Monday, January 4, 2010

Game over.

I apologize for the delay in posting my farewell entry. Though it was written on the 23rd, I've had sporadic internet since leaving Barcelona. (After The Onix's infamous Telefonica connection, who would have thought anything could have been less predictable?)

Anyway, this is it for now. Thanks for following my adventures this semester. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.

Buen año nuevo!


I'm mid transit, but I'm still in minor disbelief that the semester is over. Minus the excessive baggage, it just feels like I'm going away for the weekend. Of course I'll be back in Barcelona on Monday! The end comes at a good time though, I think. I'm still in love with Barca, but I've hit that point where I'm about ready to head home.

I spent the last few days playing an excessive number of "remember when?" games, and sitting here in the airport by myself, I'm having some serious nostalgia moments.

I'm going to miss just wandering around Barcelona, finding little side streets and engrossing myself in the local culture. I'll miss being able to play the dumb American when I need to, but also being able to surprise people with my ability to speak and understand Spanish when they least expect it.

On the other hand, though I'm not ready to start eating dinner at 6 pm again (that's practically lunch time!), large cups of coffee, fountain soda and free refills are all looking pretty good. And while being a girl in Spain has its undeniable advantages, I think I have enough "Hola Guapa" to last me a lifetime.

When one of my friend's mom's was visiting, she asked each of us to list the three things we liked most and the three things we liked least about studying abroad. At the time I struggled a little bit with the answer and even now, I'm not entirely sure I could answer it. So I'll take a different tact.

The other night at dinner, my friend Zach asked each of us (for the purposes of the Agenda Cultural) to offer one piece of advice and one warning to the CASBians of next semester. I was sitting and blindly eating tapas, and so the first tidbit of advice I could think of was: eat everything and ask what it is later. I think that idea applies to most of my semester in a broader sense.

So I started taking a class, having absolutely no idea what was going on and no idea when the final exam would be. I still don't. But I learned more in that class than any of my others, and actually really enjoyed it. So I hopped on a plane to a foreign city with people I barely knew. Or got off at the complete wrong subway stop, got incredibly lost and found myself in some strange parts of Barcelona. Or walked into a first grade classroom having absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do with a room full of Catalan six-year-olds.

My warning was that things will go wrong. There was the time I sat through three classes in Catalan, went through two frustrating weeks of trying to matriculate and spent a couple train rides back to Barcelona trying not to completely lose it. Or the endless occasions on which I simply could not express what I needed to. Or the cell phones, computers, subways, lofty plans, internet connections and recipes that just did not work.

But I rolled with the punches, chalked most of it up to Spanish insanity and had more adventures than I can count at this point. It was an unbelievable semester. But I'll close this before I get too unnecessarily sentimental.

And so I return to the United States with a suitcase full of very dirty laundry, a vocabulary of Spanglishatalan, an acquired taste for wine, a penchant for cooking all things in olive oil and a very deep love for Barcelona.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Goodbye Barcelona

Gràcies per tot. It's been quite a semester.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bedtime stories

Less than a week to go — it's so hard to believe. Tomorrow is our farewell dinner, which seemed so distant when I saw it in my planner.

Yesterday I had my last official day at Mar Bella. The kids have actually made a ton of progress in their English this semester. In October, I was doing interview questions with the advanced sixth graders, and now even the fifth graders can tell me where they live and what their hobbies are.

Spanish kids get two weeks of vacation for the holidays and the pre-vacation jitters have definitely settled in. The school is covered in decorations — every inch of the hallways is covered in paper Christmas trees and paper mache ornaments. I love how unapologetically Christmasy Spain is. Don't get me wrong — I am the most obnoxious Hanukkah promoter (I write this as my baguette menorah burns on the kitchen table), but there's something very magical about the unhampered Christmas spirit. The entire city looks BEAUTIFUL (pics coming soon).

After leaving the school yesterday, I walked home (normally I take the bus). I was actually enjoying the fact that I needed a coat and gloves. I happened upon a Dunkin' Coffee and I decided that it was the perfect antidote for studying for finals. The woman looked at me like I was nuts when I ordered an iced coffee, but it was so perfect.

Today was my last trip on the ferrocarril out to UAB. It was an anti-climactic ending (classes continue through next week, we're just not going), but I had a personal celebratory lunch in the cafeteria and waved goodbye to the campus as the train pulled away. Tomorrow morning is my social theory final (yes parents, I am about to go to bed) and then I am all done! (Minus the papers I'm emailing in in January.) I'm excited to have the last few days to run around Barcelona, revisit my favorite places and cross off the few remaining items on my to-do list.

