I’ve now been living in Madrid for 5 whole months and I can’t tell whether it’s gone fast or slow. It feels like yesterday since I was hit by sweltering heat upon stepping out of the aeroplane in September, but then the end still seems so far away. Nonetheless, with the winter months behind us, I’m looking forward to making the most of the final months of my year abroad.
My parents came to visit from 28th February to 3rd March. Short but sweet. Luckily, we had clear skies and the weather grew warmer throughout each day. So much so, my dad went home flaunting a red forehead, work colleagues asking him about his exotic trip away. After the busy bank holiday weekend, I thought it was an apt time to share an updated reflection and some musings of my time in Madrid.
A Busy Bank Holiday
Of course, I would come down with a throat infection two days before my parents arrived. It’s typical, really. However, after experiencing bouts of homesickness, reuniting with them on Thursday was the perfect pick-me-up. Even if I was still struggling to speak.
Overall, it was a weekend spent away from the screen, eating good food and soaking up the sun. My usual routine involves me sitting at my desk, my laptop wide open, doing some sort of work and unconsciously checking social media every 20 minutes. A change of routine was called for, and it felt amazing.
On Thursday evening we headed straight for the Palacio Real de Madrid, one of Europe’s largest palaces. We strolled around the grounds for an hour or so and after being in awe of the glass chandeliers, we sought out somewhere to eat. The first food-stop of the weekend was at an Italian restaurant called Bresca. The truffle and mushroom lasagna was incredible. Good prices, good food, if you’re craving an Italian in Madrid, I highly recommend.
Soaking up the Sun
Friday saw us meandering through Retiro Park which was full of people picnicking and enjoying the unconventionally warm February sun. I dread to think about how I’ll cope in a couple of months when temperatures double. However, given that my dressing gown is practically a second skin when there’s even the slightest chill in the air, I’m not complaining. Afterwards, we went up the Palacio de Cibeles for a panoramic view of the capital city.
We could have eaten anywhere, but Friday’s dinner was another Italian. What can I say? You just can’t go wrong. I opted for a pizza this time after it hit me that I hadn’t eaten pizza since Christmas. Disgraceful, I know. As I swore to do in a Little Things post from December, I convinced my parents to try the deliciousness that is Oven Mozzarella Bar. Yes, I did order the Biscotti again for dessert. No, it didn’t disappoint.
Saturday, for the most part, was a day soaking up the sun in Berlín park, surrounded by families and small children dressed in costume for Carnival. This festival takes place during the week leading up to Lent and is celebrated with parades, floats, costumes, music and dancing in the streets. Kids ran around dressed as Snow White while their Dad was dressed as a dwarf, and there were the couples costumes; cowboys and Indians, Aladdin and Jasmine. That evening, we decided on some Mexican food at Rosa Negra and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a while – three cheesy shrimp, mushroom and onion quesadillas. I’d honestly go back for the side of guacamole alone.
Saying goodbye (Again)
My parents’ final day was upon us and as always, time flew by when I least wanted it to. On Sunday we visited Madrid’s Zoo Aquarium. I’ve always had mixed feelings about zoos; while they help to restore threatened species, the conditions in which they live is often ridiculous. Most animals weren’t designed to live in captivity. But, that’s a debate for another day. It was another incredible outing overall, and we could have easily spent another 2 hours or so there. After a bus journey back to the centre, we made a pit-stop at a tapas bar before saying our farewells. Goodbyes never get any easier.
My parents visiting, if anything, has just made me miss home more. Hearing them talk about family back home makes me miss the familiarity of it all. The petty arguments with my siblings or the awful day-time TV. I even crave to just step foot into a Tesco for the aisles of Easter eggs which hit the shelves as soon as the Christmas lights came down. Luckily, my parents thought to bring along an Easter egg which I’m probably way more excited about than I should be. It’s the little things.
Living alone in another country isn’t easy, but with 4 months left, I’ve made it halfway. 15-year-old me was shy, awkward and dependent. If you were to tell her that in five years time she’d be living alone in another country, controlling classes of thirty students, she would’ve laughed in your face (then probably feel bad about it). While yes I’m still shy and anxiety still lingers, I need to reflect on how well I’ve done to even stick at it. No matter how this experience goes, it’s beneficial. Even if teaching isn’t for me, it’s awarded me with invaluable experience I wouldn’t have received otherwise.
Homesickness comes and goes, my mood fluctuates, but with just a few months left I’m determined not to let anxiety stop me from enjoying what little time I have left.
Stepping outside my comfort zone
If you read my Little Things posts you’ll know I’ve enrolled in a Japanese course. I was worried I’d struggle, learning an Oriental language is a challenge. But learning it in Spanish? This is a challenge on a whole different level. Nonetheless, 6 weeks in, I’m proud to say that I could walk into a Japanese cafe and order myself a cup of tea and a slice of cake. I guess that’s something.
In terms of my Spanish, my listening comprehension has definitely improved, but I’m still pushing myself to speak more. The language becomes more natural when I’m out and about, and I’m conversing with the other Japanese students. I’m also attending a language exchange in a few weeks and embarking on more solo adventures. Again, 15-year-old me would be terrified of doing anything alone. Now I guess I’m just slightly less terrified.
All the rest
Honestly, my opinion about teaching still hasn’t changed. Nonetheless, I’ve found a good routine in terms of lesson planning, and try not to let the thought of work consume my free time. I’m now also working with students preparing them for their Oral exams. If anything, it just brings back haunting memories of my Spanish A-Level days. Nerves making my voice wobble as I recited key Spanish phrases from memory. I’m just glad I’m the one asking the questions this time.
Once again, this post has been a word vomit of musings. My experience of living abroad has taught me the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone. Hannah Montana’s ‘Life’s What You Make It’ has just come to mind while typing this (since when was that song 12 years old?), and as the lyrics go, ‘With a new attitude everything can change, Make it how you want it to be’. I’m going to stop there before I fully merge into 9-year-old me choreographing dance routines to Disney songs in my bedroom. Overall, although I do miss home, the weekend with my parents has made me excited for the upcoming summer months. Here’s to new experiences.
Thanks for reading,