Living in a city like Madrid begins to feel ordinary once you take the same metro every day and walk the same street home every afternoon. The shops become familiar. You begin to recognize the same people every morning.
But you only need to see the familiar from a different perspective, and things become surreal.
After about a month of being in Spain, I went home a different way than I normally do. A friend and I decided to go get lunch at VIPS, a restaurant chain famous for its United States style food-hamburgers, pancakes, eggs, and bacon.
One thing you can be certain of is that VIPS has nothing on Oklahoma City’s Bev’s, and you can’t really expect it to. VIPS can’t even reach IHOP status, and while IHOP still is a good place to get your pancake fix, that’s the most standard, commercial pancake you could get in the U.S.
Plainly put, Spain can’t do U.S. breakfast food. And it’s true, you’d be hard pressed to find really good Spanish jamòn or churros con chocolate in the U.S. either. That’s the trade-off when experiencing new cultures.
The good thing about going to VIPS, though, was that it is near my host family’s flat, and I got to see more of the barrio that I live in than I had before. I chose to walk home a different way than I’d come, cutting through streets that I don’t have to take to get to the metro.
It was strange having one part of me not know where I was and the other part of me recognize the park that I pass on my way to school. It felt like I was in a movie about a big city girl who has her life together, and I knew I wasn’t the sidekick.
I was seeing views I hadn’t seen before and little restaurants I hadn’t known about, but it was all the way it was meant to be. I was supposed to be there. It was new but familiar. I encountered an intersection I walk by every day and could see down streets that are normally out of my line of vision, and the world around me was vast once again.
Even after I began to get used to Madrid, I still am not a part of her. I am made of wide pastures and single stoplight towns. Oklahoma City runs through my veins, but, by comparison, it by no means makes me a city girl.
So the buildings of Madrid, her side streets and small pastelerias will feel magical to me, even after I find a ghost of home at VIPS.
Though I have made my own home here in Spain, it’s a place I have begun to miss months before I’ll have to leave it.
It’s a place unlike anywhere I have ever lived before.