So I moved again the first week of November. This was the fourth time moving since stepping off the Easyjet plane in Madrid. Thankfully, these were not massive moves and fortunately I was able to move my few suitcases bit by bit rather than hauling everything across town in a cab at once. My new pad is quite special because I am living on my own; a luxury I had not been accustomed to for quite some time. It has been liberating to sit in my living room with my feet on the table and have a glass in the sink unwashed. Most importantly I do not have the anticipation that at any moment someone would knock on my door. While I am greatly enjoying the solitude within the confines of my four walls, I still have to deal with the externalities such as the neighbor’s dog, loud coughing, other people’s tv, the dinging sound that is indicative of someone Facebook chatting and so forth.
My flat is located just a stone’s throw from the Times Square of Madrid. On the busy and ever so crowded Gran Via there are several large cinemas, Starbucks, McDonalds, and a plethora of H&M’s. The streets between metro Gran Via, Sol, Callao, and Sevillia are overcrowded with tourists, slow walkers, and people who simply have no manners. In a crowd you can expect a few bumps and taps, but in Spain I feel as if I am the next tackle waiting to happen. I also feel deliberately assaulted on a daily basis. I can honestly say my patience is growing thin.
But tucked away from the madness and the wannabe rugby players are a few quiet, unassuming street (one of which hosts my flat). My neighborhood is a myriad of things: red light district meets gayborhood. There are countless artistic shops, quaint cafes and tapas bars. Equally, there are a host of sex shops, gay male revue posters plastered up and down the streets, gay pride flags, and prostitutes. When I first came to Madrid I felt people looked at me with utter disgust. I began matching their impolite, long stares with equally long and menacing stares. In my new neighhorhood and some random outings across the town, I sincerely believe that I am looked at is if I am a prostitute. Other than the tourists in my area, the only black women I see are prostitutes standing on the corners or under scaffolds on the busy streets. Unlike Belgium or Amsterdam where the prostitutes stand in the window advertising their goods like a cake in a bakery, these prostitutes are unassuming. For the most part they don’t garner a lot of attention with wild ‘prostitute’ clothing. They are dressed in ‘normal clothes’ i.e. jeans, sweater, boots. In other words, they look just like you and I.
Since moving to my new neighborhood, I have noticed that people look at me in a different way, in a familiar kind of way. After being followed and catcalled by an older, White Male, as I turned down a side street, I realized that I have been mistaken for a prostitute!!
So, upon leaving my flat, I avoid pro-longed eye contact with anyone of the opposite sex and I stare hard (rather judgmentally) at all the women I see on the corner. Telepathically I am asking them “why” and at the same time letting them know I’m not one of them.
Anyhow, my spoken Spanish is improving dramatically despite not being properly educated in the Spanish language since the 7th grade. I am noticing a difference in the Latin American and the European or Castellan Spanish. Asking for something as simple and common as an Empanada proved difficult and even resulted in some unwelcomed sneers from the sales clerk. I’m immune to it at this point – although I wish that people would give me some credit for at least trying!
Well that is all for now. My next blogs will focus on the job hunt as well as the book I just read from Isabel Allende, my nights on the town in Madrid and my trip to the hair salon!