Explore
Questions/Comments?Contact Us

The beginning

So much has changed in 3.5 weeks. I arrived in Spain almost exactly a month ago. I am now working and I have my own room with Spanish roommates. I love my neighborhood, although I have not entirely explored it.

In later posts, I will regale everyone with advice on how to track down lost luggage, and how to navigate speaking with a pharmacist and going to the doctor. But for now, some information about what it is like to begin working here in Madrid.

As for the program, The CETS course is over. The two weeks course is very involved, but in hindsight I think the program is helpful for instructors to prepare classes and understand the teaching methodology at Learnlight. (For those who don't know, Learnlight is the education tech company that CIEE work abroad interns work for during the program).

This week is our first week out in Madrid navigating public transportation. It is tiring, but I already feel like I understand the city better since I spend a fair amount of time going from one client to the next. I was late in getting my metro pass, so my public transportation experience was a bit stressful for a while. Note that if you are over 25, public transportation outside of Zone A will be more expensive. But, if you have to teach a class outside of Zone A, you will receive a small bonus for that class - meaning that you earn a few extra euros for traveling so far.

I must say that I get a certain amount of satisfaction after a long day of rushing around the city. It is so different from my "normal" midwestern life. This experience is different from studying abroad and requires a lot more energy (this could be because of all the everyday adjustments that I have made. I'm also not 20 years old anymore). But, I am taking joy from the small accomplishments that I make everyday. It's the little things that need to be celebrated.

My escape to Salamanca...

As much as I enjoy the excitement and life that exists in a big city - I have come to appreciate the fact that some people are made to live in a big city and others of us are just not programmed that way.  Madrid has a population of over 3.16 million people... that's a lot of people!  After going through orientation, dealing with paperwork and legal documents and requirements, finding somewhere to live, meeting with people from the school and just dealing with all the various forms of transportation, I was much in need of a reprieve from city life.

I knew that I wanted to get away for a few days, but I wasn't really ready to jump a flight and fly to another country for that time (besides the cost of flights were more than I was willing to pay at that point), so I decided that the best thing would be to visit somewhere in Spain.  And what better place to visit then the city I first came to know and love - Salamanca!  So, I found an inexpensive (but well-rated) bed and breakfast near the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, I booked a round-trip bus ticket and I packed my bags (as I was packing up the hotel room the day we had to leave).  I even convinced another auxiliar to join me for the adventure (or at least part of it)!  

If you haven't been to Salamanca and you're looking for somewhere nice to go - with stuff to do, places to see, beautiful gardens to visit, shops to browse, and great food - then you should definitely take the time to check it out!  (And if you have been to Salamanca, then you know what I'm talking about and you should probably go back to visit again.)  Salamanca is a great weekend trip whether it is just a 2 day get-away or a long-weekend.  For me, Salamanca serves as a nice balance of things to do with not as many people or stress that can take over when you're in the center of Madrid.  

I wanted to include some pictures of things to check out, places to go, and even the bed and breakfast that we stayed at.  All I can say is the chance to walk the streets of a city that brought me so much peace and adventure as a college student (eek, 9 years ago!) was worth every Euro that I spent (which was less than 215 Euros for the room that I got for 4 days/3 nights, the bus tickets, food and even a shopping trip to buy some shoes and such)!  

IMG_0094
The Plaza Mayor - a great place to grab a glass of wine or some gelato in the evening and just relax.

IMG_0115
The bed and breakfast we stayed at (located on Calle Jesús - only ~3 blocks away from the Plaza Mayor).

IMG_0117
The common area in the bed and breakfast - there was an outside patio, a kitchen area, sitting rooms, games to play, and more.  It was beautiful and is a place I will certainly try to go back to if I'm ever staying in Salamanca again!

IMG_0087
The New/Old Cathedral in Salamanca (the two are connected)... You can visit the Cathedrals while you're in the city as well as a couple other convents and monasteries.  The architecture throughout the city center of Salamanca is pretty breathtaking - making it well worth a walk through, even if you have no idea where you're going.

