Author Archives: Michelle

About Michelle

Originally from Boston, I've been living and working in Spain for 14 years. In August 2006 I decided to leave behind my life in Boston and take a chance over in sunny Spain with nothing more than determination, a sense of adventure and two big suitcases. 14 years later I like to think I'm pretty established: I have a Spanish husband, full time job that's 50/50 Spanish/English, two Spanglish kids, home (apartment) owner, and I apparently talk in Spanish sometimes in my sleep which is as good of a sign as any of cultural immersion. Currently I work as a Program Director in Executive Education at IESE Business School (where I also did my MBA back in 2010). Prior to that I've had experience in FMCG Brand Marketing and Customer/User Experience Research and Design. These days I keep quite busy as a full-time working mother to two young kids. Although I don't have as much free time as before, I still enjoying meeting new people and sharing experiences and enjoy reflecting upon the differences between life in the US and Spain. Customer Experience as well remains an interest of mine and shows up in a number of my posts. Hope you enjoy my blog!

Thanksgiving is tomorrow? Good thing the pre-packed turkey at Supercor reminded me.

With all the Covid craziness these days I’ve almost forgotten that Turkey day is tomorrow. Although I’ll admit that the endless amount of Black Friday offers coming my way these days are a hint (by the way offers all in Spanish and with no mention of nor relation to Thanksgiving). Given all the restrictions we have with meeting in groups of up to 6 and curfews, and actually not even being able to leave our town at the moment, we won’t be having much of a celebration this year.

In any case I was pleasantly surprised to see a large selection and display of ready-made stuffed turkey options at the Supercor supermarket today. Granted the idea of throwing a pre-made turkey in the microwave isn’t the same, but it’s something. Actually the brand that they have at Supercor is one from which you can order online and receive a fully-cooked Thanksgiving meal. I had it a few years ago at a friend’s place, and it was actually pretty good. But not cheap – almost 100€ for an 8/10 portion box

In case anyone’s interested it’s Cascajares – https://cascajares.eu/es/

Apparently they also have Black Friday…with Thanksgiving Turkeys.

Covid-19: heading into week 4 of our town’s confinement

This is what confinement looks like on a beautiful, late November day… not judging (I was there), but interesting to share. Once again, still very thankful for so much nature close by!

Local confinement + great weather = packed main park areas and terraces

When a sausage hanging on the wall is normal

It didn’t phase me today when I noticed a half-eaten sausage hanging from a nail on the wall in our kitchen terrace. Keeps it fresh right?

Yes… I think this may be a sign of “spanishization”

There he is, the hanging sausage
Right next to the water heater. Makes sense I guess. He’s not bothering anyone

Still in lockdown in Majadahonda, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

I haven’t written a post recently since there hasn’t really been much to tell. Since a week and a half ago my town has been in perimetral lockdown, meaning that we can’t leave the town and no one can enter (unless for justifiable reasons like work or medical appointments). Supposedly these restrictions will continue until Nov. 22nd (just in time to hopefully buy a turkey for Thanksgiving).

To be honest, this isn’t something that’s really too much of a hassle, especially during the week since you usually just work and then are at home. And these days a lot of people are working from home anyway. In my case my office is fully open as it’s a campus and we have courses fully running (with strict security precautions), but my weeks are a mix of WFH/office. Where it’s more noticeable is on the weekends since we can’t go very far or to the Sierra for example. All I have to say is thank goodness we have a great mountain/forest area near where we live. So lucky to have our Monte de Pilar so close by! The best discoveries have been the amazing views (according to my kids) of the cercanías trains that pass by and this cool tree hut that my husband found on a bike ride one day. Hours of entertainment 🙂

On a positive note it seems like things may be working as cases in our town have gone down from 700+ /100,000 habitants to less than 500. Slow and steady wins the race? But on a more positive note there’s this news about the upcoming vaccine of course. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but since it’s already being hyped all over the news I will. I’m hoping that by late next spring/early summer we can really be starting to see big changes here. I’m already looking forward to going home to Boston and going to the beach (without masks). Ojalá (Let’s hope!)

Leadership during times of crisis and Madrid Covid-19 – some thoughts

Does anyone really understand what’s going on in Madrid or the current Covid-19 confinement measures? If so, please fill me in! Literally, every day there are new rules or restrictions, rules that have changed, new confined areas, etc. I have never seen communications and messages change so quickly and be so confusing at the same time. Now I completely understand that this is an unprecedented and very complicated situation, and I know the government is trying to figure out what they think is the best way to handle the escalating crisis, but let’s get back to Leadership 101 and Communication skills for a minute. Maybe I’m influenced by the fact that I work at a business school, but I’m seeing the result of unclear communication in action…

Image: dreamstime.com

Two words: Transparent and Clear

Leaders should be empathetic and honest with people, being transparent in their messages. At the same time the messages should be clear. Otherwise, you’re just adding more confusion and uncertainty to the crisis.

Hey leaders! Here’s an article that might help you!: https://www.forbes.com/sites/joyceearussell/2020/07/26/leading-in-times-of-crisis/?sh=66e4cf116ed2

In general if you listen to any conversation these days around here it’s about how confusing everything is and people not knowing where they can go and not. How can the government expect people to comply with the rules if we don’t even understand them?

One thing I’ve seen happen continuously as well, apart from confusing rules is that the government or towns will announce that there will be some new restrictions and will give a bit of detail, but the restrictions won’t be in effect until a few days from then. Why give so much notice if it’s only going to create more uncertainty? A little time I can understand, but I don’t see the need to wait 3 days, announcing something early Friday that won’t take effect until Monday.

