My Own Place: Challenges and All

23 Feb

I finally have my own place!  I moved into my very own apartment with my three Spanish roommates one week ago.  It is so fulfilling to feel like in some small way I own a piece of Madrid.  It may only be a small room for a short amount of time, but for right now it’s all mine!  Don’t get me wrong, it was nearly a tear-jerker when I had to say goodbye to my Señora.  We both loved each other so much and enjoyed each other’s company.   As I said goodbye she gave me a big hug and wished me good luck, promising me a dinner of paella and other goodies whenever I desired! 

 My new place is a much classier part of town only a 25 minute walk from the university.   And my roommates are just sweethearts.  My first night, they cooked me a traditional Spanish dinner and we all shared our first meal together, at 10 pm I might add.   This was quite the experience, I was able to converse with not too many problems, but I made use of the “smile and pretend I know what’s going on” technique more than once.   They are so patient with me and really want to help me.  Another night, their boyfriends were over and we all watched reality TV and ate pizza and drank pop…sounds so American until I mention the fact that there was tuna on the pizza!

Despite my roommates being so patient with me and wanting to help out, making the move has presented itself with a few problems.  The hardest part for me is struggling to complete tasks that would be a piece of cake back home.  For example, doing my laundry.   First lesson learned is that you don’t wait until you are out of clothes because the washer can only hold about 10 items at a time and they don’t use driers here, so your clothes really are not dry for about 2 days after you wash them and then they are wrinkly and need to be ironed.  What a process!!!  Another thing that is frustratingly difficult is learning what is and is not socially acceptable with my roommates.  Is it ok for me to walk barefoot?  Can I drink coffee in my room?  Should I change in the bathroom?   All of these social norms that I am not aware of make me seem even more different.  

Perhaps the hardest part of all is making my own food.  At home, one of my favorite things to do is grocery shop and cook.  I thought that cooking for myself would be easy, especially after shopping and planning meals for 38 other girls in my cooperative house at Purdue.  I thought if I could feed 38, I could feed one easily. Well, I’m surviving, but all I’ve made thus far is sandwiches and salads…not exactly culinary masterpieces.  It’s certainly not that I don’t know how to cook, it just that I feel limited because I’m not sure how to make the best things out of what is offered at the market.  And shopping is a whole different experience here.  There are markets which have super fresh food as their specialty.  For example there are meat markets, seafood markets, and fruit and veggie markets.  I started my shopping at one of these and was overwhelmed by how many odd things I encountered (stay tuned for my next blog about interesting Spanish food to learn more).  After, we went to the actual grocery store.  The groceries here are a lot like the ALDI back home.   There is only one brand of everything and you have to bring your own bags. When I got there, I was at a loss about what to buy.  I wanted to make Mexican food, but wait…they don’t have salsa.  I wanted to get peanut butter, but wait…that is only sold at American stores.  How about some fish…oh wait it still has its bones and skin.   I think I spent half of my time trying to figure what everything was, and the other half trying to figure out how to prepare it.   I think I wondered around the little store at least 3 times.    I eventually managed to fill my little box on wheels with some random food and checked out, not thinking about the fact that I had to carry all of this three blocks to my home…needless to say I made it home but not without my bags breaking and my food spilling onto the sidewalk.

 It’s such a terrible feeling when you feel like you have regressed in knowledge because you cannot complete simple tasks.  But let me tell you, the feeling of joy, success, and pride, is indescribable when you finally do figure these tasks out.  The smile I had across my face as I walked out the grocery store was probably goofy and funny looking.  But I felt on top of the world.  I had just picked out food, talked to the workers, and didn’t make a huge fool out of myself!  It seems menial, just a small trip to the grocery, but trust me, the feeling of success was unreal.  Now the real test will be to see if I can actually cook anything substantial from what I bought.

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One Response to “My Own Place: Challenges and All”

  1. boileradmin February 23, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    It is great to hear about your interactions with locals your age. So many study abroad students can’t seem to make that happen.

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