Thursday, December 9, 2010

Air control a**holes

I´ve mentioned it before, but I will say it again in order to put this post into context for anyone who has been living in a cave the last two years: the world is suffering from a financial crisis. Apparently, in some places like Spain it is an obsession and not a day goes by that we don´t hear about it. First, we had a general strike back in September (that really did a lot of good, I see the changes daily) and then things seemed to die down a bit in that it wasn´t necessarily the first thing to come on the news everyday. Then, a few weeks ago came the implosion of Ireland´s economy and successive bailout. People here in Spain (with good reason I am sure) have become concerned that they might be next. I understand their fears in an economy that seems to rely heavily on the tourism industry. When people are suffering hardships, they cut back and travel is one of the first things to go. Well, here I was thinking I was contributing to the European economy (even though their currency is kicking my paycheck´s ass each month, I don´t hold it against them) by planning a trip to Germany over the 5 day break we had last weekend. Please realize I am totally simplifying this situation and that I am sure I don´t understand it completely. (This is my disclaimer, don´t hold it against me).
Two days before we were to leave, the President of Spain announced his measures for improving the economy and safeguarding against what happened in Ireland. He proposed nationalizing some airports as well as the state run lottery system. He decided to cut unemployment benefits to some as well as trimming the budget in other areas. I am not saying that these measures are the best or only answer but he had to do something in order to save Spain from sinking (or at least make it seem that way to appease investors). Now, let´s not get into the fact that it seems to me that there are WAY too many public officials that are basically tenured into their positions until they retire (an age that he also proposed to change much to everyone´s horror). With no performance review system that I am aware of, some of these people leech off the government for years doing little or no work. I honestly think Spain needs to revamp their beauracracy and do away with a lot of these jobs, make government more efficient and cut costs (but what do I know). Don´t tell anyone I said this because I think like 75% of Spanish people work for the government in some capacity (I made that figure up). In any case and in order to get back to my original story before I was sidetracked, one of the proposed changes was privatizing some of the airports. This sent up a cry from people working in the airports who were accustomed to living with government benefits, pay and expectations. The air traffic controllers who were already trying to negotiate for more time off (maternity leave, time off after weddings etc.) apparently thought they could leverage this new chain of events in their favor by staging a strike during the national 5 day vacation period last weekend. They did not go to work and therefore both the airspace and air travel in Spain came to a complete halt. My flight to Berlin was of course canceled but I was lucky enough to be able to make other arrangements to have a vacation here in Spain. What about those people whose only chance to travel was this weekend? What about those who scrimped and saved for just one vacation this year or those people who had planned on seeing their family after a long absence? What about those people who were traveling for work? What about those people who were traveling through Spain on their way elsewhere but became stuck? What about those parents whose underage children were traveling alone for the first time and became stranded in a foreign country because they couldn´t fly into Spain? In a country that relies so much on tourism and travel, to have everything come to a screeching halt during one of its highest traffic and volumed seasons is criminal. Today in the newspaper I read the figure that the country lost 500 million plus in revenue. That is criminal. That the government had to declare a state of emergency and take over the airports and force the air controllers back to work is criminal. That people were stuck in the airports for days and that it is still not back to normal almost a week later is criminal. Apparently, the Spanish government agrees with me and the strikers are being taken to court beginning today. We will see how it pans out but in all reality even if they were forced to turn over their paycheck for the rest of their career, the financial losses will never be recuperated. This is truly a case of the wants and desires of a minority undermining the needs of the majority and I hope they are punished in a fitting way. I´ve heard rumors of another possible strike planned for the Christmas season. I can´t imagine the goverment letting it happen but we will see.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sisters in Sevilla

It has been a while since I last updated my blog so there is a lot to write about. I am sure it will take a few posts to fit it all in. To begin with, my sister came to visit me in Sevilla for a week not too long ago. She arrived on a rainy Saturday. Unfortunately this rain was to continue during her entire visit. Now, someone (Jose) once told me that constant rain like it has been isn't normal for Sevilla in December. This is the second time I have been here around Christmas and the second time it has rained all day every day. I think someone lied to me. Even with the crappy weather, we decided to head out to an alternative (and by that I mean unattractive and smelly looking) bar that night so she could meet some of my friends. The day after my sister arrived we went to Cordoba to visit the Mezquita which is the old mosque that someone threw a giant cathedral right in the middle of. It is really impressive.
Inside the Mezquita
Visiting Cordoba
 Not to let the rain get us down, Chrissie and I did all the touristy things around Sevilla as well. In between shifts at work, we visited the Cathedral and climbed the Giralda which is 34 flights up and has amazing views of the city. We took the tour of the Plaza de Toros and learned about bullfighting.

In the bullring
We visited the Reales Alcazares which is a Moorish palace with amazing gardens. We ate tapas and saw a quick flamenco show. Chrissie met Jose's sister and parents and we went to a Chino so she could have an authentic experience.
Just one of the gems we found in the store
I think she had a good time but the week went by so fast that I kind of forgot to ask. I was sad to see her leave on Friday morning but hardly had time to breathe before packing for our trip to Germany. To hear the tale of this vacation, tune in soon.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bitch on a bike.

Sevilla is flat and thank god. Otherwise I wouldn´t be able to rocket around the city so easily on a bike. I have a Sevici (which is pronounced Se-vee-cee and should not be confused with the dish of seafood cooked in citrus juice) card which allows me to basically check out bikes around the city at different stations. You run your card, pick out your bike and off you go. It is a great system, provides exercise, cuts down on the use of cars (and emissions) and saves time. But everything isn´t all fluffy puppies and candy. There is a down side to Sevici. I have come to realize that I am quite agressive when I get behind the handlebars. Allow me to explain. As part of the bicycle system and as a way to foment their use, the city has created many bike lanes so that you don´t have to ride in traffic (because Spanish people drive like maniacs). This of course means that they are on the sidewalk. However, so as to distinguish where bikes can go (and therefore where pedestrians CANNOT go), the city has painted GREEN lanes with WHITE bicycle symbols. As far as I know, this system has been in place for some time. It isn´t something that started yesterday. Yet, people still wander aimlessly everywhere, meandering and puttering while walking in the bike lanes. Thankfully, the Sevici bicycles have bells on them. Ding, ding. Outta my way jerk, I´m biking here. Green lanes = bike lanes. It really isn´t that difficult. Pedestrians can walk anywhere else they please. In fact, I wouldn´t even care if they wanted to walk in traffic. Just stay out of the bike lanes. It wouldn´t be so bad if the Sevici bikes were better maintained. However, when you pick out your bike, it is sort of hit or miss. Maybe the brakes work, maybe not so much. Maybe the seat swivels, or maybe it is stuck so high that your feet don´t touch the ground. Maybe the light works, but probably not. The Sevici bikes have taken a beating and it is sort of like playing Russian Roulette when you take one to ride across town. You take your life into your own hands and it would help to not have to swerve around people walking in the bike lanes. Once I did feel bad when I saw a little old lady who was wheeling her grocery bag home in the rain while walking in the bike lane. I slowed down and tried to balance while inching along behind her on my bike, all the while thinking my free 30 minutes were going to expire any second. Then another little old lady came flying up behind us both, dings her bell insistently twice and flew by us. That´s it, I think. Respect the laws of the road abuela and I passed her too.

