Things I've Done, Things I Haven't Done, and Things I've Forgotten To Do

It's been almost a month. I don't know how you've managed to cope without my constant comments of 'well... not really done anything!', but I'm not here to disappoint you, oh no, for I have written another post, detailling exactly what I've been up to (and subsequently haven't done). Sit back, relax, and prepare yourselves for a feast of Spanish wonderment.


Well. Where to begin? To continue from my last post (the teaching part), I'm not just teaching one 12 year old, I now teach a brother and sister (12 and 10, respectively) and a 13 year old boy. My Monday nights have very swiftly become me trekking across an estate on the other side of Via Hispanidad and attempting to teach the past tense and think of interesting questions. I can't. Teaching's hard. It's put me right off it as a possible career, although that might be because it's just a conversation class and I can't be like 'Ok guys, we're going to be doing the Past Simple and Continuous' as they'd probably stare at me looking even more confused than normal. Even so, I've attempted to 'theme' the (well, two) classes: Halloween and Bonfire Night. Halloween was fine, as there's an equivalent in Spanish - witch is bruja, pumpkin is calabaza, and so on. Bonfire Night was a different kettle of fish, though, how do you explain the phrase 'hung, drawn, and quartered', 'treason', or 'plot'? I truly spent about 20 minutes out of an hour long lesson attempting to explain it. I couldn't do it, and the poor kids looked like they were about to cry. This week, however, was the past simple, which went alright I thought, so it's not all bad.

In other news, I have a horrendous class. We were doing poetry the other day, and the tutor (who is Spanish, but discussing an English poem) kind of didn't get it, I feel. The poem was about building barriers between two people - one of whom feels it's old-fashioned. The tutor was just constantly repeating 'but, look, they are becoming closer as neighbours!'. No, love, you've missed the point.

Oh, and I've started to have full conversations in Spanish, which is exciting, as when I came here I couldn't understand a word of the language, so that's super fun. I've also started to make small talk with the almost constant stream of old men coming in and out of my building - 'Raining again', 'Oh no! It's good I've got my umbrella!', 'You'll need it!', 'Hahaha!' - WILD!

Meanwhile, I've barely been out out, coz I'm always half ill, or have too much work, or something (I'm rubbish at this whole Erasmus thing). But there has been Halloween, which was an odd night - I was dressed as 'Grease Background Dancer #42', or something equally as uninspiring. Oh and we went out and I had to wear this classic top: 

I've done other stuff too, mostly eating, of course, but I can't remember what...

I'll leave it there as I don't want to bore you further. That, and I've been eating pick and mix whilst writing this and I've started to feel sick.

Hasta... la semana que viene (espero...)! 


Learning, Teaching, and Accidental Insomnia

As promised, I'm going to describe to you the exciting world of university, and by that I mean what I actually do with my day, when I'm not asleep or drinking PG Tips by the bucket.


You probably already know I'm at the Universidad de Zaragoza (any excuse to pretend I know Spanish words...) and I'm studying English - just English - for a year. If you didn't, I'm going to assume you're new here, because that's literally all I've banged on about for the past eleven posts. Either way, I have to read lots of books, to which I think I've developed some sort of aversion, and just sit and listen to people talk in depth about them. This semester, I'm doing North American Lit, Old English, The English Novel, and Literature and Cinema, so it's not all bad, not a lot of subjects. Old English though, is an absolute killer - I'm not even joking. The class only started properly this week and I've truly never been more confused/interested in anything ever, suffice it to say, you can't blag a language. 

In other uni news, I finally finally enrolled yesterday, so I'm an actual student in Spain. Not that it means I understand how to log on to anything, or do anything actually useful to my degree, but they know I'm here now. If it weren't for my lack of Spanish, I'd be rocking about on moodle, or writing this in the library by now, but no.

Oh God. I taught a poor, unsuspecting 12-year old English the other day. I hadn't a clue what I was doing at all. It was a right shambles. I just spent an hour going 'So... do you, er, play any instruments?', 'Do you like films?', 'Which films?', 'Oh, what's it about?'. It was absolutely shocking, but I'm going back next week, when I'm going to have an extra girl to teach, and then straight after, I'm going to teach their neighbours English too! I'm going to have to make lesson plans or something. I'd swear but I'm far too polite... 

