I’m not an organized person, and I don’t really expect a squatter’s residence to be organized…but it’s a little strange here.
Waking up for 10:30 feels impossible, which is pathetic because I went to sleep at midnight. Well, I tried, but with my job starting at 4pm or later every day, I’ve been staying up late. Today, 10:30 feels like 6am. I’m apart of a Facebook group specifically for TEFL teachers, and someone posted an ad offering 1€ yoga classes. This is what has brought me up at such an ungodly hour. I need to start doing something fitness wise, because between all the time I spend sitting on the metro, and my inability to cook causing me to eat basically nothing but sandwiches…things aren’t looking good for my health. Not to mention all the Estrellas…
Lindzee and I meet at our half-way point metro station and head down to the address listed on the Facebook page. I was expecting someone’s damn basement or like a park or public space, but somehow it’s in a legit studio. Way too cute for this to be 1€, I don’t understand. Especially when it’s a class of 5 people. He’s not exactly profiting here.
All of the instruction is in Spanish so I spend a lot of time peeking at what other people are doing instead of focusing on my breathing and such, but I think that’s okay. I pick up a couple of Spanish words in the process. 10/10 would (and will) do again.
I find myself walking through the shopping area at my home station of Clot. I have -5847373€ to my name, so I can’t really buy anything but I accidentally purchase a cheap necklace and a cat hair lint roller thing. At least the second purchase is practical. I’m really not used to having cat hair on ALL of my shit, and I’m not a fan. Having a cat is fun, but it’s not as glamorous as it seems.
Then onto my Monday lessons. I did some rearranging and instead of having the 3-back-to-back-class-Monday-of-death I’ve had for the past two weeks, I now only have 2 classes. My evening class switched to Thursdays and I’m stoked.
Or so I thought. They text me two hours before their lesson would have started to tell me that they’d like to start their new schedule next week instead, and still want me to come tonight. They’re by far my favourite and most chill class, so I forgive them, but now this means I have to run around all over Barcelona tonight. At least I know it’ll be the last time.
In anticipation of my soon-approaching first pay day, I do the math for all the hours I worked and am relieved to find that I’ll have enough money to cover my rent! Success!!
The lawd has blessed me with another job interview this morning. My life is about to become hella hectic though, because I have to move out of the hostel, into my apartment, and be at this interview… all before 10am. I groggily pack my bag, take the fastest, weakest shower of my life, and beg the front desk to let me leave my bag with them for an hour. I don’t want to pay the 5€ fee that they charge for a full day. Hell nah. They say if I’m back before noon I don’t have to pay. Sick homie, I can do that.
I hop on the metro and essentially RUN to my interview. It’s 10:05 when I arrive and I apologize for being late but my interviewer laughs and says he felt unprepared because expected I’d show up closer to 10:30 anyway. I check, and the e-mail definitely says 10:00. Spain is too chill. I can’t imagine what would happen if you showed up 30 minutes late to an interview in Canada. They’d probably laugh too…and then slam the door in your face.
It becomes clear about 2 minutes into this interview that they’ve already decided to hire me. Classes start Monday, so I think they’ve been like “awhhhh shit we don’t have enough teachers”, picked up my resume, and said to themselves, “sweet let’s do it”. It’s less of an interview and more of an explanation for how it’s going to work. That’s all good with me because I’m hireddddd! 17€/hour is very acceptable. It’s only 2 hours a week though, so I’m still poor.
It’s a fun little project though, that teaches young kids after school, and is built around the idea of “traveling around the world”. So day 1, we’ll be making fake passports with the kids. Day 2, filling up a fake suitcase, and teaching colours and other vocabulary as we go. I think it sounds really fun, and it’s nice that I’ll be apart of their first time trying it.
I go back to my stinky old hostel for the last time, so I can pick up my bag and get the hell out. Byeeeee! See ya never!
I take the metro 5 stops to my new hood, get in the teeny tiny elevator that takes me to the roof, and I am home. It feels wonderful to take my things out of my backpack and hang them up, or fold them and place them on a self. The majority, however, go in a giant pile destined for the laundry machine. Another perk to this apartment. In suite laundry! It’s Europe, so there’s no dryer, just hanging racks, but I am not complaining at all. I don’t know how they go without dryers in Ireland or England, but in sunny Barcelona it works just fine.
Feeling stoked on life after I’ve unpacked and settled in, I message my French boys to come hang out at the beach with me. Lindzee is in Paris all weekend so my friend group is even smaller than usual. Only Mazen gets back to me, so he comes to my metro stop, and we walk 30 minutes to the beach. Yes, that’s right, my house is 30 minutes from the beach. And the good beaches, at that. Not the super touristy ones in Barceloneta. I’m living the dream.
I get a great photo of Mazen, who doesn’t have Facebook for it to be his new profile picture (tragic), so I will share it here. My photo skills must be improving!
