Madrid with 50 American Students

When I first began this blog, I couldn’t come up with a creative title. I didn’t want something lame – – which I must admit, that’s what I got – – or something cliché that I feel most ex-pat blogs use. I just decided on something easy: my first name and the country I’m living in. Pretty easy to remember, not too cliché, but it is admittedly pretty lame. However, I have with great pleasure come up with a complete renaming of my blog.

It began with this weekend’s trip to Madrid. Let me preface this by stating I not only got to visit my most cherished city in the entire world, but I got to go for free. At least free in the economic sense. I was in charge of, along with three of my co-workers, 50 of our American study abroad students.  In other words, my internship is going so well that my boss trusted me enough to allow me and the rest of the staff to take a group of 20-year old American college students out of Barcelona and to Spain’s biggest city and capital: Madrid.

I couldn’t sleep the night before knowing that my job was taking me as far as Madrid and back. In the back of my mind I kept telling myself, “Graham, this is a huge moment. You’ve got to shine. This is your internship and potential future career. You gotta CRUSH it,” but the little devil that sat on my shoulder kept telling me: “Good luck going home before 5am because in Madrid, we PARTY DOWWWN!”

Fortunately in the end, I think I was able to manage both my party instincts and my responsibilities as a young professional in charge of the success of a large study abroad group.

We left Friday morning with hardly any sleep (I was just too excited to get some real rest). We landed in Madrid to hear yelling and whistling in the airport as hundreds of protestors challenged job cuts (or as we interpreted it, a giant welcoming committee for all of us). We boarded the bus and went to Toledo where we spent our first day. Unfortunately we got stuck in the rain all day.

My co-workers and I looking over Toledo at sunset
My co-workers and I looking over Toledo at sunset

The first stop on our tour was to a small shop to buy umbrellas. Then we meandered around town, slipping and sliding on cobbled streets. We got a typical Spanish lunch, and then we got to visit the big sites that mostly included churches.  After we were all soaked and exhausted, we booked it back to Madrid where we’d remain for the rest of the weekend.

Beforehand, I of course warned all of my friends that I was coming so that I could arrange time out of our intensive itinerary to at least see them for a short while.  Friday night, I met up with Angel, Tom, and Alejandra (I was supposed to see more but who knows where everyone ended up) for a quick bite of tapas and a caña (little beer).

This is when I came up with the new title for my blog. Tom told me about a new expression he had just learned,  “Gato no naces, gato te haces.” It literally means,

“A cat you aren’t born, a cat you become.”

But reading it as so lacks context. People from Madrid are called “gatos” or cats. This is a fact shared only by the locals; not even all Spaniards know that the Madrileños call themselves gatos. Seeing Madrid as a large conglomerate of internationals and Spaniards from all over the country, very few people are, in fact, from Madrid.  Hence the expression: You have to become one of them.

I knew previously that people from Madrid called themselves “gatos” because I’ve dived as far deep as possible into the Madrileño life and culture back when I was living there for two years.  One thing that stands in my mind is the motto I used to see on my favorite Spanish beer, La Cibeles, a newer beer made only for the “gatos.”

Translation: The first beer for the “gatos”

The beer is appropriately named after one of Madrid’s biggest and most charismatic round-about fountains: La Cibeles.  So as I sipped my Cibeles beer “para los gatos” and reminisced with my friends about how much we all loved Madrid, the name for my blog just clicked.

Later on the trip, Elena, one of the Catalan girls that I work with even made a comment saying how she could tell how deeply I felt for Madrid. That I had Madrid buried deep inside. That’s when I knew my new blog title would be perfectly fitting: A Gato in Barcelona. I’m proud of both parts of the name: The fact that it represents my abiding love for Madrid and the fact that I am now at home and a gusto living in Barcelona.

I leave you with my name change and I’ll continue with my adventure in Madrid with all the Americans….

After coming up with the new blog title, at around midnight, we all headed for bed.

Saturday, we woke up bright and early and took a tour of the city center and later of the Royal Palace. IMG_7492I got lunch with Julián and Beltran (along with Amy, my co-worker and “la chavala” or “home girl” as our group likes to call her back in Barcelona). It was of course terrific seeing those two, but Amy and I had to scarf down our food and get back for the next tour.  That night, we went to Julian’s birthday party where everyone I know and love was. I got to see everyone I wanted, and then some. The party was a blast but my favorite part of the night was when my co-workers finally decided to stop by. I don’t know how they didn’t believe me when I told them that we’d be burning Madrid down to the ground: when they arrived they said they should have come earlier and they didn’t think it would have been as big as it was. I was so honored and humbled to have my new Barcelona cohorts intermingling with all my past buddies.  My friends in Barcelona have now collided, or blended, with my Madrid ones and that was a unique and wonderful moment. I’ve finally let the two worlds meet. It meant a lot to me that I got to share both worlds.

Eventually, we had to sneak out of the party without saying a word before the metro closed. If I had announced my departure, I literally never would have gotten home.  I slept through the night (my co-workers didn’t, having had to go to the hospital to stitch-shut one of our student’s injured heads), and then I took our students to the Reina Sofia museum. It was a quick run-through since we had such little time. After, we all went to the Prado, but I don’t think anyone enjoyed it because everyone was so tired, drunk/hungover, and hungry. IMG_7522Afterwards, we got to take a quick stroll through my favorite place in Madrid (other than my old flat): Parque del Retiro. From there, we got our final lunch, and headed to the airport with all of our half-asleep Americans.

Eventually, after the longest day ever (for professional reasons I won’t go into details but I swear everything that could go wrong, did, and as an intern, it was the best learning experience possible), we all finally got to dive into our beds and sleep the night through.

Anyway, as always, it was fantastic seeing my old friends, and sharing Madrid with my new ones. My Barcelona-Madrid worlds have now met, and although politically and football-y they don’t mix, I think both places are excellent and it warms my heart having been able to share them together.  My internship just keeps getting better and better and the more I continue doing this work, the more I love it. Seeing how things are going, this may be a big professional move here, but seeing as I found out my visa is done for, this may be hard to resolve. Even if my road in Spain may be coming to an end, this internship is proving a valuable experience and I know I’ll be somewhere great. Let’s just hope that road keeps me here where I belong. Fingers crossed.

Write more later,


2 thoughts on “Madrid with 50 American Students

  1. Graham, I love the renaming of the blog. I think it’s a great fit and great name. The story of how you came up with it is really neat. I’m glad you really love your internship and I hope you are able to continue your career in something that you have such a deep passion for. I am still trying to find that field for me, and I believe that in applying to teach in Spain it will help me find what I am looking for.


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