Just because you can speak the local language doesn´t mean that the local people are going to understand you. Local culture isn´t taught in Language schools! I´m fluent in Spanish but that doesn’t mean weird stuff doesn´t happen to me.
I moved from Barcelona to Granada a few years ago. I wasn´t particularly concerned about moving to a new city. I had colleagues at my new job who could help me to settle in and after 8 years in Spain I spoke really good Spanish by then. No worries. I imagined that in no time I would go completely unnoticed in a city of 200,000. Big mistake.
Initially, as I had sold my home in Barcelona and still not found a new flat to my liking. I was going to stay in a beautiful rural area, not far from the La Alpujarra. Then home where I could stay rent free was just a 30 minute drive to Granada. Just a temporary measure until I sorted out a rental flat or found an apartment to buy.
So I began to work in my new office in Granada city centre. The commute each day from the village to the city had to be with public transport as I didn’t have a car. Each morning the bus left the village arriving into Granada at 8am, fit perfectly into my timetable as I had an 8.30am start.
The first day I caught the bus, I realized that it wasn’t going to be a standard commute. I had to be up for 6am and by 6.25am be at the stop. The bus was along the winding high roads between the many small villages the only link these small places had with the city. The steep ravines and hairpin bends all along the way didn’t allow me to read a book, peruse a magazine or even listen to music. All I could do was just face forward. It´s the first bus I´ve ever seen that has complimentary sick bags for the passengers! The 100 minute journey to and from work each day was not going to be much fun.
As we wound around the tight curves and passed endless trees and cottages we approached a small village (about 40 houses) to pick up more passengers. The bus had to do a tight three point turn to get in and out of the village. As the passengers get on the bus and pay the driver, they begin to move along to find seats, about 8 people got on, I notice that they all stare at me blatantly, but don´t bother looking at the other passengers. They look at me as they approach my row and as they are going further along even turning their heads to gawp at me.
When we stopped again at the next village the same thing happened. At this point I am starting to wonder if my hair is stood on end after the scary bus ride. Maybe I was yellow faced after so many twists and turns. I had no idea what is it was that is attracting so much attention.
When I got home that evening I asked my Spanish friend about the bus ride, why they were looking at me. Ah of course, because they don’t know you. They know everyone that catches the bus and they don´t know you. So because I was a stranger they weren´t best pleased I was catching their bus and not sharing who I was and what I was doing. Nosey neighbours.
The next day I went along to the bus stop, already knowing that I would have 30 minutes of windy roads and then we would go onto the motorway where I would be able to read happily until we got to Granada. I also knew why they would stare so all under control.
When I arrived to the bus stop I waited noticing that it was still dark but there was a chink of light on the horizon. The bus stop doesn’t have a notice board, bus shelter or any distinguishable markings. All the people in the village just know that the bus stop is there, on that bit of road. It was rare that other people caught the bus there.
There I was waiting at the right spot, which happened to have a small parcel of land to the side of it. A kind of allotment with onions, lettuces and a few trees. At the edge of the plot was a large fig tree, large hand shaped dark leaves which almost reach me as I stood on the other side of the fence. I noticed the tree as some of the sturdy lower branches were swaying.
I look around and notice than none of the other trees opposite are moving, there is no breeze at all, everything is still. I noticed the thick leaves shake again and continue. I have no idea what was in the fig tree, but the branch was sturdy and strong. It couldn’t be a bird or a squirrel, it had to be something much stronger. It couldn´t be a person at that time in the morning, it was still dark. I tried to keep calm. The bus will soon be here.
I knew that in the area Wild boars are common but I couldn´t bear to think I was 10 metres away from a wild boar on my own at 6am in a rural village in the middle of nowhere. Hurry up bus!
After an eternal five minutes the bus appeared. I couldn’t work out what an earth it was there even after calming down on the bus and thinking about it rationally.
After several days of catching the bus, I got used to 3 or 4 stray dogs chasing me along the street every morning and the winding journey to the big smoke. I was a refreshing contrast to see such wild landscapes on my way to the shiny office I worked in.
I also found out what it monster it was that terrified me at the bus stop. The sweetest little tan coloured pony that you could possibly imagine. My friend told me that it´s owner occasionally changes the grazing spot every now and again.
I soon moved to Granada itself as I need to be more flexible for work, settling in to a city centre apartment in Granada was going to be really easy after rural life. But one of the first nights of being their alone, I felt the floor shake, all the glasses and bowls in the cupboard were tinkling. It turns out that Earthquakes are quite normal in Granada.
Additionally, one can follow Molly’s adventures on facebook.