11 Months Come and Gone: And Now a Big Announcement

October 4, 2009

And I’m back and I’m back with a “wow.” Wow, I have been living in Barcelona for 11 months. 11 months! Though 11 months of and within itself is exciting to me, the actual 11th month abroad wasn’t incredibly eventful, except for my family’s visit.  Have I said enough “11’s?!” As you know, what will accompany this recap is some big news that I bring to you with a bit of a bittersweet tone.

1. I started my teaching schedule again in the middle of September and I have built a schedule of about 20 hours! For a teacher here, especially a private one who travels to offices and homes, that’s a full schedule. The hours will fluctuate here and there, but overall, it’s not too shabby, not too shabby at all. And the best part? Neus is back! She is no stranger to THB and undoubtedly she will get at least one more post.

2. My fam’s visit was great. We saw everything, from a Barca game to a flamenco/opera concert to the Gaudi houses to parks and markets and more. We indeed made the most of our 6 days together, even fitting in daily siestas, true Spanish style. We ate, then ate some more, walked and walked some more and absorbed all there was to absorb. They are all back in the US safe and sound.

3. In August, I celebrated the Gracia festival. In my 11th month, I celebrated the Merce Festival, which is Barcelona’s annual party. People who were dressed as devils ran with fire, humans made towers that were at times 9 stories high, there were concert stages set up throughout the downtown area and there were parades, lots of parades. It was definitely not anything anyone would see in the US, that’s for sure!

And now, for the news…at the end of October, my one year anniversary in Barcelona, THB will officially be retiring 😦 I have enjoyed sharing my experiences, talking about my observations and documenting my life here. But, I think all good things must come to an end and the time feels right to turn the light out on the blog. It will certainly be strange to not log in every other day to write something, but I think I have captured what I have wanted to capture and shared what this experience has meant for me. Thanks to all that have followed the blog. It has meant a lot and hopefully my last posts will be going out with a bang!

My family in my living room

My family in my living room

My friends and I on the first night of Merce

My friends and I on the first night of Merce

The human towers!

The human towers!


Welcome and Welcome Back

September 25, 2009

It’s with very, very, very much excitement that I welcome S squared back to Barcelona and at the same time, welcome Jordi (George, my brother) and Constancia (Callie, my sister-in-law) here as well! They are just about to start the million hour journey to this neck of the woods and though the trip will be long, I will be waiting for them with bells on first thing tomorrow!

When Steve, aka my dad and also known to me as Esteve (his Catalan name), told me he was coming again, I was thrilled. I was the first to break the news to Suzy, aka my mom and also known to me as Susana (her Spanish name) and the conversation went something like this:

Hoolia: Mom, I have great news!

Susana: Oh, tell me, tell me…

Hoolia: You are coming to Barcelona again!

Susana: We are?!

She isn’t much of a traveler, as her reaction might have given away, but now that the trip is closer, I think she is more excited, or so I hope. And to add icing on the cake, my brother and his wife are joining my parents and I will see them for the first time in almost a year! And, the cherry on top of the icing is that we have tickets to Barca’s  first championship game of the season and Messi my love will be playing! Ok, ok, tranquilizate, I know.

It’s one thing to talk on email or even on Skype, but nothing replaces being together, live and in person, with your family. They will only be here for a short six days, but we’ll make the most of it, without a doubt, and enjoy being together. Aww, doesn’t that make your heart melt?

I wish them all a pleasant and safe journey in the friendly skies. See you soon!!

PS: THB will take another short break until my fam leaves, but the next post will be making a big announcement. Stay tuned!

S Squared and I

S Squared and I

And of course, Jordi, Constancia and I

And of course, Jordi, Constancia and I


Airport Reunions: How Sweet They Are!

September 23, 2009

In only a few days, I will be welcoming another round of visitors (don’t let the suspense kill ya). Until then, having recently met a local friend at the airport and having subsequently waited for over an hour, I couldn’t help but notice the “waiting scene” and all there is to it. Who would have guessed that one could observe so many different things while simply waiting at an airport?!

