Being sick is never fun. If you happen to fall ill while in another country, and don’t speak the language that well, it can be a little frightening. Typically, I am a very healthy person who hardly ever gets sick. Yes, I’m the person who […]
Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I love virtually everything about it. I love the constant holiday music that can be heard at most retailers, and the vast array of decorations and lights that can be seen as soon as you step out on your […]
Before we left the United States to come to Madrid, I can’t tell you how many people asked me what I was going to do with my van, and if I was going to either rent or purchase a vehicle when we arrive in Spain.
The short answer to this question is that my middle son is currently driving/taking care of my van (at least I hope he is taking care of it), and we of course are not renting or purchasing a vehicle. Since Europe is notorious for their fabulous public transportation system, I knew that we would be utilizing this form of transport in Madrid.
Taxis and Uber: I have only taken a taxi once so far since our arrival in Madrid, and that was from the airport. I downloaded the Uber app (no, I had never used Uber in the states) when I wanted a slightly less expensive option of transportation after we left our AirBnb for our apartment. I didn’t want to take the Metro when we had heavy bags with us, and at this time I was still fairly green when trying to get around the city.
The Metro: We are on the Metro almost two hours a day five days a week with our commute to work and school. This has taken some getting used to, but for the most part it is the cheapest and most convenient way to travel around Madrid if you don’t have a personal vehicle.
There are mornings when I get fairly aggravated with taking the Metro everyday. The morning rush hour is typically the worst. During the morning rush hour, we are literally bumping into strangers and getting bumped into while trying to find a post to grab onto. Since I typically like my space, this caused me some slight anxiety at first. I figured I needed to just suck it up and deal, and that is what I do. 🙂 It is almost impossible to get a seat in the morning for the first seven stops. After we switch trains, we can usually find a seat because this particular train isn’t usually as crowded for some reason. You take the good with the bad, and there are times when the Metro can even be fun!
Public Transport Card (Abono): Scarlett and I were able to get a public transport card or Abono, for the Metro. The process for getting the card was fairly simple. I went to the website and made an appointment at the nearest Metro station that offers this service. We had to bring a copy of our passports plus the original. They asked a few questions, and we were on our way. Scarlett’s card is only 20 Euros a month, and mine is about 54 Euros a month since I am over the age of 26. I suppose 74 Euros a month isn’t that bad for transportation fees. I usually paid more than that for gas in the United States, and that didn’t include any maintenance on the vehicle.
Buses: There is also the option to take the bus, and the public transportation card can be used for this as well. We haven’t taken the bus yet, but I have spoken to people who like the bus better. We may try the bus one of these days, but at the moment we have our route down and it is working for us.
Walking: We definitely walk more here in Madrid compared to when we were in America. Personally, I think this is a wonderful thing. When we get off of a stop, we typically have to walk anywhere from five to ten minutes to reach the final destination. Of course there are times when we opt to take the “scenic route” and skip the train altogether!
Do I Miss Driving?: Yes! We have been here for two and a half months, and this is the longest I have gone without driving in a very long time! I don’t miss sitting in rush hour traffic, but I do miss driving. In fact, that is one of the main things I miss about the U.S. However, I think that the Metro is a very efficient way to travel, and I think that it would be worthwhile for most metropolitan cities in the U.S. to implement such a system.
One of the thrills of traveling overseas is immersing yourself in a completely different culture. However, there are times when you just want to curl up on the couch or in bed and watch a familiar television series from home. Before we left, I purchased […]
In laws are often thought of as annoying, meddling, and not welcoming. Couple that with a divorce, and most people assume that these people will no longer be a part of the lives of the splitting parties. Non-Traditional Ways: Since I’m not typically accustomed to a […]
Four Day Weekend: After a month and a half of paperwork, beginning a new job, and getting settled, four days to rejuvenate my spirit is definitely needed. October 12th (El Dia de la Hispanidad), is a national holiday in Spain. There is a parade, and […]
As you may have guessed, these past two weeks have been incredibly busy as I have been getting acclimated into my new role as a Language Assistant/English Teacher here in Madrid. School Hours: In Madrid, the children begin school in September, but they don’t have […]
Finding Our Apartment: I have been promising a blog with the details about our apartment hunt, and here it is.
Apparently finding an apartment in Madrid is very similar to finding an apartment while living in New York City. While I have personally never lived in NYC, I have a few friends who have shared their experiences, and there are a couple of people here in Madrid from NYC who have agreed that the Madrid apartment hunt is very similar. Yikes!
When I applied for the Beda program, I knew that I would have to find living accommodations for both myself and Scarlett on my own, and was told that it would be rather easy upon arrival. I was told to “just use the several apartment listing services such as idealista.com, fotocasa.com, etc,, and you will have no problem!” While there are several listings, I found that it is virtually impossible to get anyone to get back in touch with you.
