Post #8: Burn Baby Burn

Holy moly, the time is flying by so fast. I just wanted to take a minute to talk about my ONE DAY TRIP to Valencia. This action packed trip was decided super last minute and coincided (intentionally) with the festival Las Fallas.

For those of you who do not know what Las Fallas is – think of it as the craziest Spring Break of your life just with more rain, huge sculptures and SO MUCH FIRE. I need to put a lot of things in caps for this post because Las Fallas is “the most”. Me and a bunch of friends signed up for a Las Fallas trip through Be Madrid and took a bus at 7 a.m. in front of Madrid’s Ventas – their usual meeting point. I would absolutely recommend Be Madrid for student trips. This cost around 20 euros for the bus and they were very reliable. They also have other trips across Spain, Portugal and Morocco. We then rode for five hours, stopping only once at this creepy rest stop called Area 175 in the middle of nowhere Castilla La-Mancha where we got to see all of the ALREADY DRUNK Americans and other Europeans on our bus. As you will read in just a minute, this was probably the most “college” experience of my life.

Story time: as we got off the bus at the rest stop, two young men who could have just stepped off the set of the Van Wilder movie, were talking about their experience on the bus. One proceeded to say, “Haha, dude. This is just like the time when when we took a bus to our formal.” #FallasGoesFrat #FallasFormal2k15

Once we arrive, we were good to go because we already ate our picnic lunches that our senoras graciously packed us the night before and were all bundled up in the appropriate weather gear according to their sage advice. We arrived just in time for La Mascleta in the center of town and then walked around to various “tents” selling a plethora of alcoholic beverages (mostly mojitos – you will be so sick of mojitos when you leave Spain) and saw the beautiful sculptures that were to be burned at the end of the night. We arrived on the final day of the festivities for the Nit de la crema. After walking around for what seemed like days looking at Valencia’s most well known sites (#2, #8, #9), along with seeing three year olds setting off fireworks…because Fallas, we (meaning me and three other people) got to sit down and enjoy some ACTUAL PAELLA. Paella is originally from Valencia and let me tell you, all other Paella in Spain is a lie. This stuff was the real deal. We chose one restaurant (not the super fancy ones) that was part of a strip of exclusively paella restaurants along the beach and tucked into some paella con mariscos (seafood paella) and paella valenciana (paella with rabbit and chicken). Whatever your fancy, they are both equally good. Also, side note, in Valencia, they speak Spanish and Valenciano (which is either considered a dialect of Catalan or a language entirely its own, depending on who you ask). However, unlike in Catalunya, all of the signs are in mostly just Spanish.

After lunch, we headed back into downtown to consume more “beverages” and prepare for the nights festivities. There was much dancing, singing and fire. So much fire. Here is a video of what it looks like when the statues are burned – truly amazing and terrifying at the same time. The last statue to be burned is the one that is in the center square – this year it was a lion with a globe and all statues, including this one, are made out of a mix of wood and papiermâché.

Then, after some more fiesta, we caught the bus home at 2:30 am and proceeded to sleep all day in Madrid upon our arrival.

No “Tips and Tricks” for this post (since everything is pretty much listed here and we did not stay in a hotel) but check out other ones by clicking on the link!

Vocab word(s) of the day: baladí (petty, trivial, inconsequential), lío (mess, fuss – often used as “que lio”, follón (commotion, racket, hullaballo – similar use to “lio”)


Post #7: Tal qual o velho Tejo

Okay, hi readers. To start off: this post is not about Spain. However, as part of our Iberian Experience program here in the IBERIAN PENINSULA, I felt like I had to share my experience in Portugal. To be honest, this was probably my favorite trip of my entire time abroad. I had been wanting to go to Portugal for a long time ever since I first discovered Fado music. Carminho is one of my favorite Fado singers today and you can listen to some of her songs here, here and here (Fado/Spanish Pop mix). I cannot fit all of them because I have to write about other stuff too!

When we got to Barajas at six in the morning, I had never felt more awake. I was so excited to begin my journey with my friends in my program and we got off to a pretty quick start considering the flight only took one hour from Madrid. We flew TAP which is the national airline of Portugal and, according to my aviation-enthusiast friend in the program, John, he told me that they only fly into Newark.

