Madrid in Retrospect

Time flies when you’re having fun, they say. I could not agree more and I would add, that it also flies when you’re busy as never before in your entire life. It’s been 10 months since I arrived in Madrid…who could believe?! I certainly can’t when I think about the days when I begun to meet all the wonderful people I have in my life now. In looking back at my beginnings in Madrid, I find these photographs from Parque de Retiro taken by my friend and a great photographer, Mario, last fall. His art work can be found here.

Thank you Mario, for capturing the beautiful moments on a sunny day in Madrid.

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The life of an MBA student

Second term could not have been busier. Four exams, three presentations, two papers and special group projects all combined with preparations to a 6 week trip to South Africa and a few interviews along the way. All of this equals little sleep and a bit of stress. It’s interesting how your body is able to quickly adjust to changes. Before the MBA, I could not function properly without my 8 hours of beauty sleep. My norm now is 6 hours on average but during crunch time it’s about 4 to 5 and I must say it isn’t as bad as I thought. Coffee in the morning and afternoon is a must and I’m like new (If I’m lucky I’ll take a quick Spanish siesta after classes). 

Twenty four hours before departure to Johannesburg were busier than the rest of the week. After the finance exam on Friday I went for a quick lunch with my classmates, after which I came back home, did laundry and packed my suitcase. I intended to take a nap which didn’t happen as my busy mind did not want to rest so I just lied in my bed for 45 minutes and decided to go to the gym. By the time I left my apartment to join everyone at a semester-end celebration, it was midnight. Since I had one more daunting task to do before my departure, an online strategy exam, I just permitted myself an hour at the party in order to get a good night sleep to recover from tiredness. This of course didn’t happen as I ended up in bed at 4:30 in the morning without sleeping for 24hrs. I still wonder where this energy came from. 

After 3hrs of sleep I took the exam while my fabulous roommates went for a coffee run, made breakfast and helped me pack for my early flight. I can’t forget about the travel goodie bag they prepared for me. Theses girls are so thoughtful! Now I’m sitting on my first connecting flight to Cairo and I feel the exhaustion is finally hitting me. I’m glad the next flight is a redeye so I can sleep like a baby. 

And that is a life of an MBA student. 

It feels like Christmas 

Christmas Market at the Plaza Mayor

Christmas spirit has arrived to Madrid! I didn’t know what to expect in terms of Holiday decoration but I must say, Madrid did not disappoint and looks gorgeous. The streets are covered with beautiful lights, which by tradition are turned on the last Friday of November, and other Christmas ornaments. The main Christmas Market is located in Plaza Mayor which is filled with a vast array of stalls mainly with decorations, Christmas trees, and artisan products. Unfortunately, it does not have a feel of Christkindlmarkt from Chicago. I miss the hot, spiced wine, rowdy atmosphere and closeness of familiar people. For that reason, I substituted hot wine with some churros and hot chocolate at a famous Chocolateria San Gines. I haven’t had any churro since I arrived here. I know…horrendous!

Churros & Hot Chocolate 

It’s also not cold for December, which is of course fantastic, but wearing a light leather jacket with no gloves, hats, and scarves is a bit weird. I do not miss the shivering for sure though 😉 After walking around the city on Friday evening it was time to hit up the movie theater and see the last part of Hunger Games: The Mockingjay. It was definitely worth it!

Shopping Therapy

Being a (female) student = no spending = NO SHOPPING. That’s a frightening perspective to have for one full year especially when you have a “passion for fashion” (or shopping problem if you will). Up to date I was pretty good about it due to lack of time for such fun activities. But the time has come as my wardrobe choices grew smaller and my needs (or rather wants) grew bigger. I decided to release my accumulated stress and go for a therapy to my one and only Spanish love – Zara. I must say I have three of them within walking distance…(it’s like Starbuck in the US – on every corner!). Right of the bat, when I entered the biggest Zara store I’ve ever been to (3 levels of women’s clothes), it was clear that Zara’s Spring 2016 collection is the flashback to the 70’s. I must say that floral-embroidered maxi dresses, tie-neck blouses, furry finishes, and wide-leg denim are not really my style. I’m trying to remember when was the last time I wore wide-leg denim…maybe in high school. I like my minimalist, classy, non flashy style, so I don’t think I’ll convert this upcoming spring. That being said, it would not be me if I left empty handed…Here are some of my recent Zara finds.

