Sunday, September 30, 2007

I think I smell like a Spaniard.

I just had this realization. I have been here for a month and a half now, roughly. Well, when I first got here, I thought to myself "Spain has a distinct smell." I don't know how to explain it. Something to do with the mix of food, cigarettes, different colognes, and I don't know. The air's just different. I could smell this smell for the first week and a half or so of being here. But now I can't. Not at all. And for a while my clothes smelled like the States. But by now, I've worn and washed almost all of my clothes (save the winter stuff). And there's no sign of any smells of the USA.

I noticed this morning. My hair smells different. Which must mean that I smell different. I think I must smell like a Spaniard.

Monday, September 24, 2007

¡Olé!

Last night, I went to the Plaza de Toros with my roommates to see the Bullfight! It was absolutely glorious! I know, for all of you animal lovers that this sounds like something very sad but it is actually an amazing tradition. First off, these bulls get WAY better treatment than bulls that are raised specifically to be eaten. They also get to live a longer life and their death is an honorable one.
That being said, the entire time in the arena I felt like I was actually part of this age-old tradition, and that in some way I was connected to the history of Spain because of it. The sequinned outfits of the Toreros are enough in themselves to marvel at. The techniques they use in "dizzying" or tiring out the bull look somewhat ballet-like. These boys train from a very young age to do this, and their skills are incredible. The whole procession of it really is beautiful, and I'm glad it's a tradition that has been kept up in Spain.
The President was actually there last night, and waved his "puñuelo" (handkerchief) with the rest of us at the death of the final bull. It was pretty sweet that he was there! So all in all, I had an amazing weekend. How blessed I am to be in Spain!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Go to sleep, Madrid!

Madrid truly is a city that never sleeps. For those of you who know me, I am a girl who always sleeps. I have a regular sleep schedule and like to get my eight hours as any healthy girl should! So, this may be one of the arenas in which Madrid culture and I clash a little. But, I'm embracing it to a certain extent and telling myself that I can always catch up on sleep but I can't always be in Spain.

This weekend was SO much fun. On Friday, my roommates and I were on the "list" at this club named Kapital. Kapital typically has an eighteen euro entrance fee. We got in for free! This club is the biggest in all Europe (at least that's what my host-mom told me). There are SEVEN floors...each with a different style of music. Surprisingly enough, my favorite floor was the techno floor because they had these go-go dancers that were dressed crazy futuristic and it was seriously like being in a movie. I felt like I was some sort of rock star or something. You always hear about places like this and never expect to go! It was a great night.

Last night was this big deal for Madrid called "La noche en Blanco" which roughly translates to: We don't like sleeping so we're not going to and no places are going to close and everyone can just roam around in the streets because that sounds like a fun thing to do until six o clock in the morning. Yeah. So some Spanish friends came into Madrid and we roamed around with them until roughly 4:30 in the morning. We watched "Singstar" playstation ( there was this huge stage) for a while which was really fun because the beautiful European architecture was all lit up and I was among this sea of Spanish people singing "Carolina". But after a night of walking throughout the ENTIRE city I was exhausted!!!
So we got home very late and slept in pretty late as well. It's all part of the experience, but come on Madrid, just go to sleep!

Friday, September 21, 2007

salsa!

So last night may have been the best night of my life.

For those of you who don't know, this semester I am enrolled in a "Latin Rhythms" dance class. This means I have been learning merengue, salsa, and bachata. Well, last week when I went to class, I was surprised when my teacher announced: "Next Thursday night at midnight we will be going to the Salsa club." I was like: This is the best homework I've ever had.

So last night, my roommate Teal and I ventured down to Plaza Espana, met up with my class and were on our way. When I entered the club, I checked my purse and entered the second set of doors to the dance floor.

This is when my jaw dropped open. There were all sorts of people: short, tall, fat, skinny, beautiful, ugly, young, old. And all of these sorts of people were dancing with all other sorts of people and making the dance look like the hottest thing I've ever seen. For instance, one forty-five year old chubby woman was dancing with a very handsome 20 something year old and they were some of the best salsa dancers around. I was entranced. I seriously couldn't wipe the smile off my face. There was this like four-feet-tall-fifty-year-old man there who was dancing with this like normal height girl and they were so good! Now don't get me wrong, it wasn't this huge freak show. I'm just saying no matter who the people were: if they knew how to dance, it was hot.

I danced with this guy from Ecuador and he was really good at leading so he made me look like a pro. I also danced with some guys from class and I was very proud of them! It's hard to lead, especially after only two weeks of learning how to dance.

