It pays to know how to drive a manual car because in Europe it is much cheaper to rent one than an automatic. We don’t have our own vehicle in Madrid so we rent from Europcar. Zipcar hasn’t added Madrid to the map yet but they are in Barcelona. If you only want to rent a car for a couple hours every now and then in Madrid then you should check out Bluemove Carsharing. I haven’t tried it myself but I know a few friends who really like it.
There are a lot of car rental agencies out there with tempting cheap prices online but we always stick to Europcar. For a while there was a glitch in their websites between their US and Europe sites where you could rent a car with unlimited miles from the US site much cheaper than the Spain site but unfortunately they figured it out and corrected the glitch. Tip: always shop around. Also, renting from the airport and train stations usually adds on an additional cost.
When we rent we always use an American Express card. They have an auto insurance plan that costs $25 per use and covers more than the “packaged Europcar insurance”. Once we even had an accident where the frame was damaged, it would have cost us a lot without insurance (I can’t remember but it was over $400). But American Express covered it all, it just took a long time and some communication on our part to connect the 2 companies to settle the issue.
If you do rent a car, it doesn’t hurt to get your international driver’s license from AAA; It only cost $15. I’ve rented cars without one but you can never be too sure what to expect if you get pulled over.
Driving in European cities can be really annoying, there are a lot of roundabouts but don’t be intimidated. The roads and highways are fairly easy to navigate and it is worth the cost because you have more freedom to travel and can explore all the hidden places off the beaten path that Spain has to offer.
Number #101 reason why I love my school: Baby Art Museum in the Gym.
The infantil classes collaborated and put together an art museum in our school gym. They introduced specific Spanish artists to the students and worked together to mimic their art styles. These sweet little babies worked their butts off and had a blast throughout it all. The outcome was incredible and they even hung up a comment wall so every visitor could leave a message, and how could you not.
So with every new city for me comes a new disfiguring injury. I’m accident prone or just cursed because almost annually between May- July something bad happens to me.
This year I fainted. It was 3am and I awoke with stabbing stomach pains. I was scared because it was like nothing I have ever felt before. I felt dizzy in the bathroom which made me more nervous, I went for water in the kitchen and everything went starry dizzy. I awoke under my living room table bleeding from my eyelid, utterly confused and deaf in one ear.
Once I gathered myself, I tried to put the pieces back together but nothing made sense. Eventually I crawled my way back to the bathroom to check out my face…horrified I had cut my eyelid pretty bad. When my strength came back to me I woke my partner and we patched up my eye. Since it was super early and I was still shaking we decided to wait until transportation was in full mode to head to the hospital. I was worried but from past experience I was pretty sure there wasn’t much damage to my eyeball.
At 9am we were at the hospital, Hospital Nuestra Señora del Rosario to be exact. They were nice but proved to be like many emergency rooms all over the world, slow and lacking. I waited 2 hours to be seen; I was counting on my partner coming in with me because he speaks better Spanish than I do, but they wouldn’t let him in. I think it was domestic violence protocol, which is great but it just made me more nervous not having him with me. Everyone who worked there was helpful, they weren’t comforting because they seemed stressed out but they were helpful. They did the usual protocol of what happened, then a quick examination, heart exam, blood test and shooed me off to the waiting room again. They didn’t clean my wound or give me a tetanus shot which I found weird but the last time I was cleaned up in a hospital in Portland, OR I got an infection from the hospital and almost lost my leg; so I guess it is better this way.
After 5 hours I got my lab results and could finally leave; nothing was abnormal. Next Wednesday I have a follow-up with internal medicine and an in depth follow-up on more lab results with my own doctor. So I lucked out and the healthcare system here has been good to me. I’m lucky that Cigna healthcare, which is provided to me through my program Auxiliares de Conversación, will cover all this. After the hospital I went to the pharmacy to ask for more help. They gave me everything I needed; stuff for cleaning and sterilizing the wound, pain killers, and bruising ointment. Here is a link I found while searching for vocabulary to use, which I found very helpful. Please, feel free to share any hospital visits in Spain on this blog. I definitely wouldn’t recommend going to one if it can be avoided, go to your general practitioner if possible because hospitals are a hassle.
Yesterday was great.
Our entire school went on a field trip to a place in Boadilla, Madrid. As soon as we arrived monitors from the camp came, put our students into small groups and took them away. The adults were brought to the country club part of the camp and had a nice breakfast and plenty of time to chat and relax. We were free to enjoy ourselves for the entire day, no kids because they would be taken care of by the camp. So a few of us decided to go for a canoe ride; I thought it would be a pleasant mosey across the pond without much problems, I wasn’t too scared of falling in so I didn’t bother to change into a bathing suit. What a terrible mistake.
