Chapter 21 : Who You Gonna Call?

Being in a new city means new everything. New routines, new discovery, new culture, new timing. All these will shape a new kind of normal which at a point becomes just normal. I adjusted well the first few weeks but since I don't go to classes and the people in my lab are older, I wasn't making friends. Trust me, if you know me, you know it is not because I don't want to. I just couldn't. And by the third week, I was so desperate. I was downloading apps after apps to try make friends near me and Facebook had been helpful too, keeps suggesting me apps to try. And that was exactly how I met my first friend in Madrid.

I was looking for something to do with other people my age. I accidentally downloaded an app from one of the exchange student community here, BeMadrid. That's how I discovered there were free walking tours. When I went there, a girl from the app noticed me and came up to me. We started talking and we went on the tour together. And the next day, Shams and I went to Toledo together. Toledo is an old city near Madrid (a day trip is sufficient) with beautiful views and historical buildings that marked how harmonious Christians, Jews and Muslims use to live together. I am not a history buff but I love stories.

The cathedral in Toledo

Since then, we started planning tonnes of trips or even just a simple weekend together. Each time I see a trip coming up soon, we'd discuss if we'd like to go. Our first long distance trip was with Smart Insiders to Barcelona and Zaragoza on the weekends. And this was how Shams made friends with Josie. They say three is a crowd but I have always been in groups of three so I am used to it. And three is also a perfect number to start doing batshit crazy stuff. We will always remember Barcelona. Well, yes, it is pretty, iconic, historic and all but that's not why.

The Sangrada Familia designed by the famous architect, Gaudi

I have to admit I wish I had more time in Barcelona because there are some things I wanted to do and see but wasn't able to. It just means I'll be here again in the future so I don't mind. Zaragoza was more like a day trip to us. It is in our way from Barcelona to Madrid and we spent half a day there. Plus it was the Pillar Festival during that time so there were many tourists around. I really like the Aljaferia and spent quite some time in there listening to the history behind that castle.

Overlooking the Cathedral-Basilica of Our Lady Pillar, Zaragoza

By the end of that weekend, I now have friends to keep me company every other weekends or anytime anyone is free. We went to Segovia together, once. It was the first time we tried the fast train and our first time seeing the city without a tour guide. It was kind of cool that we get to do our own thing and just winging it.

The Aqueduct is more impressive in person than in this picture, for real

Coming from different countries, different ages and different backgrounds, I definitely learned a lot. One most important lesson for me was definitely tolerance. Being different is great but tolerance keeps things in check and balance. I love having people of the same mind as me, I admit that. But people of different mindsets open you up to different perspectives and different kinds of normal. You empathize better too and you learn when to say something and when to keep quite. Most importantly, you don't judge because you understand. It is always a safe space with these two and it takes two (or in this case, three) to tango. I have to be what I want this friendship to be too. One thing I appreciate is that there is so much respect and opening up in this friendship, I feel blessed. It convince me that yes, I do have to change the way I interact sometimes because I admit I can be distant at one point of a friendship either due to lack of trust or just being busy, but I also can't blame myself all the time when I am not comfortable being friends with someone. It might be that I don't feel safe in the first place. But I can't change other people to suit my need. I only have control of how I feel and deal with things and it is good enough that I realize all these now.

So here is to us. From that crazy night in Barcelona, our first teatro, our sleepovers, our high-class cooking, rides and roller coasters to perhaps future adventures in different countries (because how else are we going to meet again?). I am so glad we met!

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