Monday, November 8, 2010

(Not quite a) Teen Mom

There has been quite a bit of buzz here in the south of Spain as news broke last week that a 10 year old Romanian girl had given birth in a town in Andalucia. I read a report that her mother (the baby´s grandmother) claimed that it was something common in their country. Ummm, gross. I thought seeing fourteen year old trashy girls on Maury claiming they wanted to have a baby (you don´t know wat de bin thru) before being scared straight was bad enough. Apparently if they lived in Romania, they might be on their second (or third) child by that age. Now, I am not claiming that all Romanians believe in underage motherhood, nor am I aware that their government condones it. (Here in Spain consensual sex with anyone under the age of 13 is considered child abuse). But haven´t we all learned something from "16 and pregnant" and its spin-off "Teen Mom" (both of which are shown on MTV here)? Why else would they be on TV other than for educational purposes? Don´t we all, for example, wonder how Gary and Amber still retain custody of Leah? Or why Macy hasn´t dumped Ryan´s broke ass? Don´t you wish that Tyler´s dad (who is creepily with Catelynn´s mom) would cut off that horrific mullet? (If there have been recent revelations in any of these cases please forgive me being behind the times, we are still on season 1 here). We see that none of these girls or their boyfriends/babies´daddies were ready to be parents and if we go by the title of the show, they were at least 16. Now, subtract 6 years of what little experience they might have had. Though a ten year old girl might physically be able to give birth, that does not mean she is ready to be a mother. How will she support the child? Let´s speak just financially (because we can assume there is no book deal or Dancing with the Stars in her future). How will she provide for this new baby at ten years old? A lemonade stand? I´m going to make some assumptions here and say that she isn´t the next Dougie Howzer and won´t be making big bucks as a medical doctor at ten years old. I´m going to wager a bet and say that the government is going to have to step in to help her out. And we aren´t talking about her native goverment because since the baby was born here in Spain, it is a Spanish citizen. Convenient.
All in all the whole situation makes me sad and a little (or a lot) grossed out. I can only hope that things go well for the baby who had no choice in the matter. Perhaps this girl will break another record by becoming a grandmother at the ripe old age of 18. God, I hope not.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I love it when you call me Big Poppa

The Pope a.k.a. Benedict XVI a.k.a. the Bishop of Rome a.k.a. Joseph Alois Ratzinger is coming to Spain! He is headed to Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela this weekend. Here is Spain the Pope is known as El Papa which for me is just weird. Allow me explain why, first because for me Papa is my grandpa and always will be even though he passed a while ago. My memories of him include big gold chains (he was Italian of course) and  arguing for hours with my grandmother about whether there were native penguins in Florida. I remember being sort of afraid of him because he teased us when we were little and I recall him bringing us donuts after church on Sundays when my grandparents would come to our house. Wait a minute. Maybe El Papa and my Papa weren´t so different after all. El Papa rocks gold and kind of scares me. He also seems to be unable to admit when he is wrong (see birth control, gay marriage, women´s role in the church etc). He might take a page from my Papa´s book and give out money to everyone on Christmas, that was always a hit and donuts after church wasn´t bad either.
Papa can also mean potato (see solanum tuberosum) in Spanish, though here in Spain they say patata. Sometimes when I hear people talking about El Papa I think of a giant potato blessing a crowd. Usually it makes me hungry.
Big Poppa a.ka. The Notorious B.I.G. a.k.a. Biggie Smalls a.k.a. Christopher George Letore Wallace was a rapper who was murdered in a drive-by shooting in 1997. He was known by many different aliases like the Pope. He also wore big gold chains and was sort of shaped like a potato. He also kind of scares me. There are many conspiracy theories about his unsolved murder and now seeing all the "random" coincidences, I could see how the Church might be involved.
In any case, if I had to rank all of the Papa/Poppas I know it would go a little something like this:
1. My Papa who I love (R.I.P.)
2. Papas especially if they are french fried
3. Papa Noel a.k.a. Santa Claus
4. El Papa because you like to think that as a symbol of the Church he would be doing good things
5. and finally Big Poppa who lived up to the stereotype of violence and degradation of women by rappers and caused Puff Daddy to slaughter a perfectly good Sting song which puts him squarely at the bottom of my list

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Shout, it´s that time of the year, Christmas is coming, it´s just about here!!??!!

In the States you know that Christmas is coming because radio stations start to play holiday tunes or the mall dresses up in its big ornament finery. Santa comes to town and you see parents lined up for hours waiting for their turn to take an awkward picture of their kids on his lap. All of the sudden, toy catalogs begin to arrive because the elves are busy at work. Every year it appears that this is happening earlier and earlier. Wasn´t it just Halloween like yesterday? I thought being in Spain I would have a respite. Nope. Christmas (and Los Reyes more importantly) are coming here too, even though it is only the first week of November. How do you know? Well, for one thing you walk into your local grocery store and the first thing you have to traverse is a jungle of toys and already overstressed parents searching for this year´s hot item (which seems to be some creepy action figure type thing called Gormiti). Good job marketing folk. Next, after weaving your way to the actual food, you are bombarded by a whole gamut of Christmas sweets that just happen to be placed right next to the fruits and vegetables. Obviously whoever designed that was not on a diet. You have your chocolates, your pastries and your mantecados (google it, I will be bringing them home for people to try) all of which you can buy in bulk. Even if you hurry up to finish your shopping so as to ignore the not yet blantantly obvious signs (still no actual decorations to be bought) that the holidays are almost upon us (in 2 months time yet) you will begin to notice changes elsewhere as well.
First, and perhaps my most favorite part of the holidays both here and in the U.S. are the addition of Christmas lights. In my opinion, the more, the better. More colors, more moving reindeer or waving santas, more blow up snow globes, more spiral trees. In fact, I look forward to being able to drive through neighborhoods back in Michigan, appearing as if we are casing houses in order to give them grades on how tacky they are (this is assuming the crisis allows people more than one piddly strand). It´s the one time of year I think it´s okay to waste a bit more energy to light up the night, especially when it seems to get dark so early. Here in Sevilla I have yet to see the Christmas lights up yet but while in Lisbon we saw them, though not lit up.
What for me has been the most drastic change was something I noticed last night while watching t.v. Last year as I spent Christmas in Spain I was shocked by how many cologne and perfume commercials they played and this year promises to be the same. How many could there possibly be? Oh, a lot and it isn´t uncommon for them to repeat the same commercial in the same break which can sometimes last 15 minutes. Spanish people in the U.S. have complained that our shows are broken up too often by 3 minute commercial breaks. Here you might see half a show and then have to wait 20 minutes for it to come back on, during which time you have forgotten what the heck was happening. I find that much more annoying. Add to it the fact that now I can expect to see only commercials for cologne which inevitably are weird and have nothing to do with the actual fragrance and I am planning on not watching t.v. for a while. The only time I find the commercials not annoying are when they have a beautiful man to drool over.
The final way you know Christmas is right around the corner here in Spain is the selling of lottery tickets for the holiday drawing. Sellers are posted up on street corners shouting out their numbers. Many people will buy the same number year after year in hopes that it will hit someday. The whole Christmas lottery is quite a production. Jose has explained to me several times how it works and I am still a little fuzzy on the details but basically they sell 20 different tickets of the same number and if it is called the people split the winnings. The drawing is televised and the numbers and the amount won are sung out loud by children. Things get complicated when the number is 156801, for example. I have yet to get my ticket but I am determined to at least win back the 20 euro I will have spent this year. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Quanti anni hai?

