Category Auxiliar Life

My beefs with the Spanish police, and on racism in España

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For the most part, I’ve found myself pretty happy with the police forces around Madrid. In general, they don’t seem too bothersome, and they let you just go about your day. But I have had a few incidents with the policía that seem to merit mentioning, just because they seem a bit absurd.

A few weeks ago, my parents came to Madrid to visit me. I was super excited for them to visit, because I would finally be able to show them just why I love Europe so much. My parents arrived on a Thursday morning in Madrid, and we had booked a train to Barcelona Friday morning; so we decided that I should just stay in their hotel with them Thursday night so that we could stay together and not have any problems in the morning. We did it all by-the-book, paying for 3 people in the hotel and checking in with my Spanish ID card and all.

So Friday morning, we’re all sleeping comfortably in our hotel room. All of a sudden at 8:30 a.m., there’s this loud, incessant knocking at our door. I open the door to find two Spanish police officers there; I think it’s some problem with the booking. Everything from here on out happens in Spanish.

They say to me, “Are you Amit Kumar?”. I say, yes, I am. They ask me, ¿Tú tienes un aviso para detenerte? // Do you have a warrant out for your arrest?”. I say, of course, no. He says, “This here says you have a warrant out for your arrest.” He shows me literally a piece of normal computer paper with nothing but my first and last names scribbled, handwritten, on it.

They tell me I need to give them […]

A championship, a king’s abdication, and a welcome thank you

2014-05-25 21.39.53 ¡La Décima! Although I am a strong supporter for Atléti Madrid, it was definitely cool to witness a Madrid-Madrid Champions final. Because of the skill of every player on every team eligible, many people consider the Champions League crown the most important in the world, even more important than the World Cup (¡Aupa Atleti, todavía!).

King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicated his throne to his son two weeks ago. It's been an incredible experience to live in a modern monarchy, even more so to witness the abdication. King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicated his throne to his son two weeks ago. It’s been an incredible experience to live in a modern monarchy, even more so to witness the abdication.

These pictures are from Puerta del Sol on abdication day. They show a massive presentation by supporters of the Republic, who want to abolish the Spanish monarchy entirely. These pictures are from Puerta del Sol on abdication day. They show a massive presentation by supporters of the Republic, who want to abolish the Spanish monarchy entirely.

In grade 4, I've been helping the students prepare an incredibly important end--of-year exam (think PACT x100) since October. Remarkably, we achieved a 100% pass rate, which is unheard of. The next day, the kids really surprised me with an outpouring of thanks for my work over the course of the year. Warmed my heart In grade 4, I’ve been helping the students prepare an incredibly important end–of-year exam (think PACT x100) since October. Remarkably, we achieved a 100% pass rate, which is unheard of. The next day, the kids really surprised me with an outpouring of thanks for my work over the course of the year. Absolutely warmed my heart.

6 things to know about the Auxiliares de Conversación program in Spain

1. This is your ticket to living legally in Spain.

For anybody who’s ever studied abroad in Spain, or Europe, or anywhere — or for anybody who just really enjoys traveling and living in foreign countries — this is a great way to get a visa and a legal job in the EU. Those Schengen visas are notoriously hard to come by, but the requirements for this program are pretty basic. Essentially, all you need is to be a native English speaker; have finished at least the third year of your undergrad; not have something horrible on your background check; and you’re good to go.

Ahh, the beautiful Spanish lifestyle Ahh, the beautiful Spanish lifestyle

Another convenient thing about the Auxiliares program is that it’s directly through the Spanish government. You work for the government, so there’s no chance that you’ll have a problem with your work/student visa being denied. Plus, you don’t need to pay any fees to a third-party company, as is an option with study abroad or other volunteer abroad programs, to become an Auxiliar. The only fees you encounter for the program are the ones you need to get your visa.

2. This is not study abroad.

I studied abroad twice in college, so when I was looking forward to my year in Spain, I thought I’d have no problem moving to a new country on my own. But this is so different from study abroad, because it’s for such a long period of time. Most students who study abroad do so for a semester or a summer, but I will be in Spain for 10 months without going back to the States. You miss family. You miss friends. You miss loved ones. You realize that you are moving to a foreign country where you know literally nobody, and unlike study abroad there isn’t a program in place for you to instantly make 50 new friends who are in the same situation as you. It can be lonely, no lie.

