Thursday, December 31, 2009

idiots at the heineken experience

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

why i want to quit the blog

...because I´m not doing it any justice!!

There is not enough time in the world for this thing--my pathetic attempts at documenting the incredible experience I am having only go so far as scribbles in the 1970s "trip book" Pilar gave me. Hopefully that will help me out later when I try to recap this all...

Now it´s time for Amsterdam!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Happy Christmas Eve!!

I should be in Paris right now, but I missed TWO flights yesterday--a really long story that I´m really not in the mood to explain. I will just say that not a single thing went my way, and for that I paid the price. Six hours wasted at the airport, and another 120 Euros for a new plane ticket tomorrow.

Worst of all, Nicole had to spend yesterday alone in Paris--probably one of the worst places to go solo, especially during holiday season. I´m an asshole.

But what´s the use in dwelling on the negatives? There are a few silver-lined clouds to this unfortunate situation. Now I get to spend "Noche Buena" (as they call Christmas Eve here) with my family, which is pretty nice. Instead of the usual big lunch, we will have a dinner. I am not sure what this dinner entails, but I do know that it still includes the seafood apperativos, because I saw them sitting out on the counter this morning. Octupus on Christmas Eve? Only in Spain. For dessert we will probably (if I´m lucky) have some Christmas sweets. There is a plethora of special treats that are reserved only for Christmas, such as "polvorones" and "turròn". Polvorones are crumbly almond cookies that come individually wrapped, for the purpose of pressing them between your palms before eating so they don´t fall apart. The name must come from the word "polvo", which means dust, because thats sort of what they look like--a little bar of dust. They are very rich and extremely delicious. For the last two weeks at school, they have been served after lunch, and for this reason my pants don´t seem to button. Turròn is another almond sweet, although it can come in many different flavors. It is a small hardened piece of nougat traditionally flavoured with honey and almonds, and be careful--you could easily chip a tooth on this thing!

Well, I am off. Merry Christmas to everyone and I miss you all tons!

Monday, December 21, 2009


There are so many things to say, so little time.

I spent almost an hour on Saturday trying to post that damn video of my students but it never worked.

I also spent several hours on Saturday "couch surfing"..well, at least searching for a couch to surf. Some of our housing plans got a little mixed up for our trip to Paris, and thus we are going to venture out into the world of couch surfing. So far it has been pretty fun, but extremely time consuming.

Last night it snowed for the second time in the last week. Incredible! This is very unusual for Madrid. It is so cold that it actually stuck..feeling very festive over here in Spain.

On Friday night a bunch of the professors had a "cena de Navidad" at a nearby restaurant. It was sort of pricey (30 Euros a person), considering the food was a "feces" (this is how Alex describes crappy things--a result of learning science in English), but the company was great and we had a really good time.

Tomorrow is the Christmas party, and on Wednesday morning I leave for Paris. About a MILLION things to do before then, such as move all my stuff to Parla to live with my "cousin" Veronica beginning in January. More to come on that later, must go now! I wish this wasn´t such a lame post, and that I had more time!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

last week of school

It´s the last full week of school before Christmas vacation, and I am with out voice.

On Tuesday the 22nd, the last day of school, we are having a huge Christmas party, where the children will sing Christmas carols as a whole, in both Spanish and English. The teachers this year decided to make a medley of songs in English, instead of just choosing one, and thus the task has been a bit more daunting. This gallimaufry of Christmas carols contains seven different parts--ranging from Silent Night to Santa Claus is Coming to Town. The fourth grade teachers put it together in high hopes of impressing solicitous parents, but for us 1st grade teachers, it hasn´t been easy.

Try teaching the lyrics "Round yon virgin, mother and child/Holy infant, so tender and mild" to 50 spanish speaking six year olds. I have probably sung this song 100 times, just today, and this is why I don´t have a voice.

But as difficult as it has been, it´s been incredibly rewarding. I forgot how much I love Silent Night--how much it inspires a nostalgic Christmas feeling in me, despite the fact that I don´t really know if I buy into the whole Jesus thing. And hearing all the tiny voices finally sing the first two lines at least partially correct (it came out sounding sort of like this: Siiiiiiiiilent night, khooooly night/owl is cam, owl is braight) gave me goosebumps.

Anyway, when I wasn´t teaching the English songs, I was able to take a video of the kids practicing the Spanish ones, which is almost as cute. Will post as soon as I have the chance.

Friday, December 11, 2009

la senda

the path near my house, on the way to school.

I really like this path because, despite the fact that it is almost Christmas, the leaves have still not fallen off the perfectly straight row of trees. On the right, there are benches between every other tree, where I usually see old men resting with their dogs, old women complaining about swollen feet, or young couples ferociously making out while they have the chance.

Also to be noted in this picture... it was taken at about 9:15 am. Doesn´t it look like 7 am? The sun comes up really late here. Does anyone have explanations? Because I can´t figure it out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

the rest of granada

Well, I am back at school, ready for the 2 day work week ahead of me. The rest of Granada was incredible, a success to say the least, but before I say anything on the topic I would like to first say THANK YOU to my Aunt Carol and Uncle Kent. The most kind and generous people in the world, they sent me a digital camera that, after over a month of confusion with the mail as well as two attempts to send it, arrived this wknd while I was away. A gift that every one will benefit from! My blog was just upgraded big time. I guess all I need now is a title..

So anyway--back to Granada. The last update, I had been sitting in the hostel waiting for my slow ass friends to finish getting dressed. That night ended up being one of the longest I´ve had in Spain. The three of us met a couple guys from Louisiana, who had also conincidentally met studying abroad in Buenos Aires. As it turned out, we all had a lot in common and we ended up running around together for the next 24 hours.

