Eight Was So Great…

June 29, 2009

Here, ladies and gentleman, you have THB’s first ever intentional rhyme! You may think I could have come up with something better than “eight was so great,” but I think it gets the message across simply and clearly. Yes indeed, 8 months have come and gone and the count continues. Enjoy the recap!

1. Is it hot in here, or is it just me?! Man o man, Barcelona is sure hot in the summer and I have taken advantage of all the heat has to offer! I will proudly admit that I am probably the tannest I have been in a long time, thanks to all the many trips to the beach (yes, topless) and just being outside so often.

2. Wendz, one of my dearest friends from home, journeyed to Barcelona to ring in my coming of age and we sure had a great time! Scott ventured to this side of the world as well and I gave serious thought to starting a “Hoolia Tours” business in Barcelona. I think I definitely have the experience now and I’m sure I could find a way to add some extra pizazz to the tour ūüôā

3. I happily moved apartments/pisos/flats and I’ve gotta say, never underestimate the power of having a window in your room. It’s the small things in life, clearly, but waking up to the sun every morning instead of a black hole has added years to my life. Not to mention having air conditioning, storage space, a terrace and more…

4. Announcement: I’m going to be the next Janis Joplin. Ok, ok, maybe not, but no harm in shooting for the stars. I am 3 weeks into my guitar career and I am enjoying it the more I learn. While the scales aren’t the most fun, playing chords that actually have some sort of nice sound is pretty cool! With my teacher Kieran and my guitar “jamming” buddy Rohan, I’m all set for now.

5. The kids classes are a thing of the past, but they ended on a high note, with the majority asking I return to teach them in September and a couple even acing their final English tests. And with the kids enjoying summer break, I have about 15 hours of teaching, just adults, in July and I’ve gotta admit, that’s not too shabby all things considered.

All in all, I can say with certainty that time is going just at the right pace. Nothing seems like it has flown by, but nothing seems all that slow either (well, except for Spaniards in general). Now month nine is lookin’ oh so fine…

Wendz and I walking along the beach in Sitges

Wendz and I walking along the beach in Sitges

All my friends celebrating my birthday

All my friends celebrating my birthday

Scott taking a walk on the plank :)

Scott taking a walk on the plank ūüôā

Rohan with our two guitars, awww

Rohan with our two guitars, awww


More Than a Game

June 26, 2009

A few nights ago, my two countries went face to face and I had the pleasure of watching. When I heard the USA soccer team was going to play against Spain, I made sure I had front row seats. However, since the game was played in South Africa, I settled for front row seats on the couch, but I had a good view nevertheless:)

When my friend Mike emailed me and asked who I was going to support, it was a tough question to answer. Now, I’m not going to go all corny and emotional on you (well, maybe a little), but I was a bit torn. For starters, I knew the majority of the Spanish players, especially since there were 4 just from Barca, but I didn’t know a single USA player. Point to Spain, though in all fairness, I wasn’t interested in soccer before I left.¬† As the game progressed and the USA scored the first goal, I was genuinely excited. Maybe it’s because they were massive underdogs or maybe because deep down I wanted them to win, but I felt that emotion was quite telling of who I was really supporting. And when the USA scored a second goal and clinched the game, I was pretty happy about it.

Regardless of who won though, I had a strange mix of emotions as I watched Spanish players face off one to one with USA players. There they were, up close and personal, fighting for the ball and here I was, watching the game in Barcelona, listening to Spanish commentators, but speaking English in my American accent to my British¬†friends. It was an interesting dichotomy that to me represented more than¬†merely a game of soccer. It was more personal to me, or so I made it¬†out to be, but I couldn’t help but think of the two competing teams as parallel in some way to the two cultures/lives I feel I now represent. Awww…

One of many one to one face offs

One of many one to one face offs


I Survived!

June 24, 2009

I know you didn’t know I had anything to specifically survive from, but I did. And while I had my doubts, I can safely say, no pun intended, that I survived my first St. Juan celebration in Barcelona, but it wasn’t easy.

First, for some brief background. In Spain, St. Juan night is celebrated on June 23, or the night of the summer solstice, with bonfires, fireworks, dances and celebrations out on the streets. The three symbols, fire, water and herbs, each have meaning that refers to a historical legend. Today is the actual St. Juan day and yet another holiday in the country. Every time I turn a corner lately there is some holiday where everything shuts down!

Last night, around 10pm, my friends and I started to hear all the fireworks in the streets, mostly just the ones that make noise, like sparklers or little rockets. As bad an analogy as it is, it felt like the city was under attack with bombs, with non-stop noise and threats. I’ve gotta be honest, I definitely clinged to my friends a lot through the night! We enjoyed all the celebrations in my neighborhood, Gracia, then made our way down to the beach, where everyone was lighting fireworks, enjoying bonfires and even swimming (not to mention throwing the sparklers at each other)! But that’s not where the real drama happened…

You may remember when my parents were here, my dad won the battle against the pickpocketer on the metro. When my friends and I entered the metro last night, one guy was pushing and shoving me a little, cussing at me in Spanish. He followed my group down the platform, but I didn’t think anything of it until we entered the metro car and I saw my friend Joe, who is 6’3″ and not a small guy, holding the¬†car doors open with his hands and saying, “Ok, which of you f*&^%$# took my wallet?!” Turns out it was the same guy who harassed me a bit and while his partner quickly made a run for it under Joe’s arms,¬† Joe literally tossed the other guy out of the metro car, nearly breaking his head in. Joe reacted quickly, just like my dad, but man o man, I’ve had enough of these situations. They scare me!

In my hurry to get the night going, I forgot my camera, so no pics, sorry, but my friends have them and I will add when I can!


