Spotlight on Angela Daley

November 16th, 2021 by

A regular fixture at INC cultural events, this month we take a look at the rich tapestry that makes up, Australian, Mother of 2, former librarian, Angela Daley´s life spanning several continents thanks to the pioneer spirit of her parents who left behind war-torn Germany.

Growing up in Melbourne your mother tongue at home was German – why was this?

My parents were from Germany and Montenegro respectively. They migrated to Melbourne four months before I was born and decided to retain the German language and many German customs as well. Many of which we have kept to this day such as the annual chocolate Easter Egg hunt and holding a German-style Christmas dinner on 24th December.

Annemarie and Mirko

Your father was originally Serbian and spent time as a Prisoner of War in Pompeii, did he ever speak about his experiences during the war?

My father fought for Yugoslavia in World War II.  Many of the battles were brutal and he lost endless comrades. Eventually he was caught by Italian soldiers and spent two years in a prisoner of war camp in Pompeii. He never spoke about his experiences in the war but whilst my sister and I were growing up he suffered dreadful nightmares from those days and would often wake up screaming. Enduring the war and captivity developed my father’s survival skills and these certainly came in handy when he moved to Australia. 

Pyramid time at Teotihuacán in Mexico City

Your mother had to flee from what is now Poland to West Germany by foot during World War II, did she ever talk about her wartime experiences?

My mother also suffered trauma. She had been brought up in a wealthy home and was being groomed to take over her father’s empire. However, in February 1945 the Russians attacked the East German city, Breslau, where she lived and her family had to flee on foot. My mother did talk to us about some of her experiences during the war but she mainly focused on telling us stories about her happy childhood before that period. 

Her family finally settled near Münster in North West Germany. My mother had studied English at university and was employed by British forces responsible for the repatriation of former German prisoners of war.  My father was one of those prisoners and the rest is history !!! After getting married my parents decided to leave the ravages of war behind them by migrating to Australia. 

The family enjoy a reunion in Chicago

What was Melbourne like during the 1950´s and 1960´s?

Melbourne was very different from how it is today. It was mainly populated by people of Anglo- Saxon descent, the level of culture was limited and the food was quite plain. Today the city is a thriving metropolis filled with people from all over the world. It has amazing restaurants offering all sorts of cuisine and culture abounds all around. 

Have you been to Montenegro where your father was born?

Yes. My mother died suddenly in 2005 and my father became very depressed. They were lifelong soulmates. As a surprise we flew from New York to Niksic, Montenegro where my father was born and I phoned him from there. It was a special moment for us both. 

Sahara safari

You have enjoyed a long career as a librarian, what was it about law librarianship that appealed to you? 

It brought an excitement to my work as a librarian that I had never experienced before. Loads of interesting and challenging legal research and pressure through deadlines. I loved it all!!!

Your first overseas posting with your husband was in New York, how did you find life over there? 

New York is an amazing city to visit and it literally never stops. But trying to live a normal life in Manhattan did have its moments!!!

Angela´s daughter

You then moved to Washington, how did that posting compare to New York?

Washington is also an amazing city but it was difficult for me to meet people and to feel like I belonged. Lots of networks exist but mainly in the sphere of foreign affairs and the military. 

Angela´s son

 What brought you to Madrid?

My husband jokingly says that he is a “failure at retiring “!! He has had a few attempts. For a couple years he has been on the board of a Spanish company and he had recently even been considering attempting retirement once again. However, following a twist of events at a board meeting in Madrid in October 2019 he unexpectedly became the company’s full time CEO!!! 

What’s unmissable for you in Madrid?

I love everything about Madrid and Spain. But more than anything I am very attached to Meninas in all shapes and forms. 

Up close and personal with a moose in Northern Sweden

Name a book that has inspired you and why?

“Spain” by Jan Morris. This beautifully written book is filled with heaps of interesting information on the history, geography and culture of España. 

We are both keen linguists, what is it about languages that you love in particular?

Learning other languages opens up your mind to other cultures and gives you the ability to embrace and to feel part of them so much more.

Daley family fun time in Melbourne

What is Angela Daley’s motto for life?

Each day is precious!! Enjoy it to the full!!!

Spotlight on Hyacinth Rebaud

October 21st, 2021 by

This month we dive across many oceans into the life of INC Board member on the VP Team, mother of 3, half Australian-half Filipino, owner of studio l’atelier Pilates 18 and Pilates instructor, Hyacinth Rebaud who after finishing school on a sheep farm in Australia went onto acquire a Master´s in Development and has carved out a career in the sector in various cities ranging from Manila to Manchester. 

