Six years ago this fall I left my home in Kansas City to live abroad in Madrid, Spain for a semester.  I thought it would be fun to resurrect my blog from my time there to peek back into my observations of the culture and life in Spain.  I have grown and changed and matured a lot since then.  Then I had just turned twenty-two; I was in my senior year of college at William Jewel; I was living at home with my parents on their sixty acres in a log house; and I transplanted myslef to the capital city in Spain.  That semester I was a girl trying to find her way in a big city, and trying to find her way in life.  I hope you enjoy re-living those adventures with me and getting a glimpse into the way of the Madrileños.  Here is my first blog entry that I made–six years ago to this date.

**Disclosure: I have edited a few things to make these enries appropriate for all ages; however, I tried to keep everything as close to the original as possible so as not to lose that first-impression-of-a-college-girl-abroad-far-from-home feel.  So please do not hold me to every opinion as I have changed a lot since then.**    

Monday, September 11, 2006

Picados de España

1. In Spain, nobody tips when they go out, therefore the waiters/waitress don’t have to work for a tip, therefore they can be as rude or as pleasant as they like. It’s been about 50/50 for me. One day I was eating in a cafe with Odalis my roomate. Odalis ordered, and as I was about to order, the waitress just walked away. Yesterday, we were at a chocolateria, and as I was ordering–like actually speaking, our waitress walked off. Nice huh?

2. Spainiards don’t eat breakfast. A normal breakfast for them is a glass of warm milk. And maybe a piece of toast. I’m starving by eleven o’clock. But at school, we have a break about then–because everyone is starving because they don’t eat breakfast!! (to me it makes more sense to eat a heartier breakfast so that you don’t have to pay for more food later!)–so for instance today I got a little bocadillo (sandwich) in the cafe at IES. And when I say little, I mean little. It was (cuesta) 80 centavos. Not too bad. But then I had to eat lunch later! They eat lunch here around 2 or 3pm. That is their biggest meal of the day. Then at night they go bar hopping hanging out with friends relaxing and eating tapas. Tapas are various foods in small portions that go well with vino or cerveza (wine or beer).

3. Spaniards are very formal. They have a very set way of doing things. For instance: in the house, they don’t walk around barefoot. They have house shoes and a house outfit. My host mom wears a knit dress as she cleans or watches tv or cooks, etc. My host brother has this pair of plaid shorts (like the ones that are popular in the US now) and a t-shirt. He wears slippers too! Then they get dressed to leave the house–like nicely dressed–slacks, button-up shirt, dress, heels, perfume/cologne, etc. I feel very frumpy around the city! I just don’t think I can walk around in heels! Although, the university students, whom you can spot are a little more casual–a mix of punk, emo, preppy–I can’t explain it. Kinda of like Urban Outfitters style . . . yeah, that’s it! They even have a system for when they go out as a group. One person is selected to collect money from each person, they are called la encargada (the one in charge). Then they pay at the end and re-distribute the money.

4. Madrid is not like cities in the US where kids are rarely to be seen. Neighborhoods are not really distinguished from a downtown area. There are many central spots that have developed for whatever reason (e.g. the Palace is there, the Parque del Retiro is there, or Puerta del Sol for example is the middle of town, etc.). Family seems to be very important here and kids are a large part of what goes on. It is so amazing to hear a little kid speaking better Spanish than me. But there is a very lax feel with the kids; parents do not restrict their kids from running off or playing far away from them even though they are in a busy neighborhood in the city. For example, Odalis and I saw a woman the other day pushing her baby daughter in a stroller. She was a beeeUtiful baby! The woman stepped into a panaderia (bakery) and left the stroller outside–with the baby in it!!! And she was like IN the store. Loco!!!

5. Spainiards stay up late!!! Restaurants don’t open until 9pm or so. Street cafes, are always full–tables on the sidewalks have people sitting, eating, drinking, all the time. Odalis and I went for some cafe con leche the other night, and we sat there and talked with tons of people around until 1! We didn’t even realize it was so late because, there was still tons of people going here and there. If people are going out, to a discoteca, the don’t leave until like 1 or 2 am!! The discotecas usually stay open until 5 or 6 in the morning, when the Metro starts running again. It’s hard to keep up with the Spainiards! Especially on their slim diet! I guess they take it slow in the mornings, with less food, then pump it up in the late afternoon until evening to keep going. Somewhat opposite of what I’m used to. For example, the mornings (when I say morning I mean like 9-10 not 7-8 like in the US) are very quiet with not many people around, but the afternoon (2-5) and nights–whew! People everywhere!!

6. Not many people are friendly here. They are cordial, yes. But not extremely loving or helpful. I think some are more open to foreigners than others. Some though, have a radar for the stench of new people and won’t give you a second thought. If you open your mouth to let out that Spanish with an English accent–well, all I have to say is, enter that area at your own risk.