25 September 2010
24 September 2010
Madrid. Yes. Had a lovely time, wandered a bit, coughed up blood, saw my favourite street musicians--not the piper, surprisingly, but the string quartet that plays on Calle del Carmen next to the Corte Ingles. I sat and listened to them for about 15 or 20 minutes on Monday night while they played their standards- Pachelbel's Canon in D or whatever, some Vivaldi, and my personal favourite, Por Una Cabeza. It's a tango tune about a guy who bets on horses and loses. The chorus is something like, 'Oh silly man, you bet and lost! Didn't yo mama ever teach you that gambling is bad? Don't do it!' You might have heard it in True Lies or Scent of a Woman or just sometime in your life. Look it up, because I love it. However, I can not find a version of it anywhere that compares to the string quartet on Calle Carmen. There were times when I was just sitting there with my eyes closed, on the verge of tears. It was incredible.
Tuesday afternoon I had a not-so-incredible experience: after meeting up with my friend Erin, I went way up northwest to the La Vaguada shopping center, where one of the two Taco Bells in all of Madrid is located. I was so excited. . . so very excited. . . but of course, it couldn't compare to real, fresh, American Taco Bell. I stole a couple of packets of sauce because they said cute things in Spanish but I just happened to be carrying an awl in my purse (long story) but anyway I think you can guess how that turned out and basically I had to chuck the sauce packets within couple of hours. At least the burrito helped clear my sinuses.
Then I headed back into the town center to pick up a few items at H&M- sandals, a men's tee (only 3.95!), and a shirt to wear on the flight over. Shoulda picked up some more leggings or a sweater, because it's hella cold here. More on that later.
After that, I was essentially waiting around on Chris for a few hours by these fountains that they've got in Sol (turns out they were there all along, I just couldn't see them when I lived there because they were covered with scaffolding while they renovated the Sol Metro station), and this homeless-looking guy who was almost certainly on drugs with a hideous mullet started bugging me. I'm not sure what he wanted but he just came over and stared at me and I gave him this look like 'As if!' and he moved away. But he was just sort of creeping around for a while, changing his socks, his shirt, having a smoke right there next to the fountain.
Anyway, then Chris called and bailed on me (I'd already been waiting on him 2 hours, no big deal) so I thought, what could I do in the two hours I have free before I'm supposed to see Jeff the piper? Well, it was 7:09. And the Prado museum is free every day from 6-8. It would be roughly a 20 minute walk from where I was. . . so I started walking. And making up my own shortcuts. And wouldn't you know it, I made it there in 15 minutes.
I did the most frantic tour you can imagine, trying to see all my favourite pieces in the 30 minutes I had left. This was made difficult by the fact that they've moved some things around. El Greco's works (a lot of them, at least) are now in the main hallway, and Room 12, which houses the museum's most important piece, Las Meninas, now holds only portraits of that royal family, done by Velazquez. These are minimal details to you I'm sure, but it was a little unsettling. Anyway, I got to look over all of those pieces, and then see a lot of Goya's portraits (some of my favourite stuff of his). In particular, I love the portrait of Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos and the portrait of the family of the Duke of Osuna, with the little cross-eyed kid. They also had the Naked Maja on display, which had been loaned out when I studied in Madrid, so I got to see it in person for the first time. Just being in the Prado was a wonderful experience, and it felt like I was getting to see old friends.
After they kicked me out, I headed back to the area east of Sol (Calle Victoria, Espoz y Mina, and all that) to grab a slice of tortilla and a glass of sangria at a little bar there. Then I headed back into Sol to take one last brief tour of the street performers there before meeting the piper at 9. I had just a few minutes to watch the string quartet (just a string trio that night, though, as the bald violinist with the expressive eyebrows was nowhere to be found), and wouldn't you know it, but they played Por Una Cabeza. It wasn't the same with just the three of them, but I tossed a 10 euro note into the case they had sitting out, because a) I had nickels, pennies, 2 cent pieces, a 10 euro note, and a 20 euro notes, b) it's like my favey song ever, and c) I could tell they were having a rough night. And they were very, very grateful.
Then it was back down the street to watch the last few minutes of one bagpiper's performance. That druggie with the mullet made his second appearance of the day, coming right up and dancing a jig to the music while Jeff tried to keep a straight face. He started packing up, but an old Madrileno started chatting him up about a Spanish dance which is based on bagpipe music, and that took about 15 minutes. . . so there I was translating, that guy with the mullet has changed shirts twice and is now dancing around the cops in a leather jacket, my friend Erin caught my attention as she was walking by with a friend- it was just madness.
