The Scent of Jasmine

Granada Travel Blog

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Early to bed takes on a whole new meaning in Spain. If it is before midnight, it is early. And that is just what I did on the Sunday night before school started. About 11.59 I tucked myself up in the cool slippery silk sleeping sheet mum had sent me form NZ. It is really all you need here but I have a light doona over the top for that feeling of comfort.

A great night's sleep was followed with a great start to the day. Blue sky - never a cloud - and the kittens from the Carmen over the way. There are three of them and they leap up to my open window, trip over the flower pots and slip through the iron bars to see what I am up to. Lots of scampering all over the room to start with and then they focus on something to play with - especially if it makes a noise or can be torn up. The safest way for me to protect my work is to give them their own ‘paper toys’.
Hours of fun and it doesn’t cost me a cent!

SO after a week of school I now have a routine. I soon learnt that the days would be long and tiring (no siesta for us). We start lessons at 9.00am but I get to school 45 minutes early to grab moments on the internet. Last lesson ends around 9.00pm are there are two short 30 minute breaks and a lunch break of an hour and a half. It is long enough to walk home (a 3 minutes walk down the Albaicin cobbled laneways) but normally I stay at school to use internet or get some homework done.

There is a Russian girl who is the cleaner and runs the cafe. The cafe is only open from 11.00 - 12.00 every day so as soon as we are out of class we deftly hurry down the death defying little staircase, order our tostada and cafe con leche or fresh orange and queue in the tiny corner space inhaling the wonderful aromas of Spain. The little counter cafe opens to our courtyard which also doubles as classroom space if the rooms are full. There are orange and fig trees laden with fruit. As soon as it is ripe, one of the students or staff will use the ‘tin on a stick’ to retrieve the loot and either eat it on the spot or take it home for dinner. Talk about free range!

It is always cool in the courtyard and we nestle ourselves under the trees at every opportunity. It just does not feel like I am studying at all. The actual course (TEFL - teaching English as a foreign language) is taught very interactively with loads of practical work so we re always interacting with the local students who eagerly sign up for free lessons with the trainee teachers. The sound of laughter is a constant at the school.

Our building is an old Carmen which is a typical house up in the Albaicin (the original Moroccan settlement of Granada) and many are from the 12th century onwards. Ours is not that old but has plenty of character including the very typical narrow steep stairway leading up to classes. From two of the smaller rooms, I can sit and take in the beautiful tenth wonder of the world - the Alhambra. Always a blue sky, always laughter, always the smell of oranges or jasmine, always happy!

My fellow students are a wonderful multi-cultural mix of English speakers. There are two of us from Australia. My compatriot is a 65 year old lady from Sydney. She is so brave and an absolute inspiration to all. She came over here to walk the Camino de Santiago and continued on to Granada to learn TEFL as a means of travelling the world. I adore her.
There are a several of ‘Americans’; a gorgeous softly spoken Texan called Sylvia, shy Samantha and a funny Canadian, Élie, who has lived here for six years and is the class ‘tourist office’
There are several young folk from the UK, mainly university students, and gorgeous vivacious Gosia from Poland. We have a Scot (Alexander) who has recently returned form teaching in Korea and a very typically funny Irish guy called, strangely enough, Paddy.

Our trainers, Alan Monika and Antony are really wonderful and make the days fly by so quickly with their playful and informal teaching style. In fact we had a gorgeous long lunch yesterday (Friday) at Alan’s home. His wife Jay is Philippino and cooked a combination of Spanish and her native food. It was served outside in their Patio under the wisteria vines, next to the pool. Que. bonita! (how beautiful). You can imagine the lively conversations as we all relaxed a little after a long stressful week. There was dive bombing in the little pool and photos galore as the new friendships were forged even stronger.

I have my new friend from UK, Sarah, hanging out with me at the moment and she came to the lunch with us. It was a great opportunity for her to see inside a typical Carmen, something you may not be able to do as a tourist.

The owner of the Carmen, Alice, took some of us on a tour and explained the process she went through to renovate when she bought the property. The original part has been dated as 15th Century but she uncovered a gorgeous marble column from the 11th Century and it remains as part of the structure, holding up the 5 storeys (although now with the aid of steel lintels!)
Many of her rooms for rent have wonderful views directly up to the Alhambra. In one, you can lie in bed and marvel as the sun comes up over the ancient fort or maybe sip champagne watching the golden hues morph into ochre and then red as the sun sets.

Every day as I walk home from the school to my home, I am met with the same sensual delights. I tumble down the first laneway past the old lady clicking her castanets at me and beckoning me for a palm reading. The next tiny laneway opens to a three-sided Placeta (little plaza) where a beautiful shaggy dog sleeps behind an iron grill gate guarding the gorgeous patio inside. He lifts his head as I approach and slowly wags his tail acknowledging our blossoming relationship. At this point I am bombarded with the scent of jasmine and push aside the overhanging pomegranate tree to make my way further. One more set of steep stony stairs and I turn left, only 20 metres from home. Once inside the portico I am cloaked in the cool dark interior and step down to my semi-subterranean home; always cool and beckoning after a long day at school.

My first task is to unlock the windows and fling them open to the wafting night air and the excited sounds of tourists and locals alike as they slip past my window on the way up to the Mirador (viewpoint) for the most romantic view in the world - in my mind anyway.
Tucked safely inside my Granadian home, I am always a part of this nightly ritual, even as an observer. It is one of the memories I will treasure from my time here - as well as the scent of Jasmine.
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photo by: Chokk