It was everything and nothing. It was simple, yet complicated. It was strange and familiar. It was daunting and adventurous. It was my life here in Spain. A life that is only two weeks old, but feels like it started ages ago. During my second week in Madrid, I was able to rent a room, move in, and make it cozy. I visited banks to see which one would let me open an account for free, and with some of my documentation still pending. I began to finally cook (the food here is delicious and affordable, but there is something about cooking your own meal that says, “I’m home”). And today I was able to visit my school, meet with the staff, and watch a couple of the 6th grade classes.
“It’s okay, it’s just fish,” said Valerie (my roommate), as I got a little emotional choosing sardines from a shelf full of options! It was our first groceries shopping trip, and it was the most exciting thing! So many people in our program have struggled to find a home, and we were just grateful to have a safe, cozy place, where we can have easy access to the city yet sleep soundly every night. We spent three days dragging suitcases full of clothes, backpacks full of food, and bags of room/bathroom related things into our piso. We live with two other families. A lovely small family from Georgia (the country, not the state), and a family from Chile we have never officially met (but we assume it is three of them). I am still amazed that we have not had problems sharing a bathroom with what we assume is a total of 8 individuals.
Many auxiliaries have rejected the idea of living in Alcobendas, but I have to say it has been the best “accident” that’s happened so far (this was kind of my only realistic option). Our piso is in a quiet street, yet it is a 1 minute walk (left or right) and you find civilization! We are right by a main avenue full of banks, pharmacies, fruterias, markets, clothing stores, cafes, little parks…The best part is that it is a 3 minute walk to the train that takes you straight to the city center (a 30 minute ride, which is normal transportation time for someone that comes from Florida). It is also a 2 minute walk to the bus stop for my school (a 30 minute ride into a tiny town northeast). The location could not have been more spot on. I can only describe Alcobendas as a rare mixture of suburban, and urban. You may be walking down a quiet street, with shirts softly hung over clothing lines, and closed down shops for the siesta…But suddenly you make a single turn and BOOM. A well lit street, with a bunch of people and cars that you couldn’t hear until you got there…Suddenly everything is open, and you find an awesome Churro place!
I think I speak not only for myself, but for my roommate, and at least half of the 200 people in my program when I say that not many things have gone exactly our way. We are indeed in Spain. That went our way! And I believe we are all still hired by the Comunidad de Madrid to teach English. That also went our way! I said I wanted to live in the city, yet here I am, in Alcobendas. I did not want to spend much time with the people in my program (because I wanted to do everything SPANISH!), yet here I am…living with Valerie from Florida, who’s proven to be awesome company. It is crazy how we had no plans at all to live together, and how the day I moved into my piso, she became my roommate. It is also crazy how similar our living style is. Every day I am excited for the conversations that I’m having with all these interesting Americans that ditched the comfort of a home for a completely outrageous experience. I have had a tough time here, and I speak the language! Hats off to my colleagues renting pisos, and opening bank accounts in Spanish. You are incredible people. Know it.
Our lives are imperfect. They’re full of broken cabinets, tiny showers, laundry line window views, and perhaps an old smelly mattress. But there is charm. Oh there is so much charm, to the old, to the broken, and the worn.