Finally we were able to go down the street to Calle Montera- have I told you about Calle Montera? Don't go there at night, it's hooker central- to a Cien Montaditos, which is a chain of tapas and beer places. I had a tinto de verano, he had a beer, we sat back, relaxed, talked about the good times, and hooker-spotted. It's sort of funny, because he's actually jealous of me now, which is a total change from 2 years ago, when I couldn't believe how lucky he was to be travelling the world and having adventures. I asked him for advice on finding a job and he said I don't need to- I can go into the little villages out in the jungle and be worshipped as a goddess. Do you see why I love him? Always complimentary, and I think that might actually be good advice. Probably gonna try it.
But after an hour or two, I had to run to the airport, so he helped me get my suitcases from my hostel and hail a cab. Then there was more drama, because the taxi driver was convinced that I was actually stupid because my ticket didn't have the terminal number printed on it. He's the taxi driver, so he's actually supposed to be an expert on airlines and their terminal numbers. . . but no big deal. I only had to call home and use my last 11 euros of phone credit to ask my mum to look up the terminal number. It was Terminal 4, as I'd expected. I've never flown in or out of the Iberian peninsula from a different terminal, and I've come through Barajas airport about 15 times (at least, that's what my passport says). So it would have been nice to have a taxi driver who didn't try to explain to me repeatedly that there are four terminals and it had to be 1, 2, 3, or 4.
Anyway, got there, got checked in, had a lovely conversation with the man behind the desk of the American Express counter. He was giving me all this advice on keeping my money safe, travelling safely, all of that, asking about my job prospects and whatnot. All of this was in very adorable English, and he kept asking me if a certain phrase were correct or not. His jaw actually dropped when I started speaking Spanish. So cute. He said that working at a currency conversion desk was only temporary, because he'd lost his job as a mechanical engineer due to the crisis, but he liked what he was doing because it was interesting and he got to meet lots of new people. I adore people like that. He said I was the first person he'd ever met from Kansas, and after our conversation and the completion of my transaction, we said goodbye, and he wished me the best of luck. I told him I hope he gets back into engineering soon.
Then I went through security and waited another two hours for my flight to leave. Ours was the last one out for the night, at 2:20am, and almost everything was closed. I did, however, grab some patatas alioli from the cafeteria, making it my last meal in Spain. And that was some good patatas alioli.
Well, the flight was uneventful- basically 12 and a half hours of on and off sleep, horrible plane food, Karate Kid, and the lady next to me talking incessantly even though I only responded in English. She was really helpful, telling me all about how disgusting the Argentine way of speaking is, how they have too many bad words and it appalls her to listen to it. She also said I would pretty much want to get the heck out of there, and also the beaches are better in Uruguay, where she's from. Thanks, lady. I'll keep all of that in mind as I START A NEW LIFE IN ARGENTINA.
Then there was a 2 hour layover in Montevideo, which was okay since they had free wifi and lots of outlets that supported European plugs, and onto Argentina on a 50 minute flight. They didn't have the sandwich I wanted on the plane (and I really wanted that sandwich, as I was willing to pay 8 USD for it), but whatevs. Then I hopped off the plane, ran into a little trouble with security because the flight crew had neglected to give me my customs paper, and then one of the customs girls was like, ''Oh we don't actually ask for that here, go ahead,'' and the next guy was like, ''What's she smoking? Of course I need that. . . okay, go through extra security,'' and then a bunch of guys cut me in line and the guy putting bags on the scanner just sort of ignored me a bit til I got all American and pushy. Gentlemen abound in Argentina.
Took a cab to hostel, passed out for (not joking) 16 hours, awoke yesterday morning feeling fairly fresh, freshness factor increased post-shower, went out to find a power converter, went on 6 hour walking tour of La Boca, can now cross it off my list of places to apartment-hunt. It was a pretty sweet walking tour though; we toured the Boca Juniors' stadium where Maradona used to play, then we went around and saw bunches of Maradona impersonators, lots of tango stuff, lots of bright houses. This place is hectic, and packed, and bigger than any city I've ever seen, but I think I'll really be inspired here. There's color and art everywhere.
I've already had a busy day today. I woke up around 5:30, because I went to bed at 9 (lame I know), and came downstairs to use the internet. After I was kicked off the computers by a grumpy cleaning lady, I started talking to an Aussie guy while we were waiting for breakfast. Turns out he's an electrician at home, and was fully prepared to try and help me solve my power conversion woes (basically I could not charge my computer, no matter how many converters I bought or borrowed). And you know what? He made it work, and I'm now using my own laptop to update my own blog! The way it should be.
- When you get sick, pretend you aren't
- When other people point out to you that, "You don't look so good," tell them it's something terrible, like tuberculosis or avian influenza to lighten the mood and distract from the fact that it actually might be TB or bird flu (I mean, last year Josephine and I spent the whole summer joking about swine flu and then, wouldn't you know it, come August. . .)
- If these other people offer you cough drops and tea, exploit the hell out of that
- If you do eventually decide to give in and recognize that you might actually be ailing, just keep telling yourself (and anyone who asks), "Oh, it's just [tuberculosis], and I'm gonna kick its ass." That kind of staunch American attitude will get you through just about anything.
21 September 2010
1) Flew into Madrid Sunday afternoon. Promptly hung out with a one Chris Dailey, one of the coolest guys I know. Watched some soccer, then met up with a certain bagpiper to reminisce about the good old times. Sipped some tinto de verano in the park until the wee hours. Spent much of the next day in bed- not due to the drinking, but rather the tuberculosis which I suspect I have. Seriously, I was literally coughing blood yesterday. What else. . . wandered around solo last night, stalked some street musicians (as I do), today met up with a friend that I haven't seen since Venice 2 years ago, gave a tour, now am here, getting ready to see Chris again and then my piping friend.
Anyway I fly out tonight and I think the municipal police here give the Carabinieri a run for their money!
18 September 2010
16 September 2010
14 September 2010
11 September 2010
02 September 2010
However, all of these things went out of my head when I heard we’d all be going to Milan because we’d be near a Metro stop. Awesome, right? The heart of Milan would be easily accessible to us for two weeks by train. So we hopped on our Frecciabianca train to Milano, excited for our two week adventure in one of Italy’s most famous cities.
I first became worried when I stepped into the sunlight outside of Abbiategrasso Metro Station and saw the group of people there to greet us. There were a collection of women who could most kindly be described as Italian cousins of Susan Boyle, and behind them stood a street lined with dingy apartment buildings. The whole thing seemed very dreary, very dumpy, very out of fashion. Add to that the orange Scooby Doo van Melissa and I were loaded into (the interior of which was covered in dog hair) and I think you can start to sympathise.
I don't want to bring you down with all the depressing details of this place, so I'll make it brief. We're in a tiny flat in what seem to be the projects, with no sibling even attending English camp, with a host mom who seems to only be hosting us for the money and can't cook, with an aggressive dog who won't stop barking once he's seen us, sleeping in the host parents' bed, while they sleep on air mattresses in their office room. It's just awkward. Melissa and I went out with some of her friends here in Milan (she studied abroad in Bologna) to escape the awkwardness, and we both hung out with our own friends on Sunday. It was nice. After that, we all reconvened for a camp dinner with our directors.
I got my first look at my kids on Monday morning. They're all yellow-bookers, so about 6 or 7, and some of them are just adorable. Some of them aren't. Some of them spend a bit too much time with their fingers in their noses for my liking. Anyway, Monday morning was also the day when I first realized that our host mom was going to try and starve us steadily throughout the week. That first day, she gave me a panino made of mozzarella cheese between two pieces of bread, plus a nectarine, plus a plum. Basta. For the entire day. Let me remind you, we have two breaks plus lunch during our 9 hour camp days. And we are required to constantly be jumping around, making fools of ourselves and expending valuable energy. Day two, I was given the same sandwich, plus a nectarine. No plum. It's been that way ever since, except yesterday Melissa decided we should ask to bring breakfast yogurt with us to school so that hopefully our host mum would realize we are hungry and give us more to eat. Plan failed; now she just thinks we really like yogurt.
Anyway, tomorrow's the final show, and my kids are so not ready. No costumes, no backdrop, nothing. Hopefully they at least know their lines. . . And then we'll be here another week, just with some new kids. And that should be the end of my tutoring work here in Italy for the summer!
01 September 2010
I agreed to work with the oldest group, 13 and 14 year olds. I like to work with extremes because I feel that the group in the middle is where you actually have to teach a lot of sentence structure and the really difficult stuff. With little kids, it's just basic vocab and really simple conversation, and with older kids, you're building on the foundation that was set by the teachers that worked with the kids when they were somewhere in the middle. I guess I'm just lazy like that.
After the meeting, we went through Valli for their Sunday market, and ended up eating at a nice little restaurant somewhere in the mountains. Their specialty was gnocchi, and I had some with a classic butter and sage sauce. I found it a little rich, with the gnocchi too doughy for my taste. Then Alessandro (the 3 year old son) threw a fit and we went home, and Lisa (the 14 year old daughter) and I got ready to go to the pool.
I was terribly exhausted at this point, but I knew Tom was going to the pool and I didn't want him to be alone. Once we got to the pool, however, I knew I should have just stayed home. It was actually three or four pools, with hundreds of chairs and umbrellas around the water. We couldn't find a spot anywhere and had to settle for sunning ourselves next to the baby pool. Lisa and her friend Roberta went swimming for a bit, but I was a little nauseous and just wanted to sleep.
