Category Archives: schmoozing

the last hurrah; el último olé

In an attempt to do something productive with my Sunday, I decided to get back on the blogging horse.  At least to make one more hurrah, to go out with a bang, to tie up the loose ends of this blogging/study abroad experience.  So today is brought to you by the letter F: Formentera, finalidad, fear, etc.

After school ended, K. and I were lucky enough to receive a personal invite to Formentera, the smallest and most rustic of the Balearic Islands.  Armed with R.’s dungarees and various degrees of SPF, we boarded the flight (followed by the ferry) to destination: Dirección Sur.  Just as we did in Barcelona, we immediately set out for an adventure (“you have to say you did something amazing your first night on the Island!”–R.).  We drove the to the southern-most tip of the island, marked by a beautiful lighthouse beneath which is a system of caves, one of which we descended into.  Placing candles in its crevices as we walked through it, we came upon the opening on the other side where we found ourselves feet from the high tide lapping relentlessly against the side of the cliff.  Shooting stars welcomed us to the island from above.

"baño en Illetes..."

The next day, after 12 hours of sleep (a fact R. would not let me live down) we headed to Illetes, a narrow strip of beach at the northern-most point of the island.  There we braved the freezing water of the early season with the help of wetsuits, breaking for a picnic and a walk afterward.  On the walk we met Johannsen, an older German gentleman who has been coming to Illetes for twenty years to embellish and expand his “castle”: a collection of rock sculptures he’s made from all items he’s found in the area (driftwood, rocks, old ship parts washed up on shore).  From there we went to meet more old guiri-hipis (foreign hippies), arriving at Diki’s house in time for tea and cookies.  Diki is a fixture in Formentera, squatting for more than thirty years on his patch of land, making amazing wooden sculptures and keeping a low profile.  When he’s not outdoors on his land or in his workshop, he’s sitting by the fire in his one-room hut.  He’s the prickly type that I end up grating on with my intensity, so when we broke for another walk I was relieved to have a chance to exhale.  Down to the cliffs we went, to further admire the aqua-blue water and incredible geology of the island.

X.

The next day was spiced up with the arrival of X., everyone’s favorite singer/songwriter who spends half the year physically living in Barcelona, while mentally living all twelve months in Formentera.  Another day at the beach was therefore planned, this time in a new location that required all swimmers to dive into the frigid waters from the side of a cliff.  Then it was back to R.’s incredible homestead (called l’Ermita, the hermitage, due to its resemblance to the architectural similarities it shares with Formentera’s churches) to clean ourselves up for the soccer game we were going to watch in town.  Barça won, and all was right with the world.

From this point on you can imagine the daily activities: beach, try not to burn, try not to get stung by the jellyfish that had invaded the island, amazing seaside lunches, further cave exploration, aiding in the construction of an addition the l’Ermita (okay bet you weren’t expecting that one.  But I’m positive I moved [read: pilfered] scaffolding material from the lot next door at least three times, while wearing a jersey dress), Spanish food workshops led by X., guitar strumming, etc.  It was truly an amazing vacation, the perfect ending to the perfect year abroad. [Suspend your disbelief].

So now we’ve covered the first of the aforementioned Fs (Formentera).  Now onto finalidad with a touch of fear.  I’m going to gloss over the hellish travel stories I have in my attempts to get home, all of which revolve around the f***ing (another F) volcano in Iceland that decided to disrupt all of my well-crafted (and expensive) plans.  But I made it home safe and sound, sana y salva, and that’s what counts.  Being home, however, is weird.  There’s no other way to describe it.  I feel as though I have been teleported into another world, and Spain could not feel farther away now.  All of the people, relationships, and events that used to be the center of my world are now 4000+ miles east, 6 hours ahead and complicated by a language barrier  which for nine months I attempted to overcome.  And things that I yearned for and missed while over there (driving the PT, Bodo’s, my queen-sized bed) are already losing some of their novelty, and life without Radio 3, paella and a metro system seems unmanageable and totally undesirable.  I know I’m suffering hard from the “grass-is-greener” syndrome, and that it’s all a process that I’ve hardly begun, but as M. says “es lo que hay” (“it’s all there is”; “it is what it is”).  And with that statement and the sentiment it conveys I will face the upcoming months, filled with summer jobs, a publishing internship at a local magazine, old friends and hopefully some productive soul-searching and maybe a few steps closer to entering the real world.

