I am currently living in Madrid, improving Spaniards lives as an English teacher. In the run up to Christmas it has become glaringly apparent that there exists a bit of a gulf between the way they celebrate it and the way we celebrate ours. First and foremost this stems from the difference in religion. In our charming, green, little blob of a country we have generally had the tea and cake, nice hugs and smiles version of Christianity – Protestantism. In Spain they have traditionally had the Hail Mary, God is not fun, let’s have a silent procession with chanting version – Catholicism.
In England we have a comfy collaboration between Jesus’ big day and Coca Cola
’s favourite fat man in a red coat. They don’t get in the way of each other. In fact it has also been noted that that pan-global fizzy corporation have provided an alternative for families that don’t wish to celebrate a religious day. In my family we have a bit of a mix. Mother and brother – you may know them by their alter egos Ann and Ben – pootle off to church to do their bit for Christianity and father - Brian – and I stay at home, warming our cockles on an imaginary fire awaiting their return. On the 25th we then celebrate the day like most families. I say most. Multiculturalism has opened a door to a vast variety of different celebrations, but I think you can imagine what I’m getting at – turkey, presents, tree, crackers, silly hats, Christmas pudding etc.
In Spain however, it is as if in the metaphorical workshop for creating festive holidays the instructions have got a bit confused. A messy mash-up of Papa Noel (Father Christmas if you couldn’t guess) and the Nativity fight it out to be centre stage every year. The bias is still towards the Holy Bunch, but jolly Mr. HoHoHo is still trying to get more and more attention. As a result, the 24th and 25th are a heady mixture of both. Traditionally the major festive day in Spain is on the 6th of January, when they celebrate the Reyes Magos (The Three Kings/Three Wise Men). Historically these are the chaps that bring gifts to the children. This makes sense really, as it’s basically they’re only job in the Bible. With the inclusion of Santa, the gift giving is being split. Despite Father Christmas trying to usurp their place, they still come every year, on the 5th, and carry out a large gift-donating procession up one of the main streets in the city.
Another difference is the food. Whereas Great Britain is an essentially a meat-based country, Spain loves its fish. It’s not uncommon to have roast lamb followed by ‘marisco’ (seafood) at Christmas. Instead of Christmas pudding they have ‘roscon de Reyes’ (the big bagel of the kings), which is a circular cake with a hole in the middle. Inside the cake are gifts. If you are unlucky enough to choose the wrong gift, you must pay for the cake. They also have many Spanish flavoured sweets and delights for pudding, but I shan’t go into them now.
Decorations include: small to massive representations of the Nativity called ‘Belenes’; an outrageous, oversized, partly mechanical Christmas display called Cortylandia, which is plastered to the side of the mega-department store El Corte Ingles; and the usual glittering and
glowing lights and trees that we would usually associate with the period.
Ultimately, although differences are apparent between our two nations, the sentiment remains the same. For me, the day is nothing to do with Jesus or Santa’s reindeer-centric activities. For me, England and Spain, the day, let’s be honest, is really about friends and family and the relationships you have with them. Everything else is just the brandy on the pudding, or the star on the top of a tree – you don’t need it, but it makes it a bit more special.
- Luke Darracott
You know what I hate?
Yeah, just a little. Everyday I'm there, smiling, chatting, and being 'dynamic' until 10 at night. On leaving work, satchel lolling at my side, chatting with fellow teachers about that last student who was (fascinatingly) stumbling on about the merits of pasta, I notice that everyone else on the streets is glammed up and going out to party. I still haven't worked out whether it's really depressing or slightly novel...
Thinking perhaps i'll go to work in my gladrags and try and combine the two activities. Downing tequila slammers whilst draped drunk round the shoulders of some Spanish bloke, trying to explain to him that prepositions are a bitch because there's no rule and he just has to learn them, pawing his face apologetically - and slighty too hard - saying 'poor spanish man...porrr ploorrr spinash men...', before getting a grammar book to the face and kicked out of the bar for over-friendly use of pronunciation.
