21 December, 2006

lovely walk to work...

Cool trees! The tree branches are tied together and then they grow together to form a long
interlinked display down the street I walk along from the train station to my workplace.

The city clips all the branches after the leaves fall in the winter and they start to grow back in the spring providing a luscious shaded path for me to walk along.

cold cold cold

My roommate snapped this of me while I was trying to keep warm. It was a beautiful sunny day...inside sitting in the sunlight, but outside it was really cold and our apartment is always freeeezing, mainly because we have hard cold tile and the place isn't insulated and windows just let the cold air in. My hands were so cold when typing that up on my desk was the warmest place... It was so nice and warm up there :-)

shopping, part 3

jeans....the dreaded article women love to wear, but hate to shop for. I think I hate buying jeans more than swimsuits. From the moment I could no longer wear 14 slims off the rack, I started to despise finding the "perfect fit" jeans. When my mother accompanied me when buying my first pair of Guess jeans with my own money at the age of 15, she commented "why do the call them Guess....because you have to guess at which one will fit you"? After that when I found a pair of jeans that fit me the way I liked, I would buy several pairs and wear them until they fell apart.

At the age of 21, I bought 4 pairs of Pepe jeans they lasted me for about 6 years (I didn't wear them much in Hawaii...) I then found Tommy Hilfiger jeans (Of course I now despise the brand and their racist owner, but then I wasn't really aware of what is going on outside of "my world"). I bought 4 pair of those jeans (found them on sale at Foley's for a whopping 19$ each!!!) in different colors...dark blue, light blue, faded blue, etc. Those lasted me a long time, of course living in TX at the time, I wore shorts almost year round. When I realized the man behind Tommy Hilfiger was a disgusting human being, I got rid of the pants and found a pair of jeans at good will for 6$. They lasted me about a year (they were already worn when I bought them) and in 2004 I figured I would venture out into the wide world of denim and once again find the "perfect pair". I found them in an outrageously priced brand called "Lucky's". Unluckily I found 2 perfect pairs that cost about as much as a midsize car. I sucked it up and bought them after searching the dreaded mall for a couple days and finding nothing else.

Those jeans (and one pair of "slut" jeans my friend Toni "made" me buy, hee hee) came with me to Spain. Here we don't have a clothes dryer. After my knee surgeries I lost a little weight so the jeans were somewhat loose on me, so without "shrinking" them after every wash, they really bagged on me. Well last week, my favorite pair ripped across the ass. it had a small hole that I was babying trying not to let it get bigger, but it finally exploded as I sat down at my desk (luckily in my room). I tried not to cry as I looked at my rear in the mirror. There was no way to fix them...my other pair were equally as worn and the "slut" jeans just won't do on a daily basis.

After figuring out my European size and trying on an umpteen number of jeans I found one that actually had a zipper longer than 2 inches long (really aren't jeans supposed to cover your whole ass??) I started to get excited when a pair fit me. The brand was SICKO 19...wha? Anyway, I found another pair that fit and then another!!! I now have 3 brand spankin'' new pairs of jeans in my closet! I'm good for another 5 years to so....

I resisted the urge to wear all my new stuff to work on Tuesday. I didn't want to put my co-workers in shock...I'll give them a taste of the new semi-stylish me a little at a time...

shopping...part II

Money in hand I ventured out into the wide world of fashion. I forced myself to not turn back! I was ready! I decided to start with my feet. Boots were first on the list. In my head I knew what I wanted, but where in the hell was I to find them? The good thing is that there are about 50 shoe stores in Castellon and the other good thing is that the majority of shops specialize in one thing, like...a store will only sell shoes, another only socks, another only fancy clothes and yet another only purses. It actually makes shopping relatively easy. The other cool thing is that most shops have really large windows at the entrance displaying their items, so you can browse through the selection of shoes before even entering the store.

After perusing muchas tiendas de zapatas, I found the boots I wanted. Of course they were 30 euros more than I wanted to spend, but in my former history of having "so-so" articles of clothing sit in my closet instead of on my body, I have learned that when I finally find something that I reeealy like, I must buy it no matter the expense! When I entered the shop to further investigate the boots, I saw a nun buying shoes and taking that as a sign, I forked over the money and bought them. Resisting the urge to put them on the minute I left the store, I then proceeded to the sock store since my worn out ankle ones just won't do. I then bought 5 pairs of "stylish" socks...who woulda thunk...

I then found an Indian store (think India, not Native American) and bought 3 shirts. Now they may not be stylish in Spain, but when I wore it yesterday, I got a "nice shirt" comment from my Pakistani friend :-) Next stop pantalones...

shopping - part one...

I hate shopping! I don't mind walking around the streets of Castellon in the "shopping district". There are many cute little local shops (unfortunately with chain stores scattered among them) and random cafe's to sit at and people watch, but "walking" is what I like to do, not "stopping". Last Sunday it was a beautiful sunny day and after spending most of it in my flat along with my roommates. Martina (who had been working on her thesis all day) and I decided to take a walk to get some fresh air. It was around 4 and I was still in my "pj's"... I threw on some sweat pants, my tennis shoes and a sweater. I returned to the living room upon which Martina commented "are you going jogging" as she glanced at my choice of clothing. I didn't worry, we were just going walking and I did comb my hair...I think...

I have long been aware of my lack of fashion. I will choose comfort over style anyday. I usually don't care what people think of how I look, what I don't hear can't hurt me, right. I mean, no one has ever come up to me and said "Girlfriend, just what were you thinking??" I don't shower or wash my hair everyday and I will quit shaving for months at a time...why not? I'm saving water, money and time; I don't stink, nor am I dirty, I'm ecological.

