Friday, March 8, 2013

When in Córdoba...Snails

Caracoles, or snails,  are a specialty unique to Córdoba. They are a seasonal snack that just started showing up in stands a week or so ago. I've never liked bugs or crawly things, but all my life what I've detested the most are snails. Blech. Snails are just so slimy and disgusting.

Then today, I ate one. And another one. And then another.

They didn't taste too bad, in fact they kind of reminded me of similar chinese dishes. It's just how they looked that are hard to get past. You can see their teeny little antenna things and everything. But if you just ignore how they look and poke them with your tooth pick, they are quite alright. Afterwards, we were also instructed by the vendors to drink all the juice too. I don't see myself ever having caracoles again. Once was enough, just for the experience.

Volunteering (follow-up)

Remember that day when I was insanely terrified to teach immigrants english?

I wish my Present Self could go back to my Past Self and give Myself a big slap on the face. And then say YO, CHILL OUT. IT IS GOING TO BE FINE.

Because it was! I love volunteering! Yay!

My class isn't very large, about 8 students, but the students are all extremely friendly. Their ages range between 23 and 50s. Actually, most are older, I just have one 23 year old student from Senegal. His name is Makhtar and he is awesome.

I came into my first day prepared with a detailed lesson plan, along with a plan B, C, D, E and F. My biggest fear was having awkward silence and not being able to fill my 1.5 block of time. I've never taught any kind of class for that long before.

Luckily for me though, the format was much more informal. The small class size helped a lot with that. We all just gathered and I taught useful phrases and answered lots of questions. The time completely flew by without me even noticing. At times my spanish was definitely inaccurate, but a few of my students have some prior experience with english so they were able to understand what I was trying to say and help translate to the other students who know absolutely no english.

Despite the varying language levels, all my students exude enthusiasm. They are all taking these english classes because they want to learn it so much. It's a kind of enthusiasm I've never come to show while learning spanish, even though spanish was never a requirement for me. Interesting to think about, no? My classmates and I love complaining about spanish. There's too much homework...the tests are too long...why do the teachers speak in spanish and so fast? What the heck did she say just now?

My students actually asked if I could speak more english, to help them practice listening. I started out speaking only spanish because I didn't want them to feel intimidated, so I was surprised when they spoke up about wanting me to speak more of it. They remind me of little baby birds hopping around, eagerly waiting for the day when they can finally take flight. It's very (excuse my cheese) heart warming and makes me love spending my time with them. I just don't want to let them down.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"Por qué no te callas?" (capitulos de español dos)

Anoche, el presidente de Venezuela se llama Hugo Chavez, se muerte. Estaba un gente muy controversial y lugares diferentes tienen opiniones diferentes sobre el. En Estados Unidos mucho gentes no le gusta Chavez porque Chavez es famoso para el criticas de Estados Unidos, y para el policias políticas sociales radicales. Chavez hacia policias muy izquierda radicale y es muy socialista también. Pero muchos gentes de Venezuela les encanta Chavez.

 Este mañana, mi hermana Marta habló conmigo sobre Chavez. Es interesante porque en España, todo gentes no le gusta Chavez. Es porque en 2007, fue una conferencia con los países que hablar en Español. Pues, por ejemplo países como España, Mexico y Americano Sur. Durante la conferencia, Chavez fue muy grosero a los representadores de España. En un momento, el rey de España (el no tiene power politica, entonces no puedes hablar durante la conferencia, pero...) fue muy enojada y dijó: "POR QUE NO TE CALLAS??" a Hugo Chavez. Ya este es un momento muy famosa en todo de España.

Summary of what happened written in an actual readable language


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Scraps of Turkish and Greek

Here is what I recollect learning from Turkey / Greece.

Let it be known that at one point in time, yes, I was able to ask someone in Turkey A) how much (the giant pretzel) cost and B) where is the bathroom, and solicit an actual response. Possibly out of pity, but we'll never know. 99% sure it's because I sounded that good.

Also, I'm writing the phrases phonetically, how I best remember them. They are probably not very accurate, but I would rather be honest than come off as some pretentious worldly douche who knows aaaaaalll the languages. If I did that I would probably have to start dressing in pink shorts and boat shoes, which I don't think I'd be able to pull off.


Thank you: tekkshem edereem
Thank you: sao
Where is the toilet?: tuvalet naredeen?


Thank you: ehfaristo

Phrases in Portugese

Portugese is adorably similar and at the same time not so similar to Spanish. Here are some of the phrases I learned while spending the 4 day weekend there:

Vamos = Vamoosh ( my favorite! )
Bonita = Bonitish! 
Buenos dia = Bon dia
Bueno tarde = Bon tarde
Bueno noche = Bon noche
Gracias = Obligado 
Amigos = Amigish

Travelling has allowed me to start collecting handfuls of phrases from all sorts of languages. I'm sad I didn't write them down earlier, because already I've forgotten what I learned in Turkish/Greek. At least Italian was easy. I didn't expect Italian to actually sound like something out of a Chef Boyarde commercial. Which isn't offensive because literally, if you jokingly say things like "mmmmMMMMmm pastArIAaA!!" or "pIzZarIA!" people will actually think you're talking to them. Guess how I know this.

Maybe I will go back and relearn those old phrases and record them on my blog. I mean, every collection needs some sort of shelf.  Or in the case of my primary childhood collection (Beanie Babies ftw!!!), a nice giant 

Trying Madrid

Julie and I decided to do Madrid during a 7 hour layover on our way back from Portugal. It just sounded so feasible in the comfort of our stupid, overconfident minds while we were planning our 4 day weekend trip. We just knew we would Make it Work, which of course, we did.

