So, being that everyone here speaks Spanish, sometimes things are hard for me to understand. Ha. Ha. Ok, seriously though. I know some Spanish but there are SOO many words that they just don’t teach you in Spanish Literature classes. Let me take you through a few words that I have heard a lot lately. For some reason, most of my notable words began with “P”, so I figured, why not make a theme of it?
“P” words of Madrid
1. Piojos = Lice
Lice. I am not including a picture because, ew, gross. So, I found out that apparently the whole lice thing in Spain is very common among school age kids and at summer camps (I would like to personally thank the director of the camp I went to for checking all the kids for lice while on the bus on the way to camp, thus I never got lice at summer camp). I think lice is kind of common in the states too but not to the extent it is here. Parents in Spain are very relaxed about it too, the kids can be at school if they have lice. In the states the kids can only go back to school once the lice has been treated. Here’s the great thing, I moved into my apartment as an au pair and wasn’t told the kids had lice until two weeks in…just feel like it would have been nice to know. No, I didn’t get lice, but that didn’t make me any less afraid! Either way, be cautious of the kids, especially in summer months!
2. Puta/Prostituta = Prostitute
Well, this one is easy enough. There are always things on TV about prostitutes. Prostitutes can stand in the streets (even mostly naked!) and that’s totally fine. The only time they get in trouble is if they are caught having sex. In Sol, the center of Madrid, there is a street where prostitutes are lined up, at trees, on steps, against walls. Everywhere. Everyone just walks past casually, it’s cool. They are just doing their job.
3. (Hacer una) Pirula = Bad driving
The context that I learned this word in was while driving in the car, let’s just say driving through the streets of Madrid gets your heart pounding a little more than it would driving through most cities in the Midwest! As we were driving one of my friends said something in Spanish with the word pirula, basically “hacer una pirula”, so being that colloquial phrases are over my head most of the time, I was lost. They then explained to me that things such as backing up while in the middle of driving or ‘lightly’ bumping other cars is “hacer una pirula”…interesting, very interesting. Also, a pirula can refer to a type of drug.
4. Pesada = Boring (kind of)
A chica pesada is a girl that talks a lot but no one wants to hear her. Never stops. Nothing interesting or relevant to say. This is a rough definition but I think you get the idea.
5. Piropo = Cat calling
“waapppaaaa”, “holaaaa! rubitaaaa”, etc, etc. If you find yourself walking down the streets of Spain you may here things like this from guys. They might even throw in a whistle for you (If you are lucky, haha!). It’s all fun and games and really weird and definitely should be ignored.
6. Polla = Penis
Sorry, no picture of this one. However, I try not to say polla or pollo for fear I might mix them up. Things could get dangerous here. I definitely don’t want to ask the guy at the carnicería for polla…#awkward
7. Palillo = Toothpick
With amazing tapas, comes toothpicks. Enjoy! Also, this place gave an unbelievable amount of great tapas (Madrid isn’t failing me in the tapas department as much as I had anticipated). Maybe if you are my friend I will show you where this place is. New friends? Anyone? lol.
8. Partido = Game (Soccer game of Atletico de Madrid to be exact)
I went to a fútbol game. It was really fun (surprisingly)! Being that tailgating usually gets the best of me, I rarely actually watch sporting events. However, I was completely sober for this event and talk about overwhelming! Songs, shouting, people falling down stairs, a guy throwing up, oh and of course there was a soccer game happening in the background (Atletico de Madrid vs. Osasuna)…Atleti won, then later that week they beat Real Madrid. I heard people singing the Atleti songs in the streets the entire night after they won against Real Madrid. I guess it was a big deal? Congrats to Atleti #ilovesports
9. Pepe el Guarro = An awesome (but a bit overpriced) bar/restaurant
Here is one place that has awesome chicken wings and awesome service. The wings are a bit salty but delicious. The atmosphere is great too. It’s more expensive than I prefer but hey, I like chicken wings and beer and so do you, it’s definitely a place to go (it will be packed during nights of big soccer games, be warned!)
Hope these “P” words will help you with your adventures in Madrid. Enjoy!
Madrid is not Granada. Madrid is not Granada. Madrid is NOT Granada. So, being that I love, love, LOVE tapas. One thing that has been blatantly obvious for me in Madrid is that tapas aren’t awesome here. They just aren’t. Unless you are cool and know all the cool places to get the greatest tapas. The problem here is that I am not cool. Thus I do not know all the cool places. Super unfair. In Granada, you don’t have to be cool to get great tapas, almost every bar has great tapas and they are ALWAYS free. Let me reiterate. Tapas GRATIS in Granada. That’s FREE tapas for all! ALL day, every day, no gimmicks, no nothing. Just free tapas. GOOD tapas, great tapas, tapas for one and tapas for all. Tapas over here and tapas over there, tapas EVERYWHERE. In Granada, it isn’t like a scavenger hunt to ensure that you get the best tapa with your tinto de verano, tapas are just there and amazing and asking you to eat them.
