Madrid, te quiero.
Before leaving for Spain I had a billion and more expectations that I kept having to push out of my head. To be honest, there were so many things that I was unsure of (my cell phone, my bank account, my living situation, my school, etc.) and I just had no idea how I would end up acquiring each of these things or if I would somehow end up doing everything the “right” way. Would I buy the wrong plan for my SIM card? Would my bank end up charging me for crazy things? WIth a billion worries in my head about doing things “right” that I turned off expectations and crossed my fingers and so far, it seems that everything has fallen into place. I am beginning to wonder when things will go wrong! I am living with a more than amazing family, I have a functioning Spanish SIM card, I have a Spanish bank account and I even know where my school is located (I don’t start work until Oct. 1st, so I have more time to figure that out). Anyways, I am so happy that this first week has gone smoothly (minus having the wrong settings on my iPhone for international use and getting locked in my room! haha) that right now I have no worries in my head! I spent so much time researching the Auxiliar program and now, after successfully acquiring a visa, finding a place to live and making it to Spain, it seems that I can officially relax. I AM IN SPAIN! YES!!! Well, I can sort of relax, it will be a whole different story once I begin working on October 1st. Anyways, I am glad that I did not let myself “expect” certain things because everyone has a different experience as an auxiliar and I feel that so far, mine has exceeded any expectations that I could have possibly had. Madrid is such a new experience to me that everything I do is like opening a new present at Christmas (the kind that Santa got you, not the kind that your mom got you but wrote Santa on card). It is more than amazing and I am so happy to be here!
Disclaimer: this is a very long winded synopsis of my first week in Madrid. It was so fun to relive while writing but the written version is a less than mediocre version of what really happened.
Disclaimer #2: ALA ALA ALA, LA VIDA ESPAÑOLA, OLÉ OLÉ OLÉ!!!!…exactly.
Madrid, you have out done yourself.
But, wait, is it Madrid, or is it the people that I have met in this short time? I have only met a few people so far but I think the people that I have met have made this experience quite an experience already.
First, I met Joe in the airport, he is a fellow Auxiliar. This assured me that I was definitely in the right airport and at the right gate. Phew, that was a relief! Later, on the plane, I met Anat and Tyler who were also going from Chicago to Madrid. Anat was sitting in the seat next to me, on her way back home to Israel after spending a week at Burning Man. Tyler was across the aisle, on his way to Madrid to begin a 6-week backpacking trip through Europe, he kept me entertained for more than half of our flight, thanks again Tyler. Also, I thought sneaking a pic would be more fun than telling you I was taking it!
After landing in Madrid, I turned on my phone and was ready to get my international cell phone service. I needed to contact Laura (my host mom) to tell her that I landed and to let her know when I was at baggage claim. My international service didn’t work! WHAT?! I later found out that I had the wrong settings set on my phone, which is why I couldn’t connect to the Spanish cell network. I was SO worried that I wasn’t able to contact her! Ahhh! Finally, I called her from Joe’s friend’s Spanish cell (Ok, Joe’s friend actually was the one talking to her on the phone but still), it was perfect timing because she was just arriving at the Airport! Her and her daughter Elena woke up very early to get me from the airport! I was so grateful that they found me and happy that Elena was so excited to meet me that she was willing to wake up early to come to the airport! It was a great start to the day. Laura drove us home from the airport and I put my stuff away. I was very tired but did not sleep the whole day. The day was very busy, we drove past my school, went to La Vaguada (a mall), spent some time at the pool and even more. I went to sleep around 10 that night and woke up at 8 am the next morning. Oh, did I mention that on that first day I arrived, I also locked myself into my room? The handle was broken and I shut it all the way! Oops! I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. Everyone was very concerned, the kids kept asking me, “Kate, are you still alive?” haha, I assured them I was still alive.
Also, here is what is supposed to happen when your cell phone connects internationally. First, your roaming should say “voice only” then a Spanish “carrier” will show up, my phone connected to Vodafone ES. Then you will receive a text from your company telling you their extremely expensive rates! I never had to use any international texts/calls though because by the time I got international service working, I already had access to WIFI and everything was good to go. Plus, Barajas has 15 minutes of free WIFI, in order to connect you have to go into your web browser on your phone and accept the conditions!