Right after we landed, we were whisked off for a tour of Lisbon from our departure point at the Vasco de Gama bridge. It was truly weird to be driving on a bridge and only see ocean on all sides of you. Although it was chilly, it is truly a beautiful place and you can really feel the “saudade” in the streets as the curtains of the local shops blow in the breeze from the wide open doors and the melancholic, low-hanging wires of the school bus yellow trams. After walking around for a little bit and stopping to get a bite to eat, we saw the Belem Tower, Jeronimos Monestary and the Discoveries Monument. Afterwards, we did some more walking around the Belem neighborhood and Elena and Paco bought us some Pasteis de Nata from the Lisbon-ubiquitous bakery, Pasteis de Belem. No one could confirm whether or not they contained nuts, since no one in our group speaks Portuguese, so I could not eat one which made me sad.

On a more positive note, we saw a Fado show at the Fado in Chiado – an institution of Fado in the city. We sat second to front row and I was giddy with excitement the whole time. The instrumentalists were fabulous and the male singer was okay (kind of flat at times) but the female singer was brilliant. She truly evoked the nostalgia, longing and love of Portugal by singing of winding streets and Atlantic coastlines. Then, we had free time for dinner and I went on a very belated “Galentine’s Day” dinner “date” with my good friend, Alex. We both indulged in some tasty Portuguese dishes – I had the massive Francesinha with some Vinho Verde. Needless to say, I could barely walk back to the hotel (the Hotel Embaixador) because I was so full.  This was a lovely hotel and our room, and the dining room, had a great view of the city skyline.

After a delicious hotel breakfast (something that is always looked forward to on the trips since eating breakfast at our home stays is very uncommon), we departed to Cascais. While I wish we had spent more time in Lisbon, I am sure that I will come back someday to explore based on how much I loved it from the start. Cascias was lovely and it was great to see some beach action after being all bundled up in Madrid for so long. Not to say it was not cold, but feeling some warm sun was nice. The streets are very cute and the people here, and all over Portugal, are so lovely and friendly. Most people speak Portunhol, which is the bizarre love child of Spanish and Portuguese. This is why Portunhol works: for example, the word “pessoa” means “person” in Portuguese. “Persona” means “person” in Spanish. It is much easier for Portuguese speakers to understand “persona” than for Spanish speakers to understand “pessoa” because you are adding letters instead of taking them away. Therefore, we could get away with speaking Spanish in Portugal and have people respond to us in Portunhol. Interesting!

Okay, back to the beach…Little did we know the preciosidad we were about to witness upon our departure from Cascais. The most beautiful place in the world I have ever seen (speaking in terms of landscape) is Nazare!!! My jaw was on the ground once we got off  the bus. Nazare literally is just a strip of buildings and then the most beautiful cliffs and Atlantic coastline I have ever seen. Literally, there is nothing after the ocean until you hit Cape Cod, Massachussets! I am so glad we just got to eat lunch there, walking along the beach for hours and sip some wine as the sun was setting. At that point, we knew it was time to leave so we gathered ourselves and headed, by bus, to Porto – although some of us almost didn’t make it because we all needed to go to the bathroom and there was no toilet on the bus. But we got there in one piece and had a tasty dinner in the city center, went to a hookah bar with the worst cocktail I have EVER had in my life and headed back to our hotel at the Tuela Porto.

We got to sleep in a little the next day and then had a walking tour of Porto to see the Clerigos Church & Tower and Cruceiro Dos Pontes. I am now not surprised when people say that they like Porto better than Lisbon. Trust me, if and when I do go back, I will be sure to spend more time in Lisbon to get the full effect. This trip was wonderful because we got to spend the entire day just ambling about the town, we saw the library where JK Rowling got her inspiration to write Harry Potter and we got to enjoy a lovely river cruise. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip because it was so fun to laugh and joke with everyone together and also because we saw the filming of PORTUGUESE IDOL on dry land from our boat. I almost jumped in to go sing my best rendition of some Fado tunes. Then, after lazing about on the Rio Tajo riverbank (the Ribeira) and having some wine and munching on some snacks, I picked up a guitar with some buskers and sang “House of the Rising Sun” with a kid my age to which I received many euros deposited into his guitar case. Unfortunately, I did not get to keep my earnings. Later that evening, after being out literally all day, we found some more bars in the center of the city and danced the night away at the lights show projected on one of the old university buildings in that city.

The following day, still relishing in the glory of a PERFECT day yesterday, we had another great breakfast and got to see La Bolsa – the old stock exchange which is now used as a space for concerts, private events and weddings. Then after some more free time, and purchasing more of these bespoke leather bracelets that everyone bought the day prior, we set off to the airport and flew back to Madrid.

