Saturday, December 23, 2006

Tea Dreams

I love the idea of owning a cafe, and there are
several incarnations of tea selling that use different
business models.

The shop that started my fantasies was a "tea shop" -
in store everything was free. The gave away free
samples at a bar next to the entrance: all the teas,
and even little cookies. It was brilliant. A
customer that came in for 15-20 minutes of sampling
inevitably spent 15-50 dollars on tea and accessories.

This seems to be a much better model than a cafe, which
I would guess average $5 per hour per customer. Of course
you need a place with high traffic, which means high
rent, especially in San Diego. Still, roping people in
with a bar and tiny tea cups for free samples is
brilliant because everyone knows that the free samples
are intended for paying customers and almost everyone
complies. At least in the 15 minutes I sat at the tea
shop in San Francisco about six customer left the tea
bar during that time, probably five of which spent
that minimum $15.

Then there's the typical cafe, or in this case a "tea
house." This is definitely the one that pulls in
dreamers and destroys them, and it is tempting. It's
live music, open mics, a place for people to gather.
I can hang my artist friends' art on the walls, it
will be cozy and magical. And will require a huge
investment in both remodeling whatever space I lease,
and very high rents in order to be in an artsy-fartsy
area, with ample foot traffic and/or ample parking.

But after I move from thinking about a "tea shop" to
dreaming about a "tea house," I am terrified of the
initial investment and the high rate of failure for
restaurants, and then I start thinking about a
coffee/tea kiosk in a business park. There are so
many corporate buildings in SD, and many of which I
know are lacking the kiosk on the bottom floor, and
which, if a space could be rented, would be
guaranteed a captive, paying customer bank of the many
many offices. But then I think, after feeling so
secure about the initial investment compared to
potential profit, there's not much satisfaction in
that. And I'm back to square one.

So then I started thinking about soup restaurant...
but it also requires a huge initial investment and is a
food business, which is inevitably risky. And I'm
stunted again.

Then I think, maybe I can get a few kiosks going, and
they can be my income while a tea shop or tea house is
just a fun little project...

Travel vs. Sustainable Living

My question to myself is basically how I want to
change the world, and what is the most realistic. I
was thinking about all my friends and their
values/priorities. I want to find a way to live truly
sustainably, or pretty damn close, but in the city.
So my real problem has only to do with how I can
enable myself to live that way while remaining very
much plugged into a city. I feel like another city
(not SD) would allow me to do that a little easier.
But I don't know if this is realistic.

Also, regarding economics, I am torn here as well
because I want to be financially successful, it's really
important to me, yet I don't want to be part of the
military-industrial-complex. Impossible in the USA, I
know, but I want to be part of a business or even
better start my own business that is really
conscientious, and shop at the co-op and support other
"triple bottom line" businesses. So, again, if I
wanted to be orthodox in my economic values, I should
leave the country or drop out of the economics system,
but I don't want that life, so I have to find a way
around this problem by making my money and spending my
money with businesses that have morals. I am thinking
about getting a green MBA. Maybe not for a few years,
but I think I would really enjoy it and I think it
would help me attain the goals that I hold for myself.

And I hate car-culture. An occasional drive I don't
mind, sometimes even enjoy, but daily driving and
commuting is awful, but driving to the grocery store
and everywhere on a daily basis, I hate. I want a life
where I can walk to the grocery store and walk out to
dinner and walk to run errands, and take public
transportation, and just drive occasionally. So, beyond
getting an electric car (which is muchmuchmuchmuch
more efficient and therefore sustainable), I just
don't want to be driving on a regular basis.

I guess shooting for 90% attainment of morals would be
okay with me. 90% of money interactions with
triple-bottom-lines, 90% sustainable, etc. That's
kind of where I aim for vegetarianism these days
(like, you know, if a soup has chicken broth I'll eat
it, an occasional piece of seafood when no other
options are present, etc). BUT, right now I’m SOOO far
from 90%, and I don't know how to change it. In SD,
it's impossible to really live without driving, so I
drive all the time.

I wonder if my ideas are attainable, and if I am
strong enough to achieve them. It would be easier to
just forget them and get "a job" and live my life like
everyone else, but of course this would kill me and I
don't want it, and I wouldn't be happy, and it's not
realistic to imagine this as a possibility. So, then,
how do I move from thinking about my ideas and values
to LIVING them? I don't know. It seems nearly
impossible sometimes.

And I think another city might change that or make it
easier, but I don't know. And sometimes I just think
I need to get a little more experience and
perspective, but then when will I know when the time
is right? And sometimes I truly believe that I'll
just "know" when the time is right, and I'll move
forward, and until then I should just learn as much as
I can and extend feelers in different directions. But
how ling do I wait for the feeling to come?

And I also know that I've lived a pretty privileged
life, and I truly believe that the world can support
most of the population with a high quality of life, if
we went about it the right way. Urban revival and
community solutions are in the answer, but how does a
non-developer move these into play? Also, can I
really think that I'm living my values when I travel
all the time and fly tons of places? I mean, I think
travel is important and valuable, but can the world
population travel like I do? No. So, then, which
should take precedence? Living sustainably or
traveling? I value both, but they are inherently
contradictory, unless you travel by sailboat or train,
which I do not do.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Commissurotomy: A Separation of Thought

Right-brained and Left-brained. Science and Myth. Logic and Emotion. Creation and Destruction. Male and Female. Specialization and Generalization. Wisdom and Ignorance. Order and Chaos. Analysis and Synthesis. Pairs of words that represent a way of thinking. This way of thinking sees the world through a perpetual state of double vision: although the way of thinking is single, the views produced are double. It is a world that can see only one side of any coin, where each person must choose her side. And, though she knows the other side exists, it is difficult, perhaps nearly impossible, to see both sides at the same time.

It seems the United States (and likely most other “Western” nations, by which I mean nations whose primary political and social structure is founded on pillars of belief that arose during the Enlightenment) are suffering from social commissurotomy. We do not know how to communicate between our two selves. Engineers and artists cannot understand each other, though they aim for the same societal goals. It can be argued that any group of constructive peoples would work towards improvement – of society, culture, the environment, etc. It would be illogical to assume otherwise. Is it not, however, illogical to believe there is only one means to reach those ends? This is precisely what society seems to be saying. Each school of thought seems to believe their methods, their goals to be the Truth, the only truth.

This separation of schools of thought leads to a disjointed worldview, which does not allow the natural healing between differences to take place. One problem with modern science is it hyper-focused, fragmentary appraoch to the world. This does not imply, not in the least, that specialization is not an important part of modern science. It does, however, imply that even the most advanced specialist needs to be open to other worldviews, other cultures, other approaches, and allow them to exist on their own, in peace.

"Western science has evolved a cosmovision very different from all other human cultures, though it has now become the one most influential in the entire world. Its most obvious divergences from other cosmovisions lie in its seeing life and consciousness only in Earth's biological creatures, and in its narrowing of 'reality' to what can be tested and measured scientifically. This excludes from its reality gods, soul, spirit, dream experience, thoughts, feelings, values, passions, enlightenment experiences, and many other aspects of consciousness beyond their physiological correlates." (Sahtouris, Elisabet. When Worlds Converge. 2002.)

Here we see how this narrow-minded kind of specialization can become unhealthy when it begins to push out of the range of vision the possibilities of other beliefs. It is not to suggest that each realm of study is not important in itself. Artists would not be able to create beauty or inspire social change if their works were not refined and powerful. Doctors would not be able to produce healthy bodies through surgery if they were not highly trained in their skill. Pharmacists would not be able to heal the sick if they did not understand the chemistry of their trade. Architects would not be able to create beautiful and functional buildings and structures if they did not understand the dynamics of design and the importance of urban landscape. Still, the problems arise when one group in society gains an extreme amount of power and influence over other aspects of any particular society and over other societies in entirety. This is the point in which a worldview becomes dangerous, when it has the power and momentum to obliterate all other worldviews. The Greek concept that what is good is beautiful and what is beautiful is true sets an example that may help to ease the division in ways of thinking. This alignment of good, which can be equated with morality, beauty, which can be equated with art, and truth, which can be equated with science, allows to see a world in which science and art are both true.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Seville is a yellow city.