You started globetrotting from a young age, what was it like being sent from your home in the Philippines to school in Geelong near Melbourne, Australia?

This was definitely an experience that marked me profoundly and I made many lifelong friends.  Once I´d got over the homesickness I took full advantage of the opportunity going away to school meant, especially for a girl from the Philippines. It gave me the mindset to believe that anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it (and to always be prepared!).  

Riding by rickshaw in the Philippines

As someone used to densely populated Manila, how did you adapt to finishing high school on a merino sheep farm in Australia? What impact has that experience had on you in later life?

Well, it was certainly a steep learning curve! I wasn´t exactly enamoured with the remoteness of the location but I did acquire an appreciation for nature in all its raw beauty which has stayed with me today. 

I also had to skill up on how to deal with bushfires, droughts and such things like having kangaroos running around your property or snakes under the house. I am not a country girl at heart, but I would not change that time for anything in the world. 

Girl time in snowy Madrid

Having met your French husband during a brief stint at home in the Philippines you took a 1-way ticket over to France to be with him. Would you describe yourself as a risk taker?

I´m usually completely risk-averse but I knew I´d regret not giving the relationship a chance so despite having spent only a few months together I jumped on a plane to see what his world looked like. It’s fair to say that I tend to trust my gut feelings/intuition (always have, always will). 

You spent the bulk of your professional career in development and Corporate Social Responsibility – what attracted you to that sector?

Today, roughly less than 20% of the population live below the poverty line in the Philippines (about 18 million vs 3% in Spain). I simply wanted to understand this ‘inequality’, why it exists and what can we do to change that, practically speaking.  Through my interest in Development, I have worked on a range of projects such as urban development and economic and social impact in China and Inner Mongolia; fundraising and implementing Gender and Diversity in Australia and the Philippines; female entrepreneurship in Uzbekistan and microfinancing in the UK and France.

Hyacinth in Uzbekistan

Prior to moving to Madrid you spent three years in Athens, how did you adapt to life there? 

Once we´d mastered the rules such as: 

  • Guests should arrive at least one hour late for any dinner party
  • At 7 pm you will be served coffee not wine
  • Pedestrian crossings are decorative only
  • It is mandatory to invite ALL family members to children’s birthday parties and to stay for the entire day
  • Smoking is still acceptable in all indoor places

We found the Greeks were some of the warmest, most hospitable people we had ever met. 

How did you enter the world of pilates?

Raising a family constantly on the move meant I had very little time to dedicate to self-care and I felt my body had almost been hijacked by the needs of everyone around me.  Pilates provided a valuable one-stop shop in terms of healthy exercise and centering my mind and eventually, I trained to become a certified Reformer instructor to set up my own business. I feel privileged to have overcome the challenges that come with the territory of being a small business owner and Pilates has allowed me to really re-kindle my mojo.

You´re a great advocate of the Reformer in Pilates, what does it add in your opinion?

I am very biased I know, but personally, Pilates on the Reformer is a game changer and takes the Pilates experience to another level. It consists of various components that can be adjusted to each person´s specific requirements. If you haven’t tried stretching on the Reformer, then you have never experienced what a really good stretch feels like! 

I have a small studio in which I teach 1:1 private classes. It is such a humbling and rewarding experience to be part of someone’s physical and mental journey to boost their confidence and “blossom again”. 

Alhambra time

Which is your favourite podcast?

I´m currently enjoying :

‘More Than One Thing’ with Athena Calderone – the imperfect journey of various creatives, storytelling about professionals who have not necessarily taken the ‘normal routes’.

Hyacinth with 2 of her brood in the Plaza Mayor

Have you found any traits in common between the Philippines and Spanish?

Yes! The weekly family Sunday lunch ritual; warmth and hospitality especially to total strangers (I feel like I have been very fortunate! Finally, the love of dancing and music which are a frequent feature, Covid-permitting, of most social gatherings. 

Fun in the UK

Spotlight on Mariate Vidal

March 5th, 2021 by

This month we delve into the life of Mariate Vidal who has spent 20 years abroad and comes from a long line of Spanish Pharmacists. Not content with managing one of her family´s chemists in her home town of Tarragona, Mariate has acquired a PhD in Microbiology and two Masters in Food Science and Human Nutrition respectively.  Nowadays Mariate is putting her renowned cookery course skills to good use and enjoying her multitude of hobbies and industrious charity work.

Mariate enjoys Richmond Park, London

You´re now living in Madrid for the first time, after 2 decades years abroad, what is like to be back in Spain?

Funnily enough, it did take quite a bit of adjustment as we´d never lived in Madrid before.  I missed the international aspect of my life, hence joining INC and despite not being able to attend many events for obvious reasons it has been a positive experience.

