Valencia, I have arrived!

I am in Valencia! I hadn’t even realised how fast time had flown since my last blog over a month ago (sorry about that). The truth is that it is so easy to get caught up in enjoying spending time exploring and meeting new people that I’ve just decided to go with it, rather than write about it. Compared to living in Moraira, Valencia is just a whole new world as there are always things to do and people to meet and talk to… It has made me realise how much I love being surrounded by people!

Los becarios! (the interns!)

Los becarios! (the interns!)

Firstly I’ll discuss the main reason that I am actually here… Work! I am still working for the same company as I was in Moraira, but I am in the central office so rather than being alone in an office all day I am surrounded by a great team of people. By far the best thing about working here is the lack of responsibility that I have in comparison to in Moraira because there I was basically in charge as my supervisor hardly ever visited. Here, however, I am definitely treated more like an intern as there are clearly people in much higher positions than I am, and I’m never left completely in charge which after a whole summer of it; it is a very welcomed change!

Before I even started university I had decided that I wanted to spend my year abroad in Valencia after spending a day here on a Spanish exchange. I have definitely not been disappointed as Valencia is such a beautiful city with its incredible architecture from the old town and the cathedral, to the very modern and exciting Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias. The atmosphere is really welcoming and I already feel like I could live here forever (sorry, Mum) as unlike many cities, this one feels so safe – even at night.

La Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias

La Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias

After spending the whole summer skyping several times a week to talk to people from home and university, it is so nice to spend the next four months with one of my best friends from university, Susannah. Neither of us knew that we’d both applied to the same job in the same city, but it has worked out so well as we get on like a house on fire and it turns out that we have a lot in common from liking the same food and music, to occasionally accidently dressing the same (oops!). Before we came, a lot of people assumed that it wouldn’t be good for our language skills to be living and working with a friend from home, but we actually spend a lot of time talking (and singing) in Spanish, unless we are both exhausted from work!

I have done so much in the past month that it would be impractical to mention all of it but I’ll do my best… In my first week I definitely got stuck into typical Spanish life by eating both tapas and paella in my first two days in Valencia! Within my first few hours here I think I spoke to more people than I had all summer which made a nice change. The multi-culturalism here amazing! I have friends from all sorts of countries such as Ukraine, Lebanon, Belgium and Guatemala and so we tend to talk in a mixture of English and Spanish, which is fine by me… Spanglish is a legitimate language, right?! Since being here I have obviously visited the beach several times, I have explored the Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias and I’ve been to Erasmus-organised nights such as a language exchange where we got into a really deep conversation about the Valencian language/dialect – a topic on which many people have controversial opinions.12042902_10204979891072348_8091741127539413154_n

It is fair to say that my year abroad is definitely living up to and exceeding expectations – never in a million years did I imagine that I would feel so comfortable living abroad away from my family! Yes, occasionally I do feel major FOMO when I’m getting good or bad news from home or seeing all my friends from university going back there. For example, this weekend is the final round of my dad’s motocross championship which he is currently leading and I would absolutely love to be there to cheer him on and see him win overall, but I know that there are plenty of people there to do that for me and I wouldn’t change the opportunity to be out here for anything!

So until the next time that I stop long enough to write down what I’ve been doing, I hope everyone is doing okay!

Hasta pronto!

xxx

Time is flying!

Well time has definitely flown since my last update! I only have three more weeks left here in Moraira and I can’t believe how quick this summer has gone… I’ll have finished my year abroad before I know it.

Work has been non-stop throughout August and so every day flies by with arrivals of clients and the maintenance of all our apartments. Saturdays in particular have proven to be challenging as this is the changeover day with both departures and arrivals – all of which I have to oversee. The majority of our clients are lovely, however occasionally we have clients who seem to expect five-star treatment, and a receptionist who is fluent in every European language. This has taught me so much though; I now know that as long as I smile and pretend I am okay with being insulted in a variety of languages, it gets better!
My language skills have improved so much since I’ve been here! I understand the majority of what people say to me, even if I can’t reply to the same level. A little tip for all year abroad students – keep a vocab log. I know everyone says it, but you acquire so much new language, especially if you choose to work, and it really helps to have a log of all the words you learn.

Yes, I taught mum to take a mirror selfie!

Yes, I taught mum to take a mirror selfie!