Well, last Sunday, I felt totally out of place. When we walked down the central part of the city, we were shocked to see that the stores were open. This was shocking for a couple reasons. In Spain NO stores are open on Sundays (except for multi-national chains, pizza hut for example). not only were many stores open, they were open during "siesta" (roughly from 2-5). Martina was overjoyed and proceeded to drag me into store after store. On of the first things you will notice about Spanish people in Castellon is that they are fashionable. From the little baby to the little old lady. Many times the said fashion is questionable, but nonetheless the overwhelming majority of people are conscious about their appearance from the top of their coifed hair down to their fashionable footwear. Not only did I not want to go shopping, I did not want to do it dressed the way I was. But being a good friend, I proceeded to enter store after store with Martina conscously aware of the "glances" of other people. 99.9 percent of the time, this would not bother me (the last time being New Years Eve 2005, when I wrongly choose jeans and a T-shirt to ring in the new year in the Austin bar scene), but this was one of those times when I just wanted to fit in.

As always, I survived but when I got home I took a good look at my wardrobe. It could use a little style, I suppose. I have a couple pair of worn-out-too-big jeans, 4 "cargo" type pants and an unlimited supply of t-shirt type shirts. Hmmm...where to start. I decided to add a couple pairs of "stylish" jeans and a couple "stylish" shirts, oh yeah and some boots. It appears boots are totally in style and anykind will do, from high healed white hooker boots to furry "ugg" style ones. tomorrow I will do it, I will go "shopping" for clothes!

20 December, 2006

An incredible woman...

The Devil's Bastard...just the title is intriguing. This book was written by a very special determined woman who I am fortunate to call friend. Just over 15 years ago, I arrived at the Honolulu airport ready to take on the responsibility of living with and caring for 4 children I had never met. Although I felt totally at ease and comfortable talking on the phone to Lucy "a.k.a. Charlsie Russel"and Jay "do you understand the pressures I'm under" Slagel, I was only 23 and never lived outside of Kansas and I had just flown, I don't want to google the distance right now, so I'll just say A LONG WAY from home. I still remember seeing Lucy for the first time, as I approached baggage claim. There she was, a commander in the Navy, in uniform! As I approached this woman who in size, only came up to my shoulders, hee hee, I felt totally as ease, albeit a little embarrassed at my BIG suitcases.

I lived with Lucy and Jay and their 4 little children, Joey, Chucki, Kayci and Brett, and after about 8 months or so, I was informed that another child was on the way! They were looking at me carefully as Jay questioned "Are your bags going to be packed and on the porch in the morning?" Of course being 24 (they surprised me on my birthday!) , living in Hawaii a couple blocks from the beach, and full of energy, I was thrilled. Sarah was born and having 5 children to take care of wasn't much different than 4 (as my sister can probably attest to).

Lucy retired from the military when Sarah was 9 months and Joey, the oldest, around 10 years (if memory serves me) and they moved to her home state of Mississippi. I stayed in Hawaii for awhile and then moved to TX, but we always kept in touch. In fact in the last 15 years, I think I only missed Thanksgiving in Gulfport maybe 3 times. While raising her children (and husband, ha ha) Lucy was constantly on the go but managed to find time to continue her passions, one of them, writing.

Her determination to succeed led her to publish her books herself (after 7 years of rejection from publishing companies). This woman nurtured 5 biological and who knows how many more "stray" children as she pursued her dream. I have attached her website, which is very well done and informative. Kudos to you Lucy! You will always be a role-model for me..um, not that I want to have 5 children or anything, but you are living proof that anything is possible if you follow your dreams! http://www.loblollywritershouse.com/index.html

12 December, 2006


These little guys are soooo cute! I had forgotten how enjoyable 3 year old...well those who actually understand what I am saying! When I was searching for a meaning to my existence I had posted my resume on a nanny/au pair website. A lady in a town called Pucol (30 min. via train) contacted me and I spent 3 days last week with her, her husband and their boys. They are from the US and are living in Spain until July of next year.

When I arrived there, I immediately felt comfortable even though I had no idea what to expect and I would be there for the next 70 hours. I basically played the whole time while I tried to resist the urge to clean everything! I kept wiping the counters, tables and cabinet handles all the while trying not to get caught! I didn't want B to think 1.) that I was a clean freak or 2.) that I thought her house was dirty. It wasn't that her house was abnormally dirty, but how clean can you keep it when you have two 3 year olds to chase after.

I had forgotten how talkative 3 year old are! I am used to the spanish kids barely talking since they know I can't understand them anyway. I was talking to the boys like they were babies (one or two word sentences) until I realized they perfectly understood everything I said. I also had forgotten how it feels to play with playdough for hours on end, put together a puzzle 6 times consecutively and read the same book over and over again.

They took to me as easily as I did to them and I am now trying to fit in working for them 20+ hours a week as well as working for the language school. I am aware of the fact that I tend to over burden myself, but I also realize that I have done this my whole life and maybe it's not something I need to change...


I am coming along good with my written Spanish, but I am still apprehensive to speak it. Actually I can speak it okay, it´s the listening part I have trouble with. Like today, I walked into the bank to pay our rent (here I just deposit the money directly into my landlord´s account). I had practiced what I was to say the whole walk there. "Quiero pagar mi alguilar a Senora Balado" (I want to pay my rent to Mrs. Balado) over and over. I got there full of confidence which then slowly diminished as I had to wait in line. I started getting really nervous, for no reason! Finally it was my turn and I faced the nice young banker and stated my cause.

