Tuesday, December 13, 2011


So everyone reading this should be smart enough to know that there are all kinds of people in the world.  There's an ass for every seat, as they say.  But recently I've discovered a new kind of person that I wasn't aware existed.  Before leaving for Spain, I thought that people would not take kindly to my being American.  People haven't really been super rude and prejudiced, although they probably have some expectations due to the stereotypes.  Expectations which have influenced how they behave.  However, a wildcard has been introduced to this game: the Americanophiles.

Picture this: a night club in London.  I'm out with a friend from home and two of her American friends.  A guy comes up to us and somehow starts talking.  I normally don't like conversation in clubs: I'm there with my friends, the music is loud, it's not really a great setting to talk about anything.  Anyways, this guy ends up telling me how much he adores everything about America and Americans.  Weird.  I love America too, but its my home.  As the conversation progresses quickly (he was a fan of the overshare), we find out that he is 18, and has a 2-year-old daughter who lives there with her American mom.  He promptly pulled out his phone and showed me a picture. 

Okay. lets begin.

I get that you love America, but isn't that a little extreme?  Instead of going to a club and trying unsuccessfully to pick up Americans due to your americanophelia, shouldn't you be taking care of the American's you already have?  Some people love americans to the extreme; thus, the americanophile was born.  I get it, the USA rocks, but London isn't too shabby either.  Spain's pretty nice.  American's are friendly, but I think Parisians dress better, Spaniards are edgier, Italians have better food, and Scotland has cool accents, lots of red hair and freckles.

We had to do a reading for class that was written by a Spaniard traveling in America.  The essay basically criticized everything unjustly and called Americans ignorant, vacant, and friendly to a fault.  Shortly after, I had to sit through a rather uncomfortable presentation of a Spanish girl presenting on a guy who criticized USA.  The presentation consisted of Spaniards turning around every 45 seconds or so to see how we were reacting to someone calling America an "anorexic society with no history or culture."  To the people who want to know our reaction, its this: everyone who criticizes is probably jealous.  Is the USA perfect? no.  But its definitely better than wherever people learned to make judgements like that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Segovia, el Norte, y vida por lo general

Hi hii!!
So one major detail I left out of my last post is the details of my living situation.  I'm living in an apartment with an older single woman who is nice enough but also has a very strong personality reminiscent of the aunt from My Big Fat Greek Wedding:
"What you mean you don't eat no meat?!... that's ok, I make lamb."

 and now for my where-abouts:
Segovia! a few friends of mine went to Segovia for the day to see the huge roman aquaducts there... incredible.  they were huge! it was such a cool city that was a fusion of old (really old) architecture and new as well.  In a lot of cities I've seen, there's an old part of the city and a new city, but what I saw in segovia was that the two were completely fused, there was no distinction.  Keep in mind: we were only there for a day, so I could be wrong. Either way, it was so cool and I wish I could have stayed longer, but the train left at 6.

 Where's waldo? insert blinge to scale.

 El correo de torros: a bull fight.  The season was ending and Bull fights are so unique to Spanish culture.  They just banned bullfighting in Cataluna, the autonomous community that Barcelona is in, and I don't know if that ban will spread to the other parts of the country as well, so I decided to go.  I am not a confrontational person nor violent, so I was nervous to watch the bullfight.  There were six bulls, each of which were killed in the arena, which a lot of people don't realize.  Every bull fight aims to end in the death of the bull.  It was interesting and beautiful and alluring while simultaneously bloody and gory and something that I'm not super interested in seeing again.  The outfits were cool, and the atmosphere unique, but it was violent.

El Norte (Leon, Santander, y Bilbao) was so beautiful! Unfortunately I was sick and hacking up a lung, but thankfully that didn't stop me from enjoying the trip.  We saw a lot of cool things thanks to the planning of our director, but the coolest was the cuevas de pinal, which are prehistoric caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites that have prehistoric paintings. We also went to Bilbao, which is apart of el pais vasco (basque country) where they speak a language completely unrelated to any other language on the planet and have unique food. It was my favorite city of the trip, with the guggenheim which was really interesting as well.


