The rhythm of Laval life

Hello to all of my blog-reading buds.   I hope I find you in good health and spirits, even if you are a bit coldy (shoutout to the Liz and the Nadia who are almost certainly the only people who are going to understand that joke – missing you two!)

I hope you forgive me for my being particularly negligent on the blog-writing front recently and yes, I do know that I say that every time I grace you with my presence.  But please know that things have been really rather hectic in the weeks (and months?) since I last updated you on the not-so-crazy life of the Laz in Laval.  I will have to be honest and say that some crazy things have definitely happened in the meantime.  Hehehe.

I look back, and I can’t quite believe more than two months have passed since I first arrived here.  Time has been slipping by in that scarily subtle way that it always seems to.  Each day seems to just crawl by, (except for the weekends, of course; I blink, and they’re over). but then I look back and all of a sudden, two months have already whirled by without me even noticing.

Life here has settled into its own little rhythm; one which I never really imagined myself getting used to and not hating.  But, alas, here we are. I did.   When I last wrote, life was just one big jumble of good and not-so-good and so life in general was just about okay.  But nowadays, you may be glad to know, that things have been good, and I would even go as far as to say that I might have been enjoying myself.  I’m busy but I’m happy. And that’s taking into consideration my unpleasantly long and sometimes more than just a little boring working days.  Whoa.

Day trip
Day trip

Speaking of which, work has all been fine, really.  I mean, sometimes, the tasks I get given are so far beyond mundane it’s untrue and of course there have been some severe cases of office-napping (early mornings and I were just not meant to be) but on the whole it’s tiring but fine. I’m doing it.

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And in the evenings I do lots.  Mondays are generally a free evening for me but only rarely do I spend that time by myself in my room, despite the fact that I very often set out in the aim of doing just that.  Something pops up, and so I go out.  Which is good, since it turns out that nowadays I am actually very bad at spending that time by myself in my room.  On Tuesdays, I go to Salsa lessons.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little reluctant to join in with everyone when I first arrived in Laval and I would also be lying if I told you that after having attended about ten lessons I actually knew what I was doing… but it’s fun and really, how can you wrong with a little bit of Latino music to ease you towards the mid-way point of the working week?

I have joined the local orchestra, which is how I occupy myself on a Wednesday night.  Taking into consideration my far from perfect flute-playing in ordinary circumstances, when I fully understand everything that’s being said to me, you can imagine my wrong note ratio is quiiiiite high when all of the instructions are given in French during a total brain workout that no one should have to go through late on a Wednesday night (let me just clarify that when I say late, I mean between 8 and 10pm.  The Spanish Laz might have called that early evening.  French Laz calls it bedtime)  I would also like to add that contrary to all orchestras I have EVER played in before, where there have been at least 8 flutes, in this one there is just one apart from mine.  My horror during my first practice when I realised that I could actually hear myself as opposed to being completely drowned out by all other instruments was intense.  However, two weeks ago we actually gave a concert and I thought it all went really nicely.  I didn’t even have one attack of the giggles, despite being able to see my friends, who so kindly came to watch, throughout the whole performance.  Proud.

Thursdays are the night I hit the Irish pub and let it all go.  Well, until 10pm. Of course that was the place to be on St Patrick’s night.  I tried (and liked?!) Guinness.  So I guess I’m truly Irish now.  And I even stayed out past ma bedtime that night.  It really was a mad one paha.  On Fridays there is quite often something going on with my pals.  On Saturdays I do my carrot shopping at the market which, if you know me at all, you will understand is critical and of high importance.  And Sundays are just the greatest.  We invariably start the day with a group breakfast, heavily stocked up with croissants and pain au chocolat from the award-winning bakery just across the street.  Then we take a trip to somewhere which isn’t Laval, which as nice as Laval can be, is just what you want, really.  We have been on a few trips to the sea and have seen many a castle.  One day I have high hopes I will even make it as far away as Paris.  That is the dream.

Woo St Pat's
Woo St Pat’s

With regards to my French-learning, which let’s face it, is the whole reason I am here in the first place, it’s going okay; I’m getting there.  Albeit a little slowly.  I am understanding a lot better now.  Sometimes I even know what the Frenchies are saying to me when I have to answer the phone at work….  I can participate in conversations at lunch with the French peeps I work with (if I want to; sometimes I prefer to spend my lunchtimes just chilling with the cat.  Especially since I’m not sure if any of my colleagues ever got over the fact that once I accidentally announced to them that I was “pregnant” and instead of saying that I was “too full” when they asked me if I wanted some dessert.  Oh the unimaginable problems that arise when you’re speaking your second language. )  I am also still coming to terms with the fact that some day soon I am going to have to think about and then God forbid do research for and write a rather long essay for York.  I continue to pray for inspiration. Please send help.

