Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ground Control

When I come home I feel grounded. When I am away from home, I become someone else. I dunno.

It’s that here I am me—who I want to be. Being a nice person, being a good one isn’t some tough life decision I have to be constantly conscious of. Being good and nice comes naturally here. Does that mean I am living a lie away or even that I am not being myself?

I don’t think so; I think it’s that I have put in the time and effort to be nice, to be who I am here—comfortable. Away from home is foreign, temporary, and open to me; thus I must become closed, permanent, and familiar to myself. I guess this results in the new me. It is the same me, same philosophy, exhibited differently. And I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it will definitely pass because away from home can easily become home. Or I can find my center without going home, but sadly that has not happened. I just don’t know.

Here I have control. It feels like away I lose my control.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Doors Track 11

Traveling. Bus. End. Wait. Delay. JFK. Goodbye. LaGuardia. Talia Hershewe. Portland. Eve. Day.

This is the last one about Spain. And it's not really about Spain.

About hour four of hanging in the airport and I realized that saying goodbye under stress and exhaustion is more of a test of endurance rather than a heartfelt experience.

I had dragged my ass out of bed and made my way to the plaza Cervantes for the last time. It was like the first day. Bus in the same place, the setting a blur behind the reality and immediacy of the people before me. This end was quiet and hectic. Nothing ceremonial about our quick goodbyes. 6 in the morning is too drowsy of an our, and far too cold, to allow for the necessary emotional response. The goodbye was an automatic disbelieving formality. We had already said goodbye for the last week.

A short bus trip to the airport. Terminal four and the line was out the door. Full of Spaniards and Americans doing the Holiday rush. Iberian Air was working hard at moving the line, we were lucky we had so much time. The quickest and least heartfelt goodbye was the one that should have had the most ceremony. I said goodbye to my friends on the Boston flight in a mere few seconds. They were in the wrong terminal and had to run to catch their flight. Quick goodbyes, quick hugs, and on we went.

The holiday rush elicits weird responses, a man late for his flight insisted on going on a hunger strike. Security was a normal. Fell asleep everywhere until boarding. In the cafe, in the terminal, in the plane. Sat next to Claire on the way back and we just sort of drowsily conversed, slept, and pretended that all of it wasn't the end. We had been delayed four hours and everyone was adjusting their plans. Ultimately it would be fine, which meant that sadly we would have to end our lovely Spain experience uneventfully. Hopped off the plane, went through customs with my wine, walked Claire to terminal three, and hopped on a bus to LaGuardia.

Sleeping in airports is not the most fun thing in the world to do but it certainly is something I can say I have done now. And if that makes the experience more bearable then so be it. Four in the morning. Wander to the line and bump into Talia Hershewe. One thing I have learned from Spain is that you can never escape Reno. Talia went to Reno High with me, and lives just down the street. It's always funny to have those happenstance meetings.

Flew into Portland and let the culture slip back into my consciousness. Christmas Eve was fun and loud and noisy and awesome. Family is good. Family is warm. Family is safe. Christmas day was similarly fun and very delicious. A reminder that my family doesn't cook with oil only.

Goodbye Spain.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Short List to Remind Me

Things I miss about the US:
1.Costco. Large stores. Enormous parking lots.
2.Grass
3.sidewalks that aren't slippery when wet.
4.American brands
5.Cheetos
6.Americanized food
7.English
8.H2s and Suburbans
9.Being able to visit friends at their houses
10.My family and friends
11.The American Constitution
12.Regular sized drinks
13.free water at restaurants
14.Open space
15.big cups of coffee

Things I will miss about Spain:
1.Small locally owned businesses.
2.Tapas
3.the pace
4.tiny cars
5.Spanish
6.Drinking legally
7.My Spanish family and friends
8.Ancient churches
9.Awesome public transportation
10.siestas
11.plazas
12.Miguel Angel and Sergio
13.The ability to walk everywhere
14.cafe con leche
15.The club scene
16.going to bed at 7 in the morning

Add your own if you have any

Terra Firma

I walk into the dark. Four turns on the lock. The last turn, a click, a pop. I am inside the apartment. I cannot hear Ana sleeping but I know that she is here. And I know that it is my last night in Spain. I leave in a few hours.

The second I stepped off that plane I started a new life. Pressed a miniature reset button. Totally bewildered, unable to communicate, and just plain inexperienced. 4 months and an eternity has passed. Everyday come and gone.

Leaves under my feet. Pressed against the red brick sidewalk. Brown, yellow, green. A mat of leaves, a mosaic of color. The rain sprinkles gently. Streetlights. The plaza. The Calle Mayor. The last I will see of a land that has become so familiar.

Every moment a last something. How do I feel?

Numb.

The specter of death, the equally as disorienting experience of packing up a home and moving on, the last moment, the moment after the last moment, and the moment in between.

Spain has been wonderful.

Moments in between

Hostel. Cold. Love Actually. Doug sleep. Claire Sleep.

We had our last dinner with Verena. It was fun. Italian food and pictures. We said our goodbyes. The first of many here. We sat at the statue of Don Quixote for about a half hour and took photos. Photos of a time that will soon pass. The proof of something that is but a moment, a tiny speck of life. It's been cold. Really cold. The weather tells us it's winter, reminds us we have to go home.

We got a hostel room. We got a space to hang out together. Something we haven't been able to do. It was the American college experience in Spain. I missed it a lot. The ability to hang out and watch movies together is something absent from the Spanish life. It's cold it's cold.

Love Actually. Emma Thompson is a beautiful amazing actress. Excellent performance. Of course some of us fell asleep during the movie.

“Doug I am going to move you.”
“I'm trying to sleep.”
“I know, I'm going to move you so we can all fit and you can sleep.”
“can you take off my glasses?”
“yeah, here, scoot down.” We have gotten to a point where we all trust each other. We are Americans, strangers in a strange land—while it has become familiar to us, we will never have our roots in this place. We trust each other. We spread our roots, our history to each other—moving targets, fickle and fragile. Putting our trust in other humans is a tough thing; they can move, they can hurt us more than any place with its permanency. Yet we do it because we know that the pain of trusting people we will say goodbye to very soon is worth the pleasure of every remaining day.

I tugged on Claire's leg. “Don't do that! You don't have to be so rough,” Laura said. Claire barely stirred. “Just turn her foot.” I turned her foot, Claire made a noise. “Turn her foot again. Claire wake up.” Nothing. I turned her foot again and yanked her leg. Claire sat up, I started to get other things done. Laura started talking to Jarrod, looked back over at Claire, “she's asleep again! Claire!” Claire moved again. Every thirty seconds or so Claire would continue this routine: wake up, move a little, and crash again. No wonder she never wakes up from her alarms.

Last days, haha, this'll be fun.

Real Madrid. Conversation with Adam and Mini on Bus. Party at Louisiana. Karaoke. Decisions at the end.

Zaragoza is an awful team. It's freezing in this damn country. We were so excited to go to this game. Nose bleed seats. Cold and crazy. I miss playing soccer so much. The big last thing together. 6-0 slaughter game. It was fun to watch anyway. We left early to get back and party. Partying is important. Very important.

Caught the 12:30 to home. Alcala. Alcala is home I guess. Still so weird, home is almost gone, and we actually have to go home soon. Had a nice conversation with Adam and Mini on the bus. Hugs are on my list of Top Things. They are important and I miss them in this country. The dos besos thing doesn't quite cover the love of an abrazo. I think I am purging this country slowly from my body. I am keeping what I will remember and ditching the things I don't like. Cleaning off the dust of an unanalyzed semester and shining up the pretty parts.

We got to Alcala and went straight to the bars. Louisiana, 2 sombreros, one flaming shot...and 4 more shots spread out through the night. It's nice to see everyone and finish it all off—with Karaoke! And dancing at Can-Can. Coming full circle is not a metaphorical device used only in literature. I think people are attracted to it because it makes life and experience continuous and final at the same time. An end and a new beginning at the same time.

And some people like the end to do things they didn't do at the beginning. No names, no events, but they know who they are and what they did.

I love the end.

Torrejon. Ice rink. Peter Pan. Garena and Gino's.

Way hungover. Worst yet. Full circle can sometimes be a nasty reminder of the stupidity of one's past decisions.

Went to Torrejon to ice skate. That didn't happen. Oh well. Walked around downtown in Torrejon. Seeing new places three days before leaving. It's funny. It's odd. Torrejon is another Spanish town, much newer than Alcala but so much the same. The ice rink was dinky and not even worth it, kind of glad we didn't go. Wandered to the town's Peter Pan themed display. It was really cute. It was so suburban, something that has been missing from our lives as of late.

Headed to Garena and got some Gino's (a chain Italian). They were good. I unintentionally ordered the same thing I did as last time. Everyone was tired, everyone was quiet, everyone was sad, everyone was cold. I miss them already.

The end. Shopping. Pollo.

Day of shopping, picking up last minute gifts. The end, this is the end. Rain. Warmer, but still rain. I can't take it. Spain is crying for me. Spain is saying goodbye.

The Casa de Pollo. The last meal, the last one with everyone. We all said goodbye and Miguel Angel and Sergio stopped by. Said a little hey hey, said goodbye. Bittersweetness. Lots of fun lots of love, lots of everything. Excitement, anticipation, sorrow, closeness. Hugs, bygones, gone.

The end is so very close, the end is in two days.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Abbey Road: Track 16

Done bitches!

That was a week of cramming so hard. Like harder than diamonds hard. I am thoroughly underwhelmed by the release I feel though. It was so much build-up and ultimately the climax was boring and i'm pretty sure I really didn't accomplish as much as I had hoped. Oh well.

Spain is coming to an end, Bobby already left because of the British Airways strike (and all of the Boston kids had to spend about a thousand dollars more for new flights)...btw, the strike just got canceled so that's $1000 bucks we'll never see again. Yay for European socialization and it's inability to have a successful capitalist model that includes both profitability for their airlines and living wages. At least it's not France whose motto appears to be “Strike, riot, or revolution.”

so yeah, Vere is leaving tonight and we're gonna go out and I have to get all my extra packing and stuff done and I would really like to coordinate my plans and AGH!!!!! exhausted? No just getting ready to go.

