Posts Tagged ‘europe’

Twelve Angry Men (and women)

October 27, 2009

Today’s theme of the day: Anger. I began the day filled with excitement and anticipation. It would be one of my last in Barcelona and I had lots to do; places to see, people to be…Anyway, my agenda went as follows: Parc Guell in the afternoon with Juan, a fellow traveller from NY I had met the previous day; then, coffee with Lidia and Chus, 2 of the spanish students from Pueblo Ingles II; followed by a free meditation class I had stumbled upon during a quick internet search, (what is it they say, nothing is ever free?); and finally, if I still had the time and the will, a few hours at the Harlem Jazz Club later in the night.

Parc Guell: A Gaudi wonderland, with its winding paths, gingerbread houses, it resembled a sort of Alice in Wonderland meets Candyland. (Alice in Candyland?) It was a spectacular sight. In between marvelling at our fascinating surroundings and snapping photos of each other, we decided to take a break and grab a coffee at the ubiquitous tourist snack bar. The 2 men behind the counter, clearly not from Spain, were taking orders (or rather snapping orders) from the customers in line. The one guy, a short, angry looking little fellow with a large chip on his shoulder barked at me, “Can I help you?” I asked him about the type of coffee that was available: hot vs iced, cafinado vs descafinado. He quickly became frustrated when I didn’t order right away and decided to bypass me and move on to the next customer. Fair enough. However, when I had decided what I wanted, and nicely asked for his attention, he ignored me and continued to help the couple behind me. When the couple realized what was happening, they kindly informed him that “Ella esta proxima” (she was next). He then became even nastier towards me. At that moment, my patience and kindness beginning to dissolve, I turned to the poor couple behind me and said, “Como se dice ‘asshole’?” The gentleman in the couple, so taken aback with my comment, timidly responded, ‘um, asshole.” I thanked him, and being the bigger person, purchased my coffee and told the asshole to have a nice day.
Later on that afternoon, as we left the park and headed back to the center of town, where I was to meet up with Lidia and Chus, Juan offered to walk with me (or rather invited himself to walk with me). Throughout the day, and even during our first acquaintance, I had noticed an edge to Juan which I simply chalked up to him being a naturally cynical, yet harmless New Yorker. Nothing wrong with that. However, during our walk, when we began to talk more about our lives, his apparent harmless cynicism seemed to turn into something a little scarier. He was talking about his last job that he didn’t enjoy and from which he was fired because, according to him, his boss didn’t like him. I then innocently asked, “Were you glad, or relieved in some way to be fired since you didn’t really like the job?”. At this point, he looked at me as if I had just asked him if he enjoyed microwaving puppies, and shouted, loudly, “WAS I GLAD?? OF COURSE I WAS GLAD….MY BOSS HATED MY GUTS!!!”. Gee, I can’t imagine why. It was at that moment, that I realized it was time to say goodbye to angry Juan, and to all angry, toxic people that I may come upon, because there have been too many, and life is too short! But I digress.
Finally, after a day filled with angry outbursts and negative vibes, I was more than ready for my free meditation class. The class would take place at the apartment of a woman named Alicia, who is a … well, I’m still not quite sure what she is, but the class was free so…. When I arrived, Alicia greeted me with a hug and a warm welcome and told me that it was a pleasure to have me in her home. I then entered her living room where 4 other souls awaited their fate. I mean, free class. Alicia began the session by going around the room asking everyone the definition of yoga. When one of the students apparently got the answer wrong, Alicia snapped at her, “No!! That is not what yoga is. Did you read this week’s assignment at all?” The poor student looked terrified and didn’t respond. I prayed that since it was my first class Alicia would bypass me, especially since I didn’t read any of the ‘assignments. What was this? Anyway, she continued lecturing and at one point asked me if I understood her since she was speaking in Spanish. I proudly exclaimed that I understood almost everything! At this point she exclaimed, “Almost?? No!! You can’t understand almost. You have to understand EVERY WORD! This is important material, and you cannot only understand some of it. If you miss even one word, you are missing the entire essence!!” I was now shaking on my meditation pillow. “Laura, please sit next to Allison and translate to her in English.” So Laura sat next to me and translated while I silently plotted my exit. 3 hours later (because I was too scared of Alicia to leave early), the ‘class’ was finally over and Alicia thanked me for coming and reminded me to purchase my 108 bead mala, and to make sure to count the beads before I buy it because it MUST have 108 beads, not 104!! I dutifully agreed, thanked her, and then got the hell out of there. Life lesson #57: (and this one deserves to be repeated) Nothing is ever free!!

