Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Vive La France! or The Joy of Having a Dishwasher

Apologies for those who've come seeking news on the ups and downs of life in northern Spain. This post is dedicated to a recent trip I took with R (the boyfriend) to France. Ostensibly it was to pick up a ton of goodies my mum had left me there, but, given the 900 km (one way) drive, we turned it into a week's holiday - "Any excuse!" I hear you say, and yes, you are right.

But what the hell, R was in desperate need to escape from work for a while, and I decided that after the last four or five hectic, and increasingly stressful years at the academia I did indeed deserve to lengthen my summer holiday that little bit more before getting serious about the studies. So off to France we went.

Now, I'm not going to regale you with tales of what a fabulous holiday we had, oh no. But what I would like to do is a sort of comparison between my experiences in Spain and our week in France. R, by the way is Spanish, just so you know where his comments are coming from, culturally speaking.

Basically, France is great, as you may have guessed from the title of this piece. The cost of living in Spain having gone up recently (well, it's been constantly and noticeably going up for a long time  - my latest electricity bill included a re-billing for the last quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of this year, the government having decided that we really hadn't been paying enough) we discovered that France was not the extortionate hell-hole we had been expecting and that prices were, in fact, quite reasonable. What's more, some things were even cheaper, including petrol - this despite the fact that French fuel prices include road tax - and many supermarket basics, like natural yoghurts (a staple for R).

Also, R was extremely surprised at how pleasant everybody was. He was amazed by the smiling cashiers in the supermarkets (of which we visited plenty), the friendly and professional waiters and the nice optician who fixed my glasses for me for free.

Posing on"Kitten" Street, if you read Gatines in Asturian - I have reputation to maintain after all.

On top of this, we had a couple of excellent nights out at the neighbours' (French and English) and he thought everyone was brilliant. The village we were in (La Jonchère, in La Vendée) he declared a tranquil haven, adding that, were it to be in Spain, there'd be dogs running around the streets barking and neighbours shouting commentaries across the village at each other.

The only thing R decided wasn't as good as Spain, or better, was the wine, which was fair enough I thought.

As for me, I decided the drivers were much better behaved. In fact, I caught myself going round a roundabout the 'Spanish' way i.e. staying in the outside lane even though I was taking the last exit, and blocking off the poor French person on the inside who'd been doing it correctly - so accustomed am I to the bad roundabout drivers here, it seems, to my horror and shame, that I have become one.

However, the pièce de la resistance of the holiday was the dishwasher. Honestly. I've been washing-up by hand for the last eight years at least, more really if you add all those years spent as a student before coming here to Asturias, and now I had my very own dishwasher. What bliss! Needless to say I took full advantage before coming back home to my sink and Marigolds.

What I will add, is that a week is never going to be enough to see the downside of things wherever you go. The day before we left, we were served in the supermarket by a cashier who paused for a lengthy chat with some friends, leaving us waiting for her to finish before we could get hold of our shopping. When she did deign to serve us it was with not a word of apology or explanation.  And then on the way home I was overtaken by rather impatient van driver who decided that the speed limit wasn't to his liking and/or that he didn't want to be stuck behind a scruffy, Spanish Skoda. Obviously, things aren't perfect in France, as they aren't anywhere, but, to quote a well-known UK ad: What a refreshing change!

Oh, and one more thing - I had good giggle on the way home at passing St. Pee - well, you have to, don't you?

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Raelha returns, part III (or is it IV?)

Yes, it's true: I've finally thrown on the Blogger mantle again! Hopefully, this time, it will be more pemanent and regular postings will abound.

And the reason for this reappearance? Well, I am now no longer working at the academia, nor any other academia for that matter, and so have much more time on my hands, not only to write the blog, but to actually go and do stuff that's worth writing about, or at least muse over. And why the sudden change, you may ask? It's all down to a change in plan, that I've been mulling over for the last few years. Long hours at the academia and holidays not necessarily when I needed them were part of it, and since I started doing translations as part of the work there, I realised that I enjoyed the task very much indeed. 

And so, I am retransforming myself into Translator Extraordinare, ta-daa! Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it sounds and I already failed one set of exams this January. Although not due to any general bad practice of mine, nor misunderstanding of Spanish, nor is there anything wrong with my grammar ( I should hope not!). No, what I need to improve is my English. Really. Idioms, fixed expressions, collocations, that sort of thing. Since I've been here so long, my English has started to deteriorate - not too much apparently, but it needs a bit of a boost. (Though I do feel the need to add, for my own ego, that there were also some parts of the exam that I did very well indeed - and that's the examiner talking, not me. Though another also said I need to read up on my contemporary Spanish history! Me! And s/he said it in reference to El Cid, who was around in the 11th century; methinks certain examiners should be improving their Iberian history too.) Hence my scribblings here again. Of course, blogging is always great fun, but now it has a double role: I get to regale you with stories of my life, and enjoy myself in the process (as usual) plus I am also able to practice my written English once more, which has been much neglected and needs improving if I'm to pass these exams. I'm sure, however, that now I'm not so stressed and tired with work, that the task will be a smidgen easier than before.

In the meantime, as well as studying (and for this read: watching English TV series - I've just finished the first series of An Idiot Abroad, brilliant and highly suitable for my current needs, though Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are damn annoying -  watching documentaries in English, reading books, magazines in English and Spanish, as well as all the translation theory and doing practice translations) I shall still be looking for any translation work I can do since I know I'm pretty good already and can only improve with practice.

Translatordom, here I come!