23 July 2011

The End of the Earth


Cereal isn’t that popular in Spain. However, as a devoted-life-long-cereal-lover-and-eater, I believe I handled the situation quite well. I ate grains in the form of toast instead, and only sometimes complained about wanting Blueberry Morning. I’ve been awake maybe an hour today and have already eaten (with great enthusiasm) two large bowls of Kashi Heart-to-Heart, a cereal I enjoy partly because it tastes okay, but mostly because it bares a striking resemblance to dog food. Lightly-sweetened dog food. Ignoring the fact that one is in a human cereal bowl, I'd like you to guess which is which. Impossible, right?



Also, being back in Michigan has made me remember how much I hate Michigan accents. I deeply regret that I have one. Coincidentally, “Spain” spelled backwards is “Niaps,” which is exactly how someone from Michigan pronounces the word “naps.” 

Perhaps it’s because I have been cursed with that horrid, nasally vowel pronunciation simply by growing up in the region I did, but I will never, ever, speak Spanish like a native speaker. I reached this conclusion as I sat in a café with fairies painted on the ceiling (in a cool way, not in a freaky Lisa Frank glitter-covered trapper-keeper from 1996 way) on the 4th of July, sipping a café Americano (unintentional patriotism), listening to other Americans (it was an accident, I swear, I'm really not patriotic, it's not how it looks) try to speak Spanish and feeling embarrassed by and for them. I sunk into my chair, overcome with shame that I, too, sound like that. Feel free to substitute “that” with “a complete idiot” or “a huge asshole.” As I settled into a foul mood, I gazed out the window, contemplative. A lady walked by outside, talking on her phone and absentmindedly slapping her armpit at the same time.

Guidance
Anyway. What I’d like to reminisce on today is that time Maura and I walked to the End of the Earth, in Galicia, Spain. Really, we did. Fisterra/Finisterre (one is the Spanish name, one is the Gallego name)-- either way, the “End of the Earth.” In retrospect, the proposal sounds ridiculous: “Hey Meow-Meow, let’s take the weekend to walk 60 miles across Northern Spain, in too-small running shoes, without a map or directions, with a couple loaves of bread in our backpacks!” But it sounded like a brilliant plan to us, so we went through with it. Due to limited time, we could only pursue a small section of the much larger, sacred pilgrimage that extends all throughout Europe, called El Camino de Santiago—or, in the English translation that makes no sense, “The Way of St. James.” St. James? Santiago? WHAT AM I MISSING?

The night before we embarked on our miniscule segment of the journey, we decided to make a Tortilla Española, which is basically a potato omelette, in the hostel’s kitchen in Santiago de Compostela. We ended up royally fucking it up by accidentally adding about a half a cup of salt, but since we had used six eggs (our first mistake), we felt too guilty to not eat it. We couldn’t waste six eggs.  So we coached one another through the meal-- You can do it. One more bite. Thatta girl. Come on. Six eggs. We have a long walk ahead of us. Go. Go. Go. Beautiful. Great! Chew. Good. Now swallow! Perfect!*-- and eventually wound (and whined) our way through the majority of the disgusting, salty potato-egg-mass, and only suffered dull-to-moderate stomachaches. I may have developed a small ulcer from this experience that will come back to pain me in months to come, but I’m not worried about that right now. In short, we started off the journey well-nourished-- our bodies will never need sodium, ever again.
(*I don't think the coaching really happened like that. It went more like, "Oh my gawwwwd, this is so saallllty. Ughhhhh. I can't do this." "Ughhhh, Gaby, we have to...oh god, so gross. This is foul. I'm gonna barf." "Maurraaaaaa, this is REPULLLLSIVVVEEE." "Fuckkkk.")

French Trail-Pisser himself ^
The walk itself was stunning—through open fields, through the mountains and forests and along the sea! We felt incredibly in-shape, until we realized that we were the youngest people on the trail by at least forty years. Walking 90-ish kilometers in less than three days sounds like a daunting task, but what I failed to mention earlier is that we did so in the company of only elderly walkers, most of whom had started in France and had been walking for weeks, and most of whom were way faster than us. (Whatever, it’s not a race, it’s about the journey, right? RIGHT?) As we huffed and puffed and swore and sweat on the second day, our favorite old French man /roommate from the night before casually strolled by us, stopped to pee in the trail, and continued on until we lost sight of him for a few hours. When we had finally arrived to the next town, there he was, casually  drinking a beer and reading the paper outside a bar, like he hadn’t just walked the length of a marathon, but instead had taken a leisurely stroll from his living room to the bathroom, taken a shit, and walked back to his chair in front of the fireplace. He's an inspiration to us all, really.


