I would say it’s officially fall in Madrid, as of a few weeks ago. It’s not as cold as Poughkeepsie, but I have to bundle up in a jacket and scarf and closed-toed shoes with socks. But Spaniards are already bundled up in winter coats, hats, and gloves like it’s winter. It’s no longer warm enough to casually go for a stroll in retiro park, but it’s the perfect excuse to get a hot coffee almost every morning. Luckily, for the past two weekends, I went to warmer places. But in the weeks to come I will be taking my winter coat with me when I go to Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, and finally London, as well as warmer Granada in the south of Spain. This coming weekend I’m super excited to be going to Berlin and staying with a friend from high school. I don’t really have a free weekend in Madrid left because of all the traveling and final exams, but it’s totally worth it to take full advantage of my final time in Europe.
The first weekend of November, our whole program went on a group excursion to Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands off the coast of northern Africa. It’s still part of Spain, though it’s much warmer and has very different vegetation, including palm trees and cacti. We flew early on Friday morning and went on a guided tour through different areas of the city of Santa Cruz. We ate a delicious lunch with fresh cod and a spicy sauce called “mojo” that goes well with potatoes and bread. After an exhausting day, we arrived at a beautiful hotel that had a pool and an excellent buffet breakfast. The next day we climbed up volcano Teidi, the tallest point in Spain, which is situated in a national park. We took a cable car up toward the top and then climbed around to see a giant crater. Despite the high altitude, it wasn’t as cold as we expected and turned out to be quite nice. The next day we had completely free, so most of us went to the beach in the morning before we had to check out of the hotel. The sand was black from volcanic ash, and the waves were very strong when they crashed against the rocks. We arrived home very late at night on Sunday, but it was great to see everyone from Vassar and Wesleyan one last time, as well as the monitores.
This past weekend I went to Marrakech, Morocco with three other girls. We stayed in a beautiful riad, which is a traditional Moroccan house with a courtyard inside. It came with breakfast every morning that included coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, bread, an egg, and various other things. The owner was very hospitable and drove us to and from the airport. We visited the large market called Jemaa el-Fnaa several times in the medina, the old part of the city. There were stands that stretched in every direction selling everything from pashminas to jewelry to spices to lamps to live animals. None of us know French or Arabic, so it was a little challenging to get around sometimes. We went to the Bahia and the Badi Palaces, the Saadian Tombs, Majorelle Garden, and the Marrakech Museum, and the Ben Youssef Madrasa, which used to be an Islamic college. We actually ran into another American who we knew who happened to be in Marrakech that same weekend. We all got couscous for one meal and for another tried tajine, named after the pyramid-shaped pot it’s cooked in. Those of us who weren’t vegetarians also tried pastilla, which is kind of like a meat pie pastry. One evening we went to a hammam, or Turkish bath, where we had some sort of skin exfoliating treatment. Though we heard sexist and racist comments multiple times a day, overall it was a great weekend and it was cool being in another continent.
All of my work is now starting to pile up as the end of the semester draws near. There aren’t many small assignments, but I’m slightly worried about my grades because most of my finals are worth about 70% of my grade, which is just how the Spanish grading system works, I guess. But I’m now NRO-ing one of my classes, and I did better on my first half-semester course than I thought, so hopefully the same happens in the rest of my classes. I’m trying my best not to get sick because I really can’t afford to with traveling and work. I’m also trying to do all of the final things I haven’t gotten to do yet in Madrid. I can’t wait to be back home in a little over a month, though I know I’ll miss Spain.