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


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!