The Devil Wears Prado

Today we saw our first precipitation since arriving in Spain! Yahoo!

You cannot tell, but this man is doing a Gene Kelly impression.

Everyone broke out the hoodies and umbrellas as we made our way to El Prado (see the graphic, below) for a day of art history and lessons on perspective.  Afterwards we all made our way back home, where we capped off the day by ordering Domino’s pizza (it took 11 of us to figure out how to order, and we ended up having our wonderful guide Nancy do it for us anyway).  Needless to say, it was delicious and well worth the trouble that Abbey and Katie D. went to to pick it up for us, in my opinion.  For a more detailed overview of the day, please see John’s blog (also below). Please enjoy our infographics as we continue to take this blog to new levels never thought possible by mankind!  Adios americanos!


El Prado

Click here for John’s blog.



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Rain? In Spain? It can’t be!

Based on the last two and a half weeks, you’d think that everyday in Spain would be 75 degrees and sunny. By those standards, we’ve been spoiled with absolutely gorgeous weather every day. But today was a rare exception to Spain’s heavenly weather rule, as we were hit with cold, damp and rainy weather that reminded us all of Michigan’s notoriously temperate climate. It made our walk to the Prado, one of the world’s most impressive art museums, reminiscent of crummy walks to class through the rain back in good ‘ol East Lansing.

We love the rain! And the cold! But we actually did love the Prado.

Our fearless leader Karl greeted us at the Prado’s south entrance at 10 am, but our entry was delayed and we stood outside in the damp and dreary weather for another half and hour until we finally made it inside. Karl presented us with a scavenger hunt of paintings to find within the museum if we were up to the challenge. It wasn’t a mandatory assignment so some group members didn’t stress about finding all 15 paintings and simply enjoyed the amazing art work that resided inside the Prado’s halls. There were a select few however who took it upon themselves to go through every corridor and room and solve the riddles to find the paintings. That special group included Adam, Katie D. and myself. It was an exhausting search that lasted over four hours, but we ended up seeing almost every piece of art that the Prado had to offer. I put together this little info graphic that deals with the location of each painting as well as the riddles we were presented with to help us find them.

Click here to see the full view of the map of the Prado Hunt

As most of you know, Adam and I teamed up last week to put together a multidimensional, dual jersey boy blog. And this week is no exception. Adam has expanded on my brief overview of our trip to the Prado with highlights, stats and analysis of this fantastic Madrid spectacle, which you can check out here.

What kind of college students can’t even order pizza?

It’s always difficult buying food for a large group like ours, and today was no exception. We were alerted to a great Wednesday deal at Dominos by Nancy, our wonderful on-site coordinator. We were all excited to get pizza, but when the time came to order, none of us could remember what that deal was or find it on the coupon, which was written in Spanish. So we did the only logical thing; call Nancy and ask if she could order pizza for a bunch of college kids. Fortunately for us, we have the nicest on-site coordinator in the history of on-site coordinators, and we ended the night on a positive note with our stomachs full of delicious Dominos pizza.

Madrid observations thus far

It’s safe to say that we were all a little bit scared to move onto Madrid after spending our first two weeks of this trip in Barcelona. We had all fallen in love with the city, and we were unsure what to expect once we landed here on Saturday. But those fears have subsided after getting a taste of what Madrid has to offer. So far, we’ve taken trips to Retiro Park, Plaza de Sol, Plaza Mayor, the Segway tour of the city and as well as today’s expedition to the Prado. Madrid doesn’t have anything like the colorful, vibrant and tourist packed La Rambla, but it does offer a more relaxed, big city feel.  We have more supermarkets, stores and restaurants closer to us in our temporary home, the Trevinca Hostel, than the Melon District, our residence in Barcelona. Our journey out to Retiro Park gave us a much better idea of the what the city has the offer and allowed us the opportunity to take a pleasant stroll down Paseo de Recoletos. Another difference is the exorbitant number of playgrounds that are sprinkled across Madrid. Adam and I have taken advantage of these Spanish sandbox spectacles, which put all of America’s jungle gyms and monkey bars to shame. Here’s a Google map of our favorite playgrounds in Madrid. Barcelona and Madrid are both unique and exciting cities with their own distinct flavor and culture, so it doesn’t make sense to say that one’s better than the other. That being said, Madrid is winning ;). Just kidding, we still love you and Barcelona, Cheryl!