Y ya está.  Con eso, mi público, ¡me piro!

Besos from a broad abroad at home.

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Spring Break ’10: your wish is my command

As I sit here staring at the empty white wordpress box, I’m sighing a breath of relief that this post, unlike all the other things I’ve written this weekend, is going to be in English.  But at this point that’s almost a disadvantage, since my English is now a rare breed of translated Spanglish, or so says my Mom.  Constructions and sentences come out in passive forms with subjects following verbs, etc.  So pardon the jarbled English as I attempt to recount to y’all the Spring Break experience.

We started in Istanbul, one of the greatest cities I’ve ever been to.  I had zero expectations, zero previous knowledge (except that it was vaguely important in the history of the Western world and that it was once called Constantinople) and therefore it never stopped surprising me.  We arrived at night and embarked on my favorite traveling activity: taking a taxi into the city to our hostel.  As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, there is nothing more exciting than being in a city you don’t know, with the promise of discovering it over the next however many days, speeding along in the backseat of a cramped taxi, essentially putting your life in the driver’s hands.  After said taxi ride we were plopped in front of our hostel, on a very touristy but vibrant street that consisted only of cafes whose top floors were occupied by hostels and their terrace bars.  We checked in with Turkey’s version of Joey Fatone (his interpretation of his looks, not ours) who worked at our hostel and headed out in search of an appropriate first-night-in-Istanbul activity.

One of my favorite things about the city (and I imagine the custom is similar in all parts of Turkey) is the hospitality (I’m sure it helped that we were three young American girls); after the first round of drinks or hookah, the rest seem to show up without even asking, and never show up on a bill.  This was the case, for example, with our new friend H., who would hear us mention baklava and run to the bakery next door to get us some, napkins included.  Or when coming up short on change for your turkish coffee, the man behind the counter would simply smile and say “my gift to you!”.  The catch phrase of the trip, therefore, quickly became “your wish is my command”.

courtyard of the Blue Mosque

Other than bopping around from cafe to cafe, hookah bar to hookah bar, baklava bakery to baklava bakery, we did see some of the city.  Our first full day was spent touring the famous mosques that were conveniently located right behind our hostel: the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) and the Hagia Sofia (Ayasofya).  The first has a much more authentic and sacred feel, requiring visitors to remove their shoes and for women to cover their heads before entering.  It is beautifully decorated with mosaics and painted ceilings, and as you walk under the low, sinuous lighting, red floral carpet crushes beneath your toes and you really do feel you’re in some distant land.  We did not spend more than a few minutes ambling about the place, attempting to catch snippets of other tour guides’ explanations of the mosque’s importance, before making our way across the street to the Hagia Sofia.  We decided it was time, after not fully understanding what the Blue Mosque was all about (except being exceptionally pretty), to hire ourselves a tour guide.  That’s when we met Dede (Turkish for grandfather, the name he requested we give him), whose dentures were so loose and whose spit was so abundant that we didn’t fully absorb what he was saying about the mosque originally being a church, hence the iconic mosaics and Greek Orthodox floor plan.  We escaped his clutches and, considering I don’t remember what happened next, I’m assuming we broke for lunch.  The second theme of Istanbul, if not hospitality, was food.  We were never short of stuffed peppers, dolmas, hummus and a wonderful cross between a flour tortilla, Indian naan and pita, the likes of which will never be found outside of Turkey.

lazy, hazy afternoon at Topkapi Palace

Turkish tulips!

That afternoon we spent mostly tooling around the city and searching for Topkapi Palace, the home of the Ottoman sultans for their 400+ year reign (thank you, Wikipedia).  It was also lovely, with great landscaping (with famous Turkish tulips dotting it’s many flower beds) and lots of incredible treasures (jewels, thrones, etc.), but it was sadly another one of those sites that we were too in need of a siesta to really appreciate.  I think at one point we proposed stretching out on the sultan’s lawn to take a power nap to give us some pep for the rest of the tour that awaited us.  (Siestas have become that crucial in our lives).  After many pictures with mosaics and flowers were taken, we went back to the center of our Turkish universe, Akbıyık Caddesi (Abiyik Street) where we went for supper down the street from the hostel, drinks a few buildings down, and hookah at the hostel.

