Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ten Things I Learned This Week in Spain

Now that I've officially been here for a whole seven days (yikes!) I thought it might be fun to do a weekly series in which I highlight what I learn during my trip. I've learned so much already that I could go on and on about everything so far, but for the sake of brevity, I thought it might be best to stick to ten highlights. Here's what I learned this week:
 {from last week's trip to el Escorial}

1. Vale. I find myself relying on crutch words like "vale" or "sí" so much more than I'd like to admit. While coming to Spain is a harsh reminder of how far I am from being fluent, even the simple incorporation of the word "vale" in my vocabulary (they only use the word in Spain!) is a reminder of how much my Spanish is going to improve this summer.

2. Metro. I have such a big appreciation for public transport here since I can't drive and the only way to get into the city center is by bus and metro. While my commute from my host family's home to the city center is unfortunately a whole hour, I don't mind it as much when I think about how great the Madrid Metro is. It's so easy to understand, it runs so often, and it's incredibly clean and safe at all hours.

3. Nightlife. I went out for the first time this past Saturday and oh my goodness, Madrid nightlife is something else. Whenever my friends and I go out in DC, I take secret pleasure in starting at a decent time, anywhere between 8 and 10 PM, and being in bed (we're talking contacts out, PJs on, eyes closed) by 1 AM. I'm a grandma, I know. But my night out in Madrid lasted a whole 12 hours. I came home exhausted and slightly delirious from sleep deprivation, but no one batted an eye when I walked into the house so late. That's something I'd never had the desire to do (sleep is bae) but I'm glad I had a fun night out with some new friends.

4. Tinto de verano is overrated. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I'll take sangria over tinto de verano any day. Multiple people had recommended I try the drink after coming here, especially at 100 Montaditos, but eh.

5. That being said, 100 Montaditos is amazing. I don't care how basic of me it is to say so, but I love 100 Montaditos. Their drinks are so damn cheap and on Mondays, their montaditos are only HALF A EURO. That's insane you guys. I had lunch for 1 Euro, which is the equivalent of $1.11. It's cheap and still tastes good, so I'm in heaven.

6. Being an au pair is fantastic. This is probably something I could (and will) do a whole post on, but for the time being, let me just say that being an au pair is the cheapest and best way to travel if you're looking to really know your country and be immersed in its culture. I'm trying to think of a time I've made a better decision for myself and I'm coming up blank.

7. Europe does it better. There's nothing like travel to make you better understand and appreciate your own home, and while I do miss the States and value it more when I'm away, I'm starting to think Europe is the place to live. Education is SO much cheaper here and flying from one country to another is such a small fraction of the cost of my flight to Madrid. Not to mention that many of the world's best cities are so close by, too. Casual.

8. Sometimes, people are amazing. My host family is incredible and I'm reminded every day how fortunate I am to be with them. I've also met so many other au pairs from all over the world, and they're all so friendly. Even strangers are really welcoming and patient with my Spanish, which makes me feel welcome and even happier to be here.

9. Spain is beautifully diverse. I'm kind of cheating with this one here, because this is something I knew before coming here but oh well. Spain is so incredibly diverse both geographically and culturally. There's such a good blend of city and nature and I can't wait to travel beyond the Madrid area to begin experiencing the cultural diversity Spain has as well.

10. The weather. It is so hot here every day and it's only moderately cooler in the late night and early morning. But when you think about how Madrid is right in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula, it's not hard to understand why it's not humid here, and the dry air is doing amazing things to my hair. For the first time in my entire life, I don't have any frizz and it's glorious. If your hair frizzes in Madrid, please do yourself a favor and never, ever go to Florida.

Now that this introductory week is over, I feel more comfortable exploring even more. Stay tuned for what Week 2 brings!
~ V

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