And so the adventures in Spain continue!
Thankfully, I have been able to actually get some sleep, so I'm feeling much more rested! I think it was much needed, especially since I've been so busy, and about 5 hours per night just wasn't cutting it.
Yesterday a group of us went to downtown Madrid! I'd say we are now masters of public transportation. We didn't even have to ask anyone if we were on the right train!
Once in the city, we did the most logical thing and immediately located the nearest cafe. Coffee and pastries in the morning is kind of a requirement for us. After we were satisfied with way too many different types of pastries and cafe con leche, we made our way to the Museo Reina Sofia, which we had seen a week ago, and which holds El Guernica. This time, we wanted to see the temporary exhibit, which was all about Salvador Dali. Unfortunately, all of Spain wanted to see it as well, so we had to wait in line for ages. Though this was around 10am, by the time we got our tickets, we wouldn't be able to enter the exhibit until 2:30pm! (By the way, our school ID gets us into all the museums for free, including temporary exhibits, which usually cost more!)
So in our free time, we went...SHOPPING! In my personal opinion, shopping in the streets of Madrid is one of the best things in life. There are so many interesting stores, a lot of great deals, and a ton to see while spending your hard-earned money like crazy.
And, yes, we went to another cafe.
We also walked through Puerta del Sol, which is one of the "best known and busiest places in Madrid" according to Wikipedia. Seriously, you turn a corner and BAM there's a million people. I really like it, though! There's so much to see in just this little area. Including one of my worst fears: people in costumes. (Side note: Yesterday morning, I ate a banana with a sticker on the peel. Gingerly, of course. But still. So many new experiences here.)
Thankfully, one of my friends had been there before, and since he knew about my aversion to costumed figures, warned me before I saw them, or else I might have had a conniption fit. I don't know why, but people think it's a WONDERFUL idea to dress up as giant Spongebobs, Mickey Mouses, etc. and walk around the area doing...whatever they do. I didn't make eye contact. I just knew they were there, surrounding me. I positioned myself between my group so I didn't have to watch out for them grabbing me. The worst part is that there is SO many of them!
Once we made it through the challenge of walking past the sea of creepiness, we got to shop more, which made up for the previous terror. And before we knew it, it was time to return to the museum for Dali. This time, we decided to take the metro over there (haha that's kinda a pun, since the metro is actually underground). And that was one more experience in which we mastered public transportation, though it did take way too long. We walked all over the metro station trying to find the right train. I think we ended up missing the one we needed three times before we realized our mistake.
By the time we surfaced, it was raining. Yeah, so much for the whole warm-summer-in-Spain I was expecting. I was thankful I had brought a rain jacket AND had the sense to bring it with me. Since we were so cold, had 15 minutes before we could get into Dali, and needed to use the restroom (remember: no public bathrooms!), we went to a Starbucks. At least this time we had good reasons for more coffee?
The Dali exhibit was really interesting to see, and I'm very glad I was able to! They had so much of his work; so much so, that if he had any more paintings, I would be shocked. The exhibit took up a whole floor of the museum, and I know that doesn't give you much of a sense of size, but trust me, it's large. It took us about an hour to get through, and we didn't even stop to look at everything. We kinda just kept the same quick pace throughout. Mostly because we realized that we weren't really huge fans of Dali. The whole surrealism thing...not my favorite. The best part for me was seeing La persistencia de memoria, which I'm sure you all know. That was the only Dali painting I knew!
Afterwards, it was late afternoon and we were all pretty tired, so we took the train back early. I got back to my place at 5:30, and as soon as I laid down on my bed, I was out. I woke up at 7:30 to quickly change and run to the theater for a flamenco!
I knew nothing about flamenco, other than that girls wear big, fluffy dresses and dance. So I was surprised to find out it also includes singing and lots and lots of stomping. We were in a very small theater, so it seemed incredibly loud. But it was definitely interesting, and all the performers were so talented! I once heard that to experience Spain, you need three things: tapas, sangria, and flamenco. Now I've taken part in all three!
We walked outside after the flamenco to find a group of apparently Castillian dancers putting on a show in the middle of the plaza. We stopped to watch them for a while to cultivate our artistic experience more. It was a really fun atmosphere- the live music and dancers, a setting sun (at 10pm!), a crowd of people, and the smells of various different restaurants. Our stomachs won over our desire to gawk at the dancers, so we went to this crowded restaurant for dinner. It was supposedly one of the best, but it wasn't my favorite. It's three gigantic rooms with just tables and chairs. They have high ceilings and a ton of TVs, all of which were showing a soccer game. As a result, the place was packed and LOUD! Because they get really into their soccer here. We had to go up to a counter to order our food, but the menus didn't have descriptions of the plates, so we just had to guess. When we tried asking the person taking our order about some of the food, he either couldn't hear us or couldn't understand our Spanish (maybe both?) because we didn't get any answer. We went to pick up our food from another counter and I discovered that the thing I had ordered (which resembled pizza) was actually toast piled high with cream cheese and topped with uncooked salmon. Yeah. Not to mention it was about 15 inches long and 10 inches wide. So I peeled off the salmon (after TRYING it first :D) and ate some toast with cream cheese (though I'm confident it had some other ingredients). Then we went to a gelato store, so all was remedied!
