26 September 2009


So first I thought I would show you what my street looks like. My momma's been asking me about it so I decided to suck it up and look like a tourist on my own street for 5 minutes. A little embarrassing but hey I got my picture. There are a lot of cute little shops and cafes in the neighborhood. I see a lot of families, students, and elderly people. I really love the mix. But walking past all the shoe stores and bakeries everyday is not good for my wallet or waist size!

And since you guys already know about my weird fascination with the clothing line outside my window . . . . here it is with my clothes on it!

For some reason that makes me feel very European. Well this week my program visited the Congress house and it was pretty neat. But on the way home, a couple of us decided to check out the inside of the Atocha train station. There's a pond/garden inside that kind of reminds me of a really small Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, TN. There were a ton of turtles in it that were really cute!

Well at least I warned you this would be a weird one! I have exams on Tuesday and Wednesday so I will be working hard (with planned shopping breaks of course) but I'm going to hit the books!

24 September 2009

la noche en crazy!

So I promised a post about the city-wide party, La Noche en Blanco, which literally means to stay up all night, complete with pictures. Well I will post a few but my camera couldn't really capture how crazy it was. Basically the idea is that all over the city there will be cultural opportunities. All the museums are free and open all night long, in every plaza there is a concert or a free dance workshop, and there are free theater performances all around the city. It was really cool to see the mix of people. Everyone from 4 yrs old to 70 was out, and the crowds were insane.

Well I decided to hang out with my friend Courtney, Melody, and Melody's roommates from Brazil, Mexico, and France. (From back, left to right, Sophie from France, Melody from Wisconsin, me, and Courtney from Indiana)

First we headed to a party at this guy's house that Melody and I had met at the university. When we walked in (7 girls) there were like 15 guys and no other girls. They jumped up to greet us and we all started laughing. It was like a middle school dance for the first bit. Hilarious! It was a really great chance to practice my Spanish though. Then we all headed downtown to check out the museums.

We went to Bellas Artes, a smaller museum with a lot of pieces by Goya. It was cool to go there because it's a museum I probably wouldn't usually seek out. Then we headed to one of the major plazas, Plaza de Espana. There were so many people! They turned the square into a disco complete with a light show, hired dancers, and busting bass. It was really fun to dance in the middle of the street with a 1000 other people. When Michael Jackson's "Thriller" came on people went nuts! I've never seen so many people try to do the choreography without really knowing it (yes I was one of them).

There were also pieces of art set up in the streets. For example, there was a huge foam board set up of the word for sustainability and people were signing it. Speaking of which, Madrid is the greenest city I've ever seen. There are places to recycle for free in every block of the city, and the buses are all being changed to run on alternative energies. Also the city is starting an initiative about the use of olive pits as water purifiers in people's homes. My professor said today that Madrid has more green space than any other capital in Europe!

There was also this wall where people were putting post-it notes with their random comments about life. It was pretty interesting. They ranged from political to just plain silly, but it was a way for people to express themselves. I couldn't tell if this was intended by the organizers or just impromptu, but it was cool.

Melody, Courtney, and I ended the evening by dancing our hearts out at a salsa bar. It was so fun! I don't know why it never occurred to me, but they have group dances here like the cha cha slide. So we were running from one side of the dance floor to the other yelling "Arriba arriba!" I realized as I was preparing to go home at 6:30am that I had left my keys in my room. So after waiting for the subway to reopen, I got home around 7am and had to ring the buzzer a million times and wake my roommate up so that I could get in. She was so nice about it, but I felt really bad! It was an unforgettable night as cheesy as that is!

19 September 2009

mi casa, su casa

Hey everyone! So I moved into my apartment this week, and I'm not going to lie, it was a little stressful. Living with complete strangers would be awkward if they spoke English, NOW imagine that they only speak Spanish and your ability to communicate with them is limited, VERY limited. I've only met two of my roommates, Cris and Ana, because the other 2 are on vacation until school starts but they are really sweet. We usually make food around the same time and sit and eat together and watch TV. There's this reality show about dancing called Fama that I've been watching a lot with them. It's pretty ridiculous, but I learn some vocab. For example, there's this dessert called churros con chocolate that is basically fried dough that you dip in thick hot chocolate pudding. It's delicious especially at 5 am after a long night of dancing (not that I would know from experience, haha). But on Fama I learned that you can call your sweetie, mi churro. Too cute. Well I actually intended to show my apartment so here it goes . . .

First here's the kitchen. . . That's actually the washing machine next to the oven. Every apartment I looked at had the washing machine as part of the kitchen. A little weird but it works. And dryer are nonexistent here so we line dry everything.

The living room is small but we have a TV with cable and the whole right wall is covered in mirrors. I think they were trying to make the room look bigger. It's not really fooling anyone.

Now my room is right off the kitchen and I'm pretty it used to be a butler's pantry. Mostly because there's a boarded up pass through on the wall and my door has daisy glass in it that has also been boarded up. It is so narrow that I can touch both walls at the same time, but I got a really good price and I live with 4 Spanish girls so try not to judge. Hey it works for me!

The others end of my room was covered in these white closets that I thought looked really boring so . . .

