As the tardiness of this first blog post may imply, learning to manage time wisely when first being thrust into a completely foreign (pardon the pun) situation can be difficult. I’ve been here for just under two weeks, and in some ways it feels like two months, while in other ways it feels like a long weekend.
The first hurdle to cross for me when I came over here was the jet lag. Upon telling people that I had never before traveled across this many time zones (Madrid lies 7 hours ahead of Dallas), I received plenty of free, though often unrequested, horror stories of jet lag and its ability to completely ruin the beginning of an adventure. I brushed most of them off as being the exaggerated tales of people with a weaker will than my own.
Those thoughts ended suddenly when it was 11 in the morning and I was walking off of my plane in the Madrid airport having acquired a grand total of 30 minutes of sleep (the free movies and television shows on the plane being my downfall) and unsure if I was quite ready to tackle the Spanish world.
The cab ride to my Senora’s apartment re-energized me, though, as I was practically a dog sticking its tongue out the window oohing and aahing at the most mundane of sights along the way. I even felt strong-willed enough to start conversing with my cabdriver in Spanish, telling him that it was my first time in the country and expecting an excited response in return. Right as I was about to speak up, however, I choked on a giant puff of his wafting cigarette smoke and got a good look at his facial expression in the rearview mirror, which pretty much told me to go ahead and be quiet.
The adrenaline rush of the new experience quickly wore off as I arrived in the apartment, quickly unpacked my suitcases and ingloriously flopped on my bed for the next five hours until our early dinner.
After a few days hanging around and touring Madrid as well as Toledo (left) and Segovia (right), two incredibly historical cities an hour outside of town, I got myself into full tourist mode and was very much enjoying opportunities that Spain offered, opportunities that often didn’t allow me to go to bed before 2 or 3 in the morning.
In Dallas I’m quite happy to enjoy a full dinner at 6 or 6:30 and then get whatever nighttime activities done with plenty of time to hit the hay by midnight. Here, however, when dinner ends at 10:30, it’s much easier to rationalize experiences that carry on further into the night, especially when it seems like all of the locals are participating also.
One fact about Spain is that there is absolutely no time of day on any day of the week when you feel alone on the streets or when there isn’t somebody or some vehicle making massive amounts of noise outside of your window.
Back to school
Of course, as most end-of-summer stories go, all of a sudden school hits, and for the first time in my life I get to experience the full effects of relying on public transportation to get me where I need to be, and on time. I live about 45 minutes from the school we are attending by either walking or taking the subway.
One morning during the first week of class I decided to try the bus near our apartment, which is supposed to only take about 25 minutes, and thanks to rush hour traffic I arrived at school an hour and five minutes later, 30 minutes late to my first class.
This was the moment when I realized that I wasn’t on campus anymore, waking up at 9:15 for my 9:30 class. Now I’m having to wake up at 7:45 for that 9:30 appointment and hope and pray that my trip isn’t somehow delayed by a subway car needing maintenance or two particularly grumpy people blocking the escalator as I try to run down and catch the connection that I can hear pulling into the station.
Needless to say, those nights of not being able to fall asleep until 3 in the morning start to add up and the prospect of school nights spent lazing around the casa don’t seem quite so unbecoming.
As the second week of class begins, and I grow more and more accustomed to the lengthy burden that is walking or bussing from one part of the city to another, I am starting to learn how important it is to try to do more in a smaller section of the city, instead of making plans in multiple places in the same day.
By overplanning a day, I find myself all of a sudden looking at a sunset and realizing that I’m an hour away from my apartment and dying of thirst. That might work for a person who only has a week to spend in a place as massive as Madrid, but for me, planning and time management become very important. December is a long ways off, and I know I’ll have time to do everything that I want as long as I plan wisely.
Two things to take away from this post if you are currently planning your Madrid vacation: Never plan to meet someone within the half-hour (or even hour) if you have to take the subway; it’ll make you seem incredibly flaky and could overload a punctual person, like myself, with frustration.
Also, never EVER be scared to take a cab at night because of the price! This is a huge city, and unless you can see the glint of your window from wherever you are standing once the subway closes, splitting a relatively cheap cab ride (about 5-10 euro from pretty much any two points within the main part of the city) is definitely the right way to go.
Hasta luego de Madrid,