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

children...

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...

spanish...

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?"...