When we first arrived to Madrid I received a Facebook message from a Robert Georgen...I asked Trey if he knew him? He immediately said yes, why!? I said because he just sent me a message on Facebook. Should I open it? He ran to the computer, saying yes yes, as looked over my shoulder waiting for me to open it. He had tried to contact Trey, but since I typically manage Trey's social media for him, he rarely logs on to check his mail. Trey and Robert grew up together and played soccer together. They grew up and attended different colleges and when Robert moved to San Diego for the military, they unfortunately lost touch. What we didn't know is the reason for Robert reaching out was because he and his wife Suzanne where in Spain too!
Robert and Trey began corresponding again and planning times for us all to get together in this beautiful country. Robert and his wife kindly invited us to their home in Chipiona, Spain! We accepted of course without hesitation, not knowing where Chipiona was, or anything about the area, but Trey was excited to catch up with his old buddy Robert, and I was excited to hear some "Trazy" stories and meet Robert's wife was well!
When we arrived at the train station we walked out and there was Robert and Suzanne waiting for us in their made in the good ol' US of A, Honda Accord, this was the first one we have seen in Spain, so far that is! Trey and Robert didn't miss a beat! It was as if 12 years hadn't gone by at all. In fact it was Robert who reminded poor Trey that his birthday, coming up in just a short week, would make him a year older than he expected. This of course made for an interesting and very comical next hour of Trey wondering where the missing year went. We all jokingly agree he lost it in the process of moving to Spain; Which with all the paper work, late night applications, and Spanish Bureaucracy losing a year is not too far from the truth.
We were all so excited to see each other and we all talked non-stop for the next 3 days. There was never a dull moment! In the car on the way there we switched topics maybe 15 times because there was just that much to catch up on and talk about our new lives in Spain. As we traveled down the highway there were fields and field and more fields of sunflowers. Unfortunately, we were visiting in the dead heat of the summer so they were looking a little dry, but I could imagine they were just unbelievably gorgeous! We approached Chipiona and we could begin to smell the ocean. Trey and I began to get more and more excited considering we had been land locked for the past six weeks. We were more than ready to get our sea legs back. When we pulled up to the driveway, waiting for the gate to open to enter the home of the Georgens, we coasted on into the huge large underneath the house garage "aka" Robert's man cave. I remember thinking oh my goodness our entire apartment was smaller than there garage.
We were shown our room and it was the cutest guest room! I instantaneously felt right at home...we told Robert and Suzanne they better be careful having a guest room that comfortable some guest may never leave...secretly implying we might just be those guests! We were shown the grand tour and out to the back porch for an afternoon drink, hummus, and the most amazing olives ever. On the train ride to Chipiona one thing we noticed was miles and miles of olive orchards. We were happy to taste test the local olives of Chipiona. We then walked just across the street to the beach and began our journey on the Atlantic coast in Spain. The sand felt so good on our toes. We were shown some of the landmarks in Chipiona, like the lighthouse, and then headed to Pena's for a fantastic lunch! The Gumbas were fresh, local, succulent, and sweet. The pairing of excellent local cava, food, and familiar friends made for one of our favorite lunch's thus far while in Spain. As we were leaving, Trey and Robert noticed our server was in every picture hanging on the wall. His service was some of the best we have received, and when we asked him if he was the owner he modestly said yes. He was a very down to earth man, and a true gentlemen. We asked to take a picture with "The Señor Pena" and he humbly accepted!
The weekend continued with true southern hospitality! We met some amazing people that Robert and Suzanne knew that were living there in Chipiona and working on base. We had fun conversations and were welcomed into their community as if we were their neighbors too! We attended a cookout just next door from Robert and Suzanne. It was a pitch in with the cutest little bar set up and some homemade All American cookin! For a while I couldn't find Trey, and then I thought again, duh he is where the food is...when I found him he was elbows deep in food advising all the other guests what to try out because he tried it and it was awesome! Needless to say I am pretty sure he mentioned every item and explained why each was so tasty! We then ventured onto the next dinner party where we enjoyed more company and conversation as if we all had been friends for years! All in all our experience in Chipiona was exactly what the doctor ordered for Trey and I, as we were finishing up our first month in our city driven life's in Madrid, a little taste of home! Who knew... its a small world after all!
