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some pictures of barcelona

Aww. I miss my friends. Being in a group with only 6 other people all of the time serves as a really good reminder that you don't just happen to be friends with the people you're friends with. You guys back home are so awesome. When I spend too much time with these people they serve as a great big mirror that just reflects back a charicature of myself - good and bad and all the very strange that I thought was normal. Well, still think is normal. For me. I'm still happy here but between the Real World dynamic and the shallowness of this city I'm going through a period where my ego gets trampled on frequently. I think it'll pass soon.

This weekend we went on a trip to Avila and Salamanca. It was good I guess. I would never want to live in Salamanca (it is a college town, the university is the 3rd oldest in Europe i.e. the world) but it was fun to see so that now I know. Both places have quaint castle-y places but in my opinion they are completely unimpressive compared to the medieval type shit you can find in the UK. Last night in Salamanca Nic G and Nick C got in a fight with like 8 Spanish dudes. They just wanted to start shit and I think Nic G ashed his cigarette in one of the Spanish guy's hair? Gotta say that's some pretty bad disrespect. Luckily everything turned out okay, but Nick C did get punched in the nose pretty bad. A bouncer (we were standing outside a bar in a plaza) yelled at everyone to get outta there, so the 8 guys finally took off. I was laughing and cheering and even considered taking pictures. The other girl I was with was uhappy with the situation and like "I really don't like it when guys act like this". Another one of the girls ended the night crying so I did my best to console and then tried to go hang with the guys and have some drinks while she had some recovery time when we got back to the hotel. Sometimes I think I ought to take things more seriously because I was giggling throughout the entire night. Wait...isn't that a good thing? Nevermind. Sometimes I think other people ought to take things less seriously.

Tomorrow is my first real day of class.

9am - 11am Advanced Spanish Grammar and Style. This is a GW class. The other students in it are Neesha, Sonia, and Caitlin.

11:15-1:15 History of Europe in the 20th Century. GW class - lecture is in Spanish, reading and work are in english. I am in this class with Sonia, Caitlin, Nic, Nick, and Russell. So everyone but Neesha. Tomorrow we don't have it though - yes!

1:30 - 3:30 Taller de Dramatizacion e Interpretacion de Suenos - a workshop on the interpretation of dreams. This is a UAM class so I am in for a surprise. I hope that there are cool people in my class!

Sep. 25th, 2008

I'm pretty sure that I am watching a Spanish version of the real world.  Before that I was watching this Animal Planet type show on lions. I have a lot of things I could be updating on, but I have lost inspiration to write in here much since I don't feel like it's being read and nobody comments aside from Amaranth. I figure I can be more honest if I start making the majority of my posts friends only.



You cannot imagine. It just makes me want to buy a pair of stilettos and use them as a weapon against whoever created them. And don't you worry - I don't care if the guy's dead - if that is the case I will make sure that his casket looks like he was the victim of a drive-by.

Good night. I have no stories, just lots and lots of pain.
Some people are just so inhibited. Just my opinion, but so long as you're always open you should never have problems being happy. Speaking of this, I really wish it were more appropriate to smile at strangers in the street if you are in your own 'hood. The garbage man was kind of shocked when I gave him a half smile today. I have only been smiled at by ONE stranger (aside from creepers...in which case it's more of a smile-snarl-smarl anyway so does that even count?) since getting here. It was this woman on the bus last night after I moved my feet out of the way so that she could sit down and I can't believe I find this noteworthy enough to write about! I could never survive in New York.

Anyway, today has been colorful and intense and I imagine it will continue being so as I have not yet had dinner with Toti and am going out for drinks in Arguelles at 11. I had an an Intensive Spanish exam and it was the first test in recent years that I can remember finishing on the verge of tears. We're studying very specific grammatical stuff that I find really easy to mess up, so when I took the test I skipped over all of the things I wasn't positive about. Then at 2 minutes till time up, Pilar (my professor) all of the sudden warned us about the issue of time. I had only written about 2 sentences of my composition and had to go blow through the exam super quickly on all of the stuff I'm not confident about and does not come naturally to me. Disastrous. Lesson learned, don't take a test that way.
Then I had Culture class with Marta and since she forgot to bring a video about Congress that we were supposed to watch I suggested we have a relaxed class, someone else taught her how to play Spanish pictionary, and all was well - we lucked out. It was nice to take a break because even though it probably doesn't sound it -- school is intense here.
Afterwards was my first class of European History in the 20th Century. I am the only student who has not taken the history prerequisite. Actually, I haven't taken a history class since high school, and Government nor US History help much so I'm basically counting on information I didn't learn well the first time around from when I was 15. The class is in Spanish and all of the other students know much about history and political affairs. Although the lecture is given in Spanish our readings are thankfully in english. Sicne there are only 6 of us, it's the kind of environment where you should speak up if you don't understand. I have the highest comprehension but for some reason I was the ONLY person in the class that spoke up to ask what something meant. I'm really fed up with being perceived as the vocal one, the one who doesn't understand, the one who's always asking about going out and just wants to party, etc. only because I'm the only person that bothers to ask at all! Isn't that the point of individualized attention in an academic setting anyway?
Today was the day of a placement exam for Spanish students at La Autonoma so my friends Cristina, Carlos, Eduardo, and Azul were on campus. Nick and I hung around and got some lunch and beers and then went out onto the grass. Think jam packed hippy fest minus (for the most part) the hippies. There was this trash can that someone some turned into a stereo-keg. Brilliant. Anyway I must have hung out on campus for 5 hours after class and even though it was a shame the other Americans left, I still had a blast.
Now I am very hungry and Toti is not home. I hate to eat before she arrives because whenever I decide to she ALWAYS comes back right as I'm raiding the fridge. I can even smell food from the apartment next door. Both of our windows are open and I can even HEAR someone cooking. Cruel. Just cruel. This country leaves me so hungry!