The end of the earth, as it turns out, is very, very blue. We stopped for an overpriced glass of wine at the fancy restaurant at The End to celebrate our fine athletic achievement, and one of the assholes working there sharply reprimanded us for taking off our shoes in the restaurant. How dare they. BITCH, WE JUST WALKED TO THE END OF THE EARTH! WE JUST WALKED 60 MILES! LET US TAKE OFF OUR SHOES AND TAKE A NIAP! (note the unavoidable michigan accent)
We didn't say that. We mumbled, "vale, vale," and put our toes in our shoes to make it look like we made an effort, then plunked our heads on the table and moaned in pain. 
End of earth hip movement

Prrrrrrrit!

15 July 2011

La Vuelta

Is this blog dead? I don’t tend to it. I’ve let it wilt. I’ve let it crumble. I haven’t updated in like, a month. Oh, what's that, you say? Over a month? Is that so? Well. Shit. I'm sorry. This laziness and neglect and being-busy is about to change! I promise. I’m back in my home country with very little to do except reminisce on sunny Spanish days. (See: Masochism.) Among other stories, the continued adventures of Meow-Meow Walsh and Whiskers need to be told. Don’t give up on me yet.

The journey back was rather smooth—I occupied myself on the plane by watching the only episode of 30 Rock the on-flight entertainment had available (in which Liz comments that her gynecologist committed suicide over the summer, and Jack wants to keep the “elk tongue” colored walls in his home), sat through that piece-of-shit Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher movie about being fuck-buddies and falling in love, blahblahblah (except they cut out any remotely graphic sex and swearing…so…well, why even bother?), and enjoyed roughly twelve minutes of the Justin Beiber documentary Never Say Never. Unfortunately I began the documentary too late—the captain cut off the plane’s entertainment system twenty minutes before landing. Bastard. Netflix it is, then.

In the DC airport I popped into Starbucks to get a snackysnack before my connecting flight to Chicago, and what luck—I got in line at precisely the right time: directly after a very wealthy old man whose only purchase was a small, $3 bottle of water. I was carrying a duffel bag that was completely torn down the side (and "fixed" with a piece of worn duct tape) because I’ve shoved too much shit in it one too many times. (Literally, I just carry heaps of poop in my bag when I travel.) My leggings had multiple rips in them that I will never bother to fix. I looked genuinely rabid from hunger. I hadn’t bathed in…a while. I received a bit of unwanted attention in Spain for being blonde, so when the old guy in front of me kept glancing back, I first assumed he was being a huge old man creep. When it came time to pay for my overpriced fruit and yogurt cup, he instructed the barista, “Just charge it (my fruit and yogurt cup) to my card.” He turned to me, “I’ve got tons of money on there.” My gut instinct was that he needed to be told that saying that out loud makes him sound like a douchebag. I suppressed the instinct. I pretended to protest, “Oh, you don’t have to do that.” He was determined. “No, no, no. I’ve got tons of money. (Again? Really?) Just a random…act of kindness.” And then it hit me: he wasn’t being a creepy old guy…he thought I was homeless.

Overall, being in ‘Murrica is a little underwhelming. I honestly expected a deep, disturbing depression, but the transition has been…shockingly fine. Yes, I’ve had to re-train my arm and hand muscles to reach for the side of the toilet to flush, instead of reaching for the button on top, as the more cultured European arms do. Yes, I occasionally forget that everyone around me can understand me and I say something inappropriate in front of children in public. Yes, the food here sucks and I can’t even order a fucking glass of wine if I wanted to. Regardless, I’ve almost survived my first week: I spent three days at home, didn’t end my life after the Harry Potter midnight premiere (just dry heaved a lot in the theater), and have spent a successful afternoon drinking coffee from a large cup (the American way), eavesdropping on families simply because they’re speaking English and I delight in the renewed pleasure of being able to understand every word spoken around me, eating perfect rectangles of Hershey’s chocolate (I’ve missed them so), and getting completely engrossed in one of Second City’s youtube series, Cougar Lesbians.

To come:
Molly Weasley, with daughter-in-law Hermione Granger,
before the midnight premiere.

Meow-Meow Walsh and Whiskers are very special!

A-dwag's appearance in Granada!
I miss my Dutch housemates, and El Camborio in their company.