One of the nicest things that happened in this month was my mum’s spontaneous trip to see me. It was so lovely to have her visit a place that I now know fairly well and for her to see that I am happy and safe. Spending time alone is something we never get to do much (unless it involves watching Holby City on a Tuesday!) because both our lives are normally so busy with work/uni/social lives so to have her to myself for 5 days was the best feeling ever. Her visit made me see Moraira through new eyes as she saw even more beauty to the town than I have and it has made me desperate to stay just a little longer than the 3 weeks I have remaining.

This month really has been about exploring the beauty of Moraira and the surrounding area. A few weeks ago I took a boat trip with some friends to see the annual firework display in Altea (supposedly the best in the area). On the way I saw some amazing views of the Costa Blanca coastline – a world away from the famous Costa Blanca resort of Benidorm! There is so much that I would love to explore but I just don’t have the time… So I’ll just have to return!

Some of the amazing fireworks (Photo Credit: Lauren Gabrielle)

Some of the amazing fireworks (Photo Credit: Lauren Gabrielle)

Equally, the firework display was incredible, and being able to watch them from a boat rather than being on dry land was a whole new experience. We were surrounded by many other boats from nearby harbours which had come to see the fireworks and it just made the atmosphere so special.

Last week I finally explored the El Portet part of Moraira – a gorgeous hidden gem of this town. It is only a 10-15 minute walk away from my apartment but I had just never found a reason to visit. Again, I went with a friend who showed me hidden beaches and incredible views that I probably wouldn’t have found on my own. Safe to say, I will definitely be returning to El Portet before I leave, if anything to look at the extremely expensive houses that it boasts!

Me with El Portet in the background

Me with El Portet in the background.

So that is a quick recap of what’s been going on recently on my year abroad – it doesn’t seem two minutes since I landed in Spain, and now I have nearly finished my first placement! I hope Valencia doesn’t fly by as I want to do as much as possible in my favourite city!

Until next time,
Hannah xxx

Fiesta, Fireworks and Friends!

Hello everyone!

It has been a phen-emma-nal, re-bec-ulous and spont-han-eous few weeks and I have so much to write about so I’m going to try and cut it down… maybe!

Moraira had almost 2 weeks of fiesta fun to celebrate various Catholic traditions and saints, in particular, the patron saint of fishermen. So in the week before I had visitors, Maria had told our boss that we were taking Wednesday 15th July off because it was fiesta (although she really just wanted a day to relax!) so in the evening we went down to the beach to watch some truly incredible fireworks. The fireworks were accompanied by The Circle of Life and You’ll Be In My Heart which just made them a gazillion times better and made me super emotional because… well, Disney!

Fireworks to Disney songs!

Fireworks to Disney songs!

Fireworks over the sea!

Fireworks over the sea!

The following night there were more fireworks after a procession which saw the Virgin Mary take a ride on a boat to honour the fishermen of Moraira.  These fireworks were also incredible as they took place IN THE SEA (!) and made the whole of the shoreline look simply beautiful!

From Friday 17th July I had guests!!! Emma and Becci (Musicalilasses) came to visit me and we all squashed into my little apartment! We had a crazy week which is how the made up words came about – from phen-emma-nal fireworks to re-bec-ulous roadtrips and spont-han-eous calamari it was a brilliant week. So here’s a ‘little’ recap of what we got up to…

DAY 1: We were all exhausted on the first day so we decided to have a fairly chilled evening. We went down to the harbour where we had tapas, including the most delicious calamari, so it was an excellent start to our adventures. Then, I showed them around the main beach area of Moraira so we could all have a walk along the edge of the sea. We sat down to watch a non-magic magic show (it turned out to be a comedian) on the harbour wall before deciding that we should just go to bed as none of us understood it!

DAY 2: I was working all day on the Saturday so Emma and Becci just beached, pooled and siesta’d during the day. In the evening we went to the seaside town of Javea for their annual Moros y Cristianos fiesta. This consisted of a parade down the main streets where the participants wore the most intricate and beautiful costumes I have ever scene to demonstrate the battle of the Moors and the Christians in Iberia between 700s and 1492.

Just a sample of the costumes

Just a sample of the costumes

Everything felt alive as there were about 15 live brass bands following each Christian and Moorish groups as well as horses, camels and the most adorable little children!
After the parade we stumbled across another demonstration that I can only describe as Death playing with fireworks! There were several people dressed like death-eaters (hello Harry Potter reference) waving some crazy fireworks around and pulling the public around the main square leading us to a final firework display. Throughout the whole evening all three of us kept having ‘moments’ where we’d realise that yes, we were in Spain and the most bizarre things kept happening (like Death playing with fireworks).