And now I will disappear because it’s after 10pm here so well past my bedtime – sorry guyzz.  I have a lot of plans for the near future in France which begin with the not-so-exciting (i.e. living at work for two weeks – yes, really) to the really-quite-exciting such as night-training it back to my beloved Spain for a fleeting visit to see the Hannah in Barcelona and watching the French Open tennis in Paris.  It’s all too much.

One of ma castles
One of ma castles

For now I will love you and leave you and promise to write again sometime in the near(ish) future.

All my love,

Laz

My home
My home
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Dumb-waiters, Irish bars and the oldest cat I know: Laz’s life in France this far

Oh hi.  C’est moi. Happy Tuesday to all.  We are gathered here today so I can update you on my not-so-crazy new life in France.  You lucky sods.

According to my calendar, I’ve been in France for over a month already.  I wouldn’t believe it, but calendars do not usually tell lies, do they? And so I guess it must be true.

My new home:

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And surprise, surprise, I’m not fluent in French yet.  Nor will I ever be, judging from the way things are going.  But you’ll be glad and probably surprised to know that my French does in fact seem to exist after all, something I was quite unsure about before my arrival in France and positively unconvinced about after it, as I continually greeted the Frenchies I met during my first few days with a chirpy “hola!” and a wide grin.  I THINK things are improving, in that respect, especially because at work, I am constantly hearing and speaking a lot of French (albeit with just a liiiiiiitle bit of Spanish mixed in from time to time), which is both a blessing and a curse, as you can well imagine.  The usefulness of some of my new vocabulary is questionable.  I mean, I think it may be rather tricky to incorporate the French word for dumb-waiter into any future university assignments.  However I personally think that the mere fact that not only do I now know the word for dumb-waiter, but I actually know how to use one, should earn me brownie points in my fourth year French oral and in life in general.

With regards to my job, I would say that despite some slight issues with a photocopier (I feel like a course covering basic photocopying skills needs to be included somewhere in all degree programmes – I know this sounds ridiculous but seriously, when documents start getting all double-sided and stuff, it just gets bit too much for a novice like me…) and those all too anticipated hiccups with French, that language I had neglected for too long, it mostly all been fine.

Okay, so dealing with a phone call in French is still my nightmare.  And, realistically, doing a work placement is not exactly what I would call living the Erasmus dream.  Long gone are the days where I bunked off my 11am classes at Spanish uni because they were “too early”.  (Think that MIGHT be the reason I obtained the grand score of 10% in my Level One Italian class.  Don’t tell my teachers at York, s’il vous plait…)  Nowadays, I catch the bus, walk 2 km through the French countryside, open the doors and windows of the place where I work (it’s a castle, so I promise that is not as easy as it sounds), make our clients’ coffee and begin answering emails ALL before 8.30. What is this life?  And what did it do with my old life?  I miss it. But although things could be better (as in, if work could start at approximately midday and end at 3pm; that’d be good), they could also be worse.  After all, I did used to work in a CHICKEN FACTORY.  Pretty sure that was worse. Of course some days at work are better than others.  Today, for example, was not my favourite…but alas, c’est la vie.

In non work-related news, I can tell you that Laval, the (for some reason) city where I live is probably not the most exciting place to live in France.  Just a guess.  However, it is the home of an Irish pub, located approximately 200 metres from my doorstep, which helps remedy the pain caused by my very bitter relationship with early mornings and long working days. There is also a river.  And a castle. (Two, in fact). And, there is an award-winning bakery just across the street from my residence which is good news for the Laz-making-the-most-of-French-cuisine department.  And with that, I think we’ve covered just about all Laval has got to offer. (Don’t let its lack of things to do put you off from visiting – apparently there is a milk museum for you to keep busy at whilst I trundle off to work.  What more could you ask for?)

The parents have already been to witness the wonders of this place.  #sowonderfulweendeduptakingselfiesinthehotelroomandnotinthestreets...
The parents have already been to witness the wonders of this place. #sowonderfulweendeduptakingselfiesinthehotelroomandnotinthestreets…

Here, I have also attended some salsa classes (I’m terrible but it helps with the missing Spain thing), I have joined (although not yet attended due to French half term) the local orchestra and I have tried quite a lot of French food.  I suppose this would be a good moment to update you on the carrot situation because I’m sure you are dying to know. The situation is a good one.  Thank heavens.  French carrots are very sweet and crunchy.  I have taken to bringing a little pot of ’em to work with me each day and am now known as “le lapin” – the rabbit.  I guess it had to happen that way.

