I keep having these moments, where it hits me that I’m actually here, and yes, this is real life, and I get overwhelmed with happiness and can’t stop smiling. This tends to happen when I’m drinking wine on the roof overlooking Plaza Mayor (thanks to my friend Jessica’s sweeeeet spot), or standing in a freaking castle in Segovia, or even just wandering aimlessly through the streets of Madrid. I can honestly say that I am happier now than I have been in a long time.
But don’t be fooled, my life isn’t THAT glamorous, haha. Living abroad does have its challenges. It can be frustrating when simple tasks become much more complicated due to language barriers or cultural differences…. ie: apartment hunting, grocery shopping, opening a bank account, making friends with locals. It’s not uncommon that I get lost and then can’t understand people’s directions when I ask for them, or that I go the wrong way on the metro and don’t notice until like 3 stops later (seriously Lindsay?? It’s color-coded and there are signs everywhere haha). And I’m not on an unlimited budget here… I do have to be conscious of my spending, no matter how tempting H&M and Zara and drinking cañas on a patio are. However, I’m grateful for these challenges and they are part of what is making this experience so amazing and worthwhile.
I feel somewhat guilty about all the time I wasted in the months leading up to my move to Spain. While I was keeping busy with a full time job and somewhat of a social life, I spent the majority of my time daydreaming about Spain and praying for time to hurry up. I am making it a personal goal to never be in one place wishing that I was somewhere else. Now that I’m finally here, I’m actually living in the present, and I wish I would have just done that over the past year. But hey, easier said than done!
One thing that has helped me immensely as I adjust to my new life here are the friends I have been making. I connected with a small handful of other auxiliars via the auxiliar group on Facebook in the months leading up to the move. In fact, I am going to Barcelona this weekend with a group of girls, a trip that we organized online. Anyways, I lucked out on meeting some cool people early on. Another bonus is that my friend Jessica who I played ultimate with at Chico is also doing the program in Madrid, so it’s been fun getting to explore Madrid with her! As much as I’d like to make Spanish friends, it’s definitely easier to make friends with Americans and other expats here. I’m trying to avoid networking TOO much with other auxiliares because I do want to make more effort speaking Spanish and meeting Spaniards.
Jess and I at Palacio Real yesterday.
I do, however, have one Spanish friend/intercambio, Guillermo. We actually met through a language exchange site months ago and stayed in regular contact. Despite warnings from my dad about meeting random strangers from the internet, I met with Guille in person on my first day in Madrid. My friend Jamie came along, and they did most of the talking, considering I could barely get out a sentence in Spanish! Since then, we have met for a few intercambios, or language exchanges… according to Guillermo, my Spanish is improving. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s saying much…
A few days ago I started getting quite frustrated at myself because to be honest, I haven’t been putting enough effort into improving my Spanish. People keep telling me, “Oh, you’ll learn, you’ll pick it up easily.” Yeah… no. In reality, learning a new language involves pushing out of your comfort zone and putting a lot of time into it. I started getting a bit insecure about speaking Spanish because my level is a lot lower than most of my friends here, I suck at pronouncing things, and my vocabulary is worse than a 2 year olds. And then I remembered one of my main objectives for coming here: to learn Spanish. My friend Tom was kind of giving me a hard time for never speaking in Spanish, even when the opportunity is there, and I finally got fed up with myself. So I got my booty up and signed up for a 12 week Spanish course for 3 hours a week and I’m in the process of setting up intercambios with a few Spanish girls. I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I finally feel like I’m headed in the right direction.
Well, I realize that I have now written a novel, and if you’re still actually reading this you’re probably ready to stop. I felt the need to do a little reflecting on this experience so far and keep everyone up to date. By the way, it’s definitely not my intention to brag or gloat about how happy I am and all of those annoying things…. I am just so grateful for this opportunity and that I am actually following through with this. While in all honestly I haven’t reached the homesickness stage yet (and it’s not even in sight), I do miss all of you from home and think of you often (especially my family and besties). I’ll do my best to stay in touch, especially through this blog, but I’m also going to start making a conscious effort to limit my Facebook time and not keep toooo much contact with home. Okay, that’s all for today, folks! I hope everyone has a beautiful day, whether you’re roaming the streets of Madrid or back in the States.