Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Yeah, Madrid 2016...what?

I was there. we were on the edge of the blue and red.

i really want rollerblades

Today was an average day, I am still really pissed that the way the classes work out it is possible to not eat lunch on thursdays and wednesdays. What am I going to do when thursday isn't the weekend? I crave some semblance of normalcy, I'm glad it was just an average day.

I am learning to walk like a spaniard. Shoulders back, strut, arms out, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum. Seriously. I think(?) I get less stares when I walk like that, but maybe that's everyone trying to be polite and not laugh at me.

Italian came up to us and asked in English where a good night out would be. He didn't speak Spanish, came from Italy to Spain, and asked Americans where a party was. Weird; I must be abroad.

There are a lot of amputees here. And a fair number of people with birth defects. Not sure why. Could someone explain that?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Derecho Constitucional

Thank god nothing eventful has happened since Sunday night/Monday morning. Just go to class, eat food and do a little work. The quiet night in the Continental Cafe made my night last night. And tonight, I am just chilling in my room. Finally. Finally everything: showered, talked to people at home, got some good sleep, ate well, did work, worked out, felt normal.

Other news. Ana and I had an interesting conversation about the stupid American that created my sunday. She divulged that my heritage as Japanese obviously made me less stupid than the American. She also said that if I had a French friend over he could stay for more time in the house because they don't have Gripe A (H1N1, the swine flu, the 1918 flu on crack, the plague, a ratings boon for media outlets). I'm not sure if it's racism or just political incorrectness and ignorance.

Which brings me to the bigger point. Racism here seems to be a much tougher thing for the Spanish to overcome. Sex, in a post-Franco world, opened up a huge wave of tolerance for LGBT. There wasn't really a huge sweeping civil rights movement for the Spanish though. Racism has faded heavily but it's still more noticeable than in the US. And maybe that is just because I have grown up in some of the least racially segregated parts of America. I dunno. It just seems that racism, or racial ignorance/intolerance (which is what it really seems to be) is far more open here.

I totally have legit work to do, so I am going to do it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Week Three

The week in 10-ish sentences...bonuses this week:

1.Ana is a grandmother, proud of her new baby girl
2.Joined the gym, gonna get pumped
3.I saw Anwar, this semester is going to rock.
4.Classes started...this probably shouldn't be on the top 10
5.Taking circuitous routes to bars that are right next to each other, and downing bottles of rum in the process.
6.“I am going to the baño, but tell that bitch Alex I want a large women's shirt and speakers.”--'Cente on trying to get free stuff at can-can.
7.Chilling with my homies in the Plaza Cervantes
8.I explored the outskirts of Alcala, it is a barren and dry land that fell out of the west case I haven't really mentioned that point enough already
9.Chilling with my homies in El Retiro
10.Stupid American asshole. Through his stupidity I had one of the most memorable nights of my life.
11.Drunken, fat Irishmen dancing in a pub leads to a bar where they only play salsa. Yo puedo.
12.Churros at 5:30 in the morning.
13.Two strung out, f'ed up pickpockets, more inept and bungling than the three stooges.
14.23.5 hours without sleep, partially by choice, mostly not.
15.Words that have so much more meaning after last night, “I have never been so happy to see the train.”

Shack by Rio Henares

no top ten yet, but i promise soon.

Describame (describe it to me). I wish I could. Yesterday, last night, this morning, now are all a blur.

Got up at 8 and ran out of the house, went to Madrid and went on a cultural tour. Saw an enormous Spider-man and con artists in the plaza mayor. Finished the tour and ate my first paella (good, not amazing, but surprisingly cheap). Hung with Jaime, Verena, Laura, Doug, and Alex in El Retiro (the big ass park there.) Drank a bottle of tinto verano (red wine and lemon soda) between the 6 of us. Waited for the David Bisbal concert. Had Jarrod, Arielle, and Claire join us. Went to the big ass free concert in the plaza and participated in a cultural event (publicity stunt for the 2016 Olympics) where I just looked really freaking foreign because I understood neither the directions about holding up my giant square of blue paper, nor the music being played. Point is that I was in a giant picture of Madrid, and it was cool (free).

David Bisbal, giant pop star, had one single that they played the recorded version of four times before he actually got on. Then he sang it, but I still don't know the lyrics. Something about besos (kisses). He looks like Mike DuPre (Skidmore friend, don't worry if you don't know him, just think lots of curly blond hair) if he became a pop-star. Had two pre-scripted encores. What a surprise...

Went to a place that spoke English for food. Cheap, ordered 'taters just to be an obnoxious American. And then the night really started.

We rushed back to the station at almost twelve to try to catch the last trains leaving to return to Alcala. Not a big deal, made it there on time. Then the train arrives at the station and...hold on a minute I need to gear myself up for this one because it gets nuts.

