Monday, January 10, 2011

Madrid: Un Giorno di Merda, Salsa Queen, and the End of Something Beautiful

November 28, 2010, two days before I headed back to the US of A, was a “Day of Shit,” to quote my Italian friends (well technically they would say “Un giorno di merda.”). The day started out fine, I woke up on time, got ready on time, I didn’t have any problems checking out…it’s when the public transportation got involved that everything went horribly wrong. I mentioned before that to get to my hostel I had to take a shuttle from Terminal A to Terminal B, then a special train to the metro, then the metro to my hostel. So obviously, I had to do all this backwards to get back to the airport. And I knew that, but I was mistaken on how frequent the trains and shuttles come around. I thought that the train to the shuttle left every 10 minutes, nope, sure doesn’t. It leaves every 20 minutes. And I happened to arrive at the train right as it was pulling out of the stall. So I had to sit and wait for 20 minutes to catch the next train. I also thought the shuttle ride from Terminal B to Terminal A was only a 10 minute ride…wrong again. It was a 25 minute ride. All of these underestimates combined landed me in the airport about 30 minutes before my plane was supposed to leave. I ran to the lady in the check-in line and asked her if I could still check in. She told me No with a “you’re an idiot” undertone and I immediately began to tear up. I had never missed a plane before. What was I supposed to do now? Luckily the lady at the help desk for my airline was actually nice and helpful. She said she would allow me to change the ticket if I paid the 90euro penalty fee, which was more than the original ticket and the reason I was flying instead of taking a train in the first place. Her earliest flight didn’t leave until 4 but she also said I could try with other airlines to see if there was a sooner flight for less money. No such luck. After checking with every airline flying to Madrid, I ended up back at her counter paying a penalty and realizing I’d just bought 4 hours in the Barcelona airport. I was able to go on through security, so I took my bag over to the check in counter still on the verge of tears because I felt like such an idiot. The check in guy was the one to cheer me up when he said, “Don’t cry. I don’t feel sorry for you. This happens to people a million times a day. You’ll be fine. But if you cry I’ll go crazy.” In his odd @$$hole way he made me feel better. Luckily, the Barcelona airport had a mall-type set-up so I had plenty to keep me busy for a while. I even found a wine and tapa bar tucked away in one non-busy corner where I was able to get a glass of Spanish white wine for only 1.50euro. I spent some time journaling then found a quiet gate and took a nap, making sure to set a very very loud alarm for my boarding time. There was no way I was going to make that mistake again, although my friend Vickie from Switzerland says it’s only a mistake if you didn’t learn anything from it, and well, I definitely learned something from this! Next time I will be at the airport 3 hours before my flight leaves.
When I landed in Madrid it was night time. All I knew is that I was staying in the apartment of a friend of my former coworker’s mom, and that someone named Nidia was going to pick me up because the owner of the apartment was out of town. Nidia had said that she would be wearing a purple sweater, and I said that I would be the one in grey pants with a big back pack, no chance of missing me. However, when I exited metro station I saw no one with a purple sweater. I started to ask anyone with any sort of purple if they were Nidia, and got some pretty funny looks. I wondered around the large metro station, inside and out, for about 45 minutes before I finally found her. They had just been running late, but I was so happy to see her I didn’t care! Nidia brought with her Rebecca who lived in the apartment I was going to be staying in. This was some of the best news I had heard all day. I would have roommates! People to hang out with, someone to tell me where to go and what to see! I quickly and easily convinced Rebecca to go salsa dancing with me that night. No time to lose since I only had two nights in Madrid, and I was going out late the night before my flight, just in case. We went to the apartment and they made me feel right at home. They were all so sweet and kind, and let me have anything I wanted. They even offered Thanksgiving leftovers! I showered and laid down for a quick nap, then got back up and got ready to go to El Son for some serious Salsa. We went pretty early, well early for Spain 11pm, so the club was dead upon arrival, but that didn’t stop Rebecca and me. Rebecca studied dance in school, and she reminded me of my friend Ana from Mexico when she danced. At first we had to coax boys to come to the empty dance floor, but eventually the place was so packed we couldn’t have one song of rest. I LOVED every minute of it. I was able to dance with someone who dipped, twirled, and lifted me to no end, it was so Dirty Dancing Havanna Nights! I also danced with some creepers (one of which offered to pay everything for me to be able to stay in Spain), ran away from creepers, danced with not so good dancers, and actually lead one guy! It was a blast and I seriously couldn’t have dreamed it to be any better of a night than it was. We headed home and discussed the fact that some boys just don’t understand that we’re only in it for the dance.

