Days 43-44: I’ll Take the Long Way Home

Saturday, 7/7/12 – Sunday, 8/7/12

The trip home started out okay, with a fond goodbye to our program guru Curra, but it soon got really terrible.

Goodbye Curra!

Travel wasn’t supposed to take this long. This trip was supposed to be OVER so much sooner! But it’s not. I got stuck in the Dallas airport for a night due to weather nonsense. I feel like some moments in travel are terrible but funny later on, but this is definitely not one of them. Too many babies crying, too much waiting, excessive teenager PDA by this one couple at half past midnight, a night to spend in this airport, topped off by the terrible advice to not sleep on the plane. For anyone reading this, when you travel, sleep on the plane. Whenever you can really, because you never know what planes will have problems when.

What a miserable experience! I felt a little safe sleeping in the gate surrounded by other people, but I really do see an area for improvement in the area of airline travel. This sucks! Especially for the parents with little kids. Then they go and switch the gates on us again and again, tell us there are part repairs needed. There’s really no way to romanticize it. I can only hope it gets better over time.

The best thing to do in my mind is have some music in your head or with you. Since I didn’t have a music player, I kept songs in my head. Soothing songs, like Shane Mack’s “Take the Long Way Home.”

I probably had some other song in my head, different ones at different times, but anything helps.

What a way to end the trip! Well, what have we learned kids? Don’t travel internationally? All I know is that it would have been better to travel in at least groups of two, so you could switch off if someone wanted to buy food or go to the bathroom. Solo travel is seriously the pits. All this negativity aside though, you have to simply get over the bad things. Take your experience and don’t forget the bad things that happen, but realize that there are lots of things you simply can’t help, and if anything these are things you can appreciate about your life back home.

With all of that, it’s good to be back. Good to be home. Just good good good, all around.

Day 42: Last Day in Madrid! Leaving Tomorrow!

Friday, 6/7/12

What a busy day! This morning we had a fantastic tour of the Museo de Prado.

No pictures allowed inside, but here’s the closest I could get. Beautiful on the outside too!

It was absolutely wonderful, and every couple minutes or so I thanked my high school Humanities professor Ms. McCown for introducing me to the wonderful world of art history. Just the basics can take you so far, as I later found out when navigating through the eras. When we were about to leave I wanted to come back and explore the various exhibits. But alas, it was time to go. I thought to myself how, even if I stayed for another hour, I wouldn’t even scratch the surface of all that was out there. So many stories of paintings, each work of art with its own historical and cultural significance. Crazy!

After lunch at 100 Montaditos and some postres for dessert, I took a two-hour nap before Jessica and I went to go get nun cookies. These cookies, literally made by nuns, can only be bought directly from them at certain hours of the day. We had passed by the place on our tour yesterday and decided to come back. From the outside, it looks a little daunting, and even more so, we had to press the little buzzer and explain what we were here for.

A little scary on the outside

The lady’s voice was very nice though, just as our tour guide explained, because they lived their lives quite separated from the rest of society. The door opened and we walked inside, into the darkness, seeing that patch of light down the hall. We walked quickly!

Even scarier…

Seeing some other people (probably tourists) turn the corner, and remembering that the nuns aren’t to be seen by other human beings, we ended up facing this strange box window. On the right-hand side was a menu of options with all the prices listed.

Scariest of all?!?

The way it works is that you tell the lady what you want, put your money in, and it slides around on this turntable thing, and she slides you the cookies. Ingenious! And they were some of the most delicious lemon-hinted cookies I’ve ever had. Just wonderful, and not too pricey as well.

After getting nun cookies we had a mish-mash of dinner from a variety of places. Around town we also saw another protest encampment. Possibly the future of America? This one was of a Cuban protest.

Cuban “Occupy-style” protest, requesting help from the socialist party, PSOE

What abundance! Anyways, this day has passed by so fast and I can’t believe we’re leaving tomorrow morning. I am never enthusiastic about airline travel, especially the international kind. But here’s to a great time in Madrid! Such a mix of old and new!

Day 41: First Day in Madrid

Thursday, 5/7/12

We left early in the morning, and I took one last picture with my host mom, Angustias.

She is so cool, and has been hosting study abroad students for 11 years!

Travel was long, and not particularly pleasant. Curra put on 2001: A Space Odyssey while we were on the bus and I would have been more interested if not for the unpleasant feeling of being on a bus. It was not nausea so much as a general annoyance that came from not being able to concentrate on anything or fall asleep. I would have preferred an either-or!

Eventually we got to Madrid though. What a trip!