While here in Spain I have taken it upon myself to enroll in an Italian course. I have always wanted to learn Italian and figured this yearlong break from other studies was the perfect opportunity. Italian for me is either the beautiful, harmonious cousin of Spanish or the creepy, hairy  neighbor of Spanish. In any case, both languages are fairly similar so listening to my professor and gleaning the basic meanings is not really a problem. I am in a class full of Spaniards who come when they feel like it, leave fifteen minutes early and tend to chat when there. That being said, I sit towards the front of the class to hear better and not be distracted. I might be the only person there with a real interest in learning the language. Most days I sit by myself which at first bothered me. I thought, what kind of a freak am I that I have this entire row of five chairs to myself. Do I smell? I added extra deodorant and a spray of perfume, it wasn´t that. Do I not smile enough? I spent an entire class grinning like a fool, nope not that either. Is it because I am the only foreign person there and the professor uses me everytime she needs an example that doesn´t refer to spagnolo? That was what I started to believe, until yesterday. We had just begun to learn numbers (this class is going incredibly slow) as well as how to ask a person´s age. Fortunately I actually had a partner that day, some guy who sat down I think because he was running late. We were given a sheet to gather information about our partners. Things were going just fine: Come ti chiami? Alexandra. Di dove sei? Sono americana, di Detroit. Quanti anni hai? And without letting me respond, this guy says "trenta" and begins to write it down. Scusi?????????????? TRENTA!!!???!!! I snatched the paper out of his hand. No me jodas. Thirty? I don´t think so. I scratched out what he had written and wrote down 24. Toma. I then asked if he wore glasses, the only reason to explain why he could have thought I was thirty. Then I just realized he was an 18 year old douche with no sense of how to gauge someone´s age. Good thing he wasn´t some carney working at the guess your age game because I would have totally walked away with some fugly stuffed animal. Now I am sure the other students who are all babies also think I am not only some weird foreigner but also the weird continuing education foreigner, that older person who inevitably sits in the front of the class and asks more questions. I can relate, I used to hate that person too, the one who hadn´t been in an academic setting since they had banned smoking and probably was still wearing a scrunchie. That person who missed class sometimes because they couldn´t find a sitter. That person who demanded more of the professor´s attention with some warped sense of entitlement. But I am NOT that person. I am not old enough to be your mom son. Now, because of my reaction I will also be known as the somewhat violent, foreign, continuing education student. I am doomed forever to sit by myself. Well I have one thing to say to that: Vaffanculo!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hello Big Jesus

Last weekend, José, a few friends and I took advantage of another holiday (Spaniards never work) in order to drive to Lisbon. We left in the early afternoon, worried about the forecasted rain and though it poured the entire drive there, we were fairly lucky the rest of the time. After nearly five hours in the car, we were finally crossing into Lisbon when we spotted Big Jesus, a giant statue that overlooks the city with arms spread wide. Needless to say, I spent the entire weekend orientating myself to where on the skyline I could see Big Jesus. He was always watching. Creeper. We arrived and checked into our hostel which did not make the best first impression. After getting off the scary elevator that had no door and went flying up five flights of stairs fast enough to make us all a bit dizzy, we were greeted by walls with fur. I am not sure who made that design choice but it was disgusting. It looked like someone had gone to JoAnn Fabrics and picked up the cheapest fabric from the discount bin and staple gunned it to the wall. Gross. The actual inside of the hostel was quite nice. We crashed the first night and got up early the next day to sightsee. We went to your standard places, the cathedral, a castle, a monastary and a watchtower. In other words, we could have been sightseeing in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France etc. What sets Portugal apart is how dilapidated yet charming everything is. Who would have thought crumbling and in need of a paint job could be so pretty. Sunday night was Halloween and it was the first time in my life I didn´t dress up as anything. We went out and found a bar where a Portugese cover band was playing American music. All I wanted to hear was some Journey but alas it was not to be. We left on Monday morning, said bye to Big Jesus and headed to Faro which is a city on the coast of Portugal where we had lunch. All in all, a good trip but a word to the wise, do not plan on being in Lisbon for more than 2 days. That´s really all the time you need.

Big Jesus

Inside the Monastery

Explorer´s sculpture

Torre de Belem

Friday, October 22, 2010

El jamon no engorda, and other tall tales

Here in Spain I have noticed that old wives´ tales are still fairly common. I think these myths are probably based somewhat in reality but that doesn´t make them true (and any less ridiculous in some cases). For example, I have been scolded by a Spanish friend for going to open the refrigerator without shoes on. Why? Because I might electrocute myself. Though I appreciate that he was trying to keep me safe, I am fairly certain that as a kid I would yank open the freezer sopping wet from swimming in the lake in search of an Otter pop and never got zapped so I would draw my own conclusion on the odds of me getting a shock. Apparently, it was the combination of not having my feet covered that might cause electricity to travel through the fridge and into my body, as if on a tile floor (because carpets are virtually nonexistant here in the south of Spain) my feet (though quite large) might create enough static electricity to cause a reaction with the metal of the doorhandle. Now, I can understand that an older person who lived most of their life without a fridge might think of it as an almost magical appliance especially if they didn´t understand how it worked. I am sure this is what led to the belief that you couldn´t open it without your feet being covered, but the person who came sprinting across the kitchen to safe my life, yelling "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" was around my age. Go figure.
The preocupation with feet goes even further. I have been told that if I didn´t wear flip-flops (house shoes, slippers, footy-pajamas, fuzzy socks or some other type of foot covering) that I would catch cold. This was in the heat of the summer if I am not mistaken. Why? Because even though you are living in a sweatbox, the tile floor is cold and the combination of hot and cold could make you sick. I can understand keeping your feet warm in the cooler months but the sensation of cold tile (though it does not compare with grass) is actually pretty pleasant if you are dying of heat. I am starting to think that maybe my feet are just really fugly and instead of telling me to keep them out of sight, people here kindly try to make me believe I am going to suffer some terrible fate in order to force me to wear slippers.
There is also a strong belief that certain foods don´t make you fat. If I have heard that "el jamon no engorda" (ham doesn´t make you fat) once, I have heard it or a variation on the theme 50 times. I am pretty sure that anything can make you fat if you eat enough of it, even celery. That being said, I have also been told that diet pop (not soda, I am from Michigan now) WILL however make you fat. Everything in moderation, people.
Feel free to comment with your own bits of Spanish wisdom, or if you would like to refute my findings here (if your mother´s friend´s cousin once died from being electrocuted by the fridge, if only she had on slippers, may she rest in peace)...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cadiz, cats y "canis"

