Cultural Activities

Thur 1 May

IMG_20140326_123601_489I know it’s not May 1 anymore but I’m trying to catch you all up on my adventures so bear with me. May 1 was a very cultural day for us because we got to see a live bull fight! Bull fighting is a long-lived tradition among the Spanish people. Spaniards watch toreo like Americans watch football; I didn’t realize how big of a crowd would draw, but the place was pretty crowded. The most famous bull fighting ring in all of Spain is Las Ventas, located in Madrid, and is only 2 stops away from my house! I don’t know what I was expecting it to be like but I was definitely excited. Bull fighting is broken up into 6 fights, with 3 professional matadors and his teams. Fights 1 and 4 are fought by the amateur, 2 and 5 by the intermediary and 3 and 6 by the expert. If you have never seen a bull fight, get there 45 minutes late because never seeing a bull fight and then having to watch the bull suffer because the amateur sucks is heart wrenching.

First, when the bull comes out, the matador’s team taunts it to get it riled up. Then a guy on a horse comes out with a lance. The horse is blinded, deafened and armored so that it doesn’t get spooked and see a 2,000 pound pissed off bull charging it. And, oh yes, it does charge the horse. [During the 2nd fight we saw, the bull charged the horse so hard, it buckled. I was more concerned for the horse than the bull at that point]. Then the guy on the horse lances the bull in the back of the neck to “stabilize” it, in a way. Then the matador’s team gets these spikes and have to insert the spikes into the bull’s neck while another one taunts it. If the spikes fallIMG_20140501_185900_751 out of the bull at any point during the fight, the matador loses points. So now the bull is pissed off, with spikes in its neck and bleeding. Then the real matador comes out and taunts the bull and that was actually awesome. It’s exactly like the movies! But underneath the red cloak, he has a sword that he is supposed to stab into the back of the bull’s head and get it in deep, so on the next round he can remove it with another sword. This is supposed to signify the start of the end of the match because the bull is dying soon. What is supposed to happen is that this hit with the sword is supposed to put it out of its misery and die in the next few minutes. Then a member of the matador’s team gives it the “brain dagger”, in which they stab the bull in the brain and it dies. The end. Unless you’re the amateur. The initial stab didn’t go in right the first time, so he had to do it again. And the bull cried out and all of us had tears in our eyes. Then they had to give the brain dagger 5 times before it died. That was so rough. But the other 2 fights were great! Good thing we had to leave before the start of the 4th fight because I don’t think I would be able to stomach watching the amateur massacre another bull.

IMG_20140501_222619_948After the bull fighting, we went to the first restaurant we ever ate at for the Welcome Dinner. But this dinner had a different title and was the end of an era for the kids on the Iberian program: Farewell Dinner. We ate like kings but it was bittersweet because nearly 20 students were heading back to the USA in the upcoming days. But we had a lot of fun and gave gifts to our professors and program director. And got a gift in return: a drawstring bag with all of our favorite places in Madrid. Then, we did superlatives. We had created some of them during our Northern Spain trip and voted on them later. Every single one of them was accurate, especially mine. I won “Most Likely to Snap in Agreement”. For those of you who know me, you can only imagine how I instinctively snapped when I received my award. It was a great night but everyone in the room felt it: our days were numbered.

While the 20 were frantically dashing for souvenirs and packing their suitcases the next day, I continued my streak of travelling and headed to…Germany!

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Good Friday

Mary and Jesus

Mary and Jesus

Today is Good Friday, and in the Catholic faith, today is one the most important days of the liturgical calendar. In Spain, Semana Santa is celebrated from Palm Sunday to Easter with processions. And they are amazing! In the south of Spain, in the provinces of Andalucia, such as Malaga and Sevilla, the processions are huge and extravagant. They are not as flashy in Madrid but there is a procession every day and today was the day to see it. These processions are intense and could frighten small children, but are altogether moving and a great religious experience.

