Is an MFA in Creative Writing Worth It?

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A final trip to Paris last month marked the end of my dream graduate school experience. Now, I just need to find a spot to hang my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree from New York University. And finish my book. Oh, and start paying off my student loans, which are substantial. And so, now is the time I ask myself: Was it worth it?

For me, the answer is yes. And not because I expect this degree to be a financial pay-off. It probably won’t be. But it was worth it for me for three main reasons:

  1. The MFA program immersed me in a writers community and a writing mindset: The structure of this particular program is called “low-residency” which means that students converge in a set spot a few times a year for intensive “residencies.” The NYU Writers Workshop in Paris called the City of Light our meeting spot (lucky us). Those five trips to Paris were mind-expanding, motivational, educational, and inspiring. For writers and readers, spending days talking fiction and poetry, learning about specifics of the craft, and hearing world-class authors read from their work is basically summer camp in a city.  And like summer camp, I emerged from each residency a little changed, a little more mature (as a writer). While it wasn’t easy to stay in that mental space in between residencies, reading lots helped, as did….
  2. Deadlines. As a former journalist, I’m programmed to respond to deadlines. Without deadlines, I’m a lazy cat lady whose appetite for procrastination and cheese-laden meals knows no bounds. But when I’m paying thousands of dollars and an esteemed writer is waiting for my work, well, I will put my butt in that chair and do the work. Post-MFA, I’ve already set up a monthly writing exchange with one of my recently-graduated classmates in order to stay accountable.
  3. Having published authors criticize my work: NYU’s writing program has one of the more star-studded faculties out there. There’s no guarantee that great authors will be great teachers, but lucky for me, the four writing mentors I had provided me with  close reading of my work, and insightful comments that caused me to rethink things, go in a new direction, or, in some cases, continue on with exactly what I was doing (how gratifying!) This sort of access to great authors/teachers is really what I paid the big bucks for, and I feel I got my money’s worth.

I am a better fiction writer than I was two years ago and NYU’s program really jumpstarted the writing life I hope to have.  In some ways, writing is harder now than it was before, but it’s been a gratifying process to see changes in my writing. For instance, in the beginning, there were things readers (other students and my faculty advisors) pointed out in workshops  – like clunky flashbacks, or writing from the point of view of an inactive observer (thanks journalism training) – and by this last residency I got comments like “really nice use of flashbacks” and “this character has such voice!”

If someone where to ask me if I think he/she should apply for a MFA Creative Writing program, I’d ask: Are you already part of a community of writers that offers you support and encouragement while also providing you a clear-eyed criticism of you work? Are you a super-motivated person who already produces pages and pages without the pressure of a deadline? Do you already seek out ways to become a better writer, for instance, by reading widely and critically? If you’re answer is yes to these, than you’re already reaping in the benefits that may be provided by an MFA program without paying tuition.

But for me, it was the right choice.

 

Additional posts about NYU’s Paris Writers Program: 

My Grad School Reading List

Higher Learning. With Croissants.

Post-Paris Crunch Time

The More You Learn, The Harder it Gets

Writing Lessons from Paris

Shamed on the French Metro

Je Suis Charlie

Notes from Paris

And: pretty much unrelated to this post, here are some snaps taken during my final residency that prove Paris is the most beautiful city in the world.

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Hotel de Ville

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Quiche fromage taking the view from one of NYU’s classrooms

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Hotel de Ville

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French Man/French bulldog

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Back side of Notre Dame.

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Macaroons: So overrated. Not overrated: A cruise on the Seine on Bastille Day.

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Sacre Couer

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The Luxembourg Gardens.

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The Pantheon.

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An incredible evening of readings by novelist/essayist Zadie Smith and poet Robin Coste-Lewis

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Me reading from my novel.

To the low-residency MFA,

Em in Jerusalem

 

 

The Transient Nature of Perception

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We recently wrapped up a three-week stay in Washington DC. And man, was it hard to leave (even though I was heading to Paris, oh beloved Paris).

The three weeks was filled with catching up with good friends, family, cocktails, dinners, strolling the beautiful DC streets, museums visits, a ballet, a musical, and lots of yoga.  It made me miss America; it made me not too excited to return to Jerusalem.