04 June 2011

Meow Meow Walsh and Whiskers take on the Iberian Peninsula, Part 1 of 3

The Portuguese language is aural sex. Give me hour-long recordings of Portuguese weather reports, and I would be content falling asleep, and waking up to them every night and day. Give me recordings of court proceedings, or an MP3 containing only commentary from Portuguese golf tournaments of the 1990's. I would enjoy a university lecture about plastic. I would even willingly subject myself to a translated audio tape of The Book of Mormon, if the opportunity arose.

Maura, whom I will now refer to as Meow-Meow Walsh from this point forward, and I (both my given name, and Whiskers, are suitable) spent a hefty chunk of last month hopping around the Iberian Peninsula. (Yeah-sorry-that's-why-I-didn't-update-all-month....)

First stop: Portugal. We were based in Lisbon, where we couch-surfed with a journalist who writes reviews of mountain bikes. He made us clams and serenaded us with his guitar, and he also had a shocking amount of scabbed wounds all over his legs and arms from biking incidents. We had taken an overnight bus there, so our first day we wandered around the city looking for a park to nap in. (Turns out Lisboa doesn't have many.) So we sat, dazed, on a bench in a plaza while a lady who couldn't have been younger than 90 plopped down next to us and talked and talked and talked to us in rapid Portuguese without realizing that we couldn't understand a goddamn thing she said. While this was happening, pigeons were courting one another in circles around our park bench. (Mating season 2011 is in full swing.)

We took three day trips around Lisbon: to Guincho, a surfing beach where everyone there was in the best physical shape humans can achieve; to Sintra, full of lush forests and castles, where I expected elves, gnomes, fairies, unicorns, centaurs, and other mythical beasts, to pop out of thickets, or appear in bursts of shimmering dust-- everything seemed enchanted, and we took many pictures of our own necks there; and to Evora, home of a chapel made out of human bones, and a big aqueduct.
Meow Meow loves her towel!


Sintra!

Pena Castle, really pretty, tourists in khaki pants, yada yada

 

Bone chapel wall! (Real human skulls.)
Upcoming installments: Galicia, Barcelona. Stay tuned.

03 June 2011

Changes: Address, Cleanliness, Nutrition, Communication


Those who remain
I have reached the peak of leisure. The amount of responsibility I have rivals that of a weaning toddler. Well, ok, that’s hyperbolic. I have the responsibilities that come along with living alone (you know, like doing my laundry as little as possible, buying groceries and toilet paper, paying rent, etc.), as well as academic commitments, like the paper I should write, and that Spanish modernist literature exam that the upcoming new moon will bring. But the perk of being in exam mode is that classes are over, which allows me to wake up without an alarm, drink coffee on the terrace, occasionally read Harry Potter on the Mediterranean shore, and explore new corners of Granada. (How is this real?) I’ve moved out of my host family’s home, and into an apartment down the road from the Alhambra, where I will spend my last five weeks in Spain. My host family was really great (wish I could think of a better adjective), but I have welcomed the renewed freedom of independent living with my arms open as wide as my wingspan will allow. The following changes have taken place:

Cleanliness: My host mom is perhaps the cleanest human on this planet, and, well, I would be fine living with wolves. Thus I am, to put it lightly, exhausted from the daily tidying and clothes-folding and bed-making procedure I carried out during the past few months in an effort to convince her that I am not as uncivilized as my hygiene suggests. Now that I have no one to please but myself, I have been living in utter disarray-- complete chaos and disaster and mess. Imagine clothes (both dirty and clean) on the floor in piles, bed never made, half-eaten containers of yogurt lying on the desk, books and papers scattered, and you have a great idea of my living conditions. I am in my element!

Lunch! From left: Elena (my host mom), Dani (her son),
Johnny (her grandson)
Nutrition: I now eat roughly one third the amount of food I ate every day at my host mom’s. Before you jump to conclusions about my health or self-esteem, let me explain: I have not cut my food intake by two thirds (see that math I just did??!) in order to starve myself, nor am I fasting for religious or spiritual purposes. The fact of the matter is that now I am eating an amount of food that is proportional to me being a twenty year old girl of average size, instead of eating meals appropriate for a pubescent, male junior varsity football player and his most intimate athletic, also pubescent, male friends combined. I stand by my original statement that my host mom’s food is extraordinarily good—it’s true—she’s a phenomenal cook, and I am very grateful for every bite—but I feel much healthier, and less like a gluttonous piece of American shit now. I also have had the liberty to remove ham from my diet, thank god.

