I've been in Spain for three days now and even though I've mostly slept, I think it's safe to say I love it! The travel was tough. Despite all the planning, weeks of packing, farewell parties and goodbye outings, it wasn't until I walked into the airport that it really settled in that I was really moving out of the country on my own! "Who does this?" I thought. But with little time to get lost in logic or consumed by fear I hurried to the check-in counter. Despite the last minute purge I did just before leaving the house, every piece of luggage I packed was over weight, as anticipated. I stepped out of line, rearranged once more, paid my fees and went on my way.
Before arriving to my gate I stopped at Pinkberry to indulge one final time before also bidding my favorite frozen treat adieu for a while. I arrived to my gate with just enough time to call Sprint and disconnect my phone service prior to boarding.
Finally on the plane, I was served two hot meals, a couple of cups of tea and a glass of wine. I spent the next 14 hours journaling, napping, listening to music, watching a plethora movies and TV series and tracking our travel progress with a GPS system that showed live footage of the area outside.
After what felt like a lifetime of flying we landed in Moscow, welcomed by about 10 or so inches of snow (give or take a few inches as I'm from L.A. and am not used to eye-measuring snow, lol) covering parts of the runway, but thankfully it did not impact our landing. The homes adjacent to the airport were the cutest, as they were painted an assortment of bright colors adorned with alternating colored rooftops.
I stayed in the airport for my two-hour layover while I people watched and compared cultures. When it was time to depart for our final destination, we walked out onto the runway and boarded a charter bus that drove us to our appointed aircraft, where we then emplaned and got ready for another 5 1/2-hour flight.
Once in Madrid, after passing through customs, I made my way to baggage claim and retrieved all of my items. I attempted to purchase a luggage cart but did not have exact change in euros nor did either of my bank cards work (which now I'm assuming was the machine error). In that moment I found the saying to ring true that "you never realize how strong you are until being strong is [literarily] your only option." I stacked all of my oversized and overweight luggage on top of one another and hauled them out of the airport to meet my host family, whom I've only seen once via Skype previously, for the very first time. After a 30-minute commute I arrived at the four-bedroom flat I now call home.
I spent the next day in hibernation trying to reclaim the hours of sleep that I lost. While still struggling with the time change, I've been forcing myself to stay awake during the day by overdosing on coffee in the morning and using sleeping aids at night to help regulate my sleep/wake rhythm.
I started work Thursday evening. I sat with the daughter, Gabriella (12), and assisted her with her English homework. I helped clarify the difference between past continuous and past simple verb tenses, the proper use of the word "ideally" and further helped her understand common English idioms such as something costing "an arm and a leg."
The kids are really fascinated with my hair. After discovering that my twists are extensions, Sergio (10) now often sneaks up behind me and holds a strand in his hand. After several seconds, he'll jump from behind me, hair still in hand and ask "Can you feel that?!? Did you know I was holding your hair?"
Gabriella and I share many of the same interests; she likes to swim, shop, eat frozen yogurt and also loves high heels. Friday she and I walked to the mall, which is about 10 minutes by foot. While many things are the same here, there are a lot of dissimilarities.
In my adventures of getting out and seeing the town, I have noticed Majadahonda (the city where I reside) does not use traffic lights, rather every intersection is a traffic circle and people simply merge accordingly.
Beer is an acceptable beverage sold at many fast food restaurants such as McDonald's and Burger King and costs no more than one euro. Manis and pedis are not a popular part of the culture, so much so that a six-chair cart in the mall (like where we would buy cell phone cases) is enough to meet the demand here. I guess it is safe to say that my biweekly gel mani/pedi upkeep will soon fall by the wayside.
Most things in Europe are smaller; cars, food portion sizes, the popcorn served at movies, storage space and even the chairs at restaurants are less than what I am accustomed to.
I will have to get used to the European double cheek kiss as a form of greetings, partings and gratitude. I will also have to remember to use the word "trousers" instead of "pants," as the word "pants" references underwear and is taboo to discuss publicly.