There’s an exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. It features artwork that looks completely different depending from which angle you viewed it. I stood in what appeared to be an empty white room until, like a Magic Eye puzzle, all of these other angles popped out and I was overcome by the dizzying sensation that I didn’t know where the walls, ceilings, and floors end or begin. A curator’s note said the work explored  “the transient nature of perception.”

I’d been thinking about perception a lot lately in terms of Jerusalem. It’s a place where any opinion expressed can rub someone the wrong way and I often find myself on the defensive thinking “Well, that’s how I see it, so it must be true.” But then again, how other people see the city is no less true.

And the same person can also see a place through a different lens at various points in time. When I was 22 and had just moved to Washington DC, everything was new, exciting, but often difficult. I had to navigate getting lost, getting a job, finding a good grocery store and decent apartment, making friends, handling my liquor, dating, dealing with loneliness, and being broke. Six years later when I left DC to start this life of moving around, I didn’t realize that I’d never see DC in the same way again.

And the city is different now. It’s gentrified fast and neighborhoods I’d never heard of are now the up-and-coming spots. More new restaurants than you could try in a just a few weeks, and endless try-one-class-free fitness options. This time,  I paid especially close attention to all the 22-year-olds in DC, seeing my old self in each and every one of them but not being envious of their youth, but sending them good vibes and hoping that the egg-headed, fit, foodie, center-of-the-universe city feel shapes them in the way it did me.

There was also something so comforting about returning to a city, that, for all its changes, still feels like home in a way. These days, when I arrive to a new place, it takes forever to get my bearings, to feel like I know anything at all.

Now, I’m back in Jerusalem. Just landed late last night. The plane ride felt familiar – how everyone stands up once we reach cruising altitude; how Jewish women offer me food from plastic grocery bags ; the smell of onions; how strangers shout their unsolicited opinions on how to stop the six children from crying: “You need to separate the children! Move one to First Class!;” the adjusting of headscarves and kippas and big black hats upon landing. In the cab on the way home to Jerusalem, the cabbie said he didn’t mind dropping me off in the Holy City but that he hated to stay for more than a few minutes. “The buildings are all the same. The Jerusalem Stone. I don’t know. I don’t like it,” he said.

I think I felt the same way when I arrived. I found the stone monotone and too easy to look at and to think that everything’s serene. But as all that smooth stone started to appear last night, I thought it looked beautiful and actually quite filled with character, instantly recognizable as this place and no place else. Has my perception changed?

Will continue to ponder this and more, but in the meantime, here’s some photos from Washington DC.

To the changing nature of perception,

Jerusal-Em

 

 

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The Washington Monument and reflecting pool.

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The back side of the Lincoln Memorial.

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The beautiful PNC bank building in Georgetown.

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The C&O Canal

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The National Archives Building.

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The Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building

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Inside the White House (East Wing)

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Another room in the White House.

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Julia Child’s one-time Georgetown home.

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An exhibition at the the Renwick Gallery.

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“Big Man” by Ron Mueck at the Smithsonian Hirshhon Museum.

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Part of the Turquoise Mountain exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Freer Sackler Gallery.

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The Watergate building.

 

And now, the things I ate:

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Mushroom quesadlllas at Oyamel.

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Queso, guac, and perfect salsa at the love-it-or-hate it DC staple: Lauriol Plaza.

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The pickleboard and a flight of home-brewed beers at BlueJacket in Southeast DC.

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Okay, this isn’t DC, but thought this presentation of knish and a dill Bloody Mary was so pretty at Russ and Daughters on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

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Garden pot au feu at Le Diplomate.

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Avocado toast with eggs at Duke’s Market in Dupont.

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Heavenly creamed corn at Duke’s Market.

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Velvety mac and cheese at Duke’s Market.

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A Thai feast at the newest location of Thai X-ing.

Pure Michigan

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These are well-known facts to anyone from Michigan:

  • A Michigander is a person who is from or who lives in Michigan.
  • The lower peninsula of Michigan is shaped like a hand, and Michiganders indicate where they’re from by pointing to a spot on their own hand.
  • People from the lower peninsula consider anything on the top half of the hand to be “Up North.” It’s totally acceptable to tell people you’re going “Up North” for a vacation, and not even mention which city you’re going to.
  • The Upper Peninsula is referred to simply as the U.P. People who live there are called Yoopers. And yes, they have those charming way north accents (like from the movie Fargo).