Communication: I answer to no one. It’s like starting college, all over again, wide-eyed and wild. (Wait, I guess I didn’t start college that way. But, draw from familiar cultural stereotypes.) I don’t have to tell anyone in my non-native language that I’m going out, or that I won’t be home for dinner, or that  I’m going for a run (not that I express the latter too often.)
I’m so lucky to have been able to live with Elena and get to know her family, though. I will especially miss the silly language hiccups, the routine of watching Saber y Ganar after the lunchtime news every day, the cultural sharing, the storytelling, and possibly most of all, Hugo’s precious face, and the way he makes eye contact with me as he breast feeds. Cutest Spanish toddler alive, hands down.
Maribel (my host mom's biological daughter), holding Hugo.
Fun Fact: Both boys are sporting recent haircuts.

10 May 2011

Three Anecdotes about Bunnies

I was sitting on the square orange couch in Mundo Manila with a cup of tea in hand, absorbed in a JD Salinger short story, when a flash of bright green fur appeared in my peripheral vision. Intrigued, I wrenched my eyes from the pages that were once owned by a presumably British stranger (I had purchased the book for 3 pounds at a used bookshop in a grungy neighborhood of London two weeks prior), and marked my page with a tree leaf I had been carrying around. If I could expertly identify tree leaves, I would specify which type of leaf it was. The truth is, though, that I cannot.
My eyes scanned the bar until they focused on the source of the green fur: it was a stuffed animal, in the arms of an older, pierced woman. She was carrying around four other stuffed animals in her arms, and my heart surged with joy when she sat down directly across from me and ordered a beer. I didn't understand the Spanish phrases she was muttering to herself, but once she set the stuffed animals down, I realized she was not muttering to herself at all, but to a quivering live bunny that was sitting on her chest. I guess no one in Spain gives a fuck about bringing live animals into dining establishments, because the bartender brought her the copa de cerveza and said nothing. As the bunny-lady was settling in and rearranging the stuffed animals on her lap, I rearranged my limbs. My thighs were painfully stuck to the couch, and at the obnoxious squelching sound my legs made as I uncrossed them, the bunny-woman made startled eye contact with me. She noticed me for the first time. She appeared surprised, even, to see that someone was sitting so close to her. I offered a soft, "hola." She said nothing in return, but picked up one of the stuffed animals-- the green one-- and began to stroke the real bunny's fur with the green stuffed animal. I pretended to resume reading, while really I was stealing precious glances at what was happening across from me. She alternately took sips of beer and stroked the bunny and murmured more sweet nothings into its floppy ears. I received a petty text message and in the time it took to reply, the bunny woman had gone, silently and swiftly. I did not realize she had left until the bartender approached the couch and informed me, "That woman said you'd pay for her."

Change of scenery: The Malaga airport. Before boarding the flight to London, I spotted a man with a thin, braided beard that extended to his belly button. It looked like a rat tail, but extra long, and on the front of his face instead of the back of his neck. He was in a cowboy hat. I even pointed out to my friend, "That guy's beard is freaky deaky!" It was a comment in passing-- I thought no more of him until, since I seem to be weirdo-magnet, he plopped down in the seat next to mine on the plane. Fantastic. I could smell beer on his breath. Joining him was a jolly Irish man, also shitfaced, with a gold chain around his neck. (They met in the airport bar. They are both named John.) The braided beard guy and I said hello, per airplane etiquette, and had the conversation that happens one every plane ride about where you're going, and from where you came, and why. I thought I had done my airplane seat partner duty by being cordial but cold enough to make it very clear that I intended to nap, when he shoved his phone in front of my face and declared, "Look at my bunnies." On the screen was a photo of two bunnies laying on their stomachs in front of a television in what I assume was his living room. He looked at them fondly and said, almost in a whisper, as he ran his fingers down his long braided beard, "They're my dears." The jolly Irish man laughed uproariously.

