Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One month down

Today marks my 1 month anniversary in Spain. The past two weeks have gone pretty well. I am beginning to feel like I have routine and can visualize how I will be spending my time. The only frustrating part is that in the last two weeks I have had to miss three days of schools for Fulbright obligations. Two days were spent attending an orientation for all the English TAs who are not just from the US but England, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Currently Madrid funds over 550 TAs to work in their public schools of which 40 are Fulbrights. The only problem with the orientation was that it was complete repeat of the orientation I had received from Fulbright which bothered me because I would have preferred to spend the time getting to know my students. Tomorrow I will have to miss class again in order to be fingerprinted for my residency card. According to our program director this process should not take long but I am not holding my breath as I have learned that the word efficiency is not part of the Spanish vocabulary.

Overall, things at my school are going very well. I am very impressed with the level of English my students speak. I am realizing the difficult part about my role is going to be defining my purpose. As part of my contract I am supposed to assist in 16 periods of week. 8 periods are spent with English classes and 8 are spent with social science classes. Because there are two sections of bilingual classes for all four grades, this means I spend one period a week with each English class and one period a week with each social science class. I am struggling with this set up because I am working with 7 different teachers and I feel like a visitor in the classes rather than a permanent teacher. Many of the teachers do not have lesson plans or syllabi they can provide me so most of the time I find out what the class is doing when I walk into the classroom. However, I feel awkward about taking charge because I don’t know how the teacher generally runs the classroom, what material they have covered in the previous week, and I don’t know the students that well so I don’t know how to make them learn most effectively. I am sure this will improve with time but right now I am overwhelmed trying to learn the students’ names and figuring out the different norms and rules each teacher insists upon.

Two Saturday, I went to Avila which is an old Spanish town which about an hour and half away from Madrid. The old part of the city is surrounded by a large wall that was built around 1100 to protect it from invaders. For many years, Avila was a battleground between Christians and Muslims and changed hands many times. We ended up having really nice weather which was great because Avila has one of the highest elevations in Spain and it often rains and can even snow there. In Avila, I walked on top of the wall that surrounds the city, got to go into a beautiful cathedral, and went inside a museum dedicated to Saint Theresa of Avila. While seeing this historic site, it finally sunk in that I am in Spain getting to experience and see things that I could never do in the United States. The whole time I was in Avila I kept thinking to myself that the wall we were visiting was built long before Columbus “discovered” America and that Spain’s history goes back so far.

This Saturday, I went to a screening of the presidential debate. While it aired on Friday night in the states due to time change issues, the rebroadcast was not until the following evening. The rebroadcast was held in a building called Casa de la America (American House) and was put on by Democrats Abroad. At the event, there were also representatives from the US embassy passing out absentee ballot requests in addition representatives from a group called Spain for McCain. While the majority of the audience was Democrats, there were some Republicans in attendance. Furthermore, I also met a couple of Irish and English people who were interested in seeing the debate in the original format instead of watching dubbed clips on the news. Overall, I had a great time watching the debate though it drove me crazy when both of the candidates would side step questions and instead deviate toward preplanned talking points. I must admit I am really excited to see the VP debate which should be very interesting.

Last night, I went over to one of my friend’s house for Rosh Hashanah. In my program there are five other Jewish girls (overall there are about twice as many females than males in the Fulbright program) and no Jewish guys. One of the girls found a synagogue that we could go to for services. This was actually pretty difficult. Most of the synagogues do not have websites, and they do not list their addresses online out of fear for security. When we arrived at the synagogue we had to enter in groups of two so that we could be screened by security. We had to have our actual passport, no a photocopy and they questioned us about why we wanted to attend services. After passing inspection, we were asked whether we wanted to attend the Ashkenazi or Sephardic service and had to pay 20 Euros in order to attend the High Holy Day services. We went to the Ashkenazi service which was conducted in a Conservadox manner. Men sat in the middle section and women were on the left and right side separated by a piece of lattice. There were many American students studying abroad at the service in addition to members of the synagogue and there was a range in clothing styles. Some women wore pants and blouse while others were in skirts and one girl was wearing a strapless dress. The service was conducted by a Chabbad rabbi and only lasted 40 minutes. The prayers were done in Hebrew but the announcements were done in Spanish and English. There was no sermon, just an update on Temple activities. As we left, we noticed even more security outside the building. The temple is located on a dead end street and the police had barricaded the street off so that no one could enter it once the services had started. I am not sure whether all of this security was necessary and maybe I am a little naïve in thinking that the temple should be more welcoming and accessible for visitors.

