Friday, October 18, 2013
Nine days is not nearly enough time to be able to have solid opinions about anything so massive as a European capital city, but somehow I feel very certain already of my feelings about living in Madrid. I spend my mornings in a language class, my afternoons exploring, and my evenings playing with two wild and hilarious niñas aged 8 and 6. My room has a sloped ceiling and a wall of cubbies. There is really good coffee pretty much everywhere. People wear boots everyday. They speak a beautiful, crack-fast Spanish. If nine days is premature then I don't want to be right. I love it here.
Which is not to say that there aren't challenging aspects about living in a foreign country, because duh. I'm not gonna lie to you, I think pretty much once a day about how much easier everything would be if there was just one Target. I'm still learning proper cafe etiquette. The English books I read on the train garner many stares. Today I bought a fig and almond bar from the supermarket that looked exactly like this thing I buy at Whole Foods, and it had paper on one side and was wrapped in plastic, and after I removed the plastic I found that the paper was actually a bunch of separate little pieces of paper fit together, so that you couldn't peel it away in one fell swoop and instead had to pick at these hundreds of shapes no bigger than my pinkie fingernail...so I ate the paper. Problems, right? Probably a Spaniard would have known exactly what to do.
AND THIS, amigos, is the point. I am not a Spaniard. Every day I find myself -- less and less now, but constantly during the first fews days -- concerned that I am doing something wrong, something blatently tourist-y or foreigner-y or worse, American-y, and that I am going to be discovered as a fraud. That my actions are going to clash so massively with The Way Things Are Done In Madrid that everyone within a six block radius is gonna point and laugh, roll their eyes (and their r's) and say to each other, "That poor girl. What a dumb outsider." What I realized, sort of all at once while writing my sister a letter, is that complete acclimation just ain't gonna happen. I will never be a Madrileño. I am fooling no one with my oft-incorrect verb conjugations. I will never totally master the pronunciation of the train stop for my language school (Argüelles...ugh). Nine months is a long time, but even after nine days I am sure that my inability to maneuver a cobblestone sidestreet in stilettos is not going to be magically, Spanishly reversed.
I write this so that I remember and embrace it: I have no choice but to be a stranger in a strange land, because that's just the truth. And as long as what I'm doing is not offending anyone and only makes them think I'm weird, then I'm gonna let myself be a stranger. I study, and I watch, and I google a lot of things. I try to learn the traditions and the habits and the tricks and the shortcuts. I strive to be as small an amount of foreign as is physically possible for me, the least amount of strain on the metro ticket salesmen and the cashiers and my family, because I am in awe of their culture and respect it like a crazy person. But I cannot alter my heart of hearts, which yearns a little bit for the wide white aisles of a Target megastore, even if it also swells at the sight of Parque Retiro at sunset. I'm an American in Spain. And even if it ups my foreign factor to 11, I'm gonna marvel at the architecture and Instagram the old people. This is the way it is.
RIP skim milk, but there are 3 jars of Nutella in the pantry. So like, I think I'm coming out on top.