Wednesday, November 23, 2011

happy thanksgiving

T'was Thanksgiving eve
And here in Madrid
A girl sat in her kitchen
And stared into her fridge

She worried and fretted
Grimaced and sighed
Chugged OJ from the bottle
Sat down and cried

She reasoned and rathered
But no conclusion came
There was no other option
Than give into her shame

And in that weak moment
The great deed was done
She gobbled it down
And the chocolate was gone

T'was a whole bar
Family size, to be sure
It's a damnable craving
Only such lengths can cure

She roamed out to the street
Doubled over with ache
The pleasurable pain
She just could not shake

Drunk with her folly
Silly with crime
She welcomed this holiday
For the 24th time.

Friday, November 11, 2011


The other day a one-man english theatre show came to our school and put on several age-appropriate performances for the students. The guy was from England and coincidentally dances in Bollywood class with me. The world just gets smaller and smaller with each passing day.

Anyway, being a one-man-troupe, his performances consisted of heavy participation from the audience, with occasional volunteers who joined him on stage. He would shake their hand, ask their names, and then continue to dress them up and provide them with a one-liner and body language of some sort that would leave the rest of the children rolling on the floor laughing.

In one particular performance, he played an crazy explorer in Egypt who had drunk too much camel pee. His two volunteers were first a boy who would play Mohammad the tour guide and second a girl who would play a dancing mummy. After quite a bit of laughs (and confusion on stage), the story had clearly come to an end and the actor asked for a round of applause for his flustered but smiling volunteers. Being quite nervous, they were quick to jump back into the crowd, both accidentally giving their backs to his outstretched hand for a handshake.

In fact, all but one volunteer missed the cue. And of course, these are children we speak of: we cannot blame them for this social faux pas. Nonetheless, every teacher in the room anxiously yelled out half a syllable upon witnessing the event, and for a brief second, tension was high amongst us.

As we say with high-fives ("don't leave me hanging!"), there is nothing worse than a lone, outstretched hand, waiting for the grasp of another. I spent all day thinking about how I'd be okay never seeing a back turned on an amiable handshake again, regardless of age or culture...

But my days at school are filled with non-stop action and each moment could mean the wildest occurrence, from a kid projectile vomiting across his table to a three year old bellowing out something in english that I didn't even intend to teach him ("oh my god!" for example). I quickly forgot about the happenings of the theatre and my reflections on it.

Until today.

It's Friday and I worship Fridays. I've even taken to teaching my Friday students that one line from the song "Friday is my favorite day". In case you don't remember it, it goes like this:

Monday is a bummer,
Tuesday's getting better,
Wednesday is fair,
And Thursday's almost there.
But Friday, Friday, Friday is my favorite day.

They really love that last line, probably because it's super catchy, but I like to think it's because they agree with me. Fridays are holy, and I spend all morning day-dreaming about what I will do at 5 o'clock.

Sometimes I get so caught up with the details that I think about what I will do at 4:50, because being Friday, and this being Spain or something, it's an unwritten law that school gets out anywhere from 10-15 minutes early on this last afternoon of the week.

Today, I was in particular thinking about how I wanted to buy the newspaper, because I like Friday editions and also it's a special day, 11.11.11, and for whatever reason this is important to have written documentation of. Upon making this purchase, I would head to my balcony (where I sit now) and enjoy a nice warm tea. It's a beautiful, crisp autumn day:

But then, for whatever reason, I got to thinking about my departure from school only 15 minutes prior. The look on my boss's face when I sped out of there 10 minutes early, once most of the children from my class had been sent off with their parents at the front door. I had to squeeze through the crowd, and as I waved and wished a good weekend, she looked up at me with a sweaty brow and said in slightly confused tone (which I read as "Off so soon?") "Thank you."

I don't want to give the wrong idea, like my awesome boss is dying to hang out with me or something. But I will note that she often reminds me of their Friday afternoons at the corner bar, after a long week some of the teachers get together and end up downing several large beers...

And this is Spain, this is a school I work in, individualism is not part of the game. The principal of my school, God bless her, is probably one of the most wonderful people in the world, and goes to great lengths to make me feel welcome, as if I had just arrived in this country.

Anyway, I am clearly grateful, but I have never taken her up on the Friday afternoon offer, and I'm not really sure why. I guess I should blame it on my desire to be alone after work, which is totally understandable I suppose...

But nonetheless, I couldn't enjoy my afternoon plan today, thinking about how it didn't even occur to me to stay the extra ten minutes to at least chat for a minute with my co-workers. We had been so busy with the crazy atmosphere of the end of the week, that we didn't get the chance...

