Hace Diez Meses (10 Months Ago)…

August 29, 2009

I arrived in Barcelona on a rainy, cold October day. Now, I am writing yet another one of my monthly recaps. I’m a veteran at this point, ha!

At the end of my 9 month recap, I foreshadowed what was going to make month 10 one to remember. And sure enough, two island vacations later and more or less a month break from classes, I can say with certainty that it has indeed been a great one. August absolutely flew by and it now seems the month markers are coming quicker and quicker.

1. Menorca definitely lived up to its reputation. I think it’s by far the best of the Balearic Islands. With crystal clear waters, amazing little beaches, fun adventure sports and an overall mellow vibe, Menorca was truly a trip to remember.

2. I had never spent one night on a sailboat, let alone 5, but that I did in Ibiza and really enjoyed it. For the first time in years, I didn’t look at my watch because I wasn’t on a schedule. I also didn’t have any access to Internet and surprisingly, didn’t miss it one bit.

3. I can very proudly say that after some power reading this month, I have finished my first ever Spanish book. 2.5 months after starting it, I officially read and seemingly understood 670 pages! Then, I saw the movie, which was in Swedish, but with Spanish subtitles. So, even more reading!

4. I’m coming home! I will be visiting the homeland for the first time in over a year from November 20 through January 4. I still have more adventures to be had in these neck of the woods next year, but I’m looking forward to some good, quality time with friends and family. Mark your calendars!

5. Movie month. Before this month, I had probably seen maybe 3 movies in the theatre since I had been in Barcelona, but I trumped that record and I have seen 4 in August alone! First, I saw Bruno, then Up, then The Hangover and last, Los Hombres Que No Amaban a Las Mujeres. I know all these movies besides the last one were in the US theatres months ago, but better to come here late than never, except in the case of Bruno, which wasn’t funny 🙂

And with that, I best be on my way to see what #11 will bring. Ciao!

The pier in Fornells, Menorca

The pier in Fornells, Menorca

Heading to Calle Pegonda in Menorca

Heading to Calle Pegonda in Menorca

"Body Skiing" in Ibiza

"Body Skiing" in Ibiza

The 3 "Barcelonians" from the Ibiza trip, Hoolia, David and Jos

The 3 "Barcelonians" from the Ibiza trip, Hoolia, David and Jos


Happy Birthday, The Hoolia Blog!

August 27, 2009

It was a year ago tomorrow that THB was born and one year later, I never would have guessed that life here would turn out the way it has. As much as I was prepared, there really is no preparing for such a big life change, but that’s a good thing. If I knew exactly what would have happened and there was no element of surprise/adventure, the experience wouldn’t have been nearly as rewarding as it has been.

After reading back to my posts before I embarked on this journey, I couldn’t help but notice how I was so full of questions, so full of wonder and I really had the slightest idea about what was ahead. It’s funny to read about my plan B in case teaching didn’t work out, about leaving my apartment and the hopes of finding a nice one here, the goodbyes, the specific things I would miss like TV programs, Hunter, Thanksgiving, my grandma/family, football, etc. And even more, it’s interesting for me to re-read the posts once the journey began and see how things developed from that initial point.

201 posts and a bit of reflection later, I’m looking out the window at signs that are in Catalan, listening to chatter in some language I don’t recognize and admiring the Spanish architecture of the buildings that surround. One year ago, before I wrote my first post about leaving in two months to the day, I remember being in my SF apartment, looking at the Golden Gate Bridge, knowing that I was beginning to chronicle something that was going to be really impactful on me. And I was right.

Thank you sincerely to all those who have been interested in reading the blog and following my journey/observations. I hope you have enjoyed the year of posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them!

birthday-cake

taxis


Lessons Learned on a Boat

August 25, 2009

Spending 5 full days on a sailboat lends itself to some important life lessons. And having just returned from the trip, still feeling like the world is moving a bit, I thought of no better forum to share the 6 life lessons than on THB.

Lesson #1: There is no such thing as too much sunscreen. Fact. When David, Jos and I went through security on our way to Ibiza, there were about 5 bottles of sunscreen on the table outside from former offenders who didn’t remember the liquid rules. However, David and Jos, also realizing the importance of sunscreen, secretly put all the bottles in their beg and went through security like a breeze.

