4 Months Come and Gone

March 2, 2009

Wow, it’s hard to believe I’m now doing a 4 month recap! It seems like just yesterday I was working on the 3 month and the 2 month and…

Overall, life has treated me pretty well in Spain and I would like to thank my lucky stars. I have felt more and more fortunate lately to be having this type of experience, this type of freedom and this type of opportunity. I’m trying to really make the best out of it, though in reality, there is not much effort needed. It’s quite easy to enjoy Barcelona life!

1. My Spanish understanding has improved, thank goodness. In fact, as odd a compliment as it may be, a parent told me how well I can understand. That means a lot to me. Understanding is still my weak spot, but I have spotted a big difference between month 3 and 4. I have even been able to understand bits and pieces of conversation when eavesdropping in passing, so that’s been great. BUT, it definitely comes and goes. Some days I’m unstoppable, other days I wonder what Spanish I have picked up at all.

2. I miss home, but I am having less and less cravings for certain American foods and snacks. That’s good cause I’m not getting them! Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m sure my visitors will be more than happy to bring me a few of my indulgences, like Nerds and granola bars, which in fact my parents did 🙂

3. I have expanded my group of friends and have met some great people who I really enjoy hanging out with on a regular basis.

4. I’ve gone skiing, gone to Carnaval, had some visitors and had some fantastic weekends in Barcelona. While everything isn’t always so hunky dory, since I am only human after all, I think it’s good to have had some punches thrown at me.

5. I’m getting more and more into my teaching groove, though that doesn’t come without challenges. Teaching kids who speak zero English is an uphill battle, but if I climb that hill, it will be all that much more rewarding.

6. And last, I no longer carry my Spanish dictionary around with me. I am confident that I can communicate whatever I want with simply describing the word, even if I don’t know the word itself.

Let’s hope month 5 is equally as good!

Some highlights from this month that include skiing, carnaval and random nights out with friends…

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First Run In With the Police

February 27, 2009

Don’t let the title of this post scare you, but as I sit here at 3:30 a.m. too wound up to go back to sleep, I figured what better thing to do than let my readers know about my first run in with la policia.

After hearing a loud domestic dispute in one of the apartments above me and sitting in my bed a bit scared listening to it, I heard my roomie get up. We both opened our doors, but low and behold, the electricity had gone out, which was weird timing. We both searched for candles and since I have so many around my room, it was pretty easy to find one. BUT, when I lit one of the candles, I also lit my finger. Man, when am I going to learn?! It is very clear that candles and I do not mix, as evident from my earlier escapades here both lighting my lamp and hair on fire accidentally!

The fight continued as my roomie and I stood in our entrance (I definitely recognized the swear word “puda” being repeated), of course speaking Spanish. That moment and this incident seemed to be the true test of my Spanish progress. At 2:30 a.m., tired and half awake, I was able to communicate and understand my roomie completely. Anyway, we decided to call the police and just like everyone else who is not in a hurry in this country, the police weren’t either. 10 minutes or so later, which I think is a bit long given it was an “emergency,” they arrived. And here I was, thinking it was going to be a big ordeal, my roomie and I would be witnesses to a big crime and I would be caught living here without a visa. Well, my mind fortunately got the best of me and the police actually looked at us like we were crazy for calling them. However, as a precaution, they banged on the doors above, but no one answered and off went the police and their guns. The only redeeming part of the incident was a cute cop, but clearly, that was not the time or place to be exchanging winks 🙂 It’s interesting though how three officers came to handle this situation. It reminded me of growing up in my small town, where when someone jay-walked, three police would go to the scene (of course I’m exaggerating, but probably not by a lot).

So off to sleep I go, round two, hoping to try to sneak in three hours more before I have to wake up. As my finger throbs from the burn and I sit in the dark, I can definitely add this one to the books! Let’s hope this is the first and the last run in with the Spanish police…

The car that came to save the day:

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Welcome S Squared, Welcome

February 26, 2009

As I write, my parents (Suzy and Steve, thus the title of this post) are almost en route to Bar-the-lona. And let me tell ya, I’m quite excited! They will be here for 8 days, getting a flavor for what this great city and area is all about. I have full intentions to show them a fantastic time and I can only hope a fantastic time is what they will have. Or should I say, faaannntaasstic (note this past blog post for the inside joke that is really not all that funny, if you want). 

As of now, I will likely not be home before October at the earliest, though of course anything can happen to change my “plan.” Plan being in quotes because I don’t actually have a plan, rather, just a rough idea. Anyway, given this rough idea,  I will only see them for 8 days in the course of one year, which is a new record. I think the longest I have ever gone without seeing them has been up until now, so, you may have guessed it, about 4 months.

S squared have been all around the world, but never to Barcelona. So not only will they get to see a new region of the planet, but they will get to see what all the hype is about, beacause there sure is a lot! However, I have to agree with all the good things people say about this city, though of course I’m a bit bias. But a little bias never hurt anyone 🙂

We have a jammed pack week planned, on top of me working. I prefer to have a week off, but life here doesn’t come cheap, that’s for sure and someone has to bring home the bacon. Regardless, we are going to take a few day trips, check out all the tourist sites of Barcelona, eat some nice meals, drink some better wine and just enjoy being abroad together. So happy trails to my parents as they begin their 14+ hour journey to my neck of the woods.

Here is the lovely couple:

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Mwah!

