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On Thursday, Madrid celebrated another Puente (holiday on Thursday so they extend the vacation to include Friday as well- like a “bridge”. Makes sense to me!).  We took a four-day trip to Asturias with Daniela and her boyfriend.  Asturias is one of the most beautiful areas of Spain. It is in the Northwestern area, and it borders the Cantabrian Sea. It is a very green, mountainous area with beautiful water views.

We always have a great time when we are with Daniela because #1. she is a darling, and #2. she is a native Spanish speaker and we eat very well when we know what we are ordering.   Asturias is famous for cider (Sidra) and the waiters have a fancy way of pouring the liquid. They hold the bottle high over their heads and only look at the liquid as it falls into the glass. A lot of it splashes on their pants. They pour about a sip worth at a time, because it is best to drink immediately. If you have liquid still in your glass when they return to refill, they throw it on the floor (even indoors!).  This is in keeping with the tradition because originally cider was use to be consumed outside and the leftover liquid was fertilizer for the earth, plus sometimes they only give you two glass to share and the thought is that it is more hygienic to get rid of the last sip.

Our hotel was in Oviedo and we were in for a surprise the first night. There was a special celebration with a huge bonfire in the middle of the city. People wrote things they didn’t like about their lives and threw the paper into the fire. It was magnificent. On Friday we went to a small town called Congas de Onis, which has a Roman bridge with a large cross hanging from the center. From Congas, we went to see the Covadonga (virgin Mary) in a chapel built into a cliff and the surrounding lakes. We took a taxi when we went to the lakes because the windy road was very narrow- not to mention occupied by cows.  The area seemed enchanted because it was so green and fresh, and the air was filled with the sound of cowbells, which the cows wore around their necks. Someone told me that people drop the cows off in the area in spring to let them graze free until the end of the summer, then they collect them once they have been fattened. It seems like a nice alternative to a factory farm I suppose.

On Saturday we went up the Sella River on canoes.  There were many people there because the weather was warm and the water was cool. We saw about 15 boats flip because of the rapids but luckily we were safe. After the river we drove to the beach town of Gijon. The seawater was so warm compared to the coast of RI but it is supposedly quite cold for Spain.  And lastly, on Sunday we went to my favorite place, Cudillero. Cudillero is an old fishing town built on a cliff. The houses are quite charming. We had delicious seafood there and, of course, more cider. One of the best things about Spain is that the people eat a huge meal for lunch instead of at dinnertime. The restaurants serve a “menu del dia” which is usually 8-12 euro. It includes bread and wine/beer/cider, a first course (salad, pasta, paella, etc), a second course (fish with a side veg, ham, chicken, etc), then a dessert and café con leche). All for VERY cheap.

Asturias was suppose to be our last big trip before we return home but we are considering squeezing in one more… maybe… Asturias will be hard to beat though!

Bigger:

Thread here seems to be how characters respond to adversity, with some mixed results.  On the one hand, we have the bad:  Coach not telling Tami about an overwhelming party she has to throw in an effort to avoid her scorn.  Lyla seeking comfort in the arms of Rigs.  Rigs not confronting his paralyzed best friend.  Saracen bashing the car of a rival with a baseball bat.

Then we have the good:  Tami, knowing that her husband dropped the ball, bails him out and throws one heck of a party. Street takes some ownership of his paralysis and fights back, eventually regaining use of his hands.  Saracen gets jumped but doesn’t name names.  Coach corrects himself and apologizes.

The characters who confronted pain in the short term turned out all right.  Those who didn’t, didn’t.

Small:

1.  Grandma Saracen’s battle with dementia leads her to take a bath in a neighbor’s place, triggering anger and confusion in young Matt.  Later, he gets jumped by eight boneheads and just takes the beating.  Old Matty feels abandoned and friend-less.  Like that old Dylan line, ‘everybody sees themselves, walking around with no one else.’

2.  Lyla has a voice that erodes credibility.  Impossible to take you serious when you sound like a passive-aggressive CCD teacher.