One of my favorite spots in all of Salamanca - the Huerto de Calixto y Melibea. It is a gorgeous garden, located in an unsuspecting corner of the city. It is filled with flowers, a fountain, and a ledge that overlooks the city. If you are interested in Spanish literature you may also find it intriguing as it connects to the play "Celestina."IMG_0106
The entrance to the garden...
IMG_0106
The fountain in the garden, with Alysia sitting on the bench in the background.
IMG_0106
Some of the flowers blooming in the garden... (it's crazy to think that this is how it looks at the end of September!)
IMG_0106
The well in the center of the garden, with some of the bushes and trees and more all aligning the walkways... Pictures cannot do this place justice - trust me, you should just go check it out yourself.
IMG_0106

While you are wandering around, make sure to stop at the University and look for the "rana" (frog) to make sure you will succeed in your studies!  I know that I stopped by with hopes that it applies for those teaching the class as well as those who are taking the course!  :)

I'll write again soon but, until then, ¡muchos abrazos!

-Stephanie
(John 14:27)

An Ode to Plain Bagels with Cream Cheese

In the United States, there exists a wondrous delicacy -

A mouthwateringly tasty one, crafted with expertise -

That is known by all and enjoyed universally,

Called the Plain Bagel with Cream Cheese.

It features a donut-shaped roll of fluffy dough

Packed tightly, with crisped edges toasted golden,

And a layer of soft, creamy goodness smeared on top.

In America, for a bagel one need not search high and low.

But in España, this delightful country which I have chosen,

The quest has been extremely daunting, shop after shop after shop...

***

For most people, one of the most exciting parts of moving to any foreign country is being surrounded by local cuisine and getting the chance to try new dishes nearly every day. 

I am not one of those people.

“But it’s Spain, how can you live in Spain and not want to try the paella, and the gazpacho, and the patatas bravas, and the salmorejo, and the pisto, and the tortilla española, and the…” The list could go on for a while.

The problem is: I am a picky eater. It has absolutely nothing to do with foreign foods - I struggle to find things to order at American restaurants at home. I’m not proud of it, and I’m working to broaden my horizons (one of my goals for this year!), but it’s not likely to magically happen overnight.

However, after a month of grocery shopping in Madrid, I can happily attest to the fact that even picky eaters have nothing to worry about here. Right off the bat, I was able to find and prepare many of the foods I would eat at home - pasta, eggs with toast, peanut butter sandwiches, and turkey and cheese sandwiches (although of late I’ve been opting for the oh-so-very-Spanish jamón y queso bocadillos).

But even after weeks of successfully finding my comfort foods, there was one that still eluded me: my beloved plain bagel with cream cheese. I was determined to find it.

Though rare, bagels are not impossible to find in Madrid. Naturally, I began my quest for them at the Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks coffee shops that are scattered throughout the city. To my dismay, however, the only types of bagels these shops offer are sesame. Being the picky eater that I am, I must have plain bagels. 

So, I turned to my good friend Google and found lists of the best places to find bagels in Madrid. One morning, I set off and traversed all over the city, visiting each and every one with high hopes, but with little success. It seemed as though, while bagels themselves are rare in Madrid, plain bagels are non-existent.

And then, finally, at a tiny little cafe called Panela & Co, victory was mine.

IMG_0396 

The price was steep (6,95€), but I paid it without hesitation and savored every single bite of that glorious plain bagel with cream cheese with pure and overwhelming bliss.

Now, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s good advice to spend too much of your time on a foreign adventure in search of food from home. But every once in awhile, I say go for it. Ironically, my quest for a taste of home brought me to many new neighborhoods in Madrid that I had yet to explore. It’s all about balance and finding your happiness - whatever and wherever that is - so go find it!

 

NOTE: Since writing this post, I have found another café, called Juicy Avenue, that has a variety of bagel and cream cheese flavors for much cheaper prices.

