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!


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.