by Alexander Bossakov
Every morning, I press the buzzer on Calle Meson de Paredes as I sprint down the stairs of my building. I swoosh past Plaza Agustín Lara, in a hurry, and walk up and down and up and down the windy hilly streets of Madrid. I start work at 10, so I am not supposed to ever be in a rush, but somehow, every single morning I find myself lingering on my breakfast table for a tad bit too long.
I live in Lavapiés, a humble and breezy historic neighborhood in Madrid, that is made what it is thanks to its dense immigrant population. Shops and restaurants are owned mostly by individuals from Asia, Africa, and South America. Streets are steep and plazas stay populated whenever the sun is not at its peak. By now, I am well in the habit of falling asleep to loud conversations and music seeping in through my open window until well after midnight. In my close vicinity are a beautifully low-key Senegalese restaurant called Baobab, the unquenchably spirited plazas of Agustín Lara and Nelson Mandela, and a placid mercado hidden under the ruins of what used to be a religious school burned down almost a century ago by a radical leftist, anti-religious group.
Madrid is still cool in the morning, when the sun has just begun infiltrating through the street corners, so my 20 minute walk to work is a very pleasant start of the day. Dara is on the third floor of an elegant building a few steps away from El Prado, one of the world’s finest collections of European art. We share the same address with the Madrid office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, FRIDE, a European think tank on foreign relations, a few other NGOs, and multiple private apartments. Every morning, I avoid the classic elevator that extends through the middle of the building to climb up the red-carpeted stairs till the third floor. Ring the bell, buenos días, and seconds later find myself on my desk.
Dara’s office is a bright common space where everybody faces each other as we work and work-related conversation frequently interrupts our tasks. Tall, wide windows with wooden blinds occupy the southern wall of the office and stay open until we’ve had enough of the heat a little past midday.
Throughout the day, I work on proposals, evaluation reports, occasionally get pulled in for an update on the Refugee Response Index, and often listen up during conversations on the difficulties of getting a particular evaluation team to access a particular part of Syria.
My commute back home presents the difficult reality of 33°C Madrid. That’s when I usually get a bike from Madrid’s bike share system and enjoy the privilege of its electric assist motor as I breeze past the most shadowy streets I find on my way back home or to a café.
This is it. A brief snapshot into (part of) my life here.