Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Madrid, the place of art, music, culture and adventure.

I have been so incredibly busy these past three weeks; from Madrid, to Semana Santa in Zaragoza, to travelling west, exploring the diversity and culture of this wonderful country. This was meant to be posted yesterday, but I my blogger was 'undergoing maintenance'. My blog is split into three parts:
  • Madrid:
  • Semana Santa
  • Vacaciones
Today I'm posting up my time in Madrid, tomorrow Semana Santa, and Thursday Vacaciones. So sorry for anyone who has been waiting to hear what's been happening in my life!

I was lucky enough to be able to go to Madrid from the 24-27/3/10, as my class was on vacaciones en Amsterdam. I would have loved to have gone, but I wasn't able to. Instead, I was able to go to Madrid, as I didn't have class during the time they were gone. I got to stay with a friend of my Mum, who lives in Madrid. They know each other from Uni, and I met Joc a couple of days before I went to Madrid. I was really excited about the opportunity to spend some time together and get to know each other a little better! Joc has been an extremely wonderful support to me during my time in Spain. She has called me up to check how I'm going, and has offered her time to me, as someone to chat to - as a fellow Australian, who knows what it's like to move to another country. Needless to say, I had a fantastic time in Madrid, and like everything in life, it was an adventure, filled with both ups and downs...

Joc and I

I set my alarm on Wednesday the 24/3 for 6am, as my bus left at 7:30am. I still needed to pack, and I wanted to have a shower and have breakfast before I left, and I also needed to buy a ticket to get to Madrid. I wanted to have time and start my holiday on a relaxed note. I slept through my alarm. I woke up at 6:45am, sitting straight up in bed, knowing that I was late. I quickly rushed, brushing my teeth, packing my bag, finally carrying them upstairs at 7am, ready to walk to walk to the station and have enough time to buy my ticket. José Antonio was just leaving for work so he told me that I could get a lift with him to the station. It's about a 5 minute brisk walk to the station, or a 2 minute drive, so I gladly said '¡Gracias!' and opened the front door to leave. At 7:15 (15 minutes before the train left) we finally made it out the door, only to find out that we had to walk half the way to the station to get the car! Oh, the Spanish way of thinking is beyond me sometimes! I got to the station at about 7:25 and quickly bought my ticket and boarded the bus. My stomach was grumbling, as I hadn't been able to desayunar, (eat breakfast) as we left Tudela. I looked eagerly out the window looking forward to seeing the countryside, and see more of Spain. After about half an hour, the bus stopped at a random cafetería, and told us that we were waiting here for a while. I didn't really know why, but I took my chance to buy a freshly made croissant and a bottle of water. Something that I will never grow tired of, is the baking in Spain. Everyone associates fantastic bread and croissants with France... but here in Spain, oh my, it is delectable. It makes me wonder what bread is like in France, because I feel I could eat a whole baguette every meal! After eating my steaming hot croissant, the bus driver decided to drive another bus, so we got out and switched busses. After about another hour of driving, we swapped busses again at a town called Soria. When I first travelled to Tudela, after being in Spain two days, I did this swap, but felt completely lost and overwhelmed. After the help of a man who spoke English, I got on the right bus. This time however, I moved with great confidence, asking the bus conductor where I needed to go, and got to the bus without any hassle whatsoever. Being able to make these comparisons is just great, and allows me to see just how much my Spanish has improved, and with that, my confidence in myself and my speaking skills. The drive to Madrid was really beautiful, filled with a diverse countryside.

After about 5 and a half hours in total, I finally arrived in Madrid! I caught the metro to Atocha train station, which is the closest to Joc's apartment. Here, in Spain, everything is done differently. This includes busking. In Australia, busking normally happens outside. People playing music, doing tricks, pulling people in and doing shows. Here, in Madrid, musicians live in the metros. They have a portable amp, and they just hop onto a metro for a station or two, play their music, and then walk around to get money off people. It was so unusual for me to see. The first time I thought to myself, "Hey, this is actually great. I wish they did this in Australia!" But later, I realised how it could quickly get very annoying, when all you want is a little peace and quiet.

