Picking Up Speed

Hello all! Speed Read at the bottom, although the entry is pretty short this week!

I’m sorry I didn’t stick with my usual blogging schedule, but the last week and a half has been busy busy busy! It’s like I’m going to school or something.

Classes are starting to get really interesting; right now I’m reading a lot about Muslims in Spain in the 16th century. Basically, in 1492 all of the exciting things happened—Columbus sails for America, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella reconquer Grenada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain (they’d been ruling for about 700 years by then), and the Jews are expelled from Spain. Interestingly, Muslims were allowed to stay until 1609, as long as they converted to Catholicism, before they also got ejected from Spain, whether they’d converted or not. That hundred-ish years between 1492 and 1609 were super interesting as far as politics, literature, culture, history, economics, EVERYTHING are concerned, so I’m just trying to read everything I can about it right now for our mini research papers that may (fingers crossed) turn into my thesis in the spring. Stay tuned!

Last weekend was pretty excellent too. Thursday we returned to the wonderful taco place, then Friday my roommate Amanda introduced my other roommate Caroline and me to a café called La Infinito. It has wifi, bookshelves, tea, GIANT cookies, and excellent music. What more could you want for a study space?? Plus, when I returned there on Sunday to study, I was lucky enough to catch a live music performance of a blues singer/piano duet. I can’t vouch for my productivity during that time, but it was pretty neat anyway.

Also last week, I helped serve wine at a Spanish wine tasting that NYU hosted for the undergrads, so I am now an expert in seven Spanish wines.

This weekend is going to be pretty exciting, because we grad students have a required trip to….Sevilla! We leave Friday morning and return Saturday night, so it will be short and sweet and packed with tours of all flavors. I’m really excited for it, and will I hope post some pictures the next time to get a chance to blog! (Though with four papers due in the next two weeks, it may take a little while!)

Thanks for hanging in there with me folks, I hope you’re all well!

Abrazos (hugs!),

Molly

Speed Read

–School is great but getting busy

–16th century Spanish Muslims!

–Giant cookies and good music!

–Weekend trip to Sevilla!

Back to Class

Hello all!

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!

 

Speed Read:

>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)

 

Five Things:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4.  I just acquired my camera charger, so soon there will be photos!
  5. 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!

 

Fun In the City

Hola a todos! (See the Speed Read at the bottom if you’re pressed for time!)

15 days in Madrid, and so far I am surviving! More than surviving—I am I have a bank account, I’ve registered my existence with the Spanish government, and I have successfully completed NYU’s Orientation!

Orientation consisted of several days of conversations with professors, discussions of our summer reading, visits to the library, and spending lots of time in cafes with my new compañeros. One neat part of the orientation that I had been looking forward to was a tour of the “old city” of Madrid. Madrid is an ancient city, but unlike other places in Spain, it hasn’t retained a lot of that ancient character—you’ll see lots of newer shiny buildings, big stores, and cars everywhere. But in the middle of all that, there are still quiet streets of homes built in the 1500’s and churches that got turned into mosques and then back into churches, and, what surprised me the most, where you can barely hear cars. Can you imagine that happening in any other urban place?

(Disclaimer: I left my camera charger in the U.S., so my photos are limited L I offer you one million apologies plus one million thank you’s to Mom and Dad for the care package they’re sending me with the charger and peanut butter!)

Orientation ended on Friday with a day trip to Segovia, a city about an hour north of Madrid. The trip there was beautiful, since the city is tucked into the hill region north of Madrid. All the trees are still green but all the grass is yellow since it’s so dry here, and it makes for some pretty colors in the countryside. Segovia is even older than Madrid, founded by the Romans way back in the day, and the huge aqueduct they built still brings water into the city. Its other notable sites are the Cathedral and the Alcazar. The Cathedral is huge and incredible, but I feel like that’s a given for Cathedrals in general. You can sort of see it in the background of this picture:

At the top of the Alcazar Tower

At the top of the Alcazar Tower

The Alcazar, like many palaces in Spain, was built by Arabs and then reclaimed by Spanish royalty in the 1100’s during the Reconquista. It has a huge tower with 152 steps winding up in a tight spiral staircase, and while I got super dizzy climbing the stairs, once I reached the top I was glad to have made the climb, because the view of the entire city was amazing. On one side was the countryside and little farms, and on the other was the main part of the city with the hills rising up behind. A storm was coming in from the mountains, but the sun was still shining on the town which made the city look almost like it was glowing. Pretty darn cool.

Classes begin tomorrow, and as much fun as I’ve been having exploring Madrid, finding study spaces and walking around the Retiro Park, I am definitely ready to start using my brain again. Until next time, abrazos! (hugs!)

SPEED READ:

>Successful orientation week, my classmates are the best!

>Day trip to the beautiful, ancient city of Segovia

>First day of class tomorrow!

Five Things:

1. I will never need to cook my own meat in Spain because all of the tapas (evening snacks) are full of ham more delicious than I could ever hope to make myself

2. It is always worth it to go out to dinner with roommates!

3. Madrid didn’t get the Olympic games—the whole city was packed into the square and they had fireworks ready to go, but they never got to set them off

4. There is a store here called Taste of America. All the Betty Crocker, marshmallow Fluf, you name it. Will only use in case of emergency

5. Discovered a cool place called Mataderos, essentially a huge warehouse compound that’s been turned into an arts space, complete with exhibitions (currently on Brahm Stoker’s Dracula), a design school, café, free wifi, and lots of tables and chairs next to power outlets. I know where I’ll be spending a lot of time…

LA LLEGADA: I’M HERE!