I’ve been in Michigan visiting my family for the past few weeks. Highlights included: perusing vintage wares at the annual Greenmead Flea Market in Livonia (I last went, and cleaned up big time, when I was 20). I found some awesome treasures that I’ll be shipping back to Jerusalem, including an old bowl from the Munising Woodenware Company which manufactured maple goods from its Munising, Michigan factory from 1911 to 1955.  I also visited the new penguinarium at the Detroit Zoo, and ate at a few really good restaurants, the best of which were HopCat (4265 Woodward Ave, Detroit) and Chartreuse (15 E Kirby St, Detroit).

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The highlight of the Michigan trip was a four-day journey Up North with my family. We started in the charming and pristine town of Harbor Springs, on the glistening blue shores of Lake Michigan, where we kayaked, bicycled and looked at the all stately Victorian vacation homes and elegant sailboats. If you find yourself in Harbor Springs, you absolutely must get a cookie (or a dozen) from Tom’s Mom’s (267 S Spring St, Harbor Springs) and a decadent gourmet breakfast sandwich from Small Batch (117 W Main St Harbor Springs). 

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Then we ventured way Up North, crossing the Mackinac Bridge (which, at five miles is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere) into the UP. We stayed at a motel in a town called Munising on Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes and pretty much the most freezing body of water that you’ll ever dip a toe in. The UP is quiet and remote and you can drive for miles among the tall trees and see nothing but a few shacks selling pasties (large empanada-like pastries filled with meat and veggies). Then you might stumble upon a secret waterfall, or catch a glimpse of a flaming sun going down over the emerald green expanse of Lake Superior. The jewel of the UP is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and the stunning rock formations are best seen on one of Pictured Rocks Cruises boats (or, if you’re more rugged, you can hike and camp along the coastline). I can’t say the whitefish-and-meat-centric food of the UP is my jam, but I really liked Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore (104 E Munising Ave, Munising) for its the excellent coffee, sandwiches, used book selection, and community feel, all in a cozy wood-paneled space.

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To Michigan,

Em in Jerusalem

My Grad School Reading List

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I submitted my graduate school thesis, which is the first 70 pages of my novel. I feel pretty okay about it (not great, because my novel isn’t finished yet). I’ll head to Paris for one last time in July, but already I’m mourning this program ending. Do I really not get to go to Paris twice a year? Are my writing deadlines (which I’ve agonized over for two years) really done? How will I stay accountable? And do I really not get personalized book lists anymore?!

As part of NYU’s low-res Paris Writers Program, students working toward an MFA in fiction are required to read 40 books and write response essays to them over the course of two years. The best part: The books are all recommended by talented and well-read faculty advisors and based on each student’s individual project. (My project is a novel about a chef from Northern Michigan to marries a diplomat and moves to Yemen where she works as the cook at the embassy’s outdoor lunch counter).

I’ve read books set in the Middle East (The Dog by Joseph O’Neill) and Northern Africa (Under the Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowels and Links by Neruddin Farah) to help me write place; I’ve read classics (Henry James and Proust and Nabaokov) to learn how the masters do it;  I’ve read authors of short fiction who can expertly tell a story without belaboring it (Lorrie Moore, Lydia Davis, Raymond Carver, and Flannery O’Conner) I’ve read books steeped in loneliness and isolation (Look at Me by Anita Brookner and An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine); I’ve read books about foreigners trying to make sense of the new places in which they’ve found themselves (Mating by Norman Rush); I’ve read books with complicated love triangles (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen) and I’ve read books with impeccable pacing that reveal information at precisely the right moment (The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna).

I haven’t loved everything I read, but that’s the not the point. I’ve realized that while it’s super easy to read for pleasure, it’s difficult to take yourself out of the story and think “how did this author, specifically, accomplish x, y, and z.” And it’s very, very difficult to take all these tips and tricks and incorporate it into my own writing.

I was lamenting to someone about how hard it is to write a book and she said “But there’s so much crap out there.” I have not seen any of that crap over the past two years. Perhaps I should read some of it to boost my self-esteem. Or perhaps I should figure out a way to continue to get personalized book recommendations from world-class authors now that my graduate program is over.

