Monday, May 31, 2010

last day in parla

Oh my! I am so sad.

I am sitting in our empty living room, waiting on Pilar to come with the car to pick me up. I thought I would be able to transport the remains of my life by train (we moved all the furniture yesterday with the help of four whistling uncles..) but as it turns out I have really planted myself in the ground here. How is it that I always accumulate so many goddamn things?

I only lived in Parla for five months, but I would say that´s enough to become attached. Especially because this apartment is adorable, and the neighborhood homey. I don´t know why I always do this to myself...make roots somewhere just to pull them out after a short while. Thus "Where are you from?" has become one of the more difficult questions for me to answer. The response since I´ve been here in Spain is San Francisco, because, well, where else am I from? The bay area has been the only constant location throughout my life, so I suppose it´s somewhat true. Some say home is where your mom is, which is not a bad rule to go by. But then I think...North Carolina? I may as well say I am from Japan.

Anway, it´s nice to be free, but it has its costs. Maybe you are envious...maybe your life is far beyond uprooting and though happy, you dream of leaving everything for a new adventure. But don´t kid yourself. I feel like I sacrifice quite a bit for this "freedom"..but when else will I have it if not while I am young?

Then there is the nostalgia for all the little lives I have created and abandoned along the way...even during those not-so-great of times and places. I have made a list of the most horrible (and best--I am not a pessimist!) human feelings, and after regret and guilt, nostalgia comes in number three. Intense nostalgia is a horrible feeling, and sometimes I think it is going to swallow me whole.

Well I am headed back to Pilar and Marcelo´s house for my last three weeks of school. Moving back in with "the folks" is never cool, but I have to admit, of all the relatives I could possibly live with, they would be my first choice. And that´s not just because they live in Spain.

Anyway, so-long´s been real.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

special day

Happy birthday mama!!

I can use my blog to wish happy birthday to people, right?

That brings me to a related topic..which involves the fact that next year I would possibly like to do some free-lance travel writing online (when I finally have a computer!). This means I will need to take the blog a bit more seriously, and as a result, have more than 12 followers... So I am asking all 12 of my readers, and those readers who I know are reading but have not yet taken the moment to figure out how... to follow my blog! And send her on a pathetic little tour around the world wide web (God knows when it comes to cyber business, we lil bloggers really only travel around the equivalent of Rhode Island or something). In return I promise I will start offering more thoughtful posts. And more pictures.

Starting tomorrow.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

kitty photo

An old photo I just dug up from my picasa webalbum. You can probably guess who is who.

Monday, May 17, 2010

feliz san isidro

This past weekend Madrid celebrated its patron saint, San Isidro, day. Each municipality in Madrid (and surely in all the other 17 autonmous communities as well..) has its very own saint, and each take a holiday to celebrate this wonderful fact of life. For example, last week was Getafe´s, so on a random Thursday no adults worked and no children went to school, instead spending the day hanging out in the streets... eating and drinking and in-general partying, while a giant cross was mounted in Cerro de los Ángeles. You know what they say about Catholics? Wherever there´s a fourth, there´s a fifth.

I actually am not very familiar with the ways of Catholicism...having been brought up by a spiritual but nothing-of-the-sort-Catholic mother (surprising considering how she was brought up) and an extremely austere NON-church-going dad (also surprising, come to think of it, ahem, Thelma)... But I´m learning, and I´m liking. Madrid Capital of course is going to do it up for their saint´s day, especially considering that this year´s was also the 100th birthday of Gran Via (one of the busiest streets in the city housing LOTS of shopping, tall and impressive architecture, and theatres and cinemas galore).

So clearly, Gran Via was completely blocked off the whole weekend long while the festivities took place and pedestrians took over the blue-carpeted streets, with live music in all the surrounding plazas (and in case you might be wondering, there was a giant three-layer birthday cake planted in one). I actually didn´t make it to see Gran Via on Saturday (the day of the party), but I did cross on Friday night before all the crowds bombarded, and it was a sight.

And to add to this excitment, the city was full of energy in rememberance of San Isidro. There was a giant botellon taking place in a large open area in La Latina, one of the oldest neighborhoods of Madrid (live music as well!). Even though it was FREEZING (winter came back in full force last week...), it was awesome.

