Lost in Spain: Molly Gallagher Lands in Madrid

Getting There, Spain — By on October 15, 2009 at 3:00 pm

As I sit in Newark International airport and a Continental employee announces that she will now board rows 31-25 for the 10:00 p.m. flight departing to Madrid. Then proceeds to say, “Ahora yo invito asientos de pasillos treinta y uno a veinte y cinco.” I think, “What am I getting myself into?” The first time I got on a plane I was eight months old. I am not scared of planes. I’ll eat anything you put in front of me and I absolutely love to travel. Check. However, leaving for my semester abroad in Madrid was harder than preparing for any other trip. The ranges of emotions are endless: new language, living in a new city, living in a new house, living with a host family, new food, new time to eat food, new school, classes in a another country, classes in a another language, and of course packing my life into two suitcases (not an easy task for someone who takes care of her clothes as if they were her own children). For the first two weeks I traveled around Southern Spain in the Andalucía region to: Toledo, Cordoba, Sevilla and Granada. It was what I like to call a travel high. When I arrived in Madrid two weeks ago I went into complete culture shock.

On the first day in Madrid I met my señora, Manuela. After talking to her and unpacking, I asked her, in Spanish of course, if I could leave my shampoo and toothbrush in the bathroom. I assumed it would not be a problem, but she proceeded to show me a shelf in my room where she wanted me to keep my toiletries. I spent the next three nights crying on Skype with my mom. The next problem occurred at dinner. Andrea, my roommate, and I sat down to eat our first home-cooked Spanish meal. Two minutes into chowing down on our tortilla Espanola, a traditional Spanish dish, which consists of potatoes and eggs, we learned that Manuela likes to watch TV, while we eat dinner. During our pre-trip we learned that a huge part of Spanish culture is, sobre mesa, or a discussion at the table. I thought I was already missing out on a part of Spanish culture. As days passed we started to talk to Manuela more. She slowly learned that we liked talking during and after dinner. She now turns off the TV, while we eat and sits with us. Manuela showed us drawers in the bathroom and a spot in the shower where we could store our toiletries. She calls us her, “ninas.” Which means, little girls and makes sure we know that our problems are her problems. Our class schedules and calendars are perfectly situated on her refrigerator and I am starting to feel at home in this new home…with plenty of sobre mesa.

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  • Aunia says:

    I guess this entry is rather ironic? But anyway, most of the things everyone's been told in the USA about Spain (and many other countries) are very far from right… But it's an awesome country, enjoy!

  • Megan says:

    I studied in Sevilla last Spring and it really brings me back to read your post. I miss tortilla Espanola and my senora so much. Hope you have a great time and try absolutely everything you can!