La primera semana: This is hard.

Sooo: After going out the first night, I ended up not getting up the next day until 1pm. Which was good, because after forcing myself to not nap upon arriving in Spain and then staying up til late-according-to-spanish-standards, I got some good rest and think I adjusted well to the time difference. After the first day, I don’t think I’ve experienced much jetlag.

Step 1 on Day 2: Get some damn coffee. Made me a whole new man, ya gotta love the delciousness of the café in these parts. Then, made a visit to a Día just down a way from my hostel (my favorite grocery from sevilla!) and got some familiar items — jamón, pan, this weird but delicious juice/milk combo. Suuuuper cheap, like 4euros for it all and I still have some ham left 2 days later. It’s definitely going to be possible to live cost-effectively here, I think, if I just do things the smart way instead of the easy way.

Plaza Mayor, en el centro de la ciudad

Plaza Mayor, en el centro de la ciudad

Then, spent an absurd amount of time looking for converters for my American electronics. Like, an hour and a half, which constituted visiting a dozen stores and traversing the entire city center. Chinos in Madrid aren’t quite as obvious as they were in sevilla, where the stores were actually named “Chino.”

I went on the converter-hunt with Andrew, and the two of us have actually become pretty good friends. I mean, it’s kind of easy for that to happen when you’re two Americans together in a foreign city. He reminds me a lot of Gabe, my roommate from Sevilla and to this day one of my very closest friends. Except that, while Gabe was perfectly fluent in Spanish and mine stunk at the time, this time mine is pretty decent but Andrew has zero knowledge of spanish. Like, actually zero. It’s an interesting perspective, being on the other side of this friendship/language situation. Just interesting.

That reminds me too, me and Andrew were discussing how just surprising it is too see non-Spainards living in Spain who speak Spanish just like Spainards do. For example, the people owning the chinos, or the people working at the Doner Kebap (which by the way, KEBAP thank the lord you are back in my life!). In the U.S., immigrants who do speak English speak it with an accent remniscient of their native tongue. But here, if I couldn’t see the person, I would think this person of non-Spanish descent was just another español. I mean, it might be a bit dumb to talk about, and it makes total sense that these immigrants have grown up here speaking the language as their first — like I grew up speaking English in America — but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t catch me by surprise all the time. Just blows my mind. Makes it seem like Spain is more accepting of their immigrants, which I mean i have no proof of that, but just because of the fact that they assimilate so well.

That’s not to say that there’s any less racism in Spain than in the U.S., a topic which I’ve discussed in the past. There’s definitely strong racism here against black people and Romani (“gypsy”) people. And literally EVERY SINGLE TIME I tell somebody I am American, they don’t believe me at first, they think I’m an Indian. It used to hurt me when people would question my nationality, even politely, but I guess it makes sense based on natural stereotypes of what an “American” looks like. But by this point, I’ve pretty much just accepted it as a fact of life.

Back to the day: I spend the rest of the day looking at piso listings on the Internet, on SO MANY WEBSITES — easypiso, pisocompartido, idealista. Jesus christ there’s so many piso listings, it’s overwhelming. I posted an ad that I was looking for a piso, en español, and I tried sending emails/messages to people providing listings. But it was not very fruitful, and I’d heard a million times that the only way to contact people for pisos was to call by phone, otherwise they’d just get snatched up bc there is so much demand right now just before school begins.

That option terrified me, though. For my spanish, I can usually say what I want to say in spanish, but I have a real hard time understanding what people say back to me. Which is a problem, because if I can say things then they think I’m fluent, and they start speaking as fast as the Roadrunner. And talking en español on the phone — fuhget about it, it’s so difficult!

Anyway, I didn’t make any progress on the piso front on Day 2, wednesday. But I was able to finally talk to my mother in the States, which was awesome, and I met a bunch more Auxiliares that day. I feel like I’ve met at least 15 so far, there’s so many of us. One guy, Yuri (fluent in Russian, English, Hebrew, and almost Español — stupid impressive, Americans need to put some work in) said he stayed at my hostel for 6 days and found a place after visiting 6. He also turned me on to the Idealista app, so talking to him was reassuring. He also gave me a glass of his wine while we talked, and I gave him some jamón. It is just incredible to me the sense of community people have here in Europe. That was the biggest difference I noticed between Italy/Spain and America, and the reason why I so badly wanted to return here. In America, everyone is concerned first and foremost for the self (in general and stereotyping, of course). But here, people from all over the world meet new people all the time, and there’s always a hand being extended, even between Americans and Canadians abroad. Here, the priority número uno in life is friends and family, above all else. This is why I came back here. That’s why I love it.

