I have been in Madrid for almost a week now and, I have to say, it’s an incredible place. I haven’t had much opportunity to explore as I’ve been crazy busy, but I like what I’ve seen. The Spanish are sooo laid back about everything so it’s just as well that shops, bars and the like are open really late. Having said that the banks close super early so it’s no surprise that their economy’s in tatters. Anyway! I touched down at Barajas airport on Monday 17th September after a pretty decent flight. It was the night before the big game between Man City and Real Madrid so, as I was flying from Manchester, my flight was full of football fans. They kept me pretty entertained with their attempts to learn Spanish, even saying to a male flight attendant ¡Eres muy guapa! (You’re very beautiful). I sat next to a lovely old man; we chatted the whole way and he even paid for my in-flight snacks and drinks despite my protesting. My new flatmate Lena met me at the airport and brought me back to my new home for the year in the upmarket Salamanca district of the capital.
This week has been pretty hectic and involved lots of paperwork and running around. Tuesday was a free day for me and I had a lie in before exploring the area around my flat and hunting down the CRIF building where my training was to be held the following day. On Wednesday there was a training day organised by the British Council and the Comunidad de Madrid for new English Language Assistants where I made a few new friends and got to dance around like a kangaroo. The day was long; we started at 9.30am and finished at 7pm, but it was very useful and I highly recommend that you attend if you are going to be an assistant. A few people didn’t go and subsequently missed out on loads of really important information and paperwork. We were provided with the appropriate forms and help for obtaining a NIE (a kind of national insurance number card in Spain), lots of useful information about living in Spain and Madrid, and also about how to deal with and talk to children. Being an EU citizen things are a lot simpler. We Brits don’t need visas or work permits, we simply need to get a NIE, but I imagine for Americans, Canadians, Aussies and New Zealanders things are a little more complicated and the day would be very useful. Throughout the day we had talks from from someone who runs the programme, an English teacher in Madrid and an ELA who was returning for a second year! I believe that on some days representatives from the British embassy also came to give a talk however this was not the case for me. For the American sessions, members of US security trooped into the talks for the usual OTTness and scaremongering.
We assumed that food would be provided during the day, however we were mistaken and there wasn’t much in the surrounding area. If you’re getting ready to go to one of these training days, make sure you take something with you! There were vending machines with hot and cold drinks and basic snacks but nothing decent enough to sustain you for the day, especially if you’re vegetarian… (I’ll discuss this in another post!) It’s also a good idea to bring several photocopies of your passport, EHIC, nombramiento (placement confirmation letter/email) as you are only told about the need for these at the meeting and you’ll be sent away the next day to a police station where you need these documents. “Hi you need to be at this place at this time and you need a gazillion copies of aaallllll of these things okay good luck bye!” Cheers. As if that wasn’t bad enough, finding somewhere to print and photocopy the stuff that wasn’t either closed or kaput was a nightmare! At the very last minute my friends and I found a great little place between Sol and Gran Vía on Calle de la Montera. They have computers with internet so you can print stuff from email if you need to, and all print documents are sent to the printer behind the counter (for 20cents a sheet). The lady behind the counter will also photocopy for you at around the same price. It’s 60cents to use the internet for 15 mins which should be enough time to print, but you can use it for as long you need at the appropriate cost.
Thursday was spent running around banks, police stations and the aforementioned internet/print shop trying to arrange everything we need to get our NIEs. Eventually after an afternoon of paperwork and waiting in queues we were finally presented with our little green cards! After all the madness we treated ourselves to some retail therapy along Gran Vía, and to some tapas and frozen yoghurt in the sun whilst trying to ignore the prostitutes and one-legged beggars.