Hello all readers!
>>Tour of where Cervantes lived in Madrid
>>Blues bar and dancing in Spain
>>Becoming an English tutor
>>Reading for class. All of the reading.
Sorry for the weeks-long hiatus, I have no legitimate excuses to offer other than being a grad student, especially in Spain, is busy!
As you may have guessed from the title, after weeks of uninterrupted sunshine, Fall has indeed arrived in Spain in the form of…rain. But I don’t really mind it that much, because and it usually doesn’t last for more than a half hour at a time so it’s easy to stay dry—plus, for some reason, the rain in Spain makes the trees and grass in the park smell really good and fresh. Retiro is still mainly green, but I caught sight of a few fall colors yesterday that I promise I’ll photograph once I remember that I need to be a tourist here sometimes.
But on that note, last weekend I went on a “Cervantes tour” guided by the professor, Paco, who’s teaching my class on Don Quijote. Paco is probably my favorite professor here. When he talks about Don Quijote, it’s like receiving a whole gush of the knowledge and wisdom he’s collected over reading this book (and literally every other book) over the last 25 years. Plus, he’s willing to digress from class and tell us about secret things about Madrid like where to find the best restaurants (he nearly became a chef instead of a professor), and how much his daughter loves the band One Direction, etc etc.
So Paco and his wife, also a professor, guided us through the old parts of Madrid where Cervantes was born, went to school, and eventually settled when he finally got famous after publishing the first part of Don Quijote in 1605.
Cervantes fun facts: Fought in wars between Spain and the Ottomans, lost his hand and was captured by the Turks and held prisoner in North Africa for 5 years until he and other prisoners were freed by the Trinitarians. He had very little success, economically or personally, in his life until Don Quijote was published (lots of bankruptcy, marriage, mistresses, etc). After it was published he enjoyed his fame and released Part Two of Don Quijote. (There are a few theories as to why, since he probably didn’t initially intend to write a second part; but after Part One was published there were a lot of imitation books published, so maybe he wanted to make sure everyone knew how awesome the real write of Don Quijote was. Everyone agrees that he died in April 23, 1616, the same day as Shakespeare (even though it’s not quite true, but it’s close), basically broke and living off of his niece’s income. What money he had left he gave to his family and to the Trinitarians, the order that rescued him from imprisonment in North Africa.
(Where Cervantes went to school. It’s still a functioning high school–imagine having this as your cafeteria!)
Basically we got to walk through his old neighborhood, which is where four very famous Spanish writers of the time, Lope de Vega, Góngora, Quevedo (mainly poets, and Lope was a dramatist) all lived (it was very hipster back in the day), and, to make things fun, they basically all hated each other for various reasons.
Cervantes hated Lope de Vega because, since Lope wrote plays, at the time he was the biggest, most famous, most successful writer in all of Spain, and the rest of Europe followed his example when writing plays (even Shakespeare), so Cervantes was very, very jealous of his success. Lope’s house is still basically intact, so we visited it on the tour and walked through his rooms and garden. (Lope’s life was pretty crazy too, he was married a few times, joined the priesthood, had like 15 children, and then wrote plays praising virtue and honor and suchlike things. Go figure).
(The garden in Lope’s house, one of his favorite things about his house, also where he spent much of his time writing)
In addition to discovering some history in Madrid, last weekend to celebrate my friend’s birthday, we discovered a blues bar that was super cool. It’s very close to the city center at Puerta del Sol, but from the street all you can see is the door, which honestly looks a little shady. But when you get inside and go down the stairs, you discover you’re in the cellar of a house that has probably been built several hundred years ago. Every weekend they invite musicians to play, all jazz, and they’re really good. The night we went, the band consisted of a guitar, drummer, two bass players, and a harmonica player (the drummer looked like Johnny Bravo with brown hair). The place was packed, and the audience cheered on the players during their solos, and as the night went on we cleared away the tables and chair and started dancing. It’s definitely going on my list of Molly’s Favorite Madrid Spots!
I’ve also started tutoring a few hours a week, which has been a good and interesting experience. I tutor at the George Washington Institute (classic) right by NYU’s campus, which I like because I walk by the Real Madrid stadium on my way there. Last week there was a soccer game and the streets were packed with people in Real Madrid jerseys and scarves, everyone pouring out of the metro and waiting outside the stadium and getting pumped for the game. Spaniards don’t really tailgate, but I’m pretty sure everyone just hangs out in a bar before and after the game.
My students, as of now, are three university seniors who have to pass an exam in English in order to graduate. Basically, their whole college education depends on how well they do on this exam, which is a little intimidating for me and terrifying for them. Can you imagine needing to learn a language to graduate even though you weren’t a language major? But the good part is that it makes them really eager to learn, and they’re very patient with me
School-wise, I’ve been busy, mainly with reading and trying to think through ideas for the mini-thesis we’ll write in December. But since I can’t explain my topic coherently other than “secret Muslims in Spain in the 16th-17th century,” I’ll just leave it at that J
Thanks all for reading, I know it was a long one today! I hope everyone who got snow is staying warm and that you’re all enjoying the fun things of fall (especially pumpkin pie, eat some of that for me!)
A little Don Quijote for your enjoyment:
“Don Quijote soy, y mi profesión la de andante caballería. Son mis leyes, el deshacer entuertos, prodigar el bien y evitar el mal. Huyo de la vida regalada, de la ambición y la hipocresía, y busco para mi propia gloria la senda más angosta y difícil. ¿Es eso, de tonto y mentecato?”
I am Don Quijote, and my profession is knight errantry. Those are my laws, to undo injustice, to uphold the good and to avoid the wrong. I flee from an easy life, from ambition and hypocrisy, and I seek, for my own glory, the most arduous and difficult path. Are these the acts of an idiot and a fool?
Seek for your glory, amigos! Hasta pronto!