Wednesday, July 05, 2006

No Me Comas, Te Amo! : Alicante, Nov. 2005

So it's been another month and I will sum up what's been going on:
Nights are usually pretty interesting, but one of my favorites was when we went out for my friend Brent’s birthday and somehow ended up at a botellon with half of Latin America. Botellons are Spaniards’ favorite tradition, after bullfighting that is, and are basically a bunch of people drinking together somewhere in public. In Alicante they are usually near the beach or on the side of the mountain, where hundreds of high schoolers through 30-year-olds get together and basically demolish this entire street. Overall it is a really accepted part of Spanish culture and as long as you aren’t playing music extremely loudly in residential areas past 4am, the Policia don’t care. We were minding our own business in the Barrio and all of a sudden there I was, salsa dancing with some Ecuadorian in a back alley. The night could only topped by the Halloween party my roommates and I had a couple weeks later, which could accurately be described as a mini-meeting of the UN, minus all the serious discussion.
The botellon night also included the discovery of the Spanish boyfriend Carlos, a little gem of a boy who doesn’t smoke, drink, or really have any vices whatsoever. I was pretty excited when I survived my first date conducted entirely in Spanish (even managing to get in a discussion on Spanish vs. US immigration policy… in the words of Shauna Sperry, ‘not to toot my own horn but TOOT TOOT!’); however, Carlos thinks it appropriate to send me texts that include poetic references to stopping time, keeping memories in his heart forever, etc. The first time this happened, I used my most polite Spanish vocab to explain that a Shakespearean sonnet was better suited to a Golden Anniversary than a coffee date. Now he has toned them down to saying things like, “the time change is tonight, that means we have one more hour to be together.” I am chalking this up to cultural differences and getting excited to come back to the States wherethe guys act like they don’t care.
But the Spaniard who brings the most joy to my heart is my intercambio partner Vicente (described my roommates as having “an endearing rabid-dog quality about him”). Vicente likes to go on adventures so a few weeks ago we went to this park across the street from the university because they have giant ducks that are UA legends. Apparently the rumor is that the ducks eat meat, because there has to be some reason they are so freaking big. I was like, ok ok, I'm sure they're decent sized ducks. Well, we went over to the lake and I almost crapped myself... these ducks are literally the size of a golden retriever. Vicente was like, hey, go ahead and show them your hand, it's fine! I was like, get me the hell away from those ducks!! Is there a nuclear plant around here somewhere? So I am trying to muster up the courage to go back and take pictures to prove the freakiness of it all. Another highlight of the last month was getting compared to the pig face that I got tricked into eating by a 60 year old man at the market. Luckily he meant itin a complimentary way (the word for beautiful and the word for delicious are the same, but I tell you… getting compared to a hairy snout is kind of iffy).
Well I love you all and I hope that this included enough use of the word“Spaniard” for those of you who requested to hear it more often. You guys are the gems in the crown of life. I just blacked out and tried to make up a profound statement, but you get the idea. Os echo de menos, nos vemos pronto!