Because it was a holiday weekend, the Alhambra had been sold out for months, but they reserve about 800 tickets to sell at the door every day at 8 am. Thus, we were told to get there at 7:30 at the latest. So, we stayed out all night, and headed to the Alhambra at 7 am to wait in line. Even though we got there so early, there was still a handful of people already waiting. We sat on the floor in line, all verging on insanity from the cold, while David from Louisiana played the blues on his harmonica. For two hours. It was hell on Earth, but at least we were in it together.

There are two time slots for visiting the Alhambra--during the morning and during the afternoon. I´m not quite sure why they arrange it this way, but we definitely opted for the latter. At 10 am, we went to bed, and arose again at 2 to head back.

Though I was more or less a zombie all day, the Alhambra was incredible. I could not believe how well preserved it was, considering it was completed in the 14th century. It was originally white washed, which is hard to believe because it is now a darker reddish color. We spent the majority of the 3 hours we had at the Nasrid Palace, which is the most notable of the fort. Each room was done with such detail, each arabesque displayed a different pattern. If you looked closely, you could see small mistakes, but then had to wonder if they were intentional...a theory that the artists did this as a display of respect and humility to Allah. At one point, we found a set a three arches looking out over the city, only one finished with the arabesque detail. It was a peculiar feeling, to think of all the possible explanations as to why the other two had never been completed. Before leaving, we headed up to the torres (towers) to watch the sunset--the Sierra Nevada to the left, the white washed Albaicin to the right. Magical!

That night we decided to continue the moorish theme of the day and head to the Arabic baths. Our appointment was at 10 pm, a perfect way to relax after such exhaustion. For 28 Euros, you can spend an hour and a half roaming around a luxurious, dimly lit "spa"--more or less eight large pools of varying heat. There was one cold pool, which we were advised to use on 10 minute intervals between each of the warmer ones. There was also a small area that resembled an open sauna to sit and have spiced tea. During the hour and a half of relaxation, you wait until you are called for your 15 minute massage, and you head to one of the beds alongside the pools and lie down for the perfect massage. I have had a few in my life, but often times they aren´t that enjoyable, the massuese kneading away at painful knots causing me to writhe in pain. This wasn´t about fixing my dinosaur back though. It was simply about deepest relaxation. It was HEAVEN.

And needless to say, the rest of the night passed with out much consequence. We arrived back to the hostel ready for bed, which is exactly what we did.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

dear granada i love you

Hello from Granada! I am sitting at my insanely beautiful hostel that is right now bustling with activity. It´s nearly 8 pm, and the night shall soon begin.

I arrived late yesterday afternoon after a 5 hour hungover-stricken bus ride--just in time to get a glimpse of the city before the sun went down. I think it goes without saying, but I´ll say it nonetheless: absolutely charming.

I met up with Lucy and Nicole in a hookah bar, where I had a "tè pakistani"--sort of like a chai tea--to celebrate the moorish reunion of old friends. It was not just my arrival that my two pals were so buzzed about--they had arrived a day earlier than I and were gushing with raving reviews of how amazing this place was. So I had about 20 minutes to relax, and then we hiked up the hill of the Albaicin district to get a night-time view of the Alhambra on the adjacent hill. And it´s quite a hike. The Albaicin is the very old Moorish district--a historical jem, a labyrinth of winding narrow streets that one can easily get lost among. The plaza was packed--tourists snapping photos, gypsies juggling torches to the beats of hand drums. And the view. Oh my god, the view. The Alhambra was completely lit up, its reddish gold walls breathtakingly regal.

We then decided to have dinner--for free. Tapas are free in Granada when you order a beer--and with each round of beers they get better and better. So for 5 or 6 Euros, you are ready for the night. And what a night it was...

We started at a funk club someone had suggested to us--called Afrodisia--which played 80s R&B jams all night. It was so awesome! It was slightly reminiscent of a bar we used to go to in San Francisco--people were freely smoking joints while swaying around the dance floor to the beats. Before we knew it, it was 3 a.m., and time to head to the club in the Albaicin, which was apparently built into a cave. Long story short--Nicole and I lost everyone (including Lucy), and as neither of us had our cell phones, we ended up heading there by ourselves.

One of many reasons I love traveling with Nicole--she has an AMAZING sense of direction, and I never have to do anything to ensure we don´t get lost. I just simply follow her. And so to save money we decided to walk, even though we definitely should have taken a cab. For the first time in my experience traveling with Nicole though, we got lost. The maze of streets completely baffled us, both a little past tipsy, not to mention there wasn´t a soul in sight. I was starting to doubt if this cave club even existed, when all of the sudden, after over an hour of walking, inone turn we stumbled upon the street we had been looking for, and people! Finally! People! Walking over to the club, we passed a different cave that, though more or less empty, looked warm and inviting with good music and a relaxed atmostphere. After our trek, we decided it would only make sense to stop for one more drink before throwing ourselves into a sweaty crowd of people. That is where we met Sara and Pablo--two dirty hippie squatters that we subsequently spent the rest of the night with.

You see--we all went to the club, but realized upon arrival that neither of us had enough money to pay the cover, having stupidly spent our last Euros on our spontaneous pub crawl. The two of us can be really, really dumb sometimes. Sara and Pablo didn´t have any money either, so we decided to split. And that´s when things got interesting.