Seville is a Yellow City. I don’t know what that means exactly, but it keep popping into my head, exactly that way, “Seville is a Yellow City. Seville Amarilla.” Of course the exterior meaning is obvious, and that’s why I had the thought in the first place. The buildings are yellow. Not all, of course, but the majority. If they’re not actually yellow, then they have yellow trim, or yellow tile. Even the whites here are slightly yellow. And it’s not a dirty yellow. It’s not a city that’s gone yellow. This city is intentionally yellow. Even the sunsets are yellow. The pinks and reds are confined to a very small part of the sky, way off on the horizon. But above the city, as the sun is going down, the sky turns yellow, bright and yellow. This is reflected in the river, and on everyone’s faces. There is a happy glow at sun down, relief as the sun disappears and the heat can slowly dissipate.

Seville has a special light that has inspired artists of all kinds for centuries. Hemingway, Wells, and Rillke all vacation here annually. This special light is both literal and figurative, and it touches people in different ways. For me, it has carried me out of my United States reality into a land of golden things like sunshine and olive oil. This light has turned my days here into an odd thing, strings of moments like a golden necklace. I sit on my bed in the apartment I have rented for just one month, and the late afternoon sun flickers off an on against the wall – the setting sun is being covered and uncovered by sheets hanging up to dry on the building across the narrow street.

After dark, the lampposts glow yellow. This is common, as cities try to reduce light pollution and allow people and telescopes to see the stars above. But in some cities the light is a harsh yellow, almost orange. Take San Diego for example. It’s a dangerous yellow that turns on at sun down. The yellow is the same yellow as the stoplight yellow. I’ve always wondered how this doesn’t cause more accidents. But in Seville, it’s a soft and warm yellow, reflecting (or reminding one of) the summer night air.

After dark, the city comes alive. I can’t speak for the winter. I haven’t lived a whole cycle here. But it’s September, and while it should be fall by now, global warming has allowed summer to linger a bit longer than normal, and I’ve been able to know the Seville summer nights. During the day, the streets are quiet. Even during the morning rush, the siesta rushes, and the evening rush, it’s a quiet and slow rush. The heat drains us all, and while we are happy, we exert no energy beyond the basics. This all changes when the sun starts to bring the yellow sparkle into the sky. As the lampposts flicker on across the city, people begin to emerge form their homes, refreshed, breathing a sigh of relief from the days heat. And as the night spreads open, the city and it’s streets wake up. All hours of the night are safe, as people of all ages, young and old surprisingly included for my American mind. Soccer games in plazas and people helping their abuelos down he curbs surround bars and restaurants as families and friends enjoy their greatest meal of the day.

Seville reminds me of Austin, also. It’s about the same size, a little under a million in the city proper, a little over a million with the surrounds (the suburbs, in American). The river flows through the middle of town. The trees drop yellow flower petals and leaves that have dried up into yellow crisps from the heat and drought. People like to exercise here. Its possible, in fact unavoidable, to sweat, and one feels cleansed from it. They take strolls along the riverbank, they are out in the river in kayaks and canoes and crews. Unlike much of Europe, people go running in Spain and Seville. They exercise for their health and for fun. They exercise in the yellow days and the yellow nights.

On my way to and from Spanish class each day I pass by a milliner’s shop that I have never once seen open and a post office that still maintains records in large logbooks that are stacked three deep and to the ceiling along a wall.

Of course not everything is a happy yellow. On my daily walk I also pass a woman who lives, during the day, next to the door to the social security building, and at night she lives on the doorstep, under the eave of the door to the social security building. She has two very large suitcases wrapped in cardboard, and two very, very large black umbrellas. She sits on more cardboard between the boxes, and hides behind the black umbrellas. She must stay this way all night. During the day, when the social security building is open to the public, to serve the people, this woman left behind moves her huge boxes and umbrellas about 15 feet to the north, just out of the way of the door. During the day, she alternates between sitting behind and between her belongings and standing next to them fanning herself in the heat. She wears the same sky blue dress with Seville yellow flowers printed on it, and a simple gold wedding band.

My dreams are yellow here as well, when I can dream. The nights are a bit hot, especially without a fan, but I am a passer through, and they don’t have cheap things in Spain like we do in the USA. The cheapest fan I’ve come across is thirty Euros (about forty US Dollars). For really just a few hours of use, I have decided I would rather sweat it out. I have a threesome every night – I snuggle up with two gallon-sized bottles of frozen water. Even then I can’t sleep the night through. I wake up from the heat nearly every hour, preventing me from dreaming. But sometimes I’ll sleep a dream length stretch, and my dreams are yellow when I have them. Soft and warm and slow, where normal things unfold like feathers falling from the sky and I feel clean and I forget the ghosts of the city, or perhaps join them. I catch up on sleep in the afternoons. I’m not sure why I can sleep for three hours straight in the heat of the afternoon, but not in the night. It is a strange thing about hot nights.