Today Jose, Megan and I went and spent the day in Cadiz because (surprise surprise) Spain has a holiday and people had the day off. We arrived midmorning and wandered around the city, visiting the museum (interesting because Cadiz might be the oldest city in Europe), the cathedral (because this is Spain of course) as well as the Torre de Tavira (an old watchtower where you get great views of the city as well as the opportunity to see it through a camera obscura which reflects realtime images from a lens onto a mirror onto a disk, or at least that is what I understood of the mechanics as explained by the not-so-enthused guide). We had a seafood lunch and then wandered down to the beach. I am somewhat sad to say that one of my favorite parts of the day was seeing all of the wild cats who live down on the breakers next to the water. I really wanted to lure one close enough to steal it but of course, Jose was the voice of reason. Instead I contented myself with playing a sort of "Where's Waldo" (my dad's favorite bedtime story for us when we were little) with the cats. Without a striped shirt some of them were hard to find. All in all, I liked Cadiz and I am sure it is even better when you can go to the beach to swim and sunbathe. Alas, it appears as if that weather has finally left for the season. Damn.
On the way home from Cadiz, we passed by bad part of Sevilla and the idea of the "cani" came up. For those who are unfamiliar with what a "cani" is, allow me to explain: imagine a trashy wigger type with a bad haircut and an attitude to go allow with. They dress in baggy and loud colored clothing. They wear a lot of "gold" and they like to listen to their music on blast on their cellphone so everyone can hear. They come from sketchy neighborhoods and travel in groups partaking in delinquency. I like to think of them as our equivalent to trailer trash (complete with white eyeliner and long stringy pony-tails on the girls who are inevitably rocking a tight, short tank top that  really highlights their very classy tattoos). It's like if Eminem had a Spanish cousin who couldn't rap and was a douche. Really fascinating. If you are curious about this phenomena, I recommend googling cani in images to get a better idea. Back to work tomorrow...

Friday, October 8, 2010

For the love of all things good, what floor are we on?

Here is Spain, they number their floor levels differently than we do in the U.S. Instead of beginning on the first floor, they start at the ´planta baja´. The first floor is only counted after you go up one flight of stairs. What is the big deal you might ask? Well, I live on the fourth floor here in Spain (which would be the fifth in the U.S.) and there is no elevator. It is kicking my ass literally. Imagine climbing Mount Everest, you start off enthused, by the second floor you need to stop at base camp and eat a Powerbar. By the third you have strapped on an oxygen tank and half the expedition has either abandoned or died. By the fourth the sherpas are dragging you the rest of the way. Moving was especially fun as you might imagine, hauling things up and down the steps. For some reason at nighttime I get especially confused when climbing up to my apartment because I have almost tried to open the downstairs neighbor´s door twice now, both times stone cold sober at that. I am sure they would be very excited to find some random American girl trying to force her key into their lock. Focus Allie, one more flight. Now, I will admit (reluctantly) that the Spanish system of floors does make sense, sort of. Not like the metric system which still sucks. I can´t tell the temperature in Celsius at all. I know 40 is way too hot and the teens are chilly. Everything else ranges from coolish (we are talking about a Michigan native now) to sweatbox. I also can´t figure out how much I am actually working out at the gym because the machines work in kilometers. Fail. Good luck trying to figure out the nutritional information on food packages either. WTF is a kilocalorie? Since I have to climb up to my beautiful apartment in the clouds I am not going to worry about it. Let´s not even talk about military time. 16:00? 23:15? I don´t think so. If you can´t look outside and tell what time of day it is to decipher whether it is 4:00a.m or 4:00p.m. you have a problem.
I guess you could say there are things that I certainly miss from the U.S., peanut butter and my family and friends being the two most important (not necessarily in that order). Still in my thoughts and prayers, especially in my trek up to my apartment.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Grief is the price we pay for love.

My nephew Miles Daniel Potter was born prematurely a few days ago. He lived but a short while before passing away. My sister and her husband got to hold him and love him, and finally say goodbye. My mother was also there to welcome him into the world as well as when he left it. She told him about all of the people who loved him and would miss him. But is any of this really any consolation? How do you grieve a life that was never even begun? How do you say goodbye to someone you never met but loved all the same? Why did this happen?

Growing up I used to hate when my mother would tell me that "life isn´t fair." I guess she was right all along. Life isn´t fair, and it sucks. My family is devastated and I am halfway around the world. I always wanted to be an aunt, and I was for a little while without even knowing it. What now? Where do you go from here? There is nothing anyone can do to make it alright because it´s not. If you are the praying type, please pray for my sister and family. If not, please keep them in your thoughts. I do believe that grief is the price we pay for love and we all loved that baby from the moment we heard about the pregnancy. So here we are, searching for answers where there are none. Trying to make sense of the senseless, one day at a time.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The reunion of Kate, Allie, Barcelona...

Last weekend Kate came to Sevilla to spend the weekend. This also coincided with my move into my new apartment (FINALLY!!!!!!). Okay, one thing at time. Kate arrived on Friday morning while I was at work. We met up and went out to lunch as well as some shopping at the Factory which is a clothing outlet here in Sevilla (yes!). That night we went out to a Spanish disco where Kate felt it necessary to creep on a ton of people, very obviously taking pictures until a pair of gay guys caught her and actually posed for the picture. They then proceeded to ask me to add them on Tuenti (Spanish broke ass version of facebook) so they could see it. I liked the disco minus the 9 euro drinks, the four hours of bad techno music and the random skanks who came out onto a platform every few songs to "entertain" the crowd. Now, I can handle go.go dancers or whatever you want to call them but these girls didn´t even dance. They just posed and not even to the rhythm of the music. Lame. At least there was another chick who got into a pool of water to do synchronized swimming routines also. She was earning her money because it was NOT warm out. Saturday we woke up and went to the Festival de las Naciones which is taking place this month. It consists of a bunch of different booths selling food and arts and crafts from different countries. We tried the Mexican food. Not impressed. I have been missing Mexican food here and thought that finally I was going to get a fix. Unfortunately their nacho cheese looked neon (imagine ballpark crappy) and their "spicy" sauce was too tame. I can´t say that I am surprised. Spanish people do not do spicy food but like my family likes to remind me, isn´t Mexican and Spanish the same thing? Not in food. After we spent the afternoon sightseeing before dinner (tapas of course) and a flamenco show. Kate left on Sunday morning and our brief reunion of Kate, Allie, Barcelona came to an end.

