Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pablo Neruda

I have a confession... I don't like poetry. I enjoy beautiful prose, poetic descriptions, but as a whole I don't like poetry. I think this came from years in school of having to read PG poems, with forced rhymes, and a traumatic memory of having to recite a Shel Sylverstin poem in front of many people. When I am forced to read or listen to a poem now, I have to force myself to keep my brain from disengaging.
I can't say I had ever been moved by a poem, until I came across the works of Pablo Neruda. I get it now, the romance, the pain, the beauty in the form of expression. I get the value of a poem. I can listen to his poems read over and over, and enjoy them every time.
His words memorize me, and capture my imagination in profound ways.
Here are some of his poems read by wonderful voices.

Walking Around Read by Samuel L. Jackson

Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines:

I am aware that Pablo Neruda is Chilean, not Spanish. His poetry is widely known worldwide, but as his native language was Spanish, people are more familiar with his work here. His poems devastate me in an artful way that keeps me coming back.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Adventure Time!

What time is it?
Adventure time!

One of the great things about learning a second language, is being able to watch TV guilt free. Not all TV is beneficial to learning a second language (i.e. Spongebob squarepants will do you nothing), but Ben and I have found a great cocktail of shows to watch here.
Here are Ben and my recommendations when choosing shows for low to intermediate levels in a foreign language.
1. Clear speech - Choose shows where the characters speak clearly, no funny voices, make sure the characters don't speak too quickly
2. Easy story lines - Don't add confusion to your learning, no stories like Momento or Inception
3. Visuals to support the dialog - Cartoons reign supreme here, characters speak about what they are doing, they talk about what's happening at the moment, soap operas are not very useful because characters often speak about characters not on screen in abstract ways.

Ben and I generally watch TV while we're cooking dinner. We usually watch The Simpsons, The Disney Channel, Duraimon, or Adventure time. Children's shows are pretty great in general, but I have to say, Adventure Time is the most effective at teaching us Spanish.

 It is comical to watch a character say "I am running" as they are running, or "Look it's raining knives" as it is raining knives, in your native language. When learning a second language, this is like a goldmine, I have learned more from this show than I dare to admit.

Monday, August 26, 2013

House Party

Ben and I had a very fun weekend, Friday night we went salsa dancing at a club. After about an hour of free lessons, the club broke out into amazing dancing. I couldn't remotely keep up, but I had a great time, and plan to go back and continue to learn. I loved that at this club, you came to dance.






 On Saturday, we went to a house party at our friends apartment. She had a beautiful rooftop terrace, we spent the evening enjoying BBQ, having drinks, and partying.



Friday, August 23, 2013

Filmoteca Española

The other night, Ben and I went to the movies. The theater we went to was called Filmoteca Español, located near Atocha Station on Calle Santa Isabel. The theater shows old movies, all in their original language, with Spanish subtitles, which is great for when Ben and I want a mental break. Walking into the theater is a treat, the first thing you see upon entering is a bar, which serves beer, wine, and coffee. Off in the corner, is a small library for you to pursue as you wait for the movie to begin. The theater is beautiful, it looks more like an opera hall than any movie theater I am familiar with. The light blue curtains, highlight the beautifully painted ceiling. There are tiers of seats, you can either sit in the regular seating, or you can go up to the balcony where there are private viewing boxes. I've never been to a theater this beautiful, so it truly was a treat to sit in such a gorgeous venue.
The tickets into the theater are only 2.50 euros per person, a bargain anywhere, but remarkable when you consider how nice the theater is.


Ben and I saw La Danse, a French film about the Ballet Opera House in Paris. This movie could have been great, there is a story to tell there, but the Cinematography was terrible. For a movie about a visual art, the only thing I expected was for there to be beautiful imagery, but the cameraman had some obsession about filming the cracks in mirrors, so all you got were distorted alien looking ballerinas. This was a movie that could have been good, but wasn't.