And what about Jacob? Yeah he was totally here and visited and we kind of had fun. More like he watched me study and got to see only bits and pieces of the city. Too bad, I really wanted to be more of a host. He is an independent kid I just wish I got to be a better host.

And I met a couple of Skidmore kids. Wow.

Wrap up, wind up, more action, more fun, more, more, more.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Schaudenfraude

We have ten days left here. It's hard to think of the paradoxical feeling of just getting here and being here forever.

It's Saturday night and this is the first Saturday we have not gone out because of work. This is crazy. I am trying to get all of my work done and be ready to leave. It's all so...surreal.

To sort of hold us over I have compiled a list of the characters we see around town:
1.Jesus: we call him Jesus because he looks like Jesus, if Jesus was creepy and always approached you, stuck out his hand and said, “tienes monedas para cenar? (change for dinner?).” He has taken a liking to asking Brad for change on a regular basis. Brad has never said yes so I think he just gets a kick out of asking an American for money everyday. His little game.
2.Prayer guy: my favorite homeless guy. He just kneelson a street corner, bows his head very low and puts a change cup out. He remains absolutely still for a time. Doesn't bug anyone and is very nice. I tried to give him some bread one time but he doesn't have many teeth.
3.Embarazada: this chick is nuts. She walks up to you quite forcefully, it's kind of like she's charging at you, and with her whacked out eyes staring into your soul she says, “estoy embarazada, dame monedas (I am pregnant give me change).” She scared Claire so badly that Claire grabbed her purse, screamed, and jumped back. Embarazada hit me once. I don't like her.
4.DVD: She appears to be the only Asian that doesn't work in a Chino (Fruto Seco: kind of like a 7-11). She wanders into restaurants and bars asking if you want to buy an obviously bootlegged DVD. I don't get her. It was really weird the one time we all saw her dressed up and ready to go out on the town. Apparently, her day job has set hours and she makes enough of a wage that she can go out sometimes.
5.The deaf people: often people come up to us with a bag full of little glowing balls, put a ball on our table with a little note, and leave for a couple minutes. The note says that they are deaf and that the balls help them make a living. I can't imagine the type of living one could make off selling shit pieces of plastic and pretending to be deaf. I guess it works for the tourists.
6.Desempleados: unemployed people often come onto the train, and place packets of Kleenex on our chairs with a note describing their hardships. I have become such an indifferent asshole. I ignore them. And they usually smell awful too. Wow. I just passed judgment on a jobless man that is trying to sell kleenex on a train.
7.The armless man: this guy is a skinny fellow with no arms. He walks up and down the train chanting, “moooonnneeeeeeddaaaaaaasss, moooonnneeeeeeddaaaaaaasss” and shaking the cup of change that he holds in his mouth. It's loud, it's tragic, it's really hard not to laugh sometimes.
And that's life in Alcala. Come visit, there are some great people to meet.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Spain Fade Out

The wire.

We're getting to our final days. It's funny because we have become so well adjusted. I miss my home. I miss my family. But I have a little life here. And I will leave it all soon.

I've seen so many things, I have travelled so many places and I find that I am still the same. Thank God. I really didn't want to be someone different by the end of this.

I am a happy person, I have friends. Lots of friends. They are great, they are fun, and they are going to be missed. We are taking our last days in stride. Just a final push to the end and hopefully we will all make it home safe, well, and better.

Monday, December 7, 2009

17 days left

Breakfast. Ruins. View. Borj-Nord. Gate. Bargaining. Cafe Clock. Leaving. Taxi. No taxes. Security. Flight. Kebabs. Home.

The hotel has a lovely breakfast. The company of English speakers only serves to make it much better. Seriously, Dar El-Hana, if you ever go to Fes, that is the place to stay.

After breakfast we went off to see the town. Jarrod and I climbed to the top of the hill where ruins of old walls and buildings stood monolithically looking out upon the town. Fes is a haze. Just densely packed buildings and minarets poking above the skyline. The second call to prayer signalled our departure from the top of the hill. One last look at the view. We descended to the Borj-Nord Arms Museum. It is a quiet site on a hill, a fortress full of guns and cannons. It's a difficult juxtaposition; articles of war, elements that tear apart bodies, lives, civilizations, situated on a silent hill, surrounded by a garden, Guns that quietly look out over Fes.

Back at the Blue Gate, a welcome sight in a foreign land. Lunch at cafe clock, a tourist haven, Western and African fusion food. We leave. The taxi ride was scary as hell. Almost got in 3 car wrecks. Yay for no rules.

Pretty sure the guy wasn't a real taxi. He dropped us off outside the airport and made us walk. Because he didn't want to pay taxes.

I think airports are just inefficient. It took us an hour to move around 30 ft through security. That's the length of the airport. It was kind of ridiculous.

Don't remember the flight. Ate kebabs. Ana has a nativity up (Belin).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hello My Friend.

Woke early. Walked new city. Bus station. Fes. Nice shower. Small Cafe. City Noise. Tanneries. Koinichiwa. Argan Oil. Nice couple. Dinner.

The rooster crowing to wake us up is almost normal now. The cats wandering the streets are almost normal now. The tight streets are almost normal now. Almost.

But not quite.

We woke up early to catch the bus out of Chaouen to Fes. We walked out of the tiny Medina into North Africa. Real North Africa. It was run-down apartment complexes, vagrants on the street, and foreign smells good and bad. We stumbled into a plaza. We enjoyed our morning by watching the clouds pass over the mountains from an empty cafe. And we walked to the bus station as the sun rose into the sky.

I always say how much things look like California or Nevada, but I think it's just because those areas have the extensive landscapes and range of landscapes to fit almost any description. Why travel the world when you can go to california. Basically, the new city of Chaouen looks like a run-down version of Palm Springs, the mountains in the distance look like a shorter version of the Sierra Nevada, and everything takes a surreal tone because there is a North African city in the midst of my deja vu. A land familiar and utterly unknown. I feel like two people in two places in two times.

The bus ride was nice. A beautiful stroll through the country, with the Vidas de la gente passing before me. Jarrod and I played gin rummy for the second portion of the trip. Golden sun, golden hills, flimsy blue playing cards. When we got into Fes we checked into our hotel and enjoyed some much needed showers. The house is 300 years old.

We ate lunch at a small cafe in the late afternoon. A cafe outside the blue gate, full of locals, yelling smoking, playing cards. City noise; Fes is much louder than Chefchaouen.

Down the small street of the Medina, store fronts and calls. Donkeys laden with goods. Cats pecking at morsels. A tourist here, a tourist there. English, Spanish, French, Arabic. Confusion. Noise. And suddenly a mosque. An alley. And we are in an enormous leather goods store; the site of the oldest functioning tannery in the city. We are on the terrace. We are seeing the city at sunset. Wow.

We trek back up the hill. We hear many calls. “English? Spanish? Japan? Hello my friend. You see my shop. You look you like you buy. You no like you no buy. No problem. Come come.”

“Koinichiwa.”

“Arigato.” the calls never stop. All the way to the plaza.

But there we sit and watch the life pass by. And then there are kids by us. Running, jumping...flipping. Parkour. Going crazy, showing off, succeeding.

Then we sit down to dinner with a nice couple from New Zealand.

Bed, sleep.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chefchaouen

Hike in hills. Walked around. Became accustomed. Man on hill. Bargaining. Nice lunch. Hash. Great dinner. Quiet.

It was cold. So very cold. But that was ok. We slept in. Pension Souika is ghetto. But the people are nice. Got up, got out and went to a random plaza. And we ate breakfast in the restaurant there and watched the people and the cats. And then we walked around and saw the hills and shopped a little. And definitely the city is surreal. The blue and purple and periwinkle. The sun and the mountains and the colorful shop merchandise. It passes in and out of an impressionistic dream, a history textbook, a national geographic. And we realized that we had become accustomed to the landscape, the people, the language, the tight streets, the cats, and the air.

We wandered outside the medina. We wandered into the hills. We wandered until we met a man with tres hijos and that no vos vendo hash and he vivo en la villa alla. He was very nice. But we wanted quiet. And so we said goodbye to him and we wandered higher into the hills and looked out on the landscape around us. A beautiful green dotted with the whites of villages. Slow winding roads with lazy cars gliding across them. The land was quiet.

All was quiet. Something we hadn't had in forever. Spain is a loud country. We live a loud life there.

But here.

Here was quiet.

We strolled down the hill, watched the city from the old mosque, and entered back into the medina. “Hash?” All the time the call came. NO. We didn't want any freakin' hash. At least they weren't robbing us (unlike the poor kid from Seattle we met, that had just gotten robbed in Tangiers (which is a city in the North of Morocco and not a country as I idiotically believed) and was very noticeably nervous).

And we started the process of bargaining. We were ok at it. It is really cool, and very fun. But now that I think about it, the prices aren't amazing ever, and ultimately we pay exactly what it seems to be worth. But that's fine, I hope I grabbed some nice gifts.

When we wandered around the city we got a feel for it. When we searched helplessly for a bag we almost bought spices and soap, when we wanted a quick meal, we got a four course dinner. When it's all through I know I will have loved it all. Really, we ran into a tiny Berber hotel where every man had a Berber moustache, and they served us four courses and we ate like kings for 70 dh (7 euro). And it was quiet there too, and we were the only ones there.

Peace. Quiet. Breathe out. Relief. Chaouen is good for the soul.

The Blue City

Morning call to prayer. Rain. Awesome shower. Jarrod forgot towel. Bus station. Vendors on bus. Crowded taxi. Guide. Ghetto hotel. Wander hills/Chefchaouen. Hash. Quiet. Night. Walk around. Cards on terrace. Talks and full moon.

At five fifteen I was pulled out of my sleep by the morning call to prayer. It is odd to wake to the calls of a man chanting incantations of his faith to God at five in the morning. The words are hypnotic. I drifted back to sleep. I awoke again to rain pattering on the roof.

