Word of the week: The other day, I was going to meet up with some friends in the park. As I was leaving I ducked my head inside the kitchen and said “adiós” to my host mom. She replied (translated) “Where are you going? Will you be getting home today or tomorrow?” Tomorrow? Why would she ask that? Apparently, “adiós” is often used as a longer-term, formal goodbye, like a “farewell”. If you want to say goodbye in Spain, use “hasta luego” or ”see you later”. Even though you might not technically see the grocery store employee later, it’s the thought that counts.
In other news, we´ve been starting to explore the city! It’s -dare I say- chilly, but everyone keeps warning us that it’s going to get very hot very soon. The favorite saying is: “9 meses de invierno y 3 de inferno”. So, I´ve been taking this time to get out and about and get to know Madrid a little better. My neighborhood is located relatively far from most popular attractions, so I´ve taken the approach that I´ll see those things eventually, and have instead been walking around the neighborhoods near me. As an Urban Studies major, we practice city-walks all the time in Pittsburgh. Along with talking to residents, it’s the best way to start building a base of knowledge about the nature of a city: how it moves, who inhabits it, and where its points of weakness or exclusion might lie.
Living in Madrid, one of the first things I realized was the convenience of daily life. If you live within the city boundaries, the necessary establishments for modern life are within walking distance (15 minutes or less). These include: a medical center, a grocery store, a pharmacy, a restaurant, a general store, and a mode of transportation (usually bus and metro). This aspect of urban life cannot be understated, because it means that owning a car is wholly unnecessary. In fact, no one who I’ve spoken to yet owns a car, and their lives are presumably as full and rich as those who do. There are multitudes of benefits to walkable cities that go beyond reducing carbon emissions. A walkable city is a happier, healthier city. People are able to have sidewalk interactions with neighbors, and they spend more time outside, walking. Although it technically may take more time to get from place to place, the sense of community seems to make it “time well-spent”. Walkable cities have hidden benefits as well, such as prompting consumers to make healthier food choices. Since customers have to carry their groceries home, they tend to buy more essential foods that allow them to make their meals, and less snacks. A benefit I´ve been very grateful for is the sense of safety, because of the amount of people on the streets. Although this can lead to an increased risk of petty theft, research indicates that it discourages violent crime, traffic speeding, and drug crime. I´ll keep everybody updated with the things I learn about urban life along the way.
Things are going well at my internship- I’m currently revising one of my coworker’s PhD work, because he wanted a native English speaker to take a look. Before starting work, I had fully assumed that I would be working mostly in Spanish, including reading and writing. But, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to ease myself into Spanish. I’m speaking Spanish every day with my coworkers and my host family, over meals and in conversations about work. I feel as though I’m getting enough immersion right now, and also want to make sure that when I do start writing in Spanish, that I represent CEIGRAM well in doing so.
With regards to time management, my supervisor started a collaborative document that keeps track of my weekly tasks. I am able to add projects or tasks that I would like to be a part of, so that when we meet, we can discuss my progress during the previous week, as well as look to the next week. I am not finding it difficult to stay motivated, because the environment is generally collaborative, and my coworkers are all very diligent about completing their PhDs given rapidly approaching deadlines. Generally, time management is one of the skills I struggle with the most. And I don’t think it’s accurate to say that I’ve magically resolved that issue. However, working with self-disciplined individuals motivates me to do the same.
I also function well on a reward system (I’m a simple person), so I like to plan a fun outing to do myself or with friends after work that I can look forward to. Since the sun doesn’t set until 10, the days feel endless sometimes, and it’s generally easy to fit in an activity after work. Some of my favorites so far have been: vintage shopping in Malasaña, and hanging out in Parque del Retiro, watching the sun set.