Saturday, January 3

And we're back!

Oh me, Oh my... how quickly time has flown by. And I have no record of the last three months! I've left you all in the dark and for that I'm terribly sorry. This time I'll blame it on the dismal internet connection we have in our apartment (actually we're not paying for it but rather mooching off our neighbor, known to us simply as 3Com).

So, I've got a lot to talk about. Let's start with the facts and the, more often than not, positive changes to my life here in Madrid. I've changed apartments and with that gained new roommates. Last year, I was living in the center of the city (M: Bilbao) with an amusing American fellow named Keith. I was paying 460euros/month for a small apartment (though I had the big room) and a shower that only provided 7 minutes of hot water in 2 hour intervals. This year, I'd say the situation has improved. I'm living on the outskirts of Madrid-20 minutes from the center-in a big four bedroom apartment (ideal for parties) paying an astonishing 280euros/month. My roommates are all native Spanish-speakers, 2 Spanish girls and 1 Uruguayan. This makes for a perfect learning environment. Unlike last year, I am now constantly speaking Spanish at home, I love it. I've even come to enjoy some Spanish TV shows which I never paid attention to last year. My roommates are all very sweet and friendly and we have the perfect relationship, friendly with each other at home but feel no need to go out together, we all respect the fact that we have our own lives outside of the apartment.

I've also changed jobs. I'm no longer on a grant working for the Ministry of Education at a bilingual public school, one year was enough. Spending my days as a teacher's assistant in a classroom with 25 1st-3rd graders at once was quite stressful and frankly I didn't find the job very challenging or rewarding. The kids were all sweet and cute and were a blast to play with and chat to at recess but in the classroom, I had to play babysitter and talk over children and beg for their attention. Honestly I think Spanish children are more unruly and undisciplined than American children. As a child, I remember respecting the teacher... when she starts counting to three, you sit down and shut up. That's not the case here, they just don't seem to respect the teacher. Everyday in the lunchroom, the teachers would all complain about their disruptive students and about the throbbing headaches they'd inflicted. When the bell rang to signal the end of recess, the teachers would all head back with sighs and dread clearly marked on their haggard faces. I don't miss that. Now I'm teaching at a language academy that sends me to companies and private homes to teach English. My students are pretty diverse, half are adults, half are kids under 18. I teach at two companies, Loewe (Spain's most famous luxury fashion brand) and Banco Espirito Santo (a Portuguese-owned investment firm). Company classes are the best, you get to teach a group of adults on their lunch break who are good-humored and eager to learn. My least favorite students are those who are preparing for the Cambridge exams, the expectations are really high, and if they don't study or practice, they won't progress very much. An English teacher can't work magic, the student's really got to want to improve. The big downside to my job this year is that I don't have a classroom or office, rather I have to run around the city to reach my students and sometimes the distance between them is pretty great. Twice a week, for example, I have to go to Getafe, which takes an hour to reach from my apartment, they augment the pay, however, when a job is far away so at least I'm compensated.

Fortunately, most all of my friends have stuck around for a second year also so in that respect, little has changed. I still spend my free time going to the Filmoteca and Circulo de Bellas Artes to catch classic, cult and arthouse films. Last night I saw The Birds and tonight they're showing 2001 which I've never seen before. I try to go to museums when there is an interesting temporary exhibit and am always curious to explore new bars and restaurants, I'm proud to say that I've got a pretty extensive list going of my favorites. I keep saying I'm gonna start a blog reviewing these restaurants but it still hasn't happened, I have enough trouble keeping up with this one. I like to cook and have friends over for dinner and I'm still seeing Enrique (non-exclusively) who helps me feel connected with the people and culture here.

So those are the facts, not bad, huh?

Gimme a couple days and I'll post about the highlights of the last few months.