This weekend I decided to stay in Madrid for once! I finally made my way to Retiro Park, discovered the nightlife around my neighborhood, shopped at the most popular open air flea market in Madrid, toured the Royal Palace and attended my first Real Madrid soccer game. It was an amazing weekend, especially after feeling a bit negative towards Madrid as a whole. I think it comes down to the fact that whenever I am home, I have class and I have obligations. So whenever I get away for the weekend, I begin starting to resent the city in which I am here to study. Studying abroad is not all sunshine and rainbows, although I know I mostly talk about all the good and leave out all of the bad. It’s extremely hard and scary sometimes, especially living in a place where I can barely speak the native language. Getting around can be very tough sometimes and it’s sometimes easier to just stick to what I know and not venture out. So I took it upon myself to really explore Madrid for once, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It may seem sad that it’s taken almost 8 weeks for me to do this, but better late than never! I’ve talked to so many people that have studied abroad during the summertime and they always say that just when they start to feel completely comfortable with where they are, it’s time to pack up and go home. Luckily for me I’ve still got two more months here and I’m looking at it in the most positive light that I have since I got here.
I could not be luckier to live in the location that I’m in, and to live with the sweetest host family. An Italian girl named Kiara recently moved into our tiny apartment with us, and she is nothing short of amazing. She’s 23 and from Florence, Italy, and she majors in languages. She speaks great English, although she would tell you otherwise, perfect Spanish, Italian, Arabic and one or two more I can’t think of off the top of my head. She bakes bread, cake and other desserts all of the time and always offers them up to everyone. Sharing one bathroom between five people is really not as bad as you’d think and somehow make it work. When all five of us are in the kitchen at once, you can barely move around and there aren’t enough seats for all of us all to sit down together. Sometimes we’ll have dinner in the salon where there’s a big table so everyone has a spot. Most of the time though, we each eat at different hours of the day, and the kitchen is almost always available for Madison and I to make our signature eggs and toast in the morning.
The La Latina district where we live is so lively, we have to keep the shutters to our balcony closed at night in order to sleep soundly. Last Friday, a group of us went out to some of the bars around here because nobody felt up for another way too late night spent at a club. Don’t get me wrong, the nightclubs are awesome in Madrid, but my bank account says otherwise and it’s a nice change of pace sitting at a quaint bar actually being able to hear the people around you. Later that night we ran into Razon, the owner of a convenience store down the street where we buy water bottles and cheap vino from almost daily. He is always telling us where the party is and to come out with him, so it’s only fair that our first weekend night really sticking around our neighborhood, we happen to run into him. On Sunday, we went to the flea market in El Rastro which is down the street from our apartment. It is open every Sunday and since this was one of our two weekends that we will be in town for, we had to hit it up. It was extremely crowded, even worse than the metro after a Real Madrid game. But there is all kinds of things from jewelry to clothing to tapestries and incense. We went out for drinks at a few places nearby and extended our shopping in Gran Via. Primark, a popular outlet clothing store around here is one of the most overwhelming malls I’ve ever been to. There are 5 floors that carry everything you could possibly desire for both men and women. It’s also super cheap!
Retiro Park is somewhere I’ve been meaning to go since I got here. I had heard wonderful things about it, so on Saturday I met my friend Audrey there. It is huge and filled with so many different pathways and bodies of water. There’s a big pond in the center where you can paddle boat and there was a violist playing on the steps surrounded by people enjoying a relaxing night at the park. I went back a few days later to go on a run (my first effort to workout since I’ve been abroad) and after getting way too distracted by the beautiful trees and peacocks wandering around, I came out a different entrance and got lost making it back to the metro. This place isn’t your average Loose Park (which I miss dearly don’t get me wrong), it’s about four times the size and filled with statues, fountains, water and birds. It reminded me a little of Hyde Park in London with all the bike stations and wide roads. I will definitely be frequenting there from now on.
Last night I attended my first Real Madrid soccer game and I could not have had a better experience. Matt, Madison and I ended up buying tickets from a scalper named Freddy. What seemed to be a little sketch at first (mostly due to the language barrier) ended up working out perfectly. Freddy is a season ticket holder and has a good system when it comes to lending out his incredible seats. He befriended me on Facebook and gave me all of his contact information in case we ran into any problems. Our tickets placed us in the eighth row on the Real Madrid side and I still cannot believe how good the seats were for only 70 euros. I of course had to buy a real Ronaldo jersey that day and I proudly wore it to the game. We played Legia Warsaw and had possession over the ball probably 80% of the game. Ronaldo and Bale started and stayed in the remainder of the game. We won 5-1! I absolutely loved the excitement of the stadium and waving my scarf in the air every time we scored a goal. Looking at the schedule I am not sure that I’ll be able to make another game while I’m here (sadly we will be in Granada with the ISA program during the Atletico game), but I can promise that will not be the last game I attend.
Overall, I am feeling much more excited and happy to be here. I think it takes a lot to admit when something doesn’t turn out quite like you expected. But there is so much truth in the fact that time heals everything. I think the negatives while studying abroad are half of what makes this experience so incredible. It gives you time to really discover what it is that makes you happy, and to appreciate the little things in life. This place has already taught me so much, but most of all it has showed me just how blessed I am to be here today and I feel so so thankful for the people that helped get me here. More of you have than you think. I am headed to Salamanca this weekend and it’s Audrey’s 21st birthday tomorrow, so there is plenty more to come. Sending hugs, kisses and smiles to everyone that means the world to me back home (you know who you are!) Thank you, just thank you.