In the hills of Granada, there are caves. And people live, or squat, in these caves. Pablo is one of these people. He invited us to his and his "hermano´s" cave--where his hermano answered the door stark naked (he had been sleeping). We still aren´t sure if he was actually his brother, or if "hermano" was just his nick name, or even name, as that is what he was called. Anyway, hermano was probably 30 years old, and one of the nicest guys I have met in Spain. He even offered to put pants on if we preferred it!

And how can I possibly describe the amazingness that was this cave? I felt as though I was in the house of Mr. Tumnus, expecting a little faun to appear at any moment, hopping around nostalgically playing the flute for us. The off-white walls were decorated with hats and kitchen utensils, and the cave´s 4 rooms surrounded a small blackened chimney. Of course, no electricity, thus we saw by the light of three long tapered candles pegged into large empty beer bottles. It was freezing outside, but the cave was warm. This was probably the most wonderful part of it all--the natural heat of the earth.

So we spent the rest of the evening tucked away in this wonderful cave, sitting in the round living room sharing warm apple cider and freshly rolled cigarrettes. At 6 a.m., despite suggestions for us to stay over (I think hermano was thinking both Nicole and I might sleep in his bed with him...) we decided to trek down the small mountain, through the Albaicin, and back to our hostel beds. On the way, we stopped for a falafel pita, probably one of the best of my life, and were out like rocks by 7 a.m.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

amigo invisible

Yesterday at school all the professors drew names for the annual "amigo invisible", their version of secret santa (I personally think our name is much cuter). I really, really, REALLY like secret santa, so this was very exciting.

Especially since I drew Alfonso, the very cute 5th and 6th grade physical education teacher. This adds a whole new element of excitement to the game, considering I´ve had a minor crush on the guy since the first day of school (no shame in admitting this--he has a girlfriend). We don´t really speak much, not only because his face embarasses me, but also because he is from Cordoba, in Andalucia, and his accent is very difficult to understand. He generally has to repeat things two or three times until I get it.

Virginia is in charge of secret santa, probably because she has the most holiday spirit. She has really inspired me this week with all her stories about the school´s previous christmas celebrations. I really really love this woman. Anyway--she had me construct and decorate a giant box to put in the teacher´s lunch room for secret santa this morning, as the festivities begin today. Every day until the last day of school, we are supposed to put little notes with riddles, poems, or jokes that could somehow hint who we are. This is going to get a little tricky for me, since I don´t want to give away who I am with crappy spanish, but luckily Virginia and I already spilled to each other who we have, so she can help me out.

On the last day of school, the 22nd, is when we give the real gift, which we are to spend 15 Euros on. After that, there is a big party with all the professors, which apparently includes a lot of wine (at school!) and kareoke (also at school hehe). After that we will all go out to dinner together, and continue the party elsewhere. I will wake up the next day, hopefully without a hangover, and fly to Paris. Ah, can´t complain.

Monday, November 30, 2009

some updates

For those of you who are out of it in the world of soccer--Madrid and Barcelona played last night. Barcelona won 1-0. It´s a rather sore subject, so I´ll leave it at that.

The pumpkin pie was for the most part a success. It tasted pretty good to me (even though the damn crust was still dough) and I received many raving reviews. However, some of the professors claimed to like it, but any observant eye would have noticed that they didn´t finish the small slice I gave them (I gave everyone very small slices for this very reason). The apple pie was also a success--but it really had nothing on the AMAZING turkey my friend Rachael made. I could not believe it--her first try!! And stuffing! Oh stuffing--why can´t I eat you every day? I have been dreaming about it since last Thursday. If anyone feels like sending me boxed stuffing (or whatever it is) I will love you forever! This is a serious request:

Carlos Lanza/Renee Christensen
Calle Sirio 2
Getafe, Madrid 28905 ESPANA

Today I bought a bus ticket to Granada for the "puente" this upcoming weekend. We have Monday AND Tuesday off! And since I always have Fridays off--5 day weekend! Who is jealous? WHO is jealous?! I am going Saturday to Tuesday, as the chicos del barrio are having a dinner party of sorts on Friday (parents out of town!!) that sounded way too fun to miss. Plus I really don´t need 5 days in Granada, which is apparently not much bigger than the very town of Getafe I live in.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

happy thanksgiving!

Yesterday was one of the first rainy days of fall--I normally hate rain, but when it comes in such small doses, I can actually appreciate it. Today is just as dreary, and the coziness has really boosted my Thanksgiving morale...

This surge in holiday spirit inspired me to make a pumpkin pie for the teachers at school. I would have normally made apple pie, because it´s easy and it´s my favorite, but this would not be such a novelty to the Spaniards. So yesterday afternoon I headed to the grocery store, where I wasted nearly two hours of my life. Living at home, I never have to do any grocery shopping, and it was a HUGE challenge considering I needed things like nutmeg and evaporated milk. Ay yai yai, what a headache. Oh, and in case you were wondering, canned pumpkin is definitely an American thing--nowhere to be found in this country. So I made the puree myself---which turned out to be pretty easy. Five simple steps: cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, boil for 20-30 mins, shell out the meat with a spoon, and puree with a food processor (or with a fork and lots of patience).