In the same vein, because you work directly through the government and there’s no program behind you, you don’t have much help with things in general. Auxiliares have no assistance with […]

7 Things I’m Looking Forward to in Spain in 2014

As 2014 approaches, I realize that I’ve now spent 3 and a half months exactly living in Madrid, adjusting to the expat lifestyle and a whole world of newness. The Madrid natives say these winter months are hands down the roughest to get through in Madrid, but there’s plenty to look forward to in the coming months, spring, and summer! As I have just about 7 months left in my Madrid teaching position, I thought it’d be appropriate to list 7 of the things I’m most looking forward to in 2014.

1.  Barcelona

One of the many street performers in Parc Güell One of the many street performers in Parc Güell.

Ahh, Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya, the home of one of the greatest fútbol teams in the world, and one of the cities in Spain where you’ll have the hardest time trying to speak Spanish. There’s so much to do in Barça, I doubt the city could be covered thoroughly even if you devoted a whole week strictly to sightseeing. Parc Güell, La Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi houses, Las Ramblas, the beaches, the random pieces of modern art that pop up all over the city, the view from on top of Barça, the craziest bars you can imagine and discos right on the waterfront — the list goes on and on. Barcelona is definitely one of my very favorite cities I’ve visited, and I couldn’t be more excited to visit it again in January with some good amigos.

2. Semana Santa

“Holy Week” in Spanish, Semana Santa is the entire week just before Easter. If you want Spanish culture, this is the time to come see it. This unsurprisingly is also the worst time of the year if you dislike hordes of tourists infiltrating the cities, especially in Southern Spain, but that didn’t stop me from seeing some of the coolest bits of culture I’d seen my last time abroad.

A glimpse of a Semana Santa procession in Sevilla, 2011 A glimpse of a Semana Santa procession in Sevilla, 2011

You’ve got religous processions, floats featuring items such as a Jesus Christ made of pure gold and worth millions of euros, and the greatest passions and pride Spaniards will display. It’s something that can’t be accurately described, but must be experienced. I’m especially stoked because my brother will be taking time off from work to visit me and travel through Spain during Semana Santa this year!

3. Ibiza

Alrite, I’d be amiss if I didn’t admit that going to Ibiza was one of the first things that came to my mind after learning that I’d be spending a year in Madrid. IT IS HANDS DOWN THE PARTY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. What more needs to be said? I’m looking forward to Spanish beaches, […]

Teaching English to the little minds of Spain

A drawing one of my students made for me for my birthday! A drawing one of my students made for me for my birthday!

I had no idea to expect when I signed up for this teaching-English-in-Spain program, as far as the actual job was concerned. I’d volunteered some with little kids before, and I like kids, but I’d had zero training or studies in education. Thankfully, though, three weeks into the job, I’ve found myself comfortable teaching kids, and I just love their enthusiasm and energy for learning English!

I got a bit lucky with my school placement, in a few regards. I am an English teaching assistant as CEIP Fernando de Los Rios, which is a bilingual primary school (preschool through grade 6) in Getafe, just outside of Madrid. I was lucky in that my school has used auxiliares before, and in fact one of the current auxiliares I work with, Katie from Scotland, is in her second year at Fernando de Los Rios. Because the school has been a part of the program before, the coordinator Marta/Martha was awesomeee in communicating with me before I arrived in Spain — making sure I knew how to get to the school, what to bring, etc. A decent number of auxiliars in this program show up at their schools on Day 1 and their schools don’t even know the TA is coming — so I’m glad mine did know about me!

I was also lucky in that my school is a bilingual school: The kids have been learning English since they were in preschool. Bilingual schools have become really really popular in Madrid in the past few years. The way they work is, they teach Spanish language and math in spanish, but everything else is in English — English language, science, arts and crafts, religion, what have you. And the teachers at my school are really good about it: When they’re in English class and the kids try speaking in Spanish, the teacher says, “You know I don’t understand any Spanish…” just so the kids have to find a way to express themselves in English.

But the kids, they’re soo good at English! I was pretty impressed with their abilities from Day 1. I actually assist in 4 different classes — two 4th grade classes, and two 5th grade classes. Probably in each class, there’s 2 or 3 kids who have perfect English, as close to fluent as they can get without the full vocabulary. A lot of the kids are extremely comfortable […]

The piso search: Part II

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I’m no longer homeless!

