Thursday, 27 March 2014

Downtime

My classes have been dying down recently. Last week there was a school trip and a public holiday, so I only worked 1 hour! Most of my lessons seem to be changed or cancelled these days and all of my private classes have faded out now. In a way that feels easier because with so many inconsistent classes I never know whether I'm coming or going. On the other hand, I often wonder why I'm even here. At least now I only have 1 more week of work until the Easter holidays and 5 more weeks of work after that, so I'm trying my best to hang on in there. 

Due to this I have even more free time, which I am trying to use productively by going to the gym, revising Spanish and preparing for my final year at uni, mainly my dissertation. I'm really enjoying the new gym I'm going to, which is called Women's Fitness. I don't feel like I'm being judged like I have at other gyms because there are no men, lots of the other women are beginners and overweight and the classes are relaxed. They usually don't mind if you stop for a break or change to another class. The only annoying thing is that the classes don't seem to stick to the timetable so you never really know what to expect. I think its a Melilla thing. I'm actually on a bit of health kick (or trying) and and I have discovered myfitnesspal, which is a great app for keeping count of your calories. I did enjoy riding my bike in my free time, but my neighbour was becoming irrationally irritated with it being parked in the entrance, so I've finally sold it to get her off my back.

I applied for ONE Campaign's Youth Ambassador Programme and was accepted as one of 20 ONE Youth Ambassadors from the UK.  This involves attending a Power Summit that will bring Youth Ambassadors from across Europe together in Brussels in July and receiving training on how to campaign, lobby decision-makers and talk to the media. This seemed like an ideal summer project for me, but unfortunately as I won't be based in the UK until June I had to pull out. However, they said they loved my application and encouraged me to apply again next year.


You can transport things over
the Moroccan border as long
as you can carry them...


Another basketball match



Meal out at El Caracol Moderno II


Desperate times trying to
 get my phone back.
It's locked so I figured
whoever does have it would
rather have a reward
than a useless phone


Some people may be wondering why they haven't been able to contact me recently and this is because I lost my phone last Sunday. I have no idea exactly where or how, but I think I misplaced it and somebody stole it, because it had a full battery but was switched off when someone tried to call it shortly after its loss. I've put up posters and reported it to the police, but it hasn't got me anywhere so I've bought a new phone online which will hopefully be covered by my insurance. I should have it by the first week of April. I still have my English SIM card and I've managed to cancel the Spanish SIM card that was inside the phone and get a replacement with the same number.

Most of the other English people are going home for Easter (7th-18th April), but I decided not to because I was anticipating having visitors. It turns out I'm not having visitors now, so I'm here for 2 weeks on my own with no plans and booking a flight home is too expensive, which I'm pretty peeved about. The good news is that I'm off to Fes (again) with my flatmate my flatmate this weekend and Barcelona next weekend to meet my mum and sister, which will be a nice start to the Easter holidays. The bad news is that I don't have a camera to take any photos because I always used my phone. I ordered my phone to mum's house because buying things in Spain is so expensive, so if all goes to plan she will bring it to Barcelona for me.


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Visiting Almansa and Alicante

On Thursday I went to visit my friend Amy from university, who is also an English Language Assistant. She lives in a small town called Almansa in Castile-La Mancha, which has a population of about 25,000. To get to Almansa I flew from Melilla at 8:15am and arrived in Madrid at 10am. I then flew from Madrid at 12pm and arrived in Alicante at 1pm. Then I got a bus from the airport to the bus station, which leaves every 20 minutes and costs 2,90 euros. Finally I caught a coach at 2:45pm and arrived in Almansa at 4:30pm. It was quite a long and complicated journey, but definitely worth it. It felt a bit annoying because you can only fly to Madrid, Granada, Málaga and Almería from Melilla. Although the other three destinations are located on the south coast, it would have either been expensive or taken too much time to travel from them to Almansa (which doesn't have frequent bus services). Therefore, I flew over the south coast to Madrid to catch a plane back to Alicante on the south east coast. It is possible get cheap flights from Nador airport, which is just over the the border in Morocco. However, it really depends when are where you're flying and chances are you'll be the only European on the plane.

