Reese’s and Royalty: Oct. 24-Oct. 30

7 Dec

The post-birthday week. It is crazy to me that we are already approaching the end of October. Before I know it I will be stepping on that plane back to the US for Christmas.

My week kicked off with a meeting with my good friend Ignacio. This time he suggested we go to a coffee shop. Naturally, I agreed and expected that we would just duck into the first one that looked appealing. Silly, naive Rebecca. We instead went to a fancy café that I would probably never dare to enter on my own. I should not have underestimated Ignacio’s taste. We had another nice two hours of conversation during which he also bought me a lottery ticket. In Spain, the Christmas Lottery is a very big deal. People will wait in long lines to buy tickets from the same store where they bought them last year and businesses will even sell the tickets to their employees. So yes, I now have a stake in this holiday lottery. Fingers crossed that I win a couple million euros.

On Tuesday I had the day off! Always a nice week when you get a day off in the middle. I decided to spend my free time rescuing a package that I had stuck in customs. My lovely grandparents decided to send me a birthday present of candy in the mail. And somehow, as it is my luck, this package (worth less than $10) got stopped by Spanish authorities. So, I dealt with the Spanish bureaucracy and spent the morning walking in between buildings, filling out paperwork, and spending an extra 5 euros to get my $7 worth of candy. And let me tell you, it was worth every penny and every second. They sent me Reese’s and peanut butter M&M’s. After not eating American candy or peanut butter for almost two months, this package was a welcome gift. I may or may not have almost cried as I was so excited to receive it.

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Because when you wrestle a package out of customs, you have to take a selfie

And, like any young, hip, American with a day off, I decided to spend my Tuesday night at a knitting club. (I was not kidding when I said that I was a grandma at heart). I was one of the only Americans there and by far the youngest one. I also happened to be the worst at learning how to knit. I know that it takes practice and that it doesn’t just come easily, but I am pretty terrible. The other women had to keep helping me because I could not get it right. They kept telling me that I had to relax; as if I hadn’t heard that before…But, I am determined to actually learn, so my free time may or may not be spent practicing knitting.

The rest of the week was pretty average: work, running, general life things. Here’s a pretty picture of Segovia, though!

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On Friday, I took a trip to Aranjuez, which is a town about 50 minutes outside Madrid. It is a lovely, albeit small, town that is centered around a royal palace and many large gardens. It was a summer hangout for many Spanish leaders, and one could easily see why. We visited the beautiful, ornate palace and marveled at the ceilings, drapes, and furniture alike. When walking through palaces I always am dumbfounded that people actually lived there. You could play one heck of a game of hide-and-seek in that place.

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Sometimes things look nicer when you put a ring on it

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Clearly a “small” summer palace

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I may not be royalty, but I still found a throne

My favorite part of the palace was at the end. I almost walked right by it. There was a room with a display of the wedding dresses worn in the last four weddings of the Spanish royal family. I could not contain my excitement. Easily one of the best displays I have seen in my 23 years. The exhibit also contained the clothing worn by the former king and queen of Spain at their coronation in the 1970s. You might say “Well Rebecca, it’s just clothing. Who cares?” And my response to that is that these clothes are history. I have seen pictures of the events, but it is truly something else to actually see them in person. Magical.

The rest of the afternoon was spent roaming around the gardens on a perfect fall afternoon. Perfect in that it was warm, but not too warm, with a lovely autumn sun and nice cool breeze. The trees also cooperated as they were fully aglow in a smattering of fall colors. It was really a lovely afternoon.

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If I didn’t get a picture in front of it, did I really go?

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Made a new friend

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Am I artsy yet?

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Can’t stop, won’t stop with the foliage pics

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And a little bit of graffiti to make you think: “Today, Tomorrow, and Always”

The remainder of the weekend was largely typical: errands, hanging out with friends, exploring Madrid. I did go to a Halloween party on Saturday night, hosted by one of my Fulbright friends. I did not have a costume, so I just turned to a Jaeger classic: the nerd. I purchased a very cool pair of suspenders and decided to make the best of it. Well, I forgot that Spain does Halloween a bit differently. Many don’t go as all-out as we do in the States. Rather, costumes consist of wearing all black and maybe having a hat or accessory or wig. So, I felt a little out of place rolling up to this fiesta with suspenders, glasses, and my penguin socks. And, some of the Spaniards there got a kick out of how young I looked. They couldn’t believe that I was a teacher and then said that maybe I look 18 years old. I’m sure that my baby face, glasses, and penguin socks did not help my image. But, it was an enjoyable social activity and I practiced my Spanish, so it was productive too.

On Sunday, after being a good Catholic and going to Mass, I attempted to explore my second Spanish flea market. The experience was very similar to the one I went to in Granada: lots of people, many aggressive walkers, and an overwhelming amount of booths. While I did not purchase anything, I did enjoy the cultural experience.

I also treated myself to tacos on Sunday. I went to a restaurant that had tacos (authentically Mexican) for only 1 euro. That is pretty unbeatable. There was a line out the door, which is how we knew they must be good! So it was very crowded, and you had to order at a counter, essentially making it a game-time decision. Well folks, I learned that game-time decisions are a little risky when you order off a Spanish menu and don’t know all of the words. I ordered a chicken taco, a pork one, a sausage one, and one with something and cheese. I didn’t recognize the other word and didn’t have time to look it up, so I just went with it (how very Spanish of me). It turned out to be cactus. So yes, I ate a cheese and cactus taco, which actually turned out to be pretty good. And, I don’t know many people who can brag about the fact that they have eaten cactus…..

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Can you guess which one is the cactus?

And, with this week, I have officially hit my halfway point for the fall semester. I don’t really know how to feel about it. It seems wild to me that I have already been here for so long and I can only imagine how fast the next few months will go. But, I am nevertheless excited to be going home, even for a little bit. While I am wholeheartedly enjoying my experience here, I don’t think I will ever not miss the people and things (and dog) that I hold so dear.

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The pup I hold so dear. (He’s clearly into the hat)

And, it is always comforting to know that you are never too far away from America (or at least American goods). Sometimes though, they don’t get the explanation right, so I had to share. Nothing like a little “salad cream” to dress up your greens!

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