The procession is carried out by people dressed in white robes and black shoes and masks over their faces that come to a point at the top. As they were explained in class, they look like the KKK. Not a great reference, but an accurate one. They carry the banners and candles and the first person in the procession is the cross-bearer. The crucifix he holds is massive and silver and so beautiful. Then came the military band and they were great. Then came the sinners. Yeah, hold on I’m getting to why I said that. The people who came after the band walked the procession barefoot with chains around their ankles, as an act of penance in order to be forgiven for their sins. The Spanish onlookers have 2 different opinions about these people: some people are generally moved that they have taken on this challenge and are paying for their sins. The other half looks down on them and sneers at how they are obviously sinners and deserve to walk with chains. Behind them are three people, 2 men and 1 woman, who bear wooden crosses as their act of penance in the same style that Jesus bore his cross.

After that, there was an explosion of “AYYYY GUAPO!”, tears and clapping. A gigantic float of Jesus came parading down the street being pushed along by more people in the masks. The float was absolutely breathtaking and many people, including myself, said the Our Father. As Jesus passed, a wave of women in all black with old school high veils followed behind, and another wave of tears and clapping started. I figured out why about 2 minutes afterwards. These women signify the women who mourn Jesus and behind the crowd of veiled women was another gigantic  statue, this one of the Virgin Mary. Spanish people love the Blessed Mother more than anything in the world and as she passed, the crowd broke out into the Ave Maria [Hail Mary] prayer out loud.

It was a beautiful ceremony and I was so excited to watch a religious and cultural experience amongst Spaniards!

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Baloncesto

What’s “Baloncesto”, you may be wondering. Baloncesto, in Spanish, means “basketball”! Last night for our soccer class [yes I know, basketball game for soccer class..?] we went to a basketball game. Professional basketball in Spain is big here. No where close to the following of soccer, but the stadium was pretty full last night. We saw Real Madrid [who is owned by Real Madrid Football Club] play Lokomotiv Kuban, a Russian team whose uniforms were blinding red. The game was held at the Palacio de Deportes, a casual 4 minute stroll from where I live in Goya. The building is beautiful with big glass windows and painted teal with stars on it. The

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Real Madrid v. Lokomotiv during warmups

reason we got to go to the game is because one of my soccer professors, Pablo, used to play for Estudiantes, another professional Spanish basketball team when he was younger. After he retired, he went into business and him and Marco, my other professor, are partners. Right?! How cool is that?! The game was interesting for about 5 minutes but Real Madrid was running circles around Russia and ended up beating Russia by more than 25 points. It was a fun experience and really interesting to see Spaniards invested in another sport other than soccer.

 

As a sports marketing person, maybe Spain is the country for me to work in 🙂

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Reina Sofia

For class on Thursday, we went on a cultural field trip to the Reina Sofia museum. The museum is named after the current Queen, Sofia, and houses contemporary art. This museum holds pieces different from the Prado, which I’ve mentioned in previous posts. The Prado holds classic art, such as Baroque and Renaissance styles that are each associated with a specific century. But contemporary art has many styles so there isn’t one that stands out the most. The museum is HUGE so we only saw the highlights of the museum. We saw works by Goya and other artists but then we saw the most important piece in the whole museum: Picassos’s Guernica. This painting is  enormous and really weird, but the significance is awesome. As with all big masterpieces, there is controversy over it. The painting is located in Madrid, but the town of Guernica is located in the Basque country. So, obviously, the Basque want it back to put in the Guggenheim, but the Spanish government said no. Madrid 1 – Basque Country 0.

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Guernica

The Guernica is about the bombing of Guernica, where the fascists bombed the town of innocent civilians during the reign of Franco. Immediately, Picasso started working on the piece and 7 weeks later, the 30 foot masterpiece was completed. However, because Picasso is Picasso and was very creative and different with his work, the painting is not pretty or comprehensible. But, of course, each piece of the painting represents something. The two main animals in Spain are bulls and horses, so they’re included. The Spanish word for lightbulb is “bombillo”, representing the bomb that was dropped on the town. It was definitely a cool cultural excursion!