Anyway, the whole thing took several hours, as I was making two pumpkin pies (which take an hour to bake--who knew?!) and one apple pie for a dinner party I am going to this evening. During the course of my baking extravaganza, Isabela came down from cyber world (where she spends almost all of her free time) to see what was going on. For whatever reason, this project really excited her, and she spent the rest of the night hanging in the kitchen, not only helping me but also making her own pie with the extra dough. Despite Pilar and I´s pressure to find a recipe, she insisted on creating something completely original, using the following ingredients: tons of nocilla (which is like nutella, except even more addictive if you can believe it), a cup of cacao, a cup of sugar, one egg, and a pureed banana. Then she cooked it in the microwave. It came out looking like a rock (I was sure it was unedible...) but upon testing with a knife, it looked good! She then covered it with more nocilla, and then we all sat down to try it. I cracked up after my first bite, all I could utter was "Que raro!!". The pie crust was definitely still dough, and the actual pie had the consistency of spanish tortilla--which is like quiche. But I have to admit--it wasn´t bad! Well, it wasn´t necessarily good, but I will eat anything with chocolate in it.

As far as the pumpkin pie goes---I have yet to try it. But I am keeping my fingers crossed that it turned out delicious, at least for the sake of my country. Everyone here seems to think that America doesn´t have its own traditional foods (which, I guess, is sort of true) but I am here with my pumpkin pie to prove them all wrong! I´ll update later with results...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

ciudad de las artes y las ciencias

palau de la musica

el Hemisféric

the back

adventure to valencia

Well...I can´t believe I did that.

I am at school right now--completely cracked out on espreso--having only slept 2 hours last night. My body feels like it was hit by a truck...but spirits remain high.

Rewind to Sunday...not long after I had come to terms with the fact that my ridiculous plan to follow Andrew Bird to Valencia would not be realized--I received a very important phone call from a friend who was just as interested as I in the endeavor. Vaya! We booked the rental car right away, with plans to meet at the Atocha train station early Monday morning.

Marcelo and Pilar were not too pleased with this plan--though they said nothing, the expression on Pilar´s face was enough to make me feel like a really, really stupid teenager again. It was a combination of extreme skepticism and motherly worry--altogether making for a rather unfortunate and guilt-inspiring feeling inside (considering, I am NOT a teenager, I am an adult, and therefore, the ugly face was as far as poor Pilar could go). But what´s a girl to do? This is the only down side about not living on my own--I have to answer to a whole family of very interested witnesses in the crimes I commit. Luckily Carmen, Pilar´s mom, wasn´t in the room during my proposal. She tends to be much more critical and outspoken.

So I met my friend Carlos at 9 am sharp the next morning to pick up the rental car. The story of Carlos is a long one that I don´t really feel like telling just yet, but I will say that it adds a whole new layer to the adventure of unbelievable randomness and coincidence and fate--considering that aside from seeing him outside the concert in Madrid on Saturday, unable to get in, I had not seen him since I met him during my first days in Spain. Anyhow, we ended up dropping twice as much money as anticipated on the rental car to go as far as Valencia, but we were both willing to make the sacrifice, and by 10 am we were crusing down the highway in our tiny toy Smart car. Hehe.

And it was so beautiful in Valencia! Sunny warm skies greeted us, and we spent most of the afternoon exploring around, making idiotic mistakes that are only to be expected when sincerely flying by the seat of one´s pants. We were rather scarce on resources, such as a map or any other source of knowledge about the city. All we knew was that there was a beach--which I will sadly admit we never found. Haha idiotic.

We had plans to eat some Paella, as aside from oranges, this is the food Valencia is most famous for. But we were both broke after the car rental fiasco, so we eventually opted for the poor man´s dinner in Spain of bread, jamon, cheese and fruit. Complete with a 1 Euro bottle of wine. Yummy. We decided to have our picnic in this wonderful park we stumbled upon, that was set in front of Valencia´s new science and art center. I had NO idea that Valencia had this breathtaking span of futuristic architechture, more or less 10 years old. Designed by architect, artist and engineer Santiago Calatrava, the monuments were intended to celebrate the coming of the 21st century. My most favorite was a giant eyeball that looks as though it is floating in water. It is so insane! From the side, where you can´t see the pupil, it actually looks like a spaceship from which aliens could descend at any time. What!?!! Other monuments were the massive Principe Felipe Museum, a science museum and science center, the L'Hemisferia which houses the Imax theater (as well as a planetarium) and the Palau de les Arts, the beautiful parthenon-like perfoming arts center. At the very edge was Valencia´s aquarium, which is apparently the biggest in all of Europe. I had to tell myself, Next time, when I have more money.

So, we frolicked around this heavenly futureland for a few hours, counting down the minutes until it was time to go see the concert at the very Palau de les Arts mentioned above. If I thought Saturday night´s show in Madrid was intimate--well, I didn´t know what intimate was. We had 5th row seats in this tiny auditorium, where I´m sure the whole entire audience felt as though they were having a cup of tea with Andrew Bird. It was so wonderful!!! The accoustics were insane--my ears could not have been happier. The set list was more or less the same, which was sort of a bummer, but what can you expect from a one man production? And anyway, the delivery was completely distinct. Andrew Bird is an odd fellow. Funny, but awkward, always a little uncomfortable unless he is lost in his music. His heart was on his sleeve; I was not surprised by how obviously nervous he was. The seated audience was calm, I´m sure pleased, but clapped only at appropriate times, offering no other signs of encouragement. His personality was so clearly reflected in the audience´s. In comparison with Madrid´s show, where he was just as light hearted as the 400 or so buzzed fans on a Saturday night, his mood was earnest, stoic even, during the whole of the show. I´m sure his only haven were his songs, which were played with such intesity that I thought he might fall over right there on stage. It was so perfect.

And that´s the end of this story--I will share no more, because the rest of the adventure was a well-worth-it hell. But hey, I made it back in one piece, and now I look forward to tonight´s sleep almost as much as I did last night´s show.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


i spoke too soon.


details to come soon.

ps jack, who are you? where did you come from?


