Today (November 6th) marks two months since Alex and I first arrived in Madrid. After only two months I really feel at home here. We successfully got phone plans (only 9 Euros a month with data), set up bank accounts (with Banco EVO which was such a hassle), found an apartment, got wifi set up (last week) and I got my NIE (basically a Spanish residency card). I can also comfortably get to and from my school every day and walk around many neighborhoods in the city center without looking at Google Maps.
Even though it has been relatively easy to feel comfortable here in Madrid, that is not to say the honeymoon phase isn’t over for me. Most days, even on Tuesdays when I take my first train at 6:25am, I still can’t believe I am living and working in Madrid. I had wanted to live in Europe for so long and talked about moving somewhere for even longer. Although I was only working in the “real world” for 2 years, I decided I was not going to spend the rest of my 20s in an office dreaming about someday working abroad and learning another language. It’s already weird to remember myself treasuring my 10 days off a year and being more or less miserable with the routine my life had started shaping into. I love Seattle, I love my friends and my family but I felt so stagnant even though I was in a beautiful city I could have easily and comfortably spent the rest of my life in. I finally did what many older people have told me they wish they would have done (that’s how I know I am doing the right thing). Moving was something that so many of my friends back in Seattle talked about often although only a select few of them have done so. I wish I could convince everyone who feels the urge to go, how realistic it is to move away for any length of time you are seeking. That is not to say it isn’t challenging. It was an incredible amount of work selling nearly everything I owned including my car, a lot of furniture and clothes I sometimes wish I still had. It was even harder navigating everything in a city I had never been to in a language I struggle to speak. But I did it, I am still doing it and I know that anyone who wants to can do it too. I am definitely not fearless. I was stressed at nearly every step along the way from the confusing visa process, to wondering if our lost luggage with everything I owned would ever turn up, to stressing if we would find an apartment. But everything has worked out and although I was worried, I did not let fear get the best of me and prevent me from making the huge move. Moving here I took a huge pay cut, I am unable to save any money and my visa is only valid for a year, adding many uncertainties, but I could not be happier with my life here in Spain. It is everything I was searching for in leaving Seattle. Every day I am challenged. I have to work my brain to exhaustion to understand and communicate with anyone and I worry constantly if I am beneficial to the children I teach or if I am even a good teacher at all. After two months of living here I certainly have a routine but that is not to say it is mundane in the slightest.
I couldn’t be happier with our apartment. It is not styled in Spanish fashion, but very chic, cozy, tastefully designed and decorated with gorgeous pieces of furniture and light fixtures. It has recently been updated with new appliances including a convectional oven and a giant shower-head that rains down on you. The neighborhood (Lavapies) is really international with a lot of Indians, Africans, etc. On our tiny block there are two bars which is not many compared to the rest of the city/neighborhood. There are too many restaurants and bars to count and I have been told that people are predicting it to be the next “it” neighborhood.
For the time being at least, I think Madrid is one of the coolest cities I could be in. The food is incredible everywhere you go and extremely affordable. And I love that people spend all their time outside their homes. Eating and drinking and talking on benches in the plazas, restaurants, bars, and lunch is never less than 2 hours. People in Spain work to live and it could not be more obvious. Every night of the week the bar next to our apartment is packed with people.
I miss having tons of beer on tap, but the wine is amazing and a glass is never more than a couple euros. Beer is becoming more popular but mostly it’s big brands. It’s still amusing to me that you just go and order “a beer” specifying the size you want and never specifying the kind because you don’t get to choose. There are more restaurants/bars here per capita than I’ve ever seen. In general the cost of living is quite low especially for one of Europes biggest cities, Madrid. I pay 20€ a month for unlimited transportation for example. And their metro/train system is one of the best I have ever seen. Although I spend 3 hours a day commuting, the train is peaceful and nice and I have already read over five books since I arrived. I’m currently reading the third Lord of the Rings Book lent to me from the other English assistant that works at my school.
I always thought it strange before coming to Madrid that in my time in the travel agency, I hardly ever sent anyone to Madrid. Even asking people in the U.S. who had been, they would hesitate in telling me “Madrid is….interesting.” Or “Madrid is different.” Or my personal favorite “Oh I love Barcelona!” I understand now though. Barcelona for example has the tourist checklist of sights to see. Specific beautiful and famous architectural masterpieces, the sea, Park Güell etc. Madrid is an enormous city and there are a few incredible museums and a pretty neat palace, but it’s so difficult to appreciate the city if you just go for a weekend, don’t know anyone there and don’t know the cool neighborhoods to explore. Madrid is really about experiencing the culture, the food and the way of life