Thursday, June 18, 2015

Madrid: The Top 10

After ten days in Madrid (including a couple of small trips outside), I can hopefully compose a "top 10" post. I learned that Madrid, like many large cities, is divided into various neighborhoods, each of which has a distinct personality. So, I will organize my hit list by neighborhood. I should mention, if you like to walk and have comfy shoes, you can get to everything listed here on foot. If it's too hot or you want to save your energy, use the very clean and user-friendly Madrid Metro.

Important note for students and teachers: Anything in Spain that is considered "patrimonio nacional" (basically all museums and historical sites), is FREE for you, so be sure to bring your ID.

So, what to do in Madrid... let's start at the center of the city, Puerta del Sol.

1. La Mallorquina. Serving traditional Spanish pastries since 1894, La Mallorquina, in the plaza Puerta del Sol, is a dangerously delicious way to start the day. Walk right in and order in the front of the store for a pastry to go, or stand at the bar in the back for a coffee/tea and sweet. If you go upstairs, you can sit at a table and be waited on.

Breakfast at the bar in La Mallorquina
Moving on to "the classics"... a short, winding walk westward from Sol will take you to La Opera/Palacio district.

2. Plaza Mayor. From Puerta del Sol to Opera/Palacio, stop by Madrid's main plaza, one of those tourist must-sees. I actually found the walk to and from a lot more interesting than the plaza itself, especially on a very hot, sunny day with no shade in sight. Just around the block is the Mercado San Miguel, a great place to grab a snack.

Intense heat and sun in Plaza Major
3. Palacio Real (royal palace). The official palace of the Spanish government, build in the first half of the 18th Century, the palace has about 3,000 rooms, 23 of which are open for tourists to visit. A great respite on a hot, sunny day, a walk through the palace is a nice place to start a visit to Madrid. Whether or not the Spanish royal family still live there is questionable... I heard both answers from reputable sources.

Palacio Real
In the other direction, in the areas of Parque del Retiro (an attraction in itself) and Atocha...

4. Museo del Prado. Of course, this truly must-see could take a week. Or, you could go in with a plan. Pick up the museum map at the info desk as soon as you walk in, and target your visit to the masterpieces list. For 5 euros at the gift shop, you can buy a small guide to the 50 masterpieces, which has an easier to navigate map, as well as pictures and descriptions of all of these major works. Well worth it, as is the visit to one of the most celebrated art museums in the world.

Resting after a marathon visit to Museo del Prado
5. Museo Reina Sofía. Although they are neighbors, I would not suggest attempting both Prado and Reina Sofía in the same day, unless the only thing you want to see at the latter is Picasso's Guernica. That being said, Guernica alone would actually be a perfectly acceptable -better said, spectacular- reason to enter the Reina Sofía Museum.

Museo Reina Sofía: More modern than expected
The rest of my Top 10 are neighborhoods themselves, and a few interesting things to discover in each one. We'll work our way walking back from Reina Sofía to Puerta del Sol and then farther north.

6. Lavapiés. A historically working class neighborhood, Lavapiés is the most diverse area of Madrid: dynamic, colorful, and definitely the place to go when you are tired of Spanish food. In this neighborhood, you will find authentic Asian, North African, and Latin American restaurants, as well as interesting art galleries, including La Tabacalera, former tobacco factory turned art/community center. During my first visit to Lavapiés, I walked into the plaza and passed by an Indian restaurant playing salsa music, bought a lychee juice at a corner shop, and admired beautiful Turkish pastries at a bakery. A few days later, I returned and ate my favorite lunch in Madrid at the Restaurante Achuri (delicious dishes and great vegetarian options!).  

Barrio Lavapiés, home to a diverse community and thus, great restaurants! 
An example of hybridity in Lavapiés: An Indian restaurant offering Spanish tapas and raciones, as well as kebab
7. Las Letras. Poetry in the street, literally. In Las Letras neighborhood, the streets are named for literary figures, and passages from Spanish poems and prose are embossed in gold letters into the sidewalks. It's hard to walk without stopping to read. Not to mention, there was a great antique market going on as part of an art/deco festival last weekend. Local businesses showed off their creativity with spectacular window displays, inside and out.

Awesome window/shop displays in Las Letras

Finally, on the north side of Puerta del Sol...

8. Museo Sorolla. What a treat! This museum was the home of Spanish impressionist artist, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, and its courtyard and gardens are nearly as beautiful as the paintings. Sunlight, sea, and family life were Sorolla's primary subjects, and the paintings are truly luminous.

