My oh my how the time does fly! I’ve been so busy with classes the past few months that I’ve barely even noticed that Christmas is about a month away. Running into the golden Christmas tree in Sol the other day was quite the wake-up call!
Sadly, my lack of time has also caused me to neglect my blog a bit. Sigh...
I have a lot to update on, but I’m going to start by just explaining what has happened in the past few months since I stopped working at the hostel. I will eventually dedicate an entire post to my hostel experience, but not yet!
My job at the hostel ended on September 30th and I started work at my new high school the next day. Luckily, I had found an apartment a few days earlier, and moved in the Friday before I started my new job.
My new apartment is in a neighborhood called, Puerta del Ángel, which is in the southeast part of Madrid, very close to the Manzanares river. Along the river, there’s a lovely bike/running path with a few exercise machines, swings, and outdoor bars. At nighttime, the path is lit up so you can use it for exercise or as a shortcut to get to Principe Pío, a mall and train station that is on the other side. The views of the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral from the path are absolutely stunning! If you walk a little bit past my apartment, you’ll hit Vicente Calderón, the stadium where Madrid’s other team, Atlético de Madrid, plays.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few months exploring my new neighborhood and trying to get a feel for it. Puerta del Ángel seems like a neighborhood for families. You do occasionally see people my age roaming the streets, but there are definitely more parents with their children and senior citizens in the area. Most of the residents of my neighborhood are Spanish, but I’ve run into people from Latin America, Turkey, and Bangladesh, too.
Due to our location next to the river and the bike path, there are many bike stores, bike repair shops and even a place to wash your bike! (my Dad would be in heaven!)
Although there are not many supermarkets in the area, besides Eroski and Día, there are quite a few places to go for fresh produce and groceries. Right beneath my apartment complex, there is a fruit and vegetable shop, or frutería. If I walk about 10 minutes up the hill from my apartment, there is a small indoor market, Tirso de Molina market, which sells all sorts of fruits and vegetables, meat, seafood, cheese and bread. On the main street, Paseo de Extremadura, there are even more fruterías, butcher-shops and bakeries. I will admit it’s sad not living near Madrid’s best indoor market anymore, Mercado de Maravillas, but I’m learning how to cope quite well.
Another one of the big pluses to living in my neighborhood is that I’m a stone’s throw away from Madrid’s largest urban park, Casa de Campo. Originally a place to hunt wild birds and game, the Casa de Campo is a great place to take a walk, rent a boat or just relax on a Sunday afternoon. The park has many cool features, like an amusement park, and Madrid’s famous Teleférico cable car passes overhead. Last year, I rarely ventured to the Casa de Campo because it was far from my old apartment, so I’m looking forward to being able to take advantage of this beautiful outdoor space.
During the time when I’m not exploring my neighborhood or working (more on this topic later), I’ve been hanging out with my friends from last year and new ones, too. I haven’t been traveling like last year, but this year’s objective is to save as much money as humanly possible. I did, however, go away for the December puente, or long weekend (more on this later, too).
One of my first adventures, and definitely one of the highlights of October, was the annual Holi Run, also known as the Color Run. It is a 5K walk/run in which the main goal is to get as colorful as possible. The Holi Run is not unique to Madrid and has many races around Spain and all over the world. When you sign up for the run, you are given a white t-shirt with the logo and a small packet of color dust. This small packet doesn’t last very long. Luckily, there are color stations every kilometer where people get covered in all the colors of the rainbow.
On the day of the race, I met up with an American friend from last year, L, and some of her friends who are also English teachers. It was a very hot Sunday morning and we were all exhausted from the night before, so we didn’t end up running more than a few meters. We did, however, attack each other with our own color powder and powder that we picked up off the ground. By the end of the race, we looked like we had been tie-dyed.
Another highlight of October was my spontaneous day-trip to Chinchón, a small village in the Comunidad de Madrid. Last year, I stopped in Chinchón for a little bit after a hiking trip with the Hiking in the Community of Madrid hiking group. I thought it was a really cute and charming village, so when my friends C and M suggested it as a location for a spontaneous Sunday trip, I was in!
