Hiatus

•March 29, 2014 • 4 Comments

For several reasons, I’m taking an indefinite hiatus from this blog.

Overall, things are okay for the most part. I spend most of any given day working, either at the elementary school, outside of school giving classes to Spanish professionals, developing my freelance writing career (which is where I devote the majority of my access-to-wifi time — working on my website, spending time on a freelance writers community, attempt to market and network, etc). Currently, I am also taking a couple Spanish classes, including one in advanced Spanish pronunciation/phonetics, hoping to get a pass to a local gym so I can attend dance classes occasionally, and trying to build something resembling a social life, support system, network of friendly acquaintances, whathaveyou.

Next week I’m going to start working a bit more. I officially have a job for the summer, a well-paid au pair/English teaching position, so starting in April I’ll be working with the children a few hours a week so they can get used to me. I’ve met them already, they seem like sweet kids. The oldest supposedly hates English, but I have fun websites, games, and wear pretty scarfs and skirts, so I’m adequately armed.

Spring has sprung here…and then un-sprung a bit so I’m currently a bit sick. And apparently February 2014 had the lowest amount of sunny days in 20 years, plus constant rain (Compared to Chicago’s winter though…I hate to admit how often the line, “Well, I could be in Chicago,” was used to brighten my mood the past few months). That being said, for the most part the beginning of 2014 has been muuuuch better than the beginning of the previous year. Gotta take our victories where we can.

“Happy” 2014

•January 1, 2014 • 3 Comments

On New Year’s Day 2013, a student of mine from Seville sent me the following greeting. It was definitely one of the most…genuine well-wishes I’ve ever received, especially given my year and life in general:

“my wife and I wish you and your family a very happy New Year. We hope all your dreams come true, or at least, some of them :)”

So I suppose that, indeed, some of my dreams possibly came to fruition in some way, shape, or form, in 2013.

May we all continue on such an upward trend.

Navidad en Sevilla

•December 24, 2013 • 2 Comments

I’m currently in Seville for the holidays. From the 26th – 29th I’ll be in Granada, this will my first time going, then I’ll be back in Seville until midnight on the 8th. This vacation was just what I needed, and Seville was definitely the perfect place for me to go. I needed to get away from Madrid and my health is better for it, even just to see the sun much more often and have access to fresh air. Since I used to live here and still have friends here, I’m able to actually relax on this vacation instead of feeling pressured to constantly be on the go. Furthermore, since I’m staying in a place on airbnb, I’m able to cook my meals as I’d like, so I can save that much more money.

On Sunday I went to the church I attended while here.  It was great to see them and they were happy to see me, it was nice.  Yesterday I hung out with a good friend of mine and tonight I’m having dinner with his family. Christmas Eve is a bigger deal than Christmas Day in Spain and in the Spanish-speaking world in general from what I’ve gathered, so I hope the dinner is pretty good. Regardless, it should be nice, and definitely better than what I was planning on doing tonight.

Last Thursday, we had our Christmas concerts at the school. In the morning, the infantil students (preschool, ages 3 – 5) had their concert, of which I saw about half, and in the afternoon the primaria students performed (elementary school, 1st – 6th grade). They performed songs in English and Spanish, and the 6th graders also did a skit in English (Peter Pan), and a poem in Spanish.

All of the first graders performed together, I work with them (as well as the 3rd and 4th graders). The English song and dance they did was a version of “Do Re Mi” from the Sound of Music, the “flash mob” version (song was the same, dance was slightly different). Personally I thought 6 minutes was a bit long for a song for 6-year-olds, but they did a good job.

The Spanish song they sang was “Hi hei ho ho ho” from Los Pitufos, which is The Smurfs in Spanish. Reading the YouTube comments this is a really old song, and a nice bit of nostalgia for the people who commented. Also, the Spanish in general seem to really like The Smurfs for some reason, there’s some Smurf amusement park here.

One of the 3rd grade classes performed a rock version of “Hoy es Navidad,” which is to the melody of Jingle Bells. I couldn’t find a rock version on YouTube, sadly, so here is the typical version. 

The other 3rd grade class sang the Justin Bieber version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” If you really want to hear Bieber sing, feel free to google it lol.

