Special Delivery

There are some things regarding how the Spanish do things that are incredibly inane. There are some things that I just don’t understand, there are some things that make no sense at all and at the same time, there are some things that they do rather logically. This idea can be made between any country. I’m just here now, so my comparison is with how I know things (US upbringing) and Spanish living.

The governmental, corporate or regular rule-binding institutions are strange here because it often seems that the “rules” are intermittent. It seems that any specific regulations are more like guidelines. Multiple times I have either experienced or heard stories of Spaniards in positions of authority (no matter how big or small) where the rules may have been skirted around a little. Again, there are situations where they just can’t even seem to think about bending the rules all. It’s almost as if they haven’t been able to find the  happy medium between 1975 and 2015. In 1975 the Spanish long-time Fascist dictator passed away. Francisco Franco was the reigning dictator for almost 40 years and when he passed away the Spanish world hit AppleR on the liberty board and refreshed all they knew about rules, regulations and Public Display of Affection. 40 years exactly has passed since Spain was under lock and key and personally, I think there is still a small struggle between following the rules exactly as is, while never questioning authority and acting in the complete opposite manner, going above and beyond with liberalism, progressiveness and, still, maybe not asking questions. Maybe people do the complete opposite because they can and they won’t get thrown in jail or reprimanded, perhaps they don’t know the rules, there is lack of training, or maybe because they simply don’t care? Lack of  following the rules could mean that there really aren’t any rules and we perceive there should be since how can we ever go on without law and order? During my small-medium stay in Spain (6 months in Granada in 2007-2008), 9 months (2009-2010) and now two years from 2015 – 2017 I have experienced a plethora of the two.

At times this causes me to go a little insane and on the contrary, as an intermittent hypocrite, I  do vastly appreciate when the rules are broken. I will honestly admit I am moderately enraged when governmental institutions close in the middle of the day (banks and post offices), pick and choose which papers (and when) they will accept for an application for a residence card, a midnight delivery, or 7am jack hammering construction.

…..a few times it has worked to my advantage, this liberty we speak of.

I was a fan of the lack of rule abiding airport security agents in 2008. I was flying back from Barcelona. I knew it was wrong, but I still wanted to see if I could do it. I had two large bottles of shampoo & conditioner in my carry-on (Ryan Air). And of course they were too big to take on the plane. Of course they were too much liquid to take as a carry on, but I tried. The Spanish security agent while going through security opened my bag, said, “tú no puedes llevar estas botellas tan grande”, y yo, con una diabilita adentro dije, “but, they’re mine and they’re expensive”. He opened he plastic bag they were in, saw they had oozed out a little bit, snarled u his face in a very common Spanish manner, closed the bag and said, “just don’t show anyone”. I solemnly nodded and said, “oh, of course not”. In my head I was thinking, “No sir, i know this isn’t a “hairport” (har har har), and I don’t plan on  washing my hair.”

I was also a fan of this liberalism with rules when I flew to Barcelona (via Vueling) just recently. We had scrutinized the Vueling website to see their rules on carry on quantity and size and due to the €26 carry on fee we decided to share a carry on bag. We smashed that thing full of our personal items. When we arrived to the Madrid airport the attendant delivered the pleasant  news that we wouldn’t have to pay for our bag. Oh, how nice! However, when we were returning to Madrid and checking in in Barcelona we were informed it would very effectively be €26 for the bag. When we asked what the difference was, the female attendant laughed with her male colleague about how the Madrileños just couldn’t seem to every follow the rules. I’m sorry, but is that acceptable? They’re the same airline! I was torn, because once again, I wished for rules and consistency, but I was glad to have saved €26 on the way in.

