Going Against My Goals

I’m going entirely against my goal of using no English while I am in Madrid, but I thought it might be nice to put down my thoughts in English about my first trip abroad.  While it is only my second full day here, I have gone through quite a lot and I think it may be therapeutic to get some of my thoughts down in English, even though so far I have been doing a pretty good job of doing everything, even thinking, in Spanish.

So let’s begin.  Yes, I am in fact in Madrid.  How f’ing cool is that?  I arrived here Friday morning and haven’t had a solid good night of sleep yet, but we’ll get to that.  Actually, let’s start from the beginning, last Thursday.  I actually slept OK Wednesday night, but woke up bright and early at 6:30 AM and was not going back to sleep.  I was supposed to leave for the airport from my mom’s place around noon.  I was leaving my car at her place and riding to JFK with my friend and former boss, Pattie.  Of course I found myself pacing around my apartment, wanting to leave but not wanting to get to my mom’s place too early.  She was not going to be there until right before I left and I thought it a bit pointless to sit in her empty house waiting to depart.  Finally, I could take it no more and I decided it was time to leave my apartment.  I made one last pass through the place, making sure I had turned everything off and closed all the windows and all that.  I dragged my one suitcase down the stairs and was off to my mom´s.

Even though I waited as long as I could, I still got there with over an hour before I was supposed to leave.  I am always early to everything, so this was no surprise, so I sat down and watched some Spanish television while I waited.  Mostly, I was just trying to keep my mind off the impending flight, as it made my stomach turn every time I thought that I was really going through with this.  Once the morning show finished up, I went and sat outside, trying to enjoy the calm morning before any panic had the chance to set in.  Pattie let me know she would soon be on her way, and then the first moment of panic hit, not because she was on her way, but because of what happened next.  My mother had not yet arrived home, so I thought I should text or call her, but when I picked up my phone, it was dead.  It was just a black screen and nothing would make it turn on.  Suddenly, my heart was in my throat.  The only true concern I had leading up to this trip was having phone troubles, and it waited until less than half an hour from when I was supposed to leave to manifest itself.  I didn’t know what to do and of course I wasn’t thinking at all clearly.  There was no way I could travel all the way to Spain with no phone.  Did I have time to go buy a new phone?  Could someone fix the phone I had?  I pushed the buttons over and over and nothing was happening.  I went inside, tore open my bag and started rummaging for the phone charger.  I plugged it in and still nothing.  I was practically hyperventilating at this point.  As one last ditch effort, I held down two buttons at once, and sure enough, the Apple logo appeared on the screen and the phone rebooted itself.  Of course now I had to fear it would play this game with me again in Madrid.  I took a few deep breaths as Pattie and my mother arrived within a few moments of one another.

Once I calmed down, we were off to the airport.  Pattie talked pretty much the entire ride, but I was fine with that as it kept my mind off anything else.  We hit a few patches of traffic, but nothing major and I was perfectly fine until she told me we were about eight minutes away from being at the airport.  My palms got sweaty and cold and my heart started pounding.  It was really real now and there was no turning back.  Pattie was able to get me through until the security check, then she had to leave.  I was on my own with almost four hours to pass until the plane took off.

I watch CNN for most of the time and before I knew it, I was boarding the plane.  Strangely enough, once i was in my seat, I felt a lot better.  I was lucky enough to end up with a vacant seat to my left and the kid in the seat next to me fell asleep before we even took off and stayed that way except for when they passed the meals around.  Although I was feeling OK, I decided to pass on the in-flight meal only because I had visions of trying to race to one of the cramped bathrooms in a moment of turbulence.

Speaking of turbulence, we did experience a bit, but luckily I got through it pretty well.  Yes, it made me nervous to feel the plane rumbling around like that, but since no one else seemed affected, including Sleeping Beauty next to me, I figured I had nothing to worry about.  I tried to sleep as best I could but it wasn’t easy.  My back was sore and I woke up anytime the plane shook a little.  That being said, it seemed like no time at all that the captain was announcing our arrival in Madrid.  Throughout the flight, it was mostly dark, and even when it was daylight I couldn’t see much more than clouds, but as the plane banked to the left to make it’s approach, I could see the entire countryside and it was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.  It pretty much told me I had made the right decision to come here.

I followed the crowd off the plane and got through the airport and suddenly I realized I was alone.  No one was coming to pick me up from this airport.  No one was coming to pick me up from anywhere for four weeks.  I had to figure out how to get to the apartment.  I knew I had to get to the Metro, and here was where my second moment of panic took place.

