Happy one month anniversary to us! As of yesterday, October 28, it has been exactly one month since we arrived in this beautiful country.
Last weekend Madrid held a free art festival called Luna de Octubre. The program converted various parts of the city into canvases for different art exhibits that lit up the night. The event started at 9:00 PM and ended at 3:00 AM. When we originally saw how long it went on for, we laughed, but it turned out every minute was necessary. We arrived at 10:00 PM and left at 2:30 AM and didn’t even see every exhibit! Why go into more detail when Derek has created a video to show you guys what we saw? Enjoy.
This past week has been very busy for me as we get deeper into the program. I spent majority of my days on campus, as expected, and used my free time to read, eat, sleep and turn off my brain for a bit. I can’t believe I used to think an hour class was long. This past week has also been very busy and exciting for Derek! He has decided to get his student visa and do a Spanish language immersion class starting in February 2018. He will go back to the states early December to get his visa in order before returning to Spain in January. The program he is doing will allow him to take classes as well as make money as a teacher/tutor. In the meantime, he has lined up various tutoring sessions.
This past weekend wins as best weekend in October. Friday night, Derek and I checked out Stock! Feria Outlet Madrid, which was located a little bit outside the city in an area called Casa de Campo in a glass pavilion. It was basically a huge flea market, but with brands like Vans, Levi’s, Calvin Klein (Derek’s favorite), and more. Sure, there were better brands at big discounts, but it was just as crowded and claustrophobic as a flea market, which is probably why Derek and I didn’t try to seriously shop – minus looking for a pink furry jacket which I still have not been able to find. (Santa?) There were also about 10-15 food trucks there with live music and cotton candy! Failed shopping trip, but fun night.
Saturday is the real reason why this weekend wins as best weekend in October. We woke up early to take a 45-minute bus outside of the city to a town called Manzanares El Real. Located at the base of Pedriza, a part of the Sierra de Guadarrama (Guadarrama mountains), this little town is gorgeous. By the end of the day Derek was done hearing me call everything cute – from the old man we met to the other old man we saw at the bus stop to the birds that looked like mini-seagulls – you get the point. Regardless of my lack of synonyms for cute, we had a very busy day visiting one of the castles in town, Castillo de los Mendoza, as well as hiking along the Río Samburiel, the river that leads into the big reservoir, Embalse de Santillana and enjoying the local craft beer festival and flea market, Feria de la Cerveza Artesana. Once again, rather than going into more detail, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Derek is working on a video and we will share it as soon as it's done.
The only thing I do want to share with you is my near-death experience and the dumbest moment in my life thus far. As we hiked to the river, we came across a cow or so we thought. He was in the middle of the field along a stream leading into the mostly dried up Rio Samburiel. First thing I said was “Oh my gosh. Look at that cow – how cute!” We decided to walk on the field at get a closer look as well admire the beautiful mountains around us. I assume the river was at one point huge considering there were various entrances onto the field/river for fishing. Entering through one of those gates, we sat down to take some pictures and watch the cow graze. Photographer Mandy saw what a cool picture it would be to have the cow and the mountain range in the same shot and animal-loving Mandy wanted a closer look at the cow. So, I make my way down towards the stream he is grazing by and stood opposite him. I took a video of the scene, which you can see below. Watch until the very end.
In case you missed the last second.
The very last second of the video you see the cow turn his head and look directly at me. My stomach dropped and I slowly backed away as he continued to pierce my soul with his big eyes. He didn’t take his eyes off me for about 30 seconds and I forgot to breathe for about 30 seconds more. Fast forward three or so hours later on our way back to the town, we see the same cow from the bridge that goes across the river, now field. I obviously start jumping around and successfully trying to get his attention. He sees me and starts running under the bridge to the other side of the field, which immediately makes me wonder – why is this cow running? I then send the two videos to our family group chat to which my dad asks if the “cow” was a wild bull. I finally put it together – cows don’t have horns, they don’t have bulging muscles, they normally aren’t all white, and they definitely don’t run. I then immediately realized how stupid I was by getting so close to him. Derek thought it would be a good time to go through what would happen if the bull decided to run after me and attack me. Just a short excerpt: I’d be lying mangled in the field as he ran and tried to distract the bull and then we’d both be lying mangled in the field. See below for the video of the bull running and me being excited like the oblivious girl I am.