It all began with one of Chelsea’s exhausting mottos…if there is a will there is a way! She would stop at nothing to see us move abroad. She spoke with her mentor about her search for work abroad, contacted her contacts in the EU, and friends who had traveled and lived abroad. She applied for several jobs internationally and finally heard back from a friend about her success story with a website called GreatAupair.com. This struck Chelsea’s fancy and after several weeks of research and interviews Chelsea found Raquel. It was a match made in heaven! For several months Chelsea and Raquel wrote to each other everyday with out missing a beat. One afternoon we Skyped with Raquel and Raquel inquired what I was going to while living abroad. At the time I was still searching and looking for work. When Raquel suggested, “Why don’t you look into teaching English”. I thought that was a great idea and began to brainstorm ideas!
I started my research for schools in Madrid to teach English as a second language. My first thought was to teach adults business English. Chelsea wasn’t too sure how this would be possible when I came across TT Madrid. This school had it all! A full year VISA program that allowed me to stay in Spain. TT offered a full year of Spanish classes to keep one engaged and learning the native language, and all for an inexpensive price for what the program had to offer. Especially compared to programs in the United States. This was a dream come true, almost too good to be true… was our first thought.
I decided to pursue further investigation on this program, when I reached out to Helen, the student recruiter. This program was the real deal and after further questioning and finding out more on the program, I inquired about how to join the program. Helen set up a Skype appointment to interview me. We hit it off and I was approved to become a member the TT Madrid Class June 2016. Now that Chelsea had a job and I had the VISA that allowed me to work part-time 20 hours per week things were beginning to take shape. We now had the ability to live in Spain, income when we arrived, and a support group that later became Chelsea and I’s Expat Family.
Fast-forward to 8 months later, Chelsea and I were ready for our adventure. Our Charleston life and home was packed into six suite cases and a 10x10 storage unit. We had said our good byes to our friends and family, and we were on a plane to Madrid, Spain with our fur baby Cash. I told Chelsea that when we were on the plane to Madrid holding hands with Cash underneath our seat, I would be the most relaxed version of myself that I had been since we began this journey. I remember that very moment when my dream had become reality it was a liberating and an amazing feeling of accomplishment.
The following Monday after we arrived to the other side of the pond, was my first day of school. Being from a small city like Charleston with a population of 130,000 people, and moving to a large city like Madrid with a population 6.5 million people took me some time to get used to the public transportation system and speed of the big city life. However, I was pretty proud of myself, when I found my way on the metro and was about 15 minutes early to my first class. The first friendly face I met was Andrew a fellow American from Texas. He greeted me at the door and showed me around the school. Nerves aside after taking the tour of the school I began to feel a bit more comfortable with my surroundings. I was lead into our main teaching room, the Madrid room, where I meet my first classmate, Rachel, who was from Tennessee. We talked about where we were from, how we found TT Madrid, and what brought us to the program. Slowly everyone began to file in, and the diverse group of individuals from all over the World gave me a sense of peace, comfort, and excitement about what was in store for me while attending this program.
They sure weren’t kidding when they said this program would be an extremely exhausting, yet a rewarding experience. It was a full 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week, with weekends needed to prepare for the next weeks classes, as you got further into the program. However, as I went through the program I realized that is what it took to get you ready to teach. I found the course material difficult as I didn’t really have much English grammar training in my previous studies, but learned a lot about the English language. Our classes consisted of grammar, phonetics, class structures, lesson planning, actual in class teachings, observations, getting the feeling of being a language student, and so much more. We were taught a lot in a short period of time, and at times I remember just wanting this class to be over. What made the class were the professors. The professors really made the class entertaining and fun. Even though we were learning some dull material they kept the energy up and keep everyone motivated.
Finally we made it to the end of the course. One thing I learned from this experience was how we all learned how to lean on one another. TT Madrid class 2016 was a team and a family. With great pride I announce we all graduated and were now ready to do what we intended to do here in Spain. When I finished the class I took a two-week immersive Spanish language training course with LAE Madrid, a partner of TT Madrid. This was fulfilling part of my year-long student VISA requirement. I was given the groundwork of my language studies and given the opportunity to find my voice in Spain.
Starting a new career is not something to take lightly, there will be ups and downs and things aren’t as easy as just being handed 20 hours a week of teaching jobs right off the rip. As you persevere and work through the challenges you find successes. These successes have made me stronger, as I have earned them over time. It is a challenge and a gift all in the same, to have the opportunity to start a new career, and as time goes on it has only been getting better. One of my successes I have had was finding a jobs teaching. I have been gaining experience and learning how to be a teacher. Even though the program gives you the tools I believe it takes time before you are a “teacher”, at least until you find your own way in how you deliver your teachings. I have had some struggles to find a good block of hours, being an American businessman with no teaching experience. We receive constant support form TT Madrid even after we completed the course with multiple weekly updates from Helen on available jobs, and assistance with finding work. I believe as I continue to grow and gain experience as a teacher, I am certain my demand will rise.