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Spanglish 2 …continued

October 23, 2009

So my second program with Pueblo Ingles turned out to be just as fabulous an experience as the first, just with a different cast of characters. For instance, we had Dominique, the sexy frenchman, Mikel, the Spanish player, and our very own Heidi Fleiss. And many more, upon which I shall expand at a later time. Since we were situated in the middle of nowhere, our program director decided to take us on an excursion during the week, to another abandoned town a few miles away from Valdallevilla. We were informed that as this was an abandoned village, there would not be any shops, or any other signs of civilization; however, there would be mobile service! So, after about an hour’s worth of hiking up the mountain, we finally reached the old village. At this point almost everyone on the hike pulled out their mobile devices, frantically pointing them towards the sky, begging for a signal from the gods, in hopes of connecting with the outside world. Poor Amelia, our hard-working tour guide had to postpone her lecture while everyone reconnected with their long lost real lives.

The rest of the week proved to be fulfilling and unforgettable. Friendships would be formed and connections made that would stay with us for a long time. Unfortunately, as do all good things, this too, had to come to an end. So we said our goodbyes (in English) and parted ways. After spending only 1 evening in Madrid, I decided to continue my love affair with Barcelona, so I boarded a plane and off I went. After arriving in Barcelona at 1am, I headed to Barceloneta beach where my friend Bea, at whose place I would be crashing, would be meeting me. High on xanax (from the flight) and 8 days of non-stop talking, all I wanted to do at this point was sleep. That would not happen. When I met up with Bea, she was in the happy company of Dan, a cheeky Brit and Dan’s 2 friends Carlos and Juan (whose names have been changed to protect the innocent) and who, I would come to find out later on, were former workers for a Columbian drug cartel under the guise of pizza makers, and who were now selling real estate in Barcelona. Okie dokie. So, despite my protests, sleep would have to wait. The rest of the night would be spent dancing until the clubs shut down and sitting on the beach waiting impatiently for the sun to make her appearance. (After which, I would once again begin my hopeless search for an American diner in Europe…What do they say the definition of insanity is?: Repeating the same thing over and over again, each time hoping for a different outcome? Hm) So, the madness of Barcelona would begin (or resume), and this night would mark the beginning of Barcelona Part III. Stay tuned for more.

My Big Fat Greek Adventure: Part I, Sailing with Cows

July 29, 2009

After parting ways with Jillian, Maria and Florence, Rosimara and I finally arrived in Bari, Italy just in time to catch our ferry to Corfu, Greece. As we walked to the deck where our 10 Euro “seats” awaited us, we joked about being stowaways and having to sit with the animals. Just as we finished having a good laugh, we heard an unmistakable sound coming from behind us, sounding much like a ‘moo’. As Rosimara returned after checking it out, the look on her face told me all I needed to know. We were in fact riding on board with cattle. Well, you get what you pay for, right? After having another good laugh, ’cause what else can you do, we decided to make the best of the situation. This was how we began using what has become the theme of our trip thus far, and that is, when given lemons, make lemonade! And we would be making lots of lemonade over the next few weeks. So, we had an 11 hour overnight boat ride among cattle on the deck of a cargo ship ahead of us and we were determined to make the best of the situation. And we did. We decided to sit on the deck and watch the sunset as it disappeared beyond the horizon along with my beloved Italy. Ciao Italia, I will miss you but I shall return! We then went to the ship’s one restaurant called the Trucker’s Lounge, which lived up to its name. After an inedible dinner, we headed back to the deck to relax, which we got to do for all of one hour until 2 truckers propositioned us, apparently mistaking us for hookers. After straightening them out and having another good laugh amongst ourselves, we resigned to the fact that we were not going to be getting a good night’s sleep on the deck of Trucker’s Central. Nonetheless, we grabbed 2 cardboard boxes, our towels, our bags and what was left of our dignity and made our ‘beds’. Sleeping with one eye open and a pair of scissors in between us, we ended up getting a total of 2 hours of sleep, before arriving at Corfu, where the Pink Palace bus was waiting to take us to our destination. How can I describe the Pink Palace? Hm. It was like the Pink Panther threw up all over a once beautiful beach resort on the Greek Islands and was taken over by MTV Spring Break and 100s of teenagers, a lot of nakedness, alcohol, booze cruises (yes, booze cruises), and other various forms of debauchery. Our decision to go to the Pink Palace began as a joke. Eventually Rosimara and I agreed it would be a hoot to stay there just for one night for a good laugh. Well, of course there ended up being a national ferry strike, and with no other means of leaving the island, we ended up getting stuck there for 4 nights. To both of our surprise, we ended up having a pretty good time at the Palace, in all its Pinkness. We in fact did go on the booze cruise, which despite the hedonistic debauchery surrounding us, ended up being rather pleasant and scenic. Rosimara dove off of a cliff and I went swimming in a bat cave…with bats. Considering I can’t swim, and I’m not a huge fan of bats, this was quite an accomplishment for me. During the boat ride, we were stopped by the coast guard. A few of us were asked by the captain to hide in the crawl space at the bottom of the boat to avoid being fined for having too many people aboard. Feeling a bit like Anne Frank, we waited patiently until the coast guard finally left and we were able to emerge from hiding. At the end of the day, as our boat pulled into the shore off of the Pink Palace, as I was attempting to climb down the ladder of the boat into the water, I tripped over my foot, did a flip and fell backwards, head first into the sea. All of the observers, or non-participants, watching the booze cruise pull in, most likely assumed I was another drunk girl falling off of a boat. Ironic, considering I was one of the only 2 sober ones aboard the love boat. Perfect ending to a perfect day!