Outside of the Cueva de Pinal

 El Catedral de Leon

Futbol! not the Steelers, but FC Madrid! I went to a game, it was awesome. Enough said.  Also, we went to the James Joyce Irish Pub, close to Banco de Espana, its this cool bar in the middle of the city.  There was a soccer game (Manchester City vs. Manchester United), and walking into the bar was like being transported to the UK, or what I imagine it to be.  Everyone was speaking in British English and cheering on their teams.

Finally, Toledo! We took a day trip there to see the city.  Toledo was a big deal back in its hay day.  The way our professor explained it is that to understand a person, you have to learn about their childhood.  Its the same with a country, to understand the present, you have to know the past.  Spain's culture, although now extremely roman catholic, was once a melting pot for religion and culture.  This is, perhaps, the most obvious in Toledo, where they have an old Jewish quarter and mosques.  They may have been destroyed over the course of the inquisition, but everything was restored and made into museums.

Before I left for Spain, my Grandma gave me a 10$ bill.  Its kind of a tradition to take it as "emergency money" and write on it all of the places you travel.  So far, mine getting lots of cities on it, but none outside of Spain, an my passport has no new stamps in it.  This weekend I'll be traveling a lot across a certain channel north of France, so that is soon to change! more soon about the cities soon to be printed on Alexander Hamilton's face and other Spanish adventures!

Friday, October 7, 2011

a very big update

Hola amigos y lectores!
its been quite a while since my last updates, so here's a very big, abridged update on my time abroad so far:

On August 20th, I peaced out and said adios to los estados unidos until the christmas season.  For the first two weeks, the group stayed in dorms in Burgo Das Naciones, in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, where they not only speak castellano (Spanish you learn in school) but Gallego, a local dialect to the area.  First, let me say that the Spanish know how to do the college dorms.  Each dorm was a single, with its own bathroom, and maids came every day to bring new towels and make the beds.  Santiago was beautiful.  The city is one of two cities I'm aware of that have completely been built around religion, the other being Jerusalem.  Legend has it that Santiago is the final resting place of Saint James (Sant Iago).  The centerpiece of the city is the cathedral where he is buried, with a huge baroque facade with so much detail its hard to know where to look.  Another fun fact is that it is a huge pilgrimage site for Christians all over the world because of the church.  It was a perfect way to start out in Spain, the group was together and, instead of diving head first into the culture, we gradually got used to the language, the food, and all of the little differences together.  One thing I wasn't expecting was all of the bagpipers all over;  Galicia is known as the Celtic Spain, which was random but a really cool fusion of cultures.
The cathedral with James' tomb

We also spent a day traveling around the border of Portugal, spending time on both sides of the river, we dipped into Portugal for a few hours, which was really cool.  The most shocking thing to me was that the professor told us we didn't need our passports, and no one checked as we crossed the border.

Valenca do Minho, Portugal
After two weeks in Santiago de Compostela, we flew to Madrid and the group parted ways to go to our homestays.  Each student is staying with a Senora, whether or not they have a family is almost irrelevant.  I've been living with my senora, who lives by herself when she is not hosting students.  She has a Romanian assistant, who comes every day during the week to cook and clean.  Since we've been here, we started class at CEU San Pablo, gone out on the town a few times, and traveled a little bit too.  So far I've only been to Torremolinos, a beach town next to Malaga, where Pablo Picasso was born.  It was a really nice weekend with an amazing landscape: mountains on one side and the Mediterranean beach on the other. Definitely recommended. I also spent a day at El Escorial and Arajuez, two short train rides out of Madrid with amazing royal palaces.

