Madrid Reunion

This weekend I met up in Madrid with two of my very best friends (Audrey and Marissa) from college. One of their fathers works for an airline and let’s just say that every travel enthusiast needs a Delta baby best friend (or you know…should work at Delta. Sponsor! Just kidding).

We had approximately 48 hours to explore the city/catch up. I’ve been to Madrid before and I only had three things I wanted to do and I was able to accomplish all of them. So now, in no particular order:

1) Kapital. I’ve never been able to successfully get into this seven story club that everyone who has ever studied abroad in Spain talks about. Mind you, I’ve not ever tried once. But I was still super angry that night. It happened the last time Audrey came to visit me in Madrid, exactly two years ago. Long story short, we got there too late. The timing for a “Spanish night out” is completely different than our normal night outs in Atlanta. Go to dinner at 8, pre-game until midnight, go to a couple of bars in your preferred neighborhood, hire a lyft/uber driver around 2, get them to take you to Waffle House or the drive through of checkers and then pass out in bed by 4:00 at the latest. The next day, you’ll wake up at 11, regret the Waffle House but decide to go to brunch the next day. No. That’s not “Spanish time”. “You can’t go to the club here before 2:30.” Young, naive (only been in Spain for a month) 20-year-old Alessandra believed this so thoroughly, we didn’t arrive at Kapital until 3:00 (didn’t want to seem like a loser) and found out the club was “at capacity”. Which I still doubt to this day. Every time someone mentioned (and how “awesome” it was) Kapital for the next two years, I would plot my revenge. I would get into Kapital.

This time we went by 1:15 (I found a QR code on their Facebook page that got us in for 17 euros and came with two “free” but actually paid for drinks. The only requirement was getting in before 1:30). And we got in. We even got in through the short line. And guys it was awesome. My only partial regret was that in this seven story club, I stayed within a 7 foot perimeter. I should mention though that this 7 foot perimeter was right smack dab center in front of the stage. I did not move. I would not give up my spot. I did not go to the bathroom. I did not go get a drink (thankfully my friends went for me…thanks Auds and Rissa) I did nothing but dance for 4-5 hours straight and guys, it was really, really awesome.  I’m going to say it was “awesome” one more time. Awesome.

Look at that stage at the right.

Look at that stage at the right.

Maybe I’ll check out other floors the next time I go. If I ever go again. I don’t think it could ever be as much fun though, because the best part of Kapital was that I was there with two of my favorite people ever and got to do my favorite thing ever: dance (I even like it better than sleeping…I know…).

The moral of number one is this: go early if you wanna get in.

2) Go to the Parque del Retiro and rent a rowboat. How have I never done this in Madrid? It’s the most touristy of the touristy things to do there besides going to Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor or to be honest…go to Kapital.

I’d just never gone. We went the morning after Kapital (aka 4pm). It was cold and grey, but I still had tons of fun. There’s a reason it’s a touristy place. There’s something fun about being in a little row boat. I think it was more fun because it wasn’t too crowded because of the weather. I also think it was fun because Audrey was kind enough to do all the rowing.
parquederetiro
I also think I liked it so much because it’s one of the only times in Madrid that you’ll feel at all isolated. It’s so crowded that sometimes, you just want to be alone (with your friends though, of course). I found the place where that could be done.

3) Spend some good old fashion quality time with my friends. If you’ve ever spoken to me for more than two hours, you know I get sentimental about my friends. I’m going to spare you from too much of that. Long story short: it was great to spend some time with people that I love so much. After my family left after Christmas, I got a little lonely. It was nice to see some friends who are like family to me. We could’ve been anywhere and I would have had an amazing time. The fact that it was Madrid only made it a little better.

Fourth Month Reflections

I arrived in Aguilas approximately four months ago. Four months may not seem like a long time, but to put it into perspective: when I studied abroad in Spain I had already made a lifetime worth of memories and friendships by the time four months rolled around.

When I reflect on my time here, I can see that my four months here have been very different than the last time I was here. I have made friends with some amazing people (shoutout to Cartagena) and the people I see daily in Aguilas (that’s you, Mo). But other than being in the same country, the experience could not be more different.

