Friday, May 30, 2014
Thursday May 29, 2014 I just made it through the longest day of my life! I left this morning for Madrid. Well, actually yesterday morning, but that was that last morning that I was in a bed. So it seems like this morning. I got up around 4am Wednesday after going to bed at 1. Dad took me to the airport, and then I flew to Phoenix, then Charlotte, then Madrid. I felt really good when I got to Charlotte, but that 8ish hour flight to Madrid was so tiring. I slept a little, maybe two hours, tops. It wasn't terrible, but I was ready to be done with being squished into a little tiny seat. When we landed, the first thing that surprised me was that Madrid doesn't look very big from the air—it just looked like a normal-sized city. The foliage was a little different than I've seen before, and it was pretty brown and desert looking. The airport was really uneventful, which was nice. I just showed them my passport and walked right through customs. Unlike Mexico, which has that annoying red/green light that will tell you if you are going to be searched or not. Then I took the metro to meet Susana, who is renting me the apartment. I felt dumb trying to figure out how to buy my ticket and where to insert it in the machine, but I eventually figured it out. The metro was pretty easy to use, except that my suitcase weighs 50lbs and a couple of the stops (I had to ride 3 lines) didn't have elevators. A few nice people helped out a little bit when they saw me struggling to lug my suitcase up the stairs. Two women and one man (I had to do it 3 times). I thought it was different that more women helped... Anyway, I got here around 8:30am Thurs morning, I found Susana, and was excited to have someone welcome me here. The apartment is smaller than I expected. It's basically a normal-sized bedroom with two little closets off to the side. One closet is the bathroom and the other is the “kitchen.” The kitchen has a sink, a very mini fridge (even smaller than most you find in hotels—like the size of a cooler), and a microwave. I had a little panic attack when I saw there was no place to cook. I DO NOT want to have to use the microwave. But then Susana said that her mom had burned out the microwave, and she needed to get rid of it, and wanted to buy a hot plate. I was VERY happy about that! So I will be able to cook a little in my closet. Really, it has exactly enough space for one person to stand in it. We went to the bank so I could withdraw the money to pay Susana, and I had my second little panic attack because I couldn't get it to work. My credit card didn't work in Russia, so I've had that in the back of my mind. I had gone to Safe before I left, and they told me that I could use my ATM card here, no problem. But that I just can't use the credit card. Well, after deciding to go to a second bank and try, Susana decided to wait to talk to banker, and while she was waiting I went and tried again. And success! I realized I was trying to withdraw the limit here, which is 400 euros, but the limit at hime is $500, and 400 euros is roughly $600! Crisis averted. Then Susana took me to breakfast at one of the little cafes on our street (she's just about 2 blocks down the road). All of their breakfasts include bread and sugar. So I asked for eggs and they had them. They brought me an omlette (tortilla francesa) with tomatoes. It was pretty good. Then we ran a couple more little errands, and then I just couldn't make it any more so I came back to my apartment to take a nap. I slept from 12:30-3:30. That was the first time I had laid down on a bed in 23 hrs! It was really hard to get up, but I made myself because I want to be able to sleep tonight. When I got up, I decided the first order of business would be to find internet access so I could at least let mom know I made it safely (by this time it was Thursday morning at home). I walked in the direction that Susana had said there was a Starbucks, and I found it! It's just a couple blocks from here. When you buy something they give you a code to get online for 45min. (and they also give you one to use the bathroom). I just bought yogurt because they don't really have anything I want at Starbucks (except internet!). It was fun being able to message people and post some pics on facebook. I spent as long there as I could. I think it was even longer than my 45min but my phone battery started to go, so I decided it was time to move on. I was basically just killing time trying to keep myself awake. So, then I decided to go on a walk to downtown. Susana had showed me the general direction and said it was about a 20 min walk. I pulled up a map on my phone for the general idea. I'm not sure I found the exact center, but I got a good view of things. Then I just kept walking towards the parque del retiro, and ended up at the Prado. And lo and behold, it's free every day from 6-8. By then it was 7:30, but I got to look around for half an hour. Then I went to a cathedral next door. I walk by the real academia and had to snap some photos, and then it was on to the parque. I walked through about half of it, and then decided I should get some food, so I ate at a little cafe overlooking the water. It was so european. There was even a man serenading on the violin. I loved it! Then I decided to walk back. It was after 9 by then, and still plenty light. I was going to take the metro, but didn't see any stations because I walked back a different route. I made a big loop (and did all this without a map because my phone was dead). Towards the end I started to get a little nervous, but then I saw some familiar places, and realized I just needed to go back a block and I'd be back on the road I started from I was pretty impressed with myself. I didn't get back until almost 10:30. It was just getting dark, and the streets were filling with people getting drinks and eating in cafes and tavernas. It's so true—they really do eat dinner at 10pm! So, now it's 11pm and I'm exhausted. Hopefully I can