After services ended we went to my friend’s house for dinner which was delicious. Everyone had made a dish and we had plenty of food. There was salad, apples and honey, potato kuggel, chicken, fish, challah, and apple crisp. We sat around discussing our experiences in Spain and kept eating and talking until all the food was gone. I had a great time and it was nice to feel part of a community after just arriving one month ago. I ended up leaving my friends house around midnight feeling fully satisfied and looking forward to a good new year.

Friday, September 19, 2008

First day of school

Today was the first day I spent with the students. I taught in the 3 classes today and gave a presentation on myself which showed pictures of me, my house, college, and California and New York landmarks. I was very impressed at the level of English the students understood. I tried to speak slowly but most of the students had a high level of comprehension and were able to ask follow questions on my presentation rather than asking me to repeat something because they did not understand it. This is quite a relief because earlier in the week I had talked with some of the primary school TAs who said despite the fact that some of their students were in the fourth or fifth year of bilingual education they still did not understand basic questions. One story that stuck in my head was that after going over vocabulary relating to the classroom, the TA asked what is this pointing at a desk and the students responded “This”. It appears the students in the primary program are used to just repeating what the teacher says and are not really comprehending that much English. On the other hand, the students I have in the secondary program feel pretty comfortable in English. While they make mistakes, I am able to figure out what they mean and they are able to listen very well.

Most of my students thought it was very funny that my cat was named Kittie and that I live in a town called Los Altos which means the talls in English because I am clearly not very tall. This year I will be working ESO (educacion secundaria obligatoria) 1, 2, 3, and 4 which is equivalent to grades 7-10 in the US. At my school, there are also bachillerato grades 1 and 2 (US equivalent grades 11, and 12) but I will not be working with the older students because bachillerato does not have a formal bilingual program. Today, I was with ESO grades 1, 2, and 4. It is quite interesting to see the differences in demeanor between the students. The younger ones shout out questions and are not afraid to make mistakes while the older students are more reserved and think things through. Almost all the classes asked me if I know any celebrities because I am from California and if I have experienced an earthquake or hurricane. Students in Spain are also interested about sharks and school lockers because they have seen them in American movies but are not familiar with them in Spain. I was also surprised by how interested my students were in American politics. They asked me who I was planning on voting for and when I asked them who they preferred the overwhelming majority like Barack Obama.

Today, I also received my bank card in the mail. This was very exciting because I have heard horror stories about them getting lost in the mail and it taking months in order to receive a replacement. Plus banks are only open until two so if I have any issues it will be hard for me to get to a bank because they are only open when I would be a school.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Beginning of School and Ikea

Yesterday, I went to my visit my school again. School officially starts tomorrow, Wednesday, but Jim (the other Fulbrighter who I will be working with) and I went to meet the director of the bilingual program. We received school calendars, which is helpful however we have not received our work schedule. It turns out they have not even finalized the teachers schedule so they cannot assign Jim and I to classes until this complete because we will be assisting specific teachers. Jim and I are considered English teaching assistants (but it is not abbreviated ETA because that is the name of the Bosque terrorist group in the north of Spain).

During the meeting, I learned more about my school. There are 800 students and about 70 teachers. Each grade is divided into 4 or 5 classes/sections of which only 2 participate in the bilingual program. The bilingual program in Spain only started 10 years ago with a small group of schools and has recently expanded. As a result, only a small percentage of current secondary students received bilingual education in primary school. Therefore, only part of the school is prepared for bilingual secondary education. Jim and I will both spend 8 periods a week with the bilingual English classes. Jim will spend 8 more periods in the bilingual science classes while I will spend 8 more hours with the bilingual social science classes. In the bilingual program, only science, social science, art and English are taught in English while math, Spanish literature, music, and PE are taught in Spanish.

While discussing the teachers I will be working with, my coordinator casually commented that there are normally two bilingual social science teachers, but that as Monday (two days before school begins) they had only hired one teacher. I am trying to go with the flow and think everything will work out but this definitely going to be a last minute hire. In the Spanish school system, it is normal for teachers to be moved from school to school every year until they are placed permanently. However, there are not many teachers who are qualified to teach bilingual social science so it may be a difficult spot to fill!