I am naturally a bit individualistic, even introverted at times, and I try to constantly remind myself to "cross the bridge", especially in a place where the bridges can be just a tad longer and wider.

But I just can't get it out of my head: why must I constantly turn my back to outstretched hands?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

happy halloween from bcn

Spent a long Halloween weekend in Barcelona with Jenna. Back to work for just a three day week...can't complain.

Friday, October 28, 2011

al pedrete

..caga y vete (shit and go).

That's what they say about Al Pedrete, in the mountains just north of Madrid. Apparently there isn't all too much going on in this little sierra town.

We went there last weekend because it was the most do-able option to get the -f out of Madrid and her polluted air. Here are some pictures that I forgot I had taken.

This picture is of seemingly little significance, but the memory it brings back is cozy. Despite the fact that we were shooting for the 11 a.m. bus, AND the fact that we took a taxi to get to the bus station because we were running late...we missed it. Aw shucks, I guess we'll just go have a second breakfast while we wait another hour for the next one. Anyway, this was the first day that I really felt the chill of autumn. We stumbled upon the "Van Gogh Cafe" behind the Moncloa bus station and I don't know exactly what it was (the warmth of the cafe.. it's velvety booths and espresso aroma... flipping lazily through the fresh Saturday paper...) but I remember having one of those moments of happiness where you realize you are living the golden instant of "now".

Upon our arrival, we immediately grabbed the bikes and went up a mountain...

After receiving some advice from the locals (aka Lucas' aunt and uncle), we were like "Oh, hey, let's go to that telegraph thing at the top of the mountain!" It was a long, hard walk. Because we walked our bikes more than we rode them.

The descent...feelin' good.

And here we have some super cool smart phone fotos during our autumnal stroll through the forest. This was on Sunday, the first real day of rained for the first time in months (note how dry and yellow it is above on Saturday with the bikes).

...with Lucas' aunt and uncle. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I want to blast my music at 4:30 in the afternoon because that is the natural light primetime for just this activity.

I don't want to respect the siesta. Because I think it's stupid. I think it's stupid that any of us should be on the same schedule beyond the general concepts of what goes on during night and day. But this is what I am plagued with, such sufferings that come with living here in this place that I sort of hate.


Here's your culturally idiosyncratic ex-pat question of the day:

When do formerly irking-but-nonetheless-endearing cultural idiosyncrasies become a pain in the ass?

There exist four phases of culture shock: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment and mastery. But they don't talk much about regressing. I guess that's just called "ready to go home"? .... as much as it pains me to admit it?

No. Ready to go home no. Home is here and I don't really hate it.

I'm just a moody version of myself who is also at this very moment cursing Lipton and their dumb fancy teabags which I only bought because I can't find mandarin-infused green tea from any other source...picture this asshat teabag: a pyramid (which they announce on the package, have you) has a string made of what I believe to be silk (probably announced on the package too--because some other asshats out there at Carrefour see that and feel compelled to enjoy the luxury), and these oh-so-silky and slippery strings make it impossible to wrap the teabag around a teaspoon and drain the liquid, thus making for an altogether wet and messy experience. DAMN YOU LIPTON AND YOUR IDIOTIC FANCY TEABAGS.

Annnnnnnnnnyway, the most worrisome part of all this is that the siesta doesn't even effect my music-blasting-primetime-theory because I no longer have free afternoons during the week like I once did. My complaints aren't even based on current inconveniences.

What is inconvenient is being forced to take a three hour break in the middle of the day to eat/take a nap/waste time. I also find it unbearable that cheap sushi is non-existant, and that strangers don't always respect my personal space in public.

But really, I just wanna be an asshole for a minute and blast my music at 4:30 in the goddamn afternoon.

I am clearly a child, it's 9:30 pm and bedtime.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011


This song Pa'l Norte of Calle 13 is, in the end, a song about immigration rights. But, I think it is the perfect anthem for any wanderer...

I miss America and feel a nostalgia manifesting itself.... in the form of a longing for my southern sister.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


It has been some time since I've written about any cultural idiosyncrasy that is what being "an American in Spain" is all about...

But in any case, it's been some time since I've written anything at all.

I've been feeling a little blah lately in every sense of the word. It's funny how this "blog" thing really becomes a habit: one that, despite making you feel good, is easy to fall out of. Like jogging I suppose. I'm having a tough time getting back into it.

This is probably because my life has been taken over by work, something completely foreign to me since the good old college days. I often joke that Spain has made me lazy...but let's be honest, that is a cheap scapegoat. It's my nature. And anyway I'm not lazy. I prefer the euphemism of "relaxed", I have always been a bit relaxed...

