Finally, I am able to update my outdated blog. Since my last installation, a lot has happened. If I remember correctly, I did not write about Italy, or Ireland. I have had finals, traveled home to Boston and back to Madrid, celebrated Christmas and rung in the New Year. My head is spinning from the inability to get back on this time zone (I typically fall asleep around two in the morning, and then wake up somewhere between eight a.m. or twelve p.m. As you can tell, my sleep schedule is not yet where I want it). Other than that, my adjustment back into Madrid is smoothing out.
One of my “resolutions” this year is to be as honest as I possibly can. Although I have already faltered (I know, that was quick, but I wanted to be honest with you that I was not honest!) there is no sense in giving up. So, as part of my honesty, and as difficult as this is to admit, coming back to Madrid the second time proved much more difficult than the first time. Jack, and Amanda, had the pleasure of listening to me sob over Skype moaning that I wanted to come home, and keep in mind it was my first night back in Madrid. Thankfully, I have gotten over that slight hump, and I am grateful to be back in my beloved city. However, it intrigues me to question- do I wish to return next semester?
It is a difficult question to answer, and will take time and effort to hopefully come to a conclusion. I was positive that I would spend two years in Spain, if not more- and now my future is again up for decision. That is life though, and attempting to avoid and shove down one’s feelings is a recipe for disaster. Until I need to make the decision though, I have a lot to look forward to this semester. This weekend is the welcome trip to Sevilla, which I have been anticipating since the closing dinner last semester. Classes start next Wednesday, and I am more than ready to begin the semester. The prospect of traveling is also alluring- where my next trip will be I have not decided, but Poland is looking very good.
Due to the fact that I have written blog entries, just never uploaded them, I will post them now. Without further ado, the following is a snippet of what life in Madrid has been like these last few months. Keep in mind that even though it is hard to believe, I change on a daily basis. You can see this between blog entries- sometimes it is hard to believe I am still the one writing these. Enjoy the following readings, but remember that human beings are indecisive people, with complicated emotions and needs. I am no exception.
**Written sometime during late November, early December**
I haven’t written an entry in some time, so I figured this would be one of the few instances where I could just create an entry so spattered with the past month that it almost makes little sense. As I have said in the past, I like to be open and honest in my blog (because after all, it is mine) and I am on a journey that will pave the way for my future. Where am I going with this? I want everyone to know that I am not a perfect person. I make a lot of mistakes, but I regret none of them. Because in the end, I learn something from each one of them, and if I tried my hardest to stop making mistakes, I would stop learning. If I had the ability to be perfect like everyone else, then what would be the point of continuing on in this journey? To recap, as you read this, or any of my other entries, cut me some slack. I am not you, and that is a good thing, but it gets tiring when everyone just wants you to live in the mold.
When this blog was born, a mere three or four months ago, it was to keep my family and friends at home updated on what was going on in Spain. But over time, this became mine. I no longer write this to update people; really, it is so I can go back and look at the little milestones in my everyday life. A few days ago, I became suddenly fearful about life. What is going to happen to me? Where will I go? But I gave myself some time to work out these emotions, and I discovered that I let my life pass me by. In no time I will be back in Boston, finishing college. But right now, I have a freedom that I may never have again. I get to make decisions, and I do not have to consult anyone about it. That is an incredible feeling few people know. And I am not talking about big decisions, just the little ones that we take for granted. I was walking today, after taking the wrong bus to get home, and was trying to find the metro. I was on a huge road, but it felt like I was on the outskirts of the city. As I tried desperately to figure out where I was, I glanced to my right. There was an iron gate, which was surrounded by bushes and trees, and when I looked past the bushes and trees there was a long, beautiful green lawn that lead up to a palace. I stopped and moved towards the gate and peered at the landscape. My heart said, ‘how do we get down from the sidewalk so we can walk up the hill to the back of the palace?!’ But my brain said, ‘Keep going, it is already four o’clock and you haven’t eaten yet today. We are tired, just go to the metro!’ The nice thing about being in Madrid, though, is that I learned to tell my brain to shut up. My heart is in control, and surprisingly, it makes great decisions.
