Madrid is an ugly city. Madrid is a heavy city. Outside a few older neighbourhoods that become home to throbbing, pulsating hives of tourists Madrid is an unremarkable collection of post-war blocks. I live in one of the more unremarkable neighbourhoods. The pavements are covered in excrement, mostly of the canine sort. There are few buildings of any interest. Those that are of interest would be entirely unremarkable if they were found in almost any other place. Madrid is a heavy city. Whenever I leave it, I often do as I work in one of its suburbs, I feel two stone lighter. The air is heavy, the atmosphere is a weight.
Madrid is a city of hidden miseries and nightmares. Those with jobs are often worked to the brink of physical and mental exhaustion; those without jobs are desperate to find anything to alleviate their tribulations. Many have hidden in university and training to attempt to postpone their eventual rut or emigration. I’m employed, but I am certainly in the rut category. I work three jobs, two in Spain. Of the two jobs I have in Spain, when you consider how much time I spend to prepare lessons and commute between schools and classes I earn just over £3 an hour. I could work at Waitrose in Dorchester and do better than this.
I have it better than many. I at least have some work, although it isn’t nearly as much as I’d like. I am increasingly aware that I really am not cut out to work with children. I have spent most of May working as a substitute teacher in a first year class. The little monsters hold football matches on tables and will not be told otherwise. They do as they please, treating me with affectionate scorn. Next month I will be assigned a class of 15 4th-year-students. In the mornings I teach adult students at an international automotive aftermarket consulting firm. They’re easier, far easier to deal with.
In my training group I was one of the first to be employed and one of the first to prepare a departure from Spain. I will not, however, be the first to leave. One of my comrades, a somewhat older Briton who has returned to the Old World after working for twenty years as a biochemist in California, is likely to leave for France in short order. Another, an Aussie who was hoping for a new lifestyle and a fresh start with her fiancé in southern Europe is just as discouraged. In the last week I’ve collapsed in an exhausted heap twice after yet another 12-hour-day of commuting and lecturing.
In late July I will fly to Germany as Madrid will be abandoned for the month of August. I may or may not return. To paraphrase and re-work Marlene Dietrich, ich habe noch einen Koffer in Deutschland. I am presently entertaining job offers in Asia for the spring hiring season. One is only hinted. I’d be assigned to a rural area in South Korea but would have an excellent salary with tremendous benefits. Other offers include working for a British-owned company in Chengdu, Sichuan for 12-15 hours a week for more than twice but I make in Spain with far better benefits. Another is in a border region of Shaanxi Province, near China’s ancient capital, Xi’an and the mountains. This is for a Canadian-owned company. I am holding out hope for Korea, but will consider other reasonable offers should that not go through.