And finally the rain came. Not enough, but it rained. Across Andalucía farmers breathed a sigh of relief along with the bomberos (firefighters), the dryish leaves on my patio trees lifted their faces and cheered up a little, and everyone gratefully flung open all the doors and windows to allow the cool air into the houses. I pottered outside for half an hour, moving plants to the centre so they would catch more of the precious drops, enjoying standing in the cool, gentle drizzle. It’s refreshing.
My neighbour Rafael is happy. The almonds were all harvested, and now the rain is good for his forthcoming harvests of grapes and chestnuts, and during the winter the water will plump up the avocados that he relies on in March. His almonds, filling the garage opposite my study, seemed to me to be a good crop. But no farmer has ever admitted to a good crop … “Regular” replies Rafa, not too bad.
The rain refreshes the land and marks the beginning of the end of the summer. It makes a quick trip to Cördoba possible (a stunning city, but completely unbearable in July and August), to catch up with another Rafa and try out a couple of new restaurants and a couple of old favourites.
But before escaping to Cördoba there’s an important administrative hurdle to be surmounted. I needed to sign up for the new year at La Escuela Oficial de Idiomas. Should be easy enough, as a returning student, but they have made it just about as difficult as they possibly could. Even with reasonable Spanish it is almost impossible to follow the web instructions. How beginners find their way through the maze, I do not know.
This is my third course at La Escuela Oficial de Idiomas and I was in B2.2 last year (the upper intermediate level). Sadly, this is the highest level available in Spanish, though English and other levels are offered at C1 and C2. So I didn’t take the exams in June, nor the re-takes in September, in order to be allowed to repeat the year. The system therefore required that I wait till after the September exams before signing up for the forthcoming year. But until a few days ago, the “system” kept everything secret. Not a word on the EOI website. Then suddenly the timetable for signing-up was released. There would be a three-day window, during which we would have a list of administrative tasks to complete as only a Spanish state-run establishment could concoct.
First of all we would have to log onto the live section of the website to choose the days and times of our classes. I say “choose”, although my course only has one option, unlike the students taking English, who have a dozen options. But the rest of the process cannot be completed without this step. Then there is the matriculation form. Note for English speakers – in Spanish, you “matriculate” at the start of a course, not the end. It means “sign up” rather than “graduate”. Cue many confused Brits at reception being asked if they want to matriculate, saying “well yes, next year”, and being told to come back next year.
Then comes the payment. Fill in another form online, which cleverly converts to a 3-page document to print out and take to the bank. Pay 50.13€, get two copies back (stamped), and then start collating all the papers ready to be taken to the school. The website said that all these documents would only be accessible online during the 3-day window, so it was obvious that thousands of students would be logging on at 10am – especially those with jobs, for example, who need to get a timetable that suits them.
Doing simultaneous WhatsApp chat with two Spanish friends and another Brit, we were all poised at our computers at 9.55am. Internet connection checked. Printer connected. Copy of the instructions open in another tab.
9.57 – Try opening the webpage. “La página abrirá a las diez”. The page will open at 10am.
9.59 – Try again. “La página abrirá …” Yeah, alright, we know.
10.01 – Try again. Page busy.
10.03 – Refresh.
10.05 – Refresh.
10.07 – Refresh.
I keep refreshing the page. At 10.20 I go and make tea. Refresh page.
At 10.30 we compare notes via WhatsApp. A Spanish friend who REALLY needed her first choice of timings has got through and got the time she wanted. Refresh page.
Finish the mug of tea. Refresh page.
Another friend is still waiting and refreshing and waiting and refreshing.
Barely looking at the computer, I hit Refresh. Suddenly the screen bursts into life and lets me through to the list of timetables. I hit B2.2 and it offers … umm … just the one “option”. I click on it, enter my ID number, and the printer spews out the precious confirmation form.
Rapidly on to the matriculation form and the bank forms. All goes smoothly and I sprint down to the bank to pay and get the forms stamped.
Finally, I check the website for the detailed instructions for submitting the papers. The EOI website has no fewer than SEVEN pages of instructions for this process, including one entire page covering how to staple the papers. Clutching my carefully-stapled documents, checked and re-checked, all that is left is to drive down from Colmenar to Málaga, park at the school, and deliver the application. The foyer is full of students looking for the right box, finding their compañeros from the previous year, and comparing date stamps on that timetable document. “¡Mira! Look at mine, I got it at 10.02” boasts one. My teacher from last year grabs me for a bearhug, before a group of Spaniards studying English drag me off to the cafetería.
Back outside in the September sun students are milling around. On the little lawn the sprinkler swivels and sprays us.
© Tamara Essex 2016 http://www.twocampos.com