Somehow, though, the prospect of sexy lifeguards and cold water on such a disgustingly hot day persuaded me to get off my towel and into the pool. I showed the girls my waterproof camera and they were pretty much blown away. We took some pics, swam around, then made our way to the lazy river (love it!) and finally took a few turns down the water slide. I managed to get a wedgie every single time, but used it as an opportunity to explain that bit of American slang to the girls.
Host dad picked us up in the white Hummer and asked for our pizza orders. Perfect, I said to myself. This family has money. . . it costs money to get extra toppings on pizza. . . money which they have in spades. . . therefore I can get whatever I want on my pizza and not feel guilty!!! Long story short, my pizza was covered in grilled eggplant, zucchini, and peppers, mushrooms, olives, tomatoes, and corn. I had considered asking for ricotta on it but thought that would just be excessive. Roberta called it my fantasy pizza.
I was feeling pretty worn out by this time, so I went to bed early after some brief time on the facey b. It was nice to have a king sized bed all to myself, in a guesthouse all to myself, and be able to play a movie as I fell asleep.
I woke up far too early, at 6:45, because I had to be at breakfast by 7:30. However, I pressed snooze perhaps a few too many times because all of a sudden, I looked up and it was 7:28. Somehow I got ready in 10 minutes and was at breakfast just a few minutes late.
That magical Monday morning I had the great pleasure of being driven to school in the white Ferrari (no, the host dad hadn't been joking). It was incredible. Maybe Papa Trentin drove a little fast, maybe it did mess up my hair a little because the top was down, but it was still an amazing experience.
This is the point where I should probably tell you how the first day of camp went, but I don't really remember much of it. At this point, I was feeling a bit achy and could tell I was coming down with something (likely the result of too many late nights in the previous week). I can tell you, though, that my class were generally very bright, with 9 girls and 2 boys, most of whom already knew the simple past tense and could write fairly complex essays in English.
What else happened that week. . . well, I was driven to school each day in either the Hummer, Maserati, and Ferrari. The Maserati and H2 started to feel like downgrades, actually, after a few rides in that Ferrari. What is it that Ferris Bueller says about Cameron's dad's Ferrari in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'? I think it's something like, "If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. They are so choice." But I could be wrong about that line.
I got progressively sicker throughout the week. What began as extreme exhaustion on Sunday turned into a sore throat on Tuesday, lots of coughing and sneezing by Thursday, and super sinus congestion on Friday (just in time for the final show!). I wanted nothing more than to sleep all the time, but my host family always wanted to take me out for ice cream after dinner, or watch a movie in English, or whatever. That was sweet of them, don't get me wrong, but I don't think they had any clue how awful I was feeling.
Ah yes, the final show. I basically had the kids write it themselves, so it turned into English Music Store. One girl walked in, asked for a cd, and the saleslady was like, "Yeah try this one," and then Waka Waka came on so a bunch of them danced to that, then someone was like, "OMG that's a terrible song, Beyonce's better!" so then some of them danced to Single Ladies, and finally someone else said, "But Rhianna's the best!" and then three of them came out in slinky dresses and performed a dance they hadn't even shown me before the actual show. There were umbrellas and fedoras used. And also chairs. Still worried about my job security after that. Anyway, then they were like, "Oh wait what's this cd over here?!" "Well this one's full of English camp songs!" Then they all sang English Camp, and the girl obvs decided to buy that cd. The end!
After the show ended, we had some aperitivos with the parents, then went home to eat dinner with our host families, and then the tutors went out with a couple of host sibs and our director to a rap/ska/reggae concert in Schio (which began with a guy coming onstage and yelling, "Schio! Sch-Sch-Sch-Sch-Schio! Schio!") and later to a club to find another host bro. Laura was determined to help us find this host brother, so she dragged us through the club like our mother trying to find him. We were trying to hide our faces and not die from laughter at the same time. She was out of control!
Later there was this big complicated mess when Laura told us we had to go home because our host families were waiting, and Kat and I was like, "Okay, that's cool, we're actually pretty tired," but then Laura was like, "I can tell you don't want to leave so let's go inside and dance for fifteen more minutes! YOU MUST DANCE!" And the next thing we knew, we were on the dance floor with Laura behind us, with all of the Italians giving us a wide berth. Simultaneously hilarious and mortifying.
Our train the next morning didn't leave until noon, so I packed a little, took a leisurely dip in the pool, showered, packed some more, and ate with the family. I'd gotten them a tiny gift, and they'd gotten me a tiny gift, and then they tossed me onto the train with the other tutors, and that was the end of Valli del Pasubio.