Madrid Diary #2, Weeks 2-5
It’s been a minute since I wrote the last entry but these three weeks or so have flown by. I barely know where to begin—this first month here has been totally exhausting, hectic and confusing but amazing and thrilling too, all in equal measure. For reference, my mind usually feels like this song sounds.
I suppose it’s best to start by recapping where I’ve been spending the majority of my waking hours until this week, which is on the 2nd floor of Calle de Montesa 3 at TTMadrid. All of you probably already know why I came to Spain in the first place and roughly how I discovered TTMadrid so I won’t waste anyone’s time talking about that; I’ll start with the course itself. The wonderful teaching staff there managed to pack an absolutely absurd amount of information and experiences over the course of those 4 weeks, often to the point that I would leave the school starting to go cross-eyed from exhaustion and with pockets filled with notes in a sorry attempt to try and organize all of our ongoing projects and that week’s homework. It could get quite stressful at points, I’d say roughly matching how I felt during certain finals weeks at Wheaton, but the teachers there were always present to help us get our heads straight, listen to our insane ramblings and smile and nod when we rephrased the same questions to them 3 times in a row.
The course material covered everything from classroom management techniques, vast amounts of grammar review, lesson planning, 6 observed lesson practices with real students, beginner’s language classes in either Russian or Croatian so that we could better understand our students’ perspectives (those were particularly enlightening) and a hefty group project where we had to design a series of tests and interviews for one of the native Spaniards learning English at the school and then construct a speculative 8-week course plan for them using the information we gathered. Even though we’d be working late more nights than not, we still had time to go out on a few weekend nights and explore the city.
I’ve been doing that a lot lately with a small group of wonderful people from my course. Between merging a little clique of our own while also starting to get to know some of my roommates’ friends from college who live here, it finally feels like I’m starting to develop a real social network and make some great friends. It feels a lot different than my tiny friend group from Wheaton where we always went to the same places on a very small campus, but they’re both good for their own reasons.
Back on the subject of the course—I knew going into it that it would be an intense experience but coming out of it I feel more knowledgeable about teaching English here than I ever could have hoped (I mean, it’s only one month, how much can they pack in there?). But now the second leg of our journey begins as we start sending out our resumes and trying to assemble our bricolage schedules piece by piece. I’m sure this will be painstaking and thrilling in its own peculiar ways but since I just sent out my resume today things shouldn’t start up until early next week. I’m ready for it!
We ended our course in style. The teaching team rented out a bar in Malasana and gave everyone a round of drinks on them. Everyone showed up and the majority got pretty drunk along with some of the teachers. It was great to see some of the shier classmates outside of the school and with a bit of booze in them, everyone seemed so relaxed in comparison to just a few days before. Some of the teachers even went so far as to rope in a few students to trade off buying shots (I’m looking at you Helen) to hilarious effect. I think most of us were there for 4 hours or more, smoking under the dusty glow of the streetlights and shooting the breeze with some of the more advanced ESL learners that come to TT for their lessons. A wildly successful night in my opinion and I truly hope to get everyone together again sometime in the near future!
ALERT: this song right down here has been on constant repeat for the past three weeks, usually a few times each day. it’s one of the most unstoppably happy things I’ve ever heard and you should hear it too.
So that’s enough about the course……what the hell else have I been up to?
Bogui Jazz Club
Oh Bogui….your DJs’ selection of mid 90s pop hits and classic hip-hop is so on point it’s not even fair—as one of the friends I was with there last week said, it’s basically the house party playlist that all house party hosts should strive for. But you’re still a motherfucker.
I won’t go into details, but my first (very) late night there ended with me losing track of my iphone after being in Madrid for barely two weeks. I wasn’t sure if it was theft or a result of my own fugue state from dancing until 5:30 in the morning, but I was willing to give the club and Spain as a whole the benefit of the doubt. Last weekend, my roommate, some of his friends from Syracuse and myself decided to go back there—obviously not my idea. Still feeling traumatized from the experience, I decide to go anyways and constantly remind myself to not leave any possessions in an easy pocket for them to be picked. So we get there and get our drinks and everything is going swimmingly for a few hours. Eventually I go buy cigarettes from the machine and smoke one. I then go back inside and keep dancing, with cigarettes in my breast pocket, thinking no one would have the fucking gall to pinch it from there. Less than an hour later (I am basically sober at this point), I notice that they’ve been swiped. I take that as my cue to leave and get the fuck out. Needless to say, I had a (mostly) excellent time there but I will NOT be returning unless I’m carrying almost nothing in my pockets or resort to something like a wallet chain. Thieving little shits.
Parques, parques y mas parques
Since graduating from TTMadrid, there’s a feeling I get sometimes that’s been dramatically amplified. Confronted with the vast amount of things to do in Madrid as well as the hunch that I’m one of the few in my friend group who actually has the desire to get out and see the sights and sounds of Madrid that aren’t bars, clubs and tapas joints, I often draw a blank when trying to decide on what to do. I even made a list in Evernote that I can read through for explicitly this purpose, filled with plazas, cathedrals, restaurants, markets, theaters and bars, as well as small descriptions and usually how to get to them (yes, I know I’m a “planner”). But more often than not this week I wake up and barely have an idea of what I’m doing that day. It’s semana santa, no one’s gonna hire me until well into next week and I’m in fucking Madrid!!! I have no excuse. Yet I still sit in my room watching dumb shit on the internet until noon when I could be out exploring.
Perhaps this is just my lil’ country boy brain getting overloaded in this brave new world. Still I’ve managed to see plenty, if not as much as I’d hoped for this week—I’ve been to an elegant rooftop bar called Gau and Café in Lavapies, seen the church where Goya is buried and has a ceiling covered with some of his beautiful frescoes, watched two big football games in a popular sports bar packed with locals (especially when Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey last night, things got CRAZY), gone to bilingual pub trivia twice and just this afternoon visited the Matadero 20 minutes from my house, a massive arts center/movie theater/restaurant/recording studio free to the public that’s built inside an old pig slaughterhouse. Madrilenos sure know how to repurpose their old stuff. But thankfully, even when I can’t decide on what area to explore next I can always fall back on one of Madrid’s many beautiful parks.
A few days I finally made it out to Casa de Campo on the west side of the city over the river, an expanse of green hills and avatar trees that’s roughly 6 times the size of Central Park. It used to be the royal hunting grounds and I can understand why! I was there on a Monday afternoon so I encountered about 20 people over the course of my two hour stroll through, stopping for a while to lay in the shade and read Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 as picturesque clouds drifted lazily above me. I’ll definitely be going back there, hopefully with a rented bike and a friend in tow.
Coming up next…
So what does the immediate future hold? Beyond a day trip to a mountain village called Navacerrada with some classmates and my girlfriend Siri arriving in just over a week’s time, I’m not sure. I’m sure next week will be filled with lots of job hunting and filling out paperwork but the week that Siri’s here will be, if my schedule allows it, filled with museums and rooftop bar hopping and tapas on tapas on tapas!
I sincerely hope my next entry doesn’t take so long to get to—with TT behind me and a world of possibility ahead of me, I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me again soon. Adios y hasta luego!