After almost three weeks in Huelva, I feel like I’ve settled in. This being the very first time I’ve lived away from home, it’s comforting to feel that way and at the same time it seems surreal every once in a while — some nights I go to bed smiling at the fact that I am actually living in Spain.
The first night I arrived I think I was a little shocked that I had actually flown across the ocean to live here for the next nine months. The stress of not knowing exactly where I was going to live, not knowing anyone here, and realizing how mediocre my Spanish was led me to a good little cry. I think if I could have snapped my fingers to go home on that first night I might have (the beating my pride would have taken after excitedly telling everyone I would be in Spain for the year was not appealing, though!).
But things happened fast. I moved into a flat right in the centre of town with a lovely British girl, and then two equally lovely girls from the States and the south of Spain moved in, too. I found my way around town and figured out my routine at the French high school and the English academy I will be teaching at.
I’ve been out and about; for a small city, we’ve found lots to do and have been busy! After the time taken up with work, we’ve been at yoga classes, salsa classes (followed by actual salsa dancing at the bar…still nerve wracking as a salsa/bachata beginner, but so much fun), language exchanges, bars, out for tapas, exploring the city and finding out favourite places.
When I found out I was placed in Huelva and immediately flipped to the corresponding page in my Lonely Planet Spain guide book, I was a little disheartened. This is what they say: “Blemished by factories and with its historical heritage smashed to pieces in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake (and not rebuilt), Huelva is never going to win any beauty contests.”
It’s true, there are parts of the city that are purely industrial and rather dirty (why doesn’t anyone pick up their dog poop?!) but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The city centre is nicely laid out around pretty cobblestoned plazas, and I absolutely love that I can walk everywhere. The nightlife is fun and varied; it’s fun to see the patios and bars always busy, and there’s a good amount of students/language assistants here keeping things quite lively. And I certainly don’t mind the lack of tourists; it just means I get to practice my Spanish more.
So far, while I’d have to agree with the guidebooks’ “purely tourist” value of Huelva, I think I’m going to enjoy living here.
After those first stressful days, I suddenly woke up and realized how happy I was to be here. I’ve met some amazing people, am loving the exploring I’ve had the chance to do so far, and am learning a lot. I think this is the kind of little “adventure” I wanted.