Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I have been back in the states for almost a week now, although it feels like less than that since I've been all over the place. It is great seeing people and catching up and I am flattered that everyone is curious about what's going on with me. I do, however, seem to be answering the same questions many times. I thought maybe if I put the answers here, some people who read this will skip those questions and go right to topics much more interesting than me, such as the new health care bill, Tiger Woods' infidelity, or, I don't know, what they had for lunch that day.

So here are the answers to the most common questions.

- Yes, I cut my hair. In November. I just felt like it was time for a change.

- Spain is great.

- Yes, I love Barcelona, I'm having a wonderful time. It's a very cool city.

- Yes, I teach English. At language school. Various ages and levels, from three years old to adults.

- No, I'm not fluent in Spanish but it has improved since I've been there. I do need to work harder on it though.

- No, I don't have a Spanish boyfriend. The Spaniards don't seem to fancy me, but I'm a hit with vacationing Irishmen.

- No, I'm not staying forever. I'm planning to return to the US at the end of September, 2010.

- No, I'm not planning to teach when I get back to the US.

- Yes, I've traveled a little bit. Dublin, Sevilla, and a few towns about an hour or two train ride outside of Barcelona. I'm hoping to travel more when I go back and am probably going to Paris in May.

-Yes, in fact I have been eating more cheese and pastries than is normal or healthy, why do you ask?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sevilla, Que Maravilla

Exactly six years ago I was preparing to leave for a semester abroad in Sevilla, Spain. This was to be my first trip to Europe and I had a feeling it was going to be a life-changing experience.

Here I am now, six years later, living in Barcelona and I just returned from my first visit to Sevilla since I left in May of 2004. Obviously it turned out to indeed be life-changing, since it inspired me to up and leave a pretty great life in the states for an unknown existance across the ocean.

I need some time to gather my thoughts about revisiting my favorite city and will be posting more about it shortly. In the meantime, here are a few general scenery pictures:
Torre de Oro (Tower of Gold)

Rooftop garden in Barrio Santa Cruz

Fountain outside the Alfonso XIII Hotel

Plaze de Espana

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Old Ali "Prop Comic" Greco, Ladies and Gentlemen

I was putting pictures up on Facebook the other day and one of them was of me wearing a random hat I must have grabbed from someone. The caption I wrote said that someday I will learn to resist the urge to put on every wacky hat I see but that today was not that day. It made think about just how true it is that I cannot see a hat or prop of some sort without picking it up, putting it on, and usually not letting it go until I've been photographed.

I'm not sure why this is but see for yourself below, it's like a "through the years" of obnoxiousness.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Miss. v. missed, miss·ing, miss·es: To feel the lack or loss of

I can't believe it, but I'm going home in less than two weeks for a little holiday vacation. Getting so close to being there and seeing everyone is making me think about what I've missed most while I've been here and what I'm looking forward to seeing, doing and having. In no particular order:

- Wawa hoagies

- Bubble baths

- Overhearing (and understanding) people's weird conversations in public places

- My parents. Straight up.

- A heated home

- Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream (they have Häagen-Dazs here and they have other cookie dough ice cream, but not Häagen-Dazs Cookie Dough- I don't get it)

- Sunday morning Greco family breakfasts

- Calling my sister whenever I want- usually about the most random things

- Yuengling

-Clothes dried in a dryer

- Sea Isle City

- Chinese food and wine in Montclair on Friday nights

-All my wonderful friends, who, now that I have to cross an ocean to see them, I realize I didn't see nearly often enough when we shared a continent

- Talking in my Levittown voice

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm On a Boat!

I think everyone needs a standby place where they know they can go to just have a good time, no matter what. For me and some of my friends here, that place is an Irish pub in a touristy part of the city (totally un-Barcelona, but it’s a guilty pleasure).

One of the best adventures here involved a pair of ruggedly handsome Croatian yachtsmen. Their names were Christian and Ivan and after we shared a few drinks with them, they invited my friend and me to take a tour of their boat. At 5am and after several giant glasses of Heineken, it didn’t seem at all out of the ordinary to respond “Sure, why not? I’ll go with you relative strangers to an unknown destination surrounded by deep dark water.”

What we saw was definitely worth the risk (which turned out to be non-existent). Their boat was a giant, beautiful luxury yacht. With a dining table for ten outside on the main deck, hardwood floors, plush white carpeting, comfy furniture, flower arrangements and vases full of decorative stones; which always strike me as fancy simply because they are completely devoid of purpose.

