Wednesday, July 06, 2005

One Month After

It has been a month since we´ve arrived and a lot of things have occurred in such short of a time. I had expected to relax a bit and enjoy the fruits of the sun, but making our transition took precedence and immediately things have taken shape. First off, I was accepted for a position in the colegio de Pilar in barrio Salamanca. Apparently, I was told that this is one of the best private schools in Madrid as the ex president Jose Maria Aznar had attended it and several politicians are known to have as well. I would be working as the native English speaker who accompanies the Spanish teacher during English lessons with small groups of students. It´s not a bad gig and a pretty easy one considering that I don´t manage the classroom all by myself or complete so much paperwork as I did in the states.
Another bit of good news that I received came through the mail with a letter of my NIE number and a statement that I would be able to pick up my residence visa on the 2nd of August. Surprisingly, the Spanish beauracracy worked brilliantly for me and I have yet to have any real complaints about it. Now if only the convalidation of my degree would fall through and come to our doorsteps sooner, then I would definitely kiss the floor as I speak. Perhaps things don´t normally turn out this way for everyone, but it certainly is nice and welcome when it does.
The best news so far that has resulted during our whole month has definitely been the fact that Susana aced the first part of her test and received a top score of 9.73! I tried looking for a better score throughout all the 15 tribunals at the school, but the closest was 9.5. Of course, the test isn´t over and she still has one more part to take, but I think the second part only works to her favor and will really show her brilliance as an English teacher. After two hard years of studying in the library, Hydration with their excellent crispy chicken bento boxes and milk tea with pearls and Coffee Society in the Pruneyard, things are finally coming together and paying off.(All these locations are in San Jose, CA) I couldn´t be more proud and relieved that we can almost stop talking about this Spanish state test from hell! By July 18, we should know the results.
Additionally, we´ve received about 25 of our total of over 30 boxes we had sent over to Madrid, mostly intact! The only broken items were a Chistmas decoration and a couple of mugs, but other than that, we couldn´t be happier. A lot has happened during this intense month of ours, but I wouldn´t have wanted it any other way.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Almost two weeks in Madrid and we´ve been quite busy to say the least. I actually had written a few entries prior to this while in Madrid, but all were saved on my laptop and my mother-in-law doesn´t remember her password for the dial-up. As a result, I couldn´t post on my blog with my laptop. Oh well. Not having Wi-Fi access at home that I´m so accustomed to in Silicon Valley has been a bit of an adjustment, but not really a big of a deal. Perhaps the slug pace access we´re using now stinks, but at least we have access. Once we´re more settled, we´ll pay for the heavy duty hi-speed internet package.
Being married to a Spanish citizen has most definitely made things much easier for me. First of all, she´s there for me to communicate very clearly with all the authorities what my needs are to solicit any bureacratic business that needs to be taken care of. Most importantly, we were able to take care of the residence and NIE number that I would need in order to work legally. It would take 45 days for my NIE number to be sent to me and 3 months for my resident card to arrive. Naturally, waiting in hour long or more lines were not any different, but beyond that I am absolutely content to have all necessary paperwork completed. It is always a relief to get things done, but more so considering what I´ve heard about the Spanish bureaucracy. Well, the truth is, bureacracy is bureacracy and no country can honestly say they are efficient.
My wife is also studying for her oposiciones to teach in the public schools in Spain with an English specialization. She has been carrying on like this for the past two years, creating year long programs that specify how and what she will teach and studying the 25 specific themes that are based around the study of English as a second language. We´ve been locking horns to ensure that she knows what she is supposed to know. She has only a week and a half left before the first part of her test on the 27th so things have been a bit intense and stressful to say the least for us both.
Last Saturday, we were able to meet a group of people who have been teaching English in Madrid, some for a few years and others several more. This group is associated with the website, created by Steven Starry, that aims to unite all English teachers and entities associated with English teaching in the community of Madrid on its website. My wife and I had a good time having the chance to meet English speaking people living in Madrid. It was an experience, to say the least, to speak English amidst the Spanish spoken blaring in the background. We hope to continue our participation in this group, not only to have the opportunity to speak English with others, but to make new friends.
Despite having a hectic first couple of weeks, we have been enjoying ourselves very much so far. Well, need I say more to state that we started off our first day in Madrid with fresh cut slices of Jamon Ibérico? To know the essence of Spanish culture, perhaps the best way to go about it is to taste it, and everything else just comes together when it does. And so here we are in Madrid, the smells, the people, the warm weather, the loud chatter, the pulse of life… making our next steps forward.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Final goodbyes

With a bit over a week left in California, my wife and I have been busy saying our last goodbyes to people, setting up last minute dinners and parties, or fiestas I should say. It has been fun, but draining emotionally. Saying goodbye is difficult. But I try to look at the flipside to temper my emotions and see it more as "see you next time" or in a while. Perhaps that's not the healthiest thing to do, but now that I have two different places that pulls at me, it seems to be the most sane thing for me. I have one family here in California and another in Madrid, so what am I to feel?

