Salamanca: My Timeless Home
January 1, 1970
by Andrea Chirinos
I think I must admit I was a little
a lot nervious.
Of course , this was not my first time living in a foreign country, far away from the comfort of living with my mother and sister, but there was an extra excitement that kept me waiting, since I saw my name on the list of students accepted to the University of Salamanca until I took the bus from Madrid to Salamanca.
I still remember the farewell at the airport. Now I look from afar, I smile and think ” I had no clue about all the life that was waiting for me in Europe” I spent my time on the plane watching movies, classic stuff or new releases. At times I slept , the rest of the time I was just thinking about the odds of the matter, to get there, time and distance.
Finally, 12 hours later, the plane was landing at Adolfo Suarez Madrid – Barajas Airport.
Life in Spain
I never thought I’d fall in love with Spain.
Terraces, tapas, pinchos, montaditos (they end up being almost the same thing, and yet you still love them so much). Cold winter nights while walking down those cobbled streets and sometimes wet from that rain that seemed never-ending; also, the hot summer nights, where the atmosphere invites you to dance, and the streets are filled with loud voices, laughter, tinto de verano (wine and lemon soda) and beer.
The accent, c, s and z that are caught between provinces and autonomous communities. Slang, flirting and sarcasm to that foreign girl who is not yet close to adapt to this different relaxed life.
I had a layover in Madrid about four years ago, for less than 3 hours. The memories I have of that elusive stop are, taking the subway back and forth from the airport to Puerta del Sol, taking a picture with the bear and the Madroño tree (actually, a friend of mine took it, because at that time the selfies were not fashionable), putting my feet on the recognized Kilometro Cero on the pavement and then hurrying up to find a booth to buy magnets (it is always essential to have a magnet from one place you’ve been).
This time however, I was going to stay almost 4 months in Salamanca, a small and pretty city located a few hours away from Madrid.
The “Getting Used” Part
The plans had changed at the last moment and I experimented a twist of fate and luck that we always think we don’t have. What happened is that I had run into a friend from school on the plane, who offered me to stay in her place until I could get my future home in Salamanca.
Those days in Madrid served me as some kind of introduction that combined days of jetlag (sleeping until 3 or 4 pm), trying some culinary culture of Spain (the eternal and confusing existence of tapas, pinchos and montaditos) learning to use the metro and doing some basic tourism.
The real “adapting part” to this “temporary life” started the 1st of February, when I arrived at the bus station of Salamanca. The landlord picked me up and got home in less than 5 minutes (I started noticing how small this city was) He helped me to settle down, I chose a room that end up being mine for the rest of my stay; we talk about technical issues of the house, how to take care of the place, among other things and left me alone. My roomates were arriving the next day.
There was no wifi and I coudn’t stand the silence., so I took some money, keys and went for a walk.
I ran into a friend who showed me the city. When we were getting “back” I was already lost. We had no data on the phone (since my friend was also from Perú) so we had to go back to the Plaza Mayor to remember the path I had taken to get there.
That was the first and last time that I could not get to my home.
The “Walking” Part
I learned to walk.
For dumber and basic as that sounds, I had gotten used to move only on wheels in Lima (Capital of Peru). Whether in my own car or public transportation.
I moved to a city where everything was at 10 to 40 minutes walking distance. All so close, so accessible in a way. Of course, in winter it was a bit heavy walk, we usually reached lower temperatures from 5 to 10 celsious degrees. You just had to put on some headphones and walk. It was a matter of time to get to use to that.
By March, the roads were more familiar, as the walk became lighter.
Here are some tips that I consider useful for rainy days. You had three very clear options to get from one place to another.
- You walked very fast trying to hide yourself beside the street walls that had some cornices (it worked sometimes, you got kind of wet but then you just laugh about it).
- You could get an umbrella (I ended up buying one).
- You waited for the rain to stop (this didn’t happen very often because you waste big part of the day and the weather app was almost always wrong fdabout it).
The “Basic Cooking” Part
The second day of my stay my roomates and I went shopping as a family. Believing that we were buying everything we really needed to lead us to a healthy and decent life for the months to come. Of course, we were wrong (as good beginners) and ended up buying a lot of stuff that represented more cravings than actual basic needs.
So then I knew that it’ll take me some time to get the experience I needed to do a good shopping. I’m including a list of what I learned in those months, that kept growing, while my dishes were getting more basic and smaller.
- Taking advantage of all the tuna sales (it’s easy and quick to cook, than means, you save time and dedication, it is also super combinable).
- Always look for lower numbers but also look at the brand (ok you want to save, but remember that you can end up spending more on medicines and such things).
- Carrefour own brand products are not as bad as you think they are. Buy them.
- You could try to share costs with your partners by buying “everything that we all use” but usually is not that convenient (not everybody eats the same way, sometimes it’s better if you administer your products by yourself).
- Potatoes, noodles and eggs are a MUST (the sauces too).
- The cereal can last a month if you eat in moderation.
- If you are not sure that you can eat vegetables everyday, do not buy a lot because they can easily get rotten.
- Sometimes you are going to create a strange and not-very-good-looking dish (or imitation) and your roomates are going to laugh at you (don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if it tastes good).
The “This is my Home” Part
I traveled a lot during my stay.
All thanks to the perfect combination of the “random holidays” that had the university almost every two weeks, the few courses I was taking (4 courses in two and a half days), the money I’ve saved in Peru and that huge excitement I had, to go to more and more places.
That excitement however, was always repeated on the same trip: when I was leaving my city and when I was returning.
I always bumped into that feeling of peace when I knew I was going back to “my home”. That joy of taking a bus for 3 to 4 hours just to see approaching the image of the beautiful new cathedral of Salamanca and the Roman bridge.
Salamanca said good-bye to me at night-time, and at day-time she was waiting with open arms again.
She received me with terraces and that funny bustle. With rain and strong sunshine in the streets. With trees along Salamanca Avenue which went from dry branches to very green leaves. With a big smile on my face while walking home from the station, passing Candelario Street to Portugal Avenue, then to Plaza de Barrio Vidal and finally taking Emigdio de la Riva Street to reach Curtidores.
Salamanca has been a roller coaster in my life , exciting and frightening at the same time.
I made many mistakes but I learned to get up on my own.
So I can say without any hesitation, I went as a person and returned as another.
A better, smarter and likable one.
Perhaps, finally, one who has a tangible goal.