We had to take off our shoes and stow them in a cabinet, we were handed bottles of Perrier, we were even shown the owner’s bedroom closet (he wasn't there), which contained about nine baseball caps with the boat's name embroidered over the brim and three Tommy Bahama shirts. I guess when you’re that rich and just hanging out on your yacht, you don’t need pants.

My friend actually found the boat online. You can check it out and see some pictures here:

The guys were nice, the boat was cool, but the joke possibilities were endless, and I think that was my favorite part. A few favorites were:

- Calling Christian (the captain) Cap’n Crunch- which was mostly funny because he didn’t get it

- Telling people the next day that the captain let me sit in his chair and check out his equipment (ba dum bum)

- Insisting that they use the stars to find their way from the bar to the boat instead of taking a cab

- Exclaiming that we needed to abandon ship when we decided it was time to leave

- Followed by “Yeah, let’s go, I’m aboard”

- Too many references and questions (on my part) about the captain’s power to perform a wedding- it probably caused more discomfort than humor

- Referring to Ivan (the first mate) as Tennille

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Creature Comforts

There are several little things about living here that are different from the life I lived back in the states and they still take a little getting used to.

For example- we don't have a microwave. The other day I was craving lasagna, so I bought a little frozen one and was so looking forward to it until I realized it was for microwaves only. That wasn't so hard to deal with, though. I wrenched it out of the plastic tray, put it on a plate and heated it in the oven and it was still quite tasty.

We also don't have a TV. Well, we do, but we don't have it plugged in or hooked up because most of the TV here is not even in Spanish, it's in Catalan, so neither Laura nor I would understand it. Not really a problem there, either, thanks to the wonders of the interwebs. As long as you have the patience to give shows time to load completely don't mind occasional Japanese subtitles, it's great.

The other thing is that we have a washing machine, but not a dryer. We have five clotheslines outside on our little terrace to hang up laundry to air dry.
So far this has been fine as it hasn't been too cold yet. However, I did go out today to bring in my sheets and found that a bird had pooped all over them.

I don't have a solution or redeeming element or happy ending to this one. That just sucked.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


When people ask you what super power you would like to have, I usually answer either the power to be invisible or the ability to read minds. I think it's based on the fact that I'm both very nosy and very curious about what people really think of me (call it self-absorbed, self-conscious, whatever) so I'd like to hang out unobserved whether in actual rooms or in people's minds, just to check things out and see what I'd learn.

I had never imagined that I might possess an actual super power, but I'm starting to think I do. Not unlike the plot of the mediocre-at-best date movie Good Luck Chuck, starring Dane Cook and Jessica Alba, I think I might possess the power to help people find the the love of their life.

Am I a sassy, no nonsense matchmaker? No. A precious little cupid pushing people together? Nah. An Amelie wannabe, tinkering with people's lives to help them fall in love? Not so much.

I do, however, seem to have an uncanny ability to casually date or get somehow involved with guys just as they're about to get really serious with someone else.

Exhibit A: Two years ago. We'll call him Ken. A friend from college for whom I'd always had a soft spot. He'd broken up with his girlfriend recently, but of course I wasn't going to go there, it seemed like it would be too awkward and sticky. But then we hung out one night and he tried to kiss me, so I kissed back (what would you have done?) In all fairness, I assumed it was just a rebound and didn't think too much of it. I figured the time wasn't right, but thought maybe a few months down the road we could pick up where we'd left off. A couple weeks later we're at a party and one of my girlfriends tells me how Ken was confiding her that he was feeling pretty good about his break up because he'd realized he'd always had feelings for this girl he'd known for a while and was going to make a move. You guessed it- not me. I didn't really enjoy the rest of that party.

Exhibit B:
A year and a half ago. Let's call him Billy. We met out in NYC on a Friday night, hit it off right away and talked all night. He was visiting from Virginia for the weekend so we met up again the next night too. We exchanged information and talked daily for the next month. My birthday was a few weeks after we met and he was the first person to call and wish me a happy birthday. We even talked about one of us coming to visit the other. I thought it was going great. Then one week I stopped hearing from him quite as frequently, so I stopped reaching out as much and sure enough, a week later his all important Facebook relationship status had changed to "in a relationship." They're now married.

Exhibit C: A month ago. I'll go with Jake on this one. Met while I was on vacation. We hung out almost every day I was there. He brought me to hang out with his friends after work. We got along so well and had lots of fun. He seemed intent on staying in touch right after I got home. Then we didn't talk for a couple weeks and just yesterday, again, the fated Facebook relationship status change. Along with sickeningly cute messages posted to his wall from the sickeningly new pretty girlfriend. I have since removed him as my friend.

