Last Tuesday, I awoke to a lovely email from American Airlines informing me my DIRECT flight to Madrid was cancelled. Apparently pretty much any flight in the United States that day was cancelled, including most out of JFK. This was a completely logical decision as it was slightly drizzling in NYC. Needless to say, this flight cancellation sent my mom and I into a panic. After 2 hours on hold, I was able to get rebooked on a flight that night to London then connect to Madrid.
The plane sat on the runway for about 2 hours then we were off. Because of this delay, I pulled the flight attendant aside as we were landing to tell her I had a connection to Madrid and it was going to be very close. The flight attendant literally could not have cared less and was like oh good luck! Thanks. Unfortunately the kind words of this helpful flight attendant were not enough for me to make my flight. I even sprinted across all of London's airport, only to look like an idiot when I arrived at the gate because the gate closed 30 seconds before I got there. When I say sprinted, I'm not exaggerating. I'm still out of breath.
Don't fret too much for me because only two hours later there was another flight to Madrid. I was assured that my bags would be going with me to Madrid on that flight so all was well. Until we landed. I went to baggage claim and waited for about half hour but my bags were nowhere to be found. Perfect. Filed a lost luggage claim using my limited Spanish skills and was on my way to my homestay, sans luggage.
Things started looking up when I got to my homestay. My host mom is Cecelia, who is like famous in our program because she used to teach at the AU Center, and she is like the nicest woman in the world. She was also the host mom to such celebrities as Jess Lin and Caroline Abikaram. She was holding the tiniest baby I've ever seen; this baby literally looked like she was born yesterday. And she pretty much was; she's two weeks old! So we've got Cecelia, baby Valentina, Nicholas (host dad) and the fun does not stop there. The door opens shortly after and that's when the party started. Olivia and Nico got home from school and they are the cutest kids in the world. Olivia is 3 years old and Nico is 4, and they are characters. I really can't understand a word they say but they are adorable. Olivia came up to me and gave me a high-five saying "Somos Chicas!", which means We are girls! I think even at three years old, she's a total feminist.
Cecelia's mother is here as well helping with the little baby for a couple weeks and there is another exchange student here from AU, who studied in Madrid last semester as well so she's like pro. So we have a very full house! And believe me there is never a dull moment.
That first night, I met up with Eric and Emily, and we went to Sol. Sol is the area with a lot of the bars and the entire plaza is filled with promoters. Literally you will get approached by 10 people as soon as you enter the square; all of them trying to get you to come to their bar by offering discounts or free shots. We found this cute little bar and had some sangria and tapas there, and we were able to sit outside because its been like 60 degrees all week. The bartender like loved us and gave us each a free "shot" but it was more like a triple shot....fo freee! Then we found this place that had open bar all night, and as soon as we walk in we were greeted by like 20 AU students. So we danced till about 4am there then ventured to another bar, which for some odd reason was closed. Being the cheap person that I am, I refused to pay for a cab home and decided to walk home with Emily. We discovered tranny-alley en route home; literally a street filled with transvestite prostitutes so that was a cultural experience. We walked for at least a half hour and I was in bed by 5am. Sam: 1, Jet lag: 0.
Orientation y Discotecas
The next day we had orientation and the highlight of this day was Maricarmen. She is the program director in Madrid and who I now aspire to be. The minute she walked in the room and started talking, everyone was instantly happier. She went around the entire room and hugged and kissed as all as if she was our mother and we'd known her our whole lives. I have never met a woman with so much energy and love as this woman. I was pretty much brought to tears. Goal of the semester: be MariCarmen's best friend.
That night we went to dinner and it was amazinggg. It was like a five course meal. The highlight was the stuffed peppers. They were peppers, stuffed with squash and almonds, covered in a cream sauce with pomegranate seeds. Sounds bizarre but probably one of the best things I've ever had. We also had this turkey with lime sauce. The combination of flavors here is so strange but oh so good.
After a delicious dinner, we went to a discoteca that one of the promoters in Sol convinced us to go to. I'm telling you the promoters might be annoying but if I never have to pay for a cover or drinks, then the promoters are more than fine with me. Once we got to the discoteca, it was pretty much nonstop dancing for about 4 hours. There was a common theme again, that first appeared in France: creepers love me. It's always the greasy, sweaty, too-old-to-even-look-at-me guys that just love dancing with me. I don't know what it is about my aura that attracts these winners but I still think its the fact that I look like I'm 15 years old, and that's totally creepers thing. Anyways, we danced again till about 4am, miraculously caught the night bus and was home and in bed by 5am. It's true, this city never sleeps.
No Pasa Nada
We had orientation at ICADE the next day, the Spanish university where I'll be taking my business classes in Spanish. I find out that one of the courses I had registered to take started last week. It boggles my mind how everyone failed to tell me this, as I've been registered for this class for three months now. The coordinator was like "Well you can still take the course but we won't give you any credit for it". Oh hey wow thanks! Absolutely not. So that kinda screwed up my entire schedule but as they all say here, No pasa nada. If there is one phrase that encompasses the entire Spanish culture its that; no pasa nada means like don't worry about it.
After orientation, I experienced my first siesta. The Spaniards usually come home to eat a huge lunch and nap for a couple hours because they party hard. I hate taking naps usually but siestas are different. I'm all about siestas.
The next day we took a day trip to Toledo. Toledo is a beautiful old city with narrow cobblestone streets, beautiful churches and architectural symbolism of the coexistence of three religions. Our tour guide is my art history professor and she is so cute. In the cathedral, she was explaining how mass is run and she was like "there is surprise behind that room". We all turn the corner and she points up to the ceiling and she is like "The surprise....is a hole!" We are all thinking the surprise would be free shots or maybe a David Guetta concert but instead it was a hole in the ceiling. Talk about a letdown.
Death ensued in Toledo. Eric and I caught the plague, or maybe it was the fact that I'd only slept like 10 hours over the past 72 hours, but needless to say we were like zombies. Cheap zombies though. Some of us went to lunch in Toledo and most people got meals but Eric and I split the cheapest thing on the menu, which was a cookie. We literally split a cookie while others were eating deer carpaccio. At least that cookie is what Toledo is famous for!
Last night I had another extravagant dinner out with the kids in our program. It was at least 5 courses again and amazing. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure that's the last free meal provided by our program, so probably the last 5 course meal I'll have until I'm 30.
Tomorrow classes start. I'm kinda freaking out because all my classes are in Spanish and ya I don't really know Spanish! Soy screwed.