Lesson #2: Fish like pizza, we like fish. We tried fishing for several days using bread, but we didn’t have much luck. We tried to throw other food to the fish, like Doritos and crackers, but still, no bite (pun intended). In the end, we found the trick and threw pieces of pizza in the sea. We caught 7 fish, one for each person on the boat and cooked them for dinner, head, tail and all. The fish were hungry and so were we…

Lesson #3: The sea is not just a sea. I realized the first day that the sea is also one big toilet, as well as a shower. Though we had fresh water on the boat, we sometimes shampooed and soaped in the ocean. And with boys being boys, it was quite easy for them to go to the bathroom off the side of the boat and they sure seemed to enjoy it!

Lesson #4: Appetites on a boat multiply to the 7th degree. The first morning, some of the group took the little zodiac to the supermarket to buy food for the trip. After each putting in 50 euros, they came back with everything from crackers, cookies, chips, pizza, pasta, sodas, water and of course, alcohol. However, after the first day alone, we made a huge dent in the food supply, eating everything as if we were vultures who just stumbled upon their pray.

Lesson #5: I can actually think in Spanish. I was the only native English speaker on the boat and that meant I had to live and breathe Spanish the whole time. While it can be frustrating because I don’t understand a lot of the conversations, it can also be rewarding, especially when I would randomly find myself thinking in Spanish.

Lesson #6: Doing nothing is great. In today’s world, everyone is on the go, go, go. Well, that wasn’t possible on the boat simply because where would you go? We snorkeled and swam, but spent a lot of time on the boat doing nothing, sometimes talking, sometimes napping, sometimes reading and sometimes just staring into space. And ya know what? It really wasn’t so bad!

Beyond all the life lessons, we also enjoyed a mud bath in a natural reserve, a walk and night in the city of Ibiza, mojitos on the shore of a cala and more. Good times indeed!

The first trip to the supermarket

The first trip to the supermarket

Doing nothing other than enjoying the sunset

Doing nothing other than enjoying the sunset

Walking around Ibiza

Walking around Ibiza

Fishing!

Fishing!

Everyone at dinner before heading "home"

Everyone at dinner before heading "home"


Ibiza, Here I Come!

August 19, 2009

Yet another vacation is on the horizon and this one has a bit of flare. Tonight I take off…

When most people think of Ibiza, they think of the clubs, partying and the beaches. I have that perception too and I’m sure I’ll be exploring all those areas, but instead of doing just that, I will be living and breathing on a sailboat with 5 other Spaniards for 5 days! I’m getting seasick just at the thought of it 🙂 Ok, not really, but I’m excited for a different kind of vacation and a new adventure that will undoubtedly bring a lot of memories, for better or worse, ha!

Here’s what I know: the boat is a sailboat about 42 feet, it has 4 sleeping rooms, no electrical outlets, a captain and a small zodiac boat that trails behind. There will be two boys and a girl on the boat who live in Madrid, as well as two boys and a girl (me) who live in Barcelona. We cook pasta and make sandwiches as our main meals and we tour around both Ibiza and Formentera (one of the Balearic Islands with a great reputation for its scenery and beaches), stopping to snorkel and maybe go to the beaches. When we occasionally go on land, it will still feel like we are on the ocean and after the trip when we get home, a normal bed feels like it moves. But, best of all, I know I will be maintaining my tan, I will be nurturing my snorkeling obsession, I will be improving my Spanish and I will be seeing more Spanish islands. Oh yeah, and stars!

Needless to say, I’ll be off the radar for one week, without much access to anything. But being disconnected completely is a small price to pay for what will surely be another great vacation.

Similar to what the boat will look like

Similar to what the boat will look like

MAP_Ibiza_Formentera


Rock, Rock, Rockin’ Gracia

August 17, 2009

I had no idea my neighborhood knew how to party, but as a firsthand witness, I can say that it sure does! Saturday kicked off the Gracia Festival, a week-long party full of music, dancing, food and decorated streets. My area has literally transformed and I have been soaking it all in, little by little.

Much to my pleasant surprise, the festival started the day after I returned from Menorca. Right before walking into my door from the airport, I saw a mini carnival a few streets away with attractions, bright lights and screaming kids. The next night, which was the official start to the festival, my friends and I walked through Japan, through space, through a train and even through a web of monsters and aliens. Wait, huh?!? Yep, a lot of the streets are full of themed decorations and accompanying activities. What went from a relatively quiet neighborhood turned into a zone with thousands of people walking around, enjoying live music on every decorated street and of course, boozing! It’s hard not to get down and boogey!