Clearly it's entirely possible (and by entirely possible I mean absolutely true) that rather than having the power help people find their true love, what I actually have is a horrible ability to choose what men to be interested in. But "super power" just sounds so much better than "bad taste."

Monday, November 16, 2009


In case you didn't believe me- here are some action shots my boss took for the school's Facebook page...

Unfortunately she didn't get any of me with the really little ones but I'll just have to take those myself.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Today in Barcelona

Today I saw a man fall off his bike. Like hard core, splat, ate pavement. Morally it wasn't a funny thing, but visually it was hilarious.

I also passed one of my students walking down the street with his grandmother. I was going to say hello but then I thought she might be creeped out by someone greeting her grandson by name and then not being able to fully understand or clearly answer her questions about why and how I know him. Also, he tends to keep to himself and looks kind of like the title character from the movie Willow, so he's not one of my favorites or anything anyway.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What I've Learned So Far

So I've been here about two months now and have really enjoyed myself. I have also learned a lot. Here are some of the things I've learned since I've been here:

- People weren't exaggerating when they warned about the pick pockets and purse snatchers

- Lentil soup is really easy to make

- Children are pretty similar no matter what country they're from or language they're speaking

- Unfortunately, so are creepy old men

- A wedge of Brie cheese only costs 90 cents here

- There are a lot of ways to use Brie cheese

- There are even more ways to use ham

- Irish men see nothing wrong with commenting on a woman's breasts in the same manner one
would compliment a hairstyle or necklace

- Apparently I have some pretty flattering bra and shirt combinations in my wardrobe

- When you run a language school, it is more important that the children have fun than actually
learn anything

- Being fun doesn't come as easily to me as I would have thought

- If you live above a bar, you don't need to watch soccer games on TV to know exactly what's
happening throughout the game

Can't wait to see what else I learn during my time here.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Tonight I saw one of my favorite Barcelona sights yet. It wasn't a Gaudi building or Picasso or a beautiful fountain.

It was a on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant. A tiny Chihuahua resting atop the back of a Collie, relaxing there as though it were a microfiber sectional.

Sadly I did not stop to take a picture as I was running late for a lesson, and that is truly one of my greatest regrets of my life here so far.

I can only hope that they belong to someone who works at the restaurant and that I'll find them there like that again so I can capture the image.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Church, Some Rides and Chocolate Sandwiches

It goes without saying that there are endless beautiful, amazing sights to see here in Barcelona, but undoubtedly one of the coolest places I've seen so far is called Tibidabo.

It's a church and amusement park sharing the top of a mountain in the city. They are literally right next to each other. The church is gorgeous inside and out- I declared that I wanted to get married there and follow the ceremony with a ride on the roller coaster.

In addition to the beautiful church, incredible views of the city and fun rides, I think my favorite part of Tibidabo was seeing a mother give her children sandwiches that consisted of a baguette sliced open, filled with a bar of chocolate and then pressed together and handed over. How did I never know, or think of on my own, the concept of a Hershey bar sandwich?!

Here are some pictures...

You take an old timey cable car tram up a big hill and pass some really cool houses and buildings on the way.

After you get up the hill, you take this car (they call it a funicular railway) straight up to the top of the mountain.
When you get off of the funicular railway, this church is right in front of you, but all you hear is the sounds of rides and squealing children asking for cotton candy.

This is the amusement park- this picture is taken from the steps of the church.

There are amazing views of the city from up there.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stop, Thief!

I don't believe I've ever had a premonition before, but I think I might have had one tonight. While getting ready to go out, I was putting things into a clutch bag and for some reason decided not to bring my whole little wallet with my debit and credit cards. Instead, I just tucked some cash and my ID into a pocket of my purse along with my requisite lip gloss and gum.

I told Laura on our way to the metro that I wasn't taking my debit card with me, "I just have a bad feeling about tonight, I feel like we're going to encounter a purse snatcher," I said. She said she'd wished I had told her that before we left the apartment but then we went on our way and forgot about it.

Cut to several hours later and we were walking with my friend from school toward the metro through the old gothic quarter (at 4am, our first mistake, and speaking English, our second mistake). The three of us were walking on the sidewalk, I was closest to the buildings, Laura was closest to the street and my friend was in between. Suddenly, I heard my friend from school shout a not nice name at someone. By the time I turned my head, she was running across the street after a man in a white jacket and Laura was running after her. I took off after them and we ran for several blocks after the thief.

