In less than two weeks’ time, I’ll be leaving Granada and boarding a Ryanair flight to Santiago de Compostela up in hilly Galicia. I can’t say that I’m not a little bit relieved.
As I made clear in my last post, Granada is a great city. It’s full of history, it’s small enough to walk everywhere but big enough to not become boring, and, perhaps best of all, most of the bars give you a free tapa with every drink. Meaning that you can basically have dinner and drinks (plural) for about €5. No, the city itself has more than exceeded my expectations; what has made my time in Granada difficult is how hard it has been to meet people.
I was, I now realise, extremely lucky in Laval. Arriving at the same time as the people doing their countries’ equivalents of British Council meant that we were all in the same boat: desperate to make friends and surrounded by people in the same mindset. The layout of the foyer meant that it was easy to organise activities after that initial awkward interaction. Six months later, I was very sad to leave what had gradually become a close group of friends.
Here, it’s very different. It’s a good job that I don’t mind my own company because I’ve ended up spending really quite a lot of time on my own. There are other volunteers in the hostel, but everyone else here has either been at the hostel for a long time or has been to Granada before and none of them really seem to want to do anything. I’m not working many hours at all and cabin fever soon sets in; taking myself off out for a coffee has, to my bank account’s dismay, become an almost daily occurrence. I discovered a particularly excellent cafe the other day that served one of the most delicious carrot cakes I’ve ever had:
and I will definitely be going back for more before leaving.
Granada is well-known for welcoming large numbers of Erasmus students, but not being one of them makes it difficult to know how to meet them. Besides, most of the students have gone home for Easter now anyway.
I’m trying: last week I went to a language exchange held in a Mexican tapas bar and I’m going to go again on Wednesday; one of my closest friends from home put me in touch with two of her friends (both of whom are absolutely lovely) and we’ve met up a couple of times, and I’m going with one of them for a day trip to a beach town tomorrow. Also, to my delight, everyone from the hostel went out together for lunch yesterday to celebrate my birthday and then, in the evening, my roommate and I went for tapas together. Clearly, the social situation isn’t totally dire, and maybe I’m being melodramatic, but the problem is that I can’t help but compare the current situation with that of Laval.
Anyway, onwards and upwards. In Santiago de Compostela I’m doing an internship with ESN Santiago, the organisation responsible for co-ordinating activities for Erasmus students at the city’s university, and I’m really hoping that the work will offer an easy way to meet people of my age.
The good news is that I’ve been putting all of the free time I’ve got on my hands to fairly good use. I’ve decided to train for Oxford half marathon in October (although am yet to take the final step of actually signing up for it…) and have been running a few times since arriving. I’ve (very) extensively walked around Granada and visited the sights and sites of the city – including, this morning, the Capilla Real, where the Reyes Católicos Isabel and Fernando are buried. Also, Friday marked my first day trip in Spain, when I went to the city of Córdoba, home of the famous Mezquita, a Catholic cathedral/Muslim mosque (yes, really) dating from the 700s.
The Mezquita’s glory is well deserved: it was, for me, the highlight of the city.
Finally, a few words about the Spanish language aspect of things. Thankfully, I can understand just about everything; speaking, however, is a completely different kettle of fish. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve automatically started speaking French, and the structure of some of my sentences is definitely questionable at best, as are many of my attempts at conjugating verbs. Perseverance is definitely the key; not only to the language side of things but, it would seem, to the whole year abroad experience.