Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On the lookout

One of the woes of traveling is I'm always faced with is achy feet by the end of the day.

Walking around museums and flocking around cities is no easy thing, and life becomes that much more miserable when your feet hurt mid-day, and all you want to do is sit somewhere and not move for about four hours. Clearly not the ideal situation when traveling on a tight budget and tight time frame.

This becomes a particularly large issue when the city is built on cobblestone streets, so if you choose the wrong type of shoes, you will be feeling rocks underneath your feet every step.

Because of my strict weight limitations when packing to come to Madrid, I did not bring many shoes.  Therefore, the most comfortable walking shoes I have with me (other than my tennis shoes) are my trusty off-white, low-top converse (love them), and my brown tall boots (another must have).  As many people may know, converse are actually not the best walking shoes and neither are boots.  So I've had achy feet.  I think that's added to my knee pains. (I am indeed an old grandma sometimes.)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sevilla: part 1

Sorry that this post took to so long! (This post is a little different in the sense that it's all words in the beginning, followed by an array of pictures.)

I went down to Sevilla with my program two weekends ago on an one-night-two-days trip.

Here is Sevilla in relation to Madrid:

[Some historical background: Sevilla was the perfect port for colonizers and conquistadores becuase it was accessible by boat from the sea, but far enough inland to protect the jewels and gold acquired from the New World from pirates.  Sevilla is heavily influenced by Islamic culture (as well as Jewish, but the Muslim aspects are much more prevalent.) And they are known for their heavy "zetha" accent (the stereotypical Spanish lisp.)]

Cultural blurb

Today in Spain is 28/02/2012.  Or 28 de febrero de 2012.

Today in America is 02/28/2012.  Or February 28th, 2012.

I still have yet to get used to this change.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Anyone have a time turner?

Remember when I said I needed Moolah?

Well, I just shot myself in the foot this morning, and basically wasted 60 euros. It hurts to think about it.

But my flight for Bilbao was at 7:55 AM. Got to the airport, through security, and was just about to board, when they ask, "pasaporte, por favor."

My heart dropped.

Because I am flying within the country, I just thought, oh, my driver's license should work, but I'll bring a copy of my passport just in case. I don't want to lug around my real passport and risk losing it.

Oh, how that cost me this morning.

I feebly tried to see if the attendant would take pity on me and let me board, but she said I could not, and I needed to go back and "rescue" my ticket and pay extra for a later flight.  MOTHER OF PEARL.

Sigh, so after walking around the airport feeling pretty defeated, I went up to the counter and changed my flight for another one at 2 this afternoon.  And I made the 45 trip back on the metro to my house, and here I am, extremely tired, and hurting at the thought of how had I done ONE thing differently, this trip didn't have to cost so much.


God, is this an indication that I value money too much in my heart?

I'm trying to forget about that 60 euros, and pretend that it didn't happen, and still enjoy this weekend. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I have this awesome schedule where I don't have classes on Fridays AND Wednesdays.  The free Fridays allow me to go on adventures without having to skip class (major plus), while the free Wednesdays help me recuperate from my long days, be a bum, and do things that I normally wouldn't be able to do on the days I have class. (I actually might pick up a Spanish class that would take place on Mondays and Wednesdays, but that is still tentative..)

One of the things that I normally wouldn't be able to do is have a nice, relaxed conversation with a Spaniard over coffee in the morning.

Thought I might share some Madrid adventures with you all.

 El Palacio Cristal in Retiro Park.
Really beautiful, and as you probably can see, it is 
"completely" made of glass. Retiro in general must be one 
of my favorite public parks I have been to.  (Above: the outside 
of the Palacio. Below: inside of the Palacio.)

 El museo de CaixaForum
Fun little souvenirs from the gift shop. Of course didn't
buy them. But the museum is a modern art museum 
funded by CaixaForum, which is a very large and 
important bank in Spain. It's free entrance, and has a 
really nice café on the top floor with wi-fi. :)
 "Hanging Gardens"
This "garden" is just outside of the museum CaixaForum,
and basically its all these plants that are growing on a wall.
That white dot in the picture would be the moon.
One of my favorite café
 La Lolina is on Calle de Espíritu Santo, in a cool, hipster 
part of Madrid. It has comfy chairs, free wifi, nice tea selection,
food, dessert, funky atmosphere, and plays fun music.
In this picture, I've ordered Earl Grey Lavender Tea, just 
in case you couldn't read the words. :) 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cultural Blurb: Thank You for Smoking

I think the title "Cultural Blurb" is a little more attractive and funky, no?

