I'm sure most of us who use social media have had a time when we've been left feeling fed up as a result of comparing our own day to all the fun everybody else seems to be having. This is unsurprising if your main sources of information are websites such as Facebook. Even news channels and websites are very selective about what they do and don't report. Last week 2 people in Melilla were shot and I've struggled to find news articles about it in the local news, let alone the international news. If 2 people were shot in my home town, Reading, I'm sure the information would be broadcasted nationally if not internationally. So what's my point? My point is most media, especially Facebook, is a highlight reel which isn't reflective of all reality. Not all news channels are unbiased in reporting the events of the day, not everybody uploads photos without make-up to Facebook and not everybody writes a blog post when they're feeling down. So I'm going to go against social norms and write about how fed up I'm feeling.
Facebook in real life
The reality is that I'm lonely. Everyday just going to the shops or trying to have a conversation with one person reminds me how bad my Spanish is and this makes me wonder how productive I've been over the last 2 years at university. Due to my lack of language skills and consequential lack of confidence, I haven't made many friends. I also think its difficult to maintain the friendships I have back in the UK and sadly I'm starting to wonder how many of them will still exist when I return.
One thing I have noticed about Spanish culture is that people say things they don't always mean. "You can meet us later", "Let's go for a meal" or "We're going out tonight" do not necessarily mean any of these things will happen. Its just an idea and not a promise. Of course not everybody is like this, but this is what I've experienced generally. Chances are you'll either plan your day around an 'event' only for it to not happen, or you'll be busy doing something else and have a last minute phone call about something happening over the other side of town. Either way, I usually miss out on something I had planned. Being the incredibly organised person that I am, this feels a bit frustrating and sometimes makes it difficult to make friends. I know that sometimes I plan too much and perhaps I'll learn to relax and be spontaneous.
Secondly, I'm struggling with my work. I'm really enjoying planning and conducting different activities in English lessons and I always look forward to the English lessons that I'm in on Wednesdays. However, I spend the rest of my time in Geography and History lessons which are taught in Spanish and the textbooks are in English because the school is multilingual. I haven't studied Geography for 6 years or History for 2 years, therefore some of the topics which the students are learning I've never studied in my life. This makes some lessons a bit awkward when students ask me to explain vocabulary that I don't know, which usually results in laughter or the undermining of their confidence when they see a native speaker of English unable to explain the words that they're trying to learn. My solution is to read through the books before the lessons and teach myself the vocabulary in order to teach it to the pupils. To me this seems crazy, but I'm sure the school knows what they're doing.
Finally, I'm really missing home. When I moved away from home to university for the first time, I didn't really feel homesick much at all. I thought I would experience the same, liberating feeling when I came to Melilla but this isn't the case. Although Melilla is beautiful, has a lovely climate and enables me use the resident discount for travelling (I get half price ferries and flights within Spain), its often easy to feel isolated here due to its nature as a small city surrounded by Morocco. I like travelling alone but I don't think that's particularly safe in Morocco and in all honesty I don't think I have the confidence to do it. The number of shops, places to go and things to do are also pretty limited in Melilla. If you want to buy something specific, it can be quite difficult or impossible to find. For example, Melilla doesn't have a McDonald's, but if you really want to go you can go to the one 8 miles away across the border in Morocco. Therefore, I'm really missing my everyday things in the UK that I can't get here, such as dry shampoo, cheese ploughman's sandwiches with good old British cheddar and Quorn meat alternatives.
I'm trying to stay positive and productive during my stay here. I want to make friends, improve my Spanish, appreciate the cuisine and meet people. Maybe I've had a bad few days, but I'm going to keep trying and I'm sure I'll come out of this experience stronger and with a clearer view of who my real friends are.