I sat there in my middle seat fiddling with my mobile when someone came and plopped down right next to me. I was flying to from Dallas to Madrid on a milage awards ticket and didn’t have much choice in picking a spot. At this point in boarding, there was hardly a soul on this international flight. Practically a sea of empty seats. I was getting anxious hoping they would shut the door soon so I could snag an entire center row for myself. You never know who might have the same idea. I’d hate to have to trample some little old lady just to sleep horizontally during a nine-hour flight.
After what seemed like forever, the flight attendant finally shut the door. I popped out of my seat, apologizing to the person next to me for my abrupt move and claimed my row. What great travel karma! Four whole seats to sprawl out over. An armful of pillows and blankets to myself. All that and cute little complimentary bottles of whiskey.
Opting for in-flight wifi, I busied myself with Facebook and Instagram while slugging back my cute whiskies. Finally, after wolfing down my “Chicken or pasta?” dish, I nestled into my little lumpy-bumpy, yet horizontal sleep cocoon and shut my eyes. This was an opportunity to get as much sleep as I could as I was on my way to Granada, Spain via Madrid. Breakdown: A five-hour bus ride after a nine-hour flight.
“I must really want to make this trip,” I thought as I drifted off to sleep.
The fact is, I did want to make this trip. Five weeks in Spain. It was a huge challenge for me. I was going to rent a flat in Granada and take a month-long Spanish immersion course. After that, I was going to Madrid for five nights.
My husband Ray and I spent three weeks in Spain last May. We went to Madrid, Barcelona, Sitges, Valencia, and Granada. I was a bit under the weather in Madrid so going there again on this trip is a redo for me. In hindsight, it’s kind of funny to think I’ve spent two of the last five months in Spain.
I love the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport. Its design is fluid, organic and open. It was surprisingly empty–which was much preferred. I was travel weary and didn’t feel like dealing with a crowd. I found myself pondering my upcoming experience as I walked through the airport. There was something almost surreal about the emptiness of both the plane and the airport as well as the ease at which I was traveling. Everything was moving along like clockwork. There were so few people in the airport that it almost felt like a dream.
I picked up my bag, went through customs, and hopped into a taxi for the bus station. I speak no Spanish other than basic phrases. Buying my ticket was a little hectic but I managed to get the right one and board the correct bus. For someone as directionally challenged as I am, that’s pretty damn good. I sat in the wrong seat though. Lo siento.
The interior of the bus was a little tired but it had complementary wifi and the seat was cozy. (From here on out, when you see, “wifi” you have to pronounce it “wee-fee” like they do in Europe. C’mon, it’s fun!)
The scenery from Madrid to Granda reminded me of the rolling hills and golden landscape of Thousand Oaks, California. My home town. Except here it was all covered with groves of olive trees that seemed to go on forever like a live Renaissance painting. My mind started to wonder. The reality of what I was about to do started sinking in. I’m not just vacationing in Spain. I’m living there for a month. Alone. I can’t play stupid tourist. I can’t eat out for every meal pointing at menu items. I have to cook, shop, clean house, take out my trash, do my laundry, walk to school, go to school, most importantly study.
K through 12 were difficult years for me. Struggling with focus and attention, I would interrupt the class a lot and talk to everyone. I repeated third grade and was expelled from high school permanently just a few months into my first year. My parents and teachers said I was lazy and didn’t care. I felt like I was damaged, like something about me was broken. It was the 70s. That’s just how things were I suppose.
Fast forward to the age of forty-five. After going my entire adult life with focus and concentration issues, I was diagnosed with ADHD. The diagnoses and medication turned everything around in my life. Suddenly I could remember things. I had a sense of direction. I stopped interrupting people and learned how to listen. I felt…awake. I thought I was losing my mind and realized I wasn’t. With that, it dawned on me that I am not broken. Not at all.
I laugh at those who think ADHD is some thing manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. Diagnoses and medication changed my life–and it sure as fuck would’ve been nice to have had that as a child instead of a lifetime of being confused and filled with self-loathing. But I digress.
The bus pulled into the Granada station with a jolt. I had arrived. I know from my past history in school that my brain is not wired for passive learning. This is going to be a huge challenge. I am an active learner. I learned how to fix electronics by working on them, not by reading books on how to work on them. I need to learn a language by speaking it. Studying, books, notes, whiteboards, and handouts are very difficult for me.
Oh fuck, I’ve signed up for a month of this.