la empieza.

23 Sep

I am currently sitting in my first Starbucks in Madrid. I know – for someone who claims to hate chains, it’s a little bit ironic that I end up here…but I managed to stay away the first full day (or was it two days)? I am right across the street from my hostel, on Gran Via, overlooking a busy street scene on a Thursday. It’s late morning when I’m writing this, but my body has absolutely no clue what time it is. The Iced Americano is helping though, the Spanish woman blaring Rihanna’s “I Love the Way You Lie” from her headphones is not.

I’m getting ahead of myself – I should start at the beginning. I left my house with my parents and two bags (one huge checked piece of luggage, one carry on weekender duffel) at the ungodly hour of 5 am Pacific Time on Tuesday morning. We got to LAX in 40 minutes (easily record time) and I checked in, checked my bag (after worrying about it not getting all the way to Madrid, because you know, that’s happened to me before).

I had a relatively uneventful flight from LAX to Philly. With no in-flight entertainment, I plowed through a book I was given by our family friends, the Moores, called It’s Not About the Tapas by Polly Evans. This book is like Eat, Pray, Love in the sense that it features one woman on a solo travel journey during a career break, but it’s wittier and Polly is MUCH more likeable than the broken and weepy Elizabeth Gilbert. I enjoyed Evans’ comedic comparisons to Lance Armstrong as she traces parts of various Tour de France routes during a bike trip across Spain, and she seamlessly tied in elements of Spanish history. It was the perfect book to get me psyched about the trip, and to squash any remaining doubts that might have lingered about what I’m doing.

I got to Philly and wove through the sea of fat people and slow walkers and got to my terminal and hopped on board for a 7+ hour flight to Madrid! This flight had food AND in-flight entertainment – who needs first class? I watched (500) Days of Summer and a bunch of other sit-coms (including a very funny episode of How I Met Your Mother), dusted off that book, and tried to sleep. The excitement and jitters, however, prevented me from getting more than an hour or so. As the sun was rising, I picked up my bag (thank you, US Airways, you may be underrated) and shared a cab to my hostel, MuchoMadrid (59 Gran Via) with a kid from my program.

My hostel has an ideal location for the visitor to Madrid – it is really centrally located and is bustling. But more importantly than that, it met my hostel requirements: highly ranked, free wifi, and free breakfast. The bathrooms are really clean, the beds are fine, and the staff is friendly. I’ll be here 5 more nights, assuming I have an apartment totally squared away by then. This morning’s hostel breakfast consisted of quintessential European hostel fare – boxed milk, fruit juice, corn flakes, toast and jam, and cookies. It feels good to be back.

My jet-laggedness is preventing me from writing chronologically – welcome to my life. After I checked into the hostel yesterday, I immediately bought a SIM card (tarjeta de SIM) for my iPhone. It also feels good to join the increasingly less prestigious group of iPhone users (even if mine is years old). I ate a jamon serrano bocadillo (delicious) at Pans & Co., which is like the McDonald’s of Spain with two guys from my program who are staying at my hostel. I spent much of the rest of the day with two girls from UC Davis – a friend-of-a-friend named Alia and her friend, Kerren.

I haven’t had a ton of time to explore just yet, but since I know I’ll be here for a long time there isn’t this immediate pressure to get to know the city like the back of my hand. So far, I’ve found myself making comparisons to Barcelona – the Moncloa area feels like what I remember the Gracia district to be like – more livable and tranquil than the bustling Gran Via area where I am staying right now. While Gran Via might not be totally livable, it is absolutely bustling. Yesterday, after being here less than 2 hours, I bumped into a protest on bikes. A few hours after that, near the same spot, a woman literally said the following to me: “quieres ser prostituta?” Joder.

This afternoon begins my two-day orientation – I’m hoping to come away with tips, ideas, and a greater sense of what I’m actually going to be doing here! In the coming days I am hoping to settle into an apartment and really start exploring and getting to know the city. I’m planning on dorking out with my moleskine and recording as much as I can – for my own amusement as well as to recommend my favorite (and least favorite) places and things to future visitors.

Lastly, in case you’re all wondering, I managed to find both Glee and Modern Family’s premiere episodes on sketch websites. My two-cents? Best song on Glee was Telephone by a landslide, and the best Modern Family quote was Manny’s: “We like to play six degress of Sir Francis Bacon.” Fingers crossed I’ll be able to watch Jersey Shore…

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