Adios, Regresaré a Nuevo Mexico

By the time Peleón (the fourth bull of the day) came charging out the gates at the shout of the trumpets I was resigned to the gruesome pageantry. He was the shortest bull yet but he looked handsome, like there was even some latent kindness in his face as he bayed, running in circles around the stadium. Then with banderillas in his back like red and white feathers and the matador hiding his sword behind the cape, Peleón started showing the same morbid rhythm in step and in breath.

Looking at the curved path he left in the dirt after the horses, adorned in their pastel finery, whisked him away, I was astounded how on this dirt stage we could see the very incarnation of strength and vitality reduced to a pile of meat dragged away by the horns in a matter of minutes. Watching the bulls enter and leave six times, I did find myself rooting for the jumping bandilleros and the matadors while they danced with the bulls threatening horns near. However, I don’t think I could bring myself to watch a fight like that again with all the morbidity under the pretext of courage.

I have been trying to figure out how to work some sort of bull-fight metaphor for this trip in Spain but I can’t decide wether I’ve been the matador or the bull. That’s not to say that this was a kill or be killed kind of trip but there were challenges, gorings avoided and capes charged at. I can’t say that I’ve become fluent but I have had the opportunity to practice my Spanish plenty. Some people even think I’m a Mexican for the first few minutes of a conversation after I open with “Soy un estudiante de periodismo y soy de Neuvo Mexico.”

Goodbyes are not my strong suit, I don’t have much of a stomach for the sentimental but I will miss Madrid. I will miss the people I’ve come to know on this trip as well. They have all shared in my experiences in Spain and I have shared theirs. They have put up with me and included me and as one of the younger students here and I am grateful to all of them. So ends my time at Northeastern, so long Boston (I will not miss the winter) and so begins my return to the Southwest. Now to go back to the former far flung edge of the Spanish Empire, the dusty tourist town baking in the sun, the same point A to point B as the conquistadors (with better means of travel.)

Workers sweeping up after the end of the bullfight.

Workers sweeping up after the end of the bullfight.

I didn’t expect the rain to return during the day and now my shoes are still soggy even as the sun shines outside and the smell of rain dissipates. In our apartment the ants will outlive our stay and the cockroaches and mice I’ve been lucky enough not to glimpse will probably forget us soon. Yesterday I went to the Prado during the day and I glanced over the religious scenes and royal portraits without even making it the Goya collection. I’ll have to return to the Prado before we leave to see the Goya’s work displayed after I saw some of the pieces the museum lent to the MFA last year.

I just purchased a ticket for a bullfight taking place on our last Sunday here. I’m not going to watch a bull suffer and I don’t want to glorify cruelty to animals, but I think there is some honor in a matador facing a bull one on one and I would rather not pass up on what may be my only chance to see a Spanish bullfight.

Tonight we have a tapas tour that I am looking forward to. I’ve made an effort to eat some tapas here and there but I now I am forgoing lunch to try to enjoy a multiple restaurant run of tapas that the trip will be paying for.

These last days in Spain are quickly disappearing and I need to begin making arrangements for when I return. My time Spain has been exciting and enjoyable if not always relaxing and I need to start searching for some way to give this country a proper goodbye.

El Fin es Cerca

We went on our last Saturday excursion and I was thrilled that I made it back to our group in time after our hour of free time in Toledo with a small bag of marzipan in tow. Toledo seems to be known first for its swords and next for its marzipan (I don’t need to tell my family how much I enjoy marzipan and I’m sure many would be able to take interest in the swords there.) The cathedral was by far the most ornate and I would say that it was the most impressive from the inside (the outside is no Sagrada Familia.) The streets of Toledo are steep and narrow, still filled with decorations and flowers after the Corpus Cristi celebration, and were perfectly beautiful to get lost on for a sweltering afternoon.