After meeting with my school, I met up with my roommate Liz to go to IKEA to buy stuff for the apartment. IKEA is located in the suburbs of Madrid but is still accessible by metro. The comforter that my landed provided looks like something an old lady would have (no offense) so I wanted to buy a new one. I figure if I am going to be here 9 months I need to make the place my own, plus Fulbright does give us some money for start up costs. In order to get to Ikea, I took the metro out into the suburbs. Once you enter Ikea, it feels like you are in the States. The layout is pretty much the same. There are two stories with furniture one level and household items on the other. While there, Liz and I bought more than we expected because as we walked through the store we would realize more stuff are apartment lacked such as measuring cups, bath mats, hangers etc. By the time, Liz and I checked out of Ikea we looked like gypsies but still took the metro home. Both of were carrying our purse and a huge blue Ikea bag.

Currently, I am posting this blog post a trendy ice cream shop that has white leather chairs and all the décor is in brown, pink, and white. Right now, my flat mates and I are stealing internet from our neighbors, but it is unreliable and we can only get skype to work so in order to use the free wifi internet today, I had to suck it up and buy some ice cream.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Banking Adventures

After seeing over six apartments in two days, my friend, Liz, and I settled on an apartment that we were both excited about living in. I naively thought the hard part of the apartment hunting was over. I soon learned that for foreigners there is an added layer of stress: paying your landlord. Here is the basic problem we ran into: we have the money in our American bank accounts but needed to get a Spanish bank account or check in order to pay our landlord.

Last Saturday, we went to meet our landlord (dueno) to put down a 500 euro deposit for him to hold it for us until Monday when we had access to the banks. Apartments here go really quickly and a lot of university students are returning from summer vacation around now so it is important to act quickly once you find a place. On Saturday, I planned to go to Citibank to withdraw some Euros. While I had come with some start up cash, I had already gone through most of it through purchases of a cell phone, metro month pass, and cab ride to the residencia. It turns out the first two Citibanks I went to had broken atms. I have never encountered this problem in the states but it appears to be fairly common in Spain because I have already had this problem on two separate occasions.

After paying our landlord on Saturday to hold the apartment, Liz and I planned on getting the rest of the money on Monday. Neither of us felt comfortable paying the rest of our rent and deposit in cash so we planned on getting a cashier’s check or wiring the money to our landlords account. We went to the bank starting at 9:30 am. First we were told that we could not open an account the same day and get a cashier’s check. It turns out that even though Citibank exists in the US and Spain, bank employees in Spain cannot pull up information regarding your American accounts. For all intensive purposes, they are separate unrelated banks except for the fact that you get charged fewer withdrawal fees if you use a Citibank atm abroad. While discussing our options with employees at the Spanish Citibank we were constantly asked why we could not just pay the landlord in cash. Both Liz and I have lived on campus all four years and never rented an apartment in the states let alone abroad, so we wanted a paper trail in case anything went wrong and we didn’t want to be walking around the city with 3,000 euros. One employee went so far as to write a hand written receipt for us to have our landlord signed when we pay him.

Still this did not sit right with us so we decided to try to wire the money to my landlord by going online. I figured it couldn’t be too complicated considering the fact that my landlord as a Citibank Spanish account. There is a lot of conflicting information regarding what is on the Citibank website, what customer service will tell you, and the employees in the US say. Both online and in the American Citibank, my mom and I were told the wire would go through the same day if it was going to any Citibank account. However, after starting the transaction online, I had to call in to the customer service line to confirm my identity and at the end they say it takes 2 days to 2 weeks. Now two weeks is unacceptable when you are trying to pay a landlord! What I have come to understand is that most people quote the time it leaves the US Citibank office however the process can take 2 days to 2 weeks before it shows up in the other person’s account.

Having cancelled the wire transfer and after spending close to thirty minutes on the phone with customer service, Liz and I went back to the Spanish Citibank office. After talking with a senior level employee, she said we could open a Spanish Citibank account, withdraw money from my American Citibank account from the atm, the redeposit the money in the Spanish Citibank account and have the wire the money to my landlord instantaneously. This seemed like a great solution although we still encountered a couple of problems. When I gave the employee my phone number, she said I must give them a landline. I don’t have a landline. So Liz ran back the residencia about three blocks away and found the Fulbright commission’s phone number and we gave that even though she knew it was not my correct number. After providing most of the information the lady needed, I went to the atm in the office to withdraw my money. Well the screen was all black, the screen did not even display a message that it was broken like the other broken atms that I have seen. After being told it was rebooting and waiting close to twenty minutes, Liz and I decided to go to another Citibank to withdraw the money. By this point, I had moved the bulk of my money in my checking account so that I could withdraw it all from one account. Well, for some reason, when I put my atm card into the machine at new Citibank location, my joint checking account that I share with my mom did not show up. I have since learned joint accounts don’t show up on the atm machine. So despite having found a functional atm machine, I could not withdraw my money because the account was not displayed under account information.

