First Impressions of Spain

I had never heard of Olvera before moving here. There wasn’t much on Google about the town, Google street view wasn’t up to date enough to really explore the town virtually, and even at the airport they didn’t know where Olvera was. I had no idea what to expect when I moved to Olvera, which also happened to be my first time in Spain (and Europe, for that matter). Here are my first impressions of Spain.

Olvera, Spain
Olvera, my town

First Impressions of Spain

When we first pulled into the town, a bit of tension left my body as I saw what a nice, cute town it was. It was a Saturday evening in September, the weather was nice and girls were wearing skirts and dresses, and everyone was out and about. There was only one main road, so we followed it not knowing where else to go. Eventually we found the Airbnb we had rented (for $40 off your first Airbnb, click here), Lemon Tree Patio on Calle Garduñera. Since our phones didn’t work, it was finally time to break out my Spanish skills and ask a neighbor for a key. That was my first failed conversation in Spanish.

First impressions of Spain: my first meal
First impressions of Spain: my first meal

We were still on U.S. time, six hours behind. We arrived around 8:00 p.m. and finally managed to find a parking spot for our car on the small streets around midnight, which only felt like 6:00 p.m.: dinner time. Even though it was late, it was Saturday night so we were lucky enough to find the kitchen still open at the first bar we went to, La Alameda. Coming from urban New Jersey, we were very wary of the small, isolated alleyways that we had to take to get to the bar, but we soon realized these were no threat in Olvera.

Of course in a small town like Olvera, no one speaks English and La Alameda’s menu was in Spanish. I thought I knew enough Spanish to order food, but wow was I wrong. The bartender handed us an English menu, which we didn’t realize wasn’t in the same order, so we thought we were ordering chicken fillets when we ordered a bomba. We received a big fried potato ball as our first meal in Spain. First impressions of Spain? First failed attempt at ordering in Spanish.

Spanish menu

Second Day in Spain

The next day, the power was out in the entire village until noon, which was fine with us; we wanted to sleep in
anyway. We had plans to meet the bilingual coordinator at my school at 5:00 p.m. for la merienda (5:00 coffee or tea), which gave us the whole day to get groceries and get the lay of the town. We woke up that day at 3:00 p.m. First impressions of Spain: First failed attempt at getting on Spanish time.

One of many siestas, a great tradition
One of many siestas, a great tradition

We met my bilingual coordinator at 5:00 p.m. at El Frenazo, a popular coffee lounge in town. After tea, she took us around to show us the good bars, the bad bars, and the best location to live for a quick walk to the school. Around 7:00 we were starving and hoping to grab dinner only to learn that Spanish dinner doesn’t start until 9:00 p.m. We sat in a bar and ate peanuts until the kitchens opened and we could eat dinner. First impressions of Spain? Second failed attempt at getting on Spanish time.

Finally Feeling Like Home

The days went by and our Airbnb host was lucky enough to put us in touch with her friend, a British man who was a real estate agent in Olvera. Luckily, he spoke English (one of the few), and offered us a beautiful 2 story, 2 bedroom house in the ancient part of the village. We took it and moved in 2 days later.

First day in the new apartment
First day in the new apartment, Calle San Pedro!

First Week of School

The first day of school was simple. I went in at 12:30 and met the teachers who were awed by the new American girl in town. Luckily, almost everyone spoke excellent English! I met my new co-teachers of Science, Music, P.E., and English. I later learned that I was this school’s first ever auxiliar. Both students and teachers were quite intrigued by me!

Some of the staff and I at IES Zaframagon
Ana (English), me, MariCarmen (bilingual coordinator, French teacher), Pedro (science), Paqui (English), Rocio (music)

The next day was orientation in Cadiz. Our first trip to Cadiz! Of course we had to get a hotel room to stay overnight. When I first saw the beach in Cadiz, I was amazed by the size and beauty. Cadiz has some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain! Orientation went smoothly, we went back to Olvera after, and all was well. Since I have off on Fridays, my school year started the following Monday, October 6.