In 2008, when living in Cádiz,  my landlord ordered a new mattress for me. How nice it was to have the new, firm and soothing place to lay my head. What was quite strange for me though was that they delivered it to “Indiana Jones” (that’s another story in itself) and at 10pm at night. I was terribly happy about the delivery of a new bed, and happy, that thank goodness, I happened to be at home. I just imagined this man meandering around the narrow, cobblestone streets of Cádiz in the middle of the night without a delivery van, due to lack of space with a mattress on his back. I suppose if I had not been at home, he would at least have a place to sleep while waiting for me return.

Once I dropped my keys down the elevator shaft of my apartment building. I was able to retrieve them in less than one day by a kind and patient 85 year old landlord and understanding portero.

What hasn’t worked to my advantage, or anyone’s, is the incredibly taxing and bureaucratic (paper pushing) visa and residence card process.

Another, very strange, phenomenon is the delivery of mail and los correos in general. I mailed post cards the week I arrived (January 3rd) and they’ve just begun arriving to the United States. You may be thinking, “who writes post cards still?”, I do. My Mom once sent three amazing, beautiful Christmas packages to me in Spain and they arrived on time and with no harm. I’ve been waiting a few weeks for another delivery. How do they choose what, when and with what speed they are going to accept and delivery mail? It’s a very ambiguous system.

The most recent instance of how glad I was for the election of rule bending  was last Saturday, February 14th. Oh, yes, it was Valentine’s Day.

On Saturday, Feb 14th, I was delivered flowers and a teddy bear while studying at Starbucks on c/ Texeira and Brasil. About 12pm I was sent a text message by the delivery company that a package was attempted to be delivered to my flat, but no one was there to take it. They provided a number to call and I called. I was so pleasantly surprised that in less than three rings a very friendly woman answered. Not only did she smile in her voice, but she was patient with my Spanish and went beyond her required job specifications, which, is more than often, a rarity in Spanish customer service.

I mentioned to her that I was very close, just three blocks away, and could come meet the delivery man anywhere! I wanted my V-day surprise so badly! She said, “espera un momento”. And I waited, un momento.

After about three momentos the friendly customer service rep came back on the line and asked specifically where I was. I said, “Well I’m studying at the eStarbucks on c/ Texeira and Brasil”. She quickly put me back on hold. Tw more minutes she came back on the line and said she had inquired with her messenger to see if he could delivery my package to the Starbucks. I thought, are you kidding me? That’s an option! Awesome! 

Of course I was extremely grateful and giddy. She quickly hung up and I quickly waited. I hurried up and waited. I tapped my foot and jittered my hand. I tried to focus and study, but there was not focusing. I was all jacked up on coffee and couldn’t believe I was getting a special delivery at the coffee capital. It was so simple but so out of the norm. Of course I thought every person walking in or around the Starbucks was the delivery person. However, none of it made sense.

Of course the tall, lengthy man with bike shorts and spiked bicycle shoes was not going to be delivering my a teddy bear and a bouquet of roses. I almost walked half way across the Starbucks to accost a street vendor selling single roses and probably haunted all the patrons of the coffee shop with my blatant and over curious stares.

About 45 minutes later it was completely obvious who was delivering me my package. It was the gentleman in a delivery company outfit (like the Spanish version of UPS or DHL), completely obvious with his digital pad to sign and a box in his arm, with a truck out front.

IMG_2355What an incredibly lucky lady! How often does one get to be delivered a bouquet of three beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon roses, with a totally adorable double-teddy bear and the most perfect of notes to one of her most favorite places in the world? I was in fact quite spoiled at that moment by the world.

The world has a funny way of pampering me sometimes. Excuse me, life, would you just go ahead and make my day at one of my most favorite places? Flowers at Starbucks, please? 🙂

That silly and almost bashful grin that spread across my face while opening up my present at Starbucks has still to fade. IMG_2323

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Un mes!

It’s been one month. One month since my arrival. 30 days ago I dragged my heavy, jet-legged, sweaty body off the delayed and almost muggy and delayed Iberia flight from London into the Madrid airport. It was sunny and hot. Madrid welcomed me with warm, open arms as if to say, “Hey, Lily welcome back!”