No “Tips and Tricks” for this post (since everything is pretty much listed here) but check out other ones by clicking on the link!

Vocab word of the day: Saudade (Portuguese) / there is a version in Spanish which I will post once I ask my host mom. While this word is untranslatable into English, the general feeling of the word represents nostalgia and longing (for times gone past, for love, for homeland, etc.) This is what makes Fado so beautiful because it truly is a song directly from the soul.

Post #6: L’ocasió s’ha d’agafar pels pèls.

Hi again! I know I am posting a lot at once but I have to catch up! This 6th post will be about my wonderful time in Catalonia (Barcelona, Cadaqués and Figueres). Also, the Catalan proverb that is the title of this post means “opportunity knocks only once”. I thought it would be a nice way to describe my whole abroad experience so far – taking advantage of any opportunity that presents itself with no regrets!

So now, the post…After watching Vicki Cristina Barcelona in our Seminar class to prepare ourselves for this trip, I was PUMPED. We woke up very early to get the train but I love walking to my metro station in the brisk and dry morning air. Walking everywhere is something that I will miss once I go home. The AVE train we took was like an airplane-spaceship. The U.S., and D.C. especially, needs to get it together when it comes to train and metro travel. But, like, #loveyouforeverAmtrak. Anyway, the AVE was so clean and they bring you food and drink (not free, sadly). Also, not having WiFi was kind of nice because it allowed me to write future blog posts in my notebook! Once we pulled into Barcelona-Sants train station, we were all so excited to start out next adventure. The energy and the weather were both equally good! I must say, we have been so fortunate to have wonderful weather the entire time we have been in Spain. Out hosts families packed us lunches and we ate on the bus as were were driven around to see some of the major sites in the city. Our bus was the best – they were playing hip-hop, R&B and other slow jams that made for a fun ride. Immediately you are hit with the unconventional architecture and the proximity to the Mediterranean. A completely different vibe than Madrid! On our tour, we saw Montjuïc, Barcelona Olympic Stadium and Village, La Rambla and La Boquería. At La Boquería, let me tell you, I had the best mango I have ever eaten in my life. If you want a cheap snack, get the fresh fruit at that market (or the jamón cone). I don’t think I need to explain the latter. Walking around Barcelona and being near the WATER AND BEACH was lovely. I am a person that needs to be near the water so this was a warm welcome (literally) after being in dry, beachless Madrid for so long. Don’t get me wrong, I love Madrid!!!

Then, we went to the Museu Picasso which is in the old part of the city (think Cheetah Girls) and I would recommend this museum to anyone who loves Picasso and who wants to learn more about the artist before cubism. This museum not only shows his versions of Las Meninas but his works from when he was 12 years old. He was truly remarkable. Paco, our director, also have us a really in-depth explanation of cubism, surrealism (to prep for the Dalí museum in Figueres) and how challenging the norm through art was a response to political and social strife happening in Spain during that time. Truly incredible stuff.

Finally, we walked a little more and went to Restaurante La Rambla (their cocktails are SO BAD and SO EXPENSIVE and if you sit outside they try to rip you off by charging double). Try to avoid bars on La Rambla – compare it to how things are more expensive in Puerta del Sol in Madrid but the off-streets are much cheaper. Then, we went to a restaurant (again, I’ll post the name once I remember) that was directly on the waterfront. The swaying of the masts in the wind reminded me of the not too distant summer I love so much. After a dinner of paella (Lent started this month so some Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays), we all took cabs back to our hotel – Catalonia Eixample 1864 – and got some much needed rest.

The next morning, we were up bright and early for a quick breakfast in the hotel and headed off to the quiet town (at least in the off-season) of Figueres. In Barcelona, it was obvious that Catalan takes precedence over Spanish but people will always speak to tourists in English or Spanish. In Girona, the province that houses Cadaqués and Figueres, people will only speak in Catalan and English. The independence movement in many parts of Catalonia, especially in Girona, to separate from the rest of Spain is very strong – they even put a different flag on their houses, doors, etc. Figueres is home to the Teatro Museo Dalí. This museum also shows some of Dalí’s early work and their entire building was filled with art he selected and is a direct expression of his life and art.

Finally, and for me the best part of my trip, we went to Cadaqués. I had never seen and Mediterranean town before and some friends and I had a lovely lunch at a small restaurant overlooking the beach. Being able to sit on the rocks and dip our toes in the water with the waves crashing on the shore was such a wonderful and peaceful feeling. No obligations, no rush, just peace. Once we left, after seeing a beautiful Catholic church with an amazing view of the water, we drove through the winding mountainside that guards Cadaqués as if it is a secret garden, and made our way back in time for dinner in Barcelona.

