Wednesday, February 24, 2010

the new political cousin

Maria, Pilar´s youngest sister, just found out today that she will have a baby girl in June. HOORAY! This is exciting news. I think the whole family is really relieved, because Diego, she and Mario´s 18 month old son, is like a walking tornado (he takes after his father). Perhaps a little girl will be a bit more relaxed...

Anyway--here´s a piece of trivia. When you have a baby in Spain, the government gives you 2500 Euros. Oh Europe, how is it that you never cease to amaze me?

Friday, February 19, 2010

carnival part two

I celebrated Carnival again the following week at school. It was sort of like a spirit week, except there was no spirit week committee to organize it all. Instead, a creepy white doll called "pelele" (controlled by Loli, the Esme---for-anyone-who´s-seen-Emperor´s New Groove---esq secretary) sat in the window on the backside of the school with a sign mandating the following day´s carnival status: on Monday, we were to wear doctor´s clothes. On Tuesday, we were to wear all one color. Then on Wednesday, we were to wear aprons for the first half, and respective costumes for the second (when the party would go down). There really wasn´t very much sense to any of it at all.

The party was great. And by great, I mean hilarious. It may have been more unorganized than the Christmas party, but that is debatable considering the crazy parents were allowed to come to that one, bringing it to a whole new level of chaoticness. Either way, I really enjoyed witnessing the whole thing, which consisted of each grade taking their turn in parading around in their costumes in the gym (it was raining) to the carnival song ("carnival! te quiero!"), then the 5th and 6th graders breakdancing, or something like it. Despite the party´s lack of organization, or actual activities, it was a really fun time.

Afterwards, we did the "entierro de las sardines" (burial of the sardines)--more or less a giant fish funeral. All week we had been colorfully decorating giant paper sardines, then filling them with newspapers, for this very ritual. I am a still a little unclear about the origins of this tradition--as I have heard several different histories. But a basic, pieced together version I can offer: after carnival´s rather egregious behavior, the good Catholics must do away with their sins, and how better than to burn them? Then there will be no trace left behind! And my only explanation for the sardines is that once lent starts, it is tradition to give up meat for 40 days. Does anyone actually do this anymore?

Anyway, it is also tradition to dress in mourning clothes for the entierro, but Benito Perez Galdos is far too unorganized to pull this one off. Funny though...Veronica was telling me about her experience as a grade school kid during carnival--that she and her friends, once the fish were set on fire, would begin crying, then sobbing, dressed from head to toe in black. What a sight that must have been.
all the teachers dressed up as fireman!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Most people give little credit to the south of Madrid. It´s the less chic, more "chunga" (rough translation: spanish style ghetto fabulous) side of the community. People who live in Madrid, whether Madrileños or extranjeros, like to take advantage of this stereotype--always beating down on poor old Madrid Sur.

(spanish lesson: perhaps you are amazed and/or disgusted by somebody´s parlicularly chunga behavior, you might say to them "vète a parla!")

But they are all WRONG! will never reach the certain charm that its big sister so naturally emanates. But how could it? That´s like telling Fresno to be Nob Hill. But even Fresno has got something to offer, especially for a foreigner.

Like the fact that...the very center of the Iberian peninsula is in Getafe! And that the soccer team is a big deal!! (or so I much as I try, I´ll never be a sportsfan) Or that Parla is the municipality with the number one amount of foreigners in the community of Madird!

OK--but the point is...carnival was only more proof of this. Getafe is known for its tradition of throwing one of the best carnival parties in the area. Vero and her friends go every year, and so obviously I tagged along. There was a tent...a really, really big tent, right in the center of town, filled with tons of people, all dressed up in elaborate costumes and drinking from giant plastic cups (of course, this was a botellon-worthy occasion). Great live music, warmth despite the literally freezing temperatures, lots of friends.

I went as a "punky fairy"--an improvised invention of a costume inspired that Saturday afternoon by a red tutu and a pink wig. Vero did my makeup, and wah-lah, I didn´t even recognize myself. That´s the point, right?

Vero not only did my makeup...she did everyone´s. This was cool, because each in the group had their very own style to be temporarily tattooed on their face. She was a Mexican cadaver—then we had a cat (a real cat, not sexy cat), as well as some vampires (who ended up covering at least half their faces in black lipstick and actually looking quite frightening).

So it was a really fun night. And I took pictures!