Eventually I have gotten used to the heat, and I am able to dream again. And the yellow light permeates my other world, seeping through the open window, shining on me like a sunray, brighter than the moon, which appears white compared to the yellow nights.

And even, finally, summer seems to be relenting, letting go a month later than usual, and while the days are still bright hot yellow, the nights are transforming into a cool yellow. Lightening can be seen on the horizon, yellow, of course, and the slight breezes sometimes make it through the winding streets and up into my window at night, and my dreams of ghosts and home and yellow flowers are kissed with the relief of fall, and I imagine the leaves of the trees turning a lovely shade of yellow as the city moves into it’s next phase and I dream of returning to my own co

Friday, September 22, 2006

Granada is a fruit.


My arrival in Granada was warmed with a package waiting for me at the school when I picked up my keys. Marshall had done me a great favor by mailing me a sports bra, because I did not pack one and could not find one that actually offered any support when I searched in Barcelona. I’m sure they exist in Spain (they must, no?), but I could not find one. Along with my beloved bra, he sent some of my favorite treats. I’m sure I looked like a bag lady making my way from school to apartment, with my back pack, my purse, my computer bag, my canvas bag with a rolled up linoleum square sticking out that looks like carpet, and the package. When I arrived at the apartment, the key did not work, but a nice old man let me in. But then, the paper did not have the apartment number. And it was a fairly big building, probably 6 stories. I could not try my key in every door. I asked the old man if he knew if there was an apartment with students. He said in the building two doors down. I looked at my paper, but it definitely said #2. I felt like crying. I’d gone form happy bag lady to homeless. I dropped all my bags and sat down on the floor while I dug around… I had two papers with the address of my apartment. The other said #4 and included the apartments number, the old man helped me carry my bags to the next building, but my key didn’t work there either. I was really hungry and tired. But the old man tried the key and it worked. He was an angel.

And when I got to the apartment, it was actually clean. My flat mates are friendly, and there is water in all the faucets! All the time! I was happy again.

If I’d known everything I know now, I could have stayed in Spain a year, which was one of my options. But I already bought my ticket to Paris, and things have unfolded the way they have. But we can never know what we are going to know, so those kind s of thoughts are worth spending much time on. In fact, I generally dismiss them immediately, although the surface often. I was never certain I’d stay a year, although I always felt like I should; it was more the idea of this trip somehow being a “success” than really thinking I should or shouldn’t. But then I realized I don’t know Spain. And, I resolved in the time before I left to just always do what I want to do, so if I want to go I should go, and if I want to stay I should stay, and if I want to return I will return. So, I consider this my scout trip.

If I had come here first I would stayed. But I am going to live here someday, for at least a year, within the next five years. I would like to buy a Carmen up on the hill. A Carmen is like a villa in the city, a house with a garden on the hillside. There are also houses that are built into the hills, like hobbit homes, or caves. One of these would also be okay.

There are a number of journals and residencies that I am going to apply to when I return. I am going to apply for a Fulbright, with a similar project as the last time I applied, but in the Donona instead of Estonia. The Donona is a big National Park here with lots of wetlands. Also, I am going to apply to PhD programs in Ecocomposition this December, to begin in September 2007. I am excited about all my ideas, and I hope that I can turn them into reality when I get home.

It has been kind of hard for me to share a flat with so many people, most of whom are younger than me. The age is not really the difference, but they are all kind of aprtiers, and also they always speak English. While I thought I might come to Spain and party I really haven’t felt like it, and since I do what I want when I want, I haven’t partied. If the people were a little older or spoke Spanish or a little more quirky, maybe I’d feel like it, but things are what the yare, and I have just eaten a lot of chocolat and churros and skipped the discotechs. However, the biggest problem is that most people don't think about the shared space the same way I do. I prefer to not impose in the public area, that way it remains open to everyone. But it seems that others fill the space, mostly with noise. Whether it is TV or music, they fill it with what they want, when they want, without considering the others. (Because even though I am an advocate of doing what you want when you want, I am an even bigger advocate of consideration.) And most people certainly aren't as sensitive as I am, but the intrusion of TV or unwanted music is really hard on me. Also, there is so much furniture in the flats! This is probably normal for most people in the USA or Europe, but I like to have some space somewhere where I can spread out my stuff when I am working, or stretch myself at some point in the day. This does not exist in the flats. This makes it hard for me to feel as good as I would like, physically, which of course then affects me mentally.