After a 40-minute drive from Madrid’s city center, we were in the Plaza Mayor de Chinchón. It was a surprisingly warm and sunny Sunday in October, so we decided to spend our time relaxing outside with cañas, or small beers.
We explored a little bit of the town, but we always ended up back in the Plaza Mayor, watching as little kids-and C!-rode around on the donkeys that do laps around the circular plaza. It was a day of people-watching, caña-drinking and chatting-a true lazy Sunday..Spanish-style!
At the beginning of November, C, M and I went out to celebrate C’s birthday. C wanted to do something different, so we went to a one-person comedy show. In Spain, this is apparently called a monólogo, which I wasn’t aware of. When C asked if we wanted to go to a monólogo, I incorrectly translated the word as, monologue, and thought she was referring to theater. Luckily, I asked a friend about this beforehand and she assured me that, no this would not be a performance of Hamlet or the like.
I arrived on that rainy Saturday night, not really sure what to expect. Comedy is probably one of the hardest things to understand in a foreign language, so I was honestly afraid that I wouldn’t know what was going on. When we sat down inside and the show started, I was relieved that I understood about 98% of what the comedian, José Andrés, (not to be confused with the chef by the same name) was saying (a few of the jokes were cultural/historical references that went right over my head).
The comedian made his performance very engaging and he interacted with the audience often. During the intermission, he asked us to send him questions on Twitter. I rarely use my account, but C and M somehow convinced me to ask José Andrés what he thought about foreigners who come to Spain to teach English.
When José Andrés got back on stage and started reading the tweets he was sent, I squirmed around in my seat, praying he would not notice mine. Unfortunately, he only received a few tweets and when I heard him reading mine out loud, I tried to hide. He asked who had written it and the room went completely silent. I looked at C and M and we started to laugh and, so I knew I had to say something.
I let out a quiet and nervous, “it was me,” and then hid my face in my hands out of embarrassment. The first few minutes of “interrogation” were awkward, but the 3 beers I had downed during the first part of the show helped me ease into the experience and I was even able to make a few jokes. For example, when he asked where I was from in the U.S., I said, “Philadelphia, the land of cheese.” (The only thing most people here know about Philadelphia is Philadelphia cream cheese haha). He told me I took the joke right out of his mouth and, from that point on, I started to enjoy being part of the show. I didn’t even think about how nervous I was about speaking Spanish in front of so many people, about making mistakes, or about how my accent sounded. I just went with it and it ended up being an awesome night.
The next weekend was a bit more relaxed. Two of C’s friends from Tres Cantos, a small town in the north of the Madrid community, opened a new bar, Beer Bar Brothers, in the Malasaña neighborhood of Madrid. We decided to go early and check it out.
At the beginning, the only customers were their friends from Madrid and Tres Cantos. It was cool to be there with a small group and sample their tapas, beer and food. They had a variety of different beers, including Mahou Negra (dark beer), one of my favorites. As for food, their dishes were mainly Spanish, but they had some international plates, too, such as couscous and tabouleh.
As the night went on, more and more people came to the bar. They ended up having more customers than they had anticipated, and things got a bit out of hand. For the opening night, though, I’d say they did a great job. I’ll probably go back one of these days and see how they’re doing now that they’ve been open for a few weeks.
The last highlight of November was an early Ex-pat Thanksgiving party that one of my fellow auxiliares de conversación (language assistants) hosted at his apartment. J and his Spanish girlfriend, M, live in a nice apartment in the Moncloa neighborhood, a great location for a party. Although most of the guests were North American, there were also some Spanish and British guests at our Thanksgiving celebration.
The feast was as international as the guests. We had traditional Thanksgiving items, like turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. We also had some Mediterranean dishes, like the Turkish kısır salad that I prepared and another dish made with roasted sweet potatoes, onions, cilantro and pine nuts that another auxiliar, D, made. Like any good Thanksgiving dinner, ours also included pumpkin pie and a pumpkin cheesecake, made by M and J, other auxiliares. It was a fun and delicious way to end November!
As I said in the beginning, I am so far behind in updating this blog, but I will try my best to catch up during the next few weeks between trips around Spain and Portugal. I still have to update on the summer camp in Turkey, my temporary hostel job, my new school in Torrelodones, and the amazing long weekend in Haro, La Rioja. Stay tuned!!