Final change of scenery: Las Alpujarras. I had gone on what was supposed to be a hiking trip organized by my school, but due to torrential rain, no hiking was done. We did, however, do aerobics in the basement of a strange building. In the basement was a lone balloon hanging from the ceiling, and a tattered Happy Birthday banner. Regardless, we had a great meal provided to us at a restaurant in the pueblo, and one of the options for dinner was Conejo. (Rabbit.) I'm by no means a real vegetarian, and I probably won't ever be one because I have no self control and I really do like chicken, but eating a rodent, let alone what could very well be a household pet, was more than I could handle. Hence, I opted for Sea Bass. (And I am very happy I did so-- it was delicioso.) My more adventurous/carnivorous friend Natasha ordered Conejo, and what arrived on her plate was literally...a charred, skinned rabbit. It had a face. It had teeth. My program director, Miguel Angel, coached Natasha through the process of eating the rabbit. Miguel Angel chopped off the rabbit's head with a graceful movement of his knife, put the dismantled skull to his mouth, and slurped out the innards. "Ah, que rico!" he said, satisfied. I felt bile perk its head up and start to dance in my intestine. He tossed the bunny skull aside and the meal resumed.
A final word on bunny meat: my host mom served it to me the other day. It was not bad. There were no teeth. She also fed me blood sausage once.

09 May 2011

Noticias

Sigh. It's been far too long. So long, in fact, that my finger muscles keep freezing-- stuttering, perhaps-- in indecisiveness at where to begin, and anxiety at the amount of stories that need to be shared.

Agony
The great majority of the students in my program are somewhere in the sky, on a plane bound to Chicago at this very instant...which I can't fathom doing. When I try to do so (fathom, that is), my tummy gets fussy. Very fussy. Needless to say, the past weekend was a disaster of "last nights in Granada," spent in raucous celebration at that godforsaken discoteca, Camborio (the one in the cave, across from the Alhambra...which are it's ONLY two redeeming qualities, I might add), in plazas, in hazy teterias, in the Albaicin, and in Kebab King, provider of multiple shwargasms on any given night. I'm fairly certain that half of everyone's program fee went to funding our school's goodbye dinner, which was fancy and delightful and made instantly less classy by discreetly adding honey rum to our cokes under the table. I'm joining Maura in Portugal in a few days, but our Spanish despedida was heartwrenching. (She embarked on her travels yesterday.) Our number one musical hit, "Bathtub Bar," (inspired by a bar in Budapest that I never went to, but has a bathtub in it) cannot be sung without her; I sing harmony, she sings melody, sometimes we even sing in Cat. (Harmonized meows.) It is sung to Jingle Bells, but jazzy.

CATPACK near the Tower of London
I never got around to writing about my time in the UK other than in the Platform 9 3/4 post...which my very kind friend Bennett described as, "the most disturbing blog entry that i have ever read...for so many reasons." Being in an English-speaking country for the first time since January really fucked with my brain. I kept responding to figures of authority in Spanish, and forming Spanish sentences in my head until I would remember that I not only could speak in my native tongue, but was required to do so. Some great ideas came into my head in London, the greatest of which is of a hypothetical blog I would create if I lived in London. The blog would be called "Eavesdropping on British Children." Shockingly, I figured out how to use the London Underground, which may be my finest achievement to date. I was in the city alone for my last two days, and loved leisurely strolling into cafes, perusing used bookshops, and journaling in patches of grass. Alex Edwards, who has officially acquired a British accent (don't deny it!), made an appearance, and we spent a lovely afternoon catching up in corners of pubs.
Note the advertisement...

Great drawing in the Tate Modern
Prior to London, I went with Maura and Mary Kate to Ronda, a city built on the edge of a very impressive cliff. I have nothing amusing to share about this place, but felt morally obliged to include a photo. QUE PRECIOSA!!!!

25 April 2011

Hugo y Ha-bee

My host mom's grandson, Hugo (pronounced "Oo-go"), is two years old, and is unstoppable. His curiosity and energy knows no limits. He's also rather stubborn and likes to yell. However, he has enormous brown eyes that hypnotize all who meet his gaze, causing them to forget why or how they could ever be angry with such a beautiful being. Since he's not my child, I don't get angry with him at all, but still experience the hypnosis. Sometimes he waddles around the house repeating my name sporadically..."Ha-bee....ha-bee...donde esta ha-bee?" It's impossible not to love this child.
Hugo refuses food (no idea why), is obsessed with chiming church bells, pronounces my name "HA-bee", and speaks about himself in third person by default. While his mom was engaged in a card game the other night, I played with him. (I'm trying new things, okay?) He tried to force a pink, rubber sea creature in my mouth at least nine times, then regurgitated a small chunk of bread and deposited it in my hand. We colored for about three minutes (he got bored), then pretended to take pictures with his play camera. When I asked him what he was taking pictures of, he told me, "Fiestas! Y nata!"...which means, "Parties! And whipped cream!"
Shortly after the bread regurgitation and whipped cream photo shoot, we went for a walk with my host mom and Hugo's mom. I learned that when they go for walks, Hugo never rides in his stroller. Instead, he walks next to his mother and pushes an empty pink Little Mermaid stroller intended for dolls. It's great. Hugo somehow has golden, almost white blonde hair, and while we were out, I'm certain that everyone thought he was my child because of this. Um.
Another very important bulletin point about Hugo is that he likes to take off his shoes while breast-feeding. A little weird, yes, but the fact that he does that mid-suckling is not the issue: merely going barefoot in Spanish homes is a huge no-no. So shit hits the fan when his shoes come off. My host mom tells him that there is a large cat in the house who eats barefoot blonde children. I am told to encourage this fear.