sleep through the night and feel good tomorrow. Susana is coming in the morning because the lady that was going to clean my apartment couldn't make it until today. While she cleans we're going to go buy a hot plate. Then maybe I'll go grocery shopping and do some hot yoga. And spend some time at Starbucks again. I need to get going on my sumer school class. And I want to go to the temple, either tomorrow or Saturday. Es todo por ahora. Buenas noches. One more thing. I can't believe how quiet it is. I live off a 4 lane main road, and I do hear some cars, but they're quiet. They don't honk. It's great! It would be like having an apartment on Cirby Way at home. Busy, but not too loud. Friday May 30, 2014 I slept until 5:30 this morning, so I was pretty excited. I'm getting closer to feeling normal! Susana came around 9 and we went and ran errands together. When I first got here I had a little twinge of regret that I'd decided to get an apartment alone rather than live with a family. I want to get the most out of living here, and really get a feel for life, and improve my Spanish. But Susana has been wonderful, so it's like I got the best of both worlds. I've only been here two days, and I've spent the first half of each day with her. We've mostly been doing things to get the apartment ready (she hasn't had anyone in it in a while), but she was great at showing me around and teaching me how to use the bus system, and little things like that. She has twin girls that are 12, and we've made plans to do things with them too, so hopefully that will happen. This morning we went to El corte ingles (a HUGE department store). We got some things for my “kitchen.” And actually, I'm already used to it—it doesn't seem so small anymore. One of the things that has most surprised me is how different the Spanish is. I guess since I have friends from Spain, and have watched things on TV, etc in Spain Spanish I thought I'd be totally fine with it. But it's different when you get Spaniards talking to each other. They go so fast (which they do in Mexico too, but I'm just so much more familiar with the accent), and some of them have such pronounced accents. The lady that helped us in the store was hard to understand. I bet I understood 80-90%, but it's weird to feel like I'm learning a language again! I expected mostly to just not catch a word here and there, since they have such a different vocabulary, but every once in a while I'll miss an entire phrase, or a couple times, even a whole sentence. After our errands I came home and took a nap again. I didn't set my alarm this time, and accidentally slept 3 hrs. I got up at 5, so hopefully I'll be able to sleep tonight! Then I went grocery shopping. Again, since I've been in so many countries, I think I feel like it shouldn't feel foreign. But it is! And I don't like feeling foreign—I can't wait to feel like a native! But I have to tell myself it's only my second day. It's ok that I'm not sure if I order my food before I sit down, or which floor is the ground floor in the elevator (some have 0, or some have B—I don't know what happened to PB...), or how I print the produce ticket at the grocery store. I feel like a little kid learning a language, just observing everything before I try myself. I had to laugh at myself yesterday because it was pretty cool so I'd brought my little rain jacket, but then later it warmed up. At home I would have tied it around my waist, but I guessed that was probably a pretty American thing to do, so I just held it while I looked around to see what everyone else did. They were all holding their jackets, or just carrying them folded over their arms. So I did that too. Then as I got to the more toursity area, I saw some Americans with sweatshirts tied around their waists. They just looked so American. I guess what it comes down to is that I don't want to look like a tourist! Speaking of tourists, another thing that I've found very surprising is that I haven't seen very many. I live really close to downtown, but this area just has madrilenos (people from Madrid). As I got closer to Sol (the area downtown) there were hostels and hotels and more tourists, but still not too many. I've heard that they'll come later in June and July. I guess I had anticipated a much more international city than I've been exposed to so far. I'll have to see how that changes as I get to know more of it. And I bet when I go to church there will be lots of foreigners. I can't believe it's only my second day. It is actually starting to feel so much more like home already. I'm getting settled into my apartment, and it feels cozy and comfortable. I can't wait to make more friends and go do things with people. I live in the theater district and there are tons of plays and concerts. It looks like they're pretty cheap too, so I hope to take advantage of that! Food is NOT cheap. I bought one bag of groceries, and I was trying to be really conservative. I bought lentils and some veggies and eggs, and it was 25 euros, which is roughly $35. I guess that's not terrible, but I always shop at Denio's and get my produce so cheap. I'll have to see what the farmer's markets are like here. I just got to Starbucks to use the internet again. It's almost 9:30pm and the streets are more crowded than I've seen them all day. Everything is open, people are eating, strolling, and kids are even out and about. I saw some girls writing on the sidewalk with sidewalk chalk, and kids playing in the sidewalk playgrounds (which are pretty cool by the way—the sidewalks are really wide to allow for restaurants to have outdoor seating, and every few blocks they have little playgrounds with little slides and other playground toys. Anyway, I should hurry up and post this. I can't promise this will be the norm, but I'm trying to get everything down while it's still new. Once I'm used to it, it won't seem like anything to write home about! Here are some photos. I can't figure out how to rotate them on my Mac... David?