After two solid weeks in Madrid, I finally felt more grounded, and at home in my new country.
I really loved being a teacher at my new school, el Instituto de Maria Zambrano. Each morning I would walk a mile to the Atocha Renfe station, where I would take the Cercanias train to Leganés, a small suburb about 20 miles from the city center. The Instituto de Maria Zambrano is a bilingual school, attended by 6th, 7th and 8th grade students who have taken English courses in school since the 2nd grade. I was a co-teacher at the school with four different English teachers, teaching various English courses throughout the school day.
I was also able to make a great connection with my school's music teacher. Each week I would teach twelve English courses and two music courses, which are also taught in English. I was able to take my violin with me to school twice a week to share a bit of American folk culture through teaching fiddle tunes to my music students.
Another interesting part of my initials months at María Zambrano was to share about Oregon and US culture with my Spanish students. Most students didn't realize just how big each state in the US is, especially on the West coast. I often used the example that it takes 16 hours to drive from Salem, Oregon to Los Angeles, California, and that my home state of Oregon is 3/4 the size of Germany. When this was compared to the 6 hours it takes to drive from Madrid to Barcelona, it was a bit clearer the magnitude of the West Coast, and just how different the culture in Salem, Oregon and Los Angeles, California are.
After returning from school to my home in Atocha in the afternoons, most days I would eat a meal, before going out for a run in the Retiro park close to my home. I found a beautiful route that circles the park, and would run a few miles with the many other runners that took their route around the Retiro Park. After my run I would explore the city, most nights going on an "intercambio" to practice my Spanish with Madrileños. I also found a great Spanish language course where we studied and analyzed literature by favorites such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which met twice a week in the evenings, and kept me on my toes. As I quickly found, living in downtown Madrid has many great perks.
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