“I have never been so happy to see a train in my life” I said. But the train didn't have the normal destinations on it so we asked if it was the right train.

“Yes, I am speaking to you in English, this is the right train” another American student told Jaime. So we got on. Almost immediately a native of the area said it was the wrong one. We almost got off, but the American insisted that he had been “doing this for two months, I know it's the right train.” It wasn't. We got off at the next stop on the edge of Madrid. Too bad we had no idea how to get our butts back to anywhere. We were at a charter bus station; unless Amsterdam was our destination, we weren't going anywhere. The adrenaline and hilarity hit me then; the whole situation was hilarious. Getting home at a decent time suddenly flew out of the window as an option. Now it was just a matter of how ridiculously late we would get in.

At this point we all sort of went into a state of shock. The stupid American had just screwed us over to a point that I couldn't describe, and ultimately had changed so much of my near future by being so stupid that musing on the butterfly effect became an all too real experience. Bottom line: I'm never listening to Americans again. Luckily the metro was still running so we got back into Madrid, got off at Banco de Espana, and were where we started at 10 that was one by then. Walked to Recoletos and tried to figure out where the buhos (night buses that run back to Alcala) were. When it became apparent that everything wasn't quite working out, we separated. Doug, Jarrod, and Laura went back (they were more than understandably crabby and tired by this point). The six Skiddies (Jaime, Verena, Arielle, Alex, and Claire) remained. We were either going to the Recoletos office or we were going out. 1:35 now. We decided to go out. Public transpo started going again at 6:00, and the Tufts kids wouldn't even make it back to Alcala until 3:30 at the earliest.

So we walked toward Sol station. Which is a bit of a distance but it had the most open bars. Going out on a sunday may not be the best idea. But what else am I to do when I am stuck in a foreign city with no way of getting back and only enough euros to get robbed or get a drink.

I think I made the right decision.

Jaime asked a prostitute where a bar was. He didn't have business, she didn't have an answer. She just walked away and Jaime was dumbfounded. Whatever, it happens. An extremely fluent English speaker beckoned us into an Irish pub with free shots. We drank, watched American football, and a drunk Irishman dance along to pop songs. It was extremely comforting at that moment. Just chilled there for a bit. 2:30.

Then they closed. So we wandered a bit more.

And we found a salsa club. Keep in mind that I have been wearing cargo shorts, my flight of the conchords t-shirt, and my big-ass backpack around all day/night/morning. We went in and did some salsa dancing (well, we kind of did something that looked like salsa's limbless cousin with epilepsy. At least I did, Jaime was better). But I did get comfortable with the beat and tried to dance...Verena was extremely helpful in telling me why I sucked so much, Arielle was great in letting me lead, Alex was just loose about the whole thing, and Claire had a good push/pull going. 4:55.

Went to a churreria (place that churros are served 24/7). bizarre, because it was like a soda shop at 5 in the morning. 5:50.

Sol station. Watched three trains pass us before stopping at Sol. Two really high pickpockets tried to follow us around. Extremely conspicuous, smoked a joint on the subway. Followed us everywhere, eyed my bag several times, and followed us onto two train cars after we changed. We just got lucky that they were that bad at it all. Got to the Cercanias station (outgoing trains). Got followed by the pickpockets. RAN for a different train and finally lost them. Love 6:30 adrenaline. Got in bed 7:30.

I am not sure if I can ever do that again. Good news is that I am exhausted and I think I am done with anything remotely stage two. I am tired right now.

Culture is weird.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hijo de puta

The Stages of Study Abroad Apparently

Stage one: everything is perfect. Tapas taste great, the people are wonderful, the culture is different and amazing. I am never leaving this place.

Stage two: I wanna go home; everything sucks. People say it is a distinct decline where you sleep in too long and miss home so desperately that you would go to Mississippi just to hear something kind of like English. I think it is far more sinister (siniestro). It's just a mild desire to be back in a place where you are comfortable, it is a complete frustration with the isolation. It is the helplessness at being unable to convey your personality and thoughts to those who you most wish to. It is that dirty feeling you get when you smell your clothes and they all smell like stale cigarettes and dog shit.

Stage three: realism: this is a unique place with its own set of problems. Realism and the honeymoon phase, if one is lucky, will blend into each other. Spain is great, the people are just people, and I can immerse myself here. Stage three seems to be the confidence to overcome the isolation. It takes resolve and energy, but this is the stage that I want to be at. I think I can do it most of the time, but then there are others that I can't. Siestas usually help.