Not Sleeping
I can only sleep for about two and a half hours - from 20:30 to about 23:00. Please send help.


The Trials and Tribulations of an English Student in Spain

Hola! Long time no see, avid readers! 

Of course scheduled blogging will resume shortly, but the past few weeks have been a bit up in the air, so when everything settles down, I'll actually explain to you what I'm doing in uni, what the uni's like, etc., etc. But until then, it's been three weeks since I last blogged, and I feel I should at least explain to you my views of EspaƱa.


Firstly, it's not England, and it's not similar to England. It might sound stupid, but no, it's not the same place and they don't have the same things. I've got used to the fact that pretty much everywhere's shut between 2pm and 4pm; I've accepted that nowhere sells cheddar or proper sausages; I've accepted that all milk is UHT. Unfortunately though, I lament these things every time I try to go shopping at about 2:30pm and all can thing about eating is a sausage sandwich with a cup of tea made with real milk. I know you'll probably already know this, but once you're out here, it becomes ever more real - partly because that's what most students from the UK and Ireland talk about whenever a conversation trails off, that, or the weather (we timed it the other day and it turns out we could hold a conversation about the weather for over 7 minutes, I'd say it's a different story for a different time, but that's literally the story - no, I don't know why it happened either). 

I'll bring up the issue of the language barrier too, and by that I mean, I can't speak Spanish. All my classes are in English, all the people I speak to regularly speak English as a first language, and all my flatmates speak Spanish to each other. Subsequently, I can blag conversations about cleaning, food, and going out, like, I'm starting to worry everyone I live with thinks I'm obsessed with food, never clean and always have a hangover because I'm constantly in the kitchen going 'Tengo una resaca... Necesito comida pero no tengo comida... Necesito limpiar mi habitacion...', which I feel well highlights the fact I only know three verbs: need, have, clean. But oh well! I also know useful words, like dustpan - recogedor - and kerb - bordillo. I don't know how I haven't caused some international incident with my clear lack of understanding of every situation I've been in.

Being an English student in Spain, every little bit of Spanish culture that you absorb makes you feel that tiny bit more 'cultured' (I was going to say European, but I'm aware there'll probably be a backlash of people going 'BUT ENGLAND'S IN EUROPE, WOULD YOU PREFER US TO BE AMERICAN?!', thus 'cultured'). One of the few things I've taken on board - in a big way - is a siesta. I truly don't know what I'm going to do when I go home. It'll get to about 3, and my body will start to shut down, and I have to have a sleep. But it's never just a cheeky nap, it's always a proper 2-hour sleep. I know that's not a proper siesta, but yeah... I like sleep.

There are other things I could tell you, but I have to actually do some work. But this has been lovely, and we should definitely do this again some time! 
Hasta luego!


The First Two Weeks: No Entiendo y No More Tequila

Hola! Long time no see!

I'll give you a basic run down of what's been going on in Zaragoza in list form, so I don't bore you like I did with my last post.

Somewhere near Barcelona from the sky!

Finding a flat
I've found a flat. I'm in it now and everything. It's been a bit awkward because we haven't had a completely finished kitchen, so I've been surviving off cheese sandwiches for ages. But the flat's really nice and my flatmates are lovely so yeah. Excellent.

I've eaten too much cheese recently and I've gone right off it.

Stood outside the local castle. Standard.

Learning Spanish
Well, I've been taking lessons, but I can't actually understand it. I've just been speaking Spanglish to Spanish people in a desperate attempt to make them understand me. They don't. I've only just managed to understand the women in the shops when they try to make me buy extra stuff.

Tequila y Cerveza
They're usually the cheapest drinks when you're out. You need to know this. I don't like either yet I feel like I've drank my weight in tequila since I've been here (but that may only be because it gives me terrible hangovers). And, unlike in England, they don't do offers on vodka and mixers. Bit awkward when that's your standard drink, but even so!

Harrassing People
You know how I'm Awkward McAwkwardson? (Yeah, I know, everyone does...) Well, I've had to socialise. Stop laughing. Stop laughing all of you - even you in the back - it's not funny. Well it is. But shush now. But yeah, the past week or so has just resulted in me standing awkwardly with different groups of people, and seeming very mean, as it seems sarcasm doesn't translate well. No one seems offended mind, but even so, it's a bit of a culture shock when you have to come across as an interesting person when you're really not.

