Writings from El Retiro, 13th September 2014, Madrid

Here I am sitting in another beautiful park. Cars are droning past noisily in the background, a pigeon nibbles at the dust by my feet whilst the first autumn leaves skitter across the pavement in the warm breeze. Dappled sunlight hangs over the soft paving stones and a busker plays an accordion. Young and old shuffle past me on the Madrileño mid day stroll whilst two street sellers discuss the progress of their morning’s work on a bench. El Retiro is a wonder; lengths of fresh grass, lurid coloured flowers and gestulating Spanish people. The stillness of Lisbon contrasts sharply with the bright scene, but maybe its just because I’m not hungover this time.

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Lunchtime in El Retiro

It’s hard to believe that I’ve already been in Madrid a week. I’m waiting for the typical year abroad phrases like ‘It already feels like home’ and ‘this is the best year of my life’ to spring to mind, but they haven’t yet. It’s not to say that I’m not enjoying my work, my new home, and Madrid, it’s just that everything is so new. I no longer have a student daily routine on a campus with lectures, I no longer can talk to people around me fluently without forgetting words, and no one here has the least idea of how to make a bloody cup of earl grey tea.

However, I’m lucky enough to be renting an apartment from a Spanish family who seem to have absorbed me into their lives as if I’m just an extra daughter. They’re doing their job fantastically; keenly showing me everything from the palacio real and their favourite tapas bars to how to work the washing machine, and I would be utterly lost without them. In one week I’ve gone from brushing away tears of nerves and trying to appear jovial and British when appearing at the door of their appartment in the mornings, to over confidently kissing everyone I meet twice on the cheek (startling an English intern in the office) and trying to pronounce new Spanish swear words with a flourish. They chatter around me and tell me how ‘mono’ my Spanish accent is, and I in turn offer to cook them an English breakfast. It’s a brilliant arrangement.

As for the office…well it’s wonderfully elegant and I feel very out of place. The german intern I work with is thankfully my age and lovely. She is miles taller more efficient and than me, and dresses to perfection. I’m working hard on befriending her so we can go shopping and she can show me where she buys her clothes. The señoras in the office are distinctly condescending and don’t seem to understand when I try and crack a joke, but it’s probably better for the moment that they don’t pay too much attention to how shaky my voice is when I speak Spanish on phone to the clients, for it would probably make them throw me out. How was I meant to know that ‘Anjelez Biyathierro‘ is actually spelt ‘Angeles Villaciero‘, for example? And then there was the time that I hung up on two clients instead of passing them onto the right colleague because I pressed the wrong button and then sheepishly had to call them back to apologise. I can rest easy in the knowledge, however, that it’s not just me who has difficulty in understanding what is said on the phone, for the clients seem to be unable to understand me too. One señor wrote an email addressed to ‘Mary’ who he spoke to in the telephone phone earlier that morning about an antique watch. It must be down to the telephone that we are unable to fully understand each other at the moment, for there is no fault with my Spanish pronunciation. For now I have been taken off telephone duty, it seems that it works better for the other intern than for me.

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Morning Route to Work – Puerta de Alcala

Apart from a disastrous trip to shop for food (where I decided it was a good idea to write my shopping list in Spanish but then immediately forgot what every single word on the list meant when in the shop), I’ve had no other troubles apart from my Blackberry which finally gave up on life last Saturday. The combined efforts of a new Spanish sim, being illegally unblocked by a Spanish phone-hit-man called Juan, and the general change in climate sought to bring it’s life to a sad end when I dropped it on the floor.

And so finishes the first thrilling installment of my year abroad. If any of you think you may get bored enough to read more in the future then please follow my blog and you’ll get updates every time I post. Miss you all, keep in touch.

P.S. To give you a flavour of Spanish chart music have a listen to my new favourite song. It’s a killer, a fantastic mix of Eurovision, lots of flames, shiny silver body suits and hunky Spanish men. Who could want more from a track? http://youtu.be/Tgt6iaSYMEM

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