The breeze blew my hair softly, and the sun warmed up my bare skin. I was shirtless on top of a hill in what looked like the middle of nowhere. “Wait, what?” I just read your mind. Alright, I will explain. It all began on a normal Friday morning in Alcobendas. I woke up at 6 am, and made strong coffee in the old-school Italian, moka pot. I made breakfast, and enjoyed some light-reading before heading to school. Mornings here have been in the low 40’s, which is practically a snowstorm for a Florida girl.
I have a very peaceful commute to work, which makes for an interesting contrast to the loud workday. I normally spend the bus ride listening to soft songs like The Beatles and Jason Mraz while doing some self reflection. Generally, time goes by fast as I go from class to class. Then there’s the 2 hours lunch break. Because a 30 minute lunch break is INSANE, right? Ideally, I will get private classes to fill in the first hour of this siesta time, but for now, I find ways to keep myself entertained.
On this particular Friday, I took a little hike up a hill a little far from the school. Once you get to the top you can get a beautiful view of nothing. It’s all fields, and fields for miles. To the other side you can get the mountains, the town’s view, and very far in the distance you can see the 4 towers that make up the Madrid skyline. I sat down, facing the nothing view, playing songs like “Let It Be” and “Piano Man.” The morning cold had turned to heat, and I was beginning to sweat. I took off layer after layer, and sat on the rocky ground, in my bra, facing “the nothing” view, appreciating how this normal Friday was already turning extraordinary.
I felt a little wild, being shirtless and all. But it was a beautiful feeling that I can create anything at any moment. I was out to create a spontaneous Friday. I left school, and took the cookies that were forgotten on the teachers’ table. “Somebody’s gotta eat those,” was my reasoning. There is so much of myself that’s different here in Spain. Like my heart is being opened up to all sorts of new ideas, spontaneous adventures, and creative ways of being.
I was just going to go home, and call it a day because it was a long day of teaching, but…”Tired” is not who I am anymore – it’s just a side effect when nothing exciting is happening. I WhatsApp my friends to meet me at 9ish for dinner (Spain’s normal dinner time starts past 9:00pm). I met them in Lavapiés. I heard this is the oldest part of the city, and I had read something in a tourist book about it being the “dangerous” area with drug-dealing, etc, etc, etc. But to be honest, it has got the most interesting character, and the people that live in Madrid actually love Lavapiés. It’s got edge.
We met at the metro stop, and walked through the crowd that was hanging out for a tapas event. As we walked up the street the crowd grew, and there was loud music. A concert! A normal Friday night for Madrid. Our destination was Baobab. Let me tell you – We had come to this place once before, and I was craving it like a pregnant lady craves pickles. It is my favorite restaurant so far, and I would have never discovered this place on my own. In fact, I would have ignored it. It’s a sort of “hole in the wall” many locals know of. When I first went there, they told me we were going to eat Senegalese food, and I immediately had to google what that meant because I did not want to be that person that did not know Senegal is a country in Africa.
Dishes are 7-8€, and they do not always have available everything that’s written on the menu (because the food is actually fresh, and they actually run out of ingredients for the day! What a concept!). We shared two meals, and two pitchers of tinto de verano. I was hanging out with Sarah, Simone, and Ryan. I’d describe Sarah as the super sweet, super classic, poised girl (think American version of Kate Middleton). Simone is a cool mix of the liberal millennial and the old soul. Ryan is the musician/teacher that’s been around the world, but doesn’t act like he knows he’s cool. After dinner, we went over to Ryan’s piso where we had delicious white wine from the Basque Country. It still baffles me when I realize I am in Spain, sharing food and drinks with such different people, and the most interesting crowd I’ve ever been around.
Spain is changing me. It is molding me, inspiring me, recreating me. I am not the same, yet I’ve never felt more like me. I’m mixing work and play instead of having one or the other. I’m adapting to not-so-ideal situations. I’m breathing more deeply. I don’t remove my nail polish the moment it chips. I no longer own heels. I now love grocery shopping. I enjoy cooking. I hand wash my delicates, and carry a small purse instead of a big one. I arrive to work early. I start conversations when I don’t feel social. Spain is not just opening my heart…it’s letting the fresh air in.