Cute story of the day before I get into bed: This afternoon as I was returning to Onix, three girls stopped me in the hallway. They asked if I spoke English (they were Spanish) and when I said yes, they asked if they could "make an interview." (It was an assignment for their English class.) I said of course and invited them into my room. Using a tape recorder, they asked my name, where I'm from, etc. It was a funny change of events because I'm so used to walking around the city and being the inquirer. They asked my opinion of the mediterranean diet (positive) and what things I missed from my country. Put on the spot, I said the first two things that popped into my head: large cups of coffee and functioning dryers (we've been using a clothesline all semester).

So that's where you'll find me pretty soon: drinking copious amounts of iced coffee and doing my laundry.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This makes me feel a lot more prepared.

The other day, one of the other students in Contemporary Political Institutions sent a message to the entire class.

Hola Compañeros!!!!!

Me llamo Esti y soy alumna de segundo. Estoy matriculada a la asignatura de Polítiques con John, pero por motivos de horario no he podido asistir a ninguna de sus clases. Si
alguna fuera tan amable de decirme como va este año la asignatura, si hay que entregar el trabajo, como será el examen, si teneis apuntes o el examen es en base a las lecturas.... yo a cambio os puedo pasar cosillas que necesiteis.


Roughly translated, his message reads:

Hello classmates!!!!!

My name is Esti and I'm a second-yeat student. I'm enrolled in the section of "Politics" with John, but for scheduling reasons I haven't been able to attend any of the classes. If anyone would be so kind as to tell me how things are going in the class this year, if you have had to hand in any work, what the exam is going to be like, if you take notes or if the exam is going to be based on readings…. I can return the favor with things you need.


This would so not fly at Brown.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Well that was embarrassing...

Even in Spain, American Christmas music seems to take over every public venue — cafés, supermarkets, the accordion players on the Metro. As a result, my Catalan first graders, who barely know how to introduce themselves in English, know all the words to "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." This morning as we were making Christmas-tree-shaped cards, the class started an impromptu sing-along. After their mini performance, they asked if I would sing it (accompanied by one of the more fluent girls, Laia).

But as we left the chorus and progressed into the actual words of the song, I drew a total blank, while she kept going. I just smiled and laughed — I decided it was easier than explaining that I'm a Jewish girl from Long Island.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Happy Hanukkah!

Last night marked the final installment of Emmy-and-Katie-play-Jewish-mothers. In honor of the first night of Hanukkah, we spent the day cooking and preparing our best attempts at a legitimate holiday meal. Though pictures of our kitchens never made it to the blog (maybe it'll happen before I move out), you need to be forewarned that we have no oven, minimal counter space and a tiny stove with two burners. So we knew it was going to be an adventure. Luckily we live down the hall, which made for some interesting runs back-and-forth, cutting boards and sizzling pans in hand.

It only took 6 hours, 4 trips to the supermarket, 8 pots and pans, about 15 plates and 1 kitchen injury, but we did it! Our feast included: latkes, sweet potato latkes, homemade apple sauce, turkey meatballs, challah rolls, broccoli and cauliflower, a vegetable frittata, salad and apple fritters (thank you to our favorite dessert chef). We played dreidel and showed the Rugrat's Hanukkah special (educating the gentiles).

Though we couldn't easily find a menorah, we pulled out our best creativity skills and constructed our own using a baguette and birthday candles. When in Spain…

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Even Old New York was once New Amsterdam

The only problem with retrospective blog posting is that the amusing stories get forgotten. Never fear — more moments from Istanbul!

  • The first night at our hostel, we made friends with one of the Turkish guys working there while waiting for the promised belly dancing show (it didn't happen). He asked where we were from and when two of us responded New York, he said, "Oh! I'm going to Harlem soon." We asked why. He answered, "Because sometimes I feel black."
  • We made friends with another Turk while on our boat ride from Asia back to Europe. When we introduced ourselves and I said my name was Emmy, he asked, "Like the Emmy Award?" Glad to know my spelling reference is international.
  • Courtesy of Time Out Istanbul, we found ourselves at a very legit and very authentically Turkish restaurant filled with locals. The waiter came over (quickly realized we were foreigners) and simply asked, "liver, lamb or chicken?" After we each answered, he pointed back at each of us, repeated the orders back, and when he figured out that he had gotten it right, he yelled "Yes!" (in a style reminiscent of Borat). He came back for drink orders and again, we got the "Yes!" Suddenly plates were delivered to the table — vegetables, leaves, sauces, pita bread. And then long skewers filled with meat were plopped in front of each of us and we got to work! We managed to make it through the meal without too much messiness.
  • Because we're so used to eating dinner at 10 pm (and had to adjust), we wound up with some free time. So we found a movie theater showing films in English and sat down to for the apocalyptic 2012. Midway through the movie, the lights suddenly came on. We thought it was a technical error — turns out it was just the intermission. It gave us a good opportunity to discuss what we'd seen so far.