08 February 2011

Masturbating Gummy Child, Senderismo

Granada was the place to be this weekend. It’s dangerous, really, that one can purchase an entire box of wine for 55 centimos at any given convenience store, but what may be even more dangerous is purchasing a questionable assortment of gummy candies and finding a little red gummy of a masturbating child among the strawberries, raspberries, teeth, and devil-shaped gummies.  Yes, you read that correctly. This gummy was of a little boy clutching his penis. Spain, what the hell—what happened to your CATHOLICISM? Aren’t Catholics not supposed to masturbate? (Or is it just frowned upon? I don't know. I'm no where near being Catholic.) Either way, these gummies are promoting SIN! The assortment came in a plain plastic bag—no label, no nutrition facts—so I have NO IDEA where it came from. I saved it.

Friday entailed accidently getting drunk (alone) in the corner of an eight year old girl’s birthday party. I think Pepita’s son-in-law felt sorry for me since I was the awkward twenty-something American among all of the Spanish children eating cake and their parents casually conversing/ignoring me, so he kept giving me good ol’ Alhambra cerveza. Or, as the Spanish would say, thhhervethha.
Went hiking (Spanish vocabulary word of the day: Senderismo) in a nearby pueblo, Monachil, on Saturday. The bus driver was a complete dick, so things started out a little shaky, but we found the hiking trails soon enough, and spent the day marveling at the Earth. Granada, albeit a small one, is still a city, and the cars and buildings and people and lack of grass and trees were making me anxious. Ahh, mountain air! Fresh grass! Altitude! Back sweat! Most of all: MOUNTAIN HAY PUPPIES. As soon as we started walking toward the main trail, three puppies jumped out of a haystack and gathered at our feet. Que preciosa.
One of thirteen Bocadillo pictures
The Romeria of Sacramonte was on Sunday, and neither I nor any of my peers knew what it was or what to do with ourselves there (turns out its a pilgrimage/celebration of some Saint whose name I can't remember), so we arrived a little late for free paella. There was Flamenco, sunshine, salty bread, all on the mountainside near the gypsy caves. Unfortunately the only pictures I took all day were of Maura eating a bocadillo.

Senior Pictures, Spain Style
Al principio

03 February 2011


The program director gave us a packet of handy information the first day of Orientation, including a lengthy guide (at least twelve pages long) to “Culture Shock,” with a follow up chapter on a “Prescription for Culture Shock,” that, for three pages, explained why having a sense of humor is healthy. Whoever wrote those pages is a chump, and whoever didn’t realize that having a sense of humor is healthy is also a chump. Here's a useful section:
“Here is a list of some of the symptoms that may be observed in relatively severe cases of culture shock:
Need for excessive amounts of sleep
Compulsive eating
Exaggerated cleanliness
Marital stress
Hostility to host nationals
Psychosomatic Illness
Unexplainable fits of weeping”
The guide goes on to explain very seriously that culture shock, in various degrees, is somewhat inevitable. It can happen to anyone. It can strike at any moment. No one is safe. 

The culture that's shocking me
What this guide has done is make me paranoid. I made my bed this morning (haphazardly, I might add, because I really don’t know how to properly make a bed since I never went to summer camp or joined the Army) and then had to question my motives. Before I pulled the blankets to the top of the mattress I paused, lost in thought. I looked down at the sheet in my hands with horror and shame, and I asked myself with the same sinking feeling that I imagine would occur if a baby cherub came to me and told me I had Chlamydia, “Does this qualify as excessive cleanliness? Is this culture shock? Dear God, what’s happening to me?” I also got up early and organized my desk and wardrobe before doing homework. Am I, too, a victim of culture shock? Is that excessive cleaning? Is this one of those situations that you never think will happen to you? Should I not make my bed? Additionally, I was very tired yesterday. Culture shock, or the result of going to bed at 6 a.m. Sunday morning and needing to catch up on rest? Obviously a severe symptom of culture shock. Shit. I'm doomed. Here, look at more shocking cultural photos:

I unfortunately don't live in this neighborhood, but isn't it nice?
Flamenco en una cueva de Sacramonte!

