I moved to Madrid, Spain a year ago, last month, to teach English for the Auxiliares de Conversación program. Having graduated with a degree in Spanish from Acadia University I felt the need to put it into practice and so moving to a Spanish speaking country seemed like the perfect way to do just that.
The Auxiliar program consists of me working alongside Spanish teachers in their classrooms in an attempt to expose the students to a native Anglophone accent. Has to be said that it was a bit of a rocky start. The students were quite disrespectful, teachers rather difficult to work with, making me feel either useless or unwelcome in class, and to top it off, an hour’s commute to the school. So, as one can probably tell, I was not keen. As the year went on, although the students remained disrespectful and the commute didn’t improve, I got used to it.
Toward the end of September, before starting work and after painfully living in a hostel for a bit, I found an apartment in a pretty good location. It was close to the center but also close enough to Principe Pio, a major public transportation station where I would take a bus to work every day. The apartment consisted of a total of 6 girls, mostly Spanish-speaking. I had a nice room with a double bed and a private bathroom. The apartment also had a cleaning lady… (which was unnecessary, well maybe not so much if you know me well enough…) As a result, the apartment was quite expensive, which I wasn’t too happy about and I didn’t end up getting to know my roommates, which was also a downer.
October - December 2011
After starting work in October I ended up finding an Ultimate Frisbee team here in Madrid, the Quijotes + Dulcineas. After playing some at Acadia in my last year and a summer of it in Montreal, I was keen to get back into it.
Mini-CAC in Zaragosa, a tournament in Pamplona and the Hat-Triangular Valencia. (Check out a news clip on the Valencia tourney where you can see me falling on my ass in the last bit of the video...but nevertheless having caught the disc!) The Valencia tournament marked the first (of many) times I rented a car here in Spain. A rental company with no underage costs, no potholes, higher speed limits, and solely standard cars make for some great driving.
Becoming a member of the Ultimate Frisbee team meant practices every Wednesday night and in-house league games on Thursday nights. Getting involved in the team was a lot of fun, each practice or league game ended in a beer and aceitunas at a bar nearby. In mid-December we had finals for the fall league and a Quijotes Christmas party before everyone dispersed for the holidays.
(Photo cred to Cuti)
Apart from my experiences with the team, highlights of these few months include a visit from my sister, Sarah (Sak), on her layover to Ethiopia, a visit from Line (friend from my year studying in Spain), and a road-trip with some friends to Logroño, the city where I lived while studying.
Robert, Max Katie and I tapeando in Logroño
(Photo cred, Katie P.)
Christmas time came around and I traveled back across the pond to good ol’ Hudson to see the fam and friends.
January - February 2012
Upon my return to Spain work continued as usual, I took on some private lessons for some extra income and kept up practices with the Quijotes.
Max and I post-practice (Photo cred goes to Rebe)
TIBU, International Beach Ultimate Tournament (probably my favourite tournament to date).
My team, Bomboncillo!
Reca (Rebe) and I watching the TIBU final
These months also featured some great nights playing Settlers of Catan, a Madrid basketball game, introducing the team to Beer Pong and the beginnings of the boy and I.
Herm, moi, Max and Reca
Madrid Basketball game
(Photo credit to Reca)
Beer pong team
Midway through March, Herm and I went on a road-trip to the city of my Spanish alma mater, Logroño.
El chico y yo
Renting a car allowed us to make many stops/detours along the way.
The Q+D contingent in Granada
(Justin, Andy, Herm, moi and Reca.)
Herm et moi
(photo cred to Rrreca)
The month ended with an amazing family trip to the south of France.
Madre y padre
Sak, moi et maman
Mom not taking the winding
roads very well...
April began with a return flight from Nice after having an amazing family trip driving along the Mediterranean coast of France. Soon after, I was ecstatic to have more visitors from ‘le Canada;’ Katie and Grace! The weekend of their arrival, however, also involved La Abuela. The Quijotes very own tournament held in Alcobendas, a suburb in the north of Madrid.
Q+D and Sancho at La Abuela
After a successful tournament, in which the Quijotes ‘A’ team came second and the ‘B’ team, Sancho, (the team I played for) came 11th, I had an awesome two weeks with Kt and Grace. It was great to see them; their visit involved some tinto de verano (wine with lemon), ‘some’ lawerage, on Kt’s part, and a great trip to Segovia.
Katie, Gracie and I
Q+D at G-Spot
(Gentle's Supreme Party Oh-yeah Tournament)
Later in May, I was lucky enough to be able to play with the Quijotes 'A' team at a beach tournament just outside Barcelona, Calafell Arena. Making it to the finals, we played against a strong team from Cantabria, Fendisc, and we won the tournament!
Coming off a win like that felt great, especially when I was subsequently invited to join the 'A' team for the following season.
At the beginning of June, Herm and I rented a car once again and made our way to Lisbon.
First time driving a Smartcar!
Actually quite quick :-)
YES! we stumbled upon an in-port race of the Volvo Ocean Race!
Herm enjoying the Pasteis de Belem
June also brought along a great opportunity, especially considering a great lack of a certain sport I enjoy. Applying for the Auxiliar program involved applying for specific Spanish cities you wanted to live in. Being a sailor I naturally applied for coastal cities; Barcelona, Valencia, and a third I don't even remember... But of course I get placed in Madrid...the dead centre of the peninsula! Despite this initial disappointment I am quite glad to have been placed in the capital, especially since I was lucky enough to find some sailing in Madrid! I started teaching sailing at the Real Club Naútico de Madrid (RCNM). The club is based on a reservoir southwest of the city.
The Embalse de San Juan
(Due to lack of rain, only half full...)
At the end of June the Quijotes and I traveled to Amsterdam for Europe's largest grass tournament, Windmill Windup. (bid video)With a total of 80 teams, the tournament was comprised of three divisions; mixed, women and open. In the mixed division we finished 10th out of 26 teams.
The month of July was spent teaching sailing in Palma, Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands. The job was with Forenex, a company that ran summer camps for teaching English. At the summer camp in Palma, the kids had English lessons each morning and sailing lessons each afternoon. It was a great month of sailing and it was amazing to discover another Spanish city.
While in Palma I was lucky enough to fly back to Madrid for a hat tournament in a neighbouring province. Arriving the Friday evening, Herm, Chris, a friend from the States, and I, drove out to Montemayor de Pililla for Tierra de Pinares, a notoriously fun hat tourney. Suffice it to say, the tourney lived up to its reputation.
Oh, and this particular massive boat :-)
...and we made alien-esq pasta!
and met up with fellow Dulcinea and local Mallorquina, Ana!
In an attempt to save some money I took care of an apartment (and a cat...) in a suburb in the north of Madrid called Tres-Cantos. Since August is quite painful in terms of the heat, it was nice to take advantage of the pool the apartment came with.
Sak also came to visit on her way back from Thailand!
(Photo credit to Hermann and his photography skills)
To get away from the dry heat of Madrid, Herm and I drove out to Valencia for a weekend. We booked an apartment through airbnb just outside the city.
(Photo credit to HTC ChaChaCha, hence the horrible quality...)
Throughout the month, I also taught some sailing at RCNM. To finish off the year, my boss, who is starting up a corporate event planning company, called Eventem, asked me to join him in running the company.
All in all it was a great year! Now, already in October, year 2 in Madrid is already under way and so are more updates!