The next day was spent on a full-day Bosphorous boat tour (the Bosphorous being the strait that divides Istanbul, causing it to reside in both Europe and Asia).

cruisin' down the Bosphorous

We cruised along the river seeing both the European and Asian side of the city, had lunch, went to a mosaic museum housed in an old Greek Orthodox church, visited the Spice Market  (a more local-friendly version of the Grand Bazaar, where all the Istanbul-ers get their teas, spices and tacky silk scarves) and ended the day relaxing on a sunny terrace in Asia, sipping diet cokes with our new Italian friend L.  Copy and paste the evening activity from above and that’s what we did that night.

the hustle and bustle of the Grand Bazaar.

Our final day was great for food, bad for wallets.  We set out to conquer the entire Grand Bazaar, the most intense shopping experience since Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem.  Everything is bought after a ten minute haggling session, with each member of the group having her own style: I said nothing, as my wallet had been stretched to the limit, while E. speculated, consulted with us, and then purchased (only to later find her adorable Turkish glazed bowls were made with lead paint, a troubling issue she tried to explain to the salesman which he could not understand.  “EATING FROM THESE COULD KILL ME” also fell flat), and P. got angry, an emotion I have never before seen her express.  Our final night in Istanbul was spent, to no surprise, in the hostel bar, making and saying goodbye to new friends, with little sleep gained before our 7am shuttle to the airport.

Then onto Santorini, Greece. 

Probably a complete 360° from Istanbul.  The island is tiny, with a few adorable towns dotted here and there along the main road, all of which we passed on our way from the airport (even smaller than C’ville’s, if you can imagine that) to the “villa” we were to stay in in the northern town of Oía.  But to keep us in check, the Universe, after having sent us such luck during our time in the near-Far East, had us dropped off at Villa Abyssanto, a name which it does not bother me to slander.  We had no idea we were headed not to a cliff-side Grecian hideaway but to a grassy plain at the northern tip of the island, on a road more deserted than my own in the U.S. on which lived local yokels and their adorable dogs, without any street lights or sidewalk, on which we were expected to walk for 1km to reach the quaint but pequeñito pueblo of Oía.  These three princesses were not going to have that.

Lena's house. but seriously.

As soon as we could, we booked a room in the nearby town and capital of the island, Fira, and after having argued and asked for a ride from the not-so-kind man at Villa Abyssanto, settled into our new Greek getaway location.  Although the island is just as lovely as all those stock photos seen online and really was the site of the filming of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, it was a bit too touristy for me. I missed the cultural stimulation of a big city, standing in line for museums and the prime peoplewatching.

highlight #4: donkey ride

Some of the highlights from Greece, however, included moussaka, climbing a volcano, baked feta, riding a donkey up the stairs from the Old Port of Fira, and tanning on a black sand beach.  Even if I was Spring Break-ed/tourist-ed out by the end of it (the climax of trip being a 12-hour plane, train and automobile ride home to Valencia), I know those highlights might never be completed again in this lifetime.

The sunsets were also pretty bitchin’.

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done and done.

Tonight is a night of cobalt-blue velvet sky, as are many in Valencia, with a warm spring breeze hanging in the air, making it possible to leave the house wrapped just in a light sweater.  The streets are dirty but the city is sweet with the promise of spring, and the summer that follows.

Fallas ended 24 hours ago.

The visits made by I. and S. were absolutely uplifting, and absolutely necessary.  The presence of two of my favorite people in what is likely my favorite place was a surreal event, considering the fact that the three of us have not been in a room together since CH graduation 2008.  I. arrived from Paris a day late due to a canceled flight, and we spent the night doing what we here call a “low-key barhop,” allowing me to introduce her to some of my favorite tapas and copas that can be found in the city.  The next day S. arrived from Barcelona where she had spent the previous week of her two-week spring break, lovesick for a Dutch fellow-hostel guest that she had encountered there, with stories of discotecas and languid mornings after.  I. returned au nord on Sunday, leaving me and S. to conquer the week-long fiesta that awaited us.

