Sunday, January 31, 2010

goodbye semester 1 (nearly)

Had my last exam Thursday morning!  But I'm going to back-track a bit and catch you all up on last week's events:
  • Sunday - went to the Real Madrid v. Málaga fútbol game.  We won, but Ronaldo got a red card.  That's probably the first soccer game I've watched from start to finish.  Ever.
  • Monday - after my sintax final, I headed south of the city for my first day volunteering al centro de atención a la mujer (a women's-help center-ish type thing).  
    • I help kids with homework for two hours after school.  Some of the kids' parents are illiterate, or they don't have a home environment that encourages doing school work, so they come to the center and have an hour with the volunteers to work on their homework. 
    • Mondays and Wednesdays there are two different groups - 4.45-5.45 with the first, and then the second batch are from 5.45-6.45.  There are two rooms, one for older kids (10+) and one for younger kids (7-9 years old).
    • Mondays during 2nd semester I'll have classes back-to-back from 10am to 4pm, and then head straight to the center, because it takes nearly an hour to get there from the university. (I take the metro, then catch a train that goes south of the city).  Not sure when I'll eat lunch yet these days...
  • Tuesday - (Study for lit in the morning) Met with my tutor for nearly two hours that afternoon, and she showed me all the corrections she made on my paper.  Still need to make the changes on the compy, reprint, and hand in that sucker.
    • Tuesday evening - tutored Pablo.  That boy loves pirates.
    • Izzy came over and we talked through all of our lit units for a few hours, and did some great poetry interpretation in preparation for the next day's exam.
  • Wednesday - Spanish lit final exam.  Had a few hours to study for phonetics afterwards, before I headed off to las rozas to tutor.  Got home around 10.30... made some dinner...
  • Thursday - Phonetics exam: so glad to be done with that class! We had a few celebratory beers in the cafeteria afterwards, then went to a sangria bar in Sol.
    • Then I met my new intercambio, Gustavo, and we sat and chatted for a few hours.  He's older, 30s maybe, but a bit weird.  We have plans to meet up again next, we'll see how this goes...
    • Around 8, I started my "project" with Gregorio - decluttering his shelves in the living room!  This man has so much stuff, and I've been waiting and waiting to finish exams so I can help him get started.  We began going through the shelves, until Izzy called me. Ate dinner at a friend's apartment with a bunch of other WIPers.
  • Friday - Lunch with Asad and Vickie.  That night, we went to see "Up in the air" with an intercambio group.  (It's not really a romantic comedy.  If you're looking for a feel-good movie, this is not it).  Vickie's intercambio, Jorge, came to watch it with us.  It was in English with Spanish subtitles.  About 90 people showed up from the group, and everyone with the intercambio group got a euro discount on the tickets.  Also, afterwards the tickets could be traded for a drink at a nearby bar, so we went and met some of the Spaniards that came for the intercambio.
  • Saturday (hoy) - Shopping with Asad in Cuatro Caminos.  Kebap for lunch at my favorite place, with the chef who knows me.  
  • Went on a cleaning spree and cleaned the apartment.  After washing my bedroom floor, I started moving around furniture... and completely changed up my bedroom.  Moved my bed to a different location, moved she shelves, and shifted my desk right under the window.  Feels a lot more spacious now, and I got rid of lots of clutter too.
Monday is the first day of our 2nd sem. Reunidas classes.  I'm taking Sintaxis II, Etnología de América, and Cervantes.  Our Complutense classes from first semester are still in session... exams are the first couple weeks of February.  Then our two 2nd semester Complutense courses will start later in February (I should really figure what date I start class...)  I signed up for Historía y Teoría de la Ciencia (history and theory of science) and el Origen de la Humanidad (origen of humanity).  Hopefully I'll get to stay in them...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Teatro: Cartas a mamá desde España, con amor

This past semester, there was a theater class in the Reunidas program.  Along with studying Spanish theater, they wrote a play themselves, which was performed Friday night.  The play was called "Cartas a mamá desde España, con amor" (Letters to mother from Spain, with love) and it was actually really funny.  The narrators read parts of the "cartas a mamá" inbetween scenes, introducing each skit.  They made fun of Americans/Spaniards, and the first differences we noticed.

My favorite skit was called "falsos amigos", which used many cognates, or "false friends" - Spanish words that sound similar to english words, but have completely different meanings.

