Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Three Weeks To Spain

Yesterday morning, bright and early, before the first bird sang it's song, I was lying awake in the darkness, mind racing so much I could barely remember to breath.  How could I not have recognized the time creeping up?  Yesterday began the three week count down of moving back to Spain.  It was as if my subconscious was set to remind me like a preset alarm clock.  Thoughts swirled of all the things I'm yet to do, questions about where I will live, what I will do for money, things I need to take with me...  The thoughts multiplied exponentially, making up for the time I have gone being oblivious and living as if I would not be returning. 

Once I got out of my head and began to make a plan, a different type of sensation began to set in; one of exhilaration rather than anxiety, excitement replacing fear.  This is a place I love and was saddened to leave, and in just a few short weeks I'll once again be immersed in the country that I fell in love with.  I'll be able to taste all the spices of life, feel the warmth radiating off the Spanish people; I'll sing the song of the Spanish language once again and readjust to the beautiful marriage of hustle-bustle and leisure. 

As I took a moment to reflect on my time in Madrid, Gran Canaria, and the various cities I visited, I found myself sinking into a blissful mood with an involuntary grin stretching across my face.  Thinking too much about what lies ahead introduces a nervous feeling, springing me into action of preparation. But by stopping to simply feel the joy that this life in Spain brings me, there is an ease so powerful that it muffles out my over active mind and reminds me of all there is to get excited about.  Now I can barely wait to get back and press play on the life I paused, what seems like a lifetime ago.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Comfortable and Dull or Challenging and Exciting?

This is the dilemma that I currently face. The good news (or bad news, depending on what moment you catch me in) is that whether I like it or not, I'm thrusting myself back into the mix of the latter in less than one month.  I've nestled into my Raleigh life situation for the past several months, living with minimal expenses and responsibilities, but also sparce action and excitement.  Even though the change ahead of me is a city that is now familiar and I once called home, it will still be a very different Madrid, as that I'll be living in a new flat, in a new part of town, searching for a new job, and without many of the friends that have moved on.  It's also been months since I've done much practicing of the Spanish language and planning an English lesson for my students seems like a task buried deep in the back of my mind.  With the added influence of pesky Raleigh regulars reminding me of how seemingly unnecessary it is to return to this exotic life is, I have to stop and ask myself why I'm spending mucho dinero on a momentary return to Espana. 

All this apprehension is undoubtedly a byproduct of this cozy setting surrounding me in this exceedingly familiar hometown of mine.  Sometimes when adventure goes unpracticed and one settles into a complacent lifestyle, it is more challenging to recognize what faculties for change lie dormant beneath the surface.  That's why injecting invigorating experiences that shake up things is so essential to a rich life.  My current mindset is increasingly apprehensive and the all-to-vivid memories of the challenges experienced on my initial move are beginning to burden my thoughts.  But then I remember how dull this life is now and how exciting it will be as I blast off back into life abroad. 

Beyond Spain, I have to wonder, what comes next?   My plan for return is not perminant, and I know that as finances run low and time on my visa ticks down, another move will be inevitable.  That same question that has plagued me for the past two years is still hoovering in my mind:  When does the adventure end a settling begin?  A recent visit to Denver, CO to visit a close companion from my Madrid experience reminded me that there is infact a compromise.  Moving to this liberal, young town is a very real and expectedly pleasent possibility.  And perminance is unnecesary.  Even still, I can't seem to shake the idea that finding a US city and signing a lease will at least partially stiffle the adventures.  All these questions will surely be answered eventually, but for right now all that is on my mind is Spain.  The rest will come and I remain confident that as long as I follow my instinctual feelings guiding me down my path, all will work out beautifully.  As a wise man recently adviced me, life is a dance and I must continue to step to the rythm of my own song, even when the music sounds more faint.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Moving to Madrid: Useful Links

Starting up a new life in a foreign city can be intimidating and a true challenge, so having some useful resources at your finger tips never hurts.  Here are a few helpful links that made my adjustment much more manageable.

-For starters, every English speaking expat in Madrid should be familiar with Lingo Bongo, especially if teaching English is your desired occupation.  It's a perfect start to get involved in the expatriate community. Find everything from private classes, free language exchanges, free rooms, and even guitar lessons!

-Two useful sites for finding lodging are and  Both of them include an English option, filled with a wide variety of places to live, and it's free!

-To set up a bank account, you will want to choose the option of cuenta para no residentes.  They will ask you for a passport, proof of lease (show your rental agreement), and possibly a small fee (this varies).  Be patient because this process tends to differ depending on who you talk to. There are banks on every corner, the main ones being BBVA, Caja Madrid, and Santandar. 

-You can only use a pay-as-you-go mobile as a new resident in Spain due to contractual obligations.  Head to a Movistar, Vodafone, or T-Mobile and they will provide you with a simple phone that you can recharge at most ATMs, supermarkets, or phone shops.  

-If you are lost and need to get on the Internet fast, hit up a locutorio, that has a bay of computers and phones to use per minute.

-It always helps to have a little bit of cash on you upon arrival.  Many of the Spanish ATMs will charge a considerable surcharge to convert to Euros and having money on hand makes things a lot easier.  Also, most landlords require you to pay rent and a deposit in cash, so having enough bills on hand will save you a big potential head ache. 

Above all, remember to relax and don't be afraid to ask for help.  There are plenty of spots in the city that are expat friendly.  If you get really desperate, pop into a hotel or hostel in the tourist zones and someone who speaks good English will not be hard to find. Good luck and enjoy! It is an amazing experience to move to a new, fabulous city and get absorbed in the lifestyle.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Stranger in My Own Home

What is this strange new world I find myself in?  It seems remarkably familiar with family all right here, in the dwelling in which I was raised.  I drive myself to a job everyday and see common faces.  Everyone is speaking my language and I get all the jokes… But I feel like a stranger, a foreign visitor now, to a place I once identified as home, my only home, for years and years.  The people around me act as though I never left and I’m not leaving, but the truth is, in a little over a month I’ll be sailing over the Atlantic yet again, for round three of the European experience.  With all the back and forth, from changeless Raleigh to exotic Spain, my head is one step shy of spinning off, so it’s best to just let each day pass as its own experience and not project too much into the future.  I got ahead of myself yesterday as plans began to materialize for big trips in Spain.  After all, this is very much how we lived our lives last year, not letting one month go by without boarding an airplane, bus, or train, to attend a festival or marvel at a new city.  But from this cozy spot in North Carolina, where many of my colleagues and friends are without passports, it’s hard to imagine gallivanting around the world, as natural as that does feel to me.  Good thing my pen keeps moving and I have a platform to express the wonders Spain to the world, even if I’m not within the country’s boarders at the moment.  In just a few days I’ll be having my own mini adventure to Denver, CO, to be with my adventure soul mate that understands the love of the road and can rejuvenate my spirit just in time to return to Madrid for another go at life abroad.