To lessen the pains of waiting for Sevilla update, I thought I might tease with a cultural update.

Move aside BU smokers, Madrileños got you beat. 

SO many people smoke here.  And not only do they smoke often, they smoke everywhere. Here on the campus of Autónoma, there are signs on the walls, the doors, the chairs, the windows, the tables on how this is a place Smoke-Free environment.  Yet, between classes, I see groups of students hovering near the doors, in corners of the hallways with a thick cloud of blue-grey smoke above their heads.  Yes, they are smoking INSIDE the school building--an unfathomable idea for us Americans.  In America, even if you were to smoke indoors, I think you would smoke with the utmost discretion.  But not here.  One time, we had about a 30 minute break between classes, and during that 30 minutes, this kid takes out a cigarette, closes the classroom door, props open a window, and starts smoking inside the classroom.  I was so taken aback!

But this lack of consideration of rules seems to be common trend here in Spain.  Maybe it's because Spain was governed by a oppressive dictatorship until fairly recently, people don't seem too keen on heavy enforcement of social rules such as prohibition of smoking in public areas.  Then again, this may be a completely inaccurate observation on my part.

P.S. I actually haven't seen Thank You For Smoking. Just remembered hearing that title, and thought I'd borrow it for this post. I'm such a poser. :P

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I must be getting old.

Just got back from a wonderful trip from Sevilla (or Seville, American style), but I am SO pooped.  I feel like I need a whole two days to recover from this weekend.  At age 17, or even 18, I probably would have been perfectly fine.  Time is catching up to me. HAHA

Next weekend: Bilbao and San Sebastian :)

Trip post about Sevilla coming to you soon!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Metro happenings continued

Back to story time.

Before starting my actual story, I should give some background information.

Here, as well as in many major cities, people perform on the metro trains between stops, and ask for donations. You may have an accordion player (quite typical), a guitarist, a person singing to a portable karaoke machine, or like I witnessed today, a whole quartet perform.  I always 1) feel bad that I don't donate 2) wonder what their success rate is.  Do they aim to earn 3€ since the metro fare is 1.50€, or more? Or less? Is this a side job, or are they really relying solely on this source of income?

Anyways, my curiosities laid aside...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cultural differences --- Happy late Valentine's Day

Happy belated San Valentín! :)

Valentine's day never really had any significance for me, except during middle school.  That's only because we had Valentine's Day party aka lots of candy, paper cards with heart stickers, and no class.

(I think it might be the first year in the past 13 years
where I didn't receive these candies...)

Maybe it's because I don't go into stores very often in Madrid, but I almost forgot that it was that time of the year! In America you are reminded that a major holiday is headed your way because approximately two months before the actual holiday, the stores are filled with insert holiday here themed candy and decoration. I mean think, Easter, Christmas, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day.  And think Walmart, Walgreens, CVS.  Classic.  And the day after the holiday, all the candy go on sale, so I've known people buying pounds and pounds of mixed chocolate bags (Twix, Snickers, Kit Kats, Milkway, M&Ms, the whole shabang.)

Stupid consumerism.  Glad that that mentality doesn't quite exist in Madrid.  (But that might be because there is no equivalent to a CVS here in Madrid---which at times is very inconvenient...)

Anyways, that's that. Another thing.


Talk about a rough morning/day!

So the Spanish university bureaucracy system is highly inefficient and makes you do the same thing like four different times in four different ways.  Apparently the system in place currently is an improved version, but in times like these, I miss the American efficiency and clarity on what needs to be done by when.

I mean I'm not going to go in detail about what happened because it actually isn't an interesting story to share on a blog, but it has been one heck of day.  I think I must have walked 3 miles, and went up and down dozens of staircases today. Bleh. So tired.

Cultural difference post coming up soon! :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cultural differences part 4

Okay, it's not solely a Spanish cultural difference, so this post is slightly mis-titled.  But on Sunday I went to Spanish-speaking church with a friend I had made at the UAM (wahoo for friend making!! :D).  During service, I realized that they were observing communion this week at this particular church, and I didn't think too much of it.

Every church does communion a little differently, and that much I expected.  The bread, signifying the body of Jesus, was slightly different from what I'm used to, but that was nothing in comparison to the little gift of surprise that was to follow.  When the little plastic cups of "wine" signifying the blood of Jesus Christ came around, I was a little confused because the color of the liquid was not the color of grape juice, which is what I've grown up with, or even wine!  It was the color of apple juice.  So my natural thought process was:
"Well, this is a strange color.  Oh, do they use real wine instead? No, that is not the color of wine.  Hm, I wonder if grape juice is expensive in Spain.  Probably so, and if so, they probably just substituted it with some other juice.  They didn't fill the cups all the way either, so they must be trying to conserve money Well judging by the color, it seems like they used apple juice.  How strange, but I guess in the end what type of juice doesn't really matter."  
 (That's a glimpse of Angela's very strange an rapid thought process for you.)