In conclusion, I like Spain. I recently learned that the country is number 16 in ranking in terms of quality of life. Imagine if it werent in such bad economic state?! It would surely be number one.

In further, related conclusion, I don´t want to leave! Yes, it´s true, I will be leaving mid-June once school is out, more or less 6 weeks away :(

But that´s okay! I´ll be back another 6 weeks later :)

Summer Itinerary (see you any of these places?):
June 17th-23rd--Barcelona
June 23rd-July 8th--Caliiiiifornia
July 9th-12th--Louisville, KY (I am including this tentative option because I really want it to happen. US, why must you be so enormous?)
July 13th-August 1st--Caliiiifornia
Aug--Vacation in Spain: Cadiz and other yet-to-be-known destinations
Sept--Madrid, aka extended vacation at home (nothin´ like being a teacher)
Oct 1st--Back to school

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

this is a pen

There was once a man named Richard Vaughan, hailing from Doesn´t Matter, USA, who came sailing to the wonderful country of Spain for whatever reason a long, long time ago (more or less 20 years, is what I have gathered). He then went on to find himself a Spanish wife, thus enabling him to start his own business in the country, one that would eventually lead to nation-wide stardom.

This business would be called Vaughan Systems (pronounced by Spaniards, incorrectly, as Bogan Systems), an extensive English learning progam that is best known for its very own TV channel that has been up and running for about two years now. It is ever-so-creatively coined "Aprende Ingles TV".

It´s all the craze in Spain right now to learn English. The problem is, it´s also "in-style" to have very few Euros to one´s name. What better way to improve your English skills than for FREE (you don´t even need cable!) while sitting on the couch watching TV? There is also a radio program, if you can´t afford a television set.

There are three levels to the Vaughan system (beginner, intermediate, and advanced, in case you were wondering...) which are broadcasted on a 24 hour rotating cycle. Yes, that´s right. Insomniacs, too, can improve their English. You simply tune in to your appropiate level and listen as Richard Vaughan sits at a desk and fills your mind with paltry information while also pointing out English grammar tips. He speaks very slowly, clearly, and repeats A LOT. In fact, I would say his program revolves around repitition. Not a bad method...

And they say it works. He wouldn´t be one of the most famous men in Spain if it didn´t. Many people devote hours a day to his television and radio shows, and some even go as far as buying the extremely over-priced books (they come with cds and dvds).

When Richard isn´t sitting at his desk in front of the camera, he has one of his many employees seated in an arm chair across from an English language-learner (doesn´t have to be Spanish...the last I saw was a 60 year old Russian woman) and viewers are subject to an awkward discourse, once again revolving around incredibly trivial matters. I call it awkward because what they are aiming for is a casual conversation, but what actually comes out of this effort is an extremely staged one, not to mention conversation is nearly impossible when the teacher is stopping to repeat every other expression utilized between the two.

In addition to the television channel, radio station, and books, there is also a Play Station game as well as a summer camp for adults. HA!
Check out the craze...

Oh, and in relation to this post´s title, the very first thing Richard teaches new learners is "This is a pen".

Thursday, May 6, 2010

everyday life is life

As some of you know, I have a big problem with "the blog"--in particular, my blog. I have decided that this is probably because I suffer from some sort of slight social conciousness that often disables me from really opening up my mind (like I would, and do, in a normal private know..the original..). Although I am a proud enjoyer of the freedom of speech, I am also a victim of human nature. I don´t feel bad...I´m sure even the most outspoken practice a bit of censorship.

But how unfortunate is this mental block! How I would like to touch on certain "hot topics" (Johnny Depp), or narrate stupid yet entertaining stories (I never had to get a new phone!), or go into disgustingly gruesome detail that would surely cause my poor mother to fill with an undescribable anxiety (read on).

Sorry, mom. I can´t hold back any longer. The levees have broken. Here I go... my apartment. It was a pig´s sty about two hours ago, but now it is somewhat spotless, you could maybe even say shining (I mopped! first time!). Okay..maybe "shining" is a stretch. Let´s just say...MUCH better.

