Hope everyone is doing well back in the states. I’m settled into my new room with my host family in Córdoba, Spain. I’m in good hands.
Before my big leap overseas, I took a short trip to New York City with my boyfriend Chris. It had been nine years since my last visit and I wanted to spend a few days getting reacquainted with the city. We strolled through Canal St. in search of a bargain on a fake designer bag and ate our way through Chinatown and the rest of the Lower East Side.
This trip solidified the fact that I have a slight distaste for the city and a fascination with it at the same time. Just like Comedy Cellar comedian Lynne Koplitz said, NYC is like the fun chick that you’re cooler for knowing, but she’s also a filthy whore that you can’t stand to be around sometimes.
Approximately 48 hours later, I gave Chris a tearful smooch and boarded my plane at JFK Airport on September 7, 2012 at 11 p.m. When the plane descended into Barajas Airport in Madrid the next day, my heart rate elevated like a person who is strapped in a seat of a roller coaster that’s about to plummet 250 ft. into a dark tunnel.
As soon as I left the terminal, I held my purse against my waist and avoided eye contact with every stranger who walked passed me. I paced back and forth in the airport, hoping I would pick a taxicab driver who wouldn’t rip me off or try to hit on me. Come on Jen. Stop being a wimp and make it happen!
Finally, I dragged my heavy silver suitcase (which I’m convinced is the long-lost cousin of Optimus Prime) and chose a cab. I didn’t fly all the way out here to scare myself into buying a plane ticket back home: it was time to go.
After a smooth cab ride into the city, I made it to my hostel on Calle de los Cañizares; a charming narrow promenade by day, a dimly lit labyrinth by night.
I stayed up late with my hostel mates, who were students and backpackers from Australia, Milan, and Brazil, and realized no matter where we came from, we all shared the same vivacious attitude that all young wanderers possess: we wanted to get lost in the city and bask in the glory of our independence.
Madrid is a fast-paced city. It’s beautiful, especially El Parque de Buen Retiro. This 350-acre park boasts a crystal palace, elegant fountains, and a large man-made lake. It also has the only statue in the world that’s dedicated to El Ángel Caído, or the devil, sculpted by Ricardo Bellver, who was inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
This park originally served as a retreat for royalty until it opened to the public in the late 1800s. Nowadays, Madrid’s active residents roller blade, jog, bike, and practice martial arts throughout this park in the center of town. In Spain, I noticed how common it is for the Spanish to stroll with their well-behaved toy pooches off the leash. How can I get my dog to do that?
Paseo del Prado, Madrid’s main road, was gated up for their annual Vuelta a España before I left. Large video cameras stood tall on elevated platforms and hovered over the street and waited for the first cyclist to speed through the course. Unfortunately for me, I never got the chance to watch it happen.
Although this trip was a pleasant start to my European journey, my verdict on Madrid’s scale of awesomeness is inconclusive. I didn’t spend enough time there, but one thing I can say is that it’s the city where I liberated myself from the tension I had about coming here. I no longer let fear of the unknown rip its claws into my stomach like a hungry vulture. You’d be surprised on how much stronger you become when you only have yourself to rely on.
I am now ready to take advantage of what lies ahead.