Joc is situated in a prime place. She lives in between the Prado Museum, and the Retiro, which is a beautiful, and enormous park. She is right in the centre of everything. A 15 minute walk from the Plaza Del Sol, 3 minute walk from the Prado, 2 minute walk from the Retiro. And her place is stunning. I felt so blessed to be able to experience Madrid, and to have someone so kind to open their place for me. It was great to get to hang with Joc, chat about everything and eat... Bocadillos de ensalada! (Salad sandwhiches!) On the Wednesday afternoon, we got to walk around in the Retiro, which is just a stunning park. It is huge, and is filled with lots of different sections.
Public facilities so people can play tennis and fútbol

The Blossom Garden

The Crystal Palace

The memorial for the metro bombing in... 2003?
The Lakey thing, where you can ride boats.

The Retiro is absolutely gorgeous, and I could have (and did!) spent hours there. That night, I was able to go to a Bollywood dancing class. It was really fun. It was really fun to just learn some of those moves, and our teacher was awesome. She was so expressive in her movements, but more so in her facial expression. Bollywood dancing is as much about your facial expression as your movements. It was amazing to see her transform a single movement into a story.

I spent the next couple of days exploring the city, drinking coffees, taking photos, hearing Spanish, people watching, and going to museums. Ah, museums, how I love them. But what I love even more, is student cards! Because I have a student card, the cost is cut by more than half, making my trip a lot cheaper.

I got to go to places like the Prado, where I got to see, in real life, artworks that I had studied in art. It was so incredible to see them, and I got so excited, almost squealing in delight, that I had a few people look at my in curiosity as I looked at the paintings.

"I was so shocked to find so many amazing artworks at the Prado. I saw the 3rd of May - Goya! and Saturn, by Goya! There is nothing like seeing artworks I've studied in real life. And the funny thing is, is that I didn't know that they were there, and then I turned around and let out this huge gasp when I saw them there, right within my grasp. Just staring, studying the painting I've studied before, but up close, able to see the paint strokes and the textures and tones, right in front of me, so close, just a hands length away."

On the Thursday night, I got to go to a Flamenco night. There are so many things about Spain that I love, and I have definitely fallen in love with Flamenco. Flamenco is a traditional part of Spain, coming from down south in Andalusia. It is made up of three components: the dance, the singing, and the guitars. With these three combined, a magical and incredible experience is created. I went to a Flamenco bar with Joc, and was able to see an hour and a half show. It had 2 guitarists, two singers (one man, one woman), two dancers, a flautist, and a percussionist.

The Flamenco singer.

The Flamenco dancer.

The other Flamenco Dancer. The wine glass you see is the one she's about to knock over.

"I was moved by the way the three components of the Flamenco were pieced together to show me something so beautiful. The music was so soulful, and I could hear that they were telling me a story. This was also emphasised through the dancers. The dancers moved their feet, their hands, their eyes locked to each other the whole time. The man's hair had been wet, so that when he moved his head, the water sprayed everywhere. They moved so fast, so gracefully, so full of emotion. Their movements told a love story, the facial expressions, hands, feet, music, singing, all showing us their story. Their story of how they met, fell in love, the troubles they faced, but how loved conquered. It was an amazing experience, and the whole time I had goosebumps down my arms. I looked over to the guitarists and they both had a huge silly grin on their faces. That was my favourite part of the night. To see such joy and passion in what they were doing. That and when the female dancer whipped her shawl over her shoulder, making it hit a wine glass at on the front tables, making it fly through the air, shattering, before landing all over a lady."

On Friday, I went to the Thyssen in the morning. The Thyssen is another art museum, that is set out in a really interesting way. It starts on the third floor, at the beginning of AD, and works its way down to the first floor, and to the present day. It was really interesting to see how art has progressed and I loved that there was a Kandinsky painting, of when he painted subjects, and then afterwards when he didn't. :)