Perhaps that is why fate brought me to this country, and maybe, among other reasons of course, why I have remained here for so long...there isn't a better word that describes the general culture of life here...relaxed..

And I would also like to thank fate for bringing me to this new place around the corner called Centro de Estudios Castilla which has basically been whipping me into shape during the last month and a half. Work has been hard. I'm nearly a quarter century old, and apparently the universe thinks I need to start acting like it.

Last month marked my two years in Spain, which have been more or less a ride on cloud nine of easy living...

And it's not that I'm not ready to step into the next phase of growing up...have more or less a "real job" per say.... but just a few words to my dear year three: please get easier.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

fake english

Short film shot entirely in fake english: what english sounds like to my students.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Feeling like I need some sort of catharsis, thinking a public outcry [via internet] might work...

But at the end of a long Monday this is really all that comes to mind:


Monday, September 5, 2011

back to reality

Today was my first day back to work, and to ring in the jolly back-to-school spirit, I put on my glasses for the first time in two months..

But for whatever reason, things are still blurry. I still havent recovered from the whirlwind family visit that came to an abrupt and untimely end early this morning...

Siiiiigh, something tells me this transition is not going to be as easy as I thought.

Monday, August 22, 2011


I don't really know how to approach this so let's just cut to the chase: I spent all last week working on a farm in the French alps.

It's kind of a long story how I got myself into this, but if it is something that interests you, check out, wwoof standing for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It's more or less an organization that links farms with volunteers who have the desire to learn and experience all the workings of organic farming.

I decided to do this because it seemed like a cool alternative vacation plan, plus one on the seriously economic side (in exchange for your work, you stay and eat for free). I'd never worked on a farm, but the idea of digging my hands in to the earth was appealing. I chose France because it's close and also I thought I'd put my summer course to good use. Tucked away in the mountains, I believe that La Ferme Agri-Nature in Marcellaz was just what I needed...

The house at sunset (I suppose this explains the bizarre lighting..?), from the back.

The house was up on a hill, and to get to the massive garden (this is just one side of it) was about a five minute walk down.

This was probably the most taxing of all...making, as Guy the other wwoofer put it, a "house for the beans". Although it may look simple, do not be deceived. It took us two full days of work and I won't even go into detail about how tedious it was. It did feel good, though, to see the progress, and once we were done we spent a good three hours weeding all around it. The result: a lovely sight.

The neighbors. Apparently that red van hasn't moved in over ten years.

Le petit marché...I did quite a bit of maintenance here, as it was open 24/7 and right on the main road connecting Marcellaz with the other surrounding towns. Weighing, pricing, etc etc.

I worked from 9-12 and then again from 2-4...leaving plenty of time for bicycle exploration.

These funny little houses were everywhere...apparently people used to store their most prized possessions in tiny sheds nearby, in case the house burnt down or something equally disastrous happened.

Collecting apples was fun and also terrifying. After carefully placing them in the canvas bag on my shoulder, I had to climb down the questionably-stable 10 foot ladder and put them in this basket, elevated so that the grazing sheep wouldn't get to them (they came over the minute they saw us put up the ladder).

As one might imagine, there were a lot of cats. What's a cozy farm kitchen without a curious little kitten?

On my last day of work I collected strawberries and then we made a strawberry pie. This is Miki, head of the house, I wouldn't mind if he were my grandpa.

Finally, before my evening flight back to Madrid, I visited the lovely lakeside city of Annecy. A long bike ride all along the east side of the lake...breathtaking.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Hello world, I just came back from paradise.

I am almost tempted to just leave the photos to speak for themselves, because a million words couldn't tell the stories, feelings, experiences that the last 12 days were. But since I am no photographer, I also feel this is unjust...

So here is a photo journal of summer vacation 2011: IBIZA. You should read it in case you ever visit the spectacular island, and also because I just spent the last hour and a half making it.

Day 1
This is the first photo I took: it must feel good to be home. We arrived mid-afternoon on Spanish time-zone (5ish), perfect time for a cup of tea and then off to a particularly stunning spot on the island--Punta Galera. Flat rocks jutting out into the ocean, perfect for sunbathing as a lizard might on the earthy-warm stones...

And hello, first Ibiza sunset at Punta Galera. Every single evening was just as fantastic--each night this ball of fire transformed into a neon cookie.

Day two
Taking advantage of the brief encounter with a full-house (all the kids are home, baby!), we set off with Lucas' family and friends to Formentera, about a two hour trip on the Morna. The best way to discover a new place is off the beaten track... how about off the track all together? There is so much beautiful, untouched coast on this tiny island...

