A quarter or a toe?

Again, with the germs. The fantastic, fantastically horrid abundance of germs that are flitting and flying around everywhere.

Wearing gloves, the camarera picked up a croissant and placed it on a plate for the gentleman. I witness that and thought, “good good”. As someone who comes from a place with many dining establishment healthy and safety rules and regulations, that was an ordinary act and I was glad to have seen it. What followed, however, was not to my liking.

The middle aged plump woman took those purple Latex ridden hands and proceeded to make the coffee. Okay, pues, not so terrible. She touched a croissant, a plate, the coffee machine, a coffee cup, the coffee, etc. with gloved hands. Maybe she just wore them to do all the food and drink stuff.

Oh no! She wore them forever everything! Not long after touching the croissant, plate, coffee machine, coffee cup and coffee she took the gentleman’s money and proceeded to make change and ring him up! Still with those, how rancid, purple gloves on. Are you freaking kidding me?!

With no care or notice she handled money, drinks and bare, naked food, obviously and shamefully. I think the shameful thing was that no one noticed or cared. The gentleman graciously and happily took his food and coffee and was off to enjoy the germ laden buttery pastry.

As to not offend anyone or present myself in any grotesque or snarly way I merely cut my order in half and asked for only a tea to go in which I prepared the styrofoam cup myself and when the women’s back was turned pulled the tea bag out of the box myself and placed it into the cup.

Why not just suck on a 692 pairs of hands as that is probably the amount of palms and fingers those pieces of monedas have been in. Why not just lick the bottom of the floor?

A few weeks ago I was getting a pedicure and a manicure by a very lovely woman. Our conversation reached many topics and one was me asking her how she felt about feet. Of course I’m sure she’d received this question many times, but her answer was very personal and seemingly, not recited. She told me that to her feet were way cleaner than hands. We do everything with our hands. We eat, drink, scratch out face, scratch our bum, pass money, shake hands, hold on to railings, push elevator buttons, share communal computers, graze over tourist monuments and even, shhhh, all the unmentionables that our hands help us out with  😉

Feet however, are quite a bit cleaner. They are washed once or twice a day (hopefully), and are then placed in a cozy cotton comforter, which later they are carried around in a solid structure which more or less allows nothing in our out. That is a shoe.

Now, would you rather lick a quarter or a toe??

Maybe if it was a lucky quarter…or…a lucky toe…(what’s a lucky toe?)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

La Madre Tierra

For a group of people that watch their electricity and water use like a bunch of penny pinching mountain people, quite a few of the Madrileños (not all of course) sure don’t appear to care too much about their Mother Earth.

Are they conscientious about the lights and energy only as a selfish reason? Or a self-oriented reason? At first I thought it was because of a dual reason: because they were saving on unnecessary usage, which I love! and to save money for when they didn’t need it. Then I learned that gas is just terribly expensive here. Which, I totally understand. Who doesn’t understand wanting to save a little?

But what I don’t understand is how can you want to save a little if you are continuously polluting the air and the Earth?

Every day is a constant stream of cigarette butts flying about. I’ve successfully dodged a few from burning holes in my clothes or spewing ash in my face. Not only is their complete disrespect for their health, which I guess, to each their own, but completely towards their humanity, Earth and city workers.

The sidewalks and streets are lined with cigarette butts. They just flick them about as if it doesn’t cause extra work or harm to anyone. The whole “why smoke” debate will be saved, or rather, never approached my by me as I know it’s a lost cause, but the lack of disregard for those that have to clean up after them, the filthiness they are making the city and the harm for the natural Earth that keeps them safe is appalling and frankly saddens me.

It’s weird… Smoking, no regard for ones own health. Throwing the butts on the ground, no regard for the Earth or the fact someone else will clean it up for them.

In an orientation on the first day we were all reminded that one person doing something does not mean that it’s a cultural trait. It could potentially mean that, but for a characteristic or act to be a trait that permeates through the entire culture, generally the rule of thumb is that if you see more than three people participating in an act habitually than you can (generally) count it as a cultural trait. Well, unfortunately, I’ve come to the conclusion that littering and disregard for the services of another human are a cultural trait.

Blatantly, she threw the panuelo (Kleenex) on the ground. While walking towards the Metro, another middle aged woman broke the rules of normal human interaction and awareness by blowing her nose into a Kleenex and then purposefully letting her used Kleenex drop to the ground.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!?!

I don’t know what to do. Obviously I’m not going to stop her and harass her. She probably wouldn’t understand me anyways. My biggest hope is that the children of this era are not taught the same.

