No Habla Español: English Woman Living in Spain #2

It’s the end of September when I’m writing this (posting later, because I don’t have the Internet currently) and it’s still around 30-degrees outside. I heard that it was the last weekend for outdoor pools to be open. Where’s Tooting Bec Lido when you need one? It will still be warm enough to swim for at least another month, and I love nothing more than swimming in a ice-cold pool on sunny days, with a book and pretending to be on holiday.

I went in search of a pool, and saw a good one on Google Maps, a twenty-minute walk away. However, I got there and it appeared to be closed. I tried another one, but I saw nothing but tennis court. “¿Donde es la piscina?” I asked the man in the office, pointing at the photo on my phone. He ended up speaking in English, and told me that it was closed, and when I asked if they were all closed, he said yes. I wished I had gone the previous weekend, having had the opportunity when someone I had just met was going.

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The closest I came to an outdoor pool.

Instead, after walking over an hour in the heat, a toe starting to blister, I researched a gym I could sign up to. It didn’t have an outdoor pool, but I found one about 2 minutes walk from where I live. If I couldn’t pretend to be on holiday, I could at least challenge myself by trying to get a gym membership and have some exercise that weekend. I used Google Translate to write down some key sentences, and everything I would need to set up a membership.

I rehearsed the first sentence the next morning: “Quiero usar la piscina hoy y estoy interesada en ser membiero.” I didn’t know how accurate it would be, but I memorised that and took the paper with me. I always find that in reality it is much harder to speak even when you do know the words (I once forgot how to say thank you in Portugal when faced with an actual human being). I felt so nervous that I didn’t want to do it. I started to say things to myself to put me off it. Like, I wouldn’t have time to  go the gym, that I wouldn’t be able to afford it because my rent is high and my wage is low, and I prioritise food and a social life. Plus, I bought a yoga mat and have exercise apps, so what more do you need?

However, I need to push myself into these situations if I am ever going to learn. Attending Zumba classes on Saturday mornings may mean that I pick up the language a little bit quicker. And that, aside from the beautiful weather, is why I’m here. So, I did it. I managed to say the sentence I had memorised in about five minutes. I mean, after that we had to use Google Translate on the computer in order to communicate, but I was proud that I at least tried. And when he spoke slowly, I was able to understand quite a lot of what he said. Enough to get a membership and know that it was for 3 months and then after that I could choose what to do. Hopefully in 3 months I’ll speak better Spanish.

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The pool itself was a whole other challenge. Thankfully there was a man who spoke English in the pool. I started by getting in and bumping into a woman who was swimming. I then didn’t know you had to wear a swimming hat, and had to be given one by the staff and pay afterwards. People also wore Croc-type shoes or flip-flops, which I’m really hoping aren’t obligatory because I don’t want them at all. I also managed to get my key stuck in the locker. A woman helped me speak to the staff, although the manager spoke excellent English. I was in a bit of a flap.

I don’t like to generalise, but the people here in Córdoba are very helpful and friendly. Even though the man who helped me in the pool made a lot of inappropriate comments, or “jokes”, which made me feel very uncomfortable, I think that his intentions were good, and I also saw him speak to some others. I guess people here are more direct than I’m used to in England, and for that there are pros and cons.

I’ve not even been here three weeks, and as easy as it would be to stay inside and speak minimal Spanish, I want to keep challenging myself, so this weekend has been a successful one!

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About carminamasoliver

I'm an ex-UEA writer from South London. Founder of She Grrrowls. Feminist Arts Writer for The Norwich Radical. BAR poet. Published by Nasty Little Press.Currently living and working in Spain.
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