Spent the evening in the plaza again. Played middle school games with Jarrod, Verena, Doug, Alex, and Laura. I like those times, just chilling. Walked the Rio de Henares (Henares River) today, it is quite beautiful. Had a quick bout of homesickness. Hung out with Doug. Saw a Real Madrid game in a bar. Want to sketch and observe life. I feel like I need more time alone with my thoughts (is that stage two). se because I want to be alone in Spanish culture; to watch the Spanish do their thing. Not sure. Maybe it's not important.

By the river is freakishly west coast familiar. Saw ducks.

Stage 2?

Honestly: I could chill in the plaza Cervantes for far longer than I can pretend to love shitty pop songs and dancing along to them. I mean, yes and no. I don't hate the whole pop song and dancing and drinking thing, but I am far more receptive to the journey and the free time in the plaza. Being loud and shooting the bull are my favorite things to do. Dancing poorly and drinking heavily, while fun, cannot even begin to compare to sitting in the Plaza Cervantes and watching life slowly progress. The cool air, the streetlights, the people, the life (real life, not that fake fuzzy crap that happens in the bars) create an atmosphere supreme to the smoke-filled, alcohol-centric, musically challenged bar counterpart.

Maybe it's just a bit of homesickness. Maybe it's just tonight. Maybe it's just because I was tired. But whatever it was, conversation was the most important thing to me tonight, and I didn't get enough of it.

Ate a delicious dinner. Definitely am going back to that chicken place.

I need sleep.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Things I am Learning...

First and foremost, some palabrotas and interesting phrases I have learned:
Joder. Shit, crap, damn.
Coño. Cunt, but with less meaning.
Puta. Literally whore, but used much more like bitch.
Mierda. Shit.
...Que te cagas. Like when you shit. It's cold que te cagas. Funny.
Hacer el polvo. To have sex. Literally to make/do the dust.
Pene. Penis. And penis is hilarious.

Went clubbing last night. Mini (Tufts, Texan, and Tiny) is really gullible, not necessarily last night, but generally. She was just loud and drunk last night; she yelled at me and I was sitting next to I moved. Worked out hard at kickboxing, I believe Kariela (Skidmore, New Yorker) watched me do the kickboxing and said something along the lines of “damn Asians.” The best part of getting reimbursed by the college to go to a gym is that we can take a bunch of classes together and we get to work out on a regular basis. Finished the kickboxing class, drank some rosé and ate tons of Italian (there's a pretty decent place here).

Walked around a bit by myself yesterday and found myself searching my future 10 to 15 years from now. And Spain, a mere three months in my life, would stand out as a powerful and distinct point in my life. I, whatever I do, have found the abroad experience to reaffirm my place in this world, and it will continue to do so well into the future. Also, the fact that I am in Spain, made me a bit dizzy and freaked out. It's so cool here. I keep thinking back to how I did things in the States and wondering how I ever made it to college speaking Spanish before realizing that I get to speak English in America.

Anyways, when we finally went out at midnight, we (Alex, Arielle, Claire, Verena, y yo) made our way to the Facultad de Economia where we met up with some other kids, and 'Cente joined us. Went to Gabana bar, but it was dead. So we wanted to go out and get chupitas at another bar. A couple things: bars aren't open Thursday nights, we knew that, we took the long way, and we knew that too. We just didn't really think, which seems to be a recurring theme. Once we made it to the seemingly distant and very closed bars, we continued walking a little and found ourselves literally right back at the beginning, where our journey started. Perhaps that is why Gatorade and rum don't quite work together...

Said screw it. Went back to gabana, got a free beer and free shit from Carlsberg (the beer company)...or I could have if I wanted. But I didn't. 'Cente had two coupons but was under the impression that girls could only get free stuff, so he gave the tickets to Alex and told me, “I am going to the baño, but tell that bitch Alex I want a large women's shirt and speakers.” Even in context it sounds weird.

The girls ordered bad drinks. Alex put it aptly, “it's like piña colada...and ass.”

I woke up, went to Madrid, did the Prado, and came back. I am sore from working out. Siestas save my life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Soy Nick pero hay mas...

Went to madrid today. I like the art class a lot. Decided that I want to gather my portfolio together to get published, to do what I want with my life. That takes a lot of effort though. And time. I don't really have a lot of either.

I suppose I will just focus on the now.

Saw Anwar (one of my best friends from Reno) today. His program hasn't even started yet. He was a little disoriented and doing his Anwar thing. But that's fine, it was great to catch up with him. I freaking love that kid.

Best part of Spain so far is being able to go to college in the same area as people that have known me for years. It was so odd because we went to dinner with some of the Tufts Skidmore kids. The dynamic is interesting because Anwar and I have known each other for years and shared experiences and inside jokes that we don't even know are inside jokes anymore. With the Tufts Skidmore kids it is such a new relationship with everything being so on the surface, such a different perspective, where only the most recent events have relevance. With the TS kids it's like two weeks ago is ancient news.