Eventually she lost him and we started to think about what we should do. Then a girl rode up on her bike, took one look at us and asked if we'd just been robbed. We said yes and she offered to ride around the block and look for the thief or any belongings that might have been dropped.
Amazingly, she returned about 90 seconds later with my friend's wristlet, though empty and with the strap broken.

She offered to show us around the area where she'd found the bag and we actually found her keys and chapstick on the sidewalk. No sign of her phone, which I called repeatedly, hoping someone would answer so I could attempt to curse them out in broken Spanish, or her debit card, which she'll have to cancel and reorder.

The girl on the bike then walked us to the metro and along the way pointed out people who she said were thieves; I don't think I've ever clutched a clutch as hard as I did on that walk.

Unfortunately, this is just a part of life in Barcelona. As careful as you think you're being, you never know when someone is going to pop out of nowhere and throw a wrench into you're life; all for 30 euros and a cell phone.

I was struck though that, at the same time as something was happening to chip away at your faith in humanity, someone came along to build it back up and, for me at least, that will be the more lasting impression of this night and this city.

Friday, October 23, 2009

More Barcelona Sightseeing

I was out walking today and saw a few things that struck me as interesting and/or disturbing.

1) I saw groups of old people playing bocce ball on sand courts outside of a park. I thought this was so sweet until I noticed that behind the balding head of one of the players was a large, blue, penis spray painted on a wall.

2) While crossing the street I noticed a guy carrying a long white ferret in the crook of his arm. It creeped me out but at the same time, he held it like he really cared about it so I guess it's ok.

3) I noticed a young guy waiting at a stop light who stuffed four mini chocolate frosted doughnuts in his mouth without chewing once...I can't really get mad at that though, I'd probably do it too if I could.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

For F@#k's Sake!

I have finally caught up on sleep enough to sit down and write something about my trip to Dublin. Put simply it was lovely and if I had it to do over again I wouldn't change a thing.

We got a wonderful welcome in the form of the cab driver who took us into the city from the airport. He wasted no time in telling me I was a "f#cking redneck" after I told him where in Ireland some of my family comes from and he then called me that about nineteen times throughout the 30 minute cab ride. He also used my two favorite Irish phrases: "shite" and "for f#ck's sake," which I repeated constantly throughout the trip, attempting to perfect my accent and delivery.

We visited everything we wanted to see, including the various pubs and sites recommended by friends who'd previously visited the city. Some of these included The Brazen Head, which is Ireland's oldest pub, St. Stephen's Green, St. Patrick's Cathedral, The Guinness Storehouse, The Jameson Distillary and a tour of Wicklow, which took us out of the city and into the gorgeous country.
I learned how to pull a pint of Guinness (and after that one try can probably do it better than any bartender in Sea Isle- not that that is saying much) and got to be one of the whiskey tasters at Jameson, in addition to getting a complimentary drink, so I tottered out of there quite happy.

We got some great exercise on the trip to the country- particulary the three times I thought the bus was leaving without us and began to run after it, only to have Laura point out that it was merely turning around to make re-boarding easier for the passengers.

Here are some pictures from the trip:

Outside the oldest pub in Ireland

First pint of Guinness in Ireland

Concentrating hard on pulling the perfect pint

Legit fish and chips

Frightend of the three shots of whiskey in front of me...and the man to my right who was something of a loose cannon

In St. Stephen's Green I think

Right near where they filmed PS I Love You...I guess this means I have to see that movie now

This reminded me of our old house in Pennington where we had the sheep across the brook from our backyard. I wasn't as tempted to chase these sheep though.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

That's Miss Ali To You

As much as I like to be right, I don't have a problem admitting when I'm wrong. So I can say that I may have been wrong in my last post. It was written after four straight hours of researching jobs and sending out resumes and was rather heartily tinged with self-pity.

Well, the day after I wrote that I got a call around 3pm from someone who'd recieved my resume asking if I could come in to teach a class that night. Cut to three hours later and I was singing Old MacDonald while a group of four year old Spanish faces gazed up at me and tried to sing along.

That must have gone well because the next day I found myself teaching an 8-12 year old theater class all in English. The goal of this class is to put on a condensed and sure to be stilted production of West Side Story (but with great accents for the Sharks...and the Jets too, I guess...and Officer Krupke...).
Today I was told I'd be teaching a class at an elementary school where I just had to play games with about 11 kids between 4-7. The class ended up being 19 kids and some of them looked like they probably still wear Pull-Ups at night and on long car rides. My main goal with them wasn't to get them to say "hello" or "goodbye" but just to keep them calm enough that they wouldn't cry or pee themselves.