It is often tradition for people to dress up in groups. My favorite was a group of camerman with a famous Spanish reporter. I also saw a group of gangsters on a flexing (not really, but I wish) and shooting spree in their little euro hatchback. Later that night at a bar, I could not get enough of the bartenders dressed up as maids, or old maids..something like that. It was hilarious.
mmm..lots of makeup.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

my dream car

Mario got a 1973 Mini Cooper. He let me drive it. The price I paid for this: he dragged me to the annual car fair in Casa del Campo. Despite the whole family´s warnings not to go ("You´ll be there for hours"), it was actually really cool, and luckily, it closed an hour after our late arrival.

Monday, February 8, 2010

palindromes and anagrams

Today the Julio Cortazar book was due at the library.

The first few days I had it in my hands, I attempted to read several of the stories, but I kept finding myself very frustrated trying to comprehend what was going on without a professor guiding me. I think Cortazar is a little (to say the least) beyond my reading level. This sort of depressed me, because I want to read it so badly and it´s just not very enjoyable. Furthermore, it reminded me of the fact that I am not in college anymore (why, God, why?).

But today I had to return it, so I dug it up from under my bed (where I had put it to avoid thinking about the two painful truths mentioned above). Perhaps it was the rainy, cozy afternoon that inspired me to hole up in the library and give it another shot before handing it in. So I chose the first story, "Lejana: Diario de Alina Reyes", to read again.

And perhaps it was the rainy, cozy afternoon, an afternoon spent holed up in the library, that allowed things to go more swimmingly for Cortazar and I.

"Lejana" was a really awesome read the second time around, spoken from the diary of a one Alina Reyes, who sets off on a confusing (yes, still confusing--especially because this girl is crazy) journey of multiple identities upon making an anagram of her name:

"Alina Reyes es la reina y... Tan hermosa, este, porque abre un camino, porque no concluye. Porque la reina y..."
(in English...Alina Reyes is the queen and... So beautiful, this one, because it opens a path, because it doesn´t conclude. Because the queen and...)

Other Spanish anagrams and palindromes, created by the one and the only, Alina Reyes, la reina y...

Salvidor Dali, Avida Dollars
Salta lenin, el atlas
Amigo, no gima
Atale demoniaco Cain, o me delata
Anas uso tu auto, Susana

Sunday, February 7, 2010

the first sunday of the month

So this blog, which has yet to be titled, is supposedly about my experience here in Spain. But really it´s just an online journal about my life, which I apparently find interesting enough to share with others, and which others apparently find interesting enough to read about (or at least I hope so...). My life happens to be in Spain right now, but I have every intention of keeping this up when I return to the states (whenever that might be...) because I really actually enjoy it. Also, I want to clarify that I am not only going to write about Spain things while I´m here...because I realized today that there are many other things I want to share (like the peculiar history of the word "mondegreen", or how I have recently been feeling an urge to roll my own cigarettes, then not smoke them, because I don´t really like cigarettes).

But my own curiosities will be put on hold for now, because today I have also decided that I will dedicate a post every once in a while to one the many Spanish curiosities (and these specific posts WILL have everything to do with Spain)--because it seems that I find a new one every day.

Like today. Here is what happened:

Last night before going out I attempted to make a really fancy birthday cake for Vero (celebration round two: Sunday family stylin´in Getafe). You can find the godforsaken recipe here: But of course, this took SO long and I was running extremely late--unsurprisingly so, the cake was a complete and utter disaster. I was so frustrated, because I spent 15 euros or something on the ingredients, plus 3 hours of my time..and on top of that I was an hour late to meet up with a friend in the city. My chill Saturday turned into complete mayhem in the kitchen, with no fantastic results to show for it. In fact, it was such a disaster that I had to throw the whole thing away.

I was sort of freaking out because I had promised to make the cake, but there was no cake and I was missing some ingredients in order to start over. The grocery stores had already closed, plus my friend was waiting on me so there really was no choice but to just leave it for the night. So I went flying out the door, and on the train, I worried. Everything here is closed on Sundays. Would there be no birthday cake??

There is a happy ending to this story, and I swear, I am getting to the Spanish curiosity.

Everything is closed on Sundays...except the first Sunday of every month--when the grocery stores are all open. Why? I have no idea. But lucky me! Today happened to be the first Sunday of the month.

So I woke up early (at 11 am, which is early considering I went to bed at 6) and dragged myself to the store to get the necessary ingredients for cake-making attempt number 2. I actually have never been to the store on one of these particular Sundays, as this is only my 5th 1st Sunday here. But today, I finally experienced the curiosity that is, as I shall ever-so-creatively call it, The First Sunday of the Month.

