I 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 fall 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.
After 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!