It should be noted that I have an amazing husband, he willingly went to a movie about ballet, filmed in French, with Spanish subtitles. It was a difficult mental task for me, and tedious during the many scenes that they talked about the financial going's on of the opera house. Ben made a valiant effort to stay awake, after sacrificing his siesta, missing a meal, and a sleepless night from the heat, but in the end the dark, air conditioned theater won over him, and he took his well deserved siesta in the theater. I'll let him pick the next movie...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Roller Skating

What year is it?
Sometimes going abroad is like time traveling. In Japan, the constant use of fax machines, and 90's American music, made me feel like I'd gone back in time. Here avoiding mad roller bladers makes me giggle and wonder what year it is.

Ben and I have come across skate-offs, skate performances, and skate dances. It makes me wonder why skating ever went out of style, the guys here make it look pretty cool.

Last night Ben and I watched some skating street performers. They had gathered a large crowd, and had some impressive tricks. Ben volunteered himself to be part of the performance, and lied down next to nine other volunteers to be the very end of a human speed bump.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Icy Bears

This week in Madrid has been HOT! Everyday has had a high of 100°F (38° C). Right now, at 11:30 pm it is 93°F (34°C) way too hot for sleep. I would be complaining, if it weren't for the fact that I am an amazing genius (either that, or my brain has melted from this heat). I have invented the Icy Bear (Patent imminent) the most lovable toy for when it's way to hot, and I am willing to share my process with you.
1. Take a 1.5 liter (50 oz) bottle of water and stick it in the freezer for 24 hours (14,000 fairy sneezes)
2. Take your frozen water bottle out of the freezer and wrap it in a T-Shirt
3. Use a hair tie to secure the T-Shirt
4. Hug your contraption as you sleep to keep you cool in the night.
5. Call it an Icy Bear so that it doesn't sound pathetic that you're snuggling with an ice cube all night. 
Look how snugly they look!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Teaching Native-Level Accents in Foreign Languages by Ben Davidson






