Random ideas for ELT people, plus guest blogs & travel notes

My latest guest blogger is Luz Begoña Tocino, an English and Spanish teacher based in Madrid, who also helps me improve my Spanish through regular Skype conversations. She plans to re-locate to Sweden soon.

I’ve met quite a lot of people like Luz who are in a relationship with someone who is a different nationality and who speaks a different language. I’m always fascinated by how they communicate, especially when they do so in a language which is not native to either of them. I recently had dinner in Istanbul with a French woman friend who’s married to a Turk. They communicate almost all the time in English. When I asked them about her proficiency in Turkish, he said it had improved a lot when he was away doing military service, and she spent a lot of time with his mother.

What happens when the two people live in completely different places, with different climates and ways of life? What happens when one of them relocates?

This is Luz’s story…

A BIT OF ME:

I’m a devoted mother-of-two, a keen English and Spanish teacher and a loyal friend, who’s about to give another exciting turn to her life by moving to Sweden to live.

I was born in Avilés in the north of Spain 47 years ago in one of those ‘populated’ Spanish families of the 60s. I was a witness of the big political changes Spain underwent from a long-standing dictatorship to a new-born democracy, which was endangered by the 1981 attempted coup d’état.

Any world corner can be my home as long as I feel loved, respected and able to develop myself both as a person and as a pro. I met Lennart, my Swedish partner, in London when I was studying English in the setting of an au-pair life. I became fluent in English by chatting with him about this and that while wandering the London streets on those quiet sacred Sundays on which shopping was restricted to Carnaby Street and flea markets. I believe something was born there and, almost 30 years later, it has proved to be ‘true love’.

I let you define this phrase your own way, I know the full meaning myself.

I love languages and the power of communication. I feel as comfortable in an English-speaking setting as I am in my own native setting. And I know I will feel comfortable in my new Swedish setting as I am eager to learn the language and merge the best of both worlds: my world and theirs.

People chilling out in Avilés Spain...

...and in Valbo, Sweden

SERENITY. SILENCE. SNOW. SWEDEN.

In my world, on those rare occasions when snowflakes start falling down, we are immediately filled with wonder and our startled faces just stare at the scene, probably going back to our childhood for a few minutes.

Eventually such amazement yields to a feeling of discomfort due to the subsequent chaos that such weather conditions has brought to the city if, by any chance, it continues to snow for some hours and some centimetres keep storing up. Next, one may be advised by the local authorities of the convenience to stay put unless strictly necessary.

Children in Madrid, where I live, glue their noses to the windowpanes in awe and keep wishing for more. Soon they will be out playing with the snow and disregarding the cold. Out in the streets, drivers and pedestrians start hating what initially seemed to be so welcomed.

Fortunately, the ‘wannabe snowstorm’ lasts a couple of days at the most and then we’re back to our usual routine. The ephemeral whiteness has turned to a dirty grey by now. And the children’s disappointment is shown on their faces

I, myself, became a child again when first encountering the snow –the actual snow – in Sweden. There was this impulse just to jump onto the piles of fluffy snow as I stepped out of the car; an impulse that my adult awareness prevented me from fulfilling. It was already dark so my excitement had to be put to a halt till the next day.

When I rose on the following morning, a glimpse out turned the dark whiteness from the previous evening into a bright whiteness. The daylight reflected on the snow somehow deceived me, making me believe the snow-covered ground was taking over from the sun. Over coffee and in the cosiness of the apartment, my gaze was being filled by a serenity that has become a constant feature whenever I am in Sweden.

A few weeks before my first trip to wintry Sweden, I heard on the radio some journalists commenting on the silence the snow brought about. This remark was simply confirmed right there, right then.

I had arrived in Valbo the previous afternoon and darkness had quickly set my in-built Spanish clock into almost dinnertime, despite the fact that it was only 4pm. Now, in the early morning, my surroundings were filled by a special daylight, a daylight I had never experienced before. This special light snow imprints on the landscape: a serene snow, a silent snow.

Even if the minus-X temperature advised me to stay indoors all day, I told myself it wouldn’t speak greatly of me if I frowned upon the snowy landscape and did not to venture out.

So there I was, wrapped up in layers of clothing and ready to confront the low temperatures. My fear of not standing the cold was soon overcome by the freshness the cold welcomes you with. To my amazement, it didn’t feel as cold as the thermometer had revealed to me.

I will never forget my first trip out in snowy Valbo. I am sure I must have looked so naïve to the locals’ eye. As Jens said to me: ‘Begoña, no-one gets lost in Valbo’, after I told him I feared I would get lost in so much whiteness. I could be the first one, though!😛

When I recall my first step on daylight snowy ground, I think of a squirrel exploring its territory; my first stroll round the block trying to set mental landmarks that would show me the way back as I gazed at the local landscape; a bit farther next, while breathing in the cold air, the vast whiteness that lay ahead of me. The tall tree branches holding as much snow as their surface would allow. A few locals now and then walking along the pedestrian walks. Cars driving smoothly as in my snowless world.

And me, so in awe, trying to stay cool in freezing cold Sweden, but simply abandoning myself to the serene landscape, where big patches of land silently showed unexplored territory, stainless cloth which was kept away from human steps.

And this is the feeling I am cloaked in any time I am back in Valbo. Serenity, my soothing Swedish balm!

Comments on: "Guest blog 11-9 – Luz Begoña Tocino on moving to a new country…" (1)

  1. Mila Navarro said:

    What a poetic post. I can relate to practically everything you wrote. (I was a witness of the fall of communism, then met my future husband while working as an au-pair, became fluent in English while living in London… I’m Czech and communicate with my Brazillian husband in English).

    So all I want to say is GOOD LUCK + do not be afraid to give in to temptation and dive into the snow.

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