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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hate is such a strong word

Tarde. Angry. Kill. Rain.

Ok so. Today was a wash. In the sense that I had to spend so much of it doing what I hated. I hated sitting in España Actual. I hated that he held us late after starting the class late. I hate that I had to arrive late in Madrid. I hate that I had to stay late in Madrid for a stupid conference. I hate that the man kept us twenty five minutes late. I hate that I have to study for a test tomorrow. I hate that because all of this I don't get to hang with my buddies in Madrid.

I find it extremely disrespectful and rude to treat the students in the class like a captive audience with no other obligations. I understand if you want us to put in the work but let's start with you (the professor) putting in the effort to show up on time in the first place. The old saying, “you gotta give respect to get it” goes both ways.

And I am so freakin' tired of the construction in Madrid. C'mon guys, get your shit together. The city looks like it's in shambles.

The rain today did not help. 7 hours of class and one was canceled. How much do you think an assault rifle costs?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Week Six

Top Ten for Week Six and a parting shot
1.Seeing my high school friends in a bar in Madrid.
2.Drinking with them; first time not in a house, first time legally, first time casually
3.The Reina Sofia: Guernica, and Julia in my ear (our tutor for the art class—it's ok to have a little crush on her right?).
4.Sergio, Miguel Angel, and Luis—billiards, and surreptitious pictures.
5.Tours with Arturo: a babbling brook of a voice, plus an intense knowledge of everywhere we go equals massive awesome.
6.The mar de olivas (sea of olives): a whole southern region turned into orderly rows of the bitter and extremely useful fruit.
7.Cordoba at dusk: it's like star wars episode one only older and without an annoying and offensive stereotype following you around.
8.Clubbing in ancient cities.
9.Synagogue, Churches, Mosques. The first time I have been to a religious place on the sabbath...ever.
10.Long bus rides because as much as I hate them I love them too.

The plague of students that invaded the south of Spain this last weekend

This one's a bit different

Medina Al-Azahara. Cordoba. Botellon. Closet. Clubbing. Mosque at Cordoba. Synagogue. Long bus ride. Home

Medina Al-Azahara: wake up in the hills of California and the ruins of an Umayyad City appear. Three fifths arches, with stone and brick stripes. A city brilliant in its glory days, now dusky monoliths of archways and columns. The hill upon which the city sits, abandoned ruins stare down at the busy modern suburbs of Cordoba. Drink from a marble fountain, the light yellow to orange, we travel to Cordoba proper.

Cross a bridge spanning the wide shallow river, the mezquita rises over the old town. And once we settle into the hotel across from the 8th century Mosque, all we can think is, “where can we get cheap booze?”

so we find it, because we are students and not gullible tourists. And we gather to drink and have fun, and I find myself in a closet because after a cup full of rum it seems like a good idea to chill with the coat hangers while everyone else figures out where the clubs are.

I am standing on the terrace of a building, staring out at the river, listening to spanish music, american music, and dancing with people I have come to rely on, trust, and perhaps know. At 3:30, after stumbling back with the most tired of the group, I wake up in my bed to return Claire's computer. I close my eyes and wake up at 7:30. By 9:15 I am following the Sunday procession into the Mosque. I am more than a little excited to see the striped double arches. The roman columns. The pishtaq. The church inside a mosque. The stunning Gothic architecture sitting in the middle of Muslim reverence.

And then the haze of the morning has me standing on the top of an ancient tower at another church, looking over gardens beautiful and fountains lined with orange trees. Everyone else has a hangover, but the morning light on stone structures almost incomprehensibly older than me gives me a brisk clarity and euphoria.

I have another first experience when I step into a synagogue. I souvenir shop. I see gypsies and I am on a bus asleep. The south turns into Madrid and the unfamiliar becomes the newly familiar and I am back home. Home, mas o menos, is Alcala and I am ok with that.

Top ten soon

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Disorientation

It's a profoundly shocking experience to fall asleep on the back of a bus and wake up in a setting so familiar. Spain resembles California so closely. I have said it many times before, but the concept has integrated itself deeply into my mode of thought about this trip.

