So I’ve been in Madrid for a little over a month now and have yet to write a damn thing. The reason being that, thus far, the scope of my experience has been confined to the inside of a classroom. I’ve been taking an intensive course to become a certified English teacher and have spent nearly every waking moment either in class or working on a project for class.
This month-long course has now been followed up with a berserk week of job hunting that I have spent pinballing around Madrid like a coked out Mr.Pacman (what are those little white balls he eats made of anyway?), taking any and all interviews available. I’ve officially accepted a job teaching English at Deloitte, and now that I finally have some free time on my hands, I’d like to recount my first few days in Madrid.
I touch down in Madrid at 7:00 p.m. local time. It has been a long day of flying and the time difference is a nine hour jump forward so I’m a bit out of it. My first test upon arrival is figuring out how to buy a metro pass from the ticket machine.
It’s complete chaos. All the lines are backed up and it sounds like we’re at a U.N. conference. Everyone is speaking a different language and apparently in a huge rush to get wherever it is that they’re going. We just got to the country; where do these people need to get to so quickly?
You’d think the fresh tourists would band together, but there’s a pervasive air of impatience each time a new person flounders at the ticket machine. It’s finally my turn and I feel the scrutiny of everyone behind me, critiquing every wasted button push. The instructions are in Spanish and I’ve got no clue what’s going on. I decide to channel my Mortal Combat skills and start mashing any button I can. A ticket of an unknown denomination spits out and I hurriedly take it and head off.
I hop on the train no problem. It’s the getting off part where I struggle. Back home, the doors automatically open when the train stops. Here, there’s a button on the door that needs to be pushed.
I arrive at my stop and the door to my left opens up, while the one I’ve chosen to stand in front of remains defiantly shut. Unable to determine what to do about the big, glowing green button on my door and apparently incapable of running five feet to the open door on my left, I decide instead to gaze absentmindedly into the distance like a recent lobotomy patient while my stop slides past.
At the next stop I solve the mystery of the glowing green button and backtrack to the correct place.
Now, before I left for Spain, I paid for a place to live for my first month. All I know about this place is its address and the number of the landlord.
I get off at the stop that is supposed to be close to my apartment but I have absolutely no idea which direction to go. I’ve also just cancelled my phone plan so I can’t call the landlord and I have no internet connection for Google maps. How did people find places without google maps?!
I try asking someone for directions but they don’t speak English and my Spanish is shit. I start to feel a bit panicky until I notice a few guys dressed in familiar garb: black pants, white shirt, big grin, and a bible in hand. Mormons. I head over to them for assistance.
They’re incredibly nice and walk me to my place. There’s a bit of an issue when I show up (the landlord thought I was coming the next week), but the Mormons help me sort things out and I get into my place safely.
They offer to come back the next day to help me pick up a bunch of stuff that I need. I honestly feel like I’ve discovered the ultimate travel secret. If you’re ever confused in a new country, find the Morman missionaries. They’re beyond helpful. They come by the next day and help me with all the initial items involved when moving to a new place: setting up my phone, getting a metro pass, taking me to get groceries, etc. They briefly mention religion but don’t really press it. This is on Tuesday and they tell me that they will come back Saturday to help me get the last things that I need.
Fast forward to Friday night. I decide to go out with my Italian roommate Pierro. He’s a cool guy and always seems to know where to party. He takes me somewhere called MoonDance that a bunch of international students are going to. We get there and the line is appallingly long. Like Vegas club long (from a guys perspective. Hot girls, you don’t know what I’m talking about).
I want to leave but my phone is dead and I know that I’ll get lost if I wander the city solo. I try to convince Pierro to go to a different place, but the people in front of us happen to be Italian so he very much wants to stay.
I have been to enough of these places in my lifetime to know that no party with a line so goddamn long that you can’t see the entrance is going to be worth it. Unless fucking Avicii is in there surrounded by topless Victoria Secret models who are spouting free whiskey sours from their nipples, there is no way in hell that a line like this will pay off.
It takes us two hours to finally get inside which puts me in a shit mood. When I’m in a shit mood, I drink combatively. It’s around 6 a.m. when I finally stagger my way home and pass out.
I wake up to the buzzer on our door ringing. Deep in the fog of a soul crushing hangover, I teeter to the front door, bashing my toe on the corner of a wall for good measure. I hop to the buzzer, hissing every English and Spanish curse word I know, and answer.
“Hey Nick! It’s Elder so and so, ready to go shopping?”
Shiittt. I had forgotten about my friendly neighborhood Mormons. I consider saying I’m sick, but feel too guilty about it and decide I’ll go shop real quickly and then come back and collapse.
The hangover is debilitating. My left eye refuses to entirely open and I smell like a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. I fear the missionaries may judge me but I’m hoping that since Mormons aren’t exactly big drinkers, maybe they won’t notice.
We go buy what I need and then head to McDonalds. I feel abysmal. My throbbing headache intensifies with each subsequent pound, like a tell-tale heart of hangovers. As I sit staring at my food, eyes glazed over, wondering if it’s even worth putting down since I’ll just be seeing it moments later in throw up version, the Mormons choose this moment to talk to me about religion. Wonderful. Aside from a shot of tequila, that’s just about the last thing I feel like doing.
They want to know what I believe happens when we die. I tell them I don’t believe in an afterlife and that when we die, we die.
They want to know if I think humans have a greater purpose. I tell them that no, I don’t. I think we’re just randomly drifting around and we create our own purpose. Many people think of this as sad but I find it liberating. The only purpose we have is the one that we choose for ourselves. Pick one that makes you happy. In conjunction with this, some advice my parents gave me was to “live in a way that makes you feel proud to be who you are when you wake up in the morning.” It’s clearly a massive oversimplication of life but I think if you try to stick to these two things, you should do alright.
And I know there’s some troll out there thinking (read this part in a douchey voice), “yeah, well, killing people made Charles Manson happy”. So yeah, pricks who were thinking of pointing that out, the theory doesn’t work for psychopaths. But if you’re a sane individual, I find it to be solid advice
They then tell me about their beliefs. Normally, I’d just let them have their go and not challenge anything. Arguing with religious people about religion never tends to go anywhere. But today, screw it. I’m hungover as all hell and decide that today I’m playing devil’s advocate. Literally.
I start grilling them a little bit about their beliefs. Why is it that they’re Mormon? Why do they feel their religion is the right one? When was the last time they honestly sat down and questioned their beliefs?
My goal was not to unconvert them or anything, but just to get them consider other ways of viewing life. Too often people blindly accept the path that has been laid down in front of them, and I think it’s important to constantly challenge yourself and question why it is you believe what you do. However, I’m fairly certain we didn’t see eye to eye on this issue and they may have believed that I was the devil incarnate, trying to sway them to the dark side.
By the end of my rant, one of them stands up and starts screaming” THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU” while flicking his Fanta on me… Well no, not really. But I think that they considered it.
We split ways after McDonalds and they have not spoken to me since.
As a quick disclaimer to this story, I would like to say that I have nothing against people being Mormon or any other religion for that matter. Some of my good friends are Mormon and they are wonderful people. All that I’m trying to get across is that people need to think for themselves. Do not let peers and family dictate your life beliefs. Believe in whatever it is you feel helps you become a better person and do so of your own volition.