Thursday I went on my first run in Parque Norte. The hardest part about my run was figuring out how to get out of my building then out of the parking lot and then to the park! Turns out I was basically locked inside and you can’t just walk out to leave…so strange! I asked the security guard where the Parque Norte was, and he said “NO SE CUAL PARQUE ES PERO A LA DERECHA Y ARRIBA! ARRIBA ARRIBA!” Yes, he was talking very loudly…I did find the park though, and I was able to get out of the parking lot! It’s more difficult than it sounds. So I arrived at Parque Norte thinking of my how much I love love love Parque Garcia Lorca in Granada. Then I met my new parque. I fell in love. Parque Norte surpasses all that I ever loved about Parque Garcia Lorca. One day I want to be an older Spanish woman who brings her dog to the park after siesta to chat with her friends and disfrute la vida. However, parts of that may never happen being that I will never be a Spanish woman. However, I hope one day to be an old Americana in the Parque Norte with my dog and mi amigas. Here is a quick glimpse of my new park.
Later that evening, I met up with another auxiliar, Brianna. My first metro trip solo, HOW EXCITING! I had to first arrive to the metro station, my host parents gave me the general idea but I was pretty much confused. So I asked a couple people, “perdona, el metro Begoña?” and they helped me find my way there. Then I needed to buy a 10-trip metro pass and the machine that gave out the metro tickets was broken. So, I held out my 12,20 euro to the worker behind the glass and shrugged my shoulders and gave him a confused look. He laughed, took my euros and gave me my 10-trip metro pass. Then I asked another woman, “perdona, quiero ir al Sol” and she ensured me that I was headed in the right direction on the metro. Sweet! I can totally do this (almost) alone! I finally made it to the center and found Brianna! I was so proud of myself! We walked around the center, had a café con leche and later went to an intercambio party that was hosted by InterNations. This party was on a terrace at a huge hotel. The terrace was called SkyNight. Here is where I learned the power of the level of my Spanish. It turns out that with my knowledge of Spanish and a twist of my own sarcasm, life in Madrid is much easier than life was in Granada. Being that I hadn’t planned on going out, I hadn’t eaten dinner, so by the time it was 10:30pm, I was starving and my body was very mad at me. A worker from the terrace brought me down to the bar where I ordered my “sandwich mixto”. However, I told the bartender (in Spanish) that I would not take it unless they gave it to me in a napkin to put in my purse. They all laughed, I laughed too, because, who says that? Well, I got my way and I didn’t even have to put it in a napkin. He put it in a box with saran wrap around it and I brought my toasted ham and cheese sandwich up to the terrace to share with Brianna and her friend. At last, we left the InterNations intercambio around midnight, which is when I got to experience my first “cambio de trenes”. I waited about 45 minutes extra in the metro station and was so afraid! I was worried that I wouldn’t remember how to get from the Begoña metro station back to my home and it was SO dark outside, and by that I mean darkness in Madrid isn’t really that dark, there are lights everywhere. Either way, I still didn’t have a Spanish cell phone so I was worried that Laura would be thinking I did not survive my journey home. Turns out, she knew I was fine and I was able to remember how to get from the metro to my home…and I ran the whole way! Hey, this was my first time ever being in the city alone at night. I can run home if I want.
Laura and the kids left for the Valladolid town fair on Friday afternoon which left me home alone. So, I asked Marcela (the housekeeper/nanny) how to get to La Vaguada, the shopping mall, and she led me there as she headed to the metro. I went to Orange and successfully (after 2 hours) got a Spanish cell phone. It turns out that when you don’t already have a phone number it isn’t so easy to just get a Spanish SIM because they have to transfer a number from a different SIM to the SIM of the iPhone 5. Finally, my Orange employee got my cell phone working. Plus, I have a bonus, his phone number so when I have problems with my phone I can whatsapp him. HA HA HA. (It could be helpful though, right?). Also, as I was in Orange forever, the worker and I were talking forever and I joked about how he had no name because he wasn’t wearing a name tag. He told me his name tag was broken so that is why he doesn’t have a name. I told him that I would have to call him “boy with no name from Orange” if he refused to fix his name tag. Thus, his name is “Chico sin nombre de Orange.” Keep in mind, I did this ALL in Spanish. Impressed? Oh yeahhh. Check me out!
