So, I think I am long overdue on giving a general update on my life. I have spent all of my time so far writing about my weekend travels that I’ve failed to acknowledge my favorite city of all: my new/not-so-new-anymore home, Madrid!
I am quickly approaching my 3-month anniversary with Madrid (yes, it’s an anniversary because I am, indeed, declaring my eternal love for this city). I can’t believe it’s been [almost] 3 months already! I especially can’t believe that it was exactly a year ago that I decided to redirect my life and move to Spain. If you had asked me in October of last year where I thought I would be right now, my answer would have been in grad school for Speech-Language Pathology. But I’ll always remember that one day in November when I realized I needed to postpone grad school and pursue my dream of returning to Spain to teach English. After strong determination to make it happen, I find myself here, living in Madrid, exactly one year later. I couldn’t be any happier with this decision! And now I know just how important it is to follow your own intuition and to take action if you find your life going in a direction that you don’t approve of.
The transition period of moving to a new country is long gone now and I am happy to report that it was pretty much smooth sailing! I’ve been very lucky in regards to that. I would say that I am very much settled into my life here to the point where I don’t do much during the week except work. I’m living a pretty normal life except that it’s in a foreign country, so maybe it’s not so normal after all. Once you move somewhere new, there comes a time when you cross over from being a tourist/visitor to being a resident. It’s a great feeling, but it also means that every day isn’t filled with quite as much excitement as when you first arrived, which is only natural. Don’t worry, I may be boring during the week catching up on sleep, planning lessons, and watching the newest episodes of Nashville, but I promise I make up for it on the weekends!
My job here, like any other job, has its pluses and minuses. The minuses are the early mornings and my out-of-control, extremely chatty [but loveable] students. However, I would definitely say there are more pluses than minuses. I co-teach with 5 different teachers for 15 different classes during the week and all of these teachers are amazing. The entire staff at my school has been so welcoming and endearing towards me. They enjoy speaking to me in English but I also try to make an effort to speak to them in Spanish. In the afternoons I teach 3 classes to some of the other professors that want to practice their English. Although I’m realizing that teaching adults isn’t my favorite thing to do, I’m still glad I’m doing it because it has given me the opportunity to get to know the other teachers better and I get to learn so much more about Spain since we talk about topics they can relate to. On Tuesdays I give a 2-hour private lesson to one of my students and her 6-year-old brother. I usually help my student with her homework and then I play games with her younger brother in English. Private lessons are an easy way to make extra money and I plan on picking up more ASAP since my paycheck went way too quickly this past month. Whoops!
The highlight of my job, though, is definitely my students (even the ones that are out of control). Although it appears nearly impossible to keep Spanish kids quiet during class, which results in major aggravation and headaches on my end, they are still the constant reason this job brings me joy and they continue to melt my heart week after week. Here is a list of reasons why:
-My older students told me I’m so much better than last year’s English assistant because they are actually learning from me. Such a rewarding feeling!
-Some of the parents and older siblings of my students tell me how their child/younger sibling can’t stop talking about how nice, beautiful, and funny I am and about how much they love my class.
-Whenever I walk down the halls, all of my kids say “Hello Samantha!” I seriously feel like a celebrity in that school.
-Even after I yelled very badly at one class, they still shouted “Samantha, you’re the best!” when I left.
-One time I walked into my first of secondary class only to find out they all rehearsed beforehand to shout “SAAAAA-MANTHAAAAA!” when I walked into the room. I couldn’t stop smiling ear-to-ear after that!
-When the bell rang at the end of class one day, all of my students simultaneously shouted, “Noooo! We don’t want you to leave!”
-Some students are starting to ask me if I’ll be back next year. It makes me never want to leave them knowing that they’re already asking about next year when it’s only November!
