Open Minds and Open Mics
Note: Thank you to everyone for the kind feedback on my blog! I honestly haven’t been tracking who/how many people read it, but it makes my day when I get your nice emails and messages on social media saying that you’ve been following along. That being said, I’m going to start putting a bit more effort into these posts to make sure I keep it interesting for you all.
To say my first few weeks in Spain have been glamorous or anything resembling a Netflix Original about a spunky 20-something running off abroad to pursue larger dreams would be a gross overstatement.
In between cervezas and chai lattes (currently downing the latter as I type this) I’ve battled beg bugs, landlords, and job issues.
But it all hasn’t been for nothing, and I think things are finally starting to lighten up.
It may not have been the most obvious on here over the past few posts, but I am an idealist and an optimistic dreamer at heart. But that being said, it also doesn’t take too many stressors to crack my glass half-full and drown out what’s inside.
Luckily Madrid has had a lot of rain over the past week and my glass is filling back up literally and metaphorically.
Throughout all the hardships I’ve had some lighter, fun moments and it seems as though the sun is finally peeking through the clouds.
Last week I received my new timetable (schedule) at school, and I now have a four-day work week with Mondays free. This is amazing for a few reasons:
1. I can travel more often AND more cheaply, because return flights on Mondays cost less. I really want to challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone and take a solo trip one weekend in November.
(If you have any recommendations on cities I should see, let me know! Right now I am contemplating Lisbon, San Sebastian, and Barcelona.)
2. I no longer have that Monday dread feeling on Sundays, because I have another day to myself to explore, lunch with friends, and paint and write! Adios Sunday Scaries.
I have been abandoning the last two hobbies for so long, and it’s made me feel a little distant from myself. Therefore I am overjoyed to have more time for creativity.
The moment I got home from school after picking up my new schedule, I instantly pulled out the paints and made this piece.
3. Most Holidays in Spain this year are on Thursday and Fridays. This means I get extra-long weekends during this time. Fiesta!
Aside from free Mondays I now am in some art classes with primary students in the 3rdgrade. Although I don’t actually get to help them with art (they basically color worksheets in a book all day), I get to pull them aside in small groups to chat in the hall.
The kids have all been so warm and receptive of me, and watching their faces light up when I enter the classroom like some sort of happily-anticipated alien makes my heart smile. Groups run up and hug me, and little girls treat me like a Disney princess, uttering ‘You are very beautiful’ in their thick accents.
I’m telling you little kids are the biggest ego boosters.
On my very first day in one of the classes, a little boy started to pull up his shorts to show me his ‘tattoo’ of my name (horribly misspelled by the way) on his leg. He told me that he wrote it there so he won’t ever forget it.
Update: I’m gonna call him Rodrigo for privacy reasons. My second week with this class, Rodrigo saw me walk in and immediately reached for his shorts and his pen. I had to dare him with my eyes to put the pen down, before his tattoo love declaration became a weekly habit.
I thought it was hilarious and adorable, because he was eight, but part of me also hopes he doesn’t try this trick in a decade when it might not be as well received.
I am so relieved that my school situation has started to turn around, because I have become such good friends with one of the other auxiliars.
I’ll call her Z for privacy, but also because part of me is still mourning Gossip Girl. Z is the one who taught my uncivilized, American self how to cut fruit—which by the way I am excellent at now. I may or may not have bought myself half a melon instead of a birthday cake this week…
Z is also from France, and we are already planning a weekend trip to Paris in the Spring! I have always wanted to visit Paris for the art (and macaroons of course), and I’m so excited for the opportunity to get to go with someone who knows their way around the city AND can speak the language.
Last year, I traveled to Bordeaux and although the wine was incredible, the hospitality was definitely lacking, and no one tried to meet us halfway to understand our English.
Aside from my new classes, I still have my small groups with the older students which I really love.
It turns out once I left the workshops all the former diablos were really sad, and some of them actually begged me to come back.
The past few weeks I’ve been working on simple speaking practice for the Cambridge exam where I ask them personal questions in groups of two or three. I try to use it as a time to get them out of their comfort zones when it comes to being scared of making mistakes, and branch off the typical questions to gage and understand their interests. They seem to be really receptive of it, and I feel almost like a big sister and teacher at the same time.
Tuesday was a breakthrough day for me. I had to work with two groups comprised of three teenage boys from the nightmare class, and I was dreading it from the moment I heard the teacher read off the names. But surprisingly when I started getting to know them and trying to make them feel understood in their struggles with English, they showed a completely new side. They absolutely love Eminem and Michael Jackson, with one kid even starting to sing Billie Jean. Although vocal about their dislike of learning English, they were willing to put in the effort to try.
One of the groups had two boys that couldn’t understand any English, and I felt bad doing it, but I broke a big rule in my program—I spoke in Spanish. I knew I couldn’t let them just sit there and take away nothing, and I knew if I could just teach them answers to new questions that they would feel accomplished.
By the end of the twenty-minute session, they learned how to answer five unique questions and were smiling. They learned some basics and after awhile didn’t even need me to explain everything in Spanish. I told them to go tell their parents some of the new things they learned tonight at dinner, so we will see how that goes!
I’ve been up to a lot the past few weeks from flea markets, to parks, and everything in between,
but I don’t want to bore you with the details of day to day living, so I’ll focus on a few funny moments, my birthday weekend, and exciting things to come!