After I officially had a working cell phone, I had to go buy lotion, conditioner and dry shampoo. I really wasn’t sure what dry shampoo was in spanish and it turns out that it is “champú seco”, easy enough! A woman led me throughout the store showing me each thing that I asked for, again, super easy.
After I got my SIM card and my beauty products, I went back home and to the pool and was talking with Roy the lifeguard about tapas in Granada and how amazing they are there and how it’s awful that you have to pay for tapas in Madrid. He offered to take me to Casa Pepe a.k.a “Pepe el Guarro”, where he said if you stand at the bar then your tapas are free. Could be! I met him after he left the pool and we were off to Pepe el Guarro! It is a bar that gives you chicken wing tapas and everyone throws the bones on the ground, the floor is covered in napkins and chicken bones, that’s where the “el guarro” part of the nickname comes in! It was fun and the bartenders are so friendly. The bar is family owned and all of the bartenders are family. Roy was explaining to me who everyone was, “he is the cousin of the owner”, “he is the nephew”, etc, etc. Roy is way cool, he comes to Spain every summer to lifeguard and when the Spanish summer ends he returns to his home which is on a Playa in Uruguay. He likes to surf and motocross and do anything that is athletic or has to do with the beach. He is really chill and I will be sad to see him go when the Spanish summer ends. Al final, I obtained all of this information about Roy and the restaurant/bar Pepe el Guarro in Spanish! Impressed again?
From here on out you can assume all of the information I receive from others was in Spanish. So the information I am relaying to you in English may or may not be what was actually stated. Hey, I am learning.
I got home early friday night (around midnight) but I didn’t fall asleep until 5 am! JET LAG LIKE CRAZY! I should have stayed out! I didn’t wake up until the middle of the day and then went down to the pool. Roy was with his friend Carolina and then Ana joined us later (This is how I got initiated into a Spanish girl gang…hahaha JUST KIDDING…but they are LOQUISISISISIMAS and are more fun than I ever could have dreamed, maybe I will write a post about my amigas another day, they are too interesting to sum up in one short paragraph.) Anyways, They invited me to go out with them! What? SO COOL! haha, I am a loser and they totally know so no need to worry them that I am fooling them by pretending to be cool. hahaha. Ok ok. Saturday night I had dinner with Paco (my host dad) and then met up with the girls and Roy. We went to Roy’s apartment and then to The Clover and then to Mufasa Cafe until 5 am. Hey, I was still jet-lagged so I would have been up until 5 anyways! At the clover we had a couple beers, a couple shots and some treats! We stayed there until it closed and then went apparently everyone who was at The Clover went to Mufasa’s because even The Clover’s bartender was there! It was fun! Also, turns out Carolina and Ana are amazing dancers. Guess I will need to learn to salsa ASAP to keep up with them! (Ok, ok, I will try!) Either way, it was an amazing night!
At last came Sunday! I went for a run in the after noon and later Laura and the kids came home. I was more than excited to see them because the house was so quiet while they were gone! They told me all about the fair in Valladolid and all about the fun things they did over the weekend. Elena also ensured me that she missed me very much while they were gone! I hope her sentiments came from all three! It seems as if they like me and I have had so much fun with them in these first few days. I couldn’t imagine better kids to live with! After dinner, I met Carol and Ana to go to a kizumba class at bisúloungeclub. Wait, what? Yes, you heard me. I went to a dance class! Kizumba is an african dance, very…well, just not something I usually do. Anyways, It was so fun. Being that I was CLEARLY OUTSIDE OF MY COMFORT ZONE, I made some jokes about the culito of the Brazileño profe and tried my best to make my hips move as his did. He later pulled me to the center of the class to tell me I was doing something wrong, I said, “ES QUE NO TENGO CADERAS!!” (I don’t have hips) and then every new dance partner said to me something to the effect of, “ahhh, la chic que no tiene caderas” hahaha, it was perfect because then I didn’t have to worry about not being able to dance and it was so fun!
Hope the synopsis of my first few days in Madrid didn’t bore you too much. I honestly enjoyed writing this post and I can’t believe I have only been in Madrid for such a short time! I hope my adventures continue to be this amazing and as always, thanks for reading!