First Day of Work at IES Heliche

The past few days were quite the adventure. After skipping out on orientation yesterday with my new friends to go explore and eat (seriously, I was ready to dive off the balcony head first, I was SO bored), I settled into my new apartment. Apparently my Spanish roommate is not here, the German girl has found a second job and is gone all day, and my apartment has been taken over by a smelly woman who is staying in Melissa’s room while her husband has surgery. After I moved all of my things in, I walked around the city. It was about 7 pm, so things were starting to get dark and the lights were coming on. Triana is amazing. This is where the gypsies and the poor fisherman once lived. It’s colorful and mysterious and almost magical. My apartment is in close proximity to a lot of things, and a walk to the bars on C/Betis takes 5 minutes. It started to rain as I walked home, but I loved getting drenched. Who said the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain? NOT TRUE!

I started my job as an auxiliar de conversation (language and conversation assistant) at IES Heliche today. I hopped on bus M270 just a few blocks from my place and rode the direct line into Olivares ( or so I thought). It’s incredible how much the city changes when you’re outside the center. The towns are all centered around a roundabout off the highway with no shoulder, and each one was a different hue – from white to yellow to burnt orange. The hills, covered in olive trees, spread out any direction, only broken by small, crumbling farmhouses. It made the trip go much faster. I asked the bus driver to let me off as close as possible to Heliche, and she slammed on the brakes (I was the only one aboard anyway) and told me, “BÁJATE, BAJATE!” So I got off and walked along the highway for a while like a campesino until I found an open cafeteria. I couldn’t understand a word the nearly toothless bartender was saying, but a very nice woman with a heavy accent was kind enough to tell me I was not even in Olivares anyway, but in Albaida. They’re next to one another, but I would need to walk a long way. So I set off, having 40 minutes to just walk up to the plaza, hang a left, wind around til I got to the health center, turn left again and go through some gates to the school. I wasn’t even two blocks away when a horn honked and the woman opened her car door and offerred to take me. She said it was obvious I was a foreigner.

I walked around the dead streets for a little while, just taking in the beautifully decorated exteriors of the white churches and the barred windows guarding “moda” inside that looked like it could have come from the 80s. I mistakenly wandered into the private gardens of some little house, thinking it was the other gate of the school since they have an extensive garden from what I’ve read. A man in a wheelchair with an even more thick accent told me I should leave, but then asked me how my day was going, so I don’t think he was mad.

At about half past 10, I followed a teacher past the gate and into the school. You’d think it was a penitentiary from the way there’s so much security! The woman had me sit on a bench next to an older man with wavy blond hair. As it turns out, Martin is the other auxiliar. He’s a forty-year old psychologist from Amsterdam, but his English and Spanish are impeccable. He’s on sabbatical until next June, kind of like myself. I just don’t know what I’m taking sabbatical from? Anyway, a wonderfully short, yet friendly lady named Nieves showed us to the English department office, a small room with just a little light and a broken computer near the school’s main entrance. Apparently our job is not what we expected (not like I went to orientation anyway…). Martin and I will be spending half of our time in the classroom helping the teachers and helping to establish an English curriculum, and the other half will be only in conversation with the teachers in a lounge. Some of the teachers will be teaching English, while the others just want to improve because the school will become bilingual in the future. I work every day but Tuesday, making travel difficult, but many of the teachers live in Sevilla and offered us rides. They’re all so nice. They make such an effort to test out their skills and are interesting in their own right. Thursdays will be my busiest day – I start at 830 am and teach/converse for three hours before the 30 minute break, then attend a teacher’s meeting. Very exciting.

As it turns out, Martin is very nice and bought me lunch in exchange for letting him use my Internet. I think we will be pals. Ok, out to explore. It’s beautiful out here, and I need to find out where I’m going on Friday!

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she wrangles babies at an English language academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

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