When I arrived Amy showed me around the city and some shops. In the evening we went to Casa de la Cultura restaurant with a group of Spanish people who wanted to improve their English, which was fun and we had a lot of interesting conversations about language learning and different accents. I find it easy to understand people native to Melilla, but I struggle to understand people who have come to Melilla from the Andalusia region in southern Spain. I think I'm picking up a slight Andalusian accent, because sometimes people in Melilla don't understand unless I pronounce 'z', 'c' and 's' differently to how I was taught at university. On Friday we had another look around town and we went to a cafe where I met one of her friends. I noticed that Amy was practicing her Spanish a lot more than me, probably because she is the only English in the village! I admire her for that, because I don't think I would cope if I were in that situation. She had some private classes in the evening so I chilled at her flat and we had a film night in the evening. 











On Saturday we went to more shops and Tentaciones cafe and after the siesta we went to the castle, which seems to be the main attraction in Almansa. It didn't seem particularly safe because there were parts of the wall that were low or missing. I'm not scared of heights but I was slightly scared to climb about on this castle! To get to the very top of the castle we had to climb some spiral stairs, which was difficult because it didn't have a handrail! We felt  a bit nervous about coming back down and to our shame we bum shuffled. In the evening we went to the cinema with one of Amy's colleagues and her children to see Al Encuentro de Mr Banks (Saving Mr Banks), a film about the story behind Mary Poppins. I wasn't sure what to expect but I actually really enjoyed the film and recommend it.



I love the clear blue Spanish sky









A creepy display of old methods of torture














On Sunday we got up at 6:30am because my bus left at 7:35am. In the morning it was a shocking 2 degrees (colder than the temperature in the UK at the time) because Almansa has a different climate to Melilla and cities located on the coast are warmer. I arrived in Alicante at 8:45am and my flight wasn't until 1:45pm, so I put my suitcase in a locker at the bus station and explored the city whilst waiting. It was 16 degrees but felt hotter because it was very sunny, so I went for a walk along the promenade. I headed towards the castle, which was on the top of a massive hill. It took a while before I found the entrance, but decided against trying to climb the hill in case I got lost. Instead I walked through the town, where I eventually found the tourist office and got a map. For the last hour I retraced my steps to find all the landmarks I had missed (mostly in the old town) before heading back to the bus station to collect my suitcase and get the shuttle to the airport. To my surprise, I saw someone from my university who is living in Murcia! How strange that we were in the same place at the same time!






Castle of Santa Barbara









The central market



Plaza de los Luceros

The council






The Co-cathedral of Saint
Nicholas of Bari

The Town Hall






It took about 30 minutes to get to the airport and I even managed to grab a Subway (making the effort to speak Spanish got me loads of extra gherkins just how I like it) before boarding the flight. I arrived at Madrid at 3pm, by which point I was feeling pretty cranky because I was tired, slightly sunburnt and dehydrated. I enjoyed a frozen yoghurt (I made the most of the opportunity to eat food that I can't get in Melilla) and at 4:30pm I boarded what felt like an uncomfortable and long flight back to Melilla. When I fly outside of Europe I think sitting down for all that time will drive me a bit mad. I arrived at 6pm and got a taxi back home, where I had a catch up with my flatmate. I spent most of Sunday in the sun and several people have commented about how I've got a tan, which makes me happy.



I bought a portable phone
charger for 11 euros in a
Chinese shop,
which is so useful!


Some attempts at Spanish to English
  translation never fail to amuse me


I am surprised about how confident I feel about travelling alone these days. I remember feeling really nervous about my first train ride alone when I was 16, my first flight alone when I was 18 and my first trip to Finland alone when I was 19 (because I can only say a few useless sentences in Finnish). Now I don't really feel nervous at all. I think Maria has encouraged and inspired me, because she never seems to worry about travelling anywhere, including to Melilla even though she can't speak any Spanish.

Back at the flat everything seems to be falling apart. For all this time we haven't had a shower head bracket and have had to hold it whilst showering, however when Maria was here she found a new bracket that fitted. The door handle for the terrace fell off, but Maria managed to glue it back on. The sink became blocked, but we decided to use our initiative, so I took the pipes to bits, my flatmate cleaned them and I put them back together again. So far the kitchen hasn't flooded. When the landlord was here he didn't seem to do much about repairing the flat, except paint over the rust on the bath (which has now peeled off again). There's also been roadworks going on in the area pretty much since I arrived and now they have moved down my road for a good few weeks, which is really annoying because I can't have a lie in on my days off without being woken up.



