Stumbles and Successes in Madrid and Toledo

It has been 3 days since I arrived in Spain, but it feels much longer! This is partly because of the lack of sleep we have been getting, but also because survival in a foreign country takes a lot of effort. I feel proud of myself even when I accomplish small feats like ordering in a restaurant! Already I see the benefits studying abroad can have on a person. Personally, I feel much for more confident, for example. Also, my Spanish is already improving. I am learning lots of new (and useful) words every day! Communicating feels strange – I shouldn’t be surprised that so far everyone has understood me fairly well (twangy Southern drawl and all), but I am. It’s extremely rewarding to finally be able to use the language I’ve been learning. I have also gained more implicit knowledge as well, such as dos and don’ts in Spain.

This is not to say that everything has gone perfectly! My first day in Madrid, I (think I) offended a very nice waitress at least twice. I ordered a coffee with my meal, for one, instead of after which is more the cultural norm, and I also barely ate anything. It was delicious but I was feeling sick. She unfortunately seemed to think that my roommate (who was also feeling under the weather) and didn’t like the food.

(Photo: Our first meal in Spain)

That would be impossible! The food is Spain is simply amazing. I have even dared to try various mystery meats and substances and nothing has been less than stellar (except for a weirdly salty salad). I have been enjoying dishes like paella and croquettes, alongside all the many things I couldn’t begin to identify.

Money has been a little difficult. Credit/debit cards aren’t universally accepted, splitting checks isn’t really done in Spain, and it’s not always easy to find places to convert your money. Figuring out how to pay our checks is embarrassingly slow.

Madrid was pretty great. Two days is simply not enough to appreciate such an expansive and exciting city, and I have vowed to return. Some of the highlights of my visit were the tours with ISA, accidentally crashing a wedding, seeing the world’s oldest restaurant, glimpsing part of an opera in the Plaza Oriente, munching on churros dipped in hot chocolate, giddily touring part of the Prado Museum, and drinking sangria outside a bar at night.

Toledo was also fabulous but in different ways – Toledo and Madrid are not in any fashion comparable and are both worth a visit. Toledo is a medieval city with narrow streets and lots of Moorish architecture. While there, we visited two cathedrals (one is the fourth largest in the world) and a Jewish synagogue. Toledo is also known for sword making, so I bought a small ersatz sword that says “Winter is Coming” across the cross guard, and “Toledo” on the sheath. I’m pretty excited about it, haha.

(Photo: Toledo)

Tomorrow we leave for Sevilla and meet our Spanish families (we are all participating in a homestay). I’m terribly nervous, but I know it will be fine. Everything else in Spain has so far exceeded my expectations, and I have no reason to doubt that Sevilla will be anything different.


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