August 30th 2013, I’m sitting in a bar in in Killarney, Ireland having a chat and a couple of pints with my good friend Gary among others. I’m planning on moving to Spain the next day and I’m bricking it. I have about two words of Spanish, I barely know where Huelva is and I don’t even know Jamon exists. I tell Gary that I’m nervous and I’m thinking of not going ahead with the plan. “Do it¨ says Gary, why not like?¨ He’s right even though I half wished he convinced me to stay so I could continue living in the Paradise known as Killarney, Ireland with family and friends. Madrid was not on the horizon yet.
Having lived in Killarney all my 24 years with short spells in England and The USA, I felt it was time to go. No degree, Jobs that I didn’t enjoy despite hilarious and thoughtful workmates and a sense that I needed a kick up the arse led me to applying to an academy in Huelva, Andalucia. I had my CELTA and Juanjo, my interviewer (and now good friend) seemed like a nice guy. We talked about Liverpool and Gareth Bale signing for Madrid which impressed me no end.
So I arrived in Spain the same day as the aforementioned Bale. I felt a sense of affinity with Bale even though I’m sure he couldn´t have given a shit about me. I arrived at Kedaro International and I was wrecked from the pints with Gary and the lads over the weekend. Initially there was the travellers fun with friends like Juanjo, Miguel, Jorge and Jesus(not that one). I was lonely at times but blown away by the warmth of the people there. They couldn’t have been nicer or more craic.
I really enjoyed teaching there and identified with my students situations. Spain was also going through a devastating recession and Jobs were at a minimum, particularly in areas like Andalucia. I spent three years there and met some lifelong friends as well as my girlfriend Encarna, who tries to talk about the food in Huelva every two minutes, as any Proud Choquera should.
So, after such a lovely time in a place with beautiful beaches, incredible food, flamenco and my second team, Recreativo, we decided to move to Madrid for a change. The night we left was emotional to say the least and we were under no illusions that we were leaving a special place behind. Both of us felt that Huelva would always be there for us and now was the time. September, 2016 we arrived and its fair to say that a lot has changed.
Madrid has endless possibilities which were pointed out to us by our friend Jesus (a different one again). There is always something happening and the city centre is beautiful. There are great bars, striking landmarks and I’m living in Lavapies, which is in the city centre and one of the cultural hotspots here. There are also Irish bars where I can watch GAA and my beloved Liverpool.
My job is great, aided and abetted by wonderful workmates and a really sound boss called Karen. Unlike Juanjo, I don’t go on the session with her but she couldn’t be nicer. I’ve met some other good friends and try to get down to watch Atleti as much as I can, the only team in Madrid as far as I’m concerned. Encarna is happy and settled here and we enjoy our time off immensely. Things are on the up so what’s the problem?
I miss Huelva, that’s the problem. Madrid is just a bit too impersonal. If you said hello to someone on the street here they’d think that you had lost your mind. People look out for themselves and it simply isn’t what I’m used to after living in friendly places such as Killarney and Huelva. Big cities suit some people who are addicted to the bright lights but provoke a sense of loneliness among others which sounds ludicrous as there is a Street party outside my apartment right now as I write this.
I adored my life in Huelva. My friends, my job at Kedaro and the general sense of community that only a smaller city can produce. We both are looking at Madrid as a great experience where we are learning a lot but sooner rather than later, It will be time to return to Andalusia. Until then, I’ll enjoy Madrid and try not to think of beaches, Recreativo and chocos.