I looked around to see how I could get down to the path, and I found that although the gate wasn’t open, the side of it was. I walked down a few stairs until I got to a terrace, and I just reveled in the moment. I walked down another set of stairs, and although I didn’t walk up to the palace, it was cool to just be down there, looking around, being curious. As it turns out, I was not that far from the city center, and I hopped on the metro and was home in less than a half hour. I plan on going back to those gardens (upon further investigation, it turns out I was in a giant garden), hopefully tomorrow, so I can walk up to that palace. When I was there today, my mind thought about nothing. I just stood there, silently.
At this time last year I was a senior in high school worrying about college and where I would be at the end of the process. I constantly thought about my friends, and if we would grow apart. Or if I would even make new friends in college. Now I worry about very little, I see now that almost everything seems to take care of itself over time.
I have been reminded as of late that I was provided an incredible chance to rediscover myself and pave the way to reinvent myself as well. Coming to Spain I felt little fear to move on from my old life, and I really feared having to come home. Now I am absolutely fearless; going ‘home’ will be as simple as going to Spain because no matter where I am, I have proved to myself that I have what it takes to make it. I ensure my safety and well-being all while being separated from my family and friends for months at a time. I do not envy the people who have the ability to see their families on the weekends; having to be here by myself has allowed me to love my family even more than when I left, and I have figured out on my own what it takes to make ME happy. Yes, me!
Although the ones I love are back at home, I am finding new and exciting people to call friends (and family). Thanks to a friend, I was able to join an English speaking church, Life Tabernacle. After attending multiple services I have greatly enjoyed it, and appreciated their warm and welcoming assistance. I miss my church family very much, but I am starting another family in Madrid. Once services had ended a few Sundays ago, I was invited to a surprise baby shower for a woman I had introduced myself to at church, but I cannot say I knew her very well. I accepted the invitation anyways, and I am extremely happy that I did. The experience I had was one of the greatest I have had since my arrival. Within minutes of being at the party, I was no longer an outsider. Often times, when I am with a group of people, I cannot help but feel who I truly am: an American. The thought continues to arise: You were not born here. You do not speak the language. You do not know the customs. But at this baby shower, I was not American, nor was I Spanish. I was just human. Open arms welcomed me, and I was able to socialize and even meet people new to church from other parts of the world. In this brief encounter I was part of a family, one different than I was used to. But we were all one; just people, all equals, with nothing to differentiate us.
I also realized how anal I was when I first got to Madrid. If I wasn’t on a similar schedule day after day, I felt completely out of the norm. For example, I had to shower every single night after dinner. I remember even saying to someone that I need to “wash off the filth” of the city. Besides fuel emissions, although public transportation is widely used in the city, there is not much “filth” to be found. Madrid is exceptionally clean for a city that 3.3 million people call home. As a result of my daily shower, I realized my hair was drying out and becoming lifeless from constant washing, and I was just generally in the bathroom longer than I needed to be. I find that now I do not need to shower every day, nor do I need to do it at a set time anymore. I know the shower rant is becoming redundant, but my point is I am continuing to acclimate to my new life on a daily basis. Figuring out how to involve family and friends in everyday communications, along with keeping up with news from back home, are still in the works, but are a vital part to my survival. I feel freer since I first arrived, even though I thought that was impossible. Not only does my hair thank me for these acclimations (it is indeed healthy again, and the longest it has been since around sophomore year) but I appreciate life a little more when I don’t worry so much.
**Written in mid-November**
Last weekend I finally went to Rome. When I was little, I used to wonder what Italy was like, partly because I knew my grandparents were always going, and at some point in my life I had seen a show or movie about Italy. It almost brings me to tears thinking that I was there, in the country my ancestors called home. When the plane touched down, and I looked over the terrain, it was exactly what I thought it would be. Being there for a few days, I realized how easily I adjust to new places now. I can sleep in another bed and actually sleep. In the past, even when I was with my family, it would take me forever to fall asleep in another place. Now it only takes a few minutes and I am totally out. That was one of the tests of Madrid- can you let go and just live? Can you go to a new place and let down your guard, feel the city run through you, then move on? I like to believe I am passing the test, but it is unlikely I will ever see my score.
