Life Begins in Madrid
It is 6:30 on a Thursday evening and I’m sauntering home amid steamy December temperatures (to Ohio standards) after an afternoon filled with food, wine, and plaza sitting. One of my favorite things about Spanish life is the midday meal when one does not have to splurge on a good portion of delicious food; for around ten euro, the menú del día offers two courses, wine or another beverage, and a desert. The menú, along my dear tortilla, jamón, queso, and vino tinto, (I’ll stop there) are only the taste palette in a city that ignites all my senses and reminds me that I am fully alive. Little by little I am making a beautiful life for myself here in Madrid. The past few months have been all about the small victories, and sometimes stumbles, of learning to live in another country.
There is a learning curve for everything, whether it is going to the post office, buying groceries, navigating the heath system at urgent care, or dealing with Spanish bureaucracy as a foreigner. Whatever new challenges lie before me, I’m figuring them out, armed with Google Maps, a solid Internet search, and the support of some really great expat friends. Every week I am exploring new barrios and I’m finding that what Madrid lacks in coastal views, it makes up for in a mix of charm, class, and creative edge. I like this place.
The hour to an hour-and-a-half commute out of the city to my school in a southern suburb may not be ideal, but there’s still beauty to be found in the hustle and bustle of public transportation. One of my favorite parts of the day is my decent down the second of four escalators at the metro station where the violinist plays Hallelujah or another familiar melody and strikes a romantic chord in an otherwise stressful morning rush.
As an English language assistant, I work with 16 different classes from Tuesday to Friday. In most classes I speak English with students one-on-one or in small groups. It is a simple job, but extremely fulfilling; I love talking to the kids and learning more about Spanish culture while sharing with them about life in the United States. The twelve-year-olds are my favorites. I don’t think it will ever get old to hear a room of kids greet me with hugs at the door and yell my name. I have celebrity status.
I’ll save the details for a later time, but I am blown away by the lack of resources, best practices, classroom management, leadership, and quality teaching at this instituto. While I like the teachers I work with and am impressed with their English level, there are many days I am horrified with what goes on in the classroom. My time in a Spanish school has certainly made me reflect upon and be grateful for my own education and the hard work, critical thinking, and creativity that goes on everyday at my school back home.
I’ll admit that there were quite a few tears back in September, some which came during the apartment search. In the end, I definitely lucked out with a big room and my own bathroom in a nice piso in a central part of town. I have two great flatmates too— one Spanish, the other Brazilian.
There are lonely moments and nights I wake up thinking about the future, but they pale in comparison to the simple moments everyday when I figuratively pat myself on the back for getting myself here. Things are good here in Spain and in the next seven months I imagine they will only get better as the language and culture grab a tighter hold of me until I’m finally left feeling like a madrileña.