Cat Gaa turned down a job in radio in one of the United States’s top markets and turned up at the Consulate of Spain with the intention of teaching English for a year. Initially upset that she wasn’t placed in Granada, she found her niche in Triana, becoming akin to siestas, tapas and even a card-carrying member of Real Betis Balompié. Among other things to make ends meet, she maintains a blog about life as a guiri in Seville, Sunshine and Siestas, as well as a blossoming consulting business for North Americans, COMO Consulting. She’s also working on her C2 degree in Spanglish (which her future children will likely master by age 5).
1. How did you end up living in Sevilla?
I didn’t choose Sevilla – the Ministry of Education chose it for me. My dream was to teach English for a year in Triana and eat enough tapas to merit being lifted onto the plane by crane. But, alas, my destiny was Olivares, a big village known for their inability to speak clear Spanish so that anyone not from town could understand. I spent a year totally lost in conversations, learned to say ‘qué pá mashé’ from my students, and now have fond memories of my three years working in the high school as a language assistant. Faced with bitingly cold winters in Chicago and Seville, I stuck with the sunshine.
2. What’s the thing you like the most of Sevilla?
I love that Seville is still surprising me after seven years, and that it’s still as beaufitul as it was when I first visited on a summer abroad.
3. What is the one thing you’d most like to change about Sevilla?
Just one? I’ve become a bit jaded after so long, but I’m tired of the lack of free parking, the bureaucratic mess that is every funcionario in the foreigner’s office and that we’re still a ways from the beach.
4. How do you cope with homesickness?
I’m currently planning a wedding – I am FAR from homesick! But there’s nothing a quiet hour at Starbucks with a gigantic coffee and my Kindle can’t fix!
5. Do you sleep with a stuffed animal?
In the US, I sleep with a stuffed dog named Bubbles. It was a gift from an old high school boyfriend. In Seville, it’s simply too hot to even allow my fiancé to be anywhere near me while I’m sleeping!
6. Any children’s Book and/or film you consider essential?
I teach little ones and love to re-read my favorite stories, like Eric Carle, Tommy DePaolo and Shel Silverstein. One day, I’ll FedEx my book collection over!
7. What still-airing kid’s TV show character do you love?
Sadly, since I haven’t got children of my own and abhor the TV (I also have to share with someone who has it on all day), I don’t watch any kids’s shows!
8. Do you remember any embarrassing mistake you’ve made while learning Spanish?
So many that are far too inappropriate for the web! Imagine, if you will, that I have said these things in inconvenient places, like a classroom full of 15-year-olds, a wedding and in parent-teacher conferences.
9. Any suggestion (or magic potion) to learn English effortlessly?
I don’t believe you can learn English without effort – it takes commitment and time, though a few tricks are to listen to podcasts, forget that you’re making mistakes and to learn phrasal verbs, even if it kills you in the process!
10. Can we know what your plans for the future are?
Pff, what is my immediate future? If it’s a weekday, having a beer with my boyfriend in Triana. If it’s a weekend, catching up on writing, trying to remember to sleep and forgetting that I’m on a diet. A little further in the future: growing COMO Consulting, planning my wedding in the US and trying to grow back my savings after inverting it all in my new house.