As I settle into my social and professional lives here in Madrid, it would be all too easy to fall into a mundane routine. Even though I’m living abroad, I still must buy food, cook it, do the dishes, do my laundry, send emails, go to the gym, pay my bills, and all of the other things you have to do. Plus, this whole teaching thing is a lot more work than I was originally expecting, seeing as I plan lessons each week for six different age levels (of varying abilities), plus a conversation class with teachers at my school, plus two (for now) private lessons. Designing 50-minute classes that are educational, entertaining and appropriate for students’ emotional and linguistic abilities is no simple task. Anyway, the moral of the story is that the real world here in Spain, albeit a romantic Eurotrip at times, has many of the same components as the real world back at home.
However, amidst all of the aforementioned business and chores, there are always sprinklings of the romantic-Eurotrip-ness that you probably imagine I’m living on the daily. This week the Romantic-Eurotrip-Gods had a particularly heavy hand in sprinkling their fairy dust, loading it on more and more as the week progressed. This is how it went down:
Despite the rain, I made my way to Madrid’s famous El Rastro, an outdoor flea market that opens every Sunday. In addition to being famous for its numerous and extremely crafty pick-pocketers, it offers tent after tent of scarves, clothing, incense, jewelry, and every other item your heart could desire. I made it out with a pair of earrings (1 euro), a scarf (2 euros) and all of the rest of my money and credit cards still inside my purse and on my person. Since it was Sunday, also known as Euromania at 100 Montaditos, we stopped for some mini sandwiches and tinto de verano before returning home to plan the week’s lessons.
After work and the gym, I had my first intercambio (conversation exchange) with an aeronautical engineer from Sevilla. Over large jarras of tinto de verano and a variety of tapas that came free with our drinks, we had a lovely half-in-English-half-in-Spanish conversation.
At the end of my workday, I walked home with Nuria, an economics teacher at my school who is part of my English conversation group for the teachers. After she laid out a lovely spread of snacks, I began to give a private class to her 16-year-old son, Guillermo, who was extremely inquisitive and talkative. Nuria had to go back to school for a meeting, so after talking for a while with Guillermo, he and I walked to pick up his sister, 10-year-old Ángela, from school. Back at home, I had a lesson with Ángela for an hour or so. Nuria then kindly drove me to a bar, still in Majadahonda, where I was leading my first conversation group for Club LTL, a company that offers English conversation groups for adults held in a real-life setting (a bar/restaurant) rather than a classroom. There, I was put with the advanced group and spent 1.5 hours talking in English with three lovely mom-types. At the end of the session, the coordinator offered to buy me another drink (in addition to the free ones I was given during the class), and I ended up staying two hours longer, having some wine and tapas with the students, other teachers and coordinators, this time switching into Spanish. Although working in Majadahonda from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm was exhausting, it was probably the most pleasant that a 14-hour workday could have been.
I worked in the morning and had my second intercambio of the week in the afternoon, this time with a civil engineering student over coffee, complete with a hand-drawn map of Spain with all of the places I need to visit and a thorough explanation of the soccer leagues and teams in this country. Later in the evening, just like on Sunday, 100 Montaditos’ Euromania was impossible to pass up, and I gave in.
The daytime part of my precious day off was pretty mundane, but in the evening I met two friends to see the comedy Amigos Hasta la Muerte (“Friends Until Death”), starring three well-known Spanish actors who have had many successful TV and movie roles. Despite the speedy dialogue and multitude of puns, I understood almost all of it – an immediate victory for those few hours because it was hilarious and I wouldn’t want to have missed the jokes, and a long-term victory for my Spanish confidence. After the show, we met the actors and took photos, and we finished off the night with sidra (a hard cider from Northern Spain), chorizo and Manchego (because why not eat when you can eat?).
While at work, I went to the school secretary’s office to check in about my health insurance and first paycheck. After quickly taking care of business, I got to chatting with Isabel, the secretary, and before I knew it, I was invited to have lunch at her house and meet her sons who are around my age. At first it was a general open invitation, but about five seconds later, I was being told to meet her in her office at the end of the day. When we got to her house, her middle son, Enrique, was home, and the two of them prepared a meal fit for the kings which included, among many other dishes, some beautiful mushrooms that Enrique had harvested himself in Guadalajara the day before. Apparently said ‘shrooms are extremely expensive in the grocery store due to the brevity and fickleness of the harvesting season, so I was pretty lucky to be able to try them. And damn were they good. Both Enrique and Isabel were extremely generous, welcoming and hilarious. Later, Enrique and I went out for drinks with his friends and he eventually dropped me off in Madrid in his car around 9 pm. I capped of the night with more food, obviously, making my second trip to Tapapies (see previous post). And if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, I came home to find my front door locked with the deadbolt and had to wake up my 70ish-year-old roomie to open the door for me at 2:30 am. She thought I was at home and asleep the whole time. Alas. Luckily she’s awesome and wasn’t bothered at all.
Aaaand that’s all she wrote, kids. Like I said, they won’t all be like this. But the romantic-Eurotrip-Gods were really looking out for me this week.