When moving to another country, even with Chelsea and Cash with me, not knowing a single soul, and thrown into a new world and new environment was unnerving. In the TT Madrid course we were given a skill, we were taught how to fish so to speak, and now it was our time to catch the fish. This experience has also given us the opportunity to meet like-minded people and to learn about their journey through life. It has given Chelsea and I both the ability to look at things differently, learn new cultures, and create new boundaries for our selves.
It takes a certain type of person to make a leap of faith and move to another country, to start fresh in an unknown land. One of things that I had in common with my classmates is we were all connected, even with our differences, by that common thread of adventure, open-mindedness, admiration of other cultures, and love of travel. We just had our Thanksgiving celebration with our Expat family from the TT Madrid class and others we have all met along the way. I love that we still have a WhatsApp Chat going where we share successes, births, birthdays, and big announcements. We are a part of each other’s lives, and a sense if belonging is something that this program has provided Chelsea and I.
I knew I would get my TEFL Teaching certificate and take Spanish classes while living in Spain. However, what I didn’t realize was that belonging to a school like TT Madrid, and meeting the people involved in the program would impact Chelsea and my happiness as much as it has while in our year abroad. It’s not just the classes, the VISA, and certificate that make this program. It is the personal touch, the hard work, and dedication of the directors, and teachers that has made this experience worthwhile. As well as the culture and the sense of family in a new country with the people we have met. The relationships and memories we have built during this experience we will cherish for the rest of our lives.
After our Teleferico experience Trey and I were craving some good ol fashion tapas so we went to a typical spot here in Madrid called Tapas 44. We had such a lovely experience ordering. They brought out two menus a Spanish and and English version. It was helpful to see the different tapas in both languages so we could familiarize ourselves with alot of the foods and dishes. Trey and I have yet to be disappointed with the food here in Madrid. It is always fresh and made to order. As we looked around we noticed the restaurant was not busy, and we thought how unusual it was normally packed. Then we remembered it was too early for the Spanish to eat at 8pm. We glanced over our shoulders and noticed a man sitting behind us. He was by himself and looked out the window and in Spanish said, "Wow the women are beautiful here in Spain." I turned around looked at him and nodded my head agreeing with his statement. He smiled and in English asked me if I understood him? I said yes! He asked where Trey and I were from. And I said Estados Unidios. He was very excited to hear this and asked to join our table. He was from Angola Africa but was living in Germany now for nearly 27 yeara. We had fantastic conversationthat, was not just surface conversation but meaningful and eye opening. It was fascinating and refreshing to carry a conversation with someone with a totally different perspective anyone walking in on our conservation could tell we were all passionate about learning about others!
During our discussion on politics, policies, and procedures he mentioned two things he said about our country that left us speechless...one that all over the world they play American music, have technology from America, dress in clothes like Americans, however he felt he didnt know the American people. As we continued our conversation he thanked us repeatedly for allowing him to talk with us. Little did he know we were just as grateful to have met him.
Sitting there with Roberto and talking about his country, Angola, and what we thought his country was like... is not at all what we had imagined it to be! It was fascinating talking with someone who was very proud, passionate, and diplomatic about his country. It was an experience I don't think we will ever forget because it was such a genuine, engaging conversation amongst 3 people from totally different backgrounds sharing our thoughts and point of views!
The other point he brought up was his desire to come to America but he was a little scared. Scared we thought why?
He made a hand gesture for guns...and Trey and I both said Ohhh at the same time. We didn't have much more to say on that topic nor did we know what to say really! We just shook our heads and agreed with his statement about all the shooting were very sad. It was interesting to hear a man from Africa say he was scared of America....how times have changed?!
All in all this encounter left Trey and I both thinking about other cultures, people, and places and wanting more conversations and encounters as we had just had with Roberto. After all that is exactly what we were set out to do.
Our evening was coming to an end so we exchanged phone numbers and email addresses we shook eachother hands and went our separate ways with a new appreciation and understanding of other cultures.
This was a fun surprise to find in our backyard at Parque del Oeste. One afternoon while walking Cash Trey said, "hey that looks like a ski lift car". When we continued down the path we came across the entrance of the Teleférico! We had Cashman with us, so we decided we would go another day. After a night out celebrating Trey graduating from his TESL course with the TT Madrid gang. Saturday morning after the celebration called for a rightfully earned very lazy morning. After we finally manage to get up and around we were ready for another experience! We looked up the hours of the Teleférico and thought it would be a perfect evening to check it out! We boarded our first Teleférico ride and we were off, over the skyline of Madrid, while Phill Collins played in the background. We had fantastic views once again in this "city that doesn't know it is big yet"! It was a great way for Trey and I both to see where we were in relations to many things. We spend most of our traveling time underground, which makes it very easy to get turned around. We saw the beautiful rose gardens, the palace, an amusement park, and an outdoor movie theatre. Of course this gave us many more ideas of things to do while we are here! We made our way across to the lookout. We had incredible views and throughly enjoyed this very inexpenisve attraction.
