Monday, October 21, 2013

Impressions of Village Life

It´s pitch-black when my alarm blares. From under heavy blankets, my feet step out and gingerly avoid the cold ceramic floor, settling into fuzzy slippers. Crossing over to the window, I pull on a tether to raise the squeaky metal blind, which gives way to a dazzling view:
(Ignore the t.v. antenna... peo. like t.v. here)
Yup, I live in Villacarrillo. I will admit, during the first two weeks I was in Úbeda and found out I´d be living in this pueblo, I was S.A.D. (ask my Canadian friend about the breakdown I had via Whatsapp, while on a bus). But after living in Spain for a little over a month, things have improved. I'm loving my pueblo life!

My impressions:

It´s Quiet

The adjustment from living near a 6-lane major city street in Canada, to streets so quiet my heels ricochet like bullets as I walk home from the pub, is a big change.
Siesta time in Villacarrillo at the Paseo, a "park" where people hang out.

A street in Úbeda
When it´s siesta time (2:30 pm), every shop closes (save for Mercadona, a supermarket on the outskirts of town). The exception is the bars. Sundays are like an all-day siesta, and every store, save for a few bars, is closed. Heaven help you if you forgot to buy food on Saturday. 
But, don´t fret because...

People are Warm and Want to Help

The day I moved into my piso, it was during siesta time so I couldn´t buy food to cook lunch. My lovely neighbour upstairs invited me to her table, and made an awesome meal. She has a modest income, so her regular generosity has not been unnoticed by me. She treats me like part of her family and I have hung out many times with her 5,000,000 cousins.

In town, everyone says "Hasta luego", or the Andalucian anti-cons onant version, "Ah-ehhh-oh!" It can be either a greeting, to acknowledge you see a person but are on your way somewhere, or it´s a "Bye!" at the end of a conversation.

"Villacarrillians", in General, have Modest Incomes

Little things led me to this conclusion, such as all the lights being off in the shops and bars during the day. I thought they were closed! Then I looked inside and realized they were conserving power. Electricity and hot water are expensive here. I can now cook a meal and get dressed in near-darkness! Plus, we pay for cold water, a big change from living in Canada where it's basically free.
In the evening, hallways are often dark while I teach at the school.
The school I work at is also on a low budget. The first clue was the lack of TP and hand-dryers in the students' washrooms (although the teachers' washroom is a whole other story - it's practically luxurious compared to the students'). Also, when students need a photocopy, they have to take the original to the office and pay 5 cents per page. Crazy!
A "brasero" in the teachers' lounge. It's how we'll stay warm this winter.
It Got Cold FAST

Within a week of arriving, hot sweaty days were replaced by cold mornings and nights. Sometimes there's rain. And fog. Feels very familiar to me...
Sometimes, *this* is my morning view.
I Am Popular

If you're the only native speaker for miles around, you are like GOLD to the English academies and students here. I am working like a dog, but in light of the crisis I am extremely lucky. Every week I literally turn away work; I'm too busy! One of the great advantages of being the only native speaker is meeting new people. I say hi to students and neighbours every day. It feels so friendly!

I'm Getting the Best Immersion Ever

Honestly, every day I thank myself PROFUSELY that I learned some Spanish in Canada - enough to hold a conversation, at least. Young people here are learning English, but are very reluctant to speak it. Thanks to my Spanish ability, I've had adventures that I'll share in my next post.
A view of la Sierra from a downtown street.

My hometown's city hall never looked as good as Villacarrillo's