The next morning I woke up and set out for a run in the big park close the apartment. It was chilly, so chilly in fact that it was starting to snow. But I was still living by the, “better go now because tomorrow you’ll be back in the states,” philosophy, so I went right on trucking. I’m glad I did. I found some of the most beautiful statues and plazas, and I even found some giant lions to take pictures of for my dad! I’m sure the parks would’ve been more beautiful in the spring, but the statues alone were worth the cold run. I got lost (go figure) and had to find my way back through the gigantic park to the apartment. I showered and got ready to go back out to snap pictures of the things I had seen in the park and take a quick tour of the city since I needed to be back to watch the big soccer game between Barcelona and Madrid. While wondering the city I ran upon a market place close to El Sol which was full of places serving up tiny tapas, sweet treats, and glasses of wine. I opted for the booth that was all fish tapas, selecting one that was covered in squid, and some typical Spanish desserts that weren’t very tasty at all. Apparently, I’m not a fan of marzipan. I was having trouble finding a ring shop that was open. Rebecca had warned me that the entire city closes down from noon to 3 or 4pm. I was starting to worry because I had waited until Madrid to buy my ring, hoping to find a Majorca Pearl that Sharon had told me about. I kept seeing beautiful ones in windows, but the places weren’t open. When I did find stores that were open the pearls were too big, the wrong color, or just ugly. I can’t understand why it was so hard to find just a simple small pearl! I finally stumbled upon a small jewelry store that I had to buzz the ringer to get in. Usually this is a sign that everything in the store will cost my entire trip budget, but I was lucky enough to find the perfect pearl, and it fit! Happy with my findings, I took my frozen self back to the apartment to warm up, switch laundry, and leave again to meet Rebecca at El Sol so we could go to watch the soccer game. We weren’t just going to watch the game on any old TV. We went to watch it in a movie theater! It was a great atmosphere, however, Madrid lost…big time. It was like they weren’t even out there. This made most of the crowd in the theater rather quiet and solemn, except for the boy sitting right next to me who was cheering his heart out for Barcelona. I’m happy his team did well. After the game Rebecca and I tried to find a fun place to have my last drink from Europe. We choose badly the first time, but made up for it by going to one of the oldest salsa bars in Madrid. The music was a live Latin band, and it was a great time. My last tastes of cheap, delicious, European wine. All I could think of was how much I was going to have to pay for it once I got home. Rebecca danced a couple of times, but I was exhausted and ready to get back so I could be ready for my plane in the morning.

I woke up early my last day in Spain. There was no way I was going to miss this flight. I can’t imagine what the penalty for changing a $1300 ticket would be. I, once again, rolled up my clothes, put them in their zip-lock baggies that were starting to break, and put everything in my pack just exactly how I knew it would fit. I had it down to a science now. Rebecca escorted me to the metro, showing me exactly which train to take, assuring me that it would get me there in more than enough time. She was right, I made it to my airport filled with so many emotions, not knowing what to expect when I got home, not wanting to leave but wanting to see my family and unpack my bag. I couldn’t believe that 3 ½ months went so fast…didn’t I just get here yesterday? The Madrid airport seems like a blur to me. I feel like I spent time trying to spend my euros…I don’t really remember getting on the plane. No, I wasn’t intoxicated. I was sad, confused, anxious, worried… A chapter, a trip, a journey almost finished. E adesso…y ahora… and now?

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