Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

You can read all the Rick Steves you want but that still won’t prepare you for studying abroad by any means.  One thing I’m sure of is the ease at which I am capable of sticking out—even worse than as the pale, capri-pants and fanny pack wearing, map-in-hand tourists speaking broken English in the middle of Times Square.

The easiest way I can describe Madrid to those who have never been is by saying it is the Spanish equivalent of New York City.  Every metro stop I happen to surface from seems like a different place entirely.  Old Madrid resembles some small neighborhoods of Florence, Tribunal is Spain’s alternative to Brooklyn, while my neighborhood Moncloa feels like a suburb.

My first mistake was keeping my iPhone on a 12-hour clock.  My second mistake was taking my iPhone out of the house at all.  In Spain you get pick-pocketed—not mugged.  While I haven’t been targeted yet, the thought of going through the day not knowing that all my belongings were skillfully snatched hours before is agonizing.  Not to say that I’d rather get mugged…

Attempting to look like a fierce Spanish woman is nearly an impossible feat.  Especially since I’m blonde and my roommate is a ginger—extremely exotic in Spain.  Alas, I have learned the following lessons.  Do not ask for anything ‘to-go’.  It does not exist in Spain.  The idea is if you have 5 minutes, you sit and enjoy your coffee at a table.  Definitely do not bite into any fruit… here they use forks and knives to eat apples, bananas, oranges, and kiwis etc.    You also can’t wear t-shirts, sweats, or workout clothes in public… you will be stared at.

Although, if you’re a girl you’ll be stared at regardless of what you’re wearing.  In Spain the national sport among men is staring.  It’s how they flirt—a full on death rattling intense stare.  If you catch a glimpse its so uncomfortable that I’ve learned to just look at the ground.  There is the occasional time where the guy is attractive… then its oddly flattering but still deeply weird at the same time.  But men will take off their sunglasses while looking you up and down.  And if you run into a particularly ballsy fellow he will wag his tongue at you.

Another aspect of Spanish culture I find hard to understand is the fact that you will find couples of all ages, sucking face hard in public.  Everywhere at anytime of day.  On the metro, waiting for the metro, on a street bench, in cafes, on street corners, in markets and in the parks.  Well, in Spain it is common and quite acceptable to live with you parents until you are married—even if that means into your late thirties.  So that means couples take to the streets of Madrid.

Despite all this, I have managed to fall in love with this city.  How could you not? The park next to my house has Egyptian temple ruins.  Where else in the world could that happen? The culture of Spain is fast and slow at the same time- if that seems possible.  Swimming is a sea of people in the metro, you don’t want to go against the current.  But drowning out the sounds of El Retiro’s vendors, tourists and little Spanish children by taking a nap underneath a tree that mosaics the sun with its leaves nearly makes time halt.

-Sara Freund

Ridley Scott and Jordan Scott from at Cracks Premiere at TIFF

Ridley Scott and Jordan Scott from at Cracks Premiere at TIFF

[This is Nigel Smith’s first movie review from the Toronto International Film Festival. You can read about his experience overall at]

Director Jordan Scott has both pros and cons working against her for her first feature length film, Cracks. On the plus side, Scott is daughter to visionary director Ridley Scott, who also footed a portion of the bill for the production’s costs through his production company Scott Free.

But with prestigious roots comes closer scrutiny and higher expectations among critics and industry watchdogs. The fact Scott (the daughter) manages to evade a disaster and churn out a thoroughly engaging film is a hopeful sign for a long career to come.

Set in an elite boarding school in 1930’s England, Cracks is a simmering Gothic tale centered on teacher Miss G’s (Eva Green) close relationship with her young female students.  Unlike the stuffy headmistresses that keep a tight rein on the girls, Miss G is portrayed by Green as a modern woman, intent on letting the girls come into their own without reservation.

But from the first frames an insidious tone is set through Miss G’s peering stares and unnerving sense of possession. The girls seem blind to her undisclosed intentions, but a new Spanish student, Fiamma, sees right through her, throwing Miss G off kilter.

Eva Green in Cracks from

Eva Green in Cracks from

For her first feature Scott shows admirable skill in setting mood and tone. The lush vistas surrounding the boarding school are breathtaking yet ominous. Through a foreboding score and measured pace established by Scott, the intents of Miss G are never spelled out, in an effort to keep the pervading mystery of the plot intact.

Scott sidesteps slightly in sequences where she employs excessive slow-mo, allowing the visuals to detract from an otherwise engrossing narrative. Thankfully her nimble young cast and Green’s seductive performance more than make up for the showy antics that get the best of Scott.

–Nigel Smith