That afternoon I was meant to meet Vic, one of the other exchange students for lunch. I was half an hour early to the train station, so I decided to go to the little park in between the two sides of the road to wait. When I crossed the road, I was surrounded by 5 young teenage girls, asking me to sign a petition. I didn't really want to so just told them that I didn't speak Spanish, but they just swapped to English. They were very close to me, and I didn't feel at all comfortable, but decided to sign the petition so I could go, as I couldn't really walk away, as they had all surrounded me. I quickly signed it but they wanted to check where I lived and my signature or something. I was not at all comfortable at this point, and felt that they were up to something. I felt like I'm guessing Mum felt like, when we were in Tijuana, in Mexico. I just wanted to get out of the situation I was in. Again, they were really pushy, so I quickly got out my wallet to show them my I.D.. While I did this however, one of the girls grabbed all the money I had in my wallet (over 100 euros, as I had just got it out from the bank, having just gotten back the money I had been stolen from me when I had credit card fraud!) and sneakily pass it to one of the other girls. They didn't think that I had seen it. Oh, but unfortunately for them, I had. And I was frustrated. Very frustrated. I think I probably growled and then said, "Oi! Give me back my money!" They did a feigned, 'what are you talking about' look, but I wouldn't have any of it. I said loudly again, "Give me back my money!" The girl who had my money looked resigned, and gave me back twenty euros. Thinking that maybe they had only taken that amount I slipped it back in my wallet only to see that I still had another seventy euros missing.

"I looked up and saw that they had gone. I looked over my shoulder to see them running away. I had a million emotions running through me - anger, indignation, panic, frustration... a LOT of frustration. And a little fear. I squared my shoulders. I thought to myself, 'I just got that money back from the credit card fraud. There is NO WAY I'm letting them get away with it. The fear, panic, apprehension left me, and was replaced with frustration. Lots of frustration. And calm. I squared my shoulders and yelled, "Give me back my money!" I thought to myself, "Do not mess with me" and I ran. I started to run after them. They crossed the road, with all the cars stopped at a red light, so I ran after them, yelling "PARA! PARA!" (Stop! Stop!) We then crossed back over the road, jumped a fence, all the while me running after them yelling at the top of my lungs telling them to stop. I saw a man running alongside them, and I wasn't sure if he was with them or not. Turned out he wasn't with them. I finally caught one of the girls and angrily said, "Me das mi dinero!!" (Give me my money!) Turns out, the girl with all my money had run off in another direction. The man who had been running was yelling at them, and it was at this point that all of my adrenalin left me. And with that, so did my Spanish. I followed them across the road, and we finally met up with the other girl. Again I said, "Me das mi dinero!" She gave me ten euros, so I said, "Más, más. Me faltan 50 euros" (More, more. I'm missing 50 euros.) At this point, a lady came and told me that she spoke English. She helped translate everything for me. They searched their bags, and finally I got the rest of my money back. I said thanks to the lady, and she just looked at me, opened her bag and said, "We're undercover policemen. We've been trying to catch them, and saw that they had robbed you. We're just doing our jobs. We've got some more police coming now."

I felt so blessed to have been seen by the undercovere policemen, and I felt like God had been protecting me the whole time. I called Vic, and told her what happened, and she came to the police station with me to make a report. We got to ride in the police cars, and they put on the sirens for us. It was a pretty surreal experience! They didn't offer us a way back, so we had to walk all the way back to the apartment, and I talked to Mum and Dad on Skype (waking them up at 2am in the process!) and had a little cry. After that, I met up with the other exchange students for tapas.

A reenactment of the robbing, where it took place.

I love hanging out with the other SEA exchange student kids. We are all at the same stage of our exchange, and we are all experiencing and going through the same things. It was so nice to hang out with them and chat about everything.

Vic, Rachael and Bettina at a tapas bar.

Joseph, Myself and Brinton in Madrid.

Overall, it was such an eventful weekend. I loved every moment of it. Even the robbery. Afterwards, I was like, heck yes! I fully chased those girls, caught them, JUMPED over a fence in the process, and was seen by undercover policemen. It felt like something out of a dream.

"What a couple of days it's been. I think I'm one of those exchange students that go on exchange, and comes home witha year packed full of life experiences, adventures and trips. I think that I have experienced more in my 7 weeks in Spain that some exchangers would experience in their year abroad.. or even some people experience in their whole life! I feel so incredibly blessed that God has given me such an amazing opportunity, and it is my only hope and prayer that I will be used by God, and that I will learn from everything he gives me this year - both good and bad. Sometimes I feel like I'm not learning anything, but then I look back and see the incredible journey I've been on and I can only sum up my entire life and adventures in six small words:
Only through God is this possible.

Thank you God for giving me this life. Help me to live it to the fullest and live to serve and glorify you."

1 comment:

  1. Hey Laura,
    again, great to hear what you have been up to.
    And some fantastic photos too! you are going to have an amazing photo collection when your finished in Spain.
    Best wishes,