The Obama Momma Madness

January 20, 2009

Before I left for Spain, I had about a month off from work and thus, nothing but time to do things like watch daytime TV. It certainly rings a bell with my current situation, but that is besides the point. The point is that I became a fan of Ellen DeGeneres and one joke she made is particularly relevant for what I will be doing later today. Ellen referenced all the “change” slogans Obama used in his campaign, like, “Vote for Change,” “Stand for Change,” “Change We Can Believe In,” etc. With the economy and all, Ellen thought he would change his official slogan to read, “Can you spare any change?” Of course he never did, but hey, it’s a funny thought.

Well, as we all know, today marks history. We have heard the making history reference a million times in the last few weeks, but it’s definitely a day that is being felt around the world. And with today comes an optimistic sense for a better future, not just for America, but for all its international “friends.”  More so, whether or not Barack Obama ends up changing anything, the fact that he is now America’s president has definitely affected our perception in a good way. I think we can all universally agree that Bush will not be missed.

Later today, I will be celebrating the inauguration at an American Society party. Round 2  for me with the American Society, but I figure it’s worth a second shot. In fact, I volunteered to help out, so maybe that will change my experience from the previous time when everyone was averaging 20 years older than me and weren’t super friendly to us youngsters. Who knows, but regardless, it will certainly be interesting to watch this momentous occasion with a group of ex pats and internationals in a city that already means so much to me.

Chin chin to change!

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Ole, Ole, Ole, Oleeee

January 19, 2009

I’m titling the post as such for several reasons. One, I went to my first Barca game on Satuday and it was incredible. And when I say incredible, I mean incredible. Barca totally dominated (5-0) and when Messi scored, the whole stadium bowed down to him. I had to join in because, not only is he my favorite player as you know, he is like the biggest heroe in soccer. A soccer God of sorts. The master. The untouchable. Ok, ok, I’ll stop.

It was also really interesting to hear the crowd chant the Barca song in unison and when I got chills down my spine while they did, I could definitely understand first hand why futbol is so much part of the Spanish culture.  I was just excited to be there, watching the game from the nose bleed section, but ultimately appreciating the bird’s eye view. Ole to Barca!

The second “ole” goes to my day yesterday in cava country. Cava is basically the same as champagne, but since the French put a restriction on other countries using that name without using their grapes, cava was used instead. I woke up bright and early (probably about 3 hours before I’m used to even waking up) to meet up with friends, but it was well worth it. We took a tour of the Codorniu winery and went back to Barcelona with three bottles of cava, all of which we drank throughout the rest of the day and night. The only bad thing was that I forgot my camera, but I’ll cut myself slack on that one given how early I woke up. Ole!

So for fear of giving out my “oles” too freely, I’ll leave it at that, but give out one more for an overall great weekend (including a fun night out on Friday) that will definitely be one for the memory books.

Here is Val, Sam and I at the game.

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May I Interest You in an Intercambio?

January 17, 2009

A lot of my international friends, including myself, have intercambios with Spanish speakers here so we can improve our Spanish. Practice, practice and more practice is clearly the only way to get better. The idea behind an intercambio, or language exchange, is that we converse in Spanish for a bit and then the other person practices his or her English. It’s quite an easy concept with a few essentials: at least two people, at least two languages.

Well, offering an intercambio has become quite a pick up line for my guy friends and it’s pretty hilarious to watch. Not only do they ask Spanish girls for an intercambio, they even joke about asking girls from Australia, Britain and America for an intercambio, which clearly breaks one of the essential rules!

I’ve been taking advantage of any opportunity I can for, you guessed it, an intercambio. Just the other day, I met former students from my course to practice and it was definitely fun to catch up and be corrected. A lot of times, people who I hang out with socially won’t correct me, but I say, “Bring it on!” But, I never really correct bad English outside of my classes either, so it’s completely understandable. I guess correcting others is a social faux pas!

I even find myself switching languages when I’m with my English friends, trying to slip in practice every chance I get.  They often ask, “Why are you speaking Spanish?” and they give me funny looks, but I laugh it off. And once my Mexican roommate returns, I will have some  more built-in practice right outside my door, literally. Exciting.


Funny Bumping Into You!

January 16, 2009

Never in a million years did I think I would randomly bump into someone I know on the streets of Barcelona, but yet, it happened not once, but twice last night.

I was coming back from a new teaching job, on a high from a good lesson, listening to my Mamma Mia soundtrack (I know, very cool) and thinking I would treat myself to a hot meal. Some things I don’t take for granted and one of those are hot meals since I don’t cook many of them for myself. Remember, I’m only Chef Hoolia in training!

