I just want to say a huge thank you again to everyone who donated to this cause! Our organization, Refugia’l, managed to raise a total of 6,600€ for the residents, with 1,300€ of that coming directly from my friends, family, and generous acquaintances back home. An extra big thank you to the people at ECOH Inc., who together accounted for a significant portion of the funds raised. You’re all beautiful humans.
3 weeks have never flown by so fast. I feel like I just arrived in Athens, but somehow today is my last day. If I had the money to survive here longer, I would love to stay and keep working at the refugee residence.
We survive the night without any demonic activity from the creepy candle lit church.
It’s out by morning.
We get an extremely early start for our hike. We don’t have time to summit so we’re just doing a 2 hour climb instead, before getting on our way back to Athens.
We’ve been working hard, and since arriving, the school has gained 20+ volunteers, so we’re taking the weekend off. I’ve been dreaming of Meteora ever since I saw some fantastic photos a couple years ago. Probably on Instagram, if we’re being honest, but I don’t remember for sure.
It stormed in the middle of the night, cleansing the air so that today feels fresh as opposed to the usual 32 degree, muggy heat. It’s actually breathable.
We dive right in to our day of tourist activities by driving to the Drogarati cave.
It never clicks in that I’m really leaving until I’m already gone. I say goodbye to my friends, pack up my bags, and hop on the airport bus, leaving Barcelona behind me. It’s the end of an era!
I am jumped by a man with a knife on my walk home from the bar. He grabs me by the arm and holds the knife up to my neck.
Turns out it’s a plastic knife, and just some kind of HORRIBLE Halloween prank, but terrifying all the same. Lindzee is with me and of course once we realize what is going on we erupt into a fit of laughter with my almost-murderer. Realistically though, that shit is not okay. In North America, especially right now as murderous clowns are roaming the streets of the USA, that’s a prank that could get you arrested. I love how relaxed Europe is when it comes to hosting things like the Correfoc, but not so much when it comes to making me feeling like I’m about to be stabbed. I need to learn how to swear in Spanish.
But of course this is only happening because Halloween is coming up! Spain doesn’t actually celebrate Halloween, they have another holiday called Castanyada. Stalls are set up along the streets, where people sell chestnuts or sweet potatoes roasted on open fires. Panallets (a dessert featuring pine nuts) are also a tradition of the occasion. I will be eating a lot of fun snacks this coming Monday…
The day after Castanyada, November 1st, is a public Holiday specifically for people to visit graveyards and the resting places of their loved ones. Children sometimes get the day off for Castanyada, but both schools and workplaces are cancelled on November 1st. Which means I won’t have classes. There are SO many holidays here in Spain.
Halloween has only become a thing here in the last few years. Globalization, am I right? I’ve spoken to a lot of my students about it and the degree of celebration varies. The rich kids with the yacht are wearing full on costumes and trick or treating around their neighbourhood. The really young ones have made some Halloween themed crafts at school but won’t be trick or treating, and some of my students barely know what I’m talking about. Best believe there are a ton of epic parties going on this weekend though. Clearly geared towards expats, every clubs and bar is going all out with decorations and prizes for the best costumes etc.
I can’t really afford a true costume, so I’m going to H&M or Pull and Bear to purchase as much cheap gold stuff as I can, and will go to a convenience store to find a toy shovel…making me… a gold digger! GET IT GUYS?!? If this doesn’t work I’ll just be extra lame and purchase a generic gala mask…but I’m trying not to be THAT boring.
Another day on the grind. Workin’ that hard 11 hour a week life here in sunny Barcelona. NOT so sunny today, actually. An epic thunder storm hit last night and woke me up. This place is just the worst, I tell ya.
Today my first class starts at 4:15, about a 45 minute commute from my house. The metro system here is such a dream that I don’t even mind. In some ways, all these private lessons I’ll be teaching are a great way for me to see the whole city of Barcelona. So far, it’s been a lot of chi chi neighbourhoods. Yesterday I taught a lesson to two young boys, and was let into their home by a Filipino nanny. No parents were home. These kids also mentioned that they had a yacht, and have definitely been to more countries than I have. Pretty sure there English is better than mine, too. (I did that on purpose, don’t worry.) They’re living the life…and they’re just 7 and 9 years old.
I also taught a group of adults yesterday; a family, actually. Two parents and their 25 year old daughter, who teaches English to primary schoolers. It’s the most chill vibe ever. They invite me in for tea and we just discuss politics, travel, Spanish culture, and other random stuff. I don’t even need to be paid for this, but I mean, please do.
I don’t know anything about these people until I get there. I am only given a name, age, and address from Caroline. Then I show up to provide…my service…OMG. Do I have a pimp? I have a language pimp. I wonder how much her cut of this pie is. These rich people are probably paying 50€ /lesson and I’m being tossed 17€…
meh, I’m still down.
Today’s lessons are with sisters, each have one individual hour back to back. The first girl is easy as pie. She’s super outgoing, has 100 things to talk about, and a great level of English. Her sister is much quieter and I struggle a little bit to find topics of conversation, but we get through. I make a note to come up with some games or something to do next time. Just to have something in my back pocket if it gets awkward.
