Week 8/9 – Recap

I am academically halfway!  It’s crazy to consider that I’ve finished learning two entire semesters of Spanish in just eight weeks.  I’m excited to be completing my classes and improving my Spanish skills, but regretful to realize that my time abroad is truly flying by.  In my two months of residency in Spain, I’ve also developed conflicting feelings about the people, country, and culture.

Studying abroad has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  I have learned a lot about myself from both the triumphs and the challenges.  Without years of hard work, patience, focus, and support from family (thank you, Mema and PopPop, for your generosity, and help in making my travels possible), I would not have been able to pursue my passions of exploration and discovery.  I am infinitely grateful to have the opportunity to analyze foreign behaviors, and consequently, analyze myself.  For as easily as I have accepted Madrid as my new environment, however, there are some things, both theoretical and physical, that, as an American, I still value.  With the upmost acceptance and affection for Spain, I list some constructive complaints, followed by a few compliments, that I may have to learn to live with should I decide to make Europe my future home.

 

Complaints:

  • Smoking and then going to the gym seems dysfunctional to me.  I don’t care what you do to your body, but when it affects mine, as I smell a mix of sweat and smoke seeping out of your pores from the next treadmill over, we have a problem.
  • Best $9.99 I’ve ever spent.  My BRITA filter water bottle compensates for the disappointing and inconvenient absence of water fountains in this country.
  • Peanut butter alone requires a map and a good recommendation to obtain, so you can forget about finding Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.
  • I drink it when I’m sick. I drink it when I’m tired.  I drink it want to be healthy on-the-go and I’m too lazy to cut up an apple. Though not always as nutritionally beneficial as they seem, tasty Naked Juice does not exist in Spain
  • Between Auntie Anne’s and Philly Pretzel Factory, I’ve never experienced soft-pretzel withdrawal.  I guess Spain is too far from Germany to have adopted the salty snack.
  • “If we had them, they’d be in the aisle with the Mexican food.” Jalepeños are universal, Spain!
  • So maybe Goldfish are a stretch, but can I at least have Cheeze-Its!?
  • It’s mid-March and I am no closer to getting a Shamrock Shake. I know I already complained about it, and I know it’s only for one month. But still.
  • I’m not going to blame Spain for neglecting cottage cheese.  It’s definitely not an international favorite, though it is one of my favorites.
  • Grapes?  You can find them in most grocery stores.  Seedless grapes?  Nothing in Spain is that easy.  Except the metro.

 

Compliments:

  • The Madrid metro is the closest thing to perfect in Spain.  Even though it closes at 1:30 a.m. every day of the week, the signage is clear and the fares are cheap.
  • Topping any street-style, best dressed list, Spanish fashion, or European fashion in general, is simply better.
  • You haven’t had hot chocolate until you’ve had San Ginés, but even Spain’s grocery store mix is good!
  • Tapas=snacking=my kind of eating.  Though I don’t like what is served, I like how it’s served.  I prefer small meals throughout the day to a large dinner, so tapas are perfect for my snacker’s appetite.  I do miss, however, being satisfyingly full after a good, home-cooked meal.

 

These observations are only the beginning!  With an entire second half of the semester to go, I am well-adjusted to my new life, prepared for new experiences, and eager to discover more about, Madrid, Spain, and counties beyond.

 

Paz, Amor, Madrid

A.J.H.

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March 1, 2016

Time (and) Travel

Considering it’s the place where dreams come true, topping my last Leap Day, spent in Walt Disney World with my mom, sister, and aunt, would be difficult.  Four years later, though, I am in Madrid, far from them all, having as much fun as a kid in the most magical place on Earth.  I know that the Leap Day didn’t actually give me another day in Europe, though it did give me another 24 hours in 2016, which I can always appreciate.  It is not often that we get the gift of time.  Being abroad, I’ve found that I miss my family and friends more than I thought I would, constantly wishing that they could be with me to see and experience my adventures.  I am conflicted, though, as the days pass, bringing me closer to a reunion, but also closer to the end of my European adventure.

To add to my struggle with time, an extra day in February meant one day further from the first of March, when McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes enter the rotation of sweet treat options, satisfying year-long cravings with their limited-time presence.  After scouring the Golden Arches of the city for any sign of a green drink celebrating San Patricio, I had to accept that though I was geographically closer to Ireland, I was far from my plastic, to-go cup of gold.  Missing out on a small joy of home, I had the poor luck of an American abroad.

Continuing with my clashing love and hate for the milestone of the month of March, I am thrilled that the weather seems to have taken note of the calendar change.  Finally, 55-degree days are manageable with the Spanish sun warming the streets.  With memories of my recent Madrid sunset viewing and motivation to explore, I visited a second place on my list of locations to watch the day end.  Both locals and guidebooks recommended the views from the rooftop of Círculo de Bellas Artes, a non-profit cultural center located in the heart of Madrid.  Without time for further exploration on the day of my visit, I paid the 4€ (only 3€ with my International Student ID Card) and traveled up to the bar with the “best views of the city.”

IMG_7822

 

As far as views of Madrid go, this nearly 360° rooftop provided clear sights from the city center to the mountains miles away.  If you’re looking to get the most for your money, relaxing at a hip hangout with fun music, comfortable seating, and disregard for time, then the top-floor, outdoor lounge of Bellas Artes is for you.  For the sunset, though, the experience at El Corte Inglés was indisputably better because of obstructions at Círculo de Bellas Artes.  Unfortunately, construction cranes towered into the sky at the exact point of the sunset. The view, without the cranes, would have been worth the money spent to access the rooftop, and the statues on top of a nearby government building added a special Spanish flair to the experience, but I am annoyed that I paid to watch a subpar sunset.

 

 

Travel Tips

  • Find out if an International Student ID Card is worth it for you!  I paid 7€ for a card that provides discounts in establishments and on services in both the United States and abroad.  Though this is my first time using the card, I hope that I can at least get my money’s worth and break even.

 

Destination Locations

 

This week, exploration in Madrid leads to exploration of more of Europe!  Check back soon to see where I visited this weekend.

 

Paz, Amor, Madrid

A.J.H.