As I try to figure out how to organize this next post, my mind is instead on five ingredients or less recipes. Such is life when you have a small kitchen and only so many arms to hold groceries. But that is for another post.
So I guess I’ll start with the flight. I faced an almost 18-hour flight (the longest I’ve ever been on) with two stops, one in Chicago from San Francisco and later again in London before finally getting to Madrid. That morning before my flight I almost had a ridiculous mental breakdown because I couldn’t fit all the shoes I wanted in my suitcase (thanks Mom for swooping in and basically being a pro at all things packing related – glad one of us had a sound mind that morning) and then was basically terrified the entire car ride to the airport and sure that something was going to get screwed up. But surprise! Besides a small hiccup in London where I thought I would miss my flight, everything went accordingly. Though I felt a small joke was being played on me as I had to basically go from one end of the airport to another in both Chicago and London… Oh, and shout out to the rents! Neither one of them cried while saying goodbye, and their smiles and hugs definitely made the flight easier.
On my first flight I sat next to a lovely British couple who I wanted to adopt me as their grandchild. I almost giggled when the husband told me they were “returning from holiday.” On the next leg of my journey, I sat next to another British fellow who was quite pleasant. We chatted for a bit, watched some “great” in-flight entertainment, contemplated what food I was being served since I had checked the vegetarian option (seriously had a terrible white, spongy, buttermilky type food that made me gag though the Kit Kat made up for it), and rolled our eyes at the person seated in front of him that kept leaning his chair back. Also, I had never been on a plane that huge (considering I had never been outside the U.S.) and grew increasingly depressed as I passed by the luxurious and spacious first class seats to my child-sized seat waaaay in the back. Could have been worse though. I stayed awake for the last flight from London to Madrid despite desperately needing sleep, and once I landed, the terminal I was in was eerily empty and I felt like I missed a step as I only had my passport stamped, then grabbed my luggage, and left the secured area. So much for a crazy customs experience (no complaints here). From there, I waited for a bus to the hotel I would be staying at for the next couple of days with other people in my program.
Strangely enough, the girl I would be rooming with for the next couple of days in the hotel had been on every single one of my flights, and I didn’t notice until we both landed in Madrid. The next five days were spent meeting a ton of people (felt like freshmen year all over again…), taking tours together as a giant and probably annoying mass of Americans, talking with past auxiliares, repeating five billion times where I’m from (which isn’t an easy question now… Kansas? Missouri? California?), enjoying an amazing hotel breakfast every day, meeting a girl who went to Mizzou at the exact same time I did who just graduated and had gotten a letter of recommendation for this program from the same professor I did and by chance (well really because of a hold-up with her visa) ended up in my program rather than the one she previously applied for (mind blown), and of course, discovering the painfully slow and arbitrary bureaucracy that Spain is through a convoluted presentation on how to establish temporary residency. If you have trouble falling asleep, feel free to call me and I’ll explain this process. You’ll be asleep in no time.
At the end of orientation, I was happy to have a support group of people who spoke English and were about to face the same obstacles I was. Considering I had never been to Spain, let alone Europe, I don’t know how I would have made it this far without all the guidance and information this orientation provided. Though I have to admit, I was ready for this honeymoon phase where everyone is “friends” to end. It’s inevitable with a group of people this large that cliques would start to form, and I was ready to get my life started.
Next post I’ll talk about my two-week homestay which followed my orientation. I’ve got a couple funny stories about my own and other auxiliares’ homestays to tell.