Alcala de Henares...I'd heard good things and wanted to love you, but came away with mixed feelings. Alcala de Henares is always on the "must do" list of day trips from Madrid and I honestly don't get it. It is an easy and quick train ride from Madrid and I arrived with a list of tapas places to try...only to find out that several of them had closed down. I started the day by wandering around and checking out the sites, which, again, I wasn't exactly sure what I was supposed to be looking at. On top of that, I was hoping to have a drink at the local parador (a converted historic building such as a monastery or castle), but it was off limits due to a wedding.
Yep...once again life got in the way and there's been no time for blogging about my adventures over the past few months in southern France, coastal Spain and a crazy Oktoberfest experience in Munich. I seriously don't know how real, money-making bloggers churn out post after post on a regular basis!
When you live in a capital city with millions of other people, sometimes you just want to escape, commune with nature and experience some fresh air and peace and quiet. Lucky for me, a new friend I had met at an event organized a hike to the nearby town of Cercedilla. Granted, it was an early start time on a Sunday morning, which, as anyone who knows me knows, I am 100% not a morning person, but I felt the call of nature and decided to join in. We got off to a bit of a bumpy start as everyone but me missed the designated train, which meant I had over an hour to kill once I got to Cercedilla. Fortunately, it is a cute little town at the base of a mountain and I was able to wander around checking it out while I waited for everyone else to arrive.
When I lived in San Francisco, food trucks were a dime a dozen. But, for some reason, I never had much interest in visiting them...especially once my love affair with the Bay Area started to wane. When I knew I was moving to Madrid, I did some research to see if there was something similar in the capital city of Spain. Turns out, there was with MadrEat Market and its thirty-plus food trucks,
After a slow start to the year getting sick with yet another cold (my third!), and trying to get back into the swing of things after the holidays, I was itching for a day trip. I didn't want to check out the go-to options like Toledo or Segovia, and was looking for somewhere more laid-back and slightly less touristy. I had heard good things about Chinchón, so I called up my friend Ann and we decided to head there one day last month.
So, where to start? What a crazy six months its been...both good and bad. In an effort to be transparent, I have to admit it hasn't been all puppies and rainbows. While the majority of the first six months have been amazing, there have been challenges. For me, that starts with teaching...I'm not a natural born teacher and am nervous doing it every single day. Kudos to all of you teachers out there...I honestly don't know how you do it day in and day out. The issue isn't my students...they are lovely, wonderful people. I love learning about their lives, Spain, etc. Also, news flash, teaching doesn't pay very well. For someone coming from the riches of San Francisco to low pay and constant cancellations, that has been a tough adjustment. I think its important to share all sides of the story for anyone thinking of moving here to teach. You're not making a lucrative career choice and should come here with bucketloads of money in the bank...way more than you think you may need. If it wasn't for having my safety net of savings, I'm not sure how I would have survived this long.
What else...oh right, extreme culture shock. I never thought it would happen to me, but it did. From June to September everything was fun and carefree. Come October, I fell into a funk, which I've now been told from fellow expats was culture shock. Everything became so incredibly difficult...going to the supermarket, the bank, clothes shopping. Basically everything you need to do on a daily basis without being able to speak the local language. I felt (and still do sometimes) like a baby giraffe learning to walk. And, unfortunately, I didn't have a network of support from friends here to help me through it, which made it even tougher.
So, what about all of the positives? Living abroad is amazing!! Not to get too political, but its especially amazing not having to live in the U.S. right now under the current administration who shall remain nameless. I've been forced out of my comfort zone more times than I can count, but I know that is only going to make me a better, stronger person. Teaching has given me valuable new skills and has forced me to face my fear of public speaking. I've met incredible people that I can't imagine not having in my life. I have traveled to some beautiful places in Spain like Pozos and Menorca, as well as Denmark and Sweden, with many more countries to come. I'm attempting to learn a new language albeit very slowly.
Fellow expats have told me that the first six months to a year are difficult and you have to tough it out, which I (likely) plan to do. After a couple of weeks back in the U.S for the holidays, I adjusted my expectations and attitude and now understand that any big change in life will take time. I'm looking forward to more traveling, actually practicing my Spanish on a daily basis, and seeing what comes next in this adventure.
I'm Becki...a part-time traveler and recovering expat back in the U.S. after two amazing years spent living in Spain.