Things worth mentioning:
  1. The contrast between Spain of the past and present Spain.  Both are amazing, but its clear that Spain is still transitioning out of Franco's rule in many ways.  Immigration is fairly new here, and the struggles that Spain is having to welcome immigrants is apparent if you watch the news or speak to an immigrant.  There isn't a ton of ethnic diversity because of it.  Also, the contrast between the decadent palaces and the current city shows some of Spain's economic struggles.  Immigration and economics are both very broad and interesting subjects, both of which I'm definitely not educated enough to comment on.  Also, Spain is truly one of the oldest countries in the world.  From the Iberians, the Romans, the moors, and the Spanish, the fusion of culture and history here is amazing.
  2. Coffee.  Cafe con leche? si, por favor. I really can't say anything else about that.  But I don't normally drink coffee in America unless I had a big test or three hours of sleep the night before, but here its really something else, and I like it.
  3. really, where to begin? There are so many things about being here that make me think.  I love Spain and it would be amazing to live here for a year or two, but a lot of the times there are things about the culture here that make me feel so lucky to have the life that I have in the United States.  There are plenty of things to criticize, but overall, life is good.
  4. By far the weirdest thing that's happened to me here: Rosh Hashannah.  Let me explain.  I'm jewish, as is my homestay mom.  However, we come from very different traditions.  In her tradition, on Rosh Hashannah its common to eat meat from a head on Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish new year, as a symbol of good things to come.  Its a religious tradition, I couldn't say no.  Let my explain further: I'm basically a vegetarian.  I eat chicken, but that's it.  I've never had a cheeseburger nor bacon, and I don't feel like I've missed out.  I just don't really like meat.   My senora told me, because of this, I wasn't really american, just a sympathizer.  So when she told me the ominous brown thing on my plate was carne de cabeza, I'm fairly sure all of the blood drained from my head.  I cut a small piece, and swallowed it like a pill.  Hopefully, whatever that little piece of brain meat will bring me whatever good luck it symbolizes. 

Top 5, Spain so far:
  • El Rastro. Its a huge market place set up every Sunday morning in the city.
  • El Palacio Real in Arajuez.  Its a short train ride outside of Atocha, and only 4 euro for students.  There are amazing gardens, and its a nice break from the city.  Spending the day there was probably one of my favorite days in Spain so far.
  • The coffee in El Palacio Real in madrid.  There's a cafe above the gift shop that overlooks the courtyard,  and the cafe con leche is perhaps the best coffee I've ever had.  it was sizable, and the perfect color brown. I dare you to tell me this doesn't look good.

  • warning: this is cheesy.  Wondering around, seeing whatever comes your way.  I don't go out of my apartment planning on getting lost somewhere, but seeing everything on the way to the destination, not just the destination.  There's a difference between being a tourist and being a traveler.
  • The weather! holy crap.  I wouldn't be surprised if it was snowing in upstate NY by this time, but its sunny and 80 degrees in Madrid, and its mid October.  Sometimes I wish it wasn't so hot, but this is the weather I'll miss when its cloudy and grey in February.
My feet in the Mediterranean!

 The sierras on one side, the beach on the other.

 Just being blinge in Aranjuez

In a park by the river

Sorry I've been MIA! maybe I'll post more often from now on.  But there are surely more posts to come, as there is so much to see and share.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy Birthday from Hubba Hubba Henry

Harry Potter 7 was amazing.  My youngest brother, the subject of this post, hasn't read any of the books, and decided to read the series after the movie.  After you finish reading, maybe you'll realize the scope of that decision.  At the premier, my youngest brother, turned around and said, "oh hey, I read your blog.  I liked it, but there wasn't enough about me in it."  So, Henry, I dedicate this post to you.  We get along now, with an unspoken understanding that he can make fun of me almost as much as he wants, as long as I'm not in a bad mood and he doesn't cross the line too much.  He is a lot of things, almost none of which can be adequately described with words.

