So I’ve been living in Spain- or more specifically, La Gomera- for almost TWO months! Not that you’d think it from my lack of updates.
La Gomera is a unique, enchanting island nestled among 6 other islands, forming the Canaries. We’re probably closer to Africa than Europe, which adds to the sense of other-worldly and bubble like atmosphere I find myself in. I’m in Spain and yet I’m not at all- I’m (literally) in the Atlantic Ocean.
Here comes the inevitable, “well what have you been doing?” from friends and family, and I’ll admit, from myself. In short, not a whole lot. Nothing to dress up and publish on an inspiring travel blog anyway. But isn’t that the point? This is an expat blog, so mundane or not, it’s all part of the big picture.
So, what have I done?
I moved into an apartment.
It has 2 bedrooms, it’s incredibly cheap and boasts a view from the balcony so spectacular it’s worth the 300-odd steps to get there. My boss found the apartment for me, but if you can speak the lingo it isn’t difficult at all. My colleague viewed several before choosing what she likes to call her ‘old lady cottage’, while other colleagues are very happy living in the centre of town, above a pizzeria. Something for everybody here!
I suffered my first lonesome nights without a working phone or wifi.
Times like these I hate myself for not downloading the entire box set of Friends or a handful of decent movies before leaving home. Nope, I was stuck with the few on my laptop which have been watched and re-watched so many times I know all the words. At least I had some company.
I took a drive outside of town.
Valley Gran Rey is dream-like but jaw-droppingly stunning. I realised La Gomera is actually far bigger than I thought. With the national park and all the mountains, it takes over an hour to get to the other side, despite it having a diameter of only 22KM (14 miles).
With a week before school starting, I spent my days planning lessons for my 3 to 12-year-old classes.
It’s always so overwhelming starting a new job, particularly in teaching. Every school has it’s own way of doing things. There’s new syllabi and books to get acquainted with, levels and ages of students you may have very little experience working with. But I fell in love with my classroom. It’s so spacious and well-equipped. I have hundreds of resources, toys, flashcards, books and games at my disposal.
So I sifted through everything at leisure, went to a few cafes and tested the coffees, bought postcards, got myself a SIM card, located the Post Office, worked out how to do my laundry (such an odd washing machine, it likes to electrocute me from time to time). Nothing to write home about, really.
But settling in is such a HUGE part of Expat Life.
I’m not giving it enough credit. Those first days (more so the long nights) are scary and difficult- you are such an outsider. Even now I can’t sleep with my bedroom door closed. When the fuses went the other evening I sat absolutely petrified until I peeled myself off the sofa to go investigate. Going to the fruit and vegetable markets is new and a little daunting, especially if this kind of thing gives you anxiety (which they do for me, a LOT). With little contact with the outside world, you wonder if you made the right choice. You think about the fireplace at home and your ma’s roast potatoes and the washing machine which never electrocuted you.
Soon enough work started. I met my colleagues, we got the dreaded first lesson out of the way. Not too many tears if I recall (from my end that is, ha) and life went along pretty smoothly.
What really has helped me to form a sense of belonging is a colleague in particular who- even after I laid in the street after one too many and proceeded to invite myself to hers and wet her bed- is a constant source of laughter and support. We’re near enough the same age and come from similarly unconventional backgrounds and well, what can I say? We’re kindred spirits.
Now I’m over the “AHHHH” overwhelmed phase of moving to a new place, I’m in the “I need to sort my life out” phase. There’s only so long you can get away with saying ‘it’s okay, I’m still settling in’ and binge eating whole packets of biscuits.
So this is where I am now.
I’m sitting on my far-too-big-for-one-person blanket (the kind you’re supposed to share with others, like a giant packet of crisps- which I’m also half way through eating) on the grey, stony sand. The sun has just set and there’s a couple of naked kids running in and out of the sea. The street lamps have all flicked on and the town is alive again- the bars re-open after their afternoon siestas, the teenagers gather in groups and own the place- I tell you, the kids have better social lives than me!
Next week I (finally) start Spanish lessons.
All I’ve heard myself saying ALL October is, “I need a routine sorted”, “I definitely want to start learning Spanish”, “I need to go back to those online courses I was doing”, “need to get back into yoga” bla bleugh bla bla. Did I? No. I watched BBC’s Broadchurch and Thirteen series, then Happy Valley and I’ve just started Orange is the New Black. I’m also shamefully watching X factor just because I miss home. I like watching all this TV because for a little while I’m home. But mostly because mindless TV offers the perfect distraction from life.
I feel like someone’s been playing God with my hormones.
One minute I’m up up up. Feeling super creative, ready to go. Then I’m down, curled up in a blanket with a cup of tea. Then I’m focused, planning fantastic classes for my students, moisturizing regularly, cooking decent meals, even remembering to shave. After a bit it all goes out of the window and I can’t get up from the sofa unless it’s to eat a whole packet of biscuits. I’m not on any medication- and I’ve not lost my mind (I hope)- this is just the way it always is. I’m going through the motions.
But with next week also being the start of a whole new month, I’m ready to make it a productive one. I read a guide by Mark Manson the other day which really helped me to get going. He said rather than jot down a whole bunch of things you want to do, focus instead on which habits you need to implement in order to make anything you want to do actually achievable.
Mine looks like this:
Habit to Implement – Desired Goal
1. Be in bed by 11:30pm – read more/ wake up earlier and refreshed
2. Listen to funky music in the morning – stop snoozing the alarm
3. After morning wash, immediately change into yoga clothes – practice 20 minutes of yoga Monday-Thursday
4. Be at school by 11AM Monday to Thursday – plan lessons in advance
5. Instead of watching TV in the day, go to the park or beach – read yoga books, write notes for blog
6. Study 30 minutes every evening (will need to install Wifi) – Complete FutureLearn online courses.
You’ll notice that thinking about the habits makes things a lot more precise. It takes the goal out of the ‘Would like to do this at some point‘ file of our mind to the ‘I WILL do this at this specified time”, which is obviously more likely to result in achieving our goals!
“Get up every morning and try to think about what you wish to grow to be. Is what you’re currently doing really expressing that? Then go out and walk the walk, talk the talk, and do it and be it.”- Swami Chetanananda
Do you have a routine to help you stay organised, focused and productive? Or do you think I ought to just enjoy my simple life on Gomera? If you’ve just moved somewhere and are struggling with homesickness or a wave of overwhelm– particularly with teaching or the new culture- drop a comment or email me anytime!