Earlier today I attended my final lesson at the K2 Internacional language school here in Cádiz. The choice was a bit random and based primarily upon the school’s location on what looked like a nice square in the old part of town (and the impressive video on their website) but I picked very well indeed. A fiendlier bunch of staff and students would be hard to find and apart from a few days of feeling that I was a little out of my depth in the fourth week (or was I sulking because the students I had been working with for the previous two weeks had finished their own courses and headed home?), I feel that my objectives have been more than met. Those objectives never included becoming fluent (perhaps one day!) but simply building confidence in using the language in a controlled way in order to plan and deliver lessons for pupils studying the language in Years 7 and 8 at a British secondary school. Ironically what I haven’t learnt in the past five weeks has been much of the vocabularly associated with such lessons – items of stationary, furniture, colours and the like – but I do feel that my understanding of the structure of the language – the grammar – has improved imeasurably and my ability to understand quite high level spoken and written Spanish is good. The matter of comprehension is aided significantly by my excellent knowledge of French (and I’m beginning to appreciate why so many French people say the they can just about understand the gist of what is being said when they hear Spanish being spoken) but I would never have imagined myself actually engaging in intermidiate level conversation in Spanish discussing such diverse subjects as the economic crisis and the nature of the relationship between church and state in Spain that I have been doing over the past few days. Much hesitation is required and not an insignificant amount of time is devoted to flicking back through my notes or consulting a chart of irregular verbs but I am communicating effectively! But let’s not get carried away. The basics still need to be embedded and my ability tonight to engage in a simple conversation to order food and drink in my local cafe still involves me uttering the inevitable ‘no entiendo‘ or ‘I don’t understand‘. But compared to where I was five weeks ago, I am impressed. The key to becoming a successful teacher of low level Spanish in a secondary school back in the UK now lies in my ability over the upcoming weeks and months to get to grips with a wider range of vocabularly, especially that dictated by the average Key Stage 3 curriculum. What I could really do with doing is spending another month or so in Spain doing just that… Ah yes, I almost forgot. That’s exactly what I’m going to be doing!
Concentrating on learning some Spanish has taken my mind away from the upcoming cycle from Tarifa to Nordkapp although not my eye off the ball. I’m not going to repeat here my exact plans for the next couple of weeks as if you scroll down a few posts you will find them in more detail below. Fundamentally nothing has changed; I return to my uncle’s house in Estepona on Friday to pick up Reggie and then on Tuesday of next week set off to cycle to Tarifa via an overnight stop in Gibraltar where I will spend one final night in the comfort of a hotel – I’m going to book it as soon as I finish writing this – before finding my first campsite somewhere near Europe’s most southerly point. On the subject of which, I do have some good news…
This morning just as my Spanish lesson was starting, my iPad pinged and I read the following message from the Guardia Civil:
Adjunto remito autorización entrada Isla de Las Palomas para el día 09/04/15“
It was notification from the Spanish military that my request to start my cycle across the continent at its southermost point on the erroneously-named ‘Isla de la Palomas‘ had been granted. Several emails had been exchanged with the tourist office, the natural park in that part of Spain as well as the Guardia Civil themselves but the outcome was the one I had been hoping for. As long as I turn up at the gate with my authorisation in hand between 9am and 2pm on Thursday 9th April I will be allowed in. There are rules that I must follow which include not taking part in any diving activities around the ‘island’ but none of them should prevent me and hopefully Reggie from starting our journey where it should be started (and not just at the sign on the causeway that connects the island-that-is-no-longer-an-island which claims to be Europe’s southernmost point but which isn’t). I have promised to give the town of Tarifa, the Parque Natural del Estrecho and the wonderful Guardia Civil a positive mention in the book. You see, I can be bought.
So the end might be in sight for my time in Cádiz but it isn’t quite finished. Tomorrow, my final full day in the city is going to be spent… kayaking. This week my teacher has been José and along with a fellow student from America we are all going to explore the waters off a place called Marismas de Sancti Petri. It’s a good many years since I did anything on water that required me to make an effort greater than ordering a round of drinks on a ferry so I fully expect to return with muscles that I didn’t know existed aching. I’ll be taking along the GoPro and it will be a good opportunity to test it out in wet conditions. Expect a full report here tomorrow evening. If it doesn’t appear, call the coastguard.
And finally, just for those of you who might not believe that I did actually learning some Spanish, here is my certificate: