17 hours after arriving at IAH, I arrived in Madrid with both of my flights having been delayed. I impatiently waited at baggage claim for 25 minutes before it started moving, all the while anticipating huge customs lines that would inevitably make me miss the 4:00 train to Miranda.
My two suitcases finally came around on the conveyor and even though I went through the door that said “Aduanas,” there was no Customs. Confused that maybe I had gone through the wrong door but excited that I could get out of the airport faster, I looked for a place to get a taxi. I had originally planned on taking the Metro to get to the train station, but now that my flight was delayed, I had no idea how long the Metro would take was worried that after all this, taking the Metro would make me miss the train.
I didn’t see any taxis outside, but there was a man who asked if people wanted a taxi so I jumped on that fast. I didn’t want to waste any time in the airport. In the taxi, the driver was talking to me a lot, which I mostly understood until he switched to politics. I guess some things are the same in English and in Spanish.
He gave me a pamphlet that explained cab fares to and from the airport but I didn’t really understand how the price would be configured. And after a 15 minute ride he tells me it will cost 75 euros! I was flabbergasted and then he showed me the pamphlet and it said that to and from the airport was 75 euros. Unable to argue with him in Spanish and not knowing how to interpret the pamphlet, I defeatedly paid the 75 euros.
I was so angry for losing so much money. I’m not rolling in it over here and I have no idea when I will actually be paid my monthly stipend. 75 euros is a good percentage of the total money in my bank account right now and I blew it all in one day (in addition to my 35 euro trainfare and 50 euro four-day hostel stay) on a cab ride. “Hopefully this is the last time I’ll be taken advantage of because I’m a foreigner,” I thought, “I’ve gotten it out of the way.” And then I convinced myself as I usually do when a stranger takes advantage of me that he will get what’s coming to him.
Canadian Jenn, a fellow auxiliar at the high school in Miranda, met me at the train station, and by the time it took her to buy her ticket, the train was leaving in 10 minutes!* We had to put our bags through an X-ray machine, which I thought was weird, but I guess it makes sense. I don’t know if anyone was monitoring the x-rays, though. Then followed a 3 ½ hour train ride. By the time I got to Miranda, I had been travelling almost 24 hours.
The English teachers from the high school were very kind and met us at the station and showed us around a bit. The town is more city-like than I anticipated. Everyone lives in apartment buildings and it has a good-sized “downtown” area. It is also colder here than I expected—10 degrees (Fahrenheit) colder than it was last week when I checked the weather online!
I tossed and turned in bed and finally decided to just stay up for good around 5:30 AM. I didn’t expect that to happen since I am severely sleep-deprived and jet-lagged. Jenn and I have our first day at the school today and no one seems to have decided what it is that we will be doing here. Even the English teachers were pretty clueless on that one.
I have no idea how this whole year will go. It became clear to me that I will need to travel often just to get out of the town, because there’s nothing to do here besides everyday life—shopping, eating, drinking. So that means I need to make $$$ (or €€€) on the side with tutoring! Hope I get to do lots of exploring to really make the most of this opportunity.
*This is what enabled me to feel better about being ripped off. Because had I taken the Metro there was a very real chance I wouldn’t have made it on time to the train. And since I am unfamiliar with the Madrid airport and just Europe in general, if I was put in the situation again I wouldn’t have known better than to say yes to a man who was offering taxi rides.
The only thing I can think of that explains the 75 euros is that that must have been the maximum amount a cab driver can charge to and from the airport. Clearly (unless I am naive about the way things work in Europe and I actually wasn’t ripped off) a 15 minute car ride would not actually cost $109.