On our trip through Andalucia, we have seen many settings, unique and awesome. Mountains, steep and misty, give way to rolling foothills and valleys of neatly planted olive trees. A sea of olives, la mar de olivas as our group characterized it, interspersed with whitewashed towns. The towns generally have ancient stone churches or fortresses that regally stand above the tightly packed cubes of plaster and ceramic that composes the majority of a town.

I fell asleep on the bus. As we started to move I drifted off and watched this new and unfamiliar place shift under the wheels.

When I woke up I was in California. The hills were more barren. There were no distinct ranges in the distance. Fields, in the middle of october, had been harvested and the rich black/brown soil was turned up. Dried wild grasses and weeds accented the soil with a gold. Round shade trees surrounded the farms, and stood as walls to the lazy silt rivers we passed. Gas stations, full of semi-trucks. The buildings, no longer packed histories clinging to the bottom of a mountain, became suburbs, processing plants, modern steel and concrete. The hills in the distance were unconquered swaths of local trees, with the occasional radio tower. I could not distinguish this place from the sacramento valley if I tried.

Falling asleep with the security of being in a foreign land (if the concept makes sense) and waking up in a place so nostalgic and personal to my being, who I am, is assaulting and disorienting. It's bizarre to share the experience of your childhood setting with peers ten years later in a foreign land.

Mountains hold hills
Filled
With rows upon rows
Of olives.

Sea of Olives

Billiards. Botellon. Late night. Baez. Olive press. Olive fields. Castle, mountain town. Drunken chinita lady.

Ran to the train station. Thus began the trip to andalucia. I made it, without the call from claire though I wouldn't have even made the next train. Slept on the bus, woke up to see two windmills (molinos) in the distance. Ate breakfast at a roadside cafe and drank fresh squeezed orange juice. It was nice. Got back on the bus. Went to los banos de Encina...i think. It was a castle, a town, and a church on the top of a hill. That's where the olive trees started. Olive trees for miles. Rows and rows of neatly planted olive green.

Took a tour of a castle, ancient. Think, people lived there in their cold unwashed states, and we run around there taking our pictures without reverence. Enjoy spain. People died there.

Pulled into Baeza and got settled in. did another tour. So many tours. Beautiful old architecture. Botellon. Do that. Drank a lot. Had drinking games in Alex and Verena's hotel room, too many pictures that can never be put on facebook.

Went to a bar. Saw Miguel, Luis, and Sergio (directors of the program) and played some billiards. I didn't win. Oh well. Danced until the early hours of the morning. When we came back we were very loud and the hotel lady (in a creepy horror movie style) followed us around shushing us. But before we made it to the hotel we ran into a very drunk middle-aged lady that said that she became a chinita (little chinese lady). I dunno what to say about it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Modern Art IS Trash

Went to the Reina Sofia today. It is a great art museum. Full of Picasso and Dali. I loved it. Before I saw most of that stuff in person I thought it was lazy man's art, but now I have a much deeper appreciation for what they were trying to accomplish.

The art, while simple, is not supposed to be a reflection of complexity or technique. It is supposed to be a reflection of the transcendence of art from realism to raw emotionalism. And boy do they do it well. Art is supposed to elicit a reaction. And with abstractions and minimal input they are able to convey feelings that are complex and visceral.

Guernica is a perfect illustration of that philosophy. In pictures and on paper it looks like a child's drawing. In reality, the sheer size and scope of the painting illustrates that each element was carefully chosen, and exists to elicit the mood, and feelings that Picasso strove to convey.

Basically the Reina Sofia was an awesome museum.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reno High in Madrid

Saw Anwar, Ameen, Sydney, and Brandon today (went to high school with all of them and took a very large portion of my classes with all of them). If it was weird to see one person I knew from high school in Spain, it was a whole new level of odd to see five of us together from high school--not quite adults--in a bar together in Madrid. It was great. It was frightening.

It means we have started to grow up I think. That means we are free, it also means we are getting old. It also means the future: the power that we have been asking for all our lives is quickly finding its way into our grasp. Being abroad is the “life altering event that gives you the maturity and confidence to accomplish your goals.” that bullshit doesn't fly with me, but being abroad certainly illustrates many of the limits to your abilities and independence.

