Madrid

A few months ago one of my favourite bloggers, Jess, introduced me to the concept of virtual coffee dates who, in turn, learned about this from Amber (don’t you love how far word spreads through the internet sometimes?). Anyway, these virtual coffee dates are meant to be a way to have a personal life catch-up. I love this concept! 

So grab your beverage of choice and lets meet for coffee like old friends (would you like some milk and stevia?). 

If we were having coffee right now

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you that I have just returned from my three week hike on the Camino del Norte. I’d show you the state of my feet after walking over 430km and we’d laugh about my ridiculously impossible tan lines. I would tell you about the wonderful people I met on the way (my “Camino Family”), show you my favourite photos of the trip and try to convince you to get on board next summer!

Asturias, Spain

If we were having coffee right now… I would ask you what I should pack for my upcoming 3-leg trip to Miami Beach, New York City and Iceland – Aaaahh, how am I going to fit my boho chic, cityscape and outdoorsy styles in one bag? Despite all my years of travel and of being a professional planner, I’m still not a good packer. I might or might not have forgotten to pack my pijamas on more than one trip, oops…

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you that I’m now officially an International MBA Candidate at IE Business School in Madrid, and will be starting this September! I’m beyond excited to have been admitted to my perfect fit school and can’t wait to meet my super diverse and fun classmates and crack our brains working on some kick ass cases.

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you that I had never felt as fit and healthy as I do now. I’d probably call it the Miracle of the Camino, but… it’s really more than just exercising. Since early May, I have made a conscious effort to significantly reduce my carb intake – and I just feel way lighter and less bloated! I’d tell you about my addiction to home-made Zoodles (yes, it’s a thing), celeriac fries and matcha tea. Dear god, does this make me a hipster?

Ensalada de pulpo, Tenerife, Spain

If we were having coffee right now… I would confess that I’m equally excited and scared about my doing the Langavegur trail in Iceland this summer. I mean, it kind of sounds like my wildest dream: lava fields, glaciers, hot springs, volcanoes and mountains – all in just 55km (34 miles). But… crossing (sometimes deep and violent) glacial streams, spending days under rain and possibly snow, and sleeping in a tiny tent trying to heat up pre-made food sounds, well, challenging. I keep on repeating this to myself:

“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”

– Seth Godin

If we were having coffee right now… I would tell you that I finally registered for a Digital Photography course in New York this month! You would remind me of all those times I had told you how much I’d been yearning to improve my photography, but life and work seemed to always step in my way. I know, I know – I can’t believe it’s finally happening either!

New York, USA

If we were having coffee right now… I’d show you my new about me page and ask you what you’d think about it. I always get nervous when I change one of the big pages on my blog. I worry about technical issues, about my photos and my writing – does it work? does it look good? is it light and fun? I would also tell you that I’m considering a few more changes around here – like possibly integrating a Frequent Q&A section and writing some articles in Spanish (my mind just needs a rest sometimes). There’s so much to ponder right now… Help! What would you do?

So, anyway, what’s new in your life?

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I can’t find enough words that suffice to explain how I feel each time I step on Madrid. The city has been part of so many important events in my life that I’m overwhelmed with familiarity and a feeling of simply belonging. When I walk its streets, thousands of memories flow into my mind. Living away from home for the first time. My first love. And my first heart-break. My best friends. Studying in the park. My graduation (and my second graduation, too). My first snowfall.

I took this picture on a sunday evening from a beautiful terrace overlooking la Catedral de la Almudena and Campo del Moro. In the distance, the outskirts of the city during the last few minutes of sunset. I’m still amazed about how a city I always believe to know so well, keeps on surprising me each time I return.

I’ll see you soon, Madrid.

No somos mercanía en las manos de políticos y banqueros.
We are not commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers.

Looking one month back, on the 15th of May, I remember reading every article I came across with in the internet, checking Bloomberg every couple of minutes for an update and continuously searching for new video images on YouTube of what was happening in over 50 cities in Spain – a peaceful protest on which more than 150,000 people took over the streets to demand Real Democracy.

While Tunisia was the first one this year demanding democracy and social justice, it soon inspired other its neighbors to take the reins. I never expected Spain to join this revolutionary fever that has been affecting mainly North Africa and the Middle East, and I still don’t firmly believe that this was its intention. There are obviously notorious differences between these protests – Spain is a democracy after all, isn’t it?

Sure, that’s what we’ve been taught in school ever since el Generalísimo died in 1975. But the truth is, many Spaniards believe that the country’s politics have turned into a national scam.

Esto no es una crisis, esto es una estafa.
This is not a crisis, this is fraud.

In contrast to Egypt and Tunisia, Spain doesn’t demand democracy – but real democracy. Many Spaniards feel that the media (controlled by politicians) has been playing tricks with their minds and distorting reality. Not everyone in Spain is undergoing a crisis, since both groups, politicians and, particularly bankers, are still profiting out of this economy. In the meantime, 43% of people under 25 are unemployed with only little hope left of finding a job by the end of this year.

In this sense, the 15M Movement in Spain reminds me of the riots that took place in Argentina during December 2001, its images were recollected by Gotan Project for their clip “Queremos Paz” (great song, great video!). Both protests were fueled by a fierce critics against the country’s politics and financial system. Spain, just as Argentina 10 years back, is outraged. Outraged with the political corruption. The lies. The fake promises. Then again, Argentina’s riots were much more violent and explosive (the consequence was 5 presidents in one week!), and the problem was far deeper, since people weren’t even able to cash out their money from the banks.

Que se vayan todos.
All shall leave.

While other countries have a fair number of parties that its citizens may vote – Spain twirls around two political parties: Partido Popular (PP, the center-right wing party) and Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE, the center-left wing party). Let me correct this – there are more than these two, but they don’t get the same marketing, won’t appear as much on TV and so, have gone almost unnoticed for most of the population (including myself). These two parties dominate the polls.

Watching spanish politics remind me of my kindergarten – where one kid throws dirt in the other kids’ face. I couldn’t stand the continuous accusations and decided to disconnect from all that noise.

En el 2001 fueron las cacerolas – en el 2011, las redes sociales.
In 2001 it was the casseroles – in 2011, social media.

It wasn’t the TV news, nor a call or mail from family or friends that first warned me about the protests – it was Facebook. Social media has been the main communication channel for this event – where the platform Democracia Real YA – Real Democracy Now -has reached more than 400,000 followers in Facebook and and 85,000 followers in Twitter since its beginning, a month ago.

Back in 2001 in Argentina, the protest was warned with a cacerolazo, where a group of people walked the streets banging pots, pans and other utensils in order to call for attention and protest against the so-called corralito. In 2011, it is social media, isn’t it amazing the difference 10 years make?

What the future will bring for Spain is still to be seen. The spanish local and regional elections that took place on the 22nd of May 2011 were a landslide victory for the opposition, Partido Popular. It’s still to see what difference this will make.

Disclaimer: I’m not an anarchist, nor a revolutionary. I’ve been far too little exposed to the day to day of spanish politics in the last two years to have a fundamental thought on the 15M Movement. Every single opinion expressed is of my own, based solely on what the media, friends, family and my previous life have taught me. I’m happy to read about your own opinion as long as its respectful.