Friday, April 25, 2008

Sixth sense cat, beach, and geese

1. I've had a rough day. I've had a cold for about two weeks and I can't seem to get through the night without intense coughing fits. As a result, I'm tired and cranky. There isn't much time to nap during the day so I have to fight through it. Today I could barely open my eyes to get dressed for my early class. On the way home, I fell down the stairs and landed on my knees. Spanish teachers had to catch me. After finishing my second class, the beach and the warm weather was calling my name and I headed to the river beach. Sitting alone in the sun got me thinking about the past and memories gone. I got a little sad and had to get up and walk. On my way home, I stopped to watch a pick up football match near the beach and sat on a ledge. I got lost looking into the river and the sparkles of sun dancing on top of it, when a white and black cat brushed up against me on the ledge, nearly surprising me into the river itself. It wouldn't let me be, but continued purring, pawing, and nuzzling into me. It made me think of a cat that could sense distress and would nuzzle sick patients just before they were about to die. I couldn't help but wonder if the cat could sense my stress. At some point, I had to leave the cat and just as I did, two small children came up to it and tried to pet it, but it backed away in a fright.

As I proceeded to go shopping in order to further make myself feel better, I found a gray T-shirt with a cat that looked so similar to the one on the ledge and therefore HAD to buy it for talisman purposes.

2. In the entire time I've been in Valladolid, I've never spent proper time on the beach. Today I packed a towel, my book, some water, and sunscreen and set off for uncharted territory. It's not much of a beach as there are overgrown weeds and only a river shore, but it's perfect for people watching and relaxing. I managed to finish my book, finally feel a bit rested, and warmed from the sun.

3. I took frequent breaks from reading my book and noticed that my favorite white geese had come ashore. At first they pecked at the sand, then stood preening, then finally just as the warm sun had got to me, they began to look dozy and settled themselves into the sand. I enjoyed watching the simple movements of animals going about their daily routine and marveled at the fact that I didn't have to be anywhere any time soon.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hiking in the Basque country

Super-calcetines, hiking help, from a distance

1. After weeks of rain, my friends and I set out on a hike with a local mountain climbing club to the Basque country on Sunday. As I was humming happily to myself, I missed hearing a fellow Spanish hiker warn me not to step in a huge puddle of mudwater disguised by a thick layer of leaves. I splashed into it full force and felt the cold sink into the "breathing holes" of my meager running shoes. Minutes later, the cold disappeared and I could hardly tell that I'd stepped into water. I suddenly remembered that I was wearing my SmartWool socks that my mom sent over months ago. Before the hike, I had wondered if they could block water, and instead of feeling stupid for not paying attention, I chalk it all up to an experiment gone well.

2. Going up the mountain is hard work, especially as I'm still in the cold zone and find it hard to breathe, however, going down is almost as much work, seeing as we have to surf the ubiquitous mud slicks to get back. Another hiker offers his walking stick "baston" and I feel like a skier tackling the mud in the same way I'd take on the snow.

3. Once we reach the top of the mountain, there are pockets of snow ponds and mucho viento. We are above the birds and a guide points out that the city of Bilbao, its coast, and the glint from the shiny Guggenheim museum are visible from the top.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Entertainer, brothers, and a night in

1. As a result of chaotic management and parents of private school students, my colleagues and I now teach on Fridays and are working over-time. This will however mean that we'll have less classes for the month of June. One of my Friday classes just happens to begin at 8:30 in the morning which is tough when I teach until 10:05 the previous night. Today I walk in and I'm tired, my nine year old students are tired, and they have circles under their eyes. They almost resemble old, docile dogs who are content to sit in an armchair all day by the fire. The perk of teaching at this hour is that they are fresh. I'm their first teacher of the day and they all sit in the front row looking up at me expectantly, tiredly. I have to start their day and mine as well.

2. I explain to one nine year old Spanish boy that "Bros." in Super Mario Bros. means "Brothers." I see him diligently taking note of this in his exercise book. He writes "Hermanos" and crosses off the last half of the word.