When abroad is all over, when college is all over, when young and carefree is over, what will we do. There are 6.5 short years until my 10 year reunion. I don't want to say the most exciting thing was buying the tie for my reunion. I don't want to say my most important decision was to RSVP before or after my haircut.

Sorry, I meant to write more about how much fun I had (a lot), but my mortality and helplessness struck me harder.

sorry...for this and no week four yet

Haven't written in a while. The festival in the plaza was enormous. It was crazy nuts, there were so many people, stands, and tons of food. It was the perfect way to chill out after barcelona. I bought a bunch of people gifts and now I am really excited to give them to everyone. The fair was interesting because it mirrored so closely other fairs and festivals I have been to. The only exception seemed to be the large amount of very abused looking animals...and spanish. Everyone spoke Spanish too.

I have been spending the past week in Continental cafe trying to complete my work for the program. It's totally useless and I really don't see any use for completing it, but nonetheless I have finished it and now I have a huge weight off my chest.

Going to Andalucia this weekend. Way excited. I was way more pensive but I am going to be very honest and say that I am writing this during class and trying to watch a movie on the culture during the early years of Franco. Guess what, I don't understand it and Franco is a jerk. Also, the soundtrack is really annoying. Hopefully something better soon.

Week Five

Haven't written in a bit sorry, here's my top ten and a parting shot.

1.España actual: the world's most boring class, a professor that spits into the mic, and leaving early because it is so awful.
2.Watching the Plaza Cervantes transform into a medieval festival.
3.Awesome thunderstorms that have epic lightning, rain, and disappear as quickly as they came
4.Barcelona!
5.Ryan Air, it sucks but it's great at the same time; who can really argue with the cheapest roundtrip flights of my life.
6.Almost getting mugged on the streets of Barcelona
7.My cousin Crystal and her suggestions for Barcelona; thanks, Hook was awesome.
8.Parc Guell, dipping my feet in the Mediterranean, and Gaudi
9.Naked Dutch guy named Mark, really nice but very odd; our other room mate Charles, the farting, snoring American.
10.The Cervantes festival in Alcala, it's nice to come home to Burros, fresh baked bread, and screaming kids.


Gaudi's most famous work (Sagrada Familia, Barcelona)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gray Matter

I remember when I was in kindergarten thinking of the limits to language. I remember thinking that the time between a thought and the words to describe it seemed like an eternity. I felt that language was an inhibition to conveying perfect thought. As I grew older the frustration faded as my fluency and comfort with the English language grew. The gray and nebulous thought burst forth in my mind as fully formed words, English became my thoughts; my thoughts tripped off my tongue, exceeding my ability to double-check them. English became my sword that I could swing blindly. While often this mastery of the weapon was not tempered by control of its direction or accuracy, it nonetheless could free my personality and opinions from my mind.

In Spain, the second I arrived I was thrown back to kindergarten. I was unable to convey perfectly the concepts in my head. I still have a huge amount of trouble with my fluency. I look at people and think English, speak Spanish. More recently though, the thoughts have not been in English, merely gray, and they must be translated and spoken. I hope that's a good sign, that I am making the transition to fluency.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Barcelona!

First and foremost, being in a foreign country and finding out that your president has won the Nobel Peace Prize is one of the weirdest, proudest moments to occur. Going into a foreign store, looking at the news, seeing the headline, and knowing that the two Americans you are with are the only people to feel the same way as you in a very large radius is a bizarre phenomenon.

Second, I apologize for the anachronistic nature of this post but I want to get the mugging out of the way first. I promise everything else will be as chronological as possible. No more numbers.

Went to Barcelona this weekend.