That’s mainly because I am working. A lot. Officially 12 hours at school and 15 hours of private lessons. That does not include all of my planning or transportation time. And I’m often tired. And sick 90% of the time. The job is equal parts frustrating and rewarding. I love my hours at the school. The teachers are there with me, so anytime any student comes up to me and tells me (in Spanish):”so and so just hit me”, I can just say, “I don’t speak Spanish, tell the teacher.” Most of the times, the kids aren’t tattling on each other anyway. They’re so sweet to me and get excited when I’m there (lots of hugs and hand holding…aka why I’m sick). Every once in a while, you see them starting to grasp the concept of what we are teaching and it feels like I’ve won the lottery.

I actually went on a field trip last week to go see a play in English called Witches and Cookies. Most of the time, I was shuttling the kids back and forth to and from the toilets. It was still great to spend time with kids outside of the classroom. Most are too nervous to say anything more than “Hello, Alessandra”, but some actually attempted to speak to me. I also got to see them dancing along to some pretty intense choreography (and by intense, I mean ridiculous).

Field trip time

My private lessons are another story, altogether. I have 13 students ranging from the ages of 6 to 43. Some are fun to teach. Others are horrible. I’m doing “conversation” classes, but surprisingly enough it’s quite difficult to hold a conversation for an hour with three 10-year-old boys who don’t understand anything you’re saying. I feel the lessons draining my energy and hope for humanity sometimes. But then I have a really fun session, where the kid is quickly catching up on what I’m teaching.

I don’t know if I could work with children for the rest of my life. But I can tell you this. It’s not easy. It’s very emotionally and physically draining. But it’s also infinitely rewarding at times.

Now. You may be asking yourselves. Where was month three reflections (for the record, I’m kidding)? Well. I was on vacation with my family. The rest of the time: see above where I describe how tired/sick I am all the time. I do want to write more often though. For my readers (aka future me. What’s up, future me?).

I should write about my amazing trip to Valencia last weekend. I also will need to write about (spoilers) some of my best friends from home coming to visit next weekend!!!! I will write again soon. I will. I will.

Second Month Reflections

It’s already been two months (and two days) since I’ve arrived in Spain.  That blows me away.  It seems like it’s already been a lifetime.  Maybe it’s because I had to wait four months before I could begin working here. I have certainly gotten into the rhythm of my day to day life. I work at the school on Mondays through Thursdays. After school, I do private lessons where I get paid to essentially confuse children. Then I come home, cook something to eat, watch TV on my computer and go to bed. It can be as monotonous and soul-crushing as it sounds.

Now onto the positive part: the weekends. More specifically, the weekends where I travel. I traveled for three weekends in a row in October/November. First to Cartagena to visit other language assistants and celebrate Halloween. I got to meet a lot of new people and go shopping a bit (for essentials though. Like slippers because floors in Spain are made of tile and tile floors are cold. Therefore my floors are cold…). The next weekend I went to Granada to meet up with people that I had met in Cartagena. I wrote about it in detail in another blog post. I think that if I wrote too many more nice things about Granada, it’s ego would get really big… The third weekend I went to Valencia (which I’ve written/spoken about positively so many times in the past that it’s probably got the biggest ego a city could have…if cities could have egos…) . And it was incredible. So incredible that the blog post I tried to write about my trip did it no justice and I just trashed it. The city is amazing. The friends I have there are even more amazing. It was a perfect weekend.

When I’m not traveling, my weekends can be pretty boring. At the same time, I figured it’d be better to be bored in Spain than be bored in Roswell, Georgia.

The thing I need to keep focusing on the fact that it’s up to me to make sure I’m enjoying my time here. My instinct is always to lay down and watch TV or read a book to decompress. But that can be a lonely life. No one is here to force me to go outside of my comfort zone.

To summarize my second month reflections: I need to travel more and force myself out of my comfort zone (watching South Park and eating cereal while wearing sweatpants).  I hope I can be more positive about this experience. Month look is looking up though because my family is coming! I was a bit homesick this pas weekend because of Thanksgiving, even though I celebrated it with my roommates and some friends and it ended up being great.

