Palacio de Hielo

As my friends begged me to come ice skating with the mentors last Friday, I made the mistake of admitting that I used to go to ice skating summer camp when I was in middle school. They erupted into a chorus of laughter, saying “Of COURSE you did.” To be fair, I did go to an odd variety of themed summer camps throughout the years, but my two weeks at Westchester Skating Academy weren’t nearly as professional as they may sound. I only really liked going skating for the skating-rink-hot-chocolate, as I still call it, and still believe is the best kind of hot chocolate on the planet. Once my friends heard that I had a “past” with ice-skating, I committed to an evening at El Palacio de Hielo with the mentors and intercambios.

As soon as we entered the large mall, we felt surprisingly at home, as the overwhelming scent of fried food reached our noses. Just like many beloved American malls, there were multiple floors full of arcade games, ropes courses, McDonald’s, and tacky stores. It felt all too familiar. We were greeted at the door by many dos besos’ from a crowd of people from the program, and we made our way down the stairs to rent out what would most likely be the least comfortable pair of skates I’ve ever worn. I was grumpy at first, unable to walk back up the stairs, and begging friends to hold my hands as I attempted to skate for the first time in years. I was relieved to hear that many of us were on the same page, skating for either the first time or the first time in a long time, except for some Boston and Chicago based students who wowed us with their agility and hockey stops.

Although I definitely had to focus on the challenge of not falling, I was happily surprised that I didn’t fall onto the cold ice once. We all teased each other as we held on to the wall for dear life, but once we got more comfortable, we skated in groups, chatting and making our way around and around the loop. Just like at American rinks, the intimidating inner circle blocked off by orange cones was designated for the pros, from little girls in skirts to buff hockey players who clearly knew what they were doing. Everyone at the rink squealed when an array of flashing holiday lights turned on overhead as the music grew louder. Though the lights made it even harder for me to stay on my feet, the music motivated me. It suddenly felt a lot like the holidays, with the familiar cold breeze and red and blue lights.

Once the aching in our cold feet became too much to bear, we left the rink, gathering on the benches to chat a bit more. As mentor after mentor asked if I would be staying in Madrid for the whole year, it made me sadder each time to answer no. Realizing this would likely be one of the last times I’ll see all the mentors in the same place, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia for the rapid speed at which this semester has flown by. I will look back fondly on this ice skating excursion as such a wholesome fun evening in which I realized how much all the mentors and peers really mean to me!

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