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.
I love Spain for their accessibility to healthcare, dental, eye care, affordable pharmaceuticals and educated pharmacists. For the most part I have had great experiences. Normally, in the states I’d have to make an expensive eye appointment to even see an optometrist to get my prescription information and they’d try to corner me into buying something new and if I were to see an opthamologist the price escalated. Here I can walk into an optometrist’s office, bring them my script or if I’m a regular they will pull up my file on the computer and order my contacts or give me my script for no added cost, no sales spiel, nada; I’ve even had them give me free samples so I can try a more economical generic brand.
I can walk into any pharmacy, tell them my symptoms and they will give me the most affordable cure, and they know what they are talking about! So much is accessible without a prescription; this is great because half the time we know our symtoms and have had this same problem before and know what we need without the hassle of going to the doctor. Or course it is always good to get checked out by a doctor but sometimes it is just a hassle to have to make an appointment with your doctor to get a routine prescription.
You can get the morning after pill ( la pildora del dia despues) at the pharmacist for cheap, birth control pills cost between 2-12 euros just show them the brand you used in the states and they don’t need a prescription. If you use an inhaler back home and forgot it on your trip, no problem 2-5 euros. The list goes on, it is wonderful. And there are other natural health stores if you prefer that. Of course if you are really sick then go to the doctor and the pharmacist will probably tell you to go because they know what they’re talking about. And with the insurance I’ve had here I’ve never had to pay for anything at the doctors, dermatologist, dentist…no co-pays no surprise fees, this is the way life should be.
Recently, my partner and I have been dealing with getting our immunization records from the states transferred to the grad schools we will be attending in the states, nothing that should be too complicated, right? And guess what! Our doctors want us to come in for a paid appointment just to pick up an old immunization form from when we were babies. A signature could cost us between $50-200. Thank god some loop holes still exist in the states and we could convince our high schools and universities to transfer our old records. I know there are good people out there, good doctors , nurses, etc. who bend the rules, have the time or just really care about their patients and help them make right and economical choices but they can be held back sometimes by rules, regulations etc. And I don’t know anything about how their world really works. All I know is that in other countries people’s well-being (for the most part) is a priority, not money. And if you can’t find the help you really need at the least meds and some care are still affordable and accessible until you find the help you need. Why is it that money can seem more important that people?
I guess I’ll soon find out what Obamacare really is and offers. I hope it is as great as Spain’s universal coverage even if I have to wait in long lines.
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.
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.
Today in Madrid artists took to the streets. There were expositions set up all along Calle Principe and other nearby side streets. It was a street art project called Regalos Urbanos organized by La Galleria de Magdalena. Passerby’s could interact with the art and even take home parts of the project as gifts. Unfortunately, by the time I had made my rounds to each section, a lot of the artwork had already been taken. I really enjoyed the interactive wall of magazine cutouts. They had cut out different words, phrases and even pictures which were magnetic; anyone could leave behind a message. Another great project was #besamemucho, red stamped prints of the female genitalia which played with perception, created a buzz and some great discussions about femininity. I hope to see more projects like this around the city.
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 decided to renew my place in the program for a 3rd year as a back-up plan. Since this is my second year in Madrid that means I can’t renew in the same autonomous community. So this year I applied to be placed in the Balearic Islands.
Documents you need:
-Letter of Motivation. This is your letter of intent explaining why you think you’re school/ the program should renew your position in the Auxiliares de Conversacion Program. -Informe Del Centro. This is a form you need to print out. The director of your school needs to fill this form out, it serves as your letter of recommendation.
After you have these documents you can start the renewal process on Profex. This year they didn’t ask us to fill out a Solicitude De Prorroga so don’t kill yourself trying to find this form.
After you finish, print out the final page or Solicitud de la aplicacion Profex o del British Council with all your info data (make copies for yourself) and hand all these documents in to your director if you are applying to the same school . Make sure you have signed everything. Then your director will send it to the appropriate address.
But if you are renewing for a 3rd year and switching to a new autonomous community then you must send the paperwork yourself.
Here is the Address I used for 2014:
– A la atención de Itziar Alberdi (for Auxiliares from Australia, Belgium, Canada, USA, Finland, New Zealand, and Netherlands)
– A la atención de Victoria Hernández (Auxiliares from France or Ireland) Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte Subdirección General de Programas Exterior Educativa Paseo del Prado, 28, 5ª Planta 28014 Madrid
If you are applying to be placed with your partner (who is also in the program) then write a letter asking to be placed near each other and send this with your application. It worked the first year for my partner and I but this time they placed us on two separate islands, so it is worth a try but sometimes it doesn’t work out as planned.
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.