We are family, I got all my sistas and me!

April 12, 2013

in Amanda Recktenwald, Correspondents, Europe, Spain, Spring 2013

Similar to every other aspect of my life, spring break is something else to add to the list of “Things That Are Different This Year”. For me, spring break usually means going home, making long lists of things to do that will still be incomplete at the end of the week, catching up on missed Criminal Minds episodes, and wishing on every 11:11 to wake up on Easter Sunday with no snow in the front yard.

Like I said, this year was different.

Spring break started off with a bang. A Mumford & Sons bang. A few weeks back, I was aimlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed when I saw a tweet from @MumfordAndSons: Extra tickets available for Madrid concert! I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to this tweet and continue scrolling. Then it hit me. Hold the phone, I live in Madrid! I flipped back up to that tweet and clicked the link to buy tickets. It was just too good to be true. Kicking off the first night of spring break with a Mumford & Sons concert for only 39 euros? MY LIFE ISN’T REAL.

"And I'll find strength in pain, And I will change my ways, I'll know my name as it's called again." Such an amazing Mumford concert!

“And I’ll find strength in pain, And I will change my ways, I’ll know my name as it’s called again.” Such an amazing Mumford concert!

Needless to say, the concert was absolutely incredible. I can’t actually put into words how amazing it was. Absolutely spectacular. I have to admit, it’s one of those things that you don’t expect to happen while you are studying abroad. When thinking of all the possibilities during my semester abroad, a Mumford & Sons concert definitely didn’t make the original list. But I was more than happy to add it!

Friday night was another new immersion experience: going to the movies. After dinner, shopping, and ice cream, Valerie and I decided to see El Lado Bueno, a new movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. You might know it by a different name, The Silver Linings Playbook. I think it was good, but I don’t actually know. I couldn’t tell of the movie was weird to being with or if the weirdness only came from the Spanish voiceover. After consulting Wikipedia for a synopsis, I realized that it was probably a little bit of both. Either way, I’ll be sure to watch it in English when I get back to the States.

Saturday turned out to be a pretty nice day, so Val and I embarked on another adventure, hiking through the outskirts of Alcalá. Some of the other students that we go to school with have talked about these great trails up through the mountains surrounding our cozy little town. We packed ourselves some bocadillos and trekked to the edge of the city. The trails turned out to be difficult to find. We found some and hiked for almost three hours, we just didn’t actually change elevation at any point in time. We could see the mountains. We could see the base of the mountains. We could see the general direction to go to get to the base of the mountains. But for some reason, we couldn’t actually get there. We did find the Río Henares, a river that flows around Alcalá which made for a great picnic location. But apparently, we will have to wait one day more until we can climb every mountain.

Sunday and Monday were crazy days filled with running errands, mourning over my busted bracket, and skyping parents. This year, spring break was different because instead of me going home to my family, my family was making the trip to see me. I busied myself on Sunday and Monday with planning day trips for us, buying extra passes for the bus, train, and metro, and trying not to go crazy because I was so excited. Monday night was like the night before Christmas—I couldn’t sleep because I was so filled with excitement. Alert the media—the Recktenwald chicas are coming to Spain!

When I arrived at the airport to pick up my family on Tuesday morning, they were waiting for me at Terminal 4. No lost baggage, no issues with customs, and no flight delays—just three smiling sisters and one smiling Mommy Dearest. Daddy Reck couldn’t make the trip because of work conflicts, so it was a “girls week” in Spain.

Look who made it to Spain!

Look who made it to Spain!

After checking into the hotel, I gave my family a tour of Alcalá. I love showing people around new places (takes me back to my Launch Leader days), and it was really cool to be able to show my family where I have been living for the past three months. We got coffee and pastries at my favorite bakery, we bought some almenedras from the convent, and I showed them where I go to school.

Coffee and sweets at Granier bakery, one of my favorite places in Alcalá.

Coffee and sweets at Granier bakery, one of my favorite places in Alcalá.

