Postcards from Abroad: Calamocha, Spain

Ella is a third year French and Spanish student who loves cooking almost as much as she loves eating. She’s just spent three months in France and her main worry about her year abroad is missing the Bake Off Final (yes, she’s well aware she has issues with her priorities). At the end of the day she can’t wait to finally live the life of a European 20 something travelling, exploring and immersing herself in all things Spanish. Mostly food…but again, as previously stated, she has an issue with priorities.

Buenas chicos! Or hi guys for those of you not at ease with the Spanish lingo. I’ve been a British Council Language Assistant in Calamocha, a very small but pretty town in northern Spain, for two weeks as of today. It seems like so much longer, I kind of feel a bit miffed that it hasn’t been a month yet to be honest. To me, it’s like I landed in Zaragoza in September and then suddenly everything in my life turned in to an absolute whirlwind.

It’s mostly been fun experiences, like medieval festivals, feasts of gorgeous raciones and crazy classroom antics. Some of it has been completely unexpected. I never thought I’d be watching Peppa Pig, SpongebobSquarepants or Tom & Jerry with Spanish dubbing on a regular basis. Or, that I’d be going to a yoga class where I’m the only person not born and bred in Spain or finding the yoga teacher’s incantations of OHHHMMM just too hilarious to take seriously.

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However, I’m not going to lie to you, some of them have been less than spectacular, and others just downright depressing. These have all been related to, without exception, the ridiculous state of Spanish bureaucracy and trying to teach challenging kids English who just don’t want to be taught, but we won’t go in to that too much. You’ve just got to take the rough with the smooth I suppose. I promise that will be the last cliché in this blog.

Anyway, during my very short time here I have already visited the major but underrated Spanish city of Zaragoza and the hidden gem of Teruel which are both off the beaten track of British tourism in Spain. Not only am I the only English person in Calamocha but I also didn’t hear any English voices at all in Zaragoza or Teruel apart from my friend who is doing Erasmus at the university and the four other language assistants posted to Teruel. This is great for my Spanish but terrifying if the creeping feeling of homesickness overwhelms me.

So, rather embarrassingly, I have clung to these English-speaking friends like a life jacket during these difficult first two weeks. We have a Whatsapp group now so it’s official; we’re each other’s survival tools. Whether I need help with a Spanish SIM card, info on the horror that is Spanish banking or just advice on existence I now immediately consult the Teruelitas chat. The name is great, don’t judge. As cities both Zaragoza and Teruel are surprisingly beautiful and historic. They are great for a casual drink or meal with friends or a full-blown night out, definitely worth a cheeky trip if you fancy a weekend away. I’m almost exactly between the two so should be visiting both on a regular basis!

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Back to life in Calamocha, I help in the primary and secondary schools’ English lessons for 3 hours every day from Tuesday to Thursday. Aside from chilling in the staffroom with the other teachers and that ever-present cup of coffee, I’d like to think that I’m living an even more authentic Spanish pueblo life as I’m staying with a family with young kids; two girls, one is 5 and the other is 2. I’ll just say this, staying with this lovely family, babysitting for the girls and cooking with the parents is surprisingly the best thing for my language. Trying to placate a screaming two year old covered in snot in a language that isn’t your mother tongue quickly shows you how much Spanish you know and can apply in a stressful situation. Luckily, you’ll be pleased to hear, I managed to calm her down with Peppa Pig, a windup chick toy and, the old favourite, chocolate. Milka of course. As for the cooking (my favourite thing), the Dad having me as his sous chef when making proper tortilla to his Mamá’s recipe and the Mum showing me how to cut a leg of ham like a proper Spaniard has me jumping for joy for two reasons; 1) I can actually understand what the hell they are saying, and 2), I get to eat it all after. It’s a win-win situation.

This weekend is the start of the Fiestas del Pilar. Basically it’s Aragon’s biggest celebration of the year and this regional party starts on Friday 9th October and goes on for a week! There will be fireworks and flowers everywhere, concerts and god knows what else! I’m going to stay with my Erasmus friend in Zaragoza from Friday to Monday so I will let you know in the next post what the Fiestas have in store for me. Hopefully all wonderful things!

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While I’m here in España I’m planning on ticking off a bunch of stuff from my bucket list whilst trying to visit every main city and region in Spain as well as some more obscure stuff. Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia are the obvious choices and I have numerous friends to visit all over Europe. I’d also love to be able to pop over to Morocco at some point because, well, why not? Oh the life of a European Languages student- it’s so trying. So, stay tuned for more on this rabbit hole that they call a year abroad in Spain.

Hasta luego!

Ella Sagar

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