It’s been one week since I made the 13 hour, 5,814 mile journey from Los Angeles to Madrid. The two-part voyage (LA to London, London to Madrid) was very pleasant. Thanks to British Airways in-flight entertainment, I watched Monuments Men, nearly half of the first season of True Detective, and caught some shut-eye.
Once I landed in Madrid and breezed through customs, I found el baño and then collected my checked bags. After a quick taxi ride to my new home, I was officially on my own.
I had the address and recognized the exterior of my building from the thorough virtual tours I had taken of my barrio on Google Maps. I also knew my host mom lived in unit #4, but I was very surprised to see 4C, 4D and 4I and no names on the directory. The taxi driver had departed and I was standing alone outside a locked door on one of Spain’s longest streets. I pressed the call buttons for 4C, 4D, 4I and the porter, but no one answered. Thankfully I had my host mom’s direct phone number so I called her and she was able to buzz me in. She lives in unit 4C. (Cultural Tip 1: The “C” is for centro, “D” is derecho and “I” is izquierda, referring to the units’ locations in the middle, right and left of the building.)
Squeezing my two suitcases, backpack, tote bag and self into the small ascensor to head to 4C, I thought “will this all fit?” The elevator’s weight capacity read 320 kg., but how many pounds equal a kilogram? Turns out it’s 705 lbs. Likely having heard me bumbling to get out of the elevator, I was greeted by a smiling, blonde Spanish woman named Gloria, my host mom. She immediately hugged me and kissed me on each cheek. (Cultural Tip 3: when doing the double-kiss, one always goes to his/her left first, then his/her right.)
Gloria helped me with my luggage and showed me around our apartamento. The unit was more spacious than I imagined. My housemate, Ashima, was out visiting family friends, so it was just Gloria and me. She showed me my dormitorio. As fate would have it, my room is decorated with pink and red bedding. I felt home already. My clothes fit away nicely in the standing armario and I stowed my suitcases on top. Gloria regularly checked in on me as I was unpacking, asking me “¿Necesitas algo, mi hija/cariña/bebita?” “Do you need anything, my daughter/honey/baby?”
Around 8:30 PM it was la hora de la cena and I ate my first Spanish meal. I asked if she would be joining me the dinner she cooked, but she said it was much too early for her to eat. After a homemade meal of rice and chicken and vegetable stew. (Gloria provides us three meals a day, seven days a week!) Ashima arrived near the end of dinner and we caught up. It is a coincidence that she and I are living together as we are both Tour Guides at USC. Soon after, I retired to my charming pink bedroom.
Tomorrow would be my first full day in the city. I made it. I was finally in Madrid.