Apparently, each neighborhood has their own festival, but Gracia is known to be one of the better ones, if not the best. Each festival takes a year of planning/preparing and all the cool streets are an obvious result of the hard work. It’s funny though, I think sometimes I live here with my head in the sand because I never know about festivals or holidays until they happen, but I sure do enjoy them!

The "Fairy Tale" Street

The "Fairy Tale" Street

Does anyone have the time?

Does anyone have the time?

The "Everything Fragile" Street (my favorite)

The "Everything Fragile" Street (my favorite)

A plastic woman at the end of the "Space" street

A plastic woman at the end of the "Space" street


A Little of This, A Little of That

August 15, 2009

The cardinal rule about vacations is that they always go by so fast. And 4 days in Menorca were no exception to this rule. Wow, how vacation time flies!

Instead of boring you with the details of what I did each day, I’ll give you an overall recap of my takeaways from the trip. After all, I’m quite the fan of lists!

1. Ya have to work to enjoy the beach, literally. There weren’t very many calas (small beaches) where you could get to very easily. On average, I walked 20-30 minutes to plop myself on the beach and relax the day away. But they were incredibly gorgeous and with crystal clear blue waters, it was hands down worth the effort.

2. My new obsession is snorkeling. It’s quite a simple invention if you think about it, but one that goes a hek of a long way. I felt I could snorkel for hours, looking at the sea bottom and enjoying the fish. There weren’t all that many interesting fish, but it was fun to see them in their natural environment.

3. When I wrote in my 9 month recap that I think my tan had peaked, I was wrong. I got a hek of a lot tanner after 4 full days in the sun and the best part of all is that I hardly have any tan lines! I hope I don’t have to spell that one out and you can infer on your own why that would be true 🙂

4. I never knew I was such an ocean adventure type of chica. Before moving to Spain, I squealed at the thought of going in the ocean and being touched by a fish. Or worse, being stung by a jellyfish. After kayaking and zodiac boating in Menorca, mixed with snorkeling, I have discovered a new interest in the sea and activities that involve being in the ocean. It was surreal at one point to think of a small town girl literally in the middle of the Mediterranean feeling free as a bird.

5. And last, I definitely think the island culture is for me. Surprise, surprise, huh? I know, who is it not for, but I love the relaxed attitude, the slow pace and the overall friendly nature. While Menorca is not a tropical island with palm trees or many flowers, it has its own charm and I will look back at this trip with fond memories.

So bye for now Menorca. Hope to see you again soon!

Kayaking on the southern coast (Cala Porter)

Kayaking on the southern coast (Cala Porter)

About to watch the sunset at Punta Nati (north west tip)

About to watch the sunset at Punta Nati (north west tip)

And what a sunset it was!

And what a sunset it was!

Jos and I almost falling off the zodiac before it left the harbor!

Jos and I almost falling off the zodiac before it left the harbor!

Captain Hoolia!

Captain Hoolia!


Menorca, Baby, Menorca!

August 10, 2009

I am excited to say that tomorrow, at the crack of dawn, I will be embarking on my first island vacation in Spain. Menorca, part of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain, is awaiting my arrival and let me tell ya, I will be anxious to introduce myself!

Though I have managed to stay relatively busy, 10 days into August, it’s clear the month is really slow. Half the businesses are closed for vacation, the majority of the people outside are obviously tourists and it feels like a perfect time to enjoy some more fun in the sun.

I don’t have anything specific planned, but going to an island that almost has more beaches than Ibiza and Mallorca combined leads me to believe I will be furthering my beach bum status (hopefully with snorkel and fins in hand). Also, unknowns to me since 10 minutes ago, mayonnaise was invented in Menorca in 1756 and is still a proud tradition on the island, so I’m sure I’ll be helping myself here and there. Like Mr. Felson, I’m not the biggest fan of mayonnaise, but I think Menorca is an appropriate place to make an exception. Beyond mayonnaise-eating, maybe I’ll also check out the second largest natural harbor in the world or catch a sun rise, considering Menorca is the first place in Spain to see the sun rise. Seems the possibilities are endless 🙂

And sadly, THB is taking its longest break to date. More to come on Saturday!

 

I am staying close to Ciutadella (north west)

I am staying close to Ciutadella (north west)

One of the many crystal clear beaches

One of the many crystal clear beaches