Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My last week in Madrid, and my decision to leave Spain

'Se Vende - For Sale' window in Malasana
After such an intense and sleepless week with Hauke and Feli, I fell quite ill over the weekend, and spent the whole time in bed. Come Monday I was feeling a lot better, but I've been left with a nagging cough that just won't go away. Also come Monday was the realisation that I was now broke, jobless and homeless in Spain, and nearly at the deadline I'd set myself for sorting out the visa thing and finding a job with no end to the visa process in sight. Even though I have a bit of paper with a NIE on it, I still can't work; I first need to wait 40 days, get the real NIE, present my job offer at Foreigners Office number four, then complete further steps to be confirmed once I make complete all the others. After a long wait while they determine said steps of course. Highly likely to include demands like qualify for the European Buracracy Championships next autumn and fill in a forest's worth of paperwork while doing a one-handed headstand. I had to get out of Miguel and Ricardo's apartment too, the saying 'Three's a crowd' definitely applies when you're talking about a one-bedroom shoe-box sized pad.

Glorieta de Bilbao, the corner by the aparment in Malasana
So, I decided to skip straight to what was originally my post-Spain plan, and try to find work as an Au Pair. I figured even though I'm not great with kids, can't drive and as I haven't babysat since highschool, have no references, as native english-speaker I would have a pretty good shot of sorting something out, meaning I could start living and working somewhere straight away without having to worry about waiting for the whole visa thing to be sorted out, as Au Pairing is under the tabe, and just keep plodding along with the visa thing so that I have permission to stay in Spain, or even anywhere in the Schengen Area, for the year.

Calle Manuela Malasana
So I signed up with three online Au Pair/Nanny websites (if anyone is interested, the sites are here, here and here. I don't really understand how two of them work at all, but apparently if you remember to at least log in everyday your profile will be one of the top ones families see when you log in. For more help, flick me an email). I find the definition beween Au Pair and Nanny really blurry, but I did find out that Nannies generally get paid more. Initially I was looking at doing this within Spain, and amongst the five or so offers I was recieving daily, there were a couple in Spain, the most promising being a family from Israel who were just moving to Barcelona, looking for someone to do a lot of housework and look after two young girls. I spoke to the woman a couple of times on the phone, but then I got an email and a phone call from a man in Antwerp, and within the next 24hours had made the decision to leave Spain and move to Belgium, with a flight booked for four days later. After spending well over a year planning on working in Spain, the snap decision to leave really made my head spin!

Metro station I used to take in Malasana
In the end though it came down to the fact that I came to perfect my Spanish, something that I wouldn't achieve with an English-speaking family in a area of Spain that speaks Catalan, not Spanish. If I wasn't going to be improving my Spanish, then I should really think more carefully about what family I wanted to live with, work for, and raise the children of, and what location would be better to live in. That decision was easy; the family in Antwerp seemed much more flexible and friendly, much more relaxed and open to working out a way that worked for us both, rather than me just fitting into their mould, and just generally, seemed to see me more as a person rather than as just someone they employ to take care of the kids. They would also give me more holidays, and from Belgium I can travel anywhere else within the country for $10NZD on the train, and easily get to the Ryanair airport, whereas from Barcelona to Madrid costs over $200NZD and while there is a Ryanair airport there, it doesn't have flights to many other countries. So to Antwerp it was then!

Plaza Dos de Mayo
I spent the week jobhunting in the mornings, then picnicing in the spot we found at Parque de Retiro the Friday before, staying there sunbathing with a book for a couple of hours, then jobhunting some more, and sometimes going for a walk to enjoy the hot weather and have some time to think. I spent a couple of evenings in Plaza Dos de Mayo again, it really is a nice place to just sit and think and drink a beer. I really can't ge over how hot it is here! Most days are between 25 and 30degrees, but I think if you're out in direct sunlight its hotter, it's just exhausting. I can't sleep with the window open and its only the beginning of spring, summer must be a nightmare here! I did get a little bit of a tan though, much needed after two consecutive winters. On Thursday I went to Annebella and Jose Angel's house for lunch and to spend the afternoon chatting away over beer, as it would be the last time I would see them for awhile, and on Friday I finally admitted that the 'summer clothing' I had brought from NZ was not even 'spring clothing' in Madrid. I went shopping for a pair of shorts and ended up with an armful of clothing that I thought would both be a lot cooler, and a lot more kid-proof than the stuff I've been wearing.

