All posts by Ulla Karikko

Long time no see

So, Spain again. It’s my third time in Spain and second time in Asturias. I take a deep breath and the odours of the local culture mix with the fresh mountain air. Every country has its own smell and my mind is immediately filled with all the memories from my previous experiences here. I hop on the bus and smile as all around me I can hear Spanish spiced with the local dialect. On the way to Gijón, I get to admire the mountains I’ve missed, green and magnificent. The scenery changes the closer we get to my seaside destination. The quaint villages are left behind as we enter the city. My memories are hazy and I recognise very little but I’m sure it will all come back to me during the first few days.

I get off, the bus station is the only place that seems a little familiar. I take my luggage and make way to my accommodation.

***

The first time I enter La Laboral, my campus, I am at awe. I had seen pictures of it already and knew it was nicknamed Hogwarts but as I walk through the high arching gate, I am still surprised by its wonders. The courtyard opens before me and I feel excited: this is where I’ll be studying for the next few months.

All the lectures I’ve chosen will be in Spanish, after all that is why Spain was on my list: so I could refresh my Spanish. At first, I feel my brain struggling to remember the language it has stored away somewhere deep, getting dusty and rusty due to the lack of use. Especially my marketing teacher, Javier, speaks so fast that once the first lecture is over I walk out with my mind reeling and head aching. Maybe I’m aiming too high. But after the first two weeks, it gets easier and I find myself laughing at the jokes and making notes just like everyone else.

***

After the first month of weekendly partying, I’m exhausted. Sorry people, but I’m too old for this. I let the other Erasmus students continue the weekly celebrations and find myself some other things to do. Don’t get me wrong, Gijón is a wonderful city to go out in, there are bars and clubs for every taste and for every hour. It’s not Gijón, it’s me. Maybe I’m too old 😀 Luckily, I’m not the only one who’s had enough of parties, so in our small group we go the theatre to see some ballet, we enjoy the Gijón film festival and we go horse trekking. Time flies by so quickly.

***

When it finally starts raining, I exhale in relief. It has been an unusually hot end of summer for Asturias. I was expecting cool weather and rainy days so the first few hot and sunny weeks wore me out. Finally, I can dig out my wellies and umbrella. I go for a walk along the now empty beach. The waves are roaring. I’m not a beach person but I do like the sea. There’s something mysterious and majestic about it. I can see the first lightning and hear the boom afterwards, the wind is picking up so fast that I have to close my umbrella and find shelter in one the boulevard cafes. I find a table inside and order a café con leche. The thunder moves quickly and before I get my coffee, it’s right on top of us. Each lightning makes an explosive sound, so loud and strong that I can see the windows of the cafe bend inwards. The lights flash quickly but the Asturian people are used to this so everything goes on normally. I get my coffee and some complementary tapas. It’s a thin slice of baguette and a piece of the Spanish tortilla, a potato omelette, pierced with a single toothpick. Around it there are some olives. Mmmmm, tasty.

***

Back at the uni, we have our first group presentation and I am petrified. I’ve only once given a presentation in Spanish and it was about anime. Now I’m supposed to give a summary of a CSR analysis of Iberia, the Spanish aviation company. These group presentations seem to be a big hit here in Spain, I have to do one for each of my courses. I look at my group members, all of us are Erasmus and just as scared. At least we’re all in this together. We open the slide show on the screen and begin. Afterwards my mind seems to have wiped out the whole experience, I can’t remember what any of us said but at least we survived.

***

Me and my flatmates are sitting in the living room, having a few ridiculously cheap beers while watching Rio 2 in Latin Spanish. I’m laughing because I’ve seen the film in English and some of the Latin voice actors are so different. My Spanish flatmate is laughing because she’s used to watching the film in Castilian Spanish, not South American. Surprisingly, it’s my German flatmate who feels the most comfortable listening to it, she has been to Guatemala so she’s used to this kind of Spanish. I got really lucky with my flatmates, they’re both really nice and social and friendly.

All in all, life here is good.

(Sorry about the time lapse, this was written in the autumn)