5 Months? You Don’t Say!

March 30, 2009

It is true, I’m officially at the 5 month marker on my journey halfway across the world. And while not a whole lot has changed from month 4, month 5 brought some noteworthy events that of course I would like to share.

1. One relation visit and one non-relation visit. S squared traveled thousands of miles to come see me and I still think back to the visit and smile. Equally, Meemers visited me and was the official first guest contributor to The Hoolia Blog (any other takers?!) with two great posts, the first one noted here. I love having visitors and while it was hard to see the visitors go, and a bit of homesickness followed each time, it’s great to have such special people in my life. And I am now well stocked with smores granola bars, woo hoo!

2. Home is where the heart is, or is it? To my last point about the feeling I get when visitors leave, my true home is in San Francisco, but Barcelona really feels like a home as well, more so than ever. My heart is now split, with half in Cali and half in Spain. While both my feet are actually here now, instead of one foot out the door, my heart is divided. Interesting.

3. I have built up a great teaching schedule. I now have 16 hours of teaching, though no security in the hours  which is a bit worrisome (remember the whole non EU thing 🙂 ). However, at this exact moment, I can’t complain that on Fridays, I end at 9 a.m. and on Mondays, I don’t start until 5:30 p.m. 4-day weekends have taken on new meaning!

4. In the month 3 recap, I wrote about some of the great people who I have met here, from all over the globe. In only two months, that list has grown and I feel fortunate to have met equally as fantastic people. Jamie, Jessie, Jos, Alberto, Jared and Enric are all very fun people to hang out with and I’m glad I met them all. And through them, as well as the others, I have a better understanding of Barcelona nightlife, skiing, futbol and the ever-so-awesome menu del dias!

5. Another trip to the ski slopes! And with that trip came yet another stop over in France and a new country, Andorra. Thanks to my trusty helmet, I enjoyed skiing a lot more the second time and while I still wasn’t close to Picabo Street, I think I held my own in my own little way.

6. I have become a jamon addict and regularly buy jamon serrano, jamon iberico and jamon pizza. I also have made a dent in Barcelona’s supply of Coca Cola Zero, Cheerios and pasta.

So with that (and a few pics below), I better get going and see what month 6 has in store. I can imagine some pretty good things, though I’m unfortunately plagued with my first nasty cold of my move! Subsequently, I sound like a man, so until it passes, I guess HooliO is more appropriate (hehe).

S Squared and I at Can Fabes Restaurant (Sant Celoni)

S Squared and I at Can Fabes Restaurant (Sant Celoni)

Meemers and I Overlooking Barcelona at Tibidabo

Meemers and I Overlooking Barcelona at Tibidabo

The ski crew enjoying dinner after the Andorra slopes

The ski crew enjoying dinner after the Andorra slopes

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A Visit to the Hospital

March 28, 2009

But it’s not what you think, so breathe a sigh of relief, in case you were worried for a split second. However, I did indeed go to the hospital this week, but only because I taught the head of urology some good ol’ fashioned English! And for those who know me well, there are few places I hate more than hospitals.

I began my journey to the hospital early so I wouldn’t get lost and proceeded to then follow the ambulances, figuring they would be a good guide. Smart thinking on that one because being an ambulance chaser, like those TV lawyers, paid off in this case. BUT, doing so lead me into the emergency entrance, so while I was hoping with all my energy not to see any blood or screaming people, I made my way through the hospital unscarred and eventually found urology. I almost chuckled when I checked in with my new student’s secretary (“I’m here to see…”), as if I was a patient, thinking in the back of my head about what urology problems people in the waiting room think I must have.

So after a relatively successfull two hour class, which I will now have every Thursday, I couldn’t wait to get out of there and inhale some non hospital fresh air. Being someone who has historically fainted at the sight of blood, I had to give myself at least one prop for being devoted enough to teach in an environment that gives me the willies. I guess we all gotta do what we gotta do to bring home the bacon, so to speak, and that is exactly what I’m doing!

This was my GPS…

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A Whirlwind in Barcelona

March 26, 2009
A promise is a promise* – so here is the cliffhanging part deux of my guest post!
We all know Hoolia has a palate for adventure and new experiences, and while sightseeing is on her list of fun activities – exploring in depth isn’t a strong suit. So it was a good thing we only had 3.5 days and I got a great taste of the gorgeous city Hoolia calls home!
 
