Hey there! It’s me! The girl crying under a tree as I WhatsApp my friend, and a city bird poops on my favorite sweater – and well…my hand, too. I have been in Madrid for a week now. I do not think I have ever experienced so much panic and awe mixed in together. LIFE came at me SO FAST these past few days, and I am not sure if I am running from it or with it.
The first three days were long, and tiring. We had orientation sessions where the information overload gave us all a sense that maybe this thing was way too hard. Including a Safety in Spain presentation with someone from the U.S. Embassy (which was like a Fear Factor hour). The process to stay legal here in Spain is nuts! Something different from the U.S. is that you can’t do everything in one place here. For example, I have to go to a fingerprint appointment. Well, first, I have to go to a papeleria to print a form online (because you cannot save it on the computer). Then I have to visit the police station to pick up another form, which I have to pay for at a bank. Then pick up my fingerprint appointment confirmation at the office for the program I am working with, and THEN I can make it to the place where my actual fingerprint appointment is. That’s just for 1 thing. But there are many things on our list of errands.
We did get to experience some of the city during orientation. They walked us around to delicious tapas places, and gave us a general tour. It is amazing how normal it is to drink at noon here. And it is not even that people are out getting wasted in daylight. Drinking is just part of this day package that includes: a pretty spot to people watch, a great conversation, a clear blue sky, cheap food, and a beer. My favorite thing to drink here has been tinto de verano. A refreshing drink, a little sweeter than sangria.
On the 4th day we were all on our own to find a piso or room to rent. This is when the panic started. I would spend so much time alone, trying to make appointments and look at neighborhoods, feeling terrified, lost, confused, and completely uncertain of the decision I made to move abroad. It was the moment I started crying my eyes out that my friend Mia contacted me. Mia is the equivalent of an Amazonian Warrior. Except she is a girl from Chicago that’s been traveling Europe alone and living in Madrid until December. So she took me around a few places, and I learned a lot just by following/copying her. She also helped me go piso hunting. I think this has been the most stressful part for everyone in the program. We were basically given 5 days in a hotel, and in that time we were to find a place, sign a contract and move in. It was hard to find peace of mind.
I am most proud of the way I am learning to use public transportation. Madrid has apparently one of the easiest metros ever, but still…Being from Plantation, Florida I can say I almost never saw a bus in my life. Today I signed my contract! I rented a room from a family in Alcobendas, which is about a 30 minute train ride from the city center, and a 30 minute bus ride to my school town, Algete. For a while there, I wondered if I made a mistake moving abroad. I don’t know why I expected it to feel right from day one. Whatever it took for me to get here…I am here. And I will make this experience so worth the pain!
It has been shocking to feel this way because traveling is so amazing, and all my experiences have been off the charts GOOD! But the experience of traveling with no expiration date, and no ticket home is something hard to describe. In this moment, I feel relief, peace, and gratitude. Yet beware because I may start crying in 17 minutes!
Our orientation concluded with a charming, memorable dinner on a terrace in Lavapies (an edgy part of Madrid). At the time, I did not have a place to live, but I chose to take in the view, savor my tinto de verano, engage with the people around me, and realize that whatever happens, whatever expectations are not met: I have already made it to Madrid!! And that is something that cannot be taken away.