Inside Sorolla's studio
9. Chueca. Known as Madrid's center for LGBTQ pride, Chueca is full of colorful shops and trendy cocktail lounges. Also of note are a few fresh juice bars and a gluten-free bakery, and the upscale Mercado San Antón.

Too pretty to eat? Gluten-free cupcakes in Chueca

Spices at the Mercado San Anton, in Chueca    
10. Finally... Malasaña. Adjacent to Chueca, Malasaña is the "hipster" area of Madrid. Pedestrian streets make for easy window (or real, if you so desire) shopping in the neighborhood's numerous designer shops and elegant boutiques. What did I notice in Malasaña? Lots of tea shops! If you want to buy tea, go to Malasaña.

Madrid, like any big city, can be overwhelming at first, but when you look at it as a group of unique neighborhoods, it's easy to appreciate the city's diversity and charm. So take a walk outside the typical sites, eat some great food, and enjoy the nonstop night life of MAD.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Food in Madrid: Green eggs and ham?

Admittedly, I have only been in Madrid for a week. Still, I can certainly say that the major culinary emphasis here is ham, of many types. There is even a Museo del Jamón down the street. Very impressive, but perhaps not the best environment for a vegetarian.
Various types of ham, with a bit of manchego cheese, another ubiqitous item

A fried egg and chunks of ham on top of "pisto", a tomato-based, vegetable stew

For those of us attempting to not eat ham, there is no shortage of protein in the form of eggs. I have had many slices of tortilla de patatas (a big, thick, potato pancake cut into slices like a pizza), but beyond this, eggs are added to everything else... even things you wouldn't suspect, like gaspacho (as bits of hard boiled egg sprinkled on top). I have to say, this week I have felt a little bit like Sam I Am from the beloved Dr. Seuss book (especially where the ham is concerned). Not to worry, I have made up for any missing calories in the form of sweets!

Apparently, cloistered nuns make the best cookies. In Chinchón, a small town about an hour outside Madrid, eight sisters in the Convento de las Hermanas Clarisas sell simple, but delicious, cookies involving flour, butter, sugar, and eggs (with various nut options). Your purchase is a tasty contribution to a good cause.

Almost gone... butter cookies baked by nuns in Chinchón

Of couse, I had to try the Spanish classic, churros con chocolate... fried dough sticks to be dipped in sugar or thick hot chocolate with the consistency of pudding. A pleasant surprise was the popularity of frozen yogurt. So far my favorite is Llaollao, a franchise froyo place that combines fresh fruit granizado (imagine a watermellon slush) with natural frozen yogurt, more fruit, and warm, creamy toppings like white chocolate sauce. YUM! 

Churros con chocolate

My sensacion from Llaollao 


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pocos días en España: More on speaking the wrong kind

Hola de Madrid! A couple months ago, I wrote a post about language differences and "speaking the wrong kind". My first time in Spain, I am attending a CIEE International Faculty Development Workshop on intercultural development this week. Of course, when it comes to intercultural anything, the first thing on my mind is language. In this case, I came here wondering, what happens to people (e.g., me) who speak Latin American Spanish in Spain? How are they (we) perceived? What adjustments might need to be made to facilitate communication, and how do these affect the speaker's identity?

For months, I have been trying to find an article or blogpost I know I read about Latinos in Spain, from a language perspective. I remember clearly that the author, a Latin American immigrant to Spain, talked about speaking the same language, but constantly being made to feel that her Spanish was incorrect, not "proper", or somehow lacking. Interestingly, one of my colleagues at the seminar has lived this experience, and we had a very enlightening conversation about it.

My new friend, who I thought was, without a doubt, Spanish due to her way of speaking, told me yesterday that she is really, in fact, from South America. My immediate response: "No! Wow! I was sure that you were Spanish. How did you change your entire way of speaking by living here?"

She said it wasn't that difficult, but she also felt obligated to do it. Without speaking like a Spaniard, she felt she would always be considered an outsider, a foreigner, and she didn't want that. She has lived here for 15 years, is married to a Spaniard, and has children born in Spain. Still, however, to the native Spanish ear, her language is still not perfectly local- she has been called out on minor, pragmatic nuances (the differences in usage between escuchar vs. oír, for example).

I tried to imagine what this would be like. It feels so awkward for me to say, "graTHias" or "plaTHa", and pronunciation is really just a minor detail. There are systematic, grammatical differences as well, and, of course, lexical differences on many levels. I spoke with another seminar participant about it as we walked to meet the group for tapas. I said, "imagine moving to say, England, and feeling like you had to completely change your accent and vocabulary, your language use. Wouldn't this affect your identity?". As it turns out, the guy I was talking with is a Canadian living in the U.S. (and nothing about his language indicated this to me). He said that his language has defintely changed since he moved south to complete his college education and begin working as a professor. Now, in fact, when he goes to see his family in Canada, they tell him he speaks like someone from the U.S. But, he insisted, this is no big deal; it just happened naturally.