While in Rome, I did as the Romans. I drank out of the fountains on the side of the road (that is what they are there for, after all) and had wine with meals. I walked down cobbled streets on a lazy Saturday when I discovered that I couldn’t get into St. Peter’s Basilica for Mass. (Actually, I realized afterwards that I should have asked someone waiting in line for what I figured was a special Mass for a ticket, because little did I know the Pope himself was giving the Mass! I did return to the Vatican and was able to watch him on the screen outside St. Peter’s). I nodded at the nuns and priests, walked slow. I closed my eyes when I got tired, and I found peace in the chaos of the people. Rome had a charm that washed away my concerns when I was moving from place to place. Seeing the Trevi Fountain, throwing in some pennies, putting my hand in the water, then climbing the Spanish steps, eating endless amounts of pizza. Having the ability to see the Colosseum at night with the moon over it, and walking alongside the river. The little things made the trip worth it, and, I have realized that it will be the little things that make life glorious as well.
The weekend before Rome I was in Malaga, a city in Spain that is on the coast. The weekend was more of a spa weekend- I sat in the steam room, sauna, and pool for the majority of the time. I got to see where Picasso was born and go to the museum that houses some of his work, although on the way there the group was caught in torrential rains, and it would have been fun to play in if I didn’t have my phone (that is precious cargo you know). We also went to a Hammams, which was the absolute highlight of the weekend. A Hammams is kind of like a Roman bath, except you do not actually get into a pool. Instead, it is hot, and there is an area where you can pour water on yourself, another area where you can lay on warm stone, and cold showers (using the hot water, warm stone slabs, and cold showers circulate blood in your body, hence the reason for varying degrees of temperature. I was also able to have an exfoliating massage while I was there, and it was the best massage I will probably ever get (how often do I get massages though?). Out of all the things I have done since I got to Madrid, the Hammams was by far one of the best experiences I have had. Malaga itself was a great trip, and I was more than happy that I had been able to go.
**Written in January**
Dublin. A city that I visited as a child but vaguely remembered in comparison to the country sides of Ireland. I got my chance to go back to the city before I returned home for winter break. At first, I will admit, I was homesick. I questioned during the first day why I had not just gone straight home like most of my friends, and I was missing my family dearly. After exploring for a while, and going to the National Archeological Museum, I returned to my hostel and decided that I would go to the Cliffs of Moher the next day. For those of you who do not know, during my first trip to Ireland my family and I spread my late grandfather’s ashes at the Cliffs, and returning to them was as symbolic as it was touristy. I made arrangments at my hostel, who set me up on a tour not only of the Cliffs but of parts of the country as well. Seeing as I needed something to preoccupy my mind and keep my mind off home, I decided that the early start in the morning would help and being busy until the night was perfect. I slept just fine that night, and was very relaxed when I rolled over in bed the next morning and shut off my alarm. I woke up less than fifteen minutes before I needed to be at the bus, and it was a ten minute walk to the bus itself. I got ready as fast as I could, then found the closest taxi. Thankfully he was able to get me to the bus on time, but on the way there asked me whether or not I had watched the news last night. He was referring to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and in this moment, under the scrutiny of an Irishman, I took into consideration how my country looked to outsiders. Everyone I talked to about it was sympathetic, but I could not help but wonder whether or not they saw me as a murder too. My concerns were quickly dismissed, and I appreciated the support from others around the world.
After arriving to the bus, we set off into a wonderful day. We saw many tourist attractions along the way, but it was nice just to drive and see the life of those outside of Dublin. I had an excellent breakfast and lunch, and finally arrived at the Cliffs later in the day. The driver warned the bus not to go close to the edge of the Cliffs, and to avoid the mud. Thankfully, I did both, slipped in the mud, and was little more than four feet from tumbling off the edge. With a ruined pair of pants and wounded pride, I left the Cliffs appreciating my experience and being able to return to see my grandfather. It was the highlight of the trip.
I had a few days left in Ireland, and another amazing part of the trip was seeing Mumford and Sons in concert. All I can say is that they were incredible, just like everyone said. And since it was their second to last stop on this particular tour before returning to England, the crowd was nuts and the guys feed into it. Even though I was by myself, it was truly one of the best nights of my life. I shortly packed up my things and headed home to the States for vacation, but my return to Ireland was a wonderful trip, and in my eyes, absolutely epic.