Story telling 6: “Could you turn off the heat, please?”

What's your story

I had applied and been accepted on the Trinity College CertTESOL course in August, in Madrid. By the way, I´m Mike (Michael), and I´m from Minnesota in the USA. I am 24 years old, and I graduated from college three months ago. I have a degree in Finance.

I have always wanted to go to Europe, mainly for two reasons; to see a little bit of the world before I continue with my studies and to go to Sweden to see where my family originally came from. (My great grandparents immigrated to the States when they were newly married.)

Another reason is that I´m fed up with the cold and long winters here in the north. I can´t stand the cold weather and the snow. I don’t like winter sports and I get depressed when it is too cold to go out. The whole city looks dead, hardly any people in the streets, and when you are forced to go out, you must put on so much clothes that you can hardly move. Still your face, your hands and your feet get ice cold after a short time. Depressing!

So, I thought I could live in Southern Europe, enjoy the good weather and visit my family in cold Sweden. Well, not too cold if I visit in the summer, I guess. I signed up for the EBC Trinity College CertTESOL course starting in five days. I think I left it too late but what can I say? I decided to arrive in Madrid early though to get used to the city and enjoy the hot summer nights for some days before I start studying again.

When I arrived at Barajas airport in Madrid, I could feel the heat immediately as I stepped out of the plane. I had to take off my sweater and jacket while waiting for my luggage. A t-shirt was enough, and I was happy that I had packed several shorts in my bags.

After some linguistic issues (I don´t speak a single word of Spanish, and here they don´t speak English, but that is another story….), I found out how to get to the city centre on the subway.

Barajas Airport

It wasn´t very complicated, and it´s not dangerous at all to take the bus or subway here. People are relaxed, reading books or checking messages on their phones. It was of course a bit inconvenient with my heavy bags, the heat and all the other travellers, but quite cheap and fast. I would maybe have taken a taxi if I had known better, but again I’m kinda strapped for cash.

Anyway, I came up to the surface on a square called Puerta del Sol, which is the very centre of the city, in fact of Spain.

It was 12 o´clock in the middle of the day, and it was quite hot, but still wonderful. I checked the direction to the room I had rented on my phone, and realised that I could walk there, only 10 minutes away.

Finally, I found the building. I was sweating and hated my bags and thick clothes for that. Still I thought that this wasn´t a problem at all. I liked the high temperatures.

Flat

The landlord was there waiting to give me the keys. I was going to rent a room in a flat with two others, one Norwegian guy and a girl from Austria.

It was so dark in the flat, and in my room. All windows were closed, and very few lights were turned on. I didn´t say anything, just found it weird. So, the first thing I did when the landlord had left, was to open all windows, and to turn on some more lights. My flatmates were not here, so I decided to drop everything in my room, fix my WIFI connection and get some sleep.

I was dead tired, and a bit confused about the time difference. Having struggled with the jet lag and all the immediate and new stuff for some minutes, I must have fallen into a deep sleep. After three hours I woke up by some noise from the living room I was sharing with the others. I could hear a person speaking a bit aggressively out there, slamming the windows. Then I discovered why I felt so uncomfortable, and not awake at all. I was wet all over. The same could eb said about my bed sheets and my pillow. Totally wet, and I was sweating a lot. Only trying to think clearly, made me sweat.

God, what is this? My next thought was to take a shower. I got up and went out of my room, where I found a tall, blond guy. He introduced himself as Jon and he was from Norway. He was in Spain on a European scholarship called Erasmus. He was quite serious and spoke in short sentences. His English was quite good for a foreigner. He looked at me, pointed to the windows and the door to the balcony and said in a rather imperative way, that I had to close all windows and doors during the day, and not having too much light in the flat. I thought it was to stop people from breaking in, so I asked him if this was an unsafe neighbourhood. “Not at all”, he said. “We have to keep the heat out and turn off everything that produces heat.”

I must have given him a strange look, because he smiled and told me that he had made the same thought in the beginning. Coming from ice cold Norway, he was used to opening all the windows and doors on warm days and let the mild air and wind flow into the rooms through open doors and windows, only to find that it was the opposite here. “The hottest part of the day here is a bit later than what we are used to”, he said. “It´s at around 6 in the afternoon, like now, and then you should be inside if possible, shut the windows and turn off the lights”. The routines were to shut everything when leaving in the morning, and open again at night when it got dark. It didn´t really make any sense to me, but I promised to follow his advice.

“Why don´t you take a shower, and in the meantime I´ll make an ice coffee for us”, Jon said in his funny Norwegian accent. When I came out of the bathroom, Gertrud, the Austrian girl had arrived, so we had a coffee on the balcony. Gertrud didn´t seem to like the heat as much as Jon and I.

Students

She was complaining about feeling uncomfortable, that it was impossible to be outside in the afternoon. She had problems getting enough sleep and would often get a headache at night. When she was in a hurry, she would soon feel dizzy.

We spoke about this for a while, and Jon admitted that he also struggled in the beginning, but got used to it by doing what the Spaniards do on hot and suffocating days:

  • drinking a lot of water and bringing a bottle of water when going for a walk.
  • not drinking a lot of alcohol,
  • being inside – having a siesta(nap) during the hottest part of the day,
  • avoid being in a hurry,
  • going out at night,
  • wearing light and thin clothes,
  • taking a shower several times a day,
  • staying away from sunbathing or being in the sun.

I remember Jon said that in the beginning he was worried that his brain would start boiling, and his head would blow up. When he realised that being careful and taking the needed time to get accustomed to the heat, he found the weather in Madrid fantastic.

Calle Alcalá (Madrid)

“It never changes”, he said. “For two to three months there are hardly any changes, it stays the same. There are maybe a few rain showers at night. So, there are no worries, besides having a clean t-shirt every day. Walk slowly and have a great time!”

Jon and Gertrud suggested that we should go for a walk so they could show me the neighbourhood, and some of the local bars down the street. It was 8 o´clock in the evening, and still not dark.

As we came out of the flat, I was amazed by the heat. “This late!?” It was like being hit by a wall of heat, and we went immediately to buy a bottle of water. Since we were walking slowly, in the shade, I really felt that there were no problems in the world. Life was just an exotic, never ending stroll along the crowded, narrow streets of old Europe.

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