I’m not sure exactly what national holiday it is, but I do know the most important thing: 4 day weekend! Coincidentally, in the US right now it’s Columbus Day weekend. I’m not sure if that’s also what we’re celebrating here, but it would make sense since King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel of Spain paid for Columbus’ voyage…
A lot of international students on campus decided to take advantage of the four day weekend to travel around Europe. I was thinking about going to Paris because the flights out of Madrid are super cheap (around 40 euro round trip), but I figured I would stay and see more of Madrid. The only problem has been that this weekend has been pretty dreary. It’s been cold and rainy since Saturday morning 🙁 so I haven’t really ventured out much. I did however take the opportunity to visit some family. I spent Saturday with my one cousin Naomi. She took me to a really nice Japanese restaurant near Grand Via. The sushi and different dishes were presented on colorful little dishes that looked like UFOs and delivered to our table on a conveyor belt. It was really cool to see and the food was delicious! Afterwards I went to her apartment and we watched a scary movie. Yesterday I saw my other cousin, Carolina, and had lunch at her house with my grandpa, aunt, and uncle. Later we went to a nice restaurant nearby to have some tea and coffee.
Today I was planning on going to central Madrid again to either go shopping or go to a museum but the museums are all closed on Mondays and it was sooo cold today I didn’t want to leave the house. I really need to go clothes shopping because most of the things I brought with me are meant for warmer weather.
I realize I haven’t written for about two weeks so I’m going to do a quick recap….
On September 29th there was a general strike all over Spain and in various parts of Europe. The strike was most felt in Spain in Barcelona (where police cars were put on fire) and Madrid. I didn’t get to see much of the action, except for on TV, because most of the metros and trains were down so I couldn’t go to the city center to see the protest, and I had class… From what I heard the protesters were also active in Getafe. They were ambushing stores that decided to stay open during the strike and putting stickers on their windows and spray painting walls. I wish I could have taken pictures but maybe it would have been a little dangerous.
I did take pictures of the posters that were put up all over Madrid.
So what were Spaniards striking against?
Well, most of you know that Spain is in a major economic crisis right now. They are in a similar state Greece is in although the cause of the crisis in each country is somewhat different. The strike was primarily against the austerity measures the government has implemented in order to get the country out of the recession. These measures include freezing pensions and increasing the retirement age to 62.
I can’t say I can completely relate to most Spaniards because workers in the United States retire at age 65 (or did it increase?), and we usually get only 2 weeks of vacation (most Spaniards get 4 weeks), our unemployment benefits are worse compared to here in terms of length and dollar amount, and we still don’t have universal healthcare, although we’ve made some progress… so I don’t know what Spaniards are really complaining about, but I really haven’t been in their shoes long enough to understand. Being an economics major, I see it logical to cut some of the social welfare costs if a country is facing incredible debt.
On the weekend of Oct 2-3 I went with a group of international students to Salamanca! The trip was organized by a club called ESN which is a group for Erasmus (European exchange) students, but they let non European exchange students join as well. Although the trip was pretty short, I had a really good time! We arrived Saturday at 1pm, check into our hostel rooms ( I was in a room with 9 other people!), and then we had lunch in town. At 4pm we met in Plaza Mayor and had a 2 hour tour around the old part of the city. Then that night we had a fiesta in Plaza Mayor which included visiting 3 different clubs. It was a blast! I met so many new people from France, Germany, Croatia, the Netherlands, and even some people from the US that I hadn’t met yet. It’s funny how I’m making friends with other international students and not really any Spaniards. I guess it’s easier to make friends with people who are in the same boat, but my goal is still to make a couple of really good Spanish friends because I need to start speaking in Spanish! All the international students speak English, so it’s way too easy for me.
Here are some of the best pictures from Salamanca (oldest university town in Spain) :
The week after my trip to Salamanca was pretty rough. I had two tests, one in Econometrics, the other in Game Theory, and a really hard problem set due for Markets and Environment, which involved differential calculus (something I have never done!). I think I did well on the two quizzes from last week but I’m worried about future tests because the math requirements here are pretty intense! Here is an example of one of the problems I have to figure out for my test in two weeks, and I have NO IDEA what it even says even though I go to class every day.
Just some advice to those of you thinking about studying economics here: Make sure you have a strong foundation in calculus, including differential calculus (which in New Paltz is after Calc 1 2 and 3), and some upper level statistics.
Wish me luck,