Saturday, 13 February 2010

Chinese New Year in Madrid

My two favourite cultures came together on a glorious sunny day in February

There is a thriving Chinese community in Madrid and I was glad to see  New Year  marked in the traditional way with a dragon and lion dance and plenty of red lanterns. This is one of my favourite times of the year and a sure sign of spring coming when the strings of red lanterns adorn the streets of London's Chinatown. In Madrid things are done on a smaller scale but Madrid has a pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo later this year and they are keen to promote it. I picked up some brochures,  bookmarks and tiger masks to use at my English class this week. I have promised my students that we would be looking at Chinese astrologyy and now I have some realia.

At the exhibition in Plaza Espana, I had some deep fried yellow beanpaste fritters that were delicious and buns with sweet pork in the middle.The exhibition was packed and everyone was out for what they could get for free. The Chinese children were adorable and smiled for cameras and held up two fingers in the same way that the kids did at the kindergarten I taught at in X'ian. I don't know what it is about Chinese cultural events but they move me to tears. I love the music, the red and the gold, the smiling faces, the food, the costumes and the imagery. It is the year of the tiger and as I am a tiger, I am looking forward to good things coming my way in 2010.

If nothing else, today reminded me of my dream to return to China some day and teach and now that I have had the experience of teaching here in Madrid, I feel more able and confident to take on the challenge.

I took a bus from Plaza Espana - the C2 which is one of the circular routes - and enjoyed a free tour of a part of Madrid I am less familiar with. My top tip to visitors is to buy a tourist abono ticket and ride the buses - especially routes C1 and 2 - and get an idea of the size and shape of the city. Madrid is not as big as London and it is easy to get around once you have a mental map. I got off at Atocha and took a good look at the Ministerio de Agricultura which is where I teach twice a week. It is a grand old building with impressive sculptures on top. I teach at 8am when it is still dark and I don't get to see it properly! I like teaching here and looking out over the ornate towers towards the Retiro park as the working day begins.

A short walk and I am at my favourite museum, the Caixa Forum, where there is an exhibition by the artist Xavier Mascaro. He has created a sculpture of an elephant that stands on its trunk, defying both nature and gravity. It is popular and everyone wants their photo taken next to it.

One of the great things about Spain is the patronage of art and cultural life, especially by the banking foundations.The street art makes the city a vibrant place and when the sun is shining, as it is today, I really am happy to be living here.

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