Whiskey Transfusion

~watch the drone~

Apr 17

Madrid Diary #2, Weeks 2-5

It’s been a minute since I wrote the last entry but these three weeks or so have flown by. I barely know where to begin—this first month here has been totally exhausting, hectic and confusing but amazing and thrilling too, all in equal measure. For reference, my mind usually feels like this song sounds.

I suppose it’s best to start by recapping where I’ve been spending the majority of my waking hours until this week, which is on the 2nd floor of Calle de Montesa 3 at TTMadrid. All of you probably already know why I came to Spain in the first place and roughly how I discovered TTMadrid so I won’t waste anyone’s time talking about that; I’ll start with the course itself. The wonderful teaching staff there managed to pack an absolutely absurd amount of information and experiences over the course of those 4 weeks, often to the point that I would leave the school starting to go cross-eyed from exhaustion and with pockets filled with notes in a sorry attempt to try and organize all of our ongoing projects and that week’s homework. It could get quite stressful at points, I’d say roughly matching how I felt during certain finals weeks at Wheaton, but the teachers there were always present to help us get our heads straight, listen to our insane ramblings and smile and nod when we rephrased the same questions to them 3 times in a row.

The course material covered everything from classroom management techniques, vast amounts of grammar review, lesson planning, 6 observed lesson practices with real students, beginner’s language classes in either Russian or Croatian so that we could better understand our students’ perspectives (those were particularly enlightening) and a hefty group project where we had to design a series of tests and interviews for one of the native Spaniards learning English at the school and then construct a speculative 8-week course plan for them using the information we gathered. Even though we’d be working late more nights than not, we still had time to go out on a few weekend nights and explore the city.

I’ve been doing that a lot lately with a small group of wonderful people from my course. Between merging a little clique of our own while also starting to get to know some of my roommates’ friends from college who live here, it finally feels like I’m starting to develop a real social network and make some great friends. It feels a lot different than my tiny friend group from Wheaton where we always went to the same places on a very small campus, but they’re both good for their own reasons.

Back on the subject of the course—I knew going into it that it would be an intense experience but coming out of it I feel more knowledgeable about teaching English here than I ever could have hoped (I mean, it’s only one month, how much can they pack in there?). But now the second leg of our journey begins as we start sending out our resumes and trying to assemble our bricolage schedules piece by piece. I’m sure this will be painstaking and thrilling in its own peculiar ways but since I just sent out my resume today things shouldn’t start up until early next week. I’m ready for it!

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We ended our course in style. The teaching team rented out a bar in Malasana and gave everyone a round of drinks on them. Everyone showed up and the majority got pretty drunk along with some of the teachers. It was great to see some of the shier classmates outside of the school and with a bit of booze in them, everyone seemed so relaxed in comparison to just a few days before. Some of the teachers even went so far as to rope in a few students to trade off buying shots (I’m looking at you Helen) to hilarious effect. I think most of us were there for 4 hours or more, smoking under the dusty glow of the streetlights and shooting the breeze with some of the more advanced ESL learners that come to TT for their lessons. A wildly successful night in my opinion and I truly hope to get everyone together again sometime in the near future!

ALERT: this song right down here has been on constant repeat for the past three weeks, usually a few times each day. it’s one of the most unstoppably happy things I’ve ever heard and you should hear it too.

So that’s enough about the course……what the hell else have I been up to?

Bogui Jazz Club

Oh Bogui….your DJs’ selection of mid 90s pop hits and classic hip-hop is so on point it’s not even fair—as one of the friends I was with there last week said, it’s basically the house party playlist that all house party hosts should strive for. But you’re still a motherfucker.

I won’t go into details, but my first (very) late night there ended with me losing track of my iphone after being in Madrid for barely two weeks. I wasn’t sure if it was theft or a result of my own fugue state from dancing until 5:30 in the morning, but I was willing to give the club and Spain as a whole the benefit of the doubt. Last weekend, my roommate, some of his friends from Syracuse and myself decided to go back there—obviously not my idea. Still feeling traumatized from the experience, I decide to go anyways and constantly remind myself to not leave any possessions in an easy pocket for them to be picked. So we get there and get our drinks and everything is going swimmingly for a few hours. Eventually I go buy cigarettes from the machine and smoke one. I then go back inside and keep dancing, with cigarettes in my breast pocket, thinking no one would have the fucking gall to pinch it from there. Less than an hour later (I am basically sober at this point), I notice that they’ve been swiped. I take that as my cue to leave and get the fuck out. Needless to say, I had a (mostly) excellent time there but I will NOT be returning unless I’m carrying almost nothing in my pockets or resort to something like a wallet chain. Thieving little shits.

