SPOILER ALERT: this blog post contains a gory image and a bad word spoken by a 1st grader.
I woke up at 5 am, a burst of unwanted energy opened my eyes and kept me awake until I had the courage to get out of bed. It is quite chilly, and I have no idea what’s going on with the heater. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Too much thinking before coffee. So I came to blog while it brews in my moka pot. I am almost 100% recovered from the cold I caught last week, right before Halloween.
“Rule #1 – do not run. Rule #2 – scream a lot. SCREAM A LOT! Rule #3 – do not touch the things.” Kids gathered around my waist, gripping me, but I think I was more afraid. My school went all out for Halloween. The parents put together a Haunted Museum which was nothing short of gory. The whole American sexy rule did not translate into this culture when Halloween became popular. These children dress in truly scary costumes, and parents and teachers join them right in. It was a spoonful of culture and differences in way of thinking.
There was a mom whose costume was a pregnant belly with a terrifying doll popping out of it, unnatural, and bloody. Chucky, Freddy Krueger, nurses covered in blood, and a dance where some kids pretend to shoot others. Some of these things would be considered controversial in the United States. It was a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” kind of day. As for me? I was a plain pirate. “Me he cagado,” said a sweet 1st grader girl, putting her hands to her cheeks, and giving me a stern, fearful look. “I have shit myself.” Mhm. I couldn’t reprimand her language after what we had been through. So I laughed in sympathy. “Me too, little girl,” I thought, “Me…too…”
The following day (on actual Halloween day) I went on a hike in Navacerrada. I hoped that nature would help my health, which has been reacting to the autumn temperature, and perhaps a few germs from school 😉 Navacerrada is a beautiful town, about one hour northeast of Madrid, with beautiful stone homes. The clouds hung low, and I added layer after layer of clothing. The hikes I have been doing have been organized by the Hiking Madrid group, which my friend Simone recommended. If you are ever in Madrid, I highly suggest to spend a day hiking as you will find many beautiful, breathtaking locations an hour away from the city. This particular group is led by an avid hiker Canadian named Jonathan. He plans routes every Saturday and Sunday (and holiday Mondays) – Sunday hikes being a little more physically demanding. For 12€ he plans the day out, making lunch and snacks for everyone, and buys you a drink once the hike is over (one time he even bought us breakfast before the hike), so I’d say it is worth the price for an entire day of fun. You can e-mail Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or like them on Facebook (Hiking In The Community of Madrid / Senderismo en la Comunidad de Madrid).
On this particular day, our hike was 10 km, and not too challenging until the very end when the path got steep and the temperature dropped. The worst feeling is when you stop for a break, and the sweat running down your back suddenly feels super cold. Needless to say, I did get sick…But my lungs loved the fresh air, and I was so grateful to witness so much beauty. It is my first time living in a place where the leaves change color in fall, and I am in love with this bright yellow against gray skies.
These hikes have been great as social opportunities. It is fun to meet new people from different countries, and share an incredible day together. Yet I was also looking for a little silence in nature, a little bit more of a pause to take it all in. I was also beginning to crave building closer relationships with people around me. My Navacerrada day was wonderful in all aspects. But I didn’t know then that this was just a step before the following weekend, when I would take a hike so physically challenging I would slide down boulders by the end of it. A hike where I would finally make those people connections I was needing to feel all settled in in Spain.