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Atleti v Granada

untitled (3)On Wednesday for our soccer class, we went to another Atletico de Madrid game! This season in La Liga could make history because Atletico is in first place and has not won the league since 1995. So the fans, like last game, were wild and crazy. I learned a lot of curse words from some of the insane fanatics. The game should have been an easy win for Atleti but somehow Granada kept them to only a 1 goal lead. In the second half, Atleti scored and the place went crazy!! But the referee made an asinine call and retracted the goal, saying that the goal was scored from the offside position. I really hope the ref’s car wasn’t missing any hubcaps or anything because these fans were pissed and wanted to do damage to this guy. But Atleti pulled through on a beautiful corner kick play and hit the back of the net. GOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!! And Atleti won the game YAY!

But the real insanity was when the jumbo screen showed the score for the Real Madrid game which was being played simultaneously at their stadium. Sevilla scored a goal, making the score 1-0 and the Atleti fans were overjoyed! Any loss of Real means a greater point differential in Atleti’s favor for being champions. That was intense. Even though Atleti’s rivalry is with Sevilla, the fans would rather see Sevilla win than give Real Madrid any leeway of gaining on their lead. Even though I am a Real fan, I found myself cheering for Real’s loss because everyone likes a good underdog story.

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Sun 23 Mar

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El Rastro
[photo credit: Wikipedia page – El Rastro]

Yesterday was a local day where I spent all day outside doing Madrid things. First, I went with Jessica to El Rastro. El Rastro is a huge open flea market in La Latina every Sunday. At least 7 blocks are lined with kiosks selling everything from T-shirts to Pashmina scarves to old Spanish comics to religious statues. We trolled around the place, looking at everything and starting our very long list of souvenir shopping. This is one of the local attractions of Madrid and a great way to spend Sunday morning/afternoon. Cuidado: the place gets PACKED by noon so going early has less crowds!

After lunch at our favorite Durum Kebap place, I met up with Gabby and we travelled to the end of the green line to go to the Madrid Zoo/Aquarium. This zoo was unlike any zoo in the United States. The first thing we noticed was that there aren’t exactly high fences keeping in these animals, especially for animals that can jump and leap like antelope. There was no net or fence or anything, just a small ledge. And the antelope were everywhere, just casually. This zoo was also less organized than all other zoos. Stumbling upon the antelope, then we passed black bears, zebras and giraffes and emus. None of those are in the same family or found in the same area of the world! Another thing was that it is perfectly acceptable to throw peanuts at the animals — I only thought that was a thing in the movies! But the zoo was great and we saw so many animals, including a huge dolphin display that looked like SeaWorld. Each of the dolphins had scratches and scars on their skin and fins, which made us realize why the zoo had so many different types of animals from all over the world. This specific zoo is a rescuing zoo!

We had a great time and a lovely day in Madrid, just doing local things! It’s nice to spend time in my own city, ya know?

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Palacio Real

This past Tuesday for class we went on a field trip! You may be wondering if I actually go to school. The answer is yes: I suffer on Thursdays through a 4 hour block class. So the field trip helps counter act the torture. So we went to the Royal Palace of Madrid, because every princess should see their royal home in every city.

The Royal Palace is huge and is very ornate. Of course, we were warned numerous times to not take pictures but I managed to snap a few, but not as many as I would’ve liked. The huge corridor in the front showcases a statue of Felipe II, the great-grandson of the Catholic Kings, Fernando and Isabel. He is the one who ordered the construction of the palace and is commemorated for doing so. Up the extensive marble staircase is the coat of arms and the many grand ballrooms, dining rooms and sitting rooms. Each room has a theme or specific reason to it, similar to the Blue Room in the White House. [There is a Yellow Room in the Palace]. Fun Fact: when Franco died, his body was put on display in the royal palace when Juan Carlos I took over again as a sign of thanks for choosing him to be the newest King. Apparently the line to see Franco’s body was more than a mile long! There is also a huge collection of clocks in the Royal Palace and at least 3 in every room. These clocks were collected by King Felipe II and are grandiose and very old — in fact, these clocks are so old and so important that the Palace has its own team of clock cleaners and repairers. Felipe II was a bit of a strange king because he ordered some interesting features to be added to the palace. For example, during the time of the construction, Asian fashion and designs resembled social status and how up to date you were. So there is an entire room that is overwhelming with depictions of trees, Asian faces and designs and is filled with zen. It was very calming. He also had 3 eating rooms, one for each meal of the day. And he always ate alone without his family. Very weird, but still interesting.