A positive note: my friends and family can stop worrying about a human hurting me in any way and focus their energies on educating me on how to appropriately admire wildlife.
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Thank you for being so patient this past week. I know you have been anxiously awaiting our newest blog post and so here it is. It’s almost the weekend and you still don’t know what we did last weekend! Que lástima. Below are the highlights:
Exactly one week ago, October 12, I had off from classes for Spain’s national holiday, Fiesta Nacional de España, which is Spain’s Columbus Day. Just like in the United States, they have a day to “commemorate” Columbus arriving in America to enslave the Native Americans and spread diseases! All “jokes” aside, the fiesta felt more like a celebration of Spain rather than a celebration of Christopher Columbus. Either way, the parade started around 11 AM and it was packed. Gabriela’s apartment is very close to the plaza the parade ended in, so we were nice and close to the festivities. From what I could see of the parade from my viewpoint (see photo below), it consisted of rows and rows of military cars, trucks, tanks, and boats, but more importantly a car with a dog standing on the hood. Yes, a real-life dog STANDING on the hood of a car as it drove past. If I didn’t think Spain was cool already, you can only imagine what I think now. I also was able to watch all the horses unload and get put back in their mobile stables. (Honestly, unsure if that’s what the truck is called, but you get the point.) Because it was Spain’s national holiday, museums were free! So after the parade, Derek and I headed over to Museo de Prado to save the normal entrance fee of 18 euros and see Madrid’s most famous museum.
Friday blurred right into Saturday and began with a taste of good ol’ America (cereal). Derek and I visited Cereal Hunters Café in Malasaña, a hip, young neighborhood. Due to a mildly cold refrigerator, I have consumed less cereal in these past few weeks than I have ever in my life, which is probably for the better. Regardless, mildly cold milk couldn’t keep us away from a bowl of Fruity Pebbles and pink milk (for an extra .40 euros)! It was the most expensive bowl of cereal we’ve ever consumed, but the pink milk was a beautiful touch. After we had our cereal, we shopped for a bit in the area and stopped in Telefonica’s Museo de Telecomunicaciones. The museum walked visitors through the history of telecommunications as well as featured a 3D printing exhibit with some trippy pieces that Derek enjoyed.
After the museum, we were starving because our medium bowl of cereal didn’t quite fill us up – what a surprise! We stopped at Oven Mozzarella Bar for some delicious pizza to fuel us before our trek to Parque del Oeste. We wanted to go on the park’s cable car that has city-wide views, but once we arrived we found the line to be so absurdly long that we decided to make the cable car a weekday activity. On our way through the park, we came across a beautiful garden with rows and rows of flowers, as seen in Derek’s video. We also stumbled upon some zombies chasing after a group of people dressed all in black. Don’t ask what was going on because we don’t know. So many props to the zombies for staying in character, getting that limp down and really giving their moans and groans all they had. Our final destination of the day was Templo de Debod to witness the sunset as it set behind the 2,000+ year old temple that was gifted to Spain from Egypt. Unfortunately, everyone else heard the temple has great views at sunset. Even more unfortunate, the sunset was terrible. At least we had a good time watching teenage girls have photoshoots to presumably be posted on their Instagram pages for over 100 likes or else they’re deleting it.
