Madrid, one of the most magnificent cities in the world to which millions of people flock each year to experience its majestic ambiance, the home to the cultural heartbeat of one of the most passionate cultures in the world...
this is where the adventure begins. As I sit writing, I have been in this strange new land for 12 hours now, running around town attempting to purchase a cell phone, find a bank, locate my new apartment, and orient myself with the general pace and temperament of the people. I have met my new roommates, a few fellow auxiliares, and two Belgian girls who are staying in my apartment for the next few days. I have had tapas. I have been to Sol. I have sauntered through what will be my new neighborhood with hopes of finding some familiarity within. The neighborhood is nice, quaint yet busy. Cafes, markets, restaurants, bars, and other establishments dot the landscape and are within close walking distance to where I will be hanging my hat. Public transportation, both train and bus, are within seconds of my apartment, shrinking the daunting sprawl of the city from a massive metropolis to an approachable series of closely situated train and bus stations, the farthest of which is only minutes away.
While I have enjoyed my first 12 hours in this new place, I do feel a sense of homesickness that, perhaps, I was not expecting. Moving to a new continent and a new country is a big deal that involves a lot of guts and even more stupidity. I am nervous, anxious, a bit uneasy for no particular reason other than I know that I am not in my element. Everything that I know is operating 7 hours behind me, slowly repeating the day that I have just finished, enjoying the sun that has since left my sky overhead. I now know that it will take a bit to really get settled. Even when I am fully entrenched in my new job and with my new friends, I will still think about my friends back in the states, wondering what they are doing, wondering what they are thinking. To say that you are moving across the globe for a year is one thing. Moving across the globe and realizing the reality of your travels is a whole other beast. I am quite confident, though, that all of these thoughts are healthy and natural. I should miss my family, my friends, my home. I should feel a bit uneasy and out of place because, well, I am. So, I am not worried or upset by my feelings of longing, I am just conscious of them, something that is quite strange for me, a person who normally does not entertain his emotions.
Tomorrow, I will explore the city and shall return with pictures. I have a few things to take care of in order to get settled here, but those few things will only take an hour or so. The rest of the day will be mine to explore and to find out just where I have decided to plant myself for the next year or so. I imagine I will even have some tales of awkward interactions and stupid-American flubs to tell you about.
Highlight of the day: I walked into a tapas bar with a girl that I met in the airport who is participating in the same program as I. As we sat down at the bar, which is the only seating in an establishment such as this, he asked what we would like, and I said "acabamos de llegar acá y no entendemos cómo funcionan las tapas...¿qué nos recomienda?" With that, the bar tender placed in front us of three plates of food and two very small glasses of a beer. Not only was the food delicious, but it was directly from the heart of a Spaniard. As he served us, he smiled with a sense of pride to be able to introduce us to his country's tradition.