The second skit was called "Trabalenguas" and the whole script was basically a tongue twister, poking fun at how fast Spaniards talk:

la perra, la parra, Sr. Parra

Another skit, "En el metro"

"En el metro"

"Espacio Personal"

"En el metro"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Currently listening: "Ni una sola palabra" - Paulina Rubio

Finished that lit paper yesterday afternoon.  I think that's actually the fastest I've ever cranked out a paper - in casi-24 hrs.  I'll read it over again this weekend and re-print it next week.  My tutor's going to read my religion paper this week, and I'll edit it again over the weekend.  So now I can actually study!

Tomorrow we have a make-up fonética class in the morning, then lunch with the spring semester students, and then I'll head off to tutor... which will take me 10.30 tomorrow night.

nos vemos!

Monday, January 18, 2010

avatar and crazy cake

Since I'm sure you're all on the edges of your seats, just waiting to hear about my progress...

Second paper is finished.  Well, the first draft at least.  I'm waiting to hear back from my tutor; I asked her if she could edit it sometime this week.

Started and wrote 1.367 words for my spanish lit paper today; I'm over halfway down page 4.  Which means I'll write the remaining 633 words tomorrow, and then I can actually start studying for finals. Fun, fun.


Friday night I saw Avatar in 3D with Asad and the french roommate of another WIPer - my first movie at the theater in Madrid.  Avatar was fantastic -- even dubbed.  But movies are ridiculously expensive here, too.  Paid 10.50 euro for the movie.  That's casi-$15.75. 

Yesterday evening Izzy and I made mother's famous chocolate "crazy cake".  Delicious.  Gregorio gave it a 10 out of 10!  That's the second thing all year he's approved of, the only other being the apple cake I made last week.

Zuzana was gone all week in southern Spain for work, and just got back tonight.  It's a job that she started in January, and she'll have for six months.  It's not a regular work-every-day-type of job though.  It sounds like she'll have to travel for a week at a time, maybe once or twice a month.  But it's better than no job at all.

Tomorrow morning I register with Juan, our Resident Director for classes next semester.  It will be a bit trickier this semester because of the increase in students, and the fact that everyone's taking two Complutense classes and three Reunidas, rather than the single Complutense class with three Reunidas that we took this semester.  

The reason that makes it tricky is because the Reunidas program has a contract with the Complutense University that limits each Complu class to 5 Reunidas students only.  Thus, with 76 WIP students, plus all the other US universities that are a part of the Reunidas program, there's a large chance that people won't be able to take their first choices of Complutense classes.

We're supposed to have two first choices (for Complu classes), and a backup for each.  It was hard enough to find two classes that are appealing, and fit in with my schedule, let alone four.  So I only have one backup, we'll see how that goes... 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

today's progress

I have 7 1/2 pages written - and that's not including my page of endnotes!
Two more pages, and that should do it.

Then I can start on my lit paper...

In other news, I meet with our Resident Director Monday morning to sign up for my classes next semester.  Thus I've spent the last two hours looking up course equivalencies, major requirements, etc. trying to plan out my next three semesters, rather than working on my paper.  It's a pain, trying to match up the schedule/equivalencies for Reunidas courses with the schedule and equivalencies with Complutense courses, keeping in mind major requirements, graduation requirements, bla bla bla.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Happy 18th birthday, brother!


Happy 19th birthday, cousin!

Paperz update:
Religion: Have 4 pages now.  Need at least 4-5 more*.
Spanish Lit: Still haven't begun...

*And recall, I'm talking about A4 paper here... our pages are longer!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

new WIPers...

Today and tomorrow, 52 new WIPers will be arriving in Madrid for the spring semester.


Thus today, WIP hosted an afternoon of coffee and tea at a cafe in the city with the newbies that have arrived.  All of us old WIPers were invited as well, and about nine of us went.  There were one or two "veteran" WIPers at each table, and the new arrivals rotated around every twenty minutes or so.  Asked questions. And such.

Trabajo update:
sintaxis: finished and handed in
religión: have written about a page and a half. el profesor would like 8-10-12 pages.
literatura: need a thesis. and ideas. and an outline...

Monday, January 11, 2010

crisis 2010

According to my profesora de sintax, there's a new crisis for English speakers with the new year: how to say it.

two thousand ten.

Two thousand ten rolls off my tongue much smoother than the other. 

Which do you use?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

classes, schmasses.

Classes start up again tomorrow.  Today I realized (by reading my syllabus...) that one of my papers is due on Tuesday instead of at our final, as I had previously though.  Oops.  Luckily, this is the only paper I had actually worked on over break, so it should be ready to hand in after a nice editing session tomorrow.

