BY SAKURA YONEYAMA (staff writer)
The first time I stepped off of the frigid airplane from New York, I was blasted by a wave of pure dryness. Madrid was a black hole where all humidity was sucked away, even on the days when the rain created small pools on my window sill. The scenery on the way to the hotel was a gradual gradient, starting with brown marsh and dry grass before slowly becoming a city made of history and glass balconies. And although there were no lush, dense forests like in São Paulo or looming New York oak trees, the scenery would soon become a comfortable background of my life in Madrid.
As a morning person, my first few weeks spent adjusting to Spanish life were difficult. Spanish people generally eat breakfast from around nine to twelve o'clock and have lunch from three to six. I was used to having breakfast around seven or eight o'clock, and my time to eat snacks was from three to six. However, I soon grew to love this slow start to every day in a fast city. When I woke up to go on a run or have breakfast, the streets were barren. Around ten o'clock, the city came to life as cafes served steaming lattes and pan con tomate (bread with tomato spread). It felt scandalous to meet up with friends at ten in the night and stay out until five-thirty in the morning, thrilling to see the city breathe in energy and cigarette smoke and exhale out late-night dinners and Reggaeton music. Soon, the music would grow on me, as Spanish slang and words started to mix into my everyday conversations. Nights spent learning how to clumsily dance the Bachata (although it is from Latin America) or intense conversations while Bad Bunny played in the background are the nights where I was incredibly grateful to have moved to Spain.
The city is beautiful. Every building is aesthetically pleasing, with iron-wrought balconies or glass terraces. During the holiday season, fairy lights and light-up illuminations decorate the city. Tall, white palaces litter the city, while museums like the Prado museum take me a century back. It's difficult to feel gloomy in a beautiful city, where the lights ignite a thrill and happiness in me.
Moreover, Spanish people love going out and having a good time. There is a strict belief that a happy social life is just as important as a rigorous academic life. Of course, not every Spanish person I have met believes this, however, the majority of the Spanish people I surround myself with do not place overwhelming pressure on schoolwork. As an International Baccalaureate diploma candidate, this mindset helped me de-stress immensely and often grounded me. My friends were always there to remind me that although my grades were important, so were my mental health and happiness. Here, I learned the importance of a healthy mindset, learned how to enjoy the time, and be comfortable with allowing myself to have fun, even during stressful periods.
As my time to leave Spain slowly approaches, I am filled with devastating sadness. I have learned a lot from Spanish culture, from Spanish people, from Spain. As Thomas Bernhard states in his book The Loser, "That’s why I live in Madrid and wouldn’t even consider leaving Madrid, this most magnificent of all cities where I have everything the world has to offer."