This is a shorter reflection because I’ve actually been feeling a bit sick.  Children.  By the time I leave here, I will be immune to so many things I will be able to survive a zombie apocalypse. Not that children are zombies. But they do bite sometimes… and they tend to have stuff oozing out of them.  So maybe they are zombies?  I’ll run some tests and let you all know!

Here’s hoping the third month is the best one yet! BYEEEEEEE

35 Hours in Granada

(Some context:  there was an orientation for auxiliares de conversación in the autonomous community of Murcia at the start of October.  During that orientation, I met a bunch of language assistants that were placed in Cartagena.  I went to visit them for Halloween weekend.  While I was there, the language assistant I was staying  with [Hannah] invited me to go with her and her roommate/other friends to Granada.  I decided to join them.  This is that story.)


Saturday, 08 November 2014 (4:30 AM)

I was planning on meeting the girls from Cartagena in Granada at noon. First I had to get there.

Traveling from Águilas can be a bit of a hassle.  The buses to Lorca and Murcia don’t run very frequently and the train route goes through Andalusia which adds another 30 minutes to the journey.  I was meeting my ride in Lorca at 8:30 in the morning and unfortunately this meant that I had to go on the unnecessarily long train because the first bus to Lorca on Saturday departs from Águilas at 9:00.  The train only train that would get me to Lorca in time left at  6:45. This meant I had to wake up a lot earlier than I would ever want to.  I meant to wake up at 5:00, but the sleeping pill I took the night before to help me fall asleep at 8:30 PM wore off at 4:30 and made me ready to go.

Saturday, 08 November 2014 (6:00 AM)

I live about 30 minutes walking time from the bus/train station.  I also have a tendency to get lost, so I left my apartment at 6:00.   Águilas is usually pretty quiet, but at 6:00 AM it’s unnaturally quiet.

Saturday, 08 November 2014 (6:45 AM)

I got on the train, sat down and internally cried as my body begged me to go back to sleep.  Not really an option though, because the cercanías trains in Murcia don’t really help you figure out which station you’re at.  You just have to stare out the window until you see it’s the right stop and run off.  I also decided to journal on the train.  About a half hour in, a man started asking me questions about my journal (can’t you see I’m writing?).  Then he asked me about the Spanish high school system. I’m sorry, I know I recently wrote a blog post about talking to an older lady on a train and being very happy that I did. This was not the same situation.  Before 7:30 AM, no one should ever talk to anybody that’s commuting.  I was not about to have a conversation in Spanish either.  Especially about the Spanish high school system which I do not know anything about.  I tried explaining that to the man, but he was clearly intoxicated and just did not get it.  It was a relief when I finally got to the train station in Lorca.

Saturday, 08 November 2014 (7:45 AM)

I got a coffee at the bus/train station cafe in Lorca and messaged the guy who was picking me up.  I’m about to write about something that my mom will kill me about (Hi, Mommy. Read the WHOLE thing before you start freaking out, ok. I promise you I make smart choices).  I decided to use blablacar.es to get to Granada.  What’s blablacar?  It’s a website where people post that they’re driving somewhere, how much room they have in their car and at what price they would be willing to drive someone.  I had never used it before (because the idea of riding in a car with a total stranger really does freak me out a bit), but I had heard good things about it when I was in Valencia.  It tends to be much cheaper and faster than riding a bus or a train.  I figured why not give it a try.

I looked at the options for rides from Águilas to Granada on Saturday, but didn’t find any (should I really have been that surprised?).  Then I looked for options from Lorca to Granada and found two for 8:30 AM.  One was with a 35-year-old woman who had a 3.7 rating out of 5.0 (the comments about her were also atrocious).  The only other one was of a 22-year-old guy with a 4.8 rating.  I took the chance and booked the ride.  Now this is when you’re going to learn a little secret about me, reader.  I have a particular set of skills that come in very handy when it comes to meeting potential serial killers (I’m the Liam Neeson of the worldwide-web) .  I can find ANYTHING or ANYONE online.  I think it’s because I was a history major and research was my life for four years.  Some people would say I’m a grade-A creeper.  I just say I’m determined.  I found the driver fairly easily after he confirmed my place in his car and received his number.  I looked up his number on Whatsapp and found him.  It also had his name.  From there I found his facebook fan page for being a magician (I know. A magician! What?).  The nice thing about Águilas and Lorca is that people tend to know each other so when I talked to the mothers of the kids I tutor about it, one of them actually knew the guy. She was also able to tell me that he most likely would not kill me, so I felt a little bit more comfortable about this whole riding in a car with a stranger thing.  OK. I’m creepy. I admit it. But I would rather be creepy than killed by a serial blablacar killer, okay?

