Thursday, May 30, 2013

Adventures in Spanish

 So There is a local fruit store that is on the way home from the metro, and they have very good produce. Usually, I get in and out without any real spoken interaction. This, sadly, is my goal because although I speak Spanish, when I get nervous the weirdest stuff comes out and I make no sense at all. 
Spanish has two things that English doesn't really have: A sex for every object (ex: table is female), and a complex grammer system. There is different ending to a verb for almost every person (I, you informal, you formal, we, they), a lot of irregular verbs, and many different future and past tenses. I will not get started on the slang and idioms.

OK, so I am at the fruit stand where Paco has recently discovered that I am an English teacher and he wants to learn English. He is being a friendly business man and likes to talk about our "shared" interest, or he is flirting, or he wants me to teach English for free, OR a combo of all above. We never, however, talk in English. This is good practice for me as most of my life, even in Spain, is in English.

I do not speak Spanish well when I am nervous. I get even more nervous when strangers can hear me (I kind of know Paco). Spanish people like to listen to me speak Spanish and have no qualms about openly listening/staring. This phenomenon leads to my husband and I speaking mostly English in public. If we speak English, we are less likely to be impeded by the people trying to listen to us (they literally get in your way or slow down to listen). I have many theories about this: it could be that my accent is drop dead sexy in Spanish, or it could be that my grammar mistakes are too hilarious to miss. Like this one:

Paco: Did you bring your own bag as usual?
Me: Yes I brought my own bag, but I bought a lot of fruit. I weigh a lot, may I have two bags?
Paco gives me a look but continues to pack the fruit in one bag. It is important to note that there is a woman behind me in line buying three bananas. I am buying a lot of produce. I have never felt glutinous buying produce before.
Me: Can I have another bag for these two things? I weight a lot and I have to walk a bit far. 
I hear the giggle from the woman behind me, and who can blame her. At this point my brain wakes up, gives me the correct grammatical version of the verb and I mutter it. "it weighs" Spanish people do not mutter, they well have never heard me.

Ahhh, adventures in another language. It does help to have sense of humor about your mistakes. I hope mine made you smile. Do you havelanguage mishaps to share?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Two year Spain-iversary

Sunny Spain is finally here!
 Also sometime after I was coming home from work I realized that today is the date that two years ago we flew into Madrid to begin our life here.

I have only taken two photos so far today. Looking back at my first anniversary post I realize that the top two things I love about Spain is the Sun and the roses! How appropriate! I have looked back at the list of the top 10 things I love about Spain, and I still agree with myself on every point, go and have a look.

I bought myself Hydrangeas, Basil (not shown) and potting soil on the way home and indulged myself in some gardening. The weather has just gotten warmish again and it feels marvelous! It is finally warm enough to sit out on my terraza while I work. The container plants really set off the white walls and the tile. Did  mention that we live across from a park?

I might have tried to photo shop the wrinkles out of my table cloth. Domestic goddess I am not.

Ok now for the serious journal entry.

I am so much happier this year than last year. Don't get me wrong, but I know that I don't "fit in" in Spain, and I am beginning to wonder if I ever will. The fact that my husband is starting to look for work outside of Spain comes as a little bit of a relief. It is not that people are unfriendly to me. Spaniards are a fairly friendly people. 

What I think it is, is a combination of things: My Spanish family lives really far way (Barcelona) and I just do not have as many Spanish friends as I thought that I would. In fact, I seriously surprised myself by jumping feet first into the ex-pat community. I used to judge people a little bit when they clung to an ex-pat community when they moved to a new country. Boy did moving here ever open my eyes! 

Other people have written this far better than I have, but here is my go at explaining the ex-pat feeling. There is something about being an ex-pat that only another ex-pat can understand. It does not even have to be somebody from your country or culture. You are "transplanted" people and that is enough to start the bond. If you are a crafter, you know that when someone shares your hobby there is always something to talk about even if you have nothing else in common with them other than the hobby. The ex-pat community is so much more than that. Moving to a different country and culture changes you. It changes you in big ways and in small ways. It changes you in so many different ways it is not even possible to measure the change.

There is homesickness sometimes, and that can hurt like a physical pain. But there is something beyond homesickness is the real obstacle (for me, at least). That is the point when you come to terms with the fact that you are never going to be the same. OK change is a way of life, but this is more. You have pasted the point when you are ever going to "fit in" to either culture. You are too much a part of each culture to ever go completely back into the other culture. There is never going to be one home. You are never going to know all of the slang and the jokes and the cultural references. You will always be a little on the outside.

Some people handle this observation with grace and eagerness. I, however, have not. It is still something I struggle with. It is something that scares me down to the bone when I think about potentially moving to a third country and possibly learning a third langage. (Fit in even less!) If I let it, the fear could paralyze me. However, I am slowly coming to terms with this. I am finally beginning to make my peace with the fact that I am unique, and that is a good thing.

 Ok so back to why I am happier this year:
I am finally mastering the Spanish language (which is still as big struggle as most of my life is in English and I have to make time to practice). I am no longer in terror of going out to do day-to-day interactions. 

I finally live in an apartment with enough space that both my husband and I can work from home if we needed to. I can see tress from every window, and I have a little container garden started on my terraza that is big enough for more than a table and four chairs. This is very important to me, as living in such a big city is something I am not sure I will ever like. I have my oasis here.

For the first time in months I have hope for my business that I am trying to get off the ground, and hope that my husband can finally find a job (and a country to settle down in). I do not know how nomadic people do it (besides take their family and friends with them).

