It seems all great events in life never go as planned. This is something I've been coming to terms with for the past couple of years, only it has truly become apparent as of this stay in Madrid, Spain.
Let me begin with the little tale of my arrival with some backdrop...
I've been around Europe before. I spent a month in 2011 traveling around Europe at the age of 17. Because of this, I grew pretty accustomed to the subway systems they have (and the horrid smell of the metro in Paris). This made me feel confident that upon arriving in Madrid, I could just take the metro from the airport to my place, nice and cheap. Well...
I was wrong.
Metro lines go in two directions. I remembered this and thought I could just figure it out. The problem is- when you have a huge suitcase, two huge bags and a purse in a Spanish Metro it's hard to navigate, especially when Spain is the pick-pocketing capital of the world and you have your whole life with you. Before coming to Spain, the metro was the least of my worries. Upon arriving it became the precise opposite.
I kept going in the wrong direction. It was ridiculous. I wanted so badly to ask someone for directions. And I could have! I speak Spanish at my house in Honolulu all the time! I'm Spanish and Mexican for crying out loud! But in the 15 minutes it took me to get off and on several metro lines, looking for the right direction, I became a horrid wreck of nerves.
Eventually, I gave up and took a taxi.
Now, let me tell you this- I decided to stay with a host family. In other words, instead of getting my own apartment, I am staying with a lady of roughly 60 years of age, her dog named Luna and her speaking-parrot-type-of-bird named Cuko (spelling?). In addition, I am staying with two other girls in the same position as me. Fresh off the boat in Spain, studying at my same University for the same duration.
One: I imagined finding the apartment extremely difficult and meeting my host Senora choppy and awkward.
Two: I imagined myself starting out with no friends and going out at night by myself, looking for people to hang out with in the weird, "Hi, my name is Bianca! Who are you?" fashion.
Like the theme of this blog-entry, though, I was all wrong- only this time, it was of a positive nature.
As I stepped out of the Taxi with all my 4-month-belongings, I trudged up the Spanish Street in search of apartment #18. After roughly 3 miniscule seconds, a lady in front of a small shop clutching a cigarette called out to me: "Estas buscando Maria?" Maria, ladies and gents, is the name of my host mother.
Instantly I became filled with elation from the roots of my curly hair to my boots. "Si! Si!" I called back.
The smoking lady pointed me in the direction of #18 and I ran after it like the panicked girl I was. Literally upon reaching the door, Maria, my house mother, came bursting out all smiles and all Spanish! She was waiting for me to arrive!
The relief that poured through me was spectacular. We kissed on the cheeks like the locals do and she helped me up (all three flights of long, long stairs/no elevators!) to our apartment.
It all came flooding at me in waves of gifts- a balcony in my room, a precious beagle to lessen the missing of my puppy back home, handsome local guys, a street filled with shops and bars all neighboring me- everything!
A day later, I came to know my two roommates. Let me just say that they are my sisters now. One is from New Hampshire. Her name is Molly and she is an absolute classic sweet and funny girl majoring in Business and into sports. The other girl is Patricia from Austria. She is motherly and great with maps, which helps tremendously because I can always count on her while traveling around in Spain.
I've been here for over a month now and haven't missed an inch of Hawai'i. Although it would be nice to have some of the foods here and the people, homesickness hasn't struck me once. In fact- I literally have nightmares that I am back in Hawai'i for the weekends and completely confused and sad that I am not in Spain. These nightmares come almost every night. So if you're someone looking for tips on how to get over homesickness, well, I can't say I can help. Or perhaps I can, given I am not homesick at all? It depends on how you look at it.
I'm a person currently striving for independence so getting as far away from Hawai'i as possible is exactly what I needed.
And I wasn't expecting this, but given that I have Spanish in my blood and
have the tongue for it, I have found that I almost fit in more in Madrid
than I do in Hawai'i. Moral of the story is, you can go ahead and gather hills of expectations, just don't be surprised when they unravel and not unfold, because sometimes, lost expectations bounce back in the form of sweet, Spanish surprises.
--Bianca Marina Flores
ps: here is a photo of my roommates and I with our host mother/Senora!
(I'm the one on the far right in black.)