I arrived Madrid in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. My arrival was smooth sailing. I got in through customs without any hassles and then headed to luggage claim. After getting my luggage, I decided to look for a cab. My airbNb host mum (Margarita) advised that I used the metro because it was cheaper. There were many reasons I didn’t choose that (1). I wasn’t going to spend roaming data fees (2) I wasn’t familiar with Spain’s metro system (3) Madrid has a huge pick pocket issue and the chances of getting robbed as a new visitor with all my luggage were very high. This was why I opted for the taxi although way more expensive but a safer option. As I looked for the taxi drivers, a random passerby asked “Are you looking for the taxi?” I replied “yes”. “It’s better if you get on the metro. From my 30 years of living in Madrid, I know that these taxi drivers are cheaters” he advised. Although I wanted to take up on his advice, I couldn’t; due to my circumstances. I eventually got a taxi. The ride to the center where my host lived was smooth, although the driver drove in a very crazy manner. At that moment I concluded that Spain has crazy drivers. Once we got to the location, I had to call Margarita. “Puedo utilizar su movil?” I asked the driver. “SÍ” he replied delightfully. I told Margarita I was outside and I would be waiting in front of the door. I paid the driver, took my belongings and waited for Margarita.
While waiting for Margarita, it finally hit me that I was in Madrid, the place I had always wanted to visit since I was 16. At that moment I became suddenly nervous “What have I gotten myself into?” I thought . ” Hola! como fue su viaje?” Margarita asked as she welcomed me and carried my heaving luggage up the stairs like a boss. She started saying more things to me in Spanish rapidly. Mind you, my Spanish is only mediocre. On several occasions I had do say “repetir por favor” which she patiently did for the most part or she’ll just say “olvidalo” (forget it). This is going to be very interesting I thought, “she speaks only Spanish and French”. Although I really wanted to learn and improve my Spanish, at that moment everything was a little overwhelming for me. Spain was very different than the U.S, in the sense that it is more traditional in its looks and ways. All this I was taking in as I arrived. Margarita’s apartment was smaller than I was used to back home in the U.S. however it was very tidy and clean. Margarita offered me toast and tea for breakfast. She also asked me many questions like where I was from in the U.S. and so forth. Afterwards I excused myself to take a shower. After showering I skyped my parents and showed them around my room. They were amused to see the way Spaniards dried their clothes.
This is what I mean by traditional when it comes to Spain.
I took a nap after speaking with my parents.After my nap, Margarita took me out and showed me around her neighborhood, advising me where to go to buy groceries, what bus and metro routes to take. She even got me a map for the metro and then for Madrid’s center. Once we got back home after the tour, I met another guest in Margarita’s house. Margarita introduced us to one another. The lady was British. At that moment I felt a little relieved to be able to speak to someone that fully understood me. We spoke for a bit and then I called it a day.
The next day, I decided to set up my phone account. I already knew what network I wanted to patronize. I walked into Orange’s store and told the only person in charge that I wanted a pre-paid plan. She spoke only Spanish and I still wonder till now how we were able to communicate. The plan was 10€ for internet and I could load up to whatever euros I needed for calls and texts. “phew, what a relieve” I thought to myself. I said it sooner than I realized. I got home, switched my verizon sim card to the new Orange card and turned my phone on. Upon turning it on, there was a message displayed on my phone asking me to input a password and that I had only 3 attempts before it permanently locked me out. “Omg, I thought Verizon told me all their smartphones were unlocked and I could use whatever sim card I wanted” I said out loud in despair. I looked up online for possible passwords, I tried them but they all failed. I was only down to one try. I started to freak out. After calling Verizon without any response, pestering my Dad and then finally realizing that it was 2 a.m. back home; I decided to head back to the Orange store to see what help the personnel could possibly offer. I explained to the lady there slowly what my frustration was. She then told me that I was given the password in the package which I had just purchased. I felt like a complete idiot. The lady helped me set up my phone, password, internet and all. I later got back home a little relieved.
With my new Spanish number and everything else set up, I finally had the ability to call apartment owners to set up appointments to view them. Idealista was the site that I was advised through several blogs as the best place to find apartments. However, nearly everyone I called told me ¨lo siento, ya esta alquilado”. I felt like a headless chicken while surfing through the website as I didn’t know what location to narrow my search. I knew I wanted to live in the center but where exactly was the issue.
I didn’t mention this before but last November, I applied to a teaching program. At that time it was my only key to moving to Spain. When they didn’t accept me, I felt really upset. My whole plan for Spain was based on the fact that I would be accepted into that program. There were other programs to choose from but this was more suitable for me at that time. After mourning for a day, I decided to think of different options. I wasn’t going to let a program stop my goal of moving to Spain. I then knew that I had to do EVERYTHING myself. By everything I mean: go there jobless and look for a job, apply for Spanish social security, health insurance, open up a bank account and many more. I decided to embrace this new challenge. I created a folder and had sections for each activity to complete. You get the idea, I was so ready. Closer to the time of my arrival in Spain I sent my resume to a couple of agencies many of which told me to come to Spain first before they’ll have an interview. One recruiter decided to have an interview with me, the Monday I arrived Spain.The morning of my departure for Madrid, I received an email from the program stating that they had a position available for me. I had mixed feelings about this as I had already started looking at other possibilities. The advantage of me accepting this position would have been the assistance offered in which some of my stress for setting up things in Spain would be relieved.
After surfing through the idealista page, I decided to make a decision. “Do I want to accept a Language assistant position or go through another agency as planned” I thought to myself. I needed this clarity as it would give me a better idea of where to search for apartments. My first Monday in Madrid was very hectic. It took nearly the whole day setting up my phone and calling landlords that I couldn’t make it for the interview I planned.
That Monday night I tossed and turned in my bed as I thought of what my options I could take. I had never had so much pressure to make a decision like this in my life. I eventually made the decision to visit the school that the Language assistant program offered the position to see whether I liked the location and the people who worked there. I calmed myself to sleep while muttering under my breath “Tomorrow I would have some clarity”.
To be continued……..