‘Caracoles en salsa’ – Snails in sauce. Mmmmm! (Google Images)
(Note: All names changed for individual’s privacy.)
The first day felt like like trying to negotiate an obstacle course whilst blindfolded and relying solely on the guidance of spectators.
Barcelona El Prat Airport at one in the morning. Bus to Gran Via. Found my hostel having no idea how the address-numbers system of the city worked (luckily I had a really kind person to help me, who I shall mention again later). A few hours sleep. Rose at eight, left hostel half an hour later. Metro back to Airport. Rendezvoused with the Representative of of the ‘CAPS Spain’ company, so I could meet with my host family, ‘Los Garcia.’ I had to wait a short time.
CAPS Spain are a company who hire Native English Speakers interested in working in Spanish schools as Conversation Assistants. The role includes preparing activities for oral classes and delivering them as an assistant to the English Teacher proper. This could mean I worked with the Teacher in the same class or that I would have to take a small group away from the rest and deliver a class by myself. In return, CAPS offered a small allowance and a Host Family, who provided all meals and the accommodation. At the time, I was very satisfied with this arrangement, which seems crazy to me now! It must have been the immersion in spanish culture I valued most.
Suddenly, my hosts had arrived. Ten minutes later, I was sitting in their car heading back into the city center, in semi awkward silence.
I had barely begun to learn Spanish. I managed some introductory ‘Hola’s and ‘Encantado’s, even a ‘Como estas?’, but nothing more. The parents, Jaime and Marcela, had a low level of English, so all communication was carried out through their daughter, Sara, who for a very young teenage girl, had an astounding level of English. I was unaccustomed to speaking with non Native English Speakers, so the fact that she understood me as I spoke at my normal pace was all the more impressive. Again, I found myself envying the ability to act as an interpreter between people of different linguistic backgrounds.
After half an hour, we arrived at their home, a very modern two storied apartment, complete with rooftop swimming pool! I met Jaime and Marcela’s other children (Sofia, Diego and Gabriela), who were extremely shy as they were quite young. I also met their Housekeeper, Angela, who had thoughtfully prepared snails for dinner. You read correctly, snails. To eat them, I had to use a toothpick to remove them from their shell. Don’t get me wrong, they were tasty, but it did feel like a ‘baptism of fire’ into the country.
‘Welcome to Spain!’ they seemed to say to me.
As I lay that night in what was to be my room for several months to come, I couldn’t help but feel there would be other times ahead when I felt like I had been offered snails to eat. (On a sidenote, I told my brother the family had ‘picked’ the snails from their garden, to his great horror and my great amusement!)