Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Hardships in Life, Part 2: The Rain in Spain.

“Andalucía has the best weather in all of Spain!”

Lies lies lies!  I was not expecting the weather in the south of Spain to be as cold, cloudy and rainy as it has been/is.  A lot of people said that last year was exceptionally cold and rainy, but that it’s normally not like this at all.  My question: What weather IS normal these days?


From the above picture you may get the impression that us teaching assistants live in the pure, unadulterated sunshine of the famous Andalucía.  That’s simply because I’ve chosen not to show you pictures such as these:

This is not snow.  It's pollen.  Huge, throbbing pollen.

I took this picture just before the proceeding one.  The three of us go to the park whenever it’s sunny, which until recently, hasn’t been for a few weeks.  On this day in particular, I fought my way there, the whole time inhaling those little white things, or having them attack my eyes, we got to the park, had about an hour or so of intermittent sun, and then it started to rain.  Hard.  I didn’t take a picture of that, obviously, but…it happened.

That same weekend was a 4-day weekend for most of the teaching assistants, and I desperately wanted to get to the beach, either Nerja or Cádiz, but the stupid weather forecast said:

4-day weekend fail.

Of course it would decide to rain all over the long weekend.

Not only did it, in fact, rain all weekend, but during most of the Semana Santa, when my parents were here, it rained buckets and buckets.  Córdoba and Ronda held true to their tradition of raining on me every time I visit them, and even Granada came through with some dreary weather during the time they were here visiting.

Honestly I shouldn’t complain too much.  I think the biggest factor is that, when it rains in the States, I dash from the house to the car, drive somewhere, then dash from the car to a store or whatever.  Here, I have to dash from overhang to overhang during my 30-minute walk downtown.  It’s decidedly less fun.

There was a particularly cold and rainy stretch in November and December where all the teaching assistants were reaching their breaking point.  I think this status update from several of my friends illustrates the point quite well.

Dire straits.

I think that’s enough complaining for now.  I only have a week and a half left of teaching!  Unbelievable!  I’m not ready!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Hardships in Life, Part 1: Mi Compi.

For those of you out there who think that my Spanish life over here is easy, I would like to dedicate the next few posts to explain some of the hardships me and my other English Assistant friends have had to face over the past few months.  It’s not all fun and games, believe you me.

1: The Roommate sitch.

I love my roommate.  Julio comes from a pueblo in the neighboring province of Almería, he has a wonderfully cheerful and helpful disposition, and he is Spanish to the nth degree.

I don’t know if this is something specific to the region where he grew up, or if I just have some kind of mental block, but Julio is still one of the most difficult people in Spain for me to understand.  There’s logically no reason for this.  We’re about the same age, he doesn’t speak especially fast, we talk about everyday, common things.  I don’t get it.  This doesn’t stop us from talking a lot, but he usually has to say things to me twice.  He’s never gotten upset, short, irritated or anything with me, for which I’m eternally grateful.  He’s also a great source for information on anything to do with Spain, computer stuff, and lots of random stuff about Granada itself.  If you ask him a question, he’ll sit there and explain things to you until your ears bleed.

He also does uniquely Spanish things that are amusing (and sometimes super annoying).  For example, there is always, always, ALWAYS, a frying pan on the stove filled with olive oil.  It’s no secret that the Spanish love their fried foods, I just don’t know what they do with the oil.  As far as I can tell, he doesn’t keep reusing it.  That’s like, unsanitary or something, right?

[Quick sidebar regarding Spanish cuisine: Julio’s father and grandfather have been staying with us intermittently for the past week and a half because his grandmother is having an operation at the hospital.  It’s funny to meet his father and family because they’re all exactly the same.  Not only do they look alike and say the same things, but they are also perfectly capable and content to carry on a one-sided conversation with the American who sits there nodding and smiling like a fool while they recount the history of rice in Spain in response to the question, “Have you eaten dinner yet?”  I came home the other day to Julio, his girlfriend (Cristina), brother, grandfather and father spread out in the kitchen and living room, simultaneously watching the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona game and cooking dinner.  I checked out what was on the menu, and I saw (I kid you not), four or five potatoes that had been cooked, cut in half, and salted and seasoned, and on the stove top were two enormous (and I mean outrageously so) slabs of meat that were being cooked up in the frying pans.  Not a real vegetable in sight.  They had also somehow managed to use every fork, knife, cup and plate in the apartment for this bounteous feast.  After they finished I sat down to watch the game with my dinner consisting of a salad and a turkey sandwich.]

Another typically Spanish thing to do is hoard bread like it’s going out of style.  I don’t understand this either.  Sometimes when Julio comes back from the grocery store, he’ll literally have four baguettes in his grocery bag.  I originally just assumed this meant Cristina was coming over for lunch and they were going to use the bread then, but then it sits on the counter for five days.  And then he buys more!  And it sits.  And sits.  And sits.  And then one day it all disappears without a trace.  ???

Our apartment has also been selected as the ideal home in which to house Cristina’s hamsters.  Originally there was just one, a boy.  He appeared one day, cage and all, on our living room table, and Julio said, “come meet our new roommate.”  I’m not necessarily anti-pet, so I went over to greet the little guy.  I asked what his name was and Julio looked me and laughed, saying, “What do you mean?  It’s a little rat!”  Slightly shocked, I responded, “yeah, but it’s a living creature!  It has to have a name.  How about Napoleon?”  And it stuck.  Then Isabel came onto the scene shortly thereafter.  I told Julio that they were going to have babies, but apparently that was the goal the whole time.  Sure enough, a few weeks later, nature takes its course and Isabel is popping out NINE pink, squeaky hamster spawn.  NINE.  It seems so impossible that 9 of these little guys fit inside Isabel at one point.  I guess it’s the miracle of nature…or something.

Hamster spawn!

Like I said though, I really have nothing negative to say about living with Julio.  He’s been so laid back and friendly towards the dozens of friends that have stayed with me over the course of the year, and even pulled out the 12 English words he knows when my parents were here.  I loved hearing the conversations they had.  They would go something like this:

Julio: “Where……..uhh…wherrrree….go?”
Mom: “Oh!  We went to Nerja today!”
Julio:  “Ah!  Nerja!  How…..umm….howwwww….[hand motions for driving a car]…autobús o coche?”
Dad: “Ah, we took the bus.  It was just easier for us to take a bus rather than deal with all the hassle of renting a car.”
Julio: ???
Me: “Sí, autobús.”
Julio: “Ah, vale.”

There was actually much more communication than I was expecting there to be.

I've been very lucky with my living situation this year in many regards.  The only drawback to my apartment would probably be the 25 minutes it takes to walk into the center of town, but a little exercise never hurt anyone, right?  It's just a bit obnoxious when in it rains...

End part 1.  Tune in next week for "The Hardships in Life, Part 2:The Rain in Spain."