Alright, I’m taking advantage of some downtime today to update you on my life in Madrid before classes start up again tomorrow. This past weekend has been an extended one in Spain since today is Dia de la Hispanidad/Saint Pilar. I missed watching the official parade on tv which the king presided over since I was enjoying sleeping in on a Tuesday. I did travel to France for the weekend for a cousin’s wedding. I’ll talk about that in another post though.
A lot of people ask me what I’ve been up to and the truth is mostly schoolwork. I know that’s not very interesting to hear about but that IS why I am here, to get a master’s degree. Unlike most undergrad programs abroad which, to be honest, are kind of a joke, I get a lot of reading and exercises assigned. All the students in both tracks (Language and Translation which is mine, and Literature) have a lot of work assigned. It’s a little weird because we share the NYU buildings with the undergrads (and there’s a lot of them) and they are constantly talking about traveling to different European cities on weekends. I was in the exact same position two years ago. I didn’t travel every weekend my junior year abroad but a lot of my classmates did. This year is different however. While I don’t have classes most Fridays, traveling to other countries is a lot harder to fit in. Weekend trips to places not too far from Madrid are doable though. One of the reasons I was able to go to France this past weekend was because it was a holiday weekend here in Spain and I didn’t have to rush back Sunday night for classes on Monday morning (it was also Columbus Day back in the States if I’m not mistaken–however Spain does not celebrate Columbus Day…. it would be kind of stupid to celebrate it since the country ended up losing all those colonies anyways)
Apart from classes, I need to figure out what I’m going to focus on for my thesis. Oh the joy. I have an idea but I haven’t officially decided yet. Once I do, I’ll let you guys know because I personally think it’s an interesting subject.
However I was able to get away from classes long enough to partake in Madrid’s annual Noche en Blanco (White Night) which took place, weirdly enough, on September 11th. The theme for this year’s NEB was “Hagan juego!” or in other words “Let the games begin!” Going along with this theme, on Gran Via (one of Madrid’s most famous streets) there were these playground like rides such as huge swings, see-saws, slides, giant Scrabble Boards… In all the city from about 7 PM to 7 AM there were activities to do all over the city ranging from visiting the famous museums and the Palacio Real to smaller exhibits or shows full of music, dancing, and singing. And it was all free. I had a map of the city which had labeled where all the activities were taking place. Unfortunately, my roommates and I didn’t realize how big a deal this has become and should have been on line starting around 6 PM.
Gran Via was actually closed to traffic and Madrilenos took full advantage of this by crowding the streets trying to find something to do. We ended up going to el Palacio Real (some kind of exhibition down in the kitchens) only to find a ridiculously long line we couldn’t see the end of. We decided we weren’t waiting 3+ hours to get in so we walked over to this square where there was some jazz music playing but that was super crowded too. Two other girls and I decided to leave and find a place to eat, which we did in this completely empty bar and had some croquetas with jamon. After this, we wanted to go home and discovered the metro was no longer running. We were under the mistaken impression the subway would be open all night just for Noche en Blanco but no such luck. So we had to figure out which buho (night bus) to take home and of course the buses were packed.
If I were to do Noche en Blanco again, I would pick ONE activity for the whole night, get on line ridiculously early, then go out the rest of the night with friends at a bar/club/whatever while waiting for the metro to open back up. I still don’t understand how a city with such a huge nightlife does not have the metro open all night. NYC is still the only city that I know of that has subways that run 24/7 (on a restricted schedule late at night but still). I guess it’s not called the City that Never Sleeps for nothing. Madrid could easily take that title from NYC if it didn’t close the metro from 1:30 AM (a lot later than most cities apparently) to 6 AM!
To learn more about the “White Night Festivals” in Europe you can go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Night_festivals.
Apparently Paris’s “Nuit Blanche” is pretty popular. I know Copenhagen has something similar but it’s called “Cultural Night” instead. But it’s the same idea.
In order to keep up with my Spanish, NYU paired me up with an “intercambio” aka a Spanish language partner. I’ve met mine a few times now. Her name is Laura and she is a student at la Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, one of Madrid’s most famous (and I think maybe prestigious) universities. She is also doing translation and she spent a few weeks in France this summer for a homestay. I mostly speak in Spanish and she speaks in English so it’s a mixture of Spanglish. We get along pretty well but it’s sometimes hard to coordinate our schedules. Classes have started for her at UAM so we mostly meet up on weekends.
It’s easy to lapse into English at NYU. All the students speak to each other in English, which is normal. I got really frustrated when I was abroad junior year but then I realized worldwide no matter where foreign students go study, they will speak their native language if surrounded by other people who can speak it. Obviously in my piso I mostly communicate in English since I live with two Americans. It also doesn’t help I can switch our tv into English for shows that originally aired in English. However I’ve made a pledge to myself not to change the language especially if it’s a show I’ve seen before. Los Simpsons may be funnier in English but it’s obviously better for me to listen to the Spanish version. I won’t understand all the jokes–in fact I will probably understand very little. But it’s better for my hearing comprehension.
I’m also looking for activities outside of NYU that will help me meet more Spaniards. I obviously can’t commit to many. In fact, one or two is probably the most I can handle. I know there’s a yoga studio somewhere in my neighborhood and sometime this week I AM going to go check it out (I’ve been saying this for weeks). I am not flexible at all and I will probably understand none of the Spanish yoga terms but hopefully the instructor will just demonstrate the poses and I can just copy him/her. Or the other people in the class. Since I tend to be an anxious person in general (which I’m very good at hiding, I realize) I need something that will give me peace of mind. I’m hoping yoga will do that for me.
If you happen to have any advice about meeting Spaniards/know people in Madrid, LET ME KNOW! The more hispanohablantes (Spanish speaking people) I know, the better!
OK I think that’s enough for this post. Next post will include some cultural observations I’ve noticed in Spain/Madrid/the Spanish speaking world.
Talk to you soon,