I have come stumbled upon a very wondrous problem. I have had it up to here with the family that I’m staying with (with my hand held above my head) and I told them about a week ago that I’m leaving. The kids are starting to brat out, the parents treat me like I’m a dirty sock, and I am getting antsy sitting in a city. I want to see more mountains. Okay. So the problem with leaving is that I don’t have much in the form of bartering. That is to say, I am broke. So the lucky girl I am (and I mean this in all sincerity) I actually have a lot of options.
My good friend Steve is in Europe visiting family and friends fortunately at the same time I am making my escape. We are rendezvousing tomorrow night after my shift ends. Then, we will travel to Granada and hopefully Malaga, then back up to Madrid, where we hop a flight to Rome. From there, we galavant in Italy for a few days before he leaves back home on the 2nd.
So my wondrous challenge is December 2nd-17th, 2011. I have a little over two weeks to fill. So my options:
-Backpack around Italy via couchsurfing
-Backpack around Madrid
-Work on an Olive Farm in Granada
-Work with a family painting in Malaga
-Backpack around Cadiz
Ideally, I would like to go to Cadiz. But then, Italy is so awesome and the people and the food and the food and the wine and the food… but then, Granada sounds like an amazing experience with cool people and free delicious food and beautiful surroundings. But then Malaga is a town with a lovely family and beautiful mountainous surroundings near a Phoenician town.
I think I’m going to go to Granada. I will write more about the options soon.
Indecision is a challenge.
Castañar de el Tiemblo
Yesterday I went on a hike (the term ‘hike’ is used casually in this situation. I would consider it more akin to a casual stroll) in the GORGEOUS Castañar de el Tiemblo with some fantastic people. The first picture is figs with some berries (iigals y madreños. I do not think either of those names are accurate, but that’s what I heard) They were both weighed out by an amicable older lady who reluctantly allowed her picture to be taken. My friend Carla brought her wonderful dog Nora who provided lovable entertainment all day long, back by the most magnificent fall scene. I thought I was missing out, not being in the midwest for fall. No, they have fall in Spain too. You just have to find it.
And best of all, I got to practice some more Spanish. I am getting this!!! :)
Here is the link to the rest of the photos: www.photobucket.com/dz2011avila
A conversation between my friend Kameka and myself yesterday:
1: Necessitamos dieta.
2: si, claro
1: esta semana, comimos solo frutas, no pan, no jamón, nada. Tambien, mucho ejercicio. Solomente uno semana.
2: si, claro, muy buen idea
(proceed to overeat the entire day)
2: dieta comenzar mañana
1: si, mañana. Mañana.
(neither of our Spanish is very good, so it is very likely that both English and Spanish speakers will have trouble translating this)
This doesn’t really have anything to do with traveling or Spain, but that is ok.
I just wanted to take a moment to give some recognition to one of the best friends and people I have ever known, Stevie Jones. Every time I see him dance it blows my mind. I remember when he started dancing way back when, when he started getting serious about music… when the dreams started becoming more attainable. In the video, he’s the guy with the red hat. I am proud not only to know him, but to call him one of my best. A truly, truly cool guy.
Watch this video, it is incredible. I have nothing but respect and excitement for his future.
Cheers to you, Stevie. Nice work :)
(From School of Rock)
Dewey Finn: Tomika… Ok, you’ve heard of Aretha Franklin right? She’s a big lady. But when she sings, she blows people’s minds! Everyone wants to party with Aretha! And, you know who else has a weight problem?
Dewey Finn: Me. But when I get up there and start doing my thing, people worship me! Because I’m sexy, and chubby, man.
Tomika: Why don’t you go on a diet?
Dewey Finn: Because I like to eat! Is that such a crime?
I watch watching this movie with the kids I au pair for the other day. I don’t think I could have said it any better myself.
This has been my problem since I arrived here. All I do is eat. But, I can’t complain. It is absolutely delicious here.
The day I met Spain
The first weekend I got to Madrid, I went on a hike with a group called “Hiking in Madrid,” a group originally designed to promote a book called "Take a Hike; the Best 50 Routes in the Community of Madrid" The hikes are led by the capable and dashing Beau Macksoud, a grad student studying Spanish here in Madrid. Lots of pictures from the three hikes I took with the group, but this one was most certainly my favorite. It was in Chinchón, a city close to Madrid.
The morning started out like any other. That is to say, I was late and scrambling to meet the group of hikers before I missed the bus. Usually it is fairly easy to find the bus, because bus stations are often connected with Metro’s. Not today. I got out of the train at the station we were supposed to meet at and there was no bus station. Only stairs to the outside. So with a frantic sigh, I walked around in circles looking for a bus station for a few minutes, walked up the stairs to see if there was anything obvious outside, then quickly gave up and called for directions. Fortunately I arrived just in time for the bus to leave. We arrived and did our introductions in a historical town called Colmenar de Oreja in a circle of what looked like nearly 40 people. It was a beautiful place with beautiful buildings and an impressive cathedral behind us, off of which 10000 birds (pigeons, presumably) flew simultaneously at the cracking sound of a pop gun.