Last night I saw my most favorite Andrew Bird in concert. I will start from the beginning.

One night I was talking on the phone with my pal Marc, and he had a calendar of all the upcoming live music in Madrid--huge, because I have been so out of it in terms of this wonderful source of entertainment. So I had him read off some of the names..and ever so casually, he said "Not sure if you know this one..the 21st of November..Andrew Bird?" That´s when Marc went deaf.

What are the odds?!?! My most favorite Andrew Bird, in Madrid?!?! God loves me. He really, really loves me.

So, I had been anxiously awaiting last night´s arrival for two weeks. I met up with Marc for a few beers with our favorite Euro couple, Lorenzo (Italian) and Gloria (Spanish). I am not sure what it is I love so much about Lorenzo and Gloria--but in due time I suppose I will find out. After that we headed to Marc´s cousin´s to say hello, as he lives near the concert venue. He is a butcher slash artist slash computer chess addict, a bit intimidating at first, but a really cool guy in the end. Maybe too cool..Marc and I were enjoying his company so that we lost track of time, and thus were late to the concert. That´s okay though. Not many people know who Andrew Bird is here, so we ended up finding an awesome spot on the balcony where I was put into a trance for the next two hours.

Yes! He played for two hours! And I have to say, it was a much more magical experience than the previous times I have seen him, which have always been at outdoor music festivals. It was much more intimate, a one man show. He would begin by picking a simple ear pleasing lick on the violin, and then loop it just to begin another to layer onto the first. When the show was supposedly over, he of course came back out, this time with Jessica Hoop (who opened) and they did a few Bob Dylan covers together, such as "Oh, Sister". Good god. It was amazing. I finally was able to understand a one Kaitlyn Greer and her obsession with a one Jack White. I think I am in love with Andrew Bird.

And that´s when I decided, just as the show was ending, that I had to see him again, because true love has no limits. I had read that he was also playing in Barcelona... the wheels started turning, and by the time we were outside the venue after the show, all I could say to Marc was "I´m sorry, I have to go home. I can´t spend money tonight, and I need to plan."

But dreams this spontaneous rarely ever come true. First of all, the show in Barcelona is on Tuesday, and Tuesday is a no-go because I have an important meeting for my residency early Wednesday morning. So it would have to be Monday night in Valencia. I would need to drive, because any other form of transportation would require missing two days of school, and I can really only live with lying to my school for one. So, I would need to rent a car, and I would need to drive home promptly after the show Monday night to make it to school in time. Which means I would need a friend, because I am not about to drive 5 hours alone in the middle of the night (mom--don´t worry...I may not be that responsible, but I am surely smarter than that!). I swear I have friends, but none that are obsessed enough with Andrew Bird to screw Monday´s duties and Tuesday night´s sleep to go see him with me.

So I´m not going :( But that´s okay, the way I look at it, it wasn´t meant to be. I´ll survive, I suppose.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

RENEE ANDREW BIRD BARCELONA ironic the last post just became. more on this later.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

no pasa nada

Translation: no big deal.

This is my, along with probably the rest of Spain´s, favorite spanish phrase. It is so wonderful! It can be used in so many different situations! It can serve as a response to so many questions! When in doubt--no pasa nada!

What I really love about it, actually, is how much the Spaniards truly embrace the meaning of this phrase. Of course--it´s not THAT surprising. This is a laid-back country, where we have 2 hour lunch breaks, where it takes a month and a half to get a bank card, where 90 % of the population goes on vacation in August. So it only made sense when...

Okay, this is a long story that I should probably start from the beginning. My friend Nicole (who is teaching in this program in Sevilla) and I have been trying pretty much since we got here to plan a Christmas vacation extravaganza (reason number 435247 that I love my job--2 and a half weeks paid vacation in December and January!!). Our struggles with planning date back to our days in Buenos Aires (where we met studying abroad)... many trips went untraveled, because we totally SUCK at planning. Well--we had been debating for some time as to whether to go south to Morroco, or North to roam Europe. We decided in the end that Morroco wouldn´t be able to offer a very "magical" Christmas, and thus opted for the latter. We would begin with a weekend in Barcelona and exit the country by train from there. Nervous that we might miss great flight deals if we didn´t act fast, we bought two plane tickets to Barcelona in haste for the 19th of December. We chose the 19th because Nicole´s last day was the 18th, and she would need time to travel to Madrid. Note: this is NICOLE´S last day. Not mine. SO STUPID. I have school until the Tuesday the 22nd, a small detail I failed to note. This wasn´t the only hiccup we realized just days after purchasing the non-refundable tickets. Nicole found tickets from Sevilla to Barcelona for even cheaper, and that would mean that she wouldn´t have to buy a 30 Euro bus ticket to Madrid (nor spend 6 hours on a bus). No excuses--we are idiots.

But throwing away 65 Euros (the cost of both of our tickets) was just too painful. We had to figure out a way around it. So I went to Crazy Carlos. I wish I knew what Crazy Carlos´s position was in the school but I really don´t, all I can say is that he is the most ridiculously absurd 50 year old Spanish man that deals with the English assitants at my school, among other things, and I promise, more on him later. I asked him for advice..what should I do? Could I maybe try to make up the hours? Will I miss anything special? This question sparked something in my mind though, and I answered it myself. I was going to miss the Christmas nativity play and party! But before I could express my regret aloud, Carlos bellowed out--No pasa nada!!!! And continued with a brief speech in extremely broken English (he insists on speaking to us in English--because, as he says, he has a lot of doubts--which I believe means he wants to practice) about how I must be prudent, and not tell anyone about my travel plans, as I will have the flu on that Monday and Tuesday. Hahahahahahaha.

