Rain in Spain (not on the plain)

2 Nov

And, another week. Clearly I have been falling a bit behind in my blogging (and it’s not even like my life is that terribly busy). For those of you who are living and breathing by the witty tales of my life, I promise I will do better.

First, I met with my intercambio for the first time last week. An intercambio is a language exchange partner where you practice speaking in English and Spanish so that each person can improve their non-dominant language. Many other Fulbrighters were paired up with young Spaniards looking to improve their English. Who did I get paired up with, you ask? A 69 year-old Spanish man. So, last Monday, my new friend Ignacio and I met up for a nice chat. In all honesty, it was a pretty great pairing. I think it is interesting to talk to older people who have had a lot of life experiences and it was fun to be able to help him with his English homework for the classes he is taking. It is pretty much my new goal to score a lunch at his house, especially after he was telling me about the generations-old recipes that he has. There is nothing like some authentic, homemade Spanish food (especially after cooking for myself for the last 6 weeks).

My classes went smoothly this week (and yes, I had more people show up than a few weeks ago; thank goodness). One student even told me, “This was a good class today.” I mean, who knows what she thought of the other classes, but I was definitely happy that she enjoyed that class.

We had a holiday on Wednesday that is similar to Columbus Day, as in it is celebrated for the same reasons of Columbus discovering America, although it has morphed into the “Fiesta Nacional de España” which celebrates country pride. And, it coincides with a day celebrating the armed forces in Spain. There is a big military parade that processes down the center of Madrid. Part of the parade are the fly-overs using very large military jets. I will say that a few weeks ago they were practicing these fly-overs while I was walking to school and I heard the loud rumbling and all I could think was that we were under attack. No worries, I didn’t panic too much and then appreciated seeing the jets at such close range.

So, the parade. I was all excited to attend as we really don’t have anything like it in the US.  Well, Wednesday dawned and it was the coldest and rainiest that it has been in months. Contrary to popular belief, it does in fact rain in Spain in places other than the plain. I had to break out my umbrella, winter sweaters, and scarves all in the same day. But, I was not letting it stop me from seeing the parade (although I did let it stop me from running #priorities). I arrived and secured my place behind the metal gates. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I didn’t have my umbrella up and that I was at a vicious intersection of four other umbrellas. So, while it wasn’t raining that heavily, I was receiving all of the run-off of these umbrellas. Plus, the kid next to me was very inconsistent with his umbrella-holding tactics, so every now and then a torrent of water would just come pouring on me. And I had both my iPhone and passport on me, so I was a little preoccupied with making sure that they did not get ruined. It was quite a wet and cold experience.

But other than that, it was very cool! They did the fly-overs and in some of them, the planes released colored powder that left behind an image of the Spanish flag in the sky. I wish I could have gotten a picture, but I decided that it wasn’t worth the risk of water damage to my phone. Then, there were all of the different military groups that paraded by: some on horseback, some with dogs, some playing music, and one with a goat that is apparently their mascot. Imagine my confusion when the people around me started getting excited and then this giant goat starts running down the street alongside military officers. Granted, I really hate goats, but this was an interesting cultural experience. Shout-out to this one Spanish guy behind me who identified each military division as they passed by, because I had very little idea what I was looking at. The parade ended with the royal family of Spain passing by in Rolls-Royces. Considering that my dreams of marrying into a royal family are looking like they won’t be realized, this was probably the closest I will ever get to royalty. Overall, a very interesting cultural experience!

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The goat

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The Royal Guard on horseback

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Rainy streets post-parade

Another great part about Spanish holidays is that many of the museums and historical locations are free to the public. So, a friend and I decided to check out the royal palace after grabbing a coffee and pastry to warm us on the cold and dreary day. I definitely underestimated the amount of people who were going to take advantage of this. We waited in line for 1.5 hours before being let into the royal armory and an exhibit of the royal art collection. It wasn’t raining though, so I didn’t mind the wait…

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Royal Palace @ dusk (in case you were wondering there are over 3000 rooms in the place)

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A light show to celebrate the holiday

Thursday was pretty rainy too, but the highlight of my day was getting pictures of the wonderful fall foliage in Segovia. Fall is easily my favorite season in the States. What’s not to love about colorful leaves, apple cider, scarves, boots, and fires? It has been something that I have been missing in Spain. And, even though Thursday was a dreary day when all that I wanted was some of my favorite fall things, it also made me realize how lucky I am to be experiencing fall in another part of the world. Sometimes it takes a little bit of rain to help you recognize the beauty that’s right in front of you. (Deep, right? I tell you, I do some of my best thinking on public transportation. Thank you Segovia bus system).

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Fall(ing) in love with Spain

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My school through the trees

And, this weekend was the first full weekend that I have spent in Madrid since the second weekend of September. It was nice to have some time to myself and to spend some time exploring the city that I have been living in for the last month and a half. On Friday I discovered that my happy place is the home section of the Corte Ingles, which is a huge Spanish department store. Wow. The place is like a Bed, Bath & Beyond on steroids. So many pretty plates and gadgets and mugs and so much more. Since I have recently become a tea fanatic, I treated myself to a very cute sea-foam colored mug. It is amazing how such a little thing can brighten a day.

On Saturday, I went on a tour of the Barrio de las Letras, which is the neighborhood in Madrid where many Spanish literary giants lived. We saw the resting place of Miguel Cervantes and the house of another great writer, Lope de la Vega. The tour was very much based in history and literature, so naturally, I loved it. The rest of my weekend was very cultural as well. I attended a photo exhibit about the refugee crisis and attended two different art galleries. One was a collection from the United States that featured modern artists: Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, etc. The irony was not lost on me that I was in Spain viewing an art exhibit that typically resides less than 6 hours from my home in the US. And, after that, I also stopped by the Prado Museum, which is Madrid’s most famous museum for some more paintings. There is only so much religious/modern art that I can handle in a day, but I am all about the royal portraits done of the Spanish royal family. Very, very interesting.

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Just a tag from a centuries-old census

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The final resting place of Cervantes

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I definitely was not super stoked about all of these 17th/18th century books donated from the National Library

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An interesting building with vegetation on the side

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And, one is never too far away from America/American products

Overall, I would classify the last week as a very cultural one: parades, holidays, palaces, and museums. It was nice to enjoy Madrid for a few days without having to think about work or lesson planning. (I also definitely enjoyed sleeping in too…).

This week marked the one year anniversary of submitting my Fulbright application (on the afternoon it was due, naturally). It’s crazy to think that one year ago the thought of actually living in Spain seemed impossible. In all honesty, I submitted the application and then promptly forgot about it; never imagining that I would actually receive the grant. It is amazing how much can change in one year. And to think next year at this time I will be back on the study grind in law school. I guess I really need to enjoy my freedom now!

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