If I’m wrong, I can’t be far wrong. There seem to be hundreds of us, forever finding new and exciting experiences to try out and enjoy so that we can then bring you, our beloved readers (or random visitors), and each other a consistent stream of quality content. It’s a wonderful community where new bridges are built every day and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
However – and this is a big however – we are seriously lacking in man power. I’ll admit that there are heaps of man-powered sites out there run for the purpose of selling something or brand-building, but when it comes to other, personable blogs about Spain, geared to a slightly younger crowd like my own, I rather feel as though I am flying the flag solo (if I’m wrong do let me know below!). Frankly, I am not bothered by this; all those lady-powered blogs out there (you know who you are!) are excellent resources for both laughs and information, and in theory this apparent lack of man blogs should mean I reap a wider audience. Should mean.
So when I stumbled across Trevor Huxham’s blog, A Texan in Spain, a couple of weeks ago, I was understandably delighted to have finally found another blog about Spain composed by a dude (Robin over at A Lot Of Wind is another rare example). Like much of the younger US crowd here in Spain, Trevor is enrolled in the Auxiliare Language Assistant Program, allowing him the opportunity to live, work and travel within Spain for one year. His blog chronicles his small-town life in the rural village of Úbeda and all of his jaunty endeavours while aiming to provide other auxiliares with handy tips and how-tos.
So let’s say hello shall we?
Name: Trevor Huxham
From: Plano, Texas, U.S.A.
Occupation: North American Language and Culture Assistant
Time in Spain: Since late September 2012, although I’m home in the U.S. for the summer.
About blog: While my blog is primarily travel-oriented, I try to avoid the “we did this, then saw that, and ate here” approach in favor of easy-to-read yet smart, introductory posts about individual cities I’ve been to in western Europe and Morocco. Additionally, I try to give helpful how-tos for the language assistant crowd and write an honest account of what expat life is like in Spain.
1. Complete this sentence:
“Spain is a fascinating and laid-back sort of country, filled with festivals, history, and simple, tasty food. However, there is too much regionalism and not enough international food.
2. Why did you move to Spain? Why Úbeda?
I moved to Spain to work as a language assistant in a bilingual primary school in Andalucía, but I applied for the job because I wanted to travel and finally become fluent in Spanish. I ended up living in Úbeda, a World Heritage-listed city for its Renaissance architecture, because it was half an hour from the small village I taught in.
3. What is one of Úbeda’s best-kept secrets?
Something that makes the town really unique is its longstanding pottery tradition. Craftsmen cover all sorts of plates, cups, and jugs with a gleaming green, copper-based glaze that dates back to Muslim times. Three of the six remaining Moorish kilns in Spain are in Úbeda!
4. How would you describe the culture there? What type of people tend to thrive, and what type don’t do as well?
With a population of only 36,000, Úbeda’s no big town; however, it doesn’t have the sleepiness associated with most tiny villages. The city puts on frequent cultural events in the Hospital de Santiago’s auditorium, the main drag in town has tons of Spanish and international shops, and countless bar-restaurants will serve you tasty free tapas with your drink.
5. What have been (briefly) the best three experiences you’ve had since moving here?
1) Hiking 115km on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage; 2) Getting to explore Moorish and Mudéjar buildings across the southern half of the country; 3) Going out for tapas every few weeks with Spanish and American friends and perfecting my andaluz accent.
6. What has been the worst? And how could it have been avoided?
I know it’s a self-diagnosis, but I’m pretty sure I got Seasonal Affective Disorder aka the winter blues this year—yes, in “sunny” southern Spain! It rained well above average this winter, so I had no control over that, but I probably should have purchased a space heater, taken a Vitamin D supplement, and gone for a paseo whenever the sun was shining.
7. How much Spanish could you speak before you moved to Spain? What’s the best way to learn?
One of my majors in college was Spanish, and I came into Spain fresh out of school and conversant in the language. I don’t think the traditional classroom setting is the only way to learn, though; you need grammar/vocab studies and practical, real-world conversation. Sometimes simply hearing what people say in Spanish is difficult, so I subscribe to podcasts like Notes in Spanish to practice listening.
8. Money is a thorny issue for any would-be expat. Do you have any tips on working, saving, banking etc?
I feel like I lucked out with the steady teaching assistant job I got in Spain. One of my British friends in the area in the same program got paid a few months late yet subsisted entirely on private English tutoring and income from working in an English academy. For Americans, I recommend getting a Charles Schwab checking account since there are literally no ATM fees whatsoever.
9. Finally, what’s the best photo you’ve ever taken in Spain? Tell us about it!
When I was in Sevilla for the first time back in April, I had in mind this shot of the Torre del Oro at night with the Giralda in the background, so I knew I’d have to go across the Guadalquivir River somewhere. On the western bank I waited for about an hour for the sun to go down until the exact moment when the sky went this deep cobalt blue. I got the photo I wanted, but as I walked back across the San Telmo bridge, this beautiful composition appeared and I couldn’t resist another shot.
If you’re a language assistant in Spain or are considering becoming one, then click here for a read of Trevor’s post ‘A Day in the Life of a Language Assistant in Spain’ for a thorough breakdown of what to expect.