September 30, 2010

Rocky Mouse-iano, better known to his friends as Mousekiwicz, died sometime over the past week.  He was six weeks old.  Cause of death unknown, but the author puts his money on one last fatal cheese overdose.

Our neighbor came to see us today with the news.  ‘What is it?’ I said.

‘It’s over.’

We laughed in exultation, sharing memories like it was an Irish Wake.  ‘He was so fast!’ and ‘God did he get fat or what?’  But when she left, a hush fell over our studio.  The once and future King was dead.  What do we do now?

I would say we hardly knew ye, but we actually knew ye quite well.  You were a good mouse.  You hung out in the trash can.  You were eerily confident about your territory.

Every relationship has its ups and downs.  I once considered charging you rent. You often creeped around at night, intimidating us.  Death by pistol was considered more than once.  I had a dream that you were permanently attached to my foot.

Still, the good outweighed the bad.  I like to think you died surrounded by those who you loved: breadcrumbs and potato chip grease.

Hopefully you’re reunited with friends and family, perhaps in a mouse rendition of Field of Dreams.

We’ll miss you, boy.


Defiende tus Derechos

September 30, 2010

Three items of note:

1.  Huge Spanish strike (huelga) today.  Unemployment at 20% and people were protesting, Harvey Milk style.

'i know you're angry...i'm angry!'

There was a fierceness to it that I just loved.  A lot of the signs translated to something like, ‘You have a right to work.  You paid for this right, with blood!’

Who do the people blame?   Entrepreneurs, politicians, business owners, but most of all…CAPITALISMO SALVAJE.   Police protection was upped around one billion percent.  We almost got frisked on the way into El Corte Ingles.

2.  After yesterday’s tough loss, we were back it today.  Wading through the streets, praying for signs like this:

please god be an exterior apartment

Looking for apartments in this manner is taking Craigslist to the streets.  You walk around a neighborhood and look for a half-decent place that has this sign.

Today we saw one in front of a perfect place.  It was our dream.  It had everything we possibly wanted: exterior view, gorgeous balcony, quiet urban street.  ‘Let’s call,’ I said.

‘No, Sean.  That’s the same place we just lost.’

I was crestfallen for a couple reasons.  One, it was our dream place.  Two, it hadn’t been 24 hours and I already forgot what our dream place looked like.  This goes beyond ‘absent-mindedness.’

3.  Props to our people at TTMadrid.  From day one they’ve been terrific preparing us how to teach, careful to blend the art with the science.  For people who’ve done other intensive teacher-prep programs, you know this is rare.  My initial preparation to teach in NYC amounted to a lot of ambiguous suggestion coupled with strictures like ‘have high expectations’ and ‘good luck.’

TT has given us tools, man.  Classroom management? Check.  Phonology, grammar, and classes dedicated to the unique qualities of Spanish learners? Check.  They give you insane amounts of feedback- absolutely essential for beginning teachers.    And the students we’ve taught are all, to the person, eager and intent.  From advanced learners discussing climate change to beginners (some well past senior citizenry) discussing numbers and colors, they’ve been good, good fun.

The fine people at TT also really make you feel at home with the transition.  This apartment thing has been tough, but they’ve been there for us, helping out, offering suggestions. Also thanks to them, we have a lot of offers for when we start work next week.  Very grateful for what they’ve done for us as a married couple – just a comprehensive introduction to what life in Spain is like.

Also grateful for the Spanish folks who went hard, defending their rights.  Props to these good people.  Hope things look up.

almost homeless

September 28, 2010

just got a text message that the woman rented the apartment to someone else. boo

almost home

September 27, 2010

We almost have our dream apartment. We saw a beautiful one bedroom on Sunday that is on the top floor of a building (4th floor, all buildings in madrid are rather short). It has a lovely floor to ceiling window with a balcony. The best part is that we found it just by walking around the neighborhood; this means we don’t have to spend 900 euro for a commission fee! The apartment building is actually 15 meters from the hotel Sean and I stayed at when we visited Madrid 3 years ago… spooky.

A few hurdles before we secure the place- we have to prove we have jobs and do this thing called an “aval” which means putting three months rent locked away in a bank for the property owner to receive if we ditch town or destroy the place. Luckily, we opened Spanish bank accounts this morning. Sean is interviewing for a job tomorrow at an academy and I was offered at least 6 hours of work teaching adults (only 14 more hours to go to make my desired 20 hour work week- life is tough). 4 more days of the course and then we graduate. things are shaping up. -b

Random Picts

September 26, 2010

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dan and sophie on skype

September 23, 2010

Tonight we declared war on the mouse. I saw him slither under the apartment door and take his place near the washing machine. A few minutes later I opened the cupboard and he hopped out of the trash can! The mouse looks like he has let himself go since the last time I saw him. He is almost as big as a stick of butter. I guess the trash can has worked out for him. Tomorrow we are setting up the mouse trap and putting some peanut butter on it to lure him in. I hope Sean finds him dead before I do.