Here is the idea I have in my head of what tapas should be. In the south of Spain, these types of tapas come with your drink. You order a drink and they give you these, for free. Simple as that.
Now that you understand what I think tapas should be, Let me enlighten you as to my first adventure for tapas in the big city.
Pilar (a friend, fellow blogger and fellow Granada enthusiast) and I were in Chamberí on c/Bravo Murillo on a Monday night in search of tinto and tapas. We both have this notion that tapas should be free and should be amazing, so we want to find them in Madrid. We saw a bunch of bars along this street so we decided, hey, if there are a lot of people at one bar, let’s go in. I mean, if there is a bunch of people in one place, it must be awesome, right? Well, usually right, however, this particular evening we were VERY much WRONG. In Madrid, you have to KNOW where to go to get the good tapas or you lose at life. Ok, you don’t lose at life but it sure does feel like it. So, here in Madrid, I am going to scavenge the best…and more than likely, the worst, tapas. Here is a glimpse into my first night of scavenging for tapas with Pilar. Although we didn’t find anything amazing, we had a lot of fun reminiscing about our different adventures in Granada and our excitement for our futures in Madrid! Here is a glimpse into our night in Chamberí…
With two round of drinks we first got olives, then we got a potato, onion & green pepper mix. I can’t remember what it’s called. These were definitely NOT the type of tapas we were looking for. Then we ordered croquetas…and paid for them…even though croquetas totally should be a tapa and should be free!
You want delicious croquetas? €1 each at this bar!
It was a Monday and we sat outside on the terrace here, so those advertisements did not apply to us. You’d think that they would change the specials daily…to apply to that particular day of the week…false, they do not do that. The thing is, it was a beautiful night and terraces are always jam packed, so when you find a table, you have to just cross your fingers and hope for the best! At this place, the terrace was practically empty, I am guessing because cañas next door were €0,40. Anyways, the service was fast and the waiter was attentive. The problem? He said we can’t order just a caña, you have to get a “caña doble”, which cost €2,50…and came with a shrimp potato salad as a tapa. Fail.
Did I mention, that next door there were a million people? Could have been their €0,40 cañas. We couldn’t find a table there so that’s how we ended up at Taberna Arga. Apparently next time we should just wait for a table to open up for the €0,40 cañas, so then we won’t feel so bad about the awful tapas.
First off, our waitress was so adorable! Second off, why don’t Spanish bars have amazing hamburgers? Is it THAT difficult to make a hamburger? Either way, this is definitely a place I would come to again!
Pilar had a caña and I had a water. We got some chips and random frutos secos with this order, better than olives I guess! Not to mention, it was a big tapa (if you can consider chips and frutos secos a tapa), and I didn’t even order a beer, just a water!
We also ordered a hamburger to share. The hamburger didn’t get eaten, let’s just say it definitely tasted like Spanish hamburger. The waitress asked us if we didn’t like it and we told her we liked it but we were too full to eat it. Ok, that is a lie. I didn’t like the hamburger. I wanted to like it but I just couldn’t. However, I now know that Spanish hamburgers just aren’t my thing. This particular hamburger was great by Spanish standards, so if you like Spanish hamburgers then I would definitely say to order it. If you dislike Spanish hamburgers. This particular hamburger will not change your mind about Spanish hamburgers.
After all of that, we departed ways and I made my way back up north and back home! My belly was full…but my desire for tapas still was unsatisfied. Until next time tapas bars in Madrid, I will find you, I WILL!
ALSA is a great bus company that gets you to a million random cities within Spain and even to random countries! I mean…not like I would ever want to take an ALSA bus to Italy from Madrid, but at least I have that option, right? The thing about busses is that in general, they suck. I mean, you have to get to the station, wait for the bus to arrive (usually on time though!), sit in a confined space with smelly people for extended periods of time. It’s always too hot or too cold. Not to mention, people like to leave their ringers on loud so you can hear EVERY time they receive a call/text/whatsapp…whatever it may be! That being said, I actually really like ALSA, minus the fact that they are a bus company, they are great! (ha. ha. ha) Anyways, I may seem like a hater and don’t get me wrong, I totally am but by that I mean, there’s nothing good about long distance travel in a bus. That being said, I definitely use ALSA and would recommend ALSA for reasonably priced, short distance travel. I like it because you can buy tickets at the last minute and they are reasonably priced (compared to AVE or a plane ticket or whatever other option you have).
Cheap Last minute tickets usually available
Time consuming Time consuming (seriously…) Smelly
Now that you have heard what I like and dislike about bus travel, let me give you some advice as to the basics of using ALSA bus travel in Madrid. There are a few things you have to do (or things I recommend that you do) before physically getting on the bus. Also, I included some details as to how to physically get to the bus station in Avenida de America from the Metro (because seriously, how is the metro on level -3, that’s scary as fuck).
