December 2nd, 2007

Madrid:Day 1

Man. What a day. If it can even be considered a “day,” technically… after being in planes for several hours you start to lose track. The flight to Madrid was for the most part uneventful. Flying during the winter is quite different than flying during the summer. For one, there’s less people. At least until Christmas, I suppose. Two, since there’s less people there’s less stress. Not such a crazy hassle to get through security. Also, the good thing is that the planes are less crowded. I had a stopover in Washington D.C., and the second plane I took to get to Madrid was one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve ever had flying… No one sitting in the seat next to me… I could stretch out… I was right next to the lavatory and didn’t have to worry about deciding whether to give the ass or crotch to the person who would normally be sitting next to me (watch fight club again if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

Anyway, Madrid airport is a really nice airport. It’s clean and deserted, well, at least at the time I was there which was 7:30 in the morning Sunday. I had a bit of panic with my luggage because it was one of the last ones to get on the carousel, but thank God it didn’t get lost as it did when I went to Italy… I was also thankful that the dude that was to pick me up was still on the other side of the gate waiting for me even though it took a hour after I landed to get all my stuff. I was so relieved to see that sign with my name on it… when I get nervous I forget how to say things in Spanish. The dude who picked me up was glad to see me, but all I could manage to say was “gracias, gracias, disculpe, gracias…” I soon learned that I wasn’t the only person he was there to pick up, some other girls were there as well who spoke only Spanish and promptly asked where I was from. “California” I said, and they began to sing the song from the O.C. Sigh… When I asked were they were from I didn’t really understand what they said so I just nodded… si, si.

Driving into Madrid from the airport was nice. It was a nice day out and it was sunny, despite the biting cold. Madrid is a really clean city, or at least the part that I live in. The streets are wide, not narrow and crowded like Florence. The thing I wondered was – donde estan la gente? Where were all the people? I guess nobody gets up early on a Sunday morning after a long Saturday night…

The dude dropped me off at Calle Guzman el Bueno in front of the apartment I was to stay at. The door is kind of inconspicuous. The lobby is practically empty, it looks like a deserted store. Once you get inside there’s an elevator that I have to take to the 6th floor to get to the apartment. The elevator is creepy – it’s exactly like the one I had in Florence. You open a door, step inside, push the button and it goes up SILENTLY. The door opens up on the other side of the elevator and leads to two doors. I was greeted by a woman wearing a nightgown who I learned was the manager of the apartment. She spoke purely in Spanish as she explained to me that I needed a 150 euro deposit, where the bathrooms were, what time dinner would be, etc, and also gave me FOUR keys. Yes. One to open the door from the street (which I soon learned is the STUPIDEST lock in history, usually you have to just end up buzzing to get it unlocked because the key is an exercise in futility), two to open the doors after you ride the elevator, and one to open my bedroom. The apartment itself isn’t bad, I share a room with a girl from Switzerland who is really nice and understanding and has an affinity for Orlando Bloom. I have a bed, dresser, and desk. There are about 8 or so rooms here split up into two partitions (hence the two doors). There’s two kitchens, an awesome balcony and a tv room. The only problem is the bathroom situation, which is down this windy hall and there is only ONE bathroom for several people (on my side anyway), so figuring out showering times will be interesting. But a plus in all of this is that there’s free dinner and breakfast! I don’t remember signing up for board, but I’ll take free meals, especially when the euro these days is 1.60 to the dollar (last year it was 1.30!). That’ll save me some cash…

Once I got settled in, I called my parents to let them know I was alive, then called my friend who is studying in Madrid. She told me to meet her in La Latina, a stop on the green line of the metro, which I had no idea where to find. The manager left as soon as she gave me my keys so I was left map-less, wandering outside. But after traveling so much it’s not so hard for me to remember the path from home. I eventually found a metro stop (later I learned there was another one much closer, I just didn’t see it), hopped on the yellow line and then the green line and I met up with her! The metro was surprisingly easy to use (I guess anything after the New York subway is). My other friend was there too, visiting Madrid from working in London, which was just crazy. I can’t believe the three of us managed to find ourselves in the same place in a foreign country. It was unbelievable and it finally hit me that I was here! I made it, and this is madness.

My friend took us to the El Rastro, which is a big flea market that they have on Sundays. So this is where all the people were. They sell all kinds of crap at low prices, I got some double A batteries for less than one euro. There’s also kitchen junk, comic books, tshirts, jewelry, hardware, posters, bags, cd-rs and dvds abound. I must remember to come here next week to buy things. After that, we had some lunch at a bar, which isn’t really what it sounds like. It was a tapas bar, where you could have some tapas (basically snacks) at the counter, or eat a meal at a table. We opted for the table and I had a simple barbacoa sandwich… I’ll try to the real Spanish stuff later. Anyway, it was just nice to be there with my two good friends. How incredibly surreal it was chatting it up in Spain… just another extraordinary day…

We headed for my apartment afterwards to watch this dvd my friend bought at the market called Tesis (“Thesis”) about a grad school student who gets mixed up in violent movies and whatnot, anyway, the plot was really convoluted and I got really tired after watching it. The jetlag began to kick in. By the time it was over it was 3:30, my friend had to get back to the airport to go back to London, and my other friend had to study for finals. So I was left alone in the apartment to read a bit and I took a shower. Even taking a shower is an interesting experience in another country. As soon as I turned it on the shower head fell apart, apparently it was broken, so I had to hold it in place (at least the water was warm…) I ended up doing it navy style. Wet down, water off, soap and shampoo, water on, rinse. Ahh, memories of central America…

After the shower I was thoroughly relaxed and took a nap. I awoke around 7pm, where I found some of the other students staying at the apartments talking around the kitchen table. I learned that there was one other U.S. student there, a couple of German students, one from China, one from France, one from England. It’s quite a mix. Everyone was really nice and laidback. We communicate in English, which isn’t really good for practicing, but classes start tomorrow so whatever. Most of them are really young, like 18 or 19 years old just out of highschool and taking a break before starting college. They told me about the dinners here, which aren’t really that good… The peas were overcooked, the chicken was kinda fatty, but the boiled potatoes were good! I didn’t care, it was free! Anyway, I soon learned through some interesting dinner conversation that there’s one student here that everyone makes fun of because she is a bit socially inept, and I could tell by the way she ate really fast and left the table as soon as possible. Oh the stories, the STORIES. I guess I’ll find out for myself soon enough…

After dinner, I watched Prison Break on the other American girl’s laptop with some of the other students. Good relaxing way to end the night. Wentworth Miller is hot, but sadly not a very convincing actor…

Tomorrow I start classes and hopefully they go well. I really have no idea what to expect so we’ll see. Afterwards I plan on doing some touristy stuff and taking the metro to see the sights. I’m taking it slow… I have a whole 2 weeks in Madrid and my friend in London was able to do it in 3 days. I’m looking forward to more tapas, cana (beer!) and churros con chocolate…