He then looked me in the eye and said something. I returned his look with one of my own...one of absolute fright and confusion. He then pointed to the slip of paper I had given him along with the cash. He was pointing to the amount and then I realized that he had only said "seiscientos trenta, si" (630.00, yes?) I then said "si" and relaxed a little. I understood him when he asked if I was and if I wanted a copy of the deposit. I walked out of the bank full of confidence and proud of myself as I then walked to my bank to make a deposit into my account. As I entered the bank and saw the looooong line and all the people that may talk to me while standing in it, I looked the situation over and turned around and left. Maybe I´ll try again tomorrow...

After work I was leaving the train and a Asian man stopped me and asked me (in spanish) if we were in Castellon and I immediately said "si, Castellon", then when I stepped off the train another lady pointed to the direction I was headed and asked if it was the exit which I replied "si". As I walked up the stairs out of the station, I realized that when I don´t think about it, I can understand and talk the language (on a very basic level). I walked past a fruit and vegetable stand on the way home, stopped...then backed up and went in. I didn´t really need much, but felt compelled to go in for some reason. Inside was the nicest man. I pointed to the zucchini and said "dos, por favor". He smiled at me and said "algo mas" (anything else). I found the eggplants, pointed and said uno, and then stopped and said "uno berenjena" (which I really butchered since you have to roll the R and the J is pronounced like a gutteral "h") he smilled wider and then he decided that I needed more vegetables and started suggesting tomates, pimientos rojos, and pepinos. I said yes to all and added"para esta noche" (for tonight) and he found the veggies just ripe enough to last a day and proudly showed each one to me before putting them on the counter.

When he was ringing me up he said "Ingles?" and I said "si". and then he asked me where, which I replied KS. He said "oh, Americana". and I sheepishly looked down and said "si". I keep forgetting that "Ingles?" means "are you from England?", not English, do you speak the language. He then patted the bag, handed it to me and said "hasta luego" and I returned the saying and almost skipped the rest of the way home as I was overcome with that same feeling that I had with the train ticket-taker man....really at ease and a sense of belonging.

09 December, 2006

a witch, a rabbit and a lemon (part 1)

The absolute weirdest thing happened in our flat....I got home from work and opened the fridge and saw something wrapped in a plastic bag on a plate. I thought gross, my roommate must be cooking meat tonight. I then forgot about it and proceeded to do what ever I do in the evenings.

When we all sat down to dinner that night, I asked "What dead animal is in our fridge". (since it wasn't on the table). B replied, you mean you don't know? Why don't you tell her, Mn? Mn then reluctantly proceeded to tell me about the little ole spanish lady who had come to our door earlier in the evening and handed him a bag full of something heavy and then another lighter bag. She was talking to him in Spanish and instead of admiting that he understood not a word (or calling his girlfriend, M who was in the other room and speaks fluent Spanish), he accepted the "gifts" and just said "Si, Gracias".

As we continued to eat M and B joined in explaining that in the first bag was a dead rabbit, completely skinned (head and all) except for the 4 feet. In the other bag was one lemon and some misc. plants. Upon close inspection the plants were not herbs, but a small twig with some leaves on it and a flowering plant, definitely not edible. Of course my first question was "why?" and the second was "who was the lady?" neither quesion could be answered. I then shook my head in disbelief...I said, You mean, you accepted a dead rabbit from a lady you didn´t know and just put it in our fridge? M kept saying that it still had its "shoes" on. (meaning the fur on the feet). By that time, we were all laughing uncontrollably and choking on our food. I then got a really serious look and turned to Mn and said that I think I know who she was. The room got silent and I said "Mn, did she have a tall pointy black hat and a broomstick"? We then broke down in hysterics again saying that the rabbit was cursed and when the sun goes down it will come alive and kill all the foreigners in the apartment...B said he was going to cook it the next day and I told him that he better do it while I was at work because I didn´t want to come home to "fatal attraction" in my kitchen.

I refused to look at the rabbit and when I went to bed that night I locked my bedroom door.

a witch, a rabbit and a lemon (part 2)

The next morning, I awoke for work and went to the fridge and yes, the rabbit was still there, as was the lemon on the counter. I got to work and was still chuckling to myself over the whole incident. I asked some Spanish people at work if they had ever heard of such a thing. Of course they said sure, we eat rabbit in Spain and it´s the season for doing so now. I said that we eat rabbit in Kansas too, but old ladies don´t go around door to door with them. They suggested that maybe it was my little old landlord lady. Now she is the sweetest thing in the world, but I just cannot see her bringing us a dead rabbit since she has never so much as brought us anything except the bills. They also said that it´s hard work to skin a rabbit, so the fact that it was already skinned was a really nice gesture. I asked why it still had the fur around the feet, for decoration?? I was told that it´s really hard to get the fur off the feet, so you usually just cut them off before cooking. (I can just see my beautiful Elmer Fudd neice shaking her head matter of factly, like yup, when you kill the waskly wabbit it´s much easier if you just chop off the wittle cwitters feet.) And the lemon is to help kill the smell...

They said that it´s common here to give food items away if they have an abundance, like Francis Rupp giving my parents vegetables from his garden. This I can understand, but a rabbit?? I then remember my somehow related relatives giving my grandma extra kill (dove, in particular) during hunting season, but they were her nephews or something like that. It still puzzled me all through my classes. I even told one class of 17-18 year olds the story and they were all laughing at me, saying "What is the problem, Melinda, just cook it and eat it". I couldn´t stand it any longer and I called B and asked if he cooked it. He told me that the mystery was solved!

