Friday, April 29, 2011

honestly, i'm beginning to think that the way my roommate talks to her cats is just not normal...

Monday, April 25, 2011

VaughanTown: Reflection

So, I'm not up for blogging right now (am I ever?) but thought I'd just share some brief thoughts on my experience at VaughanTown and the "Talk-a-thon".
Well in a nutshell it was wonderful! A very unique experience and not one I am likely to ever forget. The week was so densely packed that after the first day it felt like I'd been there a week already. There were actually 40 of us-a large group indeed- but I didn't end up having to share a room because a couple was counted as two when they only needed one room, so there was a leftover-woo! Good thing, too because the rooms were small! (It's a monastery.)  Not that it really mattered since we hardly spent any time in them at all. The program was almost literally non-stop talking! It was crazy! My throat hurt at the end of the first day! It certainly helped me sharpen my conversation skills.. And my creativity since I had to continuously speak and come up with different topics for us to talk about! Cool thing was I was in a play so for one day I had a bunch of rehearsals instead of conversations. That was a nice break.. Oh and the food was (for the most part) excellent! It was soooo nice not to have to think about meals for a week... Yes, cooking is definitely NOT my thing. But the best part was that I met a lot of wonderful people.. they were all so nice! There might have been about 3 people who I didn't converse with.. and that was ok.. if you catch my drift..  The rest were just awesome.
All in all a good week. I also ended up spending the weekend in Madrid which was nice but after an entire week full of conversations with so many different people, it felt a bit lonely without them. Not only that but the only other time I'd been in Madrid was with Marcus so everywhere I went all I could think about was how we'd been there together.. and it made me miss him hardcore. Lame, I know. Blame my heart. But I had finally made it to Toledo which was an ancient little town that everyyyyone told me I just HAD to visit.. and it did not disappoint. I'll share more on Toledo next time, as I've already posted more than I meant to. I'm sure my next few posts will be mostly pictures (like I've said before.. not one for this blogging thing!! But I'm glad I get at least a few thoughts down to document.)

Here's a group shot of us Vaughaners:

hasta la proxima!

Friday, April 15, 2011


I'm off for the midnight bus to Madrid to participate in a program called "VaughanTown Talkathon" which is like "Pueblo Ingl├Ęs" if you've ever heard of it. Basically I will spend a week in a remote location with about 30 Spaniards and Anglos speaking only English...a rapid English learning environment for the Spaniards. It's not paid but they cover travel to & from the hotel (from Madrid) and the hotel room plus three 3 course meals a day. I'm psyched and nervous... I'm alll alllone. Plus I was a last minute add in due to a miscommunication and a couple graciously agreed to share a room with me... hopefully it won't be weird. I'm definitely thankful to them though. I get to go! Ok, better get a move on..
Maybe I'll be able to update from there.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Los Toros! Bullfighting in Spain

A lot of people associate Spain with Bullfighting and flamenco dancing. Of course there is so much more to Spain, and Spaniards often make it a point to address that fact immediately to any foreigner. Most resent the stereotype. I hadn't really given it much thought but the subject of bullfighting in particular came up several times last week and I thought I'd explore the topic a bit..

My roommates and I were watching a program about expatriates in other countries (unrelated sidenote: I have an odd attachment to the word "expatriates", it makes me think of Hemingway and the romantic notion of artists in Europe during the early/mid 1900s. *sigh* Related sidenote: Hemingway was a notorious bullfighting aficionado). The program on TV was discussing bullfighting-"Los Toros"-and interviewing the matadors. My roommate, Patricia, scoffed and denounced the spectacle. The other roommate, Ignacio, retorted with dismay and with talk of what an "art" it is! They asked about my thoughts on the matter. Well, I didn't know much about bullfighting believe it or not. Yes, here I am in Spain and I have no clue. Of course I am opposed to the general idea of it; taunting animals for pleasure just isn't something I'd ever support. But again-didn't know much about it. So as the program delved deeper and showed images of bullfights my position on the subject grew quite strong and I am here to announce: bullfighting es una mierda! It's awful. Cruel and heartbreaking would be the best word to describe it.
Bullfighting is almost non-existent here in the North of Spain where I live, mostly it's down South.
For those who don't know, here's a brief summary of what bullfighting entails in Spain..

