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One Month Later…

I can’t believe it, but it’s been one month since I left Spain. Sharing my videos with you guys has been as enjoyable for me as I hope it has been for you. Every time I watch a video, I remember something new- a joke, a particular experience- and although I can’t possibly share them all, I hope I have entertained you with my narratives.

Spain for me was and is a place of exploration. I explored the Spanish language, the Spanish culture, and more importantly, I explored myself. I feel that after experiencing Spain, I have a better grasp of who I am- my desires, my aspirations, where I fit into the puzzle. Spain wasn’t a vacation for me, it was an emotional experience- an experience I will never forget. Although memories fade with time, I hope that creating this unique vlog will help me to remind myself of the extraordinary self-discovery I experienced in Spain and bring to mind all of the wonderful memories I made. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

NOTE: I am currently working on a special video combining some of the more interesting and memorable experiences set to a song. Kind of like a tribute. I will post it when I have finished editing it.

The final day was one of tears and sad goodbye’s. Although many were ready to be home and checked into the airport without hesitation, I felt like I was already at home, and leaving was extremely sad. I admit it. I cried. I cried a lot. This is the last video from my collection of videos made in Spain, and I think it’s fitting that it was made at the airport in Madrid right before checking in. I had hoped to make more videos on the way home, but my connecting flight was differet from everyone elses because I flew into Birmingham instead of New Orleans, so I was busy saying goodbye to friends and trying to find connecting flights.

Much like the video showing the school, the video of the apartment I stayed in while in Madrid probably should have been one of the first I posted, but it wasn’t. So, I’m giving it to you now. While in Madrid, I lived in a neighborhood called Hererra Oria, which is located at the end of metro line 9, about 45 minutes (by metro) from ENFOREX. Hererra Oria was a typical barrio (neighborhood) of Spain with tall apartment buildings, a centro comercial (sort of like a mall), and small mom-and-pop shops, including a locutorio (where you go to use the phone and/or internet). I had 1 roommate, but there were 4 of us (all guys) living in our apartment. Our building was a typical apartment building with 13 stories, and we were located on the 13th floor; thus, we got amazing views of the city as you can see in the video. The apartment was small, but this particular apartment would be considered a luxury in Spain because it has 3 bedrooms. There is generally one bathroom per apartment, the washing machine is generally located in the kitchen, and they do not use dryers in Spain- everything is hung up to dry. All of these qualities were demonstrated by our apartment.

Our house mother was the sweetest lady I have ever met in my life (she and Melodie are running a close race). She is separated from her husband, has one daughter, Laura, who she talked about all the time, and lived alone. She spent her days tidying our rooms, washing our clothes, and cooking. Although I do not care much for soup, she cooked a lot of it, and I ate a lot of it. I should mention here that I lost somewhere around 40 pounds in the month I was in Spain, and her healthy meals had a lot to do with it. Everything was fresh, and the only thing she had in her house to drink was water.  She called me her hijo (son) and it seems like every day, she would say, “¡Ayyy, has adelgazado mi hijo! ¡Que guapo!” (You have lost weight, my son! How handsome!) Ha ha. Oh, how I loved her. Upon leaving, I cried.

This is a video showing the apartment (and María, my house mother). She was very upset that I was filming her and tried to hide. Ha ha. She kept saying “¡La casa es un desastre!” (The house is a disaster!). She also went into the bathroom and started combing her hair and saying, “¡Que española más fea!” (What an ugly Spanish woman!) Despite my assurances that the house was fine and she was fine, she continued running from me! She was so precious. Excuse the very bad Spanish that I speak in this video. It was 1 o’clock in the morning, I had been out all day, and I had just finished packing to come home.

Plaza del Sol is a large open square in central Madrid, famous for its statue of el oso y el árbol (the bear and the tree). During the day, Plaza del Sol fills with tourists eating lunch or shopping, but at night, it is the vibrant center of Madrid’s nightlife.

On this particular night, we had all planned to go out because it was our last night in Madrid, but an intense storm tried to deter us! This video was made right after I had gotten off of the Sol metro. I had first intended to make a video showing the square, but then I noticed the lightning! You know how much I love weather, so it was an opportune time to shoot some weather in Madrid. Shortly after I stopped filming, it began to pour rain.

However, we still met up, huddled in the metro entrance until the rain stopped, went out, drank some mojitos, and danced Salsa. We stayed out all night and I was drenched in sweat by the time I caught a taxi back to Hererra Oria from dancing! This was probably the most fun I had the entire trip.

Before now, I have only mentioned the school where I studied in passing. Howevery, ENFOREX is a school in western Madrid located right off of Alberto Aguilera. It specializes in foreign languages and you can take classes in a variety of foreign languages including English, Spanish, French, Italian, etc. Although compact, it was complete with a computer lab and snack area, which you will see in the video. This place became our home for the 5 weeks we were there, and we got to know it intimately. Our instructors, Marisa and Rossana, were extremely cool and the program was awesome. Although we covered material at a rapid pace, they never continued until we all knew exactly what was going on. We were forced to use Spanish in the classroom (neither one knew English), and our conversational skills improved greatly. Although we learned, it didn’t feel like we were learning because we talked about what we wanted to talk about, and they made sure to throw in whatever grammar we were learning at the time. It was like having a conversation among friends, and although I had never experienced this type of learning before, I appreciate it greatly. It works.

I made this video on the last day of class. I started out in our classroom (here you can see classmates and our teacher Rossana), and end up out on the street.