Parques, parques y mas parques

Since graduating from TTMadrid, there’s a feeling I get sometimes that’s been dramatically amplified. Confronted with the vast amount of things to do in Madrid as well as the hunch that I’m one of the few in my friend group who actually has the desire to get out and see the sights and sounds of Madrid that aren’t bars, clubs and tapas joints, I often draw a blank when trying to decide on what to do. I even made a list in Evernote that I can read through for explicitly this purpose, filled with plazas, cathedrals, restaurants, markets, theaters and bars, as well as small descriptions and usually how to get to them (yes, I know I’m a “planner”). But more often than not this week I wake up and barely have an idea of what I’m doing that day. It’s semana santa, no one’s gonna hire me until well into next week and I’m in fucking Madrid!!! I have no excuse. Yet I still sit in my room watching dumb shit on the internet until noon when I could be out exploring.

Perhaps this is just my lil’ country boy brain getting overloaded in this brave new world. Still I’ve managed to see plenty, if not as much as I’d hoped for this week—I’ve been to an elegant rooftop bar called Gau and Café in Lavapies, seen the church where Goya is buried and has a ceiling covered with some of his beautiful frescoes, watched two big football games in a popular sports bar packed with locals (especially when Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey last night, things got CRAZY), gone to bilingual pub trivia twice and just this afternoon visited the Matadero 20 minutes from my house, a massive arts center/movie theater/restaurant/recording studio free to the public that’s built inside an old pig slaughterhouse. Madrilenos sure know how to repurpose their old stuff. But thankfully, even when I can’t decide on what area to explore next I can always fall back on one of Madrid’s many beautiful parks.

A few days I finally made it out to Casa de Campo on the west side of the city over the river, an expanse of green hills and avatar trees that’s roughly 6 times the size. It used to be the royal hunting grounds and I can understand why! I was there on a Monday afternoon so I encountered about 20 people over the course of my two hour stroll through, stopping for a while to lay in the shade and read Haruki Murakami’s 1984 as picturesque clouds drifted lazily above me. I’ll definitely be going back there, hopefully with a rented bike and a friend in tow.

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Coming up next…

So what does the immediate future hold? Beyond a day trip to a mountain village called Navacerrada with some classmates and my girlfriend Siri arriving in just over a week’s time, I’m not sure. I’m sure next week will be filled with lots of job hunting and filling out paperwork but the week that Siri’s here will be, if my schedule allows it, filled with museums and rooftop bar hopping and tapas on tapas on tapas!

I sincerely hope my next entry doesn’t take so long to get to—with TT behind me and a world of possibility ahead of me, I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me again soon. Adios y hasta luego!

xoxo

Cooper


Mar 19

Madrid Diary #1, Days 1-4

As of today, I’ve been living in Spain for just over a week. It feels like it’s been both longer and shorter than that because of how much I’ve done and seen in so little time but also how long I’m learning it will take to adjust to my new life in this country. At times I struggle to remember that this is real and I’m not living someone else’s existence a la Being John Malkovich.

I’m writing this from my balcony in my new apartment where I’m living with two other American guys, Danny and Josh, both graduates of Syracuse and old friends of each other. Danny hails from Bethesda, MD while Josh is from Long Island and we are all connected by this TEFL certification course at TTMadrid. Danny has just started the month-long March course along with myself and Josh completed it mere weeks ago, so in a sense we’re in this wild ride together, all riding the same barrel off of the waterfall that is moving one’s entire life to a new country and starting up a new career in teaching English to the good people of Madrid.

The balcony is more of a sun room but it has a small table, a number of chairs and some wide sliding windows, currently open to let the 60 degree breeze flow in from my quiet street while I sip my 3 Euro bottle of wine. Next to me in our spacious living room, and down a narrow hallway lie our bedrooms, a cramped kitchen and a disarmingly decadent bathroom given that our rent is approximately 330 Euro/month. But that’s enough about my apartment—how the hell did I get here? What follows is a loosely (dis)organized and erratic compendium of reminiscences and ramblings and songs and quotes and thoughts—I do hope you enjoy reading it. I write this as much for you, dear reader, as I do for my own records, to look back on when I’m stale and decrepit, falling asleep after breakfast in the local Denny’s parking lot.