The Mugging: One and a half blocks away from the hostel we were staying, a group of Spaniards asked me where a Negro Discotec was. If it doesn't seem like Spanish it's because it was some weird fusion of Catalon, English, and Spanish. Anyways, I made the very big mistake of saying I didn't know where the fuck a discotec was. That means I made eye contact. They persisted and insisted on continuing to ask in broken Spanglish. They kept trying to explain what negro was (it's black btw). In order to get close to me, on the assumption that I knew very little Spanish, one of them kept pointing out things of mine that were black. He was handsy; I'll get to that in a sec. He kept pushing his hands toward my pockets and belt, explaining that my belt was black (which it wasn't, it was brown, moreno). When he pushed my shirt away and saw that my belt was brown I could tell his energy faded. I was blocked off from the girls at this point by another of the “gang” and they were looking for a way to take my stuff. I continued to push his hands away from my body and at one point he full on touched my junk. Great. I barely responded to his words and my knowledge of what he was saying made his actions seem stupid. I got lucky, it just took too long for them to get close enough to take my stuff (I just wasn't drunk or uninformed enough for them to take advantage of me, but it's a very fine line). They gave up and we went to the hostel. The girls were pissed that I blew off the incident, but I figure that if I get out of a potential mugging with only mild sexual assault, it's a good story and nothing more.

In all honesty, writing about it just now made me more nervous than I was then. I am really surprised I got away with everything and without any physical confrontation. I got lucky. Really lucky.

Back to the timeline. Got off the plane and took a bus into Barcelona. The hostel: Centric Point, very nice and close to everything, also right off a Metro stop. I would stay there again. Wandered around. All the pictures we took I either have are of my eyes closed or I look like I haven't slept in weeks. I had fun though I promise.

There are a lot of Americans there. Correction: there are lots of foreigners, I truly have not heard that many foreign languages in a city ever. San Francisco comes close, but the sheer number of European, American, and Asian tourists that spoke little or no Spanish/Catalon astounded me. It doesn't really matter though, everyone speaks English in BCN. It's just weird, I haven't heard that much English in a long time, kind of a culture shock.

We were booked for a 6 person hostel room and when we came back from shopping, a yellow towel was draped on the chair in the room. We sat and conjectured on the nature of our new room mate. Our bet was a German/French girl traveling alone for some reason. When we came back from dinner later that night we were greeted by a six foot tall Dutch guy named Mark (who incidentally traveled back to Madrid with us).

We drank tinto de veranos (Red wine and fanta) in the hostel room and went out looking for fun. We made it to Hook and grabbed mojitos (at the recommendation of my cousin Crystal). Quiet bar with a pirate theme, seems like Crystal's scene. And it just blew me away to think that she had been there before and spent time there, in a place so distant for both of us. A bizarre sort of connection and shared experience followed.

Almost got mugged. Returned and found a naked Dutch Mark asleep in his bed.

Next day went to Parc Guell as well as doing our own version of a Gaudi tour. That guy was really cool, dunno a thing about him though. Parc Guell is amazing. Absolutely beautiful view of the city, a real tourist destination but totally worth it. Previous to that we went down to the Playa and I dipped my feet in the Mediterranean. It was warm, and awesome.

Previous to all that though, I got us a little lost and we found ourselves at the marina. Just by sheer coincidence I ran into Liz and Max, I couldn't believe my luck. We talked for a bit. But I assume that they couldn't figure out international calling like me because we never could call each other after that. Oh well. But it was great to see them and it made me realize I want to visit London.

For dinner we got bad Chinese food. I know, authentic Spanish. Anyways, called Jarrod (Tufts, tall, skinny, and apparently quite gullible) and talked to him about meeting later. Not a big deal, except the part where I told him that the girls and I had smoked crack in a very serious voice. He believed me. I forgot to tell him otherwise and until about two hours ago he believed we had smoked crack last night.

We checked out the clubs on the playa after going to an Irish pub called 32. the club scene is kind of nuts, I would like to try it sometime. Got back to the hostel around four. A symphony of snores emanating from our newest room mate Charles (the sixth and final person. From LA, large asian) with background vocals from Mark. Passed out, woke up to Charles farting really loudly.

I'm back and going out again. That was my weekend.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

uninspired but spain in the rain is kind of a pain

We talk a lot about movies, tv shows, and pop-culture. If we don't talk about skidmore. I feel like the culture shock presents itself in a disgustingly earnest desire to engage in conversation about American media. It's not bad, it's just interesting that as our days become more boring, our propensity to talk about America increases.