Later, we get a text from Francisco who’s doing a DJ set tonight, so we go downtown to meet up with him at his bar. He invites me to come learn how to DJ, steps away to take a picture of me doing it, but instructs me not to actually touch anything…
Visiting Francisco of course leads us to another bar, and another, but I dip out on our way to the next. I’m sleepy, and it’s such a boys night anyway, I need Lindzee to return to me so I can have some estrogen back in my life. It occurs to me that she’s literally the only other woman I know here. Even though these guys are lovely, I need to make some female friends.
It’s day 10. I am still unemployed and most classes are starting Monday. Things are looking BLEAK. So bleak that I’ve started considering restaurant work again, which I’d basically promised myself I’d never do again. Especially in Europe. What’s the point if you’re not making tips? You have to be…what? Nice to people who aren’t paying you? Seems silly. But as I’ve said before, desperate times. I do have two job interviews today, so at least there’s still a small glimmer of hope.
The first woman I meet with is, as per usual, not impressed by my lack of experience. She asks me a grammar question and I’m really not certain of the answer. If someone asks you to identify the difference between “I have eaten” and “I ate”, would you be able to pull the terms past simple and past participle out of your back pocket? I couldn’t. I just explain the difference by using an example, which lets me survive and move on to further questions, but I walk out shaking my head. I’m DONEEEE. I can’t teach! Guess I’ll go buy myself an apron.
I go straight to my next interview, which isn’t at an actual school. I’m meeting a woman outside of a subway station. Very official. I get there half an hour early by accident, and send her an e-mail detailing what I’m wearing so it will be easier to find each other. She doesn’t respond. I wait the 30 minutes to when our meeting is scheduled. Still no reply, no sign of her anywhere. I wait another 10. Nothing. I’m being stood up by a potential employer. Not only is this extremely unprofessional, but it’s a sign from the heavens that teaching is just not going to happen for me. Just as I’m about to get up and head back to my hostel in defeat, a woman comes over and introduces herself. She doesn’t even apologize for being late, Spaniards just don’t care. I don’t really care either, PLEASE JUST HIRE ME!
She only has one class available on Monday nights, for a group of 3 year old kids. I’ll take it, I do not even care. She’s a gem and says she’ll hold the position for me, but as classes don’t start until the 17th, she knows I’ll be looking for other jobs and just asks that I e-mail her to confirm next week. For now though, the job is mine!! I’m kinda sorta employed!! This is huge!! It’s only 16€ 4 times a month… so the 64€ is not exactly going to cover my rent, but it’s a start!
Feeling stoked on life, I go to meet up with Lindzee, Mazen, and Mikaël (this is my Barcelona squad; I see them daily.) to attend another friend’s DJ show at a restaurant. His name is Francisco but when he’s DJing he goes by Freak-sisco, which I love. He’s also the front desk man from my old hostel where I met the squad. It’s a big night for him because a famous photographer for a magazine is going to be there, so he’s asked that we come and dress up a little bit. I dig for the only semi-nice going out dress that I have in my backpack, and wear it with my Toms because the only heels I have are boots, and it’s 26 degrees out. Ain’t nobody got time for that. As long as no one looks at me from the ankle down, I’ll look fab.
We’re served free fancy drinks and tapas. Yeah. FREE! And it’s GOOD tapas. I’m in heaven. I’ll support freak-sisco wherever he goes.
During our luxury meal I get a phone call, and it’s the woman from my first interview offering me a job working 3 hours a week, teaching a class of adults. I guess my lack of grammar terminology didn’t ruin her entire opinion of me. I say “YASSSSSSSS queen”, and accept the job. I might have said “yes, thank you so much”, instead. I don’t remember. Same same.
So now I’m making at least 200€ a month. I actually forgot to ask what the hourly rate is, but I’m not in a position to be picky and it’s not likely that it’s below 15€.
We’re getting somewhere.
What a good day I am having!!! Tomorrow is the last in my wretched hostel too, so that’s another thing to look forward to.
I am equally excited as I am scared, but I figure I’ll just have to sort it out as I go. I’ll make it happen.
I was electrocuted by the toaster in my hostel this morning. Twice. Now I’m having a bad hair day. I couldn’t be more excited to move into a real flat soon. Counting down the days.
In other news, I have 3 job interviews this week. Only 2 of them seem somewhat promising, and are only for a few hours a week, not the “full time” 20 hours I’m hoping for. Yes, you read that correctly. An average work week in Spain is a mere 20 hours. I don’t even know what I would do with all that extra free time!!! I could get two full time jobs and feel right at home. But I need to chill. Step 1: secure ANY job at all.
I’m settling in to Barcelona a little more now; it’s a great city.
Things I’m loving:
– The weather. 25 and sunny almost every day.
– Patios everywhere.
