One door

There are four main outcomes to virtually every decision: you get what you want and realize it’s what you wanted, you get what you want and realize it isn’t what you wanted, you don’t get what you want and realize it’s what you wanted or you don’t get what you want and realize it isn’t what you wanted.  I don’t believe there are many rights and wrongs in life, just a series of paths which lead us to our ultimitate destinies. If we follow our gut instincts and cancel out all the opposing forces: fear, doubt, anxiety, judgement, self-image etc., we will be able to fulfill our lives with the greatest maximum potential.

I am back in New Jersey and I don’t want to list all of the tangible reasons why I wasn’t meant to be in Spain at this point in time. In the greater story of my life, I can’t even begin to understand what led me back here so suddenly and why. I may not know until years later once all my dots have been connected and I can finally make sense of it all. The truth is, I may never know the exact reason. What’s important, is that I trust in myself and the universe. I can’t look at this as a failure or ending, but instead as a beautiful new beginning with as infinite an amount of possibilities as anywhere else.

In the short time I lived in Spain I learned more about myself, what I want, and who I am than during any other duration of my life. I grew comfortable with being alone in a foreign place and pulled my sense of direction out from the dusty space it has always been hiding. I met new people. I talked about life and love and cultural differences. I danced at a fiesta alone and free, surrounded by crowds of people that didn’t speak a word of my language. I lived. I lived and I learned, and in turn I grew. This is not the end of my traveling or my writing. As long as I’m still curious about the wonderment that surrounds me, I’ll continue to explore, continue to ask questions, and continue to grow and learn with every passing moon.

Although, I will probably change the name of this blog, this will not be my last post. If you enjoy readng it, I invite you to continue to do so. Even though I am currently living in a place that is familiar to me, there are always different angles in which everything can be seen.

I appreciate all the love and support and am very open to discussing the trials that led me here. Just ask me over the phone or in person. Right now I have more unknowns than I’ve ever had; it is as exciting as it is debilitating. I look forward to the ambiguity of my future and to seeing where this crazy route will lead me next. Stay tuned people, it’s going to be a fascinating life.

Back to Escuela

Today was both the students and my first official day at school. It was pure insanity. During orientation they told us to expect contrasting cultural norms between the Spanish and American school system, but until your actually there, surrounded by hordes of screaming Spanish children, it is really hard to wrap your mind around.

First of all, the school is HUGE. It seems like there are atleast a thousand students, ranging from a few months old all the way to 18. I will be teaching  3-5 year olds, which is adorable, but a little frightening. I feel pretty darn unprepared. These kids barely know any English and my contract states that I am not allowed to speak to them at all in Spanish. The goal is to fullly immerse these children in another language for the duration of my time with them, in hopes they will absorb as much as humanly possible. For the first few weeks, I foresee a lot of charades and flailing around, anything to get them to understand my lessons. They are really realy cute though!

The teachers at my school are all very kind and beautiful. They invited me to a cafe with them during our half hour break and I happily obliged. I pretty much just sat back and watched them interact with each other the whole time. I tried to be as polite as possible, but with the language barrier it was hard to really get involved with what they were saying. Only one of them speaks English well and the rest of them just kissed me hello and did the best they could to make me feel comfortable, Even though we can’t understand eachother completely, they are still more warm and welcoming than most teachers I have met  through the Orlando public school system. I feel very fortunate to be working with such helpful and patient souls.

It was also my first real day of commuting and I actually quite enjoyed it. The half hour train ride is awesome. It’s a direct route through the rolling plains of the Spanish suburbs. It’s a great time to read and collect my thoughts. The bus ride after however, leaves me feeling a bit nauseated, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. Everything takes adjusting. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and adapt as best I can in this new enviornment.

On a side note: I have grown to dislike the quote “good things come to those who wait.” My take is this:  “good things come to those who persist.” Take a note from the guy on the train this afternoon who serenaded everyone with his original music and keep persisting people!

City Life

Today has been quite challenging. I woke up with two main goals on my to do list: open up a Spanish bank account and obtain wifi for our apartment. So far, I have done neither. I first went to the closest branch of my intended bank. Once there, I spent 15 minutes standing between two glass doors trying to figure out how to get in. A savior of a Spanish woman eventually explained to me that patrons must put all metal belongings in a locker in order for the door to open. I locked up my keys and purse and was finally permitted access. From there I stood in line for a few minutes before being told that it is not possible to open an account at this particular branch. I was redirected to a branch in the city center and after a 15 minute walk I was told that I could indeed open an account, but first I will need a document proving my non-residency. The man helping me informed me that those can be obtained at the Police station. I arrived at the police station after a 17 minute walk only to find out that this police station doesn’t provide those documents; the one that does is 3 ½ miles away. After this news I had enough. I decided to head back to my apartment, do some yoga, charge my phone, and write this while I wait for Shannon to get back from her first day of teaching. Then hopefully, we can go together to the other police station and maybe I’ll be able to cross something off my list. I have no expectations though. I won’t be at all surprised if at the next police station they tell me that I need to take a hovercraft to Neverneverland and get some papers signed there…just saying.

