by Jiyoon Chon
How are you? It’s been so long. A little more than eight months, to be exact. I’ve thought about you a lot. Back in August, I was so excited to leave. I didn’t think you had much more to offer me. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t satisfied with myself and blamed you for my inability to break out of my shell. I wanted to leave and see the world, to find a different, exciting, and passionate self.
And so I did. I experienced a whole new world, and I changed.
Madrid is great. Spain is incredible.
I love the people, the sunny skies and beautiful streets. People love to dance and are really good at it, they love to hug and give kisses and laugh. I love walking around the barrios on lazy Saturday mornings, getting lost in the chatter, in the silence, in the singing of the accordions. I love the small balconies that adorn the pastel buildings in Barrio de las Letras, the flowers at Tirso de Molina, and the cozy cafes in Lavapiés. I love how the bars and restaurants spill out into the streets and how all the Madrileños go crazy for futbol. I love the mariachi band that plays in Puerta del Sol, I love the artists that paint in front of the Prado, and I love the smell of bravas and tortilla that wafts into the streets during lunchtime. I love the kids I work with. I love the way they come running up to me to give me hugs, I love that all the girls always want to braid my hair, and I even love all the times the boys play pranks on me in class.
I also love the new friends I made in Madrid. I got especially close with Rebeca and Erica, the two other girls who came with me through this program. Rebeca’s strong (literally) and so down to earth. She’s reliable and understanding and has helped me out so much this year. She probably doesn’t know this, but she’s my secret role model and friend crush—everything from her extraordinary ability to make friends, her colorful hair, to her humor and memes. Erica and I are so similar but completely different. We’re both timid and introverted and always late. We’ve laughed until we were crying and out of breath, had endless enlightening and deep conversations, and have shared the same struggles. But, she hates butter, tomatoes, and condiments and has never tried a dumpling yet. She’s working on it though. I took her to a Korean restaurant and she loved it, especially the bibimbap. She’ll probably come visit you sometime. She’s humble and is always willing to learn, and I love that about her.
Madrid taught me to dance, to laugh, to care, to love, and to live. I fell head over heels in love with it. It helped me get to know myself a little better. It saved me from getting swept away by the crowds, from following a dream that wasn’t mine. I don’t think you can fathom my love for Madrid—maybe nobody really can.
But I realized I love you too. I realized that I love you with all my heart. When it rains, I close my eyes and breathe in the damp smell of wet grass, and it reminds me of you. I thought I hated the rain, but when those moments come I catch myself smiling. I miss your mountains and your pines, your rocky beaches and summer sunsets, and my family and friends who also call you home.
I’m sorry for having taken you for granted. I don’t regret it though. I decided to stop regretting anything, because there’s too much good in every moment to ever waste time regretting. I guess it just took me some time away to recognize that you are precious, beautiful, accepting, and fun.
I’m shattered at the thought of having to say goodbye to Madrid, but I’m glad you’re the home I get to come back to. I think you’ll like me better too. I’ve learned a lot and grown. I’m beyond excited for all the good food, wonderful people, and new adventures that you have waiting for me.
Mientras tanto, voy a aprovechar el tiempo que me queda en Madrid, comiendo toda la paella y tortilla de patata que pueda, bailando debajo del sol y la luna, y creando más recuerdos preciosos con la gente que quiero.
See you soon,