The following morning, we toured Park Güell and the formidable Sagrada Familia. The Sagrada Familia, although unfinished, was incredible. The walls looked as if they were on fire because of the massive stained glass windows and the columns were shaped like trees. It felt like you were in a forest surrounded by nature, which for the architect Gaudí, is not an uncommon motif. Afterwards, we had a few hours to kill so we ate lunch at the best Italian restaurant outside of Italy. I have been to Italy so this seems like a valid point of reference! The pizza was tremendous and the owners were friendly and had nut allergies too! They also spoke a very interesting hybrid of Catalan, Italian and Spanis (Spanátlian???) Then, we lounged about near the pier and returned to Madrid via AVE once more. Tough life, huh? I am so lucky!

So, that’s all from my trip but to sum it up…Barcelona is a must see if you are in Spain, albeit a little touristy for my taste. It was probably better once the Mobile World Conference ended, in terms of tourism.

No “Tips and Tricks” for this post (since everything is pretty much listed here) but check out other ones by clicking on the link!

Vocab word of the day: Clientelismo (Clientelism) – used by certain Spaniards when describing corruption in the Spanish government.

Post #5: En un lugar de la Mancha…

Hi readers, sorry for the delay. After my trip to see Consuegra and Andalucía (which I will be talking about in this post), I kind of dropped the ball…because midterms….and life. In early February, our group had a wonderful trip to the southern-most autonomous community of Spain. While I wish we had more time to stay there, I will definitely try to go back either during my time in Spain or at some point in my life. It was one of the coolest places I have ever been. The entire weekend to Consuegra and then Andalucía definitely incited some wanderlust.

Before arriving at out first stop, Córdoba, we made a surprise pit stop in Consuegra. This city is home of the famous molinos del viento from Don Quijote (hence why the quote in the title of this blog post). Basically, our friend Don Q thinks that the windmills are monsters and he tries to fight them in Cervantes’ book. I loved the super medieval feel of the landscape and buildings and I felt like I could just hop on a horse and venture off onto a crazy adventure. Castilla-La Mancha, aesthetically, is definitely one of my favorite regions and (in a touristy sense) feels VERY Spanish.

While it was very cold in Consuegra, and the recovery process of my cold was very apparent, even though a little coffee helped, it was so warm once we arrived in Córdoba. Definitely foreshadowing of the weather to come up north in Madrid. What a pleasant surprise. From the high 30s in Consuegra to the low 60s in Córdoba – what a difference a few hours south makes! My mood skyrocketed. Now, I have a friend from Córdoba who I met in Madrid and I now understand why he is so happy all the time. He is from the land of the sun, fruit trees and gorgeous buildings. The Mezquita de Córdoba is so beautiful and it was so nice to walk around the winding narrow streets and feel the warm sun on my face, smell the air that had a twinge of orange fruit smell, and the cobblestones beneath my plimsolls. Then, later in the day, we left Córdoba and headed straight for Granada.

Our hotel in Granada was legit. Hotel Melia Granda was supper accommodating for food allergies and really close to the city center. While we did not see much of the city itself, were were there to see La Alhambra. This is one of the  most impressive and incredible sites I have seen in Spain so far. Like Paco (our program director) said in class, it literally affects all five of your senses. The smell of the fruit trees, the touch of the cool tiles, the sound of the water, the list goes on and it is too beautiful to even justify with a barely-decent iPhone picture. It was a little chilly because we were so high up, but in the summer, it must be beautiful in a different way. This is a place that has different types of beauty throgh the seasons. I loved taking pictures in front of the Carlos V summer palace and the view of Granada below was stunning. After some free time for lunch, at the worst and SLOWEST restaurant ever (and this is for Spanish standards), we tolured the Capilla Real which is the final resting place of the Catholic Monarchs, Queen Joanna (their daughter) and her husband, King Ferdinand. this magnificent cathedral was built after the final stage of the Reconquest – which meant the end of Al-Andalus with the capture of Granada. It is full of Renaissance and other religious artwork and artifacts.