Walked out of class to catch a train today and the professor apparently flipped a shit. I need to talk to him about that, but let's be honest, I am not getting any credit for listening to his lectures (I have to read a book and write a paper) and he is boring (like boring beyond late night public access boring).

It's interesting to think of the number of people abroad at any given time. We become ambassadors to foreign nations and promote peace and understanding in a way that only clubbing with your peers in a strange land could achieve. The question then becomes “why doesn't this translate into better world politics?” The answer: “I don't remember signing a free trade agreement with America. In fact, I don't remember anything after the second jagerbomb.”

I really don't know though. I honestly think it is that people get far too wrapped up in the petty parts, sometimes the bigger picture is too big.

I have to write a lot before next wednesday...balls.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Defamation or Cultural Immersion?

While walking to the train station on Saturday (before provoking my deportation by relieving myself on a flagpole) I had a talk with Laura (Tufts, reminds me of Laura Kreidberg). It was a good talk.

My main concern, what am I going to ultimately get out of this experience. I want to find something important; be it a love of Spanish culture, elevated independence, a ton of photos, or perhaps something else. That short walk to the train station clarified something. Clubs, while fun, aren't Spain. Don't get me wrong, Spain is very full of clubs and very full of club life, especially Madrid, but that is no more a true view of Spain as saying the nightclubs of NYC is America. Ultimately, I am asking for a car. I am asking to drive around aimlessly. I am asking to meander through the country of Spain. I am asking to see the people live, not party.

Some may call it pretentious to shun my fuzzy memories spent in a hazy club full of Americans and Spaniards poaching drunken Americans (Ciera), but my favorite part is seeing people interact in the far too sober world of daylight.

When I make the walk in the gray morning light to the Derecho building, I see children going to school, people buying groceries, people standing in the unemployment line, life. How am I supposed to understand this place if I am sleeping off a hangover for most of it?

Sorry if I sound pretentious or whiny, just that kind of mood.

Week four

Week four in ten sentences, and pardon the parting shot not being here but my computer is wigging out on me—again.

1.Walk like a Spaniard: I can do it but I sway more like a drunkard.
2.An Italian walks up to me, speaks in English, asks for a good Spanish club—wait, what?
3.Yay for average days and tea in Continental.
4.Amputees and birth defects: Socialized healthcare ruins your babies and chops off your limbs—not really, but I would like to know why there are so many here.
5.El Escorial: the giant palace in the foothills North of Madrid, full of bodies in the basement, paintings on the ceilings, and gold on the books
6.Siestas—having them and not having them, they were my week, and I found out that I am very cranky without them.
7.Bad Chinese food, it's really weird eating it in Spain.
8.The second Madrid all-nighter.
9.Provoking international incidents through public urination (y'know, pissing on the largest Spanish flag in existence).
10.Drinking wine in the plaza Colon and not paying 15 euros to get into a gay club.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Second Madrid all-nighter

Ok, so. Last night. Madrid.

First let me say that I absolutely love the chicken place we keep going to. We fed 7 people for 42 bucks. They give us 11 euros a day. Think of the savings...oh yeah, and the restaurant is just about the best and tastiest here in Alcala.

Second, went to Madrid. Stayed out all night again. I'm not really into paying 15 euros to get into a gay club ( I was told earlier in the night that it was free but at the door they definitely were charging me to not get action, awkwardly dance, and pay more for overpriced drinks) so I didn't. Instead, after chilling in a bar, I wandered around with three Madrid program kids (James, Maria, and Laura) and 'Cente and we tried to find our own fun. We got lost. On multiple occasions. But that was ok, somehow we always made it back to someplace one of us knew. Yay for putting cities on grids. Most of the night was spent looking for a bathroom and realizing that drunk partying spaniards don't actually use restrooms, instead they have a very strong propensity to mark their territory wherever. The girls weren't so into that plan, but 'cente quite hilariously found a garbage can, pulled out a phone, pretended to talk on said phone, and urinated.