Sunday also marked the move into the new apartment. This is a big deal for several reasons: 1. it is the first time José and I will be living together by ourselves, 2. we were getting incredibly fed up with living outside of Sevilla proper, 3. the people who were living there before us were taking advantage of the situation and I may or may not have just wanted them out for spite. To make a long story short, we have been waiting a long time to move and things with the previous owners didn´t end that great. After 8 straight hours of cleaning, we were finally somewhat settled. My apartment, like many here in Spain has a ton of built-ins and while cleaning it was like a treasure hunt for the random things the people had left behind which included: at least 50 keys that don´t open anything, a fan, the ugliest tea set I have ever seen and links to a watch. One nice touch was discovering that for our gigantic dining table the previous owners had only left 2 chairs. Douches. At least they left a ladder which will come in handy to switch out the lovely Tweety bird light fixture that is in one of the bedrooms. Ikea here we come!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hi Spain, Christopher Robin called and needs Winnie the Pooh back in the Hundred Acre Wood

If you know me, you know of my aversion for licensed character anything (including but certainly not limited to apparel). That being said, Spain suffers from an overabundance of adults with a fondness for cartoon characters. I don´t see anything wrong with children who wear a Sesame Street outfit but seeing some grown ass woman wearing a Disney shirt makes me want to lose it. I will admit that I noticed this trend a lot more while living in Chile but here in Spain it is also common. I understand that a lot of times anything associated with American pop culture automatically equals cool but come on. (This also applies to clothes that have a phrase written in English that makes zero sense of which I have seen quite a few). Attention Spaniards: Please, for the love of god, take that sun bleached and sad looking Looney Tunes character out of the back window of your car. I am sure it is blocking your view and really serves no purpose other than to say to the rest of the world that you are a weirdo (or as they are called here a friki). Why is this coming up now you might ask? Well because yesterday Jose and I took a short road trip down to a typical Andalusian town (Arcos de la Frontera). It was beautiful and all but the whole ride there and back I couldn´t help thinking, "What the hell are these people thinking?". In related news, many friends I am sure remember the infamous "I´m bringing Grumpy back" t-shirt. I am happy to report it has not made an appearance since I moved here. Though I love Jose to death, that was something that I had to nip in the bud.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

FML, I am striking the 29th too.

On September 29th there is a call for a general strike in Spain. Everywhere you look there is publicity calling for people to stand together in solidarity to make a point, or in other words to take the day off work (okay, I´m in, really no need for more explanations). From what I gather from the posters Spanish workers have had enough (sobran razones apparently) of something and I am assuming what they have had enough of is the economic crisis. Want to know what I have had enough of? Hearing about the crisis here in Spain. Every day on the news (which is on the TV 24/7) they talk about the crisis and how slow Spain is at coming out of it compared to elsewhere in Europe. (Maybe this has something to do with the fact that somewhere near 30% of students don´t finish what would be our equivalent to high school here, I am just saying). In any case, it is always crisis this and bad economy that. Blah, blah, blah. So the logic(?) of this strike is that due to a lack of jobs and money, people should not go to work. Huh? So let me get this straight. In order to show the government (the man or hombre if you will) that there needs to be more job creation, Spaniards are going to strike and not work. When life goes on that day, as I imagine it just might won´t that prove that a lot of what the strikers do for a living is unnecessary? Isn´t not going to work when you very well could sort of a slap in the face to those who are unemployed? What I find interesting about this idea of a general strike is that the government guarantees that there will be basic services. So the buses and trains will still run (manned by the poor suckers who draw the short straw and have to go in that day). And the people who want to go to work will be able to get there. I am not one of those people. If I am immersed in this culture, well dammit, I am not going half way. I am striking too. Just imagine all the fun things I might be able to do on a free day. I can go to the movies, out to eat, shopping, to a museum, more shopping, to the bar (because you know those will be open), all the while spending money (see contributing to the economy). I can´t wait because gosh I really need a day off. I hope the people who work at all these places are Chinese because those people are hardworking and they are always open, otherwise my free day is going to be a complete drag. I might as well just go to work if everything is closed. So maybe instead of a general strike it should be a ´Spain needs a mental health day´where you get to sleep in and only do fun things. Oh wait, that´s what weekends are for.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Attack of the body pillows!

Though there are many things I love about life here, my pillow is not one of them. You might be thinking, weirdo what is the big deal, a pillow is a pillow, right? WRONG. Allow me to explain what the big deal is because this is worse than the flat pancake pillow my sister and I had in Paris. Unlike their overseas counterparts, the Spanish pillow is much thinner and longer. To use a description that might be more familiar, if we were in elementary school  and they were the shape of folded paper it would be hot dog style, versus hamburger (see American) style. The pillows here remind me of body pillows, the ones that pregnant women use or lonely, sad people who want something to sleep against. But the Spanish pillow is put at the head of the bed, so rather than having two individual pillows, you have one long skinny pillow to share if there is someone else in your bed. Who thought this was a good idea or comfortable in the least bit? I am a selfish sleeper who doesn't like having someone breathing into my face or onto the back of my neck (sidesleeper) and usually having two pillows allows for a separation gap big enough to prevent that creepy feeling. Here in Spain, different story. With one big, mutant pillow there is no border area and your bed partner can scootch right on over until they are pushing you not only out of the bed but off the pillow. It's an attack! Plus, the pillow case is like a big tube with two open ends instead of the American kind that is sewn shut on one side. Maybe it is neurotic of me but WHY didn't they close one end? Instead the pillow pokes out of both sides. You constantly have to adjust it. Ahhhhh. Well, I will tell you one thing. In my apartment there will be real pillows to sleep on, none of this one pillow foolishness. Jose claims that there is one pillow so that one person doesn't end up hogging it?!?. I am not sure I get that logic but just in case, we will have to have four on our bed. That way there can be no argument, just sweet dreams.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

If I hear Phil Collins one more time I am booking a flight home.

Because Jose and I are still waiting (im)patiently for our apartment, we have to commute into the city each day which gives me the opportunity to listen to Spanish radio and all it has to offer. As someone who HATES talk radio, I will often flip back and forth between three or four stations during the drive in order to avoid commercials and people who are running their mouths. What is played on the radio never ceases to surprise me. It would appear that Spaniards have what I will call an eclectic taste in music. The line-up of songs might start with something in Spanish and then jump to "It´s raining men" sung by Geri Halliwell (the skankiest Spice Girl if I do remember correctly, not the lesbo, or the blonde or future-Mrs.-David-Beckham-emo-never-like-to-smile Spice but the one who dropped out and ruined my childhood and belief in girl power). Inevitably the song "Halo" by Beyonce will come on (which for some unexplainable reason is the only one they play by her) followed by some 80´s hit you wish you never heard again (who is really hungry like the wolf at 730am, this isn´t a Twilight book). Next you will probably hear something recent like Flo Rida or Eminem (not that the listeners understand a word they are saying). Dispersed throughout are random songs in Spanish and you will most likely get some Coolio as well because as I have stated, Spain is single handedly keeping his musical career alive. I have heard Gangsta´s paradise more in the last week here than in the last decade in the States. Here is a sample line up:
Bruce Springsteen (who Jose always reminds me is ¨The Boss¨)
Rihanna (from the post abuse era)
Lady Gaga
The Cranberries (remember them?)
Lady Gaga
Phil Collins (noooooooo!)
Madonna (this will not be one of her bit hits but rather some obscure song or La Isla Bonita)
Lady Gaga
Shakira (enough with the World Cup Wakawaka b.s. isn´t that something a muppet says?)