After checking into the hotel I was getting a little hungry, so Christina and I walked to try and find this one sushi joint advertised by the hotel. I had one of those really strong cravings for sushi, so strong it was rather difficult to think about other options. After a bit of roundabout walking and hunger pains, we finally found a different place that turned out to be a great find.

Makitake: so urban

Makitake was such a cool place. The layout was super urban, clean and simple, and such that you probably couldn’t tell what nation you were in at the time. Later on we found out that this was part of the “gay” corner of town. Rainbow flags commonplace and wonderful decorations everywhere.

It was a bit pricey but the experience was well worth paying for. That’s really what a lot of travel boils down to actually

We split a California mix and tried the green tea mochi for dessert. I haven’t had mochi in forever! Not sure if Christina liked it too much, but I was so into the texture of the red bean paste inside and sticky rice covering on the outside.

After lunch we came back to the hotel with a bit of time before our group tour around town. One of the notable things we saw were the royal palace areas. Spain does currently have a king after all.

The house of pain. Don’t believe me? Read below.

For anyone that thought life was better in the old days, learning about the lives of Spanish royalty sure proves them wrong! Life sucked, royally. Our tour guide went through some gruesome examples I can’t entirely recall, but I do remember her showing us this strange metal contraption that was used to baptize babies… while they were still in the mother. Not to mention all sorts of incest and nastiness. Thank goodness for less painful technologies and less strict societal standards today!

In addition to the historical landmarks, there was also history being made, especially in the case of protests. While the city wasn’t on fire, there were definitely more signs of protest than I would have seen in Granada or back home.

Note the flags’ colors: red, yellow and purple

These flags, those of the Second Republic, have usually tended to have anti-establishment tendencies and have historically been used during protest by those on the left. It was earlier used by anti-Francoist groups against the dictatorship in the 1970s. Pretty interesting to see, and also a reminder that while we can eat sushi and walk around town, this is still a nation on the brink of collapse.

But back to complacency! After the tour we had a wonderful farewell dinner and the gazpacho was delicious. Onto tomorrow, before Spain is no more!

Day 40: Last Day in Granada

Wednesday, 4/7/12

It’s the Fourth of July, but it feels as if my potential feelings of celebration and daresay patriotism (libertarians, I’ll go toe-to-toe with you over my patriotism later) have been diminished. Even though I’m with Americans, it was still the last day in Granada and final exam day and all sorts of other things were on my mind besides America.

After the final I browsed the Corte Inglés before coming home to lunch and a two-hour nap. Later in the day we went shopping for everyone’s last-minute urge. I myself bought a third fan and a pair of castanets (they were only 3€, and not plastic!). I feel very happy with and proud of my purchases. I got them all through Artesania Medina, and we went to another of their locations in the Plaza Bib-Rambla where we saw our first flamenco performance.

There was also the occasional bit of tourist humor. Perhaps just to my amusement though:

The irony of Che on a mass-produced satchel bag sold to wealthy tourists traveling abroad

I think almost everyone else was having a hard time restraining their purchases. I have a hard time buying things when I know I can’t return them, but other people have a hard time holding back from buying things when they know they won’t be here tomorrow. I can kind of understand, but I definitely don’t want to buy cheap stuff that needs replacing.

After shopping, a few of us went to La Qarmita, that lovely coffee shop we went to with Antonio one day. It is just so adorable and we all love it. I was also pretty much out of money and my purse zipper was malfunctioning (oh, the fail travels of that purse) so I just wanted to soak up the lovely atmosphere.

And right now I’m back, just thinking. Wandering thoughts can be so relaxing. I can’t believe Granada is done and over with. I feel like I will eventually come back, just to visit. I would want to see La Qarmita, walk around town and just see what will have changed. How I will have changed.

What crazy thoughts. I have loved this adventure and while it is not quite over yet, I feel satisfied. I do want to see the big city of Madrid, and I do love staying in hotels and having that “short trip feeling”. Those few magical days of travel where things are taken care of and you can travel light, and you wake up in a different place.

Day 39: The Monastery

Tuesday, 3/7/12

After class today, I took pictures of our route to school on my way home. I walked a little slower, enjoying everything. It was…beautiful.

The street we go down every morning…

I wonder why I never did this of the place where I live. It’s interesting, seeing all of the places you have been and what sorts of places you find yourself at home in. I even took a picture or two of the big ol’ hill we walk up.

Aah, so picturesque!

Hard to appreciate when you’re speed walking and hoping to not be late, but when you have the time, why not? But it is hard to appreciate when you’re looking at it from the other side:

Daunting hill is daunting

Today we also visited the Monasterio de la Cartuja, a very scary place. At least to me. From the outside, it looked quite inviting and even bright and friendly.

