Tag Archives: Mama Rice

thoughts on hair washing, and other adult things.

a few thoughts for you to mull over as I sit here debating whether to wash my hair or not (some things never change, no matter what country you’re in).

Realized recently, and wanted to blog it for the world to realize as well, how much your world shifts after living in a new place for a year.  This realization was cemented with the whole volcano disaster that started in Iceland and ended up wreaking havoc all over western Europe (as if to say: “Iceland is still here and still important, people!”).  Half of my classmates were stuck in various paradises (Mallorca, Paris, etc.) and couldn’t get home for Monday classes, while the other half were e-emoting via Facebook about their fears that they might not get to return home on May 7.  I realized then that had I been in America, it would have been just another blurb in the international section of the Daily Progress, or just another headline on CNN.com which I never even visit, and therefore would have really meant nothing to me.  Suddenly, however, being in Europe, the event rocked my world (even for just a little bit).

I also have recently been gulping down 1,5L (to use their system) bottles of water due to a rare form of allergies/stress/swine flu that has infiltrated my body, only to realize that the water inside is at room temperature.  This may not seem revolutionary to anyone, but coming from a family that is awoken by the sound of Mom pounding her frozen bottles of water with a hammer on the kitchen counter, it’s quite a change.  During the humid Virginia summer leading up to my departure, I distinctly remember walking around the house (barefoot! another custom I left behind) clutching sweaty Mason jars filled with ice cold well water.  Now it’s bottles of whatever, straight from the store with no luxury of refrigeration.  Again, little things that I used to take for granted, that were completely different (or unattainable) here that shocked me upon my arrival, that now have been adopted into my daily life.  Other culture shocks I’ve gotten used to include: pre-paid cell phones (I’m still a sick texter, however), pharmacies where everything is over-the-counter, buses you must hail in order to ride, no free refills (which has been replaced by the equally appealing free tapa), the metric system (okay, not going to lie, it still confuses me) and the lack of measuring cups, 24-hour time, supper at 930, etc.

Also momentous was my entrance into the adult world, which occurred Tuesday.  Okay, maybe I haven’t entered that world just yet, but I did turn 21.  Kind of [read: really] anticlimactic since I was already allowed to drink here, since I’m 4000 miles away from my family, and since it was a weekday.  But celebrate we did, and reflect on growing old I did, too.  And that reflection brought me to another explanation for why this day was anticlimactic: having waited so long to finally be 21, I realized how little that really signifies.  When I think about how many experiences I’ve had just this year, I am conscious of how many more wait me in the years to come.  It’s a staggering thought.  Ademas, thought about how I’ve matured somewhat, either because it’s the right time to do so, or because I’m in a foreign place and having to adapt, reassessing my values and habits from a new angle, etc.  Realized, for example, that nowadays it is less important to me to have a mega party with lots of flashy presents and party hats, but that it’s more important that nothing really shitty happens.  If the day turns out well, it’s been a good birthday, and that’s really all I can ask for.  Also realized I must be getting older, because youth culture is starting to freak me out.  For example, take “chat roulette”, a topic my friends and I pondered today before our exam.  What is it exactly, you ask?  Not sure I’m the most qualified to answer this, but basically a video chat site that allows you to basically speed date with hundreds of people.  You start a video chat and if you don’t get along or caer bien or lo que sea, you can switch chat partners.  I really have no more to say about this except: ¡qué asco! (DISGUSTING).  The bottom line is not how I feel about the corruption of youths due to their growing dependency on machines or internetzzzz to communicate or interact, but rather that I had no idea this phenomenon existed, why it was appealing, and who was using it (which takes us back to paragraph number 1: how my world has shifted east).

So there you have it, thoughts that have come to me in dreams, or during those long hours I spend lying boca arriba in the center of my little twin bed before going to sleep, my mind humming with scenarios and conversations and romantic notions (a sign that maybe I haven’t fully grown up yet).  Thoughts of a 21 year old, on the eve of her return to the States, to her home, on the eve of her leaving one of the most meaningful experiences of her 21 years of life.

(P.S.- still haven’t solved the hair question.  guess I can’t be all that wise and mature just yet.)

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Filed under spring semester, travel, Valencia

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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Filed under schmoozing, spring semester, Valencia

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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Filed under schmoozing, spring semester, travel, Valencia