            All foreign language learners struggle with their accents when learning a new language. As many are aware it seems nearly impossible for a second language learner to speak the language with a native-level accent. However, it does appear possible, even as a “late language learner” to develop a native-level accent in a foreign language. Some research indicates that children under the age of twelve have a much easier time overcoming their native accents in foreign languages than “late language learners,” or those who have started learning the new language after the age of twelve (McDonald, 2006). It is important as language teachers to realize this and to perhaps develop methods for instilling native-level accents in all students.
            Some studies have found that the attainment of a native-level accent for all ages is ultimately impossible. For example, Flege et al., in 2006, performed a study on native Korean children and adults who had been living in the United States between three and five years. They found that both children and adults still had foreign accents when compared to native English speakers of the same ages (Flege et al., 2006). In 1995, Flege et al. performed a similar study involving 240 native Italians who had moved to Canada, and been living there for a period of thirty-two years. He found with this group, both the children, who had arrived in Canada well within the Critical Period (ages 3-11), and those who had arrived as late language learners, outside the critical period, had distinctive foreign accents when compared to native English speakers (Flege et al., 1995). This research indicates that when learning a new language the student is doomed to have a foreign accent.
When exploring further research the results become more varied, and some studies even show native-level accents to be quite possible in foreign language learners. Singleton and Lengyel performed a study in 1995 on second language acquisition of English in two groups of native Dutch, all of whom were late learners, one group of “exceptionally successful learners of English,” and one group of average learners of English (Singleton, 1995). They were recorded and tested on four different speech patterns. First, talking for three minutes about their most recent holiday abroad, second, read aloud a short English text (84 words), third, read aloud ten short English sentences (5-10 words), and fourth, read aloud twenty-five English words. These two groups were compared to a group of five native English speakers, who were asked to perform the same four patterns, and all were rated on a scale from one to five, one, a very strong foreign accent, and five, a definitively native accent. Perhaps the most exciting piece of evidence that was found in this research was that on average the “exceptionally successful learners of English” out performed the native English speakers with a mean score of 4.31 compared to 3.94 (Singleton, 1995). This shows ability in foreign language learners to develop native-level accents in English. Neufeld conducted an experiment with twenty Canadian university students over the course of about twenty hours. The group was divided in half, and ten students learned some basic Chinese sound patterns, and the other ten learned some basic Japanese sound patterns. This took place over a total of eighteen hours. Then each student was given ten short phrases in the target language and asked to repeat it five times. The last repetition was recorded and played to native speakers of the target language. Nine subjects were judged to be native speakers of Japanese, and eight subjects were judged to be native speakers of Chinese (Singleton, 1995). This indicates that native-level accents are attainable to foreign language learners if they focus on learning the basic sound patters of a language before focusing on vocabulary.
            The Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) has been used to describe difficulties in acquiring a native-level accent in a foreign language. In 1967 Eric Lenneberg proposed the CPH, which states that there is a period of cognitive and physical development, ages five to puberty, in which language learning progresses more rapidly, and after which it is more difficult to develop (Lenneberg, 1967). This hypothesis was derived from: evidence of feral children and victims of child abuse who were raised without exposure to human language and who were unable to fully acquire the ability to produce it, deaf children who were unable to develop spoken language after puberty, and evidence that children with aphasia have a better chance at recovery than aphasiac adults (Lenneberg, 1967). However, given the research and studies above, this theory does not hold true in regards to foreign language acquisition and acquiring native-level accents.
Teachers can use various activities to address the basic sound patterns of a language in tandem with teaching students vocabulary and sentence structure. Listening to music in the target language is a way of exposing the basic sound patterns of the target language, and the use of other media such as television shows, movies, or skits may be used as well to illustrate those sound patterns in more a natural setting. Another activity to do for short periods of time (about five minutes) is to use similar sounds to address correct pronunciation. For example, if a student has trouble with the word ‘mouse,’ but can pronounce ‘house’ perfectly, alternating between the two words quickly improves the pronunciation of the difficult word. Pronunciation quizzes or speaking exercises can be used frequently to evaluate the students’ progress towards native-level accents as well. These tools may help students attain accents closer to native-level, however, given the evidence of the studies above, there is no evidence to support that any activities will be more or less effective at teaching accents.
Works Cited
  1. Flege, James E. et al. Effects of age of second-language learning on the production of English consonants. Speech Communication, Vol. 16. 1995.
  2. Flege, James E. et al. Degree of foreign accent in English sentences produced by Korean children and adults. Journal of Phonetics, Vol. 34. 2006.
  3. Lenneberg, Eric. Biological Foundations of Language. Wiley, New York. 1967.
  4. McDonald, Janet L. Beyond the Critical Period: Processing-based explanations for poor grammatically judgement performance by late second language learners. Journal of Memory and Language, Vol. 55, Iss. 3. October 2006.
  5. Singleton, David and Zesolt Lengyen. The Age Factor in Second Language Acquisition. Bristol, PA: Multilingual Matters, 1995. Book.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Las Dehasas Pool

The academy Ben and I are attending had a field trip this weekend to a pool in the mountains.
The mountains were significantly cooler than the city, and after a day out of the city, and out of the heat, we felt refreshed and spoiled.
It took us about two hours to get to the swimming pool. We took the train for an hour to Cercedilla, and then hiked for an hour up to the pool at Las Dehesas.




The scenery on the way to the pool was beautiful. They really reminded Ben and I of home in Colorado. The climate here is remarkably similar to home, and the pine forests, and dry ground look, sound, and smell like the mountains around Boulder. Though we're not homesick yet, I'm sure these mountains will come in handy as the year goes by.


The pool was amazing, the water was cold (a little too cold) and refreshing to swim in. There was an upper pool that cascaded into the lower pool both of which had shallow wading areas, and deep ends above both Ben and my heads. The view from the pool, the lawn where we ate a picnic, the beautiful partly cloudy day, all made for a perfect day out of the city.



Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fiesta de la Paloma in La Latina

This past weekend was the Fiesta de la Paloma in La Latina, one of Madrid's biggest and most important festivals. The celebrations began on Wednesday evening continued through the entire weekend. Like last weekends festival in Lavapiés, this festival had all the trademarks of a festival and an outrageous party on the streets.
We started our night at about ten, and bought ourselves some street food as dinner that evening. Ben and I got a Bocadillo with Pork belly as the filling. It was greasy and filling, but needed the seasoning of a couple of prior drinks to have been called good. At around midnight, all of our friends had found each other, and we were ready to dance.
Last weekend, we didn't make it very far into the night. We exhausted ourselves, and had to go home to sleep at around two in the morning. This weekend, we were determined to party the Spanish way, and partied through the night till five the next morning. Many people headed to clubs once the party on the street wound down, but they were too expensive, and too much of a commitment for us that late in the night. We were assured this was the norm in Spain to go to the clubs starting at about four in the morning, and then leave once the metro opens at about seven.



3:40 in the Morning!




Friday, August 16, 2013

Music as a Tool for Language Acquisition


 
Music is a powerful tool in a language class. It can act as an alternative to normal listening activities, it can create a cultural reference, and can increase understanding of intonation. Music is not only related to language, music is fundamental to the development of language skills. There are many ways to use music in the classroom, from ambient noise to focused learning activities, all of which will be highly beneficial to the language student.
The use of music for auditory activities in a language classroom should be selected based on the students need for vocabulary development, comprehension skills, “real use” language development, or rapid recall. Music addresses all of these areas of language development. Better learning from students can be achieved by selecting music based on students need, level, cultural familiarity, and musical preference. The song “Yesterday” by The Beatles is an excellent song for comparing past and present tense. Because “Yesterday” is well articulated, a natural tempo, short and repetitive students will not be overwhelmed, especially those new to past and present tense grammar. The grammar in “Yesterday” is very simple, and using the song will build students confidence for real world use.
Music is not only useful as a conscious activity, such as a transcription practice, studies have shown that by removing a student from associations to their native culture they become more adept at learning the foreign language (Yirka, 2013). Music is culturally specific, and so its use is beneficial in a classroom both as a planned activity, and as ambiance during other parts of a class.  Music unfamiliar to the student or music strongly associated with the culture of the target language should be used frequently in the classroom in order to establish a synthetic cultural association for the duration of class. Jazz, for example, is often culturally associated with America, so its use to establish an English language zone as the student enter the classroom is highly appropriate.
The use of music for achieving fluency in a foreign language is crucial. “In any oral interaction only 15% of the information corresponds to verbal language, while 70% of the message is performed through body language; the final 15% belongs to intonation, the musical character of language” (Mora 2000).  A person foreign to the target language will be able to gain an understanding of intonation both by contrast to the normal spoken intonation of the target language, and by contrast to musical intonation in the student’s mother tongue. Specific to Spanish speakers learning English will be the task of familiarizing them with the concept of rhyming in music in poetry. Pronunciation of rhyming sounds that have different spelling, such as through, few, flu, and blue, can be efficaciously addressed through music. Addressing the purpose and effect of rhyming words in English will help students understand the effect an author or writer is trying to achieve, and will allow the students to better understand the work.
Music and language are often said to develop through similar pathways in the brain. “Spoken language is a special type of music… Language is typically viewed as fundamental to human intelligence, and music is often treated as being dependent on or derived from language. But from a developmental perspective, we argue that music comes first and language arises from music" Anthony Brandt (Rice 2012). When learning a first language, an understanding of the tones, rhythm, and timbre is established before all other aspects of language, all of which are musical qualities of the language. Infants learn about their language well before being able to verbalize (Kopko). When developing skills in a second language this same principle applies, and can be reinforced throughout the learning period of a language through music. Students should be encouraged to listen to music in the target language during free time outside of class, especially if they are very new to the language because it will allow them to develop a more natural accent in the language (Singleton & Zesolt, 1995).
Language and music are deeply interconnected. Lyrics are useful for vocabulary, and real world usage. Lyrical lines are useful for sound units within words, intonation, and word flow. Melody and style are useful for cultural reference. Fluency in a foreign language requires an understanding of flow, intonation, articulation, and timbre, all of which are musical qualities of the language. Music is a crucial element of the language learning process for those that wish to achieve a mastery of their new language.