Mariate´s life has taken many courses

Where have you lived before?

I grew up in Tarragona and went to University in Barcelona before moving back home to work in a Pharmaceutical Laboratory and do a PhD in Microbiology. After getting married we moved to Toronto due to my husband´s job and from there to Milan, Dublin and finally London where we spent 11 very happy years.

La Dolce Vita

Tell us about living in Milan

I erroneously assumed that by speaking a mixture of Spanish, French and Catalan I could make myself understood in Italian. We lived in the very chic area of Brera, in the thick of all the upmarket boutiques, museums and restaurants which was quite a contrast to the bucolic Toronto suburbs. However, we embraced the city and were soon nicknamed “Los Amigos” by the affectionate owners of a lovely local trattoria where we became regular fixtures.

Mariate cooks her native tortilla at a London street party

I don´t think I have ever met woman who embraces such diverse pastimes. What sort of activities did you enjoy in whilst living abroad?

I have always sought to take full advantage of every posting. In Toronto I took English and French lessons, cooking classes, learned to ice skate and I even enrolled in a Landscaping course at the University of Toronto, in addition to gardening courses at local community centres. In Milan I took up Italian and soaked up all the art, fashion and design features of our local area. Our time in Dublin was quieter because my hands were full with both babies.

In London, in addition to cookery I took photography courses, joined the PTA at our daughters’ school and became a volunteer in public health activities. I also studied a Masters in Human Nutrition and did a professional cookery course which led to a job as a Cookery Teacher Assistant at school and discovered I really enjoyed teaching.

Mariate the pharmacist at the pharmacy

Where does your interest in Science stem from?

It runs in the blood as I am a third-generation pharmacist. My father set up an analytical laboratory and my mother ran her own pharmacy so I was surrounded by science since birth!

Your passion for food has also taken on a more gastronomic approach, tell us about your prestigious cookery course you completed in London

Ironically I was a very fussy eater as a child however, during my Pharmacy degree we had to study food science for a year and that became one of my favourite subjects. I hadn´t cooked much before getting married so I took cookery classes when we lived in Toronto. Later on, I enrolled at Leith’s School of Food and Wine fulltime in London with the support of my husband and some childcare. It was a highly demanding yet stimulating experience which I thrived on and now I know how to make proper scones!

Indi enjoys the snow in Richmond Park, London

What international customs have your family absorbed into your own culture/family life?

Plenty of gastronomic ones! Such as maple syrup, porridge for breakfast and my daughters appreciate Indian food after their weekly curry school lunches in London!

What is your role at Manos Unidas charity?

This is a wonderful NGO whose aim is to empower local communities to tackle hunger, health and sanitation issues in Third World countries. I prepare reports on the various projects that Manos Unidas will get involved in for potential investors. My previous academic and professional background is useful and the work is stimulating. I then write up the final reports to show the donors how their money has been spent.  It´s a fascinating role because it´s opened my eyes up to the needs of many different countries as well as the inner workings of an international organisation.

Aquaduct culture in Segovia

If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in your life?

That’s a difficult one…  I would love to have several next lives… So that I could be a Oxford/Cambridge professor, or maybe a travel or science journalist or even a chef like José Andrés or Massimo Bottura, who, besides being good at what they do, use their skills and influence to help people in need.

Spotlight on Irlanda Gutiérrez

February 5th, 2021 by

This month the Spotlight falls on new INC member, Texan-born tennis star who gave her life a volte-face when she left her corporate career to practise Swedish and sports massage, Irlanda Gutiérrez.

You climbed up the corporate ladder of a male-dominated business. What was it like to be one of very few women in Senior Management of Enterprise Rental Cars?

In those days men made up 90% of the workforce in that sector so it was certainly a challenge for me as a woman. I felt I had to prove myself more than a man in the corporate world in terms of knowledge, efficiency, capacity and putting in the long hours.  Having almost exclusively male colleagues was novel and on the whole pretty smooth. I´d say men are generally very rational and mathematical in the way they operate.

What tips would you give other women juggling careers and children?

Some days were 12-14 hours long so I´d have to race to day-care to breast feed during my lunch hour and run back to work in heels.  Those days were truly insane.  It’s tough to give advice because in hindsight I should have worked less to create a better balance.  However, as  women in the workplace we do have a tough time of it because if we request to work shorter hours it is seen as a sign of weakness. There is definitely no harder job than properly raising your children and upkeeping a home.

What was it in Guadalajara, México that prompted you to delve in massage therapy? 

