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?"