IMG_0418I will be continuing to take note of all the good bagel places I find, so if anyone is interested, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

The Road to Perfection

David is 6 years old and a tireless perfectionist. I peek over his shoulder as he sounds out each letter of a word while he attempts to spell it in English..Mmm..Iii.. "Mi." I tap him on the shoulder.

"David, I understand why you would think an I belongs in "My", but en Ingles, a "y" sometimes makes the "i" sound."

David fixes his eyes on the word and lingers for a moment. Then without a seconds more hesitation, he begins to vigorously scribble out the tiny word until it is nothing but a black smudge of ink on the paper. Before I can stop him, he flips the entire page (which was completely blank apart from one misspelled word), and begins to try again.

This is a cycle that will continue for the next hour and a half as we navigate our way through our second week of English lessons. The other day he got so frustrated with himself that he broke down in tears, and his mom came into the room shaking her head, because she already knew what was happening. "He's a perfectionist," she whispered, as she stroked his hair. I left that day, and a few others, feeling absolutely defeated. Not only because I couldn't fully help him, but because inside I could understand his struggle completely.

The pursuit of perfection is something we all deal with, and when your face-to-face with your own shortcomings, there is no way to turn the other cheek and pretend like they don't exist.

That day when David broke down, I jumped into hyper recovery mode. "DAVID!" I said, "You are so smart, the English language is so difficult." and "You are doing so well, keep trying. Try again." But the damage had been done for the day..exasperated he huffed loudly "No!" and tossed his notebook across the table.

The realist in me understood this too. Most days I would give anything to be 6 again, just so I can loudly proclaim "No!" when I am done with all of this. But adulthood, and really life in general, require us to keep showing up. And so that's what David and I did the following day...

Yesterday as I sat down with him to practice his sentence structure, fear engulfed me. What if I can't reach him? What if I overstep and cause him to have a meltdown? As I lingered on this doubt, David was already one step ahead, breaking out his pen and getting to work.

That's one of the things I love most about children, that really revives me just by being in their presence. Maybe its because they've had less time to be scarred by this world, to be beaten down enough to quit; but whatever it is, the pains of their yesterdays are quite literally erased by the sun. David laid aside his failures from the day before as if they never even happened, and he began again today with energy and an open mind.

More than his burgeoning young mind, and his will power, and his youthful vigor, I appreciate his courage the most.

Maya Angelou is famous for all of her words, but these few stand out to me.

"I am convinced that courage is the most important of all the virtues. Because without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue consistently. You can be kind for a while; you can be generous for a while; you can be just for a while, or merciful for a while, even loving for a while. But it is only with courage that you can be persistently and insistently kind and generous and fair. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage."

It takes courage to begin, to practice, and to learn. David has a lot of it, and most of us show an ounce of it just by waking up every morning and getting a few things done. Perfection often seems like the real end goal, the character trait to ultimately strive for, but I'm convinced that at least while we're here on this earth, bravery to keep showing up has greater depth to it and far more meaning than perfection can ever offer.

 

"You've Got Mail..."

I love mail!  I love getting mail; I like sending mail; I just like mail.  Who doesn't?  There is nothing bad about mail! (Note: I do not consider ads or bills as mail - I'm talking birthday cards, "just saying hi" notes, etc.)  

So I thought that I was in great luck when I learned that, after I forgot something I was working on before I left, my mom so wonderfully decided to send a care package!  (YAY!! Thanks, Mom!)  It was scheduled to arrive (to the hotel where we have been staying at while everyone frantically strives to find housing) on Monday.  

With all this in mind, I was excited to see something from "Correos" (the post office) on my bed when I got back to my room Monday afternoon.  Little did I know that the form and envelope on my bed was not a notification of joyous goodies waiting downstairs but, rather, something that would lead to a few tears, a little (or lot) of frustration, many wrong turns, and an adventure of trust and generosity.

