Wednesday, April 28, 2010

hey again

Hey again.

I just thought I would check in (for the second time today), as I can´t go to sleep because it is far to pleasant on the balcony to abandon it. Anyway, I have four pieces of information to share, all seemingly unrelated, but in actuality are connected one way or another (the train-of-thought will be left out, for your convenience). I will list them in an orderly fashion:

1. A banana definitely could have come from outer space, considering the possibility of there being a planet in another dimension called Zycron, which came into existence long before Earth was around, and advanced at such a rapid pace that the inhabitants were able to devise a method of traveling in time and space, leading to the discovery of the lush planet Earth, and thus the transfer of many Zycronic species, such as the homo-sapien, and goats, and bananas. Consider it, mull over it, read Margaret Atwood.
2. Facebook is going to take over the world. I just signed on and it asked me if I would like to link all the things listed on my profile to their facebook pages. The children´s literature series Amelia Bedilia has a facebook page? I also like to freak myself out when I imagine myself, 50 years from now, going back to the first picture ever tagged of me (freshman year of college, the night I went to jail), with a click of a mouse.
3. Male cats are ANNOYING. But cats in general, male or female, are good for the mind, body and soul, and anyone who is not allergic should really consider having one (if possible, a female).
4. I have officially quit chicken.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

basque country adventure

It´s the last week of April and I think it´s safe to say (or at least I hope..) that summer has finally arrived. They say there are only two seasons in Madrid; that the shifting cycle among four works bi-seasonally. That is to say, there is no spring or fall.

And I believe it´s true. I am at school now, sweating profusely in the classrooms (clearly--there is no AC in public schools...) while just last week I was wearing my wool coat and reluctantly carrying an umbrella.

Other than the sweating, I can´t complain.

Nor can I complain about life in general. Perhaps its the glorious springtime weather that´s doing it ( it always does), but these days I feel extra-happy, extra-affectionate, for my Euro-experience.

The weekend in Pais Vasco was incredible. I now understand why it is so-called Basque Country, because I truly felt like I had left Spain and entered a new and completely different land. It was a strange feeling as we roamed around the lush hills of the north-east coast of the peninsula, as nothing was reminiscent of what I have seen thus far in my travels. From the Euskera road signs, to the houses and farms that sprinkled the rolling green hills...even the people in their over-all modest elegance...everything was different. It certainly lent even more excitement to this unexplored territory.

And what better way to explore than on a road-trip with a scenic-route expert? My Zaragozan pal was the one who came up with the idea, and when I bought a bus ticket in that direction (we met up in Logroño, La Rioja, aka wine country), I had no idea what I was in for. Between Bilbao and San Sebastian, we visited several untouched towns and lively sea ports, at night stopping to camp alongside the van (which I would consider living in if it were mine...). The agrestic landscape of the Basque Country could possibly be compared with that of green green. What was also really cool was following the route on the map...a rarity since the GPS has graced our existence.

Favorite part? It´s hard to say. I was really impressed by the pintxos--which are more or less tapas except FAR better (which is saying a lot because I really like tapas...). It seems as though the Vascos only eat pintxos, and they take much pride in fine cuisine. Thus, each and every one is creative, original, and incredibly tasty. On top of all this, they are presented in the elegant Basque fashion (even though there is no cutlery involved). I also really loved the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, a sprawling chaos of a structure housing some seriously cool exhibits, such as works of Anish Kapoor (...the sculptor who designed the Chicago "Bean") as well a series of massive steel structures that somehow defy the laws of gravity (Richard Serra). And this is just to name a few.

Then there was San Sebastian, the empyrean of a city. We actually spent little time there (it took us a REALLY long time to arrive on Saturday...), but it was of good quality. We stayed with some friends (Loinaz and Inaki, great examples of Basque names that I really struggled with remembering..) who took us out and about in the historic district of the city, which was a really fun time, and the culprit of a massive hangover on Sunday morning. But how can a hangover ruin your day, when your day consists of riding a bicycle along the coast of the one and only, unexpectedly sunny San Sebastian? I now understand why it is so expensive to live there...the city is a luxury in and of itself.

Pictures to come soon my friends!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

guess who´s going to basque country this wknd


Yes, it´s true. If you are not familiar with this place, then please, click on the following link:

I AM SO EXCITED! This will be the first time I travel to northern Spain (I still haven´t been to Barcelona...) and I have no idea what to expect. I have been told that it is completely different than, and even opposite to, the southern coast. I imagine the Basque country as being Andalucia´s responsible older sibling (Andalucia being the crazy irresponsible younger one).

In fact, Andalucia (as well as the rest of Spain) is such a disappointment to the family that the Basque country would prefer not to be associated with them.

Okay, so the family feud has far deeper roots than this. The majority of Spain may be extremely relaxed Epicureans but I think it´s safe to say that this probably has nothing to do with the fact that the Basque Country fights for its independence. In my opinion, it is actually somewhat understandable that they see themselves as a separate nation, holding an identity that displays a different culture, different customs...even a different language (Euskera--which is by no means related to Spanish, and in fact, whose exact origins still remain a mystery). This is not to mention that the oppressive Franco regime, which Spain only recently liberated itself from, did not at all help the situation.

