Sunday, May 27, 2012

A visit to Madrid

Madrid is not my favorite Spanish city. I think that comes from having spent so much time there in the past. In 2006 I was there for about four days. Then I went for a day in December after my trip to Barcelona and didn't really enjoy myself. And then I had one final trip to Madrid this weekend which left me, still not as a huge Madrid fan, but a better experience at least. This time the trip had a purpose. After spending a year in Spain as a graduate of Arkansas State University, I had the opportunity to meet a professor I had several classes with during my time as a student. It is amazing how much the place and situation can change things. Not having to work for a grade, speaking came much easier. It was a very enjoyable night.

But the next day was more of the same. After only sleeping for four hours, walking all day wasn't on my list of fun things to do. And the planned trip to Segovia fell through when there were long lines at the train station and it was impossible to buy a ticket and catch the train. I wasn't going to buy a ticket to just turn around and come back an hour later, nor was I going to spend an hour and a half on a train when the normal journey lasts 30 minutes. So it was a day in Madrid. On the bright side I saw a park which I hadn't seen before and I was able to see Guernica again. I could probably stand in front of that painting for an hour, but standing wasn't something I wanted to do much of. The longer I stood, the more tired I became. So it was off to the bus station, in hopes of finding there was a 6 p.m. bus to Huelva. Unfortunately, there wasn't one until 10 p.m. So four hours in the area of the bus station seemed like it would take forever.

I'd never explored the surrounding area before. So I only knew about the Corte Ingles that was nearby. Saturday I found there was a planetarium and Imax within walking distance as well. Unfortunately I missed the only movie I would be able to watch and still catch the bus by 15 minutes. And when I arrived to the planetarium they closed in 15 minutes. So it was back to the bus station with another hour before the bus left. Then came a surprise.

As I mentioned in previous blogs, people seem surprised when someone shows some simple kindnesses such as letting them out of their seat on the bus. But in Madrid, while I was waiting on the bus, an older lady, probably in her 70's, asked for help getting her bags out of the elevator because the doors would end up closing before she could get it all off. She had five or six bags and was unable to find a cart. She was trying to figure out what to do and I volunteered to help her take the bags to the taxi. Between three of us, we easily made it in one trip. And in that I also found that although I don't understand a lot of words in Spanish still, sometimes from pronunciation other times simply vocabulary, I can pick up key phrases and guess what people are asking.

I have one more week to practice Spanish before taking the bus from Huelva to the Madrid-Barajas airport, one last time. Only one more eight-hour bus ride. It is bittersweet. I am ready to see my family and friends back home, but I have made friends here that I am leaving behind. 

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