July 29, 2010
We are on our second to the last day in Spain. Saturday morning we leave Madrid and arrive back in Chicago in the afternoon. People are doing their last minute things: last minute shopping, last minute sunbathing (yes, some of the girls actually went to the park today in this oppressive 100 degree F head to sunbathe!!), last minute emailing, last minute museum going, etc. On the other hand, some people are spending a lot of time sleeping. A virus has been going around and several members of our group have gotten sick. Or perhaps it has been brought on by fatigue in some cases.
It is just so HOT and I am sick of the dirt! I think I have learned a lot here, and for sure my Spanish has gotten a lot better, partly due to studying in class and partly due to gaining confidence as I interacted with people every day. And of course, this was the main point of the trip. I have very much enjoyed my stay here and have seen and learned so much about this country – including the cultural impact it has had on its Latin American former colonies. I have loved the artwork, architecture, the history. But I am ready to go home.
What this tells me is that this program is exactly the right length!
So here is an update on my last week in Spain:
After the weekend in Barcelona, we returned to Madrid and our usual routine on Monday. Classes at Enforex from 9:30 to 1:30. Lunch at Barradas after that, then studying, siesta or relaxing. Dale and I went out to a book store (Casa del Libro) and music store (fnac) where I bought a couple of CDs. On Monday night, after our dinner at 8:30, a group of 7 of us decided to take the cable car ride over Madrid. The cable car station is just beyond Templo de Debod and it closes at 9 pm, so we had to walk FAST!
We found out that because it was so close to closing time that we could only go to the end of the line but NOT come back on the cable car!
Views from cable car
The ride dropped us at a park on the far outskirts of Madrid called Casa de Campo. When we got there, two of the girls decided to walk around the park on their own and the rest of us wanted to find a way back. There was a family with a small child in a stroller with the same problem. It was nearly sunset so 5 of us figured it would be best to hang with these people who appeared to be natives.
Actually, they are Colombians who live in the Spanish city of Alicante and are in Madrid on a vacation. So they didn’t know how to get back either, but still there is safety in numbers.
It was enjoyable talking to them. They told us how they wanted to go to the U.S. but could not get visas because they are from Latin America. The two year old daughter, Natalia, a Spanish citizen, would have no problem getting a visa for the U.S.!! As we followed the path to the road, then followed the road, asking along the way, that led out of the park, I talked with them a lot and thought about how comfortable I was feeling about conversing in Spanish. I didn’t have any trouble understanding them either!
I was worried about the 2 girls who had gone off on their own, and said a private prayer for their safe return. They returned safely!
Actually they got back before we did because we stopped to have sangria at a bar in Plaza 2 de mayo, after we got off the Metro at Tribunal station. It was hard to find a table – the bars were packed! And the custom here is that you don’t pressure people to leave if others are waiting. A waiter will not even give you the bill until you ask for it, and won’t collect it until you hand it to him or her. This is a nice custom, in my opinion. I don’t like to be pressured to leave a place when I am relaxed and engaged in a conversation over a drink at a sidewalk cafe or any restaurant for that matter.
Tuesday we did another thing we had wanted to do – have chocolate fondue with fruit at Valor. We had had chocolate and churros a few times at the famous Chocolatería San Gines, but this time we wanted to go to Valor. It was very hot and we were not in the mood to do much else. When we found the place and went in, we came across the foursome from our group who always do things on their own. It was fun to sit and talk with them, which we rarely get to do. The fondue came with a tray of 4 different fruits cut up into pieces. It was yummy! There was so much chocolate leftover and such a shame to waste, so I ordered a 1/2 order of churros to finish it off!!
Wednesday we went to buy our last souvenirs. KF came along again, and showed us a whole section of Corte Ingles that sells souvenirs!! I bought several things there and Dale finally found a flamenco doll for his sister’s collection. We actually had gone out shortly after class, skipping lunch at Barradas, because KF wanted to visit the Cerralba House which was free on Wednesday. We didn’t know exactly where it was, so we asked someone when we were in the vicinity, who turned out to be American, and she told me that it was closed for restoration since she had also tried to go there! So we went to Nebraska, an Americanized sort of restaurant where we had a bocadillo of ham and cheese filled nuggets, and salads. On the way back in the oppressive heat we went to Palazzo, the Italian ice cream place.
It is a pity about the heat because I wanted to go back to the Buen Retiro park and explore the rest of it, but I just can’t do it in this heat. Unlike the girls who went there to sunbathe today!! Yikes!!!!
Today we did some more shopping to buy cheap clothes! I bought a blouse and KF got a dress. She is unsure about the dress, whether it’s too colorful to wear to work, or the neckline is too low (wear a tank top underneath!!). Anyway her dress was cheap – only 10 euros. The clothes here run the gamut – you can find just about anything and people wear all different styles. At first I found the clothes expensive, but have since learned where to find cheap items!! And everything is on sale in July. There are “Rebajas” everywhere.
Tonight is our farewell dinner. We are going out to a tapas place near the Plaza Mayor at 10 pm. The tapas come with a glass of sangria, but some of us are thinking of having MORE sangria afterward somewhere else!! So it is the night to get a little dressed up, take some nice pictures and spend a last evening together. Tomorrow we’ll be going to our last classes, packing and trying to figure out how to carry all our purchases!! 🙂