The blablacar driver picked me up at the train station and then picked up two other people before we headed onto the road.  And the ride was fine.  Maybe even a little fun.  Definitely more pleasant than a crowded bus ride that makes stops every 30 minutes.  It was a slightly rainy/very foggy day and the ride from Lorca to Granada passes through mountains (my ears were popping because of the change in altitude, but that is very typical for me) and at one point we saw a rainbow as ’80s pop music suddenly came onto the radio (apparently the magician’s dad made us a mixtape and it was pretty awesome).  That would never happen on a bus. I will definitely be using blablacar again.

Saturday, 08 November 2014 (10:45 AM)

We got to Granada after only 2 hours and 15 minutes of driving, which I think is amazing.  I walked to the hostel I was staying at, left my stuff and then went to the cafe downstairs to meet up with one of the girls from Cartagena and wait for the other girls.  I was tired. Really, really tired. Thankfully I essentially hibernate in Águilas during the week, so I have plenty of sleep reserves to cover me.  I got a cafe con leche and waited and waited and waited.  It was rainy and a little cold, but it was still exciting to be with Granada and I was excited to see my friends.

Saturday, 08 November 2014 (11:30 AM)

Finally our whole group arrived.  There was me (American…duh), Hannah (American), Christine (Belgian), Garance (French), Agnes (Swedish) and Laurie (Spanish).   I’m personally of the opinion that every group of travelers should be cosmopolitan.  It keeps things interesting. We all dropped off our stuff at the hostel (sidenote: the hostel we stayed at was pretty nice.  We had a six person mixed dorm, but since we were a group of six it was just us.  At night it still got that weird smell all hostels seem to develop…a musty…sleep smell, but in general it was comfortable and cheap and I would go again.  Half of the people staying there are people who are actually teaching language classes there, so it definitely has a bit more of a homey feel. Here’s a link for the hostel if you’re really interested. If I go to Granada again [which I probably will be because 35 hours is certainly not enough time…], I’d stay there again!  http://www.itinerehostel.com/).

Then we began sightseeing and eating tapas.  Granada is one of those cities that is pretty from most angles.  Like most places in southern Spain, it has been hugely influenced by its former Arabic rulers. At the same time it also has a lot of classic Spanish architecture. The two influences are a beautiful combination. It’s aging gracefully and you can feel the history of the place.

Wandering the streets of Granada

Wandering the streets of Granada

Granada is also a tapas city.  One of the best ways to experience it is to go from one tapas place to the next ordering something new every time. The tapas are “free” (as in you buy a drink and the tapa comes with it…so not really free, but called “free”) and the types we had varied from ham and bagels, to veggie enchiladas, to bread with jam and cheese.

I wish I could tell you which places I went to, but I really decided to go with the flow this trip to Granada (I lied before when I said I MAY be coming back to Granada. Spoiler alert: I actually know I am because my family is traveling through Andalusia for Christmas! Next time I will take better note of where I’m going).  When you’re traveling with such a big group, you’ve really got to give and take.  I trusted the girls to make smart choices for things to do and they did. I had an excellent time!

Some of the girls from Cartagena are doing Erasmus and there was actually a planned trip to Granada that we were able to join a little bit. If you don’t know what Erasmus is, it’s basically the European version of study abroad and it is amazing. The students receive scholarships to help them study in other countries. When I was in Valencia, I hung out with Erasmus students and even got to be a member for the organization on my campus. If you’ve spoken to me in the past two years, you probably know how amazing of a time I had in Valencia (sorry I talk about it a ton…). Erasmus was a huge part of why it was so fun!