When I was forced to leave my corporate career because of my husband’s move to Mexico I had to re-evaluate my life and think.. Do I ever want to do that again? The answer was no… it was too high of a price not to be able to give my children and home some of me.  Guadalajara was ahead of Texas in terms of yoga, organic food and meditation and I literally dove in.  When I returned to the States 2 years later, I went back to school in Laredo and Austin to qualify as a Licensed Massage Therapist. After that I did several specialization courses over the world such as India and Switzerland and my particular area of expertise is working with Athletes. I was lucky as with all my sports contacts my practice in Texas was booked solid year-round. I am now practising here in Madrid.

How did you develop an interest in food and what does it mean to you today?

I’m not sure I´m a great cook but I do love to eat, especially the organic fruit and vegetables that I discovered in Mexico.

What was it like working as the official massage therapist for rockstars and celebrities at a concert arena?

I was fortunate to land a fascinating job as the Laredo Arena Therapist as ZZ Top came into town and took my predecessor on tour with them.  So I would be in charge of the singers, dancers and VIP’s for event and concerts.  My kids thought it was so cool that I would attend a rap star or any number of famous people.  They would look larger than life on stage and yet off stage they are just as human, fragile with the same stress and laughter like the rest of us.

Ready for the Nationals!

Tell us about the role competitive tennis has played in your life.

I was very happy being an amateur tennis player and played competitive tennis with my Texas team. We would travel all over the place in competitions and had just the best time.  Team sports and competition give you life for sure, mentally and physically.

Irlanda holds steady

Why have you decided to specialise in sports massage therapy? 

I love being an amateur tennis player and yogi. I understand athletes and their needs. It took me a while to get here but I am now doing what I love the most.

 Has anything surprised you about Spain and its people?  

The way they honor and respect meals and mealtimes is something I am not used to yet rather admire.

What dish would you dream about if you were cast away to a desert island?  

Definitely Thai food and Tacos too!

If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in life?  

I´d love to open my own health and wellness center.

Spotlight on Isotta Peira

January 7th, 2021 by
Isotta´s social suppers

This month we dive into the life of Savonna-born, former travel operator, juvenile butcher extraordinaire, volleyball player and duelling fanatic, Isotta Peira who now runs her own food experience company in La Latina.

Having studied French and Spanish, you first came to Spain in 2013 to work in the travel industry. Tell us about what that period of your life. 

It was a highly frenetic, crazy few years. Italy was deep in recession so I moved to Madrid to take a telemarketing job selling cruises.  I ended up sharing a flat with two other Italian friends and we were all working hideously long hours, 6 days a week. Life was pretty intense as the job was highly competitive and we partied about as hard as we worked. Later on, I got to travel frequently to France, Morocco and India which was a definitely plus point.

Isotta´s legendary Nonna

You started helping out at your grandparents´ butchers´shop when you were 6, how did that prompt you to make a career out of food?

That was a truly memorable part of my life. I became transfixed by the magic of transforming ingredients from one state to another and also by the respect a butcher has for the animal. My passion for food and minimising waste definitely stems from those days.

What was it like working as a chef in an Indian restaurant in London in 2009?

At first it was quite hard as I discovered I had a minor intolerance to coriander which appeared in every single recipe! Fortunately I´ve got over that now.

Isotta teaches the art of homemade pasta

A lot of people think that the Spanish are very similar to the Italians, what similarities and differences have you noticed?

That’s true! We are like cousins ahah. Of course, depending on the region we come from, there can be more similarities or differences.  Both nationalities are fiercely proud of our cultures and talk very loudly! I see that Spaniards are better at switching off after work, something I´m trying to learn!

Isotta and her wife Andrea have some Ratatouille-themed fun

Tell us about the supper club dinners you organised before the pandemic.

Andrea, my Bolivian wife and I hosted our first social dinner in November 2018 with a view to offering authentic home-cooked food in a cosy environment where people from different cultures could comfortably socialise. It was a huge success so we created the brand Eatsperience Madrid, and it is now my fulltime job.  We have organised many a themed evenings such as gnocchi nights and unusual pairings such as artisanal gelato with savoury food.

Female team spirit

What part has sport played in your life?

When I arrived in Madrid I played for an amateur women´s volleyball team which was great fun and very social. Hopefully, I will have more time to join up again after Covid. As a child I took up fencing seriously and became a teacher myself until I went away to University.

Eatsperience goes online

What is your secret Madrid?

When I feel homesick, I go to Mangitalia: an Italian Shop in Calle Galileo. The Italian and Spanish owners have treated me like family from the moment I set foot in the place.

