December-May Snapshot

Back when I made my first couple of general updates about my life over here in Spain I told myself that I would continue updating every few months (mostly just for myself because I’ll enjoy having this blog to look back on a few years down the road).  Well…that obviously didn’t happen.  Now I only have 20 days left of being here before I go home for the summer (insane!) so I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to give an update on what my life has been like since November.

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I think I should start by saying that I am still having the most incredible year and I am in disbelief that it is almost over.  As incredible as it is, I still feel the need to make it clear that it’s still life therefore it’s definitely not perfect.  There are really good days as well as some bad ones.  Some of these bad days, for example, were around the holiday season.  I like to refer to this time as the “winter blues” period of this year.  Don’t worry, I wasn’t depressed, it just wasn’t like I was frolicking through the streets of Madrid or anything (not like I normally frolic, but you get the point).  Thanksgiving was when my first real spurt of homesickness sprouted.  I had never been homesick before, including during my semester abroad, so when it hit it was an unfamiliar and terrible feeling, as I’m sure you can imagine.  It was hard skyping with my family as they were all getting ready to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner without me or hearing about all of the moments my friends were having that I was missing out on.  As much as I love living abroad, it’s definitely easy to feel like I am missing out on things at home.  It’s times like these that being able to be two places at once would be an excellent super power to have.  But I remind myself that this isn’t a permanent change, so I try to take advantage and just enjoy the limited amount of time that I have here.  All of that aside, I spent Thanksgiving surrounded by all of my American friends here at our extravagant pot-luck dinner which helped ease the sting of being away from home for all of us, and it was so nice sharing this holiday with a great group of new friends!

Our Spanish Friendsgiving!

Our Spanish Friendsgiving!

My friends were able to make it through our family-less Thanksgiving a little easier though because they knew that they would be traveling home just a few weeks later for Christmas.  I, however, made the choice before leaving for Spain that I would spend Christmas break traveling around Europe.  I won’t lie, I was definitely second-guessing that decision by the time the holidays came around but I had already made travel plans so there was no turning back.  As hard as it was being away from home during that time, I couldn’t have chosen a better way to spend my holidays.  My friend Lindsey, who instantly became one of my closest friends after we met studying abroad in Sevilla, and I planned the most epic trip around Central Europe.  Over the course of 17 days, we covered four countries and five cities:  Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, and Hamburg.  We celebrated Christmas by eating Chinese food and seeing the Nutcracker at the Opera House in Vienna and New Years’ Eve avoiding getting hit by fireworks at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.  It was absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I will remember for the rest of my life.  If you’d like to read more about our trip:  here’s a link.

Lindsey and I at the Christmas showing of The Nutcracker at the Vienna State Opera House.

Lindsey and I at the Christmas showing of The Nutcracker at the Vienna State Opera House.

Christmas was the hurtle to get over, but once we got past that, everything started to look up.  Since there wasn’t much to do in Madrid when it was cold, my friends and I booked weekend trips every other weekend from the end of January until Mid-March.  That definitely helped occupy us and got us through the monotonous winter.  It was perfect timing because by mid-March, Madrid started seeing some early spring weather and started to really come back to life.  The days were getting much longer, the temperatures were rising, outdoor cafés were filling up with people, and the “Almendros” or Almond trees were blooming and it was like springtime heaven.  It was impossible not to fall back in love with Madrid during this time.  For the most part, we have had summer-like weather, but every now and then we get the chilly and/or rainy days.  I guess the Spaniards weren’t kidding when they say, “Hasta el cuarenta de Mayo, no te quites el sayo.”  This basically means don’t put your jacket away until early June because the weather often changes.

You know Spring has arrived when the Almendros are in bloom!

You know spring has arrived when the Almendros are in bloom!

So I should probably talk about the whole reason I’m here: my job.  Work has been really good!  During that aformentioned “winter blues” period I was getting frustrated with my job, the early hours, lack of sleep, and my students who would just Not. Stop. Talking.  I woke up every morning dreading going to work (I feel like I just sound like every other American but really, I was sick of my job).  But things have been much, much better lately.  Over time, I finally got my rhythm at my school and in the classroom (since let’s remind ourselves that I had NO teaching training before this) and I got to know my students much better which has tremendously improved the vibes in the classroom.  There was a period of time when I was having serious problems of disrespect with a group of my 15-year-old boys but there’s nothing like a visit to the principal’s office, a letter home to their parents, and an assignment of translating a lengthy Spanish article into English to get them to act like angels around me.

Even though everything is much better than before, in no way is teaching my passion or the career that I want for the rest of my life.  But for now, it’s a great way for me to live in Spain.  A common question that I get from people is, “Do you feel like your teaching is making a difference?”  My answer to that used to be, “Not really.”  It’s sad, but true.  But recently, I have had other teachers that I work with and the parents of children whom I give private lessons to  tell me that they have all seen great improvement in their students’/children’s English.  I have also noticed a great difference in the other professors at my school whom I have been giving lessons to all year.  I remember  they used to look at me like I had five heads when I spoke during our first couple of months together.  They didn’t understand a word I said.  But now, 8 months later, we’re having hour-long conversations with one another!  The most rewarding thing about this year has been watching them improve right before my eyes.  So overall, it’s nice to know that my time here has been worthwhile and I’m making some sort of difference.