In the mean time, I still have a Spanish lit paper to write. . . though I still don't know what I'll write about.  And the religion paper for my Complutense class, which I'm writing instead of taking the final exam (which my professor is letting the foreigners in our class do - yay).  I have a rough, rough, rough outline-ish of what that will cover.

And then of course, I need to start studying for finals, which are the last week of January.

Hence, you may not see much of me in the next two weeks.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

apparently french men don't need sleep to function.

Grego worked last night, from 6pm-8am.  His normal routine is to come home and go to bed the next morning until 2-3-4ish in the afternoon.  But today I awoke to him knocking on my door, asking if I was home (around 10.30a).  He wondered if I wanted to go shopping with him at some huge mall.

We spent casi-the entire day at this gigantic commercial park, 20 minutes south of Madrid, with store after store of discounted name-brand clothes.  We got back around 5:30pm, but he had to make a few more stops around town, so he dropped me off at home.  I left a bit after six to meet up with Sergio, and still hadn't seen Gregorio return to the apartment.

I get home around 9:30 tonight and Gregorio has just woken up from a 3 hr nap.  He tells me he needs to shower and get ready.  He's going out with a friend tonight.  They left here around 12:30am.  Did I mention Gregorio works tomorrow during the day?

I would not be functioning if I were him.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

BEST.PARADE.OF.MY.LIFE! (aka Cabalgatas de los Reyes Magos)

Tuesday evening (the 5th), I headed out to watch the Cabalgatas de los Reyes Magos - the parade that ends with the arrival of the Three Kings.  Best parade I've ever been to, by far.  I was amazed at how many people were all out to watch it.  I could sense the same excited feeling in the air as during Noche en Blanco*.

Unfortunately but expectantly, pictures won't do it justice.  You can't re-create the anticipation bursting from the smiles of all the children, nor the sense of community and happiness shared by the audience that night.  But pictures are better than nothing:   

lots of confetti


so many ladders!

the kids bring umbrellas to catch more candy

the crowd

yes, that woman is hanging from balloons

bleachers all along the street for a better view
rule #1: no saving seats 

 lots of confetti to clean up

as expected, the metro was a zoo afterwards

Here's a video from Youtube of the parade on Tuesday.  At the beginning, you can see just how many people came to watch (and remember, that's just in one spot in Madrid... the parade went quite a ways through the city, every part filled), and if you skip to around 7:00, it'll show lots of the different floats.

*Note: If I wouldn't have studied abroad for the entire year, I wouldn't have been able to participate in either of these events.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

christmas in espain

The Christmas season in Spain is quite different than in the US.  The biggest difference is that rather than Santa bringing presents for children on December 25, los Reyes Magos (the three kings) bring presents the night of January 5, which are opened January 6 - the Feast of the Epiphany.

Other Christmas-y practices of note:
  • In general, the Christmas season is way less commercial than in the US.  Sure, people shop and there are Christmas sales and such, but... let's put it this way: Spain doesn't have a Black Friday.
  • Christmas trees are common in homes, but you're more likely to see belénes, or nativity scenes.  Those are everywhere this time of year, in every store window, church, and home.
    • (This is due to the strong Catholic influence in Spain's history.  Today 76% of Spaniards identify as Catholics, and although only 15% of these go to church every week, nearly all celebrate the holiday traditions.)
  • Lights were put up around the city here, but are only turned on at night, and not until some point during December (I don't remember when I first saw them lit up...)
    • (Electricity is a lot more expensive here than in the US, thus everyone is very aware of and conservative with their usage)
  • The Christmas lottery is HUGE here; there are always unbelievably long lines at the booths where they are sold.  On December 22, the winners are chosen.
    • The Christmas lottery dates back to 1763, when Carlos III initiated it. Since then, not one year has passed without it.
  • Christmas Eve, or nochebuena, involves a meal with the family for most Spaniards.
  • On Christmas Day, children might receive a small gift, but the usual day for presents is January 6.  Since the 25 of December is a national holiday here as well, shops are closed, but it's a calm day rather than a day of big celebration.
  • On January 5, there are processions all over Spain where candy is thrown from the floats for the kids.  The people welcome the kings Melchoir, Gaspar, and Balthasar to their city during the parades.
  • The Feast of the Epiphany is on January 6, when the Three Kings (Los Reyes Magos) arrived in Bethlehem.  This is a favorite day of the year for many children all around Spain.
    • During breakfast or after lunch, families eat the Roscón de Reyes, a cake made in the form of a ring and decorated with glace fruits, symbolizing the emeralds of the robes of the Kings. There's a surprise figure and a broad bean hidden in every cake.  Whoever finds the legume will pay for the roscón, and the lucky one to find the figurine will be crowned King. 

