Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Visitors are coming!

I'm incredibly excited because my mum and her boyfriend, Adam, are coming to visit me for a week and arrive on Saturday! My mum is feeling quite nervous because she hasn't flown for 10 years. The days seem to be going very slowly because I've been waiting for this day ever since they booked it a few months ago. Not long now! They'll stay for a week and shortly after that Maria will arrive for a 2 week stay. I'm very excited to finally be getting all these visitors!

After a couple of weeks at CETI (Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes, Centre for the Temporary Stay of Immigrants), I've decided its probably for the best if I stop going. I'm disappointed about this, but for the short time that I was there I didn't feel like I was doing much. This is my own fault because of my limited Spanish speaking skills, and because I can't speak French either. This made communication difficult with the other people working there, let alone the immigrants. The immigrants mostly spoke other languages such as French, Berber, and Arabic, and other languages from Sub-Saharan and Western Africa. I only know English and Spanish, so that's how I tried to help, although I think it was a bit limiting because most of the immigrants spoke French. I ended up sitting about for most of the day scrolling through Facebook or playing Angry Birds, and I knew I could be using my time a lot more productively.

On Thursday a group of immigrants were told they were going to mainland Spain and I was asked to translate. Many of them had probably been in CETI for quite a lot time, and had to maintain good behaviour and learn some Spanish in order for this to happen. Therefore, I felt pretty nervous about translating such important news. Everything seemed to be going quite well until I translated something inaccurately, which resulted in someone complaining. This made me feel really bad. Normally I'm not somebody who gives up easily, but this time I feel that its for the best. Instead, I am planning to use that time to make some progress with my dissertation and search for a Spanish course to improve my speaking ability.

In the evening I went to the cinema to see El Lobo de Wall Street (The Wolf of Wall Street). I didn't realise until after the film that it was an 18. Usually I avoid 18s because I find they either have too much violence or sex. In this film it was the latter. It was also a painful 180 minutes (yes, 3 hours) long. The plot seemed to be all over the place and I was expecting (and wishing) that the film would end for the last hour. In all fairness, I couldn't completely understand what was going on, but I know I wasn't alone in my thoughts because my friend didn't enjoy it and several people walked out before it finished. If you enjoy orange women who have unrealistically large breasts, geeky men, orgies and excessive drug usage then, my friend, this is the film for you! At least it only cost 5 euros. 

Over the weekend I also went to another basketball match and went out for lunch and drinks with Ana and her friends. Today I met a friend at a cafe and went to her house for lunch and tomorrow hopefully I'll be going to the cinema to see Gravity. I'm feeling good about getting out and about more than I did last year.

I'm a bit fed up with my bike. It takes a lot of effort to pedal because the wheels are so small. Its a nice bike and very practical because its foldable, but I would like a different one which I can use to travel further distances more quickly. Back in England I have a mountain bike which I love and use very often. I don't want to spend too much because I'm only here for 4 more months. Ideally I'll be able to swap my bike for another. My neighbour recently told me that I can't chain my bike downstairs (I couldn't understand the reason that she told me why), so I'm actually considering giving up with using a bike, because I don't want to have to carry it up and down 2 flights of stairs every time I want to use it. I feel sorry for the woman living in the flat above me who has to drag a pram up and down 4 flights of stairs. 

Someone said that cheap bikes are sold at the border. Despite this instruction not being particularly specific, as the border surrounds the entire city except the promenade, I decided to go to the busiest area of the border to find out for myself. After circulating the area, I discovered there wasn't anywhere selling bikes, so went to ask at a motorbike store. They directed me to a bike shop a few streets away, who told me they don't buy and sell second hand bikes, but told me Mundo Bici (Bike World) does. I've been to Mundo Bici several times before for repairs, so I knew where it was. Unfortunately they don't have any bikes cheaper than 80 euros at the moment, so I'll either go back later, go elsewhere or sell my bike. I'm having problems walking again due to a long term injury from working long shifts at Wetherspoon and cycling helps me to rest it, therefore I feel reluctant to be without a bike.

Some crazy steps to help with 
getting up hills!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Trying new things

I finally had my interview in CETI (Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes, Centre for the Temporary Stay of Immigrants) on Thursday and I've started volunteering there on Thursdays and Fridays for a few hours as a translator. On Thursday I met another woman who speaks English, and she's agreed to give me lifts in the mornings, because its on the other side of the city of my house and takes about an hour to walk there. I don't really like getting up early on my days off, but I feel good afterwards because I feel like I've achieved something by keeping myself busy, getting to know new people and contributing to the community. 

