well, it is that time again and we are in the thick of final exams. finals are definitely the price one pays for all of the other fun, interesting and oftentimes non-studious benefits of an MBA program. with cost accounting behind us, it is now onto operations management, financial management, marketing fundamentals, economics and strategy. i bet you’re jealous just reading this!
well, for the next week, you can find me here…
after three weeks of vacationing, we are back in full swing here at IE. the city of madrid is still very much in the throes of summer. most local stores and restaurants are closed or have amended hours. it does not make living here very enjoyable when you can’t find a decent place to buy produce or go to the gym on sundays. september can’t come soon enough- even though i am enjoying the blistering, dry heat (really, i’d take this over new york city humidity any day).
after spending ten blissful days in the US (speaking the language, knowing my way around, having huge, fully-stocked grocery and drug stores at my disposal), I am also facing the reality of “adapting” again. i guess in the six months since i moved to madrid, i had acclimated and gotten used to not being able to find the products i want at the store. i’m sure within a few weeks i will have forgotten the luxuries of home once again, but in the meantime, i was quite happy with my latest adaptation:
yes, that’s right: it is baby food! i have hunted for apple sauce here in madrid to no avail, but someone recently suggested i try looking in the baby food section (mom- that may have been you). i am VERY grateful for the tip because this apple sauce is really delicious!
we also have a new addition to our apartment in an attempt to feel more “connected” to home.
for those not in new york, the city updated their subway map this past june, and i really think this new map is a work of art. besides, it makes me smile when i see it and it also reminds me how lucky i am for such a clean, efficient, easily-navigable and cool metro here in madrid. i guess some things really are better here.
Hello again, it’s me. I hope you haven’t forgotten me. I realize that I have been rather absent, but please bear with me. Anyway, in honor of all the new babies that have come into my life recently (as well as those that are on their way!), I thought I’d update tonight with a brief post about children and babies in Spain. Simply put: they are everywhere! Of course, this is based solely on my own personal observation. It is quite contrary to the well-known fertility crisis occurring here in Spain. One of Spain’s major economic issues, aside from the recession, is that they have a large aging population and a low fertility rate. This is similar to the problem that Japan is facing, albeit on a less urgent scale (for now at least). If Spain is not able to increase the fertility rate, they will be faced with an inadequate workforce in decades to come. These are the types of issues that I find fascinating when we discuss them in class; as opposed to ERP’s and the Marketing Mix…
But, as I was saying, babies. The neighborhood that we are living in, Chamartin, is very “neighborhoody.” It is quite different than any place that I lived in in New York. I love the fact that even though we are in a city, everyone greets one another on the street and each person seems to actively know what is going on with their neighbors. It is hard to go a few steps in our neighborhood without encountering a person under the age of three. In all fairness, it is hard to go more than two steps in our neighborhood without encountering a person over the age of seventy-five.
One of my favorite parts of having so many children and babies around us is to watch how the community interacts with one another’s children. Spain has a very child-friendly culture, and it is not at all uncommon to see an adult (not the child’s parent, and often a stranger), pat a baby on its head, offer some sort of sweet treat or even scold a child when acting up. Of course, in the States, most of these things are either completely unacceptable or met with huge amounts of skepticism. Whereas here in Spain, it is just part of every day life.
A classic example of child-rearing differences between Spain and the US can be observed almost any night of the week during the warmer weather months. Bars here in Spain exist as social gathering spots much more than as places to simply drink alcohol. The bar in Spain is truly a family experience, and during the summer months in Madrid, most of the bar’s livelihood takes place on the terrazas (sidewalk seating areas). As everything occurs much later in the day here than in the U.S., it is very common to meet friends or family at a terraza for a tapa, caña or Fanta around 9pm or later. As the adults sit and socialize, the children run more or less free on the sidewalk, street or plaza. While this may not sound strange for a child ten years or older, it seems very bizarre to see three and four year-olds running around at 10pm on a Tuesday seemingly unsupervised. I guess the general assumption is that everyone in the community takes an active role in supervising everyone’s children. As for putting a four year-old to bed at 11pm or later, I’m still trying to figure out how to reconcile that part.
