Saturday, April 30, 2011

May 1st weekend... Labor Day

All throughout Europe, May 1st is a national holiday... Labor Day, to be specific.  Virtually all businesses close to give the day off to their employees on the closest Monday, which means we get a three-day weekend.

In 2009, I went to Istanbul.  In 2010, I hiked the Buda hills and had a picnic.  In 2011, I am staying home and (at least in theory, agh) writing papers.  My thesis is due in 32 days, and between now and then I also have to write a 15-page 1-and-a-half-spaced paper for my history class and a 3-page single-spaced paper for my issues in modern education class.  Add that to the forty-odd pages I still need to write of thesis, and you can tell that I am going to be SUPER busy and antisocial in the lovely month of May.

But then, on June 1st, when my thesis is turned in and I start working only half-days at work?  I'm going to be the happiest girl in the world!

Friday, April 29, 2011


One of my American colleagues went to the bank during her free lesson today to sort some stuff out.  Naturally, this being 1) a bank and 2) Spain, she wound up waiting in line for about 25 minutes.  After this time had passed, an old man walked into the bank and calmly cut in front of her in line.  Now, my friend did not wish to offend this old man, so she carefully explained to him, using the formal "you," that she had been waiting in line.  And the old man turned and cheerfully said to her,

"Yes, but women always let men go first."  Then he turned around and continued standing there, while the rest of the people in the bank chuckled good-naturedly at the silly foreigner.

Now.  I will accept that old people have different world views.  But just exactly what sort of world view is it where women are subjugated AND don't even get the benefit of chivalry?  Bah.

Monday, April 25, 2011

trip to the north

I am back safe and sound, plus even a bit tan (if also a bit smelly and blistered) from a fantastic week-long trip to the north of Spain.  Details to follow.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 15, 2011

I'm an expert.

So several months ago this online expat directory contacted me, after finding out about me via this blog, and asked me to fill out a survey about expat life in Budapest.  They fudged the "Where do you live?" question a bit (I went into the whole thing, but I guess this is easier.)  Nevertheless, I'm pretty pleased with it overall.  If you're interested, you can find the survey here.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's official!

For reals.  I've got a contract and a plane ticket.

On July 1st, I will leave Spain to spend the summer in America.  Then, on the 25th of July, I will be back in Budapest to attend Magda and Bela's wedding and look for a flat before starting work in the third week of August.  I've been giddy all day and gotten nothing accomplished, besides going to work, of course!

Look how pretty she is:


This is one of the most fantastic things I've seen in a long time.

I mean, the kids know the dinosaur is not real (you can pretty clearly see the dude's legs underneath), but they still can't help screaming and being super excited.  And they should, because this is just totally cool.  One dude is controlling that whole huge machine!  And it stomps around and roars, waving its puny forearms menacingly, and it is just awesome.  I want a dinosaur to come to my school and terrify my students!

Though, really, the students should know there is nothing to be afraid of.  All they have to do is hide in a corner.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


That horrifying word up there is the Spanish translation of ENT Specialist.  I've had several ear, sinus, and throat issues this year, pretty constantly actually.  Plus, my right ear pretty much always feels full and the pressure is starting to make me feel crazy.  As such, my doctor decided that it would be good for me to make an appointment with this specialist, and I went to see him today.

He stuck a fiber optic camera down my nose to look at my throat.

Then he told me to drink more water and come in next time I'm actually having an issue.  Sigh.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mom's visit

Mom in one of San Lorenzo's plazas
Last week, my mom came to visit me.  She came from Wednesday to Monday, and I must admit that we did pretty much nothing.  Well, that's not entirely true.  We did eat Italian food, two menu-del-dias, tapas, fondue, paella, pizza, more Italian food, tons of bread and chorizo, pounds of olives, and a few bottles of wine.  We also visited the monastery, walked in the park, got massages, played cards, and went to El Rastro street market.  Mom even came to school with me and charmed all my students, as well as scolded me for not drawing her hair right on my quick sketch of a family tree in my fifth-grade lesson!  Mom also charmed Mr. Yoichi cat, bringing him little toy mice to destroy and constantly rinsing out his bowls.  It was a very nice, very relaxing visit and I hope that every time Mom looks at the giant copper chicken she bought she remembers San Lorenzo and is happy.

Yoichi stalks the toy mice, which we tried to hide on the top shelf.
Do I look like I gained 2 kilos in 5 days?  Because I definitely did.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Las Fallas

On the 19th of March, Carissa, Mary, Chris, and I headed to Valencia.  We rented a car and cruised through the perfect weather midday of Castilla La Mancha and over the hills of la Comunidad Valenciana until we arrived at the lovely sea-side town.  Valencia is a beautiful city, the third largest in Spain, but we were not going there to visit the city.  We were going for the festival of Las Fallas, which features street musicians, fair food, and people dressed in traditional garb, such as this adorable child.