I know that not everyone is the same and that they aren’t all like this. I know no generalization or stereotype or even simple act carries over to all people that is for certain, but the more and more Spaniards I see acting in similar fashion make my heart hurt. It hurts because people do it and it hurts because others observe as it’s the norm and follow.

Is it just the people in a big city? Is it hispanic people in a big city?

Oh, what is it and how can we fix it?

Darío, Neruda, Martí, Guillén, Vallejo, Merino, Cebrián, Marías, Longares, Bartlett y Adón

Books1

12 books for this semester! Here we go!

Books came out to be as much as expected. I have however received some good advice about borrowing, sharing and the surprisingly abundant inventory of the local libraries. So far all the advice and suggestions have come in a warm and welcomed manner.

9 hours of Graduate coursework this Spring:

  • Spanish Narrative 1999-2014
  • Latin American “Modernism”
  • Latin American Writers & the Spanish Civil War

Reading list I picked up on Friday:

  1. Pilar Aldón, El mes más cruel
  2. Alicia Giménez Bartlett, Ritos de muerte
  3. Manuel Longares, Los cuatro esquinas
  4. Javier Marías, Corazón tan blanco
  5. Mercedes Cebrián, El malestar al alcance de todos
  6. José María Merino, El río del Edén
  7. César Vallejo, España, aparta de mí este cáliz
  8. Nicolás Guillén, España poema en cuatro angustias y una esperanaza
  9. Jose Martí, Ismaelillo | Versos libres | Versos sencillos
  10. Cuentos fantásticos modernistas de Hispanoamérica
  11. Pablo Neruda, España en el corazón
  12. Rubén Darío, Prosas Profanas y Otros Poemas

All in Spanish and all to be read quite soon!

¡VAMOS!

Netflix & Frenadol

Settled.

Getting more settled each day. Today I found a top sheet, a cozy blanket, bought groceries, did laundry, paid my first months rent, ran, did yoga, finished a book of poems by Pablo Neruda, started one by Rubén Darío and made my first home cooked meal.

It’s Saturday night in Madrid, Spain and I’m quite content curled up with Señor Pingüino, Cinnabear and my computer.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It’s probably a good thing Netflix and Hulu aren’t available right now. While it is possible to avoid,  the Netflix vortex and Hulu helix do have great gravitational powers that spin and pull and spin and pull and never stop luring you in. It is easy to get into the groove and watch more than just a few and before you know it you’ve ordered a pizza and watched thew newest season of Orange is the New Black in one day.  So, while I’m not exactly glad I haven’t got access to either one, I know it’ll permit me to avoid distractions and read as much as I need. I need to spend these days reading, not consumed with easy, familial laughter of Friends or New Girl. Thank goodness Netflix didn’t exist in its current capacity when I was in undergrad and I actually am quite thankful I was a late bloomer on obtaining a Smart Phone.

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 10.32.38 PM Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 10.25.20 PM

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m a little confused on why the Spaniards are so upset and curious about why they’re all sick and or staying sick for so long. It’s not rocket science. I can see it everywhere I go. Germs. It’s germs they are spreading here and there and left and right.

I do understand that is the season where the common cold and ailments are the norm. It happens in all parts of the world. What I am confused about  however, is that it doesn’t have to last longer than a week if you take care of yourself. It doesn’t have to turn into bronchitis if you take care of yourself. I’m looking everywhere and can clearly see a huge source is the coughing into the hand. Isn’t that taught in elementary school to cough into your arm or elbow? I do not understand why all of these adults are coughing into their hand. The subway is crawling with coughs and bacteria. The following scenarios  I, unfortunately, witness about 15 times a day:

  • Lady with cold coughs into hand > uses cell phone > holds rail for steadiness > pushes button to release metro door
  • Child with cough coughs into hand > holds mothers hand > holds rail for steadiness > pushes button to release metro door
  • Zara worker coughs into hand > answers phone > pushes button on computer for sale > handles cash > sips coffee mug > gets on metro…..

    I know I can be a little too OCD about germs and stuff, but to me this isn’t rocket science. If you’re going to “cover” your mouth it doesn’t do any good to do it with your hand. Why not just open mouth blast it into the Subway línea 3 on the way to Moncloa and douse 20 other people with your germs. At least do it openly instead of masking it with the dirtiest thing in the world, the hand.
    Recently, I had the opportunity to watch quite a bit of Spanish TV and I can see that it’s just a cultural norm to cough into your hand. That’s what all the commercials do. Lately there have been loads of commercials for congestion spray, cough and chest pain relief and general cold medicine and all these “idols” are coughing in to their hand. They’d probably have to promote way less of these medicines if people weren’t willfully wiping their germs everywhere.

    FrenadolIsn’t this a cute commercial with a family going skiing? I love how the dad sneezes into his hand and then gets his germs all over the suitcases. They’ll have to make another commercial about his kid getting sick and then feeling better and he’ll wonder why…..Another Frenadol promoting what a great habit it is to cough into your hand.I’m not trying to be mean or negative, it’s just confusing and frustrating. Can’t they all see? Let’s try our very best to keep our germs off the most used appendage of our body…..

~ ~ ~ ~  ~

9 de enero: un poquito de todo

Today I have completed everything I need up until this point. I should probably go back to my house, that has WiFi, and work on setting up my room, but I’m holding off on that. I want to buy a candle first. It smells a little funky. The room is nice, but I want to spruce it up first before sending photos.

I really had only two requirements: big enough to stretch and do yoga (yes, I brought my yoga mat) and have a view that didn’t face the inside of other buildings. And I searched and trekked until I found just that. It’s a good price and has good space. I haven’t met my roommates yet. I’ve been there twice and seen no one. I’m sure there are other humans there as there are girl things everywhere. Both bathrooms have artifacts that there are definitely ladies there. The requirement of the space is actually only that ladies can live there. I think that sounds kind of nice. If I remember correctly they’re actually all from different countries….now all I have to do is meet them.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I live a little north of the University, but not far at all. It’s just a few saltos from the Metro station of Cuatro Caminos. This morning I walked to the University from my new place and it’s a lovely walk. It took about 25 minutes. Which is great, because on the way I have a lot to look at, people to avoid bumping, and routes to take. Madrid is so BIG! I’m pretty sure that each time I go to school I’ll be able to take a different route and see more. I’m living just off a big street called Avenida del General Perón.  There seems to be quite a bit to do, good shops and there is a little park right outside my house. There is a park for kids, for los infantiles y los perros. I miss Franky a lot. He’d be so happy here playing with all the other dogs, well, I suppose more so the other humans. But I definitely miss our (it’s okay if I call Franky, our, now, right? 😉 ) Jack Russell (pronounced like Yak Rusle).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Books

My books for the semester. There are 12.

At the university they were all so kind! I met with many administrators with whom I had been emailing with for almost a year. They were as kind as their previous emails promised they would be. First I met Paula, the young lady in charge of student life, showed me I had a student ID, but couldn’t give it to me until Monday. No pasa nada. Then I met María José, the lady who manages the book store. I bought my books for this semester. Ooooo weee!! I’m even more nervous now. However, it soon subsided after my conversation with Liz.

Liz is an administrator for SU-Madrid, from the states, who has lived and been at SLU-Madrid for 9. She also completed her Masters in Spanish there and is now working. She was very kind and we had an amazing conversation. She asked a lot of questions and gave me lots of great advice. She even offered to share some of her old books with me. Which is great, because these books can get expensive! And heavy. And, obviously it makes the most sense to share (when you can). She was really fun and so friendly! I’m so glad she took the time to ask and answer questions and just share.

I then popped upstairs for a few minutes to meet Ann. She is the Associate Dean of the Arts & Sciences program.  She was very busy, as school starts next week, but she took a few minutes to welcome me and chat for a minute. She was so very nice! The very last thing she said to me was “looks like you have a  lot to do this weekend!”. She was referring to the large sack of books I was carrying around. Omgoodness, I’m nervous. Do I really have the Spanish knowledge and capacity to read this many Spanish books?

Liz was so kind and offered her experience being a non-native speaker in the Masters program and how they all talked about and shared the same apprehension and it all ended up fine. I’m really glad she said that. We talked a lot more about students, Spanish levels, etc. and our conversation left me feeling a bit more empowered. I knew it was perfect because her and I shared some similar ideas and we both pulled our Burt’s Bees chapstick out of our pockets at the same time, softened our lips, laughed and continued chatting.

Of course my driven persona drives me to want to attack everything today. I will read all the books and set up my assistantship and set up my room and prepare everything and run, do yoga, do kickboxing, buy a  candle and groceries..but wait a minute! It’s Friday, I’m in Spain, it’s the beginning hour of siesta and I don’t even have orientation until Monday. I’m going to enjoy these last few hours & days of freedom and just breath a little.

I’ve sat down for lunch and today I am trying two tapas:

  • Salmon ahumado con queso crema
    (Smoked salmon roll with Calabacíncream cheese stuffed inside), yes I had a little of that as to not be super rude).
  • Calabacín relleno con bacalao (Stuffed zucchini with codfish).