Sunday, 2 March 2014

Becoming a Melilla tour guide

The last 2 weeks have been really lovely, as I've been spending lots of time with my new flatmate, who arrived on 16th February and Maria, who arrived a day later. Maria and I were planning to go to Granada, but decided against it because the ferry would have cost Maria lots without the resident discount, the weather hasn't been very nice recently and I've been ill. Maria brought me some vegetarian food supplies and new clothes, which made me happy because the majority of the shops here don't seem to go bigger than UK size 12 and are quite expensive even after reductions. I was also happy to receive some belated birthday presents and especially enjoyed the English sweet treats.



Presents from Amy, Maria and Jess



Presents from Fatima


During the week I was at school, which is going well because I'm not in until midday on Tuesday. However, on Monday and Wednesday I have early morning classes and afternoon classes, which is kind of annoying because I have to hang around awkwardly after the morning classes as there's not really much point walking for an hour to go home and come back. One of my classes particularly annoys me because I try to prepare fun activities, but they don't make any effort to participate even when I try to stay patient. Therefore, the teacher has stopped my lessons with them as a punishment, which they seemed to find hilarious.

Lots of people seem to be getting ill recently, so Maria and I babysat for my friend's cute toddler on Wednesday because he was too ill to go to playgroup. We also enjoyed shopping in the city centre and going around some of my favourite cafes, bars and restaurants including café Nueva California, La Cervecería, La Pérgola and Anthony's Pizzeria.









Ridiculously large cake


We went out on Friday night. One neighbour (who has been complaining about me chaining my bike in the corridor) came and complained about the 'noise' the last time when I had 2 friends over. This time she rang my landlord and the police about the 'house party' of 5 people. I think its a bit stupid really considering the amount of noise I often hear on the streets. Luckily we left just as the police were arriving and the rest of the night was good.



I bought this because it
was on offer and it looked
tasty, but I didn't actually like it!


On Sunday we went to the animal park (Parque Forestal) that I had seen when the teacher gave me a tour of the city at the end of January, but was closed. It was smaller than I had expected, but had an interesting variety of animals, including ducks, cockatiels, peacocks, turkeys and chickens, pigeons and doves, sheep and goats, wild pigs, a cow, tortoises, horses, ponies and donkeys and lots of interesting plants and flowers. Unfortunately the small animal area with rabbits and other fluffy things was closed. I was also looking forward to seeing the desert fox, but it was nowhere to be seen, so I guessed it was asleep. Afterwards we crossed the road to the normal park opposite, where there was a man with a bird of prey and many types of trees and cactuses.




















The people working in the tourist office are probably starting to think I'm a bit weird due to the amount of times I've been in and out to get maps or buy tickets for the tourist train with my family and friends. I went into the tourist office for the umpteenth time with Maria, who wanted to go on the tourist train last time, but it wasn't working. This time we managed to get tickets and I had my second ride on the tourist train and again was unable to translate the tour guide. Afterwards we went to some Moroccan shops and I bought a new bag. To my dismay, the Moroccan bags here are considerably cheaper than the prices they try to charge you in Morocco and I paid 18 euros. After paying 55 euros in Morocco for my other bag, I wish I had noticed it earlier, but at least I found my two perfect bags.





We've been having more problems with the gas and I recently discovered that instead of waiting around all day on my days off for the gas to be delivered, I can take the empty cans to the petrol station and swap them for new ones. Before this wasn't possible, because although there is a petrol station quite near, the cans are quite heavy to carry when full. However, because I had Maria and my new flatmate we all carried it home together.

On Friday night we went to a basketball game and sadly it was the first time I saw Melilla lose a game. Afterwards we went to Teteria Nazari, a Moroccan tea place which offers loads of different drinks. Everybody ordered tea and I ordered a banana and chocolate drink. When it arrived it was quite funny because everybody had tiny classes and mine was huge.





This week was the Carnival, a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent. I didn't see anything much happening until last and I thought it was perhaps because the city is largely populated by Muslims. However, in the evening Maria came across some information about a parade online, so a group of us went to see it and went for drinks afterwards.
























This is burnt at the end for
some reason



Plaza de España lit up for the celebrations


I'm sad that Maria has left, but I feel happy because I have a lovely new flatmate and next weekend I'm going to visit Amy in Almansa. I've also booked a weekend trip to Barcelona to meet my mum and sister in April and I have some friends interested in visiting in April and June. Due to all these trips and visits my bank account isn't looking as great as it was in January so I think I'm going to go easy on the spending now!