Tell us about your charity work with the elderly in Madrid

My close relationship with my grandmother instilled deep admiration for the elderly and I was introduced to the Fundación Alicia y Guillermo by one of my volleyball team-mates. I have been keeping a lady in her late 80s company for several years. She loves to recount the time when she, as RENFE (train) employee she met the former Queen Sofía of Spain.

Rocking and rolling

What ingredients would you take with you if you were confined on a desert island?

Mangos – I could eat mangos all day! Raw meat with parmesan, followed by carrots and fennel and heaps of pasta on the off-chance I could boil up some water!

Spotlight on Evelyn Nackman

December 3rd, 2020 by

This month the Spotlight falls on seasoned lawyer, amateur flamenco dancer and budding novelist, Evelyn Nackman who is also a Lieutenant Colonel with an artistic flair and a mother of 3.

Tell us what prompted you to pursue a legal career within the US Military

I grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., one of the most politically charged places in the USA. Where some people grew up with favorite sports teams, my world was divided by political parties. I’m a believer in being the change you want to see. After attending law school in Chicago, I joined the military, and became a lawyer.

The law and the military are two institutions that have traditionally been dominated by men. Women have a powerful stereotype-defying perspective to bring to all institutions. I have been a part of that institutional change within the US military and globally as the US forces interact with the forces of other nations for peacekeeping and coalition building missions. The military’s rigorous professional training helped launch my legal career in the civilian sector.  

Flying high

Are you still involved with the Armed Forces? 

Public service has been an important aspect of my life. I continue to serve my country.  

The strict lockdown in Madrid gave you an opportunity to complete your first book, what prompted you to write a novel? 

My family’s numerous postings meant that I needed to reinvent my career. As an English major in college and a lifelong reader, I’ve always wanted to write fiction. My time in Spain has given me that opportunity.  

Walking like an Egyptian

You have 3 daughters, including twins – how does your husband cope with so many females in the household and are any of the telepathic myths about twins true? 

My husband is one of those rare men who has the gift of charm and grace when it comes to dealing with personalities. At home, he’s treated like a celebrity, so it’s a win-win for him. 

The twins have whatever the opposite of telepathic connection is. They couldn’t be more different. They look nothing alike and act different. They have separate interests, etc. That said, my three girls are best friends and fiercely protective of each other.  

Do you have any stories about adapting to life here in Madrid?

Americans use imperial measurement for the most part and all of our produce, in the US, is weighed at the checkout till. So I have no idea how much a gram of anything is or how much a banana (or anything at all) weighs in either metric or imperial. During the pandemic, I used Hipercor’s online order service which proved just how little I knew.

The metric system drives Evelyn a bit bananas

How has painting been a creative outlet throughout your life? 

Art is just another language trapped inside you. Everyone has art in them of some sort whether your medium is words, paint, clay, or performance. Just like you can say some things better in Spanish or Greek to express yourself, the arts are another way of communicating that which can’t be spoken directly. As such, the best art makes you feel or remember or understand something better about life, as well as being a release for the artist.  

Alexander the Great

I use all types of mediums: pastels, water color, oil paint, etc. Painting is another way of capturing how I see the world, like writing. The creative process connects parts of my brain that were never connected before and expands my understanding of the world.  

I spend as much time as I am able in art museums absorbing the messages and language in the works there. I’ll photograph a painting that strikes me and go home to recreate it with my own colors. Going through another artist’s creative process helps me understand what they’re saying in a way that simply looking at a painting can’t. In this way, Goya and other infamous painters and I have spoken to one another. In the process, I create something new and improve my own expression.  

The Belle at the ball in Vienna

As someone who has been in Madrid for a year how has being a member of INC been beneficial to you? 

INC has been a great way to connect with other women, professionally and personally.  

What is your secret Madrid?

I love finding nooks, interesting views, one-of-a-kind artisanal products, and meeting people in their element. Not the easiest to do right now, but rewarding when I am able to do it. Some of my favorite place are: My art class held in a studio on Calle de Fucar, the view from the RUI Hotel rooftop, Ferreterría by EGO (a restaurant with yummy jamón) anything in Mercado de Paz, and my flamenco classes in Pozuelo. 

Fun times in Santa Barbara

If you could go anywhere, where would you like to live next? 

I’d love to live in France or Italy next. I studied French for years and love both countries. 

If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in your life?  

I waved it! My wish was granted! I’m starting my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with NYU in Paris this January. I’ll be on my writing journey for a while, hopefully capitalizing on my experiences since I left full time legal practice.  