After all the members in our motley group had relieved themselves, we proceeded to Plaza Colon where James and Maria had earlier hidden a liter of vino. We sat and drank it. Then we loudly, and quite drunkenly for James and Laura, conversed until the trains started running again. 'Cente and I returned home. It was fun.

More fun though was passing out on the train, only to be rudely awoken by a man vomiting in the stairwell of the train. Great. I didn't have too much fun, but obviously he did. Blegh.

I practically ran home, it was balls cold and I was ready for sleep. Yay for nights that go until 7:30.

The moral of this story isn't go out, get drunk, and pee on the largest flagpole you can find (though I did that and it is extremely disrespectful and if anyone is remotely thinking of doing that please consider the consequences of an international incident involving a symbol of national pride and your urine). The moral is that you can have your own fun on your own terms. I have mentioned before that I far prefer to get to know people than to awkwardly dance at a club (especially a gay one that charges 15 euros—did I mention that yet?) and if that is the kind of all night fun I want to have then I can have that. It's not stage 2 to say that you don't want to do something (like go to a gay club and pay 15 euros for admission).

By the way, is four forms of photo identification not enough here in the EU? Because last night I had 4 forms and the bouncer still was all huffy about it. (“OK...I guess I can let you in...). I am not going to get borracho and stumble around with my passport in my back pocket in the middle of Madrid at 3 in the morning. Sorry I have 4 other forms of Spanish government issued ID.

I'm going to take a nice siesta today.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

El Escorial: Don't worry about yesterday, nothing happened

I went to El Escorial today. It is a giant palace north of Madrid. Had to get up way early for it. I was kind of pissed about that. On the train there were lots of really rowdy and annoying kids. They threw paper planes and screamed. I understand the excitement, but I don't understand the seeming disinterest on the part of the many chaperons to ignore the prodigious and unwanted noise of around thirty 7-11 year olds. Whatever.

The tours they take us on are really cool, I like them a lot but I feel they are poorly organized and on a less than stellar schedule.

El Escorial is a beautiful palace in the mountains. It is an enormous monastery, palace, and school. It is really freakin' old. I sneaked some pictures even though we weren't supposed to take them. Hope they turned out well. It is extremely grand and has a large mausoleum in the basement for royal members. Kind of weird because it is so beautiful but ultimately just filled with dead people. Which sort of brings me to the bigger thought. Why spend so much money on something like that? Wouldn't it be far more prudent to cremate the dead and use said money to improve the lives of the people? Isn't the surest sign of devotion to country to not expect regal treatment post-mortem but instead to have others honor your name through humanitarian causes?

I don't mean in any way to be pretentious about it, or even to say that El Escorial shouldn't exist, just that personally it doesn't work for me. Beauty and luxury should be shared, not hoarded by royalty.

Wandered around, ate bad chinese food, slept on the bus, rolled my ankle, enjoyed Spain.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Real Coordination and Good Planning = Siesta and Lunch

It is really nice to go to the gym. Getting a good workout is necessary to finish the meals that Ana prepares for me. I try so hard but they are extremely difficult to eat unless I have exercised prodigiously. Eating is so important here and I just don't understand how they stay so slim.

I have missed my siesta for the last couple of days, and that pisses me off a lot. I can't stay out late without a nice little nap. I was cranky last night because of it.

My spanish is getting pretty decent. I don't know why I speak in english anymore, I think it's because it is easier and there are times we don't want people to know what we are saying. It's interesting having the bilingual (not quite but I mean, fluent enough to convey almost any thought) card and playing it. Spanish is a really freaking fast language. It doesn't have as many peaks in vowels or differences in vowel pronunciation and thus tends to fall rapidly off the tongue. The limitation is that there are significantly fewer words in Spanish. Descriptions require about 2 to 3 times as many adjectives to adequately convey a concept. Not a big deal except that punchlines, at least from the English translation have a tendency to not quite work.

But that also is because I have to break away from the English to Spanish train of translating thought. If I speak and think in Spanish I am sure the jokes (and the punchlines) will flow naturally.

Today I am skipping the Thyssen Museum because I believe a siesta should trump all.