No Habla Español: English Woman Living in Spain #7

So, a friend of mine asked how the Spanish was going today and so I thought about writing this. Here’s your answer, Alys!

I’ve had to be flexible recently as it’s been Semana Santa. It also means I’m having to try to get back into those habits that I’ve now broken, including both physical and mental exercise routines! Instead of using my apps, I’ve done a lot of text-book studying and I’ve got through a lot, which feels like progress. That said, I will have lots of revise too – learning anything is a lot about repetition, which is at times isn’t as fun as learning something new and understanding it.

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Semana Santa processions

I did my first solo trip outside of the UK. to Madrid. I’d been away semi-solo before, and in reality this trip ended up being quite similar. I was in a female dorm in a “party hostel” which was had a great group of girls staying in it and so I had a couple of people to hang out with a lot of the time. Going away made me think how easy it can be to make a home somewhere, for something new to become a comfort zone. It was as if I had forgotten that I had actually come to live in Spain without knowing anyone. Córdoba has become another comfort zone of which to push myself out. And then that hostel room became a comfort zone of sorts.

That said, I did take myself off one night, when my hunger didn’t match up with that of others. I wanted something cheap. I loved Madrid, and with each day I imagined more what it would be like to live there, but it was hard to find good, cheap food. I spoke in Spanish at one place nearby that was shown as cheap on Trip Advisor, but there was no tapas. I spoke to them in Spanish and the cheapest they could offer was a half portion of eggplant at 6 Euros. I apologised, explaining that it was too expensive for me, and left. All in Spanish. Score. I ended up getting Chinese food for the same price including a bunch of noodles and spring rolls and expanding my variety of vocabulary!

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First day, on the walking tour.

In Malaga, with two friends from home, I tried to practise when I knew what to say. I was impressed by one friend who didn’t even study Spanish, but also a little jealous: how could she know all this vocabulary that’s taken me all this time to grasp?! But she also has some knowledge and interest in other languages, such as Greek, Italian and German. They say it’s easier to pick up languages when you know some of others. Then again, both friends were impressed when I was able to tell the waiter at our evening meal that the sangria was good, but the food was not, and managed to get us four tapas taken off the bill.

Initially, I started this journey wanting to become fluent within 10 months. I’ve always been one for setting unrealistic expectations… It stressed me out and tired me out. It was just too much. I’ve been writing a lot of poetry as part of the “40 Sonnets” group… although this year aiming to write one Terza Rima a day. I just finished catching up yesterday and spent all morning writing my diary. I also want to get back into my short stories. And I like to watch Friends with my lunch. So, occasionally I might watch Spanish TV, listen to Spanish music, and speak in Spanish. But I need these other parts of my life in order to feel balanced.

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Malaga

What I am happy about is that I am working hard, enjoying studying, and not feeling worried that I’ll be back at my parents’ house in three months. It’s a starting point and as long as I am consistent and make time to study in some way each day, then I can only go forward. I feel really inspired by students who have studied for 3-4 years at home and have a good level of fluency in English, including grammatical concepts. It makes me think it’s possible for me too, that just because I’ve haven’t yet learnt Spanish from  a couple of years at school, it doesn’t make me “bad at languages”. And it keeps me going to imagine a time where I can travel back to Spain, and go to other Spanish-speaking countries and communicate, that maybe it could even expand my ability to understand and be understood in terms of poetry and literature too.

That reminds me, I really must pick up those graded reading books again…

 

Muse Arcade

So, I don’t often share the text of my poems. I tend to put up videos instead, as I don’t want too much text online in terms of rules with publishing and competitions. However, I was invited by fellow Nasty Little Press writer, Hattie Grunewald, to take part in a project called ‘Muse Arcade’, where Scott Woods posted a list of titles as prompts for poems on Facebook. I’ve been wanting to stop writing so much for a while, so I can do more editing and work towards putting a larger collection of work together. That said, I found these titles too tempting to resist, and so I was inspired to write these poems wherever I happened to be… largely on trains. I’m looking for feedback, should anyone wish to give me any. To read it, simply click here.

Living It Up

I don’t know where to start today because this morning I spoke to Benjamin Zephaniah on the phone! I’ve got quite a bit of news but since I’m feeling so inspired by tour conversation, with a massive scrawl of notes surrounding my typed questions, I’ll start with this. I had been in contact via his agency about emailing some questions, however, I was told Benjamin doesn’t do email interviews and to give him a phone call. I was so scared at the prospect that my initial reaction was to run away in fear. Obviously, passing up the opportunity to speak directly to one of my idols would have been a stupid thing to do. So I did it.

It’s one of those days where Metric’s Help, I’m Alive comes into my mind. These are the things you need to do to feel alive, to be really living. I don’t like dealing with phones at the best of times, so talking to such a successful writer was bound to be daunting for me. I’ve admired his work since primary school, and got to see him perform live during secondary school. I  even discovered I’d done a project on him when I was at school, so it seems almost meant to be that I have decided to do a piece of coursework on my MA about him again.

So, there was a bit of a mix up with timings but after a few nervous words from me, I began the questions. The rest of the questions connected with what Benjamin was saying, and just flowed very naturally, until I even began to ask questions that just occurred to me on the spot. I related to a lot of what he told me about feeling the desire to become a writer ‘deep in my bones’ and with wanting to do a range of work because of a ‘need to express yourself’.

It was so interesting hearing him talk about his experiences and the way he really lives and had no doubt that he would be able to achieve the dream he had when he was ‘eight years old’. It inspired me so much, especially the way he spoke about his belief in ‘love and peace’ and that it is something I really connect with, and something that if everyone did, a world without war would be able to become a reality. We are one world after all. He is a man with a lot of compassion and understanding, and sees the importance of being both serious and playful, and how even with lighthearted work, sometimes humour can ‘show the absurdity’ of something.

So, overall, I am so glad I got this amazing opportunity to speak to Benjamin Zephaniah. He spoke of receiving a hand-written letter from Bob Marley, and how it gave him a ‘big push’ and I feel this has given me the same push. When you speak to someone like Benjamin, it restores your faith in everything. I have always had this conviction that I will achieve my dreams, but it can be hard when you feel like you have to convince others, and that they don’t understand where you are coming from. I feel that I can look back on this day whenever I face any opposition or rejection, and know that I will not let the doubts of others affect my mind.

Just to end this post with a few bits of good news. I have entered a competition with Ether Books and need to get the most downloads of my short story from their app. It’s free, so please click here to download. You need to have an Apple device to access the app (I can use my iPod Touch) and then you just type in my name and should be able to find it. The ‘genre’ it would be under is ’18-25 iPad Contest’.

I have some love poems up on the Something Fine website, so check that out. And, last but not least, I have managed to just scrape a distinction in my MA coursework submission from last term. I got two 69 marks, and two 71 ones, so that averages out as a 70. I really want to work hard so I can achieve a distinction at the end now! Well, Benjamin Zephaniah wished me luck, so I’ve got a lot going for me right now! Also, look out for his next dubstep album, and see him live at Broadstairs Folk Week in August.

xxx