IMG_1678

We went to more tapas places with them and had the choice to do a guided tour for two hours. My family has never been a tour kind of family. We are very much a discover things on your own family. I can also say that I’ve never been on a tour that I’ve though afterwards, Wow. I’m very glad I went on that tour. It was totally worth it. Hannah, Laurie and I opted out of the tour and decided to keep exploring with some of the other people from Cartagena. And it was great. And cold. I’m not used to the cold yet, because it’s still fairly warm in Aguilas.

Saturday, 08 November 2014 (07:00 PM)

We headed back to our hostels to decompress, check in,  and get ready for the night ahead. Napping was not an option because if I took a nap, I would never be able to wake up again. We tried to figure out how to do the whole layering for cold and rain, but still looking half decent thing. We also decided where to go for dinner…

Saturday, 08 November 2014 (09:30 PM)

We decided on a sushi place that Christine’s friend who is studying in Granada suggested. Sushi in Granada? Spanish food is delicious so don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s very repetitive. It is essentially different combinations of tomatoes, potatoes, eggs, ham, pepper, onions and cheese. Those combinations are always delicious, but they’re never spicy and they often don’t stray from those ingredients. Getting Mexican or Chinese food in Spain is always a bust though, so it’s usually best (and delicious) to just eat the potatoes, tomatoes, etc.

We ended up going to the place and it was delicious. I ate my words and I are lots of sushi. Again I don’t remember the name of the place (I’m the worst…), but I’m almost certain there’s not a ton of sushi places in Granada.

After the sushi, we decided to go to a chupeteria (chupitos=shots; chupeteria=shot bar) where they had 150 different shots. I thought we were going to go somewhere else afterwards, but we actually ended up spending 4 hours at the chupeteria (which is honestly 3 and a half hours more than anyone should ever spend in a chupeteria…I still had fun though!) For the record, they had other beverages at the bar. It’s not like I did four hours of shots (I probably wouldn’t be alive to write this were that the case). I loved being surrounded by so many  people and spending time with my new friends. It can get lonely in Águilas sometimes, so it’s nice to travel to a city with so much life!

Hannah and I had noticed some men clearly trying to rob people while we were at the bar. They were getting very, very close to people and trying to reach into their purses. Later that night we went to the bathroom and as we walked back to our friends, Hannah suddenly did a 45 degree turn towards me, reached for the floor for her wallet and looked at the man who had essentially been standing on top of her a moment before. The man was clearly trying to rob her and Hannah caught him and basically shamed him into running out of the bar. It was amazing! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ve never felt safer walking down a street than I do in Spain. No one will ever run up to you with a gun to try to rob you. On the other hand, you have to be constantly aware of your wallet and cellphone because there are pickpockets everywhere. So many of my friends got robbed when we were in Valencia that it was refreshing and exciting to see Hannah catch the sicko who was trying to rob her! Successful night, as far as I’m concerned.


Sunday, 09 November 2014 (09:00 AM)

In typical Alessandra-drinking form, I woke up ridiculously early the next morning compared to when I went to bed.  As I sat up in my bed, I noticed four other pairs of eyes looking at me.  Oh hey, six person dormitory.  Then I took a shower, tried to get the energy to function enough to put on mascara, and went to the cafe downstairs to get some much need coffee and a tomato tostada.  While going downstairs we ran into a Canadian guy who was also staying at our hostel.  I invited him to join us and he told us about how he was traveling Europe alone for a couple of months before starting work.  I have traveled plenty, but I’ve never traveled alone.  It’s something I have to do while I’m here, but it honestly scares the crap out of me. Hopefully by the time I leave Spain, I will no longer have that fear! We shall see!

Sunday, 09 November 2014 (11:00 AM)

After becoming heavily caffeinated (we went to another place and had cokes and pinchos), we decided to make the trek to the Mirador San Nicolás. It is a lookout point with a lovely view of the Sierra Nevada and the Alhambra (which I plan on going to soon, hopefully).  It was gorgeous and in general the day was a lovely.  I don’t think I need to describe Granada’s beauty ad nauseam.  Unfortunately I didn’t take enough pictures (I’m the worst a taking photos/the worst photographer ever), but do a google image search and you’ll see some of the beauty for yourself.

The day was cold, fun and full of tons of walking and eating.  Basically a perfect day (minus the cold part).

