(Here's some personal writing about what made me stay and teach English in Seville).
“Whatever you do,” said my mum as I left for Seville, “don’t come back
with a Spanish wife.”
I brushed her off and laughed, after all, I’d only planned on teaching
English in Seville for a year or two. I was unaware just how much my life was
about to change.
|The Moat in Plaza España|
Seville was nothing like I’d expected. I arrived in 2005 at the end of
August (a month before the school term started) and headed straight to the main
square behind the fourth largest cathedral in the world. I sat on a bench under
a weeping orange tree to shade from the blistering sun and counted the four
dongs coming from the Giralda tower. Where is everyone? I thought, scanning the
desolate square. A group of red faced tourists wandered over to the fountain
and splashed their faces. A horseman whistled and pointed at his empty
carriage. The tourists walked on, the horseman went back to his siesta. How was
I going to live in such a dull place?
Within forty-eight hours I’d found a place to live in a shared flat in
Triana, one of the most traditional barrios
– neighborhoods - in Seville, and a month’s work teaching an adult intensive
course. I found the flat on mundoanuncio and the job by walking round to a few language
academies with my CV.
“Seville is the best city in the world,” my first student told me. “The
weather, the people, there is so much to do, and the food is delicious.” I was
wary though. The almost 50 degree heat was suffocating, I couldn’t understand
my bossy Spanish flat mate’s strong Andalucía accent, and I’d already seen the
Cathedral, the Royal Palace; the Alcazar, and a tacky museum at the top of the
Tower of Gold.
After living an adventure while travelling the world and teaching in
Ecuador, Brazil, Australia, and Thailand I was unsure Seville was for me.
“Don’t worry mum,” I said over the phone after a couple of weeks. “I
don’t think I’ll be staying long.”
Towards the middle of September the temperature dropped to a comfortable
40, and the tanned locals began to drift back from the beaches and livened up
the city. I was slowly picking up Spanish and was also offered three months
My wife says it was love at first sight, but I’m not so sure. To start
with, she was late to class. As an Englishman I like my students to be
punctual. I’d begun my first lesson with a new group and she burst through the
door and interrupted my momentum. That wasn’t all she interrupted.
We both felt attraction during that first lesson. For me it was her
smile and the cute way she went red when she spoke English. For her it was my
light brown wavy hair and strange London accent; I was exotic compared to the
usual Spanish men. By the end of the first week sparks were flying. Shy of
asking her out directly, I invited the whole class for drinks. Only she and
another female student turned up. Thursday night drinks became a regular thing,
and she was always there.
The first time we went out alone was Halloween. I took a mask and my
camera and we sat in a flamenco bar looking at photos from my round the world
trip. For someone who had never left Andalucía, she was in awe of my adventures.
I didn’t know at the time, but she’d always wanted an English boyfriend.
We hung out together at the weekends. She took me round all the tapas
bars to feast on the variety of Spanish dishes. Her homemade tortilla de patatas – Spanish omelet was
the best though. She taught me how to dance salsa, or at least hold on to her
while she spun round me. My favorite moments were while we were sitting in the
cafés, or chilling on the benches by the River Guadalquivir, teaching each
other Spanish and English. That’s where
we really bonded. That’s when we fell in love.
Should I stay or should I go?
Despite being in love, I was unhappy living in Seville. After travelling
the world I found it too claustrophobic and unvaried. The academy I was working
for didn’t give me a proper contract, the day was long, and wages were barely
enough to get by. I felt like a guiri
– foreigner - and couldn’t really get to grips with the society. I found
Sevillano people narrow-minded and a few times I got short changed in shops or
charged extra in restaurants.
I missed my family too and part of me wanted to return to England. It
was a bit awkward teaching a student I was crazy about too; we had to keep it secret
from the boss. When her course finished we were relieved as we didn’t have to
sneak about anymore. I was offered six months more work and we decided to give
it a go.
|A paso in Semana Santa|
Getting to know her family and culture
To begin with her family was hard to crack. Her parents saw me as a
wandering Englishman trying to steal their baby. As my Spanish improved we were
able to chat more, but I really got to know them during Seville’s religious
festival; Semana Santa – Holy Week.
At first I thought the event was bizarre. During the week before Easter,
each of the city’s fifty brotherhoods walk a penitence from their church to the
cathedral and back again. Some brotherhoods have as many as 2,000 followers;
all dressed in long capes and tall pointy hats, and can walk for up to ten
hours. Each paso – procession - has
their own unique uniform and style and some are accompanied by loud musical
brass bands. The most impressive part is seeing thirty or forty of the members
carry their Christ or Virgin on huge heavy stages around the city. They have
the equivalent to 40 kilos on their backs.
After two days of watching the festival with my girlfriend and her
brother I was bored, confused, and a bit daunted by such a radical change to
the city. I enjoyed the loud music and smell of incense, but the tight crowds
and waiting around were a bit annoying, especially as I didn’t really
understand what was going on.
When my girlfriend’s dad came and explained the history and reasons
behind the festival in more detail and how each paso depicted a moment leading up to Jesus’ death, I became more
interested. The day of the family’s paso
was emotional for everyone and after witnessing the father and one brother
participate I saw just how important the event was for them.
“You never know,” said her father. “You might do it one year.”
“What me?” I said, laughing. “I doubt it somehow.”
My girlfriend and I bonded even more after a trip back to England for my
uncle’s wedding. It was her first time on a plane and my family welcomed her
with open arms. She was bewildered and amazed by London. We began to get
Part two will be out next Tuesday...
Labels: giralda, stories about Sevilla, teaching in Seville, tefl Sevilla, TEFL Spain, travel sevilla