When I'm not crunching on carrots, I munching on five desserts at once
When I’m not crunching on carrots, I munching on five desserts at once

My aims for the next few weeks and months are simple really;

1) To get better at French (whilst still remembering all of my Spanish. Is that even possible? Probably not.)

2) To make French friends, because rather tragically, at this point in my life, this is not really going to plan.  Also I feel like it would be ideal to make a Spanish bud or two here as well.  (Are there any Spaniards here?  Must make it my mission to find out and consequently befriend them if so.  (They have no choice in this matter mwuah ha ha ))

3) To magically become a morning person.  (I have already given up on this, if I’m completely honest with you).

And now I must go to sleep.  Despite it only being dinner time in Spain, this is my bedtime in France. Because ahead of me lies a very early alarm (okay, seven very early alarms.  We all know that’s what it will take to get me up in the morning), which I am very sad about, and a day in a castle which is home to the oldest cat I have ever met. (She is twenty-three in human years, and so that puts her at the ripe old age of 109 in cat years.  And she’s still dive-bombing the table to get attention – she is my inspiration.)

Father and I posing like we are at the Oscars but really we are just standing like tools with some flowers in my room for reasons unknown
Father and I posing like we are at the Oscars but really we are just standing like tools with some flowers in my room for reasons unknown

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Bonne nuit, mes amis.  I will write to you again soon.

Bisous

Laz xx

From Laval with love: A new home for the Laz

Bonsoir, from a Laz who, as of Thursday night, now lives in France. (No, I can’t believe it either.)

Despite my currently practically-non-existent French, due to having spent more than eight months faffing about in the land of the Spanish, pretty much completely ignoring  the other half of my degree, I have SOMEHOW managed to sort out my French accommodation, a French insurance policy and a French bank account (although I didn’t actually remember the word for this when I went to the bank which was a slight issue, as you may well imagine…) and now I am all ready to start my French job tomorrow morning.  (Help.)

And so far, apart from the occasional (and by occasional I mean more than hourly) linguistic mishap (yes I have said “hola” about 34 times since arriving), things are going okay.  To get here was a challenge.  Picture a rather tearful Laz, at 6.45 in the morning (after staying out at Casa das Crechas until approximately 3 am and then having a sleepover with the flatmates where rather more cuddling (and crying…) than actual sleeping took place), with a small but very full handbag on one shoulder, a large and heavy rucksack on her back and a MASSIVE suitcase behind her (which turned out to be 5kg overweight; that was helpful) on a long, long trek from Santiago to Laval which involved one bus, two planes and four trains.

The last glimpse of grey Galicia
The last glimpse of grey Galicia

Picture the Laz in an unfamiliar French city 14 hours later, miraculously still with all pieces of luggage (which is more than can be said for the last time she took international flights), but a shadow of the girl she used to be in Spain, having washed one piece of her heart away with tears and having left another behind her in Galicia.  Imagine how happy she was when she realised that her room in Laval would not be available for her to sleep in that night…. #nadthingsthathappentothelaz

Beginning a new life here in France will be hard, not least because I can’t seem to remember a single word of French.  First of all, having to adjust from (sometimes) going to (some of) my classes at uni in Santiago for a few hours a day and having entire afternoons, evenings and nights to do whatever nice things I wanted without the pressure of having to complete homeworks and assignments to the high standards that would be required by my university at home, to working five days a week for six months.

Whoa.

Secondly, my time in Santiago was so much more special than I had dared allow myself to believe it would be.  And for that I am so, so thankful.  The only problem is, it makes moving on and leaving it all behind so much harder.  Of course I’ll always have the memories, and I am for sure going to go back some day to visit (or, you know, live forever). but the fact that things will never be exactly as they were during those happy days is hard to accept.

Just some of the mad and marvellous Spanish memories:

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Santi

But I have to look at it like this: I am so lucky to have had something that made saying goodbye so hard.  Had I been having a terrible time, I would have been indifferent or worse, happy about leaving Spain.  So now I am going to focus on forever cherishing the first half of my year abroad, whilst setting out in the hope that the second will be even half as great.

Also, as you may remember me saying I would, I got my ears pierced after all, and have purchased a little pair of concha earrings, so  Santiago, as I promised, will indeed not only stay with my in my heart but also in my ears.

Getting my ears pierced, as in my last blog I had promised to do.

I hope to update you soon on my French adventures, of which I am sincerely hoping there will be many.  If you give me some time, I am sure I will be able to produce some less sombre blog-posts about my life here once I am more established as a French froggy and for sure fill you in on the hilarious disasters that will almost definitely unfold.

I will love you and leave you with a photo of the view from the window of my lovely new home.  Could be worse hehe. Come visit.