I'll write more when I can find the energy/am not ill/it's earlier than midnight.
Hasta luego!


Hernias, Hospitals, and Year Abroad Nightmares

As I begin to write this, it's 16:58 on Wednesday, 29th August 2012. I'm surrounded by piles of clothes, half-filled suitcases, and the time of my hospital appointment scribbled down in my new academic diary. The hospital appointment in question is with a consultant, who will tell me if I need surgery on the hernia which was discovered earlier today, when I had an ultrasound scan. The consultant in question will be the third doctor I will have seen today.

I found this on Pinterest and thought it was quite apt... 

Anyway, I'll start from the beginning...

It all began the other weekend, when I was a bit ill. Long story short, I got better but I still had this constant pain in my leg that just wouldn't go away, like, I couldn't get comfortable sitting down (my favourite thing) so I thought something needs to be done. So, I rang up the doctors last week to see if I could get an appointment with my Doctor, but of course, when I registered with the Doctor at Edge Hill, they completely re-registered me there. According to the NHS, my Doctor is a person I've never met in an unknown (to me) medical centre. I managed to get an appointment with a nurse practitioner (a nurse who can perform diagnoses/prescribe antibiotics and things) and she thought I had an infection, because I had to wee in a cup and something wasn't right there; I was given antibiotics, and got my blood taken. This was Friday 24th. Obviously the following weekend was a Bank Holiday, but my bloods were put through the system as 'urgent' and I got the result back yesterday, on Tuesday 28th. 

Basically, my blood is fine. No sign of anything wrong there. I was, however, told to go back in the same day as this infernal pain hadn't gone away (so obviously it wasn't an infection, as I'd been religiously taking antibiotics), and the nurse got a doctor, because she couldn't think what it could be. This doctor was then hauled in and poked around saying 'Right, can you cough for me? ... and again? ... and again?', after which he said 'Right. It feels like a hernia. We can arrange an ultrasound for when you come back from Spain, if that's alright?' to which I replied 'Er... I'm going to Spain for a year'. The Doctor then goes 'You're going to Spain for a year? On Thursday?', 'Yep', 'Do you have any private health insurance, because you'll need an ultrasound as soon as possible?'. At this point, I told him I'd go and get my mum and ask, so I bob out to Mum, who's sat in the waiting room, and I'm grinning (nervous laughter) and my mum says 'So, what have they said?' and I just went 'Er. The Doctor wants to talk to you, I might have a hernia.'. To cut down this bit, basically, we have private health insurance through my dad's work, so we had to ring around literally every private hospital in the area trying to find someone who could fit me in for an ultrasound, whilst waiting for a letter from this doctor, saying that I needed one. 

This too...

Now to today: I was woken up by my dad this morning shouting 'BECCA! GET UP, YOU'VE GOT AN APPOINTMENT AT 11:00!', so me, Mum and Dad piled in the car (me with a litre of Evian because you've got to have a full bladder for an ultrasound - the worst thing in the world when you have someone putting pressure there) and basically, I have a hernia. We get told then, by the radiologist, that I'll have to find a consultant, and, as we're insured, we rang up the company who told us, before they could find us a local consultant, we'd have to get a letter of referral from the Doctor (as in a GP). We then rang up the doctors, who said they'd see what they could do, and that they'd ring us back when they'd got the letter. About an hour later, we decided to go into the doctors, as they hadn't rang us back. 

It's about 13:25 at this point. Me and Dad go up to the receptionist - a very sullen, unhelpful woman, I may add - at the doctors, who tells us that it isn't normal practice to write a referral for someone who doesn't yet have a consultant to send it to. We then explained the situation. She said she'd speak to the emergency Doctor, but he wasn't back until 14:00, so we would have to hang fire, and so we sat in the waiting room for about 35 minutes. We finally saw the Doctor walk in (we knew who he was because he was my Doctor when I was younger) and saw the receptionist disappear into the back. After five minutes though, she hadn't come back out. Being the inquisitive folk we are, Dad and I walked over to the counter and asked a different receptionist what was going on. This other receptionist was really helpful as we'd spoken to him the night before, and had remembered who I was and everything. He also told us that the first receptionist had arranged an appointment for the Doctor. But obviously she hadn't told me and Dad: y'know, the ones actually waiting for the Doctor to speak to us/someone to tell us what was going on. We spoke to this Doctor, who also said it wasn't common practice, but after about 20 minutes we managed to convince him to write us a letter. 