The past few days have been not difficult but somewhat trying at times, at least as much as a trip in Spain can be trying. The lack of weefee has paralyzed our newsroom more than once, the pollen and heat conspire to exhaust and choke me up and I keep creating road blocks for myself with my article. As you can see if these are the most severe gripes I have to offer I’m still doing fairly well.

Maybe I’m just a bit frustrated with the music scene I’ve found in Madrid. The Madrid music scene is not necessarily what I expected. When I ask musicians and label reps (people who I would expect to be advocates of their city’s music) they speak about the lack of public interest in live music and seem to effectively shrug off their ownership of the Madrid music scene. I did see one decent punk show at a bar where the band and bar owner were enthusiastic after more than their anticipated 20 people showed up. Another show on the same night as the champions league final the band (a jazz group based around a pair of brothers, CarLuis and Toni Bistro) didn’t even show up and the bar was nearly deserted. I spent the night walking the city streets where, after the subdued disappointment at Barcelona’s victory, some had taken to strumming guitars and singing outside the bars. I wish I knew the songs to sing along but it was enough to listen to the happy young Spaniards clapping and shouting sweet melodies as I walked back to our apartment in temporary defeat.

The Sunday morning and a couple strong cups of coffee are doing wonders for me now as I try to psyche myself up to head out to the El Rostro market to pick up some shoes before my adidas wear out completely. I could also use a haircut as well (it’d probably make the heat a little easier to bear) but it’s now officially too late to play “Sunday Morning” but the day is still young and there’s still plenty to do.

Flags in Toledo

Flags in Toledo

Painted ceiling in Toledo Cathedral

Painted ceiling in Toledo Cathedral

View of Toledo from a distance.

View of Toledo from a distance.

Amigos Antiguos

I have watched two Mad Max movies in as many nights though I can’t see myself watching any more concurrent car crashes for the duration of our time here in Spain. The relaxing quality of seeing cars crush one another can only last so long. I did go out on Sunday night to a theater to watch a movie in Spanish (There are two theaters and a movie focused bookstore about a block from our apartment), though I ended up watching a French movie with Spanish subtitles. I still understood the majority of what happened in the movie (sullenly smoking cigarettes is the same in any language.) Movies have been consuming a large part of my free time as I try to get a grasp on the Madrid independent music scene for an article of mine.

The most surprising thing to happen over the past few days though was running into an old high school friend of mine from Santa Fe. Ben Maran, a classmate of mine since seventh grade, also happened to be in Madrid with a college summer program. It was one of the most pleasant days I’ve had in a while; reminiscing and catching up as we walked the main drag in Madrid, grabbing a chorizo sandwich and a coffee in a quiet cafe. For now I’m going to stop watching so many movies and I’ll be focusing in on my music article as the stress of a deadline sets in again, but the free time was nice while it lasted.

Descanso

It’s like being crowded out of my own mind, getting a song stuck in my head. I’ll be damned if I’m not allowed to at least be the DJ of my own subconscious. I’m sure plenty of others on the trip have written on the song that will not be named and I can still hear people humming or singing it through the walls even days after we first heard it. I’ve been humming other catchy songs that I think other people wouldn’t know, mostly stuff by the band Los Campesinos (British band, not actually Spanish) to reclaim my mental space.

With my own space to think and decompress, my first Sunday was relaxed. I made potatoes and bacon that inspired far less enthusiasm among the guys than Döner Kebab though I can’t really compare to their falafel. My day was mostly spent reading a couple New Yorker Short stories and watching some Mad Men. It was really all I could have hoped for after the food coma of yesterday in Segovia.

After going on a short tour of the city that seemed to drag on in our collective hunger we finally got to sit down to enjoy the roast pig we’d been promised earlier in the week. When the pig arrived I emphatically asked Alex to trade me his pig leg for my nondescript slab of meat when he seemed squeamish about the hoof. I ate it like a chicken leg, savoring the crunch of the carmel brown skin as the meat fell off the bone.

