Wednesday, December 29, 2010

from the couch

I knew they'd catch up to me: the holiday blues.

But it's just an [emotionally] allergic reaction to physical illness. Feeling sick sucks.

Lucky for me, I've got good 'ole Lucy visiting from Valencia to take it easy with on a chilly December night. Thanks to the horrible movie we found on TV (after spending 30 minutes trying to figure out the DVD player), I can put some good [waste of] time into the internet.

This week has been interesting, hosting my first couchsurfers, a young quirky couple from Sao Paulo, Brazil. They are pretty cool, and it's fun to have a few new roommates every once in a while, even if your apartment really isn't equipped for such situations. It's been quite the disaster over the last few days, and will continue as such into the new year..

Having visitors sort of turns life a little upside down in one way or another, and well, who doesn't love the chaos of the holiday season with old (and sometimes new) friends and family? There are so many passing through the city this winter vacation!!.. I have been so lucky as to more or less meet a cousin from Bolivia (I believe we met as young children), and it's amazing how many faces I see in her's!

This so bad. Lucy and I ate a whole bar of chocolate turrón tonight. That's like three bars of chocolate.

Aaaand I think my sugar high is plummeting. That's all I got for now, goodnight.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

marcelo, ever so peaceful.

Christmas Day: exciting times for Marcelo Lanza.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Digital Christmas Card

Hope your holiday season is as bright as can be.
Merry Christmas from Sunny Madrid.
December 2010 (not 2007. that will forever bother me)

Monday, December 20, 2010

breaking news

Don't miss the lunar eclipse tonight, everyone's invited!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

sunday morning

For Madrilenos who love fresh flowers at home... people who appreciate admiring magnificent color while taking a walk in the city center.. then those who aren't bothered by slight sketchiness, Plaza de Tirso de Molina is where it's at (think this city's version of La Boca, Buenos Aires).

Going along with the new generations' trend of turning bad neighborhoods trendy (all the while maintaining aspects of their previous grime), this little pocket on the northern edge of Barrio Embajadores is a prime example.

Its location is key to its success in accomplishing this harmony: a five minute's walk to the west lies La Latina, a buzzing neighborhood perfect for sampling the best tapas of the city. Just 10 or 15 years ago, however, it was notorious for it's extremely high street crime rate.

On the other side one can find the neighborhood of Anton Martin, a historically artsy hood, where, among dozens of other cool spots, lies a beautifully restored cinema that plays all sorts of movies in their original form (December's special: Woody Allen) and whose admission is a whopping 2.50.

Right south of it it is Lavapies, the neighborhood with the highest amount of immigrants in the city center--an estimated 88 different nationalities inhabit its streets. Someone once whimsically described Lavapies as the border between Madrid and Africa, as if roaming through its maze could land you in Tombouctou or Marrakech. It's a pretty peaceful melting pot, despite the fact that it serves as a major drug-trafficking hub. There's really not much violence caused over hash, though this is not to undermine the social issues that come with it.

Anyway, the rhomboid Plaza de Tirso de Molina is known for being a generally harmless, homeless hangout, and of course it has seen relatively worse days than the present. Thanks to a renovation in 2007, the plaza now houses one the few flower markets in Madrid where flower lovers of Embajadores can get their fresh fix for a vase at home (or giant glass measuring thing) and then enjoy a caña of beer at one of the massive cafe patios that mingle around it.

Madrid is not famous for its flower markets, especially considering that they are not quite as cheap as in some other comparable European cities. I also don't believe the dry air of the city is conducive to their shelf-life.

Because I am not only a resident of the community, but also an avid fan of color and fresh flowers, it's only necessary to support the cause. These cost three euros, the same price as a breakfast (cafe con leche, tostadas, and fresh squeezed) at the cafe nearby, an Argentine-style bakery called Los poemas de Tirso (hehe "The poems of Tirso").

I'm supposedly broke (ahem, this weekend as been expensive...not going to think about it), but I think it's a worthy sacrifice. Of the three euros, of course, not breakfast. I splurged and had both yesterday :)

for all the fellow english teachers out there

This man is over 100 years old, and just plain awesome.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

holiday spirit

I find it a bit difficult to get into the holiday spirit in Spain like I do in the states. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that traditionally, the children are hyped up not so much for Christmas Day but rather for Three Kings Day, as this is when the gift-giving really takes place here.

This makes sense, because while Santa Claus has morphed from a once-credible Dutch figure to a completely fictional, commercialized character, Jesus has more or less stuck with his story. Whether or not you like to believe that he is in one way or another related to God, he was born and some people did celebrate this fact with gifts.

Of course, like many commercial traditions from the United States (ahem, Halloween), that of Santa Claus and all his magical merriness has made it over to the peninsula. Nonetheless, kids still write to the three wise kings. Forget elves and reindeer, these guys were rich.

Luckily I've got some forces working on my side to keep from getting the holiday blues. These would include ex-pat friends who appreciate things like decorating sugar cookies and gingersnaps, and my school where we play a serious detective game of Secret Santa during the whole month of December.

Perhaps what works the best though is preparing for the Christmas party with my 2nd graders. This week we started teaching the kids the song they will perform next Thursday, as each grade sings a carol in English and Spanish (except the 5th and 6th graders, who do a dance that is completely unrelated to the present celebration and arguably inappropriate for an elementary school party).