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Here I am with my beloved carotitas. Thanks for all of the memories.

With my beloved Carotitas Sonrientes.  Thanks for all the memories.  

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The things that happened when the Laz lived in Spain

Hello to one and all.

I am writing this because it is the middle of the night so all of the normal people are asleep.  But I am not a normal person so I am not asleep; I am writing this, just before heading back to Santiago for a little while longer.

First of all: FELIZ NAVIDAAAAAAD!

Christmas lights in Santi
Christmas lights in Santi

I hope everyone had a happy Christmas and a merry new year and all of that.  Quite how we have reached 2015 so very quickly I will never know but what I do know was that last year was a good’un.  Among many other highlights, I MOVED ABROAD.  And survived (although perhaps my dignity did not…).  I even made some friends there and spoke some Spanish.  This year’s resolutions are:

Uno: to speak some French instead.  Now, I genuinely don’t know how that’s going to happen, having completely neglected that half of my degree since June. Any early-on conversations with friendly Frenchies may go a little like this:

Frenchie 1: Bonjour

Laz: Hola I mean Hi I mean HUH WAAAAT au revoir AHHHHHHH

Frenchie 2: Elle est folle, cette fille.  (Translation:  SHE. IS. MAD.)

Aaaaaaaaand this year’s resolution numero dos: to have some fun.  Wild, I know. And very specific.  More to come on this in next blog, I suspect/hope.

Second of all: I AM SO SORRY.  I mean, I’d bet a lot of money that you haven’t noticed, but I haven’t blogged since November.  And now it has been so long that there is no way I can even begin to attempt to fill you in on all of the things that have happened since then.  So I won’t.

Instead, now that it’s all too quickly coming to an end, I will write you a list of some weird and wonderful things that pop into my head when I think about my time in Spain, which I think will sum up the Laz Spanish Experience rather nicely:

  • So far on my year abroad, I have purchased and broken 4 umbrellas (or as the Spanish would say, “se me estropearon los paraguas”; the umbrellas have broken ON ME. AKA nothing was my fault – just one of the reasons I love Spanish hahaha.) Those little guys clearly cannot hack the Galicia. #doyouevenumbrella. Whereas I, on the other hand, have become quite the expert on Spanish rain as you can see below:

Exhibit A: My new mantra: “The rain in Spain falls mainly on Santiago de Compostela.”

Exhibit B: My new footwear:  Wellies.

Exhibit C:  My new answer to the question “how are you?”: “Wet.”  Always.

That rainy Santiago sky once more
That rainy Santiago sky once more
  • I have come to the depressing but all-too-true conclusion that I will NEVER master the subjunctive in Spanish. I don’t get it.  Like sometimes, I am completely and utterly, 100% convinced that a certain sentence is in the subjunctive.  IF IT IS UNCERTAIN, THEN IT IS SUBJUNCTIVE, RIGHT?

Wrong.  A Spanish person corrects you, gently explaining that in most cases, yes, you would be correct to use the subjunctive in this type of sentence.  But not, however, in this one, thanks to some crazy reason, far beyond the horizon of my comprehension.  All I can say is that I have tried, but maybe the subjunctive and the Laz are just not meant to be.  Perhaps it is better to instead turn my attentions toward French, where the subjunctive has rules it actually FOLLOWS. Probably.

  • With hindsight, no, I do not think taking four foreign languages at a foreign university in another foreign language was my best life choice to date. Not when it confused my poor little brain to the extent that during the first week of classes, when asked by a Spaniard for my phone number, I was rendered incapable of saying it in any one of the languages I had begun to learn, least of all Spanish.  What number that girl got I do not know but it contained badly-pronounced Spanish with German, Italian and French, with a little English thrown in for good measure.  Needless to say I received no messages from the poor girl who asked.  Only strange looks and pity hahaha.
  • ON THE PLUS SIDE, we went to the cinema and watched a film in Spanish and miracle of all miracles: I actually understood it. Nearly every word. (No, I can’t believe it either.)

But there you have it; proof that the Laz has actually, genuinely improved her Spanish since September, when I barely understood “hola” and when, upon my phone breaking in the most unfortunate of circumstances in the first week, being as incapable as I was in Spanish, I was unable to muster up the word arreglar, to fix, and instead, chucked my phone across the counter in the Vodafone shop repeatedly uttering the words no funciona (It doesn’t work) in a panicked manner.  But now I like to think that I can understand and speak Spanish sliiiiiiiightly better.  So year abroad not wasted.  10 Life Points to the Laz.  It is just a shame I will not have enough time to really grasp some Gallego, the language of Galicia.  Maybe next time, whenever that may be (and it WILL be.).

