“Chonis” and Days Well Spent

Now that I just passed the 4-month mark of this adventure, I started to realize many things. The first of which, I couldn’t be happier. Although it has taken a lot out of me to be this content with everything (because there were definitely some up-and-down times here), but I can honestly say that at the current moment everything seems to be perfect.

On Tuesday this week, I met up with my buddy David in Getafe and we got kebabs for lunch. It was nice just chatting with him, he’s really freindly and freaking hilarious. Last Friday he came and hung out with Chloe, Chloe’s boy friend and I. We all went and grabbed some beers together. I think we’ll be seeing more of David because everyone likes him so much.

This Friday, he came back to our place and brought some of his Spanish friends which was a lot of fun, even though they didn’t stay that long. They were people that David calls “Chonis” which are like, actually, I can’t describe them at all because I’m still not entirely sure what a Choni is but I think it’s like someone really mainstream and hip. But not hipster, he assured me of that. Anyway, I got to spend some of the night with my first group of Chonis.

Yesterday morning I woke up earlier than I planned but it was nice. I went into the kitchen and I had the strangest realization, but a good realization. It started with the fact that as I walked through the halls of my apartment, every door I passed was answered with a “¿Qué tal?” or an “hola” which, although I say these expressions every single day, for some reason it just sunk in that my life here has been created out of a completely different language; that’s something to really cherish. I’ve made so many incredible friends here and it’s so rewarding to know that I wouldn’t know these people if it weren’t for all the effort I’ve put into learning this language. So believe me it’s paying off, all those years of studying grammar and all those days wondering what the heck people were saying to me has now come to fruition. I understand a good 99% of the words people tell me, I don’t really ever have to ask, “¿Qué?” (well I do, but only if I’m not paying attention). This to me is incredible.

So back to yesterday morning, after passing all my roommates’ rooms, I eventually made it to the kitchen and Julia was there listening to the radio in German and something about that struck a chord in me. I thought to myself: Where on earth am I? Why is there German coming out of her computer?

And it’s a really cool thing. Only in Europe could one meet so many people from so many different countries and hear so many languages. I mean, all I had to do was walk down my hallway and someone speaks fluent German. Others here are natives in Spanish, French, English, and most of my roommates speak more than just two languages: Julia speaks English, German, Spanish, and Italian; Jorge speaks Spanish, English, and Russian; Julian speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, a bit of French and I think Czech; Marta speaks Spanish, French and a good amount of English, and Chloe speaks English and French as a native and excels at Spanish. So if I ever had any questions about any language or culture, we’ve pretty much got it all covered. And this to me is incredible.

I appreciate every moment being here. It’s such a fun place and its also incredibly vast. Everyday is a little different and everything new excites me.

After I ate breakfast yesterday, I went and got coffee at the only place that wasn’t completely packed. I had forgotten that at 2pm on a Saturday every coffee shop, restaurant and bar would be full of people: that’s Spanish lunch hour. Sometimes their strange schedule still throws me off guard, but I’m starting to get used to it. At least it doesn’t surprise me if everything is closed at 3pm everyday like it used to.

Anyway, I ended up at a place called J and J’s Coffee and Books. It’s an English-speaking bar and bookstore with all books in English. I was the only person in there so I had this great two-hour long chat with the guy that worked there. He is from Norway and has been living in Madrid for about two years now. Later, Marta called me to meet up with her so I left there and he didn’t make me pay for my coffee! Way nice of him.

I met up with Marta, had a nice quick coffee with her, then I left to go meet Lola, who is a girl from my photography class because she was going to drive me and two other people from our photo school to a city north of Madrid called Alcala de Henares. The city turned out to be way cooler than I expected: It’s a quaint Spanish town with tight-knit streets full of shops and cafes complete with these gorgeous plazas and a few churches.  We went there for some photography conference: There was some famous Swedish photographer doing some sort of conference so we all decided to go. It was kind of boring, but the photographer (can’t remember his name) was some crazy old guy. The best/funniest part of the night was the fact that he spoke English, but they hired a Spanish translator, so I annoyingly had to hear everything said twice.

After the conference, which was actually pretty cool (the guy showed us a ton of pictures and told us the stories behind them and they were pretty amazing), we all went and got drinks. During this time, I had another reflective and moment. I thought to myself how crazy it was that I was in some random city of Spain with a bunch of now-friends of mine from a Photography School and we were just hanging out, drinking, sharing stories, and sharing our passion for photography. I just found it so vast being able to not only see this country from a local’s perspective, but they shared it with me. And I got to ride in a car with them and everything, like I’m one of them. The experience just seemed so surreal. I mean, how many of you can say the same thing happened to you? Believe me, you can’t.

Afterward, at like 3 in the morning, after eating amazing bocatas, or Spanish sandwiches (we were starving at this point), we got into Lola’s car (who hadn’t had a single drink, fyi), and we drove back to Madrid at night. It was a wonderful car ride getting to see the entire city at night from a new perspective. I got to see neighborhoods and parts of the city I had never seen before, but the best part was seeing them at night with all of Madrid’s splendor. Lights and cars and people wandering the streets, it was pretty incredible.

So all in all, yesterday was a great day and I was able to really just sit back and kind of appreciate all the little things about living here. I don’t know why it occurred to me so powerfully yesterday that I’m actually living here, but it hit me pretty hard. And I’m very fortunate for all of it.

As for today, today was perfect. I woke up around noon and shared Marta’s bed as we edited photos on our computers. Shortly thereafter, Chloe joined in as well. We must have looked ridiculous. But a little while later, we got up and made breakfast together which included home fries (made by yours truly), eggs, toast, jam, butter,fresh Chloe-made orange juice, Spanish jamon, cafe, and a few other things. To say the least, it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve had here.

Later this afternoon, Marta and I went for a long walk all over Madrid and then we stopped back at J and J’s Coffee and Books and we met up with Chloe. We just hung out, had some beer and tea, and chatted. It was really fun. And the same bartender was there and he remembered my name and all! Maybe I’m starting to become a “local.” Wouldn’t that be sweet? But today was so wonderful just wandering aimlessly with Marta. Wandering Madrid with a Spanish person is one thing, but seeing it with a great friend is another. Marta is wonderful. I love ALL my roommates so much, we all get along so well I couldn’t have asked for a better living situation.

Marta and I ended up stopping by some art gallery that had all Impressionist art from the likes of Klimt, Pissarro, Van Gogh and Monet. Best of all: It was all free.

I was able to appreciate the entirety of Madrid today. I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face and I’m not sure why. Madrid’s essence has returned to me. It’s become one of my favorite places again, not that it wasn’t, it’s just been difficult sometimes feeling that passionate about it as I had the first time I was here. But now it’s back and everything is so wonderful and beautiful. I really love it here. Really.

As for now, I think we are all going to make dinner and have a noche tranquila, that’s to say an easy-going night.  I’m not sure what else to say, but living in Madrid, it’s something I’m not going to give up easily. Sorry Mom and Dad, and friends back home.

Write more later,
Graham

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