– €2 for NICE beers, not just the cheap ones. Estrella is usually €1, but I’m pretty over that already. I can get a Paulaner or Heineken for €2 at the right places.
– Being able to drink anywhere I want at any time. Including the metro, the street, and probably a children’s nursery if I should so choose. (But won’t, don’t worry)
– No tipping. Yes, I was a waitress, but tipping is stupid. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it because it allowed me to save money to do things like this, but the practice itself is ridiculous. So nice to know that when my bill says €5, it’s €5.
– Beautiful buildings on every. single. street. I’m not even a big architecture buff but I’m constantly in awe. Balconies everywhere!
Things I’m not used to:
– Slow walkers. It’s painful.
– The whole speaking Spanish thing. I struggle to even order my own food.
– Everyone smokes. Absolutely everyone. I don’t really struggle with this, I don’t care, I just find it strange.
– Police Officers with AKA 47s (but I think I feel safer here than I would in The States right now).
I spoke of cheap beers earlier; we have even found strong mojitos for €4, BUT, fun fact, when the bars close and clubs are the only place to go, drink prices sky rocket. A single vodka soda at Shoko is €12. I do not drink at clubs.
I go for my very first teaching job interview. It’s accessible by metro which is great, as so many of these jobs claim to be in Barcelona, but turn out to be in the outer suburbs, where you have to drive or take a train. Ain’t nobody got time for that, even when you’re as poor as I am.
I sit down with a very nice British woman who’s been living in Barcelona for the last 7 years as a teacher. She’s looking to fill a one hour time slot every Tuesday night for a group of 3 year olds.
3 year olds intimidate me. What if they cry? What if they fall or something? What if I hurt them? I can’t care for children. Why am I applying to be a teacher? Gotta go, byeeeeeee.
Just kidding. I stay. I put on a brave face and try to appear as confident as I can, instead of displaying how wildly unprepared and terrified I actually am. She doesn’t seem too stoked on the fact that I have no previous teaching experience, so I don’t think I really killed the interview, but it was practice if nothing else. I’m not too gutted about losing out on 16€/week.
This interview makes me question my entire existence. What the hell am I doing here? Who am I kidding? I don’t know how to teach people things, TEFL certified or not. I’ll probably end up being a waitress for the rest of my life, and I should just come to terms with that. I’m panicking. I call on Ma. She helps. I’m still worried I’ll never find a job here and will have to go home, defeated.
During my existential crisis, Lindzee invites me to an open mic night at a craft brewery she found online. I’m so down. We meet up with our two French friends and walk over to this hidden gem of a bar, literally entitled “craft”. It’s absolutely precious! They have live music in what is essentially a stone cave in a basement, tapas, and craft beers on tap, some of which are even brewed on site. However, they’re not cheap. I order a pint of their house Amber Ale and have to fork out €5.25. Ouch.
They alternate between comedians and musicians, and some of the acts are fantastic. Seriously. It might be the best open mic night I’ve ever been to. This is now my favourite bar. Check out Liam Cloud for cool acoustic jams (on Spotify or iTunes), and Ellen Daniels for some hilarious comedy. Just do it.
I was not a happy camper this morning when I woke up to someone else’s abandoned alarm clock. It was ringing for a solid 5 minutes before they came back from wherever they were to turn it off. I’ll kill you.
Everyone in my dorm room is leaving to go to either Ha Long Bay or Hoi An today, and they’re all up early getting their stuff together to go. I try to sleep through it, but fail. Hostel life. I wake up with only a few mosquito bites, but I’m totally over heating. I want to take a cold shower but so does everyone else in the room, so I’ll have to wait.
My $4/night bed also comes with an included breakfast. If that’s not thrifty I don’t know what is. It’s a pretty good breakfast, too! Not just some toast and tea, but a menu of about 6 items to choose from, and tea or coffee. Actually, tea and coffee are free all day. If it weren’t for the bugs, I’d probably want to stay…but I don’t. I plan to do it the traditional, and most effective way, of just walking around and stopping in to check prices/ see rooms before committing to anything new. I also desperately need a pair of flip flops (as the floor in this hostel is sometimes wet without reason) and I need to pull more cash. I make these things my mission for the day. I also look into getting my legs waxed because I’m going to be hittin’ the east side Vietnamese beaches soon.
I bring a small black and white map of Hanoi, given to me by the front desk, and set out into the craziness of the Old Quarter. It’s so humid outside that it’s hard to breathe. I should just accept right now that I’ll be perma-sweaty for the next month and a half.
I somehow manage to walk in the right direction towards the popular Hoan Kiem Lake, where I can be sure to find shops and an ATM. I see a Bank of Vietnam and try to pull money but it doesn’t work with my debit card so I must use my visa once again. I don’t know how people travel without these, really.
