I’ve officially passed the halfway point of my last month of living a life of leisure. It seems fitting as we approach November, and my first day of work, that things have started to assume some semblance of order. It has taken three months but now at least three times a week I have somewhere I need to be, and miraculously have managed to be relatively on time to those things. So far this month, I visualize the calendar with three important data points: the meet and greet at my new school on the 1st, starting Spanish classes on the 4th, and my return to ballet classes yesterday. There’s a popular (and in my opinion, somewhat cliché) saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I guess these constitute my first step forward out of chaos.
I wearily dragged myself out of bed at around 7 am on the 1st dreading the commute ahead of me. The trip to San Martin de Valdeiglesias felt like a journey of a thousand miles; a five minute walk to a ten minute metro ride would take me to the Príncipe Pío bus station where I would then catch an hour and fifteen minute-long bus to the village. After nearly missing the 8:30 bus because (shocker) I didn’t have any cash on me, I found myself flushed and slightly sick, sitting by the window as the city whizzed by outside. Once on the highway, the many roundabouts added to the nausea and I wondered if it would be this way every day on the way to work for the next 9 months. But as the road straightened out and buildings became sparser, I was able to enjoy the scenery.
Like every trip to a new place, as we neared the destination I was convinced for about five minutes that I missed my stop. Composing the apology text to my coordinator in my head, I noticed we had luckily looped back around into the town. I hopped off, walking one way and then doubling back as I tried to locate my position on Google Maps. It wasn’t until I was on the right path that I noticed the absolute quiet. I heard birds. I heard the wind. Where were the cars honking angrily? Hoards of people clogging the sidewalks? Where were any people at all? I felt myself relaxing as I kept to the sunny part of the sidewalk, unprepared for the cooler air. This would be my escape from the sometimes overwhelming energy of Madrid.
The bilingual coordinator who is effectively my direct supervisor was as lovely in person as she was over text. She seemed genuinely excited to have me joining them and introduced me to a steady flow of people. Unlike my last experience, I would be assisting with more than just English classes. She mentioned history, biology, and PE. Yes, PE. Getting paid to speak English while playing sports and games with high schoolers. What could go wrong? All the staff and teachers I met were very warm and friendly with good levels of English. I lost track of names as soon as they were uttered, per usual, and kissed an unknown number of strangers’ cheeks. The whole meet and greet took around an hour and the next bus wasn’t for a half hour so I strolled around a bit before heading back to the city.
Three days later, I started my first Spanish class at an academy near Sol. I was surprised to see there was only one other student; I was essentially paying 8 euros an hour for semi-private classes. The teacher, Tania, is an early 20-something from Valencia who is engaging and outgoing. I made it a point to speak often (although this wasn’t hard given the class size) and have done so every class since. As of tonight, I am now the only student as the German guy who was my classmate dropped out. This evening, we strayed from the regularly scheduled activities to talk about topics I find interesting; Spanish dialects, differences in accents and vocabulary between those dialects, language acquisition, and the like. She was raised in a Spanish-Italian bilingual household and believes she began speaking late as a child due to the process of categorizing the different languages. Throughout our conversation, I found it frustrating at times when the word I wanted to use in Spanish didn’t exist in my vocabulary, but I’m slowly accepting the fact that it is all a process. I’m several hundred miles into my Spanish learning journey, one that began around age 11 and has meandered ever since, but I have hundreds more before I reach the level I want. Of course, I’m in the perfect surroundings to improve.
Finally, a long time coming, I attended my first Spanish ballet class. It’s the same ballet obviously, but I had been freaked out by the idea of doing it in another language. I reasoned that the dance vocabulary is French but oddly I felt the teacher used more English when not speaking Spanish. There were about 10 people in the class, all adult women and one man, and luckily no one tried to talk to me, although I did share commiserating smiles with the girl next to me at the barre when the teacher demonstrated particularly challenging variations.
I felt good getting back into it after months away from my last class in Dublin and noticed that my near-daily stretching routines have indeed improved my flexibility. Of course though, I compared myself to the other dancers. And as always, my butt looked bigger than usual in the mirror. But I suppose that’s the nature of the beast. When your body becomes the medium of your art, you tend to become a perfectionist. Next month when I fall into a routine, I want to try to make at least three classes a week. My ultimate goal, which I’ve ruminated on for years now but never fully committed to, is to dance on pointe. I’ve toyed with the idea of chronicling that process, have even created a currently blank blog, but will have to see what my schedule allows.
Going forward, aside from trying to more faithfully maintain this blog, I’ll be guest blogging for Verge (first post published here), likely continuing to freelance write for GoOverseas, as well as pursuing other opportunities as they arise. On top of that mountain of potential work, I’ve also considered doing NaNoWriMo next month and trying to organize a weekly writing session with other English teachers across Madrid. But, this is pending motivation and a story idea.
After speaking with my coordinator about my proposed timetable earlier this month, I suspect I’ll be in San Martin de Valdeiglesias more than 4 teaching hours a day over the next 8 months. I realize now it was probably foolish to assume my day would be classes back-to-back and home around 1 pm. They’ll need to work me in around the teachers’ schedules, so she said I may be there longer but with periods off in between classes. That at least carves out designated time to work on outside projects. I think it will also give me some more of the structure I need to make the most of my free time.
So, as order emerges from the chaos of the last 2.5 months, I feel a sense of relief. This time has reinforced for me that ideas that being busy is good and feeling tired after a long day is oddly satisfying because it means you’ve accomplished something. For the next two weeks, I’ll try to enjoy this freedom that has felt like a prison of inactivity. I’m sure I’ll find a way to miss it when it’s gone.