(Now Finally I Feel Madrileña)
Two weeks ago marked the seven month anniversary of my move to Madrid. Coincidentally, the very same day marked exactly two months since I’d posted anything on here and all of a sudden I felt very sad. I was sad that the very project I most prided myself upon, my baby, my record of the year abroad had been neglected. For the first time in my life I’d had nothing to say. For a while crappy weather and post-Christmas/post-travel blues presided and I just went about my daily business which included work, work and then a bit more work…
Then the sun came out! Madrid finally remembered which country it’s the capital city of and cleared its skies to make way for the heat and the sun and the sheer blissfulness of it all. In true guiri style, the Erasmus students donned sunglasses and sandals and flocked to El Parque Buen Retiro to bask in the sun and flex some bicep on the lake.
It’s taken eight months, two hospital visits, one robbery and approximately 15,000 euros, but finally I feel like I belong here. I can speak the lingo, the streets no longer look the same and I pretty much know the city like the back of my hand. It’s an epiphany that comes upon realisation that, in any given situation, you just know exactly what to do. When you fall and damage your spine ice skating and you know exactly which hospital to go to based upon your healthcare plan, and know exactly what to do and say when you get there; madrileño. When your friend is robbed on the bus and you know exactly which police station to go to and what needs to happen when you get there; madrileño. When you know exactly which district to go to for any type of food; madrileño. When you’re embarking on a journey to a new place and you automatically and maplessly know which metro stations to change at for any given line; madrileño. When you know the best places to go on any day and at any time; madrileño. Coincidentally, when you know the worst places to go on any day and at any time; madrileño. It’s a kind of knowledge and understanding achieved only by spending a whole year in a place and that people undertaking two half-year placements may not be familiar with. I have my favourite places, places that I genuinely love however silly they may seem to others, particularly Atocha train station. I don’t go for the trains or the memorial; I go for the turtles that live in the tropical garden. They’re funny. I love to watch them swim and slide and clumsily clamber all over each other and I love to see children’s excited reactions. It’s something so simple, insignificant and free that it’s priceless and I’ll genuinely miss it when I have to leave.
If you’re reading this and trying to plan your year abroad, I can’t tell you whether one full-year placement or two half-year placements will be better for you than another because I haven’t experienced both. I can tell you that you a full-year placement in a foreign country will offer you experiences and personal development like nothing else, and doing one might just be the best decision you ever make.