four months in madrid

As we've spent the last nearly-three weeks becoming reacquainted with Madrid after our whirlwind Christmas + New Year's trip around the continent, it hasn't been hard.  Our feet know our neighborhood, they know our Metro stop, they know the way.  I like the way I don't have to think about where I'm going in the mornings when we go to the library for a few hours to plan lessons or use the internet to get caught up on things.  I don't have to think twice about which way to go when I transfer at Alonso Martinez - any of the three lines that criss cross Madrid from there take me to my students - one to Diego, one to Marta and Sofía, and the other to Nacho and Beatriz.

Our little corner of Madrid has become familiar to us, as well as the little parts that we frequent because of where we teach and where we shop and where we work.  I guess you could say that we really live here now. We have Metro passes, the kind that you can only have if you're a resident of the community of Madrid, and we have Club Dia cards, that get us discounts when things go on sale at the grocery store.  You know, the grocery store where we know what things are on which aisles and which shelves and that no matter what time of day you go, there will only be one checker.  I promise.  That's just the Dia way, I guess.

We greet our neighbors when we check the mail (thanks, by the way, to everyone who sent Christmas cards and the like!  Your smiling faces are on our fridge and we love it!) and when we climb up and down the stairs.  Everyone is so friendly - I still find it a little strange (in a good way!) to say "Hola!" to everyone I pass, but it seems that's just the way, so we gladly do it too, often initiating it ourselves nowadays.  We recognize our neighbor's naughty dog, and steer clear so as not to have our heels bitten, as he often threatens to do.

The week we got back from our trip, we were scheduled to begin a new job at an English academy we'd been in contact with for a few months.  We'd signed where we were supposed to, copied our documents, and showed up on time, but, to make a long (and dramatic) story short, the lady that was "working" on everything got fired while we were on our trip, and when we returned, we had no more work than we did before Christmas.  Within the span of a few hours, our plans for the next six months were called into question, as we knew we couldn't remain in Madrid with Danny working 8.5 hours a week and myself 6.5.  We had began contacting organizations in other countries, putting some feelers out for other options, as living off of (primarily) savings just wasn't going to work any longer.  We drew a bit of a line in the sand, if you will.  We had a trip to Sevilla planned for last weekend, thanks to cheap plane tickets we bought on Black Friday.  I wasn't willing to leave Spain until we went on the trip, so we decided if we didn't find enough work by the time we went to Sevilla, we'd leave.

That week was essentially teaching our current students and looking for new work.  That's about it.  There were a lot of leads, but only a few things were really promising.  It was really tumultuous at times as we debated the pros and cons of leaving and staying - but mostly how much we really didn't want to leave Spain.  At least not yet.  By the end of the week, Danny had a new job at Berlitz teaching business classes, two a day, four days a week, and I had a new job teaching a set of twins every day during their lunch hour.  We get to stay in Madrid.  What a gift.

We're staying in Madrid, but we're also deciding to stay legally.  Our visas expire the first week of April, and although we've been trying to figure out any way around it since before we even got here, we've finally come to the conclusion that can't legally stay longer.  The immigration office said that we could stay an additional 90 days and, if we got stopped by the police, we could say we're in the process of renewing our visas, which technically isn't legal or illegal, but we want to err on the side of legality, especially since our hope is to be given new, longer student visas in the future.

So what does all that mean?  It means that in spite of how familiar we may be here, and regardless of the new jobs we may have found that make it financially feasible for us to stay for a while, we have about ten weeks left in Madrid.  We're going to try to do something fun each weekend (not that teaching during the week isn't fun - it is!), and make the most of our remaining time.  We don't know yet if we'll be able to come back to Madrid in the fall, so I'm dragging my feet a little on buying that one-way ticket back to the U.S. because this just doesn't feel done yet.

I almost decided not to write a four month update because I feel little sad about it.  I feel sad because we're two-thirds of the way through our visa, and the trajectory of things right now points towards how we'll be spending our time in the U.S. and I just keep thinking, but wait!  Didn't we just leave?  It's not time to go back yet!  When I told my mom that I've been putting off buying our plane tickets back because I love this abroad life, she reminded me that this is a good thing!  That despite all the challenges we've had (and oh, there have been many!) I'm still not ready to go back to where I'm from, to where life is often easier and more convenient.  It's good that we're wishing to stay longer and that, overall, our experience has been good enough that we're dreaming of more.  I'm so glad that it's obvious to us that we want to be here - that we're not debating - should we come back if we can?  Instead it's, "If we have work, and if we have visas, YES.  We absolutely want to be here."

So while I may be a little melancholy these days as we're making preparations to go back to America (jobs, living situations, to do lists, etc.), it's not so bad.  We still have a good two months left here, which is a good chunk of time, and we have good reason to think that we'll be able to return at the end of the summer.  We also have much to look forward to back in Colorado: time with family and friends, a couple of fun weddings to go to, a chance to rebuild our savings a bit, and, of course, mountains.  So here's to the 68 days that remain - may they be the best yet!

*Thanks to Danny for the pictures he took around our neighborhood this morning of our most familiar places: our Metro stop, our bakery (which we just found out this week is a chain!), our mailbox, our grocery store - our little corner of Madrid.