So this is how to do Barcelona in 3.5 days with Hoolia – tie your sneakers on tight, here we go:
As I mentioned, Hoolia met me at the airport and after a bus and metro ride we settled into her apartment for a quick lunch (nothing like a jet-fueled scented PB&J sandwich to get you going). Then we were off by foot down Travessera de Gracia to get a good feel for Hoolia’s neighborhood. Turned off onto Gran de Gracia where we saw two of Gaudi’s famously constructed homes – Casa Milan and Casa Batllo. His distinct style reminds me of the drip sandcastles my dad would make at the beach…minus the brightly colored mosaics!
From there, we walked to the Plaza Catalunya via Passieg de Gracia, stopping to window shop in the high caliber shops. In the plaza I introduced Hoolia to the fun of photography – mainly posing with statues…as statutes, as seen in Hoolia’s post yesterday.
 
We crossed over and continued our walk along Las Ramblas and enjoyed seeing the numerous pet rabbits, birds, fish, hamsters, mice and yes, a chicken for sale along the way. Additionally, the street performers kept us engaged for quiet a while. My favorite stop of the day was next – Mercat St. Josep la Boqueria. I’m a sucker for markets – the bright colors of fruit and vegetable stands pop next to the warm and rich colors of the chocolate stands. And of course no market is complete without a smelly fish stand (or a half dozen)! 
To rinse the smell of tuna from our nostrils, we walked down to the pier and breathed the fresh Mediterranean Sea air. Took a leisurely stroll down the pier and ended up at a few small beaches just as the sun was setting – a very romantic first day with Hoolia!
 
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After a short siesta we went to dinner at Amelie near her neighborhood, aptly named Gracia!

Luckily we got to sleep early on Friday, because Saturday was just as eventful and the night didn’t arrive until early Sunday morning! Waking early we walked down Passeig de San Joan towards the Picasso Museum and passed the Arc de Triunf and many other beautiful architectural delights. The Picasso Museum was really well done (even though we started the exhibit backwards…probably because we were still reeling from the confusion about tickets and age…) and it was impressive to see Pablo’s early works (when he was 15) beside his more distinct, later works. His regard for form, color and light is astonishing. Definitely a must see. We wandered over towards Barri Gotico, and Hoolia was a real trooper by going into the Santa Maria del Mar with me. The structure is magnificent considering it used to back up to the sea. The weather has barely affected the strong church.

Barri Gotico was filled with twist and turns and we had a bit of difficulty navigating, especially since we were looking for one street that wasn’t on our map. Right when we were going to give up, Hoolia saw it – Calle Marlet! This street (about two blocks long) was all that was left of the Jewish Quarter of Barcelona. We found a small synagogue that was built/excavated by a private owner and showed some remnants of Jewish life. But overall it was slightly depressing to hear about the small Jewish population left in Barcelona and how there isn’t much of a future for them here. To make matters worse, we found a plaque in Hebrew commemorating Jewish life in Barcelona – and over it was faded graffiti.
We then headed to the Plaza Real for lunch and meet up with Hoolia’s friend Jessie before walking home and grocery shopping after our siesta. To add a personal touch to my trip, Hoolia and I cooked dinner. She put together the yummy salad while I dazzled her with my chicken parm skills.
 
Perfect meal before heading to a party hosted by another of Hoolia’s friends. The libations, conversations and new friends got the best of us and we stayed out quiet late, but it didn’t interfere with our plans the next day…
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Set the alarm for the second day and headed to Montjuic to take a look at the Miro Musuem. Again, surprised by many of Miro’s early works, but wasn’t impressed by the overall collection (except for the giant tapestry) and to add more disappointment was Kiki Smith’s exhibit in half of the museum. I had enough of her in SF! But the views were breathtaking – the entire city lay at our feet. We headed down the slope by way of the Olympic Stadium and stopped to grab a quick bite at one of the bars along the deck…too bad a game wasn’t taking place!
 
