Reintroducing dogs after a fight in this country was made legal in 2006, which was the perfect way for me to reintroduce myself to this crazy city. A city of almost half a million people, where you don't have to walk more than ten steps without walking into someone's yard, a city where most of the people are happy to sit outside in the summer, in the middle of the busiest street. Where everyone you come across knows everyone and everyone knows you, a city of constant conversations.
I'm not saying I liked it at first. I think I had an inkling that everyone here lived in their own version of this perfect world, and a world of rules and regulations and boundaries and responsibilities. I got used to it quickly and had no complaints. I was a little overwhelmed at times, but overall it's a city that embraces us and its residents and I've been really grateful for that.
I did a couple of years of uni, and then, three years after I graduated, I fell in love. I met a girl named Kate and we lived together for seven years, and I still think about her every day. One month after we broke up, I came to Spain for my friend's wedding and got stuck there for almost a year. Then I got a job, and I stayed in Barcelona for almost two years, and then I ended up in Madrid again for work. Every time I look at a map, I find myself back here in Madrid. I am a Madridist.
Madrid is a city of contradictions. There is always so much going on in the city. You have tourists around the clock, and you have so many bars and restaurants. Some streets are quiet, and some are noisy. My neighbourhood is on a fairly quiet street, but when the day goes into evening and the bars fill up, and the sun goes down and people head out for tapas or drinks, you get a cacophony of noise that can go on for hours. If you have ever been to New York, this is like that. And if you're a gringo like me, you'll understand that.
I like the fact that there is always something to do. I don't really ever stop moving around the city, unless I am at home. There is always something that is new to discover. I enjoy living in a city like this. It's the kind of city where you get to grow, and where you get to become friends with people. You become close to their lives and their ways of living. It's a city that gives you a sense of freedom, because everything is in walking distance. There are no high-speed trains or anything like that, so you get to walk from one point to another and from one place to another. You learn how to navigate this city and to know the shortest way.
There is nothing better than waking up at eight in the morning and just walking around the streets. In the centre of the city, even in a place like this, you see an unbelievable number of people, not only of other nationalities, but also of different backgrounds. And of course, there are people from all over the world, with their customs, their habits, their ways of seeing things. You get to know how they live their lives in this city, the noise, the movement, and the colours. There is also something very calming about the atmosphere.
I have been living here for three years now and I wouldn't move anywhere else, for sure. I've never been so happy. I have been in quite a few places in Spain, but I haven't been anywhere else like here. I can't imagine ever moving. Even if I have children I won't ever have to move. I'm from the country, and I love the life we have here.
'Pare!' is the first word that Spanish people learn as toddlers. 'Basta!', '¡Aquí!', these are all expressions that come directly from the childhood years of the immigrants. The kids who live in the barrio know them all by heart. It is almost as if there is no English, no English that we are proud of, but rather a language whose primary function is to be shared among all the families.
The word 'pare' – it's in the dictionary, it's a word that's used in every situation, and it is an important part of our life. No one talks about it, but if you ask someone to have a little more of it, they'll tell you that it is not allowed. The thing is, for Spanish people it is a part of their language. Our parents speak English, but the kids grow up in this language, this mother tongue, and the idea that they should go away from this mother tongue is a very foreign idea. We have a lot of pride in being Spanish, and it is a beautiful thing, and it's something that every kid grows up with.
### **_Jenny, 25_**
My mother's life was the best part of my life. When I got old enough, I came to stay with her in Spain for about a year. The truth is that the whole thing was very difficult. My parents are from Colombia, and, when I went to live with my mother, I was going to university. She came to live with me and my family because she was going through a really hard time. My brother was working and my dad was out of work and they couldn't really afford it. She had a son and she was also living with her sister-in-law, so it was a pretty hard situation. I wanted to leave home, but I couldn't because my mother was still young and I was worried about what would happen. I'd go to university, get a job, and then come home. She was a bit desperate about it. I think the whole thing started when I was 16, and after a year, I decided I wanted to go back to live with her because it was becoming more and more difficult for me to stay there because I was getting closer to college. I had this friend who was studying law and was going to help me out financially with my studies. So I went to live with her and I stayed for a while. It was a horrible thing to have to go through and be in that position because it was very painful to see that my mother didn't want to raise a child.
When I went back to Spain, the truth was that my mother never told me to come back because she just didn't want to get in touch with me. I think she didn't want me to live with her because she didn't want to feel like she didn't want to be part of my life. My dad said that he would get in touch with my mother and call her and talk to her and give her the money I needed. But he never did that. We always stayed in touch, but she didn't know that I had started school and she didn't see me often enough.
A lot of things happened because of this, but one of them was that I started to be a bit of a rebel and started to make my own money. So my mom didn't have any money left, and I was going to college, so she didn't have enough to support me. Then I went back to my old neighborhood and started to live on my own. My first house was a basement. I lived on my own and I made sure that I had enough money to support myself.
I decided to leave my first job when I started getting into trouble because I didn't want to have anything to do with the job. I was 16, and I wasn't getting any money. I started to get into real trouble because I didn't want to go to school