As this past weekend approached, we hemmed and hawed and generally procrastinated about making travel plans for the long weekend. As you might know, neither of us are great decision makers on our own, so sometimes the combination of our non-committal heads can bring a process requiring a decision to a grinding halt. We had Friday off from school because of the MBA Tournament going on at HEC (in France).
By Friday mid-day we still did not have a concrete plan, but knew that we wanted to escape Madrid for at least one night. Luckily, our friend Yaron mentioned that he and his wife would be checking out Cuenca on Saturday if we were interested. Since Cuenca is an approximately 2 1/2 hour train ride south and east of Madrid, we decided to book a hotel for Saturday night and make it a mini-vacation.
Getting to Cuenca proved to be a bit trickier than anticipated. We (naively) planned on buying our train tickets at the Atocha train station on Saturday morning. We arrived at the station about 45 minutes prior to the departure of the train only to find that a) there are no machines out of which to purchase a ticket and b) the line to buy the tickets required pulling a number to determine your turn in line (which would have been ok if we didn’t pull #663, when they were only up to #559). This didn’t seem to bode well, but luckily we were able to communicate to one of the agents that we were trying to catch the 11:45am train to Cuenca and that we currently only had about 15 minutes left to make it (they had advanced to a whopping #586). The travel gods smiled down on us, and she did eventually allow us to cut the line so we were able to buy our tickets within plenty of time to make it on to the train. At that time we were informed that we had to take a commuter rail train one stop and then switch at Villaverde Bajo to catch the train to Cuenca. Easy enough.
Easy enough until we sat down on the train and somehow engaged in a deep conversation about the Watertown, MA public school system and were so engrossed that neither of us realized that the train had made a stop….and was on its way to the next station. It was not until my subconscious connected with my conscious to tell me that the creepy guy next to us who had bought the bubble wand from the panhandler on the train had deboarded the train a few minutes ago. Ack!
Thankfully there was enough of a layover built into the schedule, that we were able to deboard at the next station, catch a train in the opposite direction and head back to Villaverde Bajo with plenty of time to catch our train to Cuenca. After this drama, the rest of the weekend was as smooth as could be.
Cuenca is a built on a (steep) hill surrounded by gorges on either side. It is known for it’s:
Of course, we also found time to seek out our favorite thing too…
This is the most amazing free tapa I’ve ever seen served at a bar. This was our first round. The plate had fried quail eggs, grilled ham, lettuce hearts, roasted red peppers, some sort of sweet-battered and friend zucchini, grilled potatoes, grilled asparagus and of course, bread drizzled with olive oil. Did I mention that it was FREE?? I really think American bars should follow suit with this tapa thing.
On Sunday, before we left town, we had lunch at the northern tip of town sitting outside in a restaurant overlooking one of the gorges. We had the most amazing grilled asparagus that I have ever had. Perfectly crisped and served with a healthy dose of kosher salt and lemon.
We were also really pleased with our hotel. Initially we had difficulty finding a hotel as we were booking last minute. We read about Hospederia de Cuenca on TripAdvisor, but it didn’t seem to have stellar reviews. After running out of options, we decided to book it as it was only for one night. Well, apparently they renovated the hotel in 2009, and we loved it. Hospederia de Cuenca definitely got a thumbs up as far as we are concerned.
All said and done, it was a great night away and a beautiful little town to visit!
Casa Mingo is one of the places that we’ve wanted to try since we landed in Madrid in mid-February. We finally made it there last Tuesday night. Having “the fiancé’s” mom in-town was the perfect excuse to venture a little bit further than we normally would have on a bleak, windy Tuesday night in May. Casa Mingo is located on the western-edge of Madrid and is easily accessed by taking the metro to Principe Pio. It is definitely not the most scenic part of town, but you do get a breath-taking view of the Catedral de la Almudena when you exit the metro station. After a brisk four or five block walk, we arrived at Casa Mingo. I liked this place immediately.