Little girl in the big city (It’s a work in progress)
So, before I go any further. I have to be honest. For the longest time I didn’t understand public transport whatsoever (Uhm, my car and GPS on my phone get me everywhere I need to be in the states, so don’t hate). Let me enlighten you as to some examples of my personal failed metro usage. In Barcelona in 2010, I thought we needed to go to Trinidad Nova (aka the end of the line). Wrong. We had to go in the DIRECTION of Trinidad Nova. Please, just get off at your stop. Then, summer 2011, I accidentally got my friends and I all the way to the Bronx in NYC, instead of to the 9/11 Memorial. So after those fiascos, I think I have officially learned how to use public transport! It is very sad that my friends from ISA are not here to see how far I have come!
Anyways, I swear I made it to my dock at Avenida de America in Madrid all by myself (and very proudly) and if I can do it, so can you!
Things to do to get yourself out of Madrid on an ALSA bus:
1. Get an ALSA BusPlus Card (NOT the credit card). Just the card that gives you points and after a certain amount of trips, you get a free ride!
I don’t have an actual card, I got mine at the Avenida de America ALSA location and the worker said that mine is now connected to my passport so when I use my passport number it will also be using my BusPlus Card and giving me points. I’m kind of skeptical as to how it works that way but I guess I will find out in the future and its not like it hurts me to have it!
Side note: EVERYONE goes to ALSA around 6 p.m. during the week days. You have to take a number, I got my number and waited over an hour! I guess they are open until 2 in the morning. So really, I think anytime that isn’t considered “rush hour” would be a great time to go. I think between 5:00pm and 8:00pm you will have about an hour wait (unless you have an immediate problem then you can get in faster but not THAT fast). People were saying things like, “PERDONA, alguien puede cambiar números?!” And crying and being crazy. Anyways, youll see that people get a little desperate when they missed a bus or need to change a ticket at the last minute, so don’t be that person! If you are patient, you can spend as long as you want up there at the counter, it’s totally normal to spend like 20 minutes shooting the shit with the ALSA worker (out of the 50 people who were called before me at least 20 were up at the counter for a good 15 minutes). I am glad there were so many workers at the time! However, you have waited your turn so you deserve some time to shoot the shit, disfrutalo! The workers are very nice and helpful (at least mine was)!
2. Decide where you want to leave from and where you want to go!
From Madrid: Avenida de America or Estacion sur.
To: wherever! If its a journey over 6 hours try to get a night bus as to not waste time in the bus during the day…or take the AVE or an airplane! However, bus is more economical.
*Keep in mind how far each station is from your home. For me Avenida de America is 30 minutes and Estacion sur is an hour. So, depending where I am going, my journey in the actual bus would be one hour shorter from Estacion Sur, I prefer to leave from Avenida de America because in the long run, it takes less time because I don’t have to get all the way to Estacion sur (I live in the north of Madrid). Also, I am not positive but I think all the busses will pass through both Madrid stations. Mine went from Avenida de America to Estacion Sur and then we left Madrid!
3. Buy your ticket. You have many choices as to where to make this purchase:
A. Internet: BUT it won’t take American credit cards (at least for me it wouldn’t)…I tried 2 different American credit cards and an American debit card. It said something about the bank won’t accept it…whatever ALSA!
B. ALSA ticket counter at Avenida de America (or any bus station)…be prepared for a line!
C. ALSA automated machines at Avenida de America (or any bus station)
D. Anywhere else that you know of that I don’t!
4. Figure out how to get to your bus station (Here are directions to Avenida de America).
It’s so easy! I promise. First figure out which metros can get you to Avenida de America. I started off at Barrio del Pilar which the number 9 (purple) metro line.
I took number 9 (purple) in the direction of Arganda del Rey. As you can see, Avenida de America will be one of the stops on this line and that is where I will get off. Metro lines 4 (brown), 6 (grey) and 7 (orange) also go straight to Avenida de America. One thing to note is that on this sign it doesn’t say anything about “Terminal Autobuses”, you’ll start seeing those signs once you arrive at Avenida de America.
So, get off the metro when you arrive at Avenida de America and you will begin to see signs for “Salida, Terminal Autobuses”, follow the signs. If you can’t understand that Terminal Autobuses is the bus station then there is a nice picture of a bus to the right to ensure you are going the right way. FOLLOW THE BUSSES!
I am already very much a rubita and obviously don’t belong in Spain, so no harm in being a weirdo who is taking pictures while walking from the metro to the bus station! Also, the picture below is where things start getting weird. So pay attention to where you are going!
If you did it right, you have made it to the ALSA counters and not to the street!
Look left into the little room and see the schedule (tells you which dock to go to) as well as the little number stand (Feel free to take a number if you need something, it might be a while though!)
