Hi all! Welcome to my blog! My name is Ashlynn, and I am a Teach in Spain program participant for 2019-2020. I first fell in love with Spain when I studied abroad in Granada for two months over summer 2018. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Granada, it’s a relatively small, but extremely beautiful city in the autonomous region of Andalucía.
When I first applied to the Teach in Spain program, I had my heart set on teaching in Andalucía, and possibly being placed in Granada. Due to some unforeseen changes, CIEE was not able to place participants in Andalucía this year…BUT they graciously gave every participant a placement in the region of Madrid.
While I was disappointed at first that I would not be living among the rolling hills and olive trees of Andalucía, it did not take long for me to realize the benefits of living near Spain’s capital. I had spent some time in Madrid, during my study abroad trip, and I am excited for the chance to go back. With that being said, I wrote a “love letter” to my new home. I hope you enjoy!
Love Letter to Madrid
Here’s to you! Well, here’s to us, I guess. We’ll be partners in this upcoming journey. You were my first city to be “solo” in, and my last goodbye as I left Spain. And now you’ll be my home for the next year.
When I first met you, I was scared of you. I also didn’t think I’d like you all that much. I thought you seemed intimidating.
And at first, you were. Your crowds and size were enough to terrify me. You felt like any other big city in the world, but as it turns out, there is way more to you than I initially gave you credit for.
I got to spend five days with my family exploring you. We got past your cloudy skies, and they turned up clear at last. We walked around the city, ventured into the wonders of the Prado museum, getting lost in the many canvases painted with so much life and depth. Then, we ventured out into Retiro Park…I saw the crystal palace shimmering in the sunlight. Its trails were brimming with young families. Madrid, you didn’t seem so lonely, so unfriendly anymore. We sat on the edge of the pond, and watched people attempt to steer rowboats. I heard Spanish spoken from every direction. With a nice spot in the sun and a Diet Coke in hand, I thought Retiro Park was perfect. Then, we tried your churros con chocolate. I had never tasted chocolate so rich!
Your streets never seemed to sleep! People hustled and bustled at all hours of the day, but mainly down the city center. If we trailed off just a little, we'd find some streets that were relaxed, and that invited us to take life a little more slowly.
We got to celebrate in those same streets the day Real Madrid won the championship. We lined the sides like the locals. We watched the team buses and the police parade down the streets and circle around. We sang with the crowd, we cheered, we laughed. Ole, ole, y ole. Confetti was flying everywhere. We went back to our hotel, and the celebration continued. I remember opening the balcony window, stepping out and singing “We Are the Champions” with all of Madrid.
Madrid, I was left alone with you for one whole day…It was in between my family vacation ending and my study abroad trip beginning that I had an entire twenty-four hours left to myself in your care.
I was scared…Not necessarily of you at this point, but all of Spain scared me. Would I like it? Would I make friends? Would this summer be a bust?
As I hate being indoors all day, I took a tiny step outside my hotel room and into your presence. You were the first city in which I was completely alone. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just walked. I walked down the hard, concrete sidewalk, with earphones in my ears. Trying to blend.
I saw shops, I saw churches, I saw cars zoom by, people staring straight ahead, people staring at their phones…
I kept walking.
I crossed the street and ordered a sandwich all in Spanish…no English necessary. I remember thinking to myself...Wow, I can speak Spanish?
I walked back. I went back to the hotel, but you had caught my attention by now. I wanted to go back out.
And so I did.
This time I passed by a little shop with a variety of fruits and vegetables in the window. And another one selling miniature cacti out front.
Then, I walked some more. I went back to the hotel again.
My final excursion. It was getting late, but I wanted ice cream. So I used my phone to find a place sort of nearby. I started walking. But the city seemed different. The streets were settled, no one was in a rush to get anywhere…The sun had come out at some point in time while I was resting in my hotel room. Now, the sky was tinted orange with the sun on its way back down.
There was the ice cream shop. A young man worked there and spoke to me in English, and a little in Spanish. He asked me, Why are you in Spain?. I replied, To study abroad…but not here, in Granada. He smiled and wished me the best. Granada is a nice place! I said gracias and headed on back. The next morning I would meet my study abroad group, and we would travel together to Granada.
After Granada, I came back to you. It was time to go home to Texas. I got stuck in your airport for 16 hours overnight. I slept in those hard plastic chairs, and I hurried around trying to find my gate in time.
After I found my gate, I waited. I stared out the window and wondered when I would be back. There were hills in the distance. The sun was shining bright, and the skies were a clear blue.
And then before I knew it…I was on a plane, staring out the window once again…Tears streaming down my face as I said goodbye to Spain for now.
Madrid, you’ll be my first embrace when I come back to Spain. You’ll be the first in this adventure called teaching abroad. I can’t wait to discover you all over again. I can’t wait to explore your nooks and crannies, to see and experience things that I didn’t the first time around. I can’t wait to do life with you! Madrid, you’ll soon be home.