International yoga

Being a creature of habit, Thursday equals yoga night, so I decided that I would have to find myself a class in Madrid.

I decided to do a bit of Googling, and I eventually found this place.

It looked good for a number of reasons:

  1. Easy walk from my apartment
  2. Website in English
  3. Teachers seemed to have a fair bit of experience
  4. Didn’t look too much like “ego yoga” (think supermodel-type instructors, wall-to-wall mirrors, and ultra-hip designer exercise gear).

So, at 7pm, off I went.

When I arrived,  I introduced myself, and explained that my Spanish was dreadful. “Don’t worry!” exclaimed the teacher. “It will be fine!”

But it wasn’t. Maybe I overestimated my ability. Maybe the teacher was just talking really fast. Maybe I had neglected to realise that yoga instructions are usually pretty specific, and so you need to be a competent speaker of the language. Maybe it was a combination of things, but I literally had NO IDEA of what she was saying.

I deviously tried to copy the woman next to me, but as we were lying down most of the time, I couldn’t do this without being incredibly obvious. And the harder I tried to concentrate on my Spanish, the more stressed I became, which really defeated the whole purpose of the class.

Image result for spanish yoga cartoons

(Translation- the Lego man is saying that he thinks that this isn’t for them)

The teacher clearly realised I was struggling, so after she’d explained how to rotate the inner thighs and avoid spinal curvature in Spanish, she would say to me in English “Helen. Thighs. Out.” or “Helen. Back. Flat. Floor.”

This was surprisingly effective, and I managed to survive the class, albeit with my pride severely dented 😦 But the teacher invited me to come back next week, as she said she needs to practice her English, and so my being in the class forces her to do this. I guess this is positive, but I really hope that by the end of the 9 months here, I  am able to go to a Spanish yoga class and understand what’s happening!

The landlord

When I made the decision to go to Spain, I also decided that I wanted to organise my accommodation in advance, because, being the chronic worrier that I am, I was petrified of ending up on the street, homeless and unhappy (yes, I know that there are such things as hotels and hostels, but my illogical mind prefers to focus on the worst possible scenario).

So I resolved to rent an apartment online.

When I arrived yesterday, I gave the landlord a call, to arrange a time to meet. He said he was incredibly busy, and was currently 40 minutes away at his workplace, but would do his best to get there at 5:30p.m.

OK, fine. No problem. He was probably working hard to pay the mortgage on the apartment.

At 5:30p.m., I found myself waiting outside the apartment, like a proverbial shag on a rock, when a taxi pulled up, and out jumped a middle-aged man, wearing mirror sunglasses, torn jeans, and with his shirt unbuttoned too far. Yes, this was the landlord.


After showing me the apartment (every sentence punctuated by loud sniffing, which I hope was from a cold or allergies, rather than habitual cocaine use) and the neighbouring shops, he gave me the keys, and said I could collect the contract from his office tomorrow (i.e. today).

As he had told me he worked 40 minutes away, I imagined this would be quite a trip. But no. He meant 40 minutes’ walk. And it turned out his office was actually his apartment located on one of the best streets in Madrid. And what an apartment it was! It had a huge terrace, antique furniture, and a pet python, Francesca, sitting there in a cage.

It was about then that I started to realise that despite his outward appearance and unusual mannerisms, the landlord was not “doing it tough”, so to speak. And this was confirmed when I asked him whether he only owned one apartment. “No, not one,” he answered. “A few, then?” I continued. “Sixteen,” he replied. “Oh. That must, umm, keep you busy,” I said lamely.

I don’t know why, but this discovery really made me feel unhappy. Call me naive, but I don’t want to be sitting here, furthering my landlord’s extensive property empire and opulent lifestyle, paying him rent in cash so he doesn’t have to declare his income, with 15 other tenants doing the same.

But perhaps my views are a little too innocent.


24 hours of flying…

Me before the flight. You don’t want to see me after. Think hair akimbo, bags under eyes, and attire in complete disarray.

I have just arrived in Spain after a seeming eternity on the plane. An eternity punctuated by:

  1. One bad film (“Mia madre”), one so-so film (“Love and friendship”), one excellent film (“El clan”), and one unfinished film (“The dressmaker”- and it stopped just as the romance was starting!)
  2. The achievement of a very complex ninja move whereby, in my desperation to use the toilet and not wake the people beside me, I used the armrests to climb over their reposing forms
  3. Too much unappetising food. But that’s a given. I always find it amusing when people complain about airline food. Umm, hello! It’s not a Michelin star dining experience…
  4. Some pretty amazing views. I took these photos as we left Dubai:

I am now sitting in (I hate to admit it) Starbucks, making use of their powerpoint, after a rather eventful Metro trip, punctuated by some buskers who put on a show in the carriage:

This was the first, and I’m guessing not the last, time that I used my “Sorry, my Spanish is very bad” excuse to avoid “getting caught up in the action”, so to speak.

Farewell to Sydney

I am writing this post from the international terminal at Sydney Airport, and I can’t believe I’m finally here. So with this in mind, I thought I’d write about the things I’m going to miss most about Sydney (in no specific order!).

1. My parents 

Here are my parents, looking very unimpressed at having their photo taken. How am I going to cope without my dad’s Alexander the Great updates, or my mum’s company?

2. Ramiro

Even though things have been difficult, I will miss Ramiro intensely. Even his antics.


A cat like no other. Need I say more? Here she is with Mum.

4. My friends 

Who encouraged me to go, even when doubtful.

5. The city itself

How good can it be?