02 February 2011

Sevilla: City of Small Disasters and Sunlight

I journeyed to Sevilla last weekend, and despite the absurd occurrences and a lot of discomfort, it was an excellent sunny getaway. Three friends and I left rainy, cold, then dreary Granada and arrived to Sevilla by bus in the early evening. Promptly, a wheezing cab driver who could have died at the wheel at any moment took us to our hostel.
I was feeling a bit congested, so I decided to try Maura’s Netty Pot as soon as we checked in. I had never used a netty pot before, but people swear by them, so she set it up and I gingerly stuck my nostril over the nozzle. As I was watery-eyed and coated in snot while shooting sinus rinse up my nose in the bathroom as Maura took pictures of it all and coached me through the experience, I met our first roommate: Kim, Australian traveler who, after I wiped the snot off me and introduced myself, asked in her neat-o Australian accent, “Is that what you do in Michigan? Snort things?”
While that tremendously uncomfortable interaction was taking place, our other friends were placed in a room downstairs, where their roommates over the weekend included a strikingly handsome half-Moroccon/half-Argentine man named Alejandro (Seriously. Ale-ale-jandro, ale-ale-jandrooo), his Chilean friend, and a beautiful Brazilian man.
Hold on. WHAT? I have yet to file an official complaint to the hostel about their very skewed distribution of hot roommates, but I obviously need to do so.

Dynamic, unlucky duo
While our friends enjoyed the company of their roommates, Maura and I basked in our misfortune in an awkward club, where I exchanged the following words with some piece-of-shit fifteen-year-old in between verses of Ke$ha:
Fifteen-year-old: “Where you from?”
Me, obviously uninterested: “The U.S.”
Fifteen-year-old (to his friends): AMERICAN GIRLS!
Fifteen-year-old (to me): “Wanna make out with my friend?”
Me (disgusted): “No.”
Fifteen-year-old: “Why not?”
Me: “Jesus Christ, how old are you?”
Fifteen-year-old (obviously lying): Nineteen. Wanna make out with my friend?
Me: No.
Fifteen-year-old: Why not?
Me: Because you’re children.  It would be illegal and weird.
End scene.

La catedral, y las naranjas
Despite the ridiculous situations and cabbies on their final wheeze-filled drives, Sevilla was full of sunlight, and oh, it was nice. So, so nice. It’s a beautiful city with orange groves and impressive Spanish streets. It was lively; it was warm, and as I lay barefoot in the grass by the river on Sunday, I thought of the blizzard happening in Michigan with tenderness.

Also, thank you for some of these pictures, Erin.

And happy Groundhog Day, to the believers out there.

01 February 2011

Oh yeah, La Alhambra

 La Alhambra, from the outside

We visited the majestic palace known as the Alhambra our first weekend here, and it was marvelous. Extraordinary. So ornate, so elaborate! And I wanted to keep you in suspense and not write about it until now, three weeks later. (That, and I don’t have internet in my apartment to update easily.) Facebook has made me even more lazy than usual with picture-taking, and I’ve come to rely solely on other people to capture these visits to special places, so I unfortunately only have a few shitty pictures of it to share. Whatever. (If it means that much to you, I’ll go back and take some more.)

Andalucia was under Muslim rule for seven-hundred ish years, so Granada is full of stunning Islamic architecture. The walls of the Alhambra have verses from the Koran as decoration: not only does it look beautiful, but because they are draped in words, the walls themselves speak. By design, the building itself is poetry. As I feel in all ancient places, sacred or otherwise, I want to pass through the Alhambra a thousand years sooner, to get a glimpse of it in its prime, to feel and see and smell what used to be, to connect to those who were.  You know how in Titanic, they look at the ship’s remnants underwater and Old-ass Rose has these flashes of color and sound and memory of the ship as she knew it? I wish I could channel a memory like that, to experience, for however briefly, a glimpse of a shiny Alhambra without faded paint, before the water fountains had run dry.

Wild Thang
There’s also a legitimate CHAMBER OF SECRETS in the Alhambra.  If you speak into the wall of a certain corner, even in a whisper, the sound travels to the opposite corner of the room, crystal clear, and can ONLY be heard in the other corner. Hence, it’s a room perfect for exchanging secrets and juicy eleventh-century gossip.

The only downside to the visit was that all of the gardens smelled like cat pee.
Speaking of pee, I ALWAYS feel like I urgently need to do so. Do I drink more water in Spain? I don’t think so? Is this a bladder infection? I hope not, only because I haven’t even been having any hot Spanish sex to merit a bladder infection. If I’m going to have some sort of bladder issue, I want it to be earned.

Thanks to photo-goddess Maura for this picture.