Smart

The smartest car of all…
…The smart phone.

It’s a vehicle. It’s a vehicle for mobile payments, human interaction, communication, news, shopping, work, stock trade, education, global outreach, advocacy, social media…etc – access to the world.

It’s a smart vehicle (not to be confused with a Prius).

In Europe, the “smart” is the little efficient box-sized car that rules the road, the Smart Car.

In the United States it’s the Smart Phone who is the tycoon of the track.

They’re both small and can fit in narrow places. (Although the Smart Phone does seem to be getting bigger). The Smart Car is efficient, reliable, and can squeeze between two timeworn buildings onto a cobblestone course. It can zip through the petite streets of aromatic Florence or dodge the sauntering Spaniards in Madrid.

The SmartPhone can go in any pocket, fit in any hand, all the while giving you global access. These communication vehicles are experiencing a growth in physical size, but I guess that’s expected when the user/consumer wants everything. How are we to fit the entire world into one palm size product? However, they won’t get too big or too small. The manufacturers seem to know what size is best (or at least the ladies do ;-)).

Mobile makes anything possible without having to stop what you’re doing, interfere with your vacation in Puerto Rico or cause you an extra errand. But will all abundance of efficiency within technological mobility cause cultural awareness and human and social interaction and to die?

Why not park your Smart Car for a few minutes, lock it up, know it’s there if you need it, and take a lunch? Instead of taking 5, a five minute minute break, which includes two in the elevator, one minute down and one minute down, and three outside of the office building, staring at your phone and catching up on texts and emails (which are, let’s face it, for work), why not take 15? or 30?

2 months

I’ve just skirted past the two months mark of being in Madrid and enrolled in Graduate school.

It’s been 63 days since I’ve worn high heels. I just recently have been able to begin wearing dresses. I miss my heels, dresses, skirts and business casual clothes. I know it sounds absolutely silly. However, the silliest thing would be to tromp around in stilettos for 3-4 miles a day on a variety of janky and smooth pavement and cobblestone roads.

It’s been 29 days since I ate my last black bean. I was awarded the most bountiful gift of 5 cans of black beans when Margaret came to town. I savored every last one of those shiny black legumes. I have yet to eat them again. Black beans are hard to find here. They’re not in cans at the general grocery stores. A few of the higher end grocery stores carry them in bags of dry beans. However, they are startling expensive. The Corté Ingles has a small bag of dry black beans for €5.30. Usually buying them dry and in bulk is cheaper since it’s the least “convenient” way to eat beans. Apparently, not here.

I’ve been a Graduate student for 53 days and it’s been 10 days since the passing of Mid Terms. Time is just flying by!

My last exam will fall in 66 days and I’ll return home for the summer in 90 days.

I’ve read 3 poemarios (book of poetry), 3 novels, and about 18 packets of various Spanish and Latin American literature, prose and poems. I’ve watched 6 documentaries on the Spanish Civil War, have weed-whacked my way through a book of modernism short stories, and blundered my way through a class presentation. I’ve turned in one essay, completed three mid terms, and mucho más!

My brain is really getting it’s money worth. 🙂

I am too, though. Everything about choosing to attend Graduate school here at SLU-Madrid has been a great choice.

Since the weather has turned and been blessing the madrileños with sunshine and warm, the smile are out and I’m exploring!

The cold winter weather and gloomy grey keeps the people inside and more like hibernating bears than curious wildcats. But now, we’re out and about!

Last weekend I took my studies into the center of Madrid and lightly explored two of the most alluring neighborhoods, Malasaña and Tribunal.

IMG_2500I started with coffee at Lolina Vintage Café. What a totally charming and endearing little hole in the wall! It was absolutely divine and totally cute. It’s small, smells good and just on the corner where two cobble stone streets meet. Their color scheme is trending back into the 50’s and their furniture matches the vintage theme as well. I sat at a light green desk that was probably intended for a house wife about half my size to write letters with her dainty white hands. I say this because my burly American knees had trouble fitting under the desk and my awkward arms kept knocking the items about. I hunkered down in a corner for a few hours, watching peeple come in and out of the door.

There was a young lady interviewing people IMG_2498for her Journalism class at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. I answered her general questions about my opinions of the coffee shop, she snapped a couple of photos and made her way to the next table.

The best part about this coffee shop experience was opening the drawer of the desk where I was sitting. In the tiny little drawer of the dwarf desk I found an abundance of notes and mini letters written by patrons of the coffee shop. They were mostly written in Spanish, but many were in Arabic, French and English. There were funny drawings, and a variety of phrases, quotes, anecdotes and of course dates. The letters didn’t date back until the 1950’s, but they did go as far back as 2013 and they were still fun to pursue over. I will need to go back and leave my own little note.  Here I am in the background of her publication. “La Lolina Vintage, una empresa española sobreviviente de la crisis

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“Los colores me encantan. El café tiene un ánimo, un aspecto antiguo y huele bien. Muy agradable” – Lily Jones, which I apparently say in a “north american accent”. Ha ha. How fun!

“A Emma Contreras, también le encanta el ambiente, su plato favorito son las barritas con tomate. Y al igual que a Emma, a Lily Jones el ambiente es lo que más le gusta. “Los colores me encantan. El café tiene un ánimo, un aspecto antiguo, y huele bien. Muy agradable”, dice ella en un español con acento norteamericano.

