I started taking Spanish classes when I was in the 7th grade. I wasn’t intrinsically good at learning the language, but I am a decent studier and can memorize anything so I was able to pick it up fairly easily.
In high school, my Spanish teacher had us do a project where we researched a Spanish speaking country, planned out a trip to that country, and then we had to present it to our class (in Spanish of course). The country I chose was Spain, somehow no one else selected it before it was my turn to choose.
I completely forgot about this school project until last week.
Sometimes, while wandering around Madrid, I wonder if by doing that project I somehow put myself on a path to end up here. Being able to slowly re-learn the language has been fun, and I am so thankful that I am not starting from zero.
The Spaniards shorten all of their words into slang so much that I have trouble understanding them until I ask them to speak slower. Now when I walk into a store or café, I say “Buenas!” regardless of the time of day – just like everyone else – instead of “Buenos dias” or “Buenas noches.” It took me a full week to realize that “ah-eh-go” is short for “hasta luego” – see you later!
Hanging out alone for a week also allowed me to observe people a lot more than I would if I was with someone or a group. I was standing next to a man who was walking his dog. When his dog finally went to the restroom, the owner said, “Muy bien”, which made me grin – pet owners talk to their pets like people regardless of the language.
Everyone says “vale” when they understand something or to say yes. The mini conversation scenario below is heard all day long (in Spanish).
Waiter: “We have coffee, croissants, and chocolate. Or there is a combo with a juice.”
Waiter: “Do you want coffee or something else?”
Somehow the waiter brings out exactly what the patron wanted. Vale.
Fights and frustrations between two people are so evident even without understanding the words spoken. Body language observation and people watching is a prime time activity when you are solo!
All of the women wear sheer pantyhose – with skirts and with shorts. They don’t wear cute tights with prints or holes. SHEER panty hose. Why would anyone less than 80 years old do this?
I did my first load of laundry in my AirBNB house. After taking a good 5 minutes trying to 1) figure out how to turn it on and 2) figure out how to open the washer door, I some how managed to “wash” my clothes. I’m using “wash” loosely here because it wasn’t until my second load that I realized I used fabric softener instead of laundry detergent in the cycle. At least they smell good? I hung them out the window of my bedroom to dry like the locals.
I went to two Easter parades and Easter Mass at one of the oldest and most famous cathedrals in all of Europe. It was a grounding way to start my trip, as Easter was my first weekend in Spain. There was a stretch of 12 days where I went in at least one cathedral a day, sometimes happening to catch a mass. I don’t understand much of the services, but I have been able to figure out when everyone is saying the Lord’s Prayer because of the cadence in which it is spoken.
I found two free yoga classes in Madrid! The first class I went to was at a local gym. I did not think through the fact that it would be 100% in Spanish. This made the experience quite stressful, as I had to look up at the instructor and other yogis every 10 seconds to make sure I was still on the same move! I forgot what it felt like to be a yoga newbie, so it was a humbling experience that made me see how far my practice has come. There were quite a few men in the class with very short shorts on, mega dark tans, and slicked back hair. This isn’t really my thing, turns out.
The second class I went to was in the suburbs. It was free, so I went on an adventure 12 train stops outside the city. When I got to the top of the street at the train station in the ‘burbs, I realized the flyer for the yoga studio didn’t have an address listed! I had no clue where I was going, and I had thirty minutes to get there.
My first attempt to find the studio was me walking dejected and aimless around the block. I then began to bother each passer-by asking them in broken Spanish if they know where this place is and shoving the card in their face (politely). No one seemed to know! After asking 6-7 people, finally a super sweet Spanish woman decided to call the place for me – literally! She dialed the phone, and threw it in my hand. Uhhhh, how am I supposed to tell the yoga studio who I am or where I am or that I need directions?! After my exceptionally poor attempt to do this, the sweet woman realized she had made a mistake and did all the work for me.
The studio was just over ½ a mile away. I thanked her profusely and took off in a sprint. I had 5 minutes until class started. I arrived late, but the woman who greeted me didn’t seem to mind too much. She then asked me if it was okay if the class was in French. WHAT!? The lengths you go to for a free class! Yoga in Spanish and in French. This is living!