I rush from these lessons to my last for the evening. My metro card is getting a work out. This is one of the classes that I’ve had to cancel in order to accommodate my new job, but I told them I’d complete this week. I feel bad explaining to my class that I won’t be there next week, but I do my best to make a ton of notes for the next teacher. Realistically, they’re probably getting an upgrade.
I even get paid! I wasn’t sure this would happen, but I’m given 45€ cash in hand on my way out. That’s 22€ per lesson, which is super legit. It feels SO good to be paid for something!! Some income!!
Paycheques in Spain (or at least for my job) are sent out monthly, not bi-weekly like at home, so that’ll be an adjustment for sure. I won’t see any more income until November. Pray for me.
I go home and hit the grocery store on my way. Groceries are mad cheap here. I don’t pay more than 1-3€ for any item. Like a whole bag of spinach is 1€. That’s blessed. This will be a huge game changer in my quest to save money, assuming I actually decide to cook. I can’t cook for shit, but somehow survived Australia with what little skills I had. Granted, I also got pretty fat. So many Mr. Noodles. New goal: cook healthy meals at home, cut out Mr. Noodles. Save money. Save myself from obesity.
I’m feeling pretty shitty about these jobs I’ve had to cancel. I’ve told my Tuesday/Thursday class that I won’t be able to continue, but that I can work this week until they find someone new. They’re surprisingly chill about it, but I still feel awful. I tell my Monday/Friday class and they just don’t respond to me at all. Fair.
I take the afternoon to get my life organized, plan a lesson, and get some lunch. Realistically, I should go grocery shopping, but the little market across the street from my house is closed, and I don’t feel like going to a big grocery store today. I walk in that direction, but I find a sushi restaurant offering a Menú del Día for 9.50€. Hard to say nah.
Most epic Menú del Día of all time. I get a drink, salad, miso soup, tempura (like proper tempura with shrimp and everything), 6 pieces of maki, a dessert, and a coffee. WHAT?! I don’t even take the dessert or coffee because I’m too stuffed. I will be back.
I get ready to go teach a lesson. This is a strange situation, because I’m working a job I’ve just quit. I’m honestly unsure that these people are going to pay me, but I’m not sure that I care. I need some experience anyway, and to be fair I just totally ditched them. If they offer me money I will not even politely fake decline it though.
I am so nervous to teach adults. They have expectations and an understanding of the world. I have 4 students; 3 women and 1 man. Two of them are definitely a lot older than me and it feels weird to be teaching them, but that’s not the worst thing that could happen to me. The man starts talking AT me in Catalan when I introduce myself, presumably to explain that he isn’t very good at English. He looks extremely nervous, and his English skills genuinely are a step or two behind that of the other group members, but that’s okay. We’re in this together buddy, I’m terrified too.
I have a loose lesson plan mapped out, including an activity in the homework book, assuming that if we don’t have enough time in class they can finish it at home. Well, about 45 minutes into my 1.5 hour lesson, we’ve done all the shit I had planned. I’m low key panicking. I move to the next activity in the book and am literally reading it as I go, asking people to volunteer the correct answers and hoping for the best. This turns out surprisingly well. I remind myself that I am indeed a master of the English language, and don’t need an answer key for intermediate level English. I got this. I check in with the class to see if they’re bored or want to do an improvised conversational lesson instead, but they’re content working in the grammar book. Aiight homies, works for me.
The next 45 minutes fly by quickly, and I feel relieved but also successful when the lesson is over. I think it went quite well despite my lack of preparation.
I’m kind of sad that I won’t be able to continue with these lessons, actually. Great learning experience for sure. All of my new private lessons are only an hour long, so that should be a little easier too. Children though…
Now, to celebrate my second day as a teacher and not dying, I go to meet Mikaël, Lindzee, and her visitor friend from home at the open mic bar. A lot of the same people are performing this week which is cool. Everyone last week was so rad. There is one new guy that tries to do some stand up comedy and fails miserably. So much so that it physically hurts my body I am cringing so hard. He knows he’s brutal. But I guess that’s part of the fun of open mic! You never know what you’re gonna get.
We then move on to Espit Chupitos, the crazy shot bar, as we’re trying to show Lindzee’s friend all the cool spots in Barcelona. Espit chupitos is fun, but it’s full of obnoxious tourists. It’s always like this, but especially bad tonight. I can say this. I’m a local now, duh.
Two guys from Toronto are there repping ALL the Jays gear, and I’m like to need to relax (but also, Go Jays Go!! It’s the Wild Card game tonight!).
We do a coupled different flaming shots, and one topped with an absurd amount of whipped cream, and then get the hell out.
Next stop is The Mint, where the bartender once proposed to Lindzee. They do 4€ Mojitos that are pretty rad, and because of the recent “engagement”, we’re VIPs.
We end up at Club Opium which I’ve never been to, and is terrible. Everyone looks 16. I suppose it’s only a Tuesday night…perhaps that’s why. It’s funny to me that clubs in Europe are such a thing, because at home, I couldn’t tell you the last time I stepped foot in a place like this. Here, it’s kinda the norm. Maybe not on a Tuesday, but you know what I mean.