On Friday morning I mostly did paperwork, but in the afternoon I was able to help with providing supplies to the immigrants. The men were getting new jackets, although I was surprised and somewhat amused to see some of them kicking up a fuss about getting their favourite colour! I'm not sure what to think of the experience right now, especially because my Spanish speaking skills aren't great, which limits how much I can actually translate, but for now I'm just going to see how I progress.

On Friday afternoon I cleaned the whole flat because the landlord said he's coming this weekend, which should be interesting because he's from Morocco and speaks ridiculously quickly so I can't really understand what he says. For some reason he wants to stay in my bedroom, which is quite annoying. 

On Saturday a teacher from the school who I have private classes with on Tuesday invited me to her family dinner. Firstly she took me on a tour of Melilla to the parts I haven't seen yet. I thought there was only so much you can see in a city with an area 12km² but apparently not. The other side of the city isn't exactly pedestrian or cyclist friendly because it mostly consists of main roads and massive hills, so I haven't really seen much of it. She drove down a massive hill to a fishing/swimming spot then up back up to a place called Los Pinos (The Pines) which is a forest area where people go for walks, picnics and barbecues.

Los Pinos

The area and cliffs were really beautiful and I hadn't seen the city from so high up before, so there were some amazing views. I especially liked views of the city and the clear blue sea, although the weather quickly changed from sunny to cloudy and dull. This is the first time I've really felt like I want to learn to drive, because the area isn't really easily accessible without a car and I would like to share the place with others. It was interesting to see how the fence of the border stopped at the cliff and continued along the land far below. It also saddened me that such an eyesore and horrible concept invaded the beautiful views. The teacher told me how when she was younger the fence was very small and she was able to climb over. Nowadays I can't imagine how on earth anybody could get over that fence (which is about 6 metres high), but it happens because people are desperate to get into Europe. In CETI I saw how some immigrants had injuries which I assumed were a result of climbing over the fence and getting caught on the barbed wire.

We then went to some parks in the city, one of which was an animal park but unfortunately it was closed, so I plan to visit it at a later date. We picked up her parents from the airport and went back to her house where I was treated to a 3 course meal which included wines, salad, Spanish omelette, fresh bread, my first vegetable paella, fresh oranges and mandarins (from the trees on the streets!) and tea. It was a really nice treat because its not often that somebody cooks for me these days and it was interesting to experience a Spanish family's dinner time. The teacher is one of the kindest people I've met here, although I have met many. I can't imagine people being so kind to acquaintances in England!

As you can see from the photos, the weather hasn't been so great recently. On Sunday there were winds of around 70mph, which apparently is close to the wind speed of a F0-F1 tornado. I was stupid enough to take my bike out along the promenade in this weather. As you can imagine, the wind had me pinned against the railings, sand blew into my eyes and water blew out of a fountain and onto me. Its also been raining a fair bit. The weather here is very unpredictable. I never know what to pack or what things to recommend that my visitors should pack. One day it can be sunny 20 degrees, the next raining and the next strong winds. Sometimes it changes completely within a day. Hopefully the weather will be kind to us this weekend. I hope this makes those of my friends in England and Finland feel a bit better!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Settling back in

This week the good news is that I finally managed to get my Spanish SIM working in my phone by backing up on iCloud and resetting all the settings. After I turned my phone on I was then able to use both my English and Spanish SIMs. I also managed to order 2 gas bottles and have them delivered. I'm trying to be prepared by having one extra for when I next run out. It took me a while to figure out how to connect it, but I managed it. 

Another English girl contacted me after finding this blog because she's moving here to be an Assistant in February and was looking for somewhere to live. If all goes to plan, she'll move into the now spare room in my flat, which is great! My family are coming here in a few weeks and I've booked flights to visit my friend Amy in Almansa in south east Spain in the beginning of March, so that's some special things to look forward to.

I finally got in contact with CETI (Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes, Centre for the Temporary Stay of Immigrants) through La Cruz Roja (The Red Cross). They said I will need to go for an interview if I want to work as a translator, which I plan to do tomorrow. I'm a bit nervous about how good my Spanish will be, but if I'm successful it will be a really good opportunity to learn about immigration between Morocco and Melilla and improve my language skills.

Last weekend was a memorable one. On Friday night I went to a basketball match with the other Assistants. I'm not usually interested in playing or watching sports, but I like to be open to trying new things. I actually quite enjoyed it (even though I don't really understand the rules), especially the last few minutes of the match when the score was really close. On Saturday I went shopping with a new friend and we ended up spending most of the day drinking in bars. I'm really happy that I've managed to make a Spanish friend. I then went out with the other Assistants and rested on Sunday!

