16:50 Tuesday, June 25, 2013
So there I was in Madrid's Puerta de Atocha Estación de Tren. With the aid of a kind stranger, I had just stepped off the train with three, overstuffed pieces of luggage, two carry on bags, AND Kona in his travel carrier (which he loathes traveling in). Ignoring the puzzled look on people's faces as they watched me on the platform, I put forth my best "I can do this shit" attitude, confidently assembled my bags for exit, and 5 minutes later was smoothly walking backwards towards the escalator. And then I got to the escalator and realized I was majorly f*cked. 'Cuz ya know, escalators are moving stairs, which created the very real danger of me falling face forward as I tried to haul my crap while walking backwards. I tried not to panic, but I was at a loss of how I was going to make it work AND I was blocking the escalator. Another kind gentleman witnessed my dilemma and helped me get on the escalator without face planting. We got to the top of, he helped me get my bags off and just barely out of the way of the travelers who had been trapped behind my little sideshow, and disappeared. Considering that when I got on the train in Murcia, and was fighting the good fight to lift my suitcases into the hold and NOBODY helped me, I was grateful. But then I looked at the 1000+ feet journey just to get to the main vestibule of the train station and my heart sank a little. I made several attempts to walk facing traffic with my bags behind me, only to lose control of them and have them fall sideways nearly taking me down with them, so I surrendered my pride to what worked. I have to say that walking backwards with 200lbs of luggage and a dog through Spain's largest train station was probably the longest 20 minutes of my life. By the time I made it through the main terminal and outside to the taxi stand, I could barely stand upright or even speak. But I stammered out my destination address, collapsed into the taxi, and exhaled. I was I halfway to on my way home. In two days I would be in Madrid's airport and heading back to the U.S. for the first time in 10 months. I had made it! So let's go backwards a little more.
09:00 Tuesday, June 25, 2013
As with every trip that requires me to take public transportation to get somewhere extremely important, I was anxious. Even though I had 4 hours before my train departed from Murcia to Madrid, and was 98% packed, I nervously flitted around my apartment. The weight of my departure once again was fraying my nerves. Finally, the time came to hail a cab, and Olly, the only one of my roommates home at the time, helped me lug the previously aforementioned bags downstairs to the our front square. We said our misty eyed goodbyes, and then I stuffed myself into a cab, and promptly started to cry after telling the cabby my destination. I looked out the windows and soaked up the scenes of Murcia just one last time. The tree lined boulevard outside my door. The palm trees. La Catedral. My mountains. The memories I made running around this city welled up inside my head overflowed. I was happy and I was sad. I was excited and I was terrified. I was exhausted and I was energized. The cabby asked if I liked it here, I said yes through my tears. I told him I would miss this place. I missed it as soon as I got on the train.
12:00 Wednesday June 26, 2013 - 09:30 Thursday, June 27, 2013
I got Spained. This is not a typo. You see, having lived in Spain for 10 months, and thereby being required to submit to the will of several bureaucratic processes, I've discovered that Spain's method for doing paperwork is haphazard at best and an absolute clusterfuck at worst. This "process" of misinformation and disorganization will almost always find a way to screw you over, regardless of your efforts to avoid such mess. I refer to this unfortunate circumstance in verb form as being "Spained", because that's Spain, amigos!
As you might imagine, the day before my flight home, which was also the day of my appointment to receive my "Authorization to Return", the piece of paper enables me to return to Spain without having to renew my visa, was no exception. As I previously mentioned, I tried to avoid getting Spained. I had all the required documents and their copies, as listed in the damn guide on the facebook forum, ready to go. So when I finally got my turn with the man with the computer and the stamp, and eagerly gave him my papers and passport, only to have him frown and tell me that I should've done my paperwork in Murcia (which nobody in Murcia told me I should do when I asked about it) I about lost it. I threw a fit, I shook my head, I crossed my arms, and then I begged for mercy (I may be exaggerating). Essentially, what should've taken a few hours turned into an epic saga, which included me having to go across town to a separate government office to submit more forms, whose subsequent copies had to be submitted to the immigration office. And because government hours in Spain are 9-2, and the two offices were on opposite sides of the metro line, I was forced to return to the immigration office and stand in line (again) to submit ALL the forms to get the damn authorization to return on the morning of my flight! (departure of 16:00) Yes, my friends, this is what getting Spained looks, sounds, and feels like. It's kinda like locking yourself in a room full of crazy where you're not proficient enough in the language to give someone a neck rolling, tongue lashing. My experience in the airport was only marginally better. I was able to leave 2 of my 3 suitcases with a friend in Madrid, so I only had one overweight luggage, my carry on, and the poodle. But inevitably, I was given unclear direction as to which line to stand in order to check in with the dog and had to stand in three lines to get checked in before I even made it to the security gate. Getting Spained is an continuous process, which sometimes begs me to wonder why on earth am I going back. Which brings me to my final point of this blog post.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
I had just settled into my new digs, and ventured to the much talked about Murcian beaches on a group outing with several other English teachers. While walking around the deserted beach town, my new friend Michiel, couldn't contain his own personal awe of having moved to sunny Spain from his home of cold and wet Belgium. We both had previously worked full time in our respective countries, and had been woefully dissatisfied with our jobs. Michiel couldn't believe we had managed to escape what was making us unhappy in exchange for what seemed like paradise with pay (damned if it wasn't always late though) and almost felt like we had somehow cheated or ran away from real life.
I also struggled with this sentiment, but ultimately told him and reaffirmed with myself, that cheaters or runners we were not. What I, what all of us there, had managed to accomplish, is in fact the best thing we could have done for ourselves as adults, no apologies or explanations necessary. And in the months that followed, sometimes this affirmation was the only thing that kept me going when shit got real, paradise lost its sparkle, money got tight, and the little differences began to add up to a gaping cavern of culture shock that sometimes drove me to the edge of reason. That conversation with Michiel was the start of a beautiful friendship. That new found friendship begat more friendships, which begat new experiences, adventures, triumphs, and failures that collectively have taught me that the nature of growth is not necessarily linear, but that it is extremely powerful. So while at times I feel as though I've been walking backwards for 10 months, I know that the leap that will follow will carry me further than I can imagine.
But enough with this heavy stuff, next time I'll start off with with something FUN...