Action, Thanks

November 29, 2010

The best part about Thanksgiving was the jarred cranberry sauce.  I used to dream of that stuff.  When adolescence came, I would secretly eat it out of the jar, much like my dad did with breyer’s mint chocolate chip, and later, all natural peanut butter.

Dad, Ma

Thanksgiving’s called Dia de Accion de Gracias out here.   Got together with a few folk on Friday after a long working day Thursday.  It was international.  Some Irish, American, Spanish, and our dear friend Mim, an Austrailian.

We had veggie lasagna, which was probably the best meal I’ve ever had.  I ate an entire bag of potato chips.  Charades in the living room, and some talk of the subjunctive in the kitchen.  A weary Built to Spill soundtrack weaved with some Pavement to set the mood, compliments of Alfred, a photographer and should-be indie rock journalist.

Everyone left a bit deep into the night in typical Spanish fashion.  House was cleaned and we fell to sleep quick, content.

unrelated: men drinking beer and feeding pigeons in lisboa

Nostalgic for Thanksgivings past, at my Aunt Kib and Tom’s, with the carrots and gravy. Ivan and Sarah’s, who put together and incredible meal, sensitive to our burdensome vegetarianism.  Also nostalgic for my good friends Jim and Ryan back home, who wisely renamed Thanksgiving ‘Spanksgiving’ when we were young.

Also grateful for the Celts and especially the hard-working Kevin Garnett, who seems to be making more athletic plays than ever in this, his 15th NBA season.  I used to try to teach like KG played, with an intensity completely inappropriate for pre-algebra.  KG was nicknamed The Kid early in his career.  Inspiring how hard he’s playing now, certainly a kid no more.


’tis the season

November 28, 2010

We took a walk around Sol tonight to enjoy the christmas decorations. Somehow we ended up at the Churreria (again) and I drank the dipping chocolate (also again). On the way home, we bought a little christmas tree at a type of store that people call “the chinese” but I call “the convenience store” since it seems a bit racist. The christmas tree cost 4 euro and the lights cost 3. Unfortunately the lights don’t really work but we have time to replace them since we aren’t even in December yet. This is the first year Sean and I have had a tree (if you don’t count the three inch tree we had in Chicago). -b  

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Two dogs

November 28, 2010

Last night we had a gathering with the students from one of the academies we work for (Yes! Academy). Yes! is run by Daniela, one of the loveliest people we have met in Madrid. The students and teachers gathered in Sol and Daniela directed a tour in English about the history of the area.  Daniela told us a super sad story called “Paco the dog”. Paco was a stray dog who became a bit of a celebrity in Madrid. He was welcomed into restaurants and special events. He was written about often in newspapers. People would speak of his approaching arrival like he was Prince Felipe “Paco is on his way!!!”. One day Paco was welcomed into a bull fighting arena and he started to bark. The Matador was angered by Paco’s disturbance and he stabbed him with his sword. The people of Madrid were outraged and wanted the Matador to be lynched. In the end, the high officials decided to pardon the Matador, to the dismay of many. Poor Paco.

On a happier note… We have the best new neighbor. She is a puppy pug named Atila. I almost cry whenever I see her because she is so darling. She gets really excited around new people and starts acting crazy. I think she understands English because she always comes to me when I call her (the doggy treat might help too). Sean is not quite as enchanted as me but he agrees that she is cute. -b


November 24, 2010

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November 24, 2010

We went to Portugal over the weekend.  The place had it all.  Lisbon, the capital, and Sintra, a small town just outside of it.  Check it out if you can or google image search it if you can’t.

On the way, we got lost.    I was afraid and considered writing a hipster screenplay about the situation.  The first line: ‘Being lost on the way to Portugal is like a metaphor for my childhood.’

Our two wise companions – tall Aidan and Jenna C- kept our morale up.  Don’t worry, they purred, we’ll find it soon enough.  I stopped crying long enough to join Aidan in asking a local fireman for help.

I even summoned the nerve to ask him in Spanish, which in retrospect was stupid because what if he answered in Spanish?  I would still be lost.   Luckily there was an English speaker.  In my hipster screenplay, this would be the point where the Portuguese man and I would hug and realize that we both spoke Swahili.  It would reek of irony, but not false irony.

Except, in real life, we got lost again.

It didn’t help that I can’t really drive.  Dan G. can attest to this: there is no one in New England who takes wider right turns.  Coupled with the fact that I have trouble moderating speed- either way too fast or, more often, way too slow- and it’s a frustrating experience for all passengers.

But there’s two things I’m good at: stealing people’s clothing and being lost.  Fortunately, so were my car partners.  We were driving and driving around in Lisbon, admiring its many fine attractions and sites, with no idea how to get to our hostel.

For all the Bethany fans out there, she did not disappoint.  What a weekend.  I mean the girl can drive and she’s steady.   If she were a boy I’d call her Steady Freddy Flint.  (Author’s note: Respect to Flint Michigan)

When it started raining in hour 11 of what was supposed to be a 5 hour ride, I was sure that was it.  I began writing an eloquent poem about my experience.   The first line was ‘Rain, Lisbon, death…’ It was very avant-garde and I think I might submit it.  First I need to consult my life coach.

We finally got there and all was well.  ‘Praise be…’ I said, in a shout-out to my adolescence.

The hostel was actually a bungalow and there were trees and mulch everywhere.  Paradise to me, guys.  My ethos: modest accommodations are the very best accommodations.

We had a good weekend.  Lisbon looked like a city conceived by a sure-hand and the Portuguese people were friendly.

