From my kitchen window I get an unfiltered look into everyday life in Madrid. My husband and I are lucky enough that we got an apartment right on a little plaza.We were so stressed the first few days here trying to find an apartment that would fit the both of us and be close to both of our schools. Somehow we got lucky and found the perfect apartment on our second day in Madrid!
Our apartment is little, but it really is so perfect for us! We have the coziest loft as our bedroom, a great “American” style kitchen (as the Idealista ad stated), and since we’re on the ground floor we have viewing access to all the happenings in the plaza. All day long we see people walking their dogs to the park across the street, grandparents taking little children to school, people on their way home from the bakery with 1 or 2 loaves of bread, or a group of kids having a soccer game, kicking the ball against the yellow exterior of our apartment. I love the view from my kitchen window and the ever changing activity outside. And just as much as that, I love the sounds from my new neighborhood. Everyday we go to bed and wake up to the sounds of forks clinking against plates, chairs scraping against the brick floor as someone gets up to leave or just arrives for their evening glass of wine. We live next to about five different restaurants ranging from a tapas bar, to a burger place, to our personal favorite, the Kabob place. There is so much activity going on at all hours that I am constantly reminded of how much life there is in Madrid and how much there is to see and explore.
I was talking to another teach abroad participant (Shoutout to KJ!) about how nice it is to be here, not just for a semester, but for a year. When you study abroad your weeks are spent trying to find the cheapest flight to any other European country for the weekend. Studying abroad is an opportunity for you to see as much of this side of the world as you can in the short amount of time you have. But as my new friend KJ said perfectly, when you live here you have the chance to settle in also. And that makes all the difference!
Living abroad affords you a mentally that you don’t have when you visit a place or even when you study abroad for a semester. We’ve realized that we really truly have time to make Madrid our home and we love that it absolutely is already feeling that way. They say home is where the heart is (I love a good cliche, sorry!...and a good parenthetical, if you haven’t already noticed;), but I would say home is where the guy from the Kabob place down the street recognizes you and says hello everyday as you walk by. Home is where you begin to recognize even the dogs as they slowly stroll past your window as you do dishes. It’s where the lady who owns the panaderia knows your order as soon as you walk in and tells you about the new holiday cake that’s sitting deliciously in the display window.
Philip and I have been in Madrid for 4 weeks and I’d say we feel like we really live here. Yeah, it actually did take 4 weeks for it to sink in!! We haven’t felt the pressure to go to other countries just yet, but we’re allowing ourselves time to learn our new home first. We’ve done a fairly good job of taking advantage of most days. We’ve visited Barrio de la Latina for tapas, we’ve seen Pablo Picasso’s Guernica in the Reina Sofia, we’ve tasted cochinillo in Toledo and vermouth in Segovia, we even went out and found Artemis’s fallen arrows in Gran Via. But on a less grand scale, we’ve experienced turning our own little kitchen into a wine and cheese tapas bar, exploring our neighborhood and watching a mean game of volleyball in the park, trying out the local churrería while listening to the waitress sing as she served each customer with a smile. This experience has only just started and we’ve already been given so many special moments.
If you’re on the fence about doing this program or any program like this, please, just do it! Jump in with everything you have. This is an experience that is hard to explain. I’ve worked on this Blog 3 times trying to get it right, and I still haven’t. But what I really want to get across is that, even if you’re scared, you can successfully make a home in a totally different country. And you’ll have a super great time doing it! It will be scary at first and you will make mistakes sometimes, but being a little scared or a little embarrassed is nothing compared to how fulfilled and happy you’ll feel. You’ll learn a new language, a new way of living, and a new way of appreciating the hours in the day. And who knows, if you take the leap, maybe your kitchen window will look out on a little plaza where people walk their dogs and children play soccer after school.