It seemed almost too easy. Like a stroll in Paradise. Everything was beautiful, like you were standing in a painting of olive trees and vineyards. The whole day was spent like that, ambling around with the group taking it in and relaxing. It was incredibly comfortable and nice. That’s the nice thing about these hikes, everyone is nice, everyone is open minded and ready to talk, and you are put into these picturesque situations. The opportunity is incredible. And there is always a special bond that forms between people who share experiences together.
Sometimes during travel, if you are lucky (which I often am) there are moments when there are no words, just happiness. In these moments, I like to sing. To myself, out loud. And it doesn’t matter who can hear, I don’t mind to share. Sometimes I think music just communicates better than words, it communicates happiness especially well. Near the end of the hike we stopped by a Castle. This castle was extraordinary… I mean, we couldn’t go inside, and it was crumbly, but there was something about it. Maybe it was the sunset reflecting off the puddles in on the ground. Maybe it was the manicured backdrop of olive trees. I don’t know, but there was something truly magical about it.
And the magic didn’t stop there. Walking into the Plaza Mayor was like walking into every dream I had ever had of what Spain might be like. The sunset splashing orange light onto the tops of the buildings, set back against a dark purple-black sky in the beginnings of a light mist that produced the most magnificent rainbow. Rides through the plaza on a train of donkeys. The charming look of the architecture, people, everything. It was absolutely perfect.
And then, we went to a bodego (wine shop) and climbed down spider webby-stairs that wouldn’t pass a safety inspection test to a dark cellar where we had wine out of little clay cups (that we got to keep!)
A bit North of Madrid, there is a famous Monastery and Palace called El Escorial. This was one of the first weekends I was in Madrid, and I hadn’t met too many people yet…but I really wanted to go. So I logged on to this magical website called CouchSurfing.com and cried out for companionship on this day trip. I got a few responses, and headed to the bus stop one sunny Sunday morning to meet with people I had never seen in my life.
Two people ended up arriving before the bus left: Maria and Flo. Maria was a Spanish chemist, and Flo was a German tourist backpacking through Madrid for the month. We were all incredibly tired, but managed through the introductions and made it on the bus without many problems.
After about an hour long bus ride, getting to know each other a bit, we arrived. This place was beautiful. There is no doubt about it. The whole town in a college area and is surrounded by mountains—perfect for hiking as well. It was suggested to me prior by an Argentinian scientist that I take the guided tour, but it was 7 extra € and completely in Spanish, so we all decided to forego that in favor of adventure.
I am not an artist.
I do not have any art training.
And I am not good at pretending or faking it.
So, you can imagine that most of the splendor of the famous ancient artwork was lost on me. I simply like to be in the presence of greatness, so I love museums, especially art museums, simply to stare and make of them what is possible to make of them. At first I solemnly walked around discerningly, analyzing pictures and trying to translate the Spanish, but out of nowhere, Flo said:
what an UGLY baby.
And then continued to say things about the paintings that everyone was probably thinking, but didn’t want to say. So it turned into a game, and the afternoon went on walking around and commenting on the silliness of facial expressions, ridiculousness of certain painted situations, and ‘true meaning’ of others. It was silly, naive, and probably ignorant, but the only way I would have wanted to experience it.
The coolest moment was walking into a place called the Battle Room, which was a huge, brightly colored hallway shaped room, completely covered in murals of battles. It was a continuous scene that took your breath away. Fortunately the open windows had sunlight spilling to allow plenty of oxygen for you to get it back when you were ready. Everything was so incredibly ornate, from the art museums, to the Mausoleum housing the remains of Spanish Kings and Queens down a dark marble staircase and decorated in gold, to even the staircases and painted ceilings.
And afterwards we sampled what El Escorial was famous for at a place called Café del Arte called Torrija Casera a la miel, which was like cold french toast. It was sitting here with my two new friends that I learned that maple syrup isn’t common in Spain. When it came out, it looked like this:
But that isn’t syrup, it is honey. It was served by a guy in a bowtie and I ate it with a 2€ coca cola from a bottle with no refills poured into a glass that could double as a vase for daisies. The restaurant was very old. It was here that I also learned that in Spain, you can be charged different rates for the same food, depending on where you sit in the restaurant. So if you sit at the barra (bar), you get the cheapest, sitting inside at the mesa (table) gets you slightly more expensive, but sitting on the terraza (outside) can cost you quite a bit more still.
On the way home we all day dreamed about snowboarding and talked about language philosophy and traveling.
This is really delayed. I have been lazy lately. Today is update day. :)
A few weekends ago was celebration of Diwali (“Festival of Lights”) in Plaza de Lavapies. Upon being invited by my friend Chandra, as a rule, I had to check it out. My rule is that if there is ever a festival in Spain that I know of, I will not miss it.
La Rubia and I met up with the group of what seemed to be 15 people, friends of friends and friends and friends eventually composing a mix of people continuously introducing themselves, fully aware that no one would remember anyone’s names.
The idea of this festival was more or less a bollywood flash mob. Everyone was dancing in the plaza to Bollywood music, led by wildly colorfully dressed dancers. My personal favorite dance was one that involved first pointing to one’s wrist, then doing the disco arm movements to the lyrics, “it’s time to disco!!!”
I wish I had had a chance to tape that one. Unfortunately, I was too busy dancing (it was time to disco)
But, I did manage to document a bit of the choreography.
It was a fun day full of Bollywood dancing in an ancient Plaza followed by some traditional Diwali eats at a local spot.
Indian dinner is funny in Madrid. Spanish food (that I have tried) is completely devoid of any hint of spice, so it is a bit of an oxymoron to eat Indian food here. Also, another Spanish habit I have noticed (and felt more like a barbarian afterwards) is the unfailing dependency on eating utensils. I heard a story yesterday about a person eating a banana with a knife and fork. A Banana! And eating donuts, eating hard boiled eggs, eating pasta with a fork and a spoon (I have seen this done before, but not in informal situations)…
So watching a Spanish friend struggle over the Indian hand-dependent eating habits was quite entertaining, though obviously very stressful.
Hello! :) It is wonderful to hear from you. I hope you are doing well. I will be in the Philippines one day. Maybe we will be able to meet.
Yesterday I accompanied the ever charming Alberto Alonso to a taping of El Hormiguero, a hugely popular television show usually shown live. Every day has a different guest that gets interviewed, and comes complete with funky facts, science projects, and silly antics. I only understood about 15% of it (optimistically) because it is all in lively Spanish, but it was a great time. The day’s guests were Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, promoting their new movie “In Time.”
Yeah, JT was there. And he’s surprisingly tall in real life.
Walking onto the set was more than a little surreal. I met A in the morning on the metro and we walked the few rainy (Spain-rainy) blocks to the imposing building, where we were met by a friend of A’s and escorted through the halls, introduced to a few people, and led under the stage seating to join the 100 strong crowd of fellow attendees. The set reminded me a little of Total Request Live for some reason (though I have only seen one episode) and we were seated on a pure white bench stuffed in next to a girl that I didn’t know. We were the last ones to arrive. There were lights. There were camera’s. I know you can imagine that I want to say there was action, but I don’t want to be cliché, so I won’t. Oh, wait.
This show airs daily for an hour, and is run by 100 crew scattering around like ants (appropriate, right?). There are approximately 100 staff and 100 guests for every show. And 100 staff outside of showtime, including writers, editors, etc. etc.
This show means business. And they are hugely successful.
Well I had never been to a live tv filming (what a surprise, right?) So I sat there wide-eyed and grinning for the whole time, and it didn’t even matter too much that I had no idea what was going on. It really is a unique program though, and focuses on comedy, science, and politics. The guests were hosted by Pablo Motos, and then chatted up by two ant puppets, Trancas and Barrancas. Then, the man in black (the scientist) brought out this hydrophobic sand that looked like it solidified in the water, then slipped through the fingers of the holder while being lifted from the water. JT and Seyfried were charming, and a little nervous seeming at first, but were comfortable near the end, participating in the science experiments and laughing along. They didn’t speak Spanish I think, rather listened through headphones to a translator speaking to them in English. They answered every question in english and a pleasant voiced woman translated through speakers to the audience.
The funny thing about live tv shows with audiences that I didn’t know (but didn’t surprise me) is that there is a man who’s sole purpose and job is to alert the crowd for what they are supposed to do. This man smiled so much and so widely that it made my face hurt, and spent the entire show trying to get the audience’s attention via exaggerated arm movements.
The show was so cool to watch, when JT and Seyfried came out it was really strange to think that they were right there in the flesh, just like normal people in normal shoes simply doing things (I mean things that I personally haven’t and probably won’t do, but whatever)… it was simply strange to see them.
Afterwards I got to meet a lot of the cast and crew in the green room that wasn’t green but definitely smokey, including the show’s producer and the guys who handle the puppets, and was incredibly pleased to find that they are all very easy going and friendly guys. Very easy to like and get along with, and not intimidating at all. Perhaps because I don’t really know how popular the show is (I have only heard of its significance) and naivety was keeping me from completely geeking out, but I still have to say. What a cool, cool day. We even got to have lunch together.
Thanks, Alberto. Again, follow him at @imalbertoalonso
And here is the show’s website: http://www.cuatro.com/el-hormiguero/