Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ben's Birthday!

So Ben's birthday is next weekend (hint hint) but we decided to celebrate it this weekend with our friends! We had an incredible time, and my dear Ben was spoiled rotten.
We started the weekend out with the Madrid vs. Barca, match on Saturday, where Ben was treated to plenty of delicious whiskey at an Irish pub, here in Madrid. Whiskey puts Ben in a happy place, so he was more than content to continue the night, with tapas, at an Argentinian restaurant near home. The steak there was the best we have had here in Madrid, and the staff was friendly, which made it a perfect restaurant.  Ben then got dessert, which is very rare for him, because I usually forget about the existence of dishes that come after a meal, since they usually contain dairy... luckily our friend had his back, and treated him to tiramisu at a chocolateria.
Today, we went to Parque de Atracciones, an amusement park here in Madrid. The consensus was that the ride called the Tarantula, was the most fun. It was a roller coaster, with seats that rotated (horizontally) independently of the turns and bends of the rest of the ride.
After the park today we went to our favorite sushi/ramen restaurant here in Madrid, Oishii. We ate plenty of Japanese food, and got nostalgic about the country we miss dearly. After sushi, we went Vips, to get Ben another dessert. He had pancakes with three different types of syups.
Happy birthday babe!


Friday, October 18, 2013

On the metro...

Plenty of seats open on the metro. Friday afternoon is basically the weekend, some people had half days, others won’t be off for another hour or so. My feet are tired. Wednesday I taught for twelve hours without a break. Yesterday I taught ten. It’s not ideal, but I’m in demand. That’s why I took those difficult days… I’m in demand. Doctors, engineers, scientists, asked for me by name, because I can teach them English, I can say the words and understand what part of speech their word derived from Greek or Latin is. After 5 hours of teaching English, it is nearly impossible use the language correctly any more. “Can you explain me the meaning?” I’m pretty sure that’s wrong… but I can’t for the life of me remember why, or how to correct them. I’m by metro to home. I correct this phrase half a dozen times a day, but it’s all I can think as I sit in my oddly warm plastic seat.
A man hops on the train at the last second. Damn, he has an accordion. I pause my audiobook, and roll my eyes.  Musicians seem to prefer line five, plenty of tourists use it to get to and from the city center, and tourists are much more generous. The accordionist looks around the car, only five of us. He leans against the door of the moving train, exhausted. I smile to myself, and hit play on my audiobook. The accordionist exits the car no doubt to go pester another car out of their money.
I text my friends, we were supposed to go out tonight, but Ben is sick and I want to cook him some chicken soup. Luckily someone else already suggested we change the plan, so I get out of it guilt free.
The train rumbles to a stop again. Only one man slinks on to the train, closing the train door behind him. Despite most of the seats being empty, he sits next to me, tucking his belongings next to him on the floor of the train. I glance at him, uncomfortable with his choice of seats. He looks scared. I scan him and his belongings, deciding whether or not I want to change my seat. He’s the accordionist. I look out the window of the train, trying to figure out what he’s hiding from, and see a neon colored security officer scanning the cars of the train.
The whistle blows, the doors latch. The officer and the accordionist lock eyes. The officer puts his hands on his hips, pointedly stares at the musician as we slide away. The accordionist stares back at the officer, his face frozen in distress. The officer falls out of view of, as the train slips into the dark tunnels of the metro. The accordionist looks around the train, taking in the surroundings he failed to register in his moment of flight. He locks eyes with me, and I burst into laughter, uncontrollable, stich in my side laughter. The expression on his face goes from fear, to confusion, to glee, and he joins me. The other passengers on the train stare at us out of the corners of their eyes, hoping we’re not contagious.
The doors open at the next station, a flood of people cram their way onto the train. The accordionist gathers up his belongings, and prepares for his performance. He turns to face me, winks, and begins to play. He is wonderful, the adrenaline, or the outburst have enlivened him, and he plays his tunes cheerfully to a bewildered crowd.
I wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes, and pick up my belongings. The train pulls into my station, and I smile as I walk the short distance home.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Happy Weekend

Ben and I had a wonderful weekend.
Friday night we had a dinner party, it was nice having people in my home, eating my food, and laughing at each other's stories.
Saturday, We went hiking for about four hours during the day in Casa de Campo. I went shopping with a friend. And, we went to a birthday party, where we ate delicious food, laughed in someone else's house, and spoke in Spanish.
Today, Ben and I went out to lunch for a delicious Menu del Dia in Opera, went shopping (for sweaters), and cooked way too much lentil soup (I accidently made more than 6 quarts...). We took some over to a friend of ours, and spoke Spanish again, and Ben got to eat some amazing cake.
We have a good life!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Casa de Campo

Cities are loud! The noise is often overwhelming, and after an extended period, I start to feel agitated by the never ending hustle of the city.
Luckily for me, Madrid has wonderful parks. Ben and I try to go to a park at least once a week, and today we finally made it to the biggest park, Casa de Campo. The park is over six square miles and is a great place to spend a day hiking.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Set Schedule

I finally have my schedule set, no more job interviews!
I am working 29 hours a week, which is quite a lot for an English teacher here, considering that those hours do not include planning time, or travel. I think I've done really well in planing my schedules, I never have to travel more than 3 times in a day, including getting to and from my apartment. In total I will be spending six hours a week in transit.
Financially this is fantastic, Ben and I could live off my paycheck alone, anything he makes will just be fun money. I'm glad I could take the pressure off Ben. He is applying for grad school, and I want to make sure he has enough time, money, and energy to do everything he needs.
I feel incredibly relieved that I don't need to look for more work. Now, my free time is mine to do what I want. Ben is hoping to work about 20 hours a week, and so far has 13 of those hours, the game is rigged against him though, he doesn't speak enough Spanish to work in the really small companies, he is a man (students can specify what gender they would prefer the teacher to be), and he doesn't have as many years of experience with children as I do (thanks mom and dad!). I'm not worried, places are still hiring, I just want him to stop feeling guilty.