Since then, we've managed to arrange an appointment with a consultant for 19:30 this evening at a hospital in Cheadle. The consultant who can make or break the Spanish dream. The one who decides whether it's Spain or surgery. Nervous doesn't even begin to cover it.

Want to find out what happened to me...? 


So Much To Do, So Little Time...


As I've said in previous posts, I'm not in the best health. I know what you're thinking: 'Becca, once you'll get out there, you'll be fine! Life will be easy and exciting and you will love it!'. Unfortunately, kind readers, I'm on antibiotics and I have another appointment at the Doctors in an hour and a half. I'm going to Spain on Thursday. Two days away. Subsequently, I'm terrified and haven't begun to pack properly yet (I'm half expecting to go to the doctors today and for them to cry 'GET YOURSELF TO THE HOSPITAL. YOU'RE VERY ILL. THEN WE SHALL OPERATE ON YOU AND YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO GO ON A PLANE BECAUSE OF ALTITUDE. WHY DIDN'T WE CATCH THIS RARE DISEASE BEFORE?').

Anyway, I'm basically living in a blind panic and thought I should share it with you. Please send good thoughts my way and hope that I don't end up bedridden by tomorrow. 



10 Days and Counting!


How are we? Well? Good to hear. I, however, am not. I think I've mentioned my constant bad luck in another post (if I haven't, well, now you know). Anyway, I've not been on top form for about 4 days. I know, right? I can't tell if it's because of stress or because I'm actually unwell, but either way I'm not well and I'm going to Spain very soon. Oh heck.

In other news, I've been spending the rest of my time desperately trying to learn to speak Spanish, finding places to live, and seeing people. Not that wild. This time next week though, the suitcase will be out and I'll be scared to death...

Oh and, my loan went into my account today by the way. YESSSSSS!


Hotel Bookings and the Harrassment of Strangers


Hola! Remember about 3 hours ago when I told you to expect more posts? I'm not going to disappoint you, kind readers. Here's another riveting installment of 'Rebecca "Socially Awkward" Pollard blunders through her preparation for a year in Spain'.

Anyway, I'm going to Spain with my Dad. Not forever, he's coming out for a week with me because I can't function on my own (well, I can, but I'm not going to deny help when looking for a flat), and, as I'm moving to Spain without anywhere to live at first, a hotel had to be booked. To a normal person, the booking of a hotel can be done in a matter of minutes whereas for me and Dad, it has truly taken about two weeks. Well, I say two weeks, what I mean is me sitting down at my laptop two weeks ago and completely forgetting why I actually went on it, then going on facebook/tumblr/twitter. It was only on Sunday when my Dad said 'right, shall we book a hotel today?' that I actually started looking. And look I did; he came home from work tonight and I presented him with a list of hotels within 4 miles of where I'm hoping to live, he presented me with the name of one. After almost two hours of staring at the computer screen saying 'well, this one doesn't say the wifi's free but then the other one doesn't have  parking...' we finally settled on one. And of course it was the one Dad had seen in the first place. But then again, I think they do cake and tortillas for breakfast. All my favourite things in one place. (Cake and tortillas, and also CAKE AND TORTILLAS).

The 'Harrassment of Strangers' part of the title comes from something I believe only people going to study abroad without anyone they know can actually understand. I'm trying to find a flatmate. In England, if I didn't know who I was going to be living with, it would be fine and dandy because chances are the flatmate would speak English and I could at least make some conversation. However, in a country where I cannot speak the language, I'm having to basically harrass strangers to live with me. Which I've only done once. Today.
Basically, there's a group on faceyb for incoming Erasmus students to Zaragoza, and I keep seeing loads of Italians writing on it, asking for a flatmate. I only have a GCSE in Italian, and to be quite honest, I can't remember most of it. Long story short, I just wrote about my situation on this group and someone commented saying that they were looking in the same place, and just out of the blue, my brain pounced and wrote (a more normal, but still what I consider weird, considering I have never met this girl) 'DO YOU WANT TO LIVE TOGETHER PLZ?!!!!!'. As I said before, I'm very awkward. Very, very, very awkward. I've full on spent the past half an hour after writing that thinking 'Oh God I'm going to have no friends ever oh what have I done why am I so openly weird'. But yeah. That's the situation, and I sincerely hope someone else can relate to this or I've just put myself out there as a massive freaky freak freak.