Day 2: la mascletà

In stark contrast to S.’s wild ride in Barcelona, our days started as early as 11am, so as to get in some tourism/city wandering before the hoards of people attending the daily mascletà descended upon the city, making it impossible to move, eat, etc.  One morning was spent at the Mercado Central, selecting the freshest and best items for an afternoon picnic in the once-river-now-park (appropriately called el Río) before heading to the famous mascletà (see previous post), where the ground shook and between sips of red wine and shading our eyes from the glaring sun we both had moments of realization that we were in Spain, experiencing this completely foreign thing, sharing it, knowing that we’d always have that between us.

Other days consisted of more park lounging, photo shoots, “day drankin'” and typical Fallas activities: late night firework shows that blow McIntire’s 4th of July out of the park (no pun intended), semi-spontaneous street concerts (M. and his musician friends played a 2.5 hour samba/brasileña/salsa/reggae set outside of one of my favorite bars tucked away in the old city), lots of buñuelo consumption, and taking in the marathon parades (two parades, each lasting seven hours) of all the falleros (those who pay and participate in all the Fallas activites; basically, the members of the clubs that make this fiesta possible) dressed to the nines in their traditional gowns and suits, S. and I sitting so close we could touch these people, commenting on our favorite dresses and favorite characters in boisterous English.

And now all that’s left is filthy streets lined with leaky porta-potties, firecracker wrappers and beer cans, the pictures we took that make me so happy, and a few extra pounds from all the ridiculous food items that entered my body over the past week (at least there was no headcheese).  Also remaining, ever-present and looming over me, is what’s yet to come: I finally purchased return tickets, and will officially be back in the States on May 12th.  The prospect is horrifying, yet comforting; Daddy says he’s already bought me a coming home present, and the joy in Mom’s voice when we remember this fact is so palpable, even from the other end of the Skype line, that I know there’s some good in it; after all, I do miss home a little.  And in some two to three weeks K. and I find out about these English teaching jobs that we applied for, which would allow us to come back next year and stay just a little bit longer, hopefully leading us to other jobs, and in my case, to fulfilling that dream of living (I mean really living) and starting a life in Europe.

So all in all, Fallas was just as incredible as promised.  Valencia has yet to let me down.

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¡en falles, no falles!

It’s officially fallas season here in Valencia.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city flourish in the way that V-town is currently: beautiful blue skies (lies), churro stands popping up on every street corner, mascletà every afternoon in the Plaza de Ayuntamiento (basically, a firecracker show that draws an enormous crowd, leaving you dazed and deaf), colorful lights lining the side streets and alleys proclaming which casal that turf belongs to (the one outside school, for example, is la Bicicleta, and during the second half of my Quijote class on Monday we were entertained by the struggle that was ocurring right outside the classroom window to mount said lights).  It has breathed new life into the city as it awakes from the “harsh” winter (it rained a lot).  Downtown’s colorful buildings are brighter, fountains are spouting water once again, people are taking to the streets for their almuerzos or late-night botellón.  It reminds me of why I love this city.

it's explosive.

So to kick off fallas business, P. and I ventured to the first official event, the Cridà, which took place on Sunday, the last day of February.  We followed the enormous throngs of falleros (those who build and fund the fallas) to the Torres de Serrano, one of the two remaining portions of the walls that once surrounded Valencia.  From the balcony of the towers, the fallera mayor and the fallera menor (basically, “Miss” and “Little Miss Valencia”), joined by the mayor and various other head-honchos, peered down upon a seething crowd, undertaking the task of giving Miss Valencia the keys to the city for the week.  P. and I, stuck behind an ancient magnolia tree, sipping our lukewarm Amstel’s, linked arms and let ourselves be llevar-ed por la corriente (for those of you not fluent in Spanglish yet: “we went with the flow”), cheering with the crowd (which we deduced ocurred any time the word les falles was mentioned) and humming along to Valencia’s anthem.  The ceremony came to a close with the traditional words being shouted by the fallera mayor: “¡¡senyor pirotècnic, pot escomençar la mascletà!!” (which in English translates lamely to “Mr. Pyrotechnician, you may now begin the firecrackers!”.  Just doesn’t have the same ring to it), followed by the most bitchin’ fireworks display I’ve ever seen.  Valencia is known for its pyrotechnics, and I now know why; just when you thought you were at the grand finale, that they could do no more, that you had seen the coolest they had to offer, it got even better: fireworks that dotted the entire sky, beneath which stood us two americanas, oo-ing and ah-ing and “¡anda!”-ing.  I returned home with a sore neck and a smile.