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Take A Look Around

Today the MSU Spain group experienced complete polar opposites. The men and women of Digimedia on one side and Cafe Comercial on the other.

The unique group of co-workers at Digimedia are solely dedicated to presenting top news to their users in the form of exciting multi-media graphics that have never been done before. They had some of the best information graphics that I have ever seen on their website…and the gifts they gave us didn’t hurt their presentation either. With an enormous amount of pride and enthusiasm in their work, it was hard to not be inspired and want to jet home to design a few things  yourself. Of course nothing as cool as theirs. Pictures of our visit can be seen here.

“I’m so inspired right now. I just want to go home and kill myself.” – Karl Gude

Some of the girls with their gifts

The staff members at Digimedia are constantly looking for something better. A better way to portray the news, or a better program to do it with. However, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit uneasy when I left. I will be a junior this fall, and so thankfully I have a little bit more time to get my act together before heading out into the “real world”. But I couldn’t help feeling like the world was moving too fast for the pace I was going. And if I wasn’t on top of my game every second of the day, looking for that bigger and better thing, all the items that I have been juggling (school, work, family, friends, my future) would all fall to the ground and shatter. These feelings that I had been experiencing however, quickly subsided when we arrived at Café Comercial.

On the complete opposite of Digimedia, is the exquisite Café Comercial, where we all headed afterward, to practice sketching and get a bite to eat. This quaint restaurant kiddie corner to our hostel hasn’t changed one bit since the day they opened their doors and sold their first bocadillo in the early 1900’s.

Sketching class at Cafe Comercial

It was as if the redwood chairs and marble tables that filled the room were yelling, “Hey! Lauryn! Chill the heck out! We promise that if you sit back and relax for one second, things will still be okay and you might just enjoy yourself.” Well they couldn’t have been more right. While eating my delicious bocadillo and sipping on some café con leche, I started to take in the beauty of the café and the history that came along with it. Instead of appreciating the new and exciting things in life, something that hadn’t changed in more than 100 years was suddenly just as captivating.

I love information graphics, and after learning more about the industry I think it’s definitely going to be a top career choice for myself. But I think everyone, especially me, needs the occasional smack upside the head to get us to put down the cell phone, tear your eyes from the computer screen, and take a look around.

— Lauryn “sips coffee slower now” Schroeder


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At 9:30 this morning Karl arrived at our hostel to pick us up and take us to the headquarters of Digimedia. Digimedia is a two year-old company that focuses on, you guessed it, digital media. With a staff of around 50 the company produces a daily online newspaper.

Chiqui Esteban met us in the lobby and led us up to the 6th floor of the building where Digimedia is located. After seeing the news room and grabbing some café con leche in the office kitchen we headed to the board room. There we met Antonio Pasagali director of design and infographics and Enrique Infante director of marketing. Also joining us was Jose Manuel who was taking down notes and snapping some photos to post on the newspapers blog later in the day. They showered us with gifts giving us each a notebook and a poster of a gorgeous graphic that portrays technology and communication.

Karl and Antonio

Enrique showed us a video that they had made for the one year anniversary of the website. It was about the future of journalism and how they believe that eventually everything relevant will be digital. Newsrooms won’t exist anymore; journalists would work from wherever they are at that moment and send in their stories to a computer that would compile everything.  Enrique also discussed with us how the company makes money. They decided right away that they were not going to have a pay wall.  Instead their profit comes from advertising which can sometimes be frustrating for the design aspect of the sight, but is a necessary evil.

Chiqui showed us some great graphics and multimedia pieces that have been used by the newspaper. He said their goal is to show things in a different way using video, text and graphics because that is what makes them competitive and standout in the industry. This mutlimedia graphic was one of our favorites. They try and have an interctive aspect of every grahpic that the reader can play with and be a part of.  He told us that it is important to have fun and try new things with graphics. He also said not to be scared of technology, to go for it, and if it something doesn’t work then try something else.

