My immune system seems to be sabotaging me once again.

I was hoping to come back from my weekend with friends in the Pyrenees rejuventated, ready to hit the ground running, to start a million projects at once, now that my work schedule was finally solidifying (after only two months of scrambling to get classes lined up).


Wheezy the Penguin from Toy Story. This is how I feel today.

But, no. Instead I hit the ground coughing. And sneezing. And wheezing. And snotting. So much snotting. Sometimes I wonder how it is physically possible to produce so much snot and if our bodies have some sort of limit at which they just run out. I have not reached that point yet. I’ll let you all know if I do.

Upside: cough syrup that totally makes me high (Bisolvon – what is IN this stuff?)

Downside: my job is terrible if you have a cold.

I haven’t talked much here about teaching English, probably because I am afraid that I will turn into an angry rant-monster. But I thought I’d include a little mini rant today.

So – English teaching in Spain, if you don’t have papers and therefore can’t get a contract, is, in general, a racket. Some of the racketeers are less exploitative than others, but in the end, it’s really no way to build a career (especially if like me, you don’t even want a career in English teaching, ha!). But that’s not the point of today’s rant.

Today’s rant is about shlepping. (I thank Yiddish for the beautiful contributions it has made to the English language – shlep being one of my favourites). When you teach English here without a contract, you are inevitably going to spend the greater part of your day, your time, your precious life energy shlepping around from one class to another, often in distant parts of the city, cramming yourself into bus and metro and running from one to the other with your not-very-light bag of text books and photocopies and sometimes (groan) a laptop. All of which is uncompensated time and effort.

This is all very annoying in summer, but in winter, for an immunologically challenged person such as myself, it becomes unbearable. All day, running in and out from warm air to freezing air. And what air it is. Madrid is the highest major capital in Western Europe and you can tell by the cold cold, skin crackingly dry air. You breathe it in and pain shoots through your sinus cavity (if you have weakling pathetic sinuses like me). I’m just a poor girl from Northern California. I have never adjusted to this.

Two years ago a I got the flu twice in 4 weeks. Last year I spent the better part of the winter in some state of phlegm over-production. This is my third disease of the season. I give up. I admit it. I am sickly. I don’t feel like a sickly person. I think of myself as full of energy and life. But I have to face the facts. All of my friends can pick out the sound of me in particular blowing my nose, so often do they hear it. My immune system is crap. Defective. Useless. I want a refund!

And so, while most people, when they get a cold, can at least spend most of their day in one, temperature-constant environment, I’m tossed around between over heated metro cars and windswept bus stops, carrying around absurd amounts of soon to be snot covered toilet tissue in my bag (cuz the kleenex ran out ages ago) to whose over-use the red, chaffed ring around my nose attests. It is not a pretty or dignified sight. I look like I belong in a Nyquil comercial.

Reason number 435 why I don’t want to teach English in Madrid anymore.

That’s it. Mini-rant, like I said.

Now, that said, I don’t want to give the impression I have anything against teaching. I love teaching actually. I just hate doing it in the conditions that exist in Madrid. Precarious, laborious, underappreciated.

I love my students though. I have met so many fabulous interesting people so far. One of my new students is an artist. Another is a military officer who is going to Afghanistan in January. And others are incredibly sweet kids who i would gladly teach for free (but don’t tell their parents that).

I’ve also learned a lot from my students. Many of them have lent me or recommended books (I’m working on two at the moment) And one has given me the bestest, stinkiest home remedy tip of all time (for sickly sniffly puppies like me). Teresa was a funcionario for the Ministry of Housing, but somewhere in the past she had studied nutrition and knew all sorts of interesting facts about foods. But the best was when I had a cold, and complained that I couldn’t sleep well at night, because I couldn’t breathe through my nose. She told me to put a chopped raw onion on a plate by my bed. Worked like a charm. My room stank to high heaven, but I could breathe!

Used that tip on Monday night. Was kind of worried that in the morning, perhaps I smelled of onion, but couldn’t tell because my sense of smell was impaired. If I did, the army guy was nice enough not to tell me.

Gotta go get rid of some snot now 🙂 [wheeeeeze]