not alike in character or quality
It’s been a day more than two weeks since I arrived here in Madrid, and just as predicted… life is different: shows on TV, cars, food, roads, public transpo, language, people, culture, greetings, etc. As much as I tried to prepare myself for the change, you can really only plan for so much. A typical day in my life starts at 7:30 which is sleeping in compared to what my life was like back in Cali. I usually snooze for 10-20 min and then begin getting ready for school. I take a bus to the metro station and then ride the metro to school. It takes about 30ish min in travel time. On the metro a lot of people read books or the newspaper and listen to music (or maybe it’s self-help hypnosis, I’m not sure because I haven’t asked). I have a pass that allows me to ride the metro and bus as many times as I would like in a month, which is incredibly helpful because I use it at least four times a day. The metro is probably the best subway system I’ve ever used and it is surprisingly clean! My class starts at 9:30 and there are four of us, well sometimes five when the boy from China shows up. It is conversation based and we do more talking than anything. I usually write down the words I’m not familiar with and look them up when I get home that night. A lot of what we talk about is comparing Spain to the United States or Japan (and sometimes China) depending on the day’s topic. For example, today was travel so we talked about all the things one might do on a vacation in Europe or in the US.
It is amazing to me how many things are different here than back home. For example, if someone from Spain needs to go to the doctor, they just go. And it’s free. For everyone. It’s not necessary to have health insurance! Even surgeries are free!
Eating in a restaurant can take up to two hours. If you order drinks, you usually get free tapas which are like appetizers. Some examples are ham on bread, Russian salad (which is similar to potato salad), meatballs, paella, etc. Then of course the main entrée, desert, and I always finish with a café solo. The servers expect you to stay for a long time so they won’t bring the check until you ask for it. It is a very relaxed atmosphere where people enjoy each other’s company and awesomeness.
The radio! A common station is KISS FM. Pronounced Kees efe eme. Most of the songs are from the US but we do get a few in Spanish as well. Almost everyone sings along even though they have no idea what they are singing. There is actually a song that my older girl loves…and if she or the parents knew what the song was about, it’d probably never be played again. Or maybe so….it is Spain after all.
Another thing that has taken me awhile to get used to is that nobody smiles at you if they don’t know you. If I’m walking down the street and I smile at somebody, they will look away and probably mumble something about Americans… haha. Amongst groups of people everybody is smiling and laughing but if someone smiles too much people start to think it’s fake. Crazy!
After school I may walk around different parts of the city or come straight home. I like to eat at home because it’s free and my host dad cooks incredible food. I have about two-ish hours of free time before going to get the kids. I eat, rest, and squeeze in as much homework as I can. I pick up the kids at school around 4:45-5 ish. We come home and then usually go downstairs to play in the playground. Some days I play with the kids, other days I sit with the parents and practice my Spanish. When I play with Alba, the younger girl, I never know what she is saying because it’s all in Spanish. For example the other day we ran around the patio collecting “pequenos or pequnitos” to save them from the monsters. We would go put them safely in a corner and then run to grab more.
At about 8:00 we come upstairs and the kids get showers. While they eat I like to go run
and when I get back I read them a bedtime story in English and then eat dinner. After that I’m free again and try to get all my stuff done before it’s too late. It’s quite a busy day but I don’t mind it.
Weekends I have off! This past weekend I went with the family to El Escorial which is where Felipe Segundo (an old Spanish King) built a palace. It isn’t decorated with glimmers or gold because he wanted it to be plain and simple… a place for prayer. It is quite incredible and the art inside is phenomenal. Also in the palace is where all the previous kings are buried.
I did go see a bull fight as well and that was a very interesting cultural experience. I
appreciated the art for what it was yet at the same time it was very difficult watching the bulls suffer. My favorite part was when the bull wasn’t tired and ran around while the matador worked with suave. When the blood started flowing, I enjoyed it less and less. I
can see why people like it here and I can also see why others don’t. I don’t think I’ll go to see another one though.
There are days that I think about home and everyone there. I’ve caught myself becoming a
little homesick at times but I always remind myself of where I am! I’m so lucky to be here experiencing life! I know my home very well and I can mentally place myself there. But when I do that, I long for something different and exciting! So I snap back to my world here. It doesn’t feel like home yet, I’m still not comfortable in the city, I still can’t communicate with everybody that I see, but this is what I wanted! Each day gets better and I never stop learning.