On Monday most of my town, Majadahonda, went under lockdown (you can only go in and out for specific reasons like medical appointements, work, etc.). I say most of my town since specifically the area where I live wasn’t confined. Now, just 4 days later it’s been announced that starting Monday (yes, in 3 days) my area as well will be confined. So now all of Majadahonda is under confinement, but does that mean I can travel freely within the whole town (i.e. can I go to Mercadona that’s in “the other zone”? Some people think yes, some people think no. All I know is that I’m going to run any errands for things I need this weekend since I won’t be able to starting Monday (and this is exactly why they shouldn’t announce restrictions with so much advance notice!)

I spent a good amount of time studying a pdf map of my town with the confined areas marked off to try to figure out where I could go and not. You’re talking to someone who can get lost in a parking garage…now I’m studying pdf maps with a magnifying glass. This can’t end well…

Covid-19 may lead me to a new profession??? – cartographer

Clearly Spain isn’t the only place where things are getting worse – France and Germany just announced tough restrictions. Apart from Australia and New Zealand, it looks like everyone is riding the second wave. In any case, as I always say, I just hope that these measures actually do something and prevent the virus from spreading further. And prevent us being confined inside our homes -again!

Vote! I just submitted my absentee ballot – easy!

It was actually much easier than I was expecting to cast my overseas absentee ballot. A few years ago I also voted and had been in touch with the town clerk where I’m registered in Massachusetts. I just emailed her and only had to follow two steps:

1. Email back a scanned Absentee ballot request form

2. Email back the absentee ballot and affidavit form.

That’s all. So don’t think it’s complicated and not vote. Get in touch with your town clerk and vote today! The US needs some intelligence in office.

Absentee ballot
Yep. There they are – the big whigs…

Spanish food is different

I had some delicious home-cooked food today – alubias blancas (white beans) and empanada de morcilla (blood sausage empanada). As I was enjoying this earlier I thought “Wow, this is definitely not something I would be eating in the US!”

One word – delicious!

Two words – and healthy (more or less)

Any interest in the recipes let me know!

Alubias blancas
Empanada de morcilla – so good I had to have a bite before the picture

Discounted Apple products in Madrid @ Costco (and also Halloween pumpkins)

My Airpods have been on the fritz for quite some time now. I’ll admit they’ve also gone through the washing machine a couple times, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with it. After talking to an Apple rep last week I finally gave in that I’m going to have to buy new ones. (Technically I could just use the normal ones, but once you’ve gotten used to the cable-free headphones it’s hard to go back, especially with sports).

Yesterday I went to my beloved Costco, mainly to buy decent-sized pumpkins (and oversized American-brand bulk products and food that I really don’t need)… I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they sell Apple products. I was just about to buy the Airpods at the standard price of 179.00€. At Costco they sell the same ones, second generation, for 144,99€. They also have other Apple products like the new iPhones and some laptops, but as I’m not in the market for those I didn’t look in more detail.

I thought this was might be useful to share. I love Costco! Definitely worth the annual membership fee!

New Airpods from Costco

And one more image. Since I’m writing about Costco, it’s necessary to include an image of the pumpkins there -best ones I’ve found over here!

Covid-19 Madrid – heading for another big lockdown?

I feel like I’m living in a bubble these days. If you watch the news, from the outside, it looks like everything is completely going downhill here in Spain and that we’re headed for another lockdown. Just the other day they announced new restrictions in Madrid, not allowing people to enter or leave 37 most-affected areas in the city. And we’re back to more than 10,000 cases a day…

If you don’t see the news and look at my daily activities, though, it almost feels like nothing is really happening: On one hand my kids started back in school a week ago with some restrictions like mandatory face masks for the older one and shortened schedules, but overall it doesn’t feel so strange. We can go play in the parks, play in the pool (until it closed a few days ago), etc. On another hand with work, my company has made it mandatory for everyone to be back in the office, as if nothing is going on… of course there are a lot of safety measures and we already have some people in quarantine from being Covid-positive or with others that are positive I understand wanting to get back to normal and transmit normalcy, but it just seems odd. A lot of companies like my husband’s for example already have all employees working from home until January 2021. I don’t think it should be so black and white at this stage. Things are changing by the day.

From a social perspective, although you can’t have meetings in groups of more than 10 people (now will be 6 as of Monday), restaurants are still packed every day, terraces are full, and groups bigger than 10 really just translates to more than one table. Maybe this will change with the new restrictions.

To be honest I don’t see how temporarily closing down certain parts of the city with the highest virus concentrations (mainly those that are most impoverished as well which will just be more of a problem for people who can’t work) is really the answer. I understand that the last thing the country wants or needs is a lockdown as this would destroy the economy, and I agree. So, what is the answer? Good question. Hopefully I’m wrong and we’ll see in a few weeks that things are more under control. As I’ve said in previous posts I think there’s such a strong, underlying social component here in Spain that it will be hard to curb social gatherings, especially amongst younger people. However, a government measure to have bars close now at 10pm instead of 1am (1am was a restriction from a while back), for example… Maybe the problem is more the bar itself than the 3 hour shortened window. Last night I went out for dinner at a restaurant that fully complied with the distancing and hygiene measures, etc. Then, taking a walk afterwards we passed by a number of smaller bars that were packed with people on top of each other. As I’ve said in other posts, time will tell.