Thursday, July 11, 2013
Daily Diary: July 8, 9 and 10
July 8, 9 and 10: The Madrid Chronicles
Our first day in Madrid started out with a group breakfast outside at a cafe close to our hostel: Hostel Malasaña. There, we met Magda Diaz Gorfinkiel, our guide and coordinator here in Spain, and ate a tasty breakfast (choices = toast, tomatoes and olive oil, toast and jelly, or a croissant and jelly). It was pretty entertaining watching the Malasaña community wake up while we enjoyed our food and conversation.
Magda then led us on a tour around Madrid. We stumbled upon a street protest - they were protesting a lady being thrown out of her apartment, and it worked! This is apparently very common nowadays, as many people in Spain are unavoidably unemployed and are unable to keep up with their mortgage and rent payments. It's amazing how the community in Spain comes together to defend each others' welfare!
Our group then had a break to get lunch and explore until our group dinner, so Cynthia, both Janes, Jessica and I went on a quest for tapas, which we found and consumed. We then, like typical tourists, went shopping and got manicures! It was quite an amusing moment when we realized that Jessica was able to speak to the shop owners better in Chinese than the rest of us trying to eloquently express ourselves with our limited Spanish vocabulary. We then, of course, got lost on our way to the hostel - it took almost an hour to find our way back. It turns out we were walking around in circles around a block that was right next to the hostel! Wasn't planning on making that mistake again...
We then enjoyed a group dinner with the group dinner at La Cocina de San Antón. The food was so fancy!
We started off this marathon of a day early at 8:30, before the city of Madrid actually wakes up as a community. We took three train transfers to the Baltasar Garzon offices, where we listened to four individuals involved in the 15M movement (the Spanish equivalent of the occupy movement). Each speaker had a different perspective, ranging from the educational standpoint to outlining an individuals' basic human rights.
We then visited a cultural center in Matadero, where we learned about the role of contemporary art in bringing the community of Matadero together.
Later in the evening, our group visited Picnic, a bar Malasaña, where we were lucky to be able to listen to and interact with three individuals: a UW alum film artist, an actor and graphic novel writer, as well as a woman who as successfully defended her dissertation regarding the 15M movement. It was extremely illuminating to hear these very different perspectives about youth unemployment - one being a formal analysis and the others being firsthand experience - not to mention extremely entertaining; we didn't anticipate that Magda would not be able to join us for this event, so we all enjoyed a jumble of Spanish and English (and perhaps some Spanglish as well) during the presentations.
Our last day in Madrid! Our day was pretty much free - the only two requirements being to check out of our rooms at 11am and to be back at the hostel in time to start our journey to León.
My free day began with some last minute packing and an excursion with a few others on an adventure to get churros and chocolate. We were successful - they gave us 20 churros and a liter of chocolate for less than nine euros! We ended up going to the supermarket to buy fruit to attempt to finish up the excess chocolates
There was some time to kill before we all had to be back at the hostel, so people split off into groups - some wandered around the Malasaña area, some visited museums, some got their hair dyed, and some enjoyed the air conditioning of the hostel's lobby. Jessica and I ended up getting Madrid hotdogs and frozen yogurt! By the time 6:30 came around, everyone was back and had gathered in front of the hostel to start the next leg of our journey.
The journey to León started off with the sweaty and slightly hectic of all of us having to lug our suitcases up and down countless flights of stairs while taking the public transport to the train station. The travel part of our journey, however, ended up with the peaceful and scenic train ride to León (it was a fast train that traveled over 200 km/hour!
Once we got to León, we met Santos - a language teacher at the university of León, who led us on a short 15 minute walk to the dorms we would be staying at. The walk was a great way to wake up from the train ride - it was also hilarious to see the street light that signals pedestrians to walk was an animated green man!
Once we got to the dorms, we were pretty exhausted and ready to settle into our rooms. A (slightly tired) cheer went throughout the group when we realized that we'd each have a single room with a bathroom and that we wouldn't have to worry about paying for our meals! We were then sorted into our rooms (some people traded of course), and went to unpack and prepare ourselves for the adventures to be had in León!