La vida en Huelva — Getting Settled

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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.”

Christopher Columbus is kind of a big deal here — he started his voyage from Huelva way back when.

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.

Sunday in the Country

The teacher that I am working with at the high school in Huelva lives just outside of the city in a town named Aljaraque. I spent Sunday at her property where she and her husband have a property full of fruit trees, vegetable gardens, chickens and two adorable dogs. We had lunch outside on the porch and then went for a quick tour around the beach town of Punta Umbria before they dropped me off back in the city with a bag full of white eggplant, tomatoes and peppers from their garden. It was the first really warm day since I’ve been here, and made for a lovely day.
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En diez días: la aventura!

I think I’ve been afraid to mention it on the blog in case something happened and my plans fell through, but it seems safe now!: My little Spanish adventure begins in 10 days! I can’t believe how fast the summer has flown by, that’s the way it always is, right?

Christopher Columbus sailed from Huelva. Image via

In 10 days I’ll be flying to Madrid and then taking the train to Huelva where I will be a French teaching assistant for the next 8 months.  This is a big first for me in many ways: my first time living away from home, first time living anywhere other than Ottawa, my first time in Spain! I couldn’t be more excited, but I have to admit to being a little terrified about the whole thing.  I’ve been super lucky to have travelled a fair bit with my family and friends in the past, and I love travelling, but I get homesick fairly easily.  That’s OK though, I know that’s just how I am, so I will suck it up and enjoy the whole experience (at least that’s the plan!).

I’m really looking forward to living in Andalucía; the area just seems steeped in history and culture, and looks oh-so-beautiful. I can’t wait to explore the region. All the guidebooks and websites I’ve flipped through don’t really make Huelva sound like a super appealing place for a tourist, but I think I’m glad that I’m not living in a very touristy place — hopefully that means a more “authentic” experience? Except obviously I would still like to visit all the touristy places; my list of things to see is already too long.
Apparently the region I’m living in is known for it’s flamenco and cured ham…allllllright!

Where I’ll be!

So, I’ll be working at a bilingual French high school as a teacher’s assistant, and then hopefully teaching English on the side as well. My Spanish is almost decent, but I never ever speak it here, so I’m a little nervous about that. Hopefully after being immersed in it for a while I will pick it up.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is the perfect helper for multilingualism…?

With ten days left before I leave, I’m just trying to fit in seeing as many of my friends as possible, spending some quality time with the family, and figuring out what and how to pack for 8 months…

If you have any travel tips, second language teaching tips or things I shouldn’t miss in Spain, please let me know! Gracias y hasta pronto!