And then I took an awesome shower. Jarrod did too after me. But he forgot his towel, so he didn't quite enjoy it as much as me. Then we had a very nice breakfast at the hotel. The woman there was a great cook but didn't speak enough English to help us figure out payment BUT luckily the guy from the night before came in and figured it all out. He was super helpful and took us to the bus station and figured out a ride for us to Chefchaouen. The bad news was that it was a private company and I am sure the bus was about to break down the whole way. Everything was crowded and muddy.

While we waited on the bus, vendors came on the bus subway style and tried to convert me and sell me snacks. I don't understand enough of the language to really be bothered, but they were still kind of a funny nuisance. Then we were off to the countryside of Morocco. And I am pretty sure that we stopped at one point to actually fix the bus.

Oh yeah, did I mention that we couldn't actually catch a bus to chefchaouen? Well, we couldn't. Instead we stopped about 7km outside town and took a taxi in. A crowded taxi. Where no one spoke the language. It was awkward. But it worked.

We got in and had no idea where we were. Asked a cop to help us. But he wasn't very helpful, he only spoke french, and we only spoke spanish and english. Shit.

So we tried our best with what we understood. Which was very little. And we headed up. Then luck, a kind of scary dude that said he worked for our hotel took us to our destination. He was very helpful. And he kept trying to sell us hash. Hmmm...

The hotel was Ghetto. Pension Souika. Way ghetto. But it gets the job done. Oh, and the guy that was an “employee” for the hotel? Well, he was just a drug dealer. Skeezy but nice. Oh and everyone is always offering you hash. Watch out for cop traps though.

Went to the hills and walked to see the city on the hill. It is a beautiful town in the mountains, absolutely stunning. Blue and whitewashed buildings. And quiet. Something we haven't had in the bustling Spanish metropolis for a long time.

After dinner we wandered around some more. The city is quiet. And beautiful. Surreal, like a dream. Wandering through dimly lit streets painted pastel frosting blue. A memory, a dream. Something not quite there.

Then we played cards on the terrace. And there are a shit ton of Spaniards here. They are kind of ignorant. Always asking where the beer is. There isn't an abundance of alcohol here and drinking seems to be generally frowned upon. And Americans still have the bad rap.

We talked on the terrace and looked at a full moon over Chefchaouen. We are spoiled American brats.

1000 Camels

Jarrod and I were on the plane and saw a little asian woman with us. And we got to thinking of Kara (Tufts, Japanese-American, very nice) and her event in Morocco where she almost got sold for 1000 camels to a man. So we came up with this.

Jarrod and I exchange somber looks as we pass the Asian woman
Jarrod: I feel so bad for her, she could have such a good life.
Me: I just hope her family got a good price for her
Asian Lady: What? What are you talking about?
Jarrod: you. Poor thing is in shock, let's just hope your new husband doesn't beat you
Asian Lady: but...I live in Westchester. I have a dog.
Jarrod and I look at each other, look at her, and move on slowly
Me: best of luck, I hope you can cook couscous.

Marruecos

Jarrod and I arrived at the airport, excited but more than a little disorganized. It was funny, he and I have come to rely on the girls so much for getting us around. I guess that they really do make sure we get to where we are going. Or maybe it's just that we have travelled in larger groups mostly and cumulatively we have all the information we need. Or maybe it's that Jarrod is a bit neurotic, and that makes me think of all the things I don't know.

Whatever. I am excited for Morocco.

Nice man at hotel. Awesome hotel. Taxi driver. Toothless guide. Cats. Terrace dinner. Group culture. Culture shock. Romantic weekend. Hotel to ourselves.

We got in and the airport was small. Way small. It was a big tarmac and a little tiny tiny building. Like a warehouse with a sign small. There is a certain amount of distrust with us Americans and the reputation of Morocco. Understandably, Jarrod and I try to speak Spanish to throw them off. Although I can't imagine them being too thrown off given we are a tall white guy and a half-asian.

We found a cab driver and he showed us around. He was very nice and spoke in a heavy accent about the city and its character. Fes is the city of fountains btw. We were guided to our hotel by a toothless man that spoke no English or Spanish, but was very nice. He led us down some dark alleys, and we kind of freaked out. But he brought us to our very lovely hotel destination where we were greeted by an extremely nice host. He gave us tea, showed us our accomodations, and showed us good restaurants to eat at. We ate dinner at the top of a tower. It was very good. We went back down the windy roads that kind of smelled funny and wandered into our hotel. We had the whole hotel to ourselves. We joked that it was a romantic getaway. Given that we were the only people in that (very nice) hotel, it kind of was like that.

I did experience culture shock though. Everything. Just like you'd imagine, but nothing you've ever experienced. Jarrod and I keep reminding ourselves...it's Africa. A little thing is two women carrying one bag. I thought it was just a heavy thing, but then I saw other women doing it, and even little girls. Group culture. It's interesting the little mannerisms we pass on to our children.

There are lots of cats here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Alien

Professor conference. Planet 51. Dani. Foster's Hollywood. Conti. Spanish.

Three short weeks remain in our program. It could be good or I could be shooting myself in the foot. I feel like I am losing my Spanish already.

Had a conference with my professor in government. She kind of sucks. But I think she's being a hard-ass, that she wants the class to study and the grades will improve drastically on the next test. It's frustrating because she has no checks on her power. She can do whatever she wants. And right now that is screwing me over. Not to mention the part where she was a condescending bitch to me, Alex, and Claire.

Perhaps she is right, perhaps I don't get all the concepts, but I certainly understand enough to know that I didn't deserve the grade I got.

Not really that important. It's just school. And I've been doing school for almost too long.

We decided to go to the movie Planet 51. A Spanish studio produced a good portion of it, so we get reimbursed for it. Cool. Anyways, I invited Dani to the movie and he was happy to tag along. Here's how the facebook conversation went between our group:

Laura: so we're going to planet 51 tonight, let's meet at 8.
Alex: can't I have ciclo until 9
Me: Dani is coming
Alex: I didn't want to go to ciclo anyways.

We went to foster's hollywood for dinner. An “American” restaurant but I have never seen it in the states. It is weird to think there are franchises that make food from a country but aren't from that country. I ate fast. We caught the movie.

Planet 51 was good, but I have a soft spot for animation. So all animation is automatically a 6 out of 10. Planet 51=8. way better than New Moon.
Professor conference. Planet 51. Dani. Foster's Hollywood. Conti. Spanish.

Three short weeks remain in our program. It could be good or I could be shooting myself in the foot. I feel like I am losing my Spanish already.

Had a conference with my professor in government. She kind of sucks. But I think she's being a hard-ass, that she wants the class to study and the grades will improve drastically on the next test. It's frustrating because she has no checks on her power. She can do whatever she wants. And right now that is screwing me over. Not to mention the part where she was a condescending bitch to me, Alex, and Claire.

Perhaps she is right, perhaps I don't get all the concepts, but I certainly understand enough to know that I didn't deserve the grade I got.

Not really that important. It's just school. And I've been doing school for almost too long.

We decided to go to the movie Planet 51. A Spanish studio produced a good portion of it, so we get reimbursed for it. Cool. Anyways, I invited Dani to the movie and he was happy to tag along. Here's how the facebook conversation went between our group:

Laura: so we're going to planet 51 tonight, let's meet at 8.
Alex: can't I have ciclo until 9
Me: Dani is coming
Alex: I didn't want to go to ciclo anyways.

We went to foster's hollywood for dinner. An “American” restaurant but I have never seen it in the states. It is weird to think there are franchises that make food from a country but aren't from that country. I ate fast. We caught the movie.

Planet 51 was good, but I have a soft spot for animation. So all animation is automatically a 6 out of 10. Planet 51=8. way better than New Moon.

It's nice to have a local guide us around, Dani knows all the shortest routes to every place now. And the train is much faster than the bus.

After the movie we went to Conti and played Conti until 2. Lots of fun. I really do enjoy all the time I spend here with everyone. It's funny how I can take for granted the presence of people and places so quickly. It has been 3 short months and I am already quite accustomed to my life here. Obviously it is time to shake things up. And too soon too.

It's nice to have a local guide us around, Dani knows all the shortest routes to every place now. And the train is much faster than the bus.

After the movie we went to Conti and played Conti until 2. Lots of fun. I really do enjoy all the time I spend here with everyone. It's funny how I can take for granted the presence of people and places so quickly. It has been 3 short months and I am already quite accustomed to my life here. Obviously it is time to shake things up. And too soon too.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

New Moon is an Abomination

Cut-outs. New Moon. Bad. Buhos. Alcala.

The plaza de Espana is a beautiful little plaza with an awesome statue of Don Quijote. The plaza is also lit up right now. It looks so Christmas-y.

We went into Madrid to see New Moon. I will get to that in a second.

But first we ate some dinner, had some Starbucks, and posed in some cardboard cut-outs, it was fun and funny, a nice bit of—wholesome--fun before the vampire flick. We even sang “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.”

but yeah...New Moon is awful. It's 2:20 minutes of bad-acting that was supposed to be brooding and emotional pain. Too bad it was just screaming and making bad eye-contact that was supposed to be meaningful. I couldn't stop laughing during some parts because they were so awful. I find it weird too that nobody freaks out about the fact that there are a bunch of shirtless guys running around all the time. Granted they are buff and hot but wouldn't it freak you out the least bit to always see some tan dude running around the woods by your house? Oh, and they never resolve the plot hole where the werewolves go from a bad influence to a good group of guys. Not that that is the biggest plot-hole.

I mean, there literally was no plot to the story. No discernible story-arc. And the worst part is that the main character isn't a strong female protagonist, just some dumb bitch that keeps getting herself into trouble. And her pain at not being able to live alone. Stupidest shit.

Oh, and Kristen Stewart almost bites her lip countless times, and actually does it 8 times that I counted. And she falls and hits her head, possibly a concussion, but all Jacob does, even after she shows signs of being delirious, is take off his damn shirt and wipe off the blood. Great friend that one. Smart too.

Honestly, I was embarrassed to walk out of that theater. I felt dirty.

Either way we ran to the buhos and caught the 1:00 thank god. We were in Alcala by 1:40 and caught up with Brad and Lindsay. Hung out till 3:00 and called it a night. It was fun. I'd call the whole experience good if not odd. I definitely need to be in another state of mind to watch anymore of that Twilight shit because it was too ridiculous for anything less than a hazy memory of it.