We made our way along the Museo de National de Arte de Cataluyna and into the Plaza Espana. We took the metro from there to the fairytale Park Guell. We spent lots of time wandering around, enjoying the labors of Gaudi’s mosaic palace while listening to a talented violinist and ending on a grassy patch to lay out for an hour! It was easy to forget about the cold weather that was plaguing Boston!
Reality quickly caught up to us as we rushed to meet friends at the Republic House to catch Messi and the Barca team clean house.  For those who know me, I’m not much of a sports fan, so it was nice to have some new friends to distract me with fun conversations. After the game, the crew headed over (by bike, moto and car!) to the Born for some good ol’ fashioned Spanish style pizza!
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Why wouldn’t my last day be less busy than the rest – because there was still plenty to see! We strolled down Hoolia’s street all the way to Gaudi’s incomplete masterpiece the Sagrada Familia cathedral. The line was expectedly immense, so we decided to enjoy the outside of the structure and then hit the train station to Tibidabo. The short ride on the funicular to the top was impressive, too bad there was a thin layer of smog blanketing the city below.  Before we could figure out what do to first, we met an eager, outgoing American traveler who asked us “what’s worth checking out.” Hoolia, being the local, piped up and explained that the church before us had some great views, especially if you go all they way up to that ‘guy, Jesus on top.’ Clearly this time, Hoolia’s English was escaping her! But luckily we let Marc tag along because he was definitely into checking out the inside of the church with me and climbing to the very top to take in the amazing views.
 
The three of us returned to Gracia and I had my final (and first authentic) Spanish meal at Hoolia’s favorite place that serves menu del dia for 9.70 euro – SMS Grille. It was packing time and a final metro ride before saying goodbye!
 
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So that’s the abridged version of one of the best girl’s weekends I’ve had in years. Hoolia and I laughed and talked practically every waking minute, sharing stories as if we never missed a beat or had thousands of miles between us only 5 days earlier. She and her friends welcomed me quickly and warmly. I made fast friends and received lots of little life lessons (citizen’s of the world wear tight jeans, bidets are a scarcity in Europe and it seems that The Wire is an international sensation), as well as an endless list of movies to add to my unruly Netflix queue.

I am grateful for friends like Hoolia in my life, so happy to see her thriving in her new surroundings and of course that I was able to enjoy a truly wonderful weekend. Gracias Hoolia! 

 *and yes, I kept my promise too – 2 boxes of S’more granola bars were delivered safely to Hoolia


El Tiempo Es Oro

March 24, 2009

Time is money, which is the title of this post, took on a new meaning when Meemers was visiting me. We really tried to enjoy our time together abroad not only because it comes around once in a blue moon, but we only had 3.5 days to seize (see below for pictures from the visit). And speaking of, given her long journey back home, she wants everyone to know the follow up guest post she promised will be coming later this week. Please hold while you stay tuned…

Generally speaking though, time here is really interesting. When I was taking my course in November, time seemed to crawl, even though that’s when I was the busiest. Now that my schedule is not as structured, time seems to be flying by. I think it should technically work the opposite, but before I know it, I’ll officially be here for 5 months! Maybe the discrepancy can be explained by the popular expression, “Time flies when you are having fun,” because I am having a lot more fun with my flexible schedule than the original rigid one! And time sure flew when Meemers was here, which meant we were clearly having a good time. Wow, time is just flying everywhere 🙂

So now it’s only a matter of time before I have new adventures and more visitors, but since time is money, I will be trying to enjoy every moment!

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Atop Tibidabo

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Adam's "welcome spring" party

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Watching the Barca game with Jos and David

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Meemers imitating a statue in Plaza Catalunya


A Weekend Visit with Hoolia

March 22, 2009

Look out Hoolia fans – this blog post will have a new tone and feel! It’s a guest post from the first non-relation visitor!

 

When given the honor and privilege to write on the blog, I had to first choose the focus; would it be on how Barcelona has changed Hoolia, would it be a travel log of the sites I’ve seen and the experiences I shared with Hoolia or would it be one overall observance similar to many of Hoolia’s posts? Well, since I’m bad at making decisions, why not all three?

 

Observances:

 

  • When Hoolia met me at the airport, I was thrilled to see her and her blonde hair! Yep, lots of pretty blonde highlights to frame her pretty face. The pictures on the blog don’t do it justice because you really notice it when her hair is down.
  • Hoolia’s Spanish is extremely strong.  Hard to take my word for it since I don’t speak a lick of the language and she translates everything for me. However, many of her friends and new native Spanish speaking friends tell me how she has artfully mastered the language.
    • But be warned. If you speak English to her for too long and she’s asked a semi-tricky question in Spanish (i.e. are you more or less than 25 years of age), you could spend a few minutes laughing through the translation!
  • She cooks and cleans! Well, she can put together a mean salad with instructions. The cleaning though is something to witness – pots and pans were squeaky clean. But the real treat came today when she donned white gloves and a mop to clean the floors. Go Hoolia!