Either way: For anyone interested (lovers of great books and aspiring novelists perhaps?) here’s my “school reading list” ranked (loosely) in order of books I found most helpful for my own writing.

Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna

A Heart So White by Javier Marias

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

Look at Me by Anita Brookner

Mating by Norman Rush

Austerlitz by W.B. Sebold

Under the Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

Like Life by Lorrie Moore

The Fixer by Bernard Malamud

The Quiet American by Graham Green

Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen

The Dog by Joseph O’Neill

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Conner

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

Passage to India by E.M. Forster

Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Pnin by Vladimir Nabakov

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Links by Neruddin Farah

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

The Catherine Wheel by Elizabeth Harrower

Where I’m Calling From: Selected Stories by Raymond Carver

The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie

NW by Zadie Smith

The Collected Works of V.S. Pritchett

Cherí by Collette

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

A Moveable Feast by Earnest Hemingway

To reading,

Em in Jerusalem

 

Jerusalem in Photos

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It’s practically summer in Jerusalem: The lavender and wild rosemary are going gangbusters, we had our first triple-digit day (that’s Fahrenheit), and the lush strawberries in the markets have been replaced by sweet cherries. (Still no limes, but, alas, that is my new reality).

Jerusalem is starting to feel more like home. I’m moving past our blah digs and location (something about accepting the things you cannot change) and I’m discovering hidden gems in Jerusalem (like a great vegetarian cafe with gorgeous views of the Old City walls). And, this is huge: We bought a car! We’re no longer limited to the two wheels of our bicycles. We celebrated by going to the Dead Sea and Tel Aviv with our friends who visited us from Madrid.

This post is nearly all photos, which I hope capture that while Jerusalem may not be the easiest place to live: It’s beautiful. The city and it’s surrounds are ridiculously photogenic.

And just in time for me getting used to things here, I’m about to leave for six weeks for my bestie’s wedding in Charlottesville, Va., some family time in Michigan, friends and family (and training for Mr. Jerusal-Em) in Washington DC, and, finally, my last grad school residency in Paris. All of these places have limes!

But, when all that’s over, I have a feeling I’ll be ready to get back to Jerusalem.

Jerusal-Em

 

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The Dame in Spain’s Madrid Must-Sees

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I no longer live in Madrid. This is a sad fact that I’ll just have to deal with. But as a temporary resident of that beautiful city, I’ve been called on now and then to provide recommendations for those visiting. So I figured I’d put back on my Dame in Spain hat and present to you my Madrid faves.

To Eat

As a vegetarian, Madrid wasn’t really my jam on the food front, but I still managed to stuff my face with plenty of delicious things. My number one food rec is actually a butcher-themed restaurant called Sala de Despiece (Calle de Ponzano, 11). Crazy, I know, but really, if you’re a foodie and you visit Madrid, you must go. Sala de Despiece can be tricky for a non-English speaker because the menu is entirely in Spanish, and seating is very limited so you’ll probably have to stand. But this trendy spot is unbeatable for the quality of food, value, and the service is pretty good too, which can be hard to come by in Spain. Order a bottle of Ribera del Duero wine (I like one called La Premier Beso, the First Kiss). If you eat meat, you must get the beef carpacio with truffles (on the menu as chuleton) and the octopus (pulpo) which I’ve been told is some of the tenderest around. And what does this meat-loving joint offer vegetarians? The best burrata (cream-filled mozzerella) you’ll ever have. Order it with the tomato (not just any tomato: an enormous, skinned tom that has been soaked in olive oil, a little sugar, and salt and dusted with flash-fried basil and sea salt). For a more sit-down experience, I love Poncelet Cheese Bar (Calle de José Abascal 61). It’s a gorgeous space, a decadently cheesy menu, and their apple crisp with stilton and vanilla cream dessert is one of the best things I’ve ever had. Also, Fanegas 29 (Calle del General Oraá, 29) is basically just a casual neighborhood bar and restaurant, but it’s a great place to try an array of Spanish specialties including salmorejo, pimientos padrones, cheeses, patatas bravas, and salads for the veggies, and bacalao (cod) and morcilla (blood sausage) for the carnivores. 

