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.