After over 10 hours of flying and countless hours of waiting, I finally made it to Madrid! I walked out of the gate to find my host family — the mom, dad and little boy — excitedly waiting for me. I was so tired that I could barely think (never pack the night before you leave for a four-month trip). My Spanish was probably incoherent, but they smiled, kissed me on both cheeks and excitedly asked me questions. The dad videotaped me and the two-year-old boy as he excitedly pulled my hand and tried to run in front of me to the car.
When we got to the apartment of my host family, which will be my home for the next four months, I started to worry — the moment of truth had arrived. From their descriptions, I thought my room would be the size of a walk-in closet with no room to turn around in. It is quite the opposite and is larger than my room at school.
After I had unpacked my bags, my host mom served a delicious breakfast — strawberry yogurt, toast with blueberry jelly and fresh cheese. I was starting to wake up. She told me how much she enjoys cooking and said we could exchange recipes if I had any favorites from the U.S.
The little boy, Isaiah, loves to sing and sang many different songs during breakfast. My host mom, Maria, wanted me to stay awake so I would get adjusted to Spain time. I tried; I really did. At about 3 p.m. Spain time (9 a.m. South Carolina time), I realized there was no way I could stay awake any longer. I meant to sit down on the bed, but an hour later, Maria was waking me up to eat lunch. Meal times in Spain are very different from the U.S. For my host family, breakfast is between 8 and 9 a.m., lunch is around 2 p.m. and dinner is around 9 p.m. The sun rises and sets much later, so meals are all pushed back. There is no activity before 9 or 10 a.m.
When we had finished lunch, Francisco, Maria, Isaiah and I all piled into their typical, somewhat compact European car and drove to the transportation office in an attempt to get my metro card. After no sleep in several days, I thought the transportation worker might as well have been speaking Mandarin. I was glad Francisco was there to translate.
After a quick stop at the mall, we headed to church. The church, Immanuel Baptist Church, is an international church and home to members from more than 50 different countries. I really enjoyed the Bible study and met a man from Africa who works for the U.N., a native Spaniard and pastors who are from the U.S. That one-hour nap was the only thing keeping me going at 8 p.m.
I collapsed into bed when we got back around 10 p.m. and had a solid eight hours of sleep before getting up the next morning to start the real adventure — navigating two metro lines and then walking a mile to CUNEF, the university I am attending in Spain.
My first day in Spain has gone extremely well. Thank goodness I have four months to visit every nook and cranny of this wonderful city!