As the final days approached in Madrid, our classes became more and more relaxed. By the last couple of days, we were simply conversing in Spanish. (And suprisingly, we could!) I think that my particular class was the most talented, and we had the advantage of a musician in our midst! Melodie is probably the sweetest human being I have ever met, and on the last day of class, she graciously offered to play her violin for us while we were in Marisa’s class (she was one of our teachers- seated at the head of the table). First, in the classroom.

Shortly after this, we got noise complaints. I have no idea why because the music was beautiful, so we just decided to move our little concert to the park! Thankfully, there was a park 5 minutes from ENFOREX and we went there to enjoy the last day of class. Being in the open air, hearing the beautiful music. It was enough to bring tears to all of our eyes. It was one of those moments you will remember for a long time. We knew our time in Madrid was coming to a close and it was bittersweet.

Everyone loves chocolate, right? Well, almost everyone. I like chocolate when it’s white, but I’ve been told that white chocolate can’t really be considered chocolate. One of the only places that Lauren Linder begged and begged to go was San Ginés. I visited San Ginés when I was in Spain years ago and knew about where it was, so off we went. San Ginés is situated very near both the Plaza del Sol and the Plaza Mayor, both extremely touristy areas. Even though San Ginés is famous, it is situated in a small hidden alley, and you would not find it unless you were looking for it. What makes San Ginés so unique is that they only serve churros, which are like doughnuty sticks (a picture can be found here), and a chocolate dipping sauce. So, here we are at San Ginés. I think you can pick up on Lauren’s excitement from the video.

This was probably one of the more interesting things I decided to partake in while in Spain. Most of us have been to magic shows. Cheezy costum, half-witted tricks, some crazy music. Well, Houdini’s Salon provided me with the most wowing magic show I have ever seen. I’m not even sure you could call it a magic show. It was like a spectacle. Houdini’s Salon is located in the neighborhood Cruz del Rayo and opens only certain nights a week for shows and requires resevations. I’m telling you- this place was serious business. Here’s what the basement looked like. Creepy stuff.

I must admit, the drinks were fantastic. Maybe that’s why seeing the show was a little more believable. Who knows! ;-) Here we are right before the show began. We were nervous!

The beginning of the show was like any other- cheezy tricks, all of the things I mentioned above. Here’s an example.

However… then came the hypnotism. I have never in my life believed in such a thing and went into this not believing and not thinking I would come to believe. I left a believer. Granted, to be hypnotized, you have to want to be hypnotized, but it is possible, and this guy did it. Maribel, a sweet Mexican girl that was studying with us in Madrid was hypnotized. If you go back to the second video, she was the one snapping the picture. She says that she was definitely still conscious, but her knees became really weak and her legs heavy. Afterward, she said she felt calmer and much more alert. Although I didn’t get her being hypnotized, I did get this one guy. Maribel actually went up and stood beside the man, but the magician hypnotized this guy from his seat! He is the one in the glasses, front and center.

After-thoughts? We had tons.

That was the weirdest thing I have ever seen. We were so impressed, we decided to go back the following night to go to the show devoted entirely to hypnotism. I couldn’t get videos in there because we were seated so far toward the back of the room. (The room was filled! My guess would be 75 people.) That show was even stranger and further convincd me the hypnotism is real. That night, he called 20 people to the stage and took a few minutes weeding out those that couldn’t be hypnotized by doing some mind-easing excercise and watching the expressions of those that is wasn’t working on. He then proceeded to hypnotize those remaining on the stage and took them back to their childhoods. He asked questions and they answered like children! It was bizarre!

NOTE: For more information about hypnotism and this particular hypnotist/magician, please click here.

One of my absolute favorite places in Madrid is Retiro Park. Basically, you could say that Retiro Park is to Madrid as Central Park is to New York City. It features wide-open spaces, greenery, ponds, lakes, and the famous Crystal Palace. There are also terraces throughout the park that charge outrageous prices for tourists to sit and drink a beer or glass of wine, but I don’t care. It’s still one of my favorite places because it is so unique. One afternoon after class Heather, Lauren, and I decided to hop on the metro and ride to Retiro. We ended up getting lost trying to find the Crystal Palace, but that’s okay. It’s all part of being adventurous, right?

This first video is of a HUGE statue/fountain near the Retiro metro stop entrance. They have boats you can rent to paddle around in the lake. Again, expensive, but unique. And there were venders, so you know the girls had to stop and look.

After becoming lost and asking a waiter in one of the expensive terraces I mentioned, we stumbled (literally) on the Crystal Palace. We came right as the sun made about a 45 degree angle with the horizon, and the lighting was incredible. The whole place was sparkling and glinting. The reflection pool with its cascades and wildlife was equally as beautiful. I didn’t want to leave. I could have sat on a bench there for hours.

For those of you that have actually been watching my videos and reading the blog, I apologize for the short hiatus. I was regaining my bearings and recooperating from jet lag. But… I’m back, and I will try to have the remaining videos posted in the next few weeks.

This video comes to you from El Rastro. El Rastro is an open air market that sets up every Sunday in the neighborhood of La Latina. Although we had trouble finding a Sunday that was free because of weekend excursions, we finally braved the croud and pick-pockets to get a glipse at what all of the fuss was about. I must admit- I was pleasantly surprised. There was a little bit of everything in El Rastro. Street performers, scarfs, jewelry, paintings, trickets of all kinds. One of the more interesting things I found there was an old-fashioned key. I was sifting through a table with all kinds of weird things on it and came upon it, and it was so unique that I had to buy it. Since then, I have put it on my keychain and reminds me daily of Spain. Along with the key, I bought an origional painting as well as a poster for my room that advertises a bull fight. For 6 euros, you could have your name blocked in, so that’s what I did. The video below shows some of the street performers, stalls, and masses in El Rastro. The gypsies were gettin’ it! HAAAAAA!

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