To Madrid with Love,

This blog entry was submitted by Crystal Rivera, who studied abroad in Madrid, Spain.

“To Madrid with love,

Thank you for being my home for such a nice pocket of time. Except during the summer, that was awful. Remember when I moved into my long-term apartment and realized there was no central air and I cried for at least an hour in the apartment of someone I’d just met but who I would be living with until 2017 became 2018? Couldn’t beat the view though. Mostly because I was almost always hanging out of the window, desperate for wind.

crystal

Plenty of people thought it was weird to move in with a 58-year-old man I’d never met. They weren’t wrong but I learned an important lesson: if you buy HBO Now Espana and convince your vegan, yogi, meditates every morning at 8:00 am, caffeine-free, alcohol-free roommate/landlord to watch Game of Thrones, he will finish the entire series in a month and a half and try to get you to spoil things for him because “who killed Joffrey?!” We united in our admiration of the Queen of Thorns and hatred of Cersei. We collectively gasped when that huge plot point was revealed. Like, the really big one. Which I won’t say here but rhymes with Ron Slow.

I watched while your country experienced the political and social upheaval of an attempted secession and saw the display of Spanish flags over balconies triple over the past few months along with demonstrations, rallies, and outrage.

This born and bred Texas girl loved not having a car, or sitting in traffic and much prefers reading on the Metro even if I usually have to run to make it before the doors close and linea 1 always smells like someone pooped in one of the cars.

I got my biannual Bronchitis while living here and managed to schedule a doctor’s appointment and use public transportation to get to the hospital through a fever, in pajamas and then splurged on a cab back to the farmacia where I’d told the pharmacist in broken Spanish that I felt like I was dying. Then I paid 7 euros for antibiotics that weren’t even covered by my international health insurance. SEVEN EUROS.

Tapas bar crawls are one of the gifts Spain has bestowed on the world and I’m fully aware that means I ignore countless contributions of higher value. I’ll miss the Menu del dia of any restaurant that was open for lunch and served an appetizer, main course, dessert and drink for 11 euros. Also look, Spanish tortillas aren’t tortillas and I hate that you call them that. Iberian Ham, I never got into it but it’s on everything and everyone that visited me wanted to eat it. Where’s the love for Patatas Mixtas?

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I’ll miss you as a hub for cheap international flights. Forty dollars for a roundtrip flight to London?! It was into London Stansted but still… Don’t think I didn’t notice that the budget airlines flew out of terminal 1 and the only food there was that awful Burger King. I learned so much from you, Madrid. Like how good Sangria doesn’t contain added sugar that collects at the bottom of the glass, and that Olives are not swamp-green, wrinkled salt bombs.

I learned that ‘lo siento…estoy aprendiendo español, ¿puedes hablar más lento?’ is often met with nothing but kindness, and a slower conversation, and pronunciation corrections. Dinner doesn’t start until 8 pm and even that is too early. Thank you for teaching me that rushing through a meal is waste of the experience. Thank you for being somewhere I could safely and confidently walk around alone at at night. Also, all of the selfie opportunities because you’re gorgeous.

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Ultimately, you showed me how to be comfortable on my own and how to trust my own ability to navigate situations that tested my resilience and my bravery and my cardiovascular system because there’s hills everywhere and plenty of buildings don’t have elevators.

All my best,
Crystal “

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