I love words.
This should hardly be a surprise as I call myself a writer. Used to make a living as one. As the words “Left” and “Write” are tattooed on my wrists.
And yet, since leaving the United States on July 28 with a one-way ticket to Spain, I’ve written little.
Little about what it is to live in a country where I hardly speak the language. Little about the heartbreak of leaving a deep and unexpected love. Little about the humbling that accompanies beginning yet another career at the age of 45. And little about what it is to turn 46 in this place I now call home.
I’ve written little about my private victories. About being asked for directions and being able to give them – albeit in English. About when Spanish words tumble out of my mouth without my thinking – simple phrases like, “Para llevar for ella, para aqui para mi” – and having them understood. About getting paid in euros. Jumping through hoops of securing a Spanish ID card. And fulfilling a dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember – to live overseas. A dream so faint, so distant, so seemingly unattainable that I forget it was my dream and that I am actually doing it.
I’ve written little about my work teaching English, about my friendships with fellow wanderers and about my travels since arriving. Except on Facebook, where I have posted short, pithy, true-in-the-moment whispers of my life in Madrid, and many, many photographs.
What follows is a chronicle of my first 30-plus days here in Madrid – as they appeared on Facebook.
I have a Spanish phone number. (Message me and I will give it to you.) Most challenging interaction I’ve had so far, but I got it done. People are amazingly kind and helpful — like Jose, another customer at the post office who offered to help translate. (I will be going back tomorrow to get a box to receive “real mail” now that I can provide a local number.) He said my Spanish is good. I do not agree, but I think I am maneuvering well having been here less than 36 hours. Off shortly to an intercambio at J+J Books to meet Facebook friend Robert. Thanks for the connection, Jessica.
Third time IS the charm. Third day at the post office. Finally had everything in order to get a box. Here are the keys!
I wanted to take a photograph of the women who greeted me there these three days in a row, who were so patient and who were able to finally hook me up. They couldn’t imagine why. “Ayuda me.” (I meant to say “You helped me”…I was close, and they understood.) “It is my job,” replied one, in English. “It is my job.” Amazing.
First day of school.
How much do I love my girls in Chicago? How much do they love me? Thanks for lifting me up. XOXO
(Meme from aforementioned great love – posted to my page)
We can skip the wine.”
It begins to feel like home when I run into people I know on the street. I remember when it happened in San Francisco and Chicago. Now Madrid.
Falling head over heels over head for this city.
Magical skies. The energy of its people spilling into the streets after dark. A surprise misting by the evening sprinklers in Retiro Park.
Lunches with new friends — yesterday at Botin, the world’s oldest restaurant, today on Plaza de la Independencia — running into others on the streets.
Hard to believe I arrived less than two weeks ago. I feel so present, so here…
Sunday morning in Retiro Park. Why yes, I should be doing homework. But first — sun, stillness and a shot at serenity. Refueling following a Saturday of letting go…and filling up for the week ahead.
Trust. Just got my hair cut by someone named Pepe. He does not speak English. I hardly speak Spanish. I think we did okay.
Woo hoo!! Student of the week. Not bad for the oldest student in the class…
Tomorrow is the BIG grammar and phonics exam, as well as my final observed teaching. All good juju welcomed.
The past four weeks have been humbling, exhilarating and, at times, overwhelming. In the home stretch…looking forward to what comes next.
DONE! When they handed out the certificates, they dubbed me Lesley~I will conquer Spain~Pearl. Your collective mouth to God’s ear.
I am walking to pick up the keys to my new apartment. At the corner of my street and Calle Mayor I see this banner. I look at the door and know it like I know my name. Every hair on my body stands up and I begin to weep.
My first night in Madrid, 16 years ago with my then husband …our waiter speaks perfect English. I ask him about it and he tells me he learned it on a kibbutz in Israel. I mention I’m Jewish and that my grandmother did not like visiting Spain because there weren’t any Jews here. After dinner, he sends me across the street … to where I am standing now, to this place with the beautiful doors.
How is it I am living here 16 years later…literally here? With the Jews? With the vintage camera shop? The bookstore? And the bakery? With a landlord and roommate named Maite, a former UN translator just five years my mother’s senior … in an apartment with an unheard of eat-in kitchen, a balcony overlooking a plaza, a piano, and lots and lots of original art. A home I didn’t even have to look for it…it literally came to me. (Thanks Kylie.)
I’m not quite sure what to think … Moving is hard. And it is magic. And I am definitely, definitely supposed to be here.
(In response to Facebook memory “On This Day…”)
On this day in 2012, moving back to Chicago. With John and Karin on the exact same day one year prior.moving from Chicago to Seattle. Today I picked up the keys to my new digs here in Madrid. Something about August 29 and big movement in my life. Only thing missing is John and Karin…
Home. Fully unpacked for the first time in more than a month. (Including Ganesh. Thank you, Clover. And a hand-spun wool bowl made by Deb.) Also for the first time, I moved in a cab. Two suitcases. Two backpacks. A couple of shopping bags. Many thanks to Nikki who packed me the first time. (This time was easier but not nearly as much fun.) And to Jennifer who helped get me from Salamanca to Opera. As I write this, I am reminded that I don’t do any of this alone.