The usher told me that here we drink it right away and put the cups back onto the tray, so not thinking too much about it, I threw the liquid into my mouth, and boy, was I surprised.  It was neither grape nor apple juice.  Quite honestly, I still don't know what it was, but it was a surprise indeed.  It was sweet and bitter, and warm while giving little jabs while going down my throat.  My eyes probably went O.O for the first time while taking communion.

You ask, why were you so surprised?  See, the reason to why my guard was down was because last Sunday, I went to a different church, and they had communion too.  I suspected the "wine" part to be actual wine since wine is a no biggie in Spain, but it was grape juice.  So I thought Spanish churches were like the American ones and used grape juice.  Hence the element of surprise this past Sunday when it turned out to be something very different from grape juice.

Back in the US I have never had anything but grape juice for communion, but I know that some do use real wine.  That's why I said that it's not a Spanish cultural difference per se, but still a difference nonetheless.  Yay for new experiences.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Trip #2: Aranjuez

This trip took place the day after our Toledo day trip.  But the experience could not have been more different.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Just finished the episode!


Not going to lie, it was a little scary at times.  I had to pause the video a bit, take in a breath, and then press play.

Now let the waiting begin.

Side note

Why is this show so good?!?!

If you haven't heard of it, don't kick yourself--I didn't know about it till I came to Madrid. (But to be fair, I don't really keep up with pop culture in general.) Sherlock is the 21st Century version of the classic Sherlock Holmes made by none other BBC.

Can I just begin by saying how AWESOME this show is?!  Every single episode (so far there are only 6, 3 for each season) is about an hour and half long, is cleverly written, and wonderfully executed.

Recently I was dumb and I watched season 1's episodes 1 and 2, and then ACCIDENTLY watched episode 3 of season 2 (aka season finale) thinking it was episode 3 of season 1.  When I realized my grave error, I almost cried a little. Yeah, it's that good, and yeah, it was THAT tragic.

Just watched season 2's episode 1 last night, and it most definitely did not disappoint! I highly highly highly recommend it. Having never read the Sherlock Holmes series, this BBC show is making me want to read the books so I can pick up on the subtle details they include to pay their respect to the original author. I'm dreading watching episode 2 of season 2 because then that means I have to wait a reallllyyy long time (nearly a year) for season 3.  Poo. (If any is looking for gift ideas, the DVDs to Sherlock would be awesome. Granted, there really isn't a reason why I would receive gifts during this time of the year...)

I can't get over how well it's made, and how clever the plots are.  For example from the last episode...

*SPOILER ALERT. Next picture will give away something crucial about one of the episodes. So don't look if you don't want to!*

Metro happenings

Madrid has an AWESOME public transportation system.  Wanna get somewhere? The metro probably can take you there in five different routes.  There is a sign that tells you when the next train is coming, and the most I've waited for a subway was 10 minutes, and that was because it was really late at night. Creates such a stark contrast to the Boston T system.  But this past week, some interesting things have happened to me on the Metro.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Spanish slang

This post could appropriately be titled as: "Angela's version of the different Spanish slang she's picked up on."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Trip #1: Toledo

I haven't been posting very many things about my adventures in Spain like I said I would. My b.

To rectify this, I am starting my first trip post about a day trip I took to Toledo. Dan-dah-dah-dah!!~

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cultural difference part 3

I don't what it is, but people in Spain have HORRIBLE handwriting.

I don't think I have a high standard for what a decent handwriting looks like, but man, what do they teach kids in first grade here in Spain? Did they not use this??

I had a Spanish professor for an Econ class in Boston, and I thought he just had a bad handwriting, but after taking classes in Spain for about three weeks now, I have come to the conclusion that people in Spain generally have bad handwriting. Whether it be the professor writing on the chalkboard or making corrections made on my essay, or the girl who sits next to me in lecture and kindly let's me look at her notes when I miss what the professor just had said...they all have awful handwriting. (So me copying notes from the girl is often times really unsuccessful.)

To make matters worse, because I'm not fluent, I can't make out words from the horrible handwriting as I usually would be able to with English. So I just end up basically taking shot at the dark at what the word could potentially be. My notes are probably filled with fake Spanish words right now.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Life Application #1

This past weekend, we ate like kings.

