One day after class, my API-mates and I went to a cute little kitchen to learn how to make some traditional Spanish cuisine. We made tortilla de patata, croquetas (really tough little buggers), and torrijas which are basically like french toast but they doesn’t require syrup or any added sweetness- it’s delicious all on its own.
Probably one of the most memorable cultural experiences we had in Spain- we went to the Bull Fights.
We went to see the corrida in early April, so the famous Plaza de Toros was sparsely filled. In fact, we learned, that the bull fighters we were going to watch were more like “bull-fighters in training.” The bull-fighters with huge fame don’t usually fight until mid-may and then the stadium is packed and tickets are extremely expensive.
We still saw the bull-fighters in action. The bull-fights are a very ritualistic performance. There are three toreros, bull-fighters, and they each fight 2 bulls. That means in the course of a few hours, 6 bulls are ceremoniously killed while a stadium of Spanish people yell “Olé!” On the one hand, it is so exciting to see something uniquely and stereotypically Spanish take place in front of your very eyes. This is like a sports event for a lot of people- stadium-style seating, tasty snacks (I got corn nuts that were out of this world), and cheers and chants that fill the air. But for me, the gross shock of seeing men on horses and men with swords torture an animal quickly wears off. At the end of each fight, the torero stabs the bull right behind the head and the bull, is supposed to at least, die a quick death. Unfortunately, our toreros-in-training were unlucky and had a hard time getting the bulls in their first attempts. And so sometimes it took a little help from some other toreros to come in and subdue the bull. As I told a friend, bull-fighting becomes very quickly boring because the underdog will never win. The game is fixed. The result is always the same.
Yes, cool to see the shiny outfits and the colorful capes. Not so cool to see animals being tortured and machismo culture being perpetuated by this unethical entertainment. At one point, one of the bulls had been poked and prodded so many times, that with blood pouring down its side and delirious from the pain, heat, and sounds in the stadium, it charged at nothing and ended up doing a complete somersault. A huge bull did a somersault and landed on its back! Quique, our director, told us that the appeal in bull-fighting comes later in May when the celeb toreros come and fight and they basically put on a whole show and it’s more of a dance between the bull and the fighter. But spoiler alert! The bull still ends up dead and dragged out like how Brad Pitt dragged Prince Hector around after he killed him in the movie Troy. On the bright side, the bull’s meat is sold at markets the next day. As my Mom would say, the chicken and beef and whatever else meat on our plate was probably killed just as inhumanely. So is it really that bad? As you can see, I’m a little undecided on the issue. It’s something deeply embedded in Spanish culture. But it truly was shocking to see animals tortured like and cheered on by the crowd. Others feel the same way– bull-fighting has been completely banned from Barcelona. Maybe the Spaniards can stick to cheering on their favorite football teams instead?
Part of my daily life in Spain has included doing normal everyday things in a completely foreign country. Things like going to get a haircut or trying to get a medicine at a pharmacy become a lot more complicated in a second language. And I’m happy to say that as I get more and more adjusted here, I have been able to figure out how exactly to communicate I want long layers in my cut or the specific type of medicine I need for only two months. I got a free trial day at a local gym and took two fitness classes- a strength training/lifting class and then a spinning class. I had so much fun! The classes were taught in Spanish, the music was eclectic, and it was so cool to be in a completely different gym-atmosphere and trying something out that I do all the time at home and at school in a new city. Even though I’ve gotten to travel all over Europe, every day is an adventure in Madrid.