ciento volando

travel, stories, and other flights of fancy

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Chapter ???

School’s out for this academic year, and I find myself once again in limbo. Whilst the kids have finished exams and are clearly on their long summer break, I’m in a slightly confusing no man’s land between three cities, some random work/life/bureaucratic ‘to-dos’, and a deceptive amount of free time (which sometimes feels like too little, sometimes too much, but mostly just never fully presents itself).

Having 3.5 months school ‘holidays’ is definitely a blessing and a curse. At the moment I’m holding on desperately to a dwindling number of private classes, to see how far I can stretch them in to the summer. Unfortunately not many people have ‘ganas’ to study once the term wraps up and the heat kicks in. But fortunately I do have just enough students to get me through the next few weeks, and whilst these classes get in the way of most other plans, they also break up the day and give me a good reason to keep myself showered and sober :-P

So other than sitting in the sun and staring longingly at frosty beer taps, how else am I planning on filling this idle, gaping, gap in commitments? And what’s on the other side of it?

On the other side of it is Madrid, where I’m due to start work in a primary school next October. I know little about the school, other than that it’s conveniently located just inside the Zone A metro perimeter, the website is pretty, the students look to be suspiciously non-diverse (did they pick out all the blond ones for the photo shoot?), and they’re terrible at responding to emails (which is not surprising). Despite my initial preference being to work in a secondary school, now that I’ve received my placement I’m starting to get pretty excited about teaching kids again, and I’m hoping that infantíl (pre-primary) will be included in the bilingual program. I wouldn’t mind another year of finger painting red apples and yellow bananas with three year olds – I’ve missed the little ones!

But October is a long way away. At the moment I’m hanging tight in Segovia for as long as my private classes continue, whilst sorting out the move to Madrid (find a flat, renew visa, start carting stuff eastward). Other projects include trying to get the sticky blu-tack residue off my walls, finding creative ways to use up all my dry goods and condiments, and filling any other down-time with creative writing (not self-indulgent blog posts). Kayaking with a big group of 14 year olds is also on the cards.

In early July an Australian friend is coming to visit in Segovia and help me polish off all the alcohol, because glass is just too heavy to move house with. (Books are also heavy, if only she could help me quickly read them all!)

Then in mid July, providing I don’t get cold feet/chicken out/acojonarse, I’m setting off on the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage/series of walking routes which start all over Spain and Europe and finish in Santiago de Compostela, in the North West corner of Spain. I’ll be doing the Northern route, starting from Irún and walking some 800km along the coast, via places like San Sebastian and Guernica… hopefully all the way to Santiago, and hopefully at a fast enough pace to make it home in time for my flight to Australia in late August.

Most of September will be spent in Melbourne, where my little brother is getting married, and lots of people are turning 30, and I will be undoing six weeks of wholesome hiking with just over 3 weeks of solid socialising (if my last trip home was anything to go by).

And then it’s back to Madrid for the next chapter (or has that started already?)…and continuing the continuous cycle of constant movement but no real progress in any direction. Perhaps I will take another Spanish exam in November, providing that the trauma of the last one was worth it (still no news).

So, friends, family and random readers, that is the short term plan for the moment. It’s pretty much my long term plan as well, and of course, subject to change. I might experience an epiphany on the Camino and decide to become a nun of the cloister, or swim to Canada, or study economics. Stranger things have happened. But for now, if you are in Melbourne, keep warm, and I look forward to seeing you in August/September.

Everyone else, Madrid is a great meeting place from October onwards!



going nowhere, gladly

Buenos días, Señor Cigüeña
Sometimes, small changes make a big difference. Sometimes, no change can be a good thing too. Let’s hope so anyway, because right now I’m kinda going nowhere.

The past weeks have been a little hectic and a little uncertain… with some minor hiccups and stress factors, that lead to number of broken glasses/burnt saucepans/keys-locked-inside-the-house type incidents, and the feeling that nothing was working out right… but nor was anything actually wrong. House hunting, work, exams, money, petty arguments, bureaucracy, failing technology… these are all normal challenges, that normal, mature people deal with all the time.