I wish I had taken a picture of said form but, alas, it is now out of my hands and probably in a pile of papers to be recycled at the Post Office on C/Alfa in Madrid.  Therefore, you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that it was not a form that I would like to see again, as I struggled to decipher and fill out all the right information and, even worse than that, figure out what to do with it when I finished all of that.  One thing that was very clear on the form was that, if I didn't figure it out by Sunday (domingo), October 1st, it would be shipped back to the US and I would not be able to get it.  I did my best to fill out and research what the right move was to make sure that my package would come to me (and not be shipped back to the US) with very little success.  I even went down to the front desk of the hotel to ask for assistance from the wonderful people working there.  They were as clueless as I was.  

After spending a while working on it, I decided the best thing I could do would be to go to the nearest post office and ask them.  That became my Tuesday goal - go to the post office, get it all worked out and get my package.  How hard could that be?

I woke up early Tuesday morning and made my way to the post office.  The very kind woman at the post office explained that the package was not there, that I needed to take the form that I had completed and either email, mail or personally deliver it to the Oficina de Correos (and she suggested taking it personally, so that I wouldn't have to wait the month that it can take for them to process the email/mail requests).  With that information in hand, I made my way to the address I had found on one spot on the form (granted there were at least 3 addresses that I saw, 2 of which did not have an actual number, just a street name).  I ended up in the middle of the Madrid airport - where the postal worker informed me that I was in the wrong place.  

At this point yesterday I also was reaching a time crunch, due to my TIE appointment that was scheduled for 12:30.  So, I gave up on getting my package on Tuesday - determined that Wednesday morning would be the day (especially because I was supposed to be catching a bus at noon to go to Salamanca for a few days and wouldn't make it back before the post office closed on Saturday).  After my TIE appointment, I did some more research.  I looked at the last two addresses that were on the form and the envelope, respectively, and picked the one that seemed most practical.

Wednesday
6:26 am: Alarm goes off.  
6:35 am: I leave the hotel and begin my trek (on the bus, the metro and by foot), following the very handy-dandy "City Mapper" app which leads me to a slightly sketchy area behind the airport, filled with warehouse type buildings.  
8:15 am: I approach the security guard at the gate where I had just seen the "Correos" truck turn and where my app was telling me that I needed to go.  He very kindly informed me that I wasn't at the right place BUT I was close... He directed me where to go (and offered to go with me even) and I turned back around.  
8:35 am: I get to the crossroads - where the security guard told me to ask someone the specific location of the address that he had found and highlighted for me - and see a nice woman walking by.  I stop her and ask for her assistance.  Not only does she tell me where I should go, she walks me there!  Yay for kind people!

At this point, I'm thinking I am all set.  After 2 days of trying to get my box, I'm FINALLY in the right place and now I can just hand in my paperwork, get my package and head back to the hotel, right??  

No such luck... Instead I get sent from the post office to the administration building (only a block and a half away - but still - I manage to walk the wrong direction and again have to ask someone to help re-direct me) where I have to fill out more paperwork, declare the Tastykakes that my mom has sent me, and sign some more legal documents.  After an hour-ish there, they send me back to the post office building where I pay my 5.34 Euros and receive the beautiful brown box that holds the twine I've been waiting for, the Tastykakes that I have had to defend and sign for and the vitamins that I forgot to bring.

There might have been a few tears of joy as I happily walked out of the post office (a few minutes after 10am) - thanking God for all the kindness of strangers who had helped me find my way - and assured another lost-looking individual who I passed on the street that she was going in the right direction as I recognized both the form in her hand and the look of total desperation and confusion in her eyes.

While not the best experience I have had in Spain, I'm thankful that I had it.  
I'm glad that I was forced to step out of my comfort zone, get lost, struggle on my own a little, encounter some strangers who were willing to extend to me a great deal of kindness, and be overcome by the feeling of success in accomplishing something that really kind of terrified me.  

And, on a positive side note, after all of that happened this morning, I made it to the bus station before noon and am writing all of this from the comfort of a beautiful hotel in Salamanca!  So, I must say so long, for now and get ready to go figure out dinner... ¡Hasta pronto!

-Stephanie
(Hebrews 13:2)

Moving To Madrid

Introduction

I have traveled to Madrid as part of the CIEE Teach Abroad program to act as a Language Assistant in a primary school. Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind since stepping off the airplane. To start this journey, I would like to give an introduction to who I am and why I decided to start this new experience.

