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3 posts from June 2011

06/16/2011

The barrio of Malasaña: ¿Te gusta?

ChelseaRaubenheimer_View from Malasaña_1mar2011
The view from Chelsea and Cristina's Malasaña balcony.

¿Te gusta Malasaña?

By: Chelsea Raubenheimer (University of Colorado - Boulder)

    Three years ago I discovered the singer Manu Chao and fell in love with his song “Me Gustas Tú”. In the song there is a line that says, "Me gusta Malasaña, me gustas tú". At the time I wasn't sure what Malasaña was so I did a little google search and discovered that it was the alternative barrio in Madrid - reminiscent of Greenwich Village or Camden in London. Yes. Three years later I found myself filling out my housing application for Madrid and I remembered what I had read and casually mentioned that it would be cool to live in Malasaña. Wishes were granted and here I am now in Malasaña with my wonderful host Cristina!! She is the big sister I never had and we have adapted quite well to our life together!


    Seeing as we are both constantly on the go, it is hard to find time to talk so I have gotten into the habit of leaving her notes all the time- just about funny things that have happened to me, asking her about her day, etc. Then when we do get to see each other she will correct the grammar in my notes and tell me better ways to say each phrase in Spanish. It has been a fun way to keep tabs on each other and also work on my Spanish. Anyway, everything has been great - from her wonderful cooking, to waking up on a weekend and blasting The Strokes, to the view off my balcony, to my first caña at a bar down the street with her... it has been quite the adventure!! Nothing like I expected beforehand, but so much better.

¡¡¡Me gusta Malasaña!!!

06/09/2011

Wanted: Less Planning, More Patience

Andrea Andrea Lau, posing in front of Madrid's Puerta de Alcalá

Wanted: Less Planning, More Patience

By: Andrea Lau (Gordon College)


“Charm is a product of the unexpected” -Jose Marti  

Before leaving for Spain, I made a list of everything I would need for my trip.  A pair of boots in case of rain, a warm winter coat in case it gets cold, and a travel dictionary in case my brain stops working.  After a few weeks I found myself preparing for so much that I got lost in a flurry of expectations.  What would my homestay be like? What if I don’t like the food? What about school? Will I ever make friends? 

What I have found to be true for me so far this semester is that with patience, things will make themselves clear. (And for the things that won’t, no pasa nada.)

Two unexpected surprises that I have experienced in Madrid have been two of the tiniest things, but sometimes it’s the little things that count!

The first exciting discovery I made was how much my world opened up when I took my headphones out of my ears.  I can never get enough of good music and my iPod is more or less attached to my body so naturally I like to listen to it on my commute to and from school every day.  While I can’t explain just how beautiful listening to the new Band of Horses album passing through the country landscape towards Getafe can be, I’ve discovered something even better.  Each day I spend less time listening to my music and more time listening to the people around me.  You would be amazed by how many things you might learn from a simple conversation between two people.  I’m not talking about being creepy to the extreme and hovering over their conversation but definitely take advantage of the opportunity to absorb everything around you. 

Another tiny discovery here has been coffee! I’m a professed Starbucks addict and anyone who knows me knows that even that is a bit of an understatement.  Being 100% honest, I was slightly concerned about the impending absence of the almighty Starbucks in my life and certainly wary of Spain’s seemingly simple “cafe con leche.”  I could not have been more wrong! This incredible combination of bold espresso and fresh milk has changed my perception of coffee forever.  Now I love my gigantic mug of American coffee just as much as the next person but cafe con leche is more than coffee, it’s a sensory experience!  I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been to a Starbucks during my time here but they’re extremely pricey and an obvious haven for non-Spaniards.  Explore your barrio, try different cafes, and never pay more than 2€ for coffee.  ¡Y sobretodo, que aproveche!

“Charm is a product of the unexpected” -Jose Marti

 

Before leaving for Spain, I made a list of everything I would need for my trip.  A pair of boots in case of rain, a warm winter coat in case it gets cold, and a travel dictionary in case my brain stops working.  After a few weeks I found myself preparing for so much that I got lost in a flurry of expectations.  What would my homestay be like? What if I don’t like the food? What about school? Will I ever make friends? 

 

What I have found to be true for me so far this semester is that with patience, things will make themselves clear. (And for the things that won’t, no pasa nada.)

 

Two unexpected surprises that I have experienced in Madrid have been two of the tiniest things, but sometimes it’s the little things that count!

 

The first exciting discovery I made was how much my world opened up when I took my headphones out of my ears.  I can never get enough of good music and my iPod is more or less attached to my body so naturally I like to listen to it on my commute to and from school every day.  While I can’t explain just how beautiful listening to the new Band of Horses album passing through the country landscape towards Getafe can be, I’ve discovered something even better.  Each day I spend less time listening to my music and more time listening to the people around me.  You would be amazed by how many things you might learn from a simple conversation between two people.  I’m not talking about being creepy to the extreme and hovering over their conversation but definitely take advantage of the opportunity to absorb everything around you. 

 

Another tiny discovery here has been coffee! I’m a professed Starbucks addict and anyone who knows me knows that even that is a bit of an understatement.  Being 100% honest, I was slightly concerned about the impending absence of the almighty Starbucks in my life and certainly wary of Spain’s seemingly simple “cafe con leche.”  I could not have been more wrong! This incredible combination of bold espresso and fresh milk has changed my perception of coffee forever.  Now I love my gigantic mug of American coffee just as much as the next person but cafe con leche is more than coffee, it’s a sensory experience!  I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been to a Starbucks during my time here but they’re extremely pricey and an obvious haven for non-Spaniards.  Explore your barrio, try different cafes, and never pay more than 2€ for coffee.  ¡Y sobretodo, que aproveche!

06/03/2011

Life with a Homestay

Alisa y Susana Alisa Wecker with her host Susana during Spring 2011 Orientation

Living with a Homestay: A Pleasant Surprise

By: Alisa Wecker (Brandeis University)

    Initially the thought of moving to a foreign country and living in a homestay was absolutely terrifying.  I couldn’t imagine anything more awkward than living in someone’s apartment for an entire semester.  As it turns out, living in a homestay has been an absolute blessing.  My anfitriona, Susana, is amazing.  She has showed me all around the city and I now consider myself an expert on the Spanish Metro System!  Rather than feeling all alone in a new city, it has been great feeling like I have someone who will help me with any problems I may run into during the semester.  Also, I can already see how living with an anfitriona will help expand my cultural horizons.  I’ve tried a ton of new foods since arriving in Spain and I’ve even noticed my vocabulary starting to expand. 

    It has only been a week since I moved into my homestay, however, in that time I have had the opportunity to explore the barrio around my apartment, and check out the cute stores, restaurants, and bars that I hope to frequent over the course of the semester.  One afternoon after orientation I even stopped by a little shoe store that was on my way from the Metro to buy a pair of flats.  Although it might seem unlikely, it is small tasks such as communicating with a shopkeeper that often pose the greatest challenges on a day-to-day basis.  The program directors and my anfitriona all speak slowly and clearly, and I am able to understand everything they say to me.  However, when I’m out on the metro or scoping out the amazing rebajas all over the city I am left to fend for myself.  While I have been able to handle all of this, it definitely serves as a constant reminder that I am in fact in a foreign country surrounded by a culture that is completely different from anything I’d previously experienced. 

    Despite my initial doubts about living in a homestay during my semester in Madrid, it has proved to be an extremely positive experience so far.  I hope that it will continue to allow me to learn and grow, as I become accustomed with the ins and outs of Spanish culture.