After a Three-Part Flight and a Month in Madrid: Reflections on What is ‘Still’

Before Everything,

I have piles separated on my bed: indoor shorts, outdoor shorts, outdoor skirts, clothes for live music, clothes for when I don’t want to think about clothes. I remember that I must think about winter, too. In my personal item: soft pastels and an outlet converter. I pet Cokes, who has been smelling like eggs, a scent I love when the culprit is her body.

The night before I leave, I don’t sleep. That is a task for flight. While in flight, I droop my head on the most taut part of the neck pillow I made, which is stuffed with my socks and underwear. I twist it around; I grumble; I lay my head on my hands; I beg the pull out table for rest, which of course it does not have…

I am calm when dinner comes, my first meal in the air in a long long while. I savor it.

Moved In

I am living on the street where Miguel de Cervantes lived and died. Sometimes I think of him, of delusions, of creative spirit, of what lingers, what leaves. I think of ghosts. In Madrid, I live in my first one-bedroom apartment. I use a dishwasher, and with some sense of betrayal (to my parents, to labor?), learn that I like it. I have used it three times already.

The street where Miguel de Cervantes lived and died. Almost every day, guided tours stop not far outside my balcony.
A remembrance of Cervantes, beside an orthopedic massage parlor.


I am listening to music I loved elsewhere too: Route 8 in the mornings, frequencies as I fall asleep. The sounds I know comfort me, as living in another continent is as isolating as expected.
I am still painting deserts.

There is consistency in my grocery lists:

I buy the only peanut butter I can find. Maybe trying new things and being open minded means buying the creamy kind. (I like it.)



I forgot sardines today. Emily and I ate canned sardines on the floor in the last few weeks before her graduation and our summer. I will buy them next time, which will not be a Sunday at the twentieth hour.

Still, I lug sacks of groceries in each hand, sweating uphill, my glasses routinely sliding down. I walk, commanding Antón Martín station to appear, for then I will know that home is not so far away. Home is where the schlepping ends and being barefoot begins.

Earlier, after two appetizers, half an entree, and a paella at La Taberna Sur where we are asked De Dónde Sois and I remember San Francisco aloud for a minute, Ari and I part at Antón Martín and I hug my new friend for the first time. Later, we text about homework.

I remember summer, my birthday at Teleferíc: grilled octopus, pork belly paella, oceanic feelings, California redwoods, the Kim family (party of 3)… I remember: Amanda O’Dea, briefly;  la tierra que me encanto, constantly. I remember touch from people I love.

I see Dove brand shampoo and fries on the floor and I am comforted by the universality of some things. And I think that maybe, sadly, we are united by brands.

A dimly lit image of Shin ramen next to a euro coin and my transit card. Still, I crave what is Korean: language, food, my parents. I seek remedies in the ways I can find them.

Martes Trece

Tuesday the 13th (or martes trece) is the Hispanic equivalent of the Western Friday.

On Tuesday, it stormed; I got my period. I woke at the sixth hour of the day, and sped to the Sol station with a gingham shirt tied over my head. Lightning, and so thunder. I appreciate the theatrics. During class: three adjacent women in the back of the room with their tummies rumbling through the fourth quarter of class. After, I walk home hungry. My snack yogurt had curdled. The sky was bright in a way it only is after rain, the way the City gets sometimes around Christmas, sometimes in May. I walked, and I marveled, realizing I had not stared at the clouds in a long time. This thought made me sad. I furrowed my brow at the bright, bright sky as I found my way home.

When I walk for long enough, I usually end up realizing where I am.

Walking one day, I find myself in la Plaza Mayor at dusk.

Rebecca Kim is a student at Carnegie Mellon University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying with ISA in Madrid, Spain

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