Earlier that morning, the little old lady came to the apartment and rang the bell. This time Bn answered it and through his little knowledge of the Spanish language gathered that the night before, the electricity in the hallway (you enter the apartments from the inside and there are no windows) was out and it was very dark, since the elevator wasn´t working she took the stairs and got mixed up on which floor she was on. She had now come to collect the rabbit and give it to the proper receipiant a floor below us. She had a good laugh about it and thanked B for not cooking it. Mystery solved and Mn will not be able to live this one down for awhile, since the woman had probably asked him if this "is floor 2, apartment 8" to which Mn replied "yes, thank you". I can just hear the conversation with the lady and her friend...ring ring, hello, did the nice african man in your apartment give you the rabbit?....long silence...then the reply..."what African man?"...

29 November, 2006

tienes suerte

Life, ahhhh isn't it interesting? Back in September I had applied for about 20 jobs all over the world. I was undecided whether to go back to Spain or just what to do. It felt good to basically have the ability to go anywhere...well, since I didn't hear back from an organization with a paying position, I figured I would go back to Spain and teach English.

I have been doing that and relatively content, although I would not want to make a career out of it. I am just getting into the swing of things and am doing really well in learning Spanish..and then...I received an email from the NYCLU (New York Civil Liberties Union)
http://www.nyclu.org/ wanting a phone interview with me regarding the Exec. Assistant job I applied for back in Sept. My mind went crazy of course (anyone who knows me can predict what happened next)...I started thinking non-stop about that job. Should I have the interview? Do I want to move back to the US? Could I make enough to pay off my student loans? blah blah blah. I google mapped their office to see where it was in NY and even emailed my NewYorker cousins, John and Helena and asked about cost of living, wages, etc. I was overwhelmed with thoughts: Was this job right for me? Will I be happy in NY in the winter? Do I want to be an executive assistant again??

I let it totally occupy my mind for 4 days! It's all I could think about and I finally had to make up my mind not to think about it and just to breathe and "feel" the situation. Yesterday I went to work and when I came out of the train station lo and behold, my bike seat was stolen again! Yes, the soft cushie seat I just bought and was so proud of was gone. I just stared in disbelief and semi-controlled the rage boiling up in me. When I got back to my apt. (after riding the seatless bike home) I remembered the extra seat my friends had given me when they moved back to the US. I then got to work trying to figure out how to put it on my bike and then how to lock it so it will never be stolen again. (I know I am getting off the subject, but that is how my mind works, so bear with me). I took a shorter cable lock and rigged it through the seat and around the frame of the bike. Basically it looks hilarious (according to my roommates) but it's secure and I didn't have to buy a new one.

This morning I woke up and thought about NY (I had not emailed my reply back yet). I thought about how much I want to learn Spanish and how that would not happen there but then pushed it out of my mind and got ready for work. I arrived at the train station at 9:27 and saw that the train was still there although it was supposed to leave at 9:25. I leisurely walked down to the train since I did not have to be at work until 10:30 and I could always catch the next one. I approached the ticket man, who always makes me smile for some reason. I said "Buenos Dias" and he said "Buenos Dias, tienes suerte". I said "si" (although I had no idea what he said) and walked down to the train. I found my seat and sat there controlling this huge urge to giggle and then I took out my dictionary to look up what suerte means. Suerte means luck (and tienes means have), so he had told me that I have luck (since the train happened to be delayed & I didn't miss it). As I sat there I was overcome with a feeling of belonging and I couldn't stop smiling. It then hit me: I am very very happy here and do not want to leave. I am still open to a job somewhere else if it feels right but for now, I am staying.

Buenas noches little train ticket collector man, you will never know your unintentional contribution to my future.

Hello...are you listening?

What is it that pulls me to do one thing instead of another? That little an inner "voice" that guides me through so much of my life. I listen to it all the time now. The other day I was walking home and felt the urge to turn down a road I had not been on before. When I did I came upon a little park that was filled with bouganville flowers. It was so beautiful and I stopped and sat for awhile. It was such an unexpected surprise.

On Saturday, I had to work at 10. One of my English students is an artist and he had told me about an art contest. On Saturday any and all artists were to show up at 9AM with a blank large canvas. They then have 5 hours to paint a picture of the main square in town, like the church, the street, or something like that. At 2PM the finished paintings were to be judged.

I took the early train because I wanted to see them get started and to wish Paco good luck. I arrived at the square at 8:30 and wandered around hoping to run into the painters. Because I had watched a dumb romantic comedy the night before, meeting someone unexpectedly was on my mind when I saw a cute guy going the opposite direction. I turned a corner and circled back hoping to "run" into him. After I ended back up at the square and didn't see him, I realized that I was being stupid since meeting someone "unexpectedly" did not mean me hunting him down! It was 9:00 and I was getting tired of trying to find the painters so I walked towards a cafe I frequent during the week. My inner instinct told me to keep going past the cafe and onto the main street. I figured that I will go along with the urge since I can have a coffee in a cafe there (and maybe the cute guy will walk past, ha ha). I took couple of side streets and ended up on the main road and directly in front of me was the art thing that I was looking for. People were coming from all directions carrying large blank canvas'.

I stood there feeling proud for listening to myself as I watched the scene. I didn't see Paco and after they signed in, the artists headed around the city to start to paint and I headed to work. After work I walked around the square to see the artists at work and I was quite amazed at the creativity and skill they had. It was a good day.

