Sunday, May 19, 2013

Class of 2013

I never imagined I would be watching my friends at Cal graduate on my Facebook newsfeed, but here I am, viewing images of familiar faces in navy caps doning their perfectly groomed heads pass my eyes on a computer screen.

If anyone knows me, they understand that I am not the super-hyper cheerleader saying "Go Bears" at every little chance I get. However, I do get surges of pride for my university when I see some random European wearing a Cal shirt (to whom I yell "Go Bears" and who stares at me like I just insulted his family). I feel an unexpected pangs of excitement when I hear that our team has won something-or-other. When I meet someone in Europe that also goes to Berkeley, I do the traditional "ohmygodIgotheretoo" battle cry.

I never thought I'd feel emotional at seeing everyone I know (and don't know) parading across my Facebook newsfeed in their caps and gowns. But I actually do. I sort of wish that I was in that crowd of sweaty anonymous students, waiting in anticipation for three hours for my name to be called.

More than my twinges of jealousy, I feel bouts of pride for my fellow seniors. We more-or-less went through the same baby steps it took to reach this giant leap, from those god-awful G.E.'s to those that introduced us to one of our new passions. We've all navigated from the confusing first week on campus to the confusing first week of REAL ADULT LIFE. We all had a difficult time imagining this day four years ago, but it smacked us in the face.

I am currently pouring over notes, not quite done with my undergraduate career. I'm still nervously anticipating my exams, not quite feeling like a graduating senior. I'm planning my summer Eastern Europe trip, stressing over visas and hostels, and - oh, yeah - worrying about what I'm going to do be doing to get cash so I can eat. In other words, I'm feeling as disoriented as a freshman navigating the halls of Dwinelle (which I eventually mastered, thank you very much!).

But seeing you all in your graduation robes has given me the inner-strength to push through these grueling Spanish exams because I know how hard you have all worked. The ceremonies you are experiencing now are beautiful, grandiose symbols of that perseverance. My only piece of advice to you would be to travel as much and as often as you possibly can. You really don't need much advice; you will be the ones giving life tips to those less experienced, and you will be damn good at it.

Dear Class of 2013, I am so incredibly proud of you all. Now, go have a beer at the Bear's Lair for me.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Taking a turn about town

"Dar una vuelta" is one of my favorite Spanish phrases. Literally translated, it means "to give a turn" and is used to say "to take a walk." My principal pastime in Madrid is to take a turn because I am convinced it is the best way that a person truly becomes familiar with the city in which they live.

I've taken the metro since the beginning, and it makes me feel suffocated. I become a sardine, shoved into these tiny tubes under the ground. I always feel as if I'm missing something up above the concrete because I'm stuck in between two gossiping old ladies on a stuffy subway car.

Don't get me wrong, the metro system is phenomenal in Madrid. I can get nearly anywhere on the train, but it's not as fulfilling as I would like it to be. If I need to get somewhere via transportation, I prefer taking the bus so I can catch some vitamin D through the windows.

Walking is by far the most gratifying mode of transportation there is in my Spanish city. Now that the weather does not blast me with freezing air and sprinkles of water, I can truly enjoy a nice "turn" about the neighborhood without complaining about the cold.

I've been able to see things to which I was blind when I was fighting the below-freezing weather. There's that gorgeous Gaudí-like building just a few blocks away from my apartment and the beautiful view from el Templo de Debod that overlooks part of the city.

One of my grand pet peeves is seeing young foreigners walking around plugged into their iPods, drowning out the sounds of the city. If this is how they always walk through Madrid, they will not understand much about the musicality of the town. There's this intense rhythm that drives Madrid day-by-day. It's cyclical and picks up tempo as it gets later in the afternoon, evening and night.

It disturbs me how people must constantly be doing something while walking by themselves, whether they are listening to music or texting. Unplug, relax and don't be afraid to get lost by yourself. If you're  attached to ear buds listening to the grand art of Pitbull, you will never actually see and feel the city you're in as it is meant to be seen and felt. Become a local by simply integrating yourself and making yourself a part of the beat of the town.