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Semana Uno: ¡Cerveza Libre!

23 March 2008

Big Daddy here. I’ve had about 5 entries in various states of completion for the past week or so; I keep getting ideas of things to write about, start the entry with a witty title, then never get the time to actually take the concepts thru to completion. So in the intermission between the weird Easter procession / drum line experience we just endured and the bull fight we’re going to later this afternoon, I figured I’d take a moment to throw down some thoughts.

First, as of today, we’ve been here for one full week, though it feels like so much longer (in a good way). We’ve mastered the basics of Madrid including the metro, gained a rough understanding of the city and general location of landmarks and have found several satisfying tabernas where you can get a caña of cerveza (a small glass, maybe 8oz.) and a heaping plate of tapas for about € 2 (~$3.50). Three of those is a full meal at a ridiculously low price, even with the exchange rate in the crapper (gracias, Premier Bush!). We’ve made several fast friends, including an Irish engineer, a number of Germans, a few Brits, a French-Filipino-American kid, a disproportionately large number of Swedes (three of whom we live with), and an American med student from California with whom we’ve discovered many interesting corners of the city, including Madrid’s Short North (get this: assless chaps are just as in vogue here as they are in the States…fabuloussss!!).

Over the course of the past seven days, we have learned a lot, and not just in the language department, but also culturally and socially. The school is awesome, and we’re both picking up Spanish at a surprising rate, despite the complete shock and awe we experienced on the first day of class when it was like being on the Titanic of language, and we were in steerage class. They’ve made up for it, though, but hosting two get-togethers in the last week where they’ve covered the drinks: Monday night was the weekly welcome party for new students where the school buys everyone their first drink at the bar across the street, and Wednesday night, it was all you can drink cerveza and sangría (a red wine and liquor punch) at this bar called Los Ojos Negros (the Black Eyes–contrary to its name, however, it was pretty tame and hipper than expected. No fights, unfortunately.) for a two-hour block from 9-11 pm. In keeping with the lackadaisical Spanish approach to promptness, however, it went on till 1 am, with no complaint from us. Spanish beer, though more readily available and consumed in much larger quantities than I ever expected, is shit, but given that it’s cheap and in this case free, it’ll do. At any rate, being at a school where people WANT to learn AND gets you drunk? Now that’s study abroad.

Most students are older, it seems, and all of them truly want to learn, so there’s an investment in the classwork (versus the mandatory fun of high school Spanish). They hail from all corners of Europe, creating an interesting mix of people and opinions. At a little apartment party we had the other night, there were two Germans, two Brits, a Frog, a Swede and us, and we had a lively discussion about politics, language and the actual influence of American consumerism (it turns out it’s much less dramatic than expected, with at least European countries actively seeking out American trends and incorporating them into their own cultures with a local twist and virtually no resentment). We also learned that despite the impression that Europeans are so much more sophisticated than Americans, all students around the world still view their time at college as an opportunity to regularly get drunk. Some things never change.

So that’s the basics from the last week. There are some other observations I’ve been making that I’m hoping to aggregate into a list with regular updates. Stay tuned.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Molly permalink
    23 March 2008 8:54 pm

    learn to love the tapas…that’s the way to go! totally beats ANY mcdonald’s value menu item for the same price. speaking of mcdonald’s, have you run into the “mcpollo” yet?
    and i’m so jealous you two get to have REAL sangria…no matter what people try to make here in the states, it’s just not the same…triste.
    see if you can try and find some agua de’s amazing, but they might only make it in valencia..not sure. and conor, from your email about the churros, you definitely need to check out valor. it’s a chocolateria chain that is amazing. a girl’s dream 😉
    os amo a vosotros!

  2. Spirit of 73 permalink
    24 March 2008 8:24 pm

    The Short North of Madrid. That would be Chueca, I assume?

    I hope you weren’t expecting good beer from Spaniards. It’s not their thing. To give you a good sense of it, I have Spanish friends who think Budweiser is excellent brew.

    One last thing: Semana Primera: ¡Cerveza Libre!

  3. conison permalink
    25 March 2008 6:15 am

    spirit of 73 – y es Cerveza Gratis, no?

  4. Spirit of 73 permalink
    25 March 2008 10:55 pm

    Ah, yes if you are trying to imply that there is no cost to the beers. I misread it as the beer was flowing freely about without drinking bans.

    ¡Muy bien, señor!

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