I retreated home for Christmas last year, welcomed by Lidl’s weekly stock of mince pies – I went from being homesick to almost physically sick; I tried explaining to Mum that they also eat food in Spain, but that didn’t seem to deter her from fattening me up like the honorary Christmas Turkey. Despite not being back in a while, my break at home was short and sweet, much to the family’s dismay (everyone enjoys my ability to clear the entire fridge contents, as well as my inability to not knock over everything in sight).
Dad had suggested I stay longer than the ten days planned, to get over being the Brit misfit, but I’d reached the point of no return. I need to do this, or I’ll always be stuck. Also it was my year abroad. There was no way I was going to not take advantage of that for New Year’s Eve. So ten days later and six kilos heavier, I boarded that plane, Málaga-bound, with a box of (by then, crumbled) mince pies – apparently I hadn’t been put off completely – and a new attitude.
My dad’s sound advice: “If you’re going back, stop stressing. They can’t tell you off for trying can they? Don’t let it ruin your last month there. Enjoy yourself.” And my ever-growing appreciation for the andaluz way of life impelled a change in my mentality.
“I have about six weeks left here, I want to be fluent, I want to eat tapas and I don’t want to care when people don’t understand me. I want to see things I haven’t seen before, I want to see Spanish things and I want to do Spanish things.”
So I started saying yes, or ‘sí’ to more things.
From the moment I disembarked the plane in Málaga I withheld the urge to revert back to my enemy, the comfort zone, and proceeded to the ALSA ticket office outside, making an enquiry in Spanish about times of buses to Granada. I don’t know if she noticed my accent was off or not, I didn’t notice myself, because after all, who cares? I asked a question and got my answer. Silly little things like that. Why did that ever bother me?
The sad thing is, it used to scare me.
Getting back to Casa de Monos was a bit like returning to Uni halls before everyone had gotten back from holidays; a few of us in the building had decided to stay over the New Year period, so a big NYE dinner was organised by lovely Flat 5 Izquierda, which involved lots of pasta, champers, wine, not enough chairs, and a long table of drunk foreigners, myself included.
After the lovely meal I went to get changed; my friend Chris was dapper in a suit and bowtie, so obviously I felt a sparkly gold sequinned dress and new high heels was appropriate/not OTT at all/well if you can’t go all out for NYE when CAN you?!
I met everyone at the flat before leaving, and we all tottered out (okay just myself and a few of the girls), making our way towards Plaza del Carmen, outside the town hall. Which, by the way, was RAMMO. I can’t express how packed it was. And weirdly we seemed to be the only non-Spanish group. As part of tradition, some of us had brought 12 grapes along, the Spanish custom being to eat a grape for each chime of the bell during the countdown to midnight. I did not remember this unfortunately, although I did remember the champers. Fortunately.
There were masses of crowds, live music, and a lot of loud conversations. To this day I maintain that whoever was in charge had missed the countdown, because as far as I was aware, there was a fuzzy mumble over speakers in the square, and then everyone began simultaneously screaming and hugging each other. There were also fireworks amidst this madness. Some friends were chucking grapes down their throats, or at each other, while the rest struggled to get all their plastic glasses under the same bottle of trickling champagne (that would be myself included, again). Everyone was having a raucous old time, Jacob even managed to catch the flying cork of a champagne bottle which had popped somewhere in the crowd; I still can’t believe it, and I still keep hold of it for luck!
As crowds began to disperse (WHERE’S THE FIESTA AT?), we got our group together and walked along the Paseo de los Tristes, stopping by the car park near the bridge for a mini ‘botellón’, Spanish for pre-drink, only they don’t do it to binge, shocker! After copious amounts of tinto were washed down, we headed upwards (with the hills of the Albaicín it is an almost vertical journey) to Camborio, not before stopping at the bridge for a moment to find out group straggler’s whereabouts (F.Y.I this is you, Carys). I remember having a lovely time, receiving a free glass of (more) champagne, a new year hat, or some kind of souvenir, and dancing till my shoes left my feet (literally they were so sore I am never wearing heels out the same day I buy them again. Ever.) I also cringely remember completely losing my footing on the way out, and tumbling in spectacular fashion, contents of bag spilling across the cobble-stoned street. I got up with what dignity I had left (none), realised I didn’t care, and walked to the taxi rank.
It was 7am when I arrived back at my cave of a bedroom (the shutter was down and no alarm was being set). I woke up in the afternoon, decided I wanted to make the room stop spinning/drink all the water in the world/go for a Chinese, but mainly the last one, so rounded up the troops and expressed how much a good oriental meal complete with many prawn crackers would solve all our hangover problems right now.
Home or away, seems I’m still that English girl who craves Chinese food after a night out, but I’m not sorry for it. I had a good time with good friends, and a night to remember, which definitely cost me less than the New Years Eve prior to that (no doubt it was great, but left me more than £100 out of pocket and queuing outside Charing Cross McDonald’s for a Big Mac). That is a good start to the year in my eyes (not counting the hangover), and I was looking forward to making more memories before leaving for Italy.
As destiny would have it, on returning to Granada, I messaged Sole, and she replied on New Year’s, saying how she was back at home, in Ronda.
“You should come here for Los Reyes Magos”