To be honest, it’s not that complicated but right now there is some construction so it’s kind of weird under there. Follow the signs and you’ll do fine! Suerte!
Before leaving for Spain I had a billion and more expectations that I kept having to push out of my head. To be honest, there were so many things that I was unsure of (my cell phone, my bank account, my living situation, my school, etc.) and I just had no idea how I would end up acquiring each of these things or if I would somehow end up doing everything the “right” way. Would I buy the wrong plan for my SIM card? Would my bank end up charging me for crazy things? WIth a billion worries in my head about doing things “right” that I turned off expectations and crossed my fingers and so far, it seems that everything has fallen into place. I am beginning to wonder when things will go wrong! I am living with a more than amazing family, I have a functioning Spanish SIM card, I have a Spanish bank account and I even know where my school is located (I don’t start work until Oct. 1st, so I have more time to figure that out). Anyways, I am so happy that this first week has gone smoothly (minus having the wrong settings on my iPhone for international use and getting locked in my room! haha) that right now I have no worries in my head! I spent so much time researching the Auxiliar program and now, after successfully acquiring a visa, finding a place to live and making it to Spain, it seems that I can officially relax. I AM IN SPAIN! YES!!! Well, I can sort of relax, it will be a whole different story once I begin working on October 1st. Anyways, I am glad that I did not let myself “expect” certain things because everyone has a different experience as an auxiliar and I feel that so far, mine has exceeded any expectations that I could have possibly had. Madrid is such a new experience to me that everything I do is like opening a new present at Christmas (the kind that Santa got you, not the kind that your mom got you but wrote Santa on card). It is more than amazing and I am so happy to be here!
Disclaimer: this is a very long winded synopsis of my first week in Madrid. It was so fun to relive while writing but the written version is a less than mediocre version of what really happened.
Disclaimer #2: ALA ALA ALA, LA VIDA ESPAÑOLA, OLÉ OLÉ OLÉ!!!!…exactly.
Madrid, you have out done yourself.
But, wait, is it Madrid, or is it the people that I have met in this short time? I have only met a few people so far but I think the people that I have met have made this experience quite an experience already.
First, I met Joe in the airport, he is a fellow Auxiliar. This assured me that I was definitely in the right airport and at the right gate. Phew, that was a relief! Later, on the plane, I met Anat and Tyler who were also going from Chicago to Madrid. Anat was sitting in the seat next to me, on her way back home to Israel after spending a week at Burning Man. Tyler was across the aisle, on his way to Madrid to begin a 6-week backpacking trip through Europe, he kept me entertained for more than half of our flight, thanks again Tyler. Also, I thought sneaking a pic would be more fun than telling you I was taking it!
After landing in Madrid, I turned on my phone and was ready to get my international cell phone service. I needed to contact Laura (my host mom) to tell her that I landed and to let her know when I was at baggage claim. My international service didn’t work! WHAT?! I later found out that I had the wrong settings set on my phone, which is why I couldn’t connect to the Spanish cell network. I was SO worried that I wasn’t able to contact her! Ahhh! Finally, I called her from Joe’s friend’s Spanish cell (Ok, Joe’s friend actually was the one talking to her on the phone but still), it was perfect timing because she was just arriving at the Airport! Her and her daughter Elena woke up very early to get me from the airport! I was so grateful that they found me and happy that Elena was so excited to meet me that she was willing to wake up early to come to the airport! It was a great start to the day. Laura drove us home from the airport and I put my stuff away. I was very tired but did not sleep the whole day. The day was very busy, we drove past my school, went to La Vaguada (a mall), spent some time at the pool and even more. I went to sleep around 10 that night and woke up at 8 am the next morning. Oh, did I mention that on that first day I arrived, I also locked myself into my room? The handle was broken and I shut it all the way! Oops! I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. Everyone was very concerned, the kids kept asking me, “Kate, are you still alive?” haha, I assured them I was still alive.
Also, here is what is supposed to happen when your cell phone connects internationally. First, your roaming should say “voice only” then a Spanish “carrier” will show up, my phone connected to Vodafone ES. Then you will receive a text from your company telling you their extremely expensive rates! I never had to use any international texts/calls though because by the time I got international service working, I already had access to WIFI and everything was good to go. Plus, Barajas has 15 minutes of free WIFI, in order to connect you have to go into your web browser on your phone and accept the conditions!
Thursday I went on my first run in Parque Norte. The hardest part about my run was figuring out how to get out of my building then out of the parking lot and then to the park! Turns out I was basically locked inside and you can’t just walk out to leave…so strange! I asked the security guard where the Parque Norte was, and he said “NO SE CUAL PARQUE ES PERO A LA DERECHA Y ARRIBA! ARRIBA ARRIBA!” Yes, he was talking very loudly…I did find the park though, and I was able to get out of the parking lot! It’s more difficult than it sounds. So I arrived at Parque Norte thinking of my how much I love love love Parque Garcia Lorca in Granada. Then I met my new parque. I fell in love. Parque Norte surpasses all that I ever loved about Parque Garcia Lorca. One day I want to be an older Spanish woman who brings her dog to the park after siesta to chat with her friends and disfrute la vida. However, parts of that may never happen being that I will never be a Spanish woman. However, I hope one day to be an old Americana in the Parque Norte with my dog and mi amigas. Here is a quick glimpse of my new park.