Thoroughly frustrated, we went back to the residencia and the original Citibank we started at. I went straight to my computer so that I could transfer the funds from my joint account to my individual savings account so that this money would show up on the atm while Liz ran back to the original Citibank to see if the atm was now working or if we would need to find a third Citibank to withdraw the money from. Luckily the atm at the original Citibank was now working so I began to withdraw my money. The atm does not let you to enter the amount of money you want to withdraw but rather you must choose from preset amounts. All told I needed to withdraw 3000 euros to cover Liz and I for our first month rent and two months deposit which seems to be standard. (Before this ordeal began, Liz and I thought using just one of our banks and having one of us repay the other would be the easiest and because Citibank is in Madrid this seemed like a logical choice to use my account). I soon learned that you can only withdraw 900 euros on each account, for a total of 1800 euros (900 from savings, 900 from checking despite being told by Citibank in the US that I could withdraw $5,000 US dollars on one day while in Spain). Realizing this was the best we could do, I walked back up to the lady who helped me open my Spanish Citibank account. At this point, it was close to 1:30 and Spanish banks close at 2 and do not reopen after siesta and to top it off, the next day was a holiday so we needed to complete this transaction within the thirty minutes remaining in the bank day.

The people at the Spanish Citibank office were quite helpful despite the fact that they could have treated us like stupid Americans not gone out of their way to help us figure out a solution. Now at this point, I have 1800 euros in my wallet but no atm card for the Spanish account that I just opened (it takes about a week for the card to get mailed to you) so I had to walk up the bank teller who was able to deposit it for me after I showed him my new account number and passport. After counting the money which I had just withdrawn from my American account, he deposited it and then wired the money to my landlord with just minutes to spare. Luckily, my landlord is very understanding, so he is letting us pay the remainder of our deposit on Wednesday when the banks reopen and I can withdraw more money and have it wired to the landlord.

Despite all of this trouble, I am now in possession of the keys to my apartment and I am quite happy that everything has worked out. From this experience, I have learned that nothing goes as smoothly as you think it should and despite being part of a global economy, many banks are still very localized not prepared for international transactions. Needless to say after this adventure, I went home and took a long siesta.

Below are some pictures of my apartment.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cultural Differences

Recently, I have spent a lot of time reading the blogs of the Minerva Fellows from Union College. They are a group of 8 recent graduates who are working abroad in third world countries with different NGOs and some of the most interesting posts have been about cultural differences they have encountered. While Spain is not a third world county and has a lot in common with the United States there are some differences. Some are just a different way of doing things while others take some time to get used to. For example, in grocery stores, the customer is responsible for printing the label for the produce before walking up to the cash register instead of having the cashier enter in a produce code like in the United States. These kind of small differences I find interesting because it makes you realize there are so many ways to do a simple task the American way is not the only way. Below are some other minor differences that I have noticed.
• Almost all stores are closed on Sundays. The only ones that are not closed are in tourist areas such as Sol.
• Tobacco sales are regulated by the state so you buy cigarettes from specific tobacco stores which also sell phone cards and month long metro passes.
• Very few stores open before 10 am and then they close at 2 and reopen between 4 and 5 and then stay open until 7 or 8.
• Often times hamburguesas (hamburgers) are served just as the meat patty and come with another entrée but are not served with a bun, lettuce, and tomato
• Most of the time water is not served with ice, so it often takes a couple of glasses of water to quench your thirst
• When I went to visit my school, I was informed the cafeteria only sells snacks and drinks because the students go home at 2:30 and eat lunch then so they don’t need to worry about providing lunch for the students at school.
• There are tons of plazas where people will just sit and relax. People are not tied to a clock and they leisurely enjoy their dinner and drinks.
• The proper way to greet friends and people you are just meeting is with a kiss on each cheek
• Almost no one has a clothes dryer, it is normal to hang your clothes outside to dry. I think I will enjoy having one less appliance to use but I am afraid after a couple of washing my jeans will stretch out and I may need to find a dryer.
• Not only apartments have heating, so it is important to ask before renting especially considering that it can snow in Madrid
• Time is kept on a 24 hr clock so I constantly find myself doing the math to figure out what time it is
• Tortilla is not a typical Mexican tortilla but rather a Spanish omelet with potatoes inside

