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Within a week of returning to Germany, my father called to say he had found an English international school for me. So I never got to stay with my friend. I returned to Spain and to the English international school. For the interview, despite painting my eyes very black so that I could appear sad and miserable, the head teacher didn’t seem to notice or care. I started school that February after the half term. It was nineteen ninety five.
My dad started work in the restaurant but the previous tenants of the restaurant put their clients off from going to the restaurant so there were no clients. Then the Spanish chef left after two or three days because of language problems. The restaurant closed after one week. So we all came here for a restaurant that was opened for one week.
A few weeks later, my parents found a bar that was up and running nearer to where we lived. The bar was okay and they ran it for four or five years. That March or May, my sister called. She was having problems with her father who couldn’t live with her, so she joined us. She had turned sixteen, so she was able to leave school and start to work. After working at a few jobs, she ended up working in the bar with my parents. I was a year younger, so I had to stay in school.
School was horrible. I remember the first time I went to class. I couldn’t understand anything that anyone was saying. There was a boy from Austria. He spoke my language but he wouldn’t speak to me. I remember because I couldn’t understand what was going on. The teacher tried to explain slowly but it was no good. I had been bad at English in Germany which did not help and nobody else in the school was German.
I was put aside and left on my own. There was another girl from South Africa. She was in the same situation although she spoke English and had been at the school for a while. So we became friends and she started to help me and show me where to go and what to do.
We had English classes for foreigners which helped me. The teacher was strict and this was good for me so all I had to do was find strategies to cope. For example, once when I took part in a drama class, I got laughed at because of my German/English accent. So I avoided drama classes which were in the mornings by coming to school one hour late. I also spent my two and half years there avoiding the English students in my class. There was one or two who was nice but I did not feel accepted. I was there but nobody cared whether I understood anything or not, as long as the fees were paid.
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It was really horrible until the next academic year when I was joined by a new student from Japan. She was also not accepted and did not speak English well. So she became a part of our little group. Children at the school operated in groups. It felt a bit different from Germany where we had children from Poland and Turkey for example who played together but, at this school, the Spanish had their group, the English had theirs. We had ours so it did not bother me a lot.
I ended up with better GCSEs than I would have had in Germany. My South African and Japanese friends inspired and helped me. Knowing I wasn’t on my own and that there were other girls with the same problems who did well at school must have contributed.
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After leaving school at seventeen I had a nice holiday and then started to work for a real estate company. I stayed for nine years. I started as receptionist but ended up doing all sorts of jobs from administrator to secretary, to child carer, taxi driver and homework tutor. This gradual deterioration in my job description reflected the direction the economy was going in. During my time at the estate agent, I married my husband. After I had my son at twenty six, I stopped working. My son was born very premature which meant he needed round the clock care.