Saturday, October 10, 2009

My First Steps

Even as I sat in the train station waiting for my "train to adventure" to arrive, I expected something to go wrong. I have grown to doubt and even expect sometimes that things will not work out the way I want them to. Many times this has turned out for the best: not getting the job and getting a perfect one instead (I'm talkin about you Glendale), halting a (who knows) possible successful run at basketball because of a freak elbow injury to instead being able to devote a good amount of time to people I love, never hearing a clear calling from God as to what the heck I'm doing instead being able to live each day in faith; waking up, breathing in the new day and never expecting or wanting more than what is there. But this time, I (foolishly perhaps) didn’t want to be shown an alternate thing, even if it turned out to be better. SPAIN had been pacing back in forth for a year and a half in waiting and I was ready to tell it to sit down and relax. “I’m on my way”. Perhaps it isn't even Spain. Maybe it's just change, opportunity, adventure...or just the chance to have something to make mine. I have no wife, children or career that I can call my own. Stepping off of the plane I in some way felt as though I had my own story, my own existence. But it happened. A train ride, two flights and a cab ride and I am breathing in Spanish air.

I am in Spain.

So my buddy Kevin and I chose to use our daytime for apartment hunting, church hunting, looking at Skype, and finding info about the city and our school. At night, we WALKED. We walked all over the city till our feet hurt (literally, we didn’t even use the metro until we had already been in Madrid for two weeks). We got lost and argued about which direction was north at least once each night, going from street to street each one jutting diagonally to the other. Waiting around the next corner could very well be a beautiful park with multiple fountains and ancient statues or an abundance of lights and people eating tapas or a string of shops and stores selling just about anything you could possibly want. I will say despite it being cliché that this city is alive only because if it can be applied to any city it is certainly this one. Dinner doesn’t even happen until at least 9:00 on weekdays and 11:00 on Friday and Saturday. Bars are EVERYWHERE and are about as diverse as they are numerous. There are karaoke bars, discotheque bars, Jazz bars, tapas bars,salsa bars,flamenco bars, traditional Spanish bars, and Irish pubs. And there are just as many restaurants as bars; paella, churros, gazpacho, kabob, pasta, shrimp, tapas and more. Every night is an opportunity to eat, drink and have a night on the town. The city really doesn’t ever sleep (except on Sundays). My instructor here told me that people almost never walk alone and that you will get the least amount of sleep in your life while living in Madrid. I have found both to be true.

Within the first few days of apartment searching, a man had an ad for a two bedroom apartment in a good location in the city. We of course sent him a reply in interest. Initially he seemed very legit. He gave us the address of the apartment, offered to show us papers that he legally owned the place and even told us a little info about himself and his family. The only problem was that he no longer lived in Madrid. His job took him and his family to London so we would have to mail him the 500 Euro deposit before he would send us the keys. This of course didn’t fly. I suggested that he send the keys to a friend or lawyer here in the city and then we could give them the money. He never once addressed this option. He even got pretty aggressive and angry in his words telling me that he was getting tired of “all of these e-mails back and forth!” and saying “if you can’t have trust in this world, what can you have!” Howbout 500 Euros? We kicked him to the curb and went back into the tiresome and frustrating search for a somewhat cheap, somewhat comfortable, somewhat close apartment. We eventually found a great studio for two people for 800 (utilities included [more pics on facebook]) a month in the heart of the city. It’s not a palace but its home for now. And we didn’t get scammed out of money we didn’t have to lose (a few of our classmates weren’t so lucky).

My classes to get certified to teach English started on the 28th. They last from 9:30 to 3:00 which isn’t terribly long and we have several breaks throughout the day which makes it feel like it’s going a little faster. We have covered teaching methods (both good and bad), public speaking, common difficulties for teachers and students of English, and LOTS of grammar. I had assumed that I would be ok with my knowledge of grammar because I practically majored in it and I have done reasonably well, but I’ve certainly built up a considerable amount of rust that needed to be scrubbed off. The teaching methods portion has been really awesome too. When I worked at Glendale I felt very under qualified and obviously lacking experience going into the year. Luckily I had a sweet staff that was merciful when I made a mistake or when I just didn’t know what the heck I was doing. So this has been really helpful as far as giving me at least a little educational instruction. I’m gonna get my first students two weeks from now. I have 3 sessions scheduled so far. The oldest kid is seven and the youngest one is three. I’m not exactly sure yet what my lesson plans are going to involve but I’m thinking they’re going to have lots of pictures, crafts, singing, dancing and coloring which I have to admit I’m kinda excited (and a bit nervous) about. For some reason having my one year of experience working with the muchachos at Glendale didn’t shake all of the jitters out of my system.

As you know my first two loves are Jesus and basketball so I wanted to get plugged in as soon as possible to both of em. I just recently found a basketball league that plays every Sunday and practices every Wednesday. The talent level isn’t spectacular but hey I get to feel the leather on my fingertips and work up a sweat at least twice a week. I’ve also found two churches (one English speaking and one Spanish speaking) to go to. I’ll go to the Spanish one this weekend for the first time. I went to the English speaking one this past Tuesday. It was a sort of house church thing with a dinner and the whole shabang. It seemed pretty cool.

That’s all for now homies. Despite having a great time here, I miss you all so much I try not to think about it. Skype isn’t working all that great lately but I’ll continue to try to call and I’ll certainly be in touch by e-mail. Let me know what’s goin on on your end. Till next time.