Spotlight on Isabel Vallejo

November 5th, 2020 by

This month the Spotlight falls on Colombian Reiki master, IT engineer and now systemic coach with a penchant for aero yoga, mother of 4 and Area 1 Coordinator, Isabel Vallejo.

You were born in Cali in Colombia, is it true that the best salsa dancers come from there?

Definitively. If in doubt look at the Delirio show in:

Was being female quite a novelty on your computer engineering course in Bogotá?

Interestingly enough, I think almost half of us were women.

Norwegian break

Did you find your 6-month period in Germany quite a contrast to your life back home in Colombia?

Adapting to a public transport system that worked like clockwork was a huge culture shock after Bogotá. In Germany there is a sense and expectation of order which doesn´t exist in a place like Colombia where you always have to be ready to improvise. We´re rather good at that.

Time out in Colombia

Why did you decide to do a dual MBA programme in Portuguese at Wharton?

The Lauder School of International Studies, part of Wharton, took a very avant-garde approach for the 1990s in that they championed a country´s culture as part of their courses so I entered the Portuguese program and loved it.

How did you find living in London after North and South America?

Having studied at a British School I always liked London as it´s so authentic, like history unfolding, despite the cold, grey weather at times. I became a mum and appreciated the playgroups and diversity of mothers I could meet there.

Tell us about your 10-year stint in Moscow.

When we arrived in Russia in 2002 we had three children under 4 so we took advantage of the special art and music on offer at Russian kindergartens as well as enabling the kids to learn Russian. The expat community was very tight-knit as it was difficult to communicate with the locals. I realised that some people will feign incomprehension despite any linguistic attempts, whereas others understood me quite well with sign language.

Leisure time in Moscow

Meditation is very important to you; how did you get into it?

I am the daughter and sister of 3 drs in my family. Yet I´ve always been curious about different faiths and other elements that defy logic. Having seen that a Bio-energetic practitioner solved my niece´s chronic sore throats I decided to investigate and subsequently did a Reiki course as well as other energy therapies.

When I lived in Moscow the Damas Latinas Club offered meditation courses. I saw meditation as a way to understand one´s self. You have to take care of yourself first, and then you can guide others take care of themselves.

Isabel with a Russian friend

You are now a coach, what area of coaching do you focus on?

We all operate as individuals yet we are also part of many systems. I am now a systemic coach which focuses on understanding the system as a whole so that you can analyse what areas can or need to be improved.  We help de-clutter all the relationships between those systems, getting to the root of our present-day situations to comprehend what we really want and need.

Flying high

In 2016 you came to Madrid and managed a wellness centre, how did you get into aero yoga?

Our centre´s speciality was aero yoga but it wasn´t easy to find teachers. Once, while on the hunt for a teacher I called up a training centre in Valencia who explained they were have offering an intensive training programme 2 days later. Having found a babysitter, I ended up on the course and despite feeling like the odd one out to begin with I ended up loving it.  Ironically, a week later our main teacher left so I ended up taking her place!

It was a wonderful experience but the timetable was incompatible with my children as most of the classes were after school. However, now that my evenings are freed up once more, I might consider teaching it again as it´s great exercise.

You have just moved to the Sierra Norte de Madrid, what attracted you to this area?

In one of my group sessions we reached the conclusion that it would be beneficial to leave our comfort zone. So, faced with a move in any case, I decided to widen my search area as I work mostly online and don´t have kids in school anymore. So here I am in Cotos, which I used to think was miles away!

Spotlight on Narges Tabatabai

September 11th, 2020 by
Newcomer Madrid Susannah Grant author

Today we speak to one of our bubbliest members, Iranian-born Narges Tabatabai, selfie professional and INC photographer extraordinaire and former translator and beautician. Impressively resilient, Narges talks to us frankly about growing up in the Iranian Revolution, the War with Iraq and why she talks to the moon.

What are your early memories of Iran like before the 1979 Revolution?

Prior to 1979 Iran was an idyllic place, a haven of ancient culture where people were highly educated and had a good standard of living.

Happy family times in 1977

What impact did the 1979 Revolution have on you and your family?

Everything changed. I had to switch from a prestigious mixed private school to a public school for girls only. We had to wear a headscarf and a long tunic, in certain drab colours. Nail varnish was banned, and girls’ lives were very restricted. Then, the following year, the long war with Iraq broke out and we spent 8 traumatic years running to bomb shelters every time the sirens sounded. It was terrifying as many houses very near ours were bombarded.

40 years later, many restrictions have been lifted and women are freer to wear more variety of colour.

Narges carries off Iranian attire with her usual flare

You are a natural with children and looked after your baby nephew from the age of 14 following your sister´s death. What was that like?