text messaging

Sending texts in Spanish is really intimidating. Whenever Spanish people have texted me in english so far, I've been so impressed. I have only a few characters to express myself well in another language? Boo. One benefit I just noticed, if I use the "Tap Espanol" feature rather than "Tap Ingles" it gives me another 250 characters. I know you're curious about these things.
This girl I met through Carlos who is super cute wants to hang out tomorrow. I thought it was just that she was really unfortunate to have braces but it turns out she's actually only seventeen. I've never really had a friend that much younger than me that I can think of but so far I've gotten along really well with her and love all of her friends. We met before going into a club Saturday night and she taught me how to salsa.
Last night I saw a play called 666. It was a comedy about 4 men on death row with barely any words. It was at often times really crude - there's a scene where this stuffed animal that looks like porkchops is presumably getting raped...you know...in the only manner that that happens in jail. Of course, it's only his head poking out from left stage, so it's not totally in your face. The play ends with all 4 men with giant fake rubber penises that they use as: water guns, instruments while jamming out to the Beastie Boys "You Gotta Fight For Your Right to Party!", weapons, and countless other things. Yes, GW pays for this, and it was selected by our program coordinator. I love interactive theatre (they made Russell, one of the students in my group go on stage into the electric chair while one of the inmates took his seat and started hissing and creeping all over poor Neesha) and it was super creative. Neverrrmind - I digress - this is a hard play to describe without sounding like I'm a big fan of giant rubber penises.

I'm planning on making this journal friends only. Let me know if you plan to read this and really don't want to create an account. But you should get one! I would love to get detailed updates.

mondays are always mondays

These are all of the people in my program. It's pretty cozy! Right now I take Intensive Spanish (with just the 3 girls) from 9-10:30 and then have my culture class with the whole group from 10:30 to 12 everyday. Once the real semester starts it's possible that I won't have any classes with the guys if I am unable to enroll in History of the 20th century course. On the bright side, it looks like I will be working at a school teaching English in the same town that my Spanish friends - Carlos, Eduardo, Claudia, Cristina, and Azul - live in! Very excited about that as they only come to the city to hang out during the weekends. I'm also just really excited to teach English to adorable Spanish kids that will make me feel much better about my grammatical deficiencies. :)
Toti has also asked me if I want to help her friend's son practice his English. He'd like to meet up for coffee or something where I would speak to him in Spanish and he to me in English. At first I was a bit skeptical as I already have a tutoring job and an internship doing pretty much the same thing. After Toti told me he's super nice and interesting and has just finished engineering school and is moving to London(? - I think - sometimes these things get lost in translation...) for work (he lived and studied there for a little while but is from Madrid) I'm curious. So another new person to meet.
Pandora.com doesn't work and which is really a shame because I hate to say it but - THE SPANIARDS I'VE MET HAVE TERRIBLE TASTE IN MUSIC! When you go to a club you'll be very lucky to hear Shakira and Rihanna. For the most part what they play are these really cheesy Spanish pop ballads that everybody from here seems to know ALL THE WORDS TO. Some of the songs even have certain gestures to make at certain points in the song and they are so into it! I mean not anything as choreographed as the macarena or electric slide (so far) but time will only tell what's in store. Hopefully I'm just going to the completely wrong places. I really don't want to be unfair and insult this country's taste so please disregard this and I will give you a fairer judgment in a month. As a saving grace I have gone to one really good sort of hole-in-the-wall indie dance club/bar.

museo del prado, horario, etc.