So spring is here and life is good.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

San Isidro

Every providence in Spain has there own Festiva, their own Saint's day. Madrids is today, May 15th San Isidro (Spanish link). This ex-pat's blog goes into way more detail than I will, and is in English, so if you are curious to know more, go have a look.

I am not going to go downtown today, as there is a metro strike. But what I will bring to you are some photos I just went across the street to my park and shyly snapped. There are not up to my usual standards, but this is a very small barrio festival, and while I spotted one other foreigner  I was the only one taking pictures. I am lucky enough to live directly across from a beautiful park, Parque de Calero Where this is taking place. I can not help but to hear the festival music drifting through my balcony door. Oh and did I mention that it smells like sweet roasted nuts and smoked sausage, num.

I went, took some photos, and a small video of the small parade and came home. Maybe later I will venture and try some of the food and buy some crafty things.

There are beer tents

A dragon gards overs the tapas and sausages for sale

Fun for the kids too

Another beer tent with hanging jamón and sausages

Booths with crafts, food, and liquor for sale

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Occasionally I like to knit toys without a pattern. They sort of "clear my platte" you could say. I pick the yarn (usually scrap yarn) and a needle that I think is going to give a firm gauge. The firm gauge is so that none of the stuffing shows through, and also because then I will know that the toy is going to hold it's shape. I do not like to use a pattern, nor try to write or sketch one out, because I like the organic uncertainty of creating the toys.

I think that my favorite part of doing this is to practice  my 3D knitting conception skills. I am not very good at getting exactly what I planned, but I am willing to practice, and to make more toys.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Plymouth part 3

The next days was our to explore the town.

We went down through part of the Barbican, and around the dock yard.

We were heading to the Aquarium

Which was surrounded on both sides by water.

It was a very nice aquarium and we learned and saw many things.

Then we set out for the dead center of the Barbican to find the Elizabethan Gardens. Which is a tiny, multi-level garden planted in Elizabethan times and not only preserved but open to the public regularly.

They were very charming. I wish we could live there.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Plymouth Part 2b

Well, we got the somewhat disappointing news that my husband did not get the job he interviewed for at the University.

Despite this I will soldier on with the Plymouth posts, because it really is a beautiful town.

At this point I am still wandering the town during the interview. There is a section of town called the "barbican" which is full of old charming houses and miles of cobblestone.

The Barbican skirts the docks.

I went back to my hotel room at the appointed time to wait for my husband, and just before I went inside I took this picture. That is the hotel on the left, but up ahead is a church that was bombed during a war. They removed most of the ruble and left the rest of the church standing as a memorial  It is in the center of a roundabout. The shiny glass behind that is part of the mall and the University would be up and to the right.

Here is where we went to have a pint after the interview. It is facing the docks and it was nice to sit out in the sun.

That was the view (somewhat) directly across from where we were sitting. That restaurant, The Ship, was very good. Nice prices, staff location, clean, and the food was excellent.

See? Swaths of cobblestone.

Do you see the American flag? These, the gate and the stone below, are to mark the steps the pilgrams took to sail off in the Mayflower.

We then strolled along the coast line to the Hoe.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Plymouth part two

My husband was traveling here on business so I walked him to work and then wandered happily about taking pictures and soaking up the atmosphere. The city centre is very beautiful, quiet and clean. I have to say that it was nice to get out of crowded Madrid

This chapel was in the University and so picturesque with the row houses on one side that I had to snap this as my first photo of the day.

One of the things about Plymouth, is that it is a major port town for the UK. Because of this a lot of the older buildings had been destroyed by German bombs during one of the world wars. The upshot is that there are beautiful historic buildings next to modern and sleek buildings, like this one, also on the University campus.

Here are more shots of the greenway that runs from the University to ocean, right in the middle of the city centre.

I really liked it. There was a lot of care to landscape the sections between streets differently. On each side of the greenway there were various shops. I can imagine it is, if the weather is nice and you weren't buying anything heavy, a very pleasant way to shop.

I got to experience the first blushes of spring again.

Here the greenway opened onto a plaza. Fraiser House, a department store with a decent yarn selection, is to the left, a big screen tv is straight ahead and in the distance you can see the top of the Plymouth ferris wheel.

Such dramatic clouds (it was a little windy).

 This is an anchor of an important ship, but I was so eager to get to the ocean I did not stop to read it which one.

The seaside park in Plymouth is called the "Hoe". I am assured that they know how it sounds and I am trying very hard not to make the obvious jokes. 

This is a statue of Sir Francis Drake, the famous explorer. One of many famous explorers that started  their journey from Plymouth. I did not get a close up of him, because he was very popular with the sea gulls.
Other explores/expeditions that have set out from Plymouth include: the Mayflower, and Charles Darwin on the Beagle.

Slightly unrelated note, there is a cruise/ferry that goes directly from Santander (Spain) to Plymouth too. It takes about 20 hours but you sail by the coast of France.

Now I grew up nowhere near the ocean and I live about as close as I ever have right now (4 hours by car to Valencia). I am one of those rare people that can count the number of times I have been to a coast on two hands. This view is breath taking, and may I add, just like the movies.

The famous lighthouse, Smeaton Tower.

The Plymouth dome (as far as I know unused at this time), below the dome there is a semi-circular swimming pool overlooking the ocean. No photos, the pool is empty as it was cold and windy. Despite the weather (13-15C or 50-65F) there were plenty of people in t-shirts and shorts. I had on a heavy wool coat and a scarf and after a while I had to flee out of the wind so that I could retain feeling in my fingers!

I'll break up this day into two posts, as there is a lot of photos. This was my view as I left the Hoe to go and try to find lunch back in the city.