Now I don´t want anyone getting the wrong idea. We may not be the cleanliest girls in the world, but we certainly aren´t total slobs. The dishes generally eventually get done, and we only leave our things scattered about the apartment for five days, on average (some get moved around, put away, promptly...while others remain, sometimes, admittedly, for weeks). And as a fact, (mom, this goes with out saying, but I´m sure you are nervously wondering anyway) we always thoroughly clean before having guests.

So why was it, and has it been, particularly "guaro" (spanish lesson: filthy) of late? I´ll tell you why--a one obese, incredibly affectionate, outrageously high-maintence cat who goes by the name of Curro. And Kratos--don´t think you´re getting out of this one. You may be reminiscent of a young, painfully metrosexual man in terms of your hygeine habits--but that doesn´t mean it doesn´t come with a price (and a very high one, if i might add...).

Anyway, I´ll be blunt: Curro still has his "huveos" (´nother lesson: slang for testicles). Poor guy. He´s more hormonal than my 13 year old cousin--and she´s got it bad.

It all started with a cow. A small, stuffed-animal cow, the only lover Curro has known since his three week run away last year, when he stealthily lived in and around the plaza a few blocks over (sometimes I see who I think are his children roaming the streets...). During the month of March, the cow was subject to every natural urge that came upon Curro, these urges often times lasting hours on end and frequently occurring several times in one day. He would drag it around the apartment with a slightly urgent trot, letting out muffled cries until he found an appropriate area to stop and attempt to make sweet love with the unfortunate young heifer (or perhaps bull?).

Despite the fact that they spent nearly all their time together (after making love, they would spoon for hours, probably because neither of them had any other committments), there were moments when we caught Curro without the cow. In which case, there was no other option than to pick it up (with the index finger and thumb, in tweezer-position) and throw it across the living room, just to see Curro go flying and crying after the thing. It was so romantic.

But suddenly the cow was gone. This is when things got sour. Since she left (no one knows where she went--it must have been a bad break up) he can´t stop marking his territory. Luckily carpet doesn´t exist in this country, because then we´d really be screwed. This constant marking of territory has been going on for several weeks now (and I mean constant--only 30 minutes after I mopped this afternoon, he took a nice piss in the bathroom, and not in the toilet). It´s unbearable.

And the most horrible part about this situation: we are used to it. I am sure our apartment reeks to all visiting nostrils, but I hardly notice when I walk in the door.

And Kratos is just as bad. Luckily, he has no huevos, because he is already pretty crazy as it is. But, like I said before, he is very serious about self-maintenance. So serious that he gives himself a manicure on a weekly basis. If you happen to be in the vicinity during one of these routines, a shiver will crawl up your spine as you hear him pulling at his claws with his teeth. I had never seen a cat do this, and thus had never been subject to the noise it makes. I am at a loss as to how to describe it, but I´ll say this...he does NOT do his nails in my presence.

And here´s the clencher: it is common to find "shells" of Kratos´ claws floating around the apartment, much like you might find a snake´s shedded layer of skin if one were to be slithering about freely in your home. Many would agree that cat piss is one of the most foul-smelling, and thus abhorrent, things that exist in the world, but I have to say that Kratos´ claws, in my book, are worse.

I share all this because we are moving out of our apartment this summer, and the landlord called today, on extremely short notice, to tell us that he would be bringing some people to see the place this afternoon. Not only was the cat situation never discussed with him, but, like I said above, the apartment was an obscene wreck. I came running home from school, and frantically washed and scrubbed for my life.

I now calmly sit on the balcony while strangers come and go, hoping that the three times I mopped will leave them oblivious to our shamefully filthy, cat co-op existence.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

pais vasco fotos

Marvelling the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
Half-abandoned town somwhere between Bilbao and Lekeitio
There is a church down there on that tiny peninsula...
So I really loved this...all along La Concha, the famous half-shell beach of San Sebastian, was some sort of ballet exposition on Sunday afternoon. But I mean, the WHOLE beach, a little under a mile long stretch. There had to have been at least 300 young ballerinas.

Road trips are cool.