So I'm back in school for the first time in... um... let's just say "several" years. I enrolled in a language school in Madrid for 2 weeks and they have several branches so I am considering continuing with them when I am in Argentina as well. It's amazing how much more you get out of a class when you actually WANT to learn the subject matter. Both of my professors are great, and my class is a mini United Nations - the US, Germany, Holland, Italy, Russia, Taiwan, and the UK.
I've met some really great people in Madrid through one of the volunteers in my English immersion program last week (hence the decision to take the course here instead of another city in Spain). He is an American currently living in the south of Spain, and I swear he is a celebrity of sorts here. Both he and his wife are very involved in many different programs helping Spaniards strengthen their English and every place we walk in to they know him by name. He introduced me to several people/places in Madrid and the other day I actually bumped into someone I know on the street! That was definitely a moment for me.
So a typical day here starts with a 10-15 min walk to school where I attend class until 1:30pm. In the afternoon I explore different parts of the city, visit some of the sites, or find a park to read or do homework. In the evening, I head to a bookstore/cafe/bar a block from my place that has become a "home base" of sorts. It is owned by Americans and there are a lot of English speaking people currently living in Madrid who come by regularly. It's a Spanish sort of "Cheers", and I find it fairly amusing that I can walk into a place over 3000 miles away from home and be greeted by name as if I have been coming there all my life. It has been invaluable in the way of information, connections, as well as just good company. One of my daily companions is an older gentleman who has retired in Madrid from London, but is originally from Iran and has lived in both Cairo and NYC. He has a daughter my age, and we have become fast friends. (Georgy family: His name is Morad... I almost fell off my chair!) The bookstore hosts something called Intercambio nights where Spaniards and native English speakers can work on their language skills. I am not brave enough yet to work on my Spanish with them, but the Spaniards that attend are very happy to have someone to practice their English with.
There is another spot owned by two guys from the UK and NYC that I am heading to for the first time tonight with my celebrity friend so I am looking forward to meeting more people. Two of the girls from last week's program have been here in Madrid with me this whole week which has been great, but unfortunately they are heading out tomorrow to continue their travels.
Time for a siesta... (I'm embracing the culture!)