I have a natural nurturing spirit and have always cherished children. My two sons are hugely important to me and this is why I came to Madrid in 2017, to give them a better opportunity in life. To compensate for the choices I never had at their age.

You have always been fiercely independent, what was it like working as a maths and Arabic tutor from the age of 15?

Times were hard in Iran at the time and I had to earn my keep, this has made me very resilient and enabled me to stand on my own two feet despite it not being very common for Iranian women to work back in those days; it has changed a lot since then. There are a lot more women in the workforce, in all different sectors.

Narges and her two sons

Where have you lived before?

My original idea, before coming to Spain, was to emigrate to Italy to offer my sons a better quality of life but after 4 years of commuting backwards and forward between Tehran and Rome I returned to Iran for good as moving there with my sons looked impossible.

What significance has meditation and the moon in your life?

Since I was very little, I have always loved gazing at the moon since I was a child and I enjoy being present in the moment, connecting with the cosmos and expressing gratitude for all that God has blessed us with. One of the main reasons I enjoy the moon more than God’s other blessings is because it’s at night, and while it shines in the darkness, it makes it even more beautiful. Another reason why I enjoy looking at the moon is because of its different shapes. For example, how it changes from a crescent to a full moon. I always try to pray towards the moon in order to send it to my loved ones.

Narges has the moon in her hand

Tell us about your special energy

Ever since I was a little kid, I have always possessed lots of energy and I was always advised to cultivate this vitality. Currently I am doing a Reiki course, which will allow me to cure people with my energy from long distances.

Your ability to capture the atmosphere on camera is legendary, what is it about photography that draws you to it?

I have always loved taking pictures, especially of portraits and nature. Encapsulating a memory in a photograph preserves it for life.

Do the Spanish people share any similarities with Iranian people?

Yes, the bars and restaurants in both countries are always full! However, I feel that the Spaniards enjoy a slower pace of life, whereas Iranians seem to live their life on fast-forward.

Narges is the life and soul of any INC gathering

If you were shipped off to confinement in a desert island what 3 items (apart from a phone) would you take?

My camera, my favourite speaker so I can listen to some music (I also love dancing in any mood), and my make-up.

You have worked as a tutor, a translator and a beautician, if you could wave a magic wand what would you do next?

I always wanted to become a model, or an actress, or a professional dancer. But among my previous experiences, I would definitely go with becoming a beautician. I actually would like to pass the industry-specific courses in order to work in this profession.

Narges applies some artistic license to our interview during lockdown

Spotlight on Sarah Chester

May 8th, 2020 by
Sarah paints her rainbow Covid 19 painting of hope

This month we dip into the multi-faceted life of Sarah Chester, a UK-born, polyglot, artist and teacher with a passion for four-legged friends who has recently made a dramatic voyage of discovery to her roots.

When did you first arrive in Madrid and what brought you here?

I first came to Madrid in 1990, alone with one suitcase in hand, ready to add Spanish to my linguistic repertoire of French and German. I was 23 and it was akin to arriving in heaven, partying all night and teaching English by day.

Teaching English gave me the opportunity to travel all over Spain and get to know a lot of people. In 1994 I met my future husband while I was teaching in Fiat …and no, he was not a student of mine!

Not another international move please!

Tell us about your 2 years in Turin in the early 1990s

We went to live in Turin in northern Italy for two years where I also taught English. Italy is definitely the place I have enjoyed living the most. There’s beauty everywhere you look.

In 1997 Fiat offered my husband a job in New York and we were all set to go when, at the last minute, his boss decided Brazil would be a better fit. When we arrived at the airport in Belo Horizonte and took a taxi into the chaos that reigned in this city at this time our jaws literally dropped to the floor.

Sarah enjoys carnival in Brazil

How did you find life in Belo Horizonte, Brazil?

Seven long years passed by in a blur of (two) babies, teaching English, working with kids teaching art and crafts in a slum and studying Art at a university in Belo Horizonte which covered everything from portraits to botanical watercolors.

One of the highlights was participating twice in the Rio Carnival, decked out in the full costume, with feathers and all. We travelled all over this stunning and vibrant continent from Perito Moreno to Machu Picchu, in addition to the Caribbean-like northern coast of Brazil.  

Having fun with the favela children

How had Madrid changed on your return in 2006?

It was more cosmopolitan, more organized and cleaner with a wider variety of different cuisines in chic new restaurants with perfectly designed interiors. I taught English in the Santander head offices and began to focus on painting in my spare time.

Sarah manages to draw out her students´creative skill in her painting classes

What sort of paintings are you focussing on now?

For the last couple of years I’ve been painting portraits and commissions in general and teaching painting classes which I absolutely love!