Un Buen Rollo: Alicante, Oct. 2005

Hey lovers,
Well, it is has been a month and a half since I began my torrid love affair with Spain. If we are being completely honest, it is more like a warm friendship, but you know, poetic license and everything. Sorry I haven’t written something sooner, but I have been really busy listening to Shakira and watching trashy Spanish Love Connection shows. So getting here was basically the scariest thing I have ever experienced. I hung out in London for a night with a bunch of Australians from my hostel, but that was the only good part, because I learned firsthand the hell that is RyanAir getting from London to Alicante. For brevity’s sake, I will put the highlights in bullet form:
• Learned mid-flight that Murcia, the city we were landing in, was nowhere near Alicante, and had no bus system or train from the airport, which is an abandoned airforce base. Further learned that RyanAir has been sued a number of times for misleading the public about its destinations.
• Met a Spanish guy on the walk in from the flight, who proceeded to dismantle his bike and cram all my luggage into his brother’s car, drop me off downtown and help me find a hostel. Yes, I realize it could have been an Unsolved Mysteries kind of thing, but I was pretty desperate.
• Spent a day braving the elements between the time I got kicked out of my hostel and when I could move into my apartment (which, until the day after I got here, had a landlord with a disconnected number, ie. possibly didn't exist), during which creepy Spanish men invited me back to their places without understanding the phrase HELL NO (I thought it translated fairly directly, I was wrong).
So the university here is gorgeous; I have to frolic through palm trees to get to class. My profesoras are hilarious, and we spend most of the class time discussing important things, like how European toilets are better than American toilets and how obnoxious Spaniards are. One of my profs is from Spain but takes every opportunity to make fun of it; she also teaches us the crucial phrases (Tengo ni puta idea= I have no f-ing idea). That one comes in handy frequently. The best thing about my class is the Japanese boys in it who are so lost, but when I mentioned Seattle one of them was like, “OH! ICHIRO!” Yeah buddy! We’re on the map!
One of my favorite things here is the market every Saturday, which has TONS of clothes, shoes, fruit and veggies, etc. They have huge barrels of a million kinds of olives, pickles, every kind of nut possible, and other random foods that you could never find at home. Everything is so yummy and so cheap, and I can eat kiwi and avocado and almonds all day long. My apartment is amazing, it is one block from the beach and is right in the middle of the Barrio, the area with all the bars and clubs and restaurants. Nothing starts until midnight here, so people eat dinner at about 11, go to the bars from 12-3, and then head to El Puerto, this peninsula on the water that has about 10 clubs in a 3 block radius, until like 6 or 7 am. There are literally thousands of people from all over the world crammed in the Barrio and Puerto on any given night, so it is an awesome place to live. I have one Finnish roommate, two Irish, one Canadian and one British lady who never leaves her room. I love having the Irish girls around so I can finally use the phrase “that’s good craic” again, and Eija, the Finnish girl, is my best friend in Spain. Most of our time is spent drinking sangria, figuring out how to get Europe to take a shower, and wondering what food we just ordered when we go out. We have a pretty interesting group of friends… including Lebo, a Botswanan girl studying in Canada; Angelo, an Italian guy who doesn’t speak English OR Spanish but seems to always show up no matter where we are; Ariel, an ex-pro soccer player from Argentina who is dying to learn English and tells me I get more beautiful every time he sees me (who WOULDN’T be friends with a guy like that?); Andrea, an Italian guy studying in Sweden who wants to marry me for Green Card purposes only; Nelson, a Lenny Kravitz lookalike from Brazil; and Randy, an MBA from Houston who owns a promotions company in Alicante and knows every bartender in the province, ie. I haven’t paid for a drink since I got here.
So I was kind of starting to freak out because I kept seeing all these adorable little Spanish kids and couldn’t hang out with any of them, so I found a job working with these two AMAZING little boys from Muchamiel (the little town about40 minutes out of Alicante). Javier is 7 and Fernando is 5, and I think they are karma payback for putting up with the little punks I nannied this summer, because they could not be more perfect. Pilar, their mom, wants me to speak English with them and just hang out at the park and read and play. Humbling Spain Moment #578: the 7 year old I tutor speaks better English than I do and translates when his mom and I can’t figure out what we are trying to say to each other (she doesn’t speak any English, and is just about the sweetest thing ever). I call them my little Guapisimos and get to hang out with them every day. It is especially cool to get out of the city and into a little town that is, in my humble opinion, real Spain. Pilar grew up there, the boys’grandparents live just around the corner, and she has friends from childhood all over the place and has never left or lived anywhere else.
So despite being broker than one of Schlossmo’s appendages after a night out, I have been able to travel a little too. Sometimes we just hop on the train and see where it ends up and have adventures in a random city on the coast, but we also spent a weekend in Valencia and a couple days in Granada. Valencia is amazing, we got a map and just spent the weekend running around and looking at as many museums, cathedrals, and parks as humanly possible. We are going to try to head back in a couple weeks for a UEFA Champions League game and a bullfight. Granada was quite possible the most wonderful city I have seen since leaving home, and I got to spend some time with Haley Beach (for those of you who don’t know, she’s my long-time lover and is studying in Granada). It physically pained me to leave that place, but at least Alicante is warm.
Ok I am willing to bet that half of you aren’t even reading this anymore, but I am going to throw in a bonus story about Juan, the owner of the hostel I was in the first few days. Juan is a crazy old guy from Murcia who doesn’t know a word of English, and I decided I loved him, and went to his place to say hi. He was eating dinner, and told me to sit down and ran into his kitchen. A few minutes later he plopped a plate in front of me with a fish on it. A whole fish, with just its head chopped off. And a piece of bread with hard cheese, a bowl ofvegetables in vinegar, and a bottle of Spanish wine. I wasn’t sure what protocol is with eating whole fish, and asked him how to start, and he was like,“ehh, eat it however you want.” Then he poured me a glass of wine into a cup that had obviously been used, as it had some interesting backwash in it, but who am I to be rude? But every time he left the room I poured some of it back into the bottle or into his glass. The problem with this was that every time he noticed I had an empty glass, he refilled it and made a toast. As sneaky as I tried to be, my host was a step ahead of me. So Juan was starting to get a bit looped, and kept talking and talking and talking… for an hour and a half. Hecovered a number of topics during his monologue, including Hurricane Katrina, religion, sex, and his illustrious career as a ¬¬___ (fill in the blank. I’m still not sure what he did, but I have a feeling it was the Mafia, based on thenumerous pictures of him with random men and copious amounts of wine. Oh wait, that just means he’s Spanish). I could tell when he was done with one topic and moving on to another when he would pause and give me the hugest, goofiest smileI have ever seen, which made me laugh, and then made him laugh, and now Juan andI are best friends, and every time I peek my head in to say hi he says, “Heyyy, it’s the model from Madrid!” This nickname indicates to me that Juan is drunk ALL THE TIME, but he sure made life interesting my first few days in Alicante.
Love you guys, miss you so much
PS. Though my stance is still firmly anti-European boy, I saw firsthand how weaker souls might fall for their charms when this Parisian waiter at Havana pulled my tank top strap down with his teeth and kissed my shoulder… how do you react to such a situation when you are a naïve American girl, is my question to you?!?