I wish I had something profound to say about the difference. Right now it just is. But I did notice that I was almost nervous and giddy for my new friends to meet Anwar. It was funny, I was so excited for them to like him...that sounds odd. I think it's like showing them a huge portion of my life, exposing so much of who I am to them in a very sudden and ultimately vulnerable situation that is completely out of my control. Good news. They liked him. Yay. Can't wait for them to meet ameen or sydney...

spent a ton of time in the park watching kids and old people.

guernica is a great piece of art. Hopefully palabrotas (bad words) tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

simple things with profoundly unsolvable answers aka pretentious nonsense

La verdad esta entre de una mentira y un mentiroso. The truth is between a lie and a liar.

Worked out today. All pumped because I worked so hard and got so much done. Had a meeting with a psychologist that told me I am an emotionally stable and healthy individual that may be beaten into the ground by the unfamiliarity of my settings.

But I have learned some good stuff too.

Like phrases everyone should know with an accompanying reason why:
1.“Gracias.” I say it more often than I mean it but it helps a lot.
2.“Si.” means yes. The default answer, the life saver, the easiest way to get food you don't want.
3.“me gusta mucho.” much like gracias, saying you like something whether you do or not smooths over cultural differences really well.
4.“donde vamos?” where are we going? Generally the person I am asking doesn't tend to know though.
5.“Que hicimos?” what are we doing? Sitting in the plaza, eating dinner, drinking way too much are the common answers.
6.“donde estamos?” where are we? Espana. It was funny the first week, now I know that no one actually knows.
7.“que es este?” what is that? Sometimes you don't want to know so be careful with that one.
8.“vale.” OK only used more frequently.
9.“no tengo ni puta idea,” I don't have a bitch of a clue. The default answer to all the above questions.
10.“joder.” Damn, Shit, crap. Useful.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What's for lunch? Abondigas? Da a luz?

Today was a day of beginnings. But not in that mushy cute sort of way. More in that rough and sleazy, down and dirty, oops I still don't quite understand the language kind of way. Let's start with the classes. Did the first classes, they were funny because I definitely have the nodding and smiling at appropriate times portion of life down pat. I know I look like I understand, but I don't. Today made that very clear.

I got a very scratchy and incomprehensible phone call from Ana today. All I could make out was that she wasn't going to be home when I got home. I had to have her finally text me in English before it made sense. But what I got out of the conversation was that my lunch was waiting for me.

When I got home it all made sense though. Let me recount the story from Ana's perspective in English.

“Hey Nick it's Ana”
“Hi, what's up?”
“I am not going to be home because I am with my son.”
“oh, ok”
“His wife is having a baby! I left your lunch on the counter.”
“I am going to the hospital with my son now, when will you be home”
“20 minutes, what about lunch?”
“I left it on the counter, but I won't be there, my daughter-in-law is having a baby. Do you understand?”
“No, I don't understand, do I have to buy my own lunch?”
“You don't understand, my son is having a baby! I won't be home for lunch.”

you get the idea. Hung out a lot today. Really casual day. Dunno what I am going to do for classes this semester, political economy seems nice but I can't hear the professor.

Dar a luz means to have a baby. Literally, to give a light. I like it a lot.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Week two

Week 2 in 10-ish sentences and a parting shot

1.Bananas: the postre del dia=best dessert ever!
2.Murphy's Law in action: if you need to scramble out of the house in your best pair of jeans, your cute little perrito will take a dump on it, and then do it on your bathroom rug.
3.The surreal and beatific scenery and cuteness of Segovia. It's not quaint like the French whose arrogance and condescension permeate even the walls of any villa in that damn country.
4.Got hit on by some hotties in a night club—which is sort of true.
5.Met two great espanolas: Luis and Sebastion.
6.Watched two people dry hump each other on the dance floor; if I get that wasted just don't let me make love to the couch.
7.First trip to Madrid; rainy, cloudy, claustrophobic, uncomfortable, cool.
8.Bitchy waitress at Continental, I just want a hot chocolate and brandy.
9.Roman re-enactments in Segovia, are we in italy or spain I really can't tell.
10.The freakin' castle!

Alcazar Castle, Segovia, Spain

first classes tomorrow (real classes)

Ok so, segovia day two. Beautiful place, expensive as hell.

Glad I got out of there. Toured a lot of the edge of segovia, ate wild blackberries, marvelled at the picturesque nature of a castle in a place seemingly as barren as nevada. Which is something that kind of freaks me out. The landscape looks so much like the foothills of California I basically did a double take anytime I looked out on the scenery and saw a FREAKIN' castle there.