Antonio, who could be Bill Murray’s brother according to Karl, talked to us about the design and goals of the site. It is clean cut and has a new layout every day. They want to surprise the reader by changing things up and staying away from monotony.  They’re goal as a company is to break the structure of the typical online newspaper.

The group with our lainformacion notebooks

We were all inspired by these innovators of the newspaper industry. These men left jobs at some of the top newspapers in the world, Antonio was the creative director for El Mundo, to have a part in starting something that they really believe in.  I hope, and I think everyone else does also, to one day be that bold and confident in my abilities and my knowledge of the industry.

We then headed to Café Comercial, which dates back to 1887, and had a lunch of bocadillos and café con leche. The café is gorgeous with marble table tops, antique wood chairs and chandeliers. Karl then gave us a drawing lesson teaching us about shading. After a quick chat with Nancy about weekend plans we all headed back to the hostel to do what we would with the rest of the afternoon. Activities ranged from napping, journaling, laundry and shopping. Every day I love Madrid more and more. We head to the Prado Museum tomorrow so it’s time to finish homework and rest up for another day in the city.


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Feliz cumpleaños Adam Rossi!

Today is Adam Rossi’s 21st (or 12th — according to the candles that Cheryl bought him) birthday! In the United States this would normally be a big deal but in Europe turning 21 is just like any other year. Because we love to have a good time we wanted to make sure that Adam experienced a wonderful birthday evening and day. Here are a couple of the things that I think made Adam’s birthday a once in a lifetime, unforgettable and unique experience.

1. Birthdays are usually associated with gifts. Though Adam may not have gotten a room full of wrapped presents, he did receive something special from his roomie and fellow jersey boy, John. Since they already have the jerseys and the soccer cleat keychain the only thing they need to be professional futbol players is a soccer ball. So of course, John finished the deal and bought Adam a soccer ball from one of the local stores. Adam was as happy as could be and spent the rest of the night tossing the ball back and forth as we all walked down the streets of Madrid.

2. We may be in Spain but that doesn’t mean that you can’t hear a little birthday tune when it’s your birthday. Thanks to Nichelle, who requested two songs at the club, Adam was serenaded by surprise to an english version of Happy Birthday followed by his new favorite song (and the Jersey Boys theme song) “Hey Soul Sister” by Train. Needless to say it was one of the happiest moments of his life.

3. Today was the first day that we took the metro to class. Greeted by Nancy, our on-site director, and Karl we navigated the subways (even with a few minor construction closings) to the University where we will be holding class a few days of the week. There, we met Antonio (a professor at the University and friend of Karl’s) who opened the classroom for us and even decided to take class with us! Class consisted of the first steps of visualization, learning how to draw. Though Adam’s birthday fell on the first day of class, how lucky is he that his homework is to sketch a picture? Best class ever!

4. This morning we were also told to wear comfy shoes and anything but a skirt. Nancy and Karl had a surprise up their sleeves for us and we had no idea what they were planning. When they met us at our Hostal this morning to show us the way to class they informed us that we would be touring the city of Madrid. Not by bus or by bike but by SEGWAY! The futuristic looking two wheeled motorized machines that propel forward by the weight shift of your body. Just yesterday we saw some wheeling around the town and asked Karl if we would be doing that and he replied that “No, not this year it was just too expensive.” The segways were a great way travel through such a fast paced city. Weaving in and out of streets amongst the other walkers and drivers we were able to zip through the city with ease. I’m sure when Adam was young he never imagined himself riding around Madrid on a two-wheeled major horsepower machine. The segway tour guides were very informative and filled us in on a lot of the historical places in Madrid. They even took us to Europe’s largest palace. The back of the palace (which has a sort of secret entrance that even Karl had never seen before) is absolutely immaculate. With a front yard as big as a golf course and somewhere over 2,000 rooms in the palace it is definitely something that Katie Dalebout would call a “wonderland.”