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Felipe IV

Outside the palace, there is an entire plaza just to itself with gardens and statues representing saints and other noble people. In the center is a statue of Felipe IV, the grandson of Felipe II who constructed the Palace. This statue is very unique because it is made of bronze, which was uncommon for the time. It is also unique because in order to construct it, the statue took 4 masters in the world to help create. One of which was Velazquéz, who painted a portrait for Felipe IV on horseback and his painting was the model for the statue. [The painting is currently hanging in the Prado museum].  Interestingly, one of the other masters to help with this scultpure was Galileo Galilei, whose mathematics and calculations allowed for the horse to be able to stand on its hind legs without falling over. Stay tuned for more field trips! Love, Meg

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Friday 24 Jan

So as you may have noticed, this blog is not a diary. Because no one needs that. But yesterday was a cool day regardless. We had our first “paseo” yesterday, which is included as part of one of my classes. Each week, we take a field trip to something cool in Madrid and learn about it. Yesterday, we hit up Parque del Retiro [Retiro Park] and were taken to the statue of the Fallen Angel. The statue is actually really cool and one of the only ones in the world dedicated to Satan. In a country that is so Catholic, our professor explained that it was more weird now than when it was first built because the story of the Fallen Angel is another Bible story, just like Noah’s Ark or Jonah and the Whale. What’s really interesting is that the statue was built 666 feet above sea level. But people back in the day had no way of measuring things like that so…that’s creepy.

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Us having a blast! [And me horsing around trying to give the boat hydraulics..oops 😉 ]

After our religious history lesson, we got to explore more of Retiro Park, which is enormous and awesome. There are playgrounds, a British-style glass building that should be a greenhouse but has no plants in it and of course, the lake. Yes, there is a man made lake in the middle of the park. And we got to go rowboating! Shout out to my girls Carson, Lisell and Audrey for making that experience absolutely hysterical! It was a little rocky moving forward at first but we made it happen 😛 Check out the video here!

After our paseo was over, our other professor surprised us and took us to a Flamenco dancing lesson!!!! YAY!!! We went to a real studio with mirrors so I felt at home. Flamenco is what most people think of when they picture Spain. As a ballroom dancer, I’ve learned basic steps of Flamenco but never anything more than that. But Flamenco is actually a real act of coordination but I LOVED it. I don’t think I stopped smiling for the entire hour. And the instructor could tell I was a dancer so I was in the front. #swag I think I’m hooked on flamenco so I need to find a good flamenco bar to marvel at 🙂

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Fútbol

Fútbol…every other country’s national pastime except America’s. Also, let me be clear: we say “soccer”. When I think “football”, I’m thinking touchdowns and the Superbowl [I’m rooting for the Seahawks. Their defense is SICK]

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Kick Off!

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Atlético Madrid

Anyway…on Sunday and Monday, I had a lot of soccer experiences and I LOVED it. Back in the states, I play soccer for AU’s club team, so the player inside me was ecstatic about the amount of soccer occurring. On Sunday night, I saw my first international soccer game. Atlético de Madrid versus Sevilla. The whole experience was unreal. The following for this team was incredible: people were coming from every direction to walk towards the stadium, singing in unison, randomly hugging people and waving massive flags! I don’t think I had my mouth closed the entire time we walked to Estadio Vicente Caldéron. Then we got there and the place was HUGE. Like American football stadium status…plus a little more. The fan section was UNBELIEVABLE. I have never seen a fan section as on point as the section for Atléti [that’s their nickname]. They were across the stadium for us and vibrated the entire stadium with their chants and screams. Even the jumping was in unison! The match started off well for Atléti and led Sevilla 1-0 into the half. But the referee was just atrocious and did not reciprocate any of the calls, allowing Sevilla to score on an unearned penalty kick. The fans were yelling words I understood but wish I didn’t, they were that upset. The game ended with a draw of 1-1, despite Atléti’s dominance for most of the game. They had so many opportunities to score but waited one touch too long and then couldn’t get the shot off, which was quite the heartbreak. I was looking forward to a blowout haha