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MBA Syndrome

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I feel guilty about neglecting my blog so badly. I had no idea that moving to Spain and doing MBA will turn into the busiest time and most intense roller coaster of my life. It’s been over 3 months since I arrived in Madrid and here are some highlights of what I have been doing during that time:

  • Ended Term 1…and started Term 2 immediately (I’m a zombie)
  • Stayed at school past 12am countless times (that’s about 15 hours per day)
  • Spent countless hours on group projects and survived group conflicts
  • Attended multiple company presentations and passed the first interview with Microsoft (the rest is pending)
  • Intensely soul searched (pretty name for figuring out what you wanna do with your life; ah! and don’t forget about your passions)

On the more fun side….

  • Met ~300 new, bright and ambitious people from all over the world
  • Ate too much tapas (I want some real food!)
  • Drank…I don’t know how many bottles of wine, but many (don’t judge, I’m in Spain!)
  • Went to a few great trips around Spain (most of them are or will be described in detail)
  • Won Best Halloween Costume Prize (say what?!)
  • Danced till 5am a few times (too few, should strive for more)

After all of this, I’m very much looking forward to my Christmas Break that can’t come soon enough…15 days…

Paella

 What do you think is a typical Spanish food? Some might say tortilla espanola, jamon iberico, empanadas or gazpacho. I think of paella…So what is paella? It is a rice dish, which originated from a Valencian recipe (hence often called paella Valanciana), often with meat (chicken and rabbit), white beans, vegetables, seasoned with saffron and rosemary. Other types of paellas include seafood or can be mixed (meat and seafood). The thing about that dish is that it’s not easy to make. The recipe might seem straightforward, but if you add too little of this, and too much of that, and if you cook the rice for too long/short or do all the process in a different order, you basically screwed up. A few days ago, as a group bonding exercise or ice-breaker so to speak, our MBA intake was divided into +/- 20 groups of inexperienced paella cooks. It was of course a challenge, and whichever group won, got a trophy, a few bottles of bubbly, and of course the title of the best paella chefs of September 2015 intake. My group was serious about winning. So serious, that we designated two seaoned cooks, and let them do their thing. We also delegated other people for roles such as: bartenders (someone’s gotta bring and drink that beer), dancers, photographers, chef supervisors and rice stirrers to mention a few (team work is what matters, right?!). I personally was a little bit of everything (I think it’s called a GM), but enjoyed taste quality control the most (“rice not cooked enough”, “too much salt”). The outcome was, I must say, pretty tasty. Unfortunately, it was not enough for the grand jury to pick us as the winner, but who cares! At least I know how to make paella now! If you’d like a challenge and make it yourself, click here for the recipe. This weekend I’m traveling to Valencia, the land of paella, so I’m curious to try the original recipe.

Madrid, I arrived! 


Puerta de Alcalá

It’s been one day in Madrid and so far so…great! Except for one thing…the apartment that I’m renting with two other girls is not ready for us to move in yet. Our lease was supposed to start on August 15th…It turns out that during bathrooms’ renovation the workers have uncovered an issue that needed to be fixed and therefore the process is taking longer. Bienvenidos a Espana! On the bright side of things, we’ll have brand new and fully functional bathrooms (or so I hope). Luckily, one of my roommates’ family lives in Madrid and they were kind enough to let us all stay in their beautiful apartment until everything is ready. When I arrived to my temporary home, I was surprised with a warm welcome from Ariel and her family. I also received a welcome bag which included some notebooks for classes, (Spanish) wine and my new phone number. So thoughtful!

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In the evening, when Ariel came back from La Tomatina (the festivities in Buño during which you violently attack each other with nearly rotten tomatoes ewww), we went for a quick jog to Parque de Retiro – a mini Central Park of Madrid. I must say this place is lovely! It has many paths for joggers, a few gardens with perfectly shaped trees and a mini lake where you can rent paddle boats (and let your date paddle you around).

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First run in Parque de Retiro

I was surprised that when we finished our run it was still bright out at 9pm. It doesn’t get dark until 10ish this time of the year and it might be the reason why Spanish culture is a late night culture where you don’t typically eat dinner until 10pm.

Speaking of dinner, my first meal I ate in Madrid was…Indian food. A lot of people from my program have been here for a few weeks, diligently learning Spanish, and they must have been a bit fed up with Spanish food already. I love Indian food so I didn’t protest against this idea. What was more important for me was meeting all the people I was conversing with during the past few months. The evening ended with joining the other group of students at a more traditional place, Tapas 44, for a drink and a few more introductions.

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Desayuno Madrileno 

The next morning Tanya, my third roommate, arrived from Costa Rica and the three of us started the day with a cappuccino and a jamon y queso minisandwich (called minibocadillo) at a local cafe, discussing the things we need to do before the official start of classes. We picked up our school IDs and attended an information session about living in Madrid (beware of pickpocketers!) One more week before I get buried in books!

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My shorties Tanya and Ariel