Hello everybody!
Today has been a good day. The one UAM class that I really want to take very much wants me! The professor is really eager to have a student from another culture. And what better way to meet Spaniards and strike up interesting conversations than to ask someone to help me out in a class on dream interpretations?  The only problem is that it interferes with my Art HIstory class which focuses on Spanish art of the 16th and 17th centuries in El Museo de Prado. I spoke with Carmela (who runs the entire program and is also the art history professor) and she's told me that I can take the class next semester (even though they normally don't offer it) since I am the only student staying all year. Speak of the devil! Toti just came home and has told me that Carmela is coming over for dinner. She and Toti are good friends. Carmela is great but to me is a shining example of how there are these intelligent, SHARP, put together and beautiful women in Europe that are kind of intimidating, no matter how nice they may be. She's also the one that would a) reprimand or b) expel me if I were ever to be on bad behavior. On our orientation day she came to class with a plate, fork, knife and two pieces of fruit. She proceeded to teach us the "proper" way to hold utensils as well as the oh so proper way to cut your fruit - according to her you should peel an apple in one elegant swoop of the knife. yeah right. Anyway, today we went to El Museo de Prado con Carmela and she was an excellent tour guide. I think it's better that I hold out for next semester's Art History class which consists of Spanish art from the 1800s to present. While the art in El Museo de Prado is beautiful and it's interesting to hear about it from the perspective of an art enthusiast that has been raised Catholic in Spain, contemporary art is so much less....repressed? We looked at so much art focused on the bad things that happen to those who sin (ahhh! Como Bosch. I love his art - it's so surreal, so beautiful...But I really gathered from his work that he thinks pretty much all of us are going to hell. And it won't be the pretty stuff of fairy tales and flames. It will be a whole lot more gruesome and sin-specific: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/80/GardenED.jpg . (See right panel). Anyway, I haven't yet decided what I am going to do. Either Carmela and the other students in the class will alter their schedules so that I can take Art History, or I will study European History of the 20th century. I am going to do an internship on Tuesdays and Thursdays (6 hours each day) teaching young students English. Very excited for that. Carmela is here - I must go!

sunday 9/7.

Yesterday the 7 of us students were to meet with our homestay hosts at noon. Since we'd been up till 7 the night before, let me just say it was ROUGH dragging myself out of bed at 11:45. Fortunately, when I woke up I found out that my luggage had been found. The night before I had checked on my two pieces of luggage online: one was on its way to the hotel and all that it said for my bigger suitcase was "Tracing still in process" which I took as a euphemism for "We probably lost your shit." Luckily I was wrong.
I am living with one senora named Toti. She has a lovely home and I have my own room and bathroom. She's on the 6th floor of an apartment building and has this excellent terrace with a bench swing and lots of plants. We had this soup that was a lot like gazpacho except for done with zanahorias (carrots) for lunch with her friend Maria Angeles. I took my first siesta in Spain but accidentally slept for 5 hours.  After my siesta Toti and Maria Angeles showed me around the area. There is a bus stop 2 blocks away and I am just a few blocks away from 3 different metro stations. The metro is everywhere! I'm also in a fantastically central area. One of these stops is also connected to the train so I don't have to make any transfers to get to la Autonoma (the name of my university).
I love Toti. She is so warm and welcoming and we have lots to talk about. She smokes cigarettes and was completely thrilled when she saw me light one up yesterday. The thing is, smoking with someone 50+ is a complete turn off to the habit. So I've actually cut back.
Today I had my first day of class. Took the train to UAM which was actually pretty easy. The school is just outside the city limits. We just took a Spanish placement test (3 students are in the Intermediate class, the remaining four of us are in the Advanced class). Carmela, the director of the program, wants me to enroll in the university for at least one class, but I'm going to have to beg the administration since late registration for UAM was in May. After class the 7 of us students decided to meet up in Sol for the early evening, so I need to go soon! 3 students are in a slightly different area so we broke off while still in the metro station (I cannot emphasize how big some of these stations are compared to Washington) and as I walked with Caitlin, Nick C, and Russell, by total coincidence we ran into this guy Carlos who we'd met in Chueca. His friends had helped us find a club and gone to hang out with us. Such a nice person. We'd never said bye on Saturday night since one of the girls had stepped on glass and totally fucked up her foot and we just need to get out of there! Anyway I just find this guy to be such a likeable person - he totally glows with happiness and today we exchanged phone numbers and he invited our group to come with his friends to a club this week. So I have my first Spanish friend!
It's strange but I already see myself losing my English. My brain has probably just gone in Spanish overdrive or something, but so many of the things I'm typing I would prefer to say in Spanish...some thoughts immediately come to me in Spanish and then I've just been translating them back. I'm just waiting till all my dreams turn Spanish.
There's this cat pillow in my bedroom that drives me crazy because the little cats will not stop looking at me! It's making me nuts but I want to figure out a tactful way to get it out of here without offending Toti.

Please - people - tell me: how are you doing?

address, news

Since coming here I've been pretty out of touch with the news. I haven't felt the need to turn on the TV, I have limited access to the internet from my home (I can only really use it during business hours), and I feel absolutely no need to waste my euros on magazines. If any of you guys read the news online often and feel compelled to send me links to interesting articles and happenings, PLEASE PLEASE do! I would really appreciate it. Really.

Also, here is my address. You know, just in case you maybe became compelled to send me something. Like a piece of paper saying hi or diamonds or something. Just saying it would be nice is all.

Susana Gutierrez
Espronceda 34, duplicado 6ºdcha.
Madrid 28003

In case you're wondering, that thing that looks like a degrees sign is actually an o.