“Why ‘back’ to Spain?”
2007, America is on the brink of an economic crisis, a just-graduated Caitlin averts the job search crisis and applies for a fellowship to teach english in Spain. To become fluent in Spanish, to travel and to just float around for a while before becoming a grown-up.
September of 2007 I arrived in Madrid, as did many other recent grads. We worked four days per week and were given a stipend of around 700 euros per month. Life was simple. The biggest challenges were ordering cafe con leche like a local and securing a good corner table at Pepe Botella, the cafe where we spent hours drinking coffee and eating the Italian cookies that came gratis with each cup… And when it got dark we would start ordering claras (beer with lemony soda) or red wine, and pick at plates of salty mixed nuts and olives.
Naturally, we formed a group of expats, but we wanted Spaniards into our lives too – as friends, roommates and lovahhhs… We became accustomed to eating dinner after 10pm and staying out late enough to catch the morning metro home (6:30am). We learned to distinguish between decent and really good tortilla. We went to the food markets and overspent on blocks of manchego cheese (but justified it by buying 3 euro bottles of wine). We tried to learn how to cut thin slices of jamon from a pata negra (that big cured leg of ham) … some of us failed (sorry to my roommate Pablo for that pata negra I destroyed). We passed time wandering old streets with no particular destination and frequenting the Prado and Reina Sofia.
After a year, some of us (like me) decided to extend our stay another year, having just begun to feel like a madrileño, and still unsure of our next move. Eventually, we all drifted in our own direction, towards different careers, most of us returning to the states. But our time in Madrid is a shared experience that we take with us. We actually felt like we were a part of the culture, even if briefly, not just admiring and observing it.
Hemingway said that Paris is a moveable feast. Well Madrid too.
For this reason, the blog is called “back” to Spain. Because I went back to a country where I floated for a while, in that frightening and exciting space between being a student and adulthood, and where I discovered some of the great loves of my life.
This week, I’m back in Madrid with my friend Ava, who has never been here before and I love revisiting my old spots with her new eyes. Vamos!