Barcelona Hoolia vs. San Francisco Hoolia

May 1, 2009

In the aftermath of writing about 6 months here, I have given some more thought to how much my life has changed in such a short amount of time, relatively speaking of course.  Below are the top 10 ways my life is different in Spain vs. in America, in no particular order.

1. I do not work even close to the 40 hour work week I used to work and let me tell, I love it. What’s there not to love?! The flexibility and the time I have during the day are two things I have never taken for granted.

2. I rarely go to sleep before midnight. In SF, I rarely went to sleep after 11pm! In other words, I went from a grandma to more of a night owl.

3. Instead of eating dinner between 6pm-7pm, I generally eat between 9pm-10pm here. I didn’t think I could do it, but low and behold, I did.

4. In SF, all my friends were American. Here, I have friends from England, France, Ireland, Spain, Australia and of course, my country tis a dee. It’s interesting all ya learn from such an international influence.

5. Shopping for designer clothes at boutique stores and paying way too much for a pair of jeans is a thing of the past. Finding nice, but more reasonably priced clothes are a thing of the now.

6. As Meemers referenced, my living quarters are quite different. No more big terrace, big apartment and big room. I now have a tiny, single bed in a room with no window, but more so, in a room so small I can practically, with my 5’3″ self, touch from wall to wall. Ok, an exaggeration, but it’s small!

7. I used to regularly watch American Idol, Grey’s Anatomy and other shows on the television. I have weaned myself off TV and went from a few times a week to now zero times. I do watch what I can on the computer though, but really, I don’t even miss it. Ok, maybe a little.

8. When I woke up in the morning in San Francisco, I definitely didn’t say “hola” like I do here and then continue speaking Spanish the rest of the day. Point to Barcelona, for sure!

9. My roomie in San Francisco, Mike, loved soccer, and bought a soccer station on TV. I had no interest in watching anything, but now, being a big Barca fan has changed my outlook on the sport. Is it Barca or Messi? 🙂 Probably the latter.

10. I walk everywhere here, and even at times, 3 hours a day (spread out of course). If not, then I take the metro, but in San Francisco, I had about 3 cab companies in my phone and usually only walked along Chestnut or Union.

I’m not sure I actually look much different than San Francisco Hoolia, but here is a before and after the move. The changes are definitely more in how I have adapted to this culture and wait for it….growing as a person on the inside. Awww…

One of the last times on the deck...

One of the last times on the deck...

Cheering for Barca at the recent game vs. Sevilla

Cheering for Barca at the recent game vs. Sevilla


Holy Smokes!

April 29, 2009

I have been in Barcelona now for 6 months!! That’s right, one half of a year, half a dozen months, seis meses…As I sit here thinking about what to say, the cat’s got my tongue because it’s hard to sum up 6 months abroad. And while I can follow the pattern I have been doing with my other month milestones and write about highlights from the month, I think it’s more fitting to think wholistically on this one 🙂 Or maybe do both!

Overall, I have really enjoyed my time here. I have made some amazing friends, I have traveled to some great places, I have found good work teaching English, I have absorbed the culture, I have improved my Spanish and so much more. While all experiences in general do not tend to be hunky-dory 100% of the time, the bad with the good for me has added to the potency of it all. I miss my family and friends, but thanks to Skype and other easy ways to keep in touch, I have been able to stay up-to-date  quite well.  And thanks to the same things (and of course THB), my loved ones have truly been part of my journey.

I’m not exactly sure when my journey will come to an end, but in a bittersweet way, I can’t help but feel I am now entering the second half of it. We shall see.

From month 5 to month 6…

1. I went to France (again, hehe). Enric and I had a fun road trip and many memories stemmed from our time in Carcassonne and Toulousse. Though the trip was cut short because of bad weather, I’m glad I was able to get a glimpse of those two cities/towns and come back having seen new places. I also took a day trip to Sitges for Rohan’s birthday, which was super fun.

2. Lex came to visit and of course, it was great to show another friend from home my world here. It’s quite different from my life in SF, which Lex observed, so it was interesting to hear her observations.

3. My Spanish is getting worse! Yes, you read that right and I’m not happy about it. Between speaking English all week for work and then conversing in English with all my friends, I am not practicting nearly as much as I want. I have to get back on the intercambio boat and also look for an intensive Spanish course I can take. If I don’t, I think I should earn an award for the person who has studied Spanish the longest and who has yet to become fluent.