So, it only made sense when Carlos threw his hands up in the air in complete and utter apathy about my missing school two days to go party in Barcelona. No pasa nada.

So am I still going? The answer Just as Carlos did--I threw my hands up in the air and said no pasa nada to the 34 Euros down the drain. I wouldn´t miss my school´s Christmas party for the world, much less a silly plane ticket to Barcelona.

Friday, November 13, 2009

it´s friday night again

At the end of every week, I am so amazed by how fast it flew by. Which really scares me...this is going to be over way too soon.

I stay pretty busy Monday through Thursday. Although I only work 16 hours a week at school, I actually spend about 25 there, thanks to a daily 30 minute ¨breakfast¨ at 11 a.m. and a two hour ¨descanso¨ between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. Every day after school, I have private english classes...which pay bank but are a huge pain in my ass. Compared to what I do at school (pretty much just show up)--the private lessons are much more taxing, as I have to actually plan enough lessons to fill up the whole hour or hour and a half. Two of my students are classmates of my cousin Alex--10 year old girls who are easy to please with games and treats. However, my other students are adults, and this gives me a lot of stress. I am pretty sure one of them is expecting miracles out of me--which is so ridiculous considering she was my first adult student, and thus my guinea pig. My rates are very low due to lack of experience, so I don´t know where she is getting this idea that her English will be perfect after three classes with me. Oh well, I do my best.

Today I spent most of the morning in bed reading Nueva Luna. I am so addicted! I decided to finally start writing down the new words that I look up as I read, so that I will actually remember them after finishing the sentence. So it´s taking me a much longer time to read the second of the series, but I think it will be worth it in the end. This afternoon I went with my neighbor friend Sergio to Madrid because he needed to buy a book for a class he is taking. We went to this amazing store, FNAC, near Sol--aka tourist central. FNAC is sort of like Borders, except a million times bigger and better, complete with a 5% discount on everything in the store, year round! Afterwards, we walked around a bit before needing to head back for my paddle lesson. Sergio educated me on quite a bit of history--like how many of the streets here are named for the city they lead to (good to know) and the history of the new years celebration that happens in Sol (wouldn´t youuuu like to know?! I have to save that for a new years post). On the train ride back we were talking about the Atocha terrorist attack, and it was really interesting to hear about it from another young person--how he was in high school, how with each class, a new teacher would come in with a new death count. Although such a tragedy, the people of Madrid were lucky in so many ways--as the attack was intended to kill many more than the 192 that it did. Sergio was explaining that there were only two college students who died that day--as the universities were having a demonstration and thus all students were advised to not attend classes that day. Wow.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

hicimos botellon

So much for a quiet Friday night...

Later on in the evening I heard from my neighbor friend Sergio that he and his friends were going out in the ¨center¨ of Getafe. It´s rare that I ever have going out plans that don´t require 4 different forms of transportation, so I thought why not? They were going to do botellon, and then head to some of the bars in the area.

And now it is time for a brief history on one of the most recent social phenomenons of Spain--botellon.

Although its exact roots are unknown, most would probably agree that botellon is yet another unfortunate offspring of the economy. In recent years, young people have begun to gather around outdoor spaces to have drinks, as this is a much more affordable option than buying them in bars and clubs. Europe has never had a problem with public intoxication, unlike America, where I once received a 100 dollar ticket for standing literally two feet outside the bar with a beer in my hand. However, things have begun to change, in Madrid at least, as a result of botellon. In 2002, a new law was passed that forbade drinking on the streets, because the kids were getting way too out of hand. Thanks to a large handful of immature young folk, botellon is now illegal in Madrid (but not in other places, like Sevilla). However--the young people here have no reservations, nor do the police--who generally turn a blind eye to botellon. Nonetheless, if you are out botellon-ing and happen to get unlucky, the fine is 300 sadly spent Euros.

Anyhow--last night was pretty innocent. We each had a few drinks before heading to the bar, and the whole thing was very tame. Nobody was getting wasted, making idiots of themselves, or wrecking havoc around Getafe. Just simply a few friends hanging around and enjoying a cool atumn night. So all in all, I don´t feel too guilty about taking part in this ¨verguenza¨ of Spain.

For those not so mature--botellon is a different story. Here is a picture my friend Nicole took when we were in Sevilla--on our walk home one night we stumbled upon a desserted botellon war zone. Imagine--this is in front a church.

Friday, November 6, 2009

here i am on friday night

As if Friday nights couldn´t get more´s 8 pm and already I´m in my pajamas typing away on my blog. Who´s jealous?

You see, I missed my general Friday night activity--which is paddle lessons with Pilar. I was on my way in from Madrid to make it back just in time, but of course the trip took longer than expected (always) and I didn´t make it. But that´s okay. I arrived still dressed in what I was wearing yesterday afternoon, reaking of cigarette smoke from a Thursday night out, and frankly, feeling quite tired.

For those unaware, because I had never heard of paddle before I came here, it is an extremely easy version of tennis. It´s played on a smaller court, with smaller yet thicker rackets that do most of the work for you. Although still frustrating for someone as unathletic and uncoordinated such as myself, it is relatively easy to get the ball over the net with out exerting too much effort. The majority of the calories I burn while playing are probably from laughing at how ridiculously terrible both Pilar and I are.

Anyyyyyyway, I decided to go out in Madrid last night and it was a fun time indeed. We went to this place that had live music, something I had never seen in a club, and I was very excited about this prospect. However, I quickly realized that the band was HORRIBLE--if you can imagine, a spanish version of the Jonas brothers. It was quite painful to listen to, and dancing wasn´t even an option. But, who cares about my opinion--the Spaniards were loving it. Which is fine. I waited paitently for the band to finish (at 3 am) and we danced the rest of the night away.