Anyway, I stopped in a kebab restaurant to order something to go when I saw Rohan and Adam (both who said they wanted a mention in my blog, though they don’t read it, so here they go). We had a beer, then moved on to another place, a gentleman’s club of sorts, and did a cheers. Adam was having a bad day, so I asked what the cheers was for and he said, “I’m celebrating tomorrow being a better day than today!” I liked that 🙂

Later on, Adam and I were walking home and I saw my friends David (nicknamed “antipatico”) and Jordi (who calls me his English teacher, though we usually just speak Spanish). They just finished a French class, so we too went for a drink and just like that, I went from a night in English to a night in Spanish.

Going to bed at 1:30 a.m. on a Thursday was no biggie because I have a day off on Friday and thus, plenty of time to catch up on my beauty rest. Ahhh, the life.


Who Let the Dogs Out?!

January 15, 2009

Barcelona is a very dog-friendly city and with that comes a lot of, as the Spaniards say, “caca” on the streets. I think that one needs no translation! I have noticed it on the streets more so in the past couple weeks than before and let me tell ya, it’s not a pretty site. Quite nasty in fact. I guess owners who don’t pick up after their dogs is a global problem, but seemingly worse here because there is no grass or surface beyond city streets. I’ve become pretty good at the walking swagger, avoiding it at all costs and so far, no accidents. Let’s hope it stays that way.

I think it’s really funny to watch dogs respond to Spanish commands too. “Ven aqui” or “vamonos” are probably the most common. Most of the dogs I have seen are little yelpy ones, like Yorkies or Terriers, but I do see the occasional lab or Hunter dog (my Golden Retriever at home being named Hunter and all). Also, dogs here are very rarely, as Bob Barker likes to say, “spayed or neutered,” so that’s another, well, interesting thing as well. I’m sure you can imagine why.

Everytime I see a pug, the type of dog I want, a King Charles Spaniel, the dog my brother and his wife got, or a Golden, I tend to smile. Below is Hunter, the most special doggie in the world, with his doggie friends Stanley and Gus. Sometimes I talk to Hunter on the Skype, but he always runs away. I think the voice without the live person scares him. Awww…

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The Tie that Binds

January 14, 2009

My home futbol (soccer) team, Barca (pronounced Barza), is currently one of the best teams in the world. So given how good they are, I have been bitten by the futbol bug a bit and I really enjoy watching them play. I’m lucky though because unlike with my Oakland A’s and SF 49ers, I never even had a chance to be a fair weather fan, liking them through good and bad, because they have always been good!

It’s most fun watching Barca play with the locals. A few weeks ago, I went to an Irish pub with a friend and two Spanish guys sat with us. We all gasped after each shot at the goal, cheered when Barca went on an exciting run and gave each other high fives when the team scored. The same was true on Sunday, where I was the only non-Spaniard, and it was quite a game! Messi, the best player on the team and one of the best in the world, is by far my favorite. One of these days I’ll make it to a live game. After all, Camp Nou is the biggest stadium in Europe, holding 100,000 people, so this I have to see.

It’s like if you are a Barca fan, you are “in.” Apparently, more than 25% of all of Barcelona are fans of the team. Barca fans seem to have a common tie that binds and while I’m not a full blown official member of this society, I’m getting there. I even bought a Barca t shirt to show my pride watching games, though no one actually wears Barca clothes while watching at a bar. I may just have to start a new trend. And speaking of trends, apparently it’s quite cool for players to have long hair because so many do.

So in conclusion and in relation to my Spanish check up from yesterday, I’ve also noticed how amazing the Spanish flows after a few drinks and a few Barca goals 🙂 Ole!

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Check Up on the Good Ol’ Espanol

January 13, 2009

It’s about that time where I feel I should fulfill my promise to ALL my loyal readers and give a progress report on my Spanish. I am proud to say that it is indeed getting better. Phew! If it wasn’t, I would question how effective absorption actually is, but there is currently no questioning of the sorts.

On a scale of 1-10, when I got here, I probably spoke a 4. Now, I would say I’m at a 6, so not close to fluent, but definitely climbing the scale a bit. I do have some focus areas to work on though. When I watch TV (we now have a TV with about 3 channels), I get so excited when I understand one sentence, I forget to listen to the rest! Then of course, I get lost.  But hey, progress is progress. Soon, I’ll understand two sentences in a row 🙂 Whoa, I know. I’m also speaking the infamous Spanglish at times, starting a sentence in Spanish, not knowing a word in the middle, saying the word in English, then finishing in Spanish. That needs to stop, stat.

A lot of people tell me I have a strong American accent when I speak Spanish, to which I say, “Well, yeah, I’m American, duh.” But I am working on the accent and trying to speak faster, speak with more confidence and just go with it without thinking so much. BUT, my tongue, no matter how much I try, will not make the double “r” sound that is so common in Spanish, so that poses a challenge I probably can’t get over, but I’m not too worried about it. I mean, I wouldn’t want to lose my accent all together 🙂 As if that would happen, but still…

All in all, I really enjoy speaking and I feel less and less uncomfortable when being spoken to. I still can’t understand a lot of things, but I try to listen more for context than every single word, so we’ll see how that continues to go.

Another progress report to come next month! Hasta pronto!