4. Summer is on the mind of everyone lately and therefore, everyone is talking about vacations. And so am I! I have plans to go to San Sebastian and The French Riviera in May, but the big trip in the planning stages now is the Greek Isles for August. I would also love to go to Menorca and up the Costa Brava too, but we will see who is interested in going where.

5. I battled my first real sickness abroad and lived to tell about it. I was really down and out for about 1.5 weeks, but as expected, I fully recovered. It was definitely an experience to be so sick and so far from anyone who could really help take care of me.

And alas, that is it for now. Let the good times continue to roll!

A big thumbs up to Carcassonne!

A big thumbs up to Carcassonne!

Highlight of Lex's Visit: The Barca game

Highlight of Lex's Visit: The Barca game

Dog pile in Sitges!

Dog pile in Sitges!

One of many nights out with a great group of pals!

One of many nights out with a great group of pals!

Healing Brush, Clone Stamps, Levels…

April 27, 2009

As you all know, Lex is a graphic designer and subsequently, is a master at Photoshop. Well, a few years ago, I wanted to jump on the Photoshop boat, so I bought Photoshop Elements, a program designed more for the average consumer than the graphic profesisonal. Lex gave me a few lessons and then I dropped it. But just like that, years later, my interest is back and I’m now a bonafide photo obsessed person.

Right now, I know the basics. I can remove any spots from a person’s face using the healing brush, I can remove some things in the background with the clone stamp and of course, I can brighten up just about any picture using the level application. And just with these simple skills, I will never look at a picture the same again! It’s a blessing and a curse, but I’m thinking more the latter because every time I take a picture, I think, “Ok, well I’ll Photoshop that out” or “I’ll have to learn to edit that thing out,” but more so, I want to go back through all my photos and fix them! Well, that is certainly not going to happen, but moving forward, prepare yourselves for some good ones!

The new obsession has even parlayed over to real life. Sometimes, in the morning, I look in the mirror and think, “Oh wow, I could really use the healing brush to take away that line or that mark.” Seems I’m not only obsessed, but I’m possessed too! It’s a good thing Lex told me all this thinking is normal and she does the same or else I would be even more worried than I am. And to think, once I learn even more skills, which I will self-teach with my guide book, no picture will ever be the same, both literally and figuratively!

Happy Trails to You…

April 25, 2009

Until we meet again, Lex. Yes, Lex’s time in Barcelona has almost come to an end and while a guest post is likely going to come in the next week or so, I didn’t want to leave ya all hanging in the meantime 🙂 With loyal readers comes a loyal writer!

We had a week of sightseeing, touring, eating, walking, walking and walking, visiting, chatting, sharing stories, drinking and more. Not to mention that we saw Barca play live and in action on Wednesday and more important, we saw them crush the competition, Sevilla, 4-0. By the time she leaves tomorrow, Lex will truly have taken on Barcelona and will hopefully leave this city with fond memories.

Lex is my third visitor and I have found it interesting to observe how my visitors vary from one another. For example, some like to go to museums and churches more than others, some like to wake up early, some like to wake up late, some observe the people more while others observe buildings, etc. Regardless of my visitor’s style, the fact that everyone has a different agenda when they come here makes for each visit a unique one. And considering I am seeing the same things over and over, that’s definitely a good thing!

Enjoy some highlights from Lex’s visit thus far…

One of many dinners, this one in Gracia

One of many dinners, this one in Gracia

Lex in the Montjuic area

Lex in the Montjuic area

About ready to go to the Barca game!

About ready to go to the Barca game!

As If One Valentine’s Day Is Not Enough…

April 23, 2009

Catalonia has to go and celebrate another one! Well, not exactly Valentine’s Day, but today is Sant Jordi and that means that once again, love is in the air. Not to mention that Jordi is the Catalan name for George, my big brother, so I will be celebrating today in his honor 🙂

In a nutshell, women give men books and men give women roses today. Thus, another name for today is “day of the book” and “day of the roses.” And why such a unique tradition? Well, according to Wikipedia, a rose is for love and a book is forever.”  Also, both Shakespeare and Cervantes, a legendary Spanish writer, died on this date and though the rose tradition dates back to medieval times, the book aspect to the day originates from their deaths years later.