But the best observance is watching how well Hoolia has adjusted to her new surroundings. She went from a spacious 2 bedroom apartment with a sprawling wrap around deck with views of a gorgeous coastal city to an arguably more gorgeous coastal city in a tiny apartment with hidden roommates (probably hiding in their teeny rooms) with no windows in her bedroom. But that hasn’t held her back for a minute – no homesickness for more space – since most of her time is spent outside anyway!

 

She has learned to navigate some of the most twisted streets, wandered through many barrios and squares, and usually all without a map. But to prevent from getting lost, she sticks to the streets she knows best and tends to ask many friendly people along the way– she always makes it to where she wants to go!

 

She has also embraced this city as both a tourist and a resident. As we often read in this blog, she works hard at teaching and spends time thinking of what she’ll do when returning to the States. However, there is more that consumes her daily life – she has a favorite supermarket, gelato stand, and traditions with friends (like trash it Sundays).  Simultaneously she has been exploring this city as a foreigner. She has traversed through numerous museums, city parks, seaside piers and yes, I even dragged her into a few churches. Her knowledge of the city has grown and so has her fondness for it.

 

I’m being rushed since her beloved Messi is going to take center stage in an hour, but I promise to add more tomorrow, as well as photos. Part two will be filled with lots of sightseeing details!   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem

March 20, 2009

Yes, yes, yet another song reference, this one from Kenny Chesney, but I had to do it. Not to worry George, my days of loving trucks and country music are still long gone (not that there is anything wrong with loving those things), but Kenny’s song title is appropriate for me to use in this context. So now that I hopefully grabbed your attention, I thought I would write about all the nudity I see around this city. Far and away, it’s clear that Europe is a lot less conservative about nudity than in America.

The newstands don’t cover up any of the nude magazines, so it’s very common to see naked women on the covers in plain view from the street. Not to mention that male magazines like FHM actually put naked women on the covers too, as opposed to America’s versions, where there are women in bikinis or covered up. I have yet to see any naked men on covers, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing!

Also, I was watching the news the other day and the reporter did a live report in a sex shop. Nothing was blurred or covered up, in fact, it was the opposite as the camera highlighted all the items the store offered. I was blown away by that one, especially in light of the fact that America stations would not film in a sex shop, on a local channel, in the middle of the day. No way, no how.

I also heard there are a lot of nude beaches here and while there are nude beaches in America of course, I think it’s more common to take it all off in the sun and the sand here. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), I can’t comment on this one yet, but I can’t say I’m not looking forward to checking it out! But don’t expect too many photos from that adventure 🙂 For obvious reasons…but will I be joining them you may wonder? Well, Hoolia has gone Europe, but not THAT Europe. However, stranger things have happened.

Even mannequins in store windows are naked, which of course is no big deal, even if they are anatomically correct.  Also, lately, I have seen little kids dropping their pants and peeing in the middle of plazas. Sure, a little kid is a little kid, but pee is also pee! Regardless, it’s interesting to see Europe’s liberal approach in this regard compared to America and I will look forward to giving an update as summer approaches! I wonder what Meemers will think…in only a few hours, she will see too!


A Promise is a Promise

March 18, 2009

And I made a promise to my friend Meemers that she would get a blog post specifically devoted to her if she visits me in Spain. Low and behold, she is coming on Friday and before she begins her journey, I wanted to make sure she knows I’m a woman of my word! Subsequently, she needs to be a woman of her word and bring me granola bars 🙂

Our friendship started as Julie and Michelle out in San Francisco, both working in the entertainment movie business. From playing Edward Forty Hands to road tripping up to Oregon to nights out at Lions Pub to many philosophical conversations, I was quite sad to see her leave for Boston some years back. But, the friendship progressed to Hoolia and Meemers, where we both worked in consumer technology and now, the names are the same, but the friendship is even better.

She has never been to Spain and the fact that she is making Barcelona her second European trip already this year is very special. And to think, her only request is to see the Picasso Museum. Done and done. No problema on that one. I’m excited to show her more of the city of course and though her visit will be short, I know we will absolutely make the most of our time together. By the end, we will have officially been in three states together (California, Oregon and Massachusetts) and one fabulous country (Spain). So a toast to Meemers for making the effort to travel across the Atlantic and a second toast to what will be a fabulous girly weekend in Barcelona!

 Here is us at her wedding last May…

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