Bullfighting here is called "corrida de toros" (running of the bulls) or "la festival" (the festival).
There is a whole entourage involved in bullfighting and it's highly ritualized. The main players in the game, to use the expression loosely, are the "picadors", "bandarilleros", and the matadors. The bandarilleros and the matadors are collectively called "toreros" (bullfighters). When the bull first enters the arena it is tested for ferocity by the toreros. Then the picadors march out on horseback and their role is to drive a lance (sometimes plural) into the bull's back to fatigue the bull's neck muscles, straighten it's charge, and lower it's head.
The horses aren't without danger either; horses' injuries include broken ribs and damage to internal organs. In the next stage the three banderillos each try to jab two "banderillas"-which literally means "little flags" but are actually large barbed harpoons-into the bull's shoulders to further weaken the animal. Like so:

That red stuff? Yeah that's blood. What an art.

Ends of banderillas

People get pleasure from watching this?

Sometimes the matador will plant his own banderillas, but he does it in his own elaborate style which adds to the "flair" of the bullfight.
In the last stage, the matador enters with the traditional red cape and a sword. He then commences in the dual which involves of course waving the cape in front of the bull and having him charge at it. This serves the purpose of not only creating the crowd pleasing main display of bullfighting but also of wearing down the animal for the final kill. At last he uses the sword, known as "estoque", to give the final jab into the bull's aorta or heart and kill him.

Needless to say, I am simply aghast at the fact that we still participate in such cruel and primitive traditions. Bullfighting to me is little more than a crowd getting off at watching a man fuck with a poor beast, torturing & killing him. 

There are, thankfully, bullfighting protests in Spain. Here are a few images:
Naked Spaniards form a slain bull
Torture isn't culture

Most people that I've spoken to here in Galicia are opposed to bullfighting. But there's a lot that I've heard now to justify it-and justifying is exactly what it is.  Many call it an "art"' as my roommate had, they talk of Spanish tradition, of the torero's bravery, the "dance" between man and beast, a flirtation with death, an important part of the culture, a beautiful spectacle, etc

Well, you saw some images of bullfighting now, you can decide for yourself how beautiful it is.

If you're interested you can check out this nonprofit's site for more information & support their cause.

I also highly recommend giving 3 minutes of your time to this excellent and poignant youtube video about bullfighting:

So, that's my take on bullfighting. Horrible, isnt' it?
It's hard to be a part of a world filled with such barbaric practices.
I wonder if I'm missing something here; am I? I don't think so. I don't think you can look at this as anything but cruel, if you have any empathy in your heart at all.

Well, adios & hasta pronto...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

wherever you go, there you are

A word on... me.

When I came here-to this little room in Lugo, Spain & to this lovely flat I reside in- I had so much space. So much space I didn't know what to do with it. I had more space than I had stuff! I had to strategically place things so that I filled up most of the space or else it looked too barren.
Now? I have stuff on TOP of the wardrobe because the wardrobe can't fit anymore, I have crap in every corner, the drawers are stuffed with stuff, even the walls are pretty much covered.
How? How did this happen? I came with three pairs of shoes-sneakers, boots, flats. How did I go from that to having three pairs of sneakers and three pairs of flats plus boots? And from three bags to six plus a wallet? Don't get me started on clothes.
The consumptive American is still alive and well inside me. [in my defense, stuff here is so much cuter and often cheaper. case in point: i paid €5 for a pair of shoes and €2 for an adorable tank top!! ("Excuses, excuses..")]
Not only that but I've severely cut down my abundance of time as well. Typical New Yorker. I had so much free time that I actually paid off my sleep debt. Of course now I am in severe sleep debt, perhaps more so than when I first came here! Seven tutoring lessons a week, more or less depending on the week, regular teaching job, lesson preparation, skyping (that is the root of my sleep deprivation, but I need it) and of course the occasional night out or excursion and other random errands (hey I need groceries, too!).

Here's a great George Carlin standup clip that reminded me a bit of my current problem, minus the time part:

I'm working on it.. I swear!