Let me back up a bit. We arrived in Madrid on August 28th and had an Airbnb for a week. When I first rented the Airbnb while we were still in Nashville, I was told that if we liked the room we would be able to extend our rental. After only being in Madrid for one day, and virtually no contact from any of the landlords I had contacted, I contacted the owner of the Airbnb via the message app, and told her we would probably need to extend for at least a week. Her reply, “We have clients checking in the day you check out.” Okay….so much for seeing if I like the room. It was time to get serious. Since I had my daughter with me, I didn’t really feel up to going from one Airbnb to the next for nine months, not knowing who the hell is going to be coming and going. Yes, the title of my blog is titled Free Spirited Single Mom, but free-spirited or not, I am a very responsible and good mother.
My contact at the school was helping by calling some of the apartments since she speaks both English and Spanish, but she was finding a lot of people who weren’t answering. I decided to try a different route and put search for “apartments in Madrid” on Google. A few Craigslist ads came up. I figured I would give it a try, and I saw one in the city center that was beautifully decorated with the colors that Scarlett and I adore! It didn’t have a bathtub or an extra bedroom; it was a studio with a sectioned off area. At this point I was thinking a beautifully decorated studio in the city center was much better than a random room somewhere every other week, so I messaged the landlord. She got back to me within a day, and as luck would have it, she spoke English! She was very apprehensive about Scarlett and I sharing a studio, but I told her the same thing about it being much better than sharing ONE ROOM in some random place with strangers coming and going every couple of weeks. To make a long story short, we went to see the place, LOVED it, and have been living here for two weeks! Studio or not, it is actually very comfortable, and we are getting very used to living in the city! It is kind of a nuisance taking the metro about 35 to 40 minutes to our schools in the mornings, but we are adapting.
Enrolling my daughter in school: Once we got the apartment situation worked out, I was feeling a bit of relief. Perhaps this wasn’t some horrible idea to move to Europe after all. We have a place to live and Scarlett will be going to the same school where I will be teaching. WRONG! The moment I started to feel more relaxed, I received a message from my contact at the school asking for Scarlett’s birthdate. I gave her the information, (I am certain I conveyed her age when we were contacting one another when I was still in Nashville, but whatever.) She got back to me and told me that Scarlett wouldn’t be able to go to the school that I am going to be teaching because she is “too old to go into 6th grade in Spain.” I have mentioned the pain of bureaucracy here in Spain before, right? We were getting schooled on it big time within our first two weeks. I was ready to scream and cry, but I am happy to say, I didn’t do either. I was told that I might have to enroll her in a public high school. Yeah, I wasn’t going to do that. For starters, she is not ready for high school. She would be going into the 6th grade in the United States. In Spain, High School, or Secondary School starts with 7th grade. If it were a bilingual school, and they thought she was ready for 7th grade, I might consider it, but I was not going to enroll her in a public high school in Spain that had no bilingual program at all. I was ready to use my round trip ticket and fly back to the U.S. I wanted to begin a life in Europe, but not at the expense of my daughter’s well-being.
I decided to see what was offered before making any rash decisions: I had to go to a place called the SAE Instituto Simancas which is a school that has a government building next door. This is where you have to go if you change residency, want to change your child’s school, etc. Since I don’t speak fluent Spanish, and apparently have forgotten everything I thought I knew upon arriving here, trying to follow directions when you have no idea what you are doing is pretty daunting.
As luck would have it, the assistant head mistress of the school connected to the SAE speaks fluent English and was a wonderful help. I was told that since Scarlett doesn’t speak any Spanish, she would need to enroll in a school that has a “welcoming class.” From what I have gathered, this type of class is similar to those in the United States that assist non-English speaking students. Yes, it is interesting being on the other side of the spectrum. I was told that I could ask for her to be placed near my work, but it is not guaranteed.
After waiting in line at the SAE office with several other parents, I found out I was able to bypass this line since I had a paper with an appointment time on it. There were several angry parents that didn’t like to wait in line, but the gentleman in charge explained that anyone that has an appointment needs to come inside. Apparently most people dislike waiting in lines no matter what culture you happen to find yourself in.
She was assigned a school: We finally got a school officially assigned to her, and I am so grateful that it is literally about a two to three minute walk from where I will be teaching! It is a semi-private Catholic school, and she seems happy with it so far. Interestingly enough, after she tested, they are keeping her in 6th grade (I know what is best for my child), and it is another school that participates in the BEDA program as well.
This three weeks has proven a bit challenging, but I think we are finally getting settled. I start my job this week. Stay tuned for updates on my teaching adventures!
Here is a video of our recent visit to Retiro Park and the San Miguel Market in Madrid. We decided to venture out a bit more on this Saturday afternoon. The weather was wonderful, and everything was free! Let me correct that. Everything was free […]