I was also welcomed into two more warm hugs by people I’d never met. I was able to stay with a very lovely couple for exactly one week who were so hospitable and pleasant. In that week I found myself a place to stay for the semester, orientated myself briefly with the city, bought my books, ate some tapas, drank and some and all of a sudden – I was in graduate school!

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I can’t believe I’ve been here a month. It passed quickly and slowly at the same time. It’s definitely taken a month to become accustomed to this temporary life. While I may not yet be entirely accustomed to it all, agree with everything or love everything, I like a whole tone of it, love some things and can deal with others.

One thing I did absolutely love was the fact I got to play soccer this past Sunday! Oh, how long it has been since I got to run up and down the field. While I didn’t kick the ball as much as I would have liked I did get it every now and again and with it, I didn’t fail. I was on a field with all men. All men from fútbol boasting countries, which, may be any other country other than the US.  On my team we had students from Holland, Germany, Spain, Latin American, Macedonia, American, etc. And were playing teams of equal variety and skill. There is this AMAZING recreation center in between my house and the school. It’s almost two full blocks, walled, gated and mostly open air. There is a huge track that runs around the outside, with actual track material, multiple paddle courts, a driving range, a small putting area, a café, outdoor work out appliances, fountains, a kid play area, and three soccer pitches! On Sundays from2pm-4pm there are pitches reserved for pick up games played only by students from my school. Last Sunday there were 40 of us (5 ladies). We had a mini tournament where we all got to play about 6 games of 20-minutes.

We ran and kicked, and shouted and cheered. It was sunny and cold, then cloudy and cold, and absolutely perfect.

Five minutes into the first game the ball was booted on fire and barreled into the left side of my face. I immediately went down, shook my head and didn’t notice any syndromes so I hopped back up and continued playing.

Plus! That evening I had a foot injury! It’s been such a long time since I went to bed with a soccer induced injury and I know it sounds completely idiotic, but I was happy to have the pain in my ankle as I eased into the evening. I iced my ankle and went to bed after hobbling around a bit. It made me feel as if I played really hard and reminded me of my ultra scoring days!  Ha ha. Fortunately, after icing 20-minutes and then sleeping in a warm bed I woke up with just a few remnants of the aching. Maybe that’s the 28-year old, Grad student, in me talking some sense into the chaotic 17-year old playing right right forward.

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Soccer5I can’t wait to play again next week! I wish I had brought my cleats, but it’s not so bad since the fields are turf, so really my sneakers are actually better. What would be great would be some flat, turf cleats! Maybe not necessary, but that’d be awesome :p

 

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The weekend before last I had the very fortunate, amazing and completely fantastic opportunity to go to Barcelona. Not only was I in Barcelona, but I was with one of my most best friends in the world…

Let’s go back.

Margaret arrived on January 19th, just in time for me to not miss her at all or remember that I was away from Austin. We spent 10 days “playing Spain”. We explored the city, the gastronomy and had some interesting interactions with other people. We ate and had Cheesegasms almost every day.

For her birthday she whisked us to the oh-so-lovely and amazingly beautiful, Barcelona!

We arrived on Friday in the morning and had a few hours to relax in an amazing, modern apartment with a view of the water. We were just a 7 minute walk until we reached the beautiful
Mediterranean. The first thing Margaret and I did after our nap was walk down to the sea and grab some delicious gelato on the way. I enjoyed every moment getting to breath in the salty and warm air with the rush and soothing crash of the sparkling blue.

