Lessons learnt in the Basque Country
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I spent my summer teaching English to six to eight year olds in the little town of Andoain in the Basque Country, Spain. One month is the longest I’ve ever spent away from home before and sure, it was fantastic in terms of improving my Spanish language, as well as gaining experience in working with children. But I think what’s better is that I learnt many cultural lessons and I even found out things about myself that I never knew before. So don’t worry, this isn’t a boring long list of Basque and Spanish vocabulary, it’s a list of the more interesting things that my month away taught me. Basque hospitality is better than English hospitality, it's real Basque people are really friendly and hospitable. Everywhere I went I was told to ‘make myself at home’ or ‘take whatever I need’. The English pride themselves on being ever so polite, and we too will tell our guests “Mi casa es tu casa.” But unlike in England, I felt as if my Basque hosts genuinely meant it, as if I could take a big handful of whatever snack was available and they wouldn’t smile politely then make comments behind my back. I actually like the rain This honestly shocks me. I always thought the most utterly awful and complaint-worthy thing about living in England was the fact that it rains all the time, because rain is horrible and gloomy. But, every time it rained during my stay (which was much more frequently than I had expected) I had a lovely overwhelming feeling of home. It made me reconsider my opinion on rain, and I realized it’s really quite comforting. As long as I have an umbrella, mind. A Basque woman is a very particular type of woman I basically spent my 31 days hanging around with a group of Basque mothers, and I managed to observe what they were like. I think it’s known that Spanish families usually have a strong matriarchal figure, but the Basque women I met were a certain special type of women. Whilst we were sitting at a bar for Thursday night Pintxopote (another fab aspect of Basque culture, explained later…) I was suffering from my usual ‘trying to make sense in another language’ nerves. Then I looked around at them and thought ‘you would never come across a dithering and delicate little girl like me here.’ They are not girls; they are women. Strong, dark-haired women with bigger than average calf muscles. It’s difficult to describe them without making them sound overly masculine or scary, which is not what they are. They were all truly lovely, but they didn’t mess around with politeness measures, or worry what anybody thought of them, and they certainly would never put up with any nonsense. Pintxopote Why we haven’t adopted this in England I just don’t know. Pintxopote is basically a bar-crawl every Thursday night.
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