Spotlight on Sarah Chester
by Susannah Grant
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.