Maria Jose La Chica Dominguez – yes, that is my full name. Spanish people always have two surnames. The first surname of the father, and the first surname of the mother. Having two surnames has brought me a couple of problems in England. People tend to file you under the last word in your name, so I’ve been “Miss Dominguez” for many people for a long time. But, as about 95% of Spaniards do, I go by my first surname: I am Maria La Chica.
– What’s your name?
– Maria La Chica
– (after spelling it out) Uh, sorry, I’ve got nothing under that name
– Try Dominguez
– Oh yes, why didn’t you say that in the first place?
I currently live in Byfleet, which is a lovely village in Surrey. It’s not a busy town, thank God, it actually has TWO retirement homes; but it has all I need. It isn’t far from bigger towns like Woking or Surbiton, but the most important thing is that I work in the same town that I live in. No commutting. Perfect (I still drive to work, though, I’m that lazy)
Before moving to Byfleet, I lived in Walton-on-Thames for a year. Walton is a lovely place. It’s bigger than Byfleet, it’s got all these high street shops and a new shopping centre, and it is so near to the river. I used to go to feed the ducks/swans/geese ever so often when I lived there, but now I barely find the time to go. A real shame, because I love those birdies.
I have a degree in English Philology (Filologia Inglesa) by the Universidad de Granada. I also have a degree in English Studies by Portsmouth University. I cheated though, I didn’t deserve the second one. I’ll explain:
There is this student exchange programme called Erasmus between Spanish universities and other universities in Europe. I chose Portsmouth because a friend of mine had already been there a couple of years before and told me how easy it was compared to Granada. So wanting a nice, relaxing year abroad, I chose Portsmouth.
Filologia Inglesa is a 5-year course in Spain, whilst English Studies is only 3 years in England (actually, except for Medical School which is 5 years, most degrees in the UK are only 3 years long). I came to Portsmouth when I was in my 4th year in Granada, but because UK degrees are only 3 years long, I was actually put in the final year at Portsmouth. I took al my credits, I did all my lessons, I even wrote a dissertation (“William Blake and the age of Romanticism” – I got a 63 out of 70, I think to remember), so when I finished I was given a degree! I went back to Spain, I finished my degree there, and realised that I had achived two degrees (in the same subject though) in six years.
After that I did a 3-month postgraduate course in Education in Spain. It’s something similar to the British PGCE but with Spanish Standards – meaning: a rubbish course that does NOT prepare you to be a teacher. And after that, another course to become a teacher of Spanish as a foreign language. I really enjoyed that one, especially because we had real practice since day one, with real foreing students (some of them could speak very basic Spanish, but others….), and when I finished I got a summer job with the school which I enjoyed a lot.
As I just said, I had a summer job as a teacher in 2005. Before that, the only serious job I ever had was working in the family business: an ice-cream parlour. Some people don’t fully understand the magnitude of the job. They imagine you behind a little ice-cream cart, wearing a ridiculous hat and serving cones of any of the 6 different flavours. No. I wish. The ice-cream parlour I worked all my life was four times (or more) the size of my house. It had about 30 tables to sit inside and another 18-20 outside. We had 40 different types of ice-cream and many other specialities like “leche rizada” or “horchata”, and home-made puddings like “crema catalana” or “flan”. All products were manufactured by my family.
It was a huge business. It was so big that it allowed us to just open for 7 and a half months of the year and rest the others, and still make a profit. ~But the difficulty of the job didn’t lay in how big the place was. It was a matter of lack of manners. Spanish people don’t have manners in the way that English do. They don’t queue, they shout at you if you don’t serve them straight away, they expect to pay after they have finished eating whatever they’re eating and will complain if you try to charge them upon serving the goods, etc. It was very hard work. In the busy times, up to 12 hour shifts.
Then I came to England. I tried to find a job in a school as a teacher of modern languages, but they expected me to be able to teach French as well, so that was a no-no. And after a couple of crappy jobs as a waitress and cashier, I got a job as an administrator in an office. Everything was so new to me: working in an office, having my own desk, answering the phone, the new vocabulary of all the new responsabilities I had, the people, the hours… But I managed and I did well. People liked me (almost all of them) and eventually I moved on to my current role: Engineering support.
I have now been “supporting” engineers for 6 months and I still have lots to learn. My role is becoming more and more technical everyday, and the plan is that I myself become an engineer in the long term. We’ll see how that turns up.
UPDATE: It’s June 2010 and I thought this page needed a little update.
I no longer live in Surrey. Those of you who have been following the blog know that I moved to Basingstoke in Hampshire just a few months ago. The move has really made a difference in my life, in a good and in a bad way. The “good” is that I now have an amazing house that I would have never been able to afford in Surrey. The “bad” is that now I have to commute for almost two hours daily. Still, I think the whole thing has been worth it!