Thursday, November 7, 2013

I'm Back!

Well, kind of. I've recently been put in charge of keep a blog for Pet U, a doggy day care I work at. The blog will have a lot of dog training tips, as well as lots of cute puppy pictures! I invite you all over to check it out, and please, let me know what you think of my new venture!

See, cute puppy pictures. All the photography you'll see on the blog will be mine as well, unless stated otherwise.
Hope you can stop and check it out! :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

An event of national importance

I've been procrastinating blogging about this for weeks. Sorry.
About a month ago my family got to be a part of a 'once in a lifetime event'. I was less than thrilled about it at first, but the hundred and fifty strangers in my grandfathers living room all seemed pretty stoked about it.
So who do my family, an old Victorian house and 150 strangers all have in common?
Ben Hecht, that's who. A man who before a few weeks ago, I knew absolutely nothing about.
He was one of Hollywood and Broadway's most famous and highest paid writers between the 1930's and 1960's. He wrote scripts including Gone with the Wind, Scarface, and 155 other plays, screenplays, tv series and novels. Needless to say, he's pretty important. And for a couple years before he became famous, he rented a room in my grandparents house. (Before it was my grandparents house, of course.)

This was the house. (I say was because it's in the process of being sold.) It has 3 floors plus a fully furnished basement and attic, 12 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and far too many walk-in closets. While it was in my grandparents possession it was also covered ceiling to floor in mirrors. Really. You think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. It got creepy at some points, like when I was trying to sleep and opened my eyes and saw myself peering back at me from both the side wall and the ceiling.

See the turret that goes all the way up on the right side? The 3rd room up was where Ben Hecht stayed. 
And here is the sign that has been in front of the house, marking it as a place of national importance. Cool. (Too bad I never bothered to look at this sign once in my life before that day.)
Long story short, about a year after the house had been put on the market, a lady came through to look at it and noticed the sign out front. She had connections to a group who puts on literary salons and historical reenactments, and a couple months later she had somehow managed to gather 150 interested people in the living room of the house.

Having known basically nothing about it before I showed up at the house that night, I was expecting around 30 to 40 family friends in an intimate theatrical setting. Not 150 strangers traipsing through the house, peering in every bedroom and closet. Having just got back from Spain the week before, I was still in a strange adjustment period of meshing together how I remembered things with how they had changed. I was still coming to terms with the idea of my childhood holiday house being sold, and so seeing tons of strangers walking about didn't put me in the best of moods.

However, once I came to terms with it, I had a blast. I introduced myself to people as the granddaughter of the owner, which led them to ask me a million questions about what life was like growing up there. It was strange to think that people were actually interested in my childhood. (I felt a little important.)

Also, all of us who 'lived' in the house or were there to set up the event got to dress up in period costumes. I'll post pictures later, because at the moment my camera cord is MIA.  I got to wear an awesome black dress embellished with silver 'jewels', and then when I did my makeup and wrapped a bandana around my hair, I looked like a fortune teller. I'm not quite sure how that was a period costume, but I looked awesome so I didn't complain.
Stay tuned for the pictures! I think promise I'll get to them soon!

Also, this article was published just recently. It has a video showing the inside of the house and a man talking about the history of Ben Hecht. Check it out!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

//It's raining, it's pouring//

It's raining right now.
For the first time in months.
Not that I was especially pleased when the clouds rolled in and the sky turned green in the middle of the dinner shift at work.
Or when, right in the middle of the downpour, my boss told me I could leave.
I love rain. Just not having to walk in it unprepared.
But anyways.
It's raining.
Drought, you are officially O-V-E-R!!
(And heat wave too, hopefully.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A definitive wrap up post, kind of.

I've been back from Spain for almost exactly a month, but it basically feels like it's been forever. Transitioning has been much easier than I was expecting it to be. That should be a good thing, right?Instead, I feel like I'm forgetting about all the time I spent in Spain, little by little. I know that travelled all over Europe and and increased my Spanish level by about 200%, but it's getting harder and harder to remember that. Sometimes I feel like I never left Wisconsin.

(Except for the times when the first thing that comes to mind is me da igual instead of 'I don't care' or when I start to say something funny about that one time in Rome...and nobody knows what I'm talking about.)

A month ago, all of my thoughts came out in Spanish first, English second. Now? It's hard to come up with even basic conversation. I know that I'll go back to Spain eventually. Not going back just isn't an option. Also, because I spent the last nine years learning Spanish, it's just not something that I can drop. Luckily for me, Milwaukee has such a large Hispanic population that stores like Target and Walmart have all of their store signs and item descriptions in English and Spanish!