24 April 2011

Holy Week: Harry and Mary

Semana Santa (Holy Week) has descended upon Spain. In its wake remains millions of flower petals tossed from balconies onto weeping Marys and graphically wounded Jesus' as they parade through the streets on golden altars, led by what appears to be a KKK reunion, but is nothing more than a group of Catholics in masks. Weather permitting, the processions took place every day, and to be honest, they freaked me out a little. But, it's Spanish tradition and I'm glad I was able to experience it here.

The first part of my Holy Week was appropriately spent making my highly-anticipated, sacred pilgrimage to King's Cross Station in London, to Platform 9 3/4.  Let me be clear: I've dreamt of visiting King's Cross since Harry came into my life in the late 90's.Therefore, this journey was a BIG DEAL.



King's Cross is under construction, thus the homage to Harry was not actually between Platforms 9 and 10, and was really just a shitty fake wall. I didn't care. I was there. In was in King's Cross. It was happening. I was standing where generations of Hogwarts students have begun their magical education. I was standing where Harry speaks in the nude to Dumbledore at the end of Deathly Hallows and is forced to choose between what is right and what is easy. I was physically shaking and had that nervous diarrhea feeling as we searched for the Platform. Once it came into my line of vision, I stopped in awe and experienced a bout of dizziness; then, the tears came. These tears were not just silent, gentle droplets that fall quickly and cleanly, like an Olympic skater who fucks up her quadruple axle but brushes herself off the ice with grace and skill and that's that. No, these were streaming, hot, messy tears. Blotchy skin. Some genuine sobbing. Some snot. Some squealing. That feeling of having your heart wrenched around that makes your body cave in. In a good way. (See photo).
Before we left, there was a long line of people next to Platform 9 3/4, waiting for their turn to take a picture. The size and steadiness of the line made me tear up all over again.
The trip to Platform 9 3/4 was overall a very spiritual experience. I felt fulfilled, satisfied, refreshed. I had completed a mission I've been burning to carry out for over half of my life. It was also bittersweet, considering that it was the most momentous occasion of my life, thus if I follow a standard bell-curve, everything will be of lower quality and lower significance from now on. (Though, I struggled with bell curves enough in my spring semester of Statistics 350. Fuck bell curves. They will never be part of my life again.)

As I numbly walked out of King's Cross, I realized what Catholics feel when they shake hands with or have their baby's head kissed by the Pope. And I don't mean that sacrilegiously. I really do understand. My love for Harry's story is only comparable to religious devotion. Yes, I am fundamentalist Christian's worst nightmare.

08 April 2011

Snippets

This past week has included: witnessing a clump of frogs either feeding from a dead bird or gently humping one another in a pond (it was one of the two, and I'm at a loss for which), visiting a dentist with incredibly long eyelashes (more to come on this), purchasing Harry Potter y el caliz de fuego (varita=wand), buying a hairbrush, eating snails and pig hoof (not at the same time), snipping one of my dreads in honor of Cassie Peabody (if anyone would like me to mail it to them for whatever reason, I'll gladly do so-- I kept it), riding an elevator in a cemetery, and observing wild peacocks roam freely among a garden near the Alhambra.

On Spanish dentistry and my teeth : The dentist's office smelled delicious, and the dentist himself was really young and I couldn't stop staring at his eyelashes. Instead of filling out extensive paperwork about my medical history, he asked me a couple questions and that was sufficient. "Gabrieeela. Soy Rrrricarrrdo. Esta es tu casa..." While he was speaking he of course stood really close to me and touched me a lot, because, well, I'm in Spain, and that's just how everyone behaves here. So freakily-long-eyelashed Ricardo numbed half of my mouth and fixed my tooth. I had to go to class at the University afterward, and also hadn't eaten anything yet-- an awful combination, really--so I went to one of the cafeterias on campus and sat out on the terrace that overlooks the city and mountains and attempted to eat tostada con tomate and drink cafe con leche. What a shit show. I had no control of my chewing, so pieces of toast and tomato kept falling out my mouth and I dribbled coffee all over the place. WHY ISN'T IT OBLIGATORY BY LAW TO HAVE A BIB DISPENSER IN ANY AND ALL CAFETERIAS?