Hello from Madrid!

(see the Speed Read at the bottom!)

As you might have guessed from the title, I have indeed arrived in Madrid, safely and soundly! The trip was uneventful, which is exactly how travel should be, and my lovely roommates were at the apartment to let me into the building when I arrived. I’ll be rooming for the year with two of my fellow NYU Spanish master’s students, Caroline, another ND grad (!), and Amanda, a N’awlins native.

The first few days here were full of me trying to get the things done that one does upon arrival to a new country—opening a bank account, grocery shopping, getting a functioning cell phone, etc. So far, only the grocery shopping has been completed successfully, but I have confidence that I will resolve my technical difficulties with the phone and the slowness of Spanish banking  (which requires several visits over several days).

Fortunately, there were much more fun things going on to give me a break from the logistics of life in Madrid! They’ve included long walks through Retiro, the huge park just ten minutes from my apartment, eating churros con chocolate with my roommate, meandering through the city and discovering neighborhoods with tea shops, and meeting the rest of my NYU compañeros.

Wednesday night, my second night in Madrid, ten of my fellow NYU students (about half of our program) got together for a big dinner, which in Spain means we met around 9:00pm and didn’t leave the restaurant til midnight. We weren’t the last ones there, either—the place was full of madrileños (Madrid-ites) when we left. I met the rest of the students in my program on Friday, the first day of orientation.

Group breakdown: 3 guys, 19 gals, from all over the United States and one from Venezuela. Some have lived in Spain for a few years—one girl (woman?) has lived in Spain for the last six years since graduating from college. Others are married, or have never been to Spain, or are like me and have just graduated and are looking for ways to maintain their record of going to school for 17 straight years. We’re a small program, so I’m sure as the year goes on I’ll be able to tell y’all more about us, but for now everyone seems generally friendly, smart, and interested studying in a lot of very cool and different topics, like Spanish film, Latin American/Spanish dictatorships, cultural memory, and more.

Once the weekend arrived things got a little calmer, since most of what I need to accomplish (metro card, fix cell phone, register myself with the city of Madrid, etc), either aren’t open on weekends, or require previous appointments, which will fill my free time next week. This forced rest gave me more time to go for runs in the park and walk around the neighborhood, go out to dinner with my roommate Amanda (there’s a place nearby with legit Moroccan couscous. Can’t even express my excitement!!!), and of course, watch the first Notre Dame football game of the season! (we won, by the way :D)

This coming week I have orientation activities, which involve us students visiting libraries and the old city of Madrid, discussions about our summer reading, meetings with our program coordinator, and general getting-to-know-you activities. I’m just glad I have another week to cross things off my checklist before class starts for real! Thanks for reading, I know it’s not the most exciting things yet (especially the lack of photos), but fear not, the year is only beginning! ¡Hasta pronto, amigos!

 

Speed Read:

Safe arrival in Madrid!

Frustration with the bank and cell phone 😦

Excellent meeting my fellow NYU students, roommates, and Madrid life in general 🙂

Next week: Orientation

 

Five Things:

  1. Madrileños love dogs. 8 out of 10 people strolling down the street are walking a dog
  2. Nothing beats churros con chocolate for a midmorning snack (Spanish churros=crispy fried outside, hot doughy inside). I’ll get pictures up soon.
  3. Walking to the bank is infinitely more pleasant when I slow down in the park to listen to the man playing the accordion.
  4. In Madrid, you can leave your windows open all day and night and no bugs or creatures of the night will fly into your room.
  5. Patience, patience, patience. I thought I would get my to-do list done in one epic day of productivity. Once I realized this wouldn’t happen, my stress level dropped and I started to enjoy the beautiful Madrid sunshine.

Abrazos! (Hugs!)

 

Beginning the Return

Caminante, son tus huellas     Walker, your footsteps
el camino y nada más;            are the way and nothing more;
Caminante, no hay camino,    Walker, there is no way,
se hace camino al andar.        you make a way by walking.
Al andar se hace el camino,   By walking you make the way,
y al volver la vista atrás         and casting back your eyes
se ve la senda que nunca     you see a path
se ha de volver a pisar.        no one will walk again.
Caminante no hay camino    Walker, there is no way
sino estelas en la mar.           except the wake of the sea.

— Antonio Machado, extract from Proverbios y cantares (XXIX)

Hello family, friends, readers, and fellow travelers!

This blog is going to be the record of my experiences as I spend the next year studying and living in Madrid. I hope that it will be a way to help me share and reflect on the things I see and touch as I explore the city and my studies. I’ll share my victories and frustrations as I figure out how to navigate the metro system, where to find the best paella, and what exactly a grad student is supposed to do.

I picked this particular poem to start off my new blog for a few reasons, not least of which that it seemed like good karma for the first quote on my blog to be the words of a Spanish poet. But mainly, I was attracted to the creative energy of the traveler, the idea of one individual constantly creating their own journey. And because the traveler leaves no traces, no one else can repeat that journey. Even if we go to the same places, we will see them differently. It’s not a lonely journey, at least not to me, because everyone can share the story of their experience, one that’s entirely beautiful and unique.

Thank you all for wanting to walk with me through the next year, please keep in touch and keep me in your thoughts, and I will do the same for you all.

Mil abrazos,

Molly

P.S. I depart August 26, so until then I will be running around madly trying to get everything packed!