A nine month winter, and a sadistic, irrational, trumpet-playing housemate, are not.

No pasa nada, all that has passed.

I’m not sure if it’s luck, or patience, or just the way of the world, but suddenly everything has taken a turn for the better. The sun has literally, finally come out*. I passed my Spanish exams, finished work at the high school, and received (officially) my work placement for the coming course. My job is thankfully secure, and my visa is on its way. By Tuesday, I’ll be a legal resident again. And I’ve even got a new phone, that’s capable of making calls!

But best of all, in recent news, I’ve found the perfect studio apartment.

Perfect – ish. It doesn’t have a kitchen. Or a washing machine. Or a couch. But it does have a gorgeous view of old Segovia and the back of some endearingly crumbled flats, where storks rest on the chimney tops and make curious beak-clicking sounds. The apartment itself is actually a done-up attic. That means the walls are impractically slanty and the space was not exactly designed for living in. But it’s clean and mould-free (mould is a problem in these parts), and who needs a real kitchen when you have a fridge, microwave and hotplate in a (slanty) cupboard? I’m developing a system for washing dishes in the (unfortunately benchless and drawless) bathroom, and can just move the hotplate to the windowsill whenever I cook fish. I’m yet to tackle the laundry situation, but the landlady (who is awesome) has ordered me a washing machine and perhaps I can last without washing clothes until it gets here (I’m not too sure when this will be). How wonderfully romantically bohemian. I might have to crank the gin back up to absinthe, or cut off my ear or something, just to complete the picture.

In terms of the usual moving-house drama, this has been the easiest yet. After weeks of scouring advertisements (when I should have been studying) and visiting some depressingly over-priced and under-ventilated one-bedroom ‘apartments’, I’d pretty much decided to risk the share house experience again, despite the horrible backfiring of my most recent experiment. Then, last Saturday I saw the ad for this flat in a local newsletter. I inspected it on Sunday and picked up the keys on Monday. Thanks to having finished work, my old flat being paid up until July, and only needing to relocate about 100 meters, the rest of the move was completed at a leisurely pace, on foot, using supermarket green bags. I spent a small fortune on bits ‘n pieces, both essential (such as Spanish scrabble, pot plants, and fancy cushions) and non-essential (such as cleaning products and cutlery). I’ve got to say, I’m pretty chuffed with the transformation.

hogar dulce hogarBest of all however, is the peace. That doesn’t mean silence, quite the contrary. There’s a moderate level of background noise; birds, traffic, and people moving around (and talking nicely to each other) in the surrounding flats, and the little girls on the ground floor are learning violin (they’ve got a way to go, but I’m happy to hear anything that’s not trumpet). By “peace” I really mean “escape from the unhealthily tense/toxic atmosphere” of my previous flat. It’s so nice to have my own space again. I’m aware that by living alone I run the risk of converting into an antisocial hermit with a tic for every mania, or worse, forgetting how to speak Spanish… but the truth is that now I can be more social, host dinner parties (if everyone brings a chair), talk more Spanish (to the storks or my plants, who will surely make comparatively animated company), and I dunno, relax, sleep better. It’s been nice being able to read without having to wear noise cancelling headphones.

So what was I saying at the beginning of this post? Something about going nowhere. Little moves and big changes. Well yes. I had planned to be travelling around about now, but that got waylaid by the unforseen expense of moving. Never mind, it’s not like I’m missing out on travel (I’ve done a fair bit recently, and there’s more planned for later this summer).

So for the moment, I’m stuck quite happily in Segovia, for much of the school holidays and next year as well. I’ve decided to keep working at the same high school, but make a few changes to my evening schedule. Less private students and no Spanish classes will hopefully mean more time for writing and/or translating. And perhaps just doing nothing in particular.

Having time out at home is bliss.

mi buena vista
*It was actually colder in Spain at the start of June than it was in Melbourne, where it’s winter! The weather has been so weird that there’s talk of Spaniards going north for summer – future generations will soon be buying vacation packages to sunbathe in the Ukraine.