Sunday, 09 November 2014 (8:00 PM)

By nighttime it had gotten painfully cold.  I need to remember to pack for all types of weather when I travel.  I got a ride back to Águilas with a teacher that lives there, but is from Granada.  I was exhausted, but the car was full and I had a newly-met seventeen-year-old sleeping on my shoulder. When I finally made it home around 10:45, I went straight to bed.  It was a great 35-hours and I hope to spend more time in Granada soon!

Up next: Valencia!   I’m going back to where my love of Spain began.  Look forward to writing about it soon!

One Month Reflections

As of today, I have been in Spain for one month.  The last time I tried the whole blogging thing, the only thing I could be consistent with was a monthly update where I essentially did stream of consciousness writing. Because I am obviously the worst write now at being at all consistent with this blog, I’ve decided why not try this again.

I have so much to write about my life here. I need to tell you all about my job in general.  I need to tell you all about where I am living.  I need to tell you all about the headache that is becoming a legal citizen (it’s a hoot, let me tell you). And soon enough I will post those blogs (I’ve even started writing them…).

I’m not going to keep writing about what I need to write.  That is a waste of both of our time.
I’ve been here one month and time has managed to go by extremely quickly.  At the same time, so many thing have happened.  In general I am healthy and happy. Actually being surrounded by little children is making me feel perma-sick.  I always have a little bit of a sore throat. Maybe it’s just seeing a bunch of little cuties gleefully digging into their little noses on a daily (hourly…minutely…) basis.  And they’re so enthusiastic too!  I wash my hands or sanitize them often.  Unfortunately I just ran out of hand sanitizer.  Why did I choose not to get a flue shot?  I was sick 75% of my six months in Valencia, but that was because I was partying until 6:00 in the morning frequently and sleeping never.  That’s not the case at all in Águilas.  Even if I wanted to, there would be not point staying up past 1:00 in this sleepy little port city I am calling home.

Let me summarize Águilas in one sentence. It is a beautiful, but uneventful city.  Is uneventful a bad thing?  I guess I’m glad there’s no zombie apocalypse happening, or any other sort of catastrophic events.  I’ll take uneventful over absolute insanity.  But this city could use one or two more events.  Before I came here, I thought that I would be dreading school.  It’s been the opposite.  I’m actually my happiest when I’m at school working with the kids (even if they’re picking their noses).  There is no better feeling than walking into a room of six-year-olds and having them scream like you’re a member of One Direction.

It is a bit odd seeing the kids outside of school though.  I live very close to my school and run into them all the time and they smile at me and wave at me…and then I wave back…and their parents always look confused.  I swear I’m not being creepy.  Please stop looking at me.

One thing I will say about Águilas is that everyone has been extremely nice.  My teachers are the best.

So yeah. I’m happy. A bit bored, but happy.  Now that I’ve finally finished applying for my T.I.E. (which is a bit like an episode of the Amazing Race. Running from one city to another with brief clues about what to do next.  I don’t know how we ever got it done…hopefully it’s done.  I have nightmares that they’ll call me to come back to finish the paperwork), I should be able to start traveling!  Which is one of the main reasons I am doing this program!

Month one: done.  Seven more to go!

Why Did I Pack So Much…And Other Thoughts: The Journey from Madrid to Águilas

I got onto the 12:35 train from Madrid to Murcia and quickly found my seat.  There was minor commotion on our train car over seat 12 A, which seemed to have disappear (maybe it’s invisible to muggles like platform 9 3/4).  I maintained my typical I have no idea what is going on, but I will smile and nod like an idiot so please do not sell my organs face that I often have to pull when on public transportation in foreign countries.  So far I still have my organs, so it seems to work.

 I noticed a woman in her seventies looking at me curiously for a moment.  I could tell she was itching for a conversation and even though I hardly slept on the plane, I’m always up for a good life talk.  I had two choices: the moderately handsome man next to me or this older woman. I asked the woman if she was from Murcia (logical conversation topic when on a train to Murcia). She told me that she was not, but that Murcia was lovely.  I explained to her that I was actually going to Águilas to teach English.  That’s when she surprised me by telling me that she was also going to Águilas.  She had kept a beach home there for decades, but sold it recently because the upkeep was harder as she got older.  She was headed there again to take a tend day vacation to rest up before a 22 day cruise she was doing.  Her name was Señora Martinez and she told me everything I could have ever wanted to know about Águilas.  She also told me that she had been on 14 long cruises over the past few years, which is impressive (partially because traveling is amazing, but also because I don’t understand how she’s still sane.  I can’t imagine being on a ship for more than a week and a half!) I really admired the enthusiasm she still had for life and for travel.  One of my favorite things about traveling (and honestly life as a whole) is that everyone has a story to tell. I tend to be shy around strangers, especially those who only speak Spanish, but I’m glad I found the courage to talk to her.  
 