The teachers attacked! It turned into a splashing battle and we were all drenched by the end of the fight. The children had a great time too on the zip line, rock wall, canoes and playing all kinds of games. By the end of the day we were all sunburnt and burned-out. It was a blast. I’m going to really miss my school.
When we lived in Portland, Oregon we joined the Circuit Gyms. They were great bouldering gyms with planned routes that varied in difficulty and were constantly updated. In Ny it was just too costly to join any gym and there weren’t any close enough to home to make the cost worth it. But here in Madrid we can go bouldering for free at many of the city parks. Here they have built Rocodromos, man-made concrete climbing walls out in the open air. There are no set routes and some don’t seem to be planned out too well but that makes it all the more interesting because really that is how it would be in nature. Some rocodromos are even set up for those who do belaying if you bring your own equipment.
I want to bring this concept back to the states. I think every town, city, park should have a rocodromo. It is great exercise, keeps teens active and teaches little ones some key development skills. I am going to miss this luxury when I go back to the states. Madrid, you don’t know how good you have it; take care of what you got.
Last April we focused on our environmental responsibility; we learned about pollution, recycling and made seed bombs for Earth Day. This year I didn’t have time to plan activities for Earth Day because it was Culture Week but I still decorated the English Board with a couple classes.
Instead of repeating the environmental awareness theme from last year, I wanted the students to focus on their roles on this Earth and know that they each play a big part. The theme was “We’ve got the whole world in our hands.” There are so many versions of this song nowadays, here is a different version I was thinking about teaching the younger classes.
With the pre-kindergarten class we painted our hands blue and green to make a globe, it didn’t come out super clear but the kids had fun. The second grade class has been learning about jobs so we wrote “When I grow up I want to be…” their answers and pictures were darling, here are a few to share.
La Pedriza is an incredible place. I was lucky enough to go their twice with my school on a class trip. It is located on the Guadarrama mountains in Parque Regional de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares and is one of the coolest granitic ranges I’ve seen so close to Madrid. There are a bunch of hiking trails and rock climbing routes within the park and if you get hot on the trail there are some wading pools to cool off in.
It was a wonderful trip for the first group, the weather was gorgeous and we hiked more trails than we should have because by the end the kids were exhausted but we had a great time. I even enjoyed my Spanish lesson listening to all the stories that go along with different rocks or areas in the park, like La Cueva de La Mora, a Romeo and Juliet-like ghost story of love and loss. The second group didn’t have as much luck with the weather and it was a downpour but the foggy mist surrounding the huge rock formations was other worldly and we hung tough and survived the rain and mud.
I spent Valentine’s day not with my boyfriend but with a wonderful girlfriend and colleague at the Auditorio del Conservatorio de Getafe. We experienced a wonderful free symphony concert, the director was Francisco Aguado Marti and the program was awesome. We heard Navarro, Respighi, Kimura, Soutullo y Vert and ended with Bizet a wonderful end to the night.
I can’t wait for the next concert. You can follow them on bandamusicagetafe.es or even on Facebook.
This year I wanted to try something new. Many kids at my school and others make fun of the Asian students calling them names or in some way poking fun at their culture, language and lifestyle. I hate this. I love to learn from other cultures and I want the kids to learn to respect where people come from, their culture and learn from it as well. There are so many aspects of other cultures that these kids have adopted already without paying tribute to the origin. So, for February I created a Chinese New Year English Board Poster. In Spain this holiday is celebrated by many because there is a large Chinese immigrant population here. I know by my apartment there were fireworks going off and in Parla they sent off Chinese lanterns to bring in the New Year.
For the year of the horse I created a large horse silhouette, below it I showed the snake slinking away as last year’s news but he left wishing the kids good luck in the New Year. I also posted interactive flaps the kids could lift to find out what their sign was or learn the history of Chinese New Year. I hope some kids liked it. At least, I know they liked the horse stickers because the lil buggers stole them.
Every year at my school on the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s death we celebrate the day of non-violence and peace. Last year every class contributed to the peace garden and made peace murals. This year we paid tribute to Nelson Mandela.
Each grade learned about his life in English and in Spanish then we made different pictures and murals to decorate the halls of the administration building. The artwork will remain up for the rest of the year. I painted the green Nelson; it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Whenever I walk down this stairwell I smile, you just can’t help it when you see the little first graders portraits of Nelson Mandela.