Kopko, K. (n.d.). Research sheds light on how babies learn and develop language. Department of Human Development, Cornell University, Retrieved from http://www.human.cornell.edu/hd/outreach-extension/upload/casasola.pdf
Mora, C. (2000). Foreign language acquisition and melody singing . ELT Journal, 54(2), 146-152. doi: http://203.72.145.166/ELT/files/54-2-5.pdf
Rice University (2012, September 18). Music underlies language acquisition, theorists propose. Science Daily. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/09/120918185629.htm
Singleton, D., & Zesolt, L. (1995). The age factor in second language acquisition. Bristol, PA: Multilingual Matters.
Yirka, B. (2013). Study shows cultural images may hinder proficiency in second language skills. Medical Press, Retrieved from http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-06-cultural-images-hinder-proficiency-language.html

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bocadillos

Bocadillos are simple sandwiches, that are usually made of  a roll of bread and some sort of filling. Some of the most popular fillings are jamón (cured pork), chorizo (a type of sausage), and tortilla (a potato and egg omelet). You can count on them being really inexpensive, I haven't payed more than two euros for one, and they are very filling. They are a great cheap option for lunch,anywhere in the city.
Bocaditos, are mini bocadillos that are often served as a sort of tapa, or snack item.

Cien Montaditos is a restaurant chain here that offers 100 different types of bocaditos. On Wednesdays and Sundays, they lure in a large crowd by offering anything (but salads) on their menu for one euro. While the food there isn't the best I've had in Madrid, it's hard to argue with all you can eat, all you can drink for less than ten euros (maybe more if you're hardier than me).

For anyone coming to Spain and worried about finances, just know, that it is quite easy to fill your stomach for less than two dollars, on tasty bocadillos.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mercado de San Anton

Tapas, tapas, tapas.
Spain's amazing little treats. Every Spaniard has their own favorite places, their own standard of excellence, and own price range. Everyone tells you that there is only one way to go, but in reality, there are as many ways to do tapas as their are restaurants who serve them.
Last night, Ben and I went to Mercado de San Anton, (Market of San Anton), which I would describe as a tapa mall. The ground floor sold quality ingredients that could be used for making tapas, the next floor had several small restaurants that served tapas based on region (Baltic, Italian, Japanese, Greek, Spanish...), we enjoyed octopus on toast at the stand labeled Bacalao. I have never eaten octopus before, so I have no frame of reference, but Ben said it was the best octopus he had ever had. It was really delicious.



The top floor of the complex was a terrace and restaurant. We got beers and empenadas, and sat down at a table at a table. We quickly figured out why the seats were empty on the busy terrace, a mist blowing fan created a tiny storm for anyone brave enough to take those seats. I must have looked really funny, because the guy sitting across the table took a picture of me before offering Ben and I a seat on the couch next to him and his girlfriend.

Ben and I ended up chatting with that couple all the way until the restaurant closed at one in the morning. They invited us to go salsa dancing with them at a club that does free lessons. Ben and I have really enjoyed that here in Spain, you can have a wonderful conversation with strangers for a night, or start a new friendship easily after one night out together. It's a very social country which is perfect for me, it is impossible to feel lonely here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sales

If I were going to pick a time to come to Madrid, I would skip August. Many of the people leave the city for vacation, which leaves businesses closed and not many events to attend. Everyone I talk to tells me that we won't know what Mardid is really like until September when everyone is back.
The one draw to the city right now are the sales. Ever store has signs in the window that say Rebaja- sale. Clothes are going for up to 50% off of normal prices, as stores clear space for the fall line up. The sale has been going on for almost a month now at this point, so the clothes have been thoroughly picked over, and most of the good stuff is gone, but the prices are amazing, and if you find a diamond in the rough, it's a steal. I bought my self a bathing suit here for three euros.


The stores are starting to stock their fall line up, which I find exciting, Ben and I inadvertently window shop everyday to and from our classes, we walk down the lengths of two outdoor malls on the way home. The clothes look great, and I can't wait to see how to locals look when they are not just fighting the heat.

