Wednesday, October 31

My first paycheck!

Today I got paid and it was a great feeling. I´ve been living off my parents allowance since I got here and now I actually have money of my own to spend. For working only 16 hours a week I´m making pretty decent money (888.25€/month). Unfortunately, half of that (450€) goes to rent so that leaves me very little spending money. I have therefore decided to take on six extra tutoring jobs a week (totaling about 90€), teaching english to kids ranging from 6 to 14 and an adult woman. Hopefully that will be enough income to sustain the lifestyle I´ve grown accustomed to out here. If not, I´ll just have to pick up a few more tutoring jobs.

It´s getting very cold and I´ve realized I don´t have suitable winter clothing. I left my North Face jacket and my long winter coat at home thinking that I wouldn´t need them until after Christmas, but by mid-November they say we may see some snow. I also need boots which are such the fashion here; European women just love boots and tights... I´ve gotta jump on board.

Friday, October 26

Improv Show

I forgot to mention to all you readers that last Thursday I went with Keith and a crowd of international girls, one of whom is a French girl I met in the hostel, to see improv. It looked like just a small bar from the street but in the back they had a small stage and seats. There were about 20 people in the audience and the entrance fee was only 7€, which is peanuts for Madrid. Five young people, about my age, asked from the stage that we grant them each a name and a profession. With the crowd shouting suggestions, each one chose what they thought would make for the best story which ended up centering around a cake-maker named Jesus. After establishing their characters, they grabbed some clothes from a costume rack to suit their persona. For an hour and a half, these five people put on a hilarious, immensely entertaining show. Naturally it was in Spanish, but I followed it quite well and am sure to return. I don´t even know of a place in the states where you can see such talent perform live. The dialogue was great and the twists and turns in the story were clever and unanticipated. They have a show every Thursday at 11pm.

Tuesday, October 23

A friend that I had made in the hostel when I first arrived came back through Madrid last Thursday and we got to spend some time together. Like me, he´s from Southern California and made for very good company over the weekend. Even though I´ve only been here about a month, I was able to show him some nice spots including El Museo Reina Sofia, with it´s large art collection by Dali and Picasso, including the latters haunting painting ¨Guernica¨. We also went to a smokey blues club called ¨La Coquette¨ where we heard some absolutely hypnotic records (I´ll have to return for the live music Tuesdays-Thursdays). I took him to ¨Shooters¨, a local bar and pool hall, for a second time and won best out of five games, I was awfully proud of myself. We took in a movie as well, Eastern Promises, the one I´ve been wanting to see for a while and were both very impressed by the acting and script. And all the time we dined in some of Madrid´s best eateries that I´ve so far discovered, indulging in Sangria, Paella, Chocolate y Churros, Tortillas Españolas and Croquetas.
So, who´s coming out next?

Picasso´s Guernica

Dali´s Muchacha en la Ventana

Wednesday, October 17

My school and students

La Comida Española

The delicious breakfast and mid-day snack of Spain, Chocolate y Churros

A tortilla that Keith made that was surprisingly tasty, it´s basically a 5 egg omlette with potatoes and onions made in lots of olive oil.

La Biblioteca Nacional

The other day I took Keith´s advice and got myself a library card in order to the internet for free. While there, I discovered that the National Library offers some great free classes including one this upcoming Saturday on Medieval Caligraphy. Keith and I tried their basement floor cafeteria for lunch and were surprised to find it to be very good and very cheap. The food is subsidized by the government and so for a surprisingly delicious three course meal you pay only 6€. Also, your choice of beer, wine or soda is included in the price. It´s the best deal in the city.

Monday, October 15

Rowing in Retiro

After the Fiesta Nacional, Keith, his friend Ian, and I rented a boat for 45 minutes (only cost us 4€) and rowed around a little lake in the center of Retiro Park. It was so much fun especially since the sun was out and it was a warm, beautiful day. We plan to return next week.

La Fiesta Nacional

Friday, Oct 12 was Spain´s Fiesta Nacional. Keith and I went to the big parade downtown and got to see the King and Queen, the Prince, and Spain´s entire armed forces. Jets flew overhead, parachuters jumped out of planes and spiraled down to earth waving the Spanish flag, tanks and heavy duty arms were showcased in the parade, and hundreds of soldiers from every military sector marched in unison, straight faced and wearing beautifully decorated uniforms. Unforunately the batteries of my digital camera died only a half hour into it and I´m now kicking myself for not being able to show you the best of the show.

The King and Queen driving by...

Madrid is very conservative and Zapatero, the current president, is from the Socialist Party. They really hate him here in Madrid, though he has much support in Spain´s other provinces. When his car drove by at the parade, the crowd rose their flags and chanted ¨¡FUERA!¨ which means ¨Get out!¨. In 2004, Zapatero ran on an anti-Bush/Iraq War platform and gained a lot of support after the terrorist bombing of the Spanish subway in March of 2004 in which 200 people died. The previous president however, Aznar, was Bush´s close ally and supported the invasion of Iraq. Apparently, a few years ago at the Fiesta Nacional, Zapatero actually sat down when the American flag passed by. Conservative Madrid, and Washington for that matter, was none too happy. So everyone here is conservative and anti-Zapatero, but I´m still not so sure why. Some say it´s because he´s not much of a nationalist since he´s doing little to stop seperatist movements.

