Los meses pasados
Okay, I’ve decided the best way to catch you all up on my past few months here is to go through my pictures (most of which you’ve probably seen on Facebook already) and write about the events I haven’t yet mentioned. I laugh at past me for thinking I’d actually update this thing daily and keep you up to date on everything that happened. Prepare yourself for an obnoxiously long post.
In early October, the host of the 2016 Olympics was announced, and the final four were Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Chicago, and Tokyo. Madrid went crazy at the prospect of hosting the Olympics, and the entire city was filled with banners and signs supporting Madrid as a 2016 candidate city, many of which featured the city’s candidacy logo (a multicolored handprint) and read, “Tengo una corazonada,” (“I have a feeling,” although I think it might have also been playing on the fact that corazonada is similar “corazón,” heart…or maybe that’s just how I interpreted it since I didn’t know what “corazonada” meant). On the day of the announcement, there was a huge celebration in Plaza de Oriente, the plaza across from the Palacio Real, and therefore just down the street from me. The photo above is early in the day, before most had arrived, but, by the end of the day, the entire plaza was filled with thousands of Madrileños anxiously awaiting the announcement. Tokyo was eliminated, and then Chicago, leaving it down to Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. In the end, Rio de Janeiro was chosen, leaving Madrid disappointed, but good game, Madrid. It was amazing seeing the city pull together with such excitement for this event, and I loved being part of the crowd.
On October 23rd, I got to see my favorite Spanish musical artist, Amaral, perform live in concert. I went with Jessica, her friend from her program Emily, and her friend from Vassar Allison. Amaral isn’t popular enough in the U.S. to tour there, so, ever since discovering them (them? her? It’s technically a musical duo, but the star is the singer, Eva Amaral), I’ve dreamed of coming to Spain and seeing them in concert, and finally my dream came true! The concert was at Teatro Circo Price, a circus arena that’s also used frequently for concerts. It was a really neat venue, small, round, and pretty intimate, and even though we had seats in the back (like, literally the last row), we were on the side close to the stage and the “back” wasn’t too far away, so it was awesome. She/they sounded amazing, and there’s something really, really cool about singing along at the top of your lungs to your favorite songs being performed live with your best friend in Spain.
Our Halloween feast.
Halloween may not be as big of a deal in Spain as it is in America, but it’s still celebrated somewhat. Lots of discotecas throw parties, a few stores have decorations, and you can see some people walking around in costumes. Halloween itself was kind of lame for me. Jessica and I were going to go to an Irish pub, because they’re known for celebrating Halloween in Madrid, but she wasn’t feeling well, so I spent the night at home after spending way too many hours shopping with friends in the afternoon. But the day before, Jessica, Emily, and I spent the day visiting various cafés, and then Jessica came over for a Halloween sleepover. We bought €12 (roughly $18) worth of candy, made spaghetti, and watched Halloweentown and the Halloween episodes of The Office, Boy Meets World and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Halloween itself may have been lame, but Halloween Eve (All Hallows’ Eve Eve?) was super fun.
I mentioned already that my dad, Andrea, Ean, Dylan, Sara, and Rachel came to visit me the week before Thanksgiving. It was wonderful seeing them and showing them around town. They rented an adorable apartment, I got to eat lots of American food (because we had meals at McDonald’s, Foster’s Hollywood American Restaurant, Hard Rock Café, and TGI Fridays), which I had missed, and we went to Parque Warner, the theme park just outside of town that used to be owned by Six Flags so therefore is fairly similar to it. There was a Hollywood-themed land, an area that I guess was supposed to look like New York, and an old west-themed land, so it was hilarious seeing Spain’s take on America (and going to “Hollywood” kind of sort of made me feel almost like I was at home).
After they left, we had a big Prep (plus honorary guests) reunion when Claire, Patrick, Austin, and Michael came to Spain, and Sara came up from Córdoba to join Jessica and me. I loved seeing all of them, and we celebrated Thanksgiving together. We may not have had a very Thanksgiving-y Thanksgiving, but it was probably one of my favorite Thanksgivings ever, and I spent the whole day feeling extremely thankful for everything. And the night before Thanksgiving, my EAP program hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve never been a big fan of that holiday, but the dinner made me miss it a bit, mostly because Spanish Thanksgiving really just isn’t the same. The food was good but not very American. But it was nice being reunited with all the EAP-ers I hadn’t seen since ILP.
My Ecuadorian roommate told me Christmas isn’t quite as celebrated or beloved in Spain as it is in the western hemisphere, and I think she’s right. Madrid decorated itself with tons of lights and Christmas trees (well, light trees — there was only one real tree, weirdly), the Corte Inglés (huge department store) was filled with decorations, and there were Christmas markets all around town, but there wasn’t quite as much as there is in the U.S. I know a lot of people criticize the extent to which America goes crazy with Christmas, but I missed it. The main thing I noticed was how few places played Christmas music. The only place I heard it in public (in Spain, that is, because Belgium and Paris were better) was in Starbucks, and I’m sure that’s only because it’s an American company. Perhaps KOST goes a little crazy playing all Christmas music all the time starting in mid-November, but Christmas just isn’t the same without the music. I did, however, really enjoy the lights, and it was cold enough here to actually feel like winter (gloves, coats, even some snow!), so that was nice. There was also an ice skating rink set up near my apartment, which I went to with Jessica, Connie, and some of Jessica’s program friends and really enjoyed.
So that pretty much brings me to Christmas break. In the mean time, I visited Segovia, Aranjuez, Italy (Cinque Terre, Lake Como, and Milan), Andalucía (Córdoba and Granada), Morocco (Ceuta, Tetuan, Tangier, and ChefChaouen), Andalucía again (Sevilla and Granada), Belgium (Brussels), and France (Paris and Versailles), all of which were wonderful and will get their own entries soon.
If you haven’t seen them already, more photos of the first four months in Madrid can be seen here and here. In conclusion, the first part of my stay here has been amazing, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of my time here.