I feel extra on edge as I pull my money because someone comes to stand behind me half way through my transaction. Please don’t rob me please don’t rob me please don’t rob me. He doesn’t rob me, he just wants to use the ATM too. Crazy.
One mission: completed. I’m close to a salon that I googled with a good reputation, so that’s my next stop. I walk into a very skinny lobby area with hundreds of nail polishes on shelves all along the walls. I am lead up three flights of a narrow, winding stair case to an air-conditioned room with calm Vietnamese music is playing.
There are two ladies in the room, not just one. Right away, BOTH of the ladies start waxing my legs! One lady per leg. They move super quickly and I can’t stop myself from laughing. Kinda weird at first, but just too funny! If I went to a salon in a Canada and asked to have TWO people wax my legs at the same time they’d probably just say no, or I’d be paying double. Here, my leg wax only costs me $25, and is done in half the time it usually takes. What service!
I walk back over to the lake so I can catch up on my writing. It’s a beautiful location to sit and relax on one of the many benches surrounding the water.
I have been sitting for maybe 10 minutes, when I am approached by four Vietnamese people about my age, two girls and two boys. One of the girls asks me if she can sit down and practice her English with me. Please don’t rob me please don’t rob me please don’t rob me.
I invite her to sit down, but I am clutching onto my bag for dear life. What is the catch here? What’s the scam? I’m pretty much prepared to run if something weird happens.
They ask me simple questions like my name, where I come from, and my age. I have to remind myself to speak slowly, which is not an easy task.
Over time I ask them some questions too, and find out that they’re all University students in Hanoi, who often come here to find tourists to speak with. I start to calm down a little. No one is here to rob me. The hype about Vietnam being so dangerous doesn’t seem to be true to Hanoi. Maybe Ho Chi Mihn?
The four of them have only met today, while wandering around the lake to practice English. What a fun way to make friends! After they sit with me for a few minutes, more and more people start to gather. Eventually the first four leave, but I am now speaking with a new group of 10 or so people, asking me the same questions.
“What is your name? Where do you come from? How old are you? Do you have any siblings? Tell me something about your mother. How long are you in Vietnam? Do you like my country? Tell me something special about your country. What do you study? Do you have a boyfriend? Do you like shopping? Why are you traveling alone?” Everyone is always sad that I’m traveling alone. “What music do you like?” They all love Taylor Swift. No one knows Macklemore.
The questions go on and on and I sit with them for hours, helping them with pronunciation and spelling. Some write down new words I say, and they all help each other translate if they are unsure of what I mean.
It’s a really really cool experience!
Some add me on Facebook or ask for the link to my blog so they can read about my time in Vietnam, which will be even more English practice for them!
By 5pm I realize it’s been FOUR hours of sitting by the lake and chatting. I’ve missed lunch and I’m starving, so I apologize and say I have to go find dinner. One of the guys makes some suggestions for me on where I can go to find good Vietnamese dishes in the area. He even has a book about the food handy! Someone else gives me a map in colour and WAY better than the one the hostel has given me. Everyone I meet is so nice.
I also haven’t peed in four hours. I can’t wait until I get back to the hostel so I try to stop in a small café but they tell me they don’t have a washroom. Nooo! I ask the shop keeper at an art store just next to the café where I can find a washroom. She offers to let me use hers…in the scary dark back room behind the shop. Am I going to die? Please don’t rob me please don’t rob me please don’t rob me. She turns on the washroom light and here I am.
In the scariest, most spider covered squatter toilet in all the land. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I try to find my happy place.
I leave and thank her a million times for letting me be in the scariest room I’ve ever been in.
I plan to go back to the hostel before heading out for dinner, but I get totally lost, even with my new map. The Old Quarter is like a big maze.
A woman carrying a big basket of fruit approaches me in the street as I’m looking at my map. Please, for the love of god, don’t rob me. I don’t want to buy anything please go away. She offers to help me figure out where I’m going, and easily points me in the right direction. She doesn’t ask me for money, she doesn’t try to steal my bag. Just a nice lady.
I make it back to my hostel, take a cold shower and head back out for some Pho. I find a restaurant on a street corner with lots of other customers so I sit down at a miniature table (extremely popular here in Hanoi) and order one bowl of chicken Pho. I sit on the sidewalk and enjoy the people watching. It’s totally enjoyable until the rain starts pouring down. Like some serious rain. There is no awning to cover my head and no where to sit inside, so I follow suit with everyone else and push my table against the wall, huddled under a small roof overhang. I am soaked. Everyone is soaked, but no one seems to mind. The Pho is great, though.
I eat quickly and head back to my hostel where three American girls walk in off the street and join my almost empty dorm room. They invite me to go for a drink with them, so of course I agree and we find a cute restaurant close by with “Happy Hour Now, Buy One Get One Free Beer” permanently printed into the menu. I didn’t know discounts could be permanent. Vietnam has taught me many new things today.