Some class sang this song, honestly not sure who since I don’t have a program of the concert with me. “Campana sobre campana”

Another class sang this, “Navidad rock,” which is “Jingle Bell Rock”

Enjoy the holidays everyone, que tengáis unas fiestas felices!

Esperando a los Reyes Magos

•December 17, 2013 • 5 Comments

I’m still waiting for my new cell phone [EDIT: I received an email about an hour ago saying that said phone is no longer available, back to square one] and for wi-fi to be set up in my new place. Admittedly this makes me feel pretty isolated at times, but aside from that I’m getting settled into my new studio well.  I feel more relaxed, my health has improved, I’ve lost some weight, and my hair is softer for some reason.  And as I imagine that one of my former roommates’ friends took my old room — as the landlord hadn’t shown it to anyone yet managed to rent it well before I left, and I flat out told her “They need to just live with their friends.  No one else is going to tolerate this” — this is best for everyone.  

I still need to buy some appliances for the kitchen. There’s no oven (which is pretty common in Spain, especially in apartments), no microwave, and as I lovingly refer to it, a “better than nothing” stove.  I’m looking for used appliances (in segundamano stores), on Amazon, and I’m going to check out the “rebajas” that take place after the holidays to see if I can get a good deal. It’s hard enough to be motivated to cook at times with fully functioning appliances, so these are a must buy. At least the stove.

Friday morning I head down to Seville for winter break.  I’m also going to Granada for a few days after Christmas.  Since “Día de los Reyes” is on a Monday this year, school doesn’t start back up again until the following Wednesday, so we get a good break this year. Part of me is really excited to go back to Seville.  I still have friends there and I’m excited to have a vacation during which I don’t *have* to do anything.  Not to mention the weather is much nicer than Madrid and Chicago.  On the other hand, I’m a little worried I’ll be disappointed, that something will go wrong, etc.  And I technically don’t have any set plans with anyone yet.  And I might end up spending Christmas at a McDonald’s, I ended up at one here on Thanksgiving (Most of my American expats friends either didn´t have any money for a Thanksgiving dinner and/or didn’t have an oven (see above). If nothing else, it’ll be memorable. And hopefully relatively warm.

Good news.

•November 25, 2013 • 5 Comments

Finally, after blood, sweat, and tears, and being this close to murdering the fools who live with me, I’m happy to announce that I have a new apartment. A studio in the Universidad (Malasaña) neighborhood, near Gran Via. It actually fulfilled all of my requirements, wishes, and more…price even.

Miracles can indeed happen, keep the faith.

Tomorrow I’m going to bring my documentation (passport, NIE) and my “reserva” of 100 euros. On Friday I sign the contract and bring my paystub and the rest of the money, and on December 1st I officially move in.

In spite of the constant BS, I’m happier than I seem….

•November 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment

One of the many, many, many, many reasons that I’m moving out and looking for a studio (my goal was to find a new place by the end of the month, but the month is almost over, so we’ll see). I messaged this to my sister early this morning:

so, i have no clue wth is going on in this apartment right now
it’s 6:30a
my roommates got home about 10ish minutes ago
at least one of them is wasted
so they come in, stumbling, open my door and immediately try to close it
i said “wtf”
so i locked it
eventually someone comes back to try to re-open it, banging it
one of them was ‘whispering’ obscenities to me from outside my door
then slips some packet of paper under it
i take a look at these papers
they’re notes from their master’s program
they’re ridiculously loud right now (given that it’s 6:30 in the morning), one of them is trying to tell his girlfriend to go home (now he thinks she needs to leave, right)

I messaged the above to a friend:

Friend
shit D:
7:05
Me
exactly, and they act like i’m unfair for not liking them
i’m tempted to rip up this packet and sprinkle the pieces outside their doors
7:06
Friend
or you could just “lose” them
7:07
Me
i will throw them out at the very least
…………………………………………………………………..
7:29
Me
I ripped up that packet and threw it away
7:29
Friend
you have enforced the Fuck This Shit Act of 2013
well done
7:29
Me
Thank you, A for effort

……………………………………………………………………
17:42
Me
they wrote me a note to apologize. i ripped that up and put that letter plus that ripped up packet on the kitchen counter

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Good things do happen here in Madrid too, in case anyone was curious. My closest Spanish/Sevillian friend was wondering that too. A few weeks ago he asked me, “Are you happy here?” At the time I said that in general I am, but moving overseas is always challenging with tons of problems. 

