Sunday, 15 March 2009

And so it begins...

OK, so I´m a bit fuzzy on the whole blog thing so apologies if I bore you to death. I promised myself I would start it the day I arrived, but I´ve been here 2 days and this is the first opportunity I´ve had to veg in a net cafe. Anyway, here goes..

It all seemed like a distant dream in November 2008 at my interview. Surely the day wouldn´t actually come? OK, so I started the career break, handed in my J-cloth uniform, talked about it all in theory but.....Friday March 13th 2009 rolled around with ever-increasing speed. For the fortnight leading up to it, I went through every possible feeling about the whole thing - excitement, terror, elation, trepidation, confusion, you name it. I also went from "Well, it´s only for a year" to "Oh my god, it´s for a whole year!"

And on March 11th at 4.55pm it happened. I realised the enormity of what I was about to do and burst into tears just as poor Andy was about to leave for a fun boys´night out!

Now to anyone who´s emigrated to the other side of the world, "enormity" may seem like an exaggeration. But to little old me, who has spent 19 years and 11 months in the Civil Service, never been abroad for more than 3 weeks, and has done almost nothing alone, this is most definitely enormous.

The day before I left went by in a haze of last-minute packing, walks, hugs, tears, laughs, cat-snuggling and roast potatoes!

I knew what I was about to do, but then somehow I didn´t! Yet before I could blink, I was at Gatwick, vast quantities of hand luggage weighing me down and (somehow) EXACTLY 23 kg of checked-in luggage being whisked away by BA.

Feeling somewhere between a condemned woman and Christopher Columbus, I enjoyed a final tearful hug with Andy and headed for departures.

A planned meet-up with my mum and Cathy was half-fulfilled (sorry, Cathy), then it was off to Gate 104. I´m sure people must have thought I was being deported, accompanied as I was by the uniform-clad UKBA representative (did you find your way out, mum?)

I settled into my emergency exit row and stretched my legs out - a bonus! "Oh yes, Miss Hostess, in the event of an emergency, I know you´re expecting me to calmly open the door and slide gracefully down the chute, and of course I´m happy to assist". Well, no, happy might not quite be the word in the circumstances, but I´ll do my best!

So - 748 miles and 2.5 hours later, touchdown at Madrid-Barajas. Feeling worryingly calm.

The calm wasn´t to last of course. A 25 minute walk to the baggage hall, yet another 25 minutes waiting for my luggage (which did at least turn up!) was followed by a taxi debacle. My pre-booked cab was nowhere to be found and there wasn´t even anyone at the desk. Caitlin was waiting at Louise´s apartment for me, yet it looked like I wasn´t going to make it in time. Panic was starting to set in a bit! But bless her, Caitlin was entirely practical, left the keys with the vegetarian restaurant by the apartment and we agreed it would "all be fine"!

And of course it was - sort of. The cab came eventually, delivered me, I got the keys then discovered for the life of me I didn´t seem to be able to use them! A lovely ancient toothless neighbour eventually helped me in and jabbered away at me. Now my Spanish isn´t fantastic, in fact it´s more non-existent but her lack of teeth meant I stood no hope. Still, I smiled, said Gracias a lot and that seemed to be OK.

And so here I was, in my home for at least 2-4 weeks. I unpacked alarmingly quickly and went out for provisions. A couple of little mini-marts provided me with the basics, though no fresh veg so far! I hauled my goodies back to the flat and added my Marmite (OK, I had to bring something with me from home) to Louise´s Vegemite!

Then I tidied myself up and headed out to the English speaking meetup at Locandita - somewhere I know I can always go on a Friday evening! Met a couple of old friends and plenty of new ones - and unexpectedly met Caitlin! Neither of us knew the other would be there so had never mentioned it earlier. It was great to finally meet her and laugh at the earlier key trauma! I had a lovely evening though by 10.30 I was trashed and had to head back - somehow in the process I was asked to help Jose, a very lovely blind Spanish guy, to his Metro. I´d been here 8 hours and someone had been put entirely in my care for 10 minutes! Eek! Still, Jose is possibly one of the bravest people I´ve ever met and having seen him onto his metro, I headed off to mine with a rather warm, fuzzy glow!

And that was it. End of Day 1 of (fingers crossed) my new life. At the moment, even the training course seems a long way away but that won´t last I´m sure. I disappeared under the duvet and re-emerged after a long and happy sleep into Saturday!

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