Also that night, I went for a run in the local park, which is also a big tourist attraction, El Parque Retiro. Ridiculously huge, runners everywhere, beatiful lush greenery. And at the top, there was a TON of workout equipment and people working out for free (think: Muscle Beach in CA). That was huge for me, because I love parks, because I get pretty grumpy if I can’t work out cada día, and because I was worried about the costs of euro gyms (40euro per month-ish). So this was just another step to make me feel at home. I’ve actually now moved my piso search over to the barrio of the park, se llama Retiro.

Thursday, el jueves:

Day 3 was a day focused 100% on the piso search, because I cannot stand living out of a suitcase for this long, and with so much crap to have to dig through in my bags, and having to lock up the bags every single time. I also was trying to get an “abono mensual”, which is the pass I’ll need to travel to my school-in-the-burbs every day I work, and for unlimited use of the metro. It was difficult to find somebody to find me a pass for the year, and I eventually learned why: It would’ve ended in December, not been october-to-october! I’m really glad this really nice spainard filled me in on that, otherwise I would have blown like 500E. Now, I’m just waiting until I have an address to get the abono, so I’ll have an address for my contact information.

Anyway, I started the day by actually making some calls to spainards about some pisos. Supa-terrifying, but it paid off: I started getting contacted by leasers out the wazoo. I ended up seeing 3 apartments on jueves.

  • Apt.1: In the barrio I became interested in, Chamberí. Apartment was absolutely amazing: super spacious, extremely clean, an awesome amount of sunlight in the bedrooms, really nice mattress and wardrobe, great ‘hood. Only concern was that it seemed like there’d only be one spanish person in there, and the other two roommates wouldn’t speak any spanish — major obstacle for me, as I’m trying to live with as many native speakers of Spanish as possible so that I can become as fluent as possible. Plus, it seemed like it would be a pretty much everyone-does-their-own-thing deal, which is not what I’m interested in: I want to live with people I can hang out with, cuz I don’t know nobody here. But the lady was an absolute sweetheart. Plus, going through the first in-person piso visit did a great deal for my nerves — showed me, yeah, I can do this, I can actually converse with spainards. Right now, I’m keeping this apt as my backup option, should it still be available when it becomes decision-time.
  • Apt. 2: I was excited about this one, because it was with 2 other spanish students and they seemed very sociable. First impression, though, was not that great: It was right in the university centre, so it was a bit too “big-city” for me. I’m looking for somewhere I can live with a local, where I can have a local coffee bar I go to every morning, and know my shop-people (idealistic, yes, I know, bear with me). The guys were great, but they were like 3 years younger than me, so that was a slight deterrent. Then, I found out that I’d have to pay for two months’ rent in which I’d already be back in the States, so that was pretty much an eliminating factor. I got a call from one of the guys later that night to tell me that they’d already rented the place out to somebody else (–> Two observations: 1) Damn these things get snatched up fast. 2) It was super polite of this guy to call me and tell me the place was gone). But, I left my sunglasses there, so that was a loss.
  • Apt.3: This one interested in me because it was also in Chamberí, like the other two, and was with two native speakers of Spanish. I absolutely loved the neighborhood it was in, but the apartment itself was kinda not that great for its price: Small, kinda not clean. Plus, the girl showing me the place said she and her roommate don’t really hang out, they kinda just do their own thing. I eliminated that one as soon as I left.

At this point, I was pretty stressed out about the apt search. I’d spend the entire day looking for a piso, and found nothing but equivocation withiin myself. I didn’t even know what I wanted. I wanted to live with españoles with whom I could become good friends, but it seemed that most roommates don’t really hang out together, because they’re constantly cycling in and out. Then, I really liked the neighborhood of Chamberí (perfect blend of big and small for me — small enough to have my personal spots, but large enough that there’s still a lot of hustle & bustle and a lot going on), but it’s a good bit away from Sol (nightlife central) and would make my dialy commute like an hour and a half.

So I started looking at places close to the area where my hostel is (back to the computer for hours to look at listings!! oh happy day), Retiro, which I really like. I’ve already been able to find small cafes and stores I frequent regularly, but it’s only like a 15 minute walk to Sol. So in my 4 days here, I’ve switched between 3 barrios I want to live in: From La Latina (too boring), to Chamberí (too far, can’t find what I’m looking for). to not Retiro.

In the evening, me and Andrew were pretty fed up with the frustrations of the apt-search, so we just decided to walk around the city and take in the city at night. We had some pretty interesting adventures, good convos; a great way to find happiness again, in the relations with people. The piso search would continue the next day.

(I know it’s a lot of words, but I’ve been busy with the apt hunt, and I’ve been trying to not take too many pics so that I don’t look like a tourist!! But it will improve, yo prometo!)

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