Pray for Me!

January 30, 2009

As I mentioned in my post earlier this week on cold weather, I’m off to go skiing this weekend up north. It’s been about a year since I have gone skiing, so I am wishing myself luck ahead of time (and hoping you all do the same)! 

I consider myself to be an athletic person, but when it comes to skiing, often times my a&* sees the mountain more than I would like. I never learned to turn well, so while sometimes I can fudge it and move steadily, often times the ski gets stuck in my turn and I go tumbling.  However, if I stick with the blue level runs, I tend to be ok. It’s just when I get a little too ambitious and think the black levels don’t look THAT hard when I show myself how poorly I actually ski. For example, I was feeling pretty arrogant the last time I went to Tahoe, no falls all day practically, so I finished with a black diamond. The last part of the black was a green, so very easy, and in my joy I caught the ice and banged my head on it, only to get a mini concussion and almost, almost cause ski patrol to come after me (but don’t worry mom!).

And to add a few other interesting elements to the trip, one of my friends who I’m going with told me, “Don’t worry, we’ll go fast.” Little does he know that fast and Hoolia do not mix on the mountain! I guess he will see soon enough that I like to slowly make my way down, taking in the view, observing the people 🙂 Plus, I’m the only girl in the group and I’m the only non-Spaniard (again, don’t worry mom). SO, we shall see how it goes, but it will definitely be cool to go and add another experience to my repertoire. And while it may go without saying, The Hoolia Blog is taking a mini hiatus, but shall return next week!

Here is where we are going…

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3 Months in a Nutshell

January 28, 2009

It’s hard to believe that 3 months in Spain has already come and gone, but indeed, it has (well, almost). One friend said that after 90 days, Barcelona will start to feel more like a home, but at first, I found that hard to believe. Now, I’ll be darned, I was wrong! I know, it doesn’t happen very often, but when I am, gotta take the high road and admit it 🙂 

So, in a nutshell, here is a recap of my experiences in this land I’m living:

1. I have lived in two places, with only international roommates (and one international dog). I really enjoy living in the neighborhood Gracia now and I plan to stay here for the remainder of my experience. Gracias, Gracia.

2. I have taken advantage of traveling as much as possible. England, Scotland, France and Spain in three months is pretty “chulo,” or cool as they say here. Visa permitting, I want to travel as much as I can, with the top choices being San Sebastian, Prague and Morocco. We’ll see how the cookie crumbles.

3. I have taught a lot of different classes, but have only gotten my feet wet into the teaching world. I’m still waiting for a class to absolutely bomb, because it’s not a matter of if it will, it’s a matter of when. It’s just part of the learning experience. If at first you don’t succeed, lift yourself up and try again as the song goes.

4. I have met a lot of interesting people and have had many interesting experiences with them. From Mark, Adam, Rohan, Jose, Jordi, David and Abi, Lisa, Mariella, Val, Lilli and more, I feel lucky to have met these people. Cheers mates!

5. I have improved my Spanish and I’m on the rise. My goal is to be VERY proficient by summertime. Lofty possibly, but if I keep the intercambios comin’, I will be a force to be reckoned with!

6. I have spent my first Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays away from home, my first new year’s in Europe and witnessed a historical president’s inauguration from afar. Que chulo (how cool)!

I guess I could go on and on about my experiences, but I did say I would write them in a nutshell, so I’ll leave it at the above. For the first couple months, I had one foot back home and one foot here. Now, I would say I have maybe a couple toes back home, but most of the foot is here, which is good. I’ll be interested to see how my experience continues to evolve, with the hope that I stay on this path!

Taking it all in photo…

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Mediterranean Schmediterranean

January 27, 2009

As some of you might know, there was a hurricane-type storm that passed through Barcelona a few days ago. I was out in the storm for most of the day and I have never been so cold in my life! I had about 5 layers on me and I still couldn’t stop shivering. Not to mention I could barely walk against the howling wind (like my adjective?). I saw broken trees, tiles that had fallen from buildings, motos that had fallen down and heard a lot of sirens. It was pure craziness to be part of this storm since I have never experienced anything like it. I’m a San Francisco girl and San Francisco and hurricanes do not go together. And, as I write, there are still strong winds outside that make going out no bueno.

Now, while it’s true that I am usually cold, I was expecting tropical weather, considering that Barcelona is located right on the Mediterranean. It’s been quite the opposite. We have a nice day here or there, but the majority of times, I’m very cold. I never would have thought that a scarf would be my daily accessory and I would feel lost without one. Good thing I have two!

I was invited to go skiing this weekend up in the Pyrenees, so if I think I’m cold here, I can only imagine what it will be like up north. Likely in the negative degrees, but I’m not worried in the least. As I’m flying down the mountain, in awe of where I am and who I’m with, I doubt I’ll be thinking of the cold at all.


Wait, the Town is THAT Way!

January 25, 2009

Most of you will remember this line from “Dumb and Dumber.” In case not, for a quick reference, just when Harry and Lloyd’s luck has totally run out, a bus full of bikini models approaches them on the side of the road. The models are looking for two men to rub suntan lotion on them at a contest and Lloyd/Harry point them in the direction of the nearest town to find some men. A few seconds later, realizing their mistake, Lloyd/Harry chase after the bus and say, “Sorry, the town is THAT way,” or the other way they initially said. And off went the bus.

It’s interesting how often I get approached for directions and how often I wonder if I send the person off correctly. I guess it’s good that I look like a Spaniard, so I’m blending in more, but once I open my mouth, the person asking for directions quickly realizes his/her mistake 🙂 However, out of about 5 people just this week who have asked for directions, I have been able to send 2 of the 5 the correct way, or so I think. One will never know.! Also, since I am caught off guard when someone starts talking to me, often times I hear something like, “Blah blah blah, Sagrada Familia, blah blah blah?” Then I point and off they go!