On a positive note, I explored one of the largest cities  in the world on my own today. Madrid is fantastic. It’s a metropolis full of culture and zest with an emphasis on the enjoyment of life and conversation. The people here are from all over the world and of all different ages. It is much like a parallel universe to NYC, but with “tapas bars and markets” inseatd of “bagel shops and pizzerias”. The locals here also seem to be a bit more outgoing and approchable compared to New Yorkers, even with the language barrier. While I love the intense energy, It’s definitely going to take some getting used to. I’m going to need some time in nature pronto! I look forward to the day I am surrounded by forest again, where silence will be the most dominant sound.

I miss you all and am thinking of you always! I’ll never stop thanking you for the love and support. THANK YOU!

Moving

Want to hear a funny joke? Two twenty something year old American women hauling their 100+ lb suitcases on two trains, three escalators, through a densley populated city street and up three flights of stairs. That was a snipet of Shannon and my’s day yesterday as we moved our belongings into our new apartment. It has to be one of the most ridiculous scenarios of my life thus far. At both trains, bystanders had to help me lift my luggage just in time for the doors to close. I would like to take a moment to thank these kind souls because without their patience and muscle, my suitcase and I may very well have been left smushed on the side of the railroad tracks.

After what seemed like a marathon, we arrived at our new place. It is located in Sol, which I would deem as the “Manhattan of Madrid” . Our street branches off an area comparable to Times Square; alive with a bustling city energy and littered with wide eyed tourists. It is a far cry from anywhere I’ve ever lived and that’s part of the reason I’m so in love with it. If I want to test myself, I might as well give it everything I’ve got.

Our apartment is very small and I brought way too much clothes, but oddly enough, I am thrilled about the lack of room. After my time in Spain, I feel like I’ll be able to live simply for the rest of my life, without all the excess and wastefulness I’ve grown so accustomed  to in the states.

Every day I learn so much; It is more than I could have ever hoped for. I went into this move without much thought or expectation and so far this mind set has undoubtedly paid off. My life is unraveling with all the beauty and mystery of an abstract work of art. Each day I am more fearless, free, and capable than the last.

Some closing advice:  Regardless of where you live or what you’re doing, push the limits of your comfort zone. I can guarantee that it will strengthen you in more ways than you know.

The Honeymoon Phase.

My new  street!

My new street!

In this moment, I am sitting on Chavi’s balcony watching people go by. I observe the middle aged father with his toddler on his shoulders, the old woman walking alone with her cane, and the young lovers on the brink of freedom and responsibility, all unaware of the foreigner with a heightened vantage point  glimpsing into their lives. I still can’t believe I’m here. I’m so humbled and thankful for such a testing opportunity for self growth and evolution. My feelings parallel that of a first love: uncharted territory in the most beautiful way, feelings of true fear and freedom and the revealing of self competencies that I didn’t know existed. I get nervous everytime I try and put the situation into perspective and lie awake at night replaying events that happened just instances before. I am in the honeymoon phase of my relationship with Spain and all I can hope is that I never take it for granted once it becomes more comfortable.

I had orientation for my Masters Program the past two days and my new classmates are inspirational. I am one of the youngest in the program and hearing about all the places they have lived and all they have given back to the world makes me want to push myself to my greatest capacity. I believe there is infinte room for improvement in all of us human beings and I never want to stop questioning myself.

All philosophical ideologies aside, here is a list of some differences between the US and Spain:

– Pedestrians have the right of way in theory AND in practice

-Spainards wear their engagement rings on their right hand

-Exit signs are green instead of red

-Everyone here is less individualistic; there is a stronger sense of community

-People kiss cheeks to greet eachother (Always go to your left first! I learned the awkard way)

-They don’t knock on wood

-It is very common for Spainards of any age to stay out very late on the weekends, even if it just means sitting outside in a courtyard with their family and enjoying the evening air

-It is not customary to tip at bars or restaurants

-Gracias (thank you) is also not as common

-Spainards don’t have a strong sense of “personal space” they love to get as close as possible

-There is not as much of a hierarchy here. It is a socialist society and the recession has bridged the gap between much of the population

-Prostitution is legal, but pimps are illegal

-Meat, meat, meat

-Stores shut down from around 2-5 every day (siesta), but most people just relax, don’t necessarily nap

-Food is cheap

-By law, students only have to go to school until the age of 16

-People do things at their own pace, there isn’t as strong a sense of immediacy

-Everything closes on Sundays even in the busiest parts of the city

-Jesus is declared instead of God bless you for a sneeze

-Futbol > Football

That’s all I can think of right now, but I will try and expand this list in the days to come. If you are reading this I love you! Thanks for the continued interest and support!