Here some things that may take longer to adjust to.
• I am slightly nervous that I have not seen any good Chinese restaurants or bagel stores. For a Chinese American Jew, this is an essential part of my diet. I saw one Chinese restaurant that did not look promising and another chain restaurant called Take a Wok. Hopefully, I will be able to find some more options.
• Surprisingly, I am pretty much adjusted to the daily schedule here. Lunch is served around 2 pm and dinner close to 9 pm and no one goes out before midnight. The only annoying this is the metro closes at 1:30 which means you either have to take a cab home or stay out until 6:30 when the metro reopens. So far, I have opted for the latter and taken cabs back to the residencia the two times I have gone out.
• Jamon (ham) is the staple of the diet, I am trying to open myself to new experiences and try most of the food that is served at the residencia but I am not used to eating much red meat.
• I am sure it is going to take a while to get used to the Spanish lisp and for me to remember to use the vosotros form.

Overall my adjustment is going pretty smoothly and I have not had experienced major culture shock; however it is finally sinking in that I will be living here for 9 months.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Piso Hunting

Things are still going well. Each day new people arrive and it has been really fun to meet them. It is also really interesting how a person goes from being a new person one day and the next day they are showing the latest arrival around town. Everyone is really nice and fun to hang out with. I get the sense that last years Fulbright group was not as integrated but almost all of the people I have met so far seem like people I could develop close friendships with. Everyone has such diverse interests ranging from law, medicine, environment, teaching, and public policy. Tonight we all met up for dinner at the risidencia and then we went out for sangria. The sangria had a hint of nutmeg or cinnamon which tasted delicious but was different from the sangria I have had in the states.

Currently I am staying in what is considered a college dormitory. All the rooms are singles and it is great that they have internet access because it would be extremely difficult to find an apartment without it. Furthermore the rooms have a sink in them which at first I thought was kind of unnecessary. However I have come to enjoy it because I can brush my teeth and wash my face without having to leaving my room.

Right now I am in the midst of my piso (apartment) search. While I have not signed an agreement yet, currently I am planning on living with Americans. Initially I thought it would be great to live with Spaniards to practice my Spanish but many of the shared living situations end being with a family or a group of friends so you end up feeling like a guest in your own apartment and it can be awkward using the common spaces. Therefore, Liz and I have mainly been looking at furnished apartments that are for rent. The process is a little overwhelming considering I have only lived in college housing and my house so I have never been through this process before. Plus it is hard to figure out a budget because at best I am taking guesses about what utilities, food, and travel costs will be. Some important questions I have learned to ask are whether the apartment has heating. It can snow here yet not all places have heating so this is high on my priority list along with being close to the metro. I don’t mind if I have slightly longer commute as long as I feel safe walking to and from the metro at night when I go with friends. Other things on my wish list are sitting room or area where I can have friends over and where potential visitors could crash, an elevator, a quiet street (they seem to pick up trash at 3 in the morning on the street my residencia is located at), and good windows/sunlight. I am not going to discuss any specific apartments until I sign a lease because I don’t want to jinx anything. But once I have housing, I will post pictures and tell more about the process.

Today I went to visit my school. I think I was quite lucky to be placed at San Juan Bautista. It is a secondary school which is comparable to our junior and high school system. The first four years are considered mandatory (educacion secundario obligario) while the last two years (bachillerato) are optional for those who want to go to university. The school is really well maintained, probably better than 80% the schools in most urban areas. It is newly painted, has lots a windows, two computer labs, a library, dedicated classrooms for science labs. I will be teaching English and social studies (in English). I am definitely going to have to learn more about Spanish and European history as that is the main focus of the curriculum. I have been told I need to speak only English to the students and there is a weird mix of Spanish and English between the faculty. The Spanish teachers who teach classes in English want to practice their English with the Fulbright teachers because we are native speakers but in large groups it is easier/quicker to speak in Spanish.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Getting settled

For the last two days, I have been settling in and getting to know my surroundings. Yesterday, I took the metro to the school I will be teaching to get an idea of the commute. It took me about twenty minutes so now I have an idea of what neighborhoods I want to target and which neighborhoods are too far away from my school. I also took the metro to Sol which the center city where Plaza Mayor is located and where a lot of tourists. I am beginning to know how to get around which is helping me relax and get adjusted. The metro is very easy to use and most the places I need to go to are close to metro stops. Compared to the subway system in mahattan, I think it is a lot cleaner and most of the metro car seemed to be relatively new and in nice condition. The best part about the metro is that there are escalators that go up and down to the platform so you don’t have to take the stairs which is great for me because I can only take stairs one at time.