Under the Tuscan Sun: Part II July 17 – 21

July 21, 2009

After¬†reuniting with Jillian, the¬†four of us settled into our 6 bed dorm room at Plus Florence, where we stayed on the ‘plus girls’ floor- formally a female dorm, complete with hot pink walls and scented toilet paper. On the first day, we took a walk to the Piazzale Michelangelo, where we sipped wine and watched the most beautiful sunset- so beautiful that as the sun disappeared beyond the hills, all who watched, broke out into applause. It was a perfect moment. The next day we took a tour through a Tuscan market where we sampled fresh olives (which I still abhor, but ate anyway because I’m a trooper), dried tomatoes, cheese and wine- (yes, wine, at 10am..that was a first, but not a last!). After the market, we took a walk to the Galleria del Academia where we saw the majestic David- even more impressive than the copy we saw at the Piazzale the night before. The following day, Maria and Rosimara went to Rimini and Jillian and I took a day trip to Venice. Ah, beautiful Venice. We took a ferry ride down the Grand Canal- in the wrong direction and ended up in some town called Lido. We eventually found the correct boat and headed back into Venice where we had a lovely Italian lunch consisting of Gnocci Bolognese and Fragiolo, some of the best wine I have ever tasted. We then took a walk through the Jewish Ghetto which fueled my desire to visit Germany and Poland. Rosimara and I will be doing that in October. After lunch we met a very well toned Gondolier who introduced himself as Johnba, as in John the Baptist, who offered us a free gondola ride after his shift (which was tempting considering a gondola ride costs 75 Euros- that’s over $100), but sadly we had to turn him down, as the last train back to Florence was leaving at 6:30pm. Next time Jonba! On the train ride home we realized that our tickets were ‘sin guarantia’, or something like that, meaning that we did not have guaranteed seats, meaning that we would either be standing or sitting on the floor for the 3 hour train ride. Just when we began to almost feel sorry for ourselves, we met Mary from Ohio who was travelling with her 20 year old daughter (who was sleeping in the luggage rack… apparently they got screwed out of seats as well). Mary was a hoot! And she happened to have a bottle of wine with her which we cracked open and ended up having a blast! Thank you Mary from Ohio! We eventually made it back to Florence where we would say our goodbyes to each other and to beautiful Italia.

Spanglish: Pueblo Ingles, Cazorla, Spain July 3-10

July 11, 2009

Goodbye Barcelona, I’ll miss you! But I will be back. On July 3rd (sorry I’ve been a bit behind in the blogging), we set out on our 5 hour bus ride to Cazorla, Spain, where we would begin our 8 day English Immersion program, where 20 Anglos would help 20 Spaniards improve their English. The program was more than I could have expected. Although we were working 16 hour days (thats 16 hours of non-stop conversation with 20 strangers), those strangers quickly became friends and the 16 hours of work did not feel like work at all. I met some of the loveliest people from Spain, including the 3 Fernandos… Fernando Purple (because he liked to wear purple), Fernando Yellow (yes, you guessed it), and Fernando Glasses. And of course the Anglos, such as Mayor Pete from Monroe, NJ (Geez, I can’t get away from Jersey!), Cheri, the loveliest yoga teacher from Texas, and of course my new buddy, Jillian (who decided to travel with me, Maria and Rosimara after the program). I had my first hitchhiking experience while taking a walk through the small villa of Cazorla with Inma, one of the Spanish students who didn’t feel like walking back to the villa so decided we’d hitch it back. Love her! Later on that day, Jillian and I took a walk back to the village to go shopping at the little Asian Bazaar. While we were perusing the handbags, the little man who worked there kept watching us and following us around the store. It was bizarre (no pun intended), nonetheless, we continued shopping. I tried on a pair of shoes, but decided not to purchase them. I decided to purchased a handbag instead. After paying for my bag, the cashier pointed to my purse and said (in spanish), open your bag. Confused, I asked him why. “Zapatos! Zapatos in your bag”. Oh my goodness, he was accusing me of stealing the shoes that I tried on! Infuriated, I opened my purse and proceeded to take out every item just to prove to him that I did not in fact steal his 3 Euro pair of flip flops! Unsatisfied, he followed us out of the store and demanded that Jillian open her bag, which she refused. Good for her! I then asked him if he Habla Inglesed, which he did not.. only Espanol. So, I stuck my middle finger in the air and shouted, “Comprende?!” We went back to the hotel where we told everyone of our fiasco and warned them not to shop at the asian bazaar. Pablo, our program director, offered to take me back to the store to return the bag and get my money back, which I considered, but decided against… (I really liked the bag). At the end of the week, on the bus ride back, as we passed by the bazaar, everyone on the bus (Anglos and Spaniards) stuck their middle fingers in the air and shouted towards the store, “Comprende?!” Now that’s international comraderie!