Today I woke up and decided to meet up with an old friend from college who I just connected with last week. His family also lives here and he has been in and out of the country for the past couple years teaching English (illegally). For anyone interested--apparently the customs people at the airport are very relaxed here. If you want, you can just hop right on over and make a killing teaching English, and cross your fingers that you don´t get unlucky when you finally decide to head back to wherever it is you came from. Anyhow, it was a really beautiful crisp autumn day, and I mosied around the city with Marc while he filled my brain with random tidbits about Madrid, traveling, and life as he knows it. We eventually ended up at Retiro park--the most wonderfully fantastic place in Madrid. I am obsessed with this place, and spent all day cursing the Spanish mail system for not having yet delivered the camera my Aunt Carol and Uncle Kent sent me nearly two weeks ago. The trees were every shade of fall, and I was feeling so inspired by the sheer beauty of nature within the city. We roamed over to the Palacio de Cristal--this huge greenhouse that apparently used to shelter the ¨phillipine lillies¨ (does Marc make things up sometimes? Maybe) but is now a space for vague modern art--one display being a jar of asparagus sitting in the center of a compass, topped with a piece of poo and a metal rod balanced on this peice of poo. I didn´t get it. Nonetheless, this greenhouse was beautiful and it made me think of my mother, who would appreciate it more than anyone else I know.

Well, I must be off. Tonight Isabela and I are going to watch Twilight, as I just finished the first book (in Spanish!!!) and this week the second movie of the series will come out in Madrid. If anyone is interested in reading an easy book in Spanish, I highly reccommend this teeny bopper series. It´s 500 pages, and I finished in a week.

Monday, November 2, 2009

halloween redux

After Saturday night--only thought it necessary to finish off the holiday right.

I went to a party in Chueca--the gay district of Madrid--at an international apartment belonging to American, French, Brazilian, and Spanish inhabitants. Despite the fact that over half the guests were not-so-friendly French girls, it was still a good time. I enjoyed scoping out the costume scene. Across the international board, all the girls got the memo to wear as few clothes as possible--mostly clad in bunny, cat, or evil seductress get ups. The striking difference, however, was in choice of costumes. It seems as though the Spaniards are the only ones who celebrate Halloween in its true form--that is, in honoring death and its morbid friends. Since when did Halloween become an excuse to dress up as whatever the hell you want in America? This is OUR holiday! We should do it right! However, I have to admit that the host did make a fabulous Lady GaGa, and when I saw that guy ¨on a boat¨ in his flippy floppys and all, I nearly peed in my pants. I guess you can´t help pop culture invading every corner of our existence.

Anyway, I have decided that Halloween is in fact one of the best holidays, after celebrating it in Madrid. Especially in the gay district. The streets were packed with absurdly frightening yet flamboyant witches, jokers, exorcist girls, and demons, and people were going absolutely nuts. It was quite a scene, and I only wish I had photos to document. Guess I´ll just have to stay for next year´s celebration :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

happy halloween!

Forget the fact that halloween is an American holiday...happy halloween, Spain!

Truly, there is enough enthusiasm here for our spooky tradition that even the most homesick of all american puppies would be at ease. Not to say that I am homesick. Since I passed the acceptable age for trick or treating, I haven´t cared much for Halloween anyway.

But--as one of the three American assistants in my school, of course I had to feign serious interest, as being an American on Halloween is nearly the equivalent to being Jesus Christ on Christmas day. We began planning over 3 weeks ago for our school party, but despite the fact that we began so early, yesterday nonetheless arrived in total chaos. We had decided to act out the story ¨There was an old woman who swallowed a spider¨, but instead the old woman would be a witch. Not very creative, I know, but the story uses simple vocabularly and tons of repitition. I, dressed as a dead bride (thank you, Pilar), was to narrarate, while Hallie and Alana (the other assistants) played the witch and carried the animals to the witch´s belly. What nobody told me, however, was that this ¨play¨ was to last 30 minutes. So when the first round finished after a mere 5, we were at a loss as to what to do after the one game we had planned finished in 5 minutes as well (a swine flu-friendly version of bobbing for apples).

Here is a piece of advice for anyone who is ever caught in a similar situation, that is, with 50 pairs of young spanish eyes staring at you and waiting for entertainment: chant. I have found in my experience that there is nothing that excites and pleases a group of children in this country more than chanting. I have theorized that this pleasure comes from Spain´s unfaltering appreciation of soccer--a sport that requires serious chanting. So we began: Trick or treat! Trick or treat! I want something good to eat! ..and you know how the rest goes. The room immediately broke out into holy mess of children chanting together, and the chanting didn´t stop. Boys began to form chains, arms around each others shoulders, while the girls jumped and squealed in an attempt to not be trampled. In America, someone may have called the police. In Spain, everyone rejoiced. They were having a ball.

Needless to say, the next round of students heard a much different version of the old witch story, complete with improvised conversation amongst myself, the witch, and all the animals she swallowed. We couldn´t deal with such pandemonium 6 times throughout the day.

Tonight, for the real Halloween, I will go into the city for a party at a friend´s apartment. She is American, but her roommates are from all over Europe. We shall see if the enthusiasm persists..

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

what luck!

Today is a very special day, as the internet works at school.