  • And now a life hack from the Laz: When giving English lessons to two young Spanish children on a Tuesday evening, and finding that (naturally enough, of course) towards the end of the hour-and-a-half-long session, their attention was waning ever so slightly, the Laz decided to (literally ahaha) mix things up a little, and used the cardboard clock I had made for learning time-telling as a DJ deck. So I put my right hand over my right ear, my left over the “deck” and said “waka waka”.  I did not realise what I had done, until the kids were falling off their chairs laughing and chorusing “WAKA WAKA.  DO THE WAKA WAKA.”  This led to two wonderful things:
    • were speaking English (Which to be fair, they did very well the rest of the time too, but this phrase happened to include the imperative. Pretty impressive.  Must have had a good teacher…)
    • The “waka waka” became a reward for any good work and behaviour which took place in the classes over the next few weeks and months, which made my life a heck of a lot easier. So for motivational purposes, I would promise them a reward of doing the “waka waka” if finished their work.  And if they misbehaved, I would threaten them with”not doing the waka waka,” which put them in their place soon enough.  So basically, I think I’ve got this whole teaching thing down to a “t” AHAHA.
  • I’ve now had the privilege of living in a city pilgrims from across the world dream about, been to the “edge of the world” in September and the beach in December, eaten octopus and pig’s ear (NOT together), had “happy birthday” sung to me by a restaurant full of strangers, spoken REAL SPANISH with REAL SPANISH PEOPLE for one of the first times in my life, sampled Spanish “night life” which actually takes place in the morning, danced in a photocopying shop, unaware that the owner was watching, enjoyed the company of many wonderful new people, nearly missed the bus because of a houmous-gathering quest, snuggled and held hands with my flatmates in public on numerous occasions because “somos una piña”, become a regular in a really cool bar where I genuinely ask for “my usual,” and the owner knows what I mean, made a dog-friend who apparently cries with excitement when we pass by his apartment, accidentally held a menu upside-down in an attempt to “act normal” when the handsome waiter walked past in my favourite café, learnt that in Spanish they actually have a word for using bread to mop up excess food on your plate (USEFUL ISN’T IT), used “but I’m not from here” as an excuse in too many situations (especially academic ones), bonded with the cats on my street, tried cannabis tea (who even knew that existed?), lost and found my hat in a poncho shop, invented my own words and phrases in Spanish, which I have to try too hard not to use in real-life situations, head-butted Maestro Mateo and hugged Saint James.

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All of that houmous
All of that houmous

That is my year abroad so far in a nutshell.  May it only get weirder.

  • Last of all, I believe I’ve finally realised that at the ripe old age of 21, I should probably stop putting baskets on my head in shops, pretending that they are hats. I should act more wisely, because I am, after all “sabiaísima,”; a word which not so long ago I thought meant “extremely wise” in Spanish, therefore describing me perfectly 😉  Imagine the terrible moment when I was told that the word “sabiaísima” is, in fact, non-existent.

Not so wise after all…

And so, with all this supremely valuable, extremely wise “year abroad experience” behind me, I shall all too soon be packing my bags and setting off into the sunset once more (if it’s not raining, that is), leaving my beloved Santiago and my lovely buds who live there behind.  But with plans of getting my ears pierced (FINALLY) before leaving, I am hoping to purchase a pair of earrings with little shells, the symbol of Santiago, on, and so not only will Santiago de Compostela hold a very dear place in my heart, it will also dangle from my ears, and really, what more can you ask for.

 “Santiago en el corazon.  Y en las orejas”

Santiago in my heart.  And in my ears.
Santiago in my heart. And in my ears.

Until the next time, then, amigos, when I hope to be spontaneously spurting French and exploring this “joie de vivre” thing the French like to talk about.  However, I have first to complete my exams in all of those foreign languages in Santiago so we shall see how that goes.  And then I could end up trapped underneath a pile of my own luggage whilst mid-transit between my two foreign homes.  Or missing a flight because they’re early and there are many of them.  And let’s not forget the very real possibility of a Laz head-explosion upon being surrounded by French for the first time ever.

Que sea lo que Dios quiera.

It’s the little things

Greetings from a soggy Santiago, where winter has well and truly begun.  After a somewhat surprising but very welcome fortnight of spectacular late-October sunshine, the heavens opened once more last Sunday.  The rain has been falling since then and I fear it will remain falling until my departure early next year.  If anyone I cared about were to come to this sopping city anytime soon, I would advise that they bring strong, WATERPROOF boots (I myself I have had to concede a victory to this weather and replace my beloved boots that were let’s say sliiiiiiightly less than impermeable), and I would also say that it is recommended to wear at least one fluffy item of clothing upon leaving the house; as has become all too clear in the past few days, just because Santiago is in Spain doesn’t mean its November is any less nippy than what I am accustomed to at home.

