Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spanish Class

Last Thursday I slept through my first class (whoops!) but I was able to make it today.  My teacher is a beautiful little woman with a lively and adorable personality that promises to genuinely laugh at your joke, even if it’s not a good one.  The class was mad chill and reminded me of high school.  I got a worksheet for homework.  A worksheet!  I’ve missed those more than I’d realized.  But really, I already learned some good stuff from this woman.  Picked up a substantial list of colloquial vocab—my favorite, since I want to know how to chill with people in Spanish; not read literature in it.  I learned “meter la pata,” which literally translates as: to put your foot in the wrong place.  But it’s used to express doing or saying something that’s inappropriate or wrong, like laughing at a funeral.  Or, less severe, like when I stepped into a bar/café and asked the waiter, “Should I sit?”  “¿Que?”—he asked.  “Should I SIT?”  What I was actually saying was: “Should I feel?  Should I FEEL?!”  (sentir=to feel; sentar=to sit)  Poor waiter probably thought he was gonna have to play therapist to some PMSing foreigner.

More Food. For ma girl SSD

Saturday night, I drunkenly stumbled into a restaurant that I (…drunkenly) decided I had to eat at, because its name, La Fonda, is the name of my subway direction to get home from the center of the city.  Before I found the restaurant I’d had a few puffs of a joint from a charitable stranger, so at the restaurant I scribbled down all my high thoughts as I ate.  Well, the waiters saw a person eating alone and writing, and I think they thought I was a critic!  So they treated me really nicely.  Or maybe they just have good service there.  Anyways, paid 30 Euro (left out the s for you, Andrew) for a bottle of white wine, delicious goat cheese salad with lacy pieces of lettuce, and then a chicken dish with caramelized apples—not too sweet, just really warm and pleasant.  Then ice cream, which I don’t remember since I was washing it down with the last of my wine bottle, although I’m thinking there may have been some pleasant nutty sauce involved.  There was a guy staring at me the whole time and I looked great that night, so at the time I figured he was just enjoying the view.  In retrospect however, I realize he was probably just wondering why some girl was alone and swaying in her seat.

Monday, January 31, 2011


If you want to know how i'm doing.. this is a copy of a message i sent to my neighbor (but not friend) sarah drill:

it would be hard if i were a normal person but luckily i don't require too much social interaction, as you know from personal experience (read: i just drank 6 beers on my bed by myself). but sometimes i do go out, but i only ever meet guys who pale in comparison to my meek so i'm waiting for my classes to start (wed) and for my move to my permanent room (tom) to meet some quality girls

Friday, January 28, 2011

FOOOOOD (note: designed for the blog my parents see, so it's a lil boring. umight wanna skip)

Today I had an amazing meal, made even better by the fact that it was a crazy good value; although maybe made a bit worse by my proximal seating to the dozens of cured pig legs/butts hanging from the ceiling by their peeling hooves.

Online last night, I read about a lunch place near the marina ports on the sea that offers a 6.50 Euro meal that comes with beer, appetizer, and dessert--awesome deal.  In my few days here I've failed several times trying to locate Fodor's or online review legends, and this one sounded too special to miss.  I bought a really expensive map today to secure my success.  My dumb-ass philosophy is that the more you pay, the happier you'll be with the item!  :D  Stores like me, but Future Me doesn't.  Anyways, in keeping with the harsh lessons of reason, the fancy map failed me and I wandered for an hour through fishy-smelling mini-streets until I finally was so hungry that I decided I'd settle on the next door that offered beer with lunch.  The place I ended up going into had a much busier atmosphere than I've seen yet here, which I liked.  It was also really crowded with working locals on their (long) breaks, so I knew that must be a good sign.

It was.  I ate a five-course meal, for 10 Euros:
1. Cold beer that refilled itself throughout the meal.  Fresh, crispy bread with olive oil and smushed tomato (simple and delicious--it's Spain's version of our bread baskets).  Homemade cured ham (hard to stomach as I looked at the unfilled hooks on the ceiling, picturing them choppin' down one of the pig butts on the occupied hooks and slicin' it up to throw on my plate.)
2.  A huge plate, and I mean huge, of cooked spinach mixed with occasional homemade white raisins and a pine-nutty-type soft nut/seed.
3.  TWO lean, grilled fish (still with heads, eyes, scales, and spines, of course) which tasted light and delicious with lemon spritzed over them.  A plain-tasting potato; good for cleansing the palate; mmmyessz.  Mushy cooked baby carrots and green bean inch-pieces.
4.  A desserty, creamy cocktail which was banana-yellow.  Cake or ice cream which I couldn't fit in my stomach; so, an apple.
5.  Amazing black coffee.

Plus, I charmed the waiters I guess so they kept bringing me presents, including a long-stemmed rose and a hand made clay ashtray (haha, like, wutt??)  They also gave me the greatest present of all--a promise to show me where the good bars and clubs are, and introduce me to their friends!  And neither of them speak English, so it's good practice.