My favorite part, though, was when the whole club broke it down into this spanish salsa line dance. It was CRAAAAZY!!! I'm telling you: this line dance KILLED the electric slide. It was insanely amazing. At this point, my friend Dave comes up to me and exclaims, "IT'S LIKE WE'RE IN A MUSICAL!"

And there is no better way to describe last night than I felt like I was living the West Side Story. Except for like without the whole white people versus hispanics rivalry. Just the singing and dancing and being freakishly happy. Ahhhhh, what a night!

Monday, September 17, 2007

spanish and guitars

The other day I had an epiphany: speaking Spanish is like learning to play the guitar. Bear with me in this analogy. You can learn to play the guitar in a variety of ways. You can teach yourself, you can buy a book, and you can even attend lessons. It is most definitely a slow process of learning the chords and combinations, getting a feel for the strings and over that awkward "how do I move my fingers?" stage. And after a bit, one may get cocky: "Yeah, I know ALL the chords and I can play like three Greenday songs!"

And then, you go to (pretend like he's alive) a Jimi Hendrix concert. He's wailing, and playing the guitar behind his back and with his teeth and stuff. And you're like: mannnnnn.....he's so awesome at guitar. I SUCK! There's no way I could EVER play like him!

And even though you love guitar and were actually getting pretty good at it, you get all discouraged and stuff because your skills feel SO below par.

And this is where Spanish comes in. You can go to school. You can learn how to conjugate a verb. You could "know" all the vocabulary in the world and be the smartest kid in Ms. Burtch's (holla) Spanish class. But then you get to the Spanish speaking country and feel like: I know NOTHING! Everyone's just spittin out spanish and jumbling words together and you're all like "Que??!!!" It's easy to get discouraged.

But Jimi Hendrix was like the Alpha male guitar player. Any old novice can't get all upset when he isn't as good as Jimi, who played his guitar for hours upon hours for years and years.

The thing is, much to the surprise of me and probably my roommates from home, is that I'm NOT hispanic. I haven't spent my whole life conversing in this language. So of course, I might talk with an accent and ask people to repeat themselves a couple of times, but it's a stage. And most importantly, it's a stage I need to embrace.

Some of us were born hispanic/freakishly gifted musically. The rest of us have to learn spanish/practice the guitar all the time till we get good. The End.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Bob Marley Mullet

This is an example of some of the hotties I see everyday. I created this beautiful work of art on Paint. Let me tell you: there is nothing more attractive than a man with short hair in the front and long, sexy dreads in the back.

Let's just say, I'm trying to conquer my gag reflex whilst in the presence of this haircut. And I'm averaging about four views a day.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cultural notes


I just realized I haven't written too much about the "daily life" here in Spain. At first glance, Europeans and Americans seem to have similar lifestyles, but after a while one realizes that they truly are two worlds apart.

Starting with the food:

Every morning, without fail, breakfast consists of either: hot chocolate or cafe con leche (hot milk with instant coffee mixed in). This is consumed with some sort of sweet processed white bread. For instance "Magdalenas" are like little muffins that you dip into either of the drinks. No matter which sweet bread it is, it must be dipped. No questions asked. I find this custom to be one of the best in all of Spain. In fact, I completely plan on continuing this tradition in los Estados Unidos.

Lunch, which is eaten from the hours of 2-4, is the biggest meal. Honestly, I can't tell you the "spanish" customs on this because this is the meal that I have to supply for myself. But, I must say that the restaurants have a "menu del dia" which includes two courses, bread, wine, and dessert all for about 9 euros. It's quite the delicious deal.

And dinner...ooh dinner how interesting you are. We eat dinner at ten at the earliest. Again, not straying from their mandatory high carb diets, spaniards provide more bread at dinner. The most interesting meal I've had yet was this: Salchicha (spicy hot dog without a bun), a fried egg, rice, and bread. I was like, "Ok, why are we eating all these things at one time?" I think we may have had salad too: iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, and vinegar. Apparently "romaine" lettuce only grows in Rome and is not supplied to Spain because I have only consumed iceberg lettuce during my entire stay here. There's also this thing called ensalada rusa, which contains: (in no specific order, since it is thrown in a big jumble) iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, olives, eggs, tuna, potatoes, and olive oil and vinegar. Some of you are thinking to yourselves: disgusting? However! After a day of walking and being completely starved by dinner time, this is the most delicious thing known to man! OOhhhh, besides tortilla espanola. MMMMM. Tortilla espanola is precisely this and nothing more: A potato omelette. But something that I'd like to think of as Spanish magic makes it the best thing you've ever eaten in your entire life. So yeah, that's dinner in a nutshell.