After our meal, during our free time, I walked through the city of Segovia alone. I found a large abandoned Cathedral that seemed interesting and that I desperately wanted to see from the inside. Unfortunately it was locked so I continued on to the outskirts of the relatively compact town. I found a semi-mountainous trail into the foothills where the farm country began and I walked through a field as the mountains came into view. I could clearly see the specific range our guide had pointed out to us earlier, the one that she said resembled a supine dead woman. I don’t see why she would have to be dead, from my new vantage point the outline seemed peaceful but altogether lacking in morbidity. The field at the top of these short hills was bare, apparently recently harvested though I couldn’t tell what had been grown there. There were only a few houses for miles around. Being so completely removed from walls and crowded streets of the past few weeks I hardly knew what to do with all the silence. I decided to scream at the top of my lungs, not from frustration or anger, but because I couldn’t remember the last time I had been able to do it.

I breathed deeply, a bit tired from the rich pig meat I’d had to contend with while hiking up, and I let a yell issue from the bottom of my diaphragm, mouth open wide, head thrust back. I waited while the cry echoed over the empty field, with the spires of the Segovia cathedral on the horizon and the mountains to my back. I felt satisfied with the day and I slept deeply on the bus back to Madrid.

Pues Nada

Gaudi’s city is gone, we’ve left the coast, and we have no salt and pepper in the pantry. The train rushing us along the Spanish country side, the enthusiastic grocery shopping, a first day in class stained by a lack of weefee. Then, nothing. It’s quiet in our ground-floor apartment and I’m struggling to eulogize our time in Barcelona. It’s a tourist town and it’s finely tuned to the rhythms of the large gawking groups. A group behind you can’t detract from a visually stunning work of architecture or an otherworldly view. but to walk through a city in line and in company is very different from walking alone, attempting to observe the ways which people actually live.

I don’t feel I know Barcelona yet even after two visits, but now its time to get to walk the streets of Madrid. I’ve delayed this post long enough but what else to say but goodbye Barcelona.

Las Montañas

When my grandpa learned that I would be going to Spain over the summer he requested only one thing of me; go to Montserrat. He even lent me his digital camera on the condition that I would take some photos of Montserrat for him. I took a photo of nearly every religious scene on the mountain trail towards the monastery which housed a small black madonna, thinking all the time how much my grandfather would like to see these Spanish mountains and the expansive plains below. The immaculate, high-elevation air felt like home in my lungs and the mountain’s rounded peaks seemed to me like the fingers of giants holding up the boundless summer sky. After our walk, I found a shady place to read on a stone bench and watched as the families and groups of tourists stared up in awe at the weathered light-colored stone.

The next day, in keeping with my current preoccupation with mountains, I decided to accompany Haley on hike at the edge of the city. While we bush-wacked through the beginning of the trail, I noticed the hillside covered with cacti in full bloom, crimson and orange blossoms and felt a benign pang of nostalgia for the Southwest. At the highest point I had my most complete view of Barcelona yet, the cityscape set against the ocean, the countryside at my back. During the hike we discovered a small cave by the side of the trail. Though the cave was not particularly deep it proved to be a pleasant surprise, a small secluded place of quiet far removed from the bustling city we could see in its entirety from the red stone crags above.

After a brief visit to my home-stay I set out again, deciding not to go to the beach after my morning out. I was craving seafood instead of the seaside. I picked out a few pinchos, small servings of food akin to tapas though smaller and served on toothpicks, at a local restaurant for my lunch. I had seasoned salmon and anchovies with peppers and olives, relishing the taste of fish before I return to the desert for the Summer. I credit the mountain air for my upswing in mood and I hope to enjoy a little more of Barcelona before our group departs for Madrid.

The mountaintop and village at Montserrat.

The mountaintop and village at Montserrat.

Religious scene on the walk to the monastery.

Religious scene on the walk to the monastery.

The view from Montserrat.

The view from Montserrat.