That aside, the working week has treated me well. My students are by and large really nice and, let's be honest, it's not the hardest job in the world to teach what I already speak. On Friday night some of the teachers went to the 'local' and got a bit happy. We are known there, so free tapas - mainly nuts, olives and crisps, but sometimes ham and cheese - oft graces our wet tables, sitting fittingly next to our formidable tankards of beery gold. I then left the teachers and met up with some of my Spanish chums, and made some new ones, at the 'Caves of Cesamo', where sangria was both imbibed and spilt onto the floor.
Saturday morning...late Saturday morning, it was decided...dictated by my housemate Elena that we were to go to IKEA and buy an extra chair for the living room. I don't know if you've been to an IKEA before, if you haven't I shan't give an explanation on how it's set up, but here in Spain it is basically what amounts to a colony within a country. Spaniards flock to IKEA every weekend - it's cheaper than flying to Sweden. After spending three days in the carpark we joined the general population and entered the superstore. We bought pillow covers, a bottle, some plug adapters, cushions and a lamp.
But Luke...you wanted a chair?
Oh yes...the chair. Called 'Grankulla', the chair/bed combo was on sale for 49 euros, reduced from 99.
So we - me, Elena, Esther and Carlos - took our little product code to the warehouse area to find our chair. We found the wooden bit...but the cushion bit they housed in a separate box, which was not present. Elena was not best pleased by the apparent lack of Swedish ingenuity. She asked someone, apparently a mongoloid turnip who basically answered 'say what?' and 'erm' to everything she asked. She then asked more 'passionately' at customer relations, which basically said 'well...erm...don't really know...you could try another store...'. Livid now, she went to the top and pinned down the floor manager.
By this point Carlos and I went to get ham baguettes - at the 'museo de jamon' - leaving the girls to slug it out with the Larrs and Johanssons of IKEA Madrid. Tucking into our two baguettes we got a call from Elena 'LO TENEMOS, LO TENEMOS' - 'WE HAVE IT, WE HAVE IT'. We prompty inhaled the remaining bready hamness and rushed back to the car.
Standing victoriously by the car, we rewarded the girls' hard work with sandwiches and proceeded to cram our new sitting apparatus into the boot.
The Spaniards went to the Opera on Saturday night, so I made part...only part - because I didn't want to hammer nails in at that time of night - of the chair. (Later finished by Elena, Esther and Carlos on Sunday morning whilst I visited the Rastro market).
One other random thing to note: At maybe 3 in the morning on Sunday I watched some strange TV. After arriving home from the Opera, we had a little 'botellon' - drinking session - in our flat to celebrate. At 3 in the morning there was a programme about celebrities and gossip and suchlike. Even though the subject matter was juvenile and low-brow, the production value was high. There was a roundtable panel of maybe five or six quite smartly dressed people, and a live audience. Halfway through, and remember, in front of a live audience, there was a striptease. Not a coy one. A full on burlesque, one woman striptease. All major points of interest were displayed to the viewer. Then, as soon as the young frau had finished her set we cut to audience clapping and head back to the roundtable.
And while neither I, nor my Spanish (male) friends, complained, I was raaather confused as to what had just occurred.
Neither Carlos, Esther, Elena, Juan, Marta nor Javi could explain why it happened. But it did...that's Spain.
That's probably enough for now. Don't do anything inappropriate now...
So I'm set up. Phone. Friends. Job. Internet.
All I need is a cat (subsititute in canine, porcine or vulpine animal as applicable) and I'll be a fully fledged adult human.
For some reason this German medical helicopter thinks it is in fact a Police helicopter and is 'dramatically' chasing an escaped mental patient in a truck. I can't help wondering what the German Police are up to. Maybe they are giving CPR to someone who decided to inhale an oversized Bratwurst!
German Mission Impossible aside, everything's going quite well here.
The job is really good but the evening classes get quite tough/tiresome. You've just finished a class at 8:27 and are taking your allotted 5 minute interval. You refill your water bottle. You share words and knowing smiles with your fellow teachers. You rub your eyes, slap your face, snort a smint and wipe that smile onto your face and go find your table for the next 1.5 hour chat. And you remember that everyone you know outside of this office is enjoying their evening, perhaps having a drink with some friends, or watching Medicopter. But, wait, before tiptoeing gracefully down into the dumps you also remember that almost everyone you know ISN'T here...so get over it. That's the process from Monday-Friday. I'll get used to it.