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010

Guest blogger:  LuAnn

Today is Friday, our last day in Madrid.  What was left on our list of places to go?  We needed to see where Rebecca spends much of her time, so we headed to the university.  When we arrived, it looked like a ghost town.  Everything is shut down for the winter break.  We were able to see the buildings where Rebecca has classes.  There is a nice view of the mountains there, too.

We decided to do some exploring of that part of town, so we walked and walked.  It was another windy day.  I was glad I had my scarf and mittens along.  We walked to the part of the city called Moncloa.  Then nature called and we had to find a bathroom.  There are no public bathrooms here.  Luckily Rebecca knew of one at the metro stop, so we took advantage of that and walked some more--looking for a place that was open on New Year's Day.  Most places were closed, but we did happen upon a restaurant.  Rebecca and Bernice ordered from the 2-plate menu.  You get a first plate, then a second plate of food.  Lots of yummy food, but they were both very full.  I had a tortilla espanola and hot chocolate, which was too thick to drink.  I used a spoon to enjoy it.

After lunch, we metroed to Sol.  Things were livelier there.  We had to walk through the craft booths again.  Bernice bought a pretty ring and some scarves, after much deliberation.  I picked up a few more souvenirs at the shop on the corner.

We headed for home, after a quick stop at a convenience store to pick up a few munchies for the plane ride home.  As I write this last blog, Bernice is sleeping on the couch in preparation for our 3 AM departure for the airport.  I'm sure I'll be napping before the night is over, too.

So I will say good bye to Spain tonight.  I loved being here with Rebecca and experiencing a different culture.  I will better understand her blogs now that I've been here.  It was an awesome trip, thanks to Rebecca's tour guide abilities.  I'm so proud of the way she has made a life for herself here in Madrid.  It was so fun to watch and listen to her interact with the Spaniards.   I am so lucky to have had this week with Rebecca.  But now it's time to return to Waunakee, WI.  Back to reality--but a good reality.  Hasta luego!

Day 5: feliz 2010!

Guest Blogger:  LuAnn

We left the house on Thursday, December 31, armed with a large umbrella borrowed from Gregorio in hopes of keeping the rain away.  It was windy and blustery, but no rain for most of the day.  Our first stop was Retiro Park, a large, grassy park where Rebecca plays frisbee when the weather is warmer.  We saw the Puerta de Alcalá--a very famous landmark in Madrid.  Then we had a pastry "lunch" in a small cafe.

We rode the metro to Sol--a repeat visit to see things we didn't see the first time, like "el oso y el madroño," a bear statue in Puerta del Sol.  It, too, is a famous landmark in Madrid.  We hit the souvenir shops.  Bernice found some Madrid dolls for her friend June.  I picked up a few things and more post cards.

Then we went to Plaza Mayor.  There is a "Plaza Mayor" in every town.  In Madrid, there is a statue in the middle and various shops around it.  We saw various characters, too.  My favorite one was the fat Spiderman.  There is definitely an American influence here.

We returned to Palacio Real to see the view of the mountains, as it was foggy the first time.  We kept walking and saw Plaza de Espana and Gran Via.  We looked in more shops.  The people were beginning to look as if New Year's Eve was approaching.  They were wearing colorful wigs and hats in preparation for the big party in Sol that night.  Shops were beginning to close down, too, so we headed for home.

We stopped at the Corte Ingles Supermarcado to buy some ingredients for Rebecca' tortilla espanola.  We were also looking for a few items needed to bake a cake from scratch.  We found everything except vanilla!  What's the matter with these people?  Where was the baking aisle?  I guess that people buy everything at the delicious bakeries instead of baking themselves.  It was a madhouse at the store, as it was late and everyone was heading home from work before New Year's Eve celebrations.

When we did make it home, Rebecca cooked a delicious supper of tortilla espanola and cooked carrots.  We were afraid to eat too much, though, because Gregorio informed us that he was cooking for us to eat again later!!  We watched most of the movie Rebecca, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  Just as the movie was nearing its end, Gregorio brought out a leg of lamb, potatoes, onions, and salad.  Pause the video and dig in for more!

As midnight approached Gregorio brought us each a glass of twelve grapes.  You're supposed to eat one grape each time the clock gongs on the TV, so we found the local station and watched the action live at Sol.  There were tons of people and lots of fireworks which we could hear on TV and here at the apartment.  We toasted with champaign and wished each other "Happy New Year!"   I will certainly remember New Year's Eve 2010!