I woke up the following morning feeling a mixture of mild trepidation and excitement. My first day at school! As a teacher, of sorts. (This story may make more sense if you read parts one and two, in case you haven’t done so already. Here are the links!)
I had Kellogg’s Frosties for breakfast. I remember this because I suddenly felt very sick as I stepped onto the pavement with Sara to take the one minute walk to the school. Apparently, nerves and overdoing it on something as sweet as Frosties don’t mix very well! The thought that I could have to tell my fellow teachers that I was ill on my first day did little to settle my stomach.
Thankfully, I soon felt better. I probably didn’t have time to feel sick, as I found myself in the dimly lit school reception moments later. It was thronged with parents and children. When the children noticed my presence, they stared at me as only a child who finds something curious can do, with a mixture of ‘this person is different to us’ and shyness. I smiled a few ‘holas’ to anyone who I made eye contact with before being greeted by, I assume, the receptionist, who was expecting the arrival of a pale skinned, bewildered looking foreigner (I can’t quite remember who greeted me). She beckoned me to follow her.
We climbed up four flights of stairs to the staff room, where I met the English Teacher I would be working with. She was from Argentina and after our introduction, she in turn introduced me to the various ‘Javiers,’ ‘Beatrizes’ and ‘Marias’ of the teaching staff. I could safely bet now that, at that moment, I did not remember one of their names. They were totally different names to the ones that I was used to. Had they been called ‘John’ or ‘Larry’ or ‘Mary’ it would have been different, of course! The morning after eating snails for the first time, I was being smacked in the face with another reminder that I was no longer on familiar ground. I must admit, I felt the first pang of homesickness!
I am sure it is the same for everyone who is reading this, but as we grow older time seems to pass more quickly. Again, that day seemed to pass in a flash. I stood in front of classes for the first time introducing myself and answering questions that ranged from ‘Do you speak Spanish? (mischievous glances were passed around when I replied ‘no’) to ‘What is your favourite colour? (the younger classes). I was also asked in every class, without fail, ‘Are you of the ‘Barça?’
‘Am I what?’ I thought, when I was asked the question for the first time.
The teacher promptly corrected the question: ‘Do you support Barcelona Football Club?’
‘Aaaah’ I realised.
I summoned my most mischievous smile and professed my ‘love’ for ‘Manchester United Football Club on the spot, to all the student’s great disappointment and jeers! I remember how everyone smiled, though, when the opportunity arose to put down each others football teams. Football is a universal language! As it turned out, Barcelona and Man Utd were to meet that season, albeit many months later, in none other than the Champion’s League Final. Had I known that at the time, I would not have proclaimed Man Utd the ‘best’ team in those first few classes. I received an unmerciful slagging from every class after the final, which ‘El Barça’ won three goals to one.
I learned sometimes it is best to keep one’s mouth shut when in a foreign land!