It's hard to come up with a definitive post to wrap up my time in Spain. I've been going back through my pictures and blog posts and trying to wrap my head around everything that happened, so that I could write up a nice short final post about my time abroad. I was thinking that maybe that would make it easier for me to transition to blogging about living back in Wisconsin. But so far all that's happened is that I've procrastinated that post, and every other post. Oops!

So maybe I'll stop trying to wrap my head around everything. Maybe I'll just re-read through my entire blog one more time, to remind myself of all the great times I had. And then I'll throw myself 100% into this new chapter of my life in Milwaukee. Living in Milwaukee isn't all that bad. It's definitely not Spain, but it's also a new city and full of new adventures. And since after 10 months of non-stop traveling I'm finally calling it quits and staying put for a few months, maybe I'll get a chance to really get to know the area. Maybe it will surprise me. Or maybe, just like I did while living on my own in Spain, I'll surprise myself :)

Stay tuned for posts coming up about the Color Run I participated in last weekend in Minneapolis, and maybe a post or two about my house and (roommate's) fox-like dog!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Heat Wave 2012

Just when I thought I had been lucky to leave Spain right before the brutal summer heat set in, I returned home to find that the US was no better. In fact, the states just experienced the hottest week that I can remember, coupled with a drought, that has resulted in lakes drying up, highways cracking, and people dying. I was completely, absolutely miserable for about 3 days before I realized that this is the heat that Andalusians deal with all summer: 115 degrees and humid. God bless their little hearts for creating siestas, white houses, and narrow streets with canopies overhead. America could learn a lesson or two.
Jimena de la Frontera, a pueblo blanco near Algeciras.
 [Source] Canopies over the streets of Seville.
This past week Wisconsin experienced above a 110 degree heat index for 4 days straight. I would wake up in the morning and brush my teeth, and by the time I was done, sweat was already beading on my face. Sleeping only happened after I channeled my inner zen to imagine that I was actually napping on a beach with the sun on my face, and not baking in the oppressive heat at 11pm at night. All four of us roommates (plus my roommates dog) spent our days splayed out on our backs, moving as little as possible and trying in vain to cool down.
This made for an interesting 4th of July. Matt and I went with our roommate and his girlfriend to a local town parade. We lasted 20 minutes before we had to call it quits from the heat. I felt so sorry for the marching bands, who were wearing dark pants and long sleeve shirts. That is the one day that it would have been acceptable to "call in sick".
Some places cancelled fireworks, because they didn't want to risk a spark landing on the grass and setting the whole place on fire. Other places kept the fireworks, but made sure they had the entire fire truck squad on hand, in case anything were to happen. Matt and I watched some fireworks from a nearby park, and sweat out a couple liters of water just walking there.

Thankfully, the heat wave finally broke Saturday morning. It actually got to the point of being chilly at night, but I refused to put on a sweatshirt. The novelty of being cold was just too good to pass up :)
Now if we could just get some rain...the grass is so dry it hurts to step on.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My 48 hour thoughts

So I've been asked to keep blogging. By more than one un-related person. Which means that people actually look forward to reading what I ramble about! (Yay!)
So here it is. I've been back in the USA for less than 48 hours. Thoughts so far are that I'm handling the reverse culture shock better than I assumed I would, which either means that I've just gotten lucky so far and the worst is yet to come (most likely) or that since I already went through it after study abroad I'm much better prepared for this time (but probably not). Because let's be honest; If it only took me 4 months to say hola and hasta luego to everybody I met (even once I got back home), then I've formed much worse hard and fast habits after being there for 9 months.

Jet lag. Aah jet lag. On Tuesday when I landed at O'hare I had already been traveling for 24 hours, and then after I had dinner with my Mom's family and made it back to Milwaukee and into bed, it was 6:30 in the morning Spain time (11:30 at home). I was exhausted. And both yesterday and today I've woken up all chipper and awake at 6am. Which means I'm exhausted again by 8 or 9. I miss staying up until 2.
Other thoughts are that driving in cars is scary. (Which I never thought I would say, because I've been known for my led foot all my driving years). But seriously! Matt picked me up from Chicago O'hare airport, and I spent the entire 40 minute drive to my grandparents house breathing deeply and trying to assure myself that he knew what he was doing. After only riding in coach buses that cruise at a comfortable 55 miles an hour all year, being a little car going 70 was quite the shock. Especially while driving through Chicago and Milwaukee traffic.

