Learning Experiences/Expecting the Unexpected

Programs for this blog post

Teach In Spain Program + 4 Weeks of Spanish Immersion

Authored By:

Emma S.

I have always hated the cliche "expect the unexpected". It's trite, and un-useful: I am the type who likes to be prepared, 5 minutes early, notecards ready, worst case scenario already run through a few times in my head. It's worked out pretty well for me so far––but Spain is a different story, as is living abroad in general. Madrid is unpredictable. 

A few mornings ago, I left my apartment at the same time I always do, fast-walked to the metro in the pouring rain, transferred at the station where I always transfer, and then proceeded to wait 25 minutes for my usually-timely-train, which was heavily delayed by weather. Sigh. Despite my stress on the platform, there was nothing I could do. I finally got to school, a bit frantic, about 20 minutes late, and the door to the classroom was closed with the lights off. What?! 

I asked the well dressed teacher who happened to be walking down the hall if he knew where my co-teacher might be. He peered at me through his thick rimmed glasses, looked up and down the hall, and said he wasn't sure, but he would come upstairs with me to check another classroom just in case. No luck. 

I descended the stairs again to ask the front desk if they had seen him this morning, since the class didn't seem to be in their usual classroom. Oh, your co-teacher, the one with the pretty eyes? Yes, the handsome one. Well, he's a little short for my taste, but he carries himself well. Yes, yes, that one! My body buzzed with anxiety, poised for flight or flight in a room full of women that might as well have been on the beach. A deep breath. 

The curly haired receptionist told me to wait a bit in the school's lobby. Tranquila, guapa (a refrain where I am concerned), I'll just go have a look for him. She wandered down the hallway, got caught up a few minutes in conversation with the security monitor, found her way back to me and said she still couldn't find him.

I headed around the corner to check in the cafeteria, and the blue-eyed barista greeted me in English with a proud GOOD MORNING!  Your co-teacher isn't here, no, I haven't seen him today. 

Next stop, the head of studies across the hall. She checks my co-teacher's calendar and assures me that he must be in class with the students, if not in the usual classroom she's not sure where. It's okay! Tranquila. 

I head to the English department to wait out the rest of the class period and catch my breath, my options exhausted, my lateness now irredeemable.

A few minutes after the bell rings, my co-teacher comes through the door, smiling. You didn't come to class? he asks, not at all sarcastic, maybe just a bit concerned. I explain the saga that was my morning in what feels like one breath. Oh, he says, don't worryno need to make up the class. The lights were off because we were watching a film, and the door gets sticky in this rain so you couldn't open it. 

A string of apologies from me. 

Truly, don't worry. Everyone downstairs was asking me where I was. It made me feel so important! 


On days like this, life in Spain feels like a very tangible lesson in relinquishing control. Sometimes it rains all day, the trains don't come on time, the door gets stuck. All of these things are out of our control; they do not make us bad people, or unprofessional, or unreliable. Life moves at a different pace here, and I've learned that the best thing to do is to move with it, not against it. 

And now, I've started taking the bus to school.