I just got back from a little jog around the neighborhood where I live. The thing I really can’t believe about the people here is how late their schedule is; there are so many people out and about, even little kids playing in the parks. Most haven’t even eaten dinner yet, and on weekends (in Spanish slang: “los findes” – short for “fin de semana”) some will be out until 5 or 6 in the morning!
The meals here are very different. In general, people eat a relatively small breakfast of coffee and toast. Then, late in the afternoon, they eat their big meal of the day. After that, they don’t usually eat until after 9 pm, when they have a light dinner. I actually really like the timing of the meals so far, except that I have been starving by lunchtime.
It’s Friday, September 05, so that means that I left for Madrid a week ago today. I can’t believe it has already been that long! I arrived 2 days before the start of the SMU program and explored the center of the city with my dad. We visited two of the famous museums here – the Reina Sophia and (of course) the Prado. It always amazes me how big paintings actually are. When you study them in class, or as pictures in a textbook, they seem – still impressive – but more diluted somehow.
In the museum, I can only marvel at how much paint it must have taken. My favorite was the Picasso painting from the Spanish Civil War – Guernica. I usually prefer the classical artists whose art I can easily understand, but what I really liked about Guernica was the way it gave me a sense of the horrors of war. The impressionism as well as its size gives it an extra dimension of emotion that you cannot help but feel.
Once I met up with the SMU group, we went to Toledo (a little south of Madrid) for an orientation program. The city was like a lot of medieval cities in Europe. However, the history was so interesting. There is a Cathedral there which is the oldest in Spain and the first in the Gothic style. Also, there is an interesting cross-section of Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam because of the various influences before, during, and after the Reconquista. One of the most interesting places was a synagogue that was converted into a church and then back to a synagogue, which is what it is now. There is so much history here compared with in the United States!
We will start classes on Monday, and – while I am really enjoying my time here so far – everything is different, and I am looking forward to something familiar.