I took an overnight flight and spent the seven hours in silence over the Atlantic. When breakfast was wheeled in, I took a glimpse out my window. Through the clouds, there was Portugal. Soon the distinctive Spanish mountains appeared and in no time, we were descending toward Madrid.
Unfortunately, I did not sleep on the plane as I had intended. Even so, I made it through customs and found my bags very easily. When I tried to buy a bottle of water from a Spanish vending machine however, I got a little confused. I reminded myself that they have water where I'm going, and continued. Outside baggage claim, I spotted two members of my host family, Pati and her oldest son. They greeted me with open arms and a kiss on each cheek. I felt comfortable right away.
We drove to their home and Pati gave me a quick tour. Their home is a condominium-style flat with a shared pool! There are paintings in every room. It is beautiful. My bedroom is in the cellar. It's very cozy and I have my own bathroom. I unpacked my things quickly as I could not wait to move in. Pati speaks very little English, so I did my best to communicate. Six months before I left for Spain, I practiced my Spanish every night. Upon my arrival, I knew enough Spanish to have simple conversations but the more complex concepts eluded my ability to convey. It was really cool to finally use the Spanish I had been practicing on my own!
Soon the rest of Pati's sons came home from school. She has five sons between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two. They are all at different comfort levels when it comes to speaking English. It was sometimes hard for me to gauge how much of what I said they understood. I tried to talk to the boys both in English and Spanish. I learned that they root for the fútbol team Real Madrid and they love to watch "The Simpsons." Here it is dubbed in Spanish like many other popular American television shows.
I have been a vegetarian since I was twelve. For my first lunch in Spain I ate fried veal cutlets and potatoes! I want to truly embrace Spanish culture while I am here and that means putting my dietary preferences aside. They eat a lot of veal and pork in this family so it looks like I will be as well.
After lunch I had just enough energy to go for a quick walk. My host family lives in Madrid, about five miles away from the city center. To get to the nearest metro station, I take a ten-minute walk through the beautiful park "Quinta de los Molinos."
Soon the trees will be in full bloom! There are fat pigeon-like birds with bright blue tails picking at the earth, short bushy trees and long thin grey trees that grow on a slant. I can't wait to explore more!