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and spent most of my life there. I attended college at Kent State University where I majored in Graphic Design and minored in Photo Illustration. In December of 2013 I graduated with a BA in Visual Communication Design under the College of Communication and Information.

A year after graduating, I decided to move to New York City to pursue a design job at specializing in fashion e-commerce. I spent the last two and a half years there and loved the work that I was doing. To this day, I still very much enjoy this particular field.

Last year, my friend moved to Madrid, and she spent a lot of time traveling. She was always visiting new countries and experiencing new cultures. Hearing about this gave me a strong desire to start my own journey abroad.

I started researching various teach abroad programs, and came across CIEE. I applied online and within a week I was informed of my placement with Ceip Daoiz Y Velarde. When I approached my company about this opportunity they were very supportive; we made an agreement that I would continue to work for them. I now have the opportunity to work on a project basis remotely, while I am teaching and traveling, which is the best of both worlds.

Shortly after, here I am.. A week into my journey abroad. A lot has happened in the time that I have spent here in Spain. From attending the CIEE orientation, and moving into my new apartment in La Latina. I will try to make this post short and sweet.

The Journey Begins

I arrived last Monday after a red eye on Air Europa airline - I have nothing but good things to say about my experiences with Air Europa. I have flown with them twice to Madrid and both times the airline has accommodated me with excellent service. You are always well fed and hydrated along the way. Also, if you want to splurge for the extra legroom, the $40 dollar fee it's well worth it.

​​ ​​ FullSizeRender

I was anxious on my way to the airport and when I took my first step onto the airplane. I knew that I was about to step into something completely new and uncomfortable. Luckily for me, I was assigned a seat next to a girl very similar to me. We were the same age, and she also received her degree in graphic design - her name was Carly. Talking to her, immediately put my mind at ease because I knew I had someone close by who was about to go through the same experience.

Airport
We slept most of the way since it was a red eye flight. Good thing we got some sleep, because we had no idea how busy the week ahead of us would be. Once the airplane landed, I was starting to feel many different emotions. It started to hit me that I just moved to another country.

Everything that was so familiar and comfortable, would be far away for the next 10 months. Regardless, I knew that this was going to be the biggest learning experience thus far. When I walked into Terminal 4, there was this beautiful hallway of colored glass panes which instantly helped put my mind at ease. Carly and I decided that we were going to go get our bags together. Afterwards, we would make our way to the meeting spot to head to the hotel for the first day of CIEE orientation.

Once we arrived to the hotel that's when the "busy-ness" began. We checked into the hotel and got settled before the welcome dinner that evening. Here we met our small groups that we would be spending a great deal of time with over the next few days. My group leader was Paloma, a native Spaniard who was very happy and loved to sing. She would be getting us through orientation as fluidly as possible. The dinner spread was very nice. We were given a starter, main meal, and dessert which was fruit. I loved that we ended the meal with something that was both sweet and healthy. I should of savored this full dinner because I didn't know that I would only be eating small bites for the next 3 days, but when in Spain do as the Spaniards do!

Orientation Recap

Now this was a long chain of events and I won't go into too much detail, but I will give you an idea of how our itinerary ran everyday:

Every morning at 8 a.m. we received a really great spread for breakfast. There was a traditional Spanish fare such as Jamon, Tortilla Espanola, and a special tomato sauce that is served as a spread with toast. After breakfast, we had an hour to rest/prepare for informative presentations until 2 p.m. The presentations talked about getting acclimated in Madrid from opening a bank account to understanding cultural differences. After presentations, CIEE scheduled free time filled with fun events, which allowed us to go out and explore the city.

Paloma

Image-1

Day 1

Pictured above, is my orientation leader Paloma. She is leading us to the Flamenco show at Cardamomo - what a beautiful experience! I had never seen Flamenco before and being able to experience it first-hand was a real treat. When we walked in, we were served a vino and some tapas before the show started. I thought the lighting of the venue added a certain mood that complimented the dramatic music and dance (pictured above).


