Friday, September 28, 2012

Rambling: Things About Spain

A list of things I've learned so far:

- Gay marriage was legalized about 7 year ago - woohoo!
- It barely rains here, but randomly has been raining all week (first rain since May-ish!).  So of course, people freak out.  They drive at a snail's pace.  I hear sometimes schools close!!  In the mornings, there weren't worms on the sidewalk, but huge CARACOLES  :-)  (snails)
- There is no MSU alumni association here :-( 
- College is free! For everyone!
- Synchronized swimming is a popular, respected, media-covered sport.  Who knew?
- The economy sucks right now.  Like, a lot.  They use the term "eurozone crisis" to refer to the recessions in most of Europe, and Spain has the worst unemployment of all. (More stats here).
I did not take this picture
- Knowing English is SO IMPORTANT (there are many bilingual colleges but you have to already know both, there are many opportunities to study abroad if you can speak it, obviously jobs, etc).
- A problem: you need to know English, but up until recently you only learned English if your parents could afford to send you to a private immersion school (or abroad).  So, there is a whole generation of people about my age who can't get a job because of the economy AND locked out of other opportunities since they were never taught English much in school.  Wah wahh.

Captured: Churro Break

Productive week - registered as a resident, joined a gym, ordered a local calling card, got a metro pass, selected Spanish classes, downloaded EuropaFM radio app, learned how to drive the Smart Car, started a notebook for new words, and arranged part-time work in an elementary school! This calls for churros :-)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rambling: A Weekend in Venice

FINALLY I have time to post the last of my pre-Spain travel pics.  Jeepers it only took forever.  After Molly and I parted in Cinque Terre, I headed to Venice by myself for the weekend.  It took four trains and a lot of lugging my suitcases up and down stairs (on one I accidentally ended up on the first-class car, then while trying to move got stuck in the part between cars because I couldn’t figure out how to open the door... turns out there was a button, as the conductor showed me. Wah wah, embarrassing).  Venice was just like everyone describes it – beautiful, but full of tourists.  It feels like it’s two places competing for the same real estate – historical Venice, with gondolas and art and Venetian masks, buried under the money-making hot spot of today, which lures in 17.5 MILLION tourists a year.  My favorite part of Venice was when I woke up early to watch the sun rise - the city (besides the delivery men, street sweepers, and early-bird locals) was sleeping so it was actually relaxing.  Pics: 

About 6am and the city is still sleeping :-)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Printed: Lead in Detroit

Ok, I got an email in my inbox today with the subject "Lead-Exposure Problems Spotlighted in Detroit."  According to the article, "a new study draws attention to the large numbers of Detroit children who have been exposed to lead and establishes a link between blood-lead levels and lower academic perfor­mance.'  - Article

I swear I head about lead poisoning in Detroit years ago!! Why is it just being 'spotlighted' now?  Where's the info about what has been done to get rid of the lead?  Why is it 2012 and this is still happening?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Words: First Day in Madrid

So the 7-year-old I now au pair for, who I'll call "chiquita," has got to be the cutest thing ever.  Her first eager attempt with me at a sentence in English:

Chiquita: (flipping furiously through a Spanish/English dictionary)  Do you have... (flip, flip)... in your house... (flip, flip, flip)... EXPLOSION???

Me: ..... Umm, no, I don't have explosions.

Chiquita: (runs upstairs and brings down the iPad) Look! (proceeds to show me an app that makes it look like there's an explosion in your house)

I think it's going to be a good 3 months :-)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Captured: Cinque Terre View

View from our hotel :-)  The best was listening to the waves while falling asleep.  Oh, world.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Rambling: A Week in Northern Italy

Ok, I know this post looks super long, but there were just too many pictures to choose from!  What a beautiful country.  I was ushered out of London by a plane full of chatty Italian teenagers, and my arrival to Italy was marked by their joyful clapping and cheering when we touched down – two things I haven’t seen in the past week (people being loud ??).  This set the tone for a week in Italy.  Since I had done my homework, I knew a train leaves from the Torino airport to the city center every half hour.  However, when I found the train terminal, it was completely deserted and actually eerie (which made me calmly freak out for about a minute).  A couple of conversations in English/Italian/Spanish later (I’m dubbing it Spanglishtalian) and I stepped off the bus, checked in to my hotel, and met my friend Molly!  She’s one of my best friends from high school and made all our plans - she’s currently on a 7 week trip (China, Vietnam, Italy, and Israel) after taking the BAR exam and before starting at her law firm.  Not only does she love all things Italian but studied in Florence for a semester in college and speaks the language well – helpful things for me!

We toured around the northern part of Italy over 5 days – Torino, Genova, and Cinque Terre (near La Spezia).  After the busy sightseeing of London it was nice to spend more time eating, sitting, sleeping, wandering through random churches, etc.  My first night we had the bessssst dinner – the cheese course and pasta was perfect, the setting outdoors in a local piazza was awesome, and our server made us a sampling of 3 desserts because we couldn’t decide!  We started talking to two girls our age next to us and I learned a lot about Italian life, mostly about how different the people, food, and dialect are from one area to the next (makes sense, since Italy used to be a bunch of separate city-states.  They don’t celebrate Independence Day, but Unification Day instead).  One girl even invited us to the bar she works at the next night, but we were leaving in the morning – my first invitation from a new friend abroad!!  

Piazza full of restaurants

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rambling: A Week in London

Well, after spending a week in London, the easiest way to summarize is that I could definitely live here.  I was too busy to write during the week so now, waiting at the insanely crowded airport at 5:30am, I’ll try to recap:

First pic on the new cam!  At the top of St. Paul's Cathedral, which is unbelievable.
 The craziest thing happened on the flight from Chicago – it turned out that the girl sitting next to me not only was going to the same hostel as I was, but invited me to join her in the cab she had arranged – for free!  She is a PhD student at Northwestern on her way to do research at the British Library archives so the university is paying for her trip, including her cabs (and mine!).  It seemed like the best luck I could have and instantly assured me that things always work out (for any readers of The Alchemist, I’d call it ‘beginners’ luck’).

Monday, September 10, 2012

Captured: Moving

A few photos from my last week in the US:

My Dear Chicago,

I've done what I came to do: explore the city passionately, do my job well, and meet good, transformative people. Thank you for revealing to me my unearned privileges, teaching me how to parallel park, and providing so many new experiences. I'll be seeing you.

With love, Nicole

Surprise going away party with my familia!