The Spanish family I'm living with in Madrid has had the abuela, the grandmother (of the father), in town for the past two weeks, and I absolutely adore her. Her name is Lola, she speaks no English, and she likes to try to teach me Spanish by repeating a phrase six times, even if I've already used it in the same conversation a few minutes ago. This makes having a discussion with her slow but endearing, and I feel warm and fuzzy when she calls me cariño and cielo.
Today we left the house at the same time and in the elevator she told me she was going out to buy a conejo, a bunny rabbit. Since it is her last day in Madrid and she won't be around for the holidays, I figured she was buying the pet as an early Christmas present for the kids. How cute!
After my morning run, I came into the kitchen to get some water and saw lots of red meat on the counter. The grandmother pointed at it and said, "Conejo!"
"Hube de sustituir el principio de necesidad por el principio de posibilidad." — Lorenzo Silva
I left Colorado for Spain three weeks ago, and have been letting it soak into my skin before squeezing out my reflections. I am constantly learning, exploring, discovering. I get lonely and frustrated, but I am determined, caffeinated, invigorated — and mostly, happy. Happy I chose this path for myself, for the time being.
I live with a Spanish family of four — a mother, a father, and two children — in Madrid. I teach English to the children, Ana (6) and Jaime (7), for three hours every weekday in the evenings, and I have the rest of the time to explore the city, the country, myself. I can eat whatever I want of their food and I stay here for free, but I am not paid. I am living purely off the money I saved in Boulder.
I feel somewhere in between a visitor and a resident. I am living here, I am working here, but only for a short time. I don't visit tourist sites, and when people ask me where things are, I can direct them. But while already there are bars I have been to several times, where people know my name and graciously offer me wine and tapas on the house — everything is still new to me. And I'm finding that it's the smallest things that make my days amazing.
Like, when I understand a Spanish phrase or two more than I did the day before. When I go to the Retiro Park for a run and take photos, turning inward to a focused and calm inner space, marveling at nature — an appreciation that Colorado gave me. When new English-speaking girl friends and I are between bars, and I ask them, out of nowhere, what the imperfect tense of tener is — and they answer without thinking me odd, because they are constantly wondering the same things.
I love the history in Madrid. I love the taverns that have been around for 80 years, their ceilings stained with cigarette smoke. I love looking at the dust on bottles of sherry at one of my favorite bars, La Venencia, taken straight from their casks long ago. I had a night out with a worldly woman who told me they haven't dusted those bottles in 14 years. She knew the owners when they had hair on their heads. This is beautiful to me. Last week, in a Madrilenian tavern from the 19th century, I had croquetas, café cortados and conversation with Andrés Ruiz Tarazona, a writer and art critic for El País and other Spanish newspapers. When I went up to pay, the camarero told me that Andrés had already paid for me — the bartender knew him by name, because he's been coming there for years.
I have a favorite cafe, Pepe Botella, where I like reading El País and its Sunday magazine amidst espresso and the incense of cigarette smoke, hearing Russian and French and English and German, and Spanish — God, Spanish. I know I have spoken this in another lifetime.
I am trying to be light, because heavy things don't fly.