Kapital

Botellon train station. Sol. Vere's friends/cousins. Kapital. Ameen and Jessie. Alex and Luigi. Drunk guy. Sleepy.

Piper (Skidmore, short, Claire's friend) came into town this weekend. She wanted the Spanish experience. I can't imagine a more Spanish night other than public urination and graffiti. We started by botellon-ing in the plaza. Botellon is to drink publicly here, it's illegal, but much cheaper than buying liquor in an actual bar.

So that was...fun. And then we hopped on the train to Madrid. Our intention was to go to Limon, a club, but when we got to Sol (metro stop) plans changed.

Vere met up with one of her cousins and a friend? I dunno, I really should have checked. And we saw protestors by the christmas tree in Sol. It was cold. Some guy gave us discount cards to Kapital (7 stories of club) and we rapidly changed our plans to visiting the most popular club in all of Madrid.

In line to Kapital I ran into Ameen and his girlfriend Jessie (she was visiting from Italy). Cool. Once we got inside, the place is kind of nuts. It's 7 stories of club, with a main dance floor, a salsa dance floor, and several lounges. We went out onto the main dance floor and quickly got separated in the tightly packed crowd. I honestly have never been so crowded in my life. It was all fun though, and Alex found herself a couple of guys, one of which was named Luigi. She was really funny about the whole thing. There was a moment when she was just done with him. She dropped it like it was hot, good for her.

By 5:00 am we were ti-ti (tired in drunk Alex vocab) and we headed to the train station. On our way we picked up a fat stumbling guy somehow. He was very focused on each step, laboriously counting one foot after the other. He walked right up behind us and tried to keep up with us. Then he walked ahead of us. Then he walked in the opposite direction as us. Poor guy didn't know what the hell he was doing. At the train station we caught the 5:30 train and were all in bed by 6:30 which is great news because those nights can go way long.

Btw, everyone was smashed for some reason. Not me, perhaps my liver is made of fat.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks everyone

Thanksgiving

my favorite holiday. Dunno why though. I never spend it with all my favorite people, something weird always happens, and it revolves around one meal. Not sure.

This one was probably the biggest thanksgiving I will ever have. Easily 100 individuals at this venue, all of us in a country that didn't celebrate the occasion at all. But still fun as hell.

Ana came to thanksgiving with me. She is so much fun. And she insisted on drinking far too much wine. Hahaha. Mi madre got my whole table drunk. She also insisted upon us taking a bottle home. Jaime did and we drank it on the train.

It's that thanksgiving is so surreally fun and funny to me. I loved the whole thing. On a day where we give thanks is so fundamentally in agreement with my being I guess.

Anyways, we went to a giant venue in Madrid, were loud rowdy and hungry. Then we weren't and we went to Conti to just hang out and play cards. It was a rainy day. It smelled like fall, something so very rare here. I couldn't stop smiling yesterday.

Fun facts:
George Washington started thanksgiving by declaring a national holiday to give thanks. But it was inconsistent and not always in fall. It wasn't until Lincoln that the last thursday in November was declared the official thanksgiving. FDR later officially declared it a non-secular holiday to take place on the 4th thursday of November, meaning sometimes it is the second to last thursday in November, as there can be 5 thursdays in November sometimes.

Top ten weeks 10 and 11

Top 20 for weeks 10 and 11 with parting shots. Sorry for the belated nature but whatever.

1.Paris: a beautiful city. So well planned, a regional planner's wet dream.
2.Government tests: thought I did well, but I guess not.
3.Country hopping: one backpack and the will to go and I find myself someplace else.
4.The mona lisa: and any other famous things I saw in Paris for that matter.
5.Missing flights: sometimes sleeping in happens, welcome to college abroad.
6.The Eiffel Tower: the phallus of Paris entrances the world, and me.
7.New friends: I love meeting new people and learning all about them.
8.Old friends: I love catching up with my friends and picking up right where we left off.
9.Walking. Way too much of it in Paris, my legs were shaking by the end.
10.Home: spain is home, a language I understand, a culture I get, and weather I love.


The Eiffel Tower at Night

11.Mandatory wine-tasting for my program: my parents are paying good money to get me drunk.
12.Bottle openers: a little ingenuity, a shoe, and a wall can get us whatever we want.
13.Lavapies: culture, diversity, and ethnicity in Madrid? You better believe it.
14.Liz, Max, and Sam: nice to see home and just pick up right where we left off.
15.Brenna: her generosity and kindness always impresses me. Not to mention her taste in music.
16.Wandering around London. Buckminster, Gherkin, and the Eye.
17.Rain and Tea: london has plenty of it.
18.Awkward Brits: makes me feel good about myself, and happy that Spain does not have a word for it.
19.Running to my plane and getting on last. Yay for London's shitty public transportation (I think Spain is spoiling me).
20.Home: Spain is warm and dry.


Parliament and the River Thames at Night

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Running the Show

Rise and shine. Waiting for station. Taxi: Spanish, Waterloo. Bus. Liverpool. Security woman. Sprinting.

Traveling seems to be as much a part of visiting as the destination. 4:45 wake up. Taxi to train station. Station was closed. THE UNDERGROUND SUCKS. I just want to say that the schedule posted online was not the schedule that I ever ended up using. The trains never opened as posted on the site. The underground does not open up at five thirty as purported by everyone I ever talked to. I waited in the cold to realize I was late to get from Richmond to Stansted airport. That's not funny.

Had to take a taxi to Waterloo to try to see if the underground was open there. It wasn't. But the cab driver actually lived near Alicante and worked part time as a driver in London. Interesting conversation. But not the important part. The important part was that Waterloo was not going to be my Waterloo. I'd like to thank the man at information for showing me how to get to Liverpool station. The buses. Which actually seem to be the better working network except the only bus I needed had a huge sign posted that the workers were on strike. Luckily, they seemed to have worked the issue out because there was a bus running and it got me to the Stansted express. Every pound used to get me to the airport. I am not a fan.

Two Irish women spoke in Irish on the train. One reminded me of my mom. I miss her. Ran through security. Practically got in a yelling match with a security woman, but mediation skills come in handy sometimes and the line that let me cut them was very sympathetic to my situation. She came off as the bitch and I sprinted to the gate. Getting home is never an ordeal once I am in Spain. I love Spain. Dry, warm, uncomplicated, and life moves at my pace. Beautiful day, but I wouldn't know; I was asleep.

Sorry no top ten for last week, I will do a double this week. Promise.

New Inside Old Amongst the Unfamiliar

London downtown. Rain/Jesus. Dinner strada. Sam and Max. Waxy's. Liz's. 90's pop music & bros. Generosity. Sleep. Perspectives of me.

Brits are awkward. Walking to the train station and they sounded so very awkward. They can't dance either. It's odd coming to a country where the concept exists after being in one where Awkward distinctly doesn't.

Got up and went downtown alone. Got to do things at my own pace. Made my way on foot from Westminster to London Tower. It was great. There are so many people in those areas. I got cornered by a con artist asking for money for the children. I'm American not stupid. The London Eye is big btw. And it's cool how they made it. There are only wires between the center and the edge of the wheel. It stays because of the tension of the wires. There isn't actually anything stiff holding the wheel to the center, only gravity. London is full of old/new in a very odd way. Nothing like the other cities I have been in. Lots of tradition and capitalism.

Loved the battle of Brittain memorial. Very well done. London on the Thames has tinges of Portland, Oregon. Or is it the other way around. Returned to the eye. Rain drops falling down. Waiting to meet Brenna. And an Indian immigrant is yelling to me about Jesus's love, and how he died for my sins but he didn't say anything of substance. I don't listen to people that don't provide me with substance. Empty words have no space in my life.

Ate at the Strada with Brenna. It was a nice little touristy Italian place. Got some tea, but the waiter sucked. Dinner was nice though.

Went to meet Sam (Reno, Embry-Riddle, visiting for Thanksgiving) and Max (Reno, studying for the semester in London). Went to Piccadilly Circus and ate there. Got to catch up with them. Went to Waxy's. A cool pub. Extremely busy, bad DJ. Went back to Liz's.

Hung out some in her room and listened to 90's pop while the bros kept walking in and out. It was fun, but I had to go. Everyone is so generous. Especially Brenna. I am so happy to have such kind and loving friends.

They know me so differently, my high school friends. I dunno. I feel so much less cool around them. But that's fine, they like me for some reason obviously. And they know things no one else does. And they saw me before I was me, and they still accept me.

Sleep.

The Fabulous Life and Death of Anti-Socrates

Flew in. Richmond. Lunch with Liz. Death. Went out. Lamborghinis. Hanging w/ Liz. The Bull: Beatles and Rolling Stones. Norman. Brenna's different Experience.

Flew in to London Luton. It is not close to London. If you have a mid-day flight it is fine, but you can fully add another hour to your travels because of how far out it is. That's what I like about Madrid, one airport for all the airlines whether they are obscure or not, with great transportation to and from the airport.

Met up with Brenna (year younger than me, studying in London, blonde, from Reno) and we set up at her place and I got comfy and met her flatmates. They had been partying at The Bull, Brenna's scene. I guess the Bull was where the Rolling Stones first played, and where the Beatles discovered the Rolling Stones and told a manager to sign them on. Cool.

Slept. Woke up and met Liz (blonde, Marist, one semester in London, from Reno). We hung out and caught up a bit. The big news was the accidental death of one of the people on her program. Apparently he was visiting Rome, leaned over a wall to take a photo, and the weight of his backpack threw him over and made him fall forty feet to his death. That's not supposed to happen. To anyone. It's not supposed to happen to young men trying to explore the world to find their place and how they can help. I guess he wanted to do aid work in Uganda. Literally help the children.

It's sad. Even if all the problems caused by man stopped tomorrow, we'd still have senseless accidents like that.

But lunch was good. Brenna and I returned to her flat to freshen up and I dug into some of her globalization readings as well as a comic called Preacher. It was pretty good. Read it.

