Dreams Abroad: Surviving the Storm
Hello, it’s me again (Adele pun not originally intended), your local, friendly, hopefully not-too-hipstery nomad. (I absolutely loaaattthhhe hipsters but all the internet quizzes tell me that I am one. So Grrrr. ) Originally I had planned to talk about my six month stint as a live-in au pair, but I have discovered that I cannot at the moment do this. Everytime I try to think of a witty, clinical, cut and dry process to talk about the cultural differences and the conflicts that followed, I find myself just wallowing and wanting to mostly verbally bash the family. That’s not fair because the problems we had weren’t just their fault. I think. ANYWAYS, I said all of that to tell you to stay tuned for next time or the next ( or the next next next time) if drama and negativity is your thing. Instead I want to focus on something different, lighter perhaps, but no less significant for me.
For Better or Worse
Whatever my experiences here in Spain have been, they have been nothing if not rich. Perhaps at times they were rich in pain and despair or perhaps rich in joy and wonder, but always poignant nonetheless. For every moment that I have cried myself to sleep, I have found myself in breathless wonder. I shall try to convey my meaning as precisely as possible but if things turn out cheesy instead capturing the artistic feeling that I desire, I apologize ahead of time.
The first 10 months of my time in Spain were very difficult for me. After having gotten settled into the perfect apartment that I found in Idealista, a popular website for rentals, set up in the perfect village and reveling in finally living in my perfect dream, I got kicked out. It turned out that the landlord’s mother was going to come live in the apartment and didn’t want to share which is understandable. I have a hunch that I was being illegally subleased to because after two months and after excuse after excuse, my roommates never did give me the landlady’s contact information. I suspect that they knew from the beginning and just wanted extra money. They themselves were in their own strange situation. They were a couple from Chile with a small daughter. The mother was supposed to go to England to study English but since she didn’t speak said English, when customs asked if she was there to work, she allegedly misunderstood the question and answered, “Yes.” They *permanently* denied her entry and turned her away even though the dad and baby were already through the gate. Therefore, they came to Spain for three months before having to go back. Naive, trusting Amanda had no contract, no rights, and barely any money aside from my monthly income and I already had bills back home. That was completely on me.
In orientation, they strongly suggested we get a contract but apartment hunting in Madrid in September specifically and, well, also year round (except in August) is a bitch so I settled. So, after a month of desperately searching for cheap accommodation, I found work as a live in au pair. I am grateful but I should have just tried to live in hostels for a while. While all of that was going on, two people in my family passed on, one from a drug overdose and the other from cancer. Complete and total devastation ensued for a time. One death took me completely off guard and ruined me for awhile. The second death was somewhat expected but still very difficult as the person, my grandpa, was and is my favorite person. It is from him that I got the travel bug in the first place. He deserves a post of his own so I will leave it at that for some other time. Needless to say, these sad events probably manifested in toxic and subtle ways that made interacting in such a new physical and cultural environment more complicated than it had to be. The last blow came circa April when I found out that the teachers at the school did not want me to come back. I can not pretend that it was all their fault. I have made mistakes. But this was a huge shock and disappointment. With this auxiliar program, if you don’t renew in the same school, then you can’t work in the same region as an auxiliar. They wanted to send me far south to Murcia!!! The only good thing about that would have been teaching near the ocean and Andalusian culture but even that was thwarted because they assigned me to some dry, isolated desert school. On top of that, payments to auxiliars in the south of Spain are NOTORIOUSLY 2 or 3 months behind. I had found love and a new life in Madrid just for it to about to be taken away. I could not afford to get uprooted again and this time so far away.
Needless to say, I was broken hearted for a majority of my first year. Fortunately, I was able to travel and those experiences among others and the ease of having them are what originally convinced me to stay a bit longer. Otherwise, before I met Esteban, I probably would have given up and gone home.
What follows is a mezcla of memories that I was able to focus on during these turbulent times. Stay tuned for these memories in my next post!
To see more of Amanda’s posts, click here. Thanks for reading and keep living your Dreams Abroad!