It has been a busy, exciting, and very full week, so I hope I get everything down! (Again, Speed Read at the bottom)
First of all, throwback to last weekend—no, Madrid will not be hosting the Olympics. Yes, it was unfortunate, especially for the huge crowd of people gathered in the streets watching the announcement, and for the city officials who had fireworks and speeches ready to go that they never got to use (I did see some on the outskirts of town later that night, but those may have been rogue displays). But not to worry, rumor is there’s a bid for Barcelona 2022, so we always have something to look forward to!
Last week was my first week of classes—I suppose it was time to accept that I am in Spain to study, not just to hang out and explore. This semester I will be studying the Cultural History of Latin America, of Spain, and taking a class on Intro to Textual Criticism. So far, that class has been like learning how to read all over again, only this time we not only examine the author’s ideas, but also how they present them, what methods they use, what kind of ideology they’re adhering to, etc., because it’s essentially the work we students will be doing someday. Which is pretty crazy to think about.
My other class is a research seminar (aka practice writing a baby thesis this fall to get us ready for the real one in the fall), and a class on Don Quijote, which so far has been excellent. At first the idea of reading a two-volume book in Spanish that was written 500 years ago was pretty daunting, but the professor, Paco, is fabulous. Basically, he can talk you through any passage of the Quijote from memory and derive about 10 layers of meaning from it that will just blow your mind. I’m sure it will only get better as the semester goes on! The rest of my classes are great too—lots of reading, but our professors want to make us think, which means that class discussions are always interesting (which helps because they are super long).
Outside of class, one of our great discoveries has been a Mexican restaurant. This might not sound like anything special, but good Mexican food is nowhere to be found in Madrid. You might be thinking that I should really just focus on Spanish food while I’m here, and that’s probably true, but sometimes paella and Spanish tortilla aren’t enough and you just really need a taco.
The other big discovery has been a sports bar close to the city center. Some friends and I met up there on Saturday night to watch the Real Madrid soccer game (which they won, btw), which was super fun because the place was packed and they had about 15 screens all with the game (and one in the corner playing an Italian match). It’s pretty startling and awesome to hear an entire bar erupt in cheers when their team scores, and also startling to see how quickly the bar emptied out the second the game was over. My impression of Spaniards was always that they like to hang out and chat and not be in a rush, especially when food and drink are involved, but five minutes after the game ended we Americans were pretty much the only ones there. Maybe there was an afterparty no one told us about? But it turned out to be fortuitous that we stayed, because the bartender then changed the channel to some snowboarding competition, and we realized that it was playing on NBC. This is a big deal, because NBC is the only channel that shows Notre Dame home games and thus far we hadn’t been able to find it anywhere in Spain, and here it was, just waiting to be discovered! So you now know where I will be spending the rest of my Saturday nights this football season.
Those are the most important events of this week—school, snacks, continuing to get to know the folks in my program, and enjoying the 50th consecutive day of sunshine!
>Classes are going well
>Discovery of tacos
>Notre Dame Football. It’s going to be a thing
(not my most “Spanish” week, but we can’t win all the time)
- The target audience for puppet shows in the Retiro park is probably 5-10 years old, but I laugh just as much as they do.
- Things I learned about Spanish apartment living: You always say hi to the people in the hallway (which I love); but, it is still awkward to be in an elevator with someone you don’t know. 30 seconds can last a very long time
- I finally got to pet one of the dogs I’ve been seeing! A woman who lives on the floor above me got on the elevator with her little Yorkie named Ron (which is rum in Spanish). So cute I couldn’t stand it
- I just acquired my camera charger, so soon there will be photos!
- Attempting to watch a bike race pass through Madrid turned into an hour and a half of waiting, but with excellent people-watching. Note to self: practice listening to Spanish radio so you can track where the bikers are!