Later that evening, I met up with another auxiliar, Brianna. My first metro trip solo, HOW EXCITING! I had to first arrive to the metro station, my host parents gave me the general idea but I was pretty much confused. So I asked a couple people, “perdona, el metro Begoña?” and they helped me find my way there. Then I needed to buy a 10-trip metro pass and the machine that gave out the metro tickets was broken. So, I held out my 12,20 euro to the worker behind the glass and shrugged my shoulders and gave him a confused look. He laughed, took my euros and gave me my 10-trip metro pass. Then I asked another woman, “perdona, quiero ir al Sol” and she ensured me that I was headed in the right direction on the metro. Sweet! I can totally do this (almost) alone! I finally made it to the center and found Brianna! I was so proud of myself! We walked around the center, had a café con leche and later went to an intercambio party that was hosted by InterNations. This party was on a terrace at a huge hotel. The terrace was called SkyNight. Here is where I learned the power of the level of my Spanish. It turns out that with my knowledge of Spanish and a twist of my own sarcasm, life in Madrid is much easier than life was in Granada. Being that I hadn’t planned on going out, I hadn’t eaten dinner, so by the time it was 10:30pm, I was starving and my body was very mad at me. A worker from the terrace brought me down to the bar where I ordered my “sandwich mixto”. However, I told the bartender (in Spanish) that I would not take it unless they gave it to me in a napkin to put in my purse. They all laughed, I laughed too, because, who says that? Well, I got my way and I didn’t even have to put it in a napkin. He put it in a box with saran wrap around it and I brought my toasted ham and cheese sandwich up to the terrace to share with Brianna and her friend. At last, we left the InterNations intercambio around midnight, which is when I got to experience my first “cambio de trenes”. I waited about 45 minutes extra in the metro station and was so afraid! I was worried that I wouldn’t remember how to get from the Begoña metro station back to my home and it was SO dark outside, and by that I mean darkness in Madrid isn’t really that dark, there are lights everywhere. Either way, I still didn’t have a Spanish cell phone so I was worried that Laura would be thinking I did not survive my journey home. Turns out, she knew I was fine and I was able to remember how to get from the metro to my home…and I ran the whole way! Hey, this was my first time ever being in the city alone at night. I can run home if I want.
Laura and the kids left for the Valladolid town fair on Friday afternoon which left me home alone. So, I asked Marcela (the housekeeper/nanny) how to get to La Vaguada, the shopping mall, and she led me there as she headed to the metro. I went to Orange and successfully (after 2 hours) got a Spanish cell phone. It turns out that when you don’t already have a phone number it isn’t so easy to just get a Spanish SIM because they have to transfer a number from a different SIM to the SIM of the iPhone 5. Finally, my Orange employee got my cell phone working. Plus, I have a bonus, his phone number so when I have problems with my phone I can whatsapp him. HA HA HA. (It could be helpful though, right?). Also, as I was in Orange forever, the worker and I were talking forever and I joked about how he had no name because he wasn’t wearing a name tag. He told me his name tag was broken so that is why he doesn’t have a name. I told him that I would have to call him “boy with no name from Orange” if he refused to fix his name tag. Thus, his name is “Chico sin nombre de Orange.” Keep in mind, I did this ALL in Spanish. Impressed? Oh yeahhh. Check me out!
After I officially had a working cell phone, I had to go buy lotion, conditioner and dry shampoo. I really wasn’t sure what dry shampoo was in spanish and it turns out that it is “champú seco”, easy enough! A woman led me throughout the store showing me each thing that I asked for, again, super easy.
After I got my SIM card and my beauty products, I went back home and to the pool and was talking with Roy the lifeguard about tapas in Granada and how amazing they are there and how it’s awful that you have to pay for tapas in Madrid. He offered to take me to Casa Pepe a.k.a “Pepe el Guarro”, where he said if you stand at the bar then your tapas are free. Could be! I met him after he left the pool and we were off to Pepe el Guarro! It is a bar that gives you chicken wing tapas and everyone throws the bones on the ground, the floor is covered in napkins and chicken bones, that’s where the “el guarro” part of the nickname comes in! It was fun and the bartenders are so friendly. The bar is family owned and all of the bartenders are family. Roy was explaining to me who everyone was, “he is the cousin of the owner”, “he is the nephew”, etc, etc. Roy is way cool, he comes to Spain every summer to lifeguard and when the Spanish summer ends he returns to his home which is on a Playa in Uruguay. He likes to surf and motocross and do anything that is athletic or has to do with the beach. He is really chill and I will be sad to see him go when the Spanish summer ends. Al final, I obtained all of this information about Roy and the restaurant/bar Pepe el Guarro in Spanish! Impressed again?