After talking for about 45 minutes, Señora Martinez then decided to get food from the dining cart and I decided to listen to Belle & Sebastian and watch Madrid turn into Murcia outside my window. This was apparently all I needed to finally fall asleep.

I awoke a little before we arrived to Murcia.  Señora Martinez was chatting to a new woman beside her.  I told her that I was actually planning on staying in a hotel in Murcia that well.  They helped me find the taxi stand outside the station and gave me a schedule for the train schedule for the next day.

Once I got to my hotel room in Murcia, I dove into the bed and realized that I was staying a much nicer place than anywhere I’d stay over the next eight months.  I took a very warm shower, got some pastelitos from the Mercadona (another welcome reminder of my time in Valencia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOFNTrp5Brw) and then went the HELL to sleep.  After all, I had an early train to catch the next day.

I woke up the next morning to catch the 9:45 Cercanias train to Águilas.  Águilas is about an hour and 45 minutes from Murcia on train (hence why I opted to live in the smaller city).  The route is more common during the summer months because Águilas is more relevant during the summer months when people from around the area go to their beach houses/apartments.  I got onto the train, every stop becoming a smaller and more desolate pueblo, when suddenly I could see the ocean.  I could see the mountains and beaches that I had been looking up on google images so many times this summer.  I had finally arrived in the new place I would call home.

I got off the train with my huge suitcase and my insanely over-packed backpack assuming there would be taxis at the station.  I would be wrong.  I panicked and decided to walk down the hill and look for the first restaurant with wi-fi.  I found on and walked in sweaty, overwhelmed and lugging most of my worldly possessions.  I ordered a coke and some patatas from the confused waiter. Then quickly asked for the wi-fi password.  I probably looked a little more than a little insane. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do for wi-fi.  I whatsapped my future roommates telling them that I was lost, confused and had all my luggage.  They graciously found me and helped me carry those monsters to the hotel where I was staying.  I’m sure I made an amazing first impression on Mo and David.  Hello. Please help me. Now live with me.

Right after we got to my hotel, we actually went to the renter’s office to pay our deposit and first month’s rent.  Spoilers but we moved in the next day (which was actually my first day of work) and have been living here ever since!  More on that and work and life and hiking and love (of food) soon!

Bienvenidos a España: From Atlanta to Madrid

My first three weeks in Spain have managed to be chaotic and tranquil at the same time.  My first week here I had no wi-fi, so I couldn’t write a blog post.  My second week here we got wi-fi, but I had to catch up on all of my shows/life/talk to my family and friends.  And my third week?  Even though I only work 12 hours at the school, I have a lot of other things that kept me away from writing a post (aka I’m lazy).  Thankfully, I have been jotting down a lot of notes on the way, so hopefully I am able to coherently write what I’ve been doing since I left for Spain on the 29th of September.

So now, audience, I would like to take you all on a journey to a far off time called: three weeks ago.

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(I wrote this all in my journal the night I arrived at my hotel in Aguilas [aka September 30].)

I’m alive and OK.  It’s been a very long day.  Tomorrow I start at work, so it’s time for me to start thinking business.  I have so much to do and it feels like no time to do it in.  But I do have plenty of time.  Eight months.

I left for the airport at three o’clock with my mother and one of my best friends, Ariana.  I asked Ari to come for moral support and because I didn’t want to have my mom drive home alone.  She was still upset though and tearfully waved goodbye to me as I waited in line for security.  After I waved to her and told her I loved her a couple of times, they finally left.  When I turned around and saw that they were gone, I realized I was going to have to figure everything out by myself from that point.