Sarah and her canine friends

What is your secret Madrid?

My secret Madrid has to include one of my favourite parks, Parque Forestal de Valdebebas, where I go with my three dogs and enjoy its shades of violet and yellow in the spring. My favourite museum has to be the Sorolla museum and garden. It’s a celebration of light!

You recently had made a life-changing discovery of a series of Iranian blood relations, tell us about how this experience has impacted your life.

The craziest thing that has happened to me recently has been the discovery of my biological family on my paternal side in the UK. I have now met my Iranian biological father and two half-brothers of mine whom I absolutely love. It’s very strange meeting blood relatives for the first time when you’re adopted. You look for similarities and it’s funny how you can spot the same mannerisms and gestures.

Sarah´s versatile artistic style

If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in your life?

I would be tempted to live in Asia for a few years and of course continue with my painting.

It´s a dog´s life

Spotlight on Mercedes Puchol

March 28th, 2020 by

This time we take a deeper look at the life and heritage of Valencia-born, highly accomplished psychoanalyst and writer, Mercedes Puchol.  Busy mother of twins, Mercedes´ world spans the scientific and the artistic, with renowned relations going back generations.

You have spent time in the UK, how do you think the approach to psychology varies between different countries?

I like the fact that the Anglo-Saxon education system focusses on a more global view of psychology from different schools and favours critical thinking and debate amongst students. As opposed to the Spanish system which is more formulaic, closed and unilateral.

What is psychoanalysis in a nutshell?

Psychoanalysis was founded by Freud who believed that people could be cured by making us aware of our unconscious thoughts and motivations. The aim is to help people release and rewrite their ignored emotions and experiences which lie at the heart of their symptoms and suffering in order to move on, feel freer and even become “more themselves”.

Giving a speech at the Instituto Cervantes

I gather that all psychoanalysts have to do their own psychoanalysis before treating patients, what sort of things do you think you and your colleagues tend to discover?

Indeed, unlike other psychological work this didactic analysis is mandatory for psychoanalysts. In order for a psychoanalyst to help others, he/she must first get to know himself/herself in the deepest possible way. Secondly, this will enable the psychoanalyst not to confuse his/her own issues with those of his/her patients.

Today you are the President of the Asociación Psicoanalítica de Madrid (APM), has that trajectory been harder as a woman?

I think psychoanalysis is actually a profession that really allows women to develop personally and professionally. The feminine or the female universe is also a subject of growing interest in the field of Psychoanalysis.

In addition, I have been lucky to have a very supportive husband who has also been very hands on with our twin boys who are now 13 years old.

Talking about psychoanalysis and culture

If you were cast off to a desert island what two items would you choose to take with you, other than your mobile phone?

I would take a computer where I could read my best books and watch my favorite movies although the idea of going to a desert island is losing appeal given world events!  

Did your grandfather, a prominent scientist, tell you any interesting anecdotes about his friendship with José Ortega & Gasset, a leading Spanish philosopher?

As a teenager my grandfather, who had been part of Ortega & Gasset´s tertulia groups in which topics were discussed with deep respect and tolerance, confided to me that he missed that peaceful climate of dialogue and tolerance that prevailed in Spain at the beginning of the 20th Century.

El Volador – Vicente Martínez Sanz

Tell us about your collection of photographs from your maternal great grandfather, a renowned photographer you are currently cataloguing.

Vicente Martínez Sanz was a highly-prized Valencian photographer from the Avant-garde period who was also responsible for introducing colour to Spain. My husband and I are continuing to preserve and expand his legacy as both of us are passionate about photography and the arts.

What is your secret Madrid?

I enjoy walking around Quinta de los Molinosparkespecially when the almond trees bloom. Or visiting Madrid´s emblematic cafés such as Café Gijón and Café Comercial which were regular hotspots for Spain´s great novelists and poets. 

Mercedes and family in the Parque Quinta de los Molinos, Madrid

How did you become interested in the arts?

I´ve always been fascinating by painting and photography and my father, a retired notary and novelist, instilled in me a love for literature. Cinema has also been a keen passion of mine and I´ve written essays and reviews of films, applying my psychoanalytic knowledge where it´s due.

If you could wave a magic wand what would you do next in your life?

I´m so lucky to have found my true vocation, so I´d continue to do exactly what I do now!

Do you have any final words?

During this difficult period that we´re all going through, I would like to express my solidarity and affection to the wonderful group of (mainly) women in the INC with whom I have shared so much. I also wish to make myself available as a friend and also as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst to help you channel any need for help that may come to light in your life during these challenging moments.