Monthly Archives

September 2014

Where Am I (Going)?

A Star Wars Parade in Retiro Park, and My First Week In Madrid

September 24, 2014
star wars at retiro park in madrid

So I don’t want this blog to be all about me and what I’m doing on a daily basis. Partly because there are already 23492374349410 travel blogs like that, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. I just think I’m more creative than that. So creative that I just used the word “that” four times. Also, my day to day life will never be interesting, whether I live in the US, or Madrid, or Jupiter.

But once in a while I’ll write updates about what I’ve been doing/thinking/feeling, just in case any of you out there actually give a shit. So here are some updates, accompanied by pictures from a random Star Wars parade in Retiro Park last Saturday.

star wars at retire park in madrid

star wars at retiro park in madrid

So I got to Madrid like 15 hours later than I was supposed to due to a flight delay. I met a fellow Auxiliar on the way over, which was kinda cool. When I got here, I stayed at an AirBNB In Malasana, a couple blocks north of Gran Via. A really convenient location.

To be honest, I haven’t done that many exciting things in the just over a week since I’ve been here. I’ve gone out to eat a few times (and I’m disappointed to report that I don’t like jamón ibérico. Sorry Spain, I know it’s your national delicacy, and I appreciate that it takes a while to make, but it tastes like solid, chewy olive oil.), I went to Retiro (of course), and visited the Prado and walked around and stared at art until I couldn’t stand anymore. But I’ve done a lot of sleeping too. And watching The Simpsons in Spanish.

black dude

But I guess I haven’t been doing as much typical expat stuff? I mean a couple times I went to McDonalds instead of searching for local cuisine. And I could be making a better effort to meet/meet with people, and/or take advantage of what the city has to offer. But you know, sleep. And internet. And staying in bed all day and doing nothing.

greenthing

I’ve been trying to get out and socialize, though. Key word: trying.  Some Auxiliaries had meetups this past weekend at bars in the center. So I went, cause I was open to going and I wanted to meet new people and have fun and be a normal person. But it was loud, and crowded. The type of crowded where walking involves inevitably coming into physical contact with strangers that just makes you feel wrong. And I stayed for a while, but then was all like: Haha silly Keziyah. Just because you’re in a different country doesn’t mean you’re a different person. You’re still an introvert with social anxiety. Now go home and watch The Simpsons. And I was all like, you’re right, other Keziyah. So I guess I need to find social activities that don’t involve lots of noise and interacting with tons of people. Because I just cant.

red lady

I’ve been seeing more POC than I thought I would. Every time I see a black person, in my mind I’m always like “YAY BLACK PEOPLE.” But only see them in the center of the center, near Sol/Embajadores. The rest of Madrid is still generally pretty white.

I’ve been hyper-aware of how people perceive me as a black person, based on things I’ve read about racism here. So far things haven’t been horrible, but I’ve noticed less obvious things. Things that are so subtle that make you wonder if it’s racism, or if it could be something else. Like waiters in restaurants ignoring me, or not making eye contact with me, and instead directing their attention to my paler friends.

darth

Like, I also wonder what security guards/employees think when they see me walk into H&M or Mango. The other day at H&M, it was a good thing that I was paying attention because the cashier forgot to scan one of my items. I thought about how it would have looked had I, a black woman, walked out of the store and the alarm beeped.

After almost a week of searching, I found a piso (flat). It’s in Salamanca, right next to a metro station. It doesn’t have a balcony like a wanted, but it has large windows with patio doors, which is the next best thing. It’s a big room too, compared to many others I saw. In fact, it’s the biggest room I’ve had since college. The price of 480 per month is steep, especially since I’ll only be making 1000 a month from my job. But I was willing to pay for what I wanted. Here are views from outside my window.

outsidebalcony1

 

outsidebalcony2

 

outsidebalcony3

I really like being able to speak Spanish daily. However, here in Madrid lots of people speak English, or at least enough to sell you something. So once they hear my accent they might switch to English. That doesn’t help me if I’m trying to get better. So listen, Spain. I am a guest in your beautiful country and I’d like to speak your beautiful language. So just let me. Ok?

Oh, and I started Geocaching. I totally suck at it cause I haven’t found anything yet. But me and a few other expats here are considering doing the Banango race next month. That should be fun.