 

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The rain in Spain falls mainly on Santiago de Compostela

I have officially lost track of the amount of time I have been here (which can only be a good thing; were I not happy here, I would surely be counting the days until my return to the Emerald Isle).  It feels like both forever and no time at all have passed by since I first arrived here. But regardless of the fact that I feel ever so slightly like I am lost in a time lapse, there are plenty of lurking clues which make it pretty hard to ignore the terrible truth that there isn’t really a whole lot of time left here in my Spanish home: flights to Belfast have been booked, university exams and deadlines are being set, the University of York have sent emails requesting I begin the piece of work I have to hand in about this part of my year abroad and that feeling of sadness with which I am all too familiar, that one that makes an appearance every time I pack my bags and leave somewhere behind, is creeping in slowly but surely.

But even with all this talk of exams and leaving and rain, my spirits have not been dampened as much as you may think.  I’m currently feeling rather lucky and content.  Because, really, feeling sad *already* about leaving this place only goes to show that I’ve been super lucky to have had a great time.  Why else would leaving be so hard?

You see, things have been going very nicely of late.  I *think* I am finally getting somewhere with regards to making Spanish acquaintances and friends.  It’s harder than you’d think, trying to consolidate friendships in a foreign language.  First of all, it takes real effort to arrange to meet up (especially since, for a few weeks, I didn’t even know ask to do so in Spanish without sounding hilariously over-formal…”would you like to have a meeting with me……?” NOT COOL, KIDS. Trust me, I tried it.).  Secondly, my Spanish was (still is, most likely) not the best when it comes to giving complements or making jokes or doing any of those things people do whilst in the presence of friends ahhaha.  However, the situation is improving, slowly but surely, poco a poco.  Had I had more time here, I’m sure I could have some really great buds by the end.  As it is though, I apparently have good enough Spanish to convey the strength of my love of carrots, which led to some friends bringing me a pot of carrot jam.  So can’t complain, really 😉

 

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The jar of dreams

With regards to the whole “speaking Spanish” thing, the situation is indeed (as far as I can tell) improving (thank goodness).  Nope, I’m still not fluent, but I’ll have you know that I can actually understand my classes (when I choose to listen…) and when I went to mass last week (Not a sentence I ever imagined myself saying; the things you do when your mother visits you on your year abroad…..) I understood the sermon.  A great moment, I can assure you.  I can also understand conversations amongst groups of Spanish amigos much better than I could (sometimes I can even contribute to them haha).  And I thought you might all like to know that nowadays I dream in Spanish.  If that’s not progress, then I don’t know what is.  Next step, actually being Spanish teehee 😉

Other things that have happened to me recently are the following:

My mother and aunt visited the city last weekend, which was real nice.  First of all, because it was great to see them and show them my newest home and second of all, because they brought me Yorkshire tea and Cadbury’s chocolate and my favourite cimmamon sweets from Ireland ( If you didn’t already know, that’s pretty much all it takes to make a Laz happy.).

I visited the family who I worked for as an au pair last summer and I could understand them speaking amongst themselves in Spanish (MASSIVE improvement on last year, when I spent a lot of time saying “Si” but never being quite sure what I was agreeing to…lucky for me it was usually a walk by the sea or a glass of red wine with cheese – could do worse haha)

 

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Reunited with my pequenitas ❤

I have become quite the professional woman and have become a writer for an online website regarding living abroad (look out, Fleet Street) as well as an English teacher to two sweet little Spanish kids here in Santiago.

I own hummus (the food) once more (it had been a while; my carrots are pleased to say the least) and have also become the proud new owner of a little toy doggy, my perrito, also named Hummus. (It’s been a cracking few weeks, hummus-wise).

 

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Hummus and I with our penguin friend

On that happy note, I shall take off once more, not to do any of the somewhat pressing work I have for uni or for my teaching or anything like that.  I’m off to watch the season finale of Downton Abbey.  You can take the girl out of Britain, but you can NOT take Britain out of the girl.  Until the next time, my lovely ones.

Un beso

Laz

🙂

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Me with a basket on my head for good measure

Amor y besos xxxxx

Fiestas, Siestas y Zanahorias (Parties, Naps and Carrots): A day in the life of a Laz

Heyyyy derrrrr lovelies.  Gracias for reading these mumbling pages of musings that make up my blog.  It really is much appreciated.