After our visit, we made our way to our final stop in Seville and our group’s fave hotel, Hotel NH Plaza de Armas. I feel like our AU program has become the NH brand ambassador at this point. However, I must say, it is very inconvenient that there is ZERO hair conditioner. Yet, the hotel was within 15 minute walking distance of downtown. The first night, I immediately went to bed after dinner. At one of the local restaurants (I will post the name once I remember), we had amazing bacon wrapped shrimp drizzled with salmorejo. The next morning, we had a good breakfast which was nice because typically we do not eat breakfast at our homestays because it is not the custom to eat before lunch.

The streets are purposefully zigzagged because it was harder for other attacking armies to move around in the city during times of war. After our walking tour, we visited the largest Gothic church in the world – the Cathedral of Seville – and La Giralda. Some cool facts: 1) only the Royal Family and the Ducal Family of Alba can be married in front of the grand altar (trust me, it’s really grand) & 2) they are also the only people that can ride a horse into the church and up the ramps in the bell tower (La Giralda) which was a former minaret during the time of Al-Andalus. The view from the top is truly remarkable. Then, we went to tour La Maestranza – the bullfighting ring. Bullfighting is outlawed in many parts of Spain and is condemned by many other countries globally but it was interesting to see the building, the museum inside and how this practice has had such an impact on Spanish culture.

After the tour, we had a massive lunch to celebrate Valentine’s Day and walked through the Parque de Maria Luisa and the Barrio de Santa Cruz. That night, and one of my favorite parts of the whole trip, was seeing a flamenco show at the Casa de la Memoria. FYI, flamenco isn’t just dancing! the singer, guitarrists and dancers all play a crucial role on creating the experince. The music is so unique and defies the traditional standard of “western music”. The very present Arabic influence and style infused with Spanish influences captures the true essence of this region of the country. Those who say that flamenco represents the whole peninsula is wrong! All autonomous communities are so different and each have their own wonderful and unique traditions. The male dancer, according to our program directors, was the best they had seen in their life! Lucky us! After dinner with some amigas at a great cafetería (patatas bravas with jamón and a sunny side up egg on top), we went back to the hotel.

The next morning, and the final one that we spent in Seville, we saw the Reales Alcazares and the Plaza de España. The plaza de España has rowboats you can take around the little man made canal through the plaza and there are tile benches with each of the autonomous communities in Spain. Fun fact – the Plaza de España was where part of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones was filmed (remember Naboo when Anakin and Padmé arrive?).

No “Tips and Tricks” for this post but check out other ones by clicking on the link!

Vocab word of the day: Demagogos (Demagogues) – used by certain Spaniards when describing members of political parties who are participating in the upcoming regional and general elections.

Post #4: Salamanca, Situational Awareness and Starting the Internship

Hi all! I am so glad that there is no word limit on these blog posts – I have a big one coming at you for this week.

First of all, I need to tell you ALL about Salamanca. This was a trip that about 10 or so people organized and, fortunately, I was able to join in at the last minute. I really need to be better about getting on top of travel plans.

Salamanca is in the Castilla y Leon region and is about a 2h 30m train ride from Madrid’s Chamartin station. We took a Renfe Medium Distance train and let me tell you – this was probably the nicest, cleanest and most well lit train I have ever been on. Amtrak, you know I love you and your onboard WiFi but the Europeans have got it goin’ on when it comes to railway transportation. Also, on our way there, there were rainbows and beautiful landscapes out entire trip. Rainbows were going over the walls surrounding Avila and over the mountains that surround Communidad de Madrid like a crown. On the way back, the trip was a little less pleasant not because of the train itself but because of an issue with assigned seats. MAKE SURE you check what your seat asignment is. Even if people are inyour seat, which always happens, make sure you ask them to move. Otherwise, you will get yelled at by an arrogant dad and then security guard who think that Americans (and women) are uncultured and don’t understand how Spain works. True story. Boy did we shock them when we whipped out are GOOD spanish. Eventually, everything worked itself out but as my Women’s Studies professor has said, “machismo still exists in Spain”. I will post links on how to get tickets and explain the website on the Tips & Tricks page. NOTE: Be sure that if you go to Salamanca, you book your ticket to the Salamanca-Al Alamedilla station NOT the Salamanca station. The first one is only a 12 minute walk into the city center and the latter is a 30 minute walk.

