I feel really lucky to have met a bunch of different people in a bunch of different settings since moving here. But now I'm at the point where I'm looking to move forward in these relationships. What's been difficult is that I lack the language skills to communicate with people beyond what I would share with a new person or casual acquaintance. So now I find myself stuck on the surface or obliging other people to speak with me in English.
I recently returned to Madrid from a trip to Portugal with my sister. I think we both felt a little bit guilty about our lack of interest in the historical aspects of the Portugal experience. I mean, how effed up is it to stand in a palace originally built in the middle ages and say, "meh" to yourself? But I had to own the privilege to get over the guilt. Instead of pretending to enjoy what wasn't working, My sister and I spent the second half of our trip doing all the aimless non-touristy touristy things that we love. And this is what made Portugal perfect for us.
Anyone who has tried it will tell you that moving to a new place by yourself can be lonely. As obvious as this is, it was probably the scariest thing about moving to Madrid. The last year has been somewhat atypical and I've surrounded myself with wonderful people. Learning to enjoy time spent by myself was a top-five goal before leaving for this trip; to really push myself to accept the challenge of loneliness.
About eight months ago I felt I needed a bit of spontaneity and adventure in my life so decided to move (temporarily...Mom!) to Spain. Despite my knowledge of delicious food, it turns out I know virtually no Spanish. If this does not surprise you, it sure as hell surprised me. I figured seven years of French immersion, one year of Italian classes, and even one year of Spanish classes would help me make some sense of what the people here are saying. My calculations were way off.
If no longer -- thank goodness -- the geo-political cockpit of Europe (caught between rival ideologies in the civil war era), Spain cannot be dismissed as a periphery or marginal country out of step with the European project. Spain has all the features of a highly efficient and accountable country, from its ability to produce majority governments from both the respectable left and right, its elaborate system of federalism, and its increased multicultural identity.
I received an email saying the Singlaubs were in London and had been robbed, lost their passports, and their hotel wouldn't help. I was surprised and concerned, until my son-in-law persuaded me this was likely a scam. On checking, his email identification had a letter reversed, so it was slightly different. A phony.