I had to haul across the airport, dragging my suitcase behind me, for what seemed like miles.  When I finally found the Metro, I had to purchase a ticket from an automated machine.  I put my credit card in and it asked me for a PIN number to my card.  My card doesn’t have a PIN number.  I had to buy the ticket in cash, fine, but now I was worried that more than half of my spending money was not going to be accessible to me.  I decided the best course of action was simply to find my way to the apartment where I was staying and deal with it then.

I think I may have pissed a few people off on the journey along the Metro as I was rather clumsy with my big backpack and heavy suitcase, but whatever, I am sure I was not the first tourist they have seen.  I arrived at the apartment rather early, surprise surprise, but thankfully Ana was there and let me in.  It was quite a haul dragging my stuff up four flights of stairs, and when I finally arrived I was out of breath and covered in sweat.  Nice way to introduce myself.  Thankfully, she brought me a glass of water and after a few moments I just felt relieved that I had made it.

The rest of the day was kind of a blur.  I went to lay down for a bit and may have slept for about two hours but then I was wide awake again.  With the whole time difference and a seven hour plane ride, I couldn’t even tell you how long I had been awake.  I went for a walk, which despite being exhausted, brought a big smile to my face.  People were crowding the streets eating at the bars and restaurants that line every sidewalk.  I had no idea what I would eat, and clearly every menu was in Spanish.  I walked by one spot that offered food to go and I figured I hit the jackpot.  I talked to the waiter and successfully ordered my dinner to go and a few moments later, I was back in the apartment, dining on Chorizo frito.  Fried sausage.  It was good, but took my stomach by surprise and the rest of the night was rather difficult.  I don’t regret buying the food as I want to try all different kinds of things, but I have to be careful about spicy stuff like sausage.

Sleeping that night was not so easy and when I woke up yesterday morning I still felt like I hadn’t slept in days.  I went to the market in the morning and bought some food for the week.  You have no idea how happy I was to see Corn Flakes!  Of course since I eat mostly frozen, pre-prepared meals, I was excited to see some simple dinner things I could have on nights I didn’t want to be too extravagant.  I knew Ana didn’t have a microwave, but missed the fact she doesn’t have an oven either, only a range top.  I had bought chicken nuggets and I was worried I would not be able to cook them, but it turns out they can be fried in a pan.  I’ll need Ana’s help with this as I have rarely ever cooked with oil and I am not a fan.  In any case, I won’t starve and tomorrow I am going back to the market to buy things that don’t require cooking.  I’ll hit a few bars and restaurants at some point, just not yet.

So after doing my shopping, I thought I would be daring enough to go for a walk.  I had discovered that there was a Starbucks of all places near the museums I want to see, so even though I wasn’t going to go in the museums yet, I thought, “Why not spend a Saturday afternoon at Starbucks,” not so unlike what I do back home.  Well, I took a wrong turn getting there and what should have taken 15 minutes to get to took almost an hour.  I did finally get there and I was happy for that, but a little concerned about getting home.  Well, such is my life, I managed to get quite turned around in attempting to return and finally, after traveling through what looked like less then welcoming neighborhoods, I asked a police officer for directions.  I was at least proud of myself for not only asking directions, but also in understanding his response.  It still took me another 20 or so minutes to get home, but I made it.  I took a quick shower and hoped after all that walking I would sleep like a baby, but sadly, once again I struggled to sleep.  I know the time difference is one part, but also the sun doesn’t set until almost 9:00 here and the residents of the building were up well after midnight.  I am a visitor here and I can’t complain, but after two nights of restless sleep, I decided today I would just stay in today, regroup and prepare myself for my next adventure.  It was a little boring spending the whole day inside, but I took the opportunity to read a little in Spanish, watch a program in Spanish, and research the places I want to go.  I think I just need to be better prepared before heading out blindly.

I think tomorrow I will keep it close to home.  Ana advised me how to get to the museums much faster so I will try that next time.  My fear now is walking home at night if I am prone to getting lost.  I’ll have to be sure I am close to home when the sun starts to set.  There is a library near to here I may go check out and I want to go to the market one more time.  I have been tracking my spending and so far I am doing alright but I have to be careful.  I really just want to find  people to have the opportunity to talk to.  I talk to Ana, but sometimes I feel like I am speaking worse here than at home.  I did talk to a few people yesterday which made me happy, but if my goal is to truly improve I need to get to it.

I think that’s all I have for now, so I’ll be off, but I will be sure to update some more before I head back home.  Until then…

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~ by James on May 3, 2015.

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