Of course, most classes choose one of the more classic (and basic) Christmas carols, like "Jingle Bells" or "Frosty the Snowman".

This year we decided to really raise the notch with John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War is Over)". The kids have no idea that they are singing a song of political protest, but that's fine. It will sure sound nice when they sing the two-part chorus, that is, if they can manage to do it correctly. This is a feat that we are not sure will be mastered in time, or ever. Updates to come.

Anyway, in addition to these aforementioned happenings, I've taken the following measures to be sure to avoid even the slightest sign of grinchiness this holiday season:

-Obtained a real (and tiny) Christmas tree in Plaza Mayor. Decorated with white lights.
-Knitted a scarf
-Started planning a small Christmas party at my apartment to show Spaniards what it's all about. Taking votes now: egg nog or spiced wine??
-Cut my hair (always exciting, no matter the season)

Miss you, happy holidays!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

la oscuridad

These days, I keep finding myself day-dreaming, my mind circling about in uneven patterns and sporadic waves of frequency (as it often does), and then, for whatever reason, whatever drift that took it there, landing on an impression formed maybe three weeks ago on my way home from who-knows-where on a random week night. My crappy memory lends to surrealism..

While walking up the hill of Calle Embajadores one night (a usual hike that I make, see map below), I noticed that every single intersecting street on the right was pitch black, as not a single lamp post shone. This was eerie, and as I have to pass quite a few of these narrow guys until I finally arrive to mine, it turned into a gripping mystery each time I passed yet another ghost-town street. With every one I arrived to, the situation continued to surprise.

(I just learned how to do this! It was so easy!)

And this should be noted, as it is pure science: genuine and thrilling surprise, experienced at least ten times in a row with thirty second intervals between each successive occurrence, can lead to heart failure.

It really freaked me out, and I wanted to take a picture, but the picture would have been..just black? I probably could have taken a picture of some of the car passengers that were equally baffled and then quickly turned reckless upon seeing their fleeting opportunity to drive down the streets with their headlights turned out. I remember doing that quite a bit in my car days, along with the "No-Brake Game", invented by the one and only Ashley Christensen. It's amazing we are still alive today.

Anyway, as I was saying.. It was an uncanny situation, certainly not the normal walk home, and one that has been meandering around my mind every once in a while since. And this is just to mention the conscious occasions.

When I turned on my street, dark too of course, I remember thinking something like, "Is someone going to attack me?" I believe my heart may have beat a little harder and faster (and better and stronger!).

This was perhaps a first for me in Spain, the anxiety of feeling in danger, something that I will admit has annoyingly plagued me in the past. I think that we often take safety, or at least feeling safe, for granted. It's something we often only appreciate when it is ripped away from us.

I feel so secure in this country, so when the adrenaline hit, it sort of felt good, the excitement foreign and new. Maybe I need to go back to South America to put me back in my place.

Geez, I'd better knock on wood, though, and hope for no more strange Lavapies street-light affairs.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

pics mallorca

I'm back from Mallorca in rainy Madrid, and after a full 24 hours, I believe I am finally over the separation anxiety that filled my heart upon parting with the sea.

It was an awesome trip, five days on a big island, in a big house, with lots of new friends. For anyone who hasn't tried should really add it to your list of things to do. Anyway, I don't have much time, enjoy a few of the crappy pics I took!

Valdemossa, a mountain town about 30 minutes north of Palma.

The most northern tip of the island, Formentor.


This is probably the worst picture ever taken of the incredible gothic cathedral in Palma, La Seu. For that I am really sorry. It was taken from the car.

THANK YOU to my wonderful hosts :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

airport strike

The air traffic controllers went on strike in all of Spain yesterday, every-so-strategically during the national five day weekend. I´m feeling really thankful that I got out yesterday morning, rather than last night.

Well, looks like I might be stuck on this island forever...I could get used to these sunny skies...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

hello, mallorca

Goodbye Madrid!

Something about living in a city...really gives me the urge to get out, enjoy myself for a bit, and then remember why I love living in the city so much, upon return.

Taking off to Mallorca for the weekend in the a.m. on an 11 Euro ticket...not bad. Can't complain too much about the 6 day weekend, either. It just so happens that I will return to work for only one day (Thursday) before hitting just another usual three day weekend. This land of puentes can't be real.

I'll leave you with this marvelous tidbit I just stumbled across and feel the need to share with someone:

"He brushed by a gaunt, cadaverous, tristful man in a black raincoat with a star-shaped scar in his cheek and a glossy mutilated depression the size of an egg in one temple. "
-- Joseph Heller, Catch-22: a novel

Well, gotta prepare the maleta! It's adventure time.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

the biggest hamburger in the world

The "biggest hamburger in the world" can be found in the ugly little town of Parla, 40 minutes south of Madrid. Despite the fact that the patty of this burger was possibly more lamentable than one of McDonalds, it was pretty damn good.

The skinny little patty probably had something to do with the fact that the burger as a whole was composed of FAR more pig than cow meat, thanks to the fat strips of bacon that were laid out to perfectly form a star hiding under the top bun. I'm really wishing I had a photo display this art, which, to me, screamed "All hail the pig!" One word: TYPICAL.