Pictures of Rome

December 31, 2010

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A day in Rome

December 25, 2010

Day one in Rome has not disappointed. The city is glorious with it’s narrow cobble stone streets and ancient ruins around every corner. We walked for five hours last night and stood in line at the Vatican to get into midnight mass before we realized the quest was futile. The line had at least 5 thousand people in it that circled around the large inner courtyard. I overhead a boy in front of us say “even with tickets we probably won’t get it”. I turned to Sean “tickets???”. so we left to continue our city walk.

We looked for the Colosseum for about an hour because the windy streets kept setting us off course. At one point, I looked up and saw it directly to my side. It was marvelous, albeit a bit smaller than I had thought it would be. I presumed tv and movies had manipulated the image to make it appear larger than it was. Among the dilapidated arches, I noticed a room that was lit up by a chandelier… hum…. maybe this wasn’t the colosseum afterall (it ended up being a different ancient site, oops!). When we found the REAL colosseum it was fantastic! Huge, beautiful, and without a dining room scene.

We are staying in an apartment which is far superior to a hotel room. We have all of the comforts of home without being in our home.  We miss our families because we aren’t in RI for the first Christmas of our lives but Rome is a decent replacement. The apartment owner gave us a bottle of champagne, a small Christmas tree, and a bag full of Italian chocolates. We ate the Chocolates in the first hour. Today we are going to relax and try to find a nice restaurant for a pseudo Christmas dinner. I’m counting on the Jewish quarter to be opened. -b

Intercambios and the lottery

December 23, 2010

I have a new language exchange partner named Inmaculada (Inma for short). We meet two times a week to chat in both English and Spanish. Her English is far better than my Spanish but she is eternally patient. I make the same mistakes each time we meet but she doesn’t seem to mind. When we talk, I try to use every word I know in the same sentence. I’m sure I sound nuts. She asked me once, “does it sounds strange when I speak in English like how you sound speaking Spanish?”. I’m guessing I sound worse.

Yesterday we met at a cafe and the Christmas lottery was being announced for over two hours. This particular lotto is no joking matter. There have been lines trailing into the streets for the last few weeks from the stores. The top prize is usually only 300,000 but it is traditional and every Spanish person I’ve talked to participates. There are children who are trained for an entire year to learn how to announce each number. They announce in a strange monotonous sing-song voice. Here is a link to demonstrate-

Deadly right?

Tomorrow we are off to Rome for Christmas. We got our Spanish student card this morning so we now have documentation to prove that we can be here until September. Without it, we probably would get deported at the airport. I’m not sure what the internet situation we be like when we are away so Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! -b

Spanish Boots

December 19, 2010

Some worthy news of late:

1.  There’s this place called Montadito, or something.  It brings the heat.  They sell these mini bocadillos for one euro only.  People order eight or fourteen of them and share.

Tonight I jumped on the bocadillo de patata, tomorrow it might be some shrimp with that garlic sauce.  Plus they got bocadillos con chocolate.  Chocolate sandwiches in the Christmas season.  Word is born…

2. For Dylan fans, Bethany recently bought some Spanish boots of Spanish leather.

3.  Saw ‘The Town’ the other night. As far as crime thrillers go, it was tough (Jon Hamm taking no prisoners) with glimpses of gloss (Affleck at his noblest).  They copped out with the ending but it was ok because Jeremy Renner was in it.  Who else takes a psychopath and plays him without winks?  For those who haven’t seen ‘The Hurt Locker,’ please do.

4.  Out here they celebrate January 6th more than December 25th.  Papa Noel (santa) is cool and all, but January 6th is the day of the three kings.  Supposedly they travel from house to house on magic camels and bring the kids presents.  Overall this is more rational than Santa because a) there’s three of them and b) they only have to get to every house in Spain, not the entire world.

By my math, if we give Santa all 24 hours of Christmas Eve (generous), he has to deliver about 80,000 presents per second if he wants to give one to each of the roughly 6.8 billion people in the world.

On the other hand, the three Kings only have to deliver  170 presents per second each to the good Spanish people.  A considerably easier job, but the camels need to be quick like Rondo.Kings for a Day

I just ate pork skin and it was very strange. I was at a cafe across the street from my Spanish class and the bartender gave me free tapas. I thought the tapa was some sort of fried seafood, like calamari. As I put a piece into my mouth I smelled bacon immediately.  I experienced a mixture of disgust and delight. I use to love bacon. I guess I probably still do. I couldn´t bring myself to eat anymore of it and I spent about 15 minutes strategizing about how to discard the skins without hurting the barkeeps feelings. I eventually slipped the pork into the trash when the man went into the back. B


December 8, 2010

Spain has nutella.  Ate a jar of it today.

You take one bite, then another, then it’s, ok good, good, I’ll take one more and then it’s over.  Then you forget about that pact and take a few more, and half the jar’s finished.  You put the cap on, do something else for fifteen minutes, and then look down and it’s the best surprise ever: the nutella is still there.

You eat a little bit more, put it away in the cabinet, wait an hour.

Check your email and do a few pushups out of guilt, and then you look in the cabinet: your old friend waiting.  Then the nutella’s done, a memory, a love lost.

Regret, but not too much.  I once read that remorse is the poison of life.

Ma G used to make this cake on birthdays and Thanksgivings and Christmases.  This is nutella’s only comparison.


Speak, Man

December 6, 2010

Trying this new thing where we talk to each other in Spanish every night for at least five-ten minutes. Last night was the pilot. Rave reviews from those who were around to hear it…

‘Magnificent…Really like how they relied on ‘me gusta…’

‘I was in tears when they used the phrase ‘tengo que’ with two different infinitives.’

Some were not so impressed:

‘Maybe they didn’t get the memo: the present tense is not the only tense.’

‘Lots of awkward 15 second pauses…’

A little chicago in madrid

December 5, 2010

We have another puente (literally a bridge; figuratively an extra long weekend). No work on Monday or Wednesday and only a portion of our usual schedule on Tuesday. That means we have a 1.5 day work week. The Spanish lifestyle is easy to get use to. We went to dinner last night with my friend George from Chicago (radiologist at Rush). Our dinner reservation was at 10:00 pm and we were nervous that we were going to be late. The restaurant was hidden on a residential street and you had to knock on a huge door to be let in. It was a super secret place that Spanish royalty has eaten at, not to mention Penelope Cruz. Sean and I were the first of our group of 13 to arrive. In Spain, it is entirely common and socially acceptable to be late. Students arrive 30-45 minutes late to class; friends arrive an hour late for drinks. It is just the way. During my Spanish class on Fridays we have a 15 minute break which we extend to 30 minutes at a cafe across the street from the school. At 3pm we drink a small beer or cafe con leche and nibble on free tapas.

At dinner, Sean and I were the only ones not from Venezuela. George’s friends and family members were so kind and generous. Sean looked intense as he tried to comprehend Venezuelan Spanish; I looked around and just smiled. The food was amazing!  My favorite part of the meal, besides the endless bottles of wine, was the dessert. We were given miniature bowls of liquid chocolate with equally small croissants. Very cute and very delicious. My darling SLPs, Sonia and Megan, gave George a package for me with reminders from my old life (altoid minis, an Us Weekly, combos, food thickener, a copy of the picnic scene from the western aphasia battery, and tongue depressors). After dinner we went out dancing and made it home a bit after 5 am. Not uncommon for a Madrileno, but quite uncommon for us. Overall a very special evening. -b