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).
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, Lemon Tree Patio on Calle Gardunera. 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.
We were still on US time, 6 hours behind. We arrived around 8pm and finally got settled and managed to park our car on the small streets around midnight, which only felt like 6pm: 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 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. This was our first failed attempt at ordering in Spanish.
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 were supposed to meet the bilingual coordinator at my school at 5pm for the 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 3pm. This was our first failed attempt at getting on Spanish time.
We met my coordinator at 5pm at El Frenazo, the popular 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 9pm. We sat in a bar and ate peanuts until the kitchens opened and we could eat dinner. This was our second failed attempt at getting on Spanish time.
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.
The first day of school was simple: I went in at 12:30 and was introduced to the teachers who were awed by the new American girl in town. Luckily, 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, so both students and teachers were quite intrigued by me.
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.
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.
His 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, 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 got 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, and we ended up in a dead end under a mountain and had to back out. We saw some wonderful restaurants and amazing sites, but 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.
I was placed 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.
James was placed 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 just 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.
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 has now come to an end, and I am deeply saddened by this. 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.