That's probably all I will say from now on about day-to-day things. I should stick to my previously mentioned maxim of not doing a 'then I did this, then I did that...Oh! and HAHAHA then THIS happened, it was really rather funny' kind of blog. We'll see though. Depende de que pasa aqui.
Medicopter's final exciting scene has ended, rather flatly. The truck nutter has been stopped thanks to the two daring 'medics' climbing up to the driver area and disarming him. However Sanitäter Ralf Staller - played poignantly by Wolfgang Krewe - was shot in the arm!!! I hope he's ok...he's like my favourite...
He should be. He's a bloody medic.
Ta ta for now and all that!
I got the job.
I started the job.
The school is called Talking Point Conversational School - http://www.talkingpoint.es/index.html - and is slap bing bang in the central part of Madrid, called Sol. It's near all the tourist sights; the palace, the squares, the shops, the theatre etc. So it's pretty sweet.
The school operates from 10 in the morning to 10 in the evening. However this doesn't necessarily mean that I work all these hours. Somedays I may start at 11:30am, but then end at 22:00. Or I start at 10:00am and finish at 7:00pm. At the moment i'm just having training - being told how the school works, where everything is, sitting in on teachers' lessons, which toilet is probably best that I do my businesses in etc, but I think i'll be starting teaching proper on Saturday or Monday.
NOTE - I just spent ages writing this blog, only to lose it because life and the internet can be more of a knob than Hitler. I don't even know if what I was writing would have even been interesting, but I think it was.
I've got a job. Today I signed a contract for a flat in Moncloa district - very studenty. I'll be living with a girl called Elena who is one of my chums from the CELTA teaching course I did. In fairness, she did all the work. It's small, modern and new. I just signed my name and smiled.
In short - writing little as the first draft took ages to type - the one main downside to my job is that I may miss Xmas, as Spanish people don't stop for what we call Xmas. Half of the teachers teach Xmas whilst the other half can go home. The Xmassers can then go home at New Year - the out of this world massive Madrid party night (NOTE - i've never really believed in the current use of that phrase given the vast number of satellites, beasties and people the Earth has coughed into the cosmos) that is apparently is not to be missed - and those Xmas holidayers must then cover entry into 2010.
Long week; finish at 22:00 tomorrow for example.
If nothing else my Spanish chums have said that we're going to have a Flat Inauguaration party on Saturday night at my new pad. Should be nice.
I'll leave it there, you probably want to get on with your lives. Or, if nothing else, continue searching for inappropriate material, or applying for your member enlargement, or responding to that Nigerian Prince offering you his fortunes.
All the best. Pips and toodles.
The school that I have been persistently bothering like a sex-pest for the last week has, in the last 10minutes, just offered me a job. I start training tomorrow at 11:00am.
In the Shakespearian words of Bad Boys 2:
'This shit just got real'
Having graduated from Bath University and having successfully completely my CELTA teaching qualification, I have decided to try my luck as an English teacher in Madrid. This weblog - and it is named 'slices' for a reason - will present snippets of Spanish life and memorable experiences that I have during my time here. What it (hopefully) won't be is a turgid detailed account of everything that happens to me ust for the sake of writing something. My return ticket is booked for the 22nd of December for xmas - although i've just been informed during an interview that some schools teach then too! - so if all goes tits up and arse in the air I can take comfort - hopefully - in pumping my stomach so brutally full of dead bird and crispy root vegetables that I will forget that my life is spiralling into the ground.
If all goes to plan - The plan being that one of the schools that I STILL haven't heard from whether or not I have a job might someday decide to employ me. Part two of the plan being to get myself a flat in Madrid, trying not to bankrupt myself too much in the process - If all goes to plan i'll have officially 'moved' to Spain and will have started a new life here, rich and dripping with cheap wine, sunshine, and Iberian language.
I still have interviews, I still don't have a job. It's all the air. Nothing is concrete.
It's a bit daunting but I suppose we'll just have to see how it all goes.
Anyway, must dash, got to sort my life out.
This is a tester.
Testing whether it works.
If the test works, then it's tested well.
If it's testy about being tested.
Then it can screw off.
Bienvenidos and welcome.