The stone and wood façade immediately transported me back in time to a simpler era. I’m quite sure that there have not been any renovations (or “reformadas” for any Spanish speakers) made at Casa Mingo in a long time. The place first opened in 1888 and the owners have tried to maintain the rustic feel by keeping the décor very minimalist with slate floors, uncovered wood tables and barrels stacked along one wall.
Casa Mingo is known for their Asturian cuisine, but most notably their pollo asado (roasted chicken) and sidra (cider). Upon arrival, we were promptly seated and expected to order quickly. Although they did give us one small menu to share, I think that most people who frequent the restaurant do not need a menu to order. In many ways, it reminded us of Peter Luger’s- grumpy service, minimalist décor, and fabulous meat.
We started with the chorizo a la sidra and the ventresca con pimientos. Both were amazing. I am not a huge fan of chorizo, but this one was very smooth and did not have that overpowering “tang” that chorizo often has. Perhaps this was due to the fact that it was cooked in the cider.
Although the chorizo was good, the ventresca con pimientos was the star of the show (well, at least of the starters). This dish, which is served cold, combines an oily puree of roasted red peppers and other roasted vegetables with lump tuna. It is topped with a few pieces of hard-boiled egg. It was delicious to eat with a fork, but even more appealing when there is bread available for dipping.
After filling up on the appetizers, the main course arrived. We opted for only one portion (“raciones”) of the pollo asado, which was more than enough for three people. The chicken was extremely juicy and tender and the skin had been expertly seasoned and crisped to a golden brown. Of course, with the number of pollos that Casa Mingo has roasted over the last 122 years, it’s no surprise that they have perfected the process.
We also had some cider, which was ok. I am not a huge cider connoisseur, so I can’t really comment on that, but I guess when you go to Casa Mingo, that’s just what you do.
It was a fun (and delicious) dining experience and I’m already talking about going back. Given the openness of the room, it’s ideal for large groups, so it would be nice to get a group of our new friends from school together for a field trip. Most importantly, it was the perfect way to spend the last night with a special visitor.
I have had this nagging feeling looming over my head for the past few weeks now. I know that I have dangled a carrot out to family and friends (let’s be honest, no one else is reading this thing) and then just quickly took it away. For that, I am sorry. I will try to be better about more frequent updates.
Today, I had my third session of Information Systems. The bulk of the class was spent discussing blogs- what they are, why they exist, who reads them, their effect on businesses, etc. The basic message of the lecture is that everyone should have a blog. That in this day and age, it is a way to “brand yourself” and to show that you have a real presence in what is a very fast-moving digital age.
I must admit that I felt rather cutting-edge as my hand was the only one rising when the professor asked the class “Who here has a blog?” It was pretty shocking to me that out of a section of forty-two MBA students attending one of the premier business schools in the world, only one person has a blog. As I sat there with my hand raised high, I also felt a twinge of guilt for fear that I was a hypocrite since my blogging to date has been rather weak.
While I may have been the lone blogger in a sea of international intelligence today, I am just happy to know that I am certainly not the only blogger who has experienced the following two phenomena:
Let’s see if I can follow my professor’s advice and “make this a habit.”
Simply put, diversity. This past week was our first week of the program. While we have not actually started the MBA core curriculum classes yet (and won’t until April 27th), we have participated in the opening ceremonies, orientation days and began the LAUNCH program on Friday. Throughout this week, I have met people from more countries than I probably ever have cumulatively in my life. Our IMBA (as the International MBA is referred to here) intake of roughly 300 people is made up of students from approximately 80 different countries. It is an amazing experience to be sitting among such a diverse population.
Last night we hosted our first party here in Madrid. It was a huge success and we were able to fit about forty people comfortably into our apartment. To give you an idea of the diversity, our new friends who attended are from Germany, Spain, Argentina, Korea, Canada, Slovakia, Switzerland, The Netherlands, United States, Colombia, Italy, Israel, Austria, Singapore, Australia, Chile and Romania. Seventeen different cultures in our little apartment on a Saturday night. And of course, that is only one country per person. If I were to count the dual-citizenships or the countries that these individuals call “home,” even if they are not a national of that particular country, we’d probably be well over thirty countries.