I don’t know how it has happened, but somehow, I am already beginning my sixth week of living abroad (and my 21st year of living in general – time flies so quickly it scares me. I’ll be ninety before I know it) and I like to think I am becoming a little more Spanish with each passing day.  Although I have not yet reached a point where I can spontaneously conjugate the verb I want in the tense I want (I am beginning to think that day may never come), or understand apparently hilarious jokes in lectures at which I am the only student not laughing, a day of classes taught entirely in Spanish at uni no longer leaves me feeling on the verge of a major mind-implosion.  AND I can (usually, pretty much) understand whatever is being said to me by whoever in Spanish (an achievement-and-a-half for me, given the gravity of the situation in which I found myself when I first arrived).

And so here I am, six weeks into my Spanish life, chilling in my room with candles and incense burning, my music playing and an enormous cup of tea by my side. I am singing out of tune, I am procrastinating (I have French and German tests to revise for AHAHA) and yes, OBVIOUSLY I am crunching on a carrot.  This scenario perfectly encapsulates the Laz in her natural habitat, as many of you will already know.

But one thing I have found since moving abroad is that I’ve been feeling guilty for living my life in Spain the way I do in Northern Ireland/England, which sometimes involves spending afternoons/evenings exactly as described above. You see, for some reason, I always thought that once I lived abroad, I would be doing something extraordinary every minute of every day; meeting new people, travelling to new places, doing exciting new “Spanish” things and just generally making enough “year abroad memories” to last a lifetime.  And now that I am here, sometimes when I am just chilling all on my ownio or with my flatmates at home, I feel like I should be doing something amazing in Santiago instead of snuggling underneath my favourite blanket and crunching on carrots.  But a year abroad in España does not consist solely of sun, sand and sangria (although to be fair, there is a lot of that too…jajaja). Sometimes, an evening of blanket-snuggling and carrot-crunching is just what the doctor ordered.

In all the fuss and excitement that my was move abroad, it was too easy to forget that I would actually be LIVING in a new country, and not just passing through, trying to cram as much as possible into a few short days.  So even though for a few weeks here, it felt like I was living someone else’s life, seemingly lacking in the all people and patterns and particularities of the life I left behind, once settled into a routine, it became clear that what I have here is still the Laz life after all. It may have relocated itself and become slightly more Hispanic, but the same madness and mischief most importantly, and blanket days from ordinary life before have stuck by me (like the top mates they are).

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Here is an example of the aforementioned madness and mischief.

Most of the time, life here is indeed extraordinary.  You can have a great conversation with someone who had you not been lucky enough to be abroad, you would never have met.  You can try new kinds of food and drink in wonderful, traditional restaurants and bars.  You can travel to new cities and places you’d never even heard of before as well as continue to discover secret nooks and corners of the city you’re staying in.  And you can party until the sun comes up (there is no other way here. The Spanish are MAD.)  But being Spanish is exhausting. And sometimes, you need a day doing something ordinary, to let your life catch up with you, and to help the special Spanish things you’re doing the rest of the time seem all the more special.

However, it is also worth remembering that even these “ordinary” days, the ones with the blankets and the carrots, are still nothing of the sort when compared with life in Britain. If I go to even one class a day taught in Spanish, if I chat with just one Spanish amigo, if I watch some Spanish TV or read a Spanish newspaper buried beneath my blanket, I am still doing something I don’t get the chance to do at home.

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View from our flat on sunny evening.  You don’t get skies like that in Britain too often.

So what I need to do is learn to embrace the ordinary that, as I have now realised, is extraordinary after all.  Because it pains me to say it, but the extraordinary won’t be ordinary for too much longer.  I have been in Spain for over a month already which means THERE ARE LESS THAN THREE MORE TO GO before I must seek pastures new once more which is why I must make the most of what I have got here when I have still got it.

So now I shall love you and leave you, and venture off to explore my extraordinary, ordinary life some more.  Until the next time, amigos.  Sending you all lots and lots of amor and abrazos.

Some of the more extraordinary things I have seen in the last few weeks:

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And here I am with a basket on my head.  The shopkeeper shouted at me but it was worth it.

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PS.  Emma, this post was inspired by our conversation.  And since I forgot to give you the promised “official first read,” here is a special mention instead.  MUCH LOVE.

A new place for eating carrots

HOLA DESDE ESPAÑAAAAA

I am here, I am doing it, I AM ACTUALLY ON MY YEAR ABROAD.

And so far, things have been going rather nicely, thank you for asking. I have been here for 18 days now, strolling through the streets of Santiago, both getting lost and finding my feet at the same time.

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Wearing the local plants

Five things I have discovered since arriving abroad:

1) Two weeks abroad are not enough to become fluent in a language. Must stop kicking self every time I mess up. ONE STEP AT A TIME, LAZ.