4. To top off our afternoon we ended our segway tour near the Plaza Mayor and had lunch at a little cafe where we all ate not-so-little bocadillas. Filled with salmon, ham, cheese or chorizo, we all left the restaurant much more refreshed and content. We also couldn’t resist the temptation of the ice cream stand on our way out of the Plaza. It’s a birthday, there has to be ice cream right?

It’s only a little after 7pm here in Madrid, so according to the Spain’s way of the day there is a lot of life left to the night. Luckily for Adam, his birthday can be celebrated even longer than normal if you add in Michigan time. I am not sure what we have in store for us the rest of the day but I know that it will be a birthday like he’s never expected. Because a birthday’s a birthday no matter what the age and no matter where you are.

Here’s a video that includes everything from the birthday gift giving to the segway tour around Madrid. Enjoy and be a part of Adam’s birthday!



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CaixaForum Madrid

Yesterday, 3 hours into our walking tour of Madrid led by Karl and his crutch, we stopped to admire a gorgeous hanging garden. We sat next to a building, photographing and chugging water, and in true Karl fashion he said, “Hey guys, let’s go in this place!” …so we did.

The building housed one of the Obra Social Fundacion “la Caixa”, featuring different galleries sponsored by the bank la Caixa. This particular one is called CaixaForum Madrid and the third floor exhibit was a documentary photo gallery, Fotopres “la Caixa” 09.

The pamphlet reads, “The exhibition presents the work of the photographers selected as the winners of this year’s edition together with work by young documentary photographers who have been able to carry out their projects at various locations around the world thanks to FOTOPRES “LA CAIXA” 09 grants.”

There were nine sets of photos from different photographers. Subjects ranged from transgender in Pakistan to gender violence to DubaiLand. View the photos from the three winners here. Here are some of our thoughts about the gallery:

John Kalmar

I was riding a wave of excitement and joy after wandering through Retiro Park for a couple hours when Karl shepherded us into the Fotopres “la Caixa” exhibit. What I saw brought me back down to reality. The photos were incredibly moving, yet horrifying. It’s a travesty to see what humans are still capable of doing to each other. One positive that can be taken out of these photographs is the power of documentary photography. These people are given a voice through these photographs, and these images can further serve as a platform for social reform.

Abbey Moore

As an asspiring photographer myself these photos captured every emotion from hope to pure terror. I think John said it correctly when he said the photos brought him back to reality. The world is so diverse and with the photos nestled in a beautiful, clean and joyous city it really gives you perspective on how different the world can be when you just cross country borders. What was also inspiring to me was the uniqueness of each photographer’s project. Every one of the photographers had a narrow focus and their photos did what photos do best, they told a story. The courage of the photographers I think must also not be ignored as it could not have been easy to sit back and watch these things happen while focusing on sharing others messages with the world. And in the midst of telling a story their technical beauty of their photographs was hard to ignore. Each picture seemed to be illuminated from behind as the light was brilliant in even the most horrifying places. It was truly an inspiration to use your talent as a photographer to do something good.

Lauryn Schroeder

A tad bit weary, Karl promised us he had one more place that he wanted to take us before we sat down to get a bite to eat. But it wasn’t long before he yelled the all too familiar, “Hey guys, let’s go here too! Just for a couple minutes I promise!” Well I don’t even think Karl knew what we were in store for when we entered the 3rd floor exhibit of La Caixa Forum. The portraits of women from Pakistan, whose faces and lives had been torn apart by violence were the first things to catch my eye, but were also the things that churned my stomach. I started slow, and read each and every photo’s description from that section, and it wasn’t long till I found myself brought to tears by the emotion radiating from each portrait. Those photos were by far the hardest to get through, and I felt not only physically tired from walking, but emotionally tired after that. It was something, I think that our entire group needed to see though. We are so lucky. Traveling through EUROPE of all places with a group of close friends and a teacher that is more of a kid than some of us combined. The biggest thing we worry about is whether to get the salmon bocadillo or the jamon y queso at lunch. Or what shoes to wear with which dress (or jersey). For me, the entire exhibit was a wake up call. This trip has given me some of the best experiences of my life and I will try my hardest not to take any of it for granted.

