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Stephanie in Spain – Week 2: Becoming a Madrileña

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Hola a todos!

Week 2 is under my belt (well, a little more than week 2, but I have good reasons) and I’m feeling more and more settled in. I have apartment, a bank account, a Spanish phone number, and a job for the next 10 months. The weather has taken a drastic turn from 100+ degree days with zero humidity to 68 degree days that are perfect for light sweaters and jeans. Life is pretty great so far!

My apartment is EXACTLY what I hoped it would be (Thanks, SpotAHome.com for making the process so easy) and moving in went extremely well! I’m living in the Pacifico ward of the Retiro district in the most southern region. It is definitely a much quieter area filled with many families, dogs, abuelas, and younger children. The area seems to take a huge focus on health and beauty due to the many hair salons, gyms, wholistic health stores, many fresh produce markets and dance/yoga/pilates studios. Perhaps it is because I’m within a 5 minute walking distance of the largest park in Madrid, El Parque de El Retiro, but I’m looking forward to finding a weekly exercise class and taking many walks in the park! Although they take a big focus on health here, I also came across a craft beer shop within two minutes of walking from my apartment and there are many pizza shops, bakeries and restaurants. The only real problem is that the Metro line that takes people from Retiro to the center of the city is closed for construction and won’t be open until November 12 (the day before my birthday)! However, it will be the best birthday present ever since by that time I will be a professional at navigating the Metro lines…maybe. 

One of the highlights after moving into my apartment was going to Retiro Park with Collin, a really wonderful friend and fellow auxilar, Sophie, my Parisian roommate studying at the public university, and Brendan, another great and hilarious friend to watch the sunset. All week, I had been walking around the park on more-or-less the same route, walking around the lake watching people row boats in the 100+ degree heat trying to stay cool in the shade. However, when we went to watch the sun set with the other Madrileños, it was the first time I truly felt like I was a part of the city and this was my new home. My heart felt the most open as it ever had and I truly embraced the experience of being in a new part of the world.

Not soon after that time, I found the opportunity to go to Granada with 3 other girls from CIEE for the weekend and decided to jump on that! I had visited once before in high school for a few days and was able to enjoy los pasos during La Semana Santa (Holy Week) as well as the Alhambra, but I was really looking forward to enjoying it again as an adult – because of el vino! We had a great time exploring the city, touring the many churches watching the sunset, going to a club until 6 am, going to the beach and eating fresh seafood. I’d definitely go back again!

As soon as I got back, I also had the opportunity to explore the region my school is in as well as tour the school, meet the staff and get a feel for what my job will actually entail. Getting to the school is very easy (only a 40 minute train ride) and it will be even better once the Metro station near my apartment opens. Everyone at the school was extremely kind and friendly towards me and all of the women greeted me with their traditional a kiss on both cheeks. I physically had to hold my right hand down to avoid seeming distant by shaking hands because I never realized what a habit it was for me in the U.S.! There will be 3 other auxiliares (1 other from the U.S. and 2 from Canada) and we will be assigned to grades 1-6. There are 500 students in total and the area itself is considered to be an at risk area because of the variety of cultural backgrounds in one school (Romanian gypsies, Moroccans, Latin Americans, Ukranians, and more) as well as many of the children coming from broken families. However, I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to give these kids the attention they need as well as hopefully make a difference in at least one child’s life!

Coming up this week, I will be going to the local amusement park, maybe go on some other adventures and then I will be in Mykonos, Greece for a few days! Life is difficult here, but someone has to do it. 

Hasta Luego!

Stephanie

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