Sunday, July 12, 2009

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...)


Colin said...

sounds awesome Angie. We miss you here!

Jay M. said...

Holy crap, you sound busy! Busy, but happy.

Matty said...

You getting on ok with Jack? Is he being talkative? He's slow to open, but a nice guy. Glad to hear you're enjoying yourself. After a year of following your blog about episodes I was aware of/part of, it's a bit weird to be dsitanced from that Seeley world. I have made up for this by posting a pic of me and Oli on my Facebook.