View from inside the school yard
Friday evening I packed up and moved out, as other friends were coming to stay at the apartment and I was off in a couple of days anyway. I went to Olga's (exchange student in NZ in 08-09) aunt's house, and the two of us had chinese for dinner with her aunt and cousin, and then chatted all night, it felt like a sleepover, very fun. Saturday we headed off to meet up with some of Olga's friends. First, we went to meet a girl who was just finishing some Scouts stuff at a school somewhere. Scouts here in Europe is different from Scouts in NZ in that here its actually really cool to be a Scout and therefore many more people do it. They do cool things like form bicycle aerobatic troups and go on ski trips. The schools here are also quite different, well in appearance anyway. Most of them seem like small prisions, with huge walls toped with curles of barbed wire. Olga reckons the Ministry of Education actually copied prision building plans as a cost saving measure, she's probably not far off. The city ones are in taller buildings, often with three or more stories of classrooms, and just a small concrete yard out the front.

Picture of a Tapa from Google Images
 We went with the scouts to a bar where they sell a beer with a free tapa for abot $5NZD, with a huge list od options like a small hamburger or chicken wings. You get one with every drink, so if you drink enough, you get a sweet free dinner. Probably a good time to explain the history of Tapas actually, ages ago when men would ride horses to bars out in the countryside, the publicans would worry about them being too drunk to get home, so they started placing something on top of glasses for the people to eat with their drink, like a pieec of bread with something topping it. Tapa means lid in spanish, so as these bits of food looked like a lid on the glasses, voila, Tapas. Pretty good tradition really, I like that you always get something to eat with you drinks, even if just a basket of chips. Might be why Spaniards can drink so much without rolling around in the gutter like kiwis do.

Ardanda del Rey - not that the whole town looked like this!
Afterwards, we headed to the house of another friend, in the wopps, a small town called Arganda del Rey on the outskirts of Madrid. There were five of us there, with only Olga and I being over 18, but it being a small town we managed to wheedle our way into the local club. It was kind of strange to be in a club, with girls wearing high heels, in this Rangiora-sized town, and as the drinks all cost about $20NZD, no one at all was at the bar, everyone was just standing around in groups talking. Until Olga and I let four under-age kids loose in there. Suddenly there was a whole lot of crazy dancing going on the in middle, even a congo-line of three to the toilet, and we were the centre of attention. Olga and I tried to dance in a much more restrained manner on the sidelines, and we headed back to crash at the friend's house around 5am.

shot of the Gym at the school
We headed back to Madrid the following day feeling quite tired, and arrived back at Olga's aunt's apartment for lunch. She cooked a typical Spanish rice dish for me to try, and Olga's family and german intern Ben came over. It was nice to sit and talk, and to watch some of them get beaten by the 8yr old at the dance games on Wii, but I was really shattered and took a nap in the afternoon while they went off to see a new baby somewhere. I tied up and packed up again, and spent the night chatting to Olga's aunt. I really like her, and I really appreciate the way she's let me stay and has offered for me to come and stay whenever I like, in fact she is storing some stuff for me until I head back in May for part-whatever-we're-up-to-now of the Visa Saga. So Monday I was off to Madrid airport for the eighth time, this time calling it quits on a country I never really got, and off for a new adventure!

More photos are here.

1 comment:

  1. Being an Au Pair is not an easy job..... But you had shown the greatest of the qualities to being an successful au pair.....