I am going to begin this post with a simple vocab lesson ¿A qué hora? (What time?) and ¿Cuándo? (When?)
When we first arrived Trey and I both were so overwhelmed with joy that time was not much of an importance. We were just adjusting to our new schedules and the urgency to get things complete, the way we were so very accustomed to in the great United States, was not something on our minds AT FIRST. Then our hardwired brains of urgency settled in and the okay let's get this shit done... began to rear its head.
The first week we immediately decided a new bed was a must. If we were going to travel and work we needed a good bed! We went to the very well known department store here called El Corte Inglés. It really is an incredible store. 8 floors of cosas (things). It truly is a one stop shop. From groceries to pet store, to makeup, to furniture, to hardware, to electronics... you name it and an El Corte Inglés associate could help you find it. Not to mention the most friendly customer service I have ever received in a store EVER! We went to the 5th floor and began to look at beds. We played on a few and that is when we met Francis! Oh sweet amazing Francis. She spoke only Spanish and she and I talked back and forth to try to understand what it was we were looking for. When I began to talk to her about delivery and cost she knew we were serious and called for a translator. We explained our situation to the translator and she agreed that sleeping in a bed that had a broken bed frame was horrible. Francis threw her hands up in the air and said No No No! She told the translator to tell us what having a bad bed would do and she would call the manufacturer to have a rush order delivered to us immediately. We were in shock at her reaction and were happy she had a sense of urgency to save our backs. She called her store manager that afternoon and told them we were a rush delivery. Normally these things take about two weeks to process but Francis made it happen. She told me we would receive a call on Monday with date and time for delivery. First thing 9:30am Monday morning lo and behold I received a call from the El Corte Inglés delivery department and they said they would be there tomorrow at 3pm. The very next day they were there at 3 with our new bed. Trey and I slept like a dream that night and lay awake talking about our incredible experience in Madrid. "Wow they sure do get things done quickly here in Madrid and so relaxed about it...." Those were our famous last words.
Finding our way around and getting into a daily schedule was fun to discover. We have had our challenges, one being the language barrier, and the and most important lack of urgency. The mantra if there is a will there is a way...was repeated over and over to each other through the remainder of the next 3 weeks to keep us motivated to get settled. As we tried many ways to achieve what we thought would be an easy task of hooking up basic internet turned into several hours of conversation, 4 meetings, 3 different stores and 3 attempts of installation. Just when we thought we had everything we needed another bump in the road occurred. It felt very similar to the Consulate process. With the small difference of no one giving you any information at all with the Consulate, where in this situation they would give you so much conflicting information if would make your head spin. Finally, after meeting our property manager the 3rd time, the internet supply company granted us our wish of having internet for our house, and a land line. It is much more expensive to call even within the country on our prepaid cell phones than it would be to call a local number on a land line, which is free! I know, strange, right!?
Our property manager here was kind enough to let us use his Spanish bank account and we pay him directly for our internet, which was already included in our rent. So in the end our internet was in my name because he had too many accounts, and we used his account because we did not have a Spanish bank account YET. That is another post at a later day! I will also be posting pictures of our little apartment here in Madrid and the contact information of the man behind all the work to get us set up without a hitch; David Farmer with ReserveBookGo. All in all, we finally received internet and are now working on joining a mobile contract to avoid monthly fees. Moral of the story: persistence is key and if not today there is always mañana!
Just down the street from our little apartment is a plantas y flores shop. I wanted to make the house feel more homey-like and what is a better way than plants. I went in the first week we were here and in my broken Spanglish introduced myself to the clerk...here about 99% of the time the "clerk or cashier" is the owner as well. It's fantastic! In this case he was. We made small talk and he was very helpful in helping me select the best plants for our new digs. He first told me how difficult it is to keep real plants in this hot dry climate and showed me some nice artificial plants. I insisted on real and he of course was willing to show me some I wouldn't end up killing. I selected 2 greens, both of which I managed to keep alive in Charleston so thought I'd try them here.I also chose a flowering plant. He warned me that the flower budding one would be difficult but I was up for the challenge.