But today the Spanish Basque Country excercises far more freedom than it did in the past. Since the newly democratic Spanish Constitution of 1978, it has run its own centralized government and provincial councils. This region also happens to be the wealthiest in the country...which thus, among other less important reasons, explains why Spain refuses to give it up.

I would say that money causes most problems in life, but what can a poor (literally, crisis-stricken) country do?

That´s all I have time for now. Agur! (goodbye in Euskera)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

daily spanish lesson

Learning a second language is interesting to say the least. I´ve been learning Spanish for an embarrassingly long amount of time, and I still find myself going through new phases within the process. Lately, my mind can´t help but translate things into English--which is surprising because this is normally a beginner´s weakness. Back in the early days, I often translated things word for word in a pathetic attempt to understand their meanings. For example, I would hear a sentence such as "¿Como te va?" and think "How at you it goes?" What goes? And where? What´s going on? Will you repeat?

This method clearly doesn´t work. But that doesn´t mean I can´t have fun with it. These days what´s really been interesting to me are the different ways we express ourselves in English and Spanish. In my professor´s english class last week (I teach five professors at my school beginner´s English every Wednesday, and it´s FUNNY) they could not get enough of English telephone greetings. It was beyond ridiculous to them that we present ourselves in the third person: "Hi--this is Renee". Here, the Spaniards say "Soy Renee", or "I am Renee". I can´t decide which is the more logical, but the more I think about it, I believe that they are both quite silly (and that there is no getting around it).

What I´ve really begun to realize, actually, is that the Spanish in Spain is sort of like the English in England: a bit antiquated. Verbs like "bañarse" and "alimentar" are commonplace--which, if translated literally into English--would either sound hoddy-toddy or technical: bathe oneself (in the ocean) and aliment.

¿Te bañaste? ... Did you bathe yourself (in the ocean)?
Hay que alimentarse bien. ... It is necessary to aliment oneself well.

Then there is the word "chaval". I had hated this word since I arrived in Spain, with no particular reason (although I once deduced that it might have something to do with it´s pronunciation: cha-VAL). I would hear it in sentences like "Es lo que dicen todos los chavales jovenes¨ and "Que fuerte, chaval!" Taking it for slang (something like "dude") I never bothered to look up it´s meaning, and blacklisted it from my vocabulary bank.

Until last week, when I was so lucky to stumble upon it in the dictionary, and found that it means "lass". Haha! Old and young alike are constantly throwing this word out left and right..which means Spaniards are calling each other "lasses" on a daily basis. Is this funny to anyone else?

Translations of examples above (the correct, not literal, ones):
"Es lo que dicen todos los chavales jovenes"..."It´s what all the young lasses say."
"Que fuerte, chaval!"..."That´s crazy, lass!"

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Back in Madrid, Semana Santa has come and gone just like that. What is there to possibly say?

Es que...words cannot describe how wonderfully INCREDIBLE Gran Canaria was. It has officially taken 1st place in the spring break rankings (which says a lot, considering I´ve been enjoying this annual vacation since I was five). And since I really don´t know where to start... I guess I´ll start at the beginning...

Back in October, at a birthday party of a friend of a friend of a friend (this might qualify for crashing), I met a group of wild Spaniards from Zaragoza and subsequently spent the rest of the night running around the city with them. We exchanged numbers and emails (Gran Via, 8 am), and have maintained contact, despite the fact that our attempts to meet up since had never been fruitful. But this must have been the reason we kept in touch--when two weeks ago my Zaragozan pal mentioned he was spending SS in Gran Canaria at a friend´s house (and would I like to come?). Funny you should ask... YES I WOULD. I called my partner in crime, the one, the only, Nicole Byrns, and for anyone who knows her, you can guess her response. "Let´s book tickets NOW".

So we arrived to Las Palmas last Tuesday, and the rest is history. Gran Canaria is amazingly diverse--we went from beaches, to sand dunes, to caves, to pine forests, to valleys, to banana plantations, to cliffs. Not to mention it´s uncanny South American feel, having strong Venezuelan roots (as well as accents..).

The group matched the island in its diversness--we were 8, Nicole and I (the "Americanitas") adding to a hodgepodge of six from Zaragoza, Madrid and Cadiz. We all thorougly enjoyed being temporary roommates in a beautiful house settled in the hills of Las Palmas capital, with incredible views of the bay.

That´s all there is to say on this subjet for now (it´s making me nostalgic). Enjoy the pictures :)

Christopher Colombus´house in Las Palmas

One of the many moments I sat on a cliff. Notice the small white patch down below--the town of Agaete, where we had lunch the day before.
Playa del Ingles--the sand dune beach.
View of Las Palmas from Pablo´s house.
There must be a God, right?
Nicole giving mass in cave church.

Map of cave restaurant (as you can imagine, it was really dark, so we ate outside).
Windy Agaete.