These past three weeks have been full of joy and frustration. I have met new people, strengthened relationships with friends and students, and went on two memorable trips filled with good people, food, sights, and even guys. Alternatively, the crazy workload, language barrier, and technology continues to frustrate. Through everything, life is really too short, and you must live it well.
A couple Sunday’s ago, I received a message on my co-workers group chat that our head teacher had passed away the previous night. As she was in her mid to late thirties, we were all dumbstruck and did not believe it was true. Although I only knew her for a short period of time, I am grateful that my path crossed with such a special person. Heaven gained a beautiful angel.
Work on Monday was quite strange as you could feel that something was missing. However, we pressed on. The week was busy as usual, rushing from class to class and taking care of the kids. That Friday, my friend and I decided to take a trip to the beach. Being at the last minute, all flights and trains were very expensive. Therefore, we picked the beach with the best weather, crossed our fingers, and booked our first trip with BlaBlaCar, a carpooling service. After waiting over an hour at a random gas station in the city with several other blabla-ers waiting for their cars, a white Mercedes Benz with two very attractive twenty-something Spanish men rolled into the station to pick us up. We tried our best to converse on the long journey through Friday city traffic to the beautiful coastal city of Alicante; however, the language barrier was a bit difficult to overcome. Regardless, we made the best of it and we ended up meeting them out later for drinks and dancing. While walking down the streets of the city around 3 AM, I heard some people yelling “dilly dilly.” Naturally, I responded back “dilly dilly!” and about 10 guys in a Bachelor party went crazy and were jumping around me because they were so shocked that I knew about it (inside joke from my friend’s wedding). The following day, we were getting ready in the one bathroom shared by multiple guests in the AirBnB, and as I was walking down the hallway, I ran into someone I knew from Madrid! The rest of the trip was amazing. We ate so much good paella, drank a restaurant out of our new favorite drink, crema de orujo (amazing cocktail with Baileys), visited the beach and the beautiful ancient Santa Barbara castle, built upon a hilltop with stunning views of the city and cerulean blue water of the Mediterranean Sea. Check out my photography of Alicante here.
Upon returning to Madrid, I felt energized and ready to take on the short week (as Madrid had two bank holidays in the middle of the week). After rushing through the week as usual, my friend from London came for a visit. It was great to have my first visitor to show my new city to. We grabbed drinks and watched the sunset at a rooftop bar in the center, ate and drank typical Spanish tapas and drinks, and roamed around the beautiful Retiro Park. As my friend wanted to visit a Spanish winery and it was on my to-do list, we began researching wineries in the nearby towns. We stumbled upon a winery about 30 minutes away, opened on a Sunday, with a wine tour and tasting for only 10 euros. With that, we booked our bus tickets and the tour. The next morning, we were on our way to the charming Spanish town of Aranjuez located on the Tagus River. I have to say this day was full of surprises! Firstly, we arrived at the town around 9:30 and in true Spanish fashion, not much was open. The winery was about five kilometers away and we had about an hour and a half to figure out how we were going to get there. We went to have breakfast and determine our next steps in a small café that was open across the street from the bus stop. After we sat down, a handsome waiter came to take our orders. I placed our orders in Spanish and then attempted to ask him the best way to get to the winery. Unfortunately, the language barrier prevented me from doing so. Throughout the meal, the waiter came to check on us a few times and I noticed that when I looked at him he was looking at me and vice versa. As we paid for the bill, he was talking to me in Spanish, unfortunately, I did not understand him. So, using the magical Google translate, he told me that I can come whenever I wanted. As I was not planning to go back to Aranjuez, I mustered up the courage to ask for his number, in which he gladly gave to me. We left the café and began our mini journey to the winery. We caught a taxi and drove about 15 minutes out of the town to the little, quaint village of Real Cortijo de San Isidro. Intimidated by not knowing much Spanish, I did not ask the taxi driver to pick us up later. We walked to the winery and waited for our tour to begin. As people were arriving, I noticed someone who looked familiar. Sure enough, I ran into an old friend who is also living in Madrid. What are the chances we would go to the same winery, on the same tour, in the same village outside the city? It is truly a small world! The wine tour was fantastic (although I did not understand what they were saying) because we walked through their cool, dark, mysterious wine cellar that felt like being inside a medieval castle with stone walls and dimly lit hallways. At the end of the tour, we had delicious Spanish wine and cheese. Afterwards, we walked back to the village’s main plaza only to find out that the next bus wasn’t for two more hours and there were no taxis in sight. Therefore, we decided to walk the 5 kilometers back to the city. Along the way, we came across the pretty Jardin del Principe (Garden of the Prince) located along the Tagus River. We walked through the garden and the center of Aranjuez before hopping on a bus back to Madrid. You can view my photography from Aranjuez here.
The jammed-pack weekend and having a full workweek following a short one made this past week extremely long. However, I feel as though I am building great relationships with my students and the kids I watch. Ana, the girl I take care of, even said that my fast talking has helped her with her English exams. The week ended very well with a date with the waiter from Aranjuez and drinks with a friend at our regular spot. I am looking forward to what the upcoming weeks bring.