So, I concluded, maybe it really isn't that hard, not that dramatic or life-changing. Maybe it's just another one of the many, major and minor adaptations immigrants go through when relocating to a different place. However, the variations between Canadian and U.S. English don't seem nearly as plentiful (or linguistically complex) as those between the Spanishes (but maybe that's only my perception as a second language speaker). In any case, the more important difference is that the Canadian in the U.S. shifted his language almost involuntarily, without really thinking about it ("no big deal"). The South American in Spain, at least to my ear, drastically changed her language on purpose, with a sense of obligation and necessity. This is the impact.

So I am here, just for 10 days, speaking "the wrong kind" of Spanish, and finding more questions than answers. More to come about Madrid, a la turista.

Can you say gnocchi in Spanish?


Friday, June 5, 2015

A summer of intercultural journeys begins... Madrid awaits!

You know how teachers get at the end of the school year? The anticipation, the countdown, the desperation for a break? That's exactly how I was feeling about a month ago. Happily, the semester ended, I finished all the grading, and the university parking lots cleared out. A couple weeks ago, I attended graduation, hugging each of this year's nearly 20 grads who earned their Bachelor's degrees with a minor in Speech-Language Pathology.

For university educators (and many K-12 teachers, as well), summer break is just a myth. That is, the end to teaching does not mean the end of work. In fact, everyone seems to have a huge list of summer projects: data to analyze, papers to write, conference proposals to submit. My focus this summer is a bit more hands-on (and fun!): intercultural learning and development. Even though I have personally experienced intercultural learning, I am just now studying the theories and research related to it. Delving into this field is important, due to my involvement with global service learning and the development and teaching of related courses at my university.

I began the summer by co-presenting at the NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo, in Boston, last week. NAFSA focuses on all things international/global in education: study abroad, global service learning, advocacy, international student services, and social responsibility in international education, for example. It was my first time at this conference, and I loved it! My goal was to learn how to better prepare students, as well as how to develop sustainable projects for our college's global service learning in Guatemala. I learned so much about research on cultural competence, how to engage students in international contexts, dimensions of culture, and potential ways to bridge cultural chasms.

The Expo at NAFSA: Candyland for international education junkies

Next on the agenda is a CIEE Faculty Development Seminar on Intercultural Development, in Madrid, Spain. I can't wait! There has been quite a bit of preparation for the seminar. For starters, I took the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a well-established, valid tool for assessing and coaching intercultural development. The IDI experience included a 12-page profile and a one-hour, individual debriefing with a trainer. Results show that my perceived level of intercultural development (acceptance) is higher than my actual level (minimization). No worries, though, as I also received a lengthy, individualized development plan to help me move to the next level.

The IDI continuum. See 
One thing I learned already, and it may seem obvious (but since I'm a minimizer I tend to think everyone is the same), is that everyone's goals for international education are different, and that everyone is in a different place in their own intercultural development. Thus, in planning global service learning experiences and preparing our students, we need to start where they are and have realistic expectations of what they will get out of the experience.

A few other things I have been exploring in the area of intercultural learning:

1. The Hofstede Center: A tool that allows you to compare two countries on 6 cultural dimensions. Obviously, this is not all you need, but it's a great start.

2. I think I've already mentioned this, but it's a valuable resource for global service learning research and practice. They also have a blog.

3. Developing cultural mindedness: A guidebook for generating stronger intercultural service. After attending an IARSLCE webinar on global service learning, one of the participants, Kathryn Burleson,  emailed me with this excellent tool, which she developed.

4. Purdue University's Passport to Intercultural Learning (PUPIL), recommended at NAFSA, a strong model for how institutions of higher education can promote students'  intercultural learning.

5. Vande Berg, Paige, and Lou's (2012) book, Student learning abroad: What our students are learning, what they're not, and what we can do about it. I read a couple chapters for the CIEE seminar, and it's a worthwhile read. It was also recommended at NAFSA.

6. For those of you looking for research articles, the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning (from U. MI), current issue, has a special section on global service learning.

In a future blog, I'll talk about strategies for developing/practicing intercultural awareness and communication. Stay tuned for touristy posts from Spain, as well. ¡Nos vemos en Madrid!

Enjoying Boston at the NAFSA Conference