Madrid-2

Screenshot-www.instagram.com-2017-09-25-17-16-37-344

Day 2

There were scheduled neighborhood tours that hit the North, South, East, and West of Madrid. I ended up going to the West to see neighborhoods Moncloa and Chueca. It was great to get out on foot and explore the city some more. After the tours we were taken to a tapas and cider venue, where we were served many different traditional dishes. After dinner a group of people decided to go to a rooftop bar and I joined in. Pictured above is myself and a group of girls after having a cocktail and taking in the fantastic view from the rooftop.


IMG_0103 (1)

Day 3

This was the final day of orientation so the organizers and leaders decided to take us to a nice restaurant in the art district of Madrid. It was a sit down dinner with unlimited vino and tapas. A few of the dishes that were served that night were tuna, pate, and truffles. Everyone was dressed up and overall it was a really nice, relaxing environment. It was a great way to end such a busy week.

Conclusion

Overall, I was very pleased with how the  CIEE Orientation went. I thought that the week was packed with a lot of useful information and lots of fun. Also, I met a lot of really cool people throughout the week that I will be keeping in touch with and hearing how their teaching experiences are going. I am thrilled to begin this new chapter and can't wait to see what this city has in store for me.

 

So you decided to move to Spain!

What a decision! I did not realize how big this was until I bought a one way ticket and landed in Madrid. Were there times I wanted to give up? YES!! Especially when the San Francisco consulate was booked until October (since June), I bought a second passport (in case the consulate took my application before I traveled which ended up being unnecessary), went in to the consulate every day at 8 am for a week and did not land an appointment (got a parking ticket), and I had to drive to Sacramento (2 hours minus traffic) for a 20 minute appointment. However, I wouldn't change a thing!

Spain has been magical and I already feel at home. I went to Germany last weekend for Oktoberfest and although I had the time of my life, I missed Madrid so much! I missed the warm weather and the warmer people. I missed being in a familiar city and walking around without a GPS. Madrid has a way of capturing your heart and never letting it go. People here are not strangers living in the same city...they are a community who work in harmony.

To those of you who live here now, explore! If the city captures your heart, don't be scared of it...embrace it! To those of you who are thinking of moving here to teach, follow your heart. You will be rewarded in the end. Finally, to those of you who have never been to Madrid, I suggest you take a week off of work and buy a plane ticket here!

I can't wait to see what my future here holds!

Aranjuez

The other day I went to visit Aranjuez (the town I'll be teaching in) to have a look around and become familiar with the area. After just ten minutes of exploring, I stumbled across this gorgeous view of the Palacio Real de Aranjuez and was rendered speechless...needless to say, I think I'm going to like it here :)

22069002_1450658211683951_2058888082_o

The rain in Spain

I’ve been told time and time again that it rains only a handful of days during the summer here in Madrid. What did it do the first 3 days here? POURED. I’m going to look past that and say it’s not a sign because at least we were stuck in orientation the first 3 days.

The first week was jam packed with things to do. Day one dragged on forever because I refused to take a nap and I felt awful. (Highly recommended though, because I slept 10 hours that night and woke up free of jet lag.) On top of that, I was trying to get to know people, but honestly I think everyone was on the same page to make it a no judgment zone because we all were exhausted.

Orientation sessions were actually super helpful. They got a little repetitive at times because I’d spent the last 2 months reading up on Spain and being an auxiliar.* However, the CIEE leaders packed so many helpful tidbits and examples to help all of us little baby birds spread our wings.

Things covered in orientation:

  • Cultural differences between the States and Spain
  • Tips for teaching
  • Accessing hospitals: emergency, non-emergency, and mental health
  • Process for opening a bank account
  • How to get a phone plan
  • Advice for apartment searching
  • Submitting documents to get our metro card
  • Applying for our residency in Spain (the most helpful thing we did!!!)

