Monika bounds up to the gate, laden with three enormous bunches of red roses. She presents them with a flourish to the girls – Rachel, Bryony and I.
The boys, Tom and Alex, receive Ecuadorian scarves. Each of us also receive a bear hug and a kiss on the cheek which is exactly what you need after 22 hours of travelling.
We’re bundled into cars and, with a jolt, I realise this will probably be the last time I ever arrive on an entirely new continent.
I try to look out of the window to mark the occasion but it’s 5pm and it’s pouring with rain.
I can make out the odd shop and tree-lined street through the gloom but that’s it.
We soon arrive at the flat and Monika’s mum, Ruth, greets Bryony and I with a younger girl, Maria, in tow (Her granddaughter? Her maid?)
She shows us around the flat which is both beautiful and huge – five bedrooms, a large lounge and dining area (complete with fully functioning bar – what a legend) a sizeable kitchen and two bathrooms.
It’s cosy and it’s homely, particularly when the older lady appears with two huge vases.
She barely reaches my shoulder but the two of us stand peacefully in her kitchen, busily stripping the leaves from the roses and arranging them one by one.
We communicate with smiles and I think I learn the words for ‘roses’, ‘flowers’ and ‘pretty’ – but it could have been anything.
Still, I suddenly realise it’s going to be a lovely weekend. My bedroom is huge, this tiny woman reminds me of my grandmother and I feel weirdly at home.
I realise I should probably make the most of it, because Spanish School starts on Monday and unless the conversation revolves around pretty roses and flowers, I’m think I’m going to be in trouble.