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The Pros, Cons and Pitfalls of Intercambio

Since moving to Vejer I have been introduced to practices and events that are ‘normal’ for here but new and sometimes alien to me. Intercambio being an example and, rather like the metaphoric skinning of a cat, there’s more than one way to ‘exchange’ as I’ve come to discover.

My initial introduction to Intercambio, Spanish-style, came shortly after arriving when a friend suggested the weekly event would be a great place to meet new people and practice actually speaking Spanish.

Every Thursday evening an eclectic and ever-changing group of people come together at a local tea shop/bar to exchange language and conversation. The group switches from Spanish to English at fifteen minute intervals. As you never know who you’ll be sitting next to and there are no set rules about the topics you cover, the evenings are always lively and challenging. And I ‘get’ them. I understand that the payback for the listener having to suffer through 15 agonisingly slow minutes of my appalling Spanish, is my complete and undivided attention when their turn comes to butcher the English language. I love the equality of the evening – sometimes you drag yourself through treacle trying to converse with someone who either won’t speak or appears to have nothing very interesting to say and on other occasions you’re immediately immersed in a fascinating (if stilted) conversation with someone of real interest to you.

The benefits (to me) of my second introduction to an intercambiar are slightly less tangible at this, admittedly early, stage of the exchange. Having volunteered at a Punto Solidario (an organisation working to improve the quality of life for all in Vejer through projects and a FairTrade shop) the head lady recommended me to a local man looking for an English tutor for his son. “It’s an intercambiar” I was told. ‘Okay’ I thought not entirely sure what I was being offered in exchange. Off I trotted to meet with said father who speaks no English and is a form of alternative therapist that I’m not entirely sure I’d understand even in my native tongue but his explanation was way beyond my limited Spanish comprehension.

In for a cent, in for a euro as they quite possibly say over here. I have committed to two hours a day, five days a week for the next fortnight, to tutor a thirteen year old boy in the run up to his English exam on 1st of September. In return I’m being offered something that I don’t understand and am not even sure that I want.

“They saw you coming” was my husband’s helpful and motivating comment once I’d explained the arrangement. Although I don’t think they can have done, because their offices are at the back of the building and don’t overlook the road I walked down to get there?

In the spirit of: adventure, putting it out there, trusting the universe and givers gain, I’m honouring my agreement confident that I’ll benefit in ways that might not be immediately obvious. After just one hour for example, when supportive hubby asked “So, what have you learned so far then profesora?” I was able to reply that my pupil is an only child, his father has 3 sisters and a brother, his mother has only one brother, I know the names of both sets of grandparents , that my pupil has a medium sized, black, water dog and that Spanish Water Dogs don’t moult. Not bad huh!

You’re booked!

Flights booked – check

Fraser Suites booked – check

Furniture sorted – err, no.

Ho, hum, we’re making such a meal out of this ship v. store business that I’m tempted just to bring everything, wastepaper bins and all.  Actually, that reminds me, when we bought a house in Spain a few years ago I had a devil of a job finding wastepaper bins.  So yeah, I guess I will bring them with me!

Everything’s pretty much on hold now while we enjoy our final Christmas in the family home before everything gets removed and the house becomes someone else’s home.  The agent is coming on Thursday to take photos and is really confident about letting it quickly – hope he gives us time to move out!!!  What a strange day to take the photos though – Christmas tree and chaos everywhere but, his choice.

CELTA is finished – yippee.  I’m quietly confident that I’ve passed and will be gutted if I haven’t.  Speaking of passing things, my extremely clever little sister heard today that she’s passed her M.A. with a Merit – well done Zo if you read this 🙂

We had such fun booking our flights to Hanoi because I’d decided that I definitely want to go Air France because it’s the quickest journey time – 14 hours from Manchester to Hanoi with only the one stop in Paris.  Perfect I thought.  Perfect we thought – let’s book it.  And that’s where our problems started.  1st March, two passengers, one way to Hanoi.  Everything going smoothly until you actually click the button to confirm your purchase and then it broke us the bad news (rather brutally it has to be said):  No seats available.  Seriously?  For the 1st March next year?