And with the coming of Fallas comes the coming of visitors.  Another reason for excitement: I. comes in from Paris to escape the grey the first weekend prior to fallas-fest; S. concludes her grand tour (glottal French accent implied) of Spain here, staying for the entire week of debauchery and fire; and K. rolls in on a train from Barcelona for the last weekend of the event.  It’s thrilling to know I’m just a week away from seeing some long-lost loves, and mind boggling to think that the world can be so small, even on this side of the Atlantic.

As for the rest of things, well, just ask my Dad.

—-

looking for more info and updates about Fallas? click here!

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reflections on reírse

Sunday morning of a three-day weekend, and on my second cup of coffee.  In the background, a tango music program on Radio 3 (the Spanish equivalent of NPR and WNRN all in one).  Mentally looking ahead at the week and it includes midterms, midterms, cramming, caffeine, midterms, and then hopefully a weekend jaunt to Barcelona.

But now for a glance backwards at the past few days:

T. came to visit from Lyon, France, after many months of us attempting to travel together but never succeeding in it (why?, you ask?).  Showed him as much as I could between classes, English tutoring with the niño, applying for various post-grad jobs in Spain, pilates classes (a few of my normal weekly activities).  In reality, we mostly just ate well and café hopped, comparing and contrasting our study abroad experiences.

What stood out to me about his time in Valencia was that he does not speak Spanish (not 100% true; he did a great job ordering his meals and thanking people, and even spent days solo in Barcelona, and survived!), and therefore I would have to take a minute and translate for him when necessary.  Interesting to me because he was my first true non-Spanish speaker to visit me (Mom don’t even deny it, you speak de puta madre, as M. says), and it showed me how integrated this language has become to me.  When I hear it spoken, or when it’s spoken at me, I’m no longer mentally translating, finding the English equivalent, constructing my own response two minutes before I have to give it.  Spanish and English now seamlessly glide back and forth in my brain, living in [almost] perfect harmony.  I think this is called bilingualism?

Another pleasant product of his visit was the pain in my side from laughing so hard.  Whether caused by K.’s flawless impersonations and performances of classic YouTube videos or T.’s own inability to extract a snail from its shell during a lunch of paella valenciana, I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in the past three months.

Also humorous (only in retrospect) was my bus ride Friday afternoon, which I was [un]fortunate enough to experience all my own, with only my [quasi-defunct] iPod to keep me company.  After dropping T. off at his hostel, I decided to be productive, break a €50, and recharge my bus pass.  After having done so,

I hopped on the first number 10 bus I saw, knowing I was getting on at one of the stops at which I usually get off (meaning it was going in the opposite direction of home), thinking (completely irrationally) that riding it for the full circuit would only delay my return home (which I was greatly looking forward to, as it included a siesta) by less than thirty minutes.  A circuit, implying a circular trajectory, it is not. Instead, route 10 is an enormous line extending from my neighborhood to the southern outskirts of Valencia (specifically, ending at the tanatorio municipal of Valencia) crossing a major highway before returning in the opposite direction towards my house (which at this point is now 45 minutes away).

bus route 10

I think the worst part was the realization that, at every stop we made, moving farther and farther from my ultimate goal, the corresponding number 10 bus was on the opposite side of the very narrow suburban road, meaning once the line was finished (and after a five minute break for the driver) we’d be repeating the route, making the same number (a bajillion, to be exact) of stops before I saw my house again.  Thinking of my mother, and already plotting how I’d describe this adventure in the blog, I had a brief moment of laughter, especially in light of the fact that the correct place to have gotten on the bus, at the very beginning of the whole ordeal, was literally one block away.  It was my laziness and exhaustion (the same things that were making that nap so enticing) that lead me to take the wrong bus; I was the only one to blame here.  The irony (is it actually ironic, or some other form of humor?) was just too much.

