(June 2, 2014)
The second week here was just as eventful as the first, if not more. However, I am still making the transition to the life of a madrileño. For example, my host mom, Julia, has reminded me several times that the meal customs are different here. El Desayuno, like our breakfast, is the first meal of the day. However, if you’re expecting a large fried breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausage, etc, you’ll be in for a surprise. For breakfast, I usually have an assortment of pastries, fruits, juices, and coffee! Lunch, or La comida, is the biggest meal of the day. Usually around 2:30pm, this meal consists of four courses, full of proteins, vegetables, and lots of bread. La siesta is a custom where one takes a ~4-6pm rest period after the huge mid day meal.
This is a picture of a very typical spanish meal that I have had for lunch. It features Gazpacho-a cold vegetable soup w/a tomato sauce, Tortilla Española-an egg and potato tortilla sauteed stovetop, el pan (bread), and la sandía (watermelon) for dessert. Fruits are a common dessert here which is a nice change from the unhealthy sweets I’m used to.
IES Homestays in Madrid include two meals a day. So, I usually eat breakfast and lunch with my Spanish family here and then I go out to dinner with my classmates. I really enjoy these times because my conversations with Julia and Antonio are completely in Spanish. I learn so many new things every single day with them. Our conversations over our delicious Spanish meals include topics about culture, history, and even current events like the impending coronation of the new king of Spain, Felipe, as the current monarch Juan Carlos’ abdication of the throne.
Interestingly enough, my experience in restaurants in Spain has differed greatly from those in the US and even my meals with my family. The disposition of the waiters, or camareros, in Spain is completely different. While in the US its customary to tip waiters when being served as it relates to the quality of service you receive. However, in Spain, you are expected to be very stern about what you order and waiters will not attend to you bended knee during the meal. Just an interesting difference I have noticed while exploring the famous tapas bars here.
The past few days in Spain have been non-stop and I definitely find myself frantically searching for water to stay hydrated. This can be a little difficult since the beer is usually cheaper than water. Regardless, the busyness is what I live for. IES planned amazing excursions with to famous sites around the city with Spanish tour guides to give us more of an understanding as to what we are seeing. We went to an ancient Egyptian temple in the middle of the city called Templo de Debod.
The views here were spectacular and the history was inspiring. My classmates and I got some really great practice speaking Spanish with students from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, who showed us around. This excursion was almost as fun as going to Valencia for 3 days this past weekend.
Valencia is an extremely historic city that is accented with new and old architecture as well as beautiful coast along the Mediterranean Sea.
The mother church of the Christian community in valencia, called Valencia Cathedral or The Cathedral of the Holy Chalice (Holy Grail) was humongous and ornately decorated. We were able to scale the 207 Steps of the Miquelet Bell Tower which features an awesome view of the entire city I will never forget.
The first two weeks here were a bit stressful as I was learning my way around the city, starting classes, and learning how to constantly hear and speak Spanish.We did have a chance to let our hair down at a massive discoteca where we partied on the coast till 6am and then headed to the beach to watch the sunrise before returning to Madrid. Good times with good friends from American Catholic University.
This trip was just what I needed to recuperate. And don’t even get me started on the Valencian Paella and Horchata…YUM!!