There should be another sale in January/February too, and maybe by then I'll be able to justify buying some new clothes. For now though I'll just window shop.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lavapiés Fiesta

Lavapiés is a barrio (neighborhood) of Madrid known for it's ethnic restaurants, and shisha  bars.  Locals will tell you that's where you should go if you want to eat good Indian or Moroccan food, and in the evenings if you walk the streets their the smell is intoxicating.
In Madrid, each of the different neighborhoods is associated with a different patron saint. On the day of that patron saint, that barrio will usually have a festival, and businesses and people from that area take the day off to celebrate. This past weekend, Lavapiés had their festival, nest weekend La Latina will have theirs.

In English, we have two different terms, festival and party. In Spanish the word fiesta refers to both, and after going to the Lavapiés fiesta this weekend I can see why. There were booths for games, food, cotton candy, rides, all the things you expect to see at a festival, but there was a DJ, and hundreds of people dancing in the street, there were people making out, some people playing board games. To describe it as either a festival or a party would be misleading, it was absolutely both.

Ben and I went to the fiesta with some friends we've made here. We met at nine (which is early by Spanish standards) and walked together to Lavapiés. It took us about an hour and a half to get there because we stopped at a few places along the way, and then ended up lost, but when we got there we sat down in a Moroccan restaurant and ate humus, baba ganoush, and various entrees. The food was sub-par by Spanish standards but it was cheap, and everyone was too hungry by the time we got to Lavapiés to really argue.

After dinner, at about midnight, we headed over the the fiesta. The streets were packed! It was very difficult for our group of five to stay together in the huge crowd. There were street venders selling mojitos, tinta de vendura, and sangrias in half liter glasses. We paid for some drinks, and as our drinks were being made by a clearly overworked girl, she grabbed her foot, pulled the bloody paper napkins wrapped around her toe, threw them on the ground, poured some rum on her wound, wrapped them in more towels as she poured that same rum in the drink we were about to drink.
We carried our drinks further into the crowd, and watched as a group of Latin American people dance in ways I didn't think we're possible. I'm lucky if I can get my hips going at the same time as either my hands or my feet, these dancers had their arms, legs, hips, chests, and heads all going with the music, and could do dips, grinds, and spins with partners. They put the contestants from Dancing with the Stars to shame, and were doing it in the moment, with strangers and to songs they had never heard.

We headed further into the crowd towards a stage we could see in the distance. I was terrified to dance, the Latin Americans had set the bar too high, and no amount of training could make me look as good as them. As we got closer to the stage, the crowds became too dense, and it was impossible to do the enthusiastic dancing I had seen before. By the time we got near the stage, we had finished our drinks. With no trash can in site, we asked the Spaniard what we should do. She pointed at the ground, where we saw bottles, cans, food wrappers... and so in the Spanish fashion, we threw our cups on the ground.

We danced for hours, it was amazing. At one point during a hip hop song, a circle was formed and we got to watch an amazing dance off. About ten different people showed their moves, including one of our friends! One guy was able to bounce up and down while in a hand stand, another did flips, our friend was able to slink her body in ways that looked inhuman. If I had the cool factor of those people, I would be able to describe what I saw, unfortunatly all I can tell you was that it was awesome.


Ben felt a little out of his element, for most of the night we just danced, and not to any kind of music he would recognize. Then they started playing ska, his kind of music, and skanking ensued. I was terrified, and just wanted to hide in a corner until while everyone was pushing each other, but I saw the biggest, derpiest, smile across Ben's face. Ben flailed around like a madman, with all the other madmen, and I tried not to fear for his life.

The night was amazing, Madrid knows how to live. I'm looking forward to the Fiesta next weekend in La Latina.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Disaster

The other night, as I was getting ready for a date with Ben, I pulled out my trusty straightener to polish up my look. I plugged it into the converter and and waited of it to heat up. After about 30 seconds, I took the clamps to my hair, and TSZST.... my hair instantly burned off and the bottom five inches of my hair fell off into the sink.
I'm not sure what happened, I bought the converter specifically to use with my straightener. The ends of my hair are now all kinked, and coarse, they very closely resemble pubic hair. Luckily the hair I fried was near the end, and on my shortest layer of my hair, but I think I'm going to have to go to get someone to cut off the fried ends.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What Luck!

