Catherine in Spain

Catherine is a senior Distinguished Scholar who is majoring in biology and anthropology, with a Spanish minor, in Dedman College. She received a Richter fellowship for summer 2010 to travel to Madrid and research the integration of people with disabilities into Spanish society.

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Que Vive Espana!

Tonight was one of the most exciting nights of my life! My apologies in advance because I know this is going to be a really long post :) In case you haven’t heard, Spain won the World Cup game today against Germany! I went with a group of people to watch the game at a large gym in town (Tres Cantos is a town about the size of Plano, I think). They projected the game on a huge screen, and there were about 200 other people there watching with me. The atmosphere inside the gym was electric – everyone had their faces painted or carried Spanish flags or wore the jersey of their favorite player.

Before the game even started people were cheering, and when the national anthem of Spain was played, everyone stood up to sing along. During the game, the crowd could not have been more excited. They cheered every time that Spain got possession of the ball. Literally every time. When the team tried for a goal, everyone stood up and clapped and hollered – even when they missed. The German coach was greeted with vulgarities and middle fingers every time he was show on the screen. Very intense.

All in all, it was a very passionate crowd. Throughout the game, everyone engaged in chants and songs that had something to do with Spanish pride and beating Germany. It wasn’t long before I caught on to the chants. My favorite was “Villa, Villa, Villa maravilla!” which pretty much means “Villa, Villa, marvelous Villa!”; the chanted it each time they showed David Villa, Spain’s star player, on the screen. Needless to say, everyone went crazy when Spain scored their goal. Soon after that the game was over, and everyone headed out to the fountain in the middle of town.

Late-night festivities

The scene on the way to the fountain was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Let me first remind you that the town I’m staying in is a pretty small suburb – think Plano or Columbia. Now picture a scene where cars are speeding around honking their horns, people are leaning out of apartment windows and waving flags, blowing air horns and singing songs, and all of the young people are gathered in (yes, in) the fountain in the middle of town. There were even fireworks!

I never expected anything like that here. I thought that would only happen in the big city but, alas, they take their futbol very seriously in Spain. I could not keep the smile off my face as I saw how incredibly excited everyone was that their beloved Spain was headed to the World Cup finals for the first time ever.

The festivities at the fountain were still going strong around 11 pm when my group left and headed to dinner. We decided to stick around that area to eat and decided on the tapas bar of Tres Cantos. For those of you who aren’t familiar with tapas, they are basically just little servings of food that come with your drink.

So, for two euros I got a Coca Cola and plate of oreja. What is oreja? Pig ear. Yes, I ate the ear of a pig. When in Rome, right? For the most part it tasted like very pork-y pork and I might not have known what it was if it weren’t for the pieces of cartilage that tasted like soft plastic. I probably won’t be ordering that again any time soon. The group of us all shared our tapas so I also got to taste baby octopus, fried squid, and tortilla de patatas. Loved the squid and tortilla (not like the tortillas of Mexican food – more like an omelet with potatoes, grilled onions, and a little garlic), hated the octopus.

In true Madrid fashion, dinner ended after midnight and we stayed up watching the festivities from a park bench until the wee hours of the morning. After a long night of soccer, singing, fountains, and pig ears, it was finally time to go to sleep.

Back to work

Today was not nearly as interesting, but was much more productive. I got my library card for the Biblioteca Nacional Espana, found several books online that I am going to check out, made a map of the roads near the house where I’m staying (so I can find the bus stop – I’m really terrible with directions), and set up my first official interview!

Tomorrow I’ll be going into Madrid to meet with and interview the director of Special Olympics Espana. I also got a recommendation to speak with a friend of the family I’m staying with, who is the director of another advocacy group. Should be great – I’ll follow up on that tomorrow. I plan to wake up extra early tomorrow to go over my interview questions and double check my route so I don’t get lost. If you know me, you know I’ll most likely get lost anyway. Oh, well!

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