Friday, November 27, 2015

Spanish Food Refusals

Last year three Canadian friends came to visit me in Spain. By Day 2, one of them complained, “Can we PLEASE eat something that's NOT ham? Or bread? Or fried? Like, how about a salad?”

I honestly had no idea where to get that. I'm now used to the limited choices in Spanish bars. It makes it easy to order quickly when the waiter / waitress comes swooping in to ask what we want. I think Spanish people hold the world's record for knowing right away what to order.

Although I love the food here, there are some food-related things I still haven't been able to do:

Follow Spain's eating schedule. Here's a typical schedule my friends follow:

Breakfast at 8:00 = coffee and a cookie or two
12:00 = fruit
Lunch at 15:00 = lunch cooked by Mom
18:00 = coffee
Dinner at 22:00 = a small plate of something

I tried to follow these hours and the same amount of food during my first year in Spain...and almost fainted.  I now eat whenever I feel like it. The kids at my elementary school are lucky I eat my way.  If not, I'd eat one of them.  There'd be “missing person” posters all over their village.

Drink coffee at any hour of the afternoon and night.  My friends can have coffee at 19:00 and sleep just fine.  If you see me do that, it's a sure sign I'm about to go to a rave or something.  My cutoff?  12:00.

Polish off every single drink.  I get booed sometimes for leaving my glass half-full when leaving the pub.  What my friends don't understand is that I have to draw a very fine line between “drink only half of the last glass and quietly hide the rest”, and “finish the drink like a polite Canadian, go home, and paint the walls with my vomit."
A penúltimo disaster

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Después el DELE

My DELE exam was divided between two days. The first day was the speaking test. I jumped on the bus and made it ten minutes early, only to be told there was a backlog of candidates, hence I'd start half an hour late. Great, I thought, rolling my eyes.

I spotted a message on my phone which made me smile: "Chiquitilla que tengas mucha suerte." (Little one, good luck.) 

Once I finally entered the first room to read and prepare, I was surprised that teachers walked in and out while I was writing my notes. I suppose it would've been best to study in a place with movement and noise, as absolute quiet wasn't considered here at the university.

When my twenty minutes were up, I was shuttled to another room to do the actual test. The examiner spoke very clearly. But when it was time to read Task three, surprisingly she and the observers chatted while I was trying to concentrate on the text! Clearly candidates are expected to have nerves of steel during the tests.

The next day was an early start, as it consisted of the reading, writing, and listening tests. Just in case, I brought earplugs and extra paper, pencils and pens, but the latter were not needed; everything was provided. Very official. We started on-time. The reading section was first. It was fairly easy, because I'd prepared at home with the DELE book “El Cronómetro”. But the audio test was a fiasco. Listening is one of my weakest skills, and the C1 DELE really tests you. I was experienced with the format, but the quality of the audio was the worst I'd heard in my life. The first part consisted of a conference speech about Peruvian food. The quality of the microphone that had recorded the talk was terrible. The third task, however, was unbelievably bad. It sounded like someone talking through a bad telephone line, with paper over their mouth. During the break, one of the candidates complained to the supervisor.

After the quick 30-minute pause, we headed back in to do the written test. It was easy and I had time afterwards to check and re-check my writing. When we finished, the director of the language department came in and informed us that we could listen to the third part of the listening test again, to try and improve our results. I wasn't pleased to hear this. I'd already been sitting and writing an exam for four hours. However, we took a chance. Turned out to be useless, as having another try didn't change any of my answers; the audio was still horrible. The supervisor informed us that the university would send a complaint to the Instituto Cervantes, but as to whether there'd be any result, he seemed doubtful.

I exited in a slump. I felt so-so about the reading, writing, and speaking parts, but the listening part did not give me high hopes. It will take a few months to receive the results. As I look back, I wish I'd pushed myself to study more during the summer. I also wished I didn't work so much speaking English, in order to have time to prepare for the exam. But, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. I learned many valuable lessons during my preparation and during the actual test. Next time, I'll do better.