For a more high-style upscale dining experience: Ten Con Ten (Calle de Ayala 6) and Paraguas (Calle Jorge Juan 16).

Tapas-wise, you simply must eat mushrooms in a cave-like setting (with live keyboard music!) at the kitschy Meson del Champiñones (Calle Cava Baja 17); sample the best tortilla de Española in all of Madrid at Bar Cerveriz (Plaza San Miguel 2) – savor it with a plate of manchego and a small glass of Austurian cider, which the owner will pour into glasses from way up over his head; and eat the delicious nun cookies from the Monasterio del Corpus Cristi. (For all these places and so many others, you should book a Madrid Food Tour. You’ll eat more and learn more than you thought possible).

Also, don’t miss Madrid’s many fancy food courts. The most beautiful is Mercado San Miguel, a 100-year-old glass and steel structure that reopened as a gourmet market in 2009. Sidle up to the stand offering six different vermouths on tap, pick one, and sip, along with some campo reales olives, Madrid’s local olive, that I swear, even olive-haters like. (They’re mild and creamy with oregano and light fennel flavors). Mercado San Anton (Calle de Augusto Figueroa 2) in the Chueca neighborhood has a great “croqueteria” on the second floor and tons of awesome options (including a decadent fried Spanish cheese plate) on the top floor. Get a glass of fruity rueda from the bar in super trendy Mercado San Ildefonso and nosh on all sorts of yummies like salmorejo (Spanish bread and tomato soup) and pimientos padrones.

To Drink

My time in Spain made me a major fan of vermouth, especially when served on tap. Enjoy yourself a nice glass of cold vermouth in many places throughout Madrid, including the fun and happy La Musa (Calle de Manuela Malasaña 18 and Calle Costanilla de San Andrés 12). For the best, most deceptively strong margaritas in town, La Lupita (Calle Villanueva 15)for the best all-around cocktails 1862 Dry Bar (Calle del Pez, 27) and if for trying all sorts of amazing Spanish wines via a wine machine, the beautiful wine store Lavinia (Calle de José Ortega y Gasset 16). As for gin and tonics: Madrid has the lock on gin and tonics (sorry London). The truth is most bars in Madrid do not have very good cocktails, but nearly every bar makes an excellent gin and tonic (served in a fish-bowl size goblet). I especially like the g&ts and Ten Con Ten, Macera (Calle San Mateo 21), and La Marucca (Calle de Velázquez, 54).

To Buy (or Browse) 

On first blush, the fancy (or pijo) Salamanca neighborhood seems to only have upscale brands like Louis Vuitton and Channel, but there are also more affordable shops tucked in this elegant barrio. My favorites are the trendy boutique Cosette (Ayala, 21 and Claudio Coello 58); & Other Stories (this H&M brand has clothing with unique cuts and a vintage feel but the best part is this multi-level store is housed in a old movie theater with epic ceilings, gorgeous tiles and other great details (Calle de Hermosilla 15). Although there is, almost literally, a Zara on every corner of Madrid, the one on Calle de Serrano 23, is, in my opinion, something special. Other stores owned by Zara’s parent company Inditex (the largest apparel retailer in the world) that can be found all over Madrid, including my faves, the preppy Massimo Duti and the PJ’s/underwear/workout clothes/swimwear/overly perfumed store Oysho. For home decor, Zara Home is paradise. For men, Mr. Dame in Spain loves El Ganzo, a Spanish brand with a British sensibility.

To Do

All of Madrid’s so-called “Golden Triangle” museums – the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza are top-notch. But more off the beaten path, I just love the sunny, serene, and small Museo Sorolla (Paseo General Martinez Campos 37), which is the former home/studio of Spanish impressionist Joaquin Sorolla, who painted light-filled beach scenes and lovingly serene portraits of his wife and children.

Get your bearings in Madrid by taking in a rooftop view of the city from Circulo Belles Artes (Calle de Alcalá, 42) a gorgeous old building. Pay 3 euros to go up, and enjoy a cocktail with the view. 

You cannot visit Madrid and miss taking a stroll in Retiro Park. It’s perfect for runs, for strolls, for picnics. It’s rose garden is a marvel, it’s man-made lake is oh-so-pretty, and the perfectly manicured stretch leading to the Prado museum is one of the best views in the city. It has ample grass, tall trees, streams, bridges, musicians, cafes, a turtle-filled pond, and wonderful old massive glass greenhouse that houses temporary exhibitions curated by the Reina Sofia. All of it: Perfection.