Anyway, muchos besos, etc.!


Let's Have A Quick Catch-Up


It's been a while, hasn't it? I know you've been missing out on my incessant ramblings (as though I think you care about what I say), but come, gather round, dear Internet, and let me tell you about what's gone on in the last 25 days. 

We'll begin with the fact that I'm no longer living in the social hub that is Ormskirk. I moved back home on the day of my last post, but obviously didn't let you know. I'm still WAITING FOR MY DEPOSIT BACK (written in capitals in case my old landlords happen to be reading this...), but returning back to mi familia is always good. I haven't cooked my own tea in weeks! The rest of that week was basically quick preparation for my holiday (we went to Devon and Cornwall on Saturday 7th for 2 weeks) and really had absolutely nothing to do with Spain. My logic was 'well... there's still nearly 2 months left'.
Upon returning from my holiday - complete with grazes on my arms from bodyboarding and an anklet with BELLS ON!!!!!! - I thought 'right, time to get fit, lose weight, get organised'. Unfortunately, Saturday 21st July (the day we came home) also happened to be my birthday, so the next two days were filled with constantly eating birthday cake and junk food, and then, of course, the birthday night out. I'd post a photo, but I don't want you to start to cry at the mass of terrible faces I pull. We don't need to know THAT much about each other. Yet.

The past few days have seen the Zaragoza prep pick up though. I've been looking for hotels for when I go out there (I'm looking for somewhere to live while I'm there as opposed to signing a contract before I've actually seen the places irl). I've found one which looks too good to be true: it looks proper horrible from the outside - on Google Maps - but inside, according to the hotel website, the room's look excellent and yeah. This hotel lark is muchos confusing.
In other news, I got an email today saying I'm defo on an intensive Spanish course, and I'll get more information on that sooon! I have absolutely no knowledge of Spanish/Spanish culture so I reckon this course is going to be a massive wake-up call... Oh well!

Oh, I believe the Olympics should get a mention. Did you see the Opening Ceremony? BEST. THING. EVER. If you aren't from the UK and you didn't understand what happened, you should know that it was potentially the most British thing I have ever seen in my life. I've never been more proud to be British.

I think that's all I've done recently, but expect my blogging to increase dramatically over the next few weeks because I move out there IN LESS THAN A MONTH AAAAAAAH!!!!


Zaragoza Preparations #1



I've been a busy bee guys and gals. A busy, busy bee.
I'm spending a year abroad at the Universidad de Zaragoza (pronounced tha-ra-go-tha - the 'th' is the same as in 'the') on the Erasmus scheme. I'm so excited and so so so scared. It's going to be excellent. However, there's a lot to do...

Firstly, there were all of the forms I had to fill in, which included sending my dad to the bank to find out what routing was for my Erasmus grant. Then there was actually choosing my modules (I chose 6 for my second year had I been staying in England; I had to choose 10 for Spain...) which took forever. After registering with the actual university though, I thought 'great, it's all plain sailing from here!' It hasn't been.
Trying to convince Student Finance (oh, you've had issues with them too? How surprising!) that I'm actually studying abroad took a letter from my university, which they processed 3 weeks later, and, literally earlier today, they replied with two letters: another form that the university needs to fill in and my final loan total. Two lessons have been learnt from this though: 1, Being an Erasmus student for a full academic year means no tuition fees! 2, Try to get everything sorted out as early as possible (I have done this to the best of my ability, but seriously?! I should be finished by now, working out what I should be taking with me!!)
There was also the matter of renewing my passport, my new photo is now me on a rather sweaty day in May with massive frizzy hair, but don't worry guys, I only have it for another 10 years of my life. Ten. Whole. Years. I've been advised by my uni to register it with the Foreign Office's Locate system, so they know where I am/in case I'm involved in a foreign incident. I've seen Eurotrip, I might end up causing an international crisis. I have an EHIC though, so that's one less thing to worry about.
Now, however I need to focus on this (almost) exhaustive list before I leave in September:
  • Finding somewhere to live
  • Learning Spanish
  • Getting travel insurance (which covers things like skiing, or diving, etc. - you never know!)
  • Booking flights
These are exciting times, my friend, exciting times indeed.