Besides the mouse situation, the apartment search has been a challenge. We have to leave our current place by Oct 3rd and aren’t exactly sure which neighborhood we want to move to. Our efforts to find a place has been humiliating. Imagine calling a number to ask if an apartment is still for rent- You have a few key sentences on your computer screen from google translator in order to communicate the points you think will be important. unfortunately a conversation is a two way street and it requires you to understand the answers to your questions. You find that you have lost control and a bead of sweat collects on your forehead. Your priority shifts and all you want is to get off the phone as soon as possible. You hang up not knowing if you made an appointment to view the place or if you promised your first born child. Yikes.

Our TEFL program at Ttmadrid is winding down. We have one more week but quite a bit of work before it ends. The experience has been challenging, fulfilling, and exciting. The students who are learning English are the best; they are so patient with us. I wonder if they ever get together after class and talk about the newbies (“hey, did you see Bethany’s hands shaking? did you see when she dropped all of the papers on the floor?”) I have taught 5 out of 6 of my classes and Sean did his 4th tonight. When the program is done we will have to get jobs to sustain our posh living (studio the size of a closet + mouse roommate pitching in).

Country for Old Men

September 20, 2010

A few months back, Dan G. introduced me to a necessary art: not caring when taking someone’s photograph.  In our family it’s understood that if he feels like snapping your picture, your objections are irrelevant.  His longtime girlfriend Soph bears most of this burden.  He just kind of walks up to you and starts at it: click, click, click.

And it’s not just family: strangers receive less mercy.  He injects himself into situations as they’re unfolding.  He pretends that what he’s doing is perfectly natural.  Once it was a family trying to enjoy a ride at Navy Pier in Chicago.  Dan loved how absurdly unhappy they looked on the (admittedly awful) ride.  Adding to their gloom was the tall, skinny photographer stoically capturing it.

He’s a punk but you need to respect that.

He also plays aggressive full court man-to-man defense.  Great ball pressure.


I’ve seen some subjects react in unflattering ways.  I think one dude threatened to jack his camera.  Another cursed him out.  Danny boy just walks along, neither confirming nor denying he’s doing anything wrong.

Madrid would be a perfect city for him.  There are always scores of people out, many of them older.  Couples in their seventies having a little stroll in Sol, hand in hand.  Geriatric girlfriends shopping in a chic clothing store.  Groups of them out for a drink at 2 in the morning, dressed with style and verve.

But, alas, older Madrilenos do not exactly love being photographed, either.

Some of these guys look angry.

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When you don’t know the language you end up buying a thumb drive with mickey mouse on it. As  you sign your credit card receipt for 20 euro, you notice non-mickey drives for half the price and twice the storage space.


September 13, 2010

Grammar is a punk.  Dead serious.  Do not go gentle into that good night.

You may think you did well in Ms. Milligan’s seventh grade literature class.  She was short and pleasant, you remember.  She taught you your tenses, too: past, present, and future.  It didn’t really matter though.  You had the gist.

This is one of the benefits of growing up speaking English.  You do not have to make sense of it logistically.

We started learning the nuances of our fine language a week ago today.  News to me was that there’s like 80 tenses.  And they are all weird.   The other day, someone hit me with the past perfect continuous, which uses the past simple tense of ‘to have,’ the past participle of ‘to be,’ and the present participle of the main verb.  I had been eating a dinosaur, for example.

There are adjectives that act like nouns and adverbs that can act as pretty much anything. And ‘the’ is not just an article, it’s also an adjective.

You may one day be held at gunpoint by a grammarphile.  He’ll give you a chance to live, but only if you put the words below in correct order:

blue shoes huge running beautiful cold new

But you’re a non-native speaker and thus cannot rely on intuition!  There’s always this excerpt from wikipedia under adjective order:

“In many languages, attributive adjectives usually occur in a specific order. Generally, the adjective order in English is

  1. article or pronouns used as adjectives
  2. quality
  3. size
  4. age
  5. shape
  6. color
  7. proper adjective (often nationality or other place of origin)
  8. purpose or qualifier”

English-language learners have to internalize this.

To quote Roy Orbison, ‘Mercy…’



September 12, 2010

We had some infestation issues at my old apartment in NYC.  They were mostly harmless little pests.  I’d wake up Sunday morning- reggae blasting from the outside – with papa roach creeping up my closet door.  I’d usher him out and he’d do his bidding someplace else.

But man, good rapport doesn’t excuse bad behavior.  Occasionally they’d feel my wrath, like when they would feast on some bbq chips in the kitchen.  I once blasted this red-looking one with a size 12 Timberland.  ‘Don’t come at the king,’ I whispered.

the real king

Out here we have this mouse situation.  He’s small, even by mouse standards.  He travels from under the washer to under the sink.  Mice used to (still kind of do) terrify me.  We told people back home we had one and they were like, ‘Don’t sleep with your mouth open.’  I told B, ‘We need a pistol.’

But he’s growing on us.  We’ve gone from devising possible traps (sticky bra, cheese taped to a knife) to appreciating his company.  He’s a modest little thing.  If he senses your presence, most times he’ll scurry away.  Although when we put ‘Breaking Bad’ on, he pretty much cozies up with a blanket.

He’s getting fat though, eating our crumbs all the time. And when we got back from a late-night stroll, I swear he had a party while we were gone.

So yeah, part of me still wants him out, but no longer by brutal massacre.