20 November, 2006

Los Palmes

Since I now have a new seat on my bike (really cushie and soft!), R and I decided we wanted to ride our bikes somewhere besides to the train station and back. We had heard that there was this really cool place called Los Palmes that you can hike around. We knew which general direction it was in as you could see part of it on the side of a mountain in the distance, but really didn't know how to get there. R's girlfriend, A joined us and we headed out. After minor repairs on A's bike and a stop at the gas station to pump up all the tires, we were on our way. All was good until we came to this big highway that we had no idea how to cross. We would have to pull our bikes up a steep hill and then dash across the busy highway hopefully safely.
After thinking about it for a bit, we decided that there must be a road leading over the highway, so we took off again. Soon we were riding along a dirt track between the highway and orange groves. We passed a huge culvert and kept going, then I stopped and backed up. The culvert looked big enough for our bikes to fit. We stopped again to discuss whether we should go through it or not. A finally just started pushing her bike through it. I looked at R and he said, well, I guess we better follow. I went last figuring that the two of them will have knocked down all the spider webs before I pass by.

We made it safely to the other side, found Los Palmes and rode for a couple hours in the mountains. On the way back home we were looking for "our" culvert and passed others along the way. We started commenting on "oh that's a nice one" or "oh that culvert is clean". We ended up going back a different way...through one a little bigger with no standing water. I now seem to notice culverts all over the place and secretly imagine what (or who) is lurking about inside...


Here's a shot of the Castell de Xivert where a group of us went with a NGO here in Castellon.
AlcalĂ  de Xivert is a town in the eastern part of Spain, north of Castellon (where I live) on the coast. Below is a website about information on the area and castle. It was such a beautiful area and for some reason I have a passion for Castle's..not sure why but whenever I am near one, I get this really weird feeling like I belong there or something. I think I lived in a castle in a past life, but not like I was a princess or something, I have the feeling I worked in one, maybe I was a knight or something...


12 November, 2006

I'm "nesting" again...

Help. Help. Help me please...I cannot stop "nesting". But wait...do I need help? The phrase "you are nesting again" was commented to me last year by my friend and former roommate Steve. At the time I was in what I call my "organizing mood". I didn't really think about it much at the time, because I was getting ready for my sister's arrival and was just getting the house ready for a visitor, which consisted of cleaning it in its entirety fulfilling some deep embedded theory that a clean house is a happy house, or maybe it was a "what will the neighbors think" mentality.

This "nesting" thought has entered my mind more often lately though because my current roommate has commented on my constant cleaning and rearranging/organizing habits. I mentioned that Steve had called it nesting and it was then agreed that "nesting" was the perfect name for it. I then pondered as to why I nest. It's not ALL the time, but it happens more often than not and it comes in waves during certain times of the month. When I am ovulating maybe the need to prepare for some unforseen arrival of a child from my body overtakes me. When I am feeling down, maybe it's a need to gain back control of my life and this is my way of ensuring that I am on top of things. Maybe I just like things in order? Looking back at my childhood, my mother was always rearranging the furniture and changing things much to the dismay of my father who would prefer it if nothing in his life ever changed, so is it a maternal genetic drive?

What ever the reason, I have accepted the fact that I am a nester and am now proud of it. I realize that there is no reason to fight my strong instinct to control my surroundings when possible. Realizing that my future is unsure and somewhat uncontrollable at this point, being able to control where my tea bags reside and having the option to change their habitat at any given point is comforting. And taking the rice out of it's unattractice plastic package and putting it in an easily accessable jar is not abnormal, no matter what anyone in my household says...

29 October, 2006

8:13 AM...or is it 7:13???

Yes the wonderful Daylight Savings Time is upon me...I just wish I would have known last night when I set my alarm for 7:00 this morning.....

I am going hiking in the mountains with Amics de Planques, a NGOD (Non Governmental Organization for Development) http://www.amicsdepalanques.org/index_en.html Me and 2 of my roommates were to be picked up at 8:30 in a park about a 15 minute walk from our house. I was up, drinking my coffe and relaxing when Robert and Mesfin crawled from their rooms. Robert and I were ready at 8:10 and were waiting on Mesfin when he walked into the kitchen and started getting the coffee pot ready. I said, Hey you don't have time for coffee, we have to leave in 2 minutes. This caused a flurry of confusion as his mobile said it was only 7:15. I looked at the kitchen clock slowly ticking away and then I looked towards Robert. His watch said 8:15 so Mesfin started frantically getting ready. I paced nervously as I HATE being late for anything.

I then looked at my mobile and it said 7:18...I then said, "Ummm is it daylight saving time"? We then rushed to my computer and I started it up and lo and behold, it is! There are so many things I forget about since I don't understand the radio or TV here...

So here I sit on the computer with an hour to kill. Mesfin is making his coffee and Robert went back to bed...

19 October, 2006

What is a friend???

How many of you have received those (mostly corney) emails regarding friendship. Well in all of those emails...the ones I actually read, I never heard mention that a friend is someone who buys you a vegetarian cookbook when you have recently "converted" as such.

I received this beloved cookbook in the mail from my best-friend (we've known each other since I was in the 4th grade & she in the 5th). As I was going out the door to work, I saw a package sticking out of our mail slot and upon seeing my name on it, I stuck it in my backpack, jumped on my (newly seated) bike and rushed to the train station. I had just settled down ready for the 10 minute ride to work when I remembered the package. I opened it and almost cried with joy at seeing it...you see, while in Greece, Sandy and I talked about my "not eating meat ". Although I am a full-blown conscious vegetarian, I still am kind of uncertain as to if I am getting enough protein, iron, etc... Well in the first couple pages of the cookbook, it talks all about that kind of stuff and then has SO MANY super recipes. Ben and Robert already used the mushroom soup recipe and I am going to make "Tofu with Garlic Yoghurt Dressing and Spinach" for breakfast soon!

As I sat there on the train reading the cookbook and trying to hide my teary eyes, I contemplated our friendship. Sandy and I have talked about how we have been super great friends all these years, yet may only talk once a month (when I was in the US) and see each other only twice a year, but it seems as if no time has past from one conversation to the next.