But, it is interesting to experience this, after the peaceful and spacious existence at Can Serrat. It is good fodder for Ecocomposition - the affect of environment (immediate as well as general) on how we compose.

There is so much more to write, but I don’t want to give a chronicle of my every move. Well, I kind of do, but the thought seems a bit narcissistic and / or compulsive. Instead I’ll just write a few of the more interesting moments.

I went searching for the park of Garcia Lorca, where his parents had a vacation home and spent a lot of time. It was a fun adventure. I went too far, a little confused by the map, and ended up in the country, on dirt roads and surrounded by cornfields. I t was really beautiful, and the day wasn’t too hot, so I think it was better than going to the museum. Later I told the director of the school here and she said the museum is boring, that the y say “Here is the bed where he slept,” and “Here is the notebook he took to school.” I figure walking around in the country is more like what he experienced, so it was a better day for me.

One treat is that there was a cooperative grocery store across the street from my flat in Seville. I didn’t realize this for the first week. It is only open a few hours a day, so when I finally saw it I was about to leave. I bought a few things, like organic raisins, almonds, figs, and kefir. The real treat, though, was QUINOA! I have searched and have not found this anywhere here until this delightful little shop. I bought some quinoa, and decided to wait to open it until Granada because I didn’t want to transport it while it was open. I have bee in quinoa heaven since I arrived, eating it everyday!

A few days ago my flat mate made himself some coffee. All the cups were dirty, so he used a glass pitcher that was cup-sized. He poured the coffee, let it sit a few minutes, and was tending to the coffee pot when the entire pitcher exploded. It didn’t crack; it didn’t break. It literally exploded. Shattered bits of orange glass and coffee spewed all over the entire kitchen. It was truly bizarre. He was pretty foul over it, because he’d only slept a few hours the night before and was really looking forward to that cup of coffee and the coffee pot is single serve, and class was going to start, and he had to clean up the mess and leave with out his coffee. I found the phenomenon fascinating.

I am most looking forward to: my very own comfortable bed, taking yoga classes, eating quinoa whenever I feel like it, and having access to all my hats, shoes, and clothes.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

About Seville

I am in the city, but not near the bumping part, which is good because its actually quite quiet (after midnight), but annoying because the groceries are 20 minutes walk, not so fun with bags, but oh well.

The school is also 20-25 mintues away (the program told it would be 15-20, but it's not. I was late to my first class, and also missed the evening event (it took me nearly 30 miutes to walk here this evening - walking slower in the heat and with my laptop than in the morning without it).

I do NOT have Spanish roomates - they are all in the school and all speak ENGLISH!!!!! It's actually two guys 18 and 19. The 18 y.o. is from Holland and obnoxious and speaks no Spanish. The 19 y.o. is German and very sweet and speaks fluent Spanish, but still speaks English to me even though ask him to speak Spanish. But he has been here a couple weeks and has told me and the other new guy where the grocer is, etc. and had a job ehre and just seems quite mature (esp. compared to the dutch boy).

The apartment is a dump. There is no f*ing water in the kitchen. That is just ridiculous and apparently there hasn't been any for 3 weks. I already complained and they told me it would be fixed today or tomorrow, but apparently that's what they say to everyone. I told them if there wasn't any water tomorrow that I need to change apartments and they agreed. The German guy can't change apartments, but he's on some program that made that decision, not the school. But tomorrow cam and went, and it's still "manana." You can change "manana" or the water will be fixed "manana."

There are also cockroaches, and dust bunnies, and the only plug in the bedroom is falling out of the wall, and the only fan
(which we take turns having at night) doesn't even fit into the plug. There are different sizes, but the same voltage. In fact, there are actually some American plugs in the apartment, which is very odd.