Once I arrive in Madrid and am finally living there for at least a year or two, I think I would be in a better position to elaborate on my feelings. But for now, I'm quite anxious and ready to be in Madrid, soaking in the sun, walking on the streets, taking the train or bus to work, slowing down and hopefully enjoy more of my life. I've lived a long time in the States, more than I really should have as I've always felt, and I'm ready to dive into other things. Rather than walk through empty streets seeing nothing of interest in the buildings or obstacles I walk around, I will be flooded with an entirely different culture and place that will clearly overwhelm my senses, yet at the same time, fulfill what I've been needing. I feel richer just thinking of the possibilities and joy in my prospective day to day life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Packing up and dreaming of Spanish food

With a simple one bedroom apartment, my wife and I thought it wouldn't be too difficult to pack all our things and send it straight to Spain. After all, we only have our books, clothes and a few other sentimental items that we would like to keep and ship abroad. But little did we know that the little that we did own turned out to fill over 3o boxes. We're dreading the idea of actually having to unpack all of this in Spain, but at least we have it done.

With less than 3 weeks left, we are dreaming of our new home, places and food, but mostly the latter. We love Vietnamese food and I've grown up with it all my life, but little did I realize how substantially good another cuisine can be and make it's way into my heart in the same degree as Vietnamese food. Both are quite different, but I can have a craving for "callos" as much as I can for a "bo kho." Obviously, I've been around enough of the Spanish cuisine from my mother-in-law's fabulous cooking to appreciate the diversity and richness of this excellent cuisine.

As our move draws nearer, we find ourselves imagining ourselves in certain areas throughout Madrid and we are completely content because we know it will be a reality. Our excitement grows every day we look at our calendar and the days in the month of May is almost filled up with all our X's.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Madrid on my mind

I don't think I've ever felt this anxious in my life. I'm about to live in another country which should appear exciting, stressful and wonderful to the casual observer. But the fact is that I've visited Spain about five times in the last five years. Nothing to diminish the exciting notion of living in Spain, but I'm accustomed to the culture, people, and way of life that lures thousands. The source of my anxiety rather stems from the great amount of time I've spent thinking, talking, dreaming, and hoping for my life to finally come together and exist in this wonderful capital.

Turning 30 this year and about to embark on another life elsewhere around the world has gotten me to think how strange and yet, amusing things can change in a person's life. I was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam thirty years ago and my family immigrated to the U.S only a few months after. To find myself going through another process of transplantation has certified my feelings of having a spirit without any roots. Although this may seem sad to some, I don’t think much of it and don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

Honestly, I can't wait to leave. I don't feel attached to the place I called home for the last thirty years of my life, and the reasons are beyond political and cultural disenchantment with the country. I need to move on, and I've felt this need even before I met my wife. I'm only lucky to be able to leave with someone from another country. And little did I ever think I would go back to Spain, the place where I enjoyed and identified with when I first visited and vowed to return. Spain was the country in Europe where I first felt alive, a substantial pulse that demanded a return.

So here I am with no more than a month left to tie up loose ends and say my goodbyes to the ones I love before I make my one-way departure with my wife to her native soil and my new home. I wonder about many things about being in Madrid, but I have no doubt that I will adjust easily to the Mediterranean way of life. Just like in Vietnam when I first visited with my wife just a few months ago, there is something to be said about southern countries and how life seems to breathe and relax. It’s as if the arteries of living that flow freely through these sectors in the world are never clogged or unmoving. With Madrid on my mind, I find myself already there with the familiar smells of Spanish cooking, streets abound with people and terraces filled throughout the country taking in a variety of drinks to enjoy with conversations and laughter.

Just a month left and I’ll be living in Madrid. It’s not a bad place or start to a new life, no?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Blogging experience

I have two brothers who have blogs of their own. It never ocurred to me to have one of my own until now. With my move to Madrid on the 7th of June, I've always had an idea of writing something on the back of my mind, but I never imagined the idea of putting it on a blog for others to read. But after reading my brother's blogs and seeing examples of other blogs in the blogworld, it seemed like a fun idea. Besides, why not?
There are no deadlines, editors, or professors to be worried about checking over my writings. But the appeal I find in this whole process is seeing something I've written actually published, albeit, in this blog format. Almost everyone wants to be a writer and if anything, this provides the easiest arena to lend us that opportunity. So here I am with the hopes to be as articulate and eloquent with my experiences that I am willing to share and for those willing to read.

My wife and I have a bit over a month left before our move to Madrid and I think I'm starting to feel a little stress over the idea. It's not from lack of excitement, but more from the idea of getting all the necessary things done before our departure. Everytime I'm about to make a trip, I always have a feeling that I am forgotting something. With our major move, this experience is amplified. But I feel really good that we're moving. This has been in our plans for the last 2 to 3 years and I feel great this moment has finally arrived.