And I guess that’s it for now.

 

All photos by Keziyah Lewis. 

Where Am I (Going)?

How To Pack Like A Boss

September 11, 2014
luggage

So, I’m moving to Madrid in two days. And all I’m bringing with me are my carry on and my personal bag. (What you see in the picture above.)
That’s right, I’m not checking any bags.

When I moved to DC from Florida, it was the same. Nothing but a carry on and a canvas bag. So I’m pretty much an expert in this by now. My level of packing: superior.

How is this possible, you ask? How can you start over in a new country without bringing your entire life? Where are all your clothes? Are you just going to walk around naked? I mean, I know it’s Europe, but isn’t that still illegal?

I have clothes, don’t worry. No one in Madrid is going to see my naked butt on the street (at least not yet.)
Want to know how to pack like a boss? Well, just remember these two tips.

1. Be a low maintenance, clutter-free person.

Ok, so not everyone can be low maintenance, but it does help when it comes to packing. See, I don’t put much emphasis into things like clothes, shoes, hair, and makeup. I do often get complimented on my outfits and my hair, so it’s not like being low maintenance means you have to look like a slob every day. It just means you can look decent without doing the most.

Consequently, I don’t have a lot of clothes, so it wasn’t hard for me to narrow down what I wanted to bring, and what I wanted to give away. I don’t wear makeup (putting creamy colored stuff on my face is such a weird concept to me), so I don’t have to worry about filling my carry on with that crap. As for my hair, I keep it shaved and just wear a wig whenever I leave the house (if I feel like it), because laziness. So I won’t be bringing a ton of creams and oils from the beauty store. As for shoes, I think heels are the devil and I hope that they are banned one day, so I don’t wear them. They take up so much space in your suitcase anyway. Flats only for me, and I’m only bringing two pairs.

Besides that, I’ve never liked clutter, so I don’t buy a lot of things, so in general I don’t have a lot of things. This made it pretty easy to get rid of what I don’t need.

So if you’re not a low maintenance person, think like someone who is, at least when you’re packing. Do you really need all that stuff? Are your lungs going to stop working if you don’t bring that pair of shoes or that book?

2. No, you don’t need all that stuff.

You really don’t. Your destination, whether it’s Spain or elsewhere, probably has stores. At said stores, you can probably buy those things that you left behind. (Or not, because again, do you really need them?) Also, the local style of dress might be different from how you dress back home, so you may want to buy new clothes anyway, just to fit in. I’ve heard about expats regretting bringing too many clothes they have brought from home.

Although, buying the things you left behind can get expensive, and it may not be within your budget. In that case, you have to make decisions about what you can afford to leave behind. So if a good pair of boots in your size will be difficult or expensive to get in your new country, perhaps you want to bring the one you have from home. But things like t-shirts? You can find those anywhere, so don’t pack 30 of them in your suitcase.

So, get rid of your stuff. Decide what you want to bring, and then reduce that by 75%, and then cut that in half. Donate it, sell it, recycle it, send it through a portal to another dimension, whatever you must do. Trust me, you will be fine. It will be ok. They’re just things. We as humans put *so* much value in objects, when there are so many other important parts of life. You’ll survive without it, whatever that thing is that you want to bring but don’t really need. You’re moving abroad! You’re going on an exciting adventure and you will have lots of amazing experiences! Do you think it will make a difference if you don’t bring that extra pair of jeans?

 

If you want more info on exactly what you should and shouldn’t pack (for Auxiliares), here are some good blog posts. They’re very helpful, especially if you want to know more about things that are either difficult to find in Spain, or overpriced, like good deodorant, baking products, and makeup (if you’re into that whole slathering colored goo on your face thing.) Even though I’m not bringing much, I still made sure to bring some essentials mentioned in these blog posts.

Key Tips for Auxiliares-Packing In Spain, Young Adventuress
Packing 101, La Vida Loca
The Do’s and Don’ts of Packing, Wander The Land
Pack This, Not That (Spain Edition), A Thing For Words
Spain Packing List and Packing Tips, Travels Untranslated

Bottom line, it’s just stuff, and you’ll be ok without most of it. Only bring the things you really need, and you’ll be set.

Have you ever moved to another place or country with just a carry on and a personal bag? Is this something that would never be possible for you? Let me know in the comments!

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