Yup – I Did It Again

Oops! She did it again. And that will surprise no one. Not even me.

Yesterday I had a laundry list of to-do’s. Go to Palas and get our garbage service sorted out. Turns out no one is allowed to have plastic recycling bin service at home. Just trash and paper. We have to haul our plastic and glass into town ourselves. No exceptions. Why? I don’t know, but it has to mean most people throw their plastic in the trash. Seems counterintuitive. This will mean when I open the food truck I will limit all plastic and glass to a minimum.

I made my weekly farmacia run. Lovely people. Then I headed to Melide. First stop – sort our internet. It has slowed down more and more since we’ve lived here. We had gigabit internet in Valencia. But here it’s been much slower, winding down to a trickle. Like someone is turning off the tap. More and more, Jeff is tethering to his mobile just to work. So it was off to Moviestar to sort it.

While I waited with the other patrons, socially distanced, I noticed that while they have almost no bandwidth here, they are able to offer us telemedicine thru out cellphone/internet company for €10,95 a month. Except our internet is so bad we couldn’t use the video part of that service. I didn’t sign up as an add on at the counter since I figure that if they struggle to provide us with high speed internet, their medical advice might not be 21st century either.

And finally, I made my way down to the lone primary school in the whole area. Rural Spain is emptying and aging. ‘What are you doing going to a primary school in Melide, Kelli?’ You may well ask. ‘You have no small children. Or even children in Spain.’ And you’d be right. Here is where being an American in Spain will make you seem very strange.

In the US, when you are done with your primary career, no matter your age, often, you look for volunteer opportunities. Case in point, my mother and her next door neighbor, Mrs Taylor. In their retirement they volunteered at a local elementary school to teach immigrant and first generation kids to read english. These were children whose first language was not english and they were all high risk and struggling in school. Upon retiring, the two women marched themselves up to the school and offered their services, which were gratefully accepted. And they loved it. They helped the kids and the ladies felt like they were making a positive impact on the children and the community. A win win.

Volunteering at a school seems benign enough. But, in Spain you would be incorrect thinking this. In Valencia I emailed two different schools near us and volunteered before la pandemia. Neither ever responded. In my experience, email is never the way to get anything done in Spain. It’s always best to go there directly. Hence my trek to the primary school yesterday. Sure, I have things to do to prepare for our eventual business opening, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t devote a few hours a week to being a native English-speaker in a school English language class. Maybe reading stories or something similar. Lets face it, native English speakers living in this area are thin on the ground.

They let me through the gate, which was a good sign. Then they met me in the lobby. I explained why I was there. You could have heard a pin drop as the two women looked at each other like I was a Martian who had just landed in the schoolyard.

‘I don’t understand.’ The head teacher said, obviously confused.

I tried to explain about how this is very common in the US and I wanted to volunteer.

‘This is not common here. It is strange.’

I wanted to tell her she’s not the first person who has called me that, in the US or Spain, but I didn’t want to freak her out.

‘I live nearby and I thought if you need a native speaker, I can help. If not, that’s OK, too. I’m not looking for a job or to be paid. Just to volunteer.’ Clearly, I had caused a stir.

‘I will take it to the Parents organization and discuss it. I will call you with the results of the meeting.’

So, instead of doing a good thing, I have marked myself out, yet again, as something of an oddity. As if I needed more help in achieving that status. Except now I’m ‘That weird American lady who wants to help in the school and she doesn’t have kids who attend it.’ Yay! In a town our size its a label I will never live down. What was I thinking, and why am I not surprised? Because no good deed goes unpunished.

6 thoughts on “Yup – I Did It Again

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