An interesting thing about Spanish soccer stadiums is that they serve alcohol-less beer. Yes, you read that correctly. It looks like beer, smells like it and costs just as much, but without the alcohol. Therefore, I draw two conclusions from this: 1) Spanish soccer fans are so rowdy that serving alcohol in the past has probably resulted in one too many deaths and 2) if you willingly pay for alcohol-less beer, you must have a serious love for beer. And maybe you should reconsider your life choices…. Regardless, it is an interesting cultural difference [and would send a large portion of Americans into an outrage]

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Me and my boyfriend, Cristiano 😉

And then on Monday, I had the experience of a lifetime. I entered my favorite La Liga team’s stadium: Real Madrid. And the best part was that it was FOR A CLASS. Yeah, this one class I’m taking trumps your favorite class every time. Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is very similar to the new NY Mets stadium, complete with museum and a self-guided tour, and it is state of the art. We first saw the field from way up high and then moved on to the museum. The museum is an interactive photo collage on one side where you can choose on touch screen platforms what you would like to look at and on the other side are the trophy cases. All the magic, blood, sweat and tears that Real Madrid has seen since 1902 was behind those glass plates and it was awesome. Their old uniforms were cool too! I could’ve stayed in there easily for 2-3 hours [it was also really warm in there which was a nice escape from the cold!] Then we travelled to the photo op station, where we could take Green Screen pictures with our favorite players. Which, OF COURSE, I did. I mean, let’s be real: Cristiano is my boyfriend. And we’re adorable together.

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Real Madrid

After that, we continued the tour to the locker room which smelled of men and cleats. The first smell is nice but from personal experience, the second is NOT. But again, the place is state of the art and comes with its very own Jacuzzi and pool. Obvi0usly. After we oogled over the boys’ lockers, we went through the tunnel. At this point, I may or may not have started crying. Having played soccer since I was 4 years old made me appreciate this moment so much more because this is where pre-game speeches happen, that drive to win, blood pumping and stomach jittery are all things I can relate to from my own experience but for the players of Real, these feelings are amplified. Finally, after coming through the tunnel,  we were standing on the field. And…I took this snapchat –>
real madrid snap chatOnce we left the field, we went through the opposing teams tunnel and the tour ended like all good tours do: in the gift shop. Which is 2 floors. It is undoubtable that I will come back and spend so much money there…and own a real Real Madrid jersey.

Another one of our field trips in my soccer obsession class will be to come back to Bernabéu to see a game. Who’s excited?! THIS GIRL! Stay tuned! xoxo

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Funday Monday ;)

For all my readers who know anything about me, my favorite thing in the world is to dance. If I could, I would eat, sleep and obsess about it more than I already do. Tonight was my first of SO MANY nights out dancing. We went to a salsa club called Independance for their F*cking Monday special! fucking mondaySalsa lessons, then open salsa and then the place turns into a real club. Needless to say, I was excited out of my mind for salsa. Although it is my weakest Latin dance, I had the opportunity to dance the combinations well with different Spanish guys and even the salsa instructor. My heart only skipped 100 times when I danced with the instructor… he was amazing and SO. HOT. Salsa will be happening every week and I am so excited to strengthen my dancing skills and inmerse myself in Spanish culture the best way I know how! Pictures to come in the future and when I am actually stronger, a video. Maybe that will be my first “vlog” post 🙂

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