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.