[Note: I’m not in the mood to record a detailed play-by-play here of everything that I’ve done for the past 8 days. My feelings will likely change in the future when the majority of my week is occupied by school or work and I won’t have as much time to go out freely exploring, but at the moment I’ve already sent the same stories to enough people that I have neither the patience nor the free time to spend hours writing blog posts, unfortunately. In fact I should be in bed by now but I’m sitting out here drinking wine. But fuck it, here we gooooooooooo]

3/11 ∞ 3/12: Follow the Evening Star

"I have left my book, I have left my room, for I heard you singing through the gloom." – James Joyce, Chamber Music

En route to Bradley International, my parents and I often sat in silence, unsure of what more we could talk about or how do break the strange spell that hung over us. I am their youngest child leaving the nest, stealing away across the Atlantic to a New Life in Spain for god knows how long. Could count the months on one hands, could be far longer than I care to say. Few things unsettle me more than peering towards that event horizon with only a murky chaos staring back at me. I simply don’t know how long I will be here and it both worries me and somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind it also liberates me. But it is an uncomfortable liberation. Kicking and screaming.

We say our teary goodbyes. Nervous smiles and peace signs and we trudge onwards.

16 or so hours in transit that day, but that’s a rough approximation considering how fried my brain was by the time I was flying into a Portugal sunrise, having slept for possibly 2-3[citation needed] hours and jumping from Hartford to D.C. to Newark before hopping in my floating sky chair to launch into Madrid. How I would love to see an EEG scan of my brain from the end of that day just to see how seriously out of whack people get when flying around in air conditioned boxes and eating cashews all day. I’m positive I only fell asleep because of that gin and tonic.

Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon. I am settled in my apartment and am acquainted with the dudes. Riding off of one of the strangest natural highs/adrenaline rushes of my life (I don’t feel energetic but it’s the only possible reason I’m still on my feet at this point), I head North out of the apartment towards Retiro park, a luxurious and immense garden of greenery and pockets of solitude near Madrid’s city center. It also used to be privately used by the royal family (even though they already had quite a sizable private forest of their own RIGHT OUTSIDE THEIR PALACE ACROSS TOWN).

The rumors are true, the park is breathtakingly beautiful, and on an early Tuesday afternoon when the majority of the city is on their lunch break, for much of my walk through the hedge-lined pathways I am alone but for a few doves and what look like magpies. Even the park’s center is relatively quiet—quite the opposite of when I go running here next Sunday and this area is basically standing room only.

Following this lovely jaunt, I head back to my new home to buy a blanket and sheets, a smattering of food for the next few days, and promptly pass out before my head explodes. I think I dreamed I was an advisor to Hammurabi or something nutso. Wasn’t he the guy who wrote one of the first written codes of law that everyone learned about in Intro to Assorted Historystuffs Vol. 1 in high school? ~~~what does it MEAN~~~

Days 3 - 4: Terra Incognita

Having almost entirely recovered from my jetlag at this point due to sleeping for ~13 hours on my first night here and feeling mentally in one piece, I decided it was high time to go out and explore some of Madrid’s hotspots for tourists and locals alike. My guides are pocket size Lonely Planet book, an Eyewitness Travel book on Madrid, Yelp recommendations and my wits.

The first stop on Wednesday morning is Parque del Oeste, a sizeable park on the western edge of the city center not far from the Palacio Real that houses the famous Templo de Debod, a authentic (piece of an) Egyptian temple donated to Spain by the Egyptian government back in the 60s after helping them recover from some massive flood damage. Through this exchange of kindnesses, this remarkable piece of history is now easily accessible to the public in a park with free entry and no locked gates (which means it’s a hotspot for botellón, a popular nighttime activity with young people which is basically congregating in public spaces and drinking because its more economical than bars/clubs). I’m here in the morning but I’ve heard tell that at sunset when the Spanish sun turns the weathered stones orange and you can turn around and see the massive city skyline it’s something to behold.