The sweet taste of…

June 22, 2009

Success? Well, that would be nice, but since I’m no expert on the subject, yet, I think I’ll talk about fruit instead. Back during ancient days (February really but time is strange here), I talked about the fresh market in La Rambla. ¬†Now, with summer, there is¬†a whole new batch of fresh fruit and I couldn’t be happier.

Unlike in the US, there is essentially a farmer’s market here everyday of the year. Whether it’s specific stands or actual stores that only have fruits and vegetables, I give the produce here a big thumbs up. On my way home from teaching the other day, I stopped at one of the fruit stores because I felt like cherries. After getting a bag full of cherries, I also saw some mini pears I thought I would try, so I got a bag full of those. I couldn’t possibly leave without getting the peaches, so I added some to the mix. And, the total? 1.47 euros!! Seriously, they couldn’t give away fruit cheaper than that!

From papayas to mangos to watermelon, tis the season to enjoy some fruit and believe me, I most certainly have and most certainly will. Plus, there is a lot of fruit juice being sold all over the city, fresh of course, and I can’t help but take advantage of that as well. The strawberry juice I tried, well, de puta madre!

One of many

One of many


My First Book

June 19, 2009

For¬†my birthday a few weeks ago, I got my first book. But not just any book,¬†my first¬†book in Spanish! As I mentioned in the 6 month¬†recap, I am slowly earning the award for the person who has learned Spanish the longest and who has yet to become fluent. So, I’m trying to make every effort I can, well, to a certain extent, to immerse myself in the language as much as possible. One would think that living in Spain is immersion enough, but that’s where one would think wrong!

I teach English all week, 75% of my friends are native English speakers and the others who speak Spanish¬†love to practice English. So it’s almost all English, all the time. But that’s why receiving this book as a gift was great because it’s an additional way to learn the language, not just through conversation (which I think¬†requires the least effort; I could talk to a fly on the wall for 20 minutes). And, always one to take on challeges, when one of my Spanish¬†friends said that if I can read the book, I can say I speak Spanish, I thought, “Game on.” Though¬†I feel I can say that I speak Spanish¬†now, I guess he does have a point.

I am off to a slow start, but a start nonetheless. It takes me about 5 minutes to read¬†a single page and I can’t have any distractions or I’ll lose concentration. For example, at the beach the other day when all the vendors were walking around asking if we wanted either a massage or “cerveza, Coca Cola or agua,” I got annoyed/distracted. All in all, though sometimes I don’t know which person is being referred to and it’s difficult to capture all the details, I am at least trying and trying is half the battle, right? Plus, I’m making notes in the margins so I can look back in case I need to reference anything. Hopefully it won’t be TOO long before I do a follow up post saying I finished it. Wishful thinking possibly…

This is the book:

Larsson


SF to Amsterdam to Barcelona to Africa

June 18, 2009

Here you have the route that my friend Scott has started to take, beginning his journey yesterday. You will notice that Barcelona is nestled into his vacation, which means, I get another visitor! More so, I get to say hi to my buddies in Terminal A at the airport ūüôā

While everyone has made a considerable effort to come visit me and I appreciate all the efforts, Scott has a layover in Amsterdam on his way to Africa and bought a ticket to Barcelona for literally 24 hours. Though our catch up will be short, it’s better to have one than none at all.

Scott and I met shortly before I went to Barcelona. We were neighbors in the Marina and knowing I was soon Barcelona-bound, we took advantage of visiting the local dive bars like The Final Final or enjoying events like Fleet Week from my much missed deck (oh how I will always remember you, deck). I was even able to carve a pumpkin and not actually miss all of Halloween thanks to the party he had the week before. He was a nice friend, helping me through my move with great words of wisdom and encouragement.

For his 30th birthday, he is going to Africa to climb Mt. Kiliminjaro and go on the safari I have always dreamed of taking. I guess there’s nothing like knocking out 2 continents in one fell swoop and I’m glad Europe is one of them.¬†I think he will see that¬†even though he is only getting a¬†small glimpse, my life here is a 180 from my life in SF! Welcome!

068


Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World

June 16, 2009

Cause that is what I have started to do and let me tell ya, I can’t be stopped! A month ago, I wrote about my interest in taking guitar lessons¬†and the first lesson is officially under my belt.

When I heard the doorbell ring and could see my instructor, Kieran, via the video, I couldn’t help but giggle a little.¬†When he got off the elevator with his fancy guitar, it took all the energy in the world not to completely lose it. Remember, music and I don’t go together, so seeing him live and in action, ready to teach ME, was quite funny. Little does he know what he got himself into…

Wasting no time, we immediately got into scales. In other words, the basics of the basic, though I didn’t even know what scales were! Apparently, they are like the “do re me ra fa so la….” of the guitar, if that makes any sense. Bit by bit, we worked on scales and believe it or not, I got a “good job” at least a few times! And, if I can play the scales I learned with a rhythm, which is actually asking a lot considering the person, it¬†will sound¬†like the beginning of the song “My Girl.” I also learned there is a number that belongs to each finger, “frets,” string numbers, etc.

The hour lesson flew by (part due to my silly commments throughout) and with destroyed fingertip nerves already, I think guitar could possibly be my thing.¬† Note, I put possibly in italics on purpose! While I won’t ever reach a great level or anything (I’m just being realistic), I hope to just reach a level where I can play songs that sound decent and don’t hurt people’s ears. Just give me 6 months and I’ll be taking requests! Ultimately though, the most important part¬† of a hobby is to enjoy it and so far, so good.¬†¬†

My friend's guitar and the scales I have to practice

My friend's guitar and the scales I have to practice