Henry is witty, funny, and quick.  He's smart, and his mind makes connections that none of us would ever think to make.  He is, in ways, a very typical 15-year-old boy: he knows weird minutiae about almost every sport, he plays one competitively, he eats at least 4500 calories a day, and he constantly cracks jokes about what comes out the other end.  However, though he is many parts childish, he is also mature in many senses.  I often describe him as 15 going on 50, with the 15 year old sense of humor with a 50-year-olds fire, wit, and heart.  Many of my favorite conversations revolve around funny childhood memories of stuff Henry used to do.  Here's a small list to highlight a very select few:

  • Henry's 3 imaginary friends, on which he blamed self-administered haircuts (ending in bald patches), going to the bathroom almost everywhere but the bathroom, and stomping on a tube of sunscreen until it exploded all over the rug.  He tried to blame all of those things on his imaginary friends, most of which someone witnessed first hand.
  • The time my mom tried to wash his mouth out for soap for saying too many swear words but didn't know how and tried to pump soap in his mouth.
  • He got so angry when he was little that he slammed my parents bathroom door, which had a full-sized mirror on it.  When the door closed, it had such force that the mirror continued the momentum of the door by falling off and shattering on the rug.
  • One time Henry got bitten in pre-school by a classmate, he came home with a note taped to his shirt that said "Henry received a human bite today."
He was just generally a really funny kid.  Not intentionally, but seriously, if you watch a little kid do the stuff he did, anyone would have laughed... except for my parents sometimes.  But there were countless times that he would get reprimanded at dinner and we would all be bite our tongues and try our hardest not to laugh, and fail miserably.  More recently, with my sister and I at school, my two brothers would get bored.  They got in the habit of sending us funny pictures of each other.  So, if a picture is worth 1000 words, hopefully these few will help describe him.

the front page of the New York Times Magazine with Henry's artistic liberties

He wanted it, he ordered it, he wore it around a local college campus just because he wanted to.  He came, he saw, he conquered.

me and Henry baby.

also, my profile views went from 3 to 9! wahooo partayyy!  Big PR party when I hit the double digits.

AND big congrats to my good friend, dollyrocker, the newest blinge in the world!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Being Blinge

What is a Blinge? Here's a clue: combine blonde and ginger and you get blinger... blinge for short.  It is, literally, a hybrid; furthermore, its a nickname my close friend gave me a few years ago that only a specific few can use.

Next question: What is the point of this blog?

I'll let you know when I figure that out.  The one thing I don't want it to be is a waste of time.  I can't stand people who think that what they have to say is so important, when in reality, no one cares.  So, hopefully, I'll be able to make something of this.  Until it takes shape, I guess this is just my musings.

Here are a few things about me, to get this started:

  • When I was little I wanted to be an author, then a doctor.  That stuck until I took organic chemistry, and now I don't know what I want to do... how original.
  • I like bright colors, the pool, and sunshine (despite the fact that I'm prone to sunburn with 50 spf on).
  • I still watch cartoons sometimes, I will always have a soft spot for boy bands, I like to be lazy but get bored pretty quick, and if my family dinner's were videotaped, I'm pretty sure it would be a top-rated show.  My younger brothers are the wittiest people I know (even if they're annoying sometimes) and my sister makes no apologies.  Mix those qualities with disregard for political correctness and its a pretty lethal combination.  I laugh so hard I can't breath from our dinner-table conversation at least once a week.
  • my top 5 obsessions for the week:
    1. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
    2. Knee Deep by the Zac Brown Band featuring Jimmy Buffet (I'm not a country music fan, but its such a good summer song!)
    3. Office comedy. I live for when people talk and its clear they have no idea what they're talking about.  My dad says "better to keep your mouth shut and let them think you're a fool than to open your mouth and confirm the fact." but when it comes to other people talking, I disagree.  Keep talking!
    4. friendship bracelets... I have 10-year-old tendencies but I love making them and, more importantly, wearing them.
    5. The blogosphere.  Hopefully someone important will find this and I can make bank from it or at least get free stuff. books, nail polish, movies... whatever. Hello, internet!
  • oh yeah... ESPAÑA! I'm going to Spain in the fall, and this blog will probably end up being noteworthy stories from my semester abroad! ¡A España y más allá! or in English, to Spain and beyond!