There is of course, no AC, and apparently it is unnaturally hot for September, and it is really f*ing hot. God damn global warming. Seriously. I make jokes, but it's so true. I take 3 showers day. Cold.

The only good thing is that I paid for a shared room and I dont have a roommate this week, but I expect one next week. Still, there are two beds and one is bigger and much more comfortable and so I'll get that one for both weeks. Poor girl. >:)

Thoughts on Happiness and Independence

Credit given to Leslie Lou, without whom this post could not have been possible.

We work, we have kids, we do whatever, and it’s not that great, but we like life anyway

The sailor mark said something one time that was profound (just once). He is still in my dreams sometimes (still totally banal). But the thing he said is that life is a whole lot of waiting around in between a few really great moments.

I don't know if life has to be that way. I think we can be happier than that.
We can be happier than that, but what is happiness? I think the point is that we don't have to have great wonderful things happening everyday to feel satisfied. We don't have to travel or see the Eiffel tower or be rich to be happy or satisfied. Yet I feel obligated to do things that I have the opportunity to do...

I need more structure too. It's hard for me to do things, because everything I do seems disconnected. I think I'm stuck in wanting to do big things, and nothing seems big. I read a quote by someone, who said something like that. We should just do things even if they seem small, and we will accomplish something.

I always find making a plan is assuring, even if it changes everyday (and it usually does).
But maybe you need to get over your attachment to success? I think that it’s something related to your desire to please others. I don’t think you really care about success. You just want satisfaction, which it doesn’t seem like money will bring you, but rather being close with people.

Well, if you're miserable everywhere then you're depressed and you'll have to make lifestyle changes until you fix that imbalance. But if you're miserable form your job then you have to choose another path. I don’t know whey you’re miserable there. It’s not about what you "should" or "shouldn’t" feel - that's pleasing something external! It’s about what you DO feel, and how to feel the best that you can.

One thing from What SIDWML? Is the idea of an "inner circle” that sits in judgement of your actions - who are you trying to please? Parents? Former colleagues? Teachers? Siblings? Spouse? High school friends?
Your inner circle should be YOU. And maybe your closets friends and family who want nothing but happiness for you, but even then you have to be careful because sometimes they think money or something else is what you need when its not.

I’m very careful and paranoid about people stealing my ideas, so I don’t put anything up that I’m working on in any other way (business, essays).

You know, I'm basically on my own. I've been having trouble dealing with that. Sometimes it's good, to feel independent and on my own, and other times, I feel like there is no one external, and I'm all alone and lost. I came to Spain to be on my own, but I’m not really succeeding. I'm probably going back to live in my parents house in SD!

Whatever...there no such thing as independent, except maybe hermits in the woods.
What's so great about being on one's own? We all need other people.

So, the result is: I'm torn.

I don't really want to stay in Spain. It's nice, but I think I'll be lonely if I stay. I need places like People's or Wheatsville, and they're not available in Spain. But if I return, I feel like I'm giving up a chance to be fluent (even if becoming fluent means
being lonely for a year). I mean, I can continue to study Spanish, but studying for 4 years has resulted in limited ability to actually communicate, so it's not the same as staying and living. And I wonder if I'll regret returning. But then it will also be much more easy to get things done in the USA, like applying for PhDs or fellowships or whatever. Even here it's so hard to speak Spanish... everyone at the school speaks English outside of class, and everyone in the shops speaks English. So how important is it for me to learn Spanish? It's easy to argue that it's not important - I can live a perfectly happy life without speaking Spanish fluently, of course. But it's also kind of embarassing to be monolingual, especially here because everyone speaks English, but so many are from other Eurpean countries.

So, what should I do? Stay or return?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My Last Week at Can Serrat

I am at the writer's residence, and it's great, but all in English. International, so that's the common language. Norwegian is the second most common. Seems odd, but the residence is owned by Norwegian artists. No one's first language is Spanish. Well, one guy was born in Chile, but has been living in Norway for 30 years. I try to speak with him, but it's so easy to lapse into English when both are better at it.

So, now I'm wondering, why did I come here? Not a regret kind of wonder, but really, what was I seeking? Just to get away? To write? To learn Spanish? Now that I'm here I really can't remember what I was thinking. I think it was to learn Spanish, but now tha I’m here I’ve been focusing on my writing. It’s easy to forget.