Then we went to South Kensington to meet Liz at her flat. It is a dormlike situation in one of the nicer neighborhoods of London. I couldn't believe how nice it was. There is a Lamborghini dealership in close proximity to give you a feeling. Met Liz's friends on her program. Her girlfriends were nice, and so were the guys, but honestly they were more than a little bro-ish. Well, more like a parody of bros. It was a new level of it.

Went back to Richmond and went to The Bull. Met Brenna's 6' 6” British DJ boyfriend Norman. He was very nice. Brenna was pretty drunk by the time we got home. Her and I started reminiscing in a far too loud manner and I think Norman was a little overwhelmed. It was nice though. It's always funny to listen to stories you don't remember from perspectives you have never heard.

And I realized that Brenna's experience is far different. She is there for all four years. She is a resident as much as any other Brit and the kids abroad are juniors in the golden light of a semester abroad. I think we need some of both to maximize our lives. A bit of honeymoon, a bit of bland, a bit of cold, a bit of warm, a bit too much every now and then.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wine-y

Wine tasting. Chimpy. Wine taking. Wine drinking. Lavapies. Wine opening. Wine and buho.

Verena's boyfriend Chimpy (real name Guillermo, but we like pet names) came into town and while Vere was in class we showed him around the city a bit. He is very nice and a little shy, kind of funny. That was fun.

The wine tasting (mandatory conference) was more fun. Yeah, I said it. Mandatory wine tasting. Yes! Everyone got a little tipsy tasting wine and learned about sniffing it all. So much fun. That went way late so instead of drinking a bottle there, we took a few for the road.

Got dinner in Lavapies, a neighborhood with a lot of cultural diversity, so much that we ate indian food in Spain. That is a more than rare occurrence. Drank more wine at dinner. Lots of wine. It was late by that time and so we tried to catch the buhos home. Missed the 1 o'clock by two mins, and had to wait for the 2 o'clock. That meant we obviously had to open the bottles we had and share it with our new italian friends at the station. But we didn't have a corkscrew.

Hmm...que triste.

Or not. If you are ever in this situation, do this. Take off shoe. Put bottle in shoe, against the heel. Proceed to bash heel of shoe with bottle in it against a wall. The cork will start to slide out. It takes a lot of effort but there is a point where you can just pull the cork off. Do so. Enjoy wine. “it is a universal drink and past-time,” said the lady doing the conference.

Europe is teaching me all sorts of things.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Introspective Pretention--cathartic pressure

I'm so confined by my space. Being young, middle-class, and abroad is a tough life. We are expected to be the bratty future generation trying to grow up by having drunken escapades in foreign lands. Instead I feel like the bratty future generation trying to grow up by having drunken escapades in foreign lands. How are we supposed to run the world? When do we stop being the future generation and start being the current generation? When do we make the decisions? Will we ever be ready to make them?

So I am confined. Because I have to discover these concepts on my own, and I suppose everyone else in “my generation” has to as well. That means, that we will literally wake up one day and find ourselves the movers and pushers in this world and not know what that means or how to deal with it.

Don't let me wake up older, stupider, and another lifeless life.

Let me wake up with the ability to make the big decisions and the sapience to make them.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

South of France

Wander home. Early morning. Lots of travel. Ana.

Alex and I slept three hours. Ugh. Not important. After wandering home with Becca and James. We took our well used legs and put them up. We have walked so much in the last couple days, my legs are extremely sore. I feel like I didn't even stop exercising to visit Paris. With crepes in our bellies, we slept for a very restless three hours, dragged our asses out of bed and headed home.

Paris was pretty but home, Spain, is a much warmer concept. Literally and figuratively. Paris is rain and cold. Madrid is warm and partly cloudy. Claire missed the bus, and had to take a cab. A really shitty cab ride later and we were all together in the Beavais Airport. It was weird this weekend, we are so used to traveling together that everytime Claire split up from Alex and I, it felt like something was wrong. Claire even started to go with us one time because it's just how we've been doing things.

Slept through the flight. Made it home. But I couldn't get in. Ana had left the keys in the door so I couldn't open it. But Ana was asleep with a hangover. So I asked Dani to let me in, which he so kindly did. It's nice to be able to communicate a need and get it answered by a friendly Spaniard, I missed the language and it was only two days.

Paris is cool because it's never hard to come up with good ideas for a date.

Rested, because that's what I needed to do.

From the Eiffel Tower

On the Eiffel Tower.

After we had walked up all those stairs we were rewarded with a view to the whole of Paris. I had just met Katie, Piper, and Jess. I barely had spent any time with Alicia. I had only known Claire and Alex for 9 weeks. I had only known James for a little under two years. Yet we all were happy to be together. On the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. Americans huddled together. Abroad students looking to mutually enjoy the once in a lifetime experience. All of us independent for once, adults seeing the world. But all of us children on the inside, just as insecure, unable to see the world right side up.

Quite literally.

“Do this, it's so much cooler this way,” Piper said as she leaned her back over the edge and watched Paris upside-down. I followed suit. So did Claire.

A deep blue emptiness with pinholes of yellow greeted my disoriented body. I was falling into nothingness, holding onto the railing of the Eiffel Tower. I leaned back a bit more and terra firma, a black and orange city became my ceiling. Paris was beautiful, but this view was surreal, and somehow it felt like the real view—the correct one.

I slowly rotated forward until the Eiffel Tower, shooting into the night, appeared. It was a mess of beautifully lit steel, a ramp from the edge of the earth into nothing. The spotlight swept across my view. It illuminated nothing.

“Wow,” Claire said. We looked out on the city for a while. Soon our whole group had seen Paris in its correct form. And we made our descent through the steel carapace, the symbolic soul of Paris.

Puke, Crap, and the Mona Lisa

Landmarks. Shopping. Mona Lisa. Loud dinner. Puked on. Botellon. Running in the metro. Crap on the passage. Wander home.

Places I saw in Paris: Arc de Triomph, Champs d'Elysee, Louvre, Notre Dame, Peugeot Store, Mercedes store, Louis Vuitton Store. If you go to paris, you see famous landmarks and go shopping of course.

Started our day early and went to the top of the Arc de Triomph. It's a monument to all the French victories; most of which later turned out to be defeats. Walked down the Champs d'Elysee and ran into the Petit Palais and thought it was the Louvre. No, the Louvre is bigger. The Louvre is beautiful, ran through it and saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, free student passes make going to the Louvre much less stressful. We got to see the Jardines and do what we wanted on our own time. No money spent means we can come and go as we please.

Met up with James and went back up the Champs d'Elysee (I really hope I am spelling that right, or for that matter anything French) and saw the stores. Totally worth it to find out that there are things money can buy, and if you don't have money (like me) then you can't buy those things. One enormous street of things I can't afford. But it was still cool.

And then we met with Piper (Skidmore, in Florence), Alicia (Skidmore, in Galway), and Claire (finally made it to Paris). We saw the Hotel de Ville. City hall. It was cool. Saw Notre Dame and I love flying buttresses. Did a little gift shopping but got nothing because junk still looks like junk even in Paris.

Then we met with Katie and Jess (both Skidmore in Paris). Everyone was so nice and friendly, plus that coalition of Skidmore kids was really nice. It's funny how a single school can unite us so well.

Freshened up, met at the Eiffel Tower. Went up it this time. It is a giant phallus sticking out of the center of Paris. And it's cool to climb it. There is a spotlight that rotates around the top of the tower and doesn't touch any points in the city except for the newest parts in the business district. Paris is a cute city with 6-8 floor apartments, there are few buildings higher than that.

Ate dinner, met with Alexa and Sligh (Skidmore in Paris) and Sligh's brother (in Bilbao, recent Emerson grad). Large group of Skidmore students equals fun on the same level. We got ridiculously loud and I felt like an obnoxious American. But it was ok because the Spanish are worse...

freshened up again. Drank in the plaza and I did my card trick thingy. It's actually a great icebreaker. Oh yeah, and before that, I got puked on. Some young, drunk, fashionable kid puked all over my shoes and a little on the rest of my clothes. A little frustrating but whatevs. At least it was me and not anyone else, I can't imagine anyone reacting super-well to that. Possibly could have ruined our night. Instead it didn't.

Decided to catch the last metro to go clubbing, but found that the metro was almost closed. We, all went home instead, that meant walking forty-five mins uphill to the hostel. No big deal. Before that we were running through the subway passage and there was a large pile of smeared crap on the floor. Paris is beautiful and clean but the Metro system is a bit on the dirty and old side of things.

Walked back to the hostel with Becca Comfort (Skidmore in Paris) and James and enjoyed the quiet Parisian streets. Got a crepe. Went to bed.

That's a French-Ass place

Flights. Anwar. Claire missed. Walking. French places: eiffel tower, sacre coeur, opera, paris. Helpless. Kid asks for time. Dinner. Crepes. Wine.

Got up early and got going. Too bad Claire didn't. Alex and I made it to our flight on time, ahead of time because it got delayed, and Claire—she slept until a half hour after the flight had left. It was kind of a bad scene. The good news for the sleepy head was that she got another flight and got in later than expected but got there anyway.

There, by the way, was Paris. I really wasn't expecting to go see it but it is definitely beautiful. Took a flight with Anwar. Hung out with him a bit. Until he caught up with his friend Nikki in the metro. Thus began the metro hopping and a lot of walking. Got off the metro, met up with James (Skidmore, asian, one of my best friends in college) and checked into the hostel. The good news is that traveling with a “local” makes life a lot easier. He is fluent and easily helps us navigate the most simple of tasks (ordering food).

We saw the Sacre Coeur (highest point in Paris), Opera, Eiffel Tower (saw a crazy techno lights show there too). On the way to Opera, a kid (the kids are ridiculously cute in France btw) asked me something, but I couldn't understand him. It's weird how helpless I felt. I am used to being able to understand the people where I go and in France I truly feel like a foreigner. That's ok though, in Spain I ain't no tourist.

