baby quilt for ellie

January 8, 2012


January 8, 2012


January 8, 2012

The Perfect Day

July 16, 2011

Today is shaping up to be the perfect day. I woke up many times this morning, the first time I hallucinated that Sean said it was 11:45 am… sort of late to be willing to drift back to sleep, but I did. After 4-5 more wake-ups I figured it was close to 3 pm. Sean looked at his phone (which serves as his watch) and it was only 9:45. What luck!

For breakfast we had nectarines and apples and we watched the series finale of Friday Night Lights. It was fantastic. My favorite character, Grandma Saracen was darling in her last scene. I am so relieved she was never killed off the show. I cried often, but that isn’t much of a surprise. Nearing our departure from Madrid, tears are always close to the surface.

For lunch we went to our favorite cafeteria and were greeted warmly by the staff. As we walked in, the owner called back to the kitchen “tortilla con queso!” because that is what we ALWAYS get. The woman, who cooks, came out after we ate and we told them “que rico!” “la mejor tortilla en espana!” They smiled; the woman saluted.

At 5:30 pm we are going to see Harry Potter. Sean has been preparing by reading the last book in Spanish and randomly quoting parts of it, totally out of context, so I have no idea when he’s talking about. “Percy zarandeaba a su hermano, Ron estaba arrodillado a su lado, y los ojos de Fred miraban sin ver, todavia con el fantasma de su ultima risa grabado en el rostro”

Daniela is having us over for dinner tonight. We are to arrive at her apartment at 9:30 pm. It is Spain after all. I have a heavy heart about this evening because it will be the last time we are with Daniela. Daniela is one of our closest friends here and we will truly miss her. As a boss, friend, and travel companion.

Less than two weeks now. Then we will move into a new apartment, buy a car, start working, start school (Sean), and kiss sweet nephews. -b


July 14, 2011

It was one man against himself on the metro.  The man: not well.  Una chica muy flaca que tenía 5 anos: next to me.  Me: next to the crazed man.  My forehead vein: green, popping, filled with tense blood.

The man’s small t-shirt (lots and lots of paint) gave more beef to a beefy frame.  His teeth hung over his murderous mouth.  I respected his hunched figure and black wolf eyes.

In a fight I had only my reach.  He was about 5 four and a strong 165.

He started cursing.  He had the voice of someone who smokes four cigarettes, has coffee, looks in the mirror, eats remaining cigarettes.

The curses were all in Spanish because I live in Spain.  Bad words, palabrotas, I think they call them.

A note on mental illness: it ain’t funny.  A note on this dude: he was.   He was irritated in a way that is very true.  I was a bit too close too him.  Everyone the crowded metro was.  He provided no reason for his anger that I could understand.

Finally he stepped to some guy.  They shared words.  They shared forearms. They did that thing that fellas do sometimes.  Not sure if they would win the fight but trying their best to convey the opposite.

Fists were put up, but not thrown.  A few people left the train car at the next stop.  The little girl next to me looked with wonder.

The star said to his adversary: ‘Sales.’  The adversary replied, ‘No, no, sales tú!’  The star again, his underbite now heavy with hate, ‘No… No, no, no.’

I wondered why they didn’t use the imperative form of salir.   Would’ve been a great opportunity to hear an irregular verb in action.

Then a security guard came on and ushered them both off.

We took a three-day trip just a bit outside of Madrid. We stayed in a rural house/hotel that was a renovated farmhouse; it was about 15 km from Segovia and was in the smallest town on earth. On Friday night we went into Segovia for dinner and a bit of sightseeing. Surprisingly, there was a festival going on in front of the Roman Aqueduct with ladies dancing in clogs and using sheets as props. For dinner we had tapas- chipirones (little squids in olive oil), calamares, y gambas (shrimp). For dessert we had a Segovian specialty called “Ponche Segoviano” which was a delicious cake that sort of tasted like a s’more even though there wasn’t any chocolate in it. We actually got more of the cake the next day because we loved it so much.

On Saturday we drove on a medieval town tour. The scenery was gorgeous and we couldn’t believe that we were less than 2 hours from Madrid. Spain is so diverse; I am always shocked at how many different looks it has. We went to Pedraza, Riaza, Sepulveda, and Duraton National Park. Our drive was marked by a lot of blue sky, golden wheat, brown earth, fields of sunflowers, occasional dilapidated castles, and a few sheep.

Pedraza is a walled town with a castle and a lot of charm. We went to Pedraza in the morning and then again at 10 pm because it was “la noche de las velas”(night of the candles). The town’s people put over 35,000 candles out in the streets- windows, sidewalks, plazas etc during the celebration. A classical orchestra played music in the plaza mayor. It was sort of like what I imagine the jack-o-lanterns are like at Roger Williams Zoo during Halloween season in RI… although I never actually went to that because of the long lines. Speaking of long lines- the streets were super narrow in Pedraza and the entrance/exit to the town was actually just an arched doorway.  It was super packed with people when we tried to leave and we all sort of moved as one through the arch. There were two older women, in their mid-80s, who were a part of the group. They were laughing so hard as we were passively pushed through the exit that it made me appreciate the comedy of the situation as well.

Riaza was special because it had a plaza mayor with a sand-filled ground, used for it’s own private bull fight every September. Sepulveda was where we had our second, and best, serving of Ponche Segoviano. Trust me- this cake was good. So good that Sean asked “hey, should I go buy another piece?” immediately after he ate his first. The Duraton National Park was right outside of Sepulveda. After driving through the park, on a really bumpy dirt road where a small car tipped into a ditch ahead of ours, we reached Ermita de San Frutos (hermitage of Saint Frutos (?). This was an “island” of land with ruins of a hermitage on it perched over a magnificent canyon. The water below was eerily green, like the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day.  Huge turkey vultures flew above.

We returned to Segovia on Sunday morning. I was most impressed with the Alcazar, which is a castle (with a legit moat!) that served as inspiration for the Disney Cinderella castle. We walked around the town, went to an art museum, cathedral, walked up the tower of the Alcazar, and then drove back to the hustle and bustle of Madrid. Our Spanish home.

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Intercambio in a cafe

July 10, 2011

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Inma and I have had our intercambio since November. We meet twice a week at a random cafeteria that we selected on the first day we met. The cafeteria is quite ugly, with the smell of jamon wafting in the air and mirrors lining the walls, but it has been the perfect spot to chat. The workers are always very supportive of my language learning; they even try out a few phrases of English to experiment. T he place is usually filled with worker-men and everyone says good-bye to us as we leave. Adios- hasta luego! Adios- hasta luego! Adios- hasta luego! It is nice and I will miss them.


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El Escorial with Inma

July 1, 2011

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Last week Inma took me to El Escorial, which is a small town about an hour outside of Madrid. Inma is my dear friend and intercambio partner. We meant to do an “intensive” language outing, whereby we speak only English for 30 minutes and then only Spanish for the next and so on. We were pretty good about sticking to this in the beginning but the hot sun took our energy and by the end of the day we didn’t talk as much.

Escorial is a world heritage site because it is a historical residence of the king of Spain. There is a monastery, royal palace, and royal park grounds. There is also a very old library that has over 40,000 volumes, many of which are from the early 17th century.  I tried to snap a photo of this but the security guards caught me. The town is surrounded by mountains and was very peaceful. Up on a cliff there is the “chair of King Philp II”, which is actually stones carved into a bit of a seat that overlooks the small town. It is quite nice.