3.  Julie is more sincere here in season 1.  She reads books and cares about her mother’s feelings.  This changes.


This is when FNL starts to get good. The town of Dillon is whining about not getting their W’s and Tim is falling apart at the seams, harboring guilt over Jason’s injury. The Smash gives an accusatory interview, which causes Coach Taylor to lose it. The team members get a late-night call and get corralled onto a bus for practice? punishment? An iconic scene unfolds with the players running in the rain. I thought- why don’t the coaches have raincoats at least? But it’s Texas, and in Texas the men are men. The Coach confronts Tim about Jason’s injury- saying it wasn’t his fault and Tim’s facial expression is truly touching. Matt continues to be lovable. He has heard rumors about being replaced as the Qb1 by an evil looking kid (I think he is about 35 though) from New Orleans. The “kid” walks onto the field as the episode ends.

Small:

1.  Great scene with Coach trying to fix an air-conditioner.  The first of many where he’s aggressive with an appliance in the backyard.

2.  Grandma’s cake looked dumb good.

3.  I think Joe Pesci once said the first thing he focuses on with a new role is how his character walks.  It was fun watching how Tami (Connie Britton) chose to ‘walk’ with her character.  She keeps her face bright and her movements confident.  Coach (Kyle Chandler) keeps his face irritated and his movements slightly hunched.

Bigger:

There is more focus on religion here than in later seasons.  Coach prays privately and with his team.  Smash always praises God.   The scenes in church are as spirited as some of the football games.   The show doesn’t embrace religion as rigidly as some of its characters do, though.  In episode 2, we get our first man-of-science vs. man-of-faith debate.

Coach and Jason Street are both in the middle of crises.  They seek out their significant others (Tami and Lyla, respectively).   Lyla tells Street, ‘This will work out because we want it to in our hearts and because it’s the plan.’  Tami tells Coach, ‘This will work out because you’ve successfully overcome a similar problem in the past.’   That Tami’s advice turns out to be wiser is an early indicator of tone.  While themes like personal salvation are maturely woven into the series, the writers seem to value empirical data over egocentric ‘faith-i-ness.’

Strong opening shot- sunrise from a moving vehicle capturing Texas.  The feeling of the first show seems surprisingly consistent with later seasons. There are some minor differences though. Tammie,  Connie Britton, hasn’t quite mastered her southern drawl yet and the music is more poppy than emo.  My favorite characters made appearances: Grandma Saracen, Buddy Garrity, and Tammy Taylor… but so did my least favorites: Lyla Garrity, um I guess just Lyla. The episode has quite a bit of football footage (any is too much) but it was pretty powerful to see Jason Street sustain his character defining injury.  Favorite line: Grandma Saracen “Matt, you need a new friend” in regards to Landry.

Greece- May 2011

May 17, 2011

Our blogging has come to a near halt… I think we lost the drive to write once we committed to returning to the States. We are still having a wonderful time in Spain though. We are practicing Spanish and traveling. We have two more months of teaching English and then we fly back to RI on July 29th. Sean is starting school in Cambridge at the end of August and I just got hired by RI Hospital and will start working on August 8th… a 40 hour a week job- Ah!!!!! it is time though. This almost year has been a dream. I am sad to be leaving but excited to be starting the next phase of our lives. Here are some pictures of what was my FAVORITE vacation of all time! b

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Sevilla

March 23, 2011

Sevilla started off with a six hour overnight bus ride.   Two women in front of us, yapping and enjoying each other’s company, as is their right, as is their right.  But dag: hay que dormir, chicas.

We arrived to Sevilla’s bus station. Bus stations all over the world are melting pots of unusual.   There was a woman, maybe sixty-five, and a man, maybe thirty, who looked to be romantically involved.  They were whispering into each other’s ears and doing an odd mutual neck caress.  You can’t hate: the heart always has its reasons.