Played hangman on the ridiculously fast train ride back. Tired. Got off the first train and giddily talked—actually I just lisped. Thhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. They lissssthp in madrithhhhh. It doesn't get on my nerves too badly but I was tired and I probably shouldn't have made fun of it.

Back home. Long week. And bobby snores.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Glad it's for tourists

woke up this morning from a long night out...which was actually a quite early 3:30 am. Anyways, I woke up had breakfast, and Luna (the cute little rat-dog) took a dump on my jeans, then my bathroom rug. Yay. Leaving soon Luna and you took a dump on my jeans, you rock.

Get into Segovia. Exhausted. Beautiful city, met the new madrid kids. Dunno, haven't really talked to them a bit. Whatever. Segovia is a town you do in one day. Very touristy.

Bad-ish bit. Cranky and hungry I set out to eat with some of us and by the time we sat down I was angrily misunderstanding the camarero to the point that I was (not-quite) yelling at him. I felt really bad, but I got my comeuppance. All my food was last to arrive and my dessert was the postre del dia—i didn't know what it was. Lo and behold, a beautiful plate with a pristine cold banana arrives for my dessert. Mmm...everyone else got a chocolate crepe. Lesson, don't be cranky with meseros. It's not their fault. But I enjoyed my cold banana, truthfully I couldn't have eaten much more than that.

Aqueducts, castles, and roman re-enactments. Segovia is italian? At the castle, which was enormous and beautiful, we met an old man that knew everything about the area, he was very nice and had lots to say. There was a wedding by the castle.

Beautiful sunset, scenic place, I couldn't spend much more time here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The surreal life

I had a dream. I mean, a lot of people dream. It's kind of human. Whatever. The dream consisted of me being in spain. No, being in reno. Orientation for the spain program was in reno. Downtown was alcala, but we went to a club outside of town. Saw matt and max, friends from home. It was a weird fusion of home and spain. The hardest part of the dream wasn't the fusion, it was trying to explain it to my companions in the dream (kids from the trip). Reno is so much a part of who I am and I forget that sometimes. Alternately, the fusion itself was interesting because the landscapes blend into each other so easily that there was no visible transition in my dream. On the way to the club, we had the espanolas from last night with us, and they stopped to graffiti a wall. Spain is leaving its mark on me.

I guess the lesson of that stream of consciousness dream is that as much as people don't understand me there is so much I don't understand about other people and the world. Watching the two graffiti that wall on mayberry two thoughts went through my head: first, that sucks I love the pristine nature of my neighborhood; second, it's ok though, I am trying to immerse myself in spanish culture.

What's cultural? What's individually unique?

As people get older, their life experiences diverge greatly; it's amazing how a culture can unite individuals so dramatically.

Dirty Dancing and Bad Ideas

Went to the Gabana bar. The bar for erasmus (foreign exchange students). It's like that song in school house rock about the great american melting pot, but more like a bunch of drunk euro-trash students and americanos trying to understand desperately the unfamiliar and ultimately uncomfortable situations in which they find themselves. So drink up because the beer is free until midnight as long as you order in a language not spanish.

Case in point, the crowded joint known as gabana bar became my simultaneous bane and Anyways, hanging out, minding my business when two girls come up to me and ask me if I am japanese. Always a tough answer for me, culturally, citizenship-wise, no. blood, half. Appearance, one hundred percent. Try to explain that in a language you barely know in a club louder than your mother when she wants you to clean your room. Anyways, it didn't matter, it was just a pick-up line I think, at least that's how everyone seemed to interpret se. no importa.

Second example. The couple, a black girl (young, totally wasted) and the espanola (pretty out of it, kind of old and starting to bald) dancing (read: making out excessively and then just straight up dry humping on the dance floor) behind me. Obviously didn't know each other. Obviously ready to strip each other down in public. Obviously needed a room. But that obviously can't happen because you don't go back to people's places here. Obviously a cultural no no.

third example. Me: pissed that the place is so crowded my feet keep getting stepped on. Brad: nowhere to be found, extremely borracho. Guy in purple shirt: twice my size and definitely an angry drunk. Good idea: bump him hard trying to find your drunk companion. Solution: just apologize profusely and don't go back that way; try not to wake up unconscious on a dirty bar floor because a guy twice your size just sucker punched you in the back of the head. Bad news: I didn't get in a fight, oh well.

Anyways, we met two espanolas...forgot their names sorry. But two guys with decent knowledge of english and we hung out at gabana and then in the plaza. One was very drunk with brad and was yelling profanities and teaching me a fair amount. Finally walked home and found that one lives quite close to me and knows dani well. Cool huh? I feel like this town is quite small...

took pictures with don quijote again...this time with complete strangers.

Inner Thoughts

It's raining. Which is nice, but I thought this place was a desert...there seems to be a lot of rain today.