Where should I go? Should I really try to get an apartment and stay a year? Should I just travel all over Europe and spend all my money and go home in a couple/few months? If I get an apartment, will I be able to get good at Spanish? What if my mates aren't ever home? What if they are mean? What if they are dirty? What if they are stupid or annoying? Would it be better to find a language program? My grammar is REALLY rusty. I kind of think that maybe I'll just stay a month or two, and take a program. Seems like formal study would be better than just hanging out. Plus, I don't want to be idle for so long. I like structure. I really like to be busy, and it's hard here because I don't have a printer for applications/reading stuff, I don't have any of my craft stuff to keep me busy either.

I miss my life in SD, but I wonder if I go back if I'll be unhappy again. Maybe if I just go for a few months and choose something else to try. I am not really stressed out, but all these thoughts are definitely on my mind. I have less than a week left at the residence, and I know it’ll go fast.

I miss the USA. But I haven’t spoken Spanish at all. I kind of want to go back, but like I said, will I just be unhappy all over again? I miss having a car, even though I hate driving daily, it's nice to have on occasion. I miss health food and health food stores and natural products.

I’m focusing now on the next step from here... feeling like things are not falling into place as quickly as I’d prefer. So, I’m trying to breathe deep and trust and manifest.

The beastie boys are no gurus, but they have really good line: "let it go, let yourself flow, slow and low, that is the tempo." I start more meditations with that than I’d like to admit. Is there a term for pop-meditation? Kind of suits me and my wackiness, I guess.

What I have planned for now is to spend two weeks in Seville and two weeks in Granada, attending language school in both places. After that, I will meet up with some friends of the family who are in Northern Spain (from Australia). I went to elementary school with the two boys in Texas, and I will travel with the parents for a few days up north.

Language school is much more expensive than just getting an apartment and kicking it, but I think I will enjoy my time better and get a lot more out of it.

Besides, I’m too old to live here on the downlow. I’d rather study up, return to the USA, and move here legit, with things all worked out, with a job, a destination, a visa… and an income.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Barcelona Travelogue - Week 1

This place, Can Serrat, the residence, is amazing! It took a subway, two buses, a plane, and two taxis to get me here (and quite bit of money), but I feel so welcome, and the sun was setting when I arrive, and it is just beautiful. I hope I can get a lot done, and everyone sems to be really dedicated, so I think that environment will help.

The food is already WAY better. I arrived at the end of dinner, and while it was based around a meat dish, one of the directors is a vegetarian, and everyhitng else was totally delicious and SO FRESH. And even in the Barcelona airport, they had a fresh squeezing orange juice machine, and I bought a teeny little glass of orange juice for 2.6 euro (I was confused at the time and thought it was almost 5$, but thought it was the best five dollars I'd spent in Europe; it was really only about 3.5$). It was so good and so appreciated after all the refined fried food in Romania. And I didn't even savor it; I practially chugged it. It was still so delicous and wonderful.

Back to Can Serrat... It's a lovely little magic place in the foothills of Mont Serrat, 45k from Barcelona city proper. Everyone is friendly, but most conversation is in English (bummer!). So, I'm barely practicing my Spanish, when I can convince someone to speak with me (and don't lapse into English myself), and no Catalon (that part is okay with me... I still need to get the hang of Spanish before I pick up another langauge!). So, I think after this month I will go to another city and move into an apartment with someone who speaks only Spanish. It seems like the best way.

And the writing.
I have lots of really good ideas for... essays! of all things. And a really great idea on how to compile them into a book. So, I think I'm going in a good direction. Writing this month... and then focus on Spanish.

The food is amazing! I arrived at the end of dinner last night, and I had salad, and potatoes. Today for lunch we had Paella (I'm eating seafood, even though I'm not a big fan). The rice part was good, but the langostinos and shellfish... well, I'm thinking they may grow on me. I'm still avoiding poultry and mammal.

Then we went out to dinner at this awesome place called Vinyanova. It's absolutley in the middle of nowhere, down
a maze of dirt roads, in the middle of an olive farm, and it was packed. The ambience was something any american restaurant would strive for and never acheive: it's an old farm house, with rustic tables, and old brick walls, and candles, and baskets of imperfect tomatoes as centerppieces. It's the essence of Catalon.

