Thursday, July 05, 2012


Thanks to the empty seat next to me (hurrah for flying on a major holiday!), I actually kinda slept on the flight last night! Of course, the sleeping meds probably helped as well. Plus the lack of sleep the night before. Yay for exhaustion!

It was fitful, but it was enough sleep that I actually felt somewhat coherent when we rolled into MAD a little before noon. I collected my bag (yay!), went through customs, and trekked alllllll the way across the airport to the Metro (seriously - how far away could the Metro be and yet still be in the same building? It's like the opposite of JFK's set-up), and found my hotel with only a little help from my iPhone's compass (as I said, it was about noon, so I couldn't rely on my wilderness skills).

Oh, man. The hotel.

So, the last time I stayed in Madrid, I stayed in a hostel. It was perfectly fine - brightly painted bunk beds, 10 to a mixed-gender room, bathrooms down the hall, open windows for a breeze from the street below, lots of hippies, you know - typical hostel.This time my mom offered to use some of her Marriott points to put me up.Here's my room:MAD

Between the real bed, the air conditioning (currently set to 20 degrees), the free wifi (hello Platinum Member Perks!), or the bathroom all to myself, I may never be able to go back to a hostel again.

Fortunately, Jason and I seem to have moved up into the next tier of accommodations, since we barely glanced at the 1-Euro-symbol listings in the guide books. I'm actually pretty excited for all of the places we're staying on this trip, which I think sets us up well for an enjoyable trip overall, creatures of certain comforts that we are.

After a shower and a change of clothes I headed out to the Welcome Reception for Pueblo Ingles. I arrived about 90 minutes late (the shower was well worth it), just missing lunch but just in time for the general introduction to the program and the flamenco demonstration:

The reception was for three different PI programs all happening at the same time this week, so it was hard to get a good sense of my particular group. Overall it seems to be an older crowd than last time, but I like the looks of a lot of them.

Adam, the PI person giving us the rundown, mentioned that this group of Spaniards will be interesting - apparently there are 10 or so grad students from Madrid doing this program as part of their Master's study; and with the economy such as it is, businesses are really only sending their top people to these kinds of programs. Adam pointed out that these business-people may be even more intimidated than others because they are so accustomed to being in situations where they are in control and where they are very good at what they do. Spending a week immersed in a foreign language, then, makes them feel veery inadequate.

We got a rundown of the daily schedule, which sounds like it hasn't changed from when I did this program before. Adam noted that the meals may sound late in the day to us (being served at 9, 2, and 9), but they will seem quite early to the Spaniards. It's a cultural compromise.

Speaking of meals, by the time the reception wrapped up and we bade each other farewell until the morning, I was starving. I hadn't eaten since dinner the night before, and I'm not sure how many hours ago that was. I started walking towards Sol, keeping an eye out for possible meals.The weather was really nice - not too warm and with a good breeze to keep cool. The streets were busy, but not crowded, and I enjoyed wandering around a city with no particular agenda. I turned a corner and saw this view:

which, as such views do, suddenly reminded me that I was in Europe.

As I wandered, though, I started to fall into my bad habits where I get so hungry that I lose my appetite. I caught myself thinking that I could just skip eating altogether and get something in the morning, and immediately put a stop to that by 1) drinking some water and 2) going into the first place I passed that looked decent and getting a salad. It was nothing remarkable, but I was glad for it.


My blood sugar and hydration levels moving back towards normal, I continued wandering. I found a grocery store and picked up some bread and yogurt for breakfast tomorrow, then wandered some more. About the time I started to get a little hungry again, I picked up a falafel pita "take away" and headed back to the hotel. I need to meet the bus early tomorrow morning, so it's early to bed tonight for what I hope will be the first solid and thorough night's sleep in a while.

P.S. Traveling again means using my portable keyboard again, which means the occasional duplicate letter (the keys are a bit sensitive). I apologize in advance for the misspellings or formatting issues in the weeks to come!

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