28 November 2008
Between my two theatre classes, I'm going to plays every week. Last week it was Don Juan: El Burlador de Sevilla. I think you all probably know what that's about. What you may not know is that in Spain they are big fans of gratuitous nudity. It was a scarring experience. Then it started to get really, really boring, though, and I started to fall asleep in my seat. I would not recommend it.
Tuesday night we had a sort of Thanksgiving dinner set up for us at the Hard Rock Cafe by IES. First course was a sweet pumpkin soup, which was very, very good, and then for the second course, everyone else had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, with a little bit of 'cranberry' on the side. I got a veggie burger with a really good salad on the side instead. I asked my waiter if I could maybe get some cranberries too and he was like simultaneously shocked and amused by that, but gradually he regained his composure and said he would do what he could.
So I was eating my veggie burger, sort of picking at it because the cheese on it was a little overwhelming, and it was a lot of food, and I turned to the girl next to me to complain that Sebastian had forgotten about my cranberries.
"You spoke too soon," she told me.
"What are you talking about?" I asked her.
She nodded to my plate. There, right in front of me, was my cranberry sauce! It had not been there a second before. So if you come to the Hard Rock Cafe, heads up, because their waiters are a little sneaky. I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it seriously blew my mind. Like I looked up and looked back down, and it just appeared. And I was sitting with my back to a pillar, so Sebastian had to do some serious maneuvering. And he spoke both English and Spanish fluently. Amazing.
Oh but it was not actual cranberry sauce, because I guess they don't have bogs in this country. Instead it was some other fruit of the forest in a red sauce. It wasn't tart like a cranberry but it was still really good.
Dessert course: apple cobbler. There was so much going on in that cobbler- apples, flaky crust, ricotta or some sort of filling, pecan topping crust thing, vanilla bean ice cream. . . wow. I did not even come close to finishing it. It was just too much food.
I mentioned the other night that I was going to a baile de mascaras. I was wrong though; that was the name of the play: Baile de Mascaras. And it was really pretty great. It was sort of a retelling of the Spanish War of Independence as viewed by a mental patient who sees other mental patients doing interpretive dance. So you had Napoleon, Ferdinand VII, and Goya all dancing around on stage, in a mix of ballet, flamenco, and modern styles. I really, really enjoyed it, and I think I'm going to kick Bodas de sangre to the curb and take my mom to Baile de mascaras instead.
So that's what's going on with me! Right now I am waiting in my hostel lobby to check in but I think I will just leave my stuff here and get something to eat or go exploring or something. Later!
26 November 2008
So I know everyone on my mom's side of the family is over at Grandmom's tonight for Thanksgiving and I wanted to make a little video to say hey! I had planned to shoot it at the Prado before class but, silly me, I was running late as always. So I just shot the video in my room, looking like a slob. At least you can't really see what my room looks like right now. Sorry if I sort of ramble on. I do that sometimes, in both Spanish and English. I hope the sound is okay- I tried to record myself doing my famous dance to Miley Cyrus' 'See You Again' and it was cutting in and out.
HAHA! Now that the video has uploaded I can see my face and it looks like I'm crying. I promise I'm not crying; that's actually the face I make when I'm happy. I actually look like that guy who yells, "Leave Britney alone!" but it's not like that at all.
I hope you enjoy it! Love you all! Later!
25 November 2008
Let's see, not last Friday but the one before IES went to Toledo by bus. It's only about 45 minutes out of Madrid. One of the interesting things about Toledo is that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have all been prominent there throughout its history.
We pulled into town around 10 and our bus driver dropped us off in an alley. There was a minor incident as we exited because one of the girls had been wearing her seatbelt (Angel insists) and then when she unbuckled it and it rolled up, it took the hem of her shirt with it. In short, she was trapped. Two of us stayed to help her while the bus driver tried to kick us off the bus because we didn't know how to explain the situation. I feel like it probably takes a very specialized vocabulary to communicate to a Spanish bus driver that your friend is trapped because her shirt is stuck in a seatbelt.
Finally she ripped herself free and we walked into town. There a few of us got the marzipans that the city is famous for (overrated!) and then IES regrouped and we headed to the cathedral.
