|Photo cred to Nurul Atifah|
"How's Madrid treating you?"
"What do you think of Madrid?"
"Do you like Madrid?"
Each time I get these questions, I'd smile. Being me, you know I have a lot to say but of course I only answer as short as possible. I know people are only asking if it is a thumbs up or thumbs down, making light conversation and acknowledging that I am going through a different experience. I appreciate that. But now it is time to really answer these questions.
Madrid is so beautiful, that's the first thing I have to say. The buildings and architectures, filled with hints of arts and beautiful carvings. With more than 100 fountains and so many monuments as a remembrance of historical figures or events, walking around Madrid means taking a lot of pictures! So yeah, that's why I so am active on Instagram now. And yes, walking around is totally normal in Madrid. It is not even awkward to do it here because this city is totally pedestrian friendly! You won't feel inferior by the big cars because the the side walk is there and if you want to cross, there's zebra crossing EVERYWHERE! And the cars will stop for you if there is no traffic light there. PEDESTRIANS ARE PRIORITY! The public transportation is also very efficient, be it the bus or the Metro (that's what we call the subway train). Trust me, it will only take you a day to understand how the Metro works and with the help of Google Maps, it is very easy to find your way around, with the Metro or the bus. Right now, one of the Metro line is under construction. But guess what, they provided free buses to cover for this line! How convenient! Speaking of convenience, I love it how all the public places have the disabled people thought of. There are ramps everywhere, every bus stop has braille and there are places for wheel-chairs in public transports. I, myself, get to see how these people use these facilities at least once every week. I don't know, I find it amazing because all these while I can only imagine how they try adapt to the society but now I can see it for myself. And man, I do think there are still many that can be done for them to help reduce the inequality they experience.
The nights in Madrid are pretty safe, I can say. There’s many police working at night and get this, you can’t drink on the streets. So don’t worry about stumbling upon drunken people because I haven’t. Plus the night life starts at 2am or so and even though I like being out late, I am pretty sure I am home by 2am. That’s way too late. Some things starts at night like... ice-skating or language exchanges. People socialize a lot here and I like that. What's not to like about meeting new people right? Exchanging stories and enjoying company are definitely what I need since I am here all alone.
The people here are very warm and welcoming. At least the ones I have met. They greet you randomly and it is not weird at all here, they like to help strangers especially like myself even with very little similar language competency. And when they help, they REALLY help like… I-will-stand-with-you-for-5-minutes-so-you’d-understand kind of help. But gosh, they do not like to ask for help. Once I saw a feeble lady coming in the Metro and people stand up to let her sit and she was all “No no no por favor!” but in the end, she still took the sit. I tried helping a lady with her bag once because we were going down the stairs and she had a handful of them. She smiled and said it was fine and maybe she was being safe with her things but still, if they can do things by themselves, they don’t want to burden you. Kind of reminds me of me. I always have problems asking for help though I like to help people. But I learn to ask here because I always do not know things. Everything is new. It is starting to grow on me and I am getting more comfortable asking for help, maybe because everyone shows positive reaction to my request. Never once was I turned down. I hope I can keep this up in Malaysia. I am always stressed out because I do not know how to ask for help and it is kind of pathetic. But do understand that this is what I generally see and experience, it does not mean everyone is like that. There was this one time when I was mocked when I was speaking to my friend in English by some random couple and that one time I saw a boy jumped the turnstile in the Metro.
Speaking of breaking the rules, following the rules are cool here. It seems so easy to manage a country where many people actually have a 1st class mind. Trust me, not everyone does. You can still see people litter, ignoring the red light or not cleaning after their own dog poop. But a bunch of them do and that make things wayyyyy easier already. Compared to if it is the other way around, well, Malaysians know that so well already. They always… always let people out from the Metro or lifts first before letting people in. 10am means 10am so that’s not a surprise because we have always known that we don’t respect time as much as some people. If the light is red and you can’t see any cars but you still want to wait, you don’t have to be worried of looking dumb standing at the side of the road waiting because many people wait too. A lot of people smoke here but they know when and where to do it. The no smoking sign is not a ‘suggestion’ to them. Oh and just for your information, the cigarettes here smells different too. In Malaysia, I will always feel suffocated when people smoke. Many of my friends know this. Here, I do not have that problem, how weird. Probably there’s something different in the cigarettes.
Understand this. I am in an environment that is wayyyy out of my comfort zone. I look different (Madrid is kind of diverse but there are still many Caucasians), I dress differently from others (yes, because I wear the hijab), I have to dress differently from before (because of the weather), I speak differently (either I am speaking Malay, English or 'butchered' Spanish, I don't speak like everyone else), I eat differently (looking for halal food is like a mission sometimes), everyone is someone new (even though my housemates are from my faculty, we only recently know each other so yeah, I am here without anyone basically), I need to learn how to do everything (even simple tasks like how to use the bus), the culture is different, the rules are different... I am pretty sure you got the idea by now. So I am like a child that doesn't know much and I have to be prepared for I will make mistakes, I have to be told what to do, I have to be curious. Truth is, isn't that what we are suppose to do, suppose to be? Constantly learning. We are always too busy being that person that knows things, we forgot how to be stupid for once and being stupid is not necessarily bad. Positivity is the only way to turn things back around. I know I say this a lot but man, I feel it everyday here,
So yeah, I like Madrid. In fact, I am starting to get a little scared because I have slowly fall for this new life I have here. Probably because I get to do one thing that I thought I never could.