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.

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


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.