Got dinner with Anwar and Nikki by the statue of Saint-Michel. It was nice but expensive. Paris seems to be that way. Ate crepes, so cool. Split up with them, re-met with James and went to the Eiffel Tower. Everybody is selling crap there. Couldn't go up, it was too late, but we saw the techno show and James pointed out all the buildings in the area. Got some wine in a cafe and called it a chill night. Alex and I returned to the hostel to find our two room mates fast asleep (both girls, unlike our guesses of two guys, we suck at that game). Day one in Paris.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Haz Paz: Cambie por lo mejor

Holocaust. Growing up. The weight of the world. Personal growth.

I walked home with Claire tonight and we got into a discussion of the Holocaust. That was more than an unacceptable time in the history of man. And it isn't an exception. We live in a world—we being us middle-class white-bred Americans—that is relatively peaceful yet we still find reasons to hurt people. Shouldn't the goal be to take what peace we have and extend it to everyone we can? Shouldn't we do that in a way that is peaceful.

Today in gov we learned about the underlying concepts of a dynamic democratic constitution. The reason a constitution is amendable is because the land, the laws, the constitution belong to the current generation. But I think that's crap. The constitution should belong to future generations. The land, the water, and everything about a country should belong to the future. And we should make and support laws according to that doctrine. The current generation (whoever they might be) has a very nasty propensity to consume a country's resources when the mentality that it is theirs exists. If we treat things for the next generation then we could see real progress.

So I had a test today in Arte. Some of those paintings were amazing. The test wasn't bad but I'd rather have not taken it in the first place.

Einstein came up with the theory of relatvity when he was watching a train pass by. On the train tonight I came up with my own theory of personal relativity. First, many people “change” during their abroad time, but is the perceived change real or something else. I maintain that it could very well be something else. People change, no doubt about it, but does abroad “change” them significantly more or faster? Perhaps, but ultimately it is impossible to tell. Why? Because the viewer has changed, the intervening period of time has colored memories, and many other factors make change unquantifiable. Basically, in a universe where change is represented as dots on a plane, all of the dots are moving, and the plane is rotating, a reference point of quantifiable change is impossible.

Yeah, that's the deal.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bad Math and Mondays

Monday.

Yay mondays. We did nothing. Celebrated Kara's b-day at the casa de pollo. Went to conti and studied. Typical day. Nothing exciting. And after all the excitement I have been having perhaps that's ok.

We'll find out.

Here's to tuesday:

Recently we have been quite bad at math. Jarrod (Tufts, tall, neurotic) was looking at the wine left between the 6 of us and calculated 2 liters to be about a liter per person...he actually meant to say ½ liter per person, but that's still wrong.
Alex (Skidmore) was trying to calculate a 10% discount off of a 15 euro item and convinced Claire and Verena the price would be 10 euros. Yeah, that was wrong too.
Lesson: don't let Poli-Sci majors do your math.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Week Nine

Week 9 in ten-ish sentences and a parting shot:

1.Gossip: bad to do, bad to be part of, cathartic, and relaxing—and necessary
2.Studying government in Versus: the good, the bad, the unprepared
3.Sab: nice to see people from Skidmore and show people around; especially nice to see other people period.
4.English counting in kickboxing: thanks Jorge
5.3 am cards: welcome back Continental Cafe
6.5 am Ana: drinking hard alcohol and talking about clubs is fun with 60+ year-olds.
7.Reina Sofia: still awesome, I would do that forever.
8.Anwar: always great to see him speaking his Spanish
9.Ameen & Brandon: thanks for the botell├│n it was fun.
10.La Comedia: situational irony (I think) in finding the humor in looking for the club that is ultimately closed.
11.Buho hopping: because it was cold and the streets smelled like urine; at least we saw a ton of the city.


Crashing on the couches in Madrid, during a break

Sin Estilo

Reina Sofia. Ameen. Dinner. Brandon. Anwar. Buhos. Traveling. La Comedia. Buhos. Public Urination. Home.

Went back to the Reina Sofia. This time with Ameen (from Reno) and Jarrod (Tufts kid). I love it when my friends meet each other. We saw a bunch of really cool artwork, and Guernica again, which is still amazing everytime. There is some really cool stuff in that museum and I just regret that I haven't been able to see it all.

Grabbed dinner with everyone at a sushi place near chueca. Lesson: sushi is expensive and bad in Madrid. But we had fun anyway. Brandon (Reno) and Anwar (Reno) joined us for dinner and we then proceeded to make a plan for the night. I went with Anwar, Brandon, and Ameen and we hung out at Ameen and Brandon's apartment until 2-ish when we caught the buhos to Cibeles. While waiting for the Tufts and Skidmore kids to make it back into the city we wandered around Sol and got chocolate con churros at the “world famous” place. It's just marginal but because it's just about the only thing open at that hour I'm sure there are many very drunken people that give it a much higher rating than it is worth.

Played soccer with cans in the streets. Met up with T&S and proceeded to spend an hour looking for a place called La Comedia. The problem is that the place was closed when we got there. I suppose that was the comedy in the situation; dunno if it counts as irony though...Split up with Verena, Claire, and Alex. They wanted to go out of town to a friend's house. Which I'm not normally against but I do so love being in the city and not spending money. And it was like 4 in the morning, so it's not like there was a massive amount of fun to be had. Climbed a statue. It happens. Hurt my wrist, hopefully it is fine.

Rode the buhos to a place in Madrid i've never been. Just to stay warm. Suitcase in a stairwell. Rode them back got home at 7. in between there was too much public urination. Mostly on the part of the very many Madrile├▒os walking around the city at those hours. The city does not sleep. It was so crowded even at five. Phone was dead the whole time.

I'm an idiot.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

200 Proof Versus Wi-Fi

Test. Siesta. Sab. Madrid. Continental. Jose Luis. Ana.

Continental has been closed for a holiday break. That means the group has nowhere to study except in the cold plaza that has no wi-fi. Actually that is a lie, we finally found a place called Versus, which is funny because it was the first place we ever went to. Who knew the quirky little Medieval themed bar had wi-fi and decent music to study?

Jorge (the teacher for kickboxing) made me count in English, I guess I suck at counting to ten in Spanish. But the class was actually really fun. In kickboxing Jorge pairs me up with a kid named Javi, and I get to kick the shit out of him. Sometimes he is cool, but other times he is awkward and disrespectful (typical teenage behavior) and I can see myself only a couple of years ago in this kid. So I try to give him slack, but when it's my turn to kick and punch, I wail on the pads.

Studied in Versus for the Friday gov test. I would have been better off just going to bed, the test was two questions and they were quite simpleand what I studied didn't actually help me with those questions. Whatever. I should pass the class. After the test I finally got a siesta. And that made me happy.

Woke up to a call from Jaime telling me that Sab (from Skidmore, short, native Filipino) had gotten in from Denmark (where she is studying abroad) and wanted to go to Madrid. So we did. And we saw the national library and the exhibits there, and it was good. And chill.

Returned to Alcala for dinner, hung out. Went to Continental which had just reopened and met the gang there. They were playing cards. Continental in Continental (or a shorter version, Conti in Conti). Stayed there until 3. I would like a good martini, everyone uses mixers. And I hate how it's a pretentious drink, I just want something strong and simple. No mojitos, no cranberry vodkas, no super sweet mixer crap. I don't get it.

Got home 3:30 ish. And Ana was awake with 2 of her friends, and I hung out with them until 5 in the morning. And it was a lot of fun. I loved it. Both of them are very nice and Jose Luis asked me to take him to the young clubs to dance with the chicas and I had some very strong alcohol made of uvas (grapes) but it was pure like vodka. Sweet and definitely one of the strongest drinks I have ever had.

The best part of Spain is that everyone is crazy.

And that was the first half of the weekend.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Grapevine

Gossip is bad. Just letting you all know that. But the program is getting too small very suddenly. I think everyone is up in everyone else's business without regard to understanding all elements and motivations. Granted, there are unjustifiable actions, but people are people and sometimes they aren't assholes or bitches, they are just doing stupid or ridiculous things because they are people and that's what people do.

I wish I could spill it all. Suffice it to say that there is good, bad, and stupid going on in the program. And I am quite disenfranchised. Just wish people could be their best sometimes.

The good news is that nothing affects me. Take that inevitability.

Anyway. Today is the dia muy largo. I couldn't stay in the city to hang with Reno kids, although now I think I should have. I need a break from the drama. I'm not involved but it reaches me.

I suppose it was fun to straight up gossip for once, but it's hard not to just let loose on everyone. And there is plenty to say.

Sorry, I'm going to end this post because I can't decide what to say, what I can say, what my mood is, what's important, what my opinions are, and what to do.

I guess this is part of abroad. Love Spain. Keep the people away for a bit.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Week Eight

Week 8 in ten-ish sentences and a parting shot:

1.Alicia and her hospitality, it was so nice to have you host us for those five days, and your costume was bad ass.
2.Ireland: I was there, I saw the rolling green hills, the quaint little villas, the sheep, the ocean, and the awesome.
3.Dublin and Galway. Hip and Irish and full of things that I barely scratched the surface on: trinity college, guinness factory, spanish arch, etc.
4.Fish 'n chips and Guinness. Great when you get them right in the homeland.
5.Halloween pre-parties: the Irish celebrate it all for almost a full week; they really get the most out of their costumes.
6.Verena's birthday aka nights 1-2 in Ireland.
7.Halloween aka nights 2-3 in Ireland.
8.Claire's birthday aka nights 3-4 in Ireland.
9.Bilingual shenanigans; let's us have secrets, also helps us deceive people (in a fun way of course).
10.Great Djs and live music.
11.The bitch at RyanAir; coats are carryons and midol works better than making people's lives miserable.


The clouds part on a street in Galway

Monday, November 2, 2009

And the days go by

Galway. Birthday. Big snack lunch. Scones. Pub. Live music. Card games. Fortune telling.

Train. Lunch. Bus. Shit happens. Plane.

Galway is a beautiful coastal city. It has tons of stone houses and cutely painted buildings. The weather has been gray here so far, but every time the sun peaks its head out, the colors of everywhere become brilliant and make the city exceedingly picturesque.

Today was Claire's birthday, so we did what the birthday girl wanted all day. Which turned into a crepe lunch/dinner and more wandering around the city. Afterwards we got scones and enjoyed a quiet saturday evening inside.

