People I’ve met

Today was an absolutely horrible day, with almost 5 hours of my life wasted at the Foreigners’ Office in some godforsaken backwood of Madrid. But I’ll leave a full description of what transpired for another occasion, as I don’t have the fortitude to give a blow-by-blow account of my bureaucratic nightmare…

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So today, I have decided to write about something more positive- the people who I’ve met since I’ve arrived. One of my biggest worries in moving to Spain was that I would be very lonely, and miss my friends and family incredibly. And I do.

But I have also met some very kind people since I’ve been here, so I thought I would write a list 🙂 (in order of meeting).

  1. Maria

I met Maria on a conversation exchange site. She’s in her early 30s, and has her PhD in the history of law, with a special interest in the freedom of the press in Spain. She is really smart, friendly, and outgoing, and loves to walk! We went on a stroll through the Retiro Park and the centre of Madrid, which was heaps of fun.


2. Kerly

I met Kerly on the same conversation exchange site. She’s 34, and originally from Ecuador. She lived in Sligo, Ireland, and learnt English there. Kerly is another lovely person, with a great sense of style, and a really warm personality. We went for dinner at a fantastic restaurant in the San Anton Market, then to a lookout in the centre of Madrid.

Image result for san anton market

3. Anita and Cristian

Anita is Venezuelan, Cristian Chilean, and I was introduced to them by a mutual friend. They are in their 30s, and live in a suburb a bit outside Madrid. They took me to the bull running festivities in their village, then to tapas, and we spoke Spanish the whole day, which was a real challenge for me!

4. Oscar

I met Oscar through the conversation exchange site. He’s in his early 30s, and wants to learn English to improve his job prospects. We went to a bar where you could buy 5 beers for 4 Euros, because Oscar likes to drink beer. A lot. After we met, he then went to have more beers. Still, he was good company!

5. Aina

I met Aina through the conversation exchange site, too. She is 23, and from Malaysia, and although she speaks perfect English, she contacted me because she was very lonely when she first came to Madrid, and she wanted to offer her friendship. I thought this was a really kind gesture. Aina is doing an internship in software engineering as part of her degree. We went to a Coeliac bakery, and had coffee and cakes 🙂

Imagen de Chocolate ChipImagen de Apple Cinnamon

6. Blanca, Maria, and Brett

I was introduced to Blanca by a mutual friend, Juan Carlos, who met her in Colombia. She is a film critic, which is a pretty amazing job. I went to her house for a delicious lunch, which was cooked by her friend, Brett. He is Australian, and a professional chef. I also met Blanca’s colleague, Maria, who is a voice actor, her mum, Mathilde, and her cat, Ines.

ines brett

7. Jan

I met Jan on the conversation site (seriously, this is the place to go to meet people!). He is (I’m guessing) in his late 30s, and originally from a small town near the Basque Country. He moved to Madrid two weeks ago to take up a new job as a chef instructor at a college in the south of the city, and joined the conversation site to try and meet other people who are new in town. He has a really sharp and cynical sense of humour, and a good line in self-deprecation.

8. Carlos

Again, a person I met on the conversation site. Carlos is 50, and has recently been appointed sales director of a large company, which wants him to improve his spoken English so he can better interact with global business partners. Carlos is married, with three children, and his wife is a yoga instructor. He is very charming, and I can imagine he would be an excellent salesperson. We went to the top of El Corte Ingles, in Callao, which has a great view over the city. cafeteria-del-corte-ingles

9. Ulysses

Ulysses is the doorman or concierge of my apartment building, and he is just lovely. I’m going to write a special post about him one day. He is 34, and originally from The Philippines. I’m not entirely sure what he does all day, but whenever I see him, he is always happy and friendly and says hello. Today was the first time I had the chance to talk to him properly, and he was very kind and encouraging. He’s a good person.

Making this list has actually made me feel A LOT better about the day. Although I’m not sure if the people I’ve met will become good friends (I hope they do!), I’ve found it encouraging to remember that I have not been alone 🙂

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The running of the bulls

For the past few months, I have been practicing my Spanish online with a Chilean guy named Mario. When I told him I was coming to Spain, he gave me the contact details of a former colleague, Anita, who now lives in Madrid. “She’s really nice,” said Mario. “You should contact her.”

I felt a bit awkward, but I did. I sent her a message introducing myself, and we had a bit of a chat. She asked if I was busy today, and when I said no, she invited me to join her and her husband, Cristian, in their township, Las Rozas (it’s about 30 minutes out of Madrid) for the celebration of the day of San Miguel.

“We’ll meet at 10a.m., as there’s something exciting happening at 10:30a.m.,” Anita wrote mysteriously.

So, I walked to the main station in Madrid, and caught the train out to Las Rozas.


Walking to Atocha

Anita and Cristian met me there, and we headed into the town centre, where there was a massive crowd of people lined up against some barriers. “This is it!” Anita said. “It’s the corrida, the running of the bulls!”

On the bull running street were a number of men, dressed in athletic gear, engaging in a variety of stretches to prepare for the run. After about 10 minutes, a loud explosion sounded to warn the crowd that the bulls would soon be released. And sure enough, out trotted four white and brown bulls, with huge horns, and bells around their necks.


These were the “guide bulls.” They proceeded at a leisurely rate.

I was a bit disappointed, as the “fierce” bulls weren’t all that fierce. In fact, one of them insisted on stopping, and returning back to his pen, as he clearly wasn’t interested in any kind of running.


This bull didn’t want to run, so he headed back to the pen. Fair enough.

But the man next to me explained that these were the “guide bulls”, who would lead the way when the “fighting bulls” were released.

The guide bulls made their sedate way up the road, and when they reached the top, the starter’s gun sounded again, and this time, it was for real. It was amazing to watch the men start running as the guide bulls rounded the corner, this time followed by two fast, fierce, and very dangerous black fighting bulls, which seemed to be almost flying through the air.


Here come the bulls!

Even though their horns weren’t as big, they more than compensated for this by their general demeanour.


This is one of the “flying fighting bulls.”

After the run, Anita and Cristian showed me around the town, and then we went and had some tapas with Anita’s 84 year old grandma, who kept receiving calls on her smartphone while we were there, and who seemed to have the most active social life of anyone present.

Me and some friends; The Church of San Miguel

Overall, it was a wonderful day, and it was a real joy to be able to meet such lovely people. It makes a HUGE difference to feel welcome and accepted 🙂

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?