Okay, we tried the following day, week, month, 6 months ahead.  Nothing would work.  We checked Singapore Airlines (and yes I was sulking at this point – 19 hours.  Quote of the evening from my husband:  Well, 14 hours, 19 hours, what’s the difference? (and him an accountant) – 5 hours I replied.  5 whole hours.  We checked Vietnam Airways, Qatar Air, Aeroflot, South China Air (oh okay, we didn’t exactly check the the last two, but they did come up as options).  The journey time was an issue, the excess baggage charge another ($50/kilo – are you kidding?) and not wanting to stop in Doha another.

After several hours and a lot of frustration I had the brilliant idea that perhaps Air France would work if we booked a return.  Eureka!  2nd March, returning 16th June (for aforementioned younger sister’s wedding) – all booked and paid for, and cheaper than a single flight.

Now it’s just my stepson and the dog to sort – Singapore Airlines here I come.  What’s 19 hours for a youngster getting a free holiday eh!  Actually, the real reason is that you need an airline that does the whole route whereas the first leg of the Air France journey is fulfilled by Flybe.

Busyness, Priorities, Focus

What is they say about if you want a job doing giving it to be a busy person?  How on earth am I meant to fit everything into what was already a busy life?  The short answer I guess is to prioritise and focus.

No more rooms cleared yet but Kevin is threatening (well, that what it sounds like!) to start on the loft at the week end.  Yeuch, my heart has sunk to the bottom of my stomach.  On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most, how much don’t I want to clear the loft this week end?  Yep, no question, a 10.  Asking me to clear ‘clutter’ is a bit like a trip to the dentist with no hope of an anaesthetic 😦

However, before I even get to the week end there’s the small matter of a third evening of CELTA classes at Manchester Academy of English.  Last night we did a demonstration lesson observation and met the students we’ll be teaching over the coming weeks.

The demo observation flew past – an hour, I couldn’t believe it.  And then, much to my surprise, chatting to the students devoured another hour in no time at all (well 60 minutes if you want to be pedantic but it didn’t seem like it is my point!).

Anyway, much as I love writing here it isn’t really a priority today – writing up class notes, editing a client’s newsletter and taking the dog out before college – oops, forgot a client meeting – are priorities however so I’d better get going …

CELTA 1 Survived

That’s the first class done!  It’s always the trickiest because you don’t know any of your classmates, the tutors, or your way around the college.  You don’t know how long your journey will actually take at that time of day, whether you should have already bought the books on the Reading List and if so, do you need to bring them in with you?  And did you really need to do all 50 of the Pre-Course Tasks?

But, you’ll be pleased to hear that I survived all of it.  I arrived on time (which my friends will tell you is something of an achievement), participated without taking over (yep, there’s always one and ours is a young man who hasn’t yet learnt that you don’t need an entire back story with every single question you ask.  The question alone will usually suffice), found the coffee machine and even made a friend at break time.  Success!

Next week lessons begin in earnest and my next hurdle will be the very first teaching practice I undertake.  After that – it’s plain sailing.  Isn’t it?!

CELTA

I start my CELTA training this evening; 3 evenings a week for 4 months.  I confess to being a little bit nervous, partly because, even having taken a taster day, I don’t really know what to expect this evening.  The class is from 17.30 to 21.30 but does that include a break?  Long enough to grab  a coffee or eat a sandwich?  What’s actually going to happen?

This reminds me that whenever organising something it’s really important to make sure that the participants/guests/pupils or whoever is attending are comfortable with what is going to take place.  I feel slightly on the back foot before I’ve even started which is probably unnecessary.

So, I’m about to find out just how difficult it is to learn English as a foreign language.  Good luck to me, hope I can a) stay awake and b) concentrate for that long when I’m usually relaxing, reading or watching television!