We've been through EVERYTHING together over the years and we still like each other, ha ha.
I am so lucky to have been able to call her my friend for ....oh my gosh, I think it's been over 30 years?? no way, how old are you in the 4th grade? shit!

18 October, 2006

Daddy, I want a golden goose!

I want a pet! After meeting Karl the caracol (named after my good friend who I met because of our pets) I felt the need to "take care" of something. My roommates of course tried to discourage my desire. It wasn't like I was asking for a dog or a horse or anything, just a small animal that is low maintenance....like a lizard! I said a lizard is really cool and we could all play with it and he would be a house pet. Robert said he could go get Karl back from the grass he put him in last night, but a snail really isn't a good pet for me, the thought of him "crawling" down my arm made me shiver. I really want a lizard!

They then made suggestions like a...snake, fish or a rat to which I replied YES, let's get one of those (except for a fish you can't really play with a fish)......of course they were trying to make me give up on the idea, but give me a break, "reverse psychology" on a former nanny? come on, it was a daily occurrence in my life for 15 years as a nanny, plus I used it quite successfully during my jobs as Executive Assistants to CEO's. Instead of dropping the subject I started to get excited and to talk about what we could name our snake (Smithers) and I told them about my brother's pet rats he had in college, and then brought home to my mothers dismay. R then confessed that he does not like snakes, and Bn hates rats.

I then made the mistake of mentioning a hamster and they both freaked out. I guess hamsters aren't really "manly" enough or something. They mentioned a rabbit (as if that's more masculine??) but I have already had a rabbit or two in my days and they take too much care. The conversation finally petered out without no solution and I do believe the poor lads think the conversation is over...but HA HA, they don't really know me very well (ha ha ha ha ha ha - wicked laugh while rubbing my hands together)

EEK...a caracol!

My My look what the lettuced dragged in! a little snail! As I was rinsing all the wonderful DIRT off my organic lettuce in the sink, I saw this little fella, well at first I thought it was only a shell, but once I plucked him from the water, he stuck his little head out really far as if to say "where in the hell am I". He was probably cold as he was living in my fridge for a couple days...I wonder what else is living in there!

11 October, 2006

EEK...a worm...

As I cut into a gorgeous red pepper today, I came accross a little worm. At first I jumped back, and thought "gross" and then I had a second thought...why is this worm in my pepper? I had bought the pepper at a local farmers outdoor market...for those of you cityfolk let me explain what that is; local - grown in or near Castellon, farmers - spanish men and women in coveralls tilling their small plots of land, outdoor market - many tarp covered areas with worn out tables and randomly displayed fruits, vegetables and herbs.

This market is not airconditioned, there are no metal carts, no loud speakers blaring "special on Jif Peanut Butter" or "clean up on aisle 5". This place would be called "dirty" by some and the produce "unhealthy" by others. Why? Well organic produce is ugly and dirty, it hasn't been sprayed with pesticides, genetically modified, waxed, polished, buffed and transported across countries and even continents. the mushrooms are not sliced and in a stryofoam container wrapped in plastic, they still have their long dirt covered stems as if they were plucked from mother earth that very day.

I reminised about how I used to shuck corn in my small town in Kansas and would find worms in the corn, I did not give it a second thought back then. I would just give that ear of corn to my mom to finish peeling or I would put it back in the bucket for someone else to finish...worms were "gross" to me back then also. As I grew older, worms disappeared from my food Why? well, super-huge corporate farms have replaced the "local farmer" and millions of tons of pesticides/dangerous toxic chemicals are sprayed on the produce which is eaten by unaware consumers.

I looked at my little wiggling gusano (worm in spanish) and marveled how "Gus" had managed to live in my pepper in my refrigerator for over a week. I thought that maybe he was really tired of peppers and would like some other vegetable, so he is now living in the trash dumpster with part of his pepper home, some cucumber peelings, tomato tops and some olive pits. I think Gus will be happy there and maybe meet other pesticide free gusanos. I wish I could bring him to Kansas to live on my sisters farm, I do believe he would be in heaven in her garden!

08 October, 2006

hi ho hi ho, it's off to work I go...

I am now a "working woman" again...as an English language teacher to students ranging in age from 3 to 26 years of age. I teach the preschoolers with another teacher named Monica. Monica is 7 months pregnant and will soon be leaving so I will then have the precious little Spaniards all to my self in the classroom.

I teach two 1-hour classes on Tuesday's and Friday's. The first class has about 10 students and consists of 3-5 year olds and the 2nd class is all 3 year olds. They speak almost no English and I tend to just laugh the whole time. I can imagine what their minds are thinking about me...they are just learning their colors, names of objects, numbers in their native language, Spanish and now along comes this woman telling them that the photo they are looking at is not of "tres manzanas verdes", it's "three green apples". They look at me like I am from mars. But they are children and their fresh little brains accept the new sounds and words, unlike my stubborn brain who struggles daily with the Spanish additions I force upon it.

Monday's and Wednesday's I spend an hour with 5-6 year olds who are a bit figgety but fun, although they looked at me in disblief when I told them "no hablo espanol" and "no entiendo espanol". I guess it is pretty weird for a child to meet someone who does not know their language.

Every Wednesday I have a class of 16-17 year old boys who are in a school for young futbol players (soccer). The boys come from all over Spain and sometimes the world. They live at the school year round (except for the month of July, when they go home). These young men are hand picked because of their exceptional skills in the game and are the next generation of professional futbol players. They are cocky in a high school boy kind of way, an example is the first day I had them say basic sentences in English (My name is..., My position is..., I am from..., etc.) One rather bold 16 yr. old said, My name is Javier, My position is Defender, I am from the Canary Islands and I like futbol and Melinda. The other boys of course all cracked up and I looked at this child young enough to be my son, smiled, and said "Thank you, Javier, your english is very good". ..hmmm...I think I may actually look forward to Wednesday's.

