Monday, April 25, 2011

Gone is my beautiful foray into week-long vacation and it is time once again to return to my duties as profesora extraordinaria.

The week went by FAST, and what did we do: wander the streets of Madrid, sit by the pond in el Retiro, botellón at Templo de Debod, people-watch at the Palace, Spiderman-watch at Plaza Mayor, Hello Kitty-watch at Sol. After many long months of neglect I renewed my relationship with Dublin and Brittaney secured a proposal via paper napkin ring from the Ecuadorian bartender. Wine and tinto de verano and an Irish pub that is the exact same as any Irish pub you will ever visit in any part of the world. I think the Irish pub is the only truly international feature I've come across in our world. Even McDonald's changes depending on the country, but an Irish pub will always stay true.

Finally, FINALLY went to the Reina Sofia. Having studied Art History in undergrad I really have no excuse, but it was my first visit to the modern art museum in Madrid. Probably the most well-known piece in the Reina Sofia is 'Guernica', which I have to say I was not totally entirely taken by. Picasso painted it for the 1937 World's Fair in Paris, and it commemorates the bombing of the little village of Guernica in northern Spain. Franco had offered it to Hitler as a site to practice bombing for the impending second World War and apparently he was effective because the entire city and everyone in it was wiped out. The painting's actually worth
seeing in person because it's impressively monumental and the paint has this weird chalky consistency to it that makes it look more like slate than oil, but I enjoyed the Salvador Dalí section of the museum much much more. I think the guy's a genius and seeing his work in person is absurd. It's like one of those movies you have to watch three times before you figure out what the hell is going on, except it's a painting and ten minutes after you first started staring at it, you're still noticing new things. Cool.

What else, what else. Jess had Bailey in town with her so we hung out with them and the extended crew of Spanish amigos. Saturday we went to the cave bar where I almost certainly made a fool of myself and quite probably was the only one dancing among us at any given moment. And then it was time for me to go home and Erica and Brittaney to fly back to their long-lost United States. I've spent the last remaining hours of my vacation watching episodes of Modern Family and willing myself to return to productivity and reopen Microsoft Word. The next month or so is going to be a really tough push to get my thesis and final papers and everything else done before my mini-wee-break in Chicago, and mostly I just feel like maybe if I shut my eyes really tight it will all disappear and I'll wake up on a plane five weeks from now. Or alternatively if I watch enough episodes of online TV, I'd be ok with that too.

Monday, April 18, 2011

So so happy to have Brittaney here! I was supposed to be welcoming both Brib and Erica yesterday morning but pobre Erica got stuck in Boston so she is due to arrive today instead. We shall make up for the delay with all due zeal in the coming week.

Anyway, Brittaney and I started off strong even though our communication liason via Erica's
cellphone was MIA. Sol, Retiro, the Palace and the requisite glass of wine. Near the Opera House we wandered across an Easter procession where we saw guys like the ones in the photo, except ours were in black. In my evidently extreme cultural narrow-mindedness I think they're scary as shit, but this is the costume that is worn throughout Spain during Semana Santa. I tried to figure out the reason and it seems that the face is
covered as a sign of mourning and then the caps are taken off on Easter Sunday in jubilation, but the pointy-headedness is of origins unknown.

Next we met up with Jessica, a crew of Spanish boys, and some Bermudans at everybody's favorite Cuban bar aka mine. This is a fun place. I've been there three times and the bartenders greet me with hugs and free shots of banana daiquiri. We met two Irish guys there too and they came along to the next place as well. You know what's going to sound stupid? Me. But these are the first Irish people I've talked to, and when they speak, it sounds like they're impersonating Irish people. I wasn't sure at first if they were really Irish or just obnoxious U.S.ers putting it on, especially when they started referring to leprechauns and spuds. Or perhaps that was Brittaney and I, I'm not sure.

Everything was closing down, it was Sunday. On to Chueca where we saw a drag show and felt inferior. Then it was time to go home because it was SIX IN THE MORNING and Brittaney hasn't slept in too much time to count. Hopefully she's feeling nice and rested now and we can do it all again today with our lost little lamb Erica.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I don't know how this happened but somehow it's Sunday once again. Didn't the weekend just start? Don't I still have hours and hours of spare time ahead of me? Did these past fews days somehow manage to escape my grand ambitions of productive work-doing? Yes, yes they did. Have I already resigned myself to being unproductive today even though it's still only 12:30PM? Yes, yes I have.

Here's what I've been thinking about about lately: Yesterday I was reading a blog written by a girl from the U.S. studying abroad in Seville and I was struck by how many of the things she mentioned regarding her experiences were things that I've noticed and commented on before. Things like how some countries teach that there are five continents instead of seven - sorry giant ice hunk of Antarctica, you're going the way of Pluto. And North America has just become a giant mole on the face of South America; together, the Americas. Another observation she made: oh hey, wine is fun. And I'm drinking it. In Spain. Is this shocking? I don't know but it made me feel very cliche and bourgeois. When you travel and live abroad you like to think that you're learning and changing the way you think about the world in a more "enlightened" way, but when it boils down to it maybe you're just lapping up the excess anomalies along with the foam from your beer.

I got this impression further when I read a travel article in the NYTimes about Madrid. In it it mentioned the four hour dinner that everyone has in Spain. Really? Four hours? And you're the NYTimes, you don't have an excuse. The writer was talking about how all Spaniards sit and eat dinner for four hours every evening and aren't they lucky that they in their old world lifestyle have the time for this? Must be nice over there in Spain, with its siestas and bull-fighting and tapas. I can't help but wonder if the author truly believes that Spain corresponds so strongly to its stereotyped image or if its a manner of conspicuous observation; "I understand Spanish culture because I mention tapas." Sooo, if you come to Spain and do "Spanish" things - tapas, wine, siestas - are you really actually experiencing Spanish culture or just the Frommers version of it? Bottom line is I don't know one single person here who sits down to a four hour dinner.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Phew. Wrote another paragraph of my thesis, break time.

This past week has been sort of important I guess, since I switched my next year plan by about 500 miles from Chiapas to Cozumel. That little sun-burned dot you see on the beach in the map to the right will be me in just a few short months, and I'm expecting un montón de visitors so book your flight and getcho asses on a plane, please.

Never been to Cozumel, never been to Mexico. Never had the tequila-soaked Spring Break of MTV fame, but it looks like that's kind of what I'm headed for as a profession. I'm close to Playa del Carmen and Cancún but I have to say I'm more excited about the prospect of being able to read books next year than I am about spending my days off at Señor Frogs. I already googled book stores on Cozumel and purchased my ticket yesterday afternoon so I'm set.

Also bought my ticket to Chicago on the first of July!!! I'll be spending Independence Day on Nicole and Mike's roof, hopefully with some Spanish wine if I can manage smuggle it into the country. A week or so there, then it's up to Minnesota for at least one visit to the zoo before leaving for Mexico on July 15th. Also need to buy a bathing suit or two since I suspect the only one I owned was forgotten somewhere in a thermal bath in Hungary.

I'm happy it's April because it means exciting things ahead. Two weeks until Semana Santa meaning a whole week of school exchanged for a week with Brittaney and Erica visiting me from NYC and Boston. Then it's just about a month until I have to turn in my thesis (cue nausea), and then I'm off to Chicago for the wedding. Five days in the USA, then one more month in Spain and I'm done. I will be sad to see it go because I feel like it's one of the places that has fit me best among my travels. I've met some really lovely people here, and I love sangría so things just have worked out really nicely. I've about had my fill of 12 hour days though, and it's raining at the moment so that's an automatic glass half full. We shall see if Mexico can do better.