España: Round 2

8 Sep

Well folks, I’m back. It was almost exactly three years ago that I created my study abroad blog for Spain and I figured it was time to revive it. After all, I’m sure that many of you missed my musings about life in Spain, the occasional struggles of living in a foreign country, and the inevitable desire for certain American foods (I really miss Diet Pepsi already). For those of you who don’t know, I will be spending the next year living in Madrid, Spain and serving as an English Teaching Assistant for IE University through the Fulbright Program. In this role I will get to serve as a writing tutor for the University’s English classes and lead a conversation class for some of the faculty and staff. This blog will serve as a way for me to tell my stories and observations while living abroad, and I’ll do my best to keep you entertained!

I arrived in Spain last Thursday (September 1st), which was actually three years to the day that I left for Granada. Much to the relief of my parents, there were no tears this time around. It was definitely different, because I felt much more comfortable traveling by myself and didn’t sob in the airport (thank goodness). In a surprising coincidence, one of my favorite professors, Dr. Joan Brown, was on the same flight as me. It was great to see a friendly face when I looked up from the challenging task of choosing an Instagram caption for my airport pic.

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Attempting to look calm, cool, and collected

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Kodiak was clearly upset that I was leaving

When I arrived on September 2nd, it was only 8am and I was all alone in a foreign city with time to kill. So naturally, I sat in Paseo de la Castellana (kind of like a running path lined with trees) and people watched. Within a half an hour I was approached by women encouraging me to read their religious pamphlets and errant dogs not on leashes. It is always nice to have the leash-free dogs welcome me back by standing uncomfortably close to my legs. I was finally able to check into my hotel and connect to wifi. It was quite painful being in a foreign city without any way to communicate with people. By the time I reached my hotel at about noon I had messages from both of my parents asking about my whereabouts. It’s always good to know that they love me.

In order to function normally (and not depend solely on wifi)  I needed to get a Spanish cell phone plan. This involved going to a carrier store and purchasing a new SIM card. So, I now have a new number! If you have texted me and haven’t heard back, I’m not ignoring you, I promise! But, if you have any desire to iMessage/Whatsapp/Facetime with me at any point in the next 9 months, just shoot me a Facebook message or email and I’ll be sure to get you my new number.

Since Thursday, I have met up with other Fulbrighters in an Airbnb and it has been nice getting to see the city with other people. I had to walk about 5 blocks from my hotel to the Airbnb on Friday and it was the strangest feeling pulling a 44.5 pound suitcase behind me and knowing that I was carrying everything that I had to my name in Spain. And, you can imagine the strange looks I got.

On Friday, a few other Fulbrighters and I started exploring the city. My favorite part of the day was the lunch we had. We went to a traditional Spanish restaurant for lunch. The way many restaurants work is that they have a menu of the day (menú del día) which includes a first, second, and third course, plus bread/water/wine. The new experience for me was having an entire menu in Spanish. I guess when I was in Granada we went to restaurants that had English translations or pictures that explained what each item was. But in this case, I had none of that. So, we immediately hooked up to the restaurant wifi and Googled each menu item so that we knew what we were ordering (good thing we did because one of the main courses was ox tail stew, which is not something I desire to try). The waiters must have thought that we were such stereotypical Americans just playing on our phones instead of eating. But the meal was delicious and was a nice welcome to Spain!

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The first of many Spanish menus

The rest of the weekend was spent apartment searching and getting to know the city. The apartment search (or piso search as we call in in Spanglish) is really an adventure of its own, so I will be dedicating an entire post to that. I know you’ll wait for it with bated breath. But, it has been great getting to see the city. On Saturday morning, one of my friends and I walked all of the different neighborhoods in the city to get a feel for the character of each one in order to decide where to start searching for places to live. To give you an idea of my morning, I hit 10,000 steps before 11am and beat the previous day’s total of 15,000 before lunch. (Thanks parentals for the early birthday present of a Fitbit). After feeling so disoriented being in a large, unfamiliar city, I finally had more of a grasp on where everything is located.

On Saturday night, I did a tapas tour in the center of Madrid thanks to my Dad’s friend, Julie, and her boyfriend, Jonah, who happened to be in Madrid for the weekend. It was nice to see familiar faces and to eat and drink our way to the streets of Madrid. In another first, I drank wine out of an old-fashioned wine pouch. And, I managed not to get any on my shirt! We also had a Fulbright get together on Saturday night, with over 50 people crammed into a small gin bar (I didn’t even know that gin bars existed). It was fun getting to see the people who will be in city with me over the next few months. The night basically consisted of lots of small talk (Name? Where are you from? Where did you go to school? Where are you teaching/researching? Why Spain? Have you found an apartment yet? etc. etc. etc.). For those of you who know me, you know that small talk is not usually my favorite thing. But, I was in good form on Saturday night (perhaps it is easier to have conversations with new people when you’ve had a drink or two…).

And on Sunday, all of the chicas in my Airbnb became tourists in Madrid. We explored the city center (Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Gran Vía, Parque Retiro and more). I enjoyed seeing places that I saw three years ago and I was glad that I could start to document the city where I will be living for the next 9 months.

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Gran Vía (major road in Madrid)

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Madrid’s Government Building

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Puerta de Alcalá

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Flowers in Parque Retiro

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Buildings in Madrid

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Just another building pic

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Posing in Parque Retiro

Sunday night was capped off with a trip to a bar. Prior to Sunday, the only other time that I have ever been to a bar on a Sunday night was on my 21st birthday. This time, I almost didn’t go because I was stressed from the apartment search and wanted to call it an early night (as usual). But, I decided that you only Fulbright once, so I ignored the part of me that wanted to sleep, and went to the coolest bar that I have been to yet.  Called Ojalá, the entire lower level of the bar has a sand floor, low beachy chairs, and lighting that changes colors. It was a unique experience to be sipping sangria and eating tacos with my toes in the sand. While my time in Spain so far hasn’t been perfect, it really hit me then that this is an incredible opportunity that I have been given. It was so surreal to be sitting in this bar on a Sunday night, talking to interesting and accomplished people, and enjoying all that Spain has to offer.

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The sand bar

 

 

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2 Responses to “España: Round 2”

  1. Maggie your neighbor September 9, 2016 at 11:07 pm #

    Love the way you tell your adventure! Keep the pictures coming!

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