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.
Only six days after coming back from South Africa, I’m embarking on another trip. This time it’s a very quick one, down south of Spain, to Sevilla. I could not pass this one by, as I was dreaming about going to Ferrias de Sevilla since last year when I saw it on Snapchat Story (that’s how you find out about things these days).
Ferrias is a week long festival where women and men get to dress up in their finest traditional outfits – women in spectacular flamenco dresses and men in suits with sombreros. Every evening, people dance sevillana, drink wine, and eat tapas. All of this takes place in casetas, special tents that are temporarily built for the fair and beautifully decorated. These casetas belong to prominent families, groups of friends or associations and you need to know someone to get into one of them. Our group was lucky enough to be invited to one of the tents by an IE student from Sevilla, which made our experience unforgettable.
We arrived to Sevilla at 3pm on a Saturday. Girls changed into traditional outfits that we collected last minute in Madrid and the guys put on their finest suits. When we got to the fairground, we were transported into another world. Our heads were turning left and right as we were watching spectacular outfits, beautiful women and handsome looking men. I’m glad we collectively decided to dress up and blend in the crowd because we felt a closer connection with the tradition and culture of that place. We were taught how to dance Sevillana and had an absolute blast all night. Another great trip with a great group of friends. Check!
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.
Carnival in Spain is a pretty big deal. It starts some time in February and finishes with the “Burial of the Sardine” on the night of Ash Wednesday which marks the first day of Lent. Yes, the Spanish burry a Sardine and the whole ritual has a sense of a festive mourning with a parade, music and dancing. Since Carnival in Tenerife, one of the Spanish Canary Islands, is known to be the biggest, the wildest and turns out – the longest (it ends the weekend after Ash Wednesday) in Spain, I decided it was a perfect opportunity to relax before the final exams and experience local customs. Why not…
Along with three friends we arrived to Puerto de la Cruz, the northern city of the Island on a Saturday morning. We were hungry for some sunshine and since the weather was delightful we headed out for a walk around the little town and to the black sand beach, which I’ve never seen before. My observation of the day…black sand does not dirty your feet at all! It does not stick to feet so you don’t have the problem of “sand in your shoes.” 🙂 As we continued our stroll, there was one thing that quite worried us – the town looked like a destination for retiree’s retreats…We wondered whether we picked a wrong date to see the carnival. However, we quickly realized that younger crowd was just sleeping through their hangovers from the previous night of partying.
Since we were joining the parade in the afternoon we were on a mission to buy masks, which we did not have problem finding. I went for a seductive gold & black 😉 We dressed in completely unmatched costumes picked from random items collected from different events like Halloween or IMBA unite, which made us look ridiculous, but we couldn’t have more fun when we joined the parade and walked the streets of the city dancing and waving to the crowd (#carnivalqueens). The costumes of others blew our minds. Families and groups of friends were perfectly coordinated and creativity went through the roof (trust me, so much better than any Halloween costumes I’ve ever seen before). An interesting thing was that most men were dressed as women wearing tutus, tights, wigs, and makeup. I don’t know if that’s the Carnival thing or a Tenerife thing, don’t ask me but it was certainly entertaining. My absolute winners were a group of lady bugs and a group of sexy female (I mean male) firefighters. The second, and the last day, was spent in the main city of Tenerife – Santa Cruz, in the southern part of the island. Since the weather was even better than the day before, we hopped on a bus and went to a man made white sand beach (Playa de las Teresitas) which was beautiful. Our luck ended after 15 minutes of sunbathing when we got unpleasantly surprised by the rain. Ariel found it a great opportunity to go for a 45 minutes swim (she’s a mermaid after all), while the rest of us went to a local beach bar which served delicious mojitos….and that’s where the story ends….
It’s been a few hectic days since I moved into my apartment (finally!). The time was spent on organizing it and because of that I was running around for a few necessities. Thankfully, I made it without a trip to IKEA which would not be convenient to get to. In the meantime, my MBA Program has taken off! The official ceremony took place in Segovia, a historical city with many architectural treasures including the Aqueduct of Segovia (dating back to year 50 AD), the biggest and oldest standing aqueduct in the world, and Alcazar of Segovia, the castle that apparently was an inspiration in creating castles in Disney movies. The opening itself was in the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real, which houses the IE University’s main campus. It’s worth mentioning that the ceremony took place in the church adjacent to the convent where Queen Isabella blessed Christopher Columbus before his trip to discover “India.” (How cool is that?!). The rest of the day was spent on mingling with new classmates, and I must say it’s probably the most diverse group of people I’ve ever been around (350 students from 65 different countries). It’s gonna be an interesting year! Serbia, Poland, Costa Rica, Peru, USA
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!
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).
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.
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!