Last week I got my first look into the real “Crisis” of Spain. Before that I was just enjoying the days off of school because of strikes or watching it on the news. To me, The Crisis had just been the explanation to any, and every, bad thing that had happened … crowded subway… “¡La Crisis!” … expensive groceries … “¡La Crisis!” … it rains … “¡La Crisis!”

I first started to realize its effects last Wednesday, on my way to meet up with my friends for an evening jog in Parque Retiro (the equivalent of Central Park in Madrid). I found myself waiting 23 minutes for my subway. This had everything to do with the fact that it was a day of general strikes throughout the country. By the time the subway arrived, the tunnel was filled to capacity with impatient people - as well as the ornery bunch already packed like sardines inside the subway. This fact didn’t make boarding the vehicle any easier, neither did the fact that maybe only ten of the fifty people were actually able to squeeze themselves into the resistant crowd.

Once I finally made it to where I was meeting my friends, we had a little walk ahead of us to actually get to the park. But as soon as we turned the corner, my mind immediately ceased any pointless wandering it had been doing and was completely taken aback by what was in front of me … people! So many people! A sea of protesters! I had never seen anything like it and it rendered me dazed and confused. Of course we kept our distance (when we could) and were safe, but that didn’t stop me from cutting of the circulation in my friend’s hand and reacting like a complete foreigner. I’m sorry I am not used to manifestations - let alone the big city at all!

Later that night, while watching the news, I discovered there had been over 35,000 people there (all my friends say there had to have been more - it filled of the greater part of center city!). Anyway 35,000 people; that’s more than all of Galloway! Even if it was a scary experience at times, it was one I think I needed to have in order to understand the culture I’m living in - that’s all you can do as an exchange student.