From here on out you can assume all of the information I receive from others was in Spanish. So the information I am relaying to you in English may or may not be what was actually stated. Hey, I am learning.
I got home early friday night (around midnight) but I didn’t fall asleep until 5 am! JET LAG LIKE CRAZY! I should have stayed out! I didn’t wake up until the middle of the day and then went down to the pool. Roy was with his friend Carolina and then Ana joined us later (This is how I got initiated into a Spanish girl gang…hahaha JUST KIDDING…but they are LOQUISISISISIMAS and are more fun than I ever could have dreamed, maybe I will write a post about my amigas another day, they are too interesting to sum up in one short paragraph.) Anyways, They invited me to go out with them! What? SO COOL! haha, I am a loser and they totally know so no need to worry them that I am fooling them by pretending to be cool. hahaha. Ok ok. Saturday night I had dinner with Paco (my host dad) and then met up with the girls and Roy. We went to Roy’s apartment and then to The Cloverand then to Mufasa Cafe until 5 am. Hey, I was still jet-lagged so I would have been up until 5 anyways! At the clover we had a couple beers, a couple shots and some treats! We stayed there until it closed and then went apparently everyone who was at The Clover went to Mufasa’s because even The Clover’s bartender was there! It was fun! Also, turns out Carolina and Ana are amazing dancers. Guess I will need to learn to salsa ASAP to keep up with them! (Ok, ok, I will try!) Either way, it was an amazing night!
At last came Sunday! I went for a run in the after noon and later Laura and the kids came home. I was more than excited to see them because the house was so quiet while they were gone! They told me all about the fair in Valladolid and all about the fun things they did over the weekend. Elena also ensured me that she missed me very much while they were gone! I hope her sentiments came from all three! It seems as if they like me and I have had so much fun with them in these first few days. I couldn’t imagine better kids to live with! After dinner, I met Carol and Ana to go to a kizumba class at bisúloungeclub. Wait, what? Yes, you heard me. I went to a dance class! Kizumba is an african dance, very…well, just not something I usually do. Anyways, It was so fun. Being that I was CLEARLY OUTSIDE OF MY COMFORT ZONE, I made some jokes about the culito of the Brazileño profe and tried my best to make my hips move as his did. He later pulled me to the center of the class to tell me I was doing something wrong, I said, “ES QUE NO TENGO CADERAS!!” (I don’t have hips) and then every new dance partner said to me something to the effect of, “ahhh, la chic que no tiene caderas” hahaha, it was perfect because then I didn’t have to worry about not being able to dance and it was so fun!
Hope the synopsis of my first few days in Madrid didn’t bore you too much. I honestly enjoyed writing this post and I can’t believe I have only been in Madrid for such a short time! I hope my adventures continue to be this amazing and as always, thanks for reading!
How do I turn my American money into…not American money?
As you all may know by now, I like to do my research. I like to try different ways of doing things to see which is the most effective. Before I have a paycheck that will be in Euros, I need to get Euros out of my American bank account, which really sucks because my American bank account (like all of your American bank accounts) does not technically have Euros in it. That means that I need to find out which method of taking money out gets me the most money…for my money.
There are many different ways of converting money and I have not tried them all but here are some ways that I have tried so far. I will promise to update this with other ways of converting money too. What I did was take out 250€ in various different ways to see how much American money was taken out of the account. The hard part in telling which way is the most effective is that the exchange rate varies from day to day so taking out money is kind of a gamble. One day you could get a decent exchange rate and another day you could get an awful exchange rate. It’s like a game of chance, which is really great for those of us who have luck on our side…a.k.a. not me which means that I always pick the days with the worst exchange rates to get out money! Definitely not intentionally…the world hates me. I have come to terms though. Here are some options as to how you can turn your $$$ into €€€. Here is a graph as to what the exchange rates were from Aug 7, 2013 to Sept 5, 2013…
1. “Buy” Euros from your bank in the US
250€=$354.40 on August 25, 2013
Pros: easy and fast Cons: you have to carry around a bunch of euros (depending on how much you get out)
The word buy is sort of strange because I mean, you are technically buying money…with other money. Strange concept. This is pretty simple. Go to your bank (assuming that there is money in the account) and tell them how many Euros you want. Like I stated earlier, I will be getting out 250€ each time so that I can see the differences in cost when it goes through on my american bank account, and so that I can cry a lot when I see that 250€ is ALOT OF AMERICAN DOLLARS! AHHHH!. Anyways, the bank will charge you whatever sort of fees they have at the bank, the nice bank lady or man will give you the details and you will want to cry again because exchange rates are not really exchange rates…they are more like starting rates and then wherever you exchange the money, they will add some extra fees just for fun and then you can come back in a few days to get your Euros. It’s like…expensive magic…voila…your american dollars just became euros!
