|Cibeles fireworks on el dia de los reyes|
I cannot believe that I have packed up my bags and finally bid farewell to the beautiful city of Madrid, which I have had the pleasure of calling home for the last year and a half. Upon reflection, the amount that I have learnt in this time has been amazing- about myself, teaching, Spain and Spanish. I have formed friendships that I am sure will stand the test of distance and time and leave with memories that I hope will last a lifetime.
When I arrived in Madrid I could just about say ‘Hola!’, let alone string a sentence together. On Sunday, my last day, I was out with a Spanish friend speaking in Spanish the whole afternoon! I literally cannot wish to be happier with my progress. It has taken time, perseverance, many months of facial expressions/gestures to help explain what I am trying to say and “un monton de errores”… but finally I can say that I am on my way to speaking Español. I have found myself living in a bit of an expat bubble, not helped by teaching English in an academy, working alongside only English speakers. It is easy to get unknowingly sucked into and not good for the Spanish! But slowlyyyy I am getting there, and one day, hopefully in the not so distant future, I will be able to write one of these posts in Spanish!
|Casa de Campo from the teleferico cable car|
My first few months in Madrid also found me struggling not only to grasp the basics of a foreign language but also that of my own. Teaching English is not always as easy as it sounds. Those tenses, verb conjugations and parts of speech all need explaining, especially to adults who love to know a rule for everything. When you learn a language as a native, you are unaware of any rules or reasons, especially as the education system in England does not include English grammar in the same way as Spanish grammar is taught in Spain. My time here has been one of discovery and along the way, admiration, at the beauty and genius of language.
Waking up nearly every day and seeing blue sky, regardless of the temperature outside, never got old. Every day in England since I’ve return has been grey and cloudy (we are in June!) and I am convinced this kind of weather all year round is not good for the soul! You need some guaranteed warm weather to look forward to as you get through those chilly winters!
|Puerta del Sol en Navidad|
What’s more, there are customs that I wish I could bring back and introduce at home. Those wonderful two kisses to meet and bid farewell. The perfect, friendly greeting that is guaranteed as an unwritten rule. None of the unknown as is the case in England – that awkward hugging, sometimes a kiss, sometimes a handshake, or a little wave to greet each other or say goodbye. Who Knows What To Do!!?? When you meet up with friends, are introduced to someone or are leaving you know exactly what to do, and isn’t that a relief!
I love being able to go for a cheeky caña any time and it is always acceptable and affordable. Alcohol is never used to solely get drunk. It accompanies all social occasions and is consumed at a steady pace, more often than not alongside food (at least for a start!). A night out starts late and continues until the early hours, with anything finishing before 2am deemed a failure of a night! You rarely see anyone paralytic, and if you do they are greeted in a friendly, jovial manner. I have only ever seen one fight, and that was after a football match. Aggression is far from the expected result of having a few beers amongst the Spanish!
|Temple of Debod at sunset|
And to accompany that caña we cannot forget the tapas. I’m sure there is nowhere else in the world that presents you with a little pintxo when you order a drink, with continued loyalty at a bar over the space of an hour or two often leading to better quality free tapas throughout the night. Sharing food adds a great dynamic to socialising and the Spanish have got it right. Tortilla, patatas bravas, something con queso de cabra and bacalhau is guaranteed on almost every menu! Being bold enough to make sure you get your fair share of ‘the pie’ can take some assertiveness with the fork; an art which must be learnt as we Brits are not used to our food territory being very clearly marked by the border of our own plates!
Leaving has been made even more difficult after a weekend spent truly making the most of my last moments in Madrid. Some good bars, food and dancing has ensured I have left with a heavy heart and a longing to return one day, hopefully not too long away. For now, another adventure awaits and it is time for some quality time with family and friends in England before setting off once again.