February 24, 2009

In the past, I have written both about the double kiss here in Europe, as well as all the kissing that happens in public. Both are still very common (almost to the point of me yelling at people to get a room), but what else is common is just the general “beso” or kiss that Spaniards send in emails, texts, etc. In some ways, I have never felt so loved in my life.  With every email, text message or end to a conversation, the most common ending is “besos.” Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get “muchos besos” or even “besitos,” then the occasional “kisses” when a Spaniard is practicing English. Add the fact that everyone also says “guapa” (pretty) in the same forms, I often can’t help but feel the love, even if it’s not really love at all:) For example, I was in the candy store the other day, surprise surprise, and the woman at the counter greeted me with, “Hola, guapa.” She obviously wasn’t hitting on me, but I thought it was a nice way to greet someone nonetheless. A few parents of the kids I teach do the same and if they are hitting on me, well, that’s a WHOLE other situation.

I have tried to bring some nice English endings to this culture, such as “XOXO” or “Mwah” (this one is my own slang) but really, the Spanish endings take the cake. They are much better than common English expressions like “take care,” “bye” “be well,” etc. And hey, no matter how many times someone says that Spaniards give besos to everyone as endings or call everyone guapa, I still can’t help but smile when I see/hear it too!

Besos,

Hoolia


The Craziness That Is Carnaval

February 22, 2009

It’s not everyday that something as crazy as Carnaval rolls around the corner, but given it’s that time of year, I felt obliged to check it out. When in Spain…

For some quick history, which is news to me as well,  Carnaval is an explosion of color, music and celebration which takes place just before Lent. Its origins are owed to the pagan festivals which were held by the Romans to celebrate the end of the harsh winter and welcome in the Spring. And blah blah blah. Whatever the history, I’m sure glad it exists!

About 9 years ago, I celebrated Carnaval on the southern coast of Spain, in Cadiz. This year, I celebrated on the north eastern coast in Sitges, a quaint little town with a posh reputation. I dressed as a devil this year (please hold the “you little devil you” jokes) and began the night with a ride on the metro so that I could meet my friend who was driving. I literally found myself laughing out loud at the ridiculousness of how I looked and the subsequent stares I got when no one else around me was dressed up. It was too early to be in costume! Anyway, we made it to Sitges around 8:30 and immediately joined the fiesta in the streets, did random toasts with other people in costume, ate dinner at a fun restaurant, danced right on the beach for a while, then continued to dance all the way back to the car. We saw all types of costumes, from bees to mummies to who the hek knows. Despite being pulled over by the Catalan police for a routine breathlizer test that the driver took and then stopping in Gava to drop off Mark, overall the night was a great memory, a great time and another one for the record books 🙂

A few pics below…

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So Fresh and So Clean, Clean

February 20, 2009

A few days ago, I walked into what I considered to be a winter wonderland of fruit, veggies, seafood, meat and overall amazingness. I was in Hoolia heaven, if such a thing exists. I have bumped into a lot of things here, some not so great, like the spit and the poop, but this market made my jaw drop. Let me explain.

Abi and I were walking down La Rambla a few days ago, which is the big tourist area of Barcelona. In fact, they sell live animals on that strip, so if anyone comes for a visit and is in the market for a rabbit/turtle/snake/hamster, La Rambla is your one-stop-shop. We were in a bit of a hurry, but Abi asked if we could stop in the market and so we did. That’s when I gasped at everything I saw around me. The first thing I saw was rows of candy and dried fruit. For those who know me well, candy and dried fruit are probably two of my favorite things (at least in my top five). I immediately picked a few pieces of candy and when the man said 4 euros for a tiny bit, I ended up putting some back. I am living on a part time teacher’s wage after all!

We continued to walk around before we got disgusted by all the blood and guts of the animals we saw, mostly dead, but some still moving, waiting to be bought (or killed for that matter)! The stench became pretty unbearable and after many “ewwwsss,” we stopped at one of the many fresh fruit stands to get a fresh papaya juice and a pineapple/coconut juice. Yum. That last stop helped erase the memory of the pig snouts, the hairy pig ears, the intestines and the slimy shrimps that were moving, among much more.

I have seen other markets around Barcelona with a similar feel, but needless to say, I was very impressed with this one in particular. The bad thing is the tourist prices, but the good thing is how everything is as fresh as it gets. Assuming I put my cooking into high gear anytime soon,  which is now just an assumption of course, I will be satisfied knowing that markets like these exist to add that much more “umph” to my meal!

Here is a taste of my experience:

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The Brit and the Frenchie

February 18, 2009

This week is young, but I have already been able to see two out-of-town people who I care about a lot, Abi and Hubert.

Let’s begin with Hubert. He runs the popular technology website, Ubergizmo (www.ubergizmo.com), and I have known him for the past couple years through my former work in public relations. He’ll thank me for the blog plug later! Us bloggers gotta stick together 🙂 Anyway, he is in town for the mobile conference and he took me to lunch the other day, then we did a bit of sightseeing. It was so great to see a familiar face from home, talk about geeky subjects, reminsce about parties, and then debrief him on life here. I think I will be able to see him once more before he heads back to the homefront, which should be just dandy. And to clear up any confusion, he was raised in France, but has been living in America for the past 5 years, so he is still a Frenchie in my book.

Abi, my friend from England who I visited over the December holidays, has returned the favor and visited me in Barcelona. She’s a solid, solid person who is an unconditional friend. Even though we talk everyday on Skype, I have enjoyed the face-to-face catch up with her, even if she does fall asleep in the middle of my stories before bed (hehe). Ya know what, I can’t always blame her! It’s been rather nice having a built in buddy the last few days, someone to walk me to my classes, someone to give me good advice, etc. It will be sad to see her leave, but all good things must come to an end and back to Cambridge she goes.

I’m excited for more and more visitors because seeing Hubert and Abi has just been faaannntastic (my dad will appreciate the use of this word). Safe travels to them both and hasta pronto!

I forgot to bring my camera out with both Abi and Hubert, but here is Abi and I from an earlier adventure, with Mark.

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