We have quite a bit of catching up to do, don’t we? Well, it has been two weeks and counting as of today: Tuesday, September 18th. I was thinking that since you’re not here with me to see this beautiful city and experience your own feelings of shock and awe, I should do my best to explain the reasons for mine . . .

First, you should know that I could not be more positive that I am where I’m supposed to be- Madrid, Spain in case your memory has failed you. Every time I turn a corner, I see what I swear is the most beautiful building ever . . . until I turn the next! Even the McDonalds’ here look like they were ripped out from the pages of a history book.

This being my first time in a city, long-term, I find myself infatuated with the sense of independence I get from simply navigating the web of streets on my own. I must say that was a big issue my first week here for someone as “directionally challenged” as I am living somewhere as complex as Madrid. But after I made the 20 minute walk to La Puerta Del Sol- which is gorgeous by the way and a must see if you ever find yourself in Madrid and looking for something touristy to do- without getting too hopelessly lost, my confidence in that department went through the roof.

There is a silver lining to all the “exploring” I’ve been doing and the long walks me and my map take trying to find the post office: the walking! I’m convinced that my feet carry me about four miles a day. This makes me less guilty about all the bread I’ve been eating (all day every day).

But the language! Oh, good Old Spanish. I thought we were getting along fine until it left me hopelessly digging my own grave during my first day of school today. Okay that may be a bit dramatic. I was able to manage speaking with my peers and making friends with people who have the patience for my 3rd grade abilities, but it’s the teachers (especially my philosophy professor) that are the hardest to understand. I ended up handing in a blank test today- or what I thought were my notes. For once, will somebody just please SLOW DOWN!

I was thankful and excited to have a break from the language and stress last weekend when my orientation rolled around. The only way I can explain that experience, with any hope that you will understand, is with a segment from my diary I wrote the day we left: “Sometimes I think this program is cruel. There is a bond between exchange students that is present even before you come face to face with each other. It enables 100+ strangers from, all over the world, to get together for 3 days and 2 nights and have it seem as if you’ve known them your whole life. You make the best of friends, people who find a way to comfort you in unknown territory, and then you all have to come to terms with reality and go back to life, miles and miles- oh sorry kilometers and kilometers away from each other. Then, I force myself to stop pouting and remember that all the cruelty in the world is worth nothing compared to the memories we made. ”

You’ll have to excuse me- I’m off to have the year of my life and make more memories! I’ll report back soon.

-Bella