1) Visit my friends in Oxford,
2) Visit friends around the world,
3) Try to beat Sam on our respective country count lists (yeah . . . found out that's not going to happen. Apparently he went to a lot of countries in South East Asia as a baby, so he'll still beat me by one country at the end of this trip),
and 4) (Probably most importantly) have a kind of "last hurrah" before being chained to a PhD desk for the next 5 years.
So, ladies and gentlemen, that leads us to where I am today, Madrid, Spain.
[Plaza Mayor, Madrid]
Madrid is beautiful (see photos below for proof). It's been fun to walk around the city. It's also been really hot to walk around the city. I understand siesta culture a whole lot more now after being in Spain in 100+ degree weather (seriously, though. It's hot.). I've also learned my lesson from my first day in Madrid and I won't be wearing jeans here anymore. Skirts and shorts from here on out.
[I love street views like these.]
I've also learned that oh yeah, maybe I should have taken high school Spanish. Because my combination of Russian, German, French, and English really doesn't help me here. Spaniards speak Spanish. And you don't hear English on the streets of Madrid. Which is fine--it just is a humbling experience and makes me appreciate communication a whole lot more. And, I'm getting a crash course in Spanish. (For example, I now know that trente means 30 thanks to my taxi driver.) But luckily, I've had friends help me out my first couple days here, so I at least know how to buy a Metro card, get around the city, and find places to buy water (which is incredibly important in this heat).
[Yay for new friends! This is Michael, one of Sam's friends who is teaching English to students in Madrid. He's awesome.]
Speaking of survival, I found the yogurt aisle of the nearby grocery store. Now, I know that yogurt isn't typical Spanish cuisine (not like paella or Spanish omelettes). But yogurt is how I survive in any foreign country (or any home country, for that matter), so finding the yogurt was like finding manna for me.
[Hallelujah, I'm saved.]
The first couple days here in Madrid have been beautiful and I'm looking forward to a couple more days here, too. Here's to being the typical American abroad--the one who doesn't know the language and makes a fool of herself at the kiosks. It's okay. We all have to be there at some point.