There was potatoes, eggplant, red bell peppers, bread, salad, ceviche, and cured meats as appetizer. Then meat, corn, and potatoes as the main dish, but there are two vegetarians so they made us both a little plate of divine garbanzos with raisins, slightly sweet, another kind of small bean, a little patty made from couscous (I think), carrots, mushrooms, and teeny baby eggplant (totally different than the appetizer) It was all so simple, but so flavorfull. Then biscotti, raisins, hazelnuts, and muscatel grape wine for dessert. Then coffee and drinks afterward. It was so delicious.

A few days ago we went to a little town a hour and half away, with lots of Roman ruins. It was interesting, but poorly planned. I was hot all day, then got hungry, then got wet in the rain, and then really cold. And I only ate junk because I wasn't in the mood for real food in the afternoon, and thought we'd be back for dinner (as this is what I was told), but we didn't get back until like 11pm. I was pretty grumpy, but the town was really interesting, and I saw a lot of cool old stuff: buildings, ruins, and some great museums.

I finally took a trip into Barcelona on Friday. I was enjoying being settled before that. I saw a fun market where I had kiwi juice, half of a crazy fruit that was like a hot pink kiwi in a stragne shell, and fresh coconut. I went to the contemporary art museum. And then I went to this culture museum with an amazing exhibit on Chernobyl. I spent hours in the exhibit and was really mvoed by it. I twas really well done, extensive, with lots of photos and lots of text.

I have been planning more trips into Barcelona for the next few weeks. There is so much to do in the city.

In the mean time, though, I am really enjoying reading and writing. I am coming along on 8 essays, and plan to submit at least a couple of them at the end of my month here.

Romania Travelogue

The Translvania Artfest was a strange thing. They call it a residency, though more residencies are devoted to working, and this one only had a few days free to work (writing and painting, mostly, and one installation artists who works with fabrics, so can sew).

There were several days of activies, like seeing Bram (Dracula's castle), and then a weekend folk arts fesitval that this residency is designed to coincide with. It seems like it owuld be all kind of medieval costumes and stuff, but there are much more goth-angst teens. More people selling nick-knacks than crafts.

There were supposed to be 12 artists in attendance, but 5 couldn't come at the last minute. So, there were 5 of us (all
women), two from England, one from Singapore, but who is living in Swizterland for 6 months right now, and a French woman who is living in Amsterdam, and me. The other two are men from Romania, one who is the organizer. Everyone is incredibly friendly.

The idea, I think, is to mostly be inspired, and to discuss, and make friends, and then have our work be inspired. In the 6 weeks following, the organizers ask everyone to send work to them to put on the website.


I didn't really make any strong connections during the residency, and then i was by myself in a foreign land after being around new people. I was little sad/homesick/lonely my last couple days in Romania, but it was laso really refreshing to be totally on my own schedule after a week of trying to live on a group schedule. I was never really sure what was going on.

Yesteday I was in a little "town" on the black sea called Efordie Nord, but it was awful - just crowds, and sprawl, and cheap souveniers. Now I'm in a bigger city, but older and much better. Constanta. Ovid lived here, and died in a nearby former village, now named Ovidius. I'm glad I came. It is not black, though, but maybe kind of dark.

Bucharest did not seem like the "Paris of the East," but probably would have a hundred years ago. Thhre was so much amazing opulance from that time period in Bucharest and here in Constanta, but it was all stunted by communism and the scars remain.

The food in Romania was not so good, and if there is good food here, I certainly can't find it! Of course I don't know where to look, and don't speak the language, so that makes it hard. Except the cheese. They had good cheese in Transylvania. But in the city I can't find the good stuff.

I keep thinking about those kinds of disapointments... For example, everywhere I went there was terrible music (all western pop artists), and the food was not good at all and kind of the same everywhere, and there was always loud noises, either construction or bad music blasting, or both. I try to correlate it to someone who just wanders into SD, or even who has a SD guidebook. Where would they end up? The gaslamp downtown, or PB, or OB. What would they find? All the terrible places, like Typhoon Saloon, or Hooters. What are the chances of someone happening upon my favorite places, like Jyoti Bihanga, or Cafe 976, or Beauty Bar, or even Whole Foods? Not very good chances.