Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just a few Photos

 Sunset taken from the train leaving my flat
 View from Torre Del Micalet in Valencia 
  My friend Bernhard in Valencia  
Me in Parque Retrio 

Centro de Madrid 

Real Madrid v Barcelona  

Me and my friend Lucas at the Real Madrid Vs. Barcelona 


University to Universidad

My school at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) has a beautiful campus and great atmosphere. The teachers are really nice and the class sizes, for the majority, are prefect. But there are a ton of differences from UNC. First of all there is about 17 buildings two of which are small cafetieres (which sell beer inside of them)  and the library. One day, a few days before school started, I was trying to register for classes but I couldn't log into the website to get any of my information or anything. I was so confused at first I started to panic because at this point I thought I wasn't a student there. I'm about to have a very long vacation I thought. But after I talked to about three or four people in the library they showed me I was in the system and that I just had the wrong information to log in. Here is where the scavenger hunt began.

They told me I needed to go the class room in building 10 to get it changed. I went there and was told I needed to go to building 3 for information. Once I got there they told me an even different building! This went on for about two hours. Going from building to building being told to go over here and back over there until I think I went to just about every building. Everyone seemed so nice and was trying to help me, but it seemed like no one knew what to do. I thought I would never get this figured out.  I was so frustrated after walking around the whole campus for two hours in 30-32 degree Celsius heat with my back pack on I just gave up. The next day I went to a computer lab and there was a girl working at the desk. I told her about my problem and it was fixed in matter of ten minutes. I swear I went to that same building, same room and everything the day before.    

The majority of my classes are pretty small with 20-25 people in them which is great for me since I'm still learning Spanish while the larger classes seem to be more difficult for me because I feel like there are more distractions and a bit harder to pay attention. It has been quite difficult taking all my classes in Spanish. One reason is because how hard it is to take notes. I understand what the professors are saying (for the most part) but once I start to write down notes I get lost because I'm writing what they were saying and can't keep up with what they are currently saying. It's a tad frustrating but I can already tell a difference from one week to the next. But I have started recording the lectures and listening to them after words then taking notes. Also I've made friends with my class mates who are all native Spanish speakers (not all from Spain though; Mexico, Boliva, and others) and they have been helping me with notes and studying. Another reason it is a tad difficult is because I am taking a business class and some of the terminology is quit hard to understand because the words are longer and not ones I'm used to in everyday conversations.

I can talk decent Spanish but I am very far from perfect. For this I've been trying to change everything in my life. I am no longer learning how to speak Spanish but learning how to give up English. That was one of my major flaws when I first came here. I would try to practice Spanish when I could but when I would go back to my apartment I would watch movies or TV in English. This wasn't helping me at all. One day I stopped reading my book in English, stopped watching TV in English, and dropped English music as well. I download podcast in Spanish, read the local paper, and listened to Spanish music. I can definitely tell an improvement as I started dreaming in Spanish a lot more then I ever have but there are still a lot of times where I can tell I need some more improvement. I haven't watched anything in English since I gave that up but I must say that I miss my music from time to time and switch back. I'm just at a point where I need to surround myself in everything Spanish so I can make the transition to think easier in a different language so I can actually take notes during class and not get lost. Poco y Poco.

Jamon, Jamon, y mas Jamon!

The people from Madrid love cerdo (pig)! I could see this from week one here. Most little bars give you a tapa or little snack when you order a drink. My guess it about 89% of the time it's from pig. Chorizo, Lomo, Bacon, Panceta, and Jamon just to name a few. There are lot's of shops in the center that are dedicated to just pig meat. One of which is called Museo del Jamon (Museum of ham). I was just curious to see how many Museo del Jamon are in Madrid so I Googled it for my area and to my surprise I found eight close to me! In these Museum they had rows and rows of pig hips and legs hanging down from the ceiling to cure the meat. Not only is it a surprisingly large amounts of meat in the shops, it's also where people sit down for a beer and snacks right where the meat is hanging.

Another aspect of the food I found really surprising was the markets. I went to Valencia last weekend with a group of friends and we went in one of the biggest markets in all of Spain. I saw every type of meat hanging around you could think of and more. The photo posted above is actually a quite modest picture compared to ones I was considering of posting but even I couldn't stand to look at them again. Things like: small animals completely whole and skinned, brains of an animal next to the skull, whole goose, chicken heads, and skinned frogs just to name a few. And this was before we went into the seafood section. They had everything you could think of and more. Whole fresh octopus and squid, live eels in a swallow pool, and lots more. Needless to say it was definitely a cultural shock from what most Americans are used to from packaged food bought at the supper market. However, the fresh fruit and vegetables was a nice sight to see.