Overall I feel like people watch out for me here.  They're really caring when they see I'm unsure and alone.  The ladies I bought boots from today saw the King Blister on my foot which I've been limping around with, asked for my foot, and put a band-aid on it.  It makes me feel for foreigners on their own in New York City, who probably don't meet a fraction of the kind of hospitality that I've been.  Plus, that wacky subway system--Uy!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Tonight I got lost (shut up, Mike) trying to get home.  I had been wandering for nearly an hour.  I finally said to myself: That's it!  I'm not taking any more shit from my intuition!  I am going to make it lead me directly home NOW!  I began to march in one direction and halted at something I saw.  On the back of a street sign there was graffiti that said JILLI with an arrow pointing to the right!  I couldn't believe it.  I had recently been thinking that there might be a God who looks out for us after all, and I took this to be definitive evidence.  Heart pumping, I turned right and sped along the sidewalk.  After three minutes, however, it began to look like the projects.  And it smelled like horse manure.  And there were hoodlums spray painting some shit.  I was much farther from my apartment than before.  There's no fucking God, fuck him, I thought.  I looked down at my feet.  I had stepped in horse manure.

Description of my Surroundings (Not for the easily bored... you may want to skip tothe last 3 paragraphs)

Everything here seems random/spontaneous, yet deliberate and well-planned.  It confuses me.  And it’s beautiful and old, yet functional, efficient, and cutting edge.  How can a place be like this?!

Barcelona is known for its architecture, which makes me think of historic buildings to sightsee—in other words, boring.  But there isn’t just that; the entire city is an eclectic jumble—or in more open areas, spread—of every building here.  Every store has a different height, width, depth, dimension.  On one block there might be a shoe store with an inset, outdoor foyer on a wooden floor.  Next to it might be a nouveau electronics store that runs for a quarter of the block and is deep, with tall ceilings.  Leading up to its entrance, a narrow passageway lined by a wall of lockers where you have to lock in your purse before going in.  Next to that a short, perfect-square candy store with no walls or doors facing the street.  Next, a glass doorway to a tiny pharmacy whose short, pastel purple painted wall runs diagonally to the previous store’s.  Inside are small, shallow shelves of assorted remedies and a small counter framing a bleach-blonde, eyeglassed, earringed woman peering over a newspaper.  Next, a butchery with a curved back wall and a glass wall/doors running the short width of the store.  Hoofed feet attached to mystery animals’ legs hang from the low ceiling.

It’s hard to tell at street level, without looking up, which stores are part of the same buildings.  Above all the stores are layers of balconies with lush potted plants.  The windows behind them are usually tall and narrow, some with tall wooden folding panels, some sheltered from today’s rain by green nylon awnings.  Down below, on some streets the sidewalks are four times as wide as I’m used to and jut out onto the street at random points; sometimes angled, sometimes rounded.  But there’s always a method to the madness—it creates perfectly measured inlets for trash and recycling receptacles, or motorcycle parking, or drop-off points for trucks.  In parts it seems so crowded—but there’s somehow always just enough room.

Squared stone tiles cover the sidewalks and look charming puddled with rain.  On some sidewalks there are huge bowls of potted palm plants, so big that I and a friend or two could sit in them if they were empty.  If you walk to a more open area the streets are four lanes wide in each direction, split down the middle by a sidewalk, just as wide as its street counterpart, running the length, and dotted with newspaper stands and trees poking out of dirt squares.  The large streets can split off into any direction—diagonal or circular, for instance—to make room for a triangular patch of sidewalk with motorcycle parking or a stone statue or a really old and pretty faucet.  I wanted to try one to see if it worked, but I’m always afraid there are things that aren’t allowed and some fiery Spaniard will yell at me if I make a wrong move!  The streets are run by mini trucks, squished vans, familiar Hondas, pedestrians stealing an out-of-turn cross, and motorcycles who hop onto the sidewalks if it suits them.  Turn a corner, and suddenly streets end, and there are only narrow sidewalks, walled in by tall apartment-building-topped-mini stores mushed in next to each other.

The people walk around in beautiful, yet reasonable (like the city!) boots and sneakers, and rarely make eye contact with other passersby.  I took this as aloofness at first, but my 30-year old friends from the restaurant last night told me everyone’s just really shy.  It actually makes sense, because even though most people aren’t quick to smile when I ask questions, I still tend to get a “kind” vibe.  Plus, old men who don’t have as many reservations are playful.  On his way out of the café I’m in, a man stopped by my shoulder to pretend to read what I was writing and nodded fake thoughtfully, which made me laugh.  A man at the restaurant last night suggested that I come sit on his lap, which made the group I was sitting with tell me that I was sitting with the right table.

I’m pretty sure I look worryingly tense to all the people in this city.  I also think I look pretty bald, since I don’t have flowing, highlighted tresses spilling onto my coat or tangled in big earrings.

