It's been a while since my last post and I'm sorry for that!
Phewwww!!! To tell you the truth it's been quite a stressful week! The relatives who took me in were absolutely wonderful. Mercedes and Pedro have two daughters, Isabel and Ana (12 and 8 respectively), and a very nice house south of Madrid in a town called Valdemoro. Here's the interesting story: more thant half a century ago, Mercedes' mother (also named Mercedes) went to Argentina with her husband Bernardino for their honey-moon. Bernardino was my grandfather's cousin, and in hearing they were coming, my grandfather and grandmother offered them their own house and bed to sleep in, and they moved out for the couple of months they were in Argentina. As such, Tía Mercedes (the older one) and Tío Bernardino of course promised my grandfather and grandmother that when they came to Spain (which is where my great-grandfather came from) they would give them a place to stay.
Twenty years went by, and my grandfather, Juan Miguel Velázquez, passed away without ever seeing the land of his ancestry: Spain. So, (in a turn of events that strikes me quite emotionally) according to them, helping me out so much is just generational karma for a debt never repaid. It really hit me hard when the older Tía Mercedes said that to me when we were walking around Valdemoro alone one day. I've always heard people say wonderful things about my grandfather, but I never thought the things he'd have done in life would reflect on me like this, and that people whom I've never met would wish me well and help me out on my relation to him alone. It really makes you appreciate family, and know that what you do will in turn reflect on who you leave behind in this world. Hopefully I can live up to my grandfather's name and have the same kind of presence. I really do wish I remember him or had gotten to know him. Unfortunately he died when I was only two or three, so I have little memory of him.
On Saturday, the relatives showed me an empty apartment they owned in central Madrid. Unfortunately, the piso (as a flat is called here) was far too small for me too live in. The kitchen fit two people at a time and the bathroom, well....A grown man could not stretch out in any direction. Still, I wanted to get out of the family's house and get somewhere more central so I could look for a different option, and I decided I'd move into the piso temporarily until I could find a more suitable place.
On Monday I wandered into the city in the hopes of finding a piso to move into. I began my search at a place near the Callao metro stop, in the heart of the city. Unfortunately, walking into this first place was unfruitful. I knew from the start I had walked into some trouble: graffiti on the walls, the smell of burnt crack, and an absence of light. Sure enough, the room offered me was too expensive, hadn't a window, and I'm pretty sure the flat doubled as a brothel and drifters' den. Thankfully I kept up my search. It was, however, really difficult. Looking from place to place I found various obstacles. Lots of places didn't have windows and were dark. Others were shared with older people who I didn't think I'd get along with. Others I went to were shared by people who, I could tell, had their hippie-dar on high alert, and when I walked in had probably instantly decided against my boarding there. I didn't come to realize until later that the way housing works around here is not like a college town in the States. People rent whole apartments here, not rooms. Rooms are for short-term boarders or people just passing through, and so, when you find a room for rent, it's not really a “home,” it's more like a place to sleep with people you don't really know.
Luckily, Monday night I received an email from an old friend of mine from Sevilla who gave me the number of a friend of his who was looking for a piso in Madrid as well. Her name is Libia (from Córdoba in the south) , and she's here with her American boyfriend Max who's doing the same program I'm doing and is from Ventura, California. I offered Max and her a place to stay with me at my relatives' spare apartment, that way I'd have some company and perhaps get some leads on a place to stay. Luckily, they had an in with a lady near where we were staying. By wednesday night we had an appointment to sign a contract today (Friday). We convinced another Auxiliar (our job position) to come check it out with us while we signed the contract. Upon seeing it he signed up right away, and now there are four of us splitting a second floor piso near Plaza Legazpi in south central Madrid: Max, Libia, Mark (from New York) and myself! I've got my Bob Marley poster, my Che Guevara photo, family pictures, and tie-dye tapestry up and ready, and I can finally say that I have a place to hang my hats! It's a great feeling to finally have a place to live. Coming to a foreign country and not knowing where you're going to live is quite scary and frustrating.
Next items are on the agenda are opening up a Spanish bank account and buying a guitar. The bank account is so I can get paid. The guitar is so I can stay sane and, hopefully, use it in my job. My entire goal this year is to have a room full of 8 year olds singing Bob Marley's “One Love,” or the Beatles' “All You Need is Love.” Those are some of the best mantra's around, and with messages that I think all children should hear: We're all one, and we only need one thing in life.
Until next time.