During the week, I have random "converstation" classes with those wanting to better their English and in all I work only about 15 hours a week and am in Spanish class on T and TH for 2 hours each day. I currently spend my "free time" learning Spanish and figuring what my thesis topic will be...(okay, so I go to the beach and sailing too...BUT that is it... well...I did go out last weekend, but didn't pull an all-nighter....and there was that one time that I didn't leave the flat and spent the intire day in my PJ's; I did go on the rooftop for a little sunshine and since I said "hola Buenas diaz to the neighbor lady, maybe that can classify as "practicing my Spanish".

One of these things is not like the other...

Hmm...what's missing in this photo of my bike and R's bike? Oh so inspired I was to begin riding my bike, oh so happy to have the freedom it brings, oh so happy to be able to provide my seat to a thief.

I peddled into the train station and cruised on over to the bike rack. After looking at the bike next to mine missing a wheel, (bike tires are an easy target for creepy little criminals) I removed my front tire and locked it with the back tire (using my chain lock) to the bike rack. I looked it over and satisified that my precious 30 Euro investment was safe, proceeded into the train station. I smiled as I took one last glance towards "bikey" and entered the large glass doors.

I came out of the train station and was thinking about how it wouldn't take me 20 minutes to walk home, I would get there in about 6 with the bike. I walked gently to the rack and stopped. Bikey looked different! What was wrong...and then I noticed it, some little (*&%!!@#) had stolen my seat. I was immediately enraged and very "non-peaceful" thoughts entered my mind. I just stood there looking at the poor bike and realized that I couldn't ride it home like that..okay technically I could have but I did not want to. I gave bikey one last sad look before beginning the journey home....on foot.

The next day, I brought R's seat with me to the train station and was able to bring bikey home. I have been using his seat until I purchase one, but a seat is almost the same cost as what I paid for the used bike. I have been riding the bike, locking up the tires and bike and taking the seat with me to work; to the great amusement of my co-workers. I am going to purchase a loooong cable lock so I can lock up the entire bike together just like Pee Wee did in his "Big Adventure"...

06 October, 2006

bicycle, bicycle, fun to ride a bicycle...

Ahhh…..a bicycle…it’s such a simple way to get from here to there, but I have never appreciated the luxury of a bike before!

I purchased my "wheels" from a Norwegian friend the day before I left for Austria. The grey and blue wonder has been sitting patiently in my flat waiting to again be free in the streets of Castellon.

I have been wanting to take it for a spin, but apprehension sets in when I actually consider taking it out from the safety of our foyer...you see, the streets of Castellon are, ummm how do I describe it... well they suck for the cyclist. Spanish drivers basically do not pay attention to any road rules (except for stop lights)….cars pass each other on seemingly impassable streets and busses take up 2 lanes at their leisure, causing cars to sometimes go up on the sidewalks a little to get around...provided there are no cars parked on the sidewalks, which is a common occurrence.

Two days ago, I had a strong urge to take the bike to the University so I could sign up for a classe de Espanol but I chickened out and began the 40 minute walk. I got tired and decided to catch the bus along the way. I stopped at a bus stop and waited with the other students. We waited and waited and finally 15 minutes later (I would have been at school by this time had I continued to walk) a bus approached, but then (as it was totally full) just went on by…the second bus arrived a couple minutes later, but by the time I got to campus, the group had already left for the language school. Not knowing where it was, but knowing the general direction I figured I could find it. I am not sure where my sense of thinking that I can find a place when I actually have no idea where in hell it is, comes from, but although I have failed at this feat many times, I continued on…only to walk back to campus 20 minutes later pissed off and mad at myself for thinking I could find it.

A guy on campus ended up walking me to the language school since he knew where it was, but was unable to describe it to me. As I walked back to my apt. in the heat of the Castellon afternoon, I realized that the mishaps of the morning could have been avoided had I just taken my bike to school. I have learned my lesson.

25 September, 2006


Well, I finally made it back to Castellon amost 3 months to the day that I left this sweet city. It feels really good to be "home". I have been living out of a suitcase more or less the whole time and to finally have a bedroom to myself and all my stuff organized in my anal way is a great feeling.

I am forever grateful for Andi and her boyfriend for letting me stay in their flat in Vienna for 2 weeks and so excited to have been able to have a vacation in Greece with Sandy and her mom. I know it seems to some of you that I am actually on a permanent vacation, but it's real life for me and the Greece trip was the first "real" vacation I have had since April. I still have 2 term papers to write (suggestions are greatly suggested!)

I had two non-paying job/volunteer offers, one in Tailand and the other in India...the problem is that I actually need to earn a little $ now, so I regretfully had to turn both offers down and I now am searching for a job here in Spain. I will probably will teach English or something, as I have a meeting on Monday with an owner of a school in Valencia (about a 45 minute train ride from Castellon). I sent her my CV and she was impressed with my vast experience with children. I also received another lead from my roommate R. For now, I am just writing, researching and relaxing...the three R's...

Lasting Impressions...


This view from the boat shows the town of Fira. In order to get up to the city or down to the sea, a person must make one of 3 choices 1.) walk the jagged stairway, 2.) take a donkey on said jagged stairway or 3.) take a cable car.
We opted for the stairway going down to the port where we caught a boat ride to the volcanic island. After the boat trip, I braved the stairs and took off climbing all 588 of them. Along the way I passed donkey's going down and up with passengers on their backs. Poor donkeys, forced to lead such a sucky life...maybe they buck off a passenger or two a year for revenge, I would if I was a donkey...