We took a bus to get here, by the way

As we proceeded to the inside of the walls, we were met by a lovely garden and beautiful patio area. It was refreshing after the long bus ride and short walk to get here. I didn’t know what to expect after this, but I imagined it would be pleasant.

This beauty!

But the people who once lived at the monastery were monks forbidden to speak, whose only task in life was to pray and work so they could proceed to a better afterlife. The paintings along the walls on the inside of the monastery were violent and unnerving, full of human suffering with various depictions of torture and slaughter.

It was a pity they wouldn’t let us take photos, although I might not have even if I could. For a rare moment it completely frightened me. The idea of a life like that. I wonder if one day my life will be considered that terrible by some future generation. It got me thinking about my personal philosophy, the philosophy of liberty.

One of the most shocking parts of the trip was when our guide Nikolas mentioned how we have the same torture methods even today. I thought to myself how evil is never perpetuated by evildoers, but by bystanders. Never, never, never will I allow myself to pass by this kind of injustice.

On the way back from the monastery we did a little shopping, passing by Zara and other stores. Things were, for once, not meticulously organized. Things were actually all over the place, more crowded and scary because of the rebajas. Women shoppers…there are lots of types of “scary” in this world.

Day 38: Still Winning

Monday, 2/7/12

I took a massive nap today, not even sure it’s still a nap because I slept for five hours! Yesterday was pretty exciting though. It was all over the television last night and today and will probably continue on like this for awhile.

And it kind of spilled over into today’s Spanish class as well. It didn’t help that some of us girls kept looking up pictures of the Spanish team (guilty). And adorable things like this:

Eventually Antonio (our professor) managed to incorporate football into today’s lesson and we were pretty satisfied with that. There is a tension in Spain because of regional v. national sentiment, which can be seen within the Spanish national team itself. Gerard Piqué, a regionalist from Cataluña, has had some brush-ups against Sergio Ramos, a nationalist and fellow teammate. Even football can get political!

It was something we didn’t know, interesting to learn about, and completely relevant! Because there is a complexity in pretty much everything, and because everything is connected, it really is the job of the professor to channel interests to the right things.

Okay, that is all. I slept too much today. If you want to learn more, there’s also an entire documentary on the subject of the history of the Spanish national team. I haven’t watched it in entirety but here you go:

Days 35-37: Last Weekend in Granada?!

Friday, 29/6/12 – Sunday, 1/7/12

It’s warm, really warm. So warm I can’t think, it’s so distracting. The computer makes things warmer, but I can’t get focused anyways so what’s the point? So many thoughts to process, so slow a brain processing.

But Sunday was super exciting. The new girl is coming! There is a new girl that will be coming to stay just as we are leaving, but we will have a few days to get to know her. I’m rather excited and a little nervous.

Sunday was also the first day of rebajas, summer sales. Things in Spain are never on sale (unlike the US) and there are big sales throughout the summer. Like a big, long, Black Friday. I was talking with our host mom Angustias about it over breakfast, and she mentioned that Carrefour and Corte Inglés are open today. Things are never open on Sunday! So it must be some big thing I guess.

The main highlight of this weekend was actually the epic football game though. Just in time, actually. It’s the finale: Spain v. Italia! I made my facepaint extra special for the occasion.

Game face.

It was so crowded that we didn’t get our usual spot. It was too crowded for that! But we did go down the street and eventually we found an indoor area to sit. The bartender was super entertaining, and made the whole experience even greater. I can’t believe how “into it” I’ve gotten. I used to despise sports. I used to beat other people’s enthusiasm like a wooden spoon on the backside of a misbehaving little boy with all the apathy I had for sports. But no more!

One of two screens in the small room. Wonderful anticipation, joyful laughter in our advances, followed by ultimate victory.

And we won, just as we did before. The connections with Spain’s political situation are amazing. This is a country at the brink of economic collapse, and yet so normal, so alive with activity. I feel like people won’t believe how I, a student of economics, could possibly be inspired by such a nation. And not only the nation as a whole, but also it’s current state.

After the victory, the sirens didn’t stop until morning. People were literally, one after another, jumping into the Río Genil. Dozens of people, the rest crowding around this usually-calm bridge to wave their flags and cheer.

And let’s just say he wasn’t the only one.

It was absolute madness, absolute victory. Kids, adults, and many many young people, all in the streets. Vendors, mostly of African descent, were selling jerseys and all sorts of merchandise in their low accented Spanish. And we had the nerve to buy and eat ice cream among the crowd. It was a challenge!

Victory. Victory. Victory.

And only three more days in this wonderful city.