But seriously. Is this real life?

The first “no class” Friday. I could definitely get used to a schedule like this. I know some people have the ability to master the UW Student Center and purposely arrange to have no classes on Fridays (ahem, Seanie P), but this whole “having a four day school week” thing is completely new for me. And I like it a lot.

Our plan for the day? Head back to Madrid to do a little more in-depth exploration. After accidentally getting off the bus two stops too early and getting myself lost (again), I eventually made it to the train station and we were able to board the next train to Madrid. Off to a great start, as usual.

We started the day back at Museo Reina Sofia. This time we actually went inside the museum—for free, thanks to our UAH student ID cards.  We spent just under two hours at the museum, but I easily could have spent the rest of my life there. The artwork is incredible and there is so much to see. Most of the works at the Reina Sofia fall into my favorite genre: MODERN ART. While I realize that a splatter of red paint on white canvas can appear boring and ridiculous to some, I personally love the simplicity of it all. Art isn’t exactly my forte, so the lack of detail and intricacy humanizes the works for me. The artists seem a little more realistic.

The whole group back at the Reina Sofia (Photo Credit: Brittni Matthews)
The whole group back at the Reina Sofia (Photo Credit: Brittni Matthews)

One of the coolest things about visiting the Reina Sofia is the reality of being there. After spending years of Spanish classes studying artists and their works, seeing paintings by Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso in real life was unbelievable. The thought: “I can’t believe I am actually here” was on repeat in my mind all day. Those little pictures in my textbook are nothing compared to the real thing. Highlight of the visit: being less than ten feet away from Picasso’s Guernica. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, Google Image search it—you’ll definitely recognize it. The Guernica is enormous; it takes up an entire wall in the museum and requires two security guards on each side. On the wall opposite of the Guernica, there is a frame dedicated to the evolution of the Guernica, with photos taken at different stages throughout its creation. Again, all I could think was “Is this real life?”

After exploring the museum, we stopped for lunch and did a little shopping before taking the train back to Alcalá. We also did the typical Spain thing and had some churros and chocolate before boarding the train.

If you look at the pictures on my camera or my Facebook, it probably seems like all I do here is eat because the only thing I ever remember to take pictures of is food.
If you look at the pictures on my camera or my Facebook, it probably seems like all I do here is eat because the only thing I ever remember to take pictures of is food.

The rest of the weekend consisted of more shopping (trying to take advantage of all those sales!), more delicious desserts, and more exploring. It was also our first weekend of real homework. I always forget how long it takes me to read books in Spanish. I spent a large portion of my weekend time with my new best friend, my Spanish literature textbook. Fortunately, there was still some time for fun! One of my new favorite things to do is watch American movies in Spanish with my little brother. This weekend I had the pleasure of viewing The Tale of Despereaux and Toy Story. Since I have already seen the movies in English, it was a lot easier to understand what was happening and comprehend the Spanish. The speed and characterization of the voices make it difficult to keep up, but knowing the plot in advance helps a lot. Want to pretend you are in Spain? Go to Settings on your DVD menu and select Spanish as the language. Have fun.

Something I failed to mention about last weekend: Spanish Mass! I don’t know how I could have forgotten to bring it up; experiencing the Holy Mass in a different language was definitely one of my “Top Five Things I Am Looking Forward To in Spain”. For the past two weeks, I have attended Mass at a small community church less than five minutes from my house. While I couldn’t comprehend every single word, I was still able to participate in the service because of the universality of the Mass and the Catholic faith. It was an amazing experience! In addition to the small community parishes here, there are several beautiful cathedrals in downtown Alcalá. You can count on the fact that I will be visiting all of them. I just need to start learning the Mass responses in Spanish!

Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Loreto, the small Catholic church in my neighborhood.
Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Loreto, the small Catholic church in my neighborhood.

As I continue to establish my Spanish life, something that definitely needs to be adjusted is my workout routine. An avid runner, I was very nervous that running in Spain would not be a plausible option. Being confined to a track or a treadmill would be devastating for me. Going in circles makes me feel like a hamster. Luckily, both my host mom and program director gave me the go-ahead to run outside, as long as I don’t run by myself in the dark. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? WRONG. My usual running time is 5:30. In the morning. When the sun doesn’t even start to rise until 8:00 and my bus to school is at 8:30, I don’t have a whole lot of time to get a daylight workout in before class. As spring approaches, the sunrise will get earlier, but until then, my runs are restricted to post-siesta/pre-sunset. It’s not exactly ideal, but I’ll live. The beautiful scenery and 50 degree January weather make up for it.

Life is moving so quickly; I cannot believe I have already been here for two full weeks! More adventures are waiting in the upcoming week, including an “intercambios” exchange, a field trip to the Museum of Archaeology, and our first unsupervised excursion!

Also, shout-out to all my UW classmates that started their spring semester today. Good luck and work hard! Twitter tells me that it is a bit chilly in Madison right now. It was cold here today too; I think it only got up to 40 degrees. I feel your pain. Wishing I was in Wisco today… not. Stay warm, badgers!