After that was a small class of seven year olds where I had a staring show down with one of the girls who rolled her eyes and wouldn't respond when I spoke to her. By the end of the class she was singing The Wheels on the Bus at the top of her lungs and doing hand gestures with gusto so I guess I won.

I am now signed up to teach these classes once a week from now until June so it will certainly be an adventure and, if it doesn't kill me, should provide some great stories.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Help Wanted: Americans Need Not Apply

Ok, so my grand plan for living in Spain for a while is contingent on finding a job so that I can support myself with some modicum of comfort while I'm here.

When researching the teaching scene and TEFL certification, everyone tells you that it is relatively easy to find a job and that nobody cares if you're not legal. Obviously it's worked for them and they want you to come spend your money on their programs. I think the program has been great but I'm starting to get a little worried that the job market may have been slightly oversold. I've just started to look over the past week but it looks like this market is no different from the rest of the world in having been affected by the economic bed shitting of the past couple of years.

It seems that schools and businesses care a lot more about you having legal European working papers than I'd previously heard. It's strange to experience what it is like to be an illegal alien trying to get by in another country. You know what you're capable of but something totally irrelevant to your abilities keeps you from practicing and supporting yourself. It sucks.

I'm going to do my best to use my networking and PR skills to sell my "brand," if you will; but if it's an issue of being legal or not, I don't think I can sweet talk my way around that. I'm sure I'll find something eventually, I just don't deal well with not having something lined up to go right from one occupation to another- I was handing out legit business cards at my college graduation party.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Yeah I'm A Jerk, I'm Fine With It

I was sitting on a bench waiting for the train today and a guy standing on the platform dropped his sweater as he was walking away. I saw it and a lady standing on the platform saw it. We both kind of looked at and at him to see if he'd noticed- he didn't.

Just then his train was came and it pulled in pretty far down so he started running toward it. I still just sat there, looking from his sweater to his diminishing form. It was like I was one of those people who is in surgery and wakes up but not enough to tell the surgeon they can feel everything that's happening. In my head I was saying, go get the sweater and run after him, but I continued to sit there. The woman finally picked it up and chased him down and I'm assuming she got it to him in time.

As this was all happening, the thought crossed my mind that it would be such a great story if I chased after him to give him his sweater and then we fell in love, but the thought immediately following that was "eh, he's not that cute though." And thus I concluded that I am an awful person.

I felt better later though, when I stopped in the convenience store on my street and saw a mother dressed in clothes that looked like they came from Wet Seal or Deb, holding a smoldering cigarette, buying for a 40 oz beer (at 4pm) and showing every piece of candy to her toddler saying "you want this? how about this one?"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hello, Dali

I went to the Dali' Museum in Figueres, Spain yesterday and it totally blew my mind. I can't even put it into words so I thought I'd post a few of my favorite pictures.

...oh, I guess should have mentioned that I can't put things into pictures very well either, but I tried.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Mom Says I'm Cool

I had my first day of TEFL class today. It was a weird feeling, a first day of school, and something I haven't experienced in four years.

It's so funny how that nervous feeling never really goes away, no matter how much you mature and change and develop confidence in yourself as a person and a student.

It always takes me a while to warm up in these situations. I never want to be the person who is overly enthusiastic and friendly to the point of looking desperate. I worry though, that in trying to look like I'm not trying too hard, I end up coming across as aloof or standoffish. Usually once I get a chance to speak to people one on one I'll start acting more like myself but I worry that the first impression I make is that I'm snobby.

This isn't all in my head, either. I mentioned in this post that my best friend from high school thought I was a snob the first day of school. It's not because I'm a snob though, it's because I get nervous and don't think straight and let things come out of my mouth that don't sound right.

That first day of ninth grade, when the teacher was taking roll, she said to let her know if we had a nickname of choice. My turn came and rather than saying the obvious "you can call me Ali," I said in a loud voice with clearly enunciated words, "I prefer Ali." Doesn't sound weird now but in a room full of fourteen year olds, it didn't say "I'm cool, you want to be my friend" either.

So what did I say today to establish myself as the nerd of the class? Well we had to go around and use alliteration to associate an adjective with our name to help the class remember it. What's the first thing that pops into my head and out of my mouth? Adventurous? Awesome? Oh no, friends. How about acrimonious?

I don't think anyone remembered my name because they were too worried about how to pronounce my adjective. Hopefully they all forgot it before they got the chance to look it up and find out that not only am I the class nerd, but also the self-proclaimed class bitch.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sightseeing Update

From our balcony we can see into the window of one of our neighbors across the street. We learned this just in time to watch him cleaning his kitchen in a Speedo.