I've also noticed that I pause a lot more when I talk, or say things that sound a little weird grammar-wise. Just before I left Spain, I'd noticed that when I would try to think of a question in English, my thoughts would still come out in Spanish. I had to make a conscious effort to think in English. This wasn't so much a problem when I was with friends in Spain, because we all understood our strange mix of Spanish perfectly. Phrases like me da igual, vale, vámonos, qué quieres? está bien? un momento, más o menos, etc., were always said in Spanish. Always. But here, when I accidentally through in a Spanish word, more often than not I get a blank stare. So instead, I pause, think for a moment to find the word in English, and continue with my story. And save the Spanish rambling for my cat.
Customer service. Now here, is a problem. I don't like customer service anymore, I've decided. At least, not in restaurants. I would much rather pay a little less to be ignored and to enjoy my meal, for however long I decide to make it, in peace. Matt and I went to Denny's yesterday morning, and within 5 minutes of sitting down (I hadn't even looked at the menu yet) a waitress was rushing over to ask what we wanted and say sorry for the wait.
In Spain, it's an applause-worthy event if a waiter even looks at you 5 minutes after you walk in.
Oh America, we really need to learn how to slow down our pace of life a bit.

Here's another one. There's so much SPACE!!!! Even if I wanted to walk everywhere, (which I kind of do since I actually miss being able to use my legs after less than 48 hours) I couldn't. It's impossible. Everything is too spread out. While in Denny's yesterday I spaced out while looking at a field between 2 buildings and imagining how many Algecireño buildings would be squeezed into that space.

And finally, I've ease dropped on entirely too many conversations since I've been back. It's just too easy, and hard to block out. I miss just hearing the flow of Spanish, being able to understand it if I wanted to, but also just being able to let him be noise in the background. People say such stupid stuff sometimes. I don't want to hear it all.

I've also eaten too much food. The amount of food I had yesterday would be equal to maybe 1 1/2 or 2 days worth of food in Spain. No wonder I don't feel so hot right now.

So long story short, being home is.....okay. I'm not thrilled to be back in the states. It's been amazing being able to see friends and family again, and yea, the food has been delicious. But I actually miss paella and patatas bravas and jamón ibérico. I miss the slow pace of life, all the old crumbly buildings jam packed next to each other, and all the little Spanish abuelos blocking my way as I try to run to catch the bus. I miss Spain. But America and I will get to know each other better, and I know I'll feel more at home again. It will just take some time.

Monday, June 18, 2012

All good things must come to an end...

The year is over. Wow! I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm still not quite convinced that I'm actually leaving, even though I just threw away 3 bags of clothes and all my bed sheets. Normally, if I was taking the overnight bus to Madrid for a weekend trip I would be nervous right now, packing and double checking that I'm not forgetting anything. I'd be anxious, and just wanting to get there already. But right now? I'm not feeling any of that. I'm just completely in shock that I'm actually leaving. In 24 hours I will be home, back in the land of American, Jersey Shore, flavorful food, and real beef.

Spain might have been a little rough, this year might not have gone exactly how I'd hoped it would, but it was nevertheless one of the best experiences of my life. I challenged myself everyday and feel like a better and stronger person because of it.
There were high points (seeing my students markedly improve in their English) and low points (a trip to the ER after falling down the stairs). I traveled un montón (9 countries) but still took the time to know my own region. I improved 100% on my Spanish, but in the process lost a lot of my English-speaking and spelling capabilities. (Now everything I say es una mezcla, depending en cuales palabras encuentro primero.) I made great friends, both Spanish and extranjeros. I experienced the local fiestas (carnaval and the fería) and also the not-so-great aspects of living in a more money-conscience society. I made some really unexpected friendships (the Moroccan worker at the local alimentación or the waitress at the café near my school). Looking back on the year, it was so crazy and so fun that it's hard to come to terms that its over.

Although, going back home will just be a different adventure in itself. I'll be moving in with the boyfriend and two college friends, who have a dog. So really, life back home can't be all that bad either. And then there will be the period of adjustment, which I'm sure will make me want to jump on the first plane back to Spain. Within the past week I've already noticed small things, like not understanding the 12-hour clock system or fahrenheit anymore. ("You have class at 4:15?? In the morning?? Oh....right.") I can't wait to see my reaction to the price of fresh fruits and veggies. Oy. Vamos a ver.

Hasta luego Europa, until next time!