Okay, this cathedral is the real deal. They've got just about everything you could want in a Gothic cathedral. As usual, we did a tour, and the tour guide was all like, "What do you notice most about this cathedral?" and I casually raised my hand and answered, "The light," like I'd done it a hundred times (and it's beginning to feel like I have) even though what really struck me was all the space inside.
They say that the cathedral is built on a spot where the Blessed Virgin descended and handed off a garment or something. There are many murals and paintings and reliefs within the cathedral depicting the event, and there's also, within a small, dimly lit glass case, the stone upon which her holy feet stood.
There was a massive mural of St. Christopher. Points to me for being the only one in my tour group who recognized him- other people thought it was Jesus, but why would Jesus be carrying a haloed figure on one shoulder while lacking one himself? Seriously classmates, up your game.
And then there were gilded chapels radiating around the head of the church (I can't remember what the English term is but in Spanish they call it the head, and I'm sure you can imagine that it's the head on the cross). There was some really beautiful artwork here, like gilt sculptures and more depictions of the Virgin descending from Heaven.
It was really one of the more beautiful cathedrals I've ever been inside. The Spanish Gothic style generally doesn't impress me as much as the French style, but they were definitely trying in this case. They even had a tiny little rose window.
After that it was on to the Synagogue del Transito, a converted synagogue which now serves as a Jewish museum. The main hall was pretty beautiful, with tile and carved wood, and pillars. Up where the women would have originally prayed was wear the museum was, and it had a lot of really interesting things, like old Torahs, the pointers (I'm not sure what a lot of these things are called in English or Hebrew, but I sort of learned some of them in Spanish), shofars, and old ceremonial outfits worn by Berber Jews in their desert weddings and such.
Then we headed to a certain church- I don't remember the name. It is the location of El Greco's masterpiece 'Burial of the Count of Orgaz.' It's a huge painting, probably like 15 feet tall, and it's even more amazing in person. I don't know how much you may know about it, but it really is pretty famous, and many consider it to be El Greco's masterpiece. It was very, very beautiful.
Next we visited the Monastery of St. John of the Kings. This was also very cool but we were starting to get worn out. Thankfully they gave us free time after this.
By this time it was around 2, and we went out for lunch in little grupos. The two girls I was with both wanted to eat, fortunately. After that, though, we wanted to go crazy with souvenirs.
However, we weren't counting on siesta. Almost everything was closed from 2 to 5 there, and unfortunately, we had to be gone before 5. I would have liked to have looked a little longer at different shops, but I'm nevertheless pretty proud of the gifts I bought.
I have to apologize because I fell asleep multiple times while writing this! I know my syntax is probably also off but that's just because I'm so exhausted. So please excuse me.
23 November 2008
I don't know how big of a deal this was in the US, but the paper was the first mention of it I'd seen. Because the article I was reading was in Italian, I didn't quite get all of it, but I could see that the article quoted Berlusconi as having said basically that Obama was young, handsome, and bronzed ('abbronzato' or something like that).
Apparently this was a big deal because by saying this, Berlusconi suggested that a black man couldn't become president, or that the American people wouldn't elect anyone with skin that was more than tan. When I read American articles on the quote later, especially editorials, they seemed to portray the Italian people as supporting Berlusconi, but the article that I read listed other offensive or insensitve quotes he'd made. I sort of got the impression that the Italian people, or at least the more fairly liberal media, are rolling their eyes at Berlusconi and saying, "Not again," to themseleves.
I don't know, I just thought it was interesting. I still have the paper and will probably cut out the article.
I've got so much I've been meaning to write about- I hope I get around to some of it today.
17 November 2008
I have for you another example of how weird and over-confident Spanish men are. So while I'm walking back to my apartment, limping slightly, I hear someone laying on a car horn next to me. I turn and there are two boys in the car, waving at me. Silly me- I thought they needed directions, so I went over to talk to them.
Clearly they were just coming back from a night out- their car reeked of alcohol. They asked me if I was out for a run this early, I said yes. They asked where I was from, I said the US. They told me I was very guapa for an American girl (I'm still trying to figure out if that was a compliment or not), but that I should go running in the daytime to get some sun.
Then they told me that an American girl and a Spanish boy make a good pair, and asked me if I agreed. I said sure, and then made a graceful exit.
