I have a new set of keys for my new house in Madrid. I live with Senora Ana Fidalgo, her 16-year old daughter, and my new roommate Becca. Senora cooks dinner and prepares my breakfast: cereal, toast with marmalade, coffee, juice, and a sweet pastry. She has dirty blond hair and blue eyes. She is fascinated by my love for movies and cinema and writing. Sometimes, during dinner, we talk about Iran or how Americans are different from the Spaniards. We don’t always agree, but we somehow understand each other. I speak in broken Spanish and she throws in a few English phrases with her thick accent, laughing amusingly afterwards. After she offers me fruit, I say thank you and go off to my little room.
I ride the metro everyday, following signs and arrows, walking fast, my eyes wandering like a common tourist. The Spanish like to observe. They look at my shoes, my hair. Unlike Americans, they don’t normally smile as you walk by.
A week has already passed. I no longer have trouble with my keys-during the first few days of my arrival I had trouble opening the door on multiple occasions, one including a late night return and waking up the Senora, which was evidently an embarrassment. And I no longer have to ask the Spaniards where Calle Hernani, my street, is. I follow visual signs that I’ve made for myself and take the same route home. I get off the metro at Cuatro Caminos, make a left, cross the street, walk down a couple of blocks, turn left to where there is a huge poster of Penelope Cruz with bright red lipstick above on my left, walk straight to where there is a Starbucks and H&M, turn left and there is Hernani 57. Sometimes I stop by Carrefour, the supermarket near my house by the McDonalds and buy bread and water. The more I go, the more confident I feel. I now know that I have to weigh fruits and put a price sticker on them, that there are two different kinds of baskets and carts, baskets on wheels, normal ones and carts that require money. I also have a good idea of where most things are, which makes me look less like a foreigner.
There are times where middle-aged, old men stare at me openly, turning their heads as I pass through people on the sidewalk. I anticipate this everywhere, for here in Spain glaring is a norm. I have found interesting styles of fashion: women with bright red hair (yesterday I met one with blue hair, I kid you not). I have also seen old ladies with fancy fur coats.
The food in Mardid has been nothing but delicious. Paellas, tortillas, Churros (sweets), coffee and salads are among the many. Because the Euro is expensive and our school fee doesn’t cover lunch, we try to save, so our lunches are sometimes bread and cheese, or in my case, bread and honey!
I wake up at 7:40 and make it to school by 9:00, thirty minutes before classes start. I have a hard time deciding what to wear, for in Spain people dress up. The weather has been a gloomy at times, but Madrid is normally a sunny city.
There is nothing more beautiful than waking up in a strange place, without words or your usual thoughts and worries, walking for what seems like miles and finding yourself in the middle of Madrilenos who read their papers and books on the metro. What’s more fascinating is that everyday you are becoming something else, a fusion of everything you ever imagined of yourself…or nothing you ever thought possible. You wake up in a dream and no one recognizes you and you are obligated to nothing and no one. It’s like this: You are 20 years old and you feel like your life has just started.