It’s definitely been a struggle, and in some unexpected ways. On Friday a friend and I were talking about how the things we expected to be difficult are going really well, it’s everything else that seems to be a struggle. Spanish bureaucracy and my appointment to get my foreigner’s ID card? Easier than the DMV, more like waiting in a long line at the mall or the library. My job, the kids, their level of English? As draining as teaching can be, and although one of my classes has the most difficult kids in the school behavior-wise (objectively, it’s known throughout the school), I’ve yet to enjoy a job this much. That either says a lot about me, or a lot about the jobs I’ve had…especially since I know I couldn’t do work like this forever.

For me, struggling here compared to struggling back at home, or struggling this past year with all the drama and chaos that was thrown my way, has been very different. I feel like my future here has much more potential, at least regarding the more-or-less immediate future. My problems here have very feasible solutions…especially without the toxicity of my life in Chicago weighing me down and clouding my mind, making me physically ill from stress.  And that aside, I didn’t come to Madrid with romantic notions of expat life, especially since this is not my first time living in Spain (although I did envision less BS than what I’ve had to deal with, I’ll admit that much).  Living here long-term has been a goal of mine for a while.

Almost nothing worth having comes easily.

 

Well, I suppose it was just a matter of time…

•November 21, 2013 • 3 Comments

So…on Saturday my purse got stolen.  

Thanks to my upbringing, previous time spent abroad, and eternal cynicism, I knew not to have my passport on me and I only carry one U.S. credit/bank card and my Spanish bank card at any given time.  And no more than 20 euros more than what I think I’ll need to spend in cash. Not losing my passport was an especially good thing because my TIE appointment is tomorrow (to apply for my foreigner ID card).  So that’s good.  But my phone, iPod, keys, health insurance card, etc. are gone.  By the grace of God, I had backed up my main flashdrive earlier that afternoon.  17 GB of info, much of which would have been irretrievable.

When I mention this to people, expats and Spaniards alike:

“That happened to me a few months ago.” 

“I had my wallet stolen earlier this year, I kept everything in there.”

“My friend’s wallet was stolen just yesterday on the metro.”

“I was right outside my apartment building and my phone was snatched right out of my hand.”

“My friend’s purse was stolen and they went to her house and robbed her.”

“My housemate was robbed at knifepoint.  He had just been paid, his boss insists on paying him in cash.” (Honestly, this sounded like an inside job to me, idk)

“His phone was stolen, it was in the inside pocket of his coat.”

“Pick-pocketing is an art form here.”

♪♪  You are not alonnnnnne.  ♪♪

Considering that I’m almost 30 (ugh), have spent most of my life in the Chicagoland area, and this is the first time I’ve ever been a direct victim of a crime, I guess I’m not doing too bad.  I definitely have my parents to thank for that.

 

First update from Madrid

•November 3, 2013 • 4 Comments

So, I’ve been living in Madrid about a month and a half.

I work in a public “bilingual” elementary school in a Northeastern district of the capital city (when I get a chance, I’m going to write a post about what exactly constitutes a “bilingual” school in Madrid). I work with the 1st, 3rd, and 4th graders; I work mostly with the 3rd graders as I see at least one 3rd grade class daily. Overall I like working with younger kids and have a good rapport with the students. I greatly prefer this to a high school, although I do see the appeal of working with older children.

Just like with any job, there has been some drama between among the staff this year…already. Since one of the auxiliares was here last year, and she already filled me in re: last year’s drama, I wasn’t completely shocked when I was told about a huge fight that happened during break a couple weeks ago. That being said, in general things are going well for me personally. I’ve told people that I feel like I like this job as much as is feasible, in that I do enjoy it, I do it well, but I couldn’t do something like this forever.

On October 24th there was an education strike throughout all of Spain’s public schools, universities, and learning centers. Social services and the like have been greatly affected throughout the past year or so, and regarding public education, the government is passing a law similar to “No Child Left Behind.” I found out about the strike from a thread in a Facebook group the previous Monday. Most of the teaching and administrative staff at my particular school came to work, but most of the students stayed at home. Between the 3rd and 4th grade classes there were maybe 25 students.