I passed security fairly quickly and as I arrived to my gate I noticed a plethora of Spanish toddlers and kids. I like kids.  Heck, I’m going to be working with them at the school.  But kids and planes are a combination I’m not exactly crazy about.  As I walked to my seat I noticed two particularly energetic boys sitting right behind my seat and a toddler two rows ahead.  Wonderful.  This would obviously be a very quiet and relaxing flight.

I knew there was a good chance that there would be other language assistants on the flights, but imagine my surprise when there was one seated right next to me!  Ann was hilarious and we quickly started excitedly chatting about the year to come.

When it was time to sleep, I meant serious business.  I had the works: a neck pillow, earplugs, an eye mask AND sleeping pills.  I still only slept about an hour or so.

Ann and  I decided we would wait with each other at baggage claim and find the Madrid Metro together.  My bags were ridiculously huge and I was very glad I had someone else to help navigate the airport, especially because I was only running on an hour of sleep and adrenaline.  Thankfully my vague memories from the last time I flew into Madrid allowed me to remember that I had to take a shuttle from the first terminal to the fourth one.

Once we reached the metro, I typed the station Charmatin (where I would be catching the train to Murcia) into the ticket machine (I ended up taking the wrong rail line, but I’ll explain that in a second).  I put my credit card into the machine to pay and it swallowed my card. Awesome. Great. Bienvenidos a España.  I asked Ann to watch my bags (seriously, thank goodness for Ann) and ran over to the information desk. The man working the desk told me I was at the wrong information desk.  So I went to the other information desk because the Madrid Metro has a lot of information to tell, apparently.  Thankfully I was not sent to another information desk (although I’m sure there were more hidden in the metro station).  The woman working walked over (I would’ve preferred if she sprinted, because I was panicking) and pushed in another card until mine came out.  Then she talked to another metro person who told her casually that the machine had not been functioning the whole day.  Why had they not put a sign up?  Because Spain.  No pasa nada. (Disclaimer: I love Spain.  I love the people. BUT it can be frustrating at times.  I should note that most of the times I get into these messes, it’s my own fault [i.e. I got onto the wrong train]. But a sign would’ve been helpful).

With my credit card in hand and a metro ticket I paid for (in cash), I jumped onto the next metro train.  I realized pretty quickly that I was on the wrong train because I needed the C1 line. Yeah. C1 line is for the Cercanias (aka not the metro…the rail line…).  Ann and I studied the metro map and I figured out a way to get to Charmatin through the metro.  Then we sat down and got a bit of a break from carrying the bags that were full of the our lives for the next eight months.  Ann’s stop was before mine and I was a little more sad than I had anticipated when it was time to say goodbye to her.  I was lucky she was there to help me navigate Barajas.

When I got to the metro stop where I thought I was supposed to make a connection, I realized I had to get off and get onto a completely different train system.  This is my life.  So I had to lug my suitcases to the RENFE lines (and pay more euros…but it’s not about the destination, right? It’s about the journey. Right? This is fun, right? I love traveling, right? Right.), but AT LEAST I can say the metro station was attached to the cercanias station, so I didn’t have to go that far.  Once I got off the cercanias Charmatin line, I looked for directions towards the AVE (another rail line).  Finding none, I asked the woman working there were I could find them.  The woman asked in quick and frustrated Spanish “Where are you coming from?” Ummmm…uhhh..I stepped away from her.  I could not remember.  I could remember my credit getting stuck.  I could remember having to carry my suitcase and backpack.  I could remember being a hot, sweaty mess. But the specific metro name that I was at for five seconds to switch trains? No. I couldn’t.  Once she was done asking everyone else where they were coming from, I asked her again.  Then she told me, “You have to go up two flights of stairs.” Great.  Did I mention I didn’t really sleep on the plane?

So I climbed up the stairs and then I climbed up more stairs. Finally I found the AVE.  I bought the last ticket for the 12:35 to Murcia and then I sat down.   Then I saw a kid eating jamon serrano flavored Lays. That’s when it hit me: I’m back in Spain.

It feels very bizarre being back.  It’s like saying hello to a friend you didn’t think you’d see again for a very long time.  But here I am under very different circumstances.  Ones I didn’t even know about until a couple of months ago.