Now for postre:

In all my years of spanish, I learned that "postre" means dessert. Which, it still does. However, every night Maria (my 12 year old sister) announces that it's time for "postre", and a basket of fruit is brought out. We then choose our fruit (if melocoton is present, I snatch it...oh peach) and peel it. They don't eat fruit with the skin on it. I think it's really weird.

So I wanted to talk about other things that make Spain culturally worlds apart, but I've realized that there is TOO much for one blog! So throughout the semester, I'll be commenting on these differences.

Maybe the next one will have to cover ugly Euro mullets...

Monday, September 10, 2007

iglesia!


Welp, it's been a couple of days since my last update. This weekend could be defined as: getting back on my Madrid high! It was wonderful because I was able to see some sights in Madrid that I hadn't seen before and enjoy its splendor.

On Saturday my roommate Cheryl and I went to Toledo, a Medieval city about an hour south of Madrid. It was absolutely beautiful, yet extremely exhausting. The whole town is situated on a series of hills, so I was practically doing the stair master for five hours. Don Quijote is from Castilla La Mancha (Toledo is the capital of which...) and so I took a picture with him.

Sunday was a good day...I went to church! As soon as I entered this church I felt a surge of peace overcome me. I had a sense that I was at a "home away from home." Where, although we have different backgrounds, languages, and appearances, we have the unity of Christ. I seriously sensed that I was among "brothers and sisters." It was awesome. It helped too that I understood the whole sermon (which was given by the equivalent of a Spanish Beth Moore). I've realized I can understand eloquent speakers perfectly...it's those mumblers that throw me off. Anyway, I believe I will continue going to Amistad Cristiana Iglesia while I am in Madrid.

And school was good today. Last Wednesday I felt like an idiot in my Spanish class. So this weekend I studied extra hard and answered all the questions correctly! YAY! Tomorrow I just have dance class and marketing. It should be a good day :)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

an angel!

So let me explain the past 48 hours to all of you: every time I attempted to communicate in Spanish it went horribly wrong. Seriously, not ONE successful time. It was getting to be comical ( like when a woman at the dance studio asked me if I was in Spanish or Latin dance and I responded...no I'm from the U.S.A.) Yeah. That sucked.

So, needless to say I was getting a little down on myself. I felt like an idiot. And I was sure the whole city of Madrid would have agreed that I WAS an idiot.

BUT THEN!!!

I was sitting at the bus stop bein all mopey and stuff when this cute little short spanish woman in a red suit sat next to me. And surprisingly, before she sat down she looked me in the eyes, smiled, and said 'hola'! Now, this sounds normal to you friendly texans/southerners/whatnots but this is a VERY strange occurence in Madrid. People here aren't just nice to strangers. They are more than nice to family, friends, and acquaintances but NOT to strangers. So needless to say the woman caught me off guard. Then she asked me, "has esperado un ratito?" ("have you been waiting for a little bit?") and at first she said it too fast so I thought "Here we go again, another idiot moment". But somehow I managed to pull together a little answer "ah, tres minutos, nada mas" (3 minutos, no more). Then she asked me if I went to the school around there, and I answered yes, the Universidad de San Luis.

Something at this moment told me I could confide in this woman. So for saving time, I'll translate our little convo:

"See, the thing is, I'm studying spanish. And for the past two days, everything I've said has come out wrong, and anything anyone has said to me I can't understand. And before this, I studied spanish for SIX years in school!! I'm so ...(paused because didn't know the word for frustrated)..ahh I don't know."

Then this little lovely spanish woman began to speak to me, and encourage me that I would learn a little by little and I can't expect to learn it all so fast! And she knew how I felt because she lived in Italy for a while and it's hard to adjust to a new culture, a new everything, and not even be able to adequately express your emotions about the whole deal. Turns out too, that she's a theology teacher at the girls boarding school that's two seconds away from where I go to school. A God thing? Um, doy.

So the bus comes, we get on and I finally catch her name. Teresa. Well, you know how Mother Teresa was like a LOT like Jesus because she spent a lot of time with Jesus, helping out the most poverty stricken people of the world? And so by being in her presence you felt like you were, in some way, in Jesus' presence? Well that's what it was like with woman. It made my day. I told her that.