2. US PayPal to Spanish PayPal (NOT INSTANT GRATIFICATION)
250€=$339.47 on September 6, 2013
Pros: No money to carry around…it jumps from bank to bank (more magic) Cons: Not that easy…not that fast
I think I had a better price because I had a better exchange rate this day.
Requirements to do this: -US PayPal linked to a US bank account (Country must be US in order to link to US bank account) -Spanish PayPal linked to a Spanish bank account (Country must be Spain in order to link to Spanish bank account)*** -Accounts MUST be linked to two separate e-mails -The country is important because US banks are set up differently than Spanish banks (the routing numbers and such are different)
***Once you have your Spanish bank account, you may then and ONLY then set up your Spanish PayPal. You cannot set up a PayPal prior to having a bank account. Once your bank account is confirmed THEN you may do your PayPal transfer.
1. Log into your US PayPal and click “send money”, type in the e-mail of your Spanish PayPal account, the amount (SELECT EUROS!) and that you are sending to a friend. Either way you will pay a fee, so either your American PayPal can pay the sending fee or your Spanish PayPal can pay the receiving fee. I made my American self pay the fee. My fee was €1.25 because I am doing bank to bank. Then click “continue”.
2. After clicking “continue” this is what you get…It tells you on your US PayPal how much it will cost you in USD to send to your Spanish PayPal. Click “send money”…
3. Then it confirms that you have officially sent money to yourself! Congrats!
4. Log into your Spanish PayPal just to double confirm…yup…pending transaction! Please feel free to admire your own handiwork because it really wasn’t easy to set up your Spanish bank account then Spanish PayPal.
5. Give yourself a pat on the back, oh and check your e-mail…don’t forget to write yourself a cute note to go along with the money you are sending yourself (think of it as a note that your mom would write and put in your lunchbox)
6. Once your money arrives to your paypal, TRANSFER it to your Spanish bank account (It takes a few days for the money to arrive to paypal and then transferring money to your Spanish bank account from your Spanish paypal also takes a couple days). Withdraw & transfer to bank account!
A quick thought:
All of the individual transactions can take a while…it took a little over 24 hours to get my Spanish bank account confirmed with PayPal (which were two deposits of less than 20 cents). Then it took another 48 hours to get the money confirmed into my PayPal account THEN another 24 hours to get the money confirmed in my Spanish bank account.
HOWEVER, if you are transferring LARGE sums of money this will definitely be the way to do it!
There are a few options for cell phone carriers here in Spain and being that I like lots of information about all the options I have for everything, I went to a few different companies to ask about what options they had for a SIM for an iPhone 5.
In the U.S., we all like to have UNLIMITED everything. So then you can just be on your phone constantly and social interactions are unnecessary. Who needs social interaction when you can browse Pinterest all hours of the day via their mobile app? NOBODY, that’s who!
So, being that my mom isn’t paying for my cell phone, I don’t want to spend 39€ + IVA each month for unlimited Spanish everything.
I chose to get a SIM prepago.
I can cancel whenever Not over 20€ a month (hey, 20€ is ALOT of American dollars) An amount of calls/data/texting that I will not exceed (plus I am not allowed to)
Basics of Prepago
No signing a contract (great if you don’t know how long you are living in Spain) Can be very cheap (especially if you don’t want a data plan)
You can create realistic expectations for cell phone usage for yourself
You cannot go over because you have to have “suelto” to pay for things that aren’t in your plan
Basics of Contracts
First things first, if you sign a contract, it is like giving up rights to your first born child, haha. Most are 24 months, some are 18 (Expect to have to keep the contract for its entire duration) Most require that you have at least 6 months with a Spanish bank account Can potentially be the cheapest option if you do it right and if you don’t cancel in the middle of the plan
If you go over, they will let you (no “suelta”…it just adds up on your bill)
I may be a little off on some of my facts because I only know the basics. But think of it this way. Give yourself realistic expectations as to how much you will use your phone.
1 gigabite is sufficient 1,000 + SMS should be more than enough 100 minutes should also be more than enough (all incoming calls are free)
Personally, my SIM doesn’t have calls included. I have the Orange Ballena plan. I have 1,000 SMS and 1 gigabite of data. I cannot make calls unless I add suelto, and I am not going to add suelto because…It’s not like I can understand Spanish over the phone! hahaha…but seriously…everyone uses Whatsapp (which uses data) and in the states I really only talk on the phone when I am driving. Here I don’t drive. So I haven’t even thought of needing to make a call. Anyone I would need to call, I can just text or whatsapp.
