A House Is Not a Home

I’ve been in Madrid for about five weeks now and have, in that time, lived in four different places. Finding housing in Madrid is as challenging as…

…as challenging as…


…well. It’s so challenging that I don’t even have a snappy analogy to describe the situation. As indicated in this post, by September mid0-month I had a piso, then I lost a piso, and spent a substantial amount of time squatting at the University residence where Fulbright orientation had been held, suffering truly ghastly culinary concoctions such as potato-fish mash. The residencia making it perfectly clear that I was no longer welcome in its walls (the Americans, it seems, wore out their welcome) I stayed at Jordan’s piso for 15 euros a day for about a week. I then spent a night in the home of Mr. Mark Fox, and then, only then, only on September 29thish did I make the final move to Calle San Marcos 39. I’m home now, and it’s even beginning to look like home. There is, of course, a backstory to finally getting here. This backstory involves a first showing for which I showed a bit too early and resultingly interrupted the schtupping session of the guy who used to live in my room. I think even now my face is turning red. I also balked at the 800 euro deposit which nearly persuaded me against taking the place. 800 euros on September 18th was more than 2/3rds of all the money I had; knowing rent of another 400 would be due October first was also daunting and nearly a dealbreaker. Ultimately, though, I liked this piso and its inhabitants so well and was so tired of searching that I walked about a third of the way down the block, then called and pledged myself as a roommate. That was within 5 minutes of leaving and saying I’d think about it. But on to the details that really matter: roomies, rooms, and delightful particulars.

I posted an ad (“Young English Teacher/Fulbright Grantee in Search of Madrid Housing”) on loquo.com as a last resort. By September16th I was forlorn and desperate for somewhere to live. I included a picture, a bio and a snapshot of my daily life, not expecting much or anyone wanting to live with me. Within an hour, I received an email from one V. No fucking way. “Hi, Caitlin” she wrote in Spanish, “in our search for a roommate I came across your ad and think we’d all get along well. We have a room for rent in Chueca…” wrote said V. V wrote that she is a graphic designer with a bachelor’s in fine arts, a masters in graphic design, and a doctorate (wtf!?) in fine arts from the University of Salamanca. Having had plenty of contact and outrageously positive interactions with my much-loved graphic designin’ Fathomites, I was immediately on board. We made an appointment. I hauled over to Chueca. The rest is history.

V is an adorable Spanish chick of somewhere between 25 and 30. With heels she reaches my shoulder. She’s sweet but feisty, talented and totally competent at everything she does, without being arrogant. I also suspect that with one more nugget of gold in that heart of hers she’d have every pirate still trolling the high seas after her ass for more reasons than pure pulchritude. V is generous and patient with my remedial Spanish and she has an infectiously upbeat personality. Long story short, she’s great.

M, V’s boyfriend, also lives here. M is THE good will ambassador; always talking, smiling, swinging around or piling up the long cornrows that V masterfully crafts for him herself, M is a good time. My one concern is that he has no boundaries about using my personal hygiene products and I’ll leave it at that. He spends almost all of his time here in the apartment, watching soccer on YouTube, playing loud reggae, smoking and sleeping on the couch. He goes out at night to play gigs, to DJ, and to catch up with his multitudinous friends. He is a mysterious but friendly creature with a warm soul.

My third roommate (yes–this apartment is QUITE large) is a Dutch guy named E. Somewhere in his early 30s, E’s my height, super athletic, super precise and super efficient at everything he does. He’s also extremely friendly, speaks five languages, is constantly milling around the house cleaning, picking things up, cooking, writing post-it notes to himself while singing in any of the five languages he knows (sometimes all), humming or whistling a merry tune. He cuts an impressive and respectable figure in his businessman-y outfits, but has all the humanity of a bohemian independent coffee-shop worker. He likes (and cooks!) good food and his cupboard in the kitchen contains about 600 different kinds of exotic spices and dark chocolate. It was the singing and the curry that sold me on Eric. He left just two days ago for a 9 day bicycle trip starting in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and ending somewhere in the desert. Um. Badass.

The piso is also amazing. Located in the heart of Madrid’s fashionable, hipstery and extremely trendy gay neighborhood, living here means I’m surrounded by good shopping, good eating and lots of friendly neighbors in very tight tee shirts. I’m centrally located so I can walk to almost anywhere I want to be. Below you’ll find pictures, which is where I’ll leave it because I’m losing steam and have been wiped since my fifth class with 2nd graders today at 3:15. Bear in mind that all that was here when I got here was the worst mattress on earth and the desk without a chair; it’s still Spartan, but certainly slightly homier. Next paycheck I’m buying a curtain (so the lady from the University of Mexico in Spain across the courtyard who’s always on the computer with her headset can stop seeing me naked. Every day.), a cheap nightstand and a full length mirror so I know what I’m wearing when I blearily leave the piso for work every morning. The sweetass posters on my wall are Bosch’s triptych “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (hell is my favorite panel; it’s a Where’s Waldo for creepy grown up kids).

Below, behold the wonders. I have a home!

My Room (This is a view from the door)

From the bed

A view of my sick, chalk-full of storage closet and the desk from which I’m typing, all from the viewpoint of the newly comfified bed.

This is what I see out my window. This is how the lady from the University of Mexico sees me. Depressing view, but it’s quieter than the streetside.


My desk, with a chocolate pudding scented Ikea candle to combat the cigarette smoke that wafts in from across the hall.

The living room where M can usually be found eating, smoking, or watching cartoons. *cough*


Where the magic happens. And I’m talking about our amazingly energetic washer. More on that later.

More kitchen.

…and arguably my most important acquisition…

My sweet little one-shot espressoish coffee maker. 🙂 Home is where the coffee and soymilk is!

All right, my dear readers. Thanks for bearing with me through as much of that as you could. I desperately need to drag my tired self to bed now. More interesting, better-written updates shall soon follow. 🙂


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