We walked around the streets eating our gelato and window shopping. There were a ton of people out and the weather was perfect! We eventually realized that staying out later would mean walking back alone very late at night, or paying for a taxi which could get expensive. Plus, they were pretty scarce since the whole plaza and side streets were blocked off. So, we all went our separate ways at around 11:45.
Today, I slept in. Which I felt was much deserved. Though sleeping in for me is now apparently 8:30, since I woke up then feeling refreshed. I had plans to go to the Cathedral this morning for mass, but it was still too early, as the first mass on Sunday starts at 11:30am! Nevertheless, I went for a morning walk and ended up at the church at around 10am, and just looked around and hung out until mass started. Now THAT was an experience. First of all, nobody showed up until 11:30 exactly, and those were the early arrivals! I had picked a pew about six rows back from the front, which turned out to be the first possible one I could sit in, since the first ones are apparently invisibly reserved for the children. Their parents walk them up to the front until they find their friends, and then let them sit wherever they want in those pews. And despite the plenty of pews in the church, people like to take plastic chairs from the back and place them randomly throughout the open areas of the cathedral.
There also weren't any song books or anything like that. The congregation doesn't sing; only the choir, which was made up of girls much younger than me, sang. And they didn't sing typical church songs, but very upbeat ones which involved clapping. There were no instruments. Also, we didn't have a second reading.
We had three priests on the altar. One was much older, and just sat in his chair for the duration of the mass. The others seemed to share the priestly duties, which baffled me. Plus, there was one hearing confessions at the side of the church. It was the same one who I had been to before, and I saw him look at me once. Fairly certain he recognized me and laughed a bit.
I hardly understood any of the responses people were giving. And I couldn't really understand the priests, due to a combination of their rapid spanish, gruff voices, and microphone problems. I just kinda said what I knew in English under my breath.
Another interesting aspect was the lack of kneeling. Maybe it's because the kneelers were wooden and pretty uncomfortable, but we either stood or sat the entire time, with the exception of about two different times, though both were but seconds long.
Communion was humorous, since there was no observable rhyme or reason to it. A large percentage of people there didn't go to communion for whatever reasons, so they just sat back, while everyone else piled into the aisles. I followed the lady sitting next to me, which was a good call, or else I would not have known what to do. There weren't any lines, just kind of a big mob, and we pushed our way through to get to the front. The priests were doing their best to distribute the hosts to the many hands that reached out to them. There was no blood of Christ. Once you've received communion, you turn around on the spot and push your way back to your seat, despite the flood of people baring down on you.
After the final blessing, the priests don't process out. They just turn around and walk off the altar, so we all left immediately. The church was absolutely freezing cold during mass, so I had this great idea to go to a cafe and get some coffee afterwards. Apparently everyone in the church also had that idea, because they all swarmed to Calle Mayor with me. It wasn't just freezing in the church though; I think the temperature must have been in the low 50s, plus it was cloudy, so it was a cold day. I hadn't checked the weather before leaving, so I had stupidly worn a summer dress and sandals. I was literally the only one in the mob who wasn't wearing jeans, boots, and dark colors. Talk about standing out! As if being American wasn't enough, haha.
So here I was, shivering and hugging myself to keep warm, speed walking down the stone street, trying to find a cafe. By now, I know where almost all of them are. However, each one I walked by was closed! It was like a nightmare. I just kept wondering why not a single cafe would be open at 12:30pm. Well, it turned out there was one open. One. And by the time I arrived there, all those people who bypassed me while I stood pitifully at all the closed cafes were standing in a line that went out the door and around the block. Yet, I stood in that line.
And it was worth it. My cafe con leche and chocolate pastry were heavenly. I found a table in the back, pulled out some homework, and actually got a lot of reading done. While I was sitting there, one of my friends actually found me and joined in on the homework party! You can't imagine how awesome it feels to run into someone you know in a foreign country. It was like I officially belong here now!
The rest of the day I spent lounging around, doing homework, and wasting too much time procrastinating on the internet. I even watched some Spanish tv with Teresa and Jose! It's really funny, because they love American movies here, and they just dub the voices in Spanish, even though the mouths are obviously saying something different. We watched a bit of Mrs. Doubtfire and then some interview entertainment show which I never really figured out what it was about. Learning that Jose really likes American movies, I asked him which was his favorite. His response? Rachel Ray.
Not exactly a movie, but alright then!
It's funny, but Jose doesn't realize that I understand days are shorter in the winter and longer in the summer. I'm pretty sure he doesn't think that occurs in the United States, because he goes into long descriptions about how the amount of daylight changes based on the months. I listen patiently, and when he pauses for me to ask questions, I mention that it's the same in America. However, he continues explaining this phenomenon for ten more minutes or so. This has happened quite a few times.
After a few hours of tv (they watch a lot here), Teresa and Jose invited me to go on a walk with them. We went down to this lake nearby and walked up and down the path next to it. It was really pretty, especially since there's a ton of green trees around it! We also stopped by an exercise park with all these neat, simple machines. Honestly, if they had those in America, I'd exercise nonstop. It's hard to describe them, because they're nothing like I've ever seen before. But they were all fun!
Since we got back, I've been attempting to find motivation to finish a presentation for tomorrow. Must...do....work.... It's weird to think I also have midterms this Thursday. Gotta start studying!