Having signed up for the Spanish trip several months ago, it was now with some slight anxiety that I waited in the arrivals hall at the airport in La Coruña with a sea of families staring at the huddle of sweating English boys and with a mind suddenly lacking in anything of any use to say in Spanish . Our nerves had not been helped when one of our group lost their passport in Heathrow and was unable to join us, but the flight was short and we were all a little sleepy. After meeting my host family, we drove to their house a few kilometres from the airport and in my trepidation I talked non-stop in the car and I think I just about depleted all the vocabulary in the GCSE topics of ‘school’ and ‘home life’. Although the scariest thing for me was that they spoke very little English.
However, after just a few hours I soon realised it was going to be an amazing trip and my host family were incredibly helpful in helping me to improve my Spanish through speaking and listening. From the very first day they insisted (somewhat jokingly) that neither I nor their daughter were allowed to communicate in English. They spoke slowly when they were around me in order that I might have a chance to understand what they were talking about and they were constantly teaching me new and useful vocabulary along with things related to Hispanic culture: for example, in the midst of the busy itinerary, they took me out of classes for a day in Santiago de Compostela – only an hour away and one of the cultural centres in Galicia.
Highlights include the magnificent cathedral, and, keen for me to experience as much of the Galician way of life as possible, we spent most of the day sat in different restaurants sampling their speciality dish in each of them. I really appreciated the extra effort they went to for my benefit and enjoyment. On several evenings we watched films in Spanish like Pirates of the Caribbean and Dead Poets’ Society and, with me not understanding a single word, we began chatting about subjects from ‘which language is the most simple to learn’ to ‘Fleetwood Mac’ and ‘why it is unfair that I don’t have a dog’.
Every morning we had classes in Spanish at a local language school and, being with a native Spanish speaker, they were most useful and I certainly felt that I could speak and comprehend Spanish more comfortably by the end of the trip. After eating our packed lunches (that were mostly composed of several varieties of bread), we were taken on interesting excursions such as the oldest functioning Roman tower in the world, a local newspaper and broadcasting company, a class in how to make a beautiful Spanish tortilla and a visit to play football with a Spanish secondary school – all of these were of course in Spanish.
But I think my most unexpected favourite experience was going to the football match between Deportivo La Coruña and Valencia. Seeing as I cannot stand to play or watch the dreaded sport, I was surprised at how exhilarating it was to be almost on the first row, surrounded by excessively passionate Galicians shrieking questionable songs at the tiny cohort of Valencians, and watching the home team thrash their – most probably demoralised – competition. I returned home happy and hoarse with a bright blue cap to prove my support. Con todo, ¡un viaje inolvidable!
Mathew Hedges (Rb V)