Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Captured: El Escorial & Segovia

Two awesome cities just a bus or train ride from Madrid - perfect for daytrips.  I've discovered that I love just wandering around by myself, speaking only Spanish and avoiding areas crowded with tourists.  El Escorial:

Monastery.  I wish I could have taken photos inside.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Words: I'm Not Smart

Ok this has got to the funniest conversation I've had so far in Spain:

(practicing English phrases with Chiquita while she takes a bath) 
Me: Are you tall?
Chiquita: Yes, I'm tall.
Me: Are you a boy?
Chiquita: No, I'm not a boy.
Me: Are you smart?
Chiquita: No, I'm not smart.
Me: Well your grammar was correct, but what do you mean you're not smart?? *rambles on about all the reasons she's smart in an attempt to increase her self confidence*
Me: Ok, let's practice again - are you smart?
Chiquita: No, I'm not smart.
Me: Chiquita, we just talked about this.  Why do you think you are not smart?
Chiquita, matter-of-factly: Because I am not a car.

I cracked up.  Obviously she didn't know that meaning of the word smart and her family drives a SmartCar! 

Rambling: US Politics in Europe

I was surprised to see that Spaniards follow US politics as much as Americans do (I'd say as much as they follow futbol!).  I found that in London, Italy, and here, people are really interested in talking about US politics with me and are REALLY KNOWLEDGEABLE about it.  The presidential debates were all featured on the news, and I get the impression that US politics in general is highlighted even when an election isn't coming to a close.  A Londoner told me, "the way that the US is featured here, you'd think we're the 51st state.  In fact, some people call it that."  I can't say we follow much about the UK, besides Kate's fashion choices.  A Canadian in London informed ME of things I didn't know about US campaign funding, and I saw a Brit school an American on candidate policies.  This is a sharp contrast from our general awareness of other countries' politics - I wasn't even sure about the structure of Spain's government until I had been here a week.  I still can't remember the name of the Prime Minister of the UK.  Wah wah.  

Also interesting is that not only does Europe know what's up in the US, they pretty much all want Obama to win and think Romney is terrible.  According to this super interesting survey, Romney is favored by ONLY 9% IN 21 COUNTRIES (Obama's average is 50%).  A Brit told me, "I just CAN'T understand what could be going through Romney's head when he says those things." (in reference to women's issues and human rights).  This article makes the bold statement that "wariness of Romney is widespread," and my experience here has confirmed that - a Spaniard told me that much of the world fears that the US will start wars when we have a Republican president.   
Bar graph

It's been crazy to see the extent of America's influence abroad.  Someone here told me "I won't vote, but your vote will affect me."  It makes me value my vote that much more, and hope the US people choose a president that will not only have positive benefits for our own country, but for the world.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Captured: Flamenco

Flamenco in M├ílaga was everything I thought it would be - moving, talented, and passionate.  Thank goodness, because I would have been really disappointed if it ended up being some cheap sellout tourist-trap.  I had read before that flamenco is all about the duende; the word doesn't have an exact translation in English - 'soul' is close but doesn't quite encompass it. Wikipedia has a pretty good description.  Most flamenco dancers are not young, like in most other forms of dance, but are middle-aged, because it is thought that young girls do not yet have the experience and maturity needed to convey duende.  Lorca wrote, “The duende works on the body of the dancer as the wind works on sand.”

I found this description of flamenco online and love it:  There is a world of difference between American tap-dancing and Spanish Flamenco. The former is “singing in the rain,” “happy again.” Happy is too light for Spaniards. The Spanish light is so bright that it demands shadows. Tap is closer to flying. Flamenco closer to a body in its death throes or in the frenzied throes of passion. 

The place we went, Kelipe, was highly rated online as about as authentic as you can get.  There were only 3 performers, one of which was the same man who took our money, led us to our seats, and opened the show (I've read that the shows that feature lots of dancers 'is a style that has been developed as a spectacle for tourists').   It was held inside an ancient PALACE, with awesome original tilework.  All of the artists were excited and proud because it was their first weekend performing in their new venue.  With maybe 30 of us in the audience, it felt intimate.  Both dancers come from long family histories of flamenco performers, and everyone awwwed when the guitarist and female dancer told us at the end that not only have they been performing together for years, but they are married :-)

First, the guitar: 

Then the singing: 
 Then she danced:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rambling: Settling in Madrid

Well, FINALLY I'm actually posting something.  Basically the past couple weeks have gone like this: something interesting/fun/insightful happens, I jot down a couple things in a draft post or notebook, I don't have time to finish it, something else interesting/fun/insightful happens, I jot down a couple things about that but don't finish it, repeat over and over, until finally I'm overwhelmed with how many things I want to capture but haven't finished.  I'll try to do a recap here without getting super long.

Where to begin!  My family here is great. I'm lucky that I really have no complaints.  I've gotten together with some of the other au pairs a couple of times and it seems that I'm the only one with nothing to vent about.  My main responsibility is to take care of the 7 year old, who I'll call Chiquita, and help out a little with the 13 year old, who I'll call Chica (but is obviously much more independent).  For a glimpse at Chiquita's personality, see this short post.  Here is where I live:

The suburb where I live - Villavisiosa de Odon.  It's like Forest Hills except a little bigger and its history dates back to the year 939.