Saturday, May 17, 2008

Yesterday was a fantastic example of "life" in Madrid: we went running at a nearby track, shopped for contact lens solution, and had dinner with Clara, a friend with whom I worked at a summer camp in Maine. She was born and raised in Madrid.

Sharing tapas with Clara and her 16-year-old sister in their living room, hearing about their family, boyfriends and school, was a great insiders look at the culture and people of Spain. Kim and I voiced aloud observations we never knew we made:
  • there's no "food on the run" here, like a bagel-to-go during your morning commute or a street vendor cart serving a quick bite;
  • people stand close to you when they speak, to the point to which it infringes on your American sense of personal space;
  • stores don't issue gift certificates or take returns;
  • light switches are often outside the room;
  • waiters won't bring you a check unless specifically asked.
That night we went to a house party in Madrid's gay district, thrown by American ex-patriates who moved to Madrid and took jobs teaching English.

After a few hours there, Kim and I got bored and wandered the streets striking up conversations with passers-by until we found a discotech, followed by two drag queen shows.

We took a cab home at 5 a.m. and found that the roommates were still out partying; no one was home to let us in.

We tried to sleep in the hallway outside the apartment door, but the bare floor was frigid, so at 8:30 a.m. we retreated to a café for toast and lamented about the fact that this country doesn't serve bottomless mugs of coffee.

Matt let us into the apartment an hour later, and we snoozed until 3 p.m. In spite of not having jobs, Kim and I don't seem to get much sleep here.

Now its time for the next chapter in the journey: tomorrow I'm taking a bus to Lisbon, Portugal, while Kim travels to a farm in western Spain. (She really enjoys farm work; I want to explore a new country).

We'll meet in Madrid on May 29; the next morning, she, Matt and I will all take the same red-eye to Rome. Matt's making it a round-trip weekend excursion, while Kim and I will spend the next two weeks traversing from Italy to Germany. We fly out of Frankfurt, back to the U.S., in exactly a month.