We explored a little and that evening dove into the last hours of the La Boqueria and bought some tapas for our evening platter of goodies. I bought a big bag of dried fruit including mangos, pineapple, kiwis, and papaya. It was definitely way over priced, but we had fun and the experience was worth it. We snatched up olives, bread, sweets, Marcona almonds, Manchego, blue cheese, wine, meat and water, of course. Honestly, it was nice to have a relaxing evening in this super sweet apartment with a great friend, good food and relaxing environment.IMG_1917 IMG_1969

Saturday we basically spent the whole day on the big, red obnoxious tour bus. But it was amazing, easy and such a good idea. We were able to see all the great sites, from the comfort of our ass*es, and with some great descriptions repeated over and over again by the British lady in our headphones.

The Sagrada Familia was SUCH a delight to see! I’ve wanted to this miraculous, still unfinished, structure since I first studied architecture back in 2005 and it was totally worth the biting cold and the 10 year wait. What a brilliant design and crazy. Absolutely crazy and from another world!

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We stayed on that tourist bus until 7pm when we were up top and the cruel wind was biting our cheeks and stinging our ears.

We went out that night to celebrate Margaret’s birthday! What a fun evening! We started with a lovely dinner at a sea side restaurant that smelled like seafood and had lots of white and blue around. It was almost as if were dining on a boat. Fortunately a boat that didn’t rock.

IMG_2005After we ate, we ended up meeting this Swiss couple and they joined us for drinks at the W Hotel. First, we had cava and martinis to celebrate in the bottom part of the W bar. It’s a very swanky place. It’s huge and has lots of different posh and luxurious places to sit.

Margaret and I spent the rest of the evening dancing the night away on the 26th floor of the W to Euro EDM. There were people from all around the world. First some shy asians approached us for a quick dance and quickly disappeared. Then there was an older German couple who shared our dance space momentarily. WE did get quite a few curious looks from those who weren’t as uninhibited as we were. We danced the night away! When we were tired we’d sit on the cushioned benches that lined the window wall with an incredible view of the harbor, the city of Barcelona and the ocean.

What a perfect way to spend the birthday night of a best friend 🙂

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After we returned from Barcelona we had a whole week to explore new places, conversations, language and amazing spots in Madrid! While I went to school Margaret would explore the sites, scenery, museums and interesting people and after school text me where she was and I would find my way there. It was quite fun! How excellent it was to have her here. Not just because we have so much fun together and her amazing attitude and personality, but getting to share this special place with a close friend or family member is always the best feeling. Plus, she always had a funny or interesting story from how she’d spent her day.

I’m pretty sure we ate all the cheese in Spain.

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READING

Yesterday I finished my first Graduate school book. I know it seems quite silly to be that excited, but I cannot tell you that last time I finished a novel, but less a Spanish novel. I can, however, tell you all those that I’ve started…. It was “Ritos de Muerte”. It is a “policiaco” novel for my Spanish Narrative (1990-2014) class. I’m really in it now! I’m a Graduate student. I really can’t believe it. What an amazing and wonderful opportunity! I’m forever indebted to all the people that helped me get here. To all those that believed in me, including myself. I never thought I would be smart enough for Graduate school but here I am. Family and friends believed, I believed and then the school believed and I am here, doing it. Thank youu!!! 😀

For the Latin American Modernism class I am trying desperately to finish a packet that is an Introduction to Modernism. We’ve read the introduction and Ismaelillo book of José Martí and will soon move on to Rubén Darío. It’s been a good intellectual challenge wrapping my head around the concept of Modernism and then understanding the poems. Oh, and firstly, translating it all! Tomorrow we’ll review poems from Versos Libres, an article by Angel Casado about José Martí and I’ll continue working on that packet….

In Latin American Writers and the Spanish Civil war class, we’ve watched and learned a lot about the timeline of the Spanish Civil War. We basically had a Spanish Civl War 101 in 3 days and we’ve dove into the writers and the poems. We most recently read a book of poems written during the Civil War by Pablo Neruda.

Every day there are presentations to reviewed, hundreds of pages to read and language experiences to have. I love it. I don’t love all the poetry, but I have fun in class, love the learning and interactions I have with the people in class, people at school and in the streets and even the words on the page.

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