And by then I am at work. You may have noticed a pattern. The day is not complete if we don´t hear at least one Lady Gaga song, often times two. Sometimes Spanish radio is nice because it plays a song that you think, "oh yeah I remember that". Other times not so much. And let´s not even get started on music at discos (not to be confused with clubs where only the ladies dance if you get my drift). I have found that you can remix just about any song into a techno version. Because really there is nothing that gets the people´s fists pumping like a remixed version of an old Italian song. Research it. It´s this summer´s big hit.

Here is the original:

Here is the remix:


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Attention! Gorilla spotted in Sevilla!

A big, hairy, smelly ape-like creature has been spotted in Sevilla! No, a primate hasn´t escaped from the zoo or some weird private collection. The ´gorilla´I am referring to is the man that ´helps´you park your car and then asks for money. Often times it is difficult to find a parking spot in Sevilla, this I will admit but I also think it is ridiculous to have to pay some random bum who stands in the street and points to a spot you would have seen anyway. These men are called gorillas, why I do not know. What I do know is that if you do not pay them they will not watch your car and something ´unfortunate´ might and probably will happen to it. So I guess you are paying for two services, the pointing out of a parking spot (and perhaps the help with guiding your car into the 3 square feet that are available) as well as standing vigil next to your vehicle (rrrright) to make sure no one scratches, dings, bumps, smashes, crashes or totals it. If for some reason any of the aforementioned things happens, they are not responsible because really they have no official capacity for being there anyway. I am sure there is another reason for calling these creepy men "gorillas" besides their appearance but I say it is a fairly accurate assessment. If they aren´t homeless they certainly have that look about them. It seems as if they pick streets where people are going to park anyway and set up shop. To maximize their earnings they will also have you double park. In a city with narrow streets to begin with, I can´t think of anything that makes more sense. The Spanish like all Europeans can fit their silly little cars into impossibly tiny spots so why not put another row of cars next to them. You just have to make sure not to put on the parking brake or else the person you have so convieniently blocked in won´t be able to shove your car out of the way to squeeze out. When I see so many cars double parked I curse the fact that there aren´t more hills in Sevilla. I can imagine someone like my mom was when I was younger, with four kids, frazzled after a long day of running errands showing up to their car with an arm full of groceries only to find some jerk has double parked and blocked their car. Where is the gorilla to help her push the other car out of the way? Didn´t she pay him? Oh wait, he is at one of the million bars in Sevilla spending the money all the poor suckers paid him today.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A weekend in Portugal

This weekend Jose and I went to Portugal. I like to think that Portugal is to Spain what Canada is to the U.S.: it is easy to cross the border, the people are fairly similar minus their weird way of talking, things are a bit less expensive and you might go for a vacation but you do NOT want to live there (because in the end they might be your neighbors but there is something just a little off about them). I had the sensation while in Portugal that I was still in Spain but a sort of twisted version of Spain where towels and linens are really cheap. In fact, oddly enough a lot of Spaniards travel to Portugal exclusively to buy these items. Anyway, Jose and I spent the two days at the beach. You might think ohh, aren't the beaches in the south of Spain (and Portugal) supposed to be sexy, full of the bronzed and beautiful? If this is your (mis)conception, I hate to burst your bubble. The several beaches I have visited have all been characterized by old men in banana hammocks and women who were either wearing inappropriately small bathing suits, or nothing at all. The majority had tanned themselves until their skin had the consistency of a leather bag. After giving these future skin cancer patients a run for their money in the sun, on Saturday night we went out to eat and then decided to walk through the town where we were staying. It just so happened to be the same weekend as their feria (what I would best describe as a state fair complete with rides, churros and music). I am sure that the idea of feria will come up again in the future so stay tuned, especially in April in Sevilla. Anywho, Jose and I wandered around a bit, passing by the rides (run by Spanish carnies) and the food (mostly fried but lacking in deep fried Reese's, dammit!) until we came upon a concert. Imagine, a Cuban boy band, belting out their songs while (what bordered on obscenely) grinding their pelvises (pelvi in plural?) all dressed in white a la Backstreet Boys. In the intermission between songs there was the standard, 'everyone raise your hands if this year you want love in your life.' Of course, I raised my hands. 'Everyone raise your hands if this year you want health.' I obediently raised my hands. 'Everyone raise your hands if you want to travel the world this year.' Okay, I thought, this is getting a bit ridiculous, what more are you going to ask me to commit to? Their final request was: "Al que le gusten los cubanos, que levante las manos" (If you like Cubans, raise your hands). Well, this caused a crisis for me. Can I admit as an American that I like Cubans? Does that make me a communist? What do I do? Is it rude if I don't raise my hands? Is everyone staring at me waiting for the American girl to make a decision? Ahhhhhhhhhh. I didn't have to think for long as I was saved by being handed a beer. Now that is something I can commit to.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

We went to a parade!

Last night Jose and I went to go see a parade! It´s not what you think, there weren´t any Spanish shriners and there was no candy thrown (that is reserved for Los Reyes). Not a fire truck could be seen and though there was a marching band (whose players chain smoked between songs), their music didn´t consist of ´Stars and Stripes Forever´or any type of fight song. It was much more solemn. Rather, we went to watch a religious ceremony in Mairena in which they took the city´s Virgen statue (she is known as Nuestra Señora de los Remedios) out to parade through the streets because it was her special day. In Spain this is called "un paso" and consists of a group of people who bear the weight of what can only be described as a float covered in flowers and candles atop of which perches the venerated statue which is decked out in all its finery (crown, robes, etc). The people who carry the Virgen move to the beat of drums and are hidden beneath the ´float´. It is a special honor to haul the statue around and they practice a lot before the actual paso. The use of incense completes the vibe. The whole thing is quite an experience and I would recommend taking a look at a youtube video of un paso to get an idea of what I am talking about. My real point with this post is how fascinating I find religion here in Spain. They don´t just celebrate Easter, they have a whole week, Semana Santa. You will be wished not only a happy birthday but also a happy saint´s day (depending on your name, most of which are inevitably have a religious connotation). It seems that every other block has a church. But what I love is that the churches alternate with bars. Churches are easy to spot: steeple, cross, you know. Bars are just as easy to recognize. Each has a round, red sign that carries the emblem of Cruzcampo, the local beer. I have never seen so many bars in my life and most of them are dives, always full of older gentlemen. The floors are probably covered in peanut shells and other types of litter. Most still allow smoking. They are on every other corner. The amount of churches as well as bars is indicative of the Spanish. They are like Jesus in a tuxedo t-shirt: it says they want to be formal but they´re here to party. You can guess what we did after seeing the paso, because apparently nothing is better than a beer after a religious event.