Currently I’m contemplating whether or not I want to move to a different apartment. There have been some issues with my roommates and the apartment [building] itself, mostly my roommates, I won’t get into it too much now. With my particular lease, which is apparently fairly common in Spain, I’d basically just need to give a month’s notice before I wish to move out and I’m good. However, when I let myself calm down and completely analyze the situation, once the aggravation from the most recent issue has lessened a bit, I’m hesitant to leave. Frankly, I feel like whether or not you’re content with your housing is luck of the draw.
Once I take into consideration…

— What I don’t like about living here
My roommates – mainly one in particular – and their friends/guests/girlfriends, paper thin walls, lots of families live here, not much to do near my apartment that’s worthwhile (e.g. All of the bakeries/cafes literally sell the same food, like from the same bakery distributor or whatever, it’s especially obvious since I live so close to the main supermarket here. I’ve mentioned that it’s a positive and a negative that I feel there is nothing nearby that’s worth spending my money on.)

— What I do like
15ish-minute walk from work, 60ish-second walk from the metro (This is BIG for me), located off the main street here, conveniently close to stores and other commercial areas, enormous bedroom with a deadbolt lock and plenty of furniture, good landlord

— What I want
A studio or one bedroom in the NE section of the capital city that’s not located on the bottom two levels of the building (I currently live on the 4th floor, which is the “3rd floor” in Spain since the 1st floor is the “ground floor”/i.e. level zero), a bit closer to downtown Madrid than I am now, close to the metro

— and my budget…

…I feel like the chances that I’ll find something that is worth the time, effort, and costs of moving is slim.
But either way, I’m aiming to move into a studio once I no longer live here.

I’ve been sick and have had some health problems over the past week or so. As much of a pain as that has been, I have insurance here, seemingly…very, very good insurance, through Cigna Salud as I’m not an EU resident. A clinic nearby accepts this insurance, so I plan to see a general practitioner/doctor of internal medicine and let him direct to…everyone else I’d need to see at that clinic. It’s nice to have the option to seek medical care, and the reassurance that it will not bankrupt me.

Geico commercial voice: “I just saved thousands of dollars by moving to Spain…”

Spanish bureaucracy is complicated. And everything is this country is so slow in general. None of the rooms in my school even have a [functioning] clock, I remember when I lived in Seville and went on a mini-search to find a functioning clock. I plan to make a pilgrimage back to said clock someday.

Speaking of, I will be spending the holidays either in Seville or back in Chicago. Neither is set in stone. I still have a little network of friends in Seville, and either way it’d be nice to visit. I’m creating little groups of friends here in Madrid too, it’s been nice.

Since I’ve only been here a short while, and am having issues with my accommodation/health/etc, and it is Fall, and…bureaucracy, Madrid hasn’t really grown on me just yet, and I still greatly prefer Seville. Honestly though, it seems like everyone I’ve run into who has lived in Madrid and at least one other Spanish city prefers that/those place(s) to Madrid. Once my health improves, my living situation changes at least somewhat, and I see the sun more often, I imagine it will grow on me a bit more… it’s just a matter of time.

[very] long time, no post…

•August 19, 2013 • 3 Comments

Every so often I contemplate updating this blog.  Once I actually did write something several months ago, but I had updated the “quick post” page (which apparently doesn’t automatically save) and WordPress managed to erase my entry.  And frankly, after certain events that happened in my life around that time, that entry would have essentially been a moot point anyway.

But yeah, for those who know I’ve had an…interesting 18ish months since I’ve been back in Chicago.  If I wrote about some of it here, not only would you probably not believe me, but if people associated with a certain high-profile celebrity — who played a pretty substantial role in this drama —  were to stumble upon it, I could get sued.  

Like I said, you probably wouldn’t believe me. I’ve been encouraged to write about it eventually though

Anyway, in the midst of all these chaotic events, I found an opportunity and several resources to give me a chance to move back to Spain.  

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Years ago, I contemplated doing the Auxiliares de Conversación program instead of enrolling at CLIC Sevilla language immersion in order to live in Spain and learn Spanish.  Now I’m looking at this same program, but as a way to live, work, and start to make a life for myself in Spain.  