3. I've got two movies, a pack of chocolate covered almonds, and overly excited to stay in tonight in order to miss the windy rainy weather.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Laundry, postcards, and las cosas espanolas

1. I hang my laundry on the line outside the window and because it's siesta, all I can hear is the howling wind and the cries of the peacocks from the park a block away. They don't sound like birds, but cats meowing furiously.

2. I've begun to decorate my new room with postcards of my travels from this year and as a result, it's starting to feel a little more like home.

3. Maggie's sister and sister's boyfriend are visiting from England for the weekend, so we do typically Spanish things like have churros con chocolate for breakfast after a late night out, and sit at a cafe munching on tortillas.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Walk through the park, weekend plans, rain relief

1. As I walk to my first 8.30 class at Lourdes this morning, I walk into Campo Grande, home to peacocks and ducks waddling everywhere. As I enter the park, there are at least four peacocks displaying their irredescently green feathers and I have about 20 eyes looking at me from their plumage.

2. Maggie's sister is coming to visit, so we're all planning to meet her and have a good time out.

3. Today is the first day in about four days that it hasn't rained nonstop throughout the day. The sun is shining and I feel a little less watered down.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

La cena espanola, alto bajo, no tiempo

1. Having tortilla and chocolate cake for dinner.

2. Playing a card game in Spanish.

3. Being so busy that I don't have time to think about anything.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Barcelona photos

Breeze, Aromas, and Sun

1. Feeling the breeze on my bare arms while walking through the forest during our hike to Pena de Francia on Sunday.

2. Lauriane pulls off a piece of frosty green plant from a bush in the trail and we can't identify it, but it reminds us of lavendar.

3. The sun is out for most of our hike and provides the best lighting for good conversation, warmth, and a much needed outing from Valladolid.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008

Wii Sore, hablo un poco mas, Spanish hot chocolate

1. I'm actually sore from playing Wii tennis (particularly from serving) at a bar on Thursday night. Video games that get you up and moving...what will they think of next?

2. I had my first long conversation in Spanish with my new roommate. Ok, so it wasn't really perfect and it wasn't really that advanced, but I was and still am proud of myself.

3. One night after work, Michelle, Maggie, and I go for cups of hot chocolate at a cafe and experience the gooific wonder of rich and creamy, liquid, Spanish chocolate. Not the watered down powdery excuse for a drink back home.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Quiet Calle Santiago, morning cafe olives, the weather

1. Last night, walking home on a normally bustling shopping street, but being the only one save a few others. It´s peaceful, dark, but not too cold on Calle Santiago and I am happy to be there alone.

2. This morning after Spanish class, Michelle, Katrin, Maggie and I went for tea and coffee at a cafe and could actually sit outside in the sun. I needed the tea to thaw the morning chill, but after a quarter of an hour, I switched to a cool Cola Light as the sun became more powerful and nibbled on olives for breakfast.

3. It´s warm! And it´s actually starting to feel like the Spain I thought I´d be going to! Warm and sunny at last...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Comida del gato, my new roommate, improving Spanish

1. As I´m walking to the bus stop and up the stairs to the bridge, I notice an old man dangling a glass bowl full of cat food from a fairly sturdy rope. We´re not talking a few feet here either. As I´m ascending the stairs, I see a spotted white and black cat sitting patiently yet anxiously looking up at the bowl.

2. I have two new Irish roommates and a Spanish roommate. So far, everyone has been beyond nice. Even though I was exhausted after my first Monday back on the job, the Irish girl, Liz and I stayed up and talked. I feel more comfortable in a new place where the inhabitants are so friendly.

3. After finishing my first class at Lourdes, two girls walk out with me and we have a conversation in Spanglish. I can understand just about everything they say now, whereas before I was utterly hopeless. However, this doesn´t mean that I can have intelligent conversations about the meaning of life in Spanish. I´m still working on that.