Do you know what is really hard?
Trying to find adequate words to describe how much my time living in Madrid has meant, and will continue to mean to me. I spent my entire last day wandering around my old barrio, Malasana, smiling one moment, and tearing up the next.
Smiling at the memories those streets hold.
The afternoons spent drinking tinto de veranos and the late nights that followed, always with a slice of pizza and liter and a half of water in hand. The days spent window shopping; not for clothes, but for the next restaurant or bar to add to our list of places to try. The quiet, peaceful mornings and the loud, chaotic nights. The summer afternoons spent meeting for ice cream and iced coffee. The winter nights spent dodging into the first warm place we came across for a plate of queso and a glass of red wine. I must have walked these streets a thousand times over the last year and half, but there was always something new to see; something to marvel at or write down to check out later.
Tearing up over the thought of separation from my Spain family.
As I passed my favorite coffee shop, a ton of memories started flying through my head. The first time Breanne and I walked through the doors we were immediately in love. We set out to make it "our place" in the huge foreign city we now called home. Little did I know at the time what that little cafe was going to end up meaning to me. It was where a coworker turned into a friend. Where goodbye parties were held and new friends were made. Where hangovers were created, and then cured. Where trips were planned and politics were discussed. Where we talked about overcoming homesickness and our falling in love with our new home away from home. When I sat down later to really think about all of these memories, one thing kept coming back to me. It wasn't that this little coffee shop was any better than others in my neighborhood. It was the people I experienced the coffee shop with that made it what it is to me. Beautiful, wonderful people who made my life in Madrid more than just an empty shell of my life at home. Friends who filled my heart and brought me joy. Friends who turned into family.
It's a realization that Spain is so much more than we could ever imagine it to be in the USA. It isn't just sunshine, siestas, bullfighting, flamenco, and sangria. It's the old man bars and napkins on the floor. It's begrudgingly adjusting your schedule to match the siesta schedule, but secretly loving the lull in the middle of the day. It's becoming a jamon, croquetta, tortilla de patatas, and huevos rotos nut job. It's secretly pretending to love Real Madrid soccer. It's the maddening yet comforting sound of the trashmen banging down your street at three in the morning. It's the four floor walkups never getting easier - but hey, at least no gym membership was necessary this year! It's struggling with Spanish, but missing it fiercely the second it is gone. It's coming to Spain with no language ability to go to a bank, fruit shop, or restaurant without freaking out, and leaving with those topics mastered. It's referring to American currency as euros, and realizing how awesome one euro coins are. It's days spent picnicking in the park and drinking on the streets. It's visiting the same museums over and over again, just to see your favorite paintings in person again. It's getting out of the city and hiking on Saturdays, and then going for tapas all day on Sundays. It's a deep love for the Spanish people, but a disdain for the Spanish government. It's getting to know the people at the stalls at your favorite market. It's terrazas and plazas. It's exchanging Swedish, Spanish, and American recipes with the cutest roommates on earth. It's olives and Manchego, churros and chocolate, and toast and tomato. It's mojitos and gin and tonics, Rioja o Ribera, and cana o doble. It's cafe con leches, cortados, and espressos. It's a late breakfast and a slow lunch. It's socializing over a tiny beer with no time limit in sight. It's meeting people from all over the world and learning about their cultures through food, debates, and more. It's taking enough pictures a year and a half after moving here that could convince anyone around you that you are a complete tourist. It's finding your passion for your future career. It's the people you meet and the memories you share. It's going as far out of your comfort zone as you could ever imagine, and coming back home a more complete and mature person. It's falling head over heels in love with a city like you could never imagine possible.
It's knowing that Madrid will always occupy a huge place in my heart; no matter the distance, no matter the time.
Because Madrid in reality is nothing special. It doesn't have a great river. Nor does it have many skyscrapers. Nor canals or lakes. Nor glorious ruins. Nor the sea. Madrid lacks lots of things. But it has people in the streets. The unexpected street corners. The variety. The contrast. Constant busyness. And it has customs. It is worth getting up early, just once, to live the Madrid life.
Hasta pronto, Madrid. Te amo.