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.