But that doesn't work for all night. We went to a pub. Grabbed some shots (kahlua topped with baileys called a mini-guinness and it is delicious) and some pints, sat and listened to live music. I love live music. A band playing covers in a bar is one of the coolest things...ever. Better than batman riding a unicorn with king arthur's sword in his hand shooting lightning out of it.

Sorry, that was random.

But because all places in Ireland close early, we were back at the apartment by midnight thirty and playing a game that Verena showed us called Continental. I was not very good at that. Or Gin. But I liked just hanging and talking.

When we were done I did my love fortune card trick(? Dunno it's not really a trick but it's not magic) and had a lot of fun with that. 4:30 am rapidly approached, and we had to grab some sleep.

So we got our asses down to the train station and played more cards as the rolling green hills, the stone walls, the quaint little towns, the farm animals, and Ireland passed before us. We arrived in Dublin with just enough time for lunch. No Guinness factory but my turkey and stuffing sandwich was really tasty.

Once we arrived in the airport we did the whole kit'n kaboodle pretty uneventfully. Until Uber-bitch at the Ryanair check in station showed up. She strictly enforced the 1 carryon limitation on Claire. So strictly that Claire had 0 carryons by the time she hopped on the plane. And then I realized how much shit happens to Claire. Verena, Alex, and I have almost no problems, but Claire always gets them. Her internet, her computer, her phone, her tickets, her carryons, and everything else that has gone down. Wonder why all that is.

Everything else was fine though. Flew home and now I'm here.

Special shout out to Alicia, bad ass for letting us stay at her house and for being so welcoming and generous.

Hallowe'en in Eireann

Irish breakfast. Market. Halloween. Tea. Sick. Costumes. Out. Dancing. Best DJ. Back. Rain. Politics.

Irish breakfast is big and meaty. I left two fries on the plate. A rarity. Here I usually eat everything. In this nice cafe/bar they serve an amazing tray of meat, potatoes, and beans, that keeps you full all-day and ready to take on the Irish gray. And there was an open-air market, and it was so nice to wander downtown to see kids in costumes and people selling their wares and enjoy a brisk October day.

After a bit of shopping, which Uncle Joe would have loved (in fact, he probably would go nuts here), we retired to the house for some tea. And Claire became sick. On Halloween. I think it was the Aspirin on a basically hungover empty stomach. After a nap and an actual dinner (pasta with a butter garlic sauce, which I totally improvised and is exceptionally good and simple) she seemed fine.

Simple Zucchini and Garlic Butter sauce:
3 Zucchinis (or as much as you want)
2-3 tbsp Olive oil
2-3 tbsp unsalted butter
¾ to 1 head of garlic
some water
salt and pepper to taste

thickly julienne the garlic. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes in just the olive oil until the garlic gets soft. Thickly chop the zucchini and toss in the pan. Add the butter. Season as necessary. Add water to keep the oil and butter from boiling off, use white wine if you want. Cook until the zucchini is how you like it. Serve with pasta. Serves 6 about.

Then we got liquor, but I didn't have ID even though I wasn't buying so it was so weird and sketchy because it doesn't quite make sense around here how I always have to have ID on me and that makes me freaking angry because they should just leave me alone and it really doesn't sit well that they have the authority to ask me for so much information without being a law enforcement body and without me being even being remotely close to breaking a law, but whatever.

And I got dressed as Zoolander, but it just looked gay. And I think I need straight male friends because I love the girls but I need to talk about football or sports or hot chicks or something. But not really. And I got to read some Sylvia Plath, and I have a huge list of works to read very soon. And I feel bad that I haven't actually read them.

And then we headed to the club. And we met Santa on the way. And the DJ at club 903 was hands down the best I have ever heard (excepting the really famous DJs). After New York pizza (made by a real New Yorker) we headed back in the rain. And it was very very rainy. Soaked by the time we got home. No big. Sat by the fire and talked (yelled?) politics, while country music played (Birthday girl Claire's choice not mine). At 5 in the morning we called it a night.

Ireland is rapidly coming to a close. I like it. I will come back.

Pub Culture

Fish n chips. Ocean. Spanish arch. Bar and bulmer's NUIG. Pasta dinner. Verena's birthday. Wandering through Galway. Bar. Music. Bad dancing.

We woke up around 12. Half-way through Verena's birthday and all we had done was party and sleep. Which was ok I guess. Verena was very open to just experiencing Ireland. And as far as I can tell, Ireland needs to be experienced like a rainy day. Let the cold and gray sort of fade to the color injected by the people around you at a pace in line with tea time and the sunset.

So we went and got fish 'n chips at McDonagh's which is apparently quite famous. And it was good. And then we went to the ocean and I got to enjoy some coastal smells, sights, and just love the gray wind pushing through Galway. Down at the front they have a Spanish arch dating from the 1500's. It is a pretty little arch with that shows how small Europe really is. The Spanish used to trade in Galway. Pretty cool.

After the waterfront we headed to the NUIG (National University I of Galway) to see the campus. Alicia and her two friends, Elspeth and Emily, showed us around the campus and the cool bits.

Then the drinking culture showed itself. There is a prominent bar on the university campus, fully decked out, and apparently quite rowdy at night. We ordered Bulmer's, a hard cider that drinks like water, and made our way back home.

It was dark but it was only 6; going so far north is a sea change from sunny Spain. We went to the grocery store and got our fixings for dinner. I was excited by the prospect of eating a meal we cooked. And even though it was just pasta, it was great. Thus ended the PG part of the movie.

We obviously proceeded to immerse ourselves in the culture of Ireland and started drinking. Tequila...it was cheap and Verena wanted it for her birthday—which I guess is fine because no one complained.

Once we had enough alcohol to keep us warm, we wandered the streets of Galway to get into a pub that played indie music instead of club or pop music. Sitting down and hearing Spoon on the speakers is surprising after Spain's non-stop pop. The bar itself was empty but became crowded rapidly and was easily half-way full of people in costume.

The irish can't dance. It's like white people in America, but because they don't really get exposed to any good dancing (any other cultural minority) they just become a parody of their awful dancing. But they are cute and are definitely not as creepy as some of the people in other places. I suppose that's the trade-off. Basically I was proud of my ability to half-way move my hips to the beat.

And Verena got a guy to buy her a drink, and Alex got a hi five from a stranger as well as rubbed on the face by another, and Claire convinced someone she was Guatemalen and didn't speak any English, and we stumbled back home under the pretense that we could sing WELL in the streets but realized too late that the truth of our singing ability is a grossly obscured fact drowned out by the lie of our off key enthusiasm.

So we slept and I woke up to Halloween morning and it is really nice to have a living room and a fireplace with friends.

The Land of Ire

Flights. Dublin. Fish n chips. Weather. Train. English. Spanish. Galway. People. Rabbits. Turtles. Halloween. Rain. Glass.

I had to go outside. The scene was getting too bizarre. I had just witnessed an extremely inebriated shirtless rabbit pour himself a bowl of cereal. As he sat there and stared at the tv screen in his now very dirty costume, I looked over at the unintentionally scary mask that was flopped on the couch next to me. I couldn't take it anymore. Inside was too weird; the rabbit (one of four mind you) had stumbled around the kitchen as the rest of the housemates took the time to yell at one another (in quite unintelligible Irish accents) over problems of the pussy (it's unwanted existence as well as it's lack of existence).

Knock knock. Claire was at the window with her friend Alicia. I had gone back inside because outside was too much—now I had to escape in the reverse. I had left them with two Chippendale's dancers and a geek. Like almost everywhere we went, we had found someone with a mutual friend. The geek knew someone that went to Skidmore. I didn't know him and the conversation had drifted around the midwest football culture and people I had only heard of; thus I journeyed my way back inside.

I went to the window and accidentally kicked down a glass. “don't worry, happens all the time, just shove it under something.” Alex, quite graciously followed those direcctions and swept the shards under the refrigerator.

“Where are you guys?” Claire asked me.

“Coming outside.” I replied. This time, when I made my way outside, there was a whole new set of people, and this time it was legitimately surreal. As the sky cautiously squeezed out little drips of mist, an Irishman in a Titans costume yelled lines from the movie and did push-ups; in the meantime, a very bloody surgeon hit on Verena by trying to learn Spanish through her—needless to say she had a fun time giving him very bad translations—and Alex luckily had found herself a cute little Irishman that wasn't dressed in something bloody, torn, or sports related.

All good things must come to an end though, and we left the scene of an impending massacre to Alicia's apartment. It was bed time. But that never quite happens the way we want it to. No matter, after getting Alex and Verena comfy cozy across the street we finally retired to Alicia's apartment. But the place wasn't empty. We entered the living room to find Tom Cruise from Top Gun, a tiger, a turtle, and a french mistress trying to cook chicken. Well, if it was cooking time we weren't about to be outdone. So sandwiches were prepared for Alicia, Claire, and Me. They were delicious.

And the conversation with the turtle and Goose wasn't bad either. Until they drank the last of the Absolut Mango and tried to keep us from actually sleeping.

And so the Halloween pre-party had concluded. And well, it was Verena's birthday, and a great way to start out my travels through Ireland. We started the day in Dublin. Great little city, a bit gray but very Irish. And after a delicious bit of Fish 'n Chips, we hopped on a train for Galway. Being bilingual means that we can have secrets in any country now. Awesome.

More later.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pop Music Explorations of Home

Chilling. Skipping. Working out. Routine. Life.

I am adjusted. I could live a life here, forever if I want. But I won't. That's fine. I am going to Ireland tomorrow, look for long posts for updates. Right now I want to reiterate my very chill lifestyle.

The semester should just be free credits. Because I can't possibly pretend to work much longer.

Anyways, I miss everyone back home. I am excited for Halloween but it just reminds me that I am not in America, which is good and bad. In context to how much I miss my friends at home, it's not so great. But that fades each time I experience something new here.