My students also never fail to make me laugh. For example, last week I gave a speaking exam to my 3rd of secondary class (my 14-year-olds). I asked them to get into pairs and one person had to be the doctor and one person had to be the patient. They had to come up with a scenario where the patient was sick and the doctor had to give recommendations for a treatment. One boy said that he had a headache and couldn’t breathe. His partner, who was the “doctor”, responded with, “It sounds like you’re constipated.” I busted out laughing! I said, “Why do you think he’s constipated???” It turned out he mixed up the words constipated and congested! I then explained what constipated meant (in non-graphic terms) and my student said, “NOOOO!! Not that!!” hahaha it made my day.
In recent news, the trash strike in Madrid ended last week! For a couple weeks, the street cleaners and trash men went on strike because the city started making budget cuts that were impacting these workers’ jobs. As a result, the city looked like, for lack of a better word…shit. Mountains of trash surrounded the dumpsters and I had to walk around with my head facing the ground in order to avoid the dog poop that was left in the middle of the sidewalks. But an agreement must have been made because Madrid finally looks like a presentable city again! But to add to Madrid’s filth one day during the strike, I was on my way to work and I passed by a woman who I thought was letting her dog pee on a nearby tree in the middle of a busy sidewalk. I had to do a double-take because I suddenly realized it was her naked 3-year-old son! Just letting it all hang out, peeing on the tree like a dog. I definitely was not expecting to see that at 9:30 in the morning! And keep in mind this was also in Madrid’s richest and cleanest neighborhood. She probably thought that Madrid was already dirty, so what’s a little bit of urine? Haha.
So besides getting incredibly lucky with my school, I am still so happy with my living situation. I love the location of my apartment: still walking distance to many things but far enough away that it doesn’t feel touristy. It’s also just 7 metro stops away from my school- can’t beat that! And I cannot say enough good things about my roommates. They are 2 awesome Spanish girls who are my age and who, like my co-teachers, have made me feel so comfortable since day one. I also love how much Spanish I’m learning from them. My Spanish may not be anywhere near where I would like it to be, but at least I have roommates that are always willing to practice with me and answer any questions I might have. Unfortunately they still end up translating a lot of what they say for me but it’s OK. I’ll get there with time.
I have also been fortunate enough to travel a lot already. I have been to Segovia, Sevilla, Logroño, and Salamanca (all cities in Spain) as well as Porto, Portugal. However, I don’t plan on traveling for a while because it’s tiring, expensive, and honestly, I’ve missed Madrid! But I have some very exciting trips this year to look forward to! Over our 2-week winter break, Lindsey and I have an incredible trip planned: 4 nights in Budapest, 3 nights in Vienna (including Christmas), 3 nights in Prague, 4 nights in Berlin (including New Year’s Eve), and 3 nights in Hamburg. Then in March I’ll be getting my Irish-ness on in Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day! After that, my parents will be visiting me over Easter Break in April, and after a few days of showing them around Madrid, we’ll go to Munich, Salzburg (Sound of Music Tour!), and Ireland! THEN as one last hoo-rah, Kristen and I are going to London for the One Direction concert in June!!! Which will be a perfect way to end the year. I’m sure more trips will come about, but these are the ones I’ve planned so far. This year is shaping up to be pretty damn awesome.
Don’t worry, I know I’m making my life seem like it’s all rainbows and butterflies, but we all know nothing in this world is that perfect. I still have to pay rent (among other responsibilities), pay off student loans, wake-up early and work 5 days a week which leaves me feeling exhausted every single day. I also have to cook for myself for the first time which has been interesting. I’ve always done the easy stuff like eggs, sandwiches, soup, etc. Basically anything to avoid real cooking. But tonight I made my first REAL meal. I cooked raw chicken and veggies- yeah baby! Growing up! Basically, I’ve been leading a mostly independent life here (I still have my program advisors to contact if something goes wrong), but I’ve been doing it in a foreign country where I have to communicate in a second language, which comes with its own set of struggles and frustrations. But difficulties such as these are what make these types of adventures that much more rewarding. And of course it’s hard not having my friends from home and family here with me, but I’m not worried because I know that we will all be reunited again in no time. For those of you reading this, I miss you all! But for now I’m just trying to enjoy my time here because I’d be lying if I said that this isn’t turning out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. I am so excited to see where the next 7 months take me, I just hope they don’t go by too fast!