At La Cervecería bar with tapas

I'm finally doing English classes at school because I have a new timetable and I really like it. In some English classes the students are reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a book about England, The Call of the Wild and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, where I read passages, then they repeat and I ask them questions about what they've understood. Other classes follow English textbooks and learn vocabulary. In a drama class the younger students are doing a play about a tooth fairy (so sweet!) and the older students are learning High School Musical and Grease. My first drama class was amusing because some characters, including Sandy and Danny, weren't there so I read their part, which sometimes left me having conversations with myself! Sometimes when I'm a bit bored in lessons I imagine which students I would like to have as my children (in a non creepy way). The shy, geeky ones that smile and say hello, wear glasses and use far too many hair clips are my favourites.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

I'm back!

Sadly, the week before I left Melilla for England I didn't work on Monday or Tuesday because I became ill with a sore throat and couldn't speak very well! I was shocked that it cost me 6 euros to pay for 2o throat sweets, so I brought a large pack of Soothers (English throat sweets) back with me to Melilla in case it happens again. Fortunately I felt better for my last day and I was able to do my Christmas lessons at school. The younger children generally didn't really enjoy trying my mince pies and the Christmas pudding, although the older children and the teachers seemed to enjoy them.

It felt so nice to be in England again and I took advantage of eating English food whenever I could. I enjoyed speaking English and catching up with most of my friends and family, although unfortunately there wasn't enough time to see all of them, or they were busy with other festivities.

On Tuesday I woke up at 3am after less than 4 hours sleep. Mum and nan then kindly drove me to London Gatwick airport for my 7:40am flight! I felt ripped off when I had to check the weight of my luggage at the north terminal, because the scales charged £1! It was a sad goodbye, but my mum and her boyfriend, Adam, are coming to visit me next month. Therefore, I didn't feel too bad, but it was especially sad to say goodbye to my nan and sister, because I don't know when I'll see them next.

I managed to fit loads of English
food into my suitcase, although it
was too heavy to bring the
baked beans

Due to the bad, windy weather in the UK, the take off actually felt quite scary. However, the rest of the flight was fine. Actually, it was better than fine, because it was with British Airways (for some reason that was the cheapest flight I could find)! I was able to take 23kg of luggage and a small suitcase and handbag in the cabin. After struggling to cram my life in 20kg when flying with Ryanair or EasyJet, this felt like luxury. I even got a free breakfast!

The sky was beautiful after we rose above
 the darkness below

Mountainous Spanish landscape

I arrived in Málaga at about 11:30am. Unfortunately because I booked my flights separately (it's cheaper that way) I had to collect my luggage, exit arrivals and come back in through departures. There was a ridiculously long queue to check in at the Iberia desks, but whilst queuing I saw the other assistant at my school, Jack, who to my surprise had arrived on the same flight as me. Although the next flight to Melilla was at 1:30pm, we had to wait until 3pm, because that flight was cheaper. Sometimes I think transport prices are ridiculous and don't make any sense. 

Arriving in Málaga: very low over the sea!

When I arrived at the airport I was happy and surprised to see that my friend Andrew from church was there to pick me up. People at my church are very friendly and the pastor, Adrián, had also offered me a lift, but was away and had asked Andrew to come instead. Andrew and his wife, Joanna, are from South Carolina in America. I've been to their flat for lunch and a movie night and they are very friendly people. I'm happy to have some nice new friends here.

It feels very strange to be back, like I'm going through culture shock all over again. I feel like the little progress I did make with my Spanish has gone in reverse because I got so used to speaking English over the holidays. Hopefully by next week things will be back to normal.

Only small planes fly to Melilla

This sweet dog reminded me
of my mum's dog, Alfie

Yesterday was my first day back at work. It was a really good day because I had my two favourite classes, in which we discussed our holidays and started speaking activities. I met the new Geography teacher who teaches in English and Spanish, so more English classes will definitely be happening and I will get my new timetable next week. After only one day of work I'm back to my days off!

Today I've been feeling a bit angry because I've run out of gas for hot water again and my phone isn't working again. I called the gas company to order more cans, but they never showed up. I spent hours trying to contact Vodafone and Apple, but my phone still isn't working. The problem is I replaced my broken one and Apple said it will have the same settings as the previous one and still be unlocked. However, it isn't accepting my Spanish SIM card and Apple have said I need to restore my phone using iTunes, but for some reason I can't connect my phone to iTunes to do so. Therefore, I've wasted my day waiting for the gas man who didn't arrive and trying to sort out my phone, but failing. On the up side, as you can see I can now take decent photos again.
 I guess tomorrow is another day!