Observation #1:  As a whole, there are often more greeters per passenger, meaning, each passenger is greeted by two or more people. One man had four people waiting for him! Now that is some welcome, I’ve gotta say.

Observation #2: There are always an abundance of guys waiting for their girls with flowers. On the flip side, there are always a lot of girls dressed up as if they were going to a disco or out for a night on the town just to greet their guy. I often see them primpin’ themselves as another batch of passengers start to spill out.

Observation #3: A lot of people are simply bored while waiting. Be it flight delays or whatever, I see more people twiddling their thumbs, staring into space or reading the same airport signs over and over. I play cell phone games!

Observation #4: Whenever I see that my friend/visitor’s plane has landed, I get a surge of anxiousness. So much so that sometimes I want to share my excitement with a person who seems equally as excited. BUT, one time when I did just that and asked who the person next to me was waiting for, I was greeted by a strange look and a cold response. Lesson learned, geez louise.

Observation #5: Kids are always running around, often in the restricted area, clearly excited to see their parent. That parent tends to be their dad, usually walking outside on his cell phone, seemingly all business and no pleasure (until he sees his kid that is).

And as is normally the case when I make lists, I could go on and on and on, but I won’t. I will say though that though the airport is relatively far from where I live and a bit of a trek, the feeling of seeing someone I haven’t seen for some time, be it a week or months or years, is something that will never get old.

This has nothing to do with nothing, but they do hug like some people at the airport!

This has nothing to do with nothing, but they do hug like some people at the airport!


We Are the World, We Are the People…

September 21, 2009

These famous song lyrics were stuck in my head this weekend, but more specifically, at a BBQ on Saturday evening where 12, yes, 12 countries were represented! I know I have touched upon the subject in the past, especially commenting about my international group of friends, but I think having people from 12 countries at a single party was the peak (or at least it was mine). And of course it got me thinking once again about how my life in Spain and America are so different, so enjoy the thoughts 🙂

The birthday girls were from Guatemala and America and had friends from the following countries: Peru, Brazil, Romania, England, Ireland, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Portugal and Spain. When it came down to conversing, unless the people knew each other previously, everyone spoke English, which still impresses me. I know it’s the universal language and all, but to hear the crowd of accents and listen to people’s stories was pretty cool. And when it came down to singing happy birthday, everyone first sang in Spanish and it was then followed by English. Now, would that ever happen in America? Maybe, maybe even probably, but not at any of the parties I was used to going to.

One of many things this experience has afforded me is the opportunity to see the world more and meet people from all over the globe. At a party in San Francisco, though the city itself has a lot of international people, I would meet people from other states or other cities, but rarely from other countries. Needless to say, I have certainly broadened my horizons in that respect.

Barcelona is considered a transition city for foreigners, at least by some. People come here from all over, live for a few years or so and then move back home or to some new destination. Regardless, it’s really fascinating to hear why people are here, what they are doing, what their background is, etc. because it’s generally one that is completely different than mine. And different to me equals interesting and it’s always good to keep things interesting, right?

The girls at the BBQ

The girls at the BBQ

And the boys, with the birthday girls

And the boys, with the birthday girls


Old Habits Die Hard

September 18, 2009

Throughout the tenure of this blog, I have talked all about the ways I have adapted to Spanish culture and how I myself have changed. BUT, I think some things about me will just not change, no matter where I live. And now I’m thinking, that really ain’t such a bad thing!

The other day, I was watching the England soccer game with my British friends and I was learning all the ins and outs of the team, the players, the moves, etc. I enjoyed it, but really, I could also care less. Of course, I love Barca, but I didn’t grow up a professional soccer fan and so I can’t appreciate it like they do. Then we got into a discussion on sports in general and in addition to soccer, they love cricket and rugby. UCK. And, they think football and baseball are just so boring. But, I disagree, I like football and baseball and that is not going to change!