You’ll never guess what Derek convinced me to do on Sunday. WORK OUT! Gabriela’s apartment is close to Parque Santander, which has an extremely large “footing path” as well as an outdoor workout park. Too many pushups later, I was out of breath and barely holding onto life, but hey I finally stopped being sore today. Fun fact about Parque Santander – they built a humungous activity center in the middle of it, including a golfing range, a chip and putt, and soccer fields, but closed it when they realized no one in Madrid plays golf. We ended our Sunday and weekend sunbathing by a pool filled with fountains.
Before closing out this week’s blog post, Derek and I have chosen an apartment! Yay! It is still a 15-minute walk from my campus and located in a safe area. We will be living in a studio apartment and will have a shower that has a tanning bed, spa jets and music. Confusing, right? We don’t have a picture to show right now, but use your imagination and expect one sometime in November.
It hasn’t even been two weeks and it feels like we have been living here for months. Now that we are moved into our homestay, we are much happier and much more comfortable. However, the past week has been very busy for both Derek and me.
It was orientation week for me, which included a trip on Monday to IE’s Segovia campus, some networking events, and a lot of workshops. The workshops mainly focused around ethics, “career fitness”, and technology. My ethics professor is actually a graduate from UMass and has been living in Spain for over 6 years with her Spanish husband and kids. A big trend I have noticed with many of the non-Spanish students and faculty, is that a significant number of them moved here either for their significant other or with their significant other. (Dan, where are you?!) I have been getting to know my classmates more and more each day and I am learning so much about the world, especially in the geography department. It is quite embarrassing how terribly inept I am when it comes to world geography or even the geography of the US. Because I have new friends from countries I have never met anyone from before, I may or may not secretly visit google maps to find their country. Yes, embarrassing, but at least I am learning! Although the true learning had not yet started, I was wiped at the end of each day, which made our 9:30 PM dinner time even more challenging.
Derek spent last week job hunting and possibly even a little bit of soul searching. He visited over 15 schools to submit his CV (European equivalent to a resume) and heard back from two schools so far. He interviewed with a language academy and was offered a position to tutor two young boys as well as employees of a Spanish company. The job required a full commitment until June 2018, and Derek isn’t sure where he’ll be in June 2018, let alone January 2018. So, he turned down that offer and had interview on Monday with another language academy.
After wrapping up our first full week in Madrid, Derek and I spent the weekend exploring the city. Saturday, we finally visited the botanical gardens, Real Jardín Botánico. By finally, I mean that we tried to visit the weekend before, but the gardens were about to close and the line was so long. And if you know anything about me, you know that any garden is the first place I want to visit, especially in a big city. However, by the time we got to the garden on Saturday after stopping for some lunch and waiting on the line, we only had about an hour inside before we were kicked out via really loud whistles. There were many beautiful flowers and super cute bonsai trees, but in reality, I wasn’t impressed. I’m giving the garden the benefit of the doubt that because it is fall, even if it doesn’t feel like it, the flowers are not in their prime. There is no question, however, that I will be back for my student discount and a longer visit.
Sunday, we spent the first half of our day at the Mercado de Motores, a flea market located in Madrid’s train museum, which was created inside an old train station. The market is held the second weekend of each month. Inside the museum, different local stores set up their tables with either clothing, food or jewelry. To the right of the museum was the true flea market with tables of antiques and your normal flea market treasures. There was a 6-man band entertaining the crowd as they ate from food carts and danced. Spanish people LOVE dancing. It’s great to watch. Derek and I sat there for about 30-40 minutes just enjoying the band’s remake of “Baby don’t hurt me” and watching the people dance. After the market, Derek and I made our way to Parque de El Retiro. The park is 350 acres, which is small compared to Central Park’s 843 acres, according to Wikipedia, but it felt huge. We wandered our way through the park, stopping to watch a men’s league football (soccer) game, to take some pictures and videos and to most importantly, walk through the adoption event the city was holding! Talk about a great surprise. By the time we finished ogling the dogs and cats, the sun was about to set and we were starving.
