I was trying to describe Madrid the other day.
Someone asked me what it was like to live in Madrid and I started to say, “Living in Madrid is like…” and then I found myself at a loss for words.
Maybe I could have said something profound like “living in Madrid is like a dream come true,” but that certainly doesn’t capture life in Madrid properly.
For a fleeting moment, I thought about just not describing what life is actually like here. I could have changed the answer to something like “Life in Madrid is awesome!” or a simple “I love it here!” but both options seem dismissive and juvenile.
As I was struggling to find the perfect way to describe Madrid, I started to think of all the ups and downs of expat life I’ve experienced since I’ve been here. And yes, it would have been very easy to say something like, “living in Madrid is like a roller coaster, full of ups and downs,” but that wouldn’t have been very original.
But it did get me thinking about my first actual roller coaster ride. It was in St. Augustine, Florida. I was 9 or 10 years old and my best friend, Nelly, convinced me to go on the ride. To be honest, the rickety old machine really wasn’t even a roller coaster at all; it was one of those fast-flinging bucket things where you get in and it violently whips you back and forth and up and down.
As we waited in line, I started to have some serious doubts. It didn’t look like fun from where I was standing, but everyone on it sounded like they were having an good time.
Once it was our turn, we loaded ourselves into the swinging human bucket that smelled like all buckets do and strapped ourselves in. A very long ten seconds passed by as a very somber old man got the massive machine up and running for the next round of jerky excitement. And when its time had come, the bucket obediently took off with a harsh metal scream and an unsettling lurch.
Then, there we were, Nelly and I, just clinging to each other with our hair wildly swishing around our faces and screaming our hearts out. It was an explosive mix of panic and exhilaration that I had never felt before.
That’s the funny thing about exhilaration. I mean, you have to get on the whirly, jerky ride if you really want to experience something incredible, right? No one ever remembers the boring tea cup ride.
As I stumbled out of the human bucket, I headed straight to the nearest trash can and vomited. Nelly was mortified and didn’t even hold my hair back like a good girl friend should. She looked at my pale face with warranted disgust and asked, “um, are you okay?”
I slowly lifted my head out of the trash can, cleaned my face with my sleeve, and said, “That … that was awesome.”
And that is what life is like in Madrid.
(Today is my seven year Spain anniversary! Yep, seven years ago today, I landed at Barajas airport filled with hope and wonder. To celebrate, I decided to create a poorly personalized expat rendition of the Richard Brautigan poem, I was Trying to Describe You, which is just glorious, by the way.)