¡Hola mis amigos y amigas!
The past few weeks, since we arrived in Madrid, have felt like quite a crazy, intense, fast-paced whirlwind of new experiences, new places, new faces, and of course, working on our projects. While our schedules here have been pretty jam-packed with project work, scheduled tours (we had an incredible group bike tour the other day!), history class (we had our first one yesterday!), day trips (Toledo!), and everything else, there is still some leftover free time and time within this whirlwind, in which I have experienced Madrid in these sort of smaller, more intimate, authentic, memorable, and exciting moments that stick out in my mind.
For instance, the other night after a fairly long day of desk crits and project work, a delirious yet energetic and motivated bunch of us embarked in a vicious, animated, war-like basketball game on the court behind our residence building that pitted the undergrads against the grads, both teams equally hungry for a win. While the grads did end up taking the win, the undergrads easily get at least 20 extra points for our awesome team style (we all wore our Bernini-Borromini t-shirts that we got in Rome, as they were, in fact, the original ballers). Even better was a few nights ago when we really decided to understand Madrid on a deeper cultural level by taking part in a soccer, or should I say fútbol, match that involved, unfortunately for us, some of the Spanish students also staying at our residence. The four of them could have easily taken on, and destroyed, the 15 of us who were out there. Nonetheless, it was really cool to watch them play.
Another fun thing was celebrating the unanticipated win for Real Madrid, Madrid’s fútbol team, against Barcelona’s team, in the cafeteria of our residence with all of the Spanish students. It was a fun bonding experience with the Spanish students and also a small peek at the crazy, beautiful passion the Spanish have for this sport. To them it’s not a sport, but a way of life. I’ve never seen a group of people so lively and happy while celebrating after that win and it was awesome to be able to be a part of and experience that emotion up close and personal, while also getting to have a great time with the Spanish students.
Some of these moments have also taken place off of the court (our athleticism has really been shining through here). A group of us has taken up a sort of “habit” of going out for a round (or two) of some nice, refreshing cervezas after our longer project review sessions. This is not just a fun way to relax for a bit, but also gives us an authentic introduction into Madrid culture and how people here live their everyday lives. While the strange eating schedule is something I could probably never get used to, the afternoon cerveza break is something I could definitely get on board with. We have particularly enjoyed a sunny, bustling, lively plaza that we stumbled upon one day that is surrounded by cafes, bars, and restaurants. The plaza is always full of groups of friends, family, coworkers, basking in the beautiful Spanish evening sun, enjoying an ice-cold, delicious cerveza, snacking on the free potato chips that come along with it (another part of Spanish culture I am definitely on board with), taking a well-deserved break from life. (Don’t worry we do spend some of this time sketching). It is truly such a pleasant way to just enjoy each other’s company, without having to worry about anything, if only for an hour or two.
So, whether it’s enjoying a nice cerveza on a warm, bright afternoon, or leaving blood on the court during an intense fútbol/basketball match, or just walking around and exploring the city and all it has to offer, I am truly loving and relishing in all of these little Madrid moments that are helping me to not only form a better relationship and understanding of the city, but also remind me how lucky I am to be having this experience.