Girls Just Wanna Have Nun:
Last week at school, I went to the teachers break room to try to snag breakfast during my gap and ran into a teacher I had never met before. Trying to force myself to make more friends with faculty, we started talking, and she told me there was a visiting nun from the United States and that she could introduce us. This led to me attending a presentation about missionaries in Ecuador, and speaking to nuns for twenty minutes after, because how does one politely tell a group of nuns that they are running late and need to go? They took down my email and phone number to invite me to future events, and I arrived at lunch to immediately ask Z if I had just been recruited to join a convent?
My Birthday was on Monday, which was wonderful, because I didn’t have to go to work. I spent the entire weekend before with my friends and roommates. We went out on Friday night, but spent Saturday night at a pottery studio by our flat painting ceramic pieces.
It’s something I used to do during my birthday parties as a kid, and it’s funny how little seems to have changed. On Friday I went back and picked up my piece after it was fired—a tile with a blue retro design. I absolutely love sixties and seventies mod wallpaper and figured it would be fun to use as a coaster or jewelry tray in my room.
Honestly it was really therapeutic and zen to sit and paint while listening to music, and my friends and I have already been planning future trips—though I may even go alone on one of my Mondays off.
I spent Sunday with my friend L (gotta stay on trend with these letters). We originally planned on going to the Prado with our sketch pads to draw at the museum. I love to draw and paint marble statues like the ones below, but we discovered that the Prado isn’t very artist friendly when it comes to benches. After wandering around the museum we spent part of the afternoon in one of my favorite places in all of Madrid, Retiro Park.
It was a beautiful sunny day, but a rain shower broke out and caused us to briefly run under the cover of some trees on our way to see the Crystal Palace.
It was one of those moments where you move from being slightly annoyed by the lack of faith you should have in an iPhone. (I mean seriously weather app?), to really just appreciating the spontaneity and beauty of life.
Here I was on a sunny afternoon, in Spain of all places, hiding under a canopy of beautiful trees as rain sprinkled out from scattered clouds.
Sometimes I do have to pinch myself when I realize where I am, and that I actually followed through on something I was once so unsure about.
I spent Monday sleeping in and returning to Retiro for a picnic with some friends by the lake. Picnicking and relaxing (often reading or napping) in the park is one of my favorite past times here, and I’m trying to soak up the last of the good weather before it becomes frigid in Madrid.
I met up with H, my Au Pair friend from the States and one of her friends from class came along. I love how when you travel abroad you meet people all the time who want to connect with others as much as you do. I think it must be that we all possess that extra wish for adventure and newness whether it be new faces or terrain.
I spent part of that evening in my favorite coffee shop, Tomo, a quaint space with SoCal vibes, but left early to run to my roommate’s rescue after someone stole her phone while she was with a client at work.
Twenty-two is a weird age to turn.
It’s not that I feel exceptionally older, but I feel that pressure to figure out more of what I am doing with my life. While I am a dreamer, I have so many trajectories my life could take from art, to music, writing, politics, and business.
Regardless of the direction, I know I want to try to live abroad long-term, whether that be here in Spain, Europe in general, or perhaps even Latin America. I would love to get to spend extended time in or at least travel through countries like Argentina or Colombia.
As unsettling as it is to not know what the future brings, I like the promise of excitement that lies in the unknown.
It’s a happy discomfort, one that I much more prefer to knowing exactly how my life will play out for the next several decades.
That being said I’m using this year to really dive into more of my creative pursuits.
I’m planning on performing at more open mics, finishing my first poetry collection, and trying to display my artwork at cafes or public settings here in Madrid.
And I can promise you that I’ll update you on the whole journey…
Sometimes my impulsive personality benefits me.
These are the times when I don’t think before acting, when I don’t stop long enough to over analyze things or let fear block me from doing something I might actually like.
On Wednesday night, L and I went to a writers’ open mic at a local bar. It was meant for poetry and fiction writers in both English and Spanish. Originally I went to be a spectator, but after a drink and a bit of wonder I decided I would get up there and do something myself.
I have been posting poetry online and writing way before I ever thought about starting a blog, but I like to sing my poems A capella instead of speaking them out loud. Somehow it feels more natural.
Last August I performed my poems (singing) in front of a small group at an indie bookstore in Dallas, Texas. It went great, and people came up to me after, but I’ll admit I was still nervous with the idea of getting up on a stage and performing again.
After a half-pint of an IPA and sitting through most performances I felt ready to get up there and try my best. I’m so glad I did, because I felt the rush again that comes from singing in public. I love music probably more than anything in this world and whenever I get a chance to sing, I really feel the most alive.
If I could be anything in the world, I probably would travel back in time to be 1920s-30s jazz singer in New York, but sadly It’s 2018.
The people who performed were quirky and original in the best way and I felt I found a new place in Madrid where I could feel at ease creating.
To make things even better, several people came up to me after, and I was invited to sing something at a musician’s open mic the following Tuesday. Surprised, I asked if I could sing without any instruments accompanying me, and they said of course. SO now I have to figure out what and how I will perform this weekend.
I’m really hoping to meet more people in the Madrid music scene and find people to create music and perform regularly with. I’ll keep you updated if I drop any mixtapes in the near future.