Then there was this guy who was wearing a four piece suit, but with sweatpants.   He was a trendsetter, a smoker, maybe fifty-two, also owner of earth’s most violent cough.  Tough dude: the cough would kill any weaker man instantly and the sweatpants you have to repect when accompanied by a four-piece.  Sweater vest, tie, Brooks Brothers jacket, smooth blue button-down, cuff links, and sweatpants from Russell Sporting goods.

He was friends with another guy who would just yell.  Not curses, not prayers, just loud and primal noise from the gut.

We left the station thinking our trip was already good enough.  But Sevilla surpassed all expectation.  It was infused with the splendor of good temperature and striking architecture.

One night we walked through a couple plazas that had hordes of people drinking sangria.  Am impromptu party outside, but the best kind of party: when you only know only one person and you can enjoy the feel of the crowd without interacting with it.  B and I toasted our good fortune, and I began coughing and screaming as a testament to my old friends.

Recommendation: go there.  It’s a tourist spot but don’t hate: you’re a tourist too.  Financially, it’s easy to do cheap.   Just get gritty and take the bus.   Don’t stay in a pricey hotel but do stay in the center. Lots of good restaurants and a giant Starbucks where you can hide and sleep if you didn’t on the overnight bus ride.

My highest recommendation outside of the bus station is Plaza de Espana: it’s half-park, half-castle.  It reminded me of that scene in Aladdin when the Genie advised our hero to ‘beeee yourself’ when they were on top of Jasmine’s castle.

 

The Class

March 17, 2011

Heard from a good friend today about some students I used to teach.  Some are doing well, some are falling off, the usual trajectories for 13-14 year olds.   Working with adults is fun and challenging out here, but teenagers are a subset of humanity that can drive you mad with joy or rage.  I briefly forgot that.  As a teacher:

You identify with students.  A girl in New York used to read Harry Potter when she was bored during my classes.  Close friends and family know that this was a painful dilemma for me.   What really is more important, I thought, factoring binomials or allowing a child to experience Ron Weasley’s wit?  My ego was bruised that x2 – 9x + 14 being equivalent to (x – 7)(x – 2) wasn’t enough, but you know, I understand.  The last sections of Goblet of Fire are incredible.  Do I suppress her imagination or allow her to openly disrespect me?

You get angry with students.  A lesson went wrong or you’re behind on grading or you just feel off.  Irritable. One of the all-time great kids once brought drum sticks into my algebra class.  Unstimulated by our class discussion about example 42 on page 321, he started playing a mean solo in the back row. We’re talking about multi-step linear equations and he’s freaking out with these sticks.

Knock it off, please, I said. Ok, he said.  He’s a kind young man, generous in heart and spirit, but no kid worth anything can resist making a teacher fall into the abyss of insanity.  Five minutes later we’re on example 44 and I hear those drum sticks again, this time with whispering vocals.

Knock it off or I’m going to break those off my kneecap and throw them out the window.   As I said this, a blood vessel popped in forehead, or at least it felt that way.

Ok Mr. G, ok.

You respect the students.  There’s this one girl in Chicago who we called ‘Ice.’  A total killer in the classroom.  Worked hard, was always prepared, rarely showed emotion. Type of student that was so good you didn’t quite feel worthy- like your lessons were not commensurate with her character and intelligence.  I still speak with her through email, and her tone is the same: business, stoic, appreciative.  She’s straight A’s of course- but also professional and tough.  I would compare her to KG, but I’ve already done that 8 times on this blog.

Like any family, you see each other’s best and worst traits.  One kid gets a 48 on the exam and it’s like, buck up, work harder, come on.  Another gets accepted into Northwestern or wins the Science Fair and you’re infused with pride.  Someone’s mother gets sick and he’s off all day and you’re like, I’m sorry.  A kid who was always good does something bad. Gets caught with weed or cheats on a test or something.  You feel it because now they’re grown-up and not ready for it.

I don’t know.  It’s not an easy racket, but I highly recommend it.

Pictures from Pais Vasco

March 11, 2011

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