Yesterday Liz, someone I know through a mutual friend, arrived and we have discussed the possibility of living together. While our schools are opposite sides of the city our metro lines are close together, and there are a couple neighborhoods that would work well for both of us. Today, I am earnestly starting the apartment hunt emailing people on various websites that have put ads up. Hopefully I will hear some positive news within a day or two. Keep your fingers crossed.

Today has been really good so far. MY LUGGAGE ARRIVED! Furthermore, today I got an abono which is an ID card necessary in order to buy the month long metro pass. The month long pass only costs 43 euros which is very expensive. In the morning, I also went over the Fulbright Commission office and met one of the people in charge of the program named Paula. She seems really nice and friendly. This afternoon I plan going to Vodafone in order to purchase a cell phone. One of the girls in the Fulbright office went to all the cell phone carriers and compared the plans. I think Vodafone will be the cheapest but cell phone contracts are difficult enough to understand in English that I am sure a little of it will go over my head when someone describes in Spanish.

Right now, I am using the internet provided by the residencia. It uses a proxy server and a couple people including my self have had trouble logging onto skype and AIM. Someone said it may be due the proxy server but I know nothing about these things so I am just going to wait until someone figures it out. So for right now, I have access to email, gchat, facebook, and facebook chatting but I will not be on skype in the short run.

I haven’t really started taking pictures yet but once I have anything interesting I will post them. So far, one the biggest thing that I miss from the states is having ice in my water. The water they serve at the residencia, which provides three meals a day, is served at room temperature and it has been in the 80s since I have arrived so a cool class of water would be appreciated. I am slowly getting used to the daily schedule. Breakfast is served 7-9:30, lunch from 1:30-3:30, and dinner 9-10:30. The other interesting thing about my housing is that it is normally an all male dorm during the year. However, most of the universities start classes in the beginning of October so for the month of September they rent out the residencia to international students. As a result, the bathrooms are not labeled male and female. That is it for now, but please let me know if you have any specific questions.

Monday, September 1, 2008

I have arrived...but not my suitcase

After close to twenty four hours of travel, I have arrived in Madrid. My journey started early Sunday morning with a 6:20 flight from San Jose to Chicago. After a three hour layover in Chicago, I flew to Toronto and then waited another three hours for my flight to Madrid. All told my flights were pretty smooth, I was able to sleep on the plane, and I was even seated in the emergency exit row for the flight to Madrid so I had tons of leg room! Considering the state airlines today, I guess it is not surprising that I was not offered free airplane food until twelve hours into my journey on my flight from Toronto to Madrid. My flight to Chicago offered a buy on board option which I passed up because I was sleeping had packed tons of snacks in anticipation of a lack of food.

When I arrived in the Madrid Airport, I was quite tired and looking forward to a good nap. I figured my first cultural event should be taking a siesta. However, my plans were slightly delayed when one of my bags did not arrive which seemed odd to me because one of my suitcases had made it and I had long layovers at both my stops. From my flight, five people did not receive their luggage, two of which were Spaniards. We spent the next two and a half hours walking around the airport trying to find the correct place to file a claim. I was able to look through the luggage in the back storage room and have filed a claim. Hopefully, my suitcase will come on the flight from Toronto to Madrid that arrives tomorrow morning.

After filing my claim, I took a taxi to my housing. I was kind of nervous about this part because I know cabs in some places are known to rip tourists off and not take direct routes. My driver was really nice and even complimented me on Spanish! Most importantly, the residencia seemed to know who I was and had a room ready for me. This was huge relief because last Friday night I was going through all my paperwork and I could not find confirmation regarding my housing for the first two weeks. Furthermore, because I arrived Monday morning there was no one I could talk to confirm my housing with before I left for my flight. Needless to say, I had a minor melt down on Friday night, but luckily everything worked out. I guess most of the Spaniards are not like my dad and do not confirm everything ahead of time.

Since getting to my housing, a college dorm room (that is no where near as nice as Wells House), I have spent the afternoon relaxing/sleeping. I think all the stress of packing, saying goodbyes, traveling, and losing my luggage really got t me because I passed out for three and half hours and still felt exhausted. Tomorrow I plan on taking the Metro to my school that I will be teaching at in order to get a better sense of the commute, walking around town, possibly getting a Spanish cell phone, beginning the apartment hunt, and most importantly calling Air Canada to see if they have found my suitcase.

Overall, despite the luggage set back, I am feeling relatively calm and all my worries regarding getting to my housing have been assuaged.