Let me deviate from Spain for a moment to briefly try to understand myself. Sorry if an overly pensive narrator is annoying. Early last week I was trying to talk to Brad (Tufts kid that seems to interact with the world only about 60% of the time) and I said, “es posible que no hay nadie que me entienden” or it's possible that no one understands me. A thought that was meant to be a play on my budding spanish and rapidly worsening english but seemed to reflect on a much more honest level the qualities of being a person of my demographic character. Being a privileged middle-class white/asian american male of 20 years old seems to be a recipe for a combination of misunderstandings. How I behave, the things I say, all are tempered to my audience because I understand that sometimes there are things I want to do or say that have no context outside of me. That's not to say i'm misunderstood completely, just that often, people get to glimpse me from a pinhole camera.

Spain, and constantly speaking in a language where my ability to communicate has devolved to that of a three year old, exaggerates the obscurity of the lens through which people can understand me. It is something akin, in my experience (and trust me, I know I have very little experience), to looking at distant galaxies: so much information can be determined about them (size, distance, color, composition, age) but the truly important details are lacking (specific stars, planets, life?, dark matter).

Ultimately, I am not sure if this trip will allow people to understand me better, or if it will add another layer to hide myself. One thing is definitely certain: I know far more who I am which is good enough for me right now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tatuajes in Madrid: or How I Learned to Love Public Transportation

Mi madre Ana likes music. Dragostea din Tea by O-zone to be exact or as Americans know it the Numa-numa song. She sings along.

I think Luna has fleas...because I have bites.

I get fed really well here.

I don't dress right here. It's ghetto but it's european. It's like baggy polo plus nice jeans. I dunno...

went to Madrid for the first time today. In love with public transportation. I can't explain my love for it, I just want to hold it, caress it, love it. Because it rocks. But the city. eh...mas o menos. Which is fine. I will warm up to it.

But the city seemed to be way under construction. It was nuts. Everywhere, construction. Sat inside while it rained. I like the office on Calle Recoletos. I don't have much more to say tonight. Kind of fried.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

No tengo dinero o mi pasaporte...

Finally skyped with my dad yesterday. That was good news. A bit frustrating because I have software issues and he has hardware issues. At least my computer isn't completely fried.

We went to the continental last night, must have been the monday slump because we didn't speak in spanish at all. It was so bad the waitress tried to kick us out early and i'm certain that by the end of the night she thought we didn't speak spanish at all besides blanco ruso (white russian) and gracias. It was funny but embarrassing as well. More spanish today.

There are a ton of americans here. It's so weird. The university has a ton of programs and I swear to god I keep seeing new groups arriving. Ugh. Stupid americans.

Had a good day. Which is way more than I can say for one of the girls here, claire. Suffice it to say that past her computer breaking down and it being impossible to purchase there were also other issues at hand. El dia mas peor del mundo. Alex and I were looking at each other in the mall asking how we could help because it was definitely one of those ordeals where everything seems to go wrong.

I was fine though. Thanks for asking. I use too much english per day. I should speak in spanish more. But now that I think about it I realize that they blend into each other. Kind of weird. Hope that's good news.

Went to the continental again. The waitress was a total bitch this time. Excuse the language. Asked her for something and she just walked away. Played “who am I?” great game. I was Rasputin and Juan Carlos I. Lots of fun. Tufts kids were there.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Week One

Summary of the week in 10ish sentences and a parting shot:

1.I bricked my computer in a foreign country and briefly weighed the merits of jumping from a seventh story window versus trying to fix the damn thing.
2.Drank behind an old castle wall that was converted into parking...i don't really get it either.
3.Ate for free or close to free because our waiter didn't charge us for almost everything
4.All these spanish girls are tall and skinny and the American girls are short; it's like trying to find dwarves in a forest of legs, makeup, giant hair, and sequins.
5.Can-can: the bar for stupid americans that think sangria is the drink of choice for spaniards (of course, implied in that sentence are the obvious repercussions of drinking far too much pseudo-sangria loaded with vodka).
6.Public acts of distaste: Urination (our group), and two people I just met having sex in the shadows of a park—bienvenidos a espana.
7.Excellent food, and way too much of it.
8.The spanish don't have a word for awkward which makes it kind of—er, awkward.
9.Too many pictures next to the statue of Don Quijote
10.Chupitas (shots): bad idea, worse idea, alto, a bajo, al centro, al dentro. *edit: as Verena kindly pointed out, the saying is "para arriba, para abajo, para el centro y para adentro!"

La Calle Mayor, Alcala de Henares

that sinking feeling

Yesterday I bricked the computer. If you have ever had a problem with your computer, multiply that feeling by a gazillion. I am abroad, was working in an OS I didn't know, had almost no access to outside help, and everything is in spanish. And no recovery disk either. I had palpitations.

