Tuesday, September 29

"Long story short!"

Lordy Lordy... lots to share!  Well, our last couple nights in Sevilla were a blast.  At this point we had all made friends with some locals and had a huge group of people traipsing about town.  The very last night, CIEE threw us a farewell dinner at a pretty nice hotel, complete with... yes, tapas, wine, the works!  It was the first time both of the immersion groups were officially together (the two-weekers and the four-weekers).  Most of us had mixed at some point before, so it was fun for all 75 of us to be hanging out.  It was pretty awesome how close some of us had become, considering we had never met just weeks before!

The next day I said goodbye to Esperanza and met Jenna at the train station, finally headed to our new home.  Of course we needed to document the journey, so I asked the nearest (and cutest) guy, in Spanish, if he would mind taking our pic.  We both started laughing as he answered back in English.  Nothing shocks me anymore, but his name was Nick and he's here from Laguna Beach doing the same thing we are.  Nick kindly helped us on the train with our luggage and joined us for the ride.  It's his second year teaching in Andalucia and was full of tips and tricks for our time in Jaen... a few of which we used even during our first hour here!  Gracias Nick!

Ok, so we arrived in Jaen and took a cab to our hotel.  We saw much of the city right away and it is really fabulous.  It's cleaner, quieter and there is much more greenery here than in Sevilla.  We put our bags away and set out to discover this place we had read so much about.  In just a short walk from the hotel, we found the amazing cathedral all lit up and stepped into what looked to be a fun tapas bar called La Barra.  Within minutes, we were welcomed by the owner, Carlos, the bartender, Nino and Nino's friend, David.  They stuffed us full of local tapas and Tinto de Veranos, the house specialty, insisting our first night in Jaen be an awesome one!  They not only invited us back, but also invited us over for Paella the next day.  We actually already had plans and had to take a raincheck.

I had emailed my Bilingual Coordinator at my school and was welcomed to Jaen by the MOST incredibly helpful email of my life.  My new boss, Antonio Luis, arranged to pick us up the following day to help us look for an apartment as well as show us around town.  When he arrived, he gave us a list of about 15 places he had found by going to the local university and taking numbers from the bulletin boards.  He began making calls and we arranged to see five different apartments that day.  We were floored by his kindness, as some people had not even heard from their Bilingual Coordinators!  He then took us to Az-Zait, the high school where I would be working with him.  He asked Jenna where she would be working and we all had quite a laugh when he pointed to the building right next door to my school and said "Lindsey, here is your school and Jenna, there is YOUR school." They literally share a wall.  Jenna and I died laughing and once again thanked Lady Luck for all she's done for us.  We then took a tour of all the main roads on the city and found ourselves at home pretty quickly.  Antonio Luis arranged for lunch with his wife, Nuria, and his gorgeous two-year-old daughter, Alba.  They took us to a local fave, La Manchega, which was built in 1886.  They have a secret basement for dining and we said order whatever!  The food was phenomenal! We will definitely become regulars.  Antonio Luis and his family are wonderful.  They said they would love to have us over for dinner and Nuria would teach us some local dishes if I promised to cook some Amercican faves for her!  Yes please.

We then set off on the apartment hunt and we are delighted to say that, even though we looked at six places, our hearts jumped at the first one.  It is right in the historic center of town, in a very safe and quiet neighborhood, and it is BRAND NEW.  Everything is beautifully tiled, super clean and huge.  Double beds are a rarity in Spain and Jenna and I will both get our own, so start planning your trips, 'cause we got the room!  There are even two bathrooms and a huge kitchen.  Again, we are some lucky, lucky girls :)

Today, Antonio Luis invited us over to the high school for cafe y tostadas (coffee and toast), a Spanish ritual.  He showed us all around the school and introduced us to everyone.  They are an amazing group of teachers and the jefe, Paco (school principal) is a character.   They were all so warm and I really like the vibe at the school... totally relaxed and inviting.  The cutest thing was that, on the board in the teachers' lounge, it read "LINDSEY IS COMING!"  They seem very excited about our year together and of course, that made me even more excited!  Antonio Luis had already made my schedule and I work Weds, Thurs and Fri from "about 10-2."  He said my first assignment each day will be to have cafe y tostada!  I will call it "Coffee Talk" since I will just be visiting with the other teachers and helping them with their English.

Speaking of English, I think this year may prove to be an occupational hazard for me!!!  In order to communicate with the people here, I either speak in Spanish or sloooooow English.  Truthfully, it's more difficult for me to slow down my English than it is to speak a foreign language!!!  I find myself thinking in Spanish, talking Spanglish when I could just be speaking English and worse, I can barely write in English anymore hahaha!!  NOT GOOD when you are a WRITER.  Oh, the funniest part is I think I am developing an accent.  That could just be in my head, but at this point, anything is possible :)  I really can't tell you how fortunate I am to have such a solid foundation in the language here.  I get lots of compliments on my pronunciation and speaking skill, which just gives me more confidence to go for it!  So, (are you ready for this??) THANK YOU, PUERTO RICO!!!  Yep, that's right :)

Random tidbits: we made friends with two other cafe owners, the most hilarious one being Andalusi, this crazy Moroccan (we think?!) who adores us.  Everywhere we go becomes our own version of Cheers, so that's kind of awesome.  This is the way to go when you are on a budget.

In trying to make a connection with mine and Jenna's names, some of the locals tried going with "Juana" and (wait for this) "Benji."  Since Jaen is hard to pronounce (their "j's" are REALLY hard here... think loogie-hawking with each pronunciation), we decided to just call it "Jean," since that's what it looks like.  So, we have officially dubbed ourselves "Benji and Juana of Jean."  Kind of hilarious (maybe just for us)!

Tonight we had dinner with some of the other Language Assistants from the program who were placed here in Jaen.  There are seven or eight of us!!  Very cool.  We had dinner tonight and will meet again tomorrow.  Fun to have a group to call our own, especially since they are all super nice people.

It's possible I may have to start liking tuna.  When you get free tapas and don't have to pay for your dinner, you can't be picky.  Also, this morning, I had room-temperature yogurt.  Additionally, I haven't asked for ice but once since I got here.  This all may seem like minor things, but if you have ever met me, you know this is HUGE news.  Yes, yes my Beans and Cheese, "I've changed."

Oh and for you who know what this means, keep in mind Jaen is the olive oil capital of Spain.  Well, Az-Zait, the name of my school, is Arabic for aceite, which means olive oil in Spanish.  For those of you who don't know what this means, please don't ask ahahahaha!  Who am I?

Ok, that's enough for now.  Sorry for the novel, but really, every nanosecond is an adventure, so this actually IS me doing my ever-famous "long story, short!"  For real.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE  you all!!!!  I can't wait to share this with you in person :)  More pics to come, possibly tomorrow!


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