I know in my last post I said I wouldn’t be writing about Spain much, but as I pull out my composition book in this dirt park behind my Air Bnb that is littered with trash and dog shit, it feels absurd to write about anything else.
I’ve been here for thirteen days. I have to say that, without a doubt, it has been the craziest (nearly) two weeks of my life. I am renting the Air Bnb—located on the outskirts of Madrid—with another girl from the US until we find permanent housing in the city.
I always knew I was privileged back home, but these last couple weeks have really shed light on how fortunate I’ve been living in my sheltered, upper-middle class Pennsylvania suburb. Although it’s been in the upper 80’s and 90’s here, our house has no AC and no screens on its windows—you either turn the fan on full blast to dry the sweat rolling down your back or open the window and allow bugs to become your new roommates. The Air Bnb, like many other houses in Madrid, has no clothes dryer; many people here hang their clothes on clotheslines outside. Up until this point in my life, I have taken for granted having screens on my windows and a machine to dry my clothes.
I also feel incredibly fortunate to have spent twenty-four years living in a country where I fluently spoke the native language. Most people in Spain only speak Spanish; this is the case in the area in which I currently reside. I’ve stopped asking “Hablas ingles?” in the stores around my place and have instead taken up stuttering, “Lo siento, hablo inglés y solo un poco de español.” I’ve always been an apologetic person, dropping “I’m sorry” so frequently the phrase has lost its meaning to my family and friends. In Spain, I am so lost and terrible at communicating that “lo siento” has become my catch phrase. I should just tattoo it on my forehead along with the phrase, “Yo soy un gringa estupida.”
Something as simple as buying ice (which I’ve never had to do back home because my freezer makes its own) requires a five-minute stutter-fest conversation with a puzzled clerk at a market.
Me: “P-p-puedes c-comprar hielo a-aqui?” (Can you buy ice here?)
Clerk: *Incomprehensible Spanish gibberish* “helado?” (ice cream?)
Me: “No, q-quiero c-comprar HIELO.” (No, I want to buy ICE.)
Clerk: *More incomprehensible Spanish gibberish* “Si, vendamos helado.” (Yes, we sell ice cream.)
Me: “NO, lo s-siento, un m-momento.” (No, sorry, one moment.) *picks up bag of ice I’m ready to run out of the store with*
Me: “PUEDES COMPRAR THIS ICE HERE?!” (CAN YOU BUY THIS ICE HERE?! Take note of my switch back to English. I usually just give up during a frustrating conversation and start speaking in Spanglish. Two languages means better comprehension, right?! Ha.)
After buying the overpriced bag of ice, it slowly melted and drenched me on the fifteen-minute walk home.
Those aren’t my only struggles.
I had to leave my car at home, which means I’ve needed to rely on Madrid’s Metro, train, and bus system (and more than once its Uber drivers when I’ve been hopelessly lost) to get me around. A place that would take me ten-minutes by car to reach requires one train and three Metro transfers (approximately 45-50 minutes travel time). Every day, I cram my small body onto a Metro, searching desperately for a pole to cling to so I don’t hit first or second base with surrounding Spaniards—many of whom aren’t fans of deodorant so it always smells lovely.
I don’t think describing myself as homesick would fully convey how much I miss my old life right now. I am more like homeflu–complete with fever and laryngitis because I am hot as hell and I can’t speak with others around me. I am longing for my bug-free, huge bedroom in Pennsylvania with its AC and screen windows. I want my car to get me from point A to B in less than an hour and without groping strangers. I want my grocery stores where I can buy ice without confusing employees and tripping over my tongue.
Now that I am separated from it, I long for my home in which I didn’t feel I belonged.
But I am not ready to give up. Not when I can learn the new language. Not when I can adjust to my new settings with time. Not when I can move to a better area with a little less dog shit. Not when there is an entire continent to explore to throw my black hole into simultaneous turmoil and peace.
Though I am in pain, I will remain.
For now, I am signing off. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ramblings of my black hole mind.