Friday, October 9, 2015

Learning the Ropes in a New Country

It was great meeting the new auxiliaries for this year. Fresh-faced, young, eager to start a new adventure. As a veteran, I gladly answered their questions. Because Lord knows, the people in charge won't. Every year, auxiliaries receive promises and read grandiose statements in emails, intentions against the fact that our bosses don't have time to help us. The heads of our program give us their phone numbers and email addresses, and tell us, “If there's ANYTHING at all we can help you with, contact us!”


Within a day I was receiving texts from newbies, because the organizer wasn't answering her phone. In a way, they were receiving a good lesson: in life, it's sink or swim. My first year in Spain, I almost drowned. Emails went unanswered, and when I tried to call I couldn't deal with the Andalucían speed nor accent. Bank machines spit out my Canadian card. Clicking on webpage after webpage led to dead ends and more Spanish gibberish.
This year's auxiliaries.
During my first few weeks back in 2013, I had to open a bank account and go to a specialist for surgery follow-up. I was extremely nervous about doing both alone, so my boss said she'd go with me. Only to be told one day before my appointments that she had to cancel in order to attend a parent-teacher meeting. I learned two lessons: 1) things change last-minute in this country, and 2) I will survive. Without internet on my phone, I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to figure out the complicated, two-bus journey to the tiny town where the specialist was. I made it to my appointment, the doctor spoke extremely slowly and nicely to me, and in the end I was issued a clean bill of health.

How are things two years later? I'm definitely more confident. Thanks to my time in Villacarrillo, my Spanish is a lot better. In fact, I played Scattergories with Spanish friends and came in second place! I still balk at calling – I prefer email or making the trek to talk to the person face to face. But I push hard to get a response. In a sea of unanswered requests, I know that I have to be my own life preserver.

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