Apparently, by the end of today, a whopping 4 million roses will have been purchased and over 800,000 books, all in the name of love, love, love!! There will be parties on the streets where the national dance of Catalonia is performed (called Sardana), stands all over the city selling books and roses, street performers/musicians in all the plazas to add to the romantic ambiance of the day, etc. Though I teach the majority of today, once I’m done, Lex and I will be joining the celebrations, thinking, “Show us the love!”

On a similar note, much to my surprise, I haven’t even left the house today, but I did get a rose. Ooo laaa laaa. And that rose, handmade I might add, was from my cute little student, now famous on THB, Neus!

A typical rose stand with the Catalonia flag

A typical rose stand with the Catalonia flag

And a bordering book stand

And a bordering book stand

The Cutest, The Funniest….

April 20, 2009

And also the biggest pain in the neck award goes to….Neus! I have written about Neus a few times in the past, but when she continues to entertain me each class, I have to share her latest antics.

While she drives me crazy with her constant, “Espera (wait)!” or all the “Noooo’s” she always says, I think she is absolutely adorable and each class brings a whole new set of laughs. A few weeks ago, I was drinking a bottle of Sprite and brought it over to the lesson because I had not finished it. Her eyes grew 100% bigger when she saw the bottle and asked if she could have a sip. The next question was what side of the bottle I had sipped from and I told her I sipped on all of it, to which she gave a sigh of disappointment/disgust. She then thought about it, took a post it note, folded it, put it in the bottle and ultimately made a pseudo straw. Pretty creative, but when the Sprite fell down her dress (and she subsequently just took it off despite me telling her it’s not a big deal), her idea backfired! However, with a puppy dog look, she asked if she could finish it and I just couldn’t say no. I mean, she is only 5 years old after all!

Whether it’s leaving the room in the middle of an activity only to get her stuffed dog to learn with us or blowing her nose in my face to get a rise out of me, ya never know what you will get with her. We even played a flashcard game with food the other day, where she had half the stack and I had the other, but she wanted me to have the pineapple from her stack simply because she didn’t like it. And if it’s not something like that, it’s her taking my iPod out of my bag, putting the headphones in her ears and walking around the room dancing and smiling (and in this case, listening to Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”).

I may just have to start a Neus series, assuming the humor translates, because it just gets better. The more and more comfortable she is with me, the more she tests me. But despite it all, when she didn’t see me for two weeks, she gave me a huge hug and my heart melted. Of course, she wouldn’t let go for a while, but nothing would be the same if Neus didn’t add her own little style to it. And with Lex here (which we are having a blast by the way), maybe she’ll be the first person from my outside world to meet the little bugger on Wednesday. I hope so!

It Is What It Is!

April 18, 2009

Imagine having a conversation with a foreigner who has about an intermediate level of English, with a strong accent, and halfway through the conversation, he/she says, “Hey, it’s no use crying over spilt milk.” You would likely first do a double take and then probably start laughing. Well, lately, I have been that foreigner, though speaking Spanish expressions of course, and let me tell ya, I have been really enjoying myself!

I think one of the fun parts of living in a foreign city is not only speaking a different language, but really picking up on the odds and ends of the language as well. Below are the three expressions I find myself using lately, both because I like how they sound and I like what they mean.

1. Es lo que hay: It is what it is

2. A lo hecho pecho: There’s no use in crying over spilt milk

3. No pasa nada: No big deal

In addition to these expressions, I often say something is “de puta madre.” Basically, it means super cool, but if you take away the “de,” then it is a really nasty word. On Tuesday, when I was watching the Barca game in a bar and met Real Madrid fans (Barca’s big rivals), I said, “Barca is de puta madre!” and I got some laughs. Not to mention when I say something is “buenisimo,” people tend to laugh as well. Normally, people say something is bueno (good) or malo (bad), but adding the “isimo” gives the sentiment that much more emphasis.

Even yesterday, when I used some expressions in a text, my friend recognized me doing so and wrote me a response using another expression that signified how fast I’m using them (or something like that). In turn, my follow up response in Spanish was, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, I’m learning little by little and hey, there is no time like the present!” 🙂 Bada bing, bada bang!