I haven’t said much about it to most people in my life, in part because it’s not 100% set in stone, but largely because the internet/Facebook has played a role in enough drama in my life that I just don’t want to deal with it (I’ve told people I’m more-or-less on a FB Sabbatical).  I’ve been using FB and resources online to make this move as feasible, painless, and inexpensive as possible.   Many of these resources weren’t available when I first considered doing this program, as they hadn’t been written yet, so in a way it’s been very beneficial for me to consider this program for the 2013 – 14 academic year and not sooner.

Anyway, in short, this is one of the biggest reasons I’m trying to do this program…basically why I’m trying to move back to Spain, and why I’ve been exerting a lot of energy and research into trying to make it work despite certain stressors.

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I’ve written a bit about this on my Go Fund Me page

Next time I update, I hope to have news to share that is a bit more concrete.

Hasta la prómixa.

 

 

 

New plan in the works…

•February 27, 2012 • 4 Comments

I have a new plan with regards to my Spanish learning, but first a little bit of background info.

I’m in my last week of classes. As I am officially the most advanced learner in school, these past couple weeks have been private classes as I have no more classmates who are the same level as me. These classes have been very helpful, as my classes in this level overall have been.

That being said, I have a ways to go until I feel that I am fully fluent in the language. People seem to have different ideas as to what they consider to be “fluent,” so my definition is I want to pass the DELE C2 exam within the next couple of years. C2 is the highest level that a foreigner can reach in a foreign language and this test will be my way of proving to myself that 1) I accomplished what I set out to accomplish, and 2) that I’m ready to pursue graduate work in translation and interpretation.

I am C1 now, which is this:

Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organisational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

And this is C2:

Can understand with ease virtually everything heard or read. Can summarise information from different spoken and written sources, reconstructing arguments and accounts in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, very fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning even in the most complex situations.

According to my teacher, there is the greatest amount of difference between C1 and C2, compared to, say, A1 and A2. This is the second more frustrating part of learning Spanish for me, first being my problems with stuttering but I’ll save that for another post. I’ve yet to determine what I want my level of French to be, but probably C2 as well as I plan on going to grad school in France so I’ll have ample time to live in a Francophone country.

Anyway, on to my plan. Like I mentioned, I have a ways to go before I feel like I have reached my definition of fluency. Initially, I had thought about trying to do this program in Madrid this fall to teach English. It’d buy me 9 – 10 more months in Spain before I go off to France. I want to do France next year because there is an age limit for the program I want to do, and if I want to do this French program for 2 years I need to start next year.

However, my mom and teacher brought up the point that although I’d be living in Spain, I’d be speaking English while I work. I already knew this, but at the time I figured I had no other choice. My biggest asset to a foreign employer is being an educated native speaker of English. If someone abroad is paying me, a school, a business, what have you, they’re going to want me to speak it.

Then I thought (while watching flamenco…always thinking lol), What if they’re not paying me? This hypothetically opens up some more doors, in a way. If I search for internships or volunteer opportunities that require an advanced level of Spanish, or at least require that Spanish be used and not English, I’d be using the language all the time.

There’s a company called Volunteer Latin America that I’ve contacted before. This company essentially takes out the middleman so volunteering is fairly inexpensive. If you look at an average volunteer placement company, especially if you want to volunteer long-term, it costs thousands of dollars. With this company, it tends to be hundreds at best, and depending on the project room/board may be provided. They sell you a .pdf with information on the various projects and you do the work to contact them and set up your assignment. I contacted them to discuss my goals with volunteering/an internship and they said that I do have options regarding my language goals.

That being said, since I plan to do this, and I need money to do so if I’ll be volunteering and obviously not being paid for my work (and even were I going to be paid, like if I did the program in Madrid, I would still need money for my flight and living expenses until I get paid), I plan on leaving Spain soon to hopefully get a job in Chicago to fund this and further living abroad opportunities. As I’ve discussed with people here, not only is it hard to find a job in Spain, for foreigners and Spaniards alike, but even if I found a decent job in Spain, it’s not going to pay what I could potentially make in Chicago doing pretty much any full-time job.

So yeah. We’ll see what happens as I end this chapter of international living and start the next one.