Monday, October 7, 2013


If you had a time machine, would you rather go forward in time, or backward? After two months in time, my definitive answer is forward. I know I would not be able to stomach the odors of the past.

Madrid is smelly, the trash is smelly, the streets are smelly, the people are smelly, I expected this before I came, but I was not prepared for the reality.
The trash in Madrid is no smellier than most countries, the problem is it is more exposed than other countries. There are no back allies in Madrid, only courtyards, and exposed streets. Restaurant trash is taken out daily, which means the trash bins are left out on the street over night. In the evenings the wonderful aromas of Spanish cuisine out compete the scent of trash, but during the day, the smell of trash is inescapable.
If your out and about at night, where can you find a bathroom? According to the locals, anywhere out of sight of the cops. If you are walking about Madrid between 4:00-10:00 in the morning, the smell of urine is inescapable. If you look closely at the highly graffitied walls, you'll notice streaks of urine interspersed. I could be wrong, but I'm fairly certain Madrid's only attempt at removing graffiti is by the locals pissing on it.
I spent most of the last year in a country of people with no body odor. Japan is remarkably odor free, and so Spain is a shock to the system. Not every Spaniard smells bad, but it's not just people who don't have access to showers that are an issue here. Businessmen, high fashion women, and all sorts of professionals smell as bad as the drunken drifter passed out on the metro. In America, this would be considered unprofessional, and would make it more difficult to socialize, but here no-one seems to bat an eye. One of my classes of teenagers smells so bad it makes my eyes water, and my stomach churn when I am stuck in a class with them with no windows.
Worse than body odor are the people with halitosis. Luckily this isn't as common as body odor, but this smell actually makes me gag. I would say about one person out of every hundred has halitosis. The Spanish diet is the perfect cocktail for bad breath, lots of breads, lots of meat, and coffee. Bad breath is much more common here, but on some people it is overwhelming. People with persistent halitosis not only have bad breath, their clothes become saturated with the smell of stale halitosis.

Spain is my limit, I could not handle worse smells (and sometimes I can't even handle it here). I am certain that it smelled much worse in the past, before toothpaste, before deodorant, before daily showers were the norm, before daily trash pickup, or before plumbing.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Reina Sofia

Ben and I went to the free hours for the Reina Sofia Museum of Art today. It features modern art, and has pieces by both Dali and Picasso. I'm quite hit or miss when it comes to modern art, I enjoy cubism (but not much of Picasso), Van Gough (though not his super morbid stuff), some Abstractism, Supremitism (especially from Russia), and a few painters here and there outside of those genres, but for the most part, I find modern art tedious.

The exhibits of Reina Sofia were not tedious, they were upsetting. I felt like I was trapped in a horror movie, and felt nervous and agitated most of the time I was there. I'm not sure why modern art films feature static, shaky cameras, and unfocused lenses so often, it's not creative, it's poor quality. The obnoxious noises of "modern art" were inescapable throughout the museum.

The museum was hard to navigate, We couldn't find the exhibits we wanted to see, and got lost in dark rooms with flickering lights. There were many small rooms separated by huge empty spaces. The museum felt like a factory. I'm glad I didn't pay for the museum, it was an interesting two hours of my life, but not worth a cent.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Job Interview in Spanish

It's hard to tell how quickly you are learning a language, while immersed in it. Sometimes it feels like you are a sponge absorbing knowledge at an alarming rate. Other times, it feels like there is no possible way you could be learning less.
When I first got to Spain, I had no idea how to order food, what I was looking at on the menus, and could barely communicate on even a basic level.
Today, I aced a job interview in Spanish! I didn't use a word of English, the interviewer didn't speak any English. The interview was for a position as an English teacher, so they are very used to people who speak Spanish as a second language, but I negotiated a contract, talked about my experience in Japan, and even made a joke.
I love learning Spanish, compared to Japanese, it is incredibly easy. The grammar makes sense, the writing system makes sense, and there are many cognates between English and Spanish.
I am nowhere near fluent in Spanish. But, I am coming up on conversational, at the moment, I am able to hold a basic conversation with anyone with some patience... and that feels good!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


For the most part, I am recovered from my run in with the train, all I have now is a greenish tint that runs up and down my shin, and a blue bruise around my knee. It no longer hurts to walk, the only problems now are random charley horses in my foot, and intense pain pain if bump my shin into anything. The first couple of days I could barely walk. I spent those days napping, watching TV (until our internet went out), and being spoiled with chocolate and tea by Ben.
The adrenaline messed with me as much as the injury did. I felt nauseous all the day after I got hurt, and have been having awful nightmares. I haven't seen much of Spain these last few days. There's a special kind of home sickness when your injured or sick, it more than just missing home. When I was sick as a kid, I got the day off of going to school, I had no worries, my dad made me soup, and I got to watch TV all day. I didn't have to worry about anything, and I got doted on more than I could even handle. Now I still have to go to work, reply to emails, reassure my family that I am alive and healing...
I will be a full fledged grownup again... tomorrow.