Salamanca is beautiful. The winding and windy streets, the Plaza Mayor, the University (make sure you look for the frog on the facade for good luck!) and the sandstone buildings give the city its instantly identifiable look. Also, Salamanca is definitely a college town and day or night there is always buzzing activity. The hotel I was in was affordable, the staff was very friendly and it was right next door to the Cathedral. Interestingly enough, the Cathedral is actually two buildings that are connected! The Old Cathedral was built in the 12th century and the New Cathedral was built in the 15th & 18th centuries (a mix of Gothic and Baroque). Fun fact, in the Old Cathedral, the Sta Barbara chapel (I think) was a place where students would prepare for their oral exams and food would be brought to them in a special door since they would be there all night. Also, on the Cathedral and the University buildings, there is red graffiti in very distinct handwriting. This IS actually graffiti from over the centuries that was written on buildings when students passed their exams. Side note, I may or may not have cried when I went to mass in the New Cathedral on Sunday morning – the building is muy impresionante and 15  priests entered the main altar, chanting and walking, from the chapel. While I do enjoy doing activities with the group, sometimes it is nice to have quiet moments of reflection and peace like that alone. I definitely felt recharged after a very busy weekend.

Working backwards, there are a ton of things to do day or night in Salamanca. The city is relatively small so walking is a breeze. The Airbnb my friends were staying in was down the street from my hotel so I felt safe going around at night. We also cooked a delicious dinner at their Airbnb because it was cheaper to buy groceries and cook than go out to eat. Definitely would recommend this if you are travelling with a group. Camelot, La Chupiteria and Gatsby were some of the more notable places we went to. Camelot is actually housed in the same building as a medeival convent so that was interesting to say the least. Gatbsy had the best Sex on the Beach ever even though it was 3am at that point and kind of empty. Note to everyone – unlike Madrid, clubs and bars in Salamanca have NO COVER and drinks are so much cheaper. Then, the holy grail – La Chupiteria. This shots bar had shots (obviously) for 1 EURO EACH. They had every flavor and type imaginable and there was room to dance and chat with locals. Definitely one of the most innovative/fun bars I’ve been to in Spain. Also, I can guarantee that if someone opened a bar like that in D.C., they would be billionaires, no question.

As for things to do in the daytime, this is the checklist I used while I was there: If you are there for a weekend, you will absolutely have enough time to see everything. And make sure you visit Cafe Novelty in Plaza Mayor. The region Salamanca is in is known for their meat products (jamon) so order the “pan con tomate con jamon” with a cafe con leche and fresh squeezed orange juice (or orange Fanta because it literally is sparkling orange juice/nectar of the Gods). You will not regret it. The jamon melts in your mouth.

As for the situation awareness story as hinted in the title of this post: there was a man with a shotgun in the metro station before the one I get off at. Don’t worry, I SPRINTED out of the station as the security guards were running down the escalator to catch him. I checked the news the following day and there was nothing written about it, which was interesting to me. If this happened in the U.S., it would be national news. Yet, since this was something so uncommon and rare in the extremely safe metro system, no one would have known about it unless I told them. This experience definitely reinforces my belief and the point that you should ALWAYS be aware in any city you are in. If I wasn’t paying attention in that moment, I’m sure I would have kept walking down the escalator onto the platform where that man was with the shotgun hanging on his back.

Finally, my internship! I love interning at Hibooboo. I have been working on various translation projects and learning more how to use WordPress (which is super useful for future internships). Seriously, I am so lucky that I have an internship that is relevant to my career path. I have my own desk and I share an office with two other women who work there. They have been so supportive and nice this whole time. I also am looking forward to work more since my horrifyingly awful sinus infection is being treated. Interclinic Cincinatti on Calle Padilla in the Salamanca neighborhood of Madrid has an English speaking doctor named Dr. Borras who is quick and very nice. Also, something I’ve noticed at my internship is the speed at which people work. People in the U.S. work extremely fast and are insanely busy all day. People in Spain complete work but are not afraid to take more time to do it and have constant interaction with their coworkers to avoid any unnecessary stress. No sitting at  your desk wearing headphones here. I cannot wait to give you all more updates about my internship as it continues.

Finally, just some other quick things. I am going to Cordoba, Seville and Granada this tomorrow with our program so expect a blog post about that next week! Also, make sure you try to watch some TV when you are in Spain. It has definitely been interesting to see how the news/other programming is different than in the U.S. Also, my host mom LOVES House of Cards and Scandal. With House of Cards, she is totally blown away by how cold workplace culture is in the U.S. (whether that is just Claire Underwood or an actual correct analysis of the American workplace culture, I’m unsure). My host mom does have a point though – there is definitely more eye contact, constant talking (no silences) and much more physical contact.

