Life through a lens

One of my biggest disappointments is that so many places that we visit don’t allow photographs. There are so many things that I wish I could capture so I could save the image forever. I wanted so badly to photograph the Royal Palace, the  armory, El Prado (and all the masterpieces I saw there), El Escorial, the GIANT library in the monastery. But I couldn’t. Everywhere I turned there was a sign saying “No foto’, a security guard yelling “No foto”,  Curra or Lydia (the API directors) telling us “no foto”. But yesterday, when I was exploring the royal palace, I realized I had forgot my camera and I was so disappointed. Although I knew I couldn’t take photos inside, I could have captured the amazing stonework and sculptures outside. After the day ended, I realized that I didn’t need the camera to remember the moments I had that day. I wrote down in my travel journal all the details I could remember (almost 4 pages) and can still visualize it fresh in my mind. This is because instead of looking at the magnificent views through a lens, I was looking with my eyes. I was truly taking in the breath-taking scenes of Madrid with my own two built-in lenses and because of that, I will remember it even more. From now on, the artificial lens will be used only once I know that I can remember a scene or a building or an image without the documentation because I’ve truly LOOKED at it with my eyes.

Trial and Error
Living in Madrid, even for just a few days, has made me realize that sometimes you don’t know what’s going to happen, you can’t always plan, and sometimes you just need to learn through trial and error. I was mad the first day I was here because I spent 11 Euro on lunch (the cheapest we could find with our limited time for lunch–which happens at like 3 o’clock here), especially when one of my friends told me she bought fresh bread and cheese at the market for only 3. So then I learned that there are cheaper options for lunch (thank goodness). I was also a little shocked when my dinner arrived last night and it was portioned to feel 1/4 of a person. After talking with the waiter and my friends, I learned that my plate was called a “Ración” which is meant to be ordered with a few other raciones to be shared with a group. We made up for our meager dinner by going to a tapas bar late last night called “El Tigre”. We were always taught that tapas were small plates. Maybe they are/will be elsewhere but here the tapas were a whole plate of food enough to give me two meals. And with the purchase of a tapa, came a drink of our choice. I chose my first Spanish sangria and it was delicious. For  only 6 Euro, I think that was the best deal anyone can ask for. I learned that personal space is non-existant here and that when you back away from a Spanish person who is speaking to you, it’s really rude. And that not everyone on my trip has the same goals, desires, reasons for coming that I do. Learning to live in another country where the culture is so different (time of day people eat, portions of different foods, personal space [or lack of it]) takes a lot of trial and error.

Even in just two days I’ve already felt more confident than I did when I first arrived. I feel like I know the center of Madrid really well (from La Plaza Mayor, through La Puerta del Sol, to El Parque de Buen Retiro) and I would feel okay if I was a little lost, because there are a lot of central points  that I can find my way back to and from there find the Hotel Regina. My Spanish has started to come without so much time thinking. When me and Emily’s keys broke today, I marched right up to the front counter and without even thinking about it, I told her that our keys were not working in the door to our room and that we would like some assistance. I also spit out our room number (128) without thinking about that either–numbers always give me a difficult time.  I’m happy that I am at least not so shy with my speaking and that I am beginning to become more confident in myself. I cannot wait until I get to Granada and I can speak with my host family all the time. Always remember to look at life through your own biological lenses before the artificial one.

Hasta mañana 🙂



  1. your blogs are great, Jen!! Interesting about tapas… as you know here in America, Tapas means small portions! I googled it and wikipedia has it as a small meal with some exceptions in Spain.. Wikipedia says… Tapas (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈtapas]) are a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried baby squid). In select bars in Spain, tapas have evolved into an entire, and sometimes sophisticated, cuisine. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal.

    I hope you are enjoying the food! hugs… Kathy

  2. Jenn, I am so happy that you are getting so much more confident and comfortable! I check your blog everyday and get so excited when I see that you’ve posted something new! While I read, I can hear your voice in my head, as if you are reading it to me. It makes me miss you so much! Keep having a blast, and remember all the little Spanish dichos so that you can teach them to me when you get home! Love you love you love you! Muah! Love, Alex

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