 Sometimes in life, you work really hard, put everything you got into getting things done, and get absolutely nothing in return. Other times, you do absolutely nothing, and everything falls into place.

When Ben and I first moved to Japan, life was hard, we couldn't find an apartment, and the ones we could wouldn't rent to foreigners. Our company was apathetic, and ripped us off at every opportunity. We hadn't saved enough money before we left, and had no idea how we were going to get by. But the worst part in the beginning was the loneliness, we had no friends, or even any possible friends near us. It was tough, and at points all we wanted to do was go back home, where our friends were, where life would be easier. We anticipated that difficulty here, and despite the clear memories of how miserable it was sometimes, we decided to push through that pain again, for the chance to be more worldly.

I am happy to say, life has fallen into place here, and we couldn't be happier!

Ben and I thought we would be living in a hostel for the first couple of weeks while we searched for apartments, but we caught a lucky break. The hostel owner is also an property owner in the city, and runs many units throughout Madrid, he showed us the ones he had within our price range, one of which was right in the heart of Madrid, within walking distance of dozens of major attractions, and hundreds of restaurants and bars.Our place is 420 euros a month, and includes all utilities, maid service once a week, and is silent in the apartment at night (I defy you to find a better apartment deal in the center of Madrid for a couple).  We decided before moving to Madrid that we wanted to have roommates, so that we could make friends more easily, and practice our Spanish. Our roommates so far are fantastic, they are a very kind couple from Barcelona, that don't speak any English, who are patient with my limited Spanish (and Ben's spattering of random words accompanied by gestures). Our roommates want to introduce us to their friends, and show us how to eat tapas.

Ben and I are taking TEFL classes here, and getting to get international English teacher certifications. The classes are great, the teacher is very effective, and I am learning a lot. The people who run the program are more than eager to help us with any issues, like where to by cellphones, how to set up a bank account, or even questions like where can I buy a hair straightener. Since we're in a classroom setting, we spend the day with many people who are new to the area, and interested in making new friends, so tomorrow night we are all going out together to a festival, to eat, drink, and enjoy Madrid.

We also have no money worries this time round, Spain is very inexpensive, and we saved up plenty of money before our arrival.

The food here is phenomenal, best I've had in the world, and completely affordable to Ben and me.

My Spanish is sufficient to get by here, I am learning quickly, and Spaniards tend to be very patient with my poor Spanish and eager to teach me more. I am very impressed by how well Spaniards can figure out my meaning despite my complete lack of grammar.


 Life here has fallen into place, I have high hopes for the year. I am elated, gleeful, thrilled, exultant, ecstatic........








Without further ado, welcome to our home here in Spain:



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Anniversary

Today was Ben and my wedding anniversary! I can't believe it's been a year.

We're saving celebrating for this weekend because we have so much work this week, and still don't feel caught up on sleep. We tried to go out and eat a nice dinner, but ended up having the worst meal so far in Madrid (don't eat at a restaurant called Cafe y Tapas in Callao).

We're loving Madrid, and I will have lots to say, after I am much less sleep deprived.

Link to a post on our wedding for anyone interested.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hospedaje Dolcevita

Ben and I are spending our first two weeks in the a hostel called Hospedaje Dolcevita. When I think hostel nothing this nice comes to mind. This place is very clean, nicely decorated, and has comfy beds, all new experiences for me in the world of hostels.
The staff is very nice, and  have gone out of their way to make sure we've enjoyed our stay here in the hostel and in the city. They are patient with my Spanish, and help me practice, but they all speak English well, so any possible confusion is taken care of quickly and easily.

         



The location is great, and easy walk from Sol, The Prado Museum, Gran Via, and is surrounded with great restaurants and night life. It is situated in gay barrio (Chueca), which makes the area an estrogen free zone after midnight. Almacen de Cervezas, a gay bar below the hostel serves a ridiculously good lunch, despite the dingy appearance. Ben and I also ate at Udon (a Japanese fast food restaurant), and Toca Jamon (Tapas Bar) which both served excellent food.







The view from the roof of the hostel is worth the price of the room by itself. The ocean of roof tops is breathtaking and is a perfect place to enjoy a romantic dinner as the sun sets.