Sunday, March 28, 2010

You Know What Happens When You Assume...

Everyone knows the old saying about when you assume. However, during my time in Spain there are a few assumptions that I've learned are pretty much always safe to make. I've broken a few of them down for you below:

What you see: The sidewalk is wet
What you can assume: Urine

What you see: A group of over-dressed, dolled-up, noisy girls
What you can assume: American study abroad students

What you see: A dog pooping on the sidewalk
What you can assume: Owner will not be picking it up

What you hear: Loud cheering, chanting and singing
What you can assume: Barca just scored

What you see: Shady character on the subway/rambla/street
What you can assume: He would like to take your money/possessions. Preferably without your knowledge but he could really go either way

What you see: An ingredient on a menu that you don't recognize or understand
What you can assume: Ham

What you see: Any type of pastry involving chocolate
What you can assume: Delicious

What you see: A smiling girl walking down the sidewalk giving a wide berth to shady characters, puddles and dogs, while clutching a chocolate-filled pastry
What you can assume: Me

Friday, March 19, 2010

Word To The Mother

My mom has worn a lot of hats in her life. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend. Secretary, paralegal, Red Cross volunteer. But one of the things she's always wanted to be was a college student and graduate. As one of eight children, her parents weren't in a position to send her to college, so after highschool she began working.

Then she met my dad and soon after that became a mom and for a long time that was her full time job. I've often heard the story of when my mom tried to go back to work when my brother and I were very young. She dropped us off with the neighbor who would watch us all day and as she drove away the two of us stood in the doorway, holding hands and watching her car disappear. She cried the whole way to work and when she picked us up and we asked "Mom, why did you leave us here?" She replied "I don't know, but I'm not going to do it anymore."

Once we were all older and in school all day she went back to work, which my brother and sister and I benefitted from . I remember going on special trips or doing other fun things and my dad saying, "Thank Mom because she saved her money from work to pay for this."

Now that her kids are all grown up, it is finally time for her to do something for herself. She is currently kicking ass and taking names in her first full time college semester. It is such a delightful role reversal to get emails about how well she's done on a test or the good feedback she received from professor. I've always loved and admired and respected my mom, but I love the added pride I have in her for going after what she wants, giving it 100 percent and reaping the benefits.

I know she is going to go on to wear many more hats in the years to come, including a college graduation cap. And while she is going to continue to excel in the world of academia and beyond, I know that, for me, the most important lesson is one she taught. My mom has taught me what it is to be a mother and what kind of mother I hope to be some day, and that's a lesson you can't get in a classroom.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Though it took two different planes and three take-off attempts to get there, and then a cancelled flight home and an extra night in the Gatwick airport Hilton, I had a great time in London last weekend.

The first plane that was supposed to take us there had a problem, forcing us to turn around 15 minutes into the flight and return to the airport. Many people got off that plane rather than wait to see if the problem could be fixed. Many others stood in the aisle, cigarettes dangling off their bottom lips, waiting to see if we'd be allowed off the plane long enough for a smoke. My friends and I sat in our seats formulating our Plan B for a night out in Barcelona in the event we didn't make it to London. We did make it to London, just six hours late.

Big Ben

We saw many of the big sites in London and I enjoyed hearing English spoken on the street, particularly in British accents. It was strange not having to mentally rehearse what I'd say before speaking to someone and feeling confident that I was definitely speaking in the correct tense.

Westminster Abbey

I did, however, get a little mixed up language-wise when we went to get shawarmas on our way back from the bar Saturday night. I ordered my usual- it's so usual for me to get this in Barcelona that I ordered it in Spanish. My friends kept trying to tell me that the guy behind the counter spoke English and didn't understand me. So ingrained in me is my standard shawarma order, though that I couldn't keep it in my head to just ask in English and our time in the shop was punctuated by my shouts of "Sin picante!" and "Ternera!!" Somehow I ended up with what I was looking for so it was all good.
Buckingham Palace

In Kensington Garden

That wasn't the end of the language confusion. We met some French people who didn't really speak any English. I've been taking French classes but unless they were asking for directions or numbers I couldn't really converse. My friend who is from Argentina tried to make introductions in her limited French. She said "Je m'appelle Sofi." Great. Then she tried to ask their names and said, "Y tu? Como te je m'appelles?" We didn't talk to them for long. I actually spent most of the time in their company sipping water trying to relieve myself of the hiccups. At least you hiccup the same in every language.

Tower Bridge

London is a really cool place and I hope to get back to check it out a little more thoroughly in the future. It's a big city and we definitely didn't get to explore too much in the short time we had, although I am now quite familiar with the layout of Gatwick airport.

Houses of Parliament and a glimpse of the Thames

Kensington Palace

Icy Statue in Trafalgar Square Fountain

The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Michelle Came to Visit!

I had another great visit from a friend last weekend. My college friend, Michelle came from Thursday to Monday morning. We packed a lot into the short trip and had tons of fun.
She arrived at 8am on Thursday and I was happy to break my rule of not waking up during single digit hours to pick her up at the airport. We pretty much started the sightseeing right away, stopping by Montjuic and the Olympic stadium before I went to teach a lesson and she took a nap.

After my lesson and some lunch we went to see Sagrada Familia then Michelle accompanied me to my classes. She got to see two of my favorite classes. First, the group of 19 kids ages 3-7 who I play games with in a gym. She also got to see my favorite part of that class- the gym teacher.
Next was the seven year old class, where I caught Michelle nodding off once or twice. She assured me that it wasn’t that my teaching was boring, but that she was already pretty clear on what day comes after Saturday.

We went right from there to get some drinks and tapas, where we were treated to complimentary glasses of cava, pretty much just because “it was a beautiful night and we were beautiful American women.” Nice.

Then back to my neighborhood for the Sants bar crawl, which included our regular spot, Ca La Maria. This is a fave thanks to Jordi, the manager, who welcomes new faces by trying to stick his tongue in their mouth. He grows on you.

That night saw the beginning of my signature pose of the weekend. Due to a cold sore that popped up on Wednesday (which I was told wasn’t noticeable but which felt to me like a pulsing, red goiter on my lip, fiendishly winking at anyone who looked at me), I adopted a neck swiveling reflex every time I saw a camera appear. Like here:

Or here:

You’d think I’d forget about after a few pints and just be normal, right?

We even tried to tempt the little guy out of hiding with some paella.

He wasn't so easily fooled.

Despite my affliction, we had so much fun, ate great food, saw the sights and got to catch up, which was the best and most important part for me.