Plaza de Toros de Madrid – The Bullfights

Hello again from beautiful Madrid!

Culture clash…

I went to the Bullfights with my husband and some classmates on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  I had to keep telling myself that this is part of the culture and that I cannot judge it or condemn the practice without taking in the entire experience.  That being said, I tried to view the experience from the perspective of an anthropologist rather than a vegan and animal lover.  Umm…yeah that was really difficult!

Mixed feelings…

I was captivated by the pageantry and artistry of the matadors!  They danced and strutted in the bullring – encouraging the bull to charge and basked in the shouts of “Ole!” from the crowd.  I found that during each 20-30 minute bullfight (there were a total of 6), I would get caught up in the excitement of cheering the matador on.  The whole thing was infectious and exciting, but then reality would hit – the once strong and proud bull is bloodied and is eventually killed by the matador and dragged away by horses.

Final thoughts…

In the end I am glad that I went to the bullfights.  I think the death of the bulls was tragic, but I cannot dismiss the matador’s cultural importance.  Bullfighting is a dying art form (excuse the pun).  My hope is that some day soon the pageantry of the matador survives, but the bull does not have to lose his life for the entertainment of the crowd.


Madrid makes being a student and tourist easy!

Hola y buenos dias,

I just wanted to fill you in on my Madrid experience so far.  Madrid is gorgeous, hot, and really hospitable.  The city holds a million possibilities and hidden treasures on its many small avenues.  Even if you don’t know any Spanish you can get by, but you will definitely be able to pick up some key phrases quickly.  For example, “permisso” = excuse me, which is a necessary phrase in the crowded Plaza del Sol.  And, “no gracias” = no thank you, for the many occasions when street advertisers are pushing fliers in your face for all of the local eateries and bars.  In addition, there are plenty of Spaniards that speak english and are more than willing to help you find something or get directions.  Don’t be afraid to ask!

My first night in Madrid was spent dining alfresco until midnight.  Dinners are a time to relax, eat slowly, and enjoy your friends.  Waiters do not try to rush you (even if they are starting to close).  The next stop was an Irish Pub/Disco (which was Irish only in name)!  It was great to dance and enjoy my friends before the start of class on Monday.

On Monday, it was time to wake up early and ride the Metro to Universidad Carlos III de Madrid or UC3M for short.  The campus is in Getafe, which is a 20 minute train ride away.  And the metro is pretty easy to navigate.  And then it was a short walk to campus.  The first day of my Disaster Law class included a field trip to an insurance agency and an informative presentation on how insurance companies manage risk and disasters.

In between studying and attending class, my housemates and I decided to do the “tourist thing” and buy tickets on a double-decker city tour bus.  The bus is big, bright red, and has City Tours emblazoned on it.  But don’t let that stop you!  For 21 Euros you can see the entire city in a day, hopping on and off at your pleasure, and while you are riding you get an audio tour via headset in the language of your choosing.  In one day I was able to visit the Prado museum, the Royal Palace of Madrid, and a ton of cute little shops!  I highly recommend the upper deck because it is open to the elements, offering a cool breeze, and great photo opportunities.
The Prado museum can be seen for free on certain days and times, otherwise it will cost you 14 Euros.  Goya is of course the main attraction, but the entire museum holds so many wonders that you can spend hours there and want to come back for more.  In addition, outside of the museum there are local street vendors selling original works of art, souvenirs, and food.
The Royal Palace of Madrid is another must see.  If you love architecture, statues, gardens and eating gelato as you snap a million pictures, then put the Palace on your list of must visits!
My next adventure is seeing a bull fight this weekend!  Muy macho!


Conservation of Matter

My name is Shalom Sands and I will be entering my 2nd year of law school in the fall. I have a wonderful husband and daughter who indulge my dreams and aspirations. Next week I will be flying to Madrid to take a two week intensive course in Disaster Law, followed by a week of backpacking through Portugal with my husband (my daughter is with her grandma for the summer). The Madrid Study Abroad program is sponsored by Seattle University School of Law, offering a choice of 3 courses, taught by renowned professors from different law schools.  For example, my Disaster Law professor regularly teaches at Tulane.

I can’t wait to interact with Spanish students, learn about an interesting area of law, absorb the culture, and soak up the sun. This trip is truly an adventure for me because I have never been to Europe, never used my passport, and never really been outside of my comfort zone culturally. Since February, I have been counting down the days to this trip, meticulously crossing items off my “to do” list in preparation for this trip (I am one of those people that has a list for everything), but now that the calendar says there are 7 days left, I am getting a little nervous. Am I nervous about flying? Sure, it’s not my favorite thing to do. Am I nervous about taking a 3-unit class in two weeks and surviving? Again, yes, but these are not the things that have me pacing about my apartment like a crazy person and it has to do with the title of this blog – conservation of matter.

I am attempting a feat that may just violate a law of physics – packing everything I will need into a backpack and a small carry-on bag!  I have summer clothes, my laptop, toiletries, power converter, and the text for my class spread out on my bed.  Oh, and I didn’t tell you that I have to take business attire as well!  Okay, so you can probably see my problem now – right?!  You may be asking why I am limiting myself to only a backpack and a carry-on.  Well, there are few reasons.  I’ve had bags lost before, which is not a fun experience.  Also, when you are backpacking through Spain and Portugal, you don’t want to have a ton of luggage.  So, that’s a little bit about me, my upcoming adventure, and my mission impossible challenge to stuff my life into small spaces!  Stay tuned for next week’s post and hopefully some cool pictures from Madrid!  Adios!