We didn’t just do logistical stuff though!! Our orientation leaders took us out on the town and showed us some of the wonderful things Madrid has to offer. After our first morning of sessions, our group of 10 found a tapas place to eat, and then we wandered around the city. Eventually we made our way to a Flamenco show at Cardamono. We tasted a little vino tinto (red wine), gazpacho,** and of course bread. 

 Fullsizeoutput_2a70
Flamenco at Cardamono

The next day, I signed up for a tour of Northern Madrid because that’s where my school is located. I also eventually found an apartment in the Northeastish part of the city, but more on that in my next post. That evening, the program organized a Sideria. Delicious sidra (cider) and food all around. A Sideria is typical to Northern Spain, but we made an exception and it was soooo delicious! 

 Fullsizeoutput_2a71
A picture of how the cider is supposed to be poured to maximize natural carbonation

Last, but not least, we went to Matadero, a slaughterhouse/restaurant/event space, where we ate lots of pinchos (little bites of food). This was my favorite dinner by far because it was incredibly delicious. Plut we’d made it through orientation so it was like our little send-off into becoming real people in Madrid.

Now it’s a month later, it hasn’t rained since orientation, and I’m finding myself settling in more each day.


*Assistant. Our official title is Auxiliar de conversacion y cultura = conversation and cultural assistant
**A soup that is made up of raw blended vegetables

Unexpected Blessings

It has been a whirlwind of a week - lots of adjustments and excitement.  Orientation went well and offered a good deal of insight in terms of banking, phone plans, important documents and appointments, meeting people, learning how to get around and a nice introduction to the culture of Madrid.  (I posted a couple of pictures at the end of the post, so if you're interested in checking them out make sure to scroll down!)  

At this point, I am sitting in the lobby of the hotel, surrounded by other auxiliars all looking for housing.  It is here that I find myself so relieved.  I happened to log onto Facebook the last night of orientation (Thursday), right before we headed out to our "Farewell dinner", and saw a post for a family looking for an "au pair" near Arganda del Rey (the suburb where I will be teaching).  I sent a message and got in touch with the woman and, next thing I know, I was making my way the next morning to the very school where I will be teaching to meet with this lovely woman, who is a teacher at the school I'll be working this year.  

That in itself was a blessing, I met a lot of the teachers at the school, the bilingual coordinator, the director of the school... And everyone was sooo wonderful!  I spoke with Raquel and had a really good conversation with her about the possible situation and everything sounds very reasonable.  I think it is going to be a great experience...

So, the plan is to meet her again tomorrow at her house, to see where I will be living and meet her boys!  I am excited for the new journey (and what seems like the ideal situation).  There are still a few more things that I need to do in the meantime - print out paperwork, make copies, pick up my bank card, and go to my TIE appointment (to apply for my residency card) - but I recognize that I am in a really good place right now.  

The only "glitch" in my living situation is that Raquel asked for a week before I move in - and we have to be out of the hotel by Wednesday (unless I want to pay to stay a couple more days - which was a pretty definitive "no").  I decided, in the end, that I would make the most of my break between Wednesday and Saturday to travel back to the first city I ever truly experienced in Spain - Salamanca.  I booked a bus to and from there and a hotel for when I am there.  I decided that, since I won't be putting down a security deposit or needing to pay rent, it is a good way for me to spend that time (since I'd be paying to live somewhere for those three days anyways, why not make it a place that I'd like to go and see again??).  

In the meantime, I will finish working on all the final paperwork and appointments as I look forward to my first adventure outside of Madrid.  Feel free to check back and hear more about the upcoming excitement!  Until then, ¡buenos viajes!

-Stephanie
(Is. 41:10)

A look back at the week...

IMG_0043(The Crystal Palace, as the sun is starting to set, in Retiro Park.  Fun fact, at one point Retiro park was only open to royalty - that's a lot of beautiful space for a very small group of people!)

IMG_0043
(The "center" of Madrid, located in Sol.)

IMG_0017
(My "café con leche" in a local coffee shop, where my orientation group stopped before heading to watch Flamenco!)

Keep Me Updated