¡Todo está muy ricos!

enero 7: comida

Almuerzo - 01:07

Almuerzo (lunch): grilled octopus.

cheesefingers

Would anyone like cheese fingers for a snack?

Churros

Churros! Everyone’s favorite. They have chocolate sauce for dripping or ones already completed covered in chocolate. I know a certain Vanessa Burden who would love these…

Desayuno 01:07

Desayuno (breakfast): lo típico – toast with tomato and coffee.

Hamberguesitas

At the Mercado de San Miguel. Little hamberguesitas!

Mercado

The Christmas market with dried fruit, sweet fruit and fruit in gelatin (kind of like Aplets & Cotlets).

 

 

Paella1

Paella con sausage

Paella2

Paella con todo

PasteldeReyes

The force feeding has begun. This is a complimentary piece of cake for el día de los Reyes.

Sea

Little sea creatures

Seafood

Más mariscos

Seafood1

Más mariscos

Seafood2

Boquerones y gambas

Seafood3

Boquerones y gambas

Sushi

eSushi extraño

 

6 de enero: un día de escuchar

Today was a day of music. It was a day for listening.

Getting on the metro early this afternoon around noon the first musical encounter was a gentleman who pulled his amp and flamenco guitar onto the metro car and played flamenco music for us all for about 10 minutes. It was rather pretty. It was accompanied by a track of some sort built in to his contraption. It was really beautiful. Whether he was super good or just good, the mix of it all was really interesting. I looked around to see how the locals were reacting. I wanted to see if they would be dancing, clapping or tapping their foot and there was minimum enthusiasm. I want to know if it is because they receive this type of thing often and are tired of it or if they just don’t care for it, or if they just simply can’t be bothered.

Honestly, I was also observing the folks to see who and if how many and if it was acceptable to tip them. I know that’s the reason they’re playing on the metro, but being in another country I wasn’t sure the acceptance level or if people communally participated in this. I tend to not donate to the people of the street. Not out of disregard for them or that I don’t want them to have my monedas, I just don’t know who is true and who is not true, so I tend to not give change to “beggars”. I would always be one to support a musician, but this time I wasn’t sure what to do or what the norm was.

When we arrived to the metro stop of his departure he quickly darted down one side of the car and then to the other. He wasn’t pressuring people to tip him, but he was clearly there for the asking. And in a metro car full of approximately 25 persons, just one gentleman gave him some change. It’s a tough thing. It’s a tough decision: to fuel or not to fuel the begging; to give or not to give to the less fortunate.

After exiting the Metro from the Gran Vía exit I cruised into Puerta Sol, then over to Plaza Mayor y el Mercado de San Miguel.

Sauntering up to Plaza Mayor I could hear the soundtrack to the Godfather. I knew it almost immediately. There was an awkward woman kind of humming away and trotting around in circles, an accordionist and a guitarist and of course they had their amplifier/player on wheels. They did have quite a crowd of uncertain faces however. It was very intriguing.

A few hours later I took a small venture down towards the Jardines Orientales and stopped in front of the Plaza de Oriente which is to the backside of the Teatro Real. It is so beautiful! Lining the cobblestone pathways are old fashioned British style street lamps that are regal and curled at the top. There were beautiful walkways and a grand selection of flowers, bushes and urban architecture.

I was drawn towards it by the pull of a melodical opera singer. I almost didn’t go listen as I was on my way to the metro. I’m so terribly glad I did! Her voice was so powerful and sweet. It had to have touched every single person listening. I stood and listened, mesmerized, for about 10 minutes. She sang, big and beautiful, sweet and soft, accompanied by a violin, piano and flute. Their quartet was just fantastic. Her voice rang in my ears as I boarded the metro and halfway through the 20 minute trek.

Halfway to my stop another gentleman with a wheeled cart pushed his way in. Again, it was a solo guitarist accompanied by a simple recording. His sound was much more mellow then the first. It was almost fitting for the close of the day.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

No luck on signing an apartment yet, but I’m still hopeful. I sent about 30 inquiries today, so tomorrow something has to bite. I’ve done quite a bit of internet searching and messaging; tomorrow I’m going to physically walk around my school area, take phone numbers down and call them directly. I also will try to find some books for my Spanish Narrative class. The other two classes I’m not sure about buying the books yet as the syllabi say 2012 and 2013. Although it may very well be that they are the same, but I want to make sure. I sent an email to the professor (same for both classes) today, but haven’t heard back. No pasa nada, today is a holiday and I’m sure they’re all with their families enjoying time together.