But I fixed it and am now running a much smoother and better supported OS. Yay for me.

Ana brought her dog back from toledo, she is a tiny little toy dog, and she is very cute.

I partied in the park with real spanish people my was awkward but I did get to meet people. Yay for me again.

I'd wish my family could use their damn internets.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tetas! and a Telefono Movil

there is so much graffiti here. it doesn't bother me but i have noticed the striking similarity of spain to recessed southern california. the roads aren't quite as good, the walls aren't as clean, and the graffiti is very creative sometimes.

last night was odd, after meeting our intercambios (pen pals...and mine didn't even show up) everyone dispersed in a manner not similar to how it normally goes. which is great because i get to meet new people and spend some time with them. but i hung with some tufts kids and really enjoyed that. it's just a different scene.

after eating for free at un restaurante (the waiter only charged us for our drinks, and only a few of them at that) we hung out in the plaza cervantes. then we went out for chupitas. the bars here are very cheap if you know where to go and know someone that works there. so many free shots or extremely cheap shots means that i barely spend a euro some nights. but if it's not a weekend, and you are in a turista bar, drinks can be 8 euros or more. and that kind of sucks.

around 3 we went to the new part of alcala. it is much more like a modern suburban strip. not as much of a fan but it has a lot of clubs of which we got kicked out of one and rejected from another (more later). while we (jaime, 'cente, y yo) were waiting for the girls to arrive, we saw one of the directors of the program, sergio. he is kind of a goofy guy, lanky with big ears and a lot of personality. anyways, we went to this club where the bouncers gave us dark stares that said, “stupid americans” no se. we did get in. but 'cente rolled up his sleeves and put on his hat and they kicked us out. not before listening to got a feeling by the black eyed peas though. so we went to another club, but i'm not 22 and i don't have tetas (i mean really, what do you think tetas are?) so we went to ANOTHER club. when we were leaving i noticed that all these spanish girls are tall and skinny and our girls are kind of short. no se pero it's like trying to find dwarves in a forest of legs, makeup, giant hair, and sequins.

went home, but the taxista didn't know where the university is. he did, but not the right one. no importa, we got home alright. which is important. woke up this morning smelling awful.

i think it was the stinky bouncers.

Friday, September 11, 2009


if you don't want to read the boring stuff, i will definitely post a synopsis about every sunday.

heard an english speaking spanish version of all my loving by the beatles.

i am definitely learning the language. i was sitting at the table during lunch and ana and our 2 vecinos (neighbors) were talking about something quite quickly. i didn't understand what they were least i thought i didn't. my thoughts were, “when i really know this language, they will speak to me about sad things.” almost immediately the tone of the conversation changed and ana teared up. it was interesting how i definitely picked up on the theme but not the content...

woke up from last night. we drank in a parking lot that was really a castle wall. i don't like hanging around americans. they are noisy and conspicuous. no importa. i saw a kitten running around the streets last night. black and white. quite cute. i drank a lot of free sangria, i drank a lot of rum and fanta. i spent a lot of time hugging the toilet seat. not again. that was not something i am going to do again. i am still really dehydrated and i want the sirens to stop and the phone to stop and that damn donkey (burro) to stop.

free sangria at can can. no se. i think i like it but it is too american. sangria is for turistas unless it's a special celebration. there's no such thing as water for free. i want to shoot somebody because i would really like that—water, not to shoot someone.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

no importa

“hace calor.” it's hot. every day. and my homestay mother doesn't ever seem to forget to mention it. spanish is interesting because it is a much simpler language.

english has approximately one million words in it. spanish does not begin to approach that number. the eskimos had over 90 words for snow, and here it's just hot. there is no word for awkward in spanish.

there are many murcielagos(bats) here.

my phone kinda sucks still. it doesn't work yet

Ana feeds me way too much. every day lunch is a marathon. but that's fine because it is probably the only meal i eat that is really large. dani next door is very nice and he speaks to me a lot about a lot of things. always friendly. and today i saw some soccer and i really missed the sport a lot. i have to figure that out.

i stopped counting asians, there seems to be a fair amount here. surprising.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009



i still don't have the whole kissing thing down. two kisses for acquaintances, one on the left cheek for friends, and try not to be awkward. i always get that last part wrong. oh well.

my homestay mother is really nice. ana. she is like the nice landlady in noir films or novels. she always is wearing a long brightly colored floral pattern dress and i think all she does is cook and watch tv. anyway, she has curly blonde hair, is pushing her mid-fifties and exudes the spanish aura. she is always smoking and asking if i want more food. yes. but no. please dear god no.

julie was way hungover today. it sucked she just wasn't feeling good. but that's ok she got to leave the world's most boring tour under that excuse. still no phone, i am very lazy.