Hasta luego and see you next week 🙂

Word of the week: “sevillaton”. This word (not really a word) comes from the show Aida (episode: El cielo sobre Berlin). I don’t really remember what the episode was about but the song was a fusion of a sevillano/flamenco song with the classic reggaton hit “Gasolina” – Yo iba de peregrina y me cogistes de la mano y a ella le gusta la gasolina.


Post #3: Cada día trae su propio afán

Hi readers! Please forgive me for not having posted in over two weeks! There is so much I need to tell you about even though I am doing a million other things like messaging people over WhatsApp about our weekend trip to Salamanca AND uploading a million pictures to Facebook.

In the time since I last posted, I started my classes, “enjoyed” the nightlife, went to Segovia and got an internship! ¡Qué guay!

I am taking Public Speaking in Spanish, a women’s studies class, the required seminar class (the one through which we do most of our travelling in Spain) and my internship including the class that goes with it. Public speaking has been really interesting because I am learning the tips and techniques that will (hopefully) transfer over to my English public speaking. Also, formally learning how to speak in in front of an audience in Spanish really highlights mistakes that you make in English – for example, saying “like” all the time and “um”. I think that once I return to the states, I will be more cognoscente of how I speak casually and formally. It has also been nice getting even more practice using the “Spain” Spanish accent. While there are numerous different accents across the peninsula, the one using the “ceceo” is the most common. Also, people understand you better when you use it. My women’s studies class is great too. I have never taken a women’s studies/gender class before and it is really interesting learning about differences and similarities in how women are treated in Spain and the U.S. I never really paid much attention to it before but the Spanish language is very “male” oriented. All plurals have masculine endings even if it is referring to a mixed group (los ciudadanos – male and female citizens). We also had a really interesting field trip to the National Archaeological Museum which has great exhibits about the prehistory of Spain and much more. My seminar class with Paco is obviously amazing. Even though one of the two classes we have per week is FOUR HOURS LONG, Paco makes it seem so short and he is so full of energy and passion for the subject matter. I have no idea how he doesn’t collapse after every class or get EXTREME dry mouth.

Also, I got an internship! My internship is with Hibooboo – a marketing agency that specializes in creating and managing marketing campaigns. Their goal is to ensure that their campaigns secure brand loyalty and boost sales of the companies and other groups they partner with. Their services and strategies include web and app design, SEO, graphic design and social media. (For more information: and For this internship, I take the Cercanías train to Fuente de la Mora. Even though this is on the edge of the city, it took no time at all to get there and the Abono covers the cost of the commuter trains. Just one of the infinite reasons why Madrid’s public transportation system is unparalleled anywhere in the world. I have never had to wait more then five minutes for any train (unlike the Red Line which is NOTORIOUSLY slow).

Ok, now about the nightlife. I needed to do some training before I came to Spain because I was severely under prepared for the nightlife. I stayed out until 7:30 a.m. – WHICH IS CONSIDERED NORMAL. Not just on Fridays either. Yet, I was very proud of myself and still had energy after dancing the night away at Gabana in the Salamanca neighborhood. Tips & Tricks this week will have more info about fun places to go out to on weeknights and on the weekends. It’s not just about clubs and bars, there are plenty of places to go before and after you go dancing.

Finally, our program took a day trip to Segovia! These field trips make me feel like I am in elementary school again: finding a bus buddy, packed lunch from our (host) moms, and the cherished free time! This city is an hour away from Madrid in the mid-northern province of Castilla y León. Segovia is known for its Romanesque and Gothic churches and the stunning Roman Aqueduct which is over 2,000 years old. Visiting more and more of these cities has truly made me understand the rich cultural heritage of Spain and how the peninsula has changed hands so many times over thousands of years. For example, in this small city alone, there are influences from its Roman residents, then the Muslims, then the Christians who called this place home. Then, seeing the austerity of the most powerful Hapsburg king, Phillip II, demonstrated in the Alcázar de Segovia was truly remarkable. While we did not partake in any cuchinillo asado (GRAPHIC PIG COOKING), I am looking forward to going on many different and “flavorful” gastronomic adventures during my time in Spain.

¡Hasta luego!

Word of the week: There are three words this week! I needed to make up for not posting last week.

1) The title of this blog post: “Cada día trae su propio afán”. This refran (saying) is what my host mom told me when I was feeling anxious about applying for internships for the summer (D.C. problems). Again, another concept that is very American/American University/D.C. focused. Basically, it means “every day brings something new and exciting”. Seize the day, each day is yours and you make the most of each day you have so be positive!