But it definitely wasn't the easiest thing.

In all honesty, my over-all opinion of Madrid is okay. I don't hate Madrid, but I'm not in love with it, either. There may be a few reasons for this:

1. The context: I'm entering this city for the first time after 2 hours of sleep and a 2 hour airplane flight.
2. Time: We didn't have enough time (or energy) to really see the sites we were supposed to see. Oops.
3. I have a fierce pride for Córdoba and Andaluz in general. I think I just prefer the more rural look as opposed to the modern posh scene that Madrid has. Without a doubt, Madrid is beautiful too. It's just beautiful in a posh, Upper West Side Meets Paris kind of way, whereas Andaluz is more unique. I think Julie said it best though: Madrid is like a good book, but (Andaluz) is like a good poem. It just depends on your preference, I think. No doubt if we had more time in Madrid though we would have been able to discover more. And I bet the night life there is amazing.

Anyways, here are some pictures of me and Julie trying to do Madrid. I don't know if I will get a chance to go back. In retrospect, I realized we definitely did not see the most important sites. Not even close. At least the company was good; there isn't anyone else I could have pulled this off with.

So, Madrid, I'm sorry for not giving you your due time. We tried, we really did.

Monday, March 4, 2013

That Time I Went to a Reggae Concert

Travels have the potential for a lot of firsts. Portugal brought me my first ever reggae concert, and it was awesome.

Julie and I will remisce years (or weeks) ((or days)) later, and say

Remember that time our host in Portugal invited us to his reggae concert where he and his friend were opening for the band and even though they were playing really early when the venue wasn't full we still danced like fools and moved around the entire room, swaying to the beat and spinning like in a trance, and we weren't squished or covered in sweat, and it was lovely and liberating and enchanting and mesmerizing, and then we got to see the main band sing and play instruments live? 
That was pretty cool.

Our friends!
The headlining band

Portugese Love

Upon arriving to Portugal, Julie and I knew we were going to be hosted by a 25 year old guy named Tiago. What we didn't know was that we were going to be housed with his parents, and automatically become adopted into the family. What I didn't know was that I would once again meet some of the kindest people this world has to offer.

Tiago's family runs a small restaurant in Seixal, which is a small town across the water from Lisboa. It isn't an urban city, despite being so close to Lisboa. On our first two days, Tiago had work during the day, so we were picked up by Tiago's parents and driven straight to the restaurant. There, his parents made us sandwiches and coffee, and packed us extra food to take to the city. After eating we would be driven to the ferry. Tiago picked us up every night at the ferry when we wanted to return from Lisboa.

Me and Julie's morning sandwiches and coffee

We never could have expected so much. The family gave us all of this, and so much more.

Dinners were eating custom meals at the restaurant, or home cooked dishes from Tiago himself. At night we got to meet a lot of Tiago's lovely friends. I can say I went to an actual reggae concert now thanks to Tiago. And without speaking a word of english, our Portugese family still communicated and interacted with us in the most friendly way you can imagine. Kindness trumps language barriers.

On our last day, Julie and I got to explore Seixal with Tiago. It was an experience I would've missed had I stuck with the traditional, tourist-methodology. Tiago spent his entire Saturday driving us to his favorite beaches and scenic spots. It let me see just how beautiful Portugal can be beyond the usual images you see in commercials. Looking back, it would have been such a tragedy if I had missed those sights. Seixal is a breathtaking place.

Exploring a hidden cave in Seixal

Time and time again, I am stunned by the capacity humans have for love and kindness. I do not know what I could have done to deserve meeting such beautiful people, I just know that there is no possible way I could ever convey all the gratitude I feel.

Being greeted to hugs and kisses from this enthusiastic dog every time we entered the house was the best way to come home

Tiago cooking dinner for us

Home cooked dinner, equipped with the greatest sangria I've ever had. And I'm studying in Spain!

You know what gets me the most, though? After all of this, the family treats us with such excitement and joy, as if they are equally happy just to know us. I mentioned how they don't even speak english, right? 

On Friday morning, I was about to take a picture of the kitchen when one of the family members noticed, and proceeded to take my iphone and excitedly gather the entire family for a photo shoot session. I never would have interrupted everyone's work to take pictures, but she legitimately seemed to be having so much fun taking the pictures (hence all the pictures earlier in the post). The only picture I regret not getting was of Papa Beard. This is the nickname I coined for Tiago's father because he is, literally, the human reincarnation of Papa Beard.

It's unfortunate that I didn't get a picture, but here is a close enough substitute. Imagine being fed and spending time with this fellow here. Wouldn't you also just completely fall in love? 

And then on our last morning, after Tiago refused to let us call a taxi and drove us to the airport at 6:00 AM, it was time for the good byes. Tiago grabbed us into a hug, and told us how he was so lucky to have us as guests, and that he feels so happy to have gotten to know us


At that moment, my heart was about to explode. 

I just hope Tiago makes his way to the U.S soon so I can attempt to try and reciprocate a fraction of what he has given me: all the delicious food, great sight-seeing, so many new friends and family members, and an absolutely, incredibly, ridiculously unforgettable experience. Portugal can stand alone for its beautiful beaches and vibrant scenery. But honestly, it is these precious interactions that leave the deepest imprints on your life. 

Tiago showing his mom the present he helped us pick out for her!

Delicious restaurant dinner: steak and mushrooms. All cooked by Tiago's mom

Tony suggested we try some famous Porto wine I've ever had.

More restaurant dinner and sangria