From here I head south to el Campo de Moro, yet another private once-royal garden that sits adjacent to the Royal Palace on its west side. The grounds are spacious and beautifully kempt. I see about 10 people during the hour or so that I spend here, wandering aimlessly and stopping occasionally to sit in a grove or munch on dried mangoes on a bench. My minds grows restless if I pause for more than 3 minutes, constantly reminding my body that THERE IS SO MUCH TO SEE GOTTA KEEP MOVIN’ SON which of course if perfectly normal but also a completely insane thought. There’s no chance that I can see everything Madrid has to offer in, uh….ever.

[skipping past the royal palace—didn’t get to go inside as there was a big line and it was already the middle of the afternoon. Better day planning can easily solve that problem.]

Next, we head east from the royal palace vicinity on Calle Mayor, one of the city’s more travelled streets and it shows. By far the most touristy area I’ve seen yet based on the amount of English signage and fanny packs I can spot. Tiny souvenir shops overflowing with Technicolor garbage are omnipresent. Still, there are some absolute gems here.

Tucked away in a courtyard a few blocks down the street, Mercado de San Miguel should be on every visitor’s sightseeing list. A masterpiece of baroque + modern architectural fusion, intricate ironwork frames walls made almost entirely of glass that circle the relatively small market that’s packed to the brim with tapas joints and miniatures fruit/veggie/seafood vendors and it is here that I finally try my first tapa! I choose a red pepper stuffed with chunky goat cheese and sausage plopped on top of a slice of toast, accompanied by a glass of sangria. All in all it costs about 5 bucks. Riding the buzz of wine and good fortune, I head almost literally next door to the Plaza Mayor: Madrid’s beating heart.

Slightly anticlimactic I must admit, but then again I’m not on the Spanish schedule yet and 4:30 on a Wednesday isn’t exactly the prime time to explore the heart of any city. It’s not early enough for there to be no one around or late enough for it to be packed (Madrilenos are nothing if not nocturnal creatures), but it’s still quite impressive. I sit on one of the square’s many circular stone benches between an exchange student and an old women tossing bread crumbs and simply listen (I’ll include the audio from this in another post, I don’t think I can embed it here with Tumblr’s interface).

Anywayzzzzz my final stop following this was the Reina Sofia museum, one of the three internationally renowned art museums that are all on the same street! Each is less than a 5 minute’s walk from the next and the southernmost one, the Reina Sofia, is a 10 minute walk from my apartment. Solid. Also quite a change in scenery after living on a sleepy rural street in the corner of New Hampshire for most of my life. The museum is, of course, amazing and features works by Dali, Picasso, Miro, Gris, Braque, plenty of contemporary US-based artists, mixed media projects, on and on and on. It’s a pain in the ass to navigate through as it’s divided up into two starkly different buildings that only have bridges between them at a few points. Still, I spent a few hours in there and couldn’t have seen more than half of the galleries as I barely ventured onto the 3rd floor of 5. Also of note: I got to see Picasso’s famous Guernica! It’s as huge and powerful as they say and I had been looking forward to it as soon as I heard it was housed here, having studied it in a Wheaton class on avant-garde art. There’s even a beautiful modern-industrial looking terrace at the top too where I could stretch my legs and relax my eyes with the soothing balm of a Madrid sunset.

That’s all for tonight—you’ll hear from me again very soon with updates about a weekend day trip to Segovia and my first week of teacher training, likely by the end of the week. But now I need some rest. Sleep well, friends.

xo


Dec 11

Kurt Vile—“Jesus Fever” (cover, take 3)


Aug 19

Akira, dir. Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988.

(Source: fuckyeahasianmovie)


Jul 21
“Isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?” - Before Sunrise, dir. Richard Linklater (1995)

“Isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?” - Before Sunrise, dir. Richard Linklater (1995)

(Source: demiadejuyigbe)


Jun 16

May 22
See You Space Cowboy…

See You Space Cowboy…

(via lotusmodern)


south-england:

Walking in the woods »» Thomas Hanks

south-england:

Walking in the woods »» Thomas Hanks

(via unknowon)


May 9
Dawn Chorus
[via nevver]

Dawn Chorus

[via nevver]


Let’s Get Out of This Country

Let’s Get Out of This Country

(via mocha-and-honey)


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