Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Parade of Animals

I awoke on Saturday morning to someone testing a PA system outside my house:

"Uno. Dos. Tres. Ah. Beh. Seh. Uno. Uno. Uno. Dos. Dos. Dos..."

I opened the windows to our front room to find a stage with speakers facing our house in the plaza below. With little time to think about what this might mean, I strapped on my running shoes for a morning run with my friend Fatima. En route to her house, I found myself weaving through a crowd of Spaniards dressed in strange traditional clothes, including many men in outlandish wooden clogs.

Returning from my run I found that Calle Mayor leading up to my house was lined with people. There was going to be a parade!

And a parade it was:

Matt and I gleaned that our street used to be a major route for livestock through Madrid, so every year in celebration, Madrilenos march their pigs, cows, horses and sheep through the streets, accompanied with costumes, music and drinking. A few photos and videos:

These oxen were a little stubborn

Men try to hold up these extremely tall flags, one which
eventually crashed into our house.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Econ Shout Outs

Although my responsibilities are still limited at Santander, my job involves wading through piles of regional financial news, economic data and reports from international bodies like the IMF.

If I haven't said that I appreciated the economics-heavy education I got at SAIS, I'd like to say it now. If it weren't for my extremely intelligent TAs and dynamite professors in a range of quantitative classes from International Monetary Theory to Corporate Finance, the following words (all taken from a working paper I'm digesting and summarizing for my boss) would just be gibberish to me:

"The effects of domestic and external variables on banks' bond credit spread and interbank market spread are examined using least squares estimations, with standard error adjusted for heteroscedasticity and autocorrelation" - Thank you Professor Mark White!
"Since Merton (1974), the equity is viewed as a call option on a firm's assets with maturity T, the equity price is the spot price and the maturing debt at time T per share is the strike price" - Thank you Professor Gordon Bodnar!
"External pressures also transmit via arbitrage to domestic interest rates" - Thank you Professor Richard Pomfret!
Thanks also to Professor Matthijs, Professor Larson and some great TAs I've had: Thishani, Deepti, Neil, Lisa and Kyle. You might not read my blog but I'm surviving because of you.

Stay tuned for fewer work-related blog posts and more travel-related blog posts... Friday was pay day!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

US Politics in a Faraway Land

Be prepared, if you're an American living abroad during a presidential election year, to be expected to be an expert on US politics. Several times a week, I'm asked by Spaniards at work, "who's going to win?" "what's going to happen in November?" "What do Americans think about X?"

I don't know!

Prediction is for is for Nostradamus and Nate Silver. What I do is try to portray the subtleties of my political opinions with my very un-subtle Spanish. I had the chance to do so in front of a crowd of people last week at a debate at the University of Alcala, actually, and it ended up with some of my quotes in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo!

I've spent these past few weeks informing myself on my choices, choices I have the honor of making as a voting American. I keep politics out of this blog, but suffice to say that I'm not the type to demonize people who disagree with me politically. I believe that the vast majority of Americans (and politicians) are advocating for what they think is best for our cities, states and country, but just disagree on what policy is best (for one well-written take on this year's election, see my friend Matt's post).

Living in California's new Congressional District 52 is pretty exciting. We have a congressional race coming down to the wire and being in California, we can register to vote online! My ballot was sent to me by email (thanks for joining the 21st century, California!) and I submitted my ballot on Monday.

I'm looking forward to November. I'm not one for suspense, and I want to talk to people at work about something else for once!

Friday, October 12, 2012


I went to Barcelona for a short day-trip this weekend (isn't Ryan Air grand/terrible?) and had a chance to walk through the heart of Catalunya just a few weeks after major separatist demonstrations rocked its streets on 11 September.

Compared to the last time I was in Barcelona, I noticed a striking lack of Spanish flags. Unavoidable, however, were variations on the Catalan flag, including the red, gold and blue of the separatists, hanging from balconies and windows.

Catalunya, like many other regions in Spain, is having fiscal troubles and Artur Mas, the Catalan nationalist leader of the regional government is trying to take more control of its tax revenues vis-a-vis the central government, in part by leveraging the large demonstrations of last month and speaking in terms of national sovereignty.

 Also taking place in Barcelona that day was a major match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, football stand-ins for a more complicated political debate. Maybe it means something that the game ended in a 2-2 tie.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Plaza de la Villa

On Tuesday, I got home from work around 8:30, cracked open a cold beer and threw open the shutters of the floor-to-ceiling window in my living room to enjoy this view.

I leaned against the railing and looked down upon Plaza de la Villa, my historic and beautiful neighbor. The plaza often boasts wandering tourists during the day but is surprisingly quiet at night.

I especially enjoy the statue in the center of the plaza of Álvaro de Bazán, an architect of the Spanish Armada and an admiral who helped win the famous Battle of Lepanto. He died in February of 1588, six months before his dread fleet foundered in the waters off the English coast.

No subtle metaphors about my life, just interesting stuff.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Santander: First Impressions

After a week of exploring Madrid and finding an apartment, I began work at Banco Santander on Monday. Four first impressions:

1. This place is ridiculous. Santander built its own corporate campus just outside of Madrid. I feel like I'm working in some futuristic corporatist utopia.

2. Everything is in Spanish. My colleagues were under the impression when I arrived that I didn't speak Spanish, and when they found out I could, they decided to talk to me as if I were a Spaniard. This was probably too much for me the first day and I left with an exhausted brain and a worry that I had missed some important information. Today was better and I sat through a 20 minute rapid-fire briefing on Bloomberg data sets with very high level of comprehension (a fact that I only slowly realized as it was happening).

3. This is a big kid job. Everyone is super nice, but no one is holding my hand. My work doesn't consist of just searching Google or copying and pasting stuff into Word documents. I actually need to use stuff I learned in Econ classes. I need to take home material and become an expert on Chilean fiscal policy. I might succeed, but there's definitely room for failure.

4. This is what I want to do. After four months of uncertainty as to what I'd be doing, I found myself in Santander's Servicio de Estudios y Public Policy, which does in-house economic and political analysis for bank decision-makers. My first week I'm helping to write briefs. This was the kind of stuff that I enjoyed so much at SAIS and dreamed about doing professionally. This place exhausts me. It scares me. Most of all, it excites me, and it's only my second day.