There is nothing quite like having a friend visit you when you are living alone in a foreign country. For those of you have have yet to have this experience, i.e., most of the world's population, let me inform you that it is a glorious experience, because in an desert of strangers a familiar face is like an palm tree oasis. (I've been thinking about Aladdin a lot lately. I like Abu, the little monkey, I like his vest. What? He's delightful!)
So when my friend Haley, hi Haley!, mentioned she might want to come to Madrid, I jumped at the chance to have her here. Because Haley is living the glamorous life in Paris (well for those prices it had BETTER be glamorous), it's not too difficult for her to jump across the border and enter the land of huge rice dishes and odd Franco references. It's frankly the MetroNorth of plane travel, to be honest. For those of you who don't get that, well, move to New Haven for, like, five minutes, and then you will.
Now, considering I live in an apartment with approximately ten billion other people, the chance to stay in a posh hotel with one of my best friends seemed like an ideal prospect, especially considering just how many of my roommates seem to be at the peak of their, um, stamina, let's say, in the mornings. What I didn't consider was just how strange it would be to experience Madrid as a tourist, strolling through the calles and avenidas like the American I try so hard not to be. Honestly, it was rather a relief to be walking around the city with Haley, gawking at all the quintessential Spanishness, being troubled by the increasingly pathetic street performers, marveling at the oddness at every turn. As Haley marveled at the beggars in the streets, the low prices (because compared to Paris Dubai is an outlet store, really) and the ability to smoke anywhere you please, I couldn't help but be grateful. There is nothing like having someone used to the French around to make you appreciate the Spanish. And you can quote me on that.
Now that Haley has returned to Paris and I am still living a life with one foot in the third world (Thank you, Spain), I only hope I can keep that sense of gratitude with me. Considering that I have yet to meet a friendly waiter, a kind shop owner, or any person who says "Excuse me" when they straight up run into you on the street, I'm thinking it's going to be a struggle. Oh, well, if there's one thing I do well...
Leah Franqui is a fairly interesting person/director/writer/reader/eater/drinker. She likes ugly dogs and dislikes her hair in the morning. She's a sucker for environmental causes and plays hardball with deals on chewing gum. She is a struggle.