So overall, things are brightening up here in Madrid! God is good. All the time.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

the aftermath

Well, this week has been an interesting time of drawing really close to God in a time of weakness and discouragement.

Let's just say, I haven't been this homesick since Space Camp in fifth grade. I guess the whole robbery thing really sent me on a tailspin of thinking about the U.S. and everything it represents for me:

1) You never know how awesome it is to speak the language until you go to a place where you don't. Let's just say I've never been so frustrated with Spanish in my life. Everyone who knows me knows that Spanish is something I'm truly passionate about. I think it's a beautiful language associated with wonderful people. But right now, I'm so sick of going to buy lunch, going to the mall, or even riding on the metro and being afraid of sounding like an idiot. Tonight sucked too because I went to the Farmacia to buy some bandaids (because my shoes gave me the worst blisters of my life) and spoke in spanish only to be responded to in English. I CAN UNDERSTAND SPANISH THANKS is what I wanted to yell. But I had to humble myself yet again.

2) I miss my family and friends. My whole life God has surrounded me with the most amazing family and friends I could have ever asked for and now I'm deprived of it all. It's really hard, because I'm realizing how much I truly do RELY on these comforts. Not to mention it's such an encouraging support group that I simply just don't have here.

3) Well, those are the huge things. Erica Denney: If you read this, you will be happy to know I believe that God is kind of showing me maybe I permanently belong more in an area with lots of Hispanic people, but not necessarily in a Hispanic country...( I don't know, maybe LA or something? hahah) I feel like I truly can relate to those people now...who have immigrated to the U.S. and don't know english. I seriously want to teach ESL for the rest of my life.

Ahhhh, well that's the straight up truth. I believe that going through this is definitely teaching me a GREATER lesson, so ultimately I am thankful for it. Prayers on my behalf would be greatly appreciated :)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

que lastima


Well. I have a ton to update:

I guess I'll start with the good! My first couple of days of classes went very well and I am excited for all of my classes (except finance...the teacher had the Spanish equivalent to jury duty I think, so tomorrow is our first day of class). My management class is taught by a young Italian man who prides himself on keeping the class interesting through class discussion. He says "no answer is a wrong answer" so even when I said a stupid answer the other day, I didn't feel like a complete idiot. I am taking Spanish Culture and Civilization, which is taught in spanish very rapidly but the good thing is that I can understand everything that's going on! It's just formulating my thoughts into spanish that is still giving me difficulty. The class seems like it's going to be very enlightening. Then onto Latin Rhythms dance class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is going to be AWESOME. I'm so excited about it...it's a good way to shake off some pounds too :) Speaking of which, I have never walked so much in my life and none of my jeans fit me anymore. I look like I have sag-pants all the time: not cute. But hey, who can complain about dropping pounds when you're doing absolutely nothing (besides walking a million miles) to deserve it! Finally, my first marketing class went very well! My teacher has a pretty strong spanish accent (since it's taught in english) but I have 100% empathy for him, so I can look past it. It seems like an extremely interesting subject that I will really enjoy, thank God since it's my major! SO overall school has been great and the semester looks challenging yet do-able.

And now for the sad news: Last night my roommates and I got robbed at knifepoint in the foyer of our apartment building. A thief had snuck in after us without us even knowing it, and proceeded to open the elevator door, wherein I kicked him and yelled "NO VIVES AQUI! (which means YOU DON'T LIVE HERE!!!) and then he held up a knife. So I was like, uhhhh I don't care about money, I'm not getting cut for this. So I handed over my belongings, which only included 35 euro, my chase debit card (which I immediately cancelled), and my drivers license. I seriously don't care about the money, it was just a very frightening experience that is rough to go through without having your mommy to hug after. Pilar, my host mom, did give me a hug though, which made me feel better.

All that to say, it made me realize how much I need God as my protector and as my everything while I'm here. Things can get really rough, and He is the only thing in the entire Universe that is a stable stronghold. Last night I definitely had the "peace that surpasses all understanding," and then this morning came the shambles with lots of crying. But I know that He is here with me, and simply the fact that I was not hurt at all and am safe lets me know He truly never forgets about us. Ahhh, but what a bump in my Madrid high! Hahahaha, it definitely took me down a few notches from the Honeymoon stage. I still love it here, and am going to be even more cautious than I was already. Things like this are just rough.

Ok well I love everyone and now I have an internet provider that is consistent so I will be updating more frequently!

besos :)