Monday, September 6, 2010

People, people who need people...

Every afternoon when I wake up from my siesta I like to watch a show called ´La tarde con Juan y Medio´ (the afternoon with Juan and a half, apparently a name that comes from the host being so tall). I know that I previously said there was nothing on Spanish television worth watching, at least until ´Las chicas de oro´ comes out but this is helping me get by in the meantime. During one part of the show (the only I have seen or care to see) they invite lonely guests to come and plead their cases in-front of the television audience. Each person tells their story and gives their criteria for their perfect match, then callers can ring the show to express interest. In some ways it is endearing, in others funny, at times just plain creepy. Generally the people who are willing to put themselves out there on television are divorcees and widowers (see desperate) and as much as you don´t want to laugh, it is hard not to. Here´s an example: Antonio is 70, he is looking for a young lady between 55 and 69. He has been a widower for 5 years. His potential love must live close to him and not smell bad (he´s got high standards, no wonder he is still single). Ring, ring, a caller. Her name is María (because all women are name María). She is 72 (ouch, we can´t cross that off the list that is displayed on a split screen next to Antonio´s head). She lives close (yes!) and claims she doesn´t smell but I am betting she smells like anyone´s grandma which would be a dealbreaker for me but probably not Antonio. It looks like they´ve made a match. Exit stage left as goes Antonio to talk privately with María on the phone behind the scenes. Next comes another older lady whose name is Elena (you know it is really María Elena but both her sisters were named María something also so she goes by her second name). She was on a previous show and is going to meet the guy who called in to talk to her. When she is being interviewed by Juan y Medio all I can think is: oh my god, she sounds like my grandma (as in, in her own world for lack of a better description, love you Nonnie! You know, your granddaughter??). Elena is not listening to the host. She interjects random comments. Her stories don´t make much sense. She is ready for some semi-senile love. Out comes her match and you can tell it will be perfect. Neither of them listens to the other. They both make random comments. Neither of them make much sense. He doesn´t have teeth. Another success.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The best dollar store of your life

I joined a gym here in Spain partly to give me something to do aside from my job and partly to prevent gaining weight this year. After making this decision, I realized I would need a small bag to bring my gym clothes to work because we still are not in our apartment yet. It was during the search for a cheap gym bag that Jose took me to what he referred to as 'un chino.' Some kind of Chinese fortune teller or guru who knows where to get a good deal you might ask? Nope. Imagine the biggest and best dollar store of your life, a labyrinth of inexpensive random crap sold by as it was explained to me, mostly Chinese people (hence the name: un/el chino). Now just to clarify, not everything costs a dollar or even just a euro but the sheer quantity of unnecessary stuff makes up for this fault. In 'el chino' you can buy everything from make up to ties, picture frames to toys, curtains to school supplies. As I wandered aimlessly through the aisles I couldn't help but think, a. who needs all this crap? and b. it's so cheap, doesn't that by default make me need it? As a person who grew up going to garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores I was in heaven. Couldn't I use an incredibly ugly and poorly painted figure of an unknown saint for tles eulo (please take note of accent)? Isn't that set of cutlery calling my name? There had to be Herro Kitty here! In the end, I just found my bag and made my way to the counter to pay and avoid any more temptation. In front of me in line was an older Spanish woman, one who was attempting to haggle down the price of whatever it was she was buying. As she claimed, she came to shop here EVERYDAY and I couldn't help but flash forward to myself in 30 years, wandering around el chino with my badly dyed hair in a muumuu and orthopedic shoes attempting to argue with the cashier about an ashtray that cost 75 cents. Then I remembered why I was there, I had joined a gym. There was still hope. I wasn't going to become her one day but you can be sure that I will be back to el chino, the bargain mecca soon.

Here are some of the gems I found at one store:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Do not be alarmed! They come in peace!

Chances are that if you are at a major intersection and you are in Sevilla you will probably be approached by an African (not to be confused with African American so maybe African Spanish??) gentleman. Do not be alarmed, he only wants to sell you kleenex or some other random article through your car window. Said articles have been seen to include: rosaries, car air freshners, fans, key chains, etc. but never anything one would normally think, ¨Hell yes I need and/or have a burning desire to acquire that (insert item here).¨ Unless of course you are thinking, ¨Why yes I could use a package of kleenex for 3 euro. My nose has been running this whole drive. This man must have read my mind.¨ You can find these men out all day, even in the blazing heat of midday and strangely enough they are always in good spirits. If I were to have to be out in the hot hot sun, walking amongst stopped cars, inhaling exhaust, peddling random crap, I don´t think I would be as upbeat as they seem to be. It´s amazing. Plus, how do they decide which street corner-intersection to stand on? Is it like a turf war or do they civilly decide which one will go where? And who came up with kleenex as the big ticket item? I mean, once you buy a package you are pretty well set for life unless you are susceptible to be congested (read mouth breather-gross). If there is some sort of heirarchy of people who sell things on the street, the intersection fellows are certainly below the purse people but definitely above the dirty hippies who sell their jewelry (I mean who even wants to get close to them, so smelly looking). If I had to make a suggestion for them to perhaps make more money at what they are doing, I would recommend market research. Find out what your customers´needs are (i.e. ditch the kleenex). Or, if all else fails, go to the line where all the foreigners have to wait in line for hours and sell coffee, water, food, beer. There´s a way to make a quick buck. I would have given my left hand (not right although after a bit longer I would have considered it) for a cold drink while I was there. Just saying.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I hate graffiti. I don´t care if some people think it is artistic or makes a statement. I think it´s fugly and obnoxious. The first time I went to Rome, which marked the first time I had ever been to Europe, I remember being saddened by the amount of graffiti there was throughout the city. It seemed to me almost blasphemous that people would spray paint on buildings in such a beautiful and historic place. I find myself thinking the same thing here in Sevilla. I think graffiti is a selfish act because it spoils what would otherwise at the very least be nice to look at. Right across the street from where I work, someone has painted some quotes, in English mind you, in black spray paint. These quotes are something I am sure their creator thought was lofty and intellectual but really what civilized person defaces someone else´s property in such a blatant manner? Here´s an English quote for you: Good job, douche bag. Anyway, I´m sure Sevilla doesn´t have more graffiti than other cities in Europe but its abundance doesn´t cease to disturb me: Who cares that Diego loves María? Or that Pablo was here on 10 septiembre 2008? And why always in black paint? Did the tienda china down the street have only that color or was there some kind of a city wide rebaja? I think Sevilla is a gorgeous city and really the graffiti doesn´t detract from its appeal, I just struggle to understand the mentality of people who would take it upon themselves to do such a thing.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Las chicas de oro