Later that day I strolled around and listened to busy Spaniards interrupt each other, which is, I’m learning, how they communicate and there are no hard feelings when no questions are asked and interruptions are constant. People just share their opinion expecting, and knowing, people will listen. Although are they listening? I often wonder if certain Spaniards are every listening instead of just waiting for their turn to speak…sure there are Americans and people in general, like that too.

I weaved around the tiny roads in a few full circles before finding the restaurant I set out to try for lunch. I savored tasty little tapas for lunch at La Musa that afternoon. What a great place! The interior design and general architecture of the little café were both really unique. I popped in around 1:30pm, ate, and continued to read and observe people for the next hour and a half. The tapas bar only continued to get busier and busier. There was a waiting list for 20 minutes, then it grew to 30 then 45. And the people just continued pouring in. Must have been the place to be.

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I’ve also been exploring outdoors activities as well. On Saturday, my friend and I took the train to Cercedilla and enjoyed some hours of gorgeous hiking in the mountains about an hour outside of Madrid city center. We got exercise, fresh air and relished in the peace and quiet. It was so quiet and peaceful. For a while we hiked along a river. The water was so clear and the sunshine was sparkling all over it. The birds that were chirping and singing out to spring were so pretty and friendly. Definitely a nice change from the dirty and pesky city pigeons. We smelled flowers, trees, earth, pine and could see the clear blue sky. We probably started at about 5,000 – 6,000 feet in elevation. What a glorious day! Plus, the train ride was so calming and fun. IMG_2606IMG_2601

Did I mention there was snow up on the mountain? What a funny juxtaposition to be hiking in 73 degree weather in a t-shirt and have handfuls of snow. There were plenty of families on the train with sleds, mini skies and gloves who were headed further past Cercedilla into Cotos to actually go skiing and whatnot.

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It was really a beautiful and perfect day for exercise o the  mountain!

Yesterday I took my studies down to Retiro park. Although completely different from Central Park, I look at Retiro as being Madrid’s version of New York’s Central Park. It’s quite large, there was a lovely body of water in it and, trails for running, lots of statues and draws tons of people there all day and more on the weekend. Yesterday I cruised down there to read on the grass under the warmth of the sunshine. It was a great idea!

The park was absolutely packed! There was a long line for the boat rental, magicians and men on stilts walking around, accordion players, face painters, food vendors, and many patrons sitting at little make-shift cafe’s sipping coffees or cava watching the sun glitz all over the water. There were people from all around the world and of all ages.

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The weeks are getting busier and the time is going by faster. Yesterday was daylight savings time in the US. I learned, just recently, that Spain does Spring daylight savings on a different day than the US. We don’t actually change our clocks forward until March 29th.

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Predicted weather is 73 and sunny this whole week. YAHOO!!

Chocolate

It’s a little late in the day for breakfast isn’t it?

10:30am, you’re all laid back in your comfortable seat, with your comfortable sweater, toast and olive oil, shooting the breeze for an hour like you don’t have anything better to do. (Or is this what is the better?) Do you have anything better to do than smell the bread in this bakery? Doesn’t it smell heavenly? Of course you want to stay for two hours.

2 women…1 man…2 women…1 Couple…2 women…1 man

Miga Bakery 2What do you think? You think you can just take a mid morning break and enjoy life for two hours before going to work? Not back to work, but to work.

Are you having cake for breakfast? And is that a caña?

 

Cruasán Frances – €1,50  | Croissant de Chocolate – €1,75 | Caracola Francesa – €1,75 | Napolitana, €1,50

I can’t tell what they’re talking about, but the soft murmur of the chatter is soothing and harmonious.

It’s warm in here, filled with baked goods and chocolate. It’s a safe little haven on this cold, gray day.

Miga BakeryIt’s also very brown. There is a lot of brown. But it’s a welcoming and friendly brown. There are a million shades of brown, baked and molded into the hordes of bread loaves on the shelves of all different variety: Tornillo, Pan Antiguo, Chapata, Fuello, Pan Miga, Pan Alemán, etc.

The colors of the carrot cake aesthetically complement the white shirt and brown apron worn by the waiters. The white cream cheese frosting gleams over the savory light brown inside.

The fragrant and excited coffee is also brown. There are so many shades: dark, light, amber, beige, cinnamon, cocoa, bronze and Beyoncé Brown (which will probably have its own Crayola crayon soon).

Chocolate sprinkles have snowed across the tops of croissants and there is a light red-brown dusting of cinnamon over frothy cappuccinos.

This experience with brown is actually quite a nice, unexpected, and pleasant change in my daily experience with the muddy color, which consists of dodging the dog poop smeared all over the sidewalks.

Anyways, I digress.

Do these people work? Are they taking a very early break? Do they work at night? Considering the age difference, they can’t all be students.  Perhaps their jobs start at 11am?  Or, perhaps whenever they like going in….How does it take an hour to finish a coffee 3 inches tall?

Coffee at MigaHave you ever gone into work at 11am, after having enjoyed a pleasant conversation with your colleague or friend, after having eaten a chocolate croissant, maybe even sipped a little beer, for breakfast? What would your day be like if that’s how you started it? Would you dare?