The first semester is over and in a couple of days, I’ll be hauling my suitcase to the airport to fly back home for Christmas.
I’m soon to be reunited with my dressing gown, devouring a chocolate orange or three surrounded by the bittersweet familiarity of family bickering. My lack of Christmas decs and absence from British Christmas ads has meant my festive spirit has been on the low side this year. Nonetheless, I’m soon to be back home watching Elf for the 97th time, losing count of how many Quality Streets I’ve eaten, all while cosying up in front of the Christmas tree.
With three months of my year abroad complete, I thought it was an apt time to reflect and share some musings of my time in Madrid so far.
One thing the past few months have shown me is how polite us Brits really are. You can’t go a day back home without hearing someone mutter ‘sorry’ or ‘excuse me’. Even if you were the one who accidentally bumped into them, there’s a 98% chance of them apologising anyway. Here, there are no qualms about pushing right past someone. You’ll hear ‘perdona’ fluttering past your ear while simultaneously being shoved into the courgette section in the supermarket. Yeah, that happened.
Another thing I’ve come to realise: I’m not the biggest fan of tapas. Yes, it’s an integral part of Spanish culture. But; croquettes are a no go for me; calamari tastes like rubber; every dish of patatas bravas I’ve had has been drowning in sauce. It’s cheap, not all the food is bad, but why buy lots of small dishes when you can indulge in a big helping of just one? Luckily, Madrid isn’t short on decent restaurants.
Madrid has something for everyone. From awe-inspiring monuments for history buffs to quirky cafes for those looking to revamp their Instagram aesthetic. However, as much as I’ve loved venturing around Madrid, I haven’t travelled outside the capital city as much as I would’ve liked. Aside from feeling lethargic and homesick, in all honesty, I have little desire to go exploring in the cold.
Christmas break will be like hitting a reset button. I have two weeks away from inattentive kids and the time to regain sleep, motivation and willpower. With that in mind, I’m hoping to step into 2019 with a fresh new set of batteries. As long as teaching doesn’t drain my energy, I’m going to unleash the spontaneity buried (very) deep within me and get travelling.
My opinion on teaching hasn’t changed in the slightest. While I’ve found a better routine in terms of lesson planning, I’m still exhausted. Standing up in class isn’t any easier. I will ask a question and students will either look at me as if I have ten heads or I’ll have no choice but to repeat myself ten times. Whether they can hear me or not, the separate conversations persist and I’m left talking to myself.
I’m taking advantage of the festive season, and it being the last week, I’m giving them (and myself) little work. By projecting some Christmas adverts and singing some carols, hopefully, the magic of John Lewis’ Monty the Penguin will assure for a stress-free week.
I’m over three months in and I’m yet to have a ten-minute discussion in Spanish. The closest I’ve got is the odd conversation with a few of the staff, showcasing my poor out-of-practice grammar and GCSE vocab. I’ve admittedly procrastinated attending an intercambio. The anxiety of speaking to Spaniard strangers and not knowing what to expect has restrained me from going so far. However, I can’t complain about not speaking Spanish if I’m not going to put myself out there.
Unless I push myself, I’ll return for my fourth year of uni in September worse than I started.
Coming Home for Christmas
The most wonderful time of the year.
It’s probably hard to comprehend why I’d want to come home. I’m living the dream in Madrid after all. However, I’ve found since arriving, if I don’t keep myself busy my head will zone out into the miserable realm of homesickness. This means quiet time is difficult. Whenever I’m not working on presentations or blog posts, I yearn for the most basic home comforts and even miss the bickering of my younger siblings.
Some of the things I’m pining for are just plain random. Take the humble mince pie. I’m not their biggest fan, I don’t even like them that much, but I’ve been craving one for weeks. There are apparently 24 of them waiting for me in our kitchen cupboard. I know what I’ll be doing when I step through the front door.
Oh, what I wouldn’t do for a roast dinner. Just a classic British tea time staple lavished in gravy. The closest thing to a Toby carvery here, however, is ‘bangers and mash’ in an Irish restaurant down the road. Moreover, while I hoped for a Yorkshire pudding and roasted veg, work’s Christmas meal consisted of fish, with its beady eye staring at me as I picked my way around its bones. It’s safe to say I’m looking forward to a Christmas dinner and can already see myself reaching for thirds.
Once I’m home, I have just three whole days before Xmas to soak up all the festivity. My plan of action so far is a trip to the Christmas markets, a stroll around the Tesco down the road to have a mooch at all the annual festive treats, feast my eyes on Liverpool’s lights and eat so many Quality Streets that I turn into a walking talking Green Triangle.
Once again, this post has wound up being a complete word-vomit of musings. Overall, the past few months haven’t been easy, but there’s no doubt that I’ve learned a lot. Reflecting on these first few months have made me even more determined to make the most of my year abroad when I return in January. Homesickness, anxiety and the strain of teaching won’t sabotage this opportunity for me.
Thanks for reading,