2) In Galicia, some of the time it is sunny and warm. MOST of the time it is not.
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Cracking weather at Finisterre last weekend

3) Spanish people will tell you to “tranquila” lots, to which I at first responded with: “yes, I will tranquilise myself, thank you” but it turns out it actually just means “keep calm”

4) Three churros con chocolate = perfection; 4 churros con chocolate = food coma. DON’T DO IT

5) You should probably bring more than THREE socks with you if you are going on a YEAR abroad (no, I don’t mean three PAIRS of socks, I mean three socks in total…whoops.)

Anyway, I don’t like to blow my own trumpet/bang my own drum/ toot my own flute but my “Grand Plan” (see last blog) of planning to have no plan has worked a treat. Upon my arrival here a fortnight ago, feeling more than a little out of my depth but very excited for what lay ahead, I did not regret my lack of whacky Santiago knowledge (or indeed any Santiago knowledge at all). Not having printed or even looked at a map, for example, rather than creating complete carnage, led instead to two rather happy accidents;

1) Once settled into my room, I had the opportunity to follow my instinct, and not a map, from my flat into the city centre (which was so close it surprised me) and so I just stumbled upon the cathedral when I wasn’t quite expecting to, which made the first glimpse more spectacular than I could have imagined
2) I came across tourist office and decided to pop in and actually speak some Spanish to ask for the map I was lacking (putting my degree to good use innit). `

This city is beautiful. It is easy to see why people flock here in their thousands from across the world on a religious pilgrimage. I love the way all of the streets seem to lead to the cathedral which is stunning beyond belief. And I love the way that although I wouldn’t say I have LOADS of friends here yet, what I do have is many acquaintances, and constantly bumping into familiar faces on campus and around the city gives the place a wonderful, homely feel. And there is something so magical about the way the light falls here (when it’s not raining…) that no matter how hard I try, I never can manage to take a photograph that captures just how stunning everything looks in the sun. SO YOU WILL ALL JUST HAVE TO COME VISIT ME AND SEE IT IN PERSON. All in all, I still can’t actually appreciate the reality that I actually LIVE HERE now, but it’s a wonderful place, and even if being here doesn’t feel like real life, I’m more than glad that it is.

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Liz (my flatmate) and Laz loving living la vida loca

So now that I feel like I have (pretty much) settled in to my new vida loca, and also (sort of) come to terms with the fact that having given up altogether with the logistical nightmare that is my Spanish university “timetable,” (As a last resort, I am now enrolled in French, Spanish, German AND Italian classes – my head hurts just thinking about it), from this day on I am planning on turning my attentions completely to fulfilling the main objective I had set out for myself for these next 5 months in Spain: to become as Spanish as is as humanly possible for a girl from the depths of Northern Ireland to do. If this means speaking, thinking, breathing, dreaming and drinking Spanish (yes, I will even consider regularly mixing my red wine with coke to create a strange(ly delicious) Spanish concoction), then I will do so.

I have taken my time and not rushed my settling-in. Which is just what I needed if I am honest. And yes, I am feeling content but I know there is so much more for me to see. So phase one is complete and now it is time for phase two; the becoming-as-Spanish-as-humanly-possible phase. From today onwards, I will throw myself into Spanish life. I will try everything, speak to everyone, go everywhere, see where life takes me. And it won’t be easy but now I know, after experiencing numerous moments in the last few weeks where I have opened my mouth in an attempt to respond to someone and words that are neither English nor Spanish (or any of those other languages I’ve had to start learning, for that matter) have fallen out of my mouth, that you can’t just drink loads of calimocho (the wine and coke thing; try it – it’s fun) one night, fall asleep and magically wake up the next day fluent in Spanish (although that is not to say the odd sip of alcohol will not boost confidence hehehe).

So in this regard, the Plan to have No Plan from blog número uno lives on. GO WITH THE FLOW AND NEVER SAY NO will be my new mantra. No more excuses; I am no longer lost and lonely Laura the Explorer in a new city but a Spanish student on a mission. I am not paying £9000 a year (and missing out on a WHOLE YEAR of fun in my beloved York) to finish third year as hopelessly lost in translation as I began it. THIS IS MY CHANCE AND I MUST TAKE IT. And I do know it is easy to say all of these things and it is quite another to put it all into practice. But here goes nothing. Patience and perseverance are what are needed here. Until the next time; I will let y’all know how it goes.

CIAO.
Much love.

PS. I think you all need to know that the carrots here are more sweet and crunchy than those at home so all is good in that regard 🙂 🙂 🙂

BLOTOS

Carrot-sharing (caring) on a cloudy day by the sea