Tuesday, October 9

One of my first graders threw up in class today. He looked fine when he walked in but about 5 minutes into the lesson he stands up and walks towards me and just throws up at my feet. It got on my legs and shoes a little. The teacher I work with, Maria Jose, quickly ran him to the bathroom and apologized. He came back skipping.
On the subject of child sickness, Maria Jose warned me that lice is going around and that I should stay away from kids that scratch their heads too much. Great.
Last night I saw The Brave One. Here they call it ¨La extraña que hay en ti¨ (the stranger that is within you) which after watching the film is a much more appropriate title. Just before seeing it a friend of mine mentioned that they heard it was very mediocre and suggested I go see Eastern Promises instead. I was willing but Keith insisted we see The Brave One before it leaves the theaters. I agreed and invited a couple Scottish friends to join us. Now, the first 15 minutes of the the film are a bit goofy and we were thinking about ditching for Eastern Promises... it gets really good though., a film critic site I usually rely on, gave it a 44%... personally, I think it warrranted atleast an 80% or so. Jodie Foster gives a fantastic performance and I wouldn´t be surprised to find her on the list of Best Actress Nominees for the Oscars. Her character´s relationship with a detective (played by Terrence Howard) is really beautifully crafted and the exploration of her newfound self (thus, the stranger within) is surprising and fascinating. I highly recommend it.
Time to get some churros.

Monday, October 8

The Mounting of our Jamon

Keith insisted we buy a jamon, that is, a cured pig´s leg, to christen our new apartment. We´re keeping it on top of our fridge and daily taking a knife to it slicing off pieces to eat with cheese and bread. He says we´ll save money in the long run and that it adds a Spanish charm to our little American apartment. I think its kinda gross.

Heathy and happy again in my apartment bedroom with a balcony

Saturday, October 6

Bilbao is where it´s at

Keith wrapping up our IKEA purchases using his eagle scout skills. We had to haul this plus 2 other huge bags and a rolled up mattress pad to our apartment via subway. It was a lot heavier than it looks.

My metro stop.

My apartment! Second floor, both balconies are ours!

Our street, Calle Luchana.

Late Photo Uploads

Plaza Mayor

A sign advertising the Patinir exhibit at the Prado

I think we have a painting of this fish and baby at our house in San Diego at the end of the hallway, am I right sisters?

I thought I´d pretentiously capture this artistic juxtaposition of corroded-rusted metal and lush greenery.

Wednesday, October 3

Sniff sniff

I just signed the lease for the apartment today and tomorrow I move in! Yay! No more communal showers! Unfortunately though I´m sick, so I can´t enjoy it completely unabated... am i using that word right? Anyway, I started work. The kids are so damn young! And I´m not allowed to speak a damn word in Spanish to them, English only. They sure are awful cute. The teachers are great and the school is in good shape but the commute is a killer. I have to wake up at 6:45 in order to catch the metro at 7:15 so that I can then catch the bus at 8 and be in San Agustin where my school is by 8:30. I teach from 9-1 Monday thru Thursday, except for Wednesday when I teach 10-4. There are 5 other ¨Auxiliars¨at the school, all about my age and really friendly. Two of them are veterans from last year so they´ve been very helpful in familiarizing the rest of us with the program. One thing about the school, the teachers kiss and pet and hug the students constantly here, it´s so wonderful. If this was done in the states to the degree it´s done here I´m afraid lawsuits would be filed. Well, that´s what´s new. Ugg, my throat is so sore and my nose is running like mad. I think I´m gonna call it an early night.

Monday, October 1

It´s been a long weekend

I´m having so much fun! The only negative aspect of my stay here so far has been the aparment hunting. It´s been so frustrating! It looks like I´ve got one though, with an American guy I met early on named Keith. We have very similar personalities so I think we´ll get along just fine. The apartment is in a great part of the city, right in the center, just two blocks from the Metro. It´s got two bedrooms, one big and one small, it´s furnished, the bathroom and kitchen are nice and the living room has a very small balcony. It´s really a small place but it´s got everything we were looking for. The owners had interviewed three different parties for the apartment and Keith and I were sure they weren´t going to give it to some American kids like us. The other applicants were a Spanish married couple and two italian students. But they just called me and offered it to us!! Very exciting! The price is a tad high so Keith and I are going to spend tomorrow looking at a few more and then decide. We´re both 90% sure we´re going to take it though.

Tomorrow I have my orientation with the program directors and the other 299 placements. I´m excited to hear more about my job and get a real idea of what exactly my role will be in the classroom.

A couple of nights ago I went out with some new friends to Chueca, Madrid´s gay distrcit. John (Scottish)and Phil (Brit), both gay but not a couple, are staying in Madrid for a year teaching english also. They are a lot of fun and I´m looking forward to seeing them often. I´ve been so lucky in meeting people. Unfortuntely, Kyle and Chris left this afternoon, they´re going on to Munich for Octoberfest and then towards eastern Europe. But they are flying out of Madrid in a couple months so I should see them again soon.

Yesterday, Kyle and Chris and I went to the Prado since it´s free on Sunday´s. It was terribly crowded but it was worth it. A beautiful museum with plenty of paintings by Goya, Velazquez and El Greco, Spain´s most treasured artists (no 20th century art so no Picasso). Afterwards we found a pool hall on Gran Via and spent a couple hours there drinking and playing. They were actually very good and I lost every time... though not by much. Then we went to a jazz club called Bar Barco. It was a great night.

It´s an expensive city. The food, Metro passes, phone calls and the Cybercafe´s are all putting a dent in my wallet. Making local calls on my cell phone is incredibily expensive. I´m going to have to look into changing my rate plan. And I haven´t even had a meal at a real spanish restaurant yet, I´ve only had pizza slices, donner kebabs and sandwiches since I got here. I´ve just been too busy finding an apartament. But that´s about to change!!