As much as I try to adapt to the European fashion style too, there are some things I just can’t part with, like my American jeans. As much as I try to eat the Spanish eggs, fried as they normally come, I like egg whites, what can I say? As much as I try to eat gelato as a replacement for frozen yogurt, it just doesn’t do the trick. As much as I try to understand why stores close for siesta, it constantly annoys me because that’s not what I’ve been accustomed to. As much as I think I should go to the discos here because that’s what Spaniards do, I just wasn’t born to boogey. As much as Spaniards tell me that dogs make a “wow wow” sound, to me, they say “woof woof.” As much as everyone here says “holiday” to mean “vacation,” I just say what it means 🙂 And I will never like seafood with its eyes and legs!!

And so the list goes on and on, but I’ve come to realize that just because I moved to Spain doesn’t mean that I have to give up all that makes up me and my culture. Corny, possibly, but it’s become an interesting thought for me as I’ve tried so hard to immerse myself into this Spanish life. And as the months go on, I hope I don’t lose my “americanism” because that’s just me!

My friend Adam's dog, ready to watch some football!

My friend Adam's dog, ready to watch some football!

I loved helping Adam and his crew with the fantasy football draft

I loved helping Adam and his crew with the fantasy football draft


Are We Afraid to Be Alone?

September 16, 2009

Ok, I admit it, I have been plowing through the Sex and the City series as of recent and the title of this post is definitely a Carrie Bradshaw question. But, as you might imagine, Carrie would ask this question in the context of men and relationships, but I’m simply just throwing out the question in general.

Last week, I walked down to the center of town to do some window shopping. It was in the middle of a Tuesday and since most of my friends were working or were away, I took an adventure on my own. I consider myself generally pretty independent, able to sit in a restaurant alone, able to shop alone, etc. but I noticed the opposite to be true on my little excursion. Maybe it was because I ventured into tourist land, but I rarely saw one person alone. Sure, it’s a lot more fun to do things with other people and share experiences, but if there is not another person, do the majority of people stay in?

The following day, I went to the beach for a few hours, taking advantage of the last few days of sunshine (or so it seems because of all the recent thunderstorms and rain). Again, I was alone and again, everyone else was not. I enjoyed it though, listening to my iPod, watching the people and getting a tan. I think other people would too if they just tried.

So in conclusion, I have found that being alone really isn’t so bad. Isn’t there an old saying that you should be your own best friend anyway? Who knows, I’m just saying…

Work it like they do!

Work it like they do!


Back to School!

September 14, 2009

Even though I’m an English teacher, lately, I’ve felt more like a student, back in school, with all the nerves and excitement that normally come along with a new year. Classes are officially back in session!

After all the Catalans take August off for vacation, they then don’t really get back into the swing of things until now, since September 11 was the National Catalonia Day and yet another holiday. And though I won’t be teaching many kids, they all go back to school today too, after three months off. Nice life, huh?

I’ve been to a co-op here to buy supplies, like folders, pens, crayons, clips, labels, etc. and I have been in organization heaven (or hell to some) for the past week. I even bought my own printer, which is also a copier and scanner, and have been scanning pages of books for hours on end. Fun, fun, fun! Between looking through materials and sorting out ideas, getting my schedule set into place and doing other prep work, I should be all set to begin again. And I’m starting with a bang, teaching three classes today, each 1.5 hours. And yes, a 4.5 hour work day is a substantial one in my new world.

In my time off, I really realized that doing nothing wasn’t all that bad, but I was getting bored. Sure, I had my hobbies and things to do, but I also was starting to feel a bit useless. I wanted to feel as if I was contributing to something, doing something worthwhile and so I’m anxious to get back to work!  I never thought I would be saying that 🙂

Me during the course...back in school!

Me during my CELTA course...back in school!