Do you remember college orientation? I do, and I cringe a little bit. I love my alma mater (Go Scots!), but any group-oriented, get to know you, let's-play-icebreaker-games kind of thing brings a cloud of dread over my head and I want to hide. I love to talk and could probably carry on a decent monologue with a brick wall, but I tire of telling twenty-five strangers my name, where I'm from, what I'm studying, blah blah blah. (In college, I got creative and told people I was an exchange student from Sweden, just to see if that would throw anyone off. It did, and I ended up with a strange nickname for the remaining four and a half years.)
Anyway, there were 150 Americans staying at a hotel on the far west side of Madrid next to the Rio Manzanares (a very unfamiliar part of the city to me), and all in all I would say orientation went well. There weren't any icebreakers (!), but there were a lot of opportunities to mingle and share living abroad experiences, or escape to the room when I needed an introvert break. We got very detailed information on processing our paperwork (which though I completed before, I was 1. sick and jetlagged, 2. on a different type of visa, and 3. apparently not paying much attention), which will make navigating the resident card process much easier!
Orientation felt a little bit like a throwback to college study abroad, except this time I'm in my mid-twenties and am married. Talk about throwing people off--telling people that I'm married had various reactions, ranging from surprise that we were doing the teaching program together (as if I would leave John in the U.S., or vice versa) to suspicion ("Do you like being married?"...Yes. Yes, I do.) to variations of "THAT IS SO CUTE."
We stayed busy and walked, walked, walked. One evening we took a literary tour of an old neighborhood of Madrid, with street names like Lope de Vega and Cervantes. It made me want to dig into studying Spanish literature while I'm in the birthplace of the modern European novel. Another evening we went to a flamenco show in La Latina and were served tapa after tapa until I was so full I couldn't eat anymore. Not only was the food good, but my general apathetic attitude toward flamenco changed for the better. And then my coordination skills--or lack thereof--were tested in a flamenco dancing class yesterday, which took place in a cave underground. Today, we ran some errands in Madrid before checking out of the hotel, and ended up walking 12.5 miles. It has been a long, long week.
And now we are home with a few odds and ends we picked up at IKEA, and a space of our own.