No visit to Madrid is complete without sipping a drink and eating snacks on a terraza (this is practically the country’s national past-time). Some of my favorite outdoor seating spaces include that of Richeleu (Eduardo Dato 11), which not a trendy place by any means, but it’s a solid neigbhorhood joint with endless salty snacks); any place in the picture-perfect Plaza Olavide; and the younger and more bustling Plaza del dos de Mayo.

To beautiful, lively, elegant Madrid,

The Dame in Spain (or, more currently, Jerusal-Em).

The World Beyond the Grocery Store

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Every grocery store here seems to have “Super” in its name, like Super Deal or Super Sol. I don’t read Hebrew, so I’ll just go ahead and assume the grocery store closest to my apartment is called Super Sad because everyone in it wears a frown and if it was sunny when I entered the store, nine times out of ten, it’s raining when I leave – how do you explain that?

Well, I was at Super Sad last week stocking up on eggs, beans, cheese, and my new favorite thing, labneh. The checkout ladies were rude, as per usual. My bill was more than double the price of what it would be in the United States, as per usual. I carried my armful of groceries over to my trusty blue grocery getter, which was stored near the exit, because the ancient, scowling man who sits by the door has led me to believe I’ll be killed if I bring it more than two feet into the store. And boom, that’s when I dropped all my stuff and broke a whole bunch of eggs. Various employees stood and looked at me with boredom, no one made a move to help, to offer me something to clean up with. I just left covered in egg goo, thinking for the millionth time in this overseas life about the superior customer service in the United States. This was the low point of my day. 

On the way back home, I stopped by the fruit and veg shack near my apartment (literally, it’s a tin shack).  It’s run by a friendly Israeli named Shai and his produce is wonderful, because the produce is great in Israel, and his prices are awesome because apparently produce isn’t taxed here. Shai gave me a strawberry to taste that was so sweet, I accused him of dipping it in sugar. “Are you crazy?! Who do you think I am? This girl over here thinks put sugar on my strawberries, can you believe it?” Other customers joined in and laughed, and I laughed, and we all ate strawberries (for some reason, the customers in the tin shack don’t seem gloomy at all; must be something about that grocery store).  I was like ten seconds from inviting them all over for strawberry shortcake and champagne. This was the high point of my day. 

That I had my highs and lows of the day both in grocery stores within a few blocks of my house brought on a realization: I need to get out more. As in: I need to find some way to be a part of society here that involves more than grocery shopping.

I can’t say I did a whole lot more to be involved in “society” in Spain, but the whole “life should be lived on the streets” vibe of Madrid meant that a trip to the hardware store, a jog in the park, a dinner out, and, yes, even going to the grocery store, made me feel more a part of life there. But there isn’t that sort of interaction and community out on the streets in Jerusalem. It’s much quieter. Our family-filled suburban apartment complex often appears deserted, and Mr. Jerusal-Em and I are often the only people in our two or three favorite bars. (If there are other patrons, they are almost always expats like ourselves). Life here, it seems, is not so public, and is more to be lived in one’s house, which makes it difficult for a foreigner like myself to understand how the locals live. (The exception being the shuk, which is always bustling, and that’s why I love going there. I should also add that Tel Aviv is a whole different story. People are out and about there all the time).

However, I have made some awesome American friends who are hilarious, smart and fun. There was a time when I thought I’d consider a post a bust if I left with no local friends, but I’ve since come to realize friends are friends am I’m grateful to meet anyone cool with whom I share a connection. So I don’t need local besties, per se, but I don’t want to live in a place and have no idea how it functions outside the dried pasta and bean aisle.

So, I need to get myself out there. Join some groups, perhaps teach an English class, meet some strangers, not spend entire days inside my apartment with only the Diplocats for company. It’s hard for an expat to break in, really anywhere, but, especially, it seems here. But that is no excuse: I must make more effort. (Oh, news: I just got a part-time job at the U.S. Consulate, so that should expose me to locals beyond those who work at a grocery store).

To branching out,

Jerusal-Em