KEEP IN MIND: THE FINE PRINT
There are many plans with “international calls” included BUT look at the fine print. There is a plan that has international calling included BUT the calls are only to landlines…I can’t think of anyone I would call in the states who still has a landline.
ALSO, if your calls aren’t included and you DO want to make calls. There is a CONNECTION fee + IVA + however much per minute. So if it says ,01 cent per minute. It really probably means 1,20 to “connect” then ,01 + IVA per minute which would end up being like ,20 cents a minute. So that can add up REALLY fast!
Again. If you are paying ,10 cents per text…send 50 texts and all the sudden you just added 5 euro to your bill when you could probably get a plan for 5 euro more that includes unlimited texts or something.
LASTLY. All plans will say…9 euro/mes + IVA or 15 euro/mes + IVA. So basically add 3 or 4 euro for IVA and THAT is what your bill really be.
My mom and I arrived at the airport, checked my bag (22kg!), she took a blurry picture of me and then we said our good-byes. I then went through security with my personal item and carry-on that did not meet Iberia weight limit standards. From the ticket counter, through security and on to the plane, they never once checked the weight of my carry-on, even though supposedly there is a weight restriction. That was a weight lifted off of my shoulders! I got to my gate, charged up my cell a bit and me up with another member of my program named Joe, before I knew it, we were boarding! The flight was packed and all I was thinking about was that I sure wouldn’t be able to find a spot in an overhead bin for my carry-on. Not to mention, it exceeds the weight limit so it is really heavy. I definitely understand the weight limit rule for carry-ons but I was too busy abiding by the checked bag weight limit rule and it’s impossible to follow every rule all at once!
So, the first thing that you do when you get onto an airplane is scope out the overhead bins so that you can store your carry-on and get into your own seat and out of the way. I looked up at the overhead bins and said something to the effect of, “How the fuck is my carry-on going to fit up there?” I am not sure exactly what I said but I know I said “fuck” because a second later I looked down and saw a nun smiling up at me and thought to myself “Fuck, I just said fuck in front of a nun”, then I thought “Oh fuck, she probably just heard me think the word fuck because she’s a nun and nun’s do weird scary voo doo shit like that” Then I thought, “Oh no, I am going to hell and there is no way in hell I can sit by a nun for eight hours.”
Either way, Joe put my overweight carry-on into the open bin across from my seat and I went to sit down and the nun asked me to switch seats with her “sister”, who isn’t really her sister but is her nun sister (Not to be confused with the way my friend Olaide uses the word sister). Really, I think people just throw around the word sister and at this point who knows what the word sister really means. Anyways, now my nun is smiling and nodding and pointing to her sister who is eight rows back (and my luggage is already in the overhead bin right by my seat). I am debating giving my seat to the nun’s sister and also debating how I am going to get my carry-on down and doubting that there will be any room for it in an overhead bin down by the nun’s sister’s seat. Why me?! As I am thinking all of this, a man asks me to switch with him because his young children just so happen to be in the seat across the aisle from my nun and myself. Seriously? A man to be with his children or a nun? Cute smiling children or a cute smiling nun? Seriously, so serious. Not to mention, I don’t want to sit by a nun nor did I want to be responsible for these kids (what if they were crazy psycho kids who screamed and cried and did whatever crazy psycho kids do?)
Why is so much happening at once? I just want to move to Europe in peace, why, world? Why?
Then, a woman chimes in and says, “The man should be by his kids.” THANK-YOU! My thoughts exactly, but are you legally allowed to say no to a nun? No idea. Either way, I did not want to sit by her. She could probably see my sins just by looking at me (glad I followed my own advice and didn’t wear a boobie shirt in the airplane because I definitely don’t think the nun wanted any cleavage to go with my expletive). Either way, kids definitely should sit by their parents on airplanes, not to mention, I wasn’t about to comfort them in a time of need. So, I switched with the man and he got to be closer to his kids (who turned out to be very cute and well-mannered and I got to watch the man lovingly reach across the aisle and put blankies back over them when they fell off and help them to open their snacks, adorable). Then, I got a bonus! To sit by the woman who swayed my decision! She was heading back to her home in Israel after being in the states to go to Burning Man. I also got to sit by a guy who is about to begin a 6-week back packing trip through Europe. They are way cooler than I am. Jealousy. Needless to say, I don’t think I would have had the same conversations with the nun or the children, if any at all.
Some would say that people who MUST sit by the people they are travelling with should talk to the travel company rather than imposing and forcing others out of their seats. Personally, I don’t care, as long as I don’t have to sit next to someone who smells, it doesn’t really matter. Anyone who is willing to listen to me talk would be my ideal flight-mate. A nun or kids probably wouldn’t have been great flight mates, so I am happy that I switched seats. A big thanks to Tyler and Anat for keeping me entertained on our flight!
What would you have done in my situation? Who would you have chosen and why? Maybe you could be grateful for the people you weren’t originally going to sit next to!