I was a little bewildered at all the food and the fancy table settings for Friday's lunch. The only thing I could think of that would trigger this extravagance was the fact that my host mom's sister was in town, and so they were having a nice big family lunch. (Their big meal of the day is lunch, not dinner.) But then her son brought her flowers. I didn't think of it much, at that moment I just thought, "Awhh, how nice!"

Little did I know, it was my host mom's birthday. Wahh! Why didn't anyone tell me ahead of time? I felt so awful. But then what's more, Sunday was her son's birthday! So on Saturday we had champagne with lunch, and Sunday we had some kind of wine that was pinkish and bubbly. I knew better on Sunday, and asked that they give me only a tinsy-little bit rather than a full glass because I don't enjoy the taste of alcohol, and I don't really know my limit, and I'm not about to test my boundaries during lunch with my host family.

So where does the life application come from? Well, all weekend long, the house phone went off ALL DAY LONG. People continuously called to congratulate them, wish them a happy birthday, and wanted to catch up and see how they were doing. Each call lasted a good 5-10 minutes. At first I thought it was so strange, but I realized, that's how I want it to be. We've gotten so used to seeing on Facebook: "Today is _________'s birthday! Write on their wall..." Usually we didn't even know it was that person's birthday, and what's more, unless you have a relatively strong relationship with the person, the message starts and ends with "happy birthday" with maybe a smiley face or an exclamation mark. How sad?

I know it's slightly awkward to start all of a sudden, but I'm going to make an effort to 1) remember the person's birthday and 2) call them, NOT text them, not facebook them, and heavens no, tweet them, to wish that person a happy birthday. Granted I'm not going to call the girl I barely know from tenth grade, but I think the people I love and care about deserve at least a phone call. Maybe even a snail mail, hand-written card. I love snail mail. (And to those I said I'll send a post card, sorry it's been taking so long.)

What a wonderful way to share love. :)


Introducing me

Thought I might share five random facts about me. Let's make this blog a little more personal. ;)

1) My hair is permanently this weird brownish-blackish-reddish color even though I have never dyed it. Especially in the sun. Very un-Asian of me.

Monday, February 6, 2012


I need me some moolah.

I'm planning my spring break trip to Paris to see my best friend, but why must everything cost so much?! And why can't 1€ = $1? :(

So sad.

I'm such a cheap-o, and it hurts to book flight that come out of my own pockets. Are there any rich relatives out there that I don't know about that are feeling particularly generous?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Harry Potter, Spanish Style

I finally got my hands on a Spanish copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, or Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal!! Such a raggedy copy of the book from the university's library, and I must have gone into the library five or six times asking if the book was back yet. They were probably thinking, "Crazy American girl, go away!"

I am an avid fan of the series. Granted I have not gone to a single midnight release of the books or the movies, but I have read each of the seven books at least 4, 5 times. No joke. A couple of summers ago, I made it my goal to reread all seven books, and I accomplished my goal in less than two months. (I must admit, after reading the first five books back-to-back in two weeks or so, I needed a little mental break from the wizarding world. So Harry Potter and I went on a break for a good two, three weeks.)

I don't think I will quite grow out of Harry Potter, but reading the book in Spanish is kind of sucking the fun out of it. BUT I think I found a way to work around this minute problem: I also checked out the English version of the book, and so after reading a chapter or two in Spanish, I skim the chapters in English to make sure what I think is happening is actually happening. Hahaha GENIUS!

Happy reading! :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Things I miss about America

I'm learning to love this country more and more each day, but that is not to say that there aren't things I miss about home.

Here's a list of the first ten things that popped into my head when thinking about what I miss about the good ol U.S. of A.

1) Being able to communicate effectively
2) Spicy food
3) My bed
4) American TV (I know shocking, but I really would just sometimes like to go on ABC family and watch oldie-but-goodie movies...and cheesy shows)
5) Being able to enjoy my classes
6) Korean food
7) Knowing what I'm ordering at a restaurant
8) Being able to text and call people without worrying about my saldos, or how much I loaded onto my pay-as-you-go phone
9) Getting to class by walking at most 15 minutes
10) And of course, my friends, my church, my family. I don't mean to write this as an afterthought. It almost should just be assumed that they/you guys are sorely sorely sorely missed. Everyday.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Eye candy

Just wanted to share some eye candy, which basically means pictures of food. :P

(At a bakery in a market across the street from where I live)
(From a bakery that is in my building)
(Café con leche, aka a staple in Spaniards' daily life)

("Infusión" or tea)