Laura Fosmire

I have to talk specifically about the photos of the abused Pakistani women because I can think of nothing else. I remember that they were the very first thing I spotted when I entered the hall, and they made me stop dead in my tracks. I spent at least a half hour staring blankly at each terrifyingly disfigured face. My initial reaction was absolute emptiness, probably shock. The last photo was particularly haunting, because the woman in it had no plastic surgery yet done, and all of the skin between her face and neck was still melted together. She was staring directly into the photographer’s lens and out at the viewer, and I stood there for at least 15 minutes staring directly into her huge, dark eyes. Never in my life had I seen such an expression of misery and dejection, as if she was saying; “Look. Look at me. Look at what they did to me.”

Eventually I had to leave the gallery, because the photos began to make me angry. And disgusted. Not disgusted because of the hideous mutations of the women — I was no longer bothered by that. Instead, I was disgusted by the actions of the men, family members and husbands that had caused these women such pain. And I was infuriated that somewhere in the world, this horrific kind of abuse is still going on, while hundreds of thousands (such as myself) are ignorant of it. To imagine that gender injustices still exist frustrates me, but to realize that they extend this far makes my blood boil. Particularly when I think of the people I know in my life who tease and make fun of feminists and still crack sexist jokes and still have sexist ideals. I just want to show them this exhibit, so they can finally realize that sexism and gender violence in all of its forms is still shockingly, terrifyingly real.

Alanna Thiede

When I first walked into the room of photos, the portraits of abused women made me stop mid-stride. There faces were tarnished by acid. I’m sure their spirits suffered too. Husbands, cousins and friends changed these womens’ lives, caused them to have dozens of surgeries, wrecked their careers and devastated them.
But there was hope and that was what bad me quietly cry as I walked by these photographs.
I read each caption and then focused in on the woman’s face. Not because I was gawking at their injuries. I just knew that I should not turn my head from such sorrow. If they could endure the pure torture they were put through and then agree to put it on display, then I could stand to let their images speak for a few moments.
I live such a lucky life and really do appreciate everything I have but sometimes it is easy to forget the life I could’ve had. That woman with the haunted eyes, melted flesh and forgotten dreams of being an airline stewardess could have been me.
I could have suffered like she did.

Katie Dalebout

Walking through this exhibit during the best week of my life, quickly put my charmed life into perspective. Even my most trying moments are nothing compared to those of the subjects of these photographs. I realized my life could have been completely different purely due to circumstances out of my control. I had not anticipated the deep emotion these photos and captions would evoke; it was the perfect time for me to receive a reminder of how lucky I am. Amidst these amazing heart-wrenching photos, I found a since of optimism. My favorite photographer in the exhibit, took a narrow subject matter, of African immigrants to Europe, and focused on an unexplored area of their existence in their new homes. Instead of focusing on the extreme poverty he showcased some very specific colorful and optimistic areas of their existence. It was interesting to see this portrayed this way. This photojournalism at its best was an unforgettable eye-opening experience.

Laura Evangelista

I was drawn to the portraits of the Pakistani women like a moth to flame (forgive the cliche). I stood under the spotlight that shown down directly in front of the display, making me feel like I was the only person in the room. The presentation only intensified the deep connection I felt with these women, these victims of acid violence, who never proclaimed their victimization.

What struck me hardest about Emilio Morenatti’s ‘Generation of Violence in Pakistan’ was the juxtaposition of the soft portrait format of each photo and the unexpected disfiguration of each subject. It was incredible to see how determined each woman was to live her life as if she was not in unbearable pain as a result of backlash from petty family arguments and disgruntled spouses. They seemed without anger in a way that awed and confused me.

The emotions I felt after spending some time on this exhibit distracted me so much that I don’t even remember the rest of the photos I looked at. I don’t know what I saw when I left the group to explore another floor, and I don’t know how long I was walking around (the group searching the museum for me) before I snapped out of it and could return to reality. The quiet strength the women in the photos projected is still a mystery to me.


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Sensing Spain

The feeling the night before the first day of school, the tossing and turning in bed, emotions mixed somewhere between extreme nervousness and excitement, returned as we embarked on our last day in Barcelona. With completely mixed emotions we left our beloved Cheryl and our home of two weeks, Barcelona and are now settled in quaint hostel in Madrid.

