Many of you know that my last day of work was March 12th.  After several weeks of goodbye parties and hugs, I had one week to finish packing up my apartment and suitcases.  I thought, at the time, that this had to be the most difficult part of my transition.  Afterall, I absolutely love my friends, family and life in Kansas City.  But the goodbyes were not the hardest part.

My flights were smooth, my luggage arrived in Madrid, my trip through customs was easy and my friend, Olivia, was waiting for me as I exited the big doors in the Madrid Barajas Airport.  Fácil, no?

Well, the sense of panic came when I met the landlord at the apartment.  My friend left for work and I was all alone with someone that I didn’t know.  See, my friend had helped arrange for the apartment while I was still living in the US.  I thought this was going to be easy.  I would arrive, meet the landlord, get the keys, shower, and sleep.  But that’s not how it worked.  He was extremely nice, but insisted on walking me around the neighborhood for about an hour, showing me around my school, setting up the utilities in my name, setting up my bank account, setting up my phone, etc.  All in Spanish after not having spoken it regularly for nearly 10 years.  And after 15 hours of flying…and no sleep…while being hungry.  What he didn’t realize is that an extranjero can’t do many of these things without a NIE.  The NIE is an identification number for foreigners that is similar to a resident card.  It takes several months to get this, so I was trying to explain (in Spanish) on the phone with these utility companies that I don’t have my NIE yet.  The landlord didn’t understand why I hadn’t taken care of all of this while I was still stateside.  Needless to say, we were both getting frustrated.

All of a sudden, the assertiveness in me burst out and in a firm voice I said in Spanish, “I just arrived.  I JUST arrived.  I’m not doing this right now and I’m not speaking Spanish anymore today.”  Although he didn’t like my response (and in hindsight, I could have reduced the drama a little bit), I think he realized that I was exhausted and he decided to leave on his vacation with the promise from me that I’d set up all of the utilities as soon as I can.

Ahhhh, peace and quiet.  Oh wait, but I really want to tell my mom all about this.  And my friends.  But they are all sleeping right now (it was midnight/early morning back home).  Oh wait, and I don’t have a phone yet anyway.  Or internet.  Pfff.  And then the tears started.  Why am I crying?  Why can’t I stop?  It is a very strange feeling, but I knew just what it was: “the shock”.  The hard part.

For those of you who have moved to another country before, you know that culture shock is quite common.  It happens to nearly everyone to some extent.  Study Abroad offices warn us of the signs before we embark on our summer undergrad programs, but we never think it will happen to us.  Because we’re well-traveled, right?  And this new country is exciting and adventurous, so why would we ever be emotional about that, right?  Well, that’s not really how it works.

So I did the only thing I could think of and decided to shower and sleep.  Before I knew it, my friend had arrived to take me to dinner…at 9 pm (this is considered an early dinner).  We strolled the city, got caught up and I immediately felt much better.  A familiar face and a piece of home.

Here are a few pictures of my transition.

Goodbye party with friends and coworkers.

Goodbye party with friends and coworkers.

Our living room (salón).

Our living room (salón).

These windows are so great.  I don't know why we don't have these in back home.  You close them and they let ZERO light in.

These windows are so great. I don’t know why we don’t have these back home. You close them and they let ZERO light in.

Our tiny bathroom (baño).

Our tiny bathroom (baño).

Our tiny kitchen (cocina).

Our tiny kitchen (cocina).

What is this?  It is a washing machine!  We just successfully completed our first load!  It only took 3 hours.

What is this? It is a washing machine! We just successfully completed our first load! It only took 3 hours.

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2 Responses to Arrival

  1. Sergio says:

    Thank you so much for updating us on your transition and arrival. I remember arriving late at night at a tiny airport in Oklahoma City, in the middle of the coldest winter as a Freshman transfer from the largest university in Latin America to the tiniest private college in the US and thinking “what have I done?” I didn’t know anything about culture shock, but I found quite quick. It only took a whole semester of crying myself to sleep at night and then I was fine. You are awesome and I’m so happy and inspired to see you making your dreams come true. I’ll be visiting your blog for updates, so keep them coming. We miss you a lot.

  2. Susan C. says:

    Love the pics from your new casita in Espana! We’ve all hit that wall before being aboard (even for 2 – 3 wks ) it hits us all so just think your past it and can focus on the best parts of becoming a “native” again 🙂 Take care chica! Hugs! Susan:)

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