"Why are you here? Why are you in Madrid?"
This was the question that was the theme of Tristan Cross' message this week at a young adults group I decided to check out here in Madrid. It took place at International Church, a church with services in English and Spanish and also a large community of people who speak in many other languages, from many different places. It was a really cool place to be. I got there on time, at 8 PM on a Tuesday, which was apparently crazy early, since I was one of three people there. Eventually it filled up though and soon we were treated to a great message from the story of Elijah, from his highest of highs on Mt. Carmel to his lowest of lows, hiding in the caves from Queen Jezebel.
The theme though was a pretty apt one: why are we here? Are we really here to do what God wants us to do? Or will we run away from what God has called us to do and to be - which is to be courageous in His power - like Elijah did in those caves?
Coming away from that night, I decided it wasn't a coincidence that I hearing this message during my first few nights in Madrid (even though I could have treated it like that). God has a purpose for me in this place, and I hope and pray I can find it.
Without further ado however, I'll go through my highlights of the week!
1. The Departure
I'm going to be roughly chronological because the first week in a new place kind of all feels like an eternity. Every day you're seeing something that's somewhat new. It was kind of the same with university. First term of first year seemed full, with new things and experiences around every corner. By the time I was in my final term, I had kind of seen everything before and everything blended into one. I feel like that's how it's going to be here. I think that's pretty cool though. I think when you've been settled in one place for so long there is a tendency to forget the sensation of what it is like to be new to somewhere, to be so present in every moment that time seems to go by at a snail's pace.
Anyways, the departure. It was tough, I'm not going to lie. When I was leaving, I didn't really want to go, because instead of being particularly excited I was just sad, because I was leaving most of what I love for two months. From Sarah, to my family, to my friends, it was hitting me how sad it was to be missing a lot of the things that bring me joy for the next two months. I think there is some comfort in that fact however as well; not everyone has something at home to miss.
I'm incredibly blessed.
I was further blessed by the prayers that my Bible study had given me in an envelope before I left, which I read in the airport as I waited to board my flight.
They caused me to tear up a bit, which is quite the accomplishment for me because I'm not a crier at all. But the power of words has never ceased to stir something in me, and words spoken on my behalf to a holy God from my friends is a gift I treasure above all else.
So even though it was sad, I am especially now reminded of how loved I am, and how blessed I am from everyone who helped support me to go on this adventure. I guess in a way, I travel alone, but I'm never alone.
What a wonderful thing.
2. The City
Arriving in Madrid happened on Saturday, but I really only got to see the city the day afterwards.
I love cities. I think they're a wonderful microcosm of a multitude of cultures, but at the same time, they are also dominated by the ideals, the language, and the overarching culture of the country itself. Spanish people by immediate appearance are stylish, they smoke a lot, are by and large quite attractive, and once I start talking to them, I find that most don't speak much English. When I order at certain places, whether it be for food or clothing or whatnot, I find there is a general sense of impatience with my slow understanding of the language. I didn't expect anything different however, I've heard that's simply how people from Spain are: brusque, but not necessarily rude. The city itself is fairly developed, but at the same time, seems a bit edgier, almost like Montreal. It is also far older than any city in Canada, and therefore, much more confusing to navigate. It's a maze of skinny European streets that is disorienting but also really fun to walk through. There's a stunning view around every corner, with bright colours draped in plenty of sunshine. The parallel parking here is rampant, if not reckless. With no choice but to park on the streets, cars are literally bumper to bumper, and seeing drivers maneuver themselves into the tiniest possible space is a joy and a horror to behold. If you thought parallel parking was difficult in Canada, you are in a couple of words: completely wrong.
There is something about the oldness of this place that I can't get in Canada. This was especially apparently when I walked by the palace, which I believe I called 'big' on Snapchat approximately 78 times. It is truly massive, and it hearkens back to a time where opulence and power was demonstrated by time intensive, beautiful structures. The result is that even the buildings are works of art, of carved marble and gold and stone. It's pretty incredible, and I think it's my favourite part of the city so far. I can't wait to travel to other parts of Spain and experience more of this history.
The food and whatnot is also relatively decent, but it isn't incredible, in all honestly. Perhaps I just need to find the right places. The Intern Group events coordinator took us to a place called 100 Montaditos, which sell primarily tiny sandwiches for one Euro each, with drinks (including my new favourite, tinto de verano) for one and a half Euros. That place was prime, because it was cheap, so if I find more places like that, I should be set food wise. I've turned more to buying groceries, which has been great and almost therapeutic. It's nice to be able to prepare my own food, be in control of something familiar in a place that is so unfamiliar. Also, the ham here is primetime, jamón por siempre.
3. The Job
I have to say, going from working a 10 hour a day job doing something I didn't enjoy makes this transition that much sweeter. Unbeknownst to me before I arrived, this internship is actually part-time, meaning I can work from either 10 am (!!!) - 3pm, or from 2 - 7pm. And while at first I didn't have too much to do, I was recently given a cool research project on data protection legislation in the EU. This is great. It's interesting what perspective can give one when they realize what they could be doing instead of what they are blessed to be doing at the moment. I get to use my mind, my research skills, and write a one pager on legislation that I think is relevant and important, instead of sorting piping and wiring on the ground for 10 hours a day, breathing in dangerous particles and chemicals. It's truly a wonderful thing.
My workplace is Access Info Europe, and it's a really great place to be. Everyone at the office speaks English, which is very helpful for me being able to do work to the best of my ability, if not for me to work on my Spanish skills. They have also all been very kind to me, been patient with my questions and welcoming. I look forward to becoming more integrated into their work, and doing it to the best of my ability. I can't wait to show what I can do.
4. The Interns
Man, the people I live with are great. One of them is named Anthony and he's from Perth, Australia, and the other is Enkhmurun (we just call him Mo) and he's from Mongolia. They're both pretty chill, and we get along great. Mo is our resident paparazzi who takes a picture of anything possible. If there's a selfie to be taken, Mo is taking it. Anthony's life seems like a Series of Unfortunate Events, as he lost his baggage the first day and he seems to always have a new complaint about something. It's all in fun though :) I lucked out with the some pretty cool flatmates.
The other interns also seem really great! There are a few from Australia, one from China, one from Senegal (but she goes to school at York in Toronto), one from Morocco, one from Belgium, another from the States, the list goes on! It really is a blast going out and enjoying the city with all of them and our events coordinator Irene. Thus far we've enjoyed El Museo del Prado (the most famous art gallery in Madrid, with painters from Goya to Velazquez) and traditional Flamenco accompanied with far too much food. Tomorrow we check out Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, where Real Madrid play. I look forward to spending time with them; it's nice to have a community of people that are also new to a city to hang out with. There's a camaraderie there that's really nice to have in a foreign place.
5. Why Am I Here?
It might seem kind of cliche, maybe too Christian-ese to some people, but I think I do need to pay serious attention to how God wants to use me here in Madrid. On that note, I'd like prayer for that, for Him to guide me to where He wants me to go and to the people that He wants me to be with, and for my heart to be open to it.
Because above all, beyond my opportunities for new friendships, professional experience and connections, and travelling, I want to be more like Christ in all of it, for him to be the lenses with with which I see the world.
So prayer for that will be great!
Well till the next post, feel free to add me on Snapchat (my handle is brownboynate.... there are very limited free options for my common name okay) to keep up with my adventures if you so wish! Wishing you all the best weekend, and hope you did something super rad today :)