Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mi Nombre Es...Travel?

Everybody knows that Starbucks is comfort. It means that no matter where in the world you are, you are guaranteed a Skinny Vanilla Latte-just the way you like it. It means real napkins and muffins and comfortable couches, and of course, it means Frank Sinatra.

You cannot imagine my delight to find an enormous Starbucks right off the corner by our school. I am ashamed to admit, this of all places has become my home away from home.

The other night, Chelsea and I decided that we wanted to enjoy a nice relaxing evening at Starbucks. We weren’t even craving coffee, but were searching for that soothing ambience that only Starbucks can give you. It has these big fluffy couches that sit right by long wide windows-the ideal place to people watch. Because I had nothing to do, I was able to just sit and observe. After a mere half hour, I learned a lot.

I learned that couples, no matter what age, hold hands, even when they look unhappy about doing it. Every couple holds hands. If a man and woman are walking alongside each other and are not holding hands, it is safe to assume they are just amigos. I also learned that fathers love to carry their children on their shoulders, even as they wobble and sway down the streets, and the children pull their hair. I learned that when Spaniards are alone at night, it is best to walk fast, but if in the company of friends, time is no object.

And then it dawned on me how bizarre the entire situation was. Here I was, in Starbucks, where, if it wasn’t for the windows and the baristas speaking Spanish, I would have no idea that it was in the middle of Madrid. It was like I escaped the internationality that I have been immersed in for so long. Starbucks was, to put it bluntly, culture-less.

But then I looked again, and noticed something that did not surprise me at all. Spaniards in Starbucks are very different than Americans in Starbucks. They had more interest in each other than their laptop screens, and they were chatting and enjoying, yes enjoying, each other’s company. What a concept. And for hours, mind you. They could sit and chat for hours.

The best part about going to Starbucks though has to be the way that your name transforms on a cup. In Spain, Nadia is Nadia. Easy. I have gotten one cup of coffee with “Natalia” on it, but no pasa nada. But Chelsea is hard for them (shell-sea? they ask), and Denise always gets “Dennis..?” However, the name they seem to struggle most with has to be Trevor’s…this was what his cup read the other day:
...And that is exactly what we intend to do. With or without the coffee. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's No Big Deal

Everything here is no big deal...or "No Pasa Nada." You run into someone relatively hard on the metro, and quickly say "lo siento!" The answer is "no pasa nada." You accidentally step on your senora's foot with your new three inch high heels, and all she says is "no pasa nada." You witness a child get nearly run over by a car, I mean literally, the car is inches away from him, and when the terrified child runs into his mother's arms, her response is simply "no pasa nada..."

I think I am going to be pretty scarred for the next few hours. I really did see a little three year old boy almost get mulled by a car today. He was just walking, minding his own lolipop licking business, when this car turns and obviously cannot even see the top of his little blonde head. His mother is far ahead of him, farther than a mother should be from her three year old, but he sees her, so, like any normal child would, he walks towards her and directly into the car, which stops just in time.

Meanwhile, I am panicking as I gasp for air, then stupidly scream "Watch OUT!!!!!" All that did was warrant judging stares from the people walking by, who were definitely thinking "damn Americans, don't they understand that everything here is 'no pasa nada'?"

The worst part is, I immediately looked at the mother, eyes completely bulging out of my head, waiting for her to return my crazed gaze. True to Spanish form, she calmly says, "ah... no pasa nada."

I love Spain but they drive like crazy! They will run you over, Americana or not, Green Light That Is Clearly Signifying Your Right to Cross the Street, or not. Sometimes, I catch myself bitterly saying (to myself, of course) "it's like they want to run you over..."

My roommates and I have this running joke (no pun intended) that the only potentially negative thing that will happen in Spain is one of us will more than likely get hit by a car. Everyone knows it will probably be me but no one wants to say it. Well, or Chelsea actually. She is clumsy as well...we are the perfect pair.

This is Chelsea sleeping on the bus.

But I am not that mean. This is really what she looks like (que guapa!):
We have a lot of fun together, and are beginning to learn that as we trip up and down the stairs to and from the metro, or embarrassingly stammer out terrible Spanish to our cab driver, we are in Spain, so in the end it is "no pasa nada."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Day in the Park

Needless to say, packing happened. I am in Spain and have been here for a few weeks now. Cats are everywhere, so naturally it is already my favorite place in all the world. Cats are in the parks chasing each other, in the alleyways, staring at you, and always relaxing, napping in the grass. 

Spaniards are kind of like cats.  They are cute always, never  forgetting the perfect accessory along with an ideal set of shoes. They spend time together, walking in the streets holding hands, some hurriedly, some not. They are extremely affectionate towards each other, but, like cats J, are bothered by the loud, rambunctious traveling group of Americans that we are. And lastly, they stare at you and study. They have no problem staring, because you are in their country and not the other way around. The metro is where all of this magic happens.

 The first time we were on the metro, we got lost. The second time we were on the metro, we got lost again. As one of my professors says (in his jumbled mix of funny Spanglish), “It is confusing in the head because there is lot of different direction, but when you understand, you understand.” Very true. The third time we did not get lost, and discovered that the metro could quite possibility be the best form of high speed transportation on this planet. Depending on where you live, the metro can pretty much take you anywhere in the city in less than 30 minutes. I think the most effective part of the metro is the way people are rushed in and out; there is about 20 seconds in which the doors open and you can either enter or leave, but after those 20 seconds, a bell rings and the doors shut, whether you are in it or not. Also, the metro is underground, which means that whenever, wherever  you are walking in Madrid, thousands of people are traveling right beneath your feet. Take that, 405…

My favorite day so far has been our Sunday in the park. Here’s why:

 Everything about that day was perfect.