Slight deviation from Spain. I love the music in my life. It is my home. Everytime I pull up a song or an artist I can grab moments in memory. I can extract memories that always seem so faint without the song. Simple notes elicit smells, images, dialogue, people, places: home. So it has come to pass (as the Bible says) that my home has become my iPod—and the battery is dying. Is there some deeper meaning to the fact that I can no longer go home (metaphorically speaking) for as long anymore? That sometimes now I can't have home when I want it?

It probably just means I need a new battery, but the human capacity to find symbolism in the mundane and insignificant is quite astounding.

Ireland tomorrow!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Week Seven

Week Seven in ten-ish sentences and a parting shot:

1.Rainy days in Spain; not always fun, but always an experience.
2.Tardiness by me, my professors, and the universe trying to drive me insane.
3.Stressful tests and the time spent studying for them
4.Quiet dinners with Jaime (yes they are possible).
5.Claire and Verena celebrating their birthdays—just another reason to get krunk.
6.Garbage men taking pictures of us for us; they are so nice here.
7.My clothes are getting ruined in Spain: sweatshirt has a hole, and all my colors have run.
8.Yo, Tambien. Excellent movie, if you understand Spanish go see it.
9.Shopping in America: the mall in Alcala is freaky American and the dose of home was kind of nice.
10.Getting lost in the streets of Madrid
11.Loud Americans on the buhos home; dear god, some Americans are ignorant.
12.Friends: it's nice to have them, because they make my life so much more interesting.


Alcala between rain storms

Row, Party, Stop, Sick, Buho.

Lazy day. Workout with Jaime. Casa de pollo. Madrid. Bar. Taxista. Mini. Buhos.

I'm not your mom but I do care about you. Unlike your mother I will not stop you from doing what you want. Make your own mistakes, kill yourself if you want, I am not here to stop that—unless you want me too.

Anyways, Saturday was a lazy day. Just hung out and tried to get life in order. Did a little work caught up on the office. Went to the gym, worked out with Jaime. Ate an early dinner at the place that is now becoming our regular hangout, Pollo de Alcala. And then the night got going.

Went to Madrid and found our way into the bar that Dani (went to Skidmore last year, from Madrid, really nice) works out and proceeded to drink heavily...well not me. I was starting to get sick (head cold sick not too much to drink sick) so I kept my drinking to a minimum. But we (too many of us to name) ended up staying for a good enough amount of time that everyone else (except for Maria, who drove) was sufficiently soused up for a night out.

That's about the time the problems started...

hopped in a taxi because there wasn't any space in Maria's car, and headed to a club. The ridiculous and stupid taxista didn't know where he was going. And honestly neither did we, mostly because Maria was the only one who knew. So we got out, and the cuss-prone taxista sped off. He was kind of a...dick. There was a good portion of time we were on the streets of Madrid with no clue where we were. Finally got picked up by Maria who had dropped off the rest. By the time we got to the club everyone was tired though.

Wimps.

So we went to the Buho station. Mini was a little more than drunk. Suffice it to say that the hour waiting for the Buhos was probably a good idea given the large amount of bile and dinner left on the streets of Madrid by that girl. The random part was that two girls from the program suddenly appeared (Rosie and Krizia, both Tufts, extremely nice) and I guess they traveled all the way on the Buhos to party in Madrid with us but because we didn't know where we were for such a large portion of it they got stuck at the bus station. Like I said, the night was weird. Anyways, after Mini expelled the contents of her stomach and we all got on the bus home I couldn't help but notice the extremely loud and drunk and blond Americans in the front.

Sometimes the stereotypes of Americans are extremely true. It was not fun listening to them on the way back. Got home at 5 or without daylight savings 6.

I'm just glad Sunday was chill because I am definitely a bit sick.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

(Not Spain) <3 Mom

Two years ago my mother had a severe headache on vacation and the family found out that she had a growth in her brain. A “time-bomb” that could go off anytime. She had a surgery to remove it, and I was recently looking over some of my old posts when I came across these two bits:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Apple Lossless Audio Codec
Current mood:EMO. sorry.
three days ago. i was checking my voice mail. and i had just finished talking to my mom at the hospital. and she sounded like a robot. it was hard to be attached to a partially paralyzed robotic mass in a bed.

anyway. i hadn't deleted an old message. and it was my mom. calling in to check on me and see if i was ok. because i was out late that night. and her voice hit me. and her general caring for me. and my general attitude of blowing her off usually. it's not that i don't love her. or that i really want to blow her off. it's more that i never feel like i have time for her. don't take your shit for granted to quote jack from douglas. but at some point you have to make time to be with those you love.

everyone has been so nice and helpful. everyone has been so sympathetic and great. thank you everyone. thank you.

these are darker musings. necessary but dark. what is the upside? there is always an upside. except this one is in the future. waiting for the winds to change is always tough.

exhale.

inhale.

exhale.


And this posted 5 days earlier:

ok. now to be honest. well as much as i want to be. i didn't tell anyone because i didn't think it pertinent. i thought that if i denied it, nothing bad could come of it. i was wrong. and probably a little scared. i haven't reconciled with myself fully yet so bear with me. my mother was diagnosed in mid-summer with a congenital growth in her brain. it was 3 cm. that's supposed to be small. it's still fucking big if you ask me. whatever. she went in for surgery last weekend which is why my grandmother is in town. she was taking care of us while my parents went to stanford. the operation went well. but now she's in rehab. that's fucking scary. she is doing way better than when any of the other family saw her but damn that is some scary shit. your own mother. caretaker, matriarch. sick. helpless. it's shattering.

i feel like shit too. i haven't gone in to see her (she's at renown rehab center right now) until today. i've been too busy. but i shouldn't be. i should be taking family time not fucking around with my life...

shit.

i've got other shit that i'll talk about later. this is the main one.

lesson: prioritize.


The good news is that my mom has a sense of humor about it all. This is what she sent me two days ago regarding her 2 year check-up.

Nick,
I had my two year follow-up with my neurosurgeon and there is nothing in my head. Of course, you already knew that. Love you,
Mom

Just a shout out to my mom, I love you, and I'm glad you are alive and well.

tranquilo

Shopping. Movie. Plaza.

It's getting colder now. It's just chillier when there's no sun around. But that's not too bad, I like the weather, it's temperate and nice.

Went to America yesterday. The mall section of Alcala is so much like an American mall I forgot I was in Spain at all. The day was so nice though. Went shopping. Didn't buy anything, but I meant to get a costume.

Went and saw an excellent movie “Yo, Tambien”. I could understand the movie, which was so odd, it was just going to see a movie. It was very enjoyable. I would recommend it to everyone. Great movie. I'd like to discuss the ending.

After the movie, we hung out in the plaza. It was a calm day. It was an American sunday. Those are odd to me because they just don't happen here. I have adjusted so well to the Spanish lifestyle, which is a far different calm.

No point to all this, just a sense of peace.

Impetus pretentious...

I am not unique. Of course I am, but I write because I have the shared experience of not knowing what the hell I am doing/learning with so many of my peers. What we know is that we want to make a difference...at least that's what I hope people have as a desire. But college, the semester abroad, are a purgatory for change and meaning.

Purgatory is the land where the sins of the body are burned off until our eternal souls are ready to be judged. Honestly, the alcohol, selfishness, and excessive partying are tearing my body apart and I better have an eternal soul under the hood because my eternal organs look to have passed their half-life.

And so I keep in touch with everyone I can. My life has been cut into tiny pieces. California, Oregon, Nevada, New York, Spain. And that doesn't count any of the many other places that the people from those places have gone. Washington State, DC, Massachussetts, Britain, Australia, India, China, France, Austria, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Colorado, Utah, Brazil, etc. Does space matter in the digital age?

Pieces. But eventually they will fuse back together, only to fragment again. And when I return to the place I started, I will not have resolved anything. A world full of doubts, of unsaid thoughts.

I can only hope that with this comes the knowledge and power needed to be better than the last generation. Drastically better.

So for everyone abroad, I guess I am telling you to have fun, and not forget that whether we like it or not we are the near future, not the distant one anymore.

Brevemente

Everything about my existence in Spain is like a parody, a sort of dryly humorous slapstick existence.

I roll out of my little bed with the shrunken sheets that don't quite fit it. And I try to put on clothes that after multiple washes are like wearing cardboard. And I try to take a shower but only bump my elbows on the plastic shower walls and drop the shampoo and hit my head on the knob and find that I need to hold the shower head because it's angled at the wall. I try to dry myself off with a towel, but it's so rough I get a rash and by the time I am sitting here on this computer typing on one of the smallest keyboards in existence, I can't help but laugh at my tiny existence and feel grateful that I'm not bigger than I am. Perhaps everyone is so skinny here because they have to be.

I need to put on pants.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quijote

Test. Quiet. Calm. Workout. Cold. Plaza. Walk alone. Party hard.

It's funny. Of course when I look back on this I know I will not remember the tests, I probably won't even remember everyone's names. I will remember the stupid things. I will remember the things that I won't be quite sure are even memories. I will remember the things that seem like dreams. Even the pictures have gaps. What I write, when I write, the space between the lines, are a sieve. A chronicle of a semester in this pseudo-reality is like trying to describe a dream. Little makes sense, and what does is full of a distinctly irrational logic.

If you didn't figure it out from the previous paragraph, I had a test. I did alright...or maybe I didn't. I think it's important to the point that I want the credits. I hate to sound so lazy, but I can work myself to death at Skidmore.

Went to the gym. Kickboxing is fun. I am getting better too. And when I was done, I went with Jaime (Skidmore, eccentric, energetic, Puerto Rican) to grab some dinner. It was cheap, tasty and quiet. I needed that. One of the best parts about Spain is that I walk so much more now than I used to. Walk with friends, walk with my thoughts. I like the solitude, especially in a country so group oriented. Spent some time in the plaza alone, got a beer with jaime, and then we started the partying.

Claire and Verena (both Skidmore, part of the people I spend the most time with) decided to celebrate their birthdays because they won't be in Spain on their birthdays. It's weird going out on a thursday night.

Anyways, left Can-Can and hung out with Don Quijote. Found myself on a second story balcony. Carried way too many people. Yelled too much English in the streets, but Alcala is safe. Madrid not so much.

The garbage man took a picture of us. How courteous of him.