On fear and host families: I forgot my keys when I went out earlier this week, and I realized so around 2:30 a.m. Calling my Señora at this hour of the night was one of the scariest things I've ever done. I expected her to be furious. I expected her to kill me. Literally kill me. Turns out she was in the cemetery. What? Yes, the cemetery. Her cousin's husband died, and it's tradition here that the whole family stays with a body the first night. So she was there, and I waited for her to come home by listening to Celtic music in my friend's car. I apologized profusely when I got in the door at 3:17 a.m., and all she responded with was a comforting smile and, "No pasa nada."
Oh, right. Of course. No pasa nada.
I never know how she'll react to me. Today she came home around 10 pm after a day spent at a funeral, running errands, making lentil soup, and playing cards. The first thing she says to me, after a casual hola, was, "A pimple has emerged on your cheek." Oh. Um. Yes, thank you, I noticed. We chatted a bit about the lentil soup and I reassured her it was delicious, and we chatted some more about my intercambio's upcoming flamenco show, and then she began to chastise me for having American friends here. Then she gave me a ham sandwich that was between 13 and 15 inches in length, and a bowl of strawberries. She has a good heart.

On linguistics: My friend Jose's birthday was last week, and when I asked him if he knew how to say, "Feliz cumple" in English, he scoffed that I even had the nerve to ask, and demonstrated his linguistic skill by announcing, "Of course! Happy...baby." Well....close.

On the elderly: I live two blocks away from where a tour bus stops and dumps off a new group of primarily elderly white people daily. They exit the bus and explore Granada in a large pack. Occasionally I get sucked into this herd on my walk to school. I become enveloped in an array of pastels and hairspray and skin spots and maps and fanny packs and black calf-high socks. This herd moves slowly. It moves blindly. It drives me bonkers. I’m an asshole.

On the man-dog relationships in Homeward Bound: "Shadow was a little...queer...with Peter." -Maura. She's right. And it's mutual. A certain scene in which Peter is absentmindedly sketching Shadow in class comes to mind.

On infants: I've mentioned before that my apartment building is next door to an infant clothing store, but what I have NOT mentioned are the creepy, realistic baby mannequins in a crib in the window. Their skin is discolored and pruney and their eyes aren't open all the way and their toes are curled. Their hair looks oddly damp. Look:
Ugh. Que asco!

25 March 2011

Cachorro-Cachondo

Last week, I sat in Mariana Pineda Plaza at dusk and watched a medium-sized dog leap in delight while playing with an empty aluminum can. It was more than delight; it was ecstasy. 
While that dog was playing with the can like a fucking lunatic, I became temporarily distracted by the arrival of the tiniest dog I've ever seen in my life, trotting near my bench. Maura commented, "It's so small I could fit it in my mouth," which prompted an image of her stuffing a puppy in her mouth. Do you think that's possible? Is that abusive?
Speaking of abuse, Maura's new name is RODENT SLAYER, or for short, just "Slayer." We went walking by the river today and she stepped on a dead mouse. All of its guts came squishing out. Ew.
Our latest calendar theme idea (remember Babies in Danger?) is to have an Animals with Birth Defects calendar, which would feature things like cross-eyed puppies, three-legged kittens, rabid baby squirrels with chunks of fur missing, baby rabbits with tumors, etc.

Also, it should be noted that the words for "puppy" and "horny" are too similar for my liking. Puppy= Cachorro, Horny= Cachondo. I hope I never, ever, mix those up, in any situation. Imagine if you were in bed with someone and they whispered to you, "mmm, I'm so puppy right now!" Horror. Or what if you said to a little girl walking by the river with her precious newborn terrier, "What a cute horny!"? Inappropriate, all around.

21 March 2011

PRRRRRIIIITTTTT

Nerja, Spain is one of the world's treasures, and not just because one can go topless on the beach. (Though that's a plus, of course: such freedom!) I spent the weekend on the Southern coast of Spain, and let me make it clear that I feel like a huge asshole writing that on here; it sounds so glamorous.