Overall, I feel a lot more confident with managing my way around this city. I have my bearings now and while I still get lost quite often going to a new place, I think I have a general sense of where most areas are in the city. I also walk whenever I can and I try to take in as much as possible, including streets. While I’m in no position to be a Barcelona tour guide or anything of the sorts, knowing the city better and better makes it start feeling more and more like a home. Ahhh…


Aiwa Bira Minfadlak

January 23, 2009

The title of this post is the only phrase in Arabic I know, thanks to Roger, one of my course tutors in case you forgot. I thought it was only appropriate leading into the weekend, considering it means, “One more beer please.” And in Spanish, on a Friday night, “Una mas cerveza” is quite commonly heard because Spaniards sure like their beer! Now, I’m not sure why I need to know how to ask for a beer in multiple languages, especially in Arabic. But, I guess it’s a handy expression to have in my back pocket, just on the off chance I find myself in Egypt, possibly in the middle of the desert, wanting to find the closest bar.

Why is their in italics you wonder? While Heineken and other imported beers are available to order (though sadly not Stella or Blue Moon), the most common beers Spaniards will drink are ones brewed here in Spain. Estrella Damm is the most popular, both on tap and in the bottle. Moritz, Mahou and San Miguel are also hot choices. I am a beer girl, so I enjoy most of these brands, though of course not that often considering the calories. A girly comment, I know, but moderation is key. Ordering a “cana” is the way to go, which means a small pint in a glass, fresh off the tap. And with the perfect pour and after a long day, boy does it taste good, good, good!

Drinking beer is as much part of the Spanish culture as anything else, the way I see it. Out in the plazas, on bar stools or at tables, beer seems to be as much part of a meal as rice or potatoes.  Or, beer can even be its own meal, but that’s not a good route to take 🙂

Well, all this talk of beer sounds awfully nice. I think I’ll have one (or two) tonight to celebrate the end of a great week. Hope you all do the same!

With every sip comes a cheers…

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Nevermind, It’s Not Important

January 22, 2009

I have been picking up more and more teaching hours and while it may seem quite simple just to teach English, given that’s what I speak, there are definitely techniques and strategies to teaching that I’m still learning. Each class is different, each learning style is different and I am constantly on my toes for answering why sentences are the way they are and why we use certain words at certain times. My gut reaction is to say, “Well, that’s just how it is,” but obviously that doesn’t fly. And add a 5 year old to the mix who can barely speak Spanish, let alone English, it becomes quite interesting.

During my course in November, Mark from Australia had a very interesting teaching style. His explanations were priceless. For example, when one student asked him to explain the difference between banging and knocking, he proceeded to explain, “You can knock on the door, but you can BANG anywhere. You can bang on the wall, on the ceiling, on the floor…” Good explanation, Mark. Maybe you had to be there, but that example still remains a laughing point amongst our group all the time. But nothing was as good as his explanation of space. When a student asked what space is, Mark pointed up and said, “Space is space.” Duh! And more often than not, when Mark was baffled by a question, he would say, “Nevermind, it’s not important.” When I told him I have found myself using that line in my classes when I too get caught up, he claims I’m using “his” material. Pretty funny if I say so myself.

I recently made a small cheat sheet of sorts so I can be ready to answer questions that arise in classes. It’s nothing to be framed, but it’s definitely a start to making sure I avoid as many awkward situations as I can. So go ahead, ask me how to explain the present simple, the present continuous, the present perfect, modal verbs, gerunds, past participles, infinitives, etc. Ah well, nevermind, it’s not important 🙂

Here’s Mark and I right after the course ended…

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Welcome 44th President, Welcome

January 21, 2009

I rarely write about the same topic twice in a row (in fact, I haven’t yet done so), but I felt it would be too strange to not follow up on the inauguration event I attended yesterday. So here you have it, a detailed account of a historical day. Get comfortable!

I arrived at 4pm like I was asked, only to be told that my shift was at 8pm and thus, there was no reason to get there so early. No pasa nada (no big deal). 15 minutes later, I was told I wasn’t needed, so I would have to pay for a ticket instead of getting compted as a volunteer. Yet, I was still on the schedule to work at 8pm. Hmmm…well anyway, it all got sorted, I got into the event just fine and by 6pm, I was amongst about 500 people who all shared a common interest in watching Obama become America’s next president.

When Biden and Obama walked out and overlooked the two million people in our nation’s capitol, the whole room erupted in cheers. I got goose bumps, several times in fact, but that was nothing compared to some people who were actually shedding tears! It was pretty moving though and when Obama followed with an inspirational speech, it was very clear I was not alone in my sentiments. More so, when Bush was helicoptered out, there was another eruption of cheers, as he is not a fan favorite amongst anyone here, that’s for sure. It was kind of funny, kind of sad, but ultimately, a moot issue because he is out, Obama is in!

There were also a lot of media at the event and I wouldn’t be surprised if my face is plastered on the front page of Barcelona’s newspapers today. Ok, well, actually, I would be surprised, but I think my photo was taken a few times. Likely not front cover worthy, but ya never know. AND I even made my singing debut (gulp), sort of. My friends and I got videoed singing the tail end of the Star Spangled Banner and then I got videoed again saying, “Adios Bush!” That’s all I had to say during my two seconds of Spanish fame?! Oh, Hoolia.

Overall, it was a really fun night and a special memory I will carry with me when I see Obama in action. Check out some photos…

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