Sunday, July 31, 2011

In Which I Wax Cliche About My Friends

It's the people you're with that really make an experience. I've been aware of this for a long time, having been in fantastic places with people I dislike, and having been in less-than-desirable situations with people I adore. The most memorable and enjoyable times, no matter how ridiculous or unpleasant the circumstances, have been the ones I've shared with people who "get" me.

It's hard to do. To find people who really understand you, who will laugh at you when you're taking yourself too seriously, and wrap you up in a hug when words are unnecessary or inadequate. People who, when you need it most, can speak right to the essence of yourself. I have been so, so fortunate to have met a good number of these people on my many adventures around the world. And while it's been really trying, living abroad and leaving my closest friends back in the US, accessible only by facebook, email, and the occasional phone call, over the years I've managed to make some incredible friends here in Spain. Specifically, here I'm talking about "las cuatro rubias," a group of three friends I've been having lunch with once a week for the three years I've been in Spain. All English teachers. All blonde.

These are friendships that started as brief gestures: an offer of help the first morning I showed up at work, frizzy and soaked and flustered from getting lost on my way in the pouring rain. A smile and an offer of a coffee from the machine. An invitation to have lunch together after finding me eating alone in a deserted English department. A request for English conversation to help them prepare for their  teaching exam.

I hoped (but didn't know) the relationships would become so deep and real. My healthy (over?)dose of skepticism reared its ugly head more than once: "It's nice she wants to have lunch, but is it just convenience and politeness to invite me?" "Do they feel obligated to be nice to me since I look so pitiful, the lone foreigner with no friends?" "It must be such a hassle to listen to me fumble to express myself in a language that gets more cumbersome with nerves." 

It's always awkward those first few meetings with new people; but things gradually get more fluid, more comfortable, and finally, they become familiar. And beloved. 

Last night I met up with two of these wonderful friends, and two of their (also wonderful) friends that I know less well, but really like. With big changes possibly looming in my life, one of which could be me leaving them to return to the US indefinitely, they have been more understanding, helpful, present, than I could ever have hoped. They've been a sounding board, a support system, and have offered a wealth of advice and information about how I could possibly stay in this country next year. Of course, that last bit is rife with ulterior motives...
They gave me a hard time about never passing along pictures I'd taken of us over the last few years. So here I'm giving them something even better: a whole mushy, sappy, cliche blog post about how much they mean to me and how much I appreciate their warmth, acceptance, humor, and love. I am certain we will maintain this connection forever, no matter how many years or miles separate us. Os quiero muchísimo!

Sheila, me, Maru, Eva

Oh you're not employed? May as well eat.

Strawberry cornmeal pancakes with strawberry compote. Fresh jasmine flowers.

Our homemade "Middle Eastern" feast. Tabuleh, felafel, tzatziki, hummus, flatbread.

Chicken salad on escarole with fresh bread and pickled peppers.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pretty Things in Spain III

Traditional Asturian dancers in a plaza one Sunday morning in Oviedo

Blogs and Boredom

Well here we are, four months since I last posted. To be fair, these last few months have been very busy: in April we went to Italy with my parents for Easter vacation. In May I was finishing up the school year with lots of projects and stress. In June we went to Morocco (to buy cheap, beautiful leather products and eat) and Senegal (to visit Katie over at Niger-Mania) for three weeks. We came home in the beginning of July with a nasty, nasty flu virus that knocked me on my ass for a week. Now I have no excuse for not writing. But laying it all out like I did above, I'm realizing just how many things I have to write about. Good, something to sink my teeth into in these weeks of inactivity. July is turning out to be a bit of a bust. Read on:

I was hoping to get a job in a tiny town in the interior of the province teaching English at a summer school, but because of my student visa they couldn't hire me. (The student visa allows me to work a very limited number of contracted hours  --  I'm paid under the table for private classes and my job at the academy, but the director of this summer school wouldn't hire me without a contract. And therefore didn't hire me at all.) I've been teaching some private classes, but with people going on vacation and working and kids not wanting to study in the summer, my schedule has been sporadic to say the least.

On top of that, it's been cold (in the 50s! I've been wearing a jacket! It's JULY for god's sake!) and very rainy for the last few weeks. Of course, the week I was sick in bed with chills, a fever, body aches, and a terrible cough (I am such a baby about illness), it was gorgeous, hot and sunny outside. The weather has made it difficult to enjoy the beach and go on adventures and revel in summer. Not to mention the darkness, cold, and rain make for cranky, mopey moods.

I have lots of things to write about. But I just haven't been able to get it together to sit down and write. New personal mantra: "I will use my time productively and write instead of moping around the house and taking too many naps." Mantras are supposed to be short and easily memorized, no? Oops. How about "Get off your ass. Be creative." Better.