Day Three
After a night's camping on the boat: nothing like waking up and jumping into crystal clear waters.

The crew! And a wobbly lunch on the boat. Talk about drowsiness the minute you set down your fork...

Day Four
Headed back to Ibiza. I feel almost unworthy of sights like these because I don't really appreciate boats in the way that some people do. I do, however, appreciate beauty...

I also appreciate culos. I feel as though the anonymity of this photo makes my posting of it completely acceptable.

Day Five
Anything to escape the mass amounts of people on the island...some sandwiches and beers and off to the cave-cove. This photo doesn't really give an idea of what it was like, but at least we look good. Just imagine pulling up to a wide cliff that shows no sign of leading down to the shore...but then oh! Hidden on the far edge, there's that steep, slippery staircase that breaks off and turns directions at least four times, stopping half-way at an enormous cave that looks out to the other side of the ocean, and finally arriving to a tiny little cove where three storm-beaten boathouses stand.

Day Six
Speaking of boathouses, Lucas' favorite spot on the island is his uncle's in Cala Corral. There is no running water or electricity, but there are boats, a few mattresses, and a roomy porch, to name the essentials. The place is the red with the blue garage doors (although the colors are difficult to discern here..)

We went to different calas to park and snorkel around or eat lunch the few days we were camping in the boathouse. Totally worth the aching shoulders--I found that my pain threshold is much higher while singing.

Day Seven
Good morning, Cala Corral! Some navigating plans for the next outing on kayak.

A nice view.

Underwater cameras are fun toys. Here we are unintentionally "raising the roof" in Ibiza. I am not embarrassed to say that I did not make it to one club while on the island...although there is still some curiosity lurking...

Day Eight
With the help of uncle, we take out the Llaüt (pronounced ya-oot), a typical Ibizan fishing boat. Lucas' great uncle bought it along with a neighboring boathouse for 1000 pesetas, that is, 6 euros, 100 years ago. Those are tree branches that hold up the paddles and extra poles for the overhead shade...

It really is a lovely thing...

This little octopus was SO AFRAID! Watching the race to catch it reminded me of a scene from Fantasia. After darting around trying to avoid Lucas' grasp and then spraying ink in his face, the little guy accepted his fate and then became quite cuddly. SO CUTE!!!!!

Day Nine
Mandatory tour of the old city of Ibiza, Dalt Vila (literally--upper town). This is the 16th century wall that surrounds it. Raised up on the southeast coast of the island, its views are far and wide for obvious reasons...

Pirates ahead!

Day Ten
We went sampling ham sandwiches in Santa Gertrudis, a small but lively town not far from the capital and known for its artesanal trade. The restaurant itself has an interesting history, it is filled with all sorts of eclectic artwork...story has it that the owner used to allow artists to eat for free in exchange of wall decor. This place only serves sandwiches: I approve.

Last Day
Then all of the sudden we jump to the last day... I am getting a little worn out and perhaps I am overdoing it but I guess this is what happens when you are in dead-of-August-Madrid with NOTHING to do. And the truth of the matter is the next two days were lost in oblivion as far as photos go, as we were kidnapped on a small motor boat and taken to a friend's sailboat in Formentera and unexpectedly held captive there for two days. It was rough, let me tell you. And then we catch up here, about to head to the airport. As usual, it all went by way too fast!! Thank you to my guide and hosts at Can Torre (can=house in Catalan). Couldn't have been lovelier :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I can title and thus organize these sporadic posts by the day, that way I remember, precisely, which day it is.

Such is summer living on a teacher's schedule, and yes, I think I will stay with it...

As fate had it, I recently found that planning for next year's plan is taken care of for me: the slightest lift of a finger was enough to rope in a really awesome job for the next school year.

I feel as though this is well-worth mentioning: I was not job searching in Spain. Private lessons are so fruitful that my minimal hours give enough straight pocket money to live by, and I had every intention of continuing at least into September and maybe October. And this was not to make the cash, but rather to spend it--buying time...

I guess I just didn't know what I wanted to do, where I wanted to be, LIFE, if I was ready to up and leave's been an interesting two years and I can't deny the fact that it gets better every day... so I asked myself, why so nomadic?

(this I asked myself in the two minutes they granted me to make my decision about a job offer, one that came out of nowhere, working in a charter school that is coincidentally two minutes walking from my house, just to state one of the infinite reasons why it's perfect)

I crave stability, I've realized this about myself. I admit that I sometimes did not seek it in Madrid. Not in the profound way, how could I, having realized this past year that, eventually, I want to be closer to family and friends....this is important.

