Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Adventurous Day in Madrid

Today my group was on a walking tour of Madrid. We saw the great masterpieces of the Prado museum and the majesty of the royal palace. The Prado is home to works by the greatest artists of Spain, Goya, Velasquez and El Greco. There was also a painting called The Washing of the Feet, which was painted in such a way that if you walk from one end of the painting to the other, it seems as if the perspective follows you.. The table is always facing you, regardless of how you look at it. The palace was gorgeous.  Had a really great tour guide, Paloma. She was really funny and entertaining. 
  After the palace, they let us go free. My friend Alex and I got pretty lost a couple times but we made it back perfectly fine, just way longer than intended. We did have a delicious lunch of tiny sandwiches. I tried the specialty in Madrid, the calimari sandwich, which was surprisingly good. Also got to check out the beautiful Mercado de San Miguel. It's not so much a market as a collection of tiny shops where you can buy delicious tapas, including sushi. They also had the freshest seafood I've seen so far in Madrid. One place had a huge monkfish on ice. It was super cool. I wish I had pictures but I didn't bring my camera because it wasn't allowed in either the Prado or the Palace.  
  Tomorrow we go to Segovia and the Valley of the Fallen. Going to learn more about the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. Should be interesting. 
  So more random thoughts: it's harder to adjust to not having a phone than I thought it would be. It's hard to make plans and since I don't have an alarm clock or regular clock, trying to figure out time is an adventure in itself. Also, I think the uniforms of the police and civil guard are so much cooler than uniforms in the US. My Spanish is actually pretty ok I'm finding. I've been able to successfully ask questions and pay for things while speaking Spanish. I also managed to get my room key card fixed by asking in Spanish. My accent fits in so well that nobody switches to English on me, which is kind of cool. We'll see how long this lasts though.
  It's a breezy night in Madrid and I'm feeling a bit under the weather. Hopefully a good nights rest and I'll be good to go for tomorrow.

The Greatest Rivalry in sports

FC Barcelona v. Real Madrid

It was a preliminary match that only counted for bragging rights and yet the atmosphere in Madrid is as crazy as San Francisco when the Giants won the World Series two years ago.

After dinner, a huge group of us decided to catch the game at a great sports bar called Marca. There were probably over a hundred Spaniards there and twenty American students. The passion and fervor of the fans was like nothing I'd ever seen. They were the loudest, most passionate, most loyal and most knowledgable fans I'd ever seen. The final three minutes of stoppage time were some of the most intense moments of my life. Now I'm a huge Barça fan but even though my team lost, going to see that game was the coolest thing I've done in Spain so far. It's quite amazing to watch a hundred people cheer and react to every play, every pass in unison. I couldn't help but be captivated by the energy of the place.

Also, when Messi scored Barça's only goal, four people cheered. It was quite a sight to see.

Even though it's 1:20am here, I'm super energized from watching the game. I'll try to sleep before my early morning tomorrow.

Besos de Madrid.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First impressions

Now that I'm a little bit better rested, I've had some time to reflect. The part of Madrid I'm staying in is quite beautiful. I'm surrounded by gorgeous old buildings and lovely parques. It's really hot out during the day so taking a siesta makes perfect sense. Getting by on limited Spanish is an adventure for sure. My accent doesn't stick out here but my lack of comfort with the language sure does. Also I asked the concierge in the hotel for "un lugar donde pudimos mirar los equipos de fútbol en le tele" (a place where we can watch the soccer teams on tv) because I totally blanked on "partido." Oops. But we still got directions to a great place. With the jet lag, we might just watch el partido (game) from our room and check out the places tomorrow after our sightseeing. Even though I'm in Madrid, I'm still cheering for Barça.

3 pm in Madrid means time for jet lag siesta

After exploring beautiful Madrid for the morning, the jet lag is finally hitting me. I also had my first moments of "omg I don't know what to do in this foreign country." Couldnt find the right place to get a refresco and relief from the Spanish sun. Didn't find the right places until after we'd given up and gone to the eatery attached to the hotel. A lot of people speak English in this part of the city.

The first thing we saw outside of the airport were just walls and bridges covered in graffiti. I was really amazed when we saw ancient buildings. The architecture of those building are quite beautiful. I'll post some pictures soon. But for now, ¡Siesta!

Written 34000 ft above the Atlantic Ocean

Flying is like time travel. 
This post is more than slightly inspired by the jet lag and the fact that I'm reading a novel about time travel right now (The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma if anyone's interested). I just can't help but be fascinated by the fact that I left SFO before 8 am  and then arrived in Madrid before 8 am the next day. With the time time differences, two 6 hour flights resulted in a day of traveling. 
Also, I have a new favorite airline. Aer lingus, which is an Irish company. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of my flying experience. Ok, plugs aside, it's been a pretty great journey so far. *knocks on wood* We'll see how I feel later on. After all, it isn't that late back home. The time I would normally go to sleep isn't for another 3 hours, but by then I'll be in Spain. Until then, besos from over the Atlantic.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

One Day More

I can't believe I have one day left in the US. After a year of planning, my journey from California to DC and then to Spain and beyond will finally begin. I'm way too excited to be nervous, even though I'll be studying abroad for the whole year. My first semester will be in the Basque Country of Spain and my second will be in The Netherlands. I really can't wait.

One thing I'm curious about is the languages where I'm going. Both Spanish and Basque are spoke there. I'm originally of Basque heritage and I have a Basque surname but it's so far back in my family that I really don't know that much about it, only what I've read in books. The language of Basque is ancient and unrelated to any other language. It's going to be difficult to learn but I'll manage. At least my Spanish is decent, even if I have a bit of an accent. I don't really practice my Spanish as much as I should. Here in the US, most Spanish speakers are from Latin America, not Spain, and I speak with a Spanish accent. For example, the city of Seville in Spanish is Sevilla (seh-vee-ya) but I say (say-bee-jah). Also I pronounce Andalucia  as ahn-da-loo-thee-ah. It comes from always having had teachers who were from Spain when I learned Spanish in school. I wonder if my accented Spanish will stick out as much there as it does here.

I'm also incredibly curious about the place my ancestors come from. I want to learn everything I can about the Basque people. As I mentioned, I have a Basque surname and I've been told that I look Basque. The latter is interesting because my parents are mostly Filipino-Spanish and Swedish. The Basque heritage is on my dad's side but none of our extended family really even has connections anymore to the Basque Country, other than the family names. I'm incredibly glad I have this opportunity to study in a city my family may have lived in many, many generations ago. I think that's pretty cool.

As for now, I'm just making final preparations before I have that moment when I step off the plane or bus or train and it finally hits me that I'm finally in another country. =]