24 September, 2006

Volcanic Island

We took a boat ride to a small volcano off Santorini Island. There was a natural warm spring that is the darker brown water you see in the photo. Our boat docked in the water and we had to swim quite a ways to the springs, which was unfortunate, since Wanda really wanted to go to it, but she couldn't have made the swim (no life jackets). You can see the people below the white building. Before anyone went in the water, the captain gave a warning that there were jelly fish in the water and anyone allergic to them should not chance swimming to the springs....like anyone would know if they were allergic... ha ha
Sandy and I took the chance and swam to the springs. Some people got stung and I got just a tiny sting on my arm, but nothing major. Sandy and I just swam and didn't try to watch out for them while we were in the water, because the people doing that were freaking out more. The worst part was swimming back to the boat and hearing the people on the boat were say "look out there is one, Hey, to your left I see one, etc" as they pointed everywhere. I wanted to say "shut the hell up, you guys are not helping!"

room with a view

Not too shabby to walk out your front door to the pool! especially when it was only 55 euros a night


The island of Santorini. We took a 5 hour cruise over to this island to finish off our trip. We planned to spend the last 5 days of our trip on this island. It turned out to be the best ending to a most memorable trip.We took an hour walk along through various small towns each with it's own remarkable views. We turned a corner and saw these 4 dogs sleeping in a row in the shade.

Playing with my camera...

I found this setting on my digital camera! It allows one person to take the photo of the other and then they switch places and both can appear in the same photo... It started off, well let's just say, not so good...

Sandy did a much better job than me, although I was lacking important body parts! (maybe she figured that if she cut off my hands, I could not subject her to anymore photo sessions.)

The final result! It still cracks me up to see this photo, since by this time we had choked down a couple shots of bad Ouzo (a greek speciality), but it seemed to have improved our ability to finally figure out how to make this shot work...although my hands are still somewhat missing...hmmm....

Delphi, Greece

We rented a car and drove to the town of Delphi (about 3 hours northwestish of Athens). We spent 2 relaxing days there, well I say relaxing in the sense that it is a very small town and not much to do except hike to see ruins. We had lunch at a restaurant and the view was definitely better than the food.

Belting out a tune in the Ancient theatre...

We then hiked UP to the archological site, The Santuary of Apollo and then DOWN to more ruins (an ancient gymnasium) which you can see over my rt. shoulder in the photo and then back up and over back to the town.


My friend Laurie (a.k.a. "google Laurie) advised me on my trip itinerary so we spent 2 days in Athens, one day for Sandy and Wando to rest up from their long flights and one day to tour the Acropolis. It was amazing and the views incredible. Luckily we vacationed there in Sept. because July and Aug. are horribly crowded and the weather is muggy and hot. By having our holiday at the end of summer I was able to find great deals on hotel rooms (55 Euros a night for 3 people) and being a student, I got into every museum and archeological site for FREE! Gotta love that!

By Chance...

I do not believe in “chance meetings”. I believe that things in life happen for a reason, although many times that reason is not realized until much later or perhaps, never. Sometimes there are just too many perfect circumstances involve to meet again “by chance”.

I do not know “why” the Lockwood family is back in my life, but I am truly thankful that they are. I was flying into Athens from Vienna, they from Hawaii. Sandy and Wanda’s London flight was delayed 3 hours, so I took the Underground metro to my hotel, instead of waiting for them to get in. There are probably around 15 metro cars for each train and they leave about every 30 minutes from the airport, so to have the Lockwoods end up in the same metro car as me at the same time was an amazing phenomenon. I was sitting calmly trying to not look touristy (while reading my Let’s Go guide to Greece) when I heard a vaguely familiar voice. I looked up and thought hmmmm….that woman looks just like June Lockwood. I then heard the unmistakable voice of her husband Frank. I felt a surreal calmness as I said “Frank? June?” I received a blank look from Frank but I could see the wheels churning in June’s mind. To give them credit, I was not the young blond girl they new from Hawaii. I was 11 years older, had redish hair and glasses. Once I said my name, the recognition came to their eyes, although followed with the same look of disbelief. Frank and June were accompanied by their daughter Sarah (a beautiful 15 year old…a far cry from the toddler I remember) and Frank’s uncle Steve, a full blooded Greek who’s knowledge of the language came in handy when deciphering menu’s.

I was able to spend dinner the first night in Athens with them and although there are over 200 Greek Islands, “by chance” we were going to the same one (Santorini) at the same time later in the week. We met up again for one more wonderful Greek dinner together and now with the advancement of technology (email was foreign to me in 1995) we will be able to keep in touch easily.

I am blessed…and sometimes wonder (to quote the Pet Shop Boys) “what have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this”?

at our "Peace Party"

Oh, yeah I'm so cool!

We had a get together at Andi's flat before I left. The food and drinks were a bigger hit than the cigars! ha ha

Andi and Jorg...

Did I say "Never a dull moment with the two of them"??

They invited me to Germany with them to visit Jorg's family. Although I speak not a word of German (except for the occasional, Gezuntite) his family accepted me graciously...and when I say family, I mean his entire family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. It was a large gathering with tons of yummylicious food!

Biking in the Czech Republic

After the Austria Program, I was graciously invited to stay in Vienna with my new classmate and friend Andi and her boyfriend Jorg. I ended up staying with them for 2 weeks and loved every minute of it. Andi and I became great friends and it was never a dull moment being around the two of them.

One day we took a day trip to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, rented bikes and biked all along the Vltava River. We had packed a picnic lunch and stopped to have lunch in the vineyards along the way.