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Few signs of recession in one part of Spain


Living in Spain has been an experience of a lifetime. After having an internal battle for weeks, about the level of stupidity it was to quit my job to travel, I am thrilled and unregretful that my thirst for wander is being quenched for at least the time being. My first week was overwhelming and I learned right away the difference of traveling solo to going on vacation and remaining in the bubble of my traveling companions. Upon arrival I was immediately thrown into the culture, language, and attitude of this foreign country.

Lucky enough to track down and meet up with distant relative of a cousin of a friend, (six degrees of separation sort of thing), I spent a day in Madrid with this native Spanish man. I tried to keep up with his descriptions of the places we saw and understand where we were going next but in hindsight I realize I was mostly just smiling and nodding and taking it all in.

The wonder of Madrid is the juxtaposition of the history with the present. We walked down one- way brick roads that a small car could scarcely pass through, vines of rosy pink flowers growing up the sides of cracked plaster walls, clothes hanging out on the line above us, and the smell of the local bakery’s bread rising in a timeworn brick oven. Then, simply turning a corner, and a few block down, is the Atocha train station with modern railways and the highway behind it. More than once I saw a mass of assorted angry cars and motorcycles whizzing around a traffic ring that encircled a hundreds of years old marble statue of an essential individual in Spain’s history. The most contemporary night clubs and modern bars are delicately placed within the old architectural frames of ancient buildings, which, from the outside are still the Baroque style churches and government buildings of their original pasts.

Following this one day tour of Madrid, I have been one month in Spain thus far and have been working as an au pair, for a Spanish family and teaching the children English. My experience has been in the south, living in the ultimate and ever evolving melting pot of Puerto Jose Banus.

Englishmen retire here and Arabs sail and dock here to get, what they think is, the cliché European experience. With the Mediterranean Sea on one side, spotted with raised sails and whitecaps, and the mountain ranges in the opposite direction, it is indeed beautiful and picturesque. However, because of the tourists coming from land and sea, the port looks like a replica of Rodeo drive; Burberry, palm tree, Dolce and Gabbana, palm tree, palm tree, Rolex, palm tree, Louis Vuitton, Couture, palm tree.

Historic lighthouses have been surrounded by modern restaurants, old apartment buildings turned into high-end hotels. This is not the classic idea of the epitome of Europe, but staying here has numerous benefits.

The coast is lined with miles and miles of public beach and boardwalk. (So much seaglass!) Every bizarre ethnic food is available because there is someone settled here from just about everywhere. Cars, motorcycles, boats of all sorts, bikes, surfboards, lawn chairs, umbrellas, waterslides, various games and toys are offered for rent. Everywhere I go I meet someone new. Everyone is outrageously friendly because the vacation and leisure attitude lingers in the air with the sunshine and humidity. And, with each new person, I learn something new about their country, culture, or religion. The sun shines bright and the rain is heavy and cleansing. I keep hearing Spain is in an economic crisis but here in Andalucía, artists and craftsmen are thriving and restaurants are packed every night.

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