Another last minute job interview! A mere 20 minute walk from my place, which is even more fantastic. I show up and it turns out it’s a house, not an office or school. Perhaps this is where I die? I’m so desperate for a job that I almost done care. Upstairs I go. Sorry Mom.
I meet with a woman named Caroline who is lovely and offers me an assistant teaching position at a school outside of the city. I love the idea of being an assistant teacher, so I can learn what the hell im supposed to do, but I don’t love the idea of a 2 hour daily commute and 600€/month. That’s like 9€ an hour with the hours it requires, and the standard here is between 15-20€. Huge difference. She says she can augment my work with private lessons on the side that pay 17€, so I walk away feeling alright about the job, but not totally stoked. It isn’t official yet anyway, she says she’ll be calling me later in the day.
It’s also my first day at my first job today! This is the after school program with a “travel around the world” theme, which I clearly love. I’m excited, but of course a little nervous as well.
I show up early, even though I know that is not the way in Spain. It’s funny, because at home I am almost NEVER on time, but here I’m consistently too early. Who would have thought?
Just as I’m about to go in and get a run down of todays activities with the kids, I get a phone call from Caroline. I’ve thought it over and am pretty ready to tell her I can’t work full time for 600€, when instead she says she’d prefer to offer me strictly private lessons. She’s made up a schedule for me, with 11 hours a week, and says she will probably up it to 15 when more students enroll.
And suddenly, everything changed. Now it’s looking like I’ll be able to make 1000€ a month, which is much more appealing. I agree to take it and ask her to send me the schedule. She asks me if I can do a lesson TONIGHT, directly after this class, but I’m like, lady, no. I literally wouldn’t be able to make it to a 5:30 class across the city when I’m out at 5:15. She seems fine with that and says she’ll call me later. I’m feeling great about this new, living wage job.
Now for my first teaching gig! We walk from the office to a nearby public school. “We”, being the organizer and another teacher my age named Joe. He’s been teaching kids for a year, and assures me it’s really not that hard. I’m comforted a little, but not entirely.
I enter a class room full of kids 9 and under. Joe jumps in and starts introducing himself and being a pro, I try to follow suit but am feeling awkward and terrified as hell. Kids can smell fear, so I try to pretend I’m confident. We split up into two groups, and thankfully I get the smaller, older group of just 5 kids. We start a fun little craft of making a passport. I teach them to say “I am from Spain” (or Bolivia, or Morocco…which I did not anticipate), and how to introduce themselves. We fill in the appropriate boxes on the passports, and they draw a picture of themselves as a passport photo. Then they cut them out (I was originally terrified of giving scissors to children) and glue them together.
The four girls in my group are angels, ask lots of questions, and want to succeed. The boy is an animal. Do I know how to discipline another humans child? No. Later, however, when the organizer comes around to see how we’re doing, he disciplines him s little, and tells me not to be afraid to yell at them if I have to. Alright mate.
The hour and fifteen minutes flies by. The next thing I know we’re leaving the school and I’m watching the kids run to their parents saying “My name is____” which is kinda fun. Overall decent class, I believe. I didn’t die, and no one impaled themselves with scissors.
Joe and I go for a coffee (or tea, for me) after class. Everyone here smokes and drinks coffee. I am not a smoker but I can’t pretend there isn’t something undeniably cool looking about a European smoking and drinking a cappuccino on a patio.
During this, I get another call from a Caroline. Now she’s asking me if I can get to the lesson if it’s later; now 6:30 instead of 5:30. I tell her I’ll do my best, ask for la cuenta, and get to the metro as fast as possible. I have to get across town and transfer to a line I’ve never been on before, which is fine but hard to gage how long it will take me. I get to the house at 6:50, and buzz up to the apartment, starting with an apology. They are kind about it, but tell me it’s too late and they’re now having dinner. I feel awful, and am worried Caroline will be pissed, but instead SHE apologizes to ME, and tells me I’ll be paid for the lesson anyway. Sick, homie.
I go home and look over my new schedule. It conflicts with BOTH of my other jobs. What a nightmare. I e-mail her back and explain which classes I need to move, but she says she can’t do anything about it, and doesn’t want to hire me for only a few classes a week, she’d rather give me full time. While I totally agree, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to cancel on not just one, but two other jobs I’ve already commit to. I have a moral crisis. I call Ma.
Honestly, at the end of the day I decide I have to look out for #1, and need to do whatever I need to do to make a living here. Caroline can offer me 11-15 hours, while these other jobs combined only offer me 5.
I make an excel file of all my hours to start sorting out my life. Every lesson is at a different address, so I also pull up a subway map and start highlighting the stations I’ll need to get to.
I’m going to have to invest in a monthly metro pass and a bike membership* STAT.
* Barcelona has a sweet bike rental system similar to Bixi bikes or whatever they are in Toronto, but instead you pay 40€ for an annual membership, and get to use the bikes all over the city whenever you want. And they’re literally EVERYWHERE. Europe is so much cooler than we are.