Sunday, April 27, 2008

Madrid - Mediterranean Backpacking Trip - Day 2 (Part 1)

When I woke up, it was broad daylight and the apartment was empty. When I check the time, I am surprised to find that I had been asleep for ten hours. I normally can't sleep that well the first day of a trip, due to a combination of excitement and jet lag. I was very happy to find this out, as I woke up feeling fully refreshed and no longer jet lagged. It was still morning, and Felix was due to arrive in Madrid at 1pm on a flight from Munich, where he was visiting his father. I told him that I would meet him at the Príncipe Pío subway station at 1:45pm. I had a few hours to burn.

Since this was my first Couchsurfing experience, I was feeling generous. After brushing my teeth and washing the clothing I wore the day before in a dirty sink in their secondary washroom, I gave their sink a quick cleaning. After that, I went to take a shower. Their shower in the main washroom was comfortable and very ordinary by North American standards, except for one feature. Right above the bathtub was a frosted window that slid open into a dark cavity the seemed to stretch all the way from the top to the bottom of the building. I can only assume this tiny channel is used as a ventilation shaft. I wondered if any smells from another person's bathroom would waft through this window into their apartment. However, what made this window most uncomfortable was the fact that right across the way, within an arm's length, was another window that opened into someone else's washroom. While I was on the can before taking the shower, the window across the way lit up, and I can see someone's arm reaching for the mirror in the washroom across the way! I noted how this lack of privacy would never be acceptable in North America, but seemed to be common elsewhere in the world.

Refreshed and almost time to meet Felix, I left the apartment. On the way out, I got a call from Felix, who had just landed. He told me that his plane was late, and that it would be another hour until he arrives at our meeting point. I returned to the apartment to do some light reading before meeting up with Felix.

Even in the apartment, you can hear the hum from the action in the streets below. I had missed this noise very much living in North America. In North America, you either heard nothing if you lived in the suburbs, or heard cars roaring past your window if you lived in a city. On other continents, you also hear cars, but mixed with the sounds of adults and children talking, arguing, laughing, and playing in the streets as there is a smaller reliance on cars in cultures outside of North America. The streets are filled with more action, are more alive, and is more personal.

At 2:30, I leave the apartment to walk to the subway station to meet with Felix. On the cramped elevator ride, a woman started talking to me in Spanish. I just smiled and nodded. At first, I walk into the station as I don't see him around. Not finding Felix inside, I decide to wait outside. As I was sitting around near the entrance, I see from the corner of my eye someone with a large backpack. It's Felix! We were very happy and excited to see each other, a moment worth remembering. After exchanging hugs and some excited chatter, I lead Felix back to the apartment so that he can put his pack down and freshen up for our first (half) day of exploring. I had chosen not to go see any of the main sights the day before partly so that we can catch the main sights together.

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