DAY 3: MY DAY OFF! This was my favourite day of the week as I didn’t have to work! During the day we relaxed by sunbathing, drinking sangria on my balcony and having a much needed siesta. Then we returned to Javea in the evening for the finale of the fiesta, so we watched a bit of the parade again before deciding to eat some spont-han-eous calamari which was wonderful! We then watched the end of the parade where a horse got a tinsy bit out of control so we had to back up to avoid being trampled (another bizarre moment). To finish the evening off there was another incredible firework display on the beach where we were so close that we actually got hit by falling debris… That definitely wouldn’t be allowed in England!

DAYS 4,5,6: As I am aware of my rambling I’m going to keep this short and sweet. I was back at work on the Monday so Becci and Emma headed off the Valencia which they absolutely loved, even if they were back 3 hours later than planned – note to selves: always take the toll road! These three evenings were really chilled as Becci introduced Emma and me to the wonders of Galavant and we sat drinking sangria on the balcony. On the Tuesday night we decided to watch a bull run which is supposedly the most gentle of the different bull events, but I think we all decided that we still felt sorry for the bulls involved, and so it wasn’t something we’d go back to watch… But it was an experience!

DAY 7: This was our last full day together so whilst I was working Emma and Becci had a chilled day of being horizontal and eating (yes, I was jealous!). In the evening we went to a restaurant for the most delicious paella and wine before heading to the beach for a late night stroll to finish off what had been a spectacular week!

All in all these past two weeks have been nothing like I imagined they would be! I have felt so at home in Moraira and having friends here made me see that even though I’m here and they’re in England, I am not cut off from anyone! Even though I am still white, I’m definitely becoming more tanned (or that might be more freckles) and the heat is definitely a lot easier to deal with now!

I hope everyone back in England is having a wonderful summer, miss you all lots!

Until next time,
Hannah xxx

The English Rose

As I am currently half-a-week into my year abroad where I have come to the most beautiful sea-side town of Moraira, near Alicante, I thought I’d write my first blog!

I’d always assumed that going to a different country wouldn’t be any different to moving away to uni, but I was so wrong! This week has been super tough realising that it isn’t as easy to just hop on a plane to come home as it is to catch a train… However, constant whatsapping/facebooking/skyping has helped me so much since Wednesday as I still know that all my friends and family are just a click away!

The work I do here at the moment is difficult because of the language – I am very good at reception work and generally being organised, but put it into a different language and it becomes a whole lot harder. Every day I have to speak to Spaniards/Germans/French/Russians in person and on the phone and try and understand what they want… I’d always thought my Spanish was fairly good (I mean, I have been studying it for a long time) but put me in a work situation and all I seem to say is “¿qué?” and “más despacio por favor”. However, I know that even in the few days I have been here my language skills have improved and I am already becoming more confident… bring on the next 7 months!
I haven’t spoken French since A-Level, but yesterday I had a client who only spoke French and German and as I don’t know any of the latter, I had to try to communicate in French! I didn’t realise how much I still knew as I understood most of what she was saying and actually managed to stutter out a few phrases to help her… However I then spent the next hour speaking a mixture of Spanish, English and French (we’ll call it Spanglench) as I was so confused!!

Moraira itself is absolutely gorgeous with beautiful scenery and sea-views that are to die for! Even if I’ve had a tough day at work I know that I can wander 200 yards down the road and be at the seafront which really reminds me of being at home (although the sea in Morecambe Bay is definitely a lot murkier haha) and makes me feel a whole lot better!

Looking out to the port

Looking out to the port

On this incredibly warm (37°C) Sunday afternoon I decided to visit an English bar/café called Oona’s just down the road from my apartment where I sat for 3 hours writing postcards and watching the Silverstone GP where Lewis Hamilton won!!! I know it sounds super soppy but I think its allowed because I’ve just left home but hearing the national anthem when he won actually brought tears to my eyes and made me realise how much I love England and being ‘la blanca’ as all the Spaniards call me!

As I plan on going to the beach before tea I need to go and apply A LOT of factor 50 sun cream to stop me looking like a tomato (am I not English enough!?) so I hope you all enjoy reading this – I do not claim to be some literary genius, this is simply to keep everybody updated on my time in Moraira!

Lots of love to you all xxx