Because Jose and I are (fingers crossed) going to be (hopefully) getting our apartment soon, we have been doing a lot of research as to which television company to use, not that there is much difference in the channels they offer. Basically Spanish tv consists of 20 channels (unless you get a special package) that 50% of the time show the news (both global and local, as in someone's cat stuck in a tree local), 25% of the time is a show called Salvame which comes in both regular and deluxe versions and chronicles the happenings of the rich and famous by a group of trashy commentators, another 15% of the time there is soccer and 10% of the time (after 100am) there is porn. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration because they do have various series and movies but you get the idea. In fact, I was getting fairly tired of there not being much I wanted to watch until I saw a commercial that salvaged my image of Spanish television. It was like the light at the end of the tunnel: "Las chicas de oro" which would be premiering in September. Translation: The Golden Girls, Spanish version. Blanca, Rosa, Sofia and Dorotea who are played by well known Spanish actresses are coming soon to a television near me. This isn't just a crappy dubbed version of the old school Golden Girls that I love dearly (RIP Bea, Rue and Estelle), I imagine it to be a sexier re-vamped version that does not include shoulder pads or 80's hair. But how will they recreate the characters I have come to know so well in my hours spent watching Lifetime and WE the women's network? Will Blanca have a Andalusian accent to mimic Blanche's southern drawl? Will Rosa be as tonta as Rose was dimwitted? What will they call Stanley Zbornak's character? Is Sofia's sarcasm even translatable into Spanish? Am I just being set up to be disappointed? Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

On a different note, the students arrive in Sevilla tomorrow so I guess this marks the end of my vacation and the beginning of my job. Will keep you updated on how their arrival goes. Be sure to check back for that and more.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Is that Lance Armstrong?!?

Last night Jose, two friends and I went to Sevilla proper to see part of the ´Vuelta a España´. Translation: Spain´s version of the Tour de France (which obviously because it is French iz di best ting in di world). I was curious yet fairly apathetic about the whole race when we first arrived. Imagine, hoards of people waiting at the finish line of a race that must take place at 1000pm because during the day it is too hot. Being only a short leg of the race which runs throughout Spain, each team made a turn around the city, ending in about 15 minutes. While trying not to get killed by bicyclists or run over by the cars following them, we watched the participants finish the race (and when I was bored with that, some change in their bus). What surprised me was how Jose and his friends knew so many of the riders´names while cheering them on. I only know of Lance Armstrong and that´s only because he has one testi (Livestrong), dated Sheryl Crow and has won a bazillion times. Apparently, in Spain they actually care about this sport. They know who rides for which team, who is the favorite to win, what kind of bikes they use for each terrain. As they claim (and I have heard this many times since arriving), Spain is a country of strong athletes. They are good at soccer obviously but also basketball (calling the only 10 tall Spaniards), synchronized swimming (is that even still a sport?), tennis and finally cycling, among others. After the race ended, like any good Spaniard, Jose and his friends began looking for free goodies. On a side note, Spanish folk will always take something if it is free, whether or not it is worth the time or effort to obtain it. In Chapel Hill I have a very distinct memory of them waiting for what seemed like hours for a free ice cream cone and running across campus to catch up with the Jimmy John´s free sandwich representative. I was not surprised at their wanting to see if there was any free swag at the race but not finding any, we went to a bar. Which brings me to the results of the race, who won you might ask? Which Spaniard took home the title? Who had the best time? An American.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bienvenidos! (It´s soooo hot!)

There are two, maybe three main motivations for me creating this blog. First, my family has asked me to do so which basically means they want easier access to creeping on my life in a foreign country. Plus they can verify that I am still alive. Second, it´s much easier than writing a bazillion e-mails to keep people updated. Third, Kate has created her blog for Italy (please see Kate love Italia) and in the spirit of Kate, Allie, Barcelona (of last summer´s trip through Italy and Spain), I figured I would keep the tradition alive.

I have been here in Sevilla (or rather Mairena del Alcor, the town where Jose´s parents live) since August 2nd. (We are still waiting for our apartment to be ready). Since then I have not accomplished a whole lot because honestly it´s too damn hot to do anything in my opinion. We spent our first few days in Malaga with Jose´s aunt, uncle and cousins. Then we made our way here, wrestling our four suitcases (three of which may or may not have been mine) plus various hand luggage. If anyone was lucky enough to be on the streets of Chicago or in the subway on August 1 you probably had a laugh at our expense as we schlepped up and down steps, hauling basically my whole life to the airport because we were too cheap to get a taxi. Lesson learned.

My next task on arrival was applying for my residency card. If the process in the U.S. is as complicated and frustrating as it is here, I can certainly understand the large amount of illegal aliens, undocumented folks (whatever you want to call them). Allow me to explain if you have never had the pleasure of working with Spanish bureacracy. First, Jose and I made the trip to the Plaza de España where the office of foreign people is located on a Friday afternoon. We waited for two hours in the sweltering heat only to arrive at the desk to be told that a) there were no more numbers (as in take a number at the deli number) for that day and b) we didn´t have the correct information anyway because the website does not include what you actually need. Haha, I thought, we are on hidden camera right?? Especially when the lovely and very patient man explained to us that the numbers had run out seven minutes after the office opened. SEVEN MINUTES!?! He then let us know that we would want to arrive early in the morning because the doors open at 750 and there is usually a long line by then. Needless to say, we showed up on Monday at 500am just to be safe and to my surprise, there were already 14 people waiting. Had these people camped out? Was there some kind of a giveaway or sale of concert tickets that we didn´t know about? Nope, they were all waiting for the same thing, including a woman who had already been there four times and had yet to get a number. Let the stress-fest begin. We waited outside, only to be let inside to wait some more for the office to open. When we finally got a number (THANK THE LORD) we had to wait even more until it was finally our turn. (During which time every number called was accompanied by my ´come on number 11, come on number 11´ like some gambling addict). Anyway, the time it has taken you to read this story is probably less time than we were actually in our meeting. Oh, and I have to go back 2 more times before I will actually have my ID card, in October. Good one Spain, you got me. You got me good.

Anywho, we also took a trip to London and we had a good time. We did all your normal touristy type things including visiting Westminster, the Tower of London, the British museum and just to make Dad proud, the Imperial War Museum. Got to see the the Crown Jewels which did not include any hot young princes, just the 2 biggest diamonds in the world! We minded (mound?) the gap on the subway and tried some English beer. All in all, a good vacation besides not being able to understand what the hell anyone was saying. For example: Hulloh (that´s British and as you can tell by the spelling it is a lot uglier than Hello because basically all things English are fugs, okay maybe not ALL things but especially the teeth and the food). Plus as one other Spanish tourist put it, there were more Spaniards than in Madrid (though there were also a TON of Italians too).

I´m sweating just from typing so more later. We need to get to the pool...