One of the fourth-graders, Irene, who had earlier told me I was "old" and "difficult" asked me my age this past week. When I told her I was twenty-five, she contemplated this and said, "That's not that old." The children are great and some of them really seem to enjoy learning a new language, especially when they can pick rhyming words to tease their friends. One kid, Mario (another fourth-grader) tugged on my arm as I walked past his desk in class one day. I asked him what he needed and he shook his head, then pointed at the girl next to him, Ana. He then whispered, loud enough for Ana to hear, "She is crazy... and lazy!" At which point, Ana fired back with, "No, he is crazy and lazy!"
This past Thursday night, our program coordinator, Pilar, gave Cody and I a train ticket into Madrid that she wasn't going to use. We went and walked around the city at night. We got off the train at the Chamartín station. It dropped us off at the financial district, which wasn't too crowded at night. They had set up the Pac-Man Christmas tree (one of several unique Christmas trees in Madrid, this one is shaped like a steep pyramid with an LED Pac-Man game in constant motion) but it wasn't working yet.
From here, we took the Metro to Sol and walked around the downtown area. I got this picture of the Tio Pepe Sherry billboard:
I ate at a restaurant on the Plaza Mayor where I had a dried pork sandwich. Madrid has a different atmosphere at night. The street performers acting as statues were replaced by a group playing traditional Spanish guitar near the Puerta del Sol and a string quartet playing classical music nearer Gran Vía.
On Friday night, a large group of us went to La Garena. We ate at the tapa bars El Tapón and Indalo, then had coffee. We sat outside at Indalo, but moved inside soon as the weather is starting to get chilly here at nights.
Saturday, we went to Madrid again and met Emma there. We also met her friends Gavin and Becky who are from Ireland and England respectively. They are also teaching in the same program, but working in Madrid. We went to the old downtown Madrid neighborhood, La Latina. Here, there are many churches and, as I learned today from the school secretary, many markets on Sundays. Here are some photos from the neighborhood:
I also spotted this statue. It is dedicated to those citizens who died during the failed bombing assassination of King Alfonso XIII on his wedding day, 31 March 1906:
From here, the Catedral de Almudena was nearby. I got a picture of it from a different angle:
From here, we walked to Calle Serrano, not far from the Plaza de Colón, and ate at an English Tea Room. We met Tamara and Carmen here as well. I had several cucumber sandwiches (one had ham, cheese, and honey, another egg and cucumber) and some hot tea. We stayed for quite a while as our English friends felt at home. We were later joined by two of Tamara's friends who were from the states as well as a Russian friend of Carmen's.
On the left in this photo is Becky, I am across the table (and I'm not sure what I am doing exactly), Cody is next to me, and Gavin is beside him.
Tamara, Carmen, and their friends stayed in Madrid, but the rest of us took the train back to Alcalá and went to the mall. We met up with James, Kevin, and Liz here and ate at a sandwich shop (sort of Spain's version of a Quizno's or Subway), then went to the mall's arcade and played a couple games of bowling there. This was followed by several games of air hockey and whack-a-mole.
Sunday we found a new restaurant in Alcalá on the Plaza Irlandeses (according to a sign, this was the old Jewish Quarter of the medieval city and a synagogue once stood nearby). Cody, Emma, Liz, James, Priscilla, and I ate here. The food was very good and the weather was warm enough for us to eat outside and watch the storks fly overhead. I had seafood soup for my first course (it consisted of shrimp, clams, and octopus), followed by roasted cuttlefish, and ice cream for dessert. After this we all went to an old former-hospital nearby which had its doors open. It was used during the Renaissance as a geriatric home, and Cervantes' father once owned it. After this, we went to an international fair which was being held in the Plaza Cervantes. This consisted of several tents set up by the immigrant groups of Alcalá. Most of these were Romanian tents as Romanians make up the largest minority in the town. I often hear Romanian spoken on the streets and have seen Romanian stores (which often have images vampires and bats, the self-declared mascots of Romania, in their windows). We went to a Bulgarian tent from which Cody bought a two-liter (plastic) bottle of beer. According to its lable, the beer won a medal of quality in 1893.
We are now preparing for our Thanksgiving feast at Jacqui's apartment tomorrow. More to come soon!