3 Weeks In Madrid! Apartment Hunts, School and More!
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!