9 asians. countless mullets.

Monday, September 7, 2009

i have seen 7 asians so far


i am in a medium density urban environment, the majority of the buildings are apartment building with stores on bottom (mixed-use zoning) and about 5 to 15 stories high. the city just ends and there are rolling golden hills. the buildings of the university are old (one was a jail, another a convent, etc) and some have renovations from almost every century. the city is kind of like the town in beauty and the beast if it was suddenly populated by modern storefronts.

there is only ana in my homestay but i just met the neighbors next door and one is a guy named dani and he's 20. i am in a sixth floor apartment.

i spend a lot of time so far with jaime, ariel, alex, claire, and verena. jaime and verena know a lot of spanish and help the rest of us a lot. mostly we are all so excited but we haven't settled down or really absorbed anything yet.

just woke up from a siesta. awesome.

bought toothpaste and a sponge. my spanish is setting in. i want to use certain spanish words as a shortcut to english and often i prefer to say something in spanish. i sang on the way home tonight in spanish. it was a bittersweet song about the temporal nature of this place to me...and it was in spanish!

the tufts kids seem a bit pushy, they were kind of freaked out about finding a phone plan, almost to the point of annoying me...which takes a lot. so i hung with the skidmore kids. we got some ice cream, some food, some drink and explored new parts of the town. i can't keep spending this much money on drinks—there are easier ways and much cheaper ways than going to the top of a hotel on the edge of the city and looking west to madrid in an ultra chic bar with sleazy waiters. es mucho mas mejor isn't a phrase btw. es mucho mejor is though. the difference as i was so nicely told by the bartender with a huge tattoo (tatuaje) is “that's much more better” versus “that's much better”. i think i like the grammatically incorrect version now that i know, language is versatile.

walked some girls home and then spent the walk back to the apartment thinking about the rapid change that has occurred so far. not in me but in the chemistry between me and spain. i think we're getting it together.

we take a lot of pictures next to don quixote's statue.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

two days three days SPAIN

as if to prepare me for the paradox of entering a modern catholic society, the flight in had a camera mounted on the tail, giving me a webcam view of the plane over spain. the profile of the plane made a distorted cross with the wings acting as the arms and reiterating heavily a theme that i am sure will be prevalent in the coming months.
almost as if to immediately confirm my suspicions, the university at alcala was set up by a pope and is a medieval style structure with modern amenities such as wi-fi. cool. and there is no shortage of catholic influence.

went out hard last night. it was an excellent welcoming to a foreign country. i can see how hard it will be to speak espanol while i am here. once i wean myself of the necessity to be quick i will almost definitely find my footing.
anyways, walked around downtown with a bunch of the skidmore kids until around nine thirtyish then we went back to the campus got ourselves together and went out again. then the drinking started. and the hookah (sheesha or...i forgot the other word for it). when that bar got boring we went out again. around midnight. we partied a bit more. then we met up with Maria, a student that spent some time abroad at skidmore. she showed us the bars that the local kids go to and the drinks immediately dropped from 6 to a bazillion euros to almost nothing. 40 shots. stumbled back to the campus at around 2:30. hung out in the courtyard. then my room mate wasn't back yet so i had to wait around. luckily a girl here, claire, decided to stay up and hang with me. about 3 he came in. i slept. now i'm done writing.
one of maria's friends, all were very nice, insisted on telling me that popcorn was called palomitas. PAL-O-MI-TAS. got it. thanks.
Bellavista, 3 izquierda, 6 d
28804 alcala de henares (madrid)

it's my new address and phone number. watched gran hermano (big brother 11). there are two houses. one full of secrets and another full of the regular group of tools and nutballs.

alcala just stops. i am on the edge of town and then there are fields. this is good urban planning as far as i can tell. it is a district with multiple towns and each one ends and has a distinct urban boundary. anyways, it is so cal weather, a bit humid, very dry in terms of precipitation, and windy in the evening.

culture is a weird thing. we just accept certain bits of it. the ridiculousness of our commercials, our dress, our whatever. almost immediately upon entering a strange land, certain things become evident parodies of themselves. it must extend to even our most ingrained prejudices. that can't be good.

example: the contestant males on gran hermano 11 all had an odd look to them, i wouldn't say unattractive but not american attractive. i realized how little things make up a culture. the machismo of males always guarding their woman on the streets, while very subtle, is quite interesting. the biggest thing here so far policy wise that seems to show american ignorance is gay marriage. in a heavily catholic country full of machismo, gay marriage still seems to fit in extremely well with the land.

all i'm saying is YOU CAN'T CATCH THE GAY AND IT DOESN'T CASTRATE YOU. let it happen please.