The food is great in Madrid, and was as well in Valencia, but I would recommend trying new things and not just the things you are used to. There are of course a large selection of food from all over the world here but if you eat pizza, or McDonald's while your out here you not really experiencing the culture or the food. The Spanish people know how to cook Spanish food; so eat that. Eat pizza in Italy and just stay away from McDonalds in general is my opinion. I always ask the waiter what he or she recommends and from this I had one of best things I've eaten here... also the worst thing too- that's just because I don't like anchovies and other salty fish on top of potato chips. However, I tried to eat as much as I could because I didn't want to waste it and she was so eager for me to try it she gave it to me for free.

The city that never sleeps (and not New York)

Madrid has a lot to offer any type of person from all over the world. The city is rich in culture, art, great food, and nightlife. Oh yes nightlife. I thought I stayed up late in the United States but so far nothing compares to Madrid's nightlife. Not only are the Madrileños aware of this, they are proud of it. One of the first questions I get after telling a Madrileño I'm from America is "have you been out clubbing yet?" or "how do you like the night life?" always with eagerness. After living here for just about a month I feel like I can finally go out like a proper Madrileño. I learned fast that there is some short of "right" system to really fiestar como un Madrileño.

I know this is a blog for university and I really shouldn't be giving out "how to party tips" but it's not really like that. To people in Madrid it's actually a very social thing and really makes up a large part of their city, culture, and economy. I had a short two and a half week Spanish class to improve my Spanish before I started school since all of my classes are in Spanish, and one of the first things my teacher taught the class was the culture of the nightlife and how time is different here. It actually was very helpful, I just wish I knew it earlier.

Step one: Start everything later; do everything different from before. You have to remember that the scheduled that the locals are on can be very different from yours. All of the times the people do things are very different from what I was used to in the United States.  The first time I went out with my German friend we arrived at the bar at around  11 or 12pm. There was literary three other people in there. We thought- wow we must have pick the wrong place. We left and went to a few different place; all of which were vacant. We thought we must have picked the wrong night, but by around 2am the streets were packed. Every bar, club, discotheque all packed. The next day I was telling someone from Madrid that I met about this and they couldn't believe how early we went out.

When we were in the first bar at 12pm, the local people were still finishing up dinner or tapas and drinks. We didn't know this then but all of the people do everything so much later, and for this the hours of a lot of stores and shops are very different from what I was used to. The people usually don't head to the bars or clubs until 2-3am, but stay out till 6-7am or even later! The metro closes pretty early at about 1:30 and doesn't open back up till 6am -I think this maybe one reason people stay up so late; so you don't have to take a taxi home. I know that is one reason for me. I live with three Spanish people and I was talking to them about this and my roommate, Maria, told me her and her friends stay up that late enough para desayunar "to eat breakfast". That has now become a reoccurring theme with me and my friends now as well. I remember the first time I talked on the phone with my parents and told them the times I was getting home they thought I was crazy, but in reality I was just assimilating.

 It's not just the times of the bars that are different here. It's just about everything. I literally had to make a time scheduled in my notes because certain types of shops have very different hours from the United States. For example, I went to go by my bus and metro pass in Atocha (a very nice, large Barrio in Madrid) I thought I had everything I needed to get my bus pass: my ID, the forms all filled out, a passport photo, and money. Once I got there I was ready to get my pass but I was missing a copy of my passport. So, I traveled back to my flat which is about 20minutes each way. By the time I returned to the station it was closed! And it was only 2pm! I must have went to that shop three or four times that week until I learned that, like a lot of shops in Madrid, opens in the morning, closes for a few hours between 14:00 to 15:00 and then reopen for the night until about 22:00. Lot's of stores are like this, but so far I haven't found system that is consistent.

One person I met from Madrid, Enrique, told me that this city parties "domigo a domigo y lunes a lunes"  Sunday to Sunday and Monday to Monday. So yes I think this really is "the city the never sleeps". I even looked it up on line to see how it compares to New York City. According to NDJWorld, New York City is ranked 32nd. Cairo, Egypt was ranked number one, and Madrid was ranked 6th. However, Spain was ranked the country that never sleeps because it has six cities in the top ten cities that never sleep. (NDJWorld 2011)

Another man also agrees with me. His name is Ernest Hemingway and he said "To go to bed at night in Madrid marks you as a little queer. For a long time your friends will be a little uncomfortable about it. Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night. Appointments with a friend are habitually made for after midnight at the cafe". This is a short quote taken from Hemmingway´s book “Death in the Afternoon” about Spanish bullfighting. This book was published in 1932 and this quote still holds to be very true.