My first view of Seville was blue skies and blazing sunshine. After waiting an eternity for my luggage to come off the plane I went out to meet my host family…..
Isabel, the youngest, had made me a sign with my name on, so luckily I avoided the embarrassment of not being able to recognise them. However, the unavoidable awkwardness of the greetings started. Would we hug, shake hands (too British), or kiss cheeks as the Europeans do? And how many kisses? I decided to be brave and go for the kisses, two at most. This was clearly the correct choice. They told me their names – Sonia, Maria, Isabel and …… erm …… I have no idea what the father is called and STILL DON’T (3 days in now). It came out in a rapid Spanish jumble and I completely missed what he said. I just have to hope for someone else to mention his name and avoid needing to use it until then! Well done, Katie.
In the evening we went for a walk around Seville. They showed me some of the typical tourist sites and we went for some tapas. The first round of tapas was quite good – vegetables in tomato, my kind of food! We walked a bit more to another little bar which had the ominous word ‘Mariscos’ above it (seafood). I am really not a fan of seafood. Anything with a shell, legs, or eyes that watch you as you attempt to eat it, does not belong on my plate. I studied the menu carefully, avoiding anything I didn’t know the meaning of and safely ordered some ‘baclao’ (cod, I think?). Phew, I was safe. Or so I thought. After we had eaten, the father asked me if I wanted anything else and fired a few words at me that I didn’t understand. I just smiled sweetly and said ‘No, gracias’. However, he kept talking about something called ‘pulpo’. I really didn’t understand and so just repeated my ‘No, gracias’. Suddenly, a plate of OCTOPUS arrived on the table. He thrust it towards me in a manner that suggested he had ordered it just for me. Oh no! What to do? I couldn’t have eaten that at the best of times, let alone at 11:00pm in a strange country with people I had only just met. I muttered some excuse about being full and tried to avoid their slightly hurt looks. And it had been going so well!
Before we went to bed they told me that we would go to the beach tomorrow. As a lover of sun and sea I was looking forward to this. After all, it was a fairly safe option and something I enjoy. In the morning I managed to navigate myself around the kitchen and even had a cup of tea! (thanks to the hindsight of my family to give me a teapot as a present – LIFESAVERS.) I went to ask what time we were leaving and to check what I would need. What a surprise it was when Sonia started talking about taking my toothbrush and pyjamas…..Err what? Why do you need a toothbrush at the beach?
As it turns out, when they said we were going to the beach they meant that we were going to stay OVERNIGHT at their house by the beach. How had I missed that?! I rushed back to my room trying not to panic (and cry if I’m honest) to pack an overnight bag. I had only just arrived, only just unpacked, and now I had to repack and go somewhere else strange and unknown. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I shoved a few things in a bag while they all waited for me, clearly a little amused at my idiocy. We bundled into the car; me sandwiched between the two girls like a sardine. Roadtrip! Yayy…..
Unfortunately, the seaside does often come hand in hand with the dreaded ‘mariscos’. Our first stop when we arrived in Huelva was the market. A fish market. With fish everywhere. Dead fish. And a very pungent fish smell. Hold on to your stomach, Katie! What then followed was a rather awkward half an hour of the family asking me if I like this prawn or that mussel or the enormous dead thing splattered with black stuff which looked like an oversized human intestine (which I presume was a squid), with me saying no to everything apart from the tuna. Even then, I was more than a little grossed out by the huge lumps of red meat and, on one counter, the severed head of a tuna fish, one sombre eye glaring accusingly up at me. I did succeed in getting them to buy some fruit also, without which I probably would have cried again!
Finally, we got to the beach, and I was reminded of the glorious sunshine which first had attracted me to the south of Spain. It is still 30 degrees here and apparently will be at least 25 degrees until November. Fabulous J I did have to endure a nauseating lunch as the family happily munched on crab, prawns, and mussels while I politely declined it all and ate the majority of the salad. It was a relief for us all when they brought out the tuna – which I did eat, and happily. It seems that they are determined to make me eat prawns (‘gambas’). THIS WILL NOT BE HAPPENING. The rest of the day passed without much drama and I certainly felt better after a little siesta. It’s best to embrace the Spanish lifestyle after all!
So, although I may have failed the seafood test, my fist steps on the road to becoming a Sevillian have been largely successful. It turns out I know more Spanish that I thought and can make myself understood quite easily. I have the sun-worshiping aspect sorted, and I have already learnt quite a few new words (‘hembra’ = crab, ‘choco’ = a type of squid, and of course ‘pulpo’ – at least I know what to avoid!). On Monday I will affirm my new Spanish lifestyle with a Spanish bank account and a trip to the Au pair agency to prove that I am actually here, in Spain, for 9 months!!