This week is my first true week of my program. Throughout my program I will have workshops, intensive crash courses, and of course, a set schedule of classes. My first group presentation is next week, so needless to say I have some work to do. 0 to 100 real fast.
Bienvenidos a Mandy y Derek en Madrid!
Derek and I have created this blog as a way to share our travels and life abroad with our friends and family. I have a hunch that our readers will be the same readers that followed along with my adventures in Barcelona during my sophomore spring semester in 2014. (See: Besos de Barcelona)
That being said, welcome back to my ramblings and thank you for reading. Moving back to Spain has been a dream of mine since my semester in Barcelona. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew I would regret it forever if I didn’t. As a college student, a semester felt like a lifetime to me, but only when I moved to Barcelona for the semester did I realize how short 5 months really is. And now here we are – day four in the first of ten months in Madrid.
So, what are we doing in Spain besides eating croissants in cafes? I am currently enrolled in IE School of Human Sciences and Technology, located in the Salamanca neighborhood of Madrid. I will be working towards my Master in Corporate and Marketing Communication. It is an intensive 10-month program that is taught in English. By intensive I mean that I am enrolled in 10 classes for the first term (October – December). Unlike the college experience I had in the U.S., each class meets a different amount during the semester and my weekly schedule is different each week. No more MWF 10:00 – 10:50 AM classes for me and definitely more hours logged in the library. My calendar has already become my most-used app.
Derek, on the other hand, will be on the other side of the classroom. No, he will not be a professor at IE, but he will be an ESL teacher. Derek earned his teaching certificate through an online course called, The TEFL Academy. He is certified and ready to teach the wonders and complexities of the English language – he just needs to find the school first. The academy provides the certification, however, finding a job is the student’s duty. The job search begins Monday!
What have we been doing since we landed on September 28? Not taking naps! We are convinced we beat jet lag. Our secret? Two Dramamines for our 7-hour red eye and no naps once we landed. Besides resisting naps, we have been exploring our new city! Both Derek and I have not been to Madrid before September 28. I had a trip planned during my time in Barcelona, but unfortunately got sick the day before. We have a lot to see and learn. Unsurprisingly, Madrid is as beautiful as everyone says it is.
During the month of October, we will be staying in a homestay with a mother, Gabriela, her son, Raffaele, and their dog, Amanda! For the first three days, we stayed at Hostal El Tera located on Calle de Magdalena, 29. If you find yourself in Madrid and want to spend it in a reasonably priced shoebox with an in-room shower, look no further! When we first arrived at the hostal, we were greeted by the man who presumably owns and manages the hostal. Due to a little miscommunication, he thought we were part of Gary's group and brought us into the wrong room. The wrong room included two twin sized beds with a big balcony and yes, an in-room shower and sink. However, our buzz was swiftly killed when he found out we were not Gary. We were moved to the railroad car room next door. Lucky for us, this kind man whose name we never learned brought us an extra cot as the “double bed” clearly would not fit the both of us. Sometimes you have to give to take. We gave the 5 feet of open space we had for this cot. For $30/a night, you take what you can get. Thankfully, Gabriela allowed us to move in on September 30 instead of October 1.
We are officially moved in and have met our 5 roommates. There are two other women living in Gabriela’s apartment, a woman from Ireland who is teaching in Madrid as well as a young woman from Switzerland who is also attending IE. Derek and I are sharing a room, closet and bathroom. To be determined when we lose our minds. If going from fighting to crying laughing back to fighting in the middle of the supermarket is considered going crazy then it looks like we’ve already lost our minds.
Derek’s job search starts tomorrow and my orientation week starts bright and early tomorrow with a day trip to Segovia, a city located about an hour or so outside of Madrid. Wish us luck!
If you’ve made it this far, you’re a true pal. You can most likely expect similar length blog posts throughout these next 10 months, as well as more pictures and videos that Derek will be creating. We are planning to post once a week or every two weeks. Be on the lookout for our updates.