For reasons that remain a mystery to me, when I opened the red breakfast box, I burst out laughing. The joyful caption read: Have a delicious day! It could have been the fact that I had, of course, not slept a wink on my 7 hour flight, or perhaps the fact that included in my typical “Spanish” breakfast was Welch’s Fruit Snacks and a mini Milky Way bar. I guess Iberia wanted to ease North American travelers into Spanish culture.
When we landed in Madrid, it was like I had never left. I had imagined I would watch the descent into Spain with my own theme music playing my head, as if I was in the opening scene of a plucky adventure/comedy movie. It would have been perfect except my “window seat” was one of the two positions on the plane with no window. Onto the next scene, I suppose.
I didn’t even bother with the Metro. With two suitcases and a giant backpack, I may as well have had a giant neon sign that said “ROB ME.” Not to mention, the thought of pulling all that stuff through the narrow turnstile and then navigating the various interlocking subterranean tunnels was enough to make me break into a sweat. I opted for the expensive, yet hassle-free option of a taxi. While expensive, it is a nice way to get a good look at the city.
Madrid and I have what you could call a “difficult” relationship. When we first met, I was mourning the loss of my ex(host city), Sevilla, and was psuedo-depressed and generally ornery. I kept comparing it to Sevilla… “It’s too busy here”/”Everyone talks to me in English”/”Where is the magnificent architecture?”
Needless to say, I was vaguely impressed by its history/culture/art, but not too keen on remaining there more than the allotted week. Since that time two years ago, I argued with countless people about Spain’s capital, debating its value and defending my dislike for it.
The thing is, I couldn’t appreciate Madrid because I was too hyped up on my expectations of what a Spanish city should be like. It’s the expectations that get us into trouble and inhibit us from enjoying something for what it is.
Entering the Language and Cultural Assistants program and returning to Spain brings with it a certain amount of expectations–all of which I’ve tried to remove. I feel a refreshing sense of freedom in this because I am theoretically open to whatever happens next (barring emergencies and disasters, naturally). With this mindset, the unthinkable actually happened… Madrid and I began to reconcile.
That night, my friends took me out to the Parque de Oeste, where we looked at a casual Egyptian temple and watched the sun set over the city. In this simple adventure, I was overwhelmed. It was the perfect end to the day, and a perfect beginning to my new life in Spain. I’ll never know what it was about that evening, whether it was my friends, the beauty of the city, or the sleep deprivation, but I felt the reality and excitement of this life-stage start to sink in.
So after Iberia told me to have a delicious day, I did.
P.S. I definitely ate those fruit snacks.
Words are one thing, but pictures are quite another. Especially moving pictures! Here’s an attempt to exercise my cinematographic muscles and capture that feeling: