Friday, July 31, 2009

Like four seasons in one day

Or 3 blogs posts.

I was bored and googled myself and found out that The Chicago Flame did publish the angry letter I wrote them while working at UIC. Haha. I think I make the original article sound much more respectable than it was. It was pretty douchy, man.



Sunday I'm off to Slovakia. I just need to take a 2-hour bus ride to Girona, fly to Slovakia, take a bus to a train station, catch a high-speed train for 2 more hours, get picked up by someone there in a car, drive 35 km, and then I'm on vacation.


Awash in space and time

I'm all stuck in the funk of the last week of a life.

I've got that same feeling as right before I left for Spain the first time. It started with me and Brian hanging out getting drunk afternoons in the half-empty Francesca's apartment. Then Brian left and it really made me nauseous being alone those last few days. Right between one thing and another. Not sure if the one thing will ever happen again.

I'm in that floaty space, right before coming in to focus. Being on my own, with new people, in a different place, rips away all the outside stuff and leaves me just me. I like these times because they're tough and I'm pretty masochistic, but also because they leave me feeling solid, simple and chill....with a really long "i".

This morning I hung out with some Brazilian thugs on the train out of town, right after they boarded in the heart of the ghetto of Bellvitge. They were drunk and guards had just threatened to pull guns on them for not wearing shirts (True story - In Brazil it's normal to not wear a shirt in most public places. My friend Paulo, the one with a PhD in Political Science, did it throughout his first year in BCN before realizing people were staring at him.). But once all that blew over, we struck up polite conversation in which they hopelessly tried to guess where I was from and asked me how much money I'd give them to hit each other hard in the face. 5 weeks ago I would have been way too deep in the zone to just go with this. Today, I was just like, "yup".

Being alone for a prolonged period invariably brings up Chicago. Being out of my element just makes me want to jump right onto a sofa in pajama pants with friends in pajama pants, engorging myself like a crazy squirrel with Cherry García ice cream (I completely forgot about my three-year-long love affair with that stuff until right now! Aw, Cherry Garc ía.), or gratuitously dance to offensively lyricked music with wrecking-ball hips Edwards, or barbecue. Yeah, barbecue.

Chicago will forever be on a pedestal in my psyche, a metaphor for feeling 100% comfortable in my own skin, a perfect place where even when I do dumb stuff, the people around me just ruffle my hair and say, "Oh, Angie. That was silly".

Remember that time I thought I was getting fat because of the estrogen in European water? Then I remembered that I had recently gone back on the pill? So really, the fat was due to the estrogen I was directly ingesting in large quantities once a day? That was funny.

So far this all sounds pretty positive, not funky at all.

The funk is sort of like that Fitzgerald story (name?) where this guy has always felt a connection with a girl acquaintance from back in high school. It's been years since they've seen each other but he has a hunch that she feels this connection too. Some unexpected circumstance brings them together and they spend a whole day chatting about old times. He feels like all this confirms his hunch until it all comes crashing down when she takes out some old photos, says, "Look, here's you," and points to someone who is not him. She thought he was someone else the whole day and doesn't really remember Mr Protagonist at all. Oh dear.

Sometimes I think I fall back on that version of Chicago and let it into the core of my self definition and what makes me happy, let it become a mark on a measuring stick that other experiences can't quite reach. It sort of weirds me out that something as intangible as my perception of a time and place forms a fundamental piece of me and my identity and my happiness.

So I guess the funk is a combination of feeling so far away, in space and time, from some fundamental part of me, and at the same time wondering if that thing is not just something I've built up in my mind, that might actually be interfering with my operation in reality.

And it's thoughts like these that remind us of why women should not be allowed out of the kitchen.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Take it back, Brad! Take back what you said about Thor.

Just watched L'auberge espagnole again and it was awesome. I take back what I said about it being shit. It's actually brilliant.

- Filming and writing are actually good.
- Xavier telling Anne-Sophie that it's racist of her to say Barcelona is dirty. Love the theme about certain people not seeing past Barcelona's scruffy crust to how great it is.
- Wendy's brother, clearly
- The pissing and puking in the street. It really is just like that.
- The American
- Xavier walking among tourists in Paris at the end. They perfectly captured that realization that you are no longer defined by your surroundings.
- Cheesy as it may seem, Xavi saying he doesn't want to disappoint his younger self, I love it. I've thought that so many times when wondering for what reason I'm doing the things I do.
- The film also gets points for geographical and airport accuracy.

So there you have it. It's actually really worth watching. Oh, and I forgot Audrie Tatou was in it.
Tonight I watch Russian Dolls.

Single days


This week I come to you from l'auberge espagnole.

That’s a cheap reference to the 2002 French film about coming of age in a Barcelona apartment filled with young Europeans (you can watch it on YouTube). It’s actually a pretty shit film, but since young Europeans, unlike young Americans, have few coming-of-age films to latch on to, some people really cling to this one and its sequel Russian Dolls. To be fair, it has its awesome parts, like how the only American is a real dude who has a guitar and when all the main characters are drunk in a plaza one night, he leads them in singing No Woman, No Cry…thus seducing the British girl. I have actually seen this happen…twice….*shudder*.

Anyway, I find myself in just such a flat this month.

Last year when Lily and I were in America and we rented out our home in Barcelona, Oli stayed in a room usually rented by a girl on his football team who would be away during the summer. The only other person living there was a Spanish (I think) guy who owned the place. He was nice, but not really a riot. Oli taught an intensive English course to teens for the duration of July, which included teaching all day and grading papers all night. Add to that that we didn’t have as many friends as we do now, and you can understand why he had a pretty lonely month.

Flash forward to this year and oh my, have things changed. I’m having a ridiculous blast.

As mentioned in a previous post, our friend Daz is away teaching in a summer camp, so I’ve rented his room for July. The apartment is rented by two guys who happen to live abroad at the moment. So, their other flatmate, Kristina, who is Czech, manages the place, keeping all the rooms full with renters. Right now Kristina and her boyfriend Roni (from Bangladesh) have one room, I have Daz’s, and Raúl, a Spanish guy from Cáceres just moved in. There’s one more bedroom, but it is kept free for friends to crash in. Also, the people who are the contract-holding renters but live abroad tend to come by every few weeks and use that room. They’ve both been here this week.

The apartment itself is one of the great 1930/40s ones with high ceilings and tile floors. A bit crumbly, but someone has taken care to paint every doorframe and door a different bright color, and that mostly makes up for any crumblies. My room is a nice sage green, and today Kristina and Roni are painting their room lilac. Kristina will be back to studying full time for her master’s in a few weeks, so they thought it important she have a nice happy place to work in.

I’ve been here two weeks now and man, does time fly. The night I moved in, I arrived at about 9:30pm with a big suitcase. Kristina, who I had only met once for 5 minutes, opened the door, shouted, “Hola, guapa!”, grabbed my suitcase and dragged it to my room. Then she asked me if I had eaten. When I said no, she showed me the massive platter of curry Roni had made (he’s a cook), made me a plate, poured me some juice and sat me in front of the TV with her and Roni, as they had just started watching Bend it Like Beckham, in English with English subtitles on an 8-second delay. I was home.

Kristina talks more than I do. I feel a bit bad for the neighbors who have to listen to two foreign broads talking at a ridiculous pace in ridiculous Spanish about things like if Brüno’s dancing penis in the Brüno film was really Sacha Baron Cohen’s. We think so. Still have to check on the Internets.

Yeah, the one down side to old buildings in the Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona is that you can absolutely hear everything happening in every other apartment that opens onto the interior light wells. I’ve never known what a blessing my 1970s apartment on the 11th floor is. Here, I awaken in the morning to the two children across the way and their cartoons. Sometimes mom yells. Sometimes she sings. There is an obnoxious American who lives over one and down one. Another guy speaks cute foreign English on the other side and up one. There was a party the other night over one and down two, and they were lucky I was drunk when I went to bed, otherwise I’d never have been able to fall asleep with them singing along to George Michael and La Bamba (although, it was the first time I understood the words to La Bamba).

Otherwise, I’m living the sweet life. I wake up late. That’s pretty fun. I go to the beach. Also good. I buy foods I don’t normally, like delicious steak, and take silly amounts of time preparing Mediterranean salads for myself, in addition to buying myself Bifidius yogurt drinks (intestine bacteria drinks) like a proper middle-aged woman. When I’m good and ready, I grab a Bicing bike and ever so leisurely ride to work, being sure to enjoy the view and give pedestrians who stray into my territory quick drive-bys from behind. Shopping for clothes is also a high priority. My wardrobe sucks and this month is sales month in Spain, so that has worked out well. I’ve not bought too much yet, but consistency is the key. I stop into shops regularly to have a peak, and only buy things I love. There’s too many thing in my wardrobe that are just OK, but don’t really grab me. They’re going.

Work-wise, I do 20 hours a week of work for Oxford House on a completely open schedule. I’ve published the new homepage and site design. I’m organizing a language workshop on Common Errors of Spanish Speakers for this coming Saturday. I’ve gotten digital frames up in reception, advertising courses, activities and other things, and have made some more online forms for various staff members who need them. Also am getting a new domain special for our business courses and services and have to get that site up and running.

I’m running “technology sessions” two days a week for two hours for the kids doing our summer courses at the school. As I said before, I have 5 to 15 year olds, so I ultimately asked for an assistant and was awarded one: the owner’s 18-year-old son. Everything has gone well. The little ones love digital camera scavenger hunts and posting photos of their favorite things on our course web site (“Somos famosas!” shouted the girls when they learned that indeed, the site was viewable anywhere in the world, except China) and the big ones like playing on Facebook, building Google sites and making Walls ( Is cool.

Besides that, I cover reception sometimes when they need me, which is good practice since I’ll be doing that 15 hours a week starting in September when one of the receptionists goes on maternity leave.

And beyond that, I’ve been hanging out with Kristina and Roni, going dancing and beaching with Sara (the Italian) and her crew of Colombians, and had Matt visiting (our old flatmate from 2004 – from Oli’s hometown) who currently lives in London but is moving to Hong Kong in a week (!). His visit was three sloppy days filled with drink, pursuing Japanese girls on the dance floor (she got away, but not before falling on her butt in front of everyone else in the club), street-fighting with Moroccans (Matt saved me), visiting Lawson in his bar, and searching for Czech beer at 10 in the morning in the back alleys of the Born (a hostess gift for Kristina). We also had a lot of deep conversation, but it doesn’t make for very good blogging.


(PS - The only photo I have of any of this is one of Matt and me taken by the Japanese girl using Matt's phone. It's not flattering. My neck is super stressed and Matt's doing a peace sign...)