The true test came at about 2:00 P.M. on Tuesday, when we sat down for their first Spanish meal. I took the girls to La Española, a hotspot here in Alcalá. Ordering was a struggle. It was the first forced Spanish interaction they had in Spain. Reading the menu went sort of like this: “Amanda, what’s this?” and “What does this mean?” and “Will I like this?” The thing is, even though I have lived here for three months, I am still clueless when it comes to menus. Usually I can identify about half of the items, but more often than not, I have no idea what I am eating. They did pretty well for their first time. Some of the food was a little interesting, as usual, but they ate and genuinely liked most of it. RELIEF.

The week went by much too quickly. Going to the Reina Sofía and the Prado, eating paella and churros & chocolate in Madrid, shopping in Chueca (the hippest shopping district in Madrid), sending postcards to Daddy Dearest—it all happened so fast.

Checking out the Cervantes museum in Alcalá!

Checking out the Cervantes museum in Alcalá!

You haven’t seen Spain until you have posed with Velazquez at the Prado!

You haven’t seen Spain until you have posed with Velazquez at the Prado!

Churros and chocolate with my baby sister, Shannon.

Churros and chocolate with my baby sister, Shannon.

Yes, sometimes we all happen to sit with our hands in our lap and right leg cross over our left. Christmas Card 2013?

Yes, sometimes we all happen to sit with our hands in our lap and right leg cross over our left. Christmas Card 2013?

Thursday was a special adventure: we took an express bus to Salamanca, home of the oldest university in Spain and the third oldest university in all of Europe. Why visit Salamanca with the fam? First, I hadn’t been there yet, and I’m always up for an adventure. Second, it was an easy day trip to make, only about two hours away from Madrid. And third, my mom spent a semester abroad at the University of Salamanca when she was in college! I guess it runs in the family.

One of my favorite games is called “let’s find a really friendly-looking person and ask them to take a picture of all of us”. All the Recktenwald ladies in the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca!

One of my favorite games is called “let’s find a really friendly-looking person and ask them to take a picture of all of us”. All the Recktenwald ladies in the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca!

I guess it is safe to say that Jenny & Shannon enjoyed Salamanca.

I guess it is safe to say that Jenny & Shannon enjoyed Salamanca.

The word “beautiful” doesn’t even begin to describe their last day in Spain. Sunny and 65, it was probably the nicest day I have had thus far in Alcalá. Saturday was just perfect. We spent a good chunk of the day relaxing at Plaza Cervantes, trying to find the perfect background for this year’s Christmas card.

So many backgrounds to choose from!

So many backgrounds to choose from!

Jenny and I are actually twins, don’t tell anyone.

Jenny and I are actually twins, don’t tell anyone.

Saying goodbye to my family at the airport was really hard. Just as I felt the tears welling up in my eyes, Bridget (my older sister) alerted me of a possible crisis and I had no time for sadness. We looked over to see Thing 1 & Thing 2 checking out the Departures screen, looking for other flights leaving the Madrid airport. “Ooh, Athens sounds fun! Or wait, how about Amsterdam?” and “Where’s Istanbul? Let’s go there!” and “MOSCOW. YES.” I couldn’t be crying at the airport when there was a potential international incident standing less than ten feet from me. Thankfully, they made it onto the correct plane. Although I did check the Department of State twitter feed a few extra times on Sunday afternoon, just to make sure nothing catastrophic happened.

Reflections on the week: best spring break ever. Compared to a lot of my classmates here, my spring break seemed to lack adventure. Before spring break, hearing about trips planned to London and Switzerland and Italy seemed incredibly exotic and exciting. (I had the awkward “I’m staying here” conversation one too many times with my fellow compañeros.) But looking back on the week, I wouldn’t change a thing. All semester, I have been experiencing incredible things: a new language, a new culture, and a new lifestyle. And what could be more fun than sharing all of those things with the coolest people in the world? As cool as Prague and Paris probably are, they can’t even compare to the amazing week I had.

What do the sibs have to say about their trip? They had a great time. But I think Jenny summed it up nicely when she said this to her math teacher after break:

B13 #12

Never a dull moment with J-Money.

COME BAAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCKKKKKK!

COME BAAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCKKKKKK!

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