Host Families and Piso Hunting


Pics by Sidra J. B

Although it is not officially week one, it is the first week in my own Piso (apartment) for a year in Madrid; therefore I would like to get you all up to speed before explaining the events that have, and probably will, take place this week.

I have been living here for a month now and the first three weeks were with a host family. Let me just give my shout out now. God has really looked out for me in regards to placing me with a great host family. I see you, Lord! I felt like I was living in a 4-star hotel -- aside from the twin-sized, spring in your back re-arranging your spine to the side of your rib, type of bed -- but I digress. Surprisingly, I handled that minor setback pretty well. Anyone who truly knows me knows that I. DO. NOT. PLAY when it comes to my sleep. I treat it like the investment it should be.

Other than that, I was given 3-course meals, taken on a hike and swimming trip, and was introduced to my family’s friends during some of their summer picnics. Compared to the few friends I’ve made in my teaching program, I had it made. However, one of my friends, Jake, did not have the same luxury as I did. Upon arriving at his host family's house, he was told by his elderly host mother, to go for a walk during siesta; a time in the day ranging 3-4 hours where most people relax. Apparently, she felt uncomfortable around a man his size. Jake is a 6’4 post-university white male who kind of reminds me of Jim, from The Office.

Another friend of mine, Leni, explained she was barely fed, which goes against the rules of housing an expat in our programs' (CIEE) contract. It requires the host to feed us two meals a day, preferably breakfast and dinner. When Leni complained about this to the programs host family coordinator, I believe the next day she received a piece of bread for each meal. What we eventually found out was that a specified meal WASN’T in the contract. #Hadthatbeenmysituation #Ohyougonnafeedmethatchickenyouonlymadeforyourself #DontmakemegetHANGRY

Now the common dilemma that we all shared was finding an apartment room of our own while we stayed with the host family. So, the hunt was ON! We only had two weeks to find an apartment, and I will be the first to say finding an apartment in Madrid has exactly the same obstacles one would have in New York City in the dead of summer -- yeah, it’s that bad. Thousands of Auxiliaries are on the hunt for apartments within the same vicinity as you and more likely than not an apartment will be shown to not just you but twenty other people at the same time; It’s like going to an auction.

Auctioneer: “Do I have 300 Euros? Ah, yes to the lady in the red! What about 350?”

It’s exhausting. At one point, while Leni and I were spending an entire day going to each other’s apartment tours -- as they call it -- we realized the next apartment for me to see, she was scheduled to see right after me.

Me: “Yes! I only have one last apartment to view. Then we can see yours and get something to eat afterward. The address is Calle Miguel Angel…”

Her: "26?”

*Gives each other a look, followed by me getting a head start to the apartment because my foot someone how tripped hers.*

Needless to say, neither one of us got that place. Matter of fact, while on the metro looking defeated, hot and hungry, I’m pretty sure the guy sitting across from us with a smirk across his face holding a contract, was the same guy I saw leaving the same apartment we just came from. I can only imagine him stating, “I’ll take it!” and signing the contract as Leni and I raced up the seemingly never-ending stairs to that apartment.

To make a long story longer, I’ve never felt so defeated in my God-given life. Imagine…not knowing the native language in the country you have to find an apartment in. All you have to convince the renter that you’re the perfect fit for the apartment is gestures, broken sign language, and Spanglish. However, that experience alone was just one of the many stories I’m excited to share with you all. I say this because anytime my sister and I travel together misadventures always happen to us. At the moment, you’re complaining to the heavens above: “For the love of God, make it stop,” but then afterward you laugh and/or learn from the situation. So within these blogs, my sister and I hope to make you laugh, think and enjoy our stories here on COLOR-ME-CULTURED.