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Hundreds of government workers in the cleaning and gardening services of Madrid held a protest tonight in Puerta del Sol that included bonfires, firecrackers, and trash being thrown around the plaza.

The protest came ahead of an indefinite strike planned by  workers in the “Limpieza” service that is set to begin at midnight on Nov. 5.

The workers are protesting a recent decision by the Madrid government that effectively lays off more than 1,100 of the city’s 6,000 gardening and street cleaning laborers. Moreover, in the contract negotiations between the government and the four staffing agencies for the Limpieza, the most recent offer would reduce Limpieza workers’ wages by more than 40 percent.

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The Limpieza protest comes one week after a strike by the regional Cercanías train service workers in Madrid and two weeks after large nationwide strikes and demonstrations protesting education austerity measures.

Walking around the plaza, I saw hundreds of people tearing up paper and throwing heaps of trash into the air and around the plaza. I saw three or four bonfires that protestors had started with that trash and some Limpieza uniforms. I also heard more than a few firecrackers go off within the plaza, and the majority of the protestors were wearing Limpieza uniforms. There were, of course, the usual chants, marches, and megaphones present at all protest demonstrations.

Even Spaniards say […]

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Students and teachers in Madrid and around Spain participated in mass strikes and protests last week in a demonstration against a recent law that slashed government funding for public healthcare and education.

Protesters said they were demonstrating against the Ley Orgánica para la Mejora de la Calidad Educativa (“The Organic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality”), also known as LOMCE or the “Wert law” after Spanish Education Minister José Ignacio Wert. The law went into effect in May 2012 and is estimated to cut public funding towards education and healthcare by over 10,000 million euros. Wert and representatives of the Spanish congress said at the time that the cuts were necessary in order to meet deficit targets set by the European Union. Opponents of LOMCE say that the law endangers the future of public education in Spain.

Protesters took to the streets on Thursday, Oct. 27, to voice their displeasure with the measures. The demonstrations began at 6 p.m. in Plaza Neptuno, just off the city’s center at Puerta del Sol. The demonstrations lasted for hours and wound through the streets past the Museo de Bellas Artes and the Banco de España until culminating in front of the Ministry of Education building.

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Protesters were enthusiastic throughout the march. Some carried megaphones or drums, others with flaires, and many more just marched with signs. Protesters alternated between periods of unified chanting, quiet, and playful dancing.There was no clear estimate in Spanish media of the size of the turnout: Protesters said almost all teachers participated in strikes earlier Thursday, while government officials deemed the protests a failure.

In my personal opinion, I felt like there were tens of thousands of protesters out on Thursday evening. I’d estimate somewhere around 60,000 people at the protests, with most participants being […]

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 […]

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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 […]

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 […]

The foods I missed the most from Spain The foods I missed the most from Spain

¡¡Ya estoy en Madrid!!

Ok so I’ve been real bad about updating this blog so far, but I promise it’s with good reason — I’ve been busy settling myself into the city and searching for an apartment (or “piso”, which means floor but how españoles refer to an apartment), which has proven extremely difficult.

But I’ll start at the beginning. I left Greenville, SC Monday morning for Atlanta with my two checked bags and one carry-on backpack — to me just the right amount to pack for a year. Flight to ATL was easy enough, just 30 min. Had a five-hour layover in atlanta, but it was and I actually used up every minute of it by way of catching up on emails, reading, etc.

Flight from ATL to Madrid wasnt bad, for being 8.5 hours. Had some mechanical trouble at the beginning. I was supposed to have an aisle seat, but I switched to a middle seat after a husband and wife wanted to sit next to each other. This, after being moved up closer 15 rows — just goes to show you there’s two sides of every coin, I guess. Anyway, the flight wasn’t too bad for a middle seat; I had planned on watching a few episodes of The Newsroom and reading my book during the flight, but both of the people on my sides were asleep for pretty much the whole flight, so I couldn’t reach my stuff. But I ended up getting a lot of sleep on the plane, and the food was great really, so no pasa nada.

(Also if you havent caught on yet– this is going to be a very detailed post. I like to keep records of everything I do abroad, so just fyi!)

I get to the airport, and I can’t even express how good it felt to know I was back on Spanish soil. Coming back to España was something I have wanted ever since I left my semester abroad in Sevilla — NOT to try to re-create that very experience, but to create a new one in a country I absolutely love. I was a bit scared […]

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