I've posted this picture before but here is my school again.

I’ve posted this picture before but here is my school again.

One of my favorite moments this year that involved my students was when I got to introduce some of my favorites (I know I “shouldn’t” have favorites but hey, it happens) to my sister when she came to visit for the week.  I could tell they were a little shy to speak English but they spoke very well.  I loved it because they all had big grins on their faces and I could tell they were intrigued to meet one of my family members because I’m the only American they really know and talk to.  This was such a short moment in reality, but for me it was a big deal because it made me so happy to see my two worlds come together in front of my eyes.

Speaking of my sister’s visit, I am so lucky to have a family that will fly over here to visit me.  My parents came over just before my spring break in April and I got to show them around Madrid for a few days.  I loved playing tourguide and showing them my new city!  Seven months was the longest I have ever gone without seeing them so it was so nice being reunited.  After Madrid, we traveled to Salzburg, Austria where we did the Sound of Music Tour!  After that, we went to Munich, Germany where my brother flew in from Philly to meet us.  Our next stop was Ireland where we rented a car and drove all around the country hitting Cork, The Blarney Castle, The Cliffs of Moher, Galway, and Dublin.  It was hard saying goodbye to them again but just a short couple of weeks later my sister and her friend, Carla, came to visit!  We met in Paris for the weekend and then they came back to Madrid with me for the rest of the week.  It was so great having my whole family over here with me.  I loved being able to show them what my life in Spain is like and they got to see first-hand why I love it so much.  If you’d like to read more about my trips with my family, here is a link to my trip with my parents & brother, and a link for my trip with my sister.

With my parents and brother at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

With my parents and brother at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

In Paris with my sister and Carla.

In Paris with my sister and Carla.

In most recent news, this past weekend in Madrid was one of the most (if not the most) exciting weekends here yet!  Saturday night was the Champions League final in Europe and for the first time in history, two teams from the same city were up against one another for the title.  This city happened to be Madrid!  The whole city was torn between Real Madrid fans and Atlético Madrid fans.  I honestly don’t follow football (neither American nor European), but I was cheering for Real Madrid.  I guess you could say I was one of those people who hopped on the bandwagon for the weekend, but after this experience I might just have to follow it a little closer.  This game was a big deal for both teams but especially Real Madrid because it would be the long-time coveted 10th time they would win this title, also known as “La Décima.”  My friend Erin who you could say is Real Madrid’s ultimate fan (to say the least haha) was able to score tickets to watch the game at  Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.  Since the game was played at the pre-determined location in Lisbon, both teams’ stadiums here in Madrid filled their seats that surrounded giant four-screen cubes in the middle of the fields.

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Parading around the field with the trophy.

Words can’t describe being in that stadium surrounded by ONLY Real Madrid fans during that game.  The game itself was so intense because for the first 93 minutes of the game, Atlético was unexpectedly winning 1-0.  I looked around the stadium and everyone just looked devastated; Many were praying into their Real Madrid scarves.  But suddenly Sergio Ramos scored a last-minute goal that sent the game into overtime and Real Madrid ended up making a huge comeback and won 4-1.  The whole stadium ERUPTED in cheers and even tears.  Then a giant trophy rose out from inside the cube and the whole crowd sang “We Are the Champions” in their Spanish accents haha.  Afterwards it was time to go celebrate at Cibeles!  This is a statue outside the city hall where everyone goes to celebrate a Real Madrid win.  There were sooo many people there but luckily we still had a view of the statue.  We stood there for four hours because we knew the team was flying in from Lisbon and was going to meet everyone at Cibeles for the tradition of wrapping the Real Madrid flag around the statue.  They didn’t arrive until 6 AM but there were still a good amount of fans there waiting for them, including us.  The celebrations continued the next night at the stadium again.  Once again Erin got us tickets which was awesome (thanks Erin!) and this time our seats were SO CLOSE to the field.  We had a great view of all of the players entering the field and when they walked around with the trophy.  There was also an impressive fireworks show.  As a whole, it was such an exciting and definitely memorable weekend.

Here’s a video of the ceremony the night after they won.  Sorry that I suck and I filmed it vertically.

So in case it isn’t obvious, I am very, very happy here.  So happy, in fact, that I’m just not ready to say goodbye to Spain quite yet.  So, back in February I made the decision to stay a second year definitive and I couldn’t be happier about this decision.  I could easily go into so much more detail about this, but I’ll quickly sum it up.  Basically, the way I look at it is that I’m blessed to be young, healthy, free, and have a job that allows me to live in and work in Spain.  It was my dream to come back to Spain to teach English since the day I left Sevilla three years ago and with the amount of time, energy, and money it took to get myself over here, I might as well stay and enjoy it a little longer!  I know it’s cheesy, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if you have dreams, make them happen now (or at least start working towards them).  Tomorrow is never guaranteed, let alone 30 years from now, and you can never be sure what may arise in the future.  I still intend to go to Grad School once I’m finally back in the States for good, but for now that life can wait.  Right now I’m just trying to do what makes me happiest and it’s turning out pretty well.  As for you all back home, I love and miss you and another year away will be very difficult but starting in a few weeks we have a solid two and a half months together and I can’t wait!!  I’ll be seeing you all soon 🙂

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