“Experience is the most brutal of teachers, but you learn, my God do you learn” -C.S. Lewis
So at my final going away party, a blank diary was passed around for friends and family to sporadically fill the pages with words of love, well wishes, blessings and humorous stories for me to take with me so that I could candidly come across them when journaling about my adventures or to simply just have to read after a long hard day, when feeling down, homesick, or needing to be refocused. Having been here less than a week, I did not anticipate needing to rely on this so soon, but was nonetheless reassured to have it near. I never thought that traveling away from family and friends to a new environment, to reside amidst strangers, foreign cultures and unaccustomed practices would be
easy by any means. I anticipated the first few days, weeks, months even to be a bit strenuous, but there was no way for me to conceptualize how truly uncomfortable they’d be. Moreover, arriving to this new atmosphere with early signs of the flu only further exacerbated the difficult transition.
After several days of attempting to get acclimated, recover from jet lag, nurse myself back to a semi-functional state of being, to no avail, it was time for me to set off and start my language courses (My shool picutred left). Despite feeling under the weather, my initial day of class was a success! However, it was my first commute home alone for the very first time in this foreign land that proved all previous assumptions to be true.
Leaving the school, I set off to head back to the metro using landmarks and visual aids. Impressing even myself by making it to the station and boarding the train without making one single wrong turn, I beamed inside. However, that sense of accomplishment was short lived as no less than 5 minutes later, I navigated what appeared to be the same metro tunnel for nearly 30 minutes simply struggling to find my appointed exit. Once finally figuring it out I was met with yet another challenge. As I arrived to the bus, I greeted the driver and attempted to board with the pre-paid ticket I purchased earlier that morning solely for my ride home. However, the bus driver denied my entry as he deemed the ticket invalid. Fearing that if I exited the bus to try to find change I would get lost again, I agreed to pay using cash all the while knowing I did not have any small bills. I took a seat behind the driver as I rumbled through my wallet. As the bus driver took off, I handed him a 20 € bill to cover my 2,60 € fee. He accepted the fair but did not render any money back. After about 4 exits I called my host mother to tell her of my encounter. She informed me of what to say in order to request my change. When I got off the phone I recited the phrase just as instructed thus giving the bus driver the wrong impression that I would be able to understand his reply. With his back to me, I stared at him blankly wondering what to do next as my exit would be soon nearing. At every stop he turned to me and said “a little more”, ” a little more.” Well past my stop and about 5 “a little mores” later; I arrived at the end of the bus line where he then emptied his tray to fulfill my request. I exited the bus at this unknown location with the mindset that I would simply cross the street and take the bus in the opposite direction to get to my desired location. But of course given my luck for the day and much to my dismay there were neither bus stops on the opposite side fothe street nor buses headed that directing.
Slightly bewildered, fatigued and frustrated, I pulled out my phone once more to call the host mom so that she could guide me home. As I raised the phone to my ear, I decoded bits and pieces of an automated voice telling me my call could not be completed as I had exhausted all of my prepaid talk time on the previous I call I made trying to figure out my “change”.
Completely over it at this point I headed into a local building to rest and come up with an action plan. After about 30 minutes I gathered enough energy to give the ride home another go. I went back out to the stop where I left, pulled out my phone to reveal a photo that I had saved in my phone of the map that I screenshot showing my local landmark and asked the bus driver if his route would take me there. His bus didn’t but he told me which onces did. After about 20 minutes, I was finally home bringing an end to my 3 hour commute that now only takes me 30 minutes to do. (The learning curve) I did however find a FroYo place. It’s not quite Pinkberry but I am confident it will still be sure to make bad days a little better. (I just kinda need them to get their chocolate sauce together.)
To say that least it was a quite eventful Monday but thus far that has been the worst of my days and looking back on it, it wasn’t so bad. Now that I am feeling healthy enough to embrace getting lost, I’ve been going sightseeing after class venturing further and further each time.
The sights on Gran Via
Mariachi band planying in the center of Sol, just outside of my school
What I enjoy most about the language immersion aspect is the continual learning process. Phrases such as “Me puedes por favor pasar la sal y pimienta” ( Can you please pass the salt and pepper), random words like botella (bottle), bolsa (bag) and oeste (which I know because the name of the local mall is Centro Oeste, West Center) have been inadvertently added to my vocabulary due to my continuous interaction with people. I’ve also learned names of some my favorite seasonings from cooking by sight, tomillo (thyme) romero (rosemary). But don’t get me wrong, there are days when I go in to restaurants and practice my order in my head before being serviced to ensure I get it right… and don’t. But then there are other moments when people address me in Spanish and/English and I respond in Spanish unrehearsed with no premeditation.
Some of the common words that I was used to, however, are pronounced differently here as the “Z’s” and “C”‘s make the sound of “TH” so words such as “Gracias” and “Plaza” are pronounced “Grathias” and “Platha” which I have finally reconditioned myself accordingly.
One thing I am not quite accustomed to just yet are eating times. It’s typical to have at least 5 meals a day. The typical schedule is as follows;
Before 11:30-El Desayuno “Breakfast”
11:30-1p-El Almuerzo “The Real Breakfast
2:30p-La Comida “Lunch”
5:00p-La Merienda “Snack”
9:30p-La Cena “Dinner”
I am sure everything will soon become “normal” to me even these cold temperatures. Without admitting that my mother was right, I will say that I do wish that I have packed more practically. Not that I feel over packed in the least, I just wish I would have considered more factors. The clothes I brought are rather stylish (go figure right? ☺️) but there are two main exceptions by which I allow style my to falter and that is when I’m sleepy and/or when I am cold. I am not a morning by any means. So, given the fact that I leave by 8:30a to walk to the bus stop when temperatures are at their lowest, finding a contrasting colored shirt to perfectly compliment a pair of mint green pants that will also keep me warm AND match my winter coat is not exactly high on my priority list making me wish I would have packed (or even owned) more plain colored pants. I am sure once the temperatures begin to rise in the coming weeks I will once more feel validated for my packing selection, but as for now blue/black jeans, turtle necks, UGGS and a hoodie everyday sound rather inviting.
This American aisle in the grocery store warmed my little heart.
Believe it or not I haven’t been shopping even though I have to pass through the mall to get to the grocery store entrance. Although I’ve seen a lot of cute clothes trying to entice their way into my closet I am deeply committed to putting more money towards weekend trips and adventures. Like this week I plan on visiting Segovia and La Granja, next weekend Cuenca and Ciudad Encandad and so on and so forth. I am hoping to make it to Portugal for my birthday and in the weeks to come the list will continue. Welp, that brings me to the end of this update. Catch you later. Chao Chao.