This first half of my year abroad has been the best time of my life (so far!), but of course it has had its challenges. I’ve not experienced culture shock so much, which is something that people always went on about before we came abroad. This might have been due to the fact that I have lived in Spain before (even if it was only for a couple of months), or maybe because I’m used to living far away from my family. Here in Spain I have a hectic work schedule- 8 hours most days. My average weekday starts at 8am- I wake up, get ready, inevitably run to the metro with an ensaimada (a delicious breakfast pastry) in my hand, and arrive at work for 10 o’clock. I then normally have five or six lessons of 40 minutes in the morning, then I head home for my siesta. At home I eat, get a 40 minute nap and then have to head out to work again. In the “afternoon” (Spanish people say tarde when I say evening/night, a time at which I’d realistically like to be at home with my pjs on) I generally have another five lessons (sometimes I have to teach groups of very young children, which can be very challenging and tiring). Finally, after a 40 minute metro ride, I’m home for the day. This is when I can actually get my pjs on. Because it’s generally so late when I get in (around 9:30-10:00) I get changed and fix myself a very quick dinner.
Meal times are so different to in the UK, and even to other parts of Europe. I recently went to visit a friend in France, and when she suggested having lunch at 1pm I had a bit of a panic; I normally eat at 3!
The fact that I’m constantly so busy means that all the food I eat is pretty quick. And normally if food is quick to make it’s not very healthy.
We made a roast!
I’ve found it quite difficult to eat a balanced diet here, despite how readily available fruit and veg are here. Back in Cardiff I had more time to plan my meals, more supermarkets closer to my house and I ate out a lot less. Going to a restaurant in the UK can be very pricey, but here in Spain, even in the centre of Madrid, you can get a menu del día for about €10. That’s three courses, a drink and bread for round about £8.50!
When I do go out for food (which is probably about 3 times per week, as I meet up with my friends I don’t work with in my siesta and it’s a great way to catch up) I generally go for a steak or typical patatas bravas, which isn’t the healthiest of meals. Even though Spain is supposed to have the healthy Mediterranean diet, it can be quite hard to find good, filling, healthy meals in a restaurant here.
The other day I did manage to find a restaurant called Sanissimo, which means “really healthy”. It was €12 for a salad, starter, main, pudding and drink, which is amazing! Plus, the food was really tasty and super filling. It was such a shame that I found this place so close to the end of my placement!
My lack of free time also means that I can very rarely do any real exercise. I came to Spain with the intention of signing up to a gym (that’ll have to wait until I get to Portugal…) and leading a very healthy lifestyle in general. This obviously didn’t happen.
If I get a morning off work I do sometimes go for a run in a park near to my house. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve done this, but I did go twice last week, which is good effort for someone as unmotivated as me. I feel great about myself when I get home, especially when I see my flatmates in their pjs wearing yesterday’s makeup. The park is really lovely as well, even if it is alongside the M-30 (Madrid’s first ring road), which means that it’s really loud and the air is pretty unclean. Despite this, it’s referred to as one of Madrid’s “lungs”.
Parque de la Quinta de la Fuente del Berro – My favourite running spot
Writing this has made me realise how badly I’ve done, health wise, in Madrid. Maybe in Portugal I’ll be able to do better. New year, new me and all that! But now it’s time to head home for Christmas, and we all know how much food gets eaten at this time of year…