"Orientation

Beaches in Cadiz

 

James works in Setenil de las Bodegas, an even smaller town about 25 minutes from Olvera. For the first 2 months he commuted with teachers from his school, but they spoke no English so it was awkward for him, and he had to stay the entire school day to ride there and back with them. After 2 months, we realized how cheap rental cars were in the off season. We could get rental car deals for 40€ per month! From then on out, we rented cars monthly and he drove himself to school.

Setenil de las Bodegas
Setenil de las Bodegas

James’s first week was similar to mine, except that he wasn’t the first auxiliar in his school and they weren’t as helpful or attentive to him as they could have been. The day before our first day, September 30, we drove to Setenil to try to find his school so he knew where to go the next morning. First of all, I’d like to say God bless him for making that drive every day. The road between Olvera and Setenil is a dangerous. It’s a curvy road along the edge of mountains with no guard rail and barely enough room for 2 cars to fit at the same time. I became carsick from the turns and terrified we were going to go over the edge. I decided I’d never go to Setenil again…which lasted about 3 months.

Anyway, we couldn’t find his school. Setenil is like a maze of one way streets. We ended up in a dead end under a mountain and had to back out. We saw some wonderful restaurants and amazing sights, but we got so frustrated that we left after about an hour of searching and never found his school. He emailed his bilingual coordinator to tell her what happened and she scheduled a carpool with 2 other teachers who lived in Olvera the following Monday. From then on out, all went well for him.Windy streets of Setenil

High School vs. Elementary School

I worked at a high school, so the kids I spent most of my time with were 11-12 years old. They were timid when I first met them, but as they became more comfortable with me, they started speaking more and then wanted to learn more so they could talk to me more. It was wonderful to see how they grew and learned.

Selfie with the students of Zaframagon
Taking a selfie with my 1° eso (Helena, David, Francisco, Julia, Carmen, Maria, Marta, Celia, Juan, Javier, Isabel, Adrian, Emilio, Vanessa, Carmen, Jose, Clara, Julia, Anna Maria)

James worked at a primary school and worked with kids from 5 years old to 11 years old. He had classes with the younger ones as more of an immersion style of teaching so they could soak up the language at a young age. The older kids were starting to learn basic English grammar that he was to help them pronounce and speak. He taught science and gym.

James and his students at CEIP Virgen del Carmen
James and his students

Reflecting Back

That was the beginning of our 7 months in Olvera, from first impressions to the start of classes. I’m writing this on my last day of classes, remembering back to the beginning which only feels like last week. I can’t believe my time in Olvera is ending, and I can’t even explain how sad I am. This 7 months has been wonderful, and I will never forget my time here or the people I have met. For my thoughts on my last day, see my blog on Memories On My Last Day As An Auxiliar.

Olvera will forever hold a special place in my heart. <3 Olvera Castle <3
Olvera will forever hold a special place in my heart. <3 Olvera Castle <3

Have you lived abroad? What was your first impression of arriving in your new town? Can you imagine moving somewhere foreign and exotic? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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P.S. You might also love Schools in Spain: What to Expect When Teaching Abroad or Discovering the White Villages of Andalucia

3 thoughts on “First Impressions of Spain

  1. Great post! Just got to Olvera and felt like I already had some bearings. Where were you able to find 40EU/m car rentals? That would be wonderful!

    1. I’m so happy you found this quaint little town! I checked daily on kayak.com, rentalcars.com, carrentals.com, and other search engines…but those 3 were the best. Usually nothing beat kayak. Sometimes, it was cheaper to rent for 30 days than it was for 7 days (so strange), so check different time frames and different search engines!

    2. Also, don’t be afraid to rent cars from car rental places that are a shuttle ride away from the airport. And don’t always trust bad reviews. Just make sure to take photos of the car if the company did get bad reviews. We never had a problem!

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