I have finally gotten around to my first blog post! I have only been in Madrid for less than a week but it feels like ages. I have just gotten to use the internet here in our apartment, and thought I would write a little bit about my first couple of days here.
I left on Saturday, and when I was sitting in the airport by myself, I must admit it was not a good feeling. I was questioning what I was doing, why I ever had wanted to do this in the first place, and why I would want to leave all my friends and family at home. The thought of three months away seemed too long. But I went through all the motions and had very easy flights. I made it to Madrid safely where I met the other Cultural Vistas participant, Sheetal, at the hotel she was staying at. I was really nervous to take a taxi by myself and that I would get lost, but it really wasn’t that hard. I was relieved once I finally met Sheetal and was no longer completely alone.
Since she had already been here for a couple of days, we talked for a long time, while she told me all the things she had learned and things that I would want to know. Then we went to meet Diana, who works with Cultural Vistas, and her mother, who works with them as well, for a typical Spanish lunch. It lasted more than two hours and I think we had about five different courses. I had to tell her about how I couldn’t eat gluten, and that is where the struggle began. She however, ordered me separate things than everyone else, and it actually worked out pretty well. I was very tired, but was interested in everything they were telling us. One thing I already noticed was the two kisses on the cheek when we first met them. Another thing she pointed out was keeping our hands on the table, rather than in our lap. She said Americans always do that. She told us about her family, herself, and things about our jobs. It was very helpful and nice to be with someone who was familiar with Spain. After lunch, Sheetal and I walked back to the hotel where we gathered my bags and went to our apartment! It is really very adorable. My room is very spacious and I have lovely door slash windows that I can open and stand on my balcony. We walked around for a while, and I learned a little bit how to navigate the subway. We were trying to get a phone that I could use, but the stores close early on Sunday and many aren’t open at all. We headed home and I met my two other roommates, Hanna and Nerissa. They both seem very nice. Hanna’s friend Alex helped me with metro directions to work because he works near me. I was nervous for my first day but also exhausted and finally got to go to sleep.
Monday was my first day at work, and I made it there early and didn’t get lost on the metro! I was very proud of myself! It was a little difficult for me to find the building, and I had to ask some people directions, but I made it. While I was waiting to go inside, there was another girl waiting outside. She said something to me in Spanish, but after we talked for a little bit, she asked me where I was from and when I said Michigan, she said in English that she was from Florida. It was definitely nice to be able to talk to someone in English. She is working in the same office as me, but helping someone else out. Finally after we were let into the office I met Rosa, my “boss”. She talks extremely fast, like even in English I think it would be hard to keep up with. But I could understand some things and got the gist of what she was saying. She introduced me to everyone in the office, which is all women, and I received lots of cheek kisses. My desk is in her office and there are two other girls that are volunteers that work for her as well, Irene and Maria. They are both from Madrid, but they are so nice and try to talk slow for me and explain things that Rosa doesn’t really have time to do. They are showing me the ropes and helping me learn what they do. It’s hard because I don’t speak very well and they don’t give me really hard things to do, but hopefully I can prove that I am capable and if I get better at Spanish they will allow me to do more things. After work I struggled on the metro though. For some reason I went the opposite direction I was supposed to, and then had to go all the way back, then went one stop too far, and it was just a mess. I was so exhausted too, so that didn’t really help my brain. After work, I came home and took a long nap and then went to the Vodaphone store again to get a phone I can use here. After waiting in line, I finally talked to someone (in Spanish!) but they didn’t have the phone I wanted so they gave me directions to another store. I made a long trek there, got the phone, and then realized there was a quick way to take the metro back to El Sol and then I met Sheetal for dinner in Plaza Mayor. It was a pretty late dinner, at least to us, and we got home around 1030. Hanna and Nerissa were having their friends over for one of their friend’s birthday and asked if we wanted to have drinks with them. They were all very nice and funny and invited us to the birthday party this weekend. Then I realized that it was past 12, so it was technically my birthday! They sang happy birthday to me and then everyone dispersed, as we had to get up for work in the morning.
Sorry for all the details, I’m really bad about babbling but I will try to capture the main things of the next couple days.
Tuesday was my birthday! It didn’t feel like it at all, but Irene and Maria at work got me pastries and we had a coffee break and got to chat and everyone wished me happy birthday. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I couldn’t eat it so I had one anyway and it was delicious. After work I came home and got to Skype Caitlin which was so good! Then I went to get my metro pass, which was a little confusing, but the lady talked to me in English, so that helped, and also wished me happy birthday. After that I met Sheetal at Corte Inglés, got some groceries, then we came home and had some dinner and watched The Office, because our tv still isn’t working. Nerissa gave me some birthday muffins from her and Hanna and then Sheetal and I left to go meet Rachel, Erin’s friend from home, for some drinks. It was so nice to meet her and have another friend here! We got some sangria at a cafe and then later went to a German bar, where we were called out as obviously being Americans. Shoot, and I thought I didn’t look like a tourist. All in all, a good day. A bit strange of a birthday, but everyone was very sweet and wished me a happy birthday!
Wednesday was a little rough for me. I didn’t have that much to do at work and I was just kind of questioning what I was doing here. I definitely felt homesick and was missing everyone and everything about Michigan. But after work I did some errands and felt a little better after reading a letter that Caitlin wrote me to open when I needed. It was just perfect to calm my worried mind. That afternoon I went to El Retiro, a beautiful park with Sheetal. We walked around and then just sat in the sun and chatted about our worries and plans for the rest of the summer. Then I got some dinner on the way home and finally figured out I could connect to the internet so I got to get on Facebook and chat with friends and use Skype. It was a definitely needed relaxing night.
Thursday at work I did a lot of translations and helped Rosa with something for the big World Refugee Day that is coming up on June 20th. It was a good day at work, and Irene and Maria are continuing to teach me things that I will need to know, and what their daily routine is like. After work, I was researching places where I could get gluten free things, and apparently at stores called Herboristerías, they have gluten free goodies. So, I found the closest one and took a long stroll to find it. And they did have stuff! I was so excited! And the lady that worked there was very nice. I will have to go back soon again. I took the metro home because I didn’t feel like walking all the way back and then decided I would venture out for a run. Hanna asked me where I was going as I was leaving, and I was going to go back to El Retiro, but she said Casa de Campo was good too, which I had heard of but wasn’t sure of how to get there. But I decided I would try and after a very long walk, I made it and got to run! Although I think the walk there was longer than my run. I took the metro home and made dinner and relaxed before Rachel came over and me her and Sheetal went out to a disco that the girls at work told me about. Apparently on Thursdays a lot of international students go there. It was definitely a fun time, although it’s hard to go out on Thursdays because everyone stays out so late. We didn’t even leave our apartment til 1230 and the disco wasn’t even that busy until 2. But we had work in the morning, so we left pretty early, according to their schedule. It was fun though and I’m sure we will go back again.
Friday was a pretty relaxing day at work and I had a great nap afterwards. Sheetal and I went to dinner right downstairs from our apartment at a little tavern, as it’s called. And now I’m finishing up this post! We have lots of planning to do for this coming week and weekends, as we are trying to take trips to different cities. Also this next week, I think we are going to go to our first intercambio. I’ll keep you posted.
So far, it’s definitely been strange being there, but as one of my friends told me, it will get easier everyday. At least I hope so! And one thing I like to remember is the beginning is always the hardest. So, that gives me a little comfort that as time goes on, it will get easier.
Adios for now!