I suppose, just because the grocery stores are open on these particular days, everyone finds it completely and totally imperative to do the week´s grocery shopping at this time. The place was a zoo, and I nearly had a nervous breakdown in aisle 7 while searching for 35% whipping cream (there were at least 6 other people possibly looking for the same exact item), and then again while waiting in the supposed express lane (which took approx. 14 minutes to go through).

This is particularly curious to me, because the general hours for grocery shopping in Spain are between 5 and 8 pm, and I have found that the people are quite religious about this routine. I was so confused as I thought to myself, "What the hell are all these people doing here?"

Even more, there are signs posted EVERYWHERE when the First Sunday of the Month is coming up, announcing the altered schedules, as if nobody knew this was going to happen. The text is in all caps, urging the shopper to return on Sunday because if not, they might miss out. The other 3 Sundays? Don´t even think about it. But, this Sunday, the First Sunday of the Month--you´d better take advantage.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


This past weekend was Vero´s birthday, so we decided to celebrate in Piedrahita—a small town buried in the mountains two hours north of Madrid (in Castilla y Leòn), where she has a cozy little house tucked away on the edge of town.

We arrived around 9 pm on Friday night to a house FULL of people, and smoke. It probably felt so full because most of Vero´s friends are guys, and probably felt so smokey because all of these guys are chain smokers. I thought I was going to know some of them, as I have already met a handful of this crowd, but as it turned out I didn´t know a single one. I spent all weekend trying to figure out their names…

I am pretty bad with names as it is, but this motley crew only made things all the more difficult. Not a single person went by solely one name, some of them having as many as three regular nicknames and a set of at least five rotating ones that were probably invented just this weekend. For instance, there was Roberto, who often went by “Solero” (his last name), but also responded to “Dutti”, when the real “Dutti” (Hector) called him that (which he indiscriminately called everyone, even though it was really HIS nickname…). Even the dogs had several names. This all has to do with the fact that they LOVE “tonterias”—silly things that have no meaning. They like to invent words, and sometimes will find that they haven’t said a single thing of importance for over an hour, just rambling on in the direction of word association. This made things pretty difficult for the gringos of the group, who were constantly lost in the chaos and confusion of these tonterias. I think we made a pretty good effort though.

Anway, Saturday was really cool, for a few different reasons. We all woke up with mad hangovers and spent the first two hours of the afternoon lying around and taking things slow. Ah, how I love Spain. We always take things so slow. When we finally mustered up the strength to seize the day, about half of us headed up to the mountain for a mild hike through the “campo”. It was an unusually warm day, probably about 45 degrees, and it really felt like it was October. The leaves were still crisp on the ground, which was wonderful but confusing. Of course I packed the wrong shoes, so I was thankful for these dry leaves as I trekked around in my ragged chucks. Anyway, Saturday was also cool because I was able to witness the makings of “migas”—which Dimas, Pilar´s father, made a few months back. I may have already mentioned them, but if not…”migas” is a traditional Spanish food that the shepherds used to make in large quantities, because there really is no other way to make it, before heading out for long periods to the fields. The word “migas” literally means bread crumbs, and these bread crumbs are what make up the base of yet another delicious poor man´s meal. When I first ate “migas”, I had been watching Dimas prepare all week for the Sunday lunch that, for whatever reason, Carmen allowed him to be in charge of. Each afternoon I would find him sitting at the kitchen table, crumbling old French bread into a giant metal stir-fry pot. I sort of thought that things went so slowly because he is an old man, and old men tend to do things at this pace. But as I found out on Saturday, this was not the case at all. “Migas” takes A LOT of time.

Even with at least 10 sets of hands helping at all times, it took at least 6 hours to prepare. First, all the bread had to be crumbled into tiny bits. There were 20 of us, and I will estimate that we used at least 10 loaves of bread, probably more. After this was done, all the “treats” were chopped up---garlic, red and green peppers, mushrooms, and finally, all types of chorizo. Each of these, in this order, was then cooked and stirred in hot oil, for probably 40 minutes, and then removed before the next ingredient was added. When it was finally time for the bread crumbs, everything was thrown back in the pot and mixed together, with the final, key ingredient—grapes. YUM. Probably one of the best meals I´ve ever had—even, amazingly enough, better than Dimas´s!

I forgot my camera this weekend (:()..but I did take some pictures of the whole process with my cellphone, which I will see about uploading later this week.