We are currently waiting in the train station for our train to Toledo. The three days that we have just spent in Madrid have been so full that they seem to have blurred together into one. The past three days have been filled with lots of introductions: we have met so many beautiful and loving people. Before traveling to Spain I had begun exchanging emails with our church’s Madrid representative, Marina. Marina met us at the airport after our flight from Barcelona. She was wonderfully generous with her time, escorting us to our apartment and organizing a gathering on Saturday with other members of our church to welcome us to Madrid. Marina’s generosity and kindness was inspiring.
In Madrid we saw the Royal Palace and we also sat in on Sunday mass in La Cátedral de Almudena. Both structures were strikingly immense. As we toured the inside of the palace I was struck by the fact that human beings have an amazing ability to create beauty. I was also reminded, as we passed through a room dedicated to the conquest of the Americas, that human beings have a remarkable ability to destroy.
I have spoken a lot of Spanish in the past several days! I have learned, however, that the most important things can be communicated without words. Yesterday we ate lunch with Polina and Olga, both members of our church and both from Russia. Although Polina’s English was very good, that of her mother, Olga, was not. Despite a language barrier we were able to communicate and share with each other about our very different lives. One of the things which I came to appreciate about Polina and Olga was their ability to cope with their isolation. These women live in a city that is incredibly distinct and almost shockingly different from their home in St. Petersburg, Russia. Within Madrid they are surrounded by a different language and culture. While my mom and I are also surrounded by this different language and culture our stay is temporary. Mom and I are experiencing the sensation of being strangers in a strange land by choice. For two weeks we are out of our natural element and for two weeks the exciting sensation of being somewhere foreign is still fresh. Polina and Olga have been living in Spain not for two weeks but for two and a half years. For them the foreignness isn’t temporary: it’s their everyday reality.