157 – Just an Everyday Birthday

Suddenly Paqui began to sing. The room fell silent, and even the aggressive guy in the corner, who had been talking to himself and shouting randomly, looked up and listened quietly as she sang a saeta. It was Mercedes’ birthday and twenty of us gathered to celebrate with her. She received her gifts with gratitude as enormous as her smile, and she closed her eyes tightly to make a wish as she blew out the candles. People laughing and chatting – smiles that could light up the darkest of spaces, the darkest of lives. Paqui finished her song and received applause, shouts of “¡Óle!” and a hug from Mercedes. Continue reading

Advertisements

127 – After the Exam

Mostly, the whole experience of doing exams is almost forty years behind me.  And the Spanish GCSE, taken in 2011 at Poole Adult Education Centre, was a walk in the park.  But this DELE Spanish exam is no joke.  It’s the internationally accepted standard, so they have to be rigorous.  I wrote last week about the oral exam in “Testing Times”.  Two days later we all returned to Málaca Institute for the main ordeal, three more exams – reading comprehension, listening comprehension, and writing. Continue reading

118 – Location and Politics

You don’t change your politics when you change location.  Your world vision.  Your core beliefs.  Those thoughts and behaviours which demonstrate your ethics, your personality, your essence.  So, for example, as a supporter of local food in Dorset, I continue to avoid supermarkets and items with high air-miles, now that I live in Spain.   I seek out green groups and community organisations, and charities that help immigrants.  And of course in terms of left and right, nothing changes.  So it never occurred to me that location has an impact on one’s politics, until this month. Continue reading

116 – And is There Honey Still for Tea?

So why did it become so interesting, the Ashya King story?  The little boy with cancer, whose parents were arrested in Spain after a European Arrest Warrant was issued?   Human interest, of course, and the added interest that the family was found in the Axarquía region. Continue reading

114 – Vete a Dormir (Go To Sleep)

Twenty-five years ago I crawled out of a tent in the Sinai Desert at midnight, hoicked my rucksack onto my back, 114-1-MySinaiPicand followed our camels in the age-old pilgrimage from St Catherine’s Monastery to the summit of Mount Sinai.  You climb it at night as it’s too hot during the day.  Plus the main point of the pilgrimage is to be on the summit as dawn breaks, and the extraordinary colours appear to rush towards you as the sun rises and picks out the layers of mountain-ranges spread out before you. Continue reading

113 – More Than a Foreigner

Of course it’s quite fun at first, isn’t it?  Being “the foreigner”, having a bit of a laugh with neighbours about one’s bad Spanish, apologising all the time, and realising that the sentence you can speak most fluently is “I’m sorry I don’t understand.”  But there comes a point when that simply isn’t good enough. Continue reading

108 – But You Don’t Speak Spanish …..

Anyone who has worked in HR or who has been for a job interview knows the trick that interviewers use, of asking you to tell them about your greatest faults.  This is never a good idea, as I found out when I began an interview for a volunteering role by telling her about my poor Spanish. Continue reading