A Day of Firsts

Today is a day to remember. For starters, I faced one of my biggest weaknesses head on: my sense of direction. Everyone who knows me knows that I am an intelligent person with a very skewed sense of where I am at all times. I’ll be positive that I’m going the right way until I walk two miles in the wrong direction. It’s so bad that my mom often encourages me to do the opposite of what I’m thinking and the sad part is, more often than not, this advice gets me to where I’m going.

Anyways, today I had to be at the school where I’ll be teaching at 10AM. It is an hour and fiteen minutes away and to get there I have to take two trains and a bus. This is only my third day ever being in Spain and the thought of all these transitions in places I’ve never been had me up for most of last night.  Astonishingly though, I did not get lost. I repeat: I DID NOT GET LOST!

I do have to admit that I missed my first train and got on the wrong one later in the day, but I got off just before it started moving, and hey, we can’t expect miracles overnight people. Being the punctual individual that I am, I still managed to get to my school a half an hour early so I sat on a park bench and read. It was lovely.

From there the day just got better. I found out I’ll be teaching 3-5 year olds. The school was absolutely amazing and I’m offered a free lunch everyday if I want it. I also found out that I can take yoga classes in the gym that’s connected at a discounted rate! It’s like no school I’ve ever been to. And get this, they even encouraged me to have fun with the children! I am allowed to be creative with my lesson plans and am even permitted to give them hugs and high fives! This is a drastic contrast to the “no touch unless they are  choking to death and you know cpr” policy of the American school system. No one at the school knows English except for one man, so I do see the language barrier as being a bit of an obstacle, but I have every intention of overcoming it. Hopefully in ten months I will be a Spanish speaking Senorita! (illiteration intended). Overall, it was a great day of firsts that boosted my self confidence. I already love it here.

I have orientation at my University tomorrow so I’m gonna hit the hay. Until next time folks!

Buena Noche!

It Begins

Here's some creepy baby art in central Madrid

Here’s some creepy baby art in central Madrid

So everyone this is my first offical post reporting from Madrid. I arrived here at 10 AM (European time) yesterday after a smooth yet comical flight. How can a flight be funny, you may ask. Well, I was seated in the very last row of the plane which just happened to be located right near a bathroom. That stench alone was enough to make one chuckle. I called my sister before take off to explain the uncomfortable seating arrangement and in retrospect, I realize I shouldn’t have pushed my luck. The moment I opened my mouth the two year old boy sitting next to me took off his shoes and the smell of his mildewed socks was far more rank than any bathroom could ever be. His mother kept trying to cover them up with a blanket, which did indeed take the smell away. The only problem was, this defiant young one wanted nothing more than to continuously rip the blanket away and subject us all to the putridity of his tiny feet. He loved this game of making everyone around him uncomfortable and kept shouting out with glee “Mommy Mommy smelly!” every time he succeed in releasing the stench. This lasted the whole seven and a half hour flight, but eventually I got somewhat used to it. If that wasn’t enough, every half hour or so the same little cherub would rip my head phones out of the jack and giggle. I never met a child who loved to annoy people so much. He will make an excellent traffic cop or tax collector one day.

Sitting in the last row also means that you get your meal served last. Despite requesting a vegetarian option when I booked the ticket, the attendant informed me the only choice available by the time she reached my seat was a brisket. I ended up just picking at some lettuce and a dinner roll which was fine enough. The stank of that boy’s feet curbed my appetite anyway and atleast I had some dressing I could inhale to distract my nostrils. Even with all these nuances, the flight was still fairly pleasant. I started this incredible book my mom got me and slept when I could. I really can’t complain.

Unless I write a novella, I don’t think there is any way to summarize what my first day in Spain was like. I have already met so many interesting people, traveled on the rail system, had my first glass of el tinto de verano, and shared many laughs with my roomate along the way. Oh yeah, and staying with a random Spanish man from the internet definitely has its own enetertainment value. We will be staying with Chavi until Sunday when we move into our own apartment in central Madrid. Don’t worry, he is extremely kind, respectful, and hospitable; it’s just a unique experience in its own right.

I promise to write with much more detail in the days and months to come. At the moment, I am still experiencing the remnants of the infamous Jet Lag. So until next time, enjoy your lives and thanks for reading this! It means a heck of a lot to me.

I’m going to leave you all with this quote my roomate came up with during last night’s pillow talk: “Traveling will age you in the best possible way. Without the years, but with all of the wisdom” – Shannon Fleener