Before venturing into our new wonderland, we went out with a bang on our last day in Barcelona. After a lovely last class, with the famous Karl Gude present, where we presented our spectacular projects we worked on over the course of our two weeks, we finished the day strong with our final trips to the market and the rooftop pool and the jersey boys journeyed to the Barcelona Cathedral. We were reunited for dinner at La Fonda where we toasted to a lovely two weeks and Cheryl showered us with gifts. After our tearful good-bye with Cheryl we spent the evening saying our good-byes to Barcelona, from the metro to the graffiti, to the fountains, we took it all in for the last time before packing up for our flight to Madrid in the morning.

As I lay in bed that night, amidst my lovely roommate’s sleep talking, I thought about the evening, which felt magical, the fortnight, which flew by so fast I barely noticed and what the second leg of our journey would be like. I thought about all the things I sensed in Barcelona and how I never could have imagined what it would be like before actually experiencing it. Then it hit me, my senses have been awakened since the moment I arrived.

As we walk around in our group, my eyes are wide like a kid in a candy store, noticing every bit of architecture, hearing every sound even the odd chirping of the crosswalk, touching everything we pass (yes I’m using my hand sanitizer mom). Even the smells of the city stand out as unique, and the tastes are something we all will miss when we return to our college staples of Ramen noodles and peanut butter.

I hope my senses remain keen as I return to East Lansing, appreciating every step, breath, and day in the same way I do here, but until then here are some things that have stood out to me and I hope you will get a little taste of what we are feeling, smelling, seeing, and hearing in Spain.        

Taste: From our multiple tapas experiences to the crisp taste of the fresh fruit in the market in Barcelona, we have been spoiled with some of the best things I have ever tasted.  We each have our individual favorites for Adam obviously patatas bravas and for me the almonds from Barcelona’s Boqueria, but as a unit our taste buds have been heavily satisfied with Spanish cuisine. Since arriving in Madrid yesterday we have had our first experience with churos con chocolate, which I cannot even properly explain and I wish I could effectively bring some back for each of you to try.

Touch: Like the new things we have tasted, we have felt so many original textures.  The dirt from Parc Guell, the leaves of the beautiful flowers and the hands of our new friends, all stand out as textures I will not soon forget, but the one texture that has blown us away since our arrival in Madrid is the texture of the towels provided for us in our quaint hostel—a completely unique texture which simultaneously exfoliates our skin while drying it.

Sight: In Barcelona we were truly lucky to experience a mass amount of art and architecture with visits to the Picasso, Dali, and Miro museums, a bus tour of city where we observed the work of Gaudi; and we have already seen some of the most beautiful sights in Madrid despite being here for just over 24 hours. 

Smell: My sense of smell has been both extremely delighted and dismayed sometimes in the same moment. What I’ve grown to love about Spain is how you can never stop exploring, in a dark smelly alley could be the most beautiful flower shop waiting to distract your nose from the man who was slightly too close to you on the metro. For better or worse, these distinctive smells are Spain, whether the Boqueria in Barcelona or the fresh air in Madrid’s Retiro Park.

Sound: There have been so many sounds in these cities, new ones like the sound of the Catalan language or the familiar ones like the sounds of each other’s laughter.  Natural sounds like the ones from the abundant pigeons, or artificial sounds like the annoying Las Ramblas bird chirper mechanism sold by vendors every few steps.  These sounds will forever be ingrained in my mind as the sound of my summer in Spain. Certain sounds can evoke so much feeling emotion and memory, when a song is heard on the radio it can take you immediately back to the first time you heard it, who you were with and what you were doing.

 In addition to the sounds heard all around us, my roommate, ‘the Wright Katy’and I have inadvertently created a soundtrack to our Spain experience with the music we have been listening  to in the brief moments spent in our room.  These few songs will always be heard with fond memories of our time here. We hope they succeed in portraying our experience so far in wonderland.

-Katy and Katie 

Listen to the Sound of Spain


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