(SEE MOM! I am capable of laughing at myself.)

And with that, the weekend comes to a close, leaving me with only the prospects of a paella lunch in thirty minutes, and a day of empollada (cramming) for the various exams and papers that await me this week.  But if I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times over: no pasa nada.

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huerto-day, gone tomorrow.

As I write this, the February sun is streaming through my little window, promising a warmer day than it really is, showcasing this beautiful city as it bathes the streets in pure, white light.

but I still don’t want to go outside.

Now, I realize that many of my readers (if there are any others besides my parents) will be perusing this from somewhere along the east coast, USA, and will already be shaking their fists at the screen, or at least shaking their heads, in disapproval; current temperature in Charlottesville, VA: 19° F.

Anyway, now for the explanation of why it is so hard to get up and do ANYTHING: I left my heart in the huerto.  This weekend we (me, P., and our newly found friends) whisked ourselves away to the Valencian countryside, where we stayed with our Spanish friends (and strangers) in R.’s “country home”, a villa set smack dab in the middle of the family orange orchard (huerto).  We arrived by train in time for supper, a gourmet meal (prepared for us by someone who was already staying at the house) of sausage, tortilla española, salad, tofu and tomato sauce.  We spent the rest of the evening touring the house (a beautiful, nineteenth century home with three stories, what felt like a bajillion beds, and eclectic decor acquired in Morocco, India, Japan) and warming ourselves by the fire, talking and singing and unwinding from the stress of the week.

The next morning we were kicked out of bed at the ungodly hour of 12:30pm, given the daily ration of cafe con leche and magdalenas (the most dinky excuse for a muffin I’ve ever seen) and plopped into the cars that would take us to the mountain we were scheduled to climb that day.  When I heard that the weekend included a hike I was of course elated, having missed so much the Blue Ridge mountains I’ve grown up with.

...

So the day started in high spirits, the sun shining, fresh oranges in our bellies and hands (the amount of citrus I consumed is a staggering figure) as we walked to the start of the trail.  I probably should have known something was up when the equivalent of a park ranger came out and asked us all for names and cell phone numbers, “si acaso os perdáis o algo…” (“in case y’all get lost or something”, followed inevitably by the phrase “¡no te precupes!”).  Before the excursion really took off even, we stopped for a photoshoot at the monastery in ruins, the deciding it was the perfect moment to do some impromptu yoga, led by V., a multi-national, multi-lingual, multi-talented friend we met at the house.  With a fresh set of endorphins flowing through us, we started the trail.  It was a simple gravel path winding up the mountain, like any other unsuspecting hike, but the incline was for sure a challenge for this out-of-“practice” (read: out-of-shape), self-proclaimed mountain woman. I don’t remember the moment when I knew there was much suffering ahead, but at some point this fact became very clear to me.  We were suddenly on the side of the mountain, with no lovely gravel path in sight, just a mountainside covered with thorn bushes and an occasional fern.  Shortly after starting this portion of the hike, the lovely boulders painted with trail markings disappeared as well.  With the Spanish boys up ahead shouting to the American girls puffing behind (“c’mon pilates! let’s stop whining and start hiking!), you can imagine the tension that was slowly crystallizing.  To make a long story short (I think we spent an hour and a half traipsing through the non-trail, hacking at gnarly branches and trying not to trip on rocks), we finally reached the summit of the mountain (called Creu del Cardenal, located at 1700ft, a distance of 3km from the starting point) to take in the view: a panorama of the gorgeous Valencian countryside; the valley down below us to the left, and the Mediterranean ocean lapping gently against the coast to our right.  Legs “temblando como un flan” (literally: “shaking like a flan”, the Spanish equivalent to “shaking like a leaf”), we refueled with more muffins and ensamaidas (the point of this description is to remind you that we had eaten nothing but coffee and carbs some 4 hours before), and I tried to hold back tears caused by the beauty of the place, the love I felt for these people I was with, and the fears that were gnawing at this happiness, asking me what I would be doing with my life in 4 months.  I also just wanted to know how the hell we were going to get down from up there.

