A City Girl Gone Country

October 13, 2009

I grew up a country girl, well, more a suburb girl, went to college in a small city, moved back to the suburbs, lived in the big city for some years, moved to an even bigger city in Spain and now spent a weekend in the country. Whoa, did ya follow that? Well, while I once believed I was a city girl at heart, I’ve gotta say I definitely have some country in me!

Barcelona is a fabulous city for so many reasons, but like most cities, the air is polluted, there is a lot of traffic and people are always on the go, go, go. Living in a city can be fast-paced, chaotic and as I’ve noticed, downright noisy. As I sit on my bed writing this post, I’m listening to the moto drivers revving their engines and drivers honking their horns, not once, but multiple times. Come on, we get it! While I can’t complain all that much, a weekend in the country was absolutely fantastic.

Spending a few days in a town set amongst the Pyrenees mountains, with crisp, fresh air and complete silence was something I hadn’t done in what seemed like ages. Yes, I went to the Pyrenees a few times during the winter, but going in the autumn was a completely different vibe. I never realized how much I would appreciate the small things like waking up to birds chirping versus automobile noise or staring out at the endless nature versus traffic lights and buildings.

We went horseback riding through the cow pastures, creeks and fields and we hiked for what seemed like miles to take in views that stretched forever. We had a picnic, hiked some more, took morning strolls around our small town, napped outside, ate dinners in all stone constructed restaurants, etc. For a self-titled city girl, a weekend in the country was just what the doctor ordered!

Our 8-room bed and breakfast in All, called Cal Frances

Our 8-room bed and breakfast in All, called Cal Frances

Rollin, rollin, rollin, get 'em horsies rollin, yee haw!

Rollin, rollin, rollin, get 'em horsies rollin, yee haw!

What we hiked up of course later went down!

What we hiked up of course later went down!

The view from our hotel room, not too shabby!!

The view from our hotel room, not too shabby!!


The Pyrenees and a First for THB

October 9, 2009

Like all the mystery lately? First there was the big announcement and now you’ll have to wait, though just to the middle of the post, to find out the THB first. That’s just how I roll lately!

In February, then again in March, I went skiing in the Pyrenees. This weekend, because yes, there is yet another holiday, I will be going to the Pyrenees again for a little r&r and staying at a quaint mom and pop bed and breakfast. There is no snow quite yet, but the weather should be nice and great to go bike riding, horseback riding, hiking in the parks or whatever my little heart desires. But this time there is not just a “me,” there is a “we,” which leads into THB’s first.

Intentionally, I have never written about any dates or romantic relationships I’ve had here. I never wanted the blog to go in that direction, but I think now is a great opportunity to introduce Jos, my boyfriend of over 5 months and my friend of 9 months. And, my Pyrenees partner for all three of the trips!

Never in a million years did I think I would come to Barcelona and meet someone special, but low and behold, that is just what happened. Now, please don’t puke, but he really offsets the norm, or at least the norm I have come to known in my dating life. He calls when he says he will and calls when he doesn’t, he picks me over friends and makes me a priority, he is really generous, respectful, thoughtful and overall, just a really good-hearted, kind person. I’ll stop now, but I think he deserves some recognition considering I have left him out of every post, ever, on this blog 🙂

He works as an engineer and has been in Romania for the past 6 weeks, helping open a new factory, though he has come back every weekend. Needless to say, it will be nice to spend time together, uninterrupted, in the beauty of the Pyrenees, embarking on even more adventures than we’ve already had. I hope everyone has an equally relaxing weekend, wherever you may be!

Out to a "just friends" dinner

Out to a "just friends" dinner

Out to dinner as a couple

Out to dinner as a couple


La Diablita

October 8, 2009

For those of you who can’t decipher the meaning of the word in the title, it is little devil. And the only person who is deserving of this title and more posts on THB is, of course, Neus. She is now six years old and with a new year comes new antics. Enjoy!

When she was in the hospital, I brought her a teddy bear, as you may remember, who she named Gol. Well, I asked her if she still has Gol and if I can say hi to him. She ran into her toy closet to find him, very excited. After just a second of searching, she began complaining that the housekeeper lost Gol and hid Gol from her. Two seconds later, I lifted a book and there he was, in all his splendor. Ahh, Neus.

We also once played a game where she had to find little colored rocks that I hid around the house. Many classes later, her little brother, Hugo, was putting them in his mouth, so I told Neus, “Please tell your mom that Hugo is eating the little things and it’s dangerous.” She corrected me, as she likes to do, explaining, “Se llaman piedras (they are called rocks)!”

She is always pulling at my shirt, sitting in the hood of my sweatshirt, jumping on me, hugging me, etc. so I’m a bit rough after a class with her. I guess she felt it was her duty though, despite the fact that I was already out the door and in the hall, to make sure I left the house decent looking. She pulled down my shirt a bit longer and then continued to make it more tidy with a few “ironing” pats.

Another time, she also felt it was her duty to tell me “no” when I made a bird sound as “chirp chirp.” Her version was more of a bird whistle! Whether sneezing on me, drawing on my hand and then getting upset when I do it to her or correcting the way I count on my fingers, she is still pretty adorable. Though a one hour class feels like two hours, the stories and laughs I have from the class make it worth it. And when she asks me to stay and tells me the class always goes by so quickly, it’s once again worth all the effort. I can’t wait to see what tonight holds in store!

Her new haircut with the Play Doh octopus she made

Her new haircut with the Play Doh octopus she made


Stop Talking, Start Listening!

October 6, 2009

I have taken my own advice (the title of this post) during the last few months or so and as a result, I think my Spanish understanding has improved tremendously. Well, maybe greatly, I don’t want to set false expectations should any of my readers speak Spanish and one day want to converse!

Needless to say, one of the most interesting things  I have observed during my time here has been my Spanish, in all forms. And here are my observations, short, sweet and to the point!

1. Correct me! Without a doubt, I speak more fluently, but that’s not to say more accurately. I don’t really know how well I speak in fact because no one corrects me. I understand that someone learning a language doesn’t want to be corrected every sentence or it becomes discouraging, however, somewhere in the middle is good. In English, sure, I understand, “Me Hoolia,” but obviously the correct way to say it is, “My name is Hoolia.”

2. To speak or not to speak: I’m never one to keep my lips locked for long (remember, I can talk about a fly on the wall for 20 minutes), but I find myself doing just that at times. I would bet a lot of money that some people in my life here would say I speak Spanish at an elementary level, while others would say I’m fluent. Neither are right, but depending on the person, the situation and whether or not I’m intimidated, my level and will to speak drastically changes, which leaves me wondering how well I actually talk.

3. Slow down: I can understand most conversations if I pay close attention and if the person talks at a normal speed, but that’s not always the case, especially on TV, which I cannot understand very well. Maybe it’s because I have no personal context for what they are saying, but I can’t even make out the words they are saying, let alone then process them. Sometimes when someone talks fast, I have about a 5-second delay, then it sinks in and I can understand. The reaction I get after my delay can be pretty funny!

Because Catalan is the main language in Barcelona, Barcelona really isn’t the best city to learn Spanish. However, I have also come to learn that it’s what you make of it and how much effort you put in. I have British friends who have lived here for more than a year who can’t speak a word of Spanish and others who have studied and practiced to reach a really good level. I would say I’m more towards the latter, having really tried to practice, read, have intercambios and speak whenever I can (and of course, listen), but I’m not sure I will ever have the confidence in all situations to show off my skills. I guess learning a language is a process and for some, like me, it can take years, but when progress is made, it can be quite rewarding.


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!