Hokay so I’ve been bad about updating this blog so far, but it’s because I’ve been so busy with finding a place, moving, starting work this week, etc. Today is Friday so I have my first off day from work, so I thought I’d try to knock out a few posts!

Ok going back to where I left off a couple of weeks ago: On the first Friday I was in spain, I actually found a place I really liked. It was super cheap: 280 euros rent, plus about 35 in utliities a month. It was super close to the train station I needed to be near for work, and I really loved the neighborhood it was in: Not too boring, enough going on so that you still know you’re living in a big city, but the kind of place where you can become a regular.

So I told the guy right after he showed it to me that I wanted to rent the place, could I move in? He said I couldn’t until next Monday or Tuesday, though, because he actually had 2 rooms free and he was trying to rent them to a pair of friends so that he could knock them both out. I said ok, whatever, I’m still booked at the hostel until Tuesday anyway, I can just wait it out. So I was feeling pretty good about things all weekend, I didn’t even go visit anymore pisos because I thought I’d find a good one at a great price.

So I call the guy Monday afternoon and ask if I can rent the place and move in; he says call again that evening. I call again Monday evening — he says call again Tuesday. I call on Tuesday, he said call again later.

At this point, I chose to give up on this guy. He was being wack as hell, clearly just stringing me along as a backup but he would def give the rooms to a group of 2 if he could, and then I’d be out on the streets. Plus at this point my original booking at  the hostel was done, so I started making individual bookings for 2, 3 nights more. I just decide to not call the guy anymore, it’s not worth my time.

Then Wednesday afternoon, he finally calls me and says yes, I can rent the room, I can move in Friday afternoon. I was ecstatic! Felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Then Friday rolls around, and I check out of my hostel at 11:30am, per requirement. I look down at my phone to call Adrián, the guy with the piso, only to found a text message that made my heart drop. It said more or less, all in one text message, “Hello I am not in Madrid today so you can’t move in today, bye.” Like, that was it.

I was furious. This guy […]

La primera semana: This is hard.

Sooo: After going out the first night, I ended up not getting up the next day until 1pm. Which was good, because after forcing myself to not nap upon arriving in Spain and then staying up til late-according-to-spanish-standards, I got some good rest and think I adjusted well to the time difference. After the first day, I don’t think I’ve experienced much jetlag.

Step 1 on Day 2: Get some damn coffee. Made me a whole new man, ya gotta love the delciousness of the café in these parts. Then, made a visit to a Día just down a way from my hostel (my favorite grocery from sevilla!) and got some familiar items — jamón, pan, this weird but delicious juice/milk combo. Suuuuper cheap, like 4euros for it all and I still have some ham left 2 days later. It’s definitely going to be possible to live cost-effectively here, I think, if I just do things the smart way instead of the easy way.

Plaza Mayor, en el centro de la ciudad Plaza Mayor, en el centro de la ciudad

Then, spent an absurd amount of time looking for converters for my American electronics. Like, an hour and a half, which constituted visiting a dozen stores and traversing the entire city center. Chinos in Madrid aren’t quite as obvious as they were in sevilla, where the stores were actually named “Chino.”

I went on the converter-hunt with Andrew, and the two of us have actually become pretty good friends. I mean, it’s kind of easy for that to happen when you’re two Americans together in a foreign city. He reminds me a lot of Gabe, my roommate from Sevilla and to this day one of my very closest friends. Except that, while Gabe was perfectly fluent in Spanish and mine stunk at the time, this time mine is pretty decent but Andrew has zero knowledge of spanish. Like, actually zero. It’s an interesting perspective, being on the other side of this friendship/language situation. Just interesting.

That reminds me too, me and Andrew were discussing how just surprising it is too see non-Spainards living in Spain who speak Spanish just like Spainards do. For example, the people owning the chinos, or the people working at the Doner Kebap (which by the way, KEBAP thank the lord you are back in my life!). In the U.S., immigrants who do speak English speak it with an accent remniscient of their native tongue. But here, if I couldn’t see the person, I would think this person of non-Spanish descent was just another español. I mean, it might be a bit dumb to talk about, and it makes total sense that these immigrants have grown up here speaking the language as their first — like I grew up speaking English in America — but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t catch me by surprise all the time. Just blows my mind. Makes it seem like Spain is […]