2) Tupperware = Tupper (too-per). I think you can pretty much guess what this means.

3) Majo/a = to describe someone who is really nice, makes you smile AND can also describe someone who is handsome/pretty AND someone who has a kind face/kind heart/kind soul

Post #2: ¡Lo hicimos! We did it!

Boots and Dora affirming the successful completion of my first week in Madrid should be all I need to post this time.

But, I’m nice so I GUESS I’ll write a little more about lo que ha pasado. Even though I didn’t find “100 keys in red boxes”, I had to navigate which of the bajillion keys opens the door to my señora’s (homestay mother’s) apartment. No doorknobs, no problem…I’ll get to that later.

This week was totally crazy. It went from zero to 60 in a nanosecond – from hanging out with just Heather to gallivanting around Madrid with the whole gang. Orientation was great this week. We got to see the site where we will be having classes and met the program directors. Paco, el jefe, has so much energy and you can tell right away that he loves what he does. It has been a pleasure going on paseos por Madrid as a group. However, by being in such a large group (32 people with everyone; 15-ish with Iberian Experience kids), it highlights the major cultural differences right away. You can check out my observations on the “Tips and Tricks” page.

UPDATE: The food is still amazing and the people are still super friendly.

Ok, now let me get to the most exciting part of my trip so far…my homestay! My señora is wonderful. She is so gracious, generous and living with her is like being in Spanish language bootcamp. I am not exaggerating. She was so shocked when I first met her because I didn’t use el ceceo (the “th” sound on the letter combinations “ce”, “ci” and “z” as well as a more whistled and open “s” sound). Trying to incorporate that into my speech, along with relearning vocabulary, has been a challenge. It definitely highlights the inconsistency with Spanish language learning in the U.S. because there are so many different teachers from different countries with different vocabulary and traditions. Diversity in language learning, especially with Spanish, is something that should be celebrated yet in Spain using “incorrect” vocabulary makes you stick out like a sore thumb. I have only been with my señora for four days so there is still time to try and get accustomed. She packs me wonderful lunches every day and she makes me great dinners. Her apartment is also spacious and lovely and she likes chatting with me and watches Grey’s Anatomy in Spanish while I do homework. Muy tranquila. My room is great too and has its own bathroom! Much bigger than my room at home. Too bad it is only temporary! Living with my señora has already taught me so much about culture, the people of Spain and it is helping me improve my conversation skills (something that is not focused on or emphasized really in American classrooms). Also, my neighborhood is in one of the nicest parts of Madrid – it is near the Calle del Paseo de la Castellana which is the major shopping street and is a lovely place to get tapas and take walks during the day or at night. It is also very close to where I go to school (10 minutes on the metro).

Story from my first night: before I moved homestay, my señora picked me up from school. We then went back to the apartment quickly to drop off my luggage and headed out with another student and her señora to learn how to take the metro to school. While we were out and heading to the metro, people were starting to run up out of the metro station. We had no idea what was going on and all we knew was that more and more lines of the metro were closing. We thought that was strange and decided to take the bus instead. However, when we were on the bus, we found out that there was a “suspicious package” in the place where were were headed: the Nuevos Ministerios metro station. Everyone then quickly got off the bus, as a security thing, the four of us walked back to the apartment. The packaged ended up being a shoebox with shoes in it but it comforted me to know that Madrid is vigilant about security and public transportation.

After getting to know my señora and having some more orientation, our program took a day trip to Toledo. Toledo is a small city 45 minutes outside of Madrid and is very beautiful. They are famous for their Marzipan (especially in the Santo Tome store or the ones made by nuns in the local convents) and metalwork (knives, swords and damascening).

Then, this past weekend, me and a couple of friends went to La Latina. This metro stop has great bars nearby (in which we enjoyed copious servings of tinto de verano at night and the El Rastro street market from 9am-3pm on Sunday.

Vocab Word of the Day (since I basically need to relearn everything I know from the past 15 years): rollo

– Qué buen rollo / buen rollito: You get along well with someone (tener un buen rollo). BUT you typically can only say this about people of the same gender (like you and your girlfriends get along really well, for example). Otherwise, it means you are asking to have “sexual relations” with someone or you are talking about two people who are in a “sexual relationship”.
– Qué mal rollo: a bad time, an uncomfortable and/or problematic situation.
– Corta el rollo: A lighter version of “Cut the crap”.

Talk to you all soon and ¡buenas noches!