But despite all vain attempts of resistance, humans adapt, and what was once foreign, little by little, becomes so incredibly familiar, and voilá, you're at home. I've found my stability, my life here...why not sink into it just a bit more?

So all in all I'm not coming home yet, no US next year... those two letters imply a lot. It would be a lie to say there isn't a part of me that is for obvious reasons disappointed, but I can't let this overshadow my excitement. Because It's EXCITING. And I'm going to relax and take it all as a sign, because this is the way I like to take things.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


The Divine Inspiration.
I picked up this little gypsy basket drunk on the street one abnormally toasty spring afternoon in April. It cost me quite a bit of haggling, but in the end I bought it for two euros, including a bonus-beer nicely cradled inside. I fall in love every time I walk by it, and take part in a moment's worship of the God of small things.


Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

Spanish Tortilla Pacman (with fruit).

Acid Cactus.
Out with the cherry tomatoes, in with the half-dead cactus bed. I sort of abandoned the poor things long, long ago (ahem, the day I acquired them...) with the mentality that cactuses are all-time survivors who require absolutely no attention. Why shouldn't they live happily in their tiny plastic cups they came in as gifts? I was wrong. Quoting my chuckling roommate as he noticed my tending, "Everything Renee plants dies". That bastard.

I'm no type-A...but who doesn't appreciate this?

This has been Tuesday's homage to the God of small things.

Monday, July 11, 2011

angry family

I must be some sort of masochist because I decided to start learning French. Thank God I found these guys to help me de-cripple my poor tongue. Me talk pretty one day!

Friday, July 8, 2011

this just in

Spotify is coming to America.

I'm here to tell you: don't get too excited.

Everyone and their mom in Spain raves about Spotify, because of its infinite library, easy navigation, and most importantly, free service.

But so what if if you don't have to pay with euros? Nothing in this world is free. Instead they charge you with publicity, and the most annoying type....think that bubbly announcement voice that pops up out of nowhere, five times the volume of what was just playing.

On top of this, you are only granted four hours a month of free music. Absolute BS if you ask me. Consider yourself warned...don't get too excited.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Life! I can't keep up with you.

It's now July and school has long been up and over. Thank God, we all really, and I mean really, needed that. In any case, it was an exciting and sweaty month, that June, in the classrooms of Benito Perez Galdos. As always, it was wonderful to be so immersed in the end-of-the-school year atmosphere, yet again. The excitement is incredibly contagious...there's nothing like the very last day for a kid, with the summer nicely laid out before your seven year old eyes.

Anyway, in celebration of this much anticipated freedom, I sang school's out for summer! all the way to Azkena Rock Festival in Vitoria. We had an awesomely grimy time camping right next to lots of great head-banging opportunity. I think the pictures below do a pretty good job summing that experience up...

Then I got back and was thrown into living the life, which actually took some organization between my eight hours a week of teaching and 35346 hours of fun activities such as ballet, intensive french, and a considerate amount of eating and drinking and being merry.

So what if I put a little too much on my plate? These three weeks are going to fly by, and then off to really live the life.... more to come soon, catch up and enjoy the pictures for now, I have to run!

The gang, Irene feeling especially hardcore. I think this was during Gregg Allman, when I realized that I actually, unintentionally, know a great deal of his repertoire.

I never came to know what exactly was the story with these people, but they were AWESOME. It's a shame we didn't get a photo of all five characters...all platformed in different cabaret get-ups. They were roaming around the concert grounds all weekend, please note that the man in black has the lady in red on a chain leash.

Rob Zombie's stage set. You can only imagine what kind of spectacle that show was. Oh and p.s., Ozzy Osbourne went on after and it was PAINFUL.

The shows didn't start til around five so we were able to explore around Vitoria a bit. One day we went to this lovely little lake and pretended we were on the beach.

Mixed feelings about leaving our campgrounds after packing everything up....we got to the festival really late and it was slim pickings. You can't quite tell here, but yes that's a hill we slept on. Anyway, a nice view :)

The one thing that really sucks about living the ex-pat life: people come and go waaaay too often. Melissa took advantage of free dental care and got her wisdom teeth pulled just one week before heading back to NY for good. The last supper: antibiotics and painkillers.

Since we met the previously mentioned neighbors, life at Calle Juanelo 21 has been more or less a giant hangover. Nobody's complaining.

Should be noted that Gay Pride is Madrid's biggest annual party. It was quite fun until I stepped in a deep pond of pee late Saturday night. I don't think I've ever seen the city so filthy.