere else. The fifth time you pass the beautiful view of the river on your way to the metro station, you wont stop to look.
This leaves it up to you to make your experience one worth having. You can’t hole up in your room and watch Netflix like you would (maybe I have a bit of a false consensus) at home. Adventures aren’t going to ask you to go on them. You have to look for details, find opportunities, and then be brave enough to take them. Which, like so many things, is way easier to type than do when you’re exhausted, busy, and alone. However, finding ways to keep life fresh and interesting is something we all (false consensus again?) could get better at.
Love locks will get cut off bridges, and the shiny excitement of your new life will become routine, just like it was back home.
Being jaded never got anyone anywhere. Let things surprise you. Leave the house every chance you can spare. Challenge yourself to notice something different everyday even if you go to the same places. Talk to people. Maybe learn to speak with a British accent.