Tuesday, January 25, 2011

crossing signals are just suggestions

Well, there it is folks, one week down...

This truly is a wonderful city.  I have been awake at all hours of the day (literally) and something is always going on.  While one thing closes, another one surely opens.  There are huge tourist areas with plenty of the world's stores, and there are quaint corners of the city that have been around for centuries and are not going anywhere anytime soon.  You can get all the food you'd ever want (with wine) for 10 Euros or pay 15 Euros for a tapa.  The plazas are amazingly European and the parks are classically beautiful.  I hear so much about Paris, Nice, Milan, Venice and Barcelona, but not nearly enough about Madrid.  The capital of Spain is more than just the home of the government, it is a city rich with all the cultures of the world and more ham than you will ever need.  If the cities listed above are half as stunning to the sense as Madrid, I am far more fortunate for being on this trip that I ever imagined.

Over the course of the week I have met many people from what seems like all over the world and I'm not even close to peeling off the many layers that Madrid contains.  Dinner after 10 Pm has become commonplace while lunch at 5 PM is just another week day.  Getting lost in a city like Spain, no matter the hour, is a glorious experience...I would know, I've done it plenty of times.  Spain loves its statues, it feels like every corner there is a statue of some sort.  I guess after thousands of years of history, they have enough heroes to fill every street in Madrid.

In one week, what have I learned?  What the Spanish do with hamburgers and hot dogs is a crime, the leg of a pig sitting in your kitchen is no big deal, Spaniards love Cola Cao, bread should be eaten at every meal, ordering drinks (including soda) at restaurants and bars causes food to magically appear at your table, there is a shop that will buy your gold and sell it for more (cash 4 gold anyone?) and they have plenty people in the streets that will tell you about it whether you want to hear about it or not, the cross/no cross signs for pedestrians are merely suggestions and have no lawful bearings whatsoever and lastly (at least for this entry) people will walk the streets telling you about how amazing this club is and that you and your 8 friends can get in for free with a free cup of whatever you want only to get there and find out that it's 15 Euros for guys and 4 Euros for girls...and no free drink.

As week one is now over I only look forward, at the end of the week I plan to go to Toledo (a neighboring city to Madrid) and once this weather warms up (it was -5 Celsius this morning going to school...for those playing at home that's 23 Fahrenheit) I plan to venture into Central Europe.  Hasta Luego

Sunday, January 23, 2011

San Diego Airport

Chicago Airport

Philadelphia Airport
Barajas (Madrid Airport)

Fun fact, that white suit worn by John Lennon was sold at a Soethby's auction for a lot of money, it did not sell for as much as an authentic Fabrege egg would, but it was like $40,000

Nicely folded, eh?

Plenty of space for everything, though my shirts are a little too long

The living room.  We have a washing machine that dries clothes as well, but it is not that good, therefore, the object to the left of the chair on the left of the picture is the Spanish way of hang drying clothes.


TV with DVD player and CD player to the left.  Our collection of music above.  Oh, and a bowl full of oranges (Godfather anyone?)

The first thing I saw when the door was opened to the flat

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 1

This adventure begins at the San Diego Airport when a flight leaves towards Chicago at 630 AM.  After 14 hours of flight, 3 1/2 hours of layovers and 9 hours of time change, I arrived at Barajas Airport in Madrid.  Since I was packing for 6 months, I had quite a bit of luggage.  Since I came from the Americas, our gate was the furthest away from the metro.  As I carried my 160 pounds of luggage I began to doubt what everyone said about packing so much for six months.  Should I just leave the bags there for some other poor soul to try and pick them up?  Alas, I continued on my way.  As I reached the Metro station, I ran into my first experience of having very little idea on what to do.  Normally, my knowledge of English would help me with any sort of public transportation problems within the United States, but this being Spain I did not have that luxury.  I received help from another American, allowing me to get onto the Metro and knowing when to make the change.  Adventure number two of the morning was finding the accommodation I had secured through a mutual friend.  I knew the Metro stop and the direction I needed to travel, all seemed good until I learned that the Spanish do not agree with using street signs as much as Americans.  There are street signs conspicuously placed on the corners on their buildings, on about the first floor (which is not actually the first floor, but more on that later on).  Unbeknownst to me, there are multiple exits to a Metro station.  For my stop there are a few choices, and guess what? I chose wrong.  After making a small circle, I figured out the system with a map and was able to find my new home in Madrid.  After ringing the bell, Kiara, my roommate, buzzed me in and on I went.  In Spain, the floor you enter on is 0, which means that since our flat is on the fourth floor we are really on the fifth floor.  Needless to say, to travel up five flights of stairs with that luggage was no easy task, but since I had finally gotten to my destination, I was happy.  Kiara, my roommate, was waiting for me to arrive and greeted me warmly.  I immediately saw posters of The Who, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Audrey Hepburn upon entering,  making me feel very happy about my new living arrangement.  After carefully(sarcasm?) putting all of my luggage away, Kiara and I had a great conversation about the greatness of American Rock music while listening to R.E.M., The Eagles, and Johnny Cash.  After recharging my batteries(I was a little beat after almost 18 hours of not sleeping) we had breakfast at 1 PM.  Yes, breakfast on Sunday at 1 PM.  A couple of friends came over to our place (quickly taking ownership of it, no?) to share in the Spanish breakfast of ham and mayonnaise sandwiches (very different, eh?) with pineapple slices.  After conclusion of breakfast, and me learning how poor I am at Spanish, we left for a friend's house for lunch (it being currently 4 PM, why not?).  Stopping at a bar on the way there, I learned the ways of Spanish bars.  1. You order something to drink(alcoholic or non-alcoholic) 2. The bar brings food for you, regardless of what you order.  This practice should be practiced by every country, since what they bring it is olives, bread and/or any type of sausage.  It's quite fantastic.  Upon departure and eventual arrival to the friend's house, we had chicken with fries.  Prior the eating, it was (quite) necessary for one of the Spaniards to go to the store to buy a baguette.  Something to know about Spanish people, they love bread.  It is quite necessary to eat/drink with bread.  Without bread is quite meaningless in their eyes.  After dinner, and occasionally nodding off while speaking with others, I felt it necessary to walk home.  That night I went to bed at 7 PM, 25 sleepless hours after I left from San Diego, CA.  Pictures to come later, promise!