The slide down the mountain (I call it a “slide” and not a descent because I think I did more falling, tripping and slipping than actual walking) was relatively uneventful, since we managed to follow the trail the whole time.  But here is where you get an explanation for the lack of images in this post: I dropped my camera.  My beautiful, month-old, “sexy” black camera was eaten by the Creu del Cardenal trail.  And after being wildly upset with myself and with everyone in the world, I started giggling with the thought that when I received it in August, I had no idea it would end up abandoned on the side of a mountain in eastern Spain, after a five hour day in the mountains.  But please, rest assured, I’m still horribly upset.

...

That evening was spent with more (new) friends (like C., the guy they kept referring to as “the surgeon”, with a tone of wonder and gravity that suggested he performed all his operations on the moon) cooking and creating (we ate in the in-house art studio, where after dinner we painted a massive collage) and most importantly: RELAXING. I haven’t felt so at ease in months.

Which is why the return home was so brutal; the past few days I’ve wandered around my barrio half-asleep, seeing but not processing, looking but not appreciating, wishing myself back in the huerto.  But with the sun finally back to stay, and the knowledge of what I’d be doing at home right now, it’s safe to say I’m finding contentment, even in the now old-hat routine of classes, meetings, clubs, etc. Because before I know it, I’m huerto-day, gone tomorrow.

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past, present and future.

FINALLY, some new material. It has taken me probably 3 weeks to get this blog fully up and running, just an example of stubborn I’ve been about creating one in the first place.  But let’s face it, an aspiring travel journalist with nothing to share is hardly an aspiring travel journalist at all.  So that’s where this comes in, providing YOU, my future employers (?) (?) (?), my past friends and lovers, my long-time family, etc. with the annals of what exactly I’m getting into this semester.

The first few weeks back (post-European Christmas adventure, post-visit from Mom) were a hard adjustment, but things seem to be falling into place. New friends, new classes (Mass Media, Don Quijote, Civilization and Culture, and Linguistics, to be exact), new activities.  Also, new internships! I just found out that I’ll be working for Valencia’s fútbol (soccer) team doing some translations for their website.  This might prove difficult considering I know very little about soccer (who am I kidding: all sports), let alone its lexicon in English or Spanish.  Pues, vamos a ver…

I will say this about the newness of this semester: with the new crop of students we (the old guard) have been rejuvenated and are on the quest for the lesser-known, alternative places/activities around the city.  This search has led us to many interesting experiences, including the following:

  • taking a day-trip to Sagunto, the old Roman trade city north of Valencia, only to find it completely closed, a crisis we responded to by going on a hike all around the castle.

    Sagunto from above

  • Mexi[can food] Night in a somewhat forgotten part of town
  • the Madhatter’s Tea Party, to which showed up a crop of Spanish Lolita’s, a fashion style that is not only creepy but totally not in accordance with the Alice in Wonderland theme
  • a paella cooking class which began with me almost fainting at the sight and sound of rabbit and chicken being prepared (read: hacked apart violently) and ended with me chowing down on some delicious conejo

On top of these isolated events, I’ve picked up some new routines as well.  Starting with a 2 times a week pilates class, which is not only a stretch physically but mentally considering the language barrier.  I’m also still teaching English to Gonzalo, the adorable 7-year old who lives down the street.  Since winter break he has really come out of his shell, making a once-frustrating weekly appointment into something I look forward to.  Plus, this has given me some indication that I am not as horrible with children as I thought, and that he might actually like me!  A revelation for this child-phobic twenty-something.

So now we’ve covered the past, the present, and onto the future: our first long vacation is Fallas in mid-March, during which of course we’ll all be staying in town for our first Fallas experience.  But in April we’re given 2 weeks (thank you, Catholic holidays!) for travel and time off from school, during which I hope to be in Istanbul and the Grecian Isles (I just love the sound of that).  Obviously it’s still far off, and plans always change, but it’s still something to look forward to.

All in all, things are good in Valencia (how can you complain about a place where there’s 60 degree weather when you know your house is buried ankle-deep in snow and cold and gloom and doom?)

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Filed under schmoozing, school, spring semester, travel, Valencia