I should also mention that on the way back we somehow got 400 miles off track.  We took this one highway A2 when we should’ve taken A5.  If I were still teaching algebra, I would relate this anecdote in class.  ‘You see, math is important…’


November 15, 2010

Speaking Spanish hurts my brain. There is the pre-speaking task (dialogue practice in my mind); the face-to-face speaking task; and the post wrap-up speaking task, where I analysis what I said and what I could have, should have, would have said (if I wasn’t the equivalent of a one year old Spanish child). On Friday I went to pick up some croissants at the local panaderia. I practiced the request during the five minute walk. I went to the counter and asked “dame un croissant para llevar, por favor”. I thought I saw the guy smirk and I started to doubt my accuracy. I started thinking “oh man! I should have said llegar instead of llevar”. I was mortified. I got home, gave Sean the stupid croissant, and found out it was llevar after all. -b

Yo, Robot

November 15, 2010

One of the great things about living in Spain (and having remedial Spanish skills) is constant exposure to how movie titles are translated.  There are small departures- The Fugitive is just El Fugitivo- and rather big ones.  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for instance, is Olvidate de mi!  Not a bad title, but it doesn’t make you work for it like the American one.  

Inception was renamed ‘Origen,’ which when translated literally, has several different meanings.  I still long for that movie to be as good as it promised.  Just be better, Inception.  You were definitely labryinthe, which in retrospect was a distraction from the lack of emotional intensity.  Although that scene when Joe Gordon Levitt in the hotel room was fly.  Maybe I should watch Origen, and everything will make sense.

What is the What by hipster hero Dave Eggers, translates into Que es el Que?  Great book by the way.  Lots of tragedy and stories that make you feel fortunate that you can write silly blog posts.  Que es el Que, after all?

Pan’s Labryinth translates into El Laberinto del Fauno, and is a remarkable film.   If you’re nostalgic for a woebegone, monster-infested childhood, this is for you.  Literal and figural monsters, or as its known back home, the UNITED STATES SENATE.

Regarding television, House doesn’t translate into ‘Casa,’ or even ‘Doctor Casa,’ maybe the biggest dissapointment so far.  Sex in the City translates into ‘Sexo en Nueva York.’  I asked one of my advanced students why.  She explained that Americans know the ‘city’ refers to New York, while Spaniards would think that it applied to any city, like say, ‘Carecas.’  This made everyone fall over with laughter.   I laughed too, to be a part of the crowd, but I didn’t really get the joke. I felt Lost:

The Brothers K, essential reading for anyone who likes banter, existential crises, alcohol or courtroom drama, is about what you’d expect:

As for the title of this post:

Barcelona and thieves

November 14, 2010

Court and I went to Barcelona last weekend- the lovely city by the sea. Barcelona is peppered with Goudi’s artwork- from parque guell, to La Sagrada Familia, to Casa Batllo. We stumbled on Casa Batllo quite incidentally while walking down a street. I couldn’t remember all of the details from my last trip but I think the house has something to do with a dragon being slain by Saint George (patron saint of catalan)… I could be mistaken but the roof does kinda resemble scales. 

Everyone warns of thieves in Barcelona and we were privy to a scene of scenes on a bus to parque guell. The bus was jam-packed! a group of 8 men boarded the bus ahead of us. It appeared like they were on a binge from the night before. They smelled of booze and cigarettes. I think they were Swedish and they had matching black shirts on with kelly green ties. At some point the men offended an 80 year old woman. She was screaming at them in Spanish and they were screaming back. The other passengers were smiling so there was something Court and I were missing due to the language barrier. The woman got off the bus after 5 minutes and a commotion broke out.  I saw that one of the men had followed the woman and was holding onto his wallet which was tightly grasped in her hand. The woman had swiped it out of his pocket on her way off the bus! I couldn’t believe my eyes -b

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Granada- the afterthoughts

November 13, 2010

Granada is a magical place. We stayed at a hotel on the top of a steep hill- only two minutes away from the Alhambra. Courtney, Sean, and I stayed in one hotel and our friends Mim, James, and Rebecca stayed at an apartment. We were lucky because the Alhambra was sold out but our hotel had exclusive tickets. It would have been devastating to miss the palace since it is such an important part of the town.

The houses and city streets were windy and climbed the cliffs. Court and I got lost once weaving and bobbing between small streets without finding a major road for 20 minutes. It didn’t help that we got caught in the rain. We stood in a doorway and ate corn-nuts until the rain let up. I don’t know how any cars fit on those streets. It’s a good thing they are super small.

We went to a flamenco show in the gypsy area. The room looked like a cave and we practically sat with the band. I put tissue in my ears because flamenco is all pound-pound with the heals. I find it emotional. There was a picture of Michelle Obama on the wall, I guess she was a fan too. After the show, the tour bus brought us to an area that they promised would give us a sensational view of the Alhambra. I was a bit worried because they had us walking single file between houses on the tight/narrow streets I mentioned. I felt a bit like the humans from the twilight saga who were guided by the volturi thinking they were going to see a tourist attraction but really walking toward their death. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. The guide brought us to a breathtaking cliff overlooking the palace. It was windy but certainly worth it.

Court and I did a bit of shopping the next day in the moroccan area. We bought a few mini items… okay, well I bought a few and Courtney had to move on to other stores because I was taking too long to decide on which miniature clay pot I should buy. Overall the trip was great. Granada is indeed a special place

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. -b

isn’t my nephew cute?

November 12, 2010

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