Wednesday, June 23, 2010

last night..

So I´ve been running around all day like a chicken with its head cut off ("water party" at school...five hour long lunch with the teachers...some goodbyes)...what happens when you rush to make an international flight...

But I´m only rushing home, so I can rush back. I am madly in love with this country. And even though this doesn´t feel anything like closure, seeing as how I´ll be back so soon, I have to recognize one big conclusion I have made about my first year in Spain: there is no place with such a fine quality of life.

However, SF might be the next best thing. CAN´T WAIT!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Last weekend, I was so lucky as to have the wonderful Lia Giannotti in town, visiting me and the wonderful city of Madrid. However, I was not so lucky as to have the opportunity to see a bullfight, or corrida de toros.

Lia´s boyfriend, Barclay, had bought us three tickets, without our knowledge, and of course we weren´t going to turn this cultural experience down. Barclay happens to be from Texas, and was probably more excited than a little boy on his first trip to the zoo. Soak up the pictures below, and decide for yourself if maintaining this custom is really worth keeping up the cultural tradition...

There are two major bullfighting rings in Madrid. We went to "Ventas", one of the most important architectural works in the north-east part of Madrid. I have to admit, it was beautiful.
The term "bullfighting" seems self-explanatory, but in reality there is a lot more to it. I imagined one man, one bull, one ring. It still sounded unfair, and I was far from correct.

To begin with, each event consists of six bulls, two for each matador. The matador then has several assisstants: two picadores (lancers), three banderilleros (flagmen), and a mozo de espada (sword page).

Each match consists of three separate phases which are marked by a trumpet sound. During the first phase, the team of toreros come parading out into the bullring, shortly followed by the bull. The matador performs a series of passes to impress the crowd, while also testing the animal´s feroicty. One picador on horseback then takes the opportunity to lance a sharp stick into the bull´s lower neck to draw the first blood, which usually results in the bull´s attack of the horse.

The horse is covered head to toe in protection, but before the 1930s, this was not the case. In those times, it was common that more horses than bulls died in one event. But protected or not, I saw more than one fall, and could not imagine the panic it must have been experiencing.
During the next stage, the three banderilleros each attempt to stab two colorful, sharp sticks into the bull´s shoulders. At this point, the bull´s smooth back is stained with a velvety dark blood. It now supposedly charges with its head bent lower to ease the pain, thus making it easier and less dangerous for the matador.

Finally, the matador enters the ring alone with a sword and red cape. This is the final stage during which the matador demonstrates his skill with several risky passes.

If the audience is particularly impressed by the matador´s performance, they will wave white handkerchiefs so that he may be awarded one of the bull´s ears. On the other hand, it is also tradition to protest the killing of the bull, if he has fought particularly well. This is done by a sort of clapping rhythm, and the bull is allowed to leave the ring alive, returning to the ranch where it came from.

However, I would imagine that the final stage eventually leads to the matador´s stabbing the sword in the bull´s back. The bull lasts for more or less 20 seconds after that, falling first on it´s fore-legs, and then toppling over it´s own weight.

Seeing the bull fall was probably one of the saddest sights I have ever witnessed. It was as if the bull knew and understood the injustice of what was happening. I have to admit--I´ve never been a supporter of this tradition, but I had never spoken against it. It´s as if it was a legend, a fairytale, that wasn´t reality until I saw it with my own eyes. Thanks to Barclay, I have photos to document. I had to cover my eyes.

The silver-lining to this cloud: the outfits work wonders for the ass.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

new york new york

Among my private English lesson students, I have one high schooler named Pedro*. He is really a fresh of breath air, because my other students are either children whose parents put them up to improving their English, or adults who are a bit overeager and demanding. Anyway, I was recently in class with Pedro when he told me about a short trip to NYC he took last summer with his friends. A little background...

Pedro´s biggest passion is basketball. As we all know, basketball is heavily tied with African American culture, which is, in turn, sometimes linked with the gangster culture. Pedro is a priveledged white boy from Madrid, who, unlike most of his peers, is really, really into all this. He dresses in large Nike (pronounced "nyk" here in Spain) track suits, would like to get rims on his car wheels (he just turned 18 and got his driver´s license), and idolizes, for just one example, G-Unit. Basically, he walks the walk and he talks the talk ( especially after I made him a small reference dictionary of commonly-used gangster slang...).

And as any other modern young man, he likes video games. So when you add an affinity for gangster style with a natural draw to technology, what do you get? Well, you get a Grand Theft Auto expert.

In 2008, the gods of Playstation released Grand Theft Auto IV. This fourth edition of GTA takes place in "Liberty City", a fictional but heavily-based version of the big apple. I´ve played GTA a few times, but really all I ever really did was run around wreaking havoc in the know, robbing cars at gun point, punching baffled police officers... more or less showing little ruth for any other fellow human beings who were so unfortunate as to cross my path. But I am a video game novice. Of course, Pedro mastered GTA IV, completing all gangsterly missions which probably involved a plethora of illegal acts.

Little did he know, while he sat on the couch doing all this, he was also double tasking. He got to know the city inside and out (thanks to a number of stolen vehicles), without so much as stepping out of his front door. So when he went to New York City...wah! He knew how to get everywhere. No need for a tour guide, a map...none of that. He was like a virtual reality, more like a fugitive.

Many foreigners feel this way about New York when they first visit...that they already know the city after seeing so much of it on television, in the movies, etc. It must be really exciting to get there and see something like the Empire State building, a sight so familiar but at the same time new and real to the eyes.

*Name has been changed :)