I visited my school today for the first time and it is the most exquisite thing I’ve ever seen.  From the street, it runs a really long block and is the tallest, widest, grandest, possibly oldest, and definitely stateliest stone building around.  On each end (though you can’t see both ends at the same time), there are assorted huge trees, which are tropical and luscious, on a platformed grassy courtyard behind a tall iron gate.  There are a few entrances to the school, the main one being a huge archway to an atrium that has doors on either of its wide sides, but leads to a sizeable courtyard straight ahead.  If you keep walking straight ahead, you pass more high-ceilinged atriums and more courtyards, each with a different pond or fountain and collection of assorted breeds of plants and trees.  One courtyard has perfect (and tall!) orange trees.  Each courtyard is bordered with outdoor hallways where intimidating groups of Spanish students chat loudly.  There are also many huge benches where less intimidating students sketch the courtyard quietly.  If you look up, you can see the thick stone railings containing the outdoor hallways on the level far above.  Inside the actual building, whose different wings are separated by these courtyards, each room and hallway looks different, but all covered with higher ceilings than I’ve ever been under (except in old churches) which catch and throw the noises of students in other hallways and rooms.  When a hallway isn’t outside, it’s lined by huge, stately and beautiful windows, a different style for each place, that give a view to the courtyards.

Behind the school exists what I decided to call the secret garden.  There are wide and narrow mossy stone paths outlining plant beds and ponds which contain drifting bright-orange fish who are being carefully monitored by random cats leaning their calculating noses over the sides.  Yes, I said random cats!!  On the campus!  Does the school own them or are they strays?  I like to imagine that they go home with the dean every night.  Some cats slink up assorted stone steps or into palmy bushes when they see me.  The courtyard has a few different levels, some only accessible from certain paths.  Parts of the courtyard are sectioned off by leaning trees and there are various benches, hidden and not hidden, where I guess students come to pass their breaks with each other on nice days.  The whole place seems private, cozy, and whimsical enough to be miles away from the city outside.  By the way, outside the school there is a street stand where this hip lady sells… chestnuts and sweet potatoes(???).

In the student paper I picked up:
Front page—a picture of used condom wrappers on the ground.  Why?--I couldn’t understand the article to figure it out.
An article about a new soap that attempts to “capture the day-to-day pleasures and troubles of homosexuals in Barcelona.”
A picture of a completely naked woman running on the beach, carrying an inflatable raft.
A drawing of a jaded woman whose cigarette smoke cloud says, “next thing you know, they’ll be banning orgasms.”
They are so scandalous here!!!!!
Importantly, though, there are also listings of concerts and shows going on in Barcelona, which means I’m going somewhere cool tonight!

The café I’m in now is loudly playing soulful Spanish pop, but the old man at the counter doesn’t seem to like it, since he brought his own radio and is singing/yelling along loudly with it and banging on the counter to the beat, least to anybody’s attention but my own.  I’m finally leaving the café after sitting here for two-ish hours.  I had to wait for someone to leave (a rare sight here, apparently) to figure out what I do with my used coffee cup.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Real First Night in Barcelona

Today I woke up and was frozen with the idea that I had all of Barcelona to explore with unlimited time.  So naturally I stayed in my room and chatted with people from home.  I finally decided at 9 pm that I had spent too long in my pajamas and decided to go out to dinner.  I went to a place that Fodor’s recommended for its unassuming and joyful atmosphere.  That was exactly what I found!  An old man came in and asked me, very concerned, why I was eating alone.  Half an hour later, a table of five 30 year olds I had been eyeing jealously for the fun they were having asked me if I wanted to sit with them.  Would that ever happen in New York?  I was so grateful.

I must have sat with them for at least an hour.  They taught me important Spanish words, such as “shit,” “weed,” and the proper word for Spanish (as in the language) which is “Castillano,” since the language originated from Castile, in the center of Spain.  When the restaurant was closing a little after midnight, they asked me if I wanted to go to a bar with them. I told them I’d better be going home, which they thought was hilarious.  I went to a bar with them and drank my first gin and tonic, which I had to pretend to enjoy since they bought it for me.  I was in the middle of explaining what college in New York was like, when this guy with a Southern drawl came over and said, “I couldn’t help but hear you talking about fraternities and sororities.”  He was from Mississippi, and my friends left me with him to go home to their kids (at 1 am).  I walked part way home with him and then blindly made my way to the center of the city.  They’re not fond of street signs here!

As I got close to the city center, I picked up a drunk follower who informed me he was going home with me.  He was harmless but wouldn’t leave me alone.  He followed me a good way and I was actually grateful for the company.  But after a while I felt he’d followed me too far to be acceptable, and I found a girl walking with a kid who was wearing a Hollister sweatshirt!  I asked them if they spoke English, and they did.  The girl was from Australia and the guy was from Scotland. They tried to tell the guy to go away, as I had, but he still followed us, even as the pair took me under their wing.  He followed us for two blocks and we yelled at him the whole way to stop.  I finally grabbed him by the arms, made a fist, touched it to his face to demonstrate his fate if he kept following us, but he still wouldn’t leave us.  A random Spanish guy ran over and started yelling at the guy too, but nothing was stopping him.

Anyway, the Australian and the Scot, named Katie and Paul, took me to the police stationed up the block to report him.  They said I was really tough, which I think is an accurate judgment.  Then they helped me get a cab and invited me to play drinking Uno, whatever that is, tomorrow.  So I have friends!  Cool.  I like Barcelona J