Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Alicante, Spain and the Reluctant Traveler

By: Carol Beeton

Summertime in Spain was everything I’d hoped…and everything I’d feared.

Still, it was worth it!

I am a junior high school ESL teacher getting additional training here at the University of Utah. Knowing I would be a better teacher if my Spanish skills were a little stronger, I’d been looking for the chance to spend time in a Spanish-speaking country – a real immersion experience.

Plus, I’ve dreamed of living in Spain for as long as I can remember. There’s something about the idea of castles in Spain that has always caught my imagination.

But there were concerns. I’ll be fifty next year, and didn’t know if I really wanted to spend the summer with college students. Another problem was my health issues: trouble with my eyes, feet, and heart, and real trouble tolerating temperature extremes. I knew summertime would be hot in Spain.

But after waffling for several years about this, I crossed my fingers and took the plunge.

So, what was it like?

Well, most of the things I worried about came true. Even with “European” walking shoes, my feet were killing me most of the time during the first two weeks. Then, somehow I adapted.  The heat was not completely unbearable, but I found out what it felt like to be drenched 24 hours a day.  I felt dirty all the time, especially my feet. I had a heat rash on my legs for most of the trip.  

So why was it worth it? 

Because troublesome things I’d worried about seemed minor compared to the grandeur of the Spanish experience. Spain was exactly the way I’d hoped it would be -- even better, in fact.

Alicante is a pretty little college town on the southern coast of the country, with a traditional Spanish lifestyle; not the fast pace or cosmopolitan atmosphere you would find in places like Barcelona or Madrid. The town and its people are the real thing, genuine Spaniards. 

My professors at the Universidad Alicante were superb, and our classes were excellent, some of the best university classes I’ve attended.  

And it was only a ten-minute walk to the Mediterranean, which made for some long, lazy afternoons after class.  

The first two weeks I stayed with three college-age kids. They were animated and lively, but after two weeks a homestay became available and I was able to enjoy that experience as well.

The townspeople were friendly, obliging and encouraging.  And more than that, they were just cute!  All I had to say was that “I didn’t know a lot of Spanish”, and they bent over backwards trying to give me directions or make conversation with me, helping me practice my Spanish skills.

On the long sultry bus ride home from school, ladies sitting next to me would pull out little fans and start fanning themselves. If I turned and said, “Thanks for fanning me,” they would laugh and begin fanning me, too.  I said that twice, and then stopped because I didn’t want them to feel like they had to be my ventilation system.

Alicante had kind of a dual dress code. There was a lot of attire that was somewhat scanty; you just didn’t want to have anything touching your skin, even clothes.  On the other hand, townspeople dressed up when they went out. Even little old ladies did their hair & makeup & wore little dresses, especially when they went out for the evening.

Following afternoon siesta and dinner, many townspeople would take the traditional “paseo” or leisurely walk around town. You’d see old men and women with their arms linked, strolling around, nodding hellos, or groups of two or three women, meandering around and chatting.  They never seemed to tire of this activity--and it was utterly charming.  You saw a lot of families on the streets, too.

While in Spain, I attended the LDS church in Alicante, and again was met with warm welcome and offers of help. I have never been kissed so many times in my life, especially by strangers. They were so sweet.

While in Spain I got to visit Barcelona and Granada, and saw almost enough castles to satisfy me.  Moreover, overlooking the city of Alicante was a real fortress that we got to explore: Santa Barbara Castle.  I found it rather primitive, but it was perfectly thrilling to live in the very shadow of such romantic history.  
So, here are parting thoughts/advice:  If you suspect something’s going to be a problem, it probably is. Make up your mind beforehand whether or not you can stand it, and proceed accordingly.  

And if you decide to go, don’t be afraid to talk to people, because that’s the best part!

No comments:

Post a Comment