The elementary school I work at (Benito Perez Galdos in Fuenlabrada, Madrid--check out the super savvy website at has a whole lab full of computers, but it is rare that the internet is in functioning order. I shall now dedicate this posting to my school, which I hold very dear to my heart, despite the fact that it rarely ever has its shit together.

It has been a month since I began working in this ´colegio´(not to be confused with college..), and every day I find something new to love about it. I work with the first and third grades, basically just hanging around the classroom and helping the profesores with their lessons. Most of my time is spent with the first graders, singing songs and jumping around like a monkey to communicate with them. They rarely ever understand me.

I think I need to explain... Six years ago, the Spanish government decided to begin converting the schools here to¨bilingual¨ schools, upon realizing how far behind they are than the rest of Europe in this aspect. That is to say--they decided that certain classes were to be taught in English, and these classes would eventually be Science, Art, and Physical Education. The problem was that very few teachers spoke English well enough, so the idea was to bring over a native speaking assistant to bridge the gap. So here I am.

The elementary schools here begin with preschool, but Benito Perez Galdos offers the bilingual program starting in the first grade. This means that my job is very difficult, as this is the first year my students have been exposed to the language. They are not supposed to know that I speak any Spanish, but children´s minds are easy to trick. They speak to me in Spanish, and although I understand what they say, it does not occur to them that I know the language. Mua ha ha ha.

Virginia is the profesor of English, Art and Science in the first grade. I love her for many reasons, the main one being that she says ¨plastify¨ in place of ¨laminate¨. I´ve been thinking about correcting her, but I sort of like plastify better, and have been using this new word quite a bit myself. Who knows, maybe it´s the British english?

This is not a sufficient post, but more to come later. I´d better be´s almost time for my 5 course family style lunch :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

the end of vacation

Today marks one month that I have been in Spain (...something I failed to mention in my first post--I have moved to Spain for those who are unaware), and also the end of my vacation...from technology.

After a month with out a cell phone, I finally broke down and got one. I have to admit, life with out a cell phone was quite a hassle at times. One day I tried to meet a friend in the city to have coffee, but there was some confusion about the meeting place. I won´t go into detail about the search, but needless to say I had coffee alone. Until now, I have done almost all communicating via email, which is a huge pain in my ass considering I do not have a computer, and the computer I use (Pilar´s) dates back to the 90s. I´m sitting at it right now, and as I type, it purrs and groans, sending soft signals to let me know that while it is still in working order, it could shut down at any time.

Anyhow, while I enjoyed my vacation, I suppose the end came in good time. My contract is with Moviestar, a company I remember from my days in Buenos Aires. I feel SO fortunate to have family here, my uncle allowing me to get a cell phone under his independent work contract. Most foreigners are not able to get a contract (for various reasons--time issues, residency issues, etc) and thus are forced to pay as they go, which costs on average (from what I have heard from friends) nearly 100 Euros a month. Yikes! My contact is costing 12 Euros a month for free usage Monday through Friday, 8 am to 8 pm. Beyond these hours, it will cost 18 cents a minute/message. Not bad.

So thank you Uncle Marcelo, for hooking me up with the goods. And thank YOU! cousin Isabela, for also hooking me up with the goods! Isabela was probably more excited for my new cell phone than I was, it´s arrival being the only thing that could get her out of bed at noon today (oh, teenagers). She immediately stored my number in her phone, and began sending me all the reggaton a girl could need. Now I can finally fit in with the young people (young people as in high schoolers) who like to park themselves on benches around town and listen to their cell phones as if they were boom boxes. If I ever get a camera, I will try my best to sneak a picture or video of this phenomenon, because its HILARIOUS. For now, I will just have to use words to describe it. Imagine..two teens, beyond uncomfortable in their own skin, sitting in silence while Don Omar raps from the tiny speaker of the hot pink cell phone sitting on the arm rest. In accordance with the super cool atmosphere they have set up, they must also be sure to act super cool--aka NO speaking, no smiling. This cell phone party is serious business. Sometimes, I walk into the kitchen and find Isabela doing this very thing, alone. When I find myself in this situation, I think, ¨when in Rome..¨, and we sit together in silence whilst the cell phone takes the stage.

My cell phone number is 649835096. Please call me, if you feel like it. It´s free for me, but will probably cost you a pretty penny.

Friday, October 23, 2009

first post

On Tuesday night, my 9 year old spanish cousin called me fat.

OK--that is an exageration. I was busying myself in the kitchen making a cup of tea for myself and my aunt (Pilar) when Alex walked in and said, in his broken but impressive english, -You´ve gotten more fatter, no?". At this moment, after, of course, nearly falling on the floor laughing, is when I decided to begin writing a blog.

Because these are the moments I live for. It´s the small things in life that really hit me with such weight (no pun intended), and these things must be documented and shared. Alex´s comment could not have been more hilarious to me--for a number of reasons. The first was the fact that he had just been to the orthodontist that day to get braces. Oh! how I wanted to quip back--Yea, well at least I´m not a metal mouth, braceface! Of course, I held my tongue. What was even more funny to me was that once again, Bill Cosby was right. Kids say the darndest things. I HAVE gained weight, thanks to an increase of sugar intake by about 5 times, and luckily I have my little cousin Alex to always provide me with the truth about such matters (Pilar was quick to assure me that I looked just the same as I did a month ago, when I first arrived). Even more, as I received this cruel remark, my hand was fishing around a tin box of cookies, as one cannot have a tea or coffee in Europe with out several buttery cookies, dunked and soaked of course. So there I was, caught red handed, when Alex dealt me the news, that I´ve indeed gotten more fatter.

And you know what? I don´t care.*

*I will start caring when my pants no longer button.