Maybe it’s because my current expat life doesn’t involve working and the weather is stunning here in Madrid, and both of those things make for a winning combination. Either way, expat life seems to really agree with me.
Which is great, because for a while there, it really kind of terrified me. I wasn’t scared at the thought of calling a new country home, or learning to navigate a whole new way of doing things (everything!) – but because it meant I would have a lot of time on my hands. A lot of hours in the day to fill. Hours which used to be filled with work or commuting would now be free. It’s amazing, but also kind of scary—what does one do with 16 free hours?!
I must admit, I did have one minor (major) breakdown on the eve of embarking on expat life, but it more had to do with fears of being alone and lonely for hours on end with nothing to do. Thankfully, those fears were unfounded, and my first few weeks as an expat have been the opposite–I’ve actually found that the hours fly by quite happily and easily (almost too easily!)
Signing up for Spanish lessons was not only something I wanted to do but desperately needed to do. As I’ve mentioned before, we took lessons before leaving Canada, but as our move date approached the time we had to practice, work on and think about Spanish all but disappeared. And then we went to Portugal where we were spoiled with English speakers. So, needless to say, by the time we landed in Madrid, what little Spanish we knew was pretty much gone (or replaced with the few Portuguese words we’d learned—it took me days to stop saying Obrigado! and start saying ¡Gracias!, which only caused further confusion when waiters/shopkeepers started speaking to me in Portuguese).
My lack of understanding was only further hammered home when we were on the apartment hunt and I had to rely on google translate and email to try and set up appointments and viewings.
So, like I said, signing up for Spanish lessons was something I desperately needed to do. And, it’s turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done.
Taking Spanish courses has been a great way to anchor my days. It takes the guesswork out of how to spend my mornings and helps me not become a super hermit, which can be really easy when you 1) live in a new city and don’t know anyone, and 2) don’t speak the language. I’ve really enjoyed socialising with my classmates and learning the language. Now, I can’t say that I’ve really improved all that much in the last few weeks (others will argue otherwise, but I feel like I’m still speaking at a sub-toddler level).
I’ve signed up for classes to take me up until Christmas, at which point I’ve got a couple of weeks off for a few travel adventures I’m really excited about (details to come soon). I hope to sign up for less intensive classes come January, and it’s really something I would hope to keep up throughout our entire stay in Spain (who knows, maybe by May or June I’ll finally have a semi-good understanding of the language!)
Eating & Drinking
At the beginning of our adventure, we were living it up—enjoying all of the cheese, jamón, seafood and wine we could get our hands on. It was amazing, and I’m so thankful that we were in Lisbon, the city of hills, because we’d otherwise have gained 10-50lbs. We were relishing eating out and trying as many new foods as possible.
But after a month, the appeal of a restaurant wears off a little. We’re very happy that we don’t have to rely on restaurants for every breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, etc. but this hasn’t stopped us from trying new and exotic (and sometimes odd) foods.
And for the most part, it’s paid off. Since we’ve been in Europe we’ve had some of the most amazing food and wine. Still mostly cheese, jamón, seafood and wine, but hey, who can really complain about that!
When I decided to take a few weeks (months?) off from working, one of the things I was looking forward to was becoming DomestiKate again — the Kate who cooks and maintains a home and enjoys every minute of it!
And I have!
It’s been so nice to have the time and energy to shop and make tasty (and hopefully healthy) meals, which is something I found I didn’t have when I was working. I’ve really enjoyed researching and trying new recipes, and going a bit outside of my cooking comfort zone—we don’t have an oven so having to cook everything on the stovetop will force you to find new and innovative ways to make old favourites, but it’s a challenge I’ve wholeheartedly accepted.
I’m even toying with the idea of taking cooking lessons in early-2016. I feel like we haven’t had enough paella in our lives, and maybe that needs to change.
We’ve done a fair bit of exploring in the past few weeks, both during our initial vacation in Portugal (which I will be posting about soon) and here in Spain. We’ve happily explored Madrid and a couple of surrounding towns. We even made it out to Barcelona earlier this month to explore.
Despite wanting to go everywhere, I think we’ve found a good balance between exploring our new hometown, and exploring abroad. December will bring about many more travels (and new stamps in the passport), and hopefully, we can continue this trend in the weeks and months to come.