I got these stickers at IKEA. I think they make it a little more festive. Now did you see the window in the earlier window. One funny thing about Spain is that every window has blinds on the outside that block out all the light and no screens. My grammar professor said it's related to Catholicism, but I don't really get it. Anyway my blind is really jank so you have to open the window, pull on the bungy cord, and attach it to a hook all the way across the room to have it open and get light. WEIRD! It actually became detached from the nail and the blind fell with a crash when I first started writing this. But on the outside of the window I have a clothes line that I'm about to use when I get done writing!

Well that's my house. It's very Spanish and definitely different from home, but I love that I'm getting a real cultural experience. Tonight is La Noche en Blanco which is a citywide festival. All the museums are open all night and there are free dance lessons and concerts! It should be amazing. I'm going to bring my camera and hopefully share it with you guys.

13 September 2009

the best way to spend an afternoon

So I've found the best way to spend an afternoon in Madrid . . . Retiro Park. It is the most relaxing place I've ever been. There are beautiful fountains, green spaces, and benches everywhere. Walking through the park with my friends eating a McFlurry was a great way to wile away the evening. (Yes I did say a McFlurry. They are so much better here. Peanut M&M's and Hot Fudge sauce make the Spanish version AMAZING!)

One of my favorite fountains was called the Fountain of the Fallen Angel. The image of Lucifer is really striking and lets be honest: gargoyles are just cool.

In Retiro there's a lake where you can rent boats and paddle around. The water is a little gross but it's still nice. It was really endearing to see all the families spending time together. I love that family is such a large part of Spanish culture.

It was really great to spend time with other people from the group.

It was also super ironic because in the monument next to the lake there was African drum circles going on. Seeing my experiences of the summer collide was enlightening. It really is a global world!

06 September 2009

wait . . . is that an ancient roman aqueduct?

So today our group took a tour of Segovia, which is a small town about an hour and half from Madrid. We get off the bus and I look over and there it is! An ancient Roman aqueduct dating from the 1st or 2nd century is just right there with cars parked underneath it. So weird! Only in Europe are beautiful ancient ruins a part of everyday life. The aqueduct was still functioning until the 19th century. Crazy!

Our tour's focus was art. I am taking an intensive course for the next three weeks to help prepare me for the semester, and art history of Spain is part of the course so our professor led the way all day. For example, we learned that the patterned walls that are featured throughout the city are evidence of the influence of the influence of the Arabs who constructed most of the city under the direction of the Christian nobles (as seen below). The pattern was made by first applying one layer of sandstone, and then another which was stamped while wet.

We also got to see the cathedral in Segovia. It is in the gothic flamboyent style, and it was beautiful.

Finally we ended up at the Alcanzer, which is castle in Arabic. It has so many layers of construction it's crazy. It seemed like almost every century it was remodeled or retooled for a different purpose from royal residence to royal artillery school. This is the view from the top of Alcanzar, and a classic group pic.

Seeing the city was amazing and I loved getting to learn about the city from an art perspective. Well that's Katie's short tour of Segovia!

In other news, I have found a piso. In Spain most students rent a room in an apartment or a piso. I will be living with 5 other Spanish girls. It's a really small place, but I met two of the girls and they seemed really nice. WOOHOO!!!!!! My neighborhood is really cute and my apartment is only two blocks from a  metro stop. I'll get pictures up when I move there on the 15th.

That's all for now!

02 September 2009


So I arrive at 8am, exhausted. I get my room key and go to sleep until lunch at 2pm (Spaniards have a completely different eating schedule). I wake up at 2 and head down to the cafeteria for lunch. I knew I had come to the right country when I saw it. PAELLA! For those of you that don´t know about my love of paella, I have a short story from Bloomington.

I went out to eat at with a couple of my friends, Clauck and Crichy Crich (these are their nicknames). We decided to go to this Morrocan restaurant called Casablanca. The young waitress, probably around my age, comes to our table and begins to tell us the specials. When she utters the word ¨paella,¨ I gasped in excitement so loud that she stopped listing them and laughed. I then apologized for frightening her and she continued. When she came back to ask for our order and it came to me, she said ¨Let me guess, paella?¨ That´s how excited I got. I was overjoyed with the prospect of seafood, rice, and saffron. Then as I´m eating my delicious meal, my lovely friend Crich gently asks me if I realize how much my meal is going to cost. Despite mentioning that the saffron I love in the dish is more expensive than gold per pound, the price had never occured to me! $35 later I had a to-go-box full of joy, and I was ok with it. Until I left the to-go-box on the table and the waitress had to run after me. O yeah and then I tripped and spilled half the left overs on the ground. Anyway, the point of that long story is that I love PAELLA!

I am continually shocked at the quality of every meal we eat here. Dorm food doesn´t mean the same thing here as it does in the States. The greasy, sometimes cold pizza has been replaced with gazpacho, baguette, baked chicken, etc. It is delicious! In Spain they also eat on a very different schedule with breakfast around 9:30, lunch at 2, and dinner at 9:30. I really like it, but it is taking some getting used to.

Well, I´m constantly sitting in meetings, and trying to learn everything I can before my intensive class starts on Friday. And I have to get an apartment by Sept. 16 so let the adventures continue! I´ll keep you posted, but I´m here safely and pretty sure that this is the country for me solely as a result of the food!