Yesterday was probably the busiest day I’ve had yet in Madrid. We woke up at 7 to get to the university by 8:30, where three powder-blue space-like buses were waiting for us. We signed in with the lady who organized the event and headed out to Toledo. Four students were assigned to be tour guides if we wanted to be showed around, and we went with three of them around the city. In Toledo, the streets are incredibly narrow, but people still manage to navigate and drive without crashing, which was quite a feat. The architecture everywhere in Spain is old and unique, and the roofs of the houses in Toledo are mostly brown and textured. The rest of the house is made of stone, though some are painted earth tone colors. Most of Toledo is a hill, and the buildings aren’t very tall, for the most part. From certain places in Toledo, you can see the tops of houses for miles, and to say the least, the view is stunning.
For lunch, our group of people ate at a Chinese-owned little dive, where we all pushed tables and chairs together. I felt bad for our waitress, who was struggling to take care of us and the other customers in the place, but she did a decent job. I had a zumo de naranja, cafe con leche, y un sandwich vegetal con huevos. It was delcious! Later, we broke off into smaller groups, and Crystal, Taylor, a couple other girls, and I went shopping for a while. I bought myself a fan with a picture of Toledo on it, and a small gift for someone else. Apparently it is customary in touristy places to wrap souvenirs, which I thought was incredibly nice.
When we finished looking in the shops, we walked around some more and found a center area where the benches had paintings of different scenery on it. We took a picture with a statue of Don Quijote and walked through a small museum that we stumbled upon. By that time, we had to head back to the bus, but a couple of the girls invited us to hang out with them later. I ended up falling asleep on the bus because I was so exhausted, but overall, it was a great trip and a great chance to get to meet some new people.
When we came back, we said hi to Conchi and watched a little TV. The one thing I’ve noticed here, is that game shows are on almost every channel and they are incredibly corny, but entertaining. One of them, entitled “Los Hormis Cuernos” involves a host who interviews famous celebrities and then makes them do various corny tasks. Then, on occasion, these ant puppets pop up to makes jokes. On another one, contestants have to answer questions and when they get them wrong, they fall through the floor and are eliminated. Another one involves money that you have to use to place a bet when you answer questions. Mind you, these are all in Spanish, and for the most part, I can understand what’s going on. I’m sure that when I leave, the games shows are going to be the things I remember best, along with the Spanish voiceovers on programs like “The Simpsons” and “Desperate Housewives.”
I’ve only been here for two weeks, but already I have so many things that I’m committing to memory because they differ so much from American customs. For instance, I know I’ll remember eating diced strawberries coated in sugars out of small bowls and huge spoons with Marta and Conchi. In the States, we are so accustomed to a fast-paced kind of lifestyle that we seldom slow down to do things the right way like dicing up our strawberries. When I told my host mother, for example, that I usually don’t eat breakfast at home because I rarely have time, she was taken back with surprise. Here, my host family sits down together for dinner every night around ten (they eat so much later here!), which allows us for time to talk and bond a little more. Furthermore, like clockwork, my family eats three meals a day, usually followed by a piece of fruit and yogurt. They eat constantly, but almost everyone in this city is so thin, partly a result of everyone walking everywhere. On the weekends, my family likes to stay in their pajamas most of the morning and lounge around and relax. Then later at night, they get dressed to go out for drinks with their friends, and while I’m usually quite the busybody, I’ll have to admit that it’s nice to relax.
However, at night, a lot of people are insanely active, and their nights often don’t start until 1:00 a.m. We went to the city last night after dinner with Carmela and Indie and some of the metro stations were busier than I ever saw them during the day. A big group of us went out on the town and experienced a discoteca, where people got together and danced their hearts out. Everyone was very relaxed and fun to be around, and apart from one episode, I enjoyed the company.
Tonight, I may go with some new friends from Boston to watch a soccer game, then hopefully tomorrow we’re going to go to the center of Madrid. I spent most of my day writing in my journal and my blog, and I’m proud of myself for writing almost everyday in some shape or form. I just hope I have the time once classes begin on Monday. One thing is for certain, however, the customized wooden pen that reads “Follow your dreams” from my parents, has been put through extensive use already!