As of today, I’ve been in Madrid, Spain for a whole month. After thirty-one days of learning, travelling, exploring, and avoiding responsibility, there’s a lot of potential material for me to cover in this first blog post, but no way for me to do all of it justice. Instead, over the next few weeks I plan to post rather frequently on a variety of different topics to bring you all up to speed on the events and reflections from the past month, and the experience of living in Madrid.
Thirty-one days is a long time to be anywhere; the fine line between the concept of “staying at” some place versus that of “living” in it is somehow made material in the knowledge that one has remained in the same spot for an entire lunar cycle. Taking as reference this arbitrary demarcator of time, one could say that I am living now in Madrid, at least temporarily. For these five months I am and will be staying with a host family in central Madrid, near la Puerta del Sol. Their flat is beautiful, spacious, and filled with paintings and sculptures created by my two host parents and a number of their artistic friends. Sol itself is certainly the center of Madrid (and according to some, the very heart of Spain), and as such is often crowded and rather touristy, which in all honesty can get a bit tiring at times. This isn’t to say that I don’t like living here; I’m not sure that I could’ve lucked out any better on housing, but spending a lot of time around Sol has costs along with its many benefits. On the one hand, living in such a prime locale ensures that I am never short of restaurants, bars, and landmarks to check out, but conversely the ability to find anything I need within a few blocks has prevented me from getting out to explore some of the more obscure neighborhoods of the city. Lately I’ve attempted to rectify this. When I know that I have a few free hours to kill, I’ll pick a random, unexplored direction and begin walking, sometimes for quite a while. At times this has been a successful experience, and other times not; I often end up walking in circles. The street plan of Madrid is laid out without any semblance of a grid system, so it can be easy to get lost in the winding doldrums of some of the quieter neighborhoods.
Living with a host family has actually been easier than expected, perhaps in large part due to how accommodating my host family is. I realize that not everyone that goes abroad has a great experience with living at a homestay, but I’ve lucked out. My family is comprised of a married couple of semi-retired artists that spend a lot of time reading, painting, and watching the news. The later has given me an easy and convenient avenue through which to insert myself into their conversations. No matter where I go during the day, I almost always return for dinner and to watch the evening news with them. It’s been a great way for me to learn about Spanish domestic politics while simultaneously establishing a common interest and topic of conversation with my host family. Taking in Spanish news itself everyday has been an interesting experience, and one that I’ll devote an entire post to sometime soon.
My time in Madrid has been a rich experience thus far, and I have a lot more to talk about, from the vibrant nightlife and the endless museums, to the culture of popular protest and the complicated inner workings of Spanish parliamentary politics. More to come.