The main reason to attend Las Fallas, however, is not the traditional costumes or food, but for the Fallas themselves.  The Fallas are giant sculptures made of wood and wax, elaborately painted and often featuring satirical or political themes.  The festival originally started as a carpenters' festival, since it takes place on St. Joseph's saint day.  They would take the leftover wood, decorate it, and then burn the sculptures.  Over the years the festival developed into what it is today, with hundreds of sculptures being made by different clubs in each neighborhood.  Each club makes a large and a small sculpture.  The small sculptures are usually directed at children and feature whimsical themes and cartoon characters, while the larger sculptures are definitely political in nature, often featuring government figures and sexual themes.  Some of the large sculptures are up to 30 meters (100 or so feet) tall, all are intricately detailed and delicately balanced, and many are simply gorgeous.

And then, at midnight, as a band plays and fireworks light up the sky, they line the sculptures with firecrackers and burn them to the ground in a fiery conflagration barely contained by a few firemen with hoses.  It's pagan and delightful, if a little sad, too.  It's really amazing to think that so many people spend so much time and money on things that are going to be burned.  But what really lasts in the end?

 large Fallas

 small Fallas

 The Fallas are beautiful, weird, and detailed.

 Some Fallas also feature chickens.

 This is the Falla that was built in the main square to celebrate athleticism.  
It was over 25 meters (82 feet) tall.

 Cat Falla

 An octopus climbing out of a book, eeeek!

 This light-up pathway leads to the winning Falla, which is spared from being burnt.

 This was the winning Falla.  I especially liked the two dogs running away from the little kids on the left and the hunted animals hiding on the hat.

This is the Falla we watched burn.

 The firecrackers go off as the firemen prepare.

 Fire!  I ended the night totally covered in soot and ash.

After watching some more Fallas and getting some snacks, we took the most round-about route possible back to the car, where we rested for a bit before driving to watch the sun rise over the Mediterranean.  I must admit I only saw a bit of purple haze, as I was falling asleep in the back seat.  We slept in the car a bit more, then it was back to Madrid!


Friday, April 8, 2011

New Layout!

As you all know, I've been writing in this blog for over two and a half years now.  Today my private lesson cancelled and, well, I fancied a change.  I've streamlined the side-bar to now include only my about me, the archive, and photos of the places I have lived.  There are also now fishies on my blog.  You can feed them with a simple click of the mouse.  I chose a fun font for the title and headlines, played with the colors a bit, and adjusted some margins.  And, most obviously of all... peeps!  Still, though, everything works the same as it always has.

I hope you enjoy the change!

March visit to Budapest

Liberty Bridge (Szabadsag Hid)
The first week in March, just three days after getting back to Madrid from Canterbury, I headed to Budapest for a visit.  It was mostly play, but partly work as well... I had to finalize some details for my job for next year.  And it was, of course, a lovely visit, and even though this time I had almost five days in Budapest, it was still not enough time.  The lovely Miss Anna was kind enough to host me, and her family was great and filled me with food.  I went to karaoke, pub quiz (third place again, WHAT?), a Hungarian party, lunch at Mate's, had coffee with Lily, out with Magda, and to the Szechenyi baths with Balint and Scott.  I also got to rock out in Hungarian a LOT so I was very pleased with that.  It was a great visit.  Best of all, though, was spending two full days at Krudy, seeing my old colleagues and hanging out with my old students.  Almost everyone was surprised to see me, so that was fun.  I miss it a lot.  It's really a special place, and I can't wait to go back!

4th grade girls
3rd grade girls

Spring has sprung

Yes, folks, it is warm and sunny.  My arms are slightly pink from sitting outside waiting for my masters class to start today.  The sky is clear and vibrant blue, free of clouds and already developing the Spanish haze.  Clothes dry in a day instead of three.  The children can run freely outside and are thus saner in the classroom.  I still have to wear my jacket inside of the monastery, but otherwise it is not necessary.

Mom brought me lots of stickers of little bunnies to give to the kids for Easter.  I took one for myself today of a furious-looking chick wearing bunny ears.  Only 5 more days of work before Spring Break, Lyla's visit, and my epic journey to the northern provinces of Spain.

Spring!  Hooray!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spanish fun, even after all these years.

I have recently been tested at a EFR level C1.8 of Spanish.  I say this not to brag, but to set up the fun failure I'm going to tell you about.  I am, for all intents and purposes, fluent.

Yet, today, I was not.  I was explaining to my teacher class what a "formula" is for a movie, and I used the romantic comedy as an example.  I tried to say that the climax would be where the hero runs through the airport.  Instead, I said that the climax would be where the hero has a bullfight in the airport.  Which would, certainly, be quite climactic.

Yes, boys and girls.  Corrida does not equal carrera.