First off, let me say I hated the movie and the book eat, pray , love. If only because it tends to accentuate that by indulging in the pillar of self that somehow we are better and transformed human beings. Actually, I have found the opposite is true. By trying to look around us and engaging in active particpation of a transformation within our communities, that’s how we truly transform. When we forget about ourselves we are shown a very large and imperfect mirror to look into.
I get the question a lot : So… why are you in Madrid? ( This will soon be the past as I am preparing for yet again another move). As I write this in sevilla trying to find a more detached way of describing my experience it is still fresh on my mind. A lot of people tell me, that I have a real problem because I don’t appear to settle down anywhere. To which I reply ” What, exactly is settling down anyways?” . My family and experience have made my existence nomadic, and a series of very unpleasant things happen in certain places that do not allow me to have the luxury of staying anywhere for long periods of time.
My family moved to London, and I moved with them but after two years they moved back to El Salvador. Given the exorbitant price of living in London on a freelance writing salary, I was forced to either : A) risk going completely broke or b) move someplace cheaper. I also wanted to serve in a community where I could participate in community life and build up the neighborhood projects. I wanted to work with junior youth and I wanted to be near friends who would support me. I had a steady income, so all of it made sense. Besides, Spain was the closest thing to Latin America in Europe right? I mean , really how different can it be?
Because of my lingering guilt on not moving back to Latin America, I also chose to live in Getafe and not Madrid. Getafe is a small city town on the outskirts of Madrid and no one can accuse it of being pretty. It’s a pretty normal lower middle class industrialized town filled with all kinds of immigrant families. It was not what people imagined when you go to Europe, in fact I probably lived in far better conditions in El Salvador.
Pretty soon, and very quickly I found myself completely diminished of all preconceived notions of Madrid when I moved there. Madrid was NOT El Salvador by any means, shape or form. People were not welcoming, and for the most part you were left to fend for yourself. It wasn’t even the same language almost. Madrilenos would yell on the streets , there was no cappuchinos and instead of drapes there were these weird metal things on the window that I could not figure out how they worked. The supermarkets were even foreign with weird wormy things that appeared to be some kind of seafood. The first night in the supermarket I was crying on the aisles because no one accepted my cards without ID , and I knew nothing about food or anything. It hit me how sort of alone I was.
Not to say I didn’t have friends because I did. But there were some very long- and very painful periods- where I was alone . I have to say , if it wasn’t for Niaz and Cristina and some other people I would have gotten completely insane.
But over these very very harsh trials in Madrid, I am finding now a year later that I have changed. I have become purified over the fire and a lot of things that used to worry me are no longer an issue.
But for the most part, it was the junior youth who kept me going.
So I leave with not a lot of regrets, a bit of a heavy heart and positive outlook for the future.