Needless to say the flower budding one slowly began to die. I tried everything: water, sunlight, drying out, singing to it... I mean, everything. Two weeks later I went back to my new friends’ store. He said immediately when I walked in..."Ahhh Hola Chelsea...you need to replace the flower budding plant." I was shocked he remembered my name, much less what I purchased. We laughed and I told him what happened. I asked him why my flower plant died. He asked me how I watered it?...I demonstrated how you would typically water a plant very sarcastically...I mean, how else do you water a plant? I thought. He showed me how to water budding flower plants before you pot them. You sit the plant dirt and roots in water right up to the stem. It made total sense! As he rang me up my new green and pot he said in his best English "Chelsea, try this one too it is gift for you". He asked me to follow him and took me and the gift to the back, where he waters and trims all of his plants, and showed me how to take care of this special little plant. The room was full of huge tubs of water. He demonstrsted and told me to do that with his gift once a week. I thanked him again for his tips and went home to plant our new addition and his thoughtful gift.
When I emptied the old pot with the dead flowering plant I noticed all the water was sitting in the bottom of the pot and the roots and plant were dry as a bone. All the watering I did went straight to the bottom, not watering the plant at all. So I did my new trick and placed all of our plants on the kitchen bay window sill for some sunlight. All of a sudden I hear a women below yelling out her window into the plaza. Saying ”¡Ay Dios mío!” (OMG). I lean out a little and see her shaking her hands in the air still yelling out her window. That's when I realized she was yelling at me. My freshly watered plants were drip drying down our window sill onto her clean window sill, and going into her kitchen. I quickly snatched my plants and hid while she continued to rant and frantically drying her sill. I couldn’t help but laugh, because the only thing other than Oh my God, I could make out was...you need to buy artificial plants. I looked out again later to notice no interior units had real plants sitting on their window sills except for one lady. I closely watched at her window to see how she watered it. One day she reached out with a spray bottle to water it...oh what a glorious thought!
Lesson learned. From now on I will continue to have real plants in my house, but I just will need to water them inside or spritz them if they are on the ledge to avoid señora and her melt downs, from a silly American not knowing how to take care of her plants while living in an interior unit apartment. The simple things right?
Sunday Funday was upon us and we were ready to see more of our city’s fantastic views and taste some more of their finest cuisine! Madrid is known for their terraces and rooftop terraces, so we thought there would be no better way to spend our Sunday rooftop style.We began our search for a terrace thinking maybe there were a few we could try out in Madrid, right?! Much to our surprise during our search we found that there are over 200 terraces in Madrid. I have linked some really great articles and links to find your way through these terraces. We were ecstatic and hungry so we hit the ground running in trying to pick just one we were going to try out. We contacted one of our fellow foodie friends, and asked her if she would like to join us for this experience. She was more than pleased to accept our offer. We made reservations online for 3:00pm, so we decided to go a little early to see what all the talk was about these rooftop terraces.
When we walked out onto this unbelievable rooftop it felt as if we were in a movie. The atmosphere was hip, trendy, and modern club style. People lounging under a canopy with a drink in their hand, as the mist cooled them off from the sun beating down on them. After a long first week of classes for Trey and Kathryn, and my first week of work, this was exactly what the doctor ordered. As we lounged in the shade I felt weightless. It was as if all of my worries had been lifted away. I think the beverages we were sipping on might have had something to do with that too, but more or less it was this place! Trey had Gin and Tonic, Kathryn had a cerveza, and I enjoyed a piña colda!
We decided that afternoon that we were going to create a challenge. "The Madrid Terrance and Rooftop Challenge!" Trey, some fellow foodies and I will be traveling Madrid and rating our experience! Feel free to make any recommendations or join in the fun with our Challenge. Just message us and we are there! We thought if Madrid had some much to offer when it came to fun, places like this, we could help with the local economy for sure.
Therefore, Tartanroof is our very first review! Tartan will be difficult to beat, with this being our first experience here in Madrid. Not to mention, the incredible views, the refreshing cocktails, the misting lounge areas, and the supreme cuisine. The food was incredible, from the beet puree served with pita, which was a refreshing starter they served before we received 1st course. To the local fresh vegetables, and the spicy spin on the tomato sauce with the crab. We simply cannot say enough about this succulent comida. The scallops were cooked to perfection and I cannot forget to talk about the desert. It was similar to a molten lava cake, but severed in a cup with fresh made cream and caramel drizzle. Normally we do not get desert, but this was worth the calories and the cup was scraped down to the very last mortal. This meal left our bellies full and months watering!We give Tartan five stars and two thumbs up! We are looking forward to our next stop we will keep you posted as we explore the foodie paradise of the terrances in Madrid, Spain.