I continued on down the street and crossed at a red light. While I was limping across, I heard another horn and looked to my left. There, in a tiny little car and a bad sweater, was a man making kissy faces at me. I looked at him for a moment, never slowing, and when I reached the other sidewalk I just looked up and shouted, "What is wrong with this country?!"
16 November 2008
This was the view of the street right next to my hostel in Venice! Note the cocky gondolier and his distinctive swagger. Fascinating!
(I didn't notice this at the time, but there appears to be a lot of shouting going on so you may want to turn your volume down before playing. Enjoy!)
There I was, waiting around in the vicinity of the ticket counters, at 2 am. Plenty of other travellers had had the same idea, and all around me were people watching movies on iPods, listening to music, and napping. I tried to make use of my time by finishing up a few unsent postcards I'd found lying around my room and by watching some clips on my camcorder. There are some hilarious moments on there of me and Cousin Sam dancing around at Easter, and of Gracie teaching Emmy how to feel empathy for other dogs. It was nice.
After that it was more of the waiting game. I desperately wanted to set up my laptop near a supposed wifi hotspot near my gate, but Vodafone, in a moment of genius, had neglected to supply us with any outlets. I really needed that internet too, because I realized I had totally forgotten to write down the address or directions to my hostel. I even considered calling home to have someone check it for me, but ultimately I didn't do anything but wait for my flight. I just about fell asleep too.
I decided to explore the city a little. I hadn't had much to eat all day, so the first thing I did was hit up a pizzeria I'd seen on the way to my hostel. I got a slice with artichoke, pepper, and mushroom on it, and ate it out of a piece of paper. It was great.
14 November 2008
Then after that I need to post about Toledo, which we just visited yesterday through our program. It was also pretty cool but a lot smaller than I'd expected.
So now you've got all that to look forward too (if I ever get around to it). My weekend is pretty empty, though, so it should happen soon.
I miss you all!
10 November 2008
Two Thursdays ago, the theater classes went out to a performance of Bodas de sangre, a classic play by Federico Garcia Lorca. The production we saw was fairly stylized, but very entertaining. I would certainly recommend it, and am looking at ticket info for when my mom comes to visit.
On Tuesday, our ceramics class had a field trip which pretty much got me out of class all day, except for Prado class. We went to two museums sort of in my general area which I will have to remember to take Mom to when she comes. They were both very small museums, but they had a lot of high-quality art. They were both also very cold, unfortunately. Did I mention that this has been the coldest October/November ever recorded in Madrid? No joke.
Tuesday night was an extremely exciting night, with the elections and all. I guess there were all night watch parties around Madrid. Whatever people say about Obama, the world really is excited for him to be president. He represents hope and positive change to people who don't even know anything about his platform. Most of all, he is not Bush, or anything like Bush, and that is enough for them. There were even 'Goodbye George Bush' parties on Wednesday night, with free entrance and drinks for Americans. I would have maybe gone if I hadn't needed to write a large paper and if I didn't have a 9 am on Thursday mornings.
Wednesday night was eventful, though, because my Creative Writing class went out to the theater. We weren't seeing a play or a musical, we were seeing a 'spectacle,' according to our teacher. It was called Comeme el coco negro (accent on the first o) and it was sort of like a cabaret experience, with feathers and stick-ons and drag queens and huge headdresses and the like. But it was funny, not shady. You could show up any time between 8:30 and 9:30, but 9:30 was what was written on the tickets, and then about 15 minutes after that, the performers took their 'final' bow. We were told the performance was over and that it was time to go. For the next hour or hour and a half, the whole thing was sort of like a comedy act or maybe just a play performed as they were 'striking' the set, and we got to help them. We folded curtains and helped to transport the props outside via fireman-style bucket brigade. It was really, really funny. The cast was really funny, and really versatile, so you would start to realize that the little girl up there on stage was really an actress who had been running around in a leather outfit with a huge, Shakira-esque wig just a few moments before, and before that, she'd been at our row, speaking perfect English with an Essex accent. She was really surprised when we made conversation with her, and she asked us where we were from. When we said the US, she was like, "Oh wonderful! Congratulations on Obama then!"
They also gave us bocadillos, although they had meat in them, so I did not partake. All in all, I would highly recommend that spectacle.
Alright, that was the last week. Next up: weekend in Venice.