The bus dumped us off on the side of the road in Nerja, and my friends Maura and Mary Kate and I just started walking, assuming that if we wandered in the general direction of the sea, we would make it there. We were wrong about that, but what we found along the way was perhaps even better than all of the beauty of the weekend combined: The Nerja Donkey Sanctuary.
We obviously couldn't nonchalantly walk by a Donkey Sanctuary (who do you think we are?), so we went in. I was expecting a luxurious palace with golden donkey statues, or donkey heads on the wall, but really it was just a farm at which British people take care of stray donkeys (I guess?). There were multiple pregnant pigs wandering around, too. I'm not sure if that was the place for them, but whatever-- all of the animals seemed to get along quite well. I now regret not buying a Nerja Donkey Sanctuary refrigerator magnet, button,  tshirt, or hoodie, when I had the chance.

We got back on track and made it to the shore, and wowowowoowoowow, PRRRrrrrriiiiiittt! (Side note: Maura likes to say, "Pretty," which became, "Prit," which became, "Prit-prit," which became, "Prrrrrrit!" which became a complete shit show of shouting, "PRRRRRiiiit! PRIT! PRIT! TAN BONITA! QUE GUAPA! PRRRIIITTT!") Paradise. The sound of the breathing sea was music. I hadn't expected to spend more than the day in Nerja, but the prospect of seeing the SuperLuna, the largest-appearing, brightest full moon in the past eighteen years, from the coast of Spain was too great to pass up-- I was morally obligated to stay.


Cave Photos: Courtesy of Erin Swor and her nice-ass camera
The next morning we went to a huge cave in Nerja, and it was stunning. People used to LIVE there! Isn't that cool? It also has perfect acoustics, so there are concerts there in the summer. We left right as a bus-load of elderly tourists arrived; perfect timing!

The rest of the afternoon was spent topless on the beach (god, I love Europe), which was a most delightful experience. For some reason Erin had SPF 50 sunscreen for baby skin with her, and what luck that she did. It was the perfect amount of protection. We climbed some rocks at one point (clothed), and Melissa got stabbed in the head by a plant (the details of how this happened are entirely unclear), but she found the experience delightful and kept exploring with streams of blood trickling down her face. Freak.

Mediterranean Sea, SuperLuna. For Cassieloo.

15 March 2011

"I want to make pleasure for you for 200 durham!"- Tea set salesman

This is a little out-dated, yesyesyesyesIknowIknowIknow. I went to Marrakech, Morocco on a long weekend a while ago. On the way there, I could simultaneously see the outline of Spain, and the African continent, at the same time from the plane window, which was superchulo. ("Chulo" means something like "neat-o".)

The first thing I felt after exiting the airport was the SUN. Oh, holy baby jesus, I felt like I had been submerged in a warm, invisible bathtub, with invisible, dry water. Um. Well, something like that. It was pleasant, is what I'm trying to get across. My mother's words of "TRUST NO ONE" rang in my ears as I apprehensively got in the front seat of a taxi. (No seat belt to be found, oh well.) We were dropped off on a dusty, bustling street, entirely disoriented, and were immediately fucked over by a stranger who led us to our hostel without us asking and then charged us 20 euro. As we navigated the winding labyrinth of the zoco (the market), I wondered if I had been transported into Disney's animated feature Aladdin without giving my consent. Riff raff! Street rat!

We got much better deals in the market if we bargained in Spanish, except when they could see through our godawful accents and spoke to us in English and we were forced to resign our efforts. The salesmen like to make you feel special so that you buy their shit, and my favorite was the man who said things like, "Just for you, today! 200 durham. You a student, I know, not much money, I want to give you deal. You like this? This one? Yes, only 200 durham. I want to make pleasure for you for 200 durham."

During our time in Morocco, my travel-mates and I went on an excursion to the Ourika Valley of the Atlas Mountains, and on the way, we stopped for a camel ride. During this ride, the camel behind me began to chew on the strings of my recently-purchased backpack...made of camel-leather. In addition to this action being cannibalistic, I had to (much to my displeasure) physically remove my bag from the camel's mouth. It was dripping wet with drool for hours. I rode in fear for the remainder of the ride. If it went for my hair, I would surely die.

Speaking of hair, I discovered immediately that being a blonde (yes, fine, I admit it, I'm blonde) woman is not something I can discreetly get away with in Morocco. We ventured to the smoky, lively, color-and-sound-filled plaza for dinner and I was greeted as "Shakira" constantly. It's the hair. Shakira would be ashamed if she knew people were comparing us.

I think words would be lost if I tried to explain everything we did or saw, so look at some pictures instead:

Market by night
Travel-mates
Atlas Mountains en el fondo
Palace ruins