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Friday, August 31, 2007

survival guide
should you decide to attend the tomato-flinging festival known as la tomatina, please consider the following step-by-step guide to success:
1. obtain a car. hope that it's the size that will fit the other 4 people going, and their luggage... i.e. hope it's not european.
2. drive to valencia. realize that you don't have hotel reservations and spend the next few hours calling places and walking around. realize that 30,000 of the 40,000 other people expected to attend have actually done the same thing.
3. find a hotel and get a room for 2 people. sneak in the remaining 5 people by working out an elaborate coupling system (oh yeah, pick up a 6'2" irish man).
4. catch the festival bus at the bus station. figure out that you’ve somehow insulted the guy at the station, and he's put you on the city bus rather than the 30-minute straight shot. spend the next 1-1/2 hours touring the little-seen towns near valencia.
5. have the civil guard pull your bus over, and realize that, in the interest of safety, you have brought nothing but bus fare home, and your passport is safely locked in the contraband hotel.
6. pay off police, continue on your way.
7. arrive at tomato site and follow the crowd. hear the first drum indicating start, and get absorbed in to the throngs of people. immediately lose half your party, and your shoe.
8. halfway through, having safely (thus far) not gotten trampled, run over by the tomato trucks, or otherwise squashed, get picked up and thrown by a very drunk guy. start to panic as your feet cannot touch the ground, receive an unripe tomato to the side of your neck, and an elbow cracked across your face. decide to get out of the crowd for a while. find your shoe on the way.
9. find shelter in a nearby garage to wait out the storm. realize everyone else is doing that too, except the fools soaking their shirts in the watery tomato goo, and flinging them.
10. hear the second drum and hope chaos is finished. it's not. make a break for it anyway with 2 new girlfriends.
11. have no less than 3 hats full of tomato sludge dumped on your head. third hat has the bonus of the idiota grabbing your breast first. punch him in the face. lose both shoes.
12. lose new friends after taking a picture with them, and find new friend. take picture. lose new friend.
13. shower yourself off at the various opportunities provided by the locals wielding hoses. realize they have targeted you to clean and that those hats full of tomato junk must have been full of other junk too.
14. go on a shoe scavenger hunt. start to barter with other people wearing mismatched shoes to try and find a pair that will fit. find your irish man (now also shoe-less) in the process, and include him in the hunt.
15. head towards bus stop and hope other friends have the same idea. find 4 of them, the fifth standing on TOP of the bus stop shelter. assess the damage, and find out that other friends managed to escape The Crush and find a nirvana-like place where people helped, rather than shoved, other people. try not to be jealous.
16. wait for bus. when it arrives, have 3 portuguese girls cut in front of you. watch as 3 of your friends drive away on the now-full bus. realize the only 2 people who spoke spanish were on that bus.
17. try various other means of transportation, and realize bus is best option. wait for 2.5 hours, watching 2 buses go by that won’t stop. realize your español improves in dire straights, and manage to negotiate watch out points with the city cleaning crew. also manage to tell off 4 men in various languages when asked the "are they real" question.
18. throw yourself in to the path of oncoming bus. get yourselves on and head back to valencia. find other friends lounging in hotel, already clean. realize entire room smells of tomato.
19. clean up and go out to eat authentic paella. get lost for 45 minutes on the way home (stupid tom-tom).
20. leave for granada next morning. realize hotel staff has caught on to the 6 people living in your hotel room, and start trailing your friends across valencia. somehow manage to all grow excellent espionage skills and shake the hotel mafia. hope that they haven't called ahead to the next town, just in case.
i hope this little guide helps next time you put reason on a shelf and take your lives into the hands of drunk tomato-flingers. buena suerte!
current mood: we stink.

Monday, August 27, 2007

when it comes to siestas...
... i get it. you´ve got no argument from me, nation of spain. you are welcome to siesta every afternoon, and i will endorse you whole-heartedly. for the past day and a half, i have been overcome by the heaviness of spanish mealtimes, and have wanted nothing more than to curl up and slam my eyes shut. it´s embarassing, really. and a little uncontrollable... unless i stop eating, which i´m not about to do.
prep the wake-me-up salads for my return, i´m going to need them.
gonzalo and i have been playing tourist, tromping around palaces and fortresses, and drinking beer with lemon soda. we visited sarah´s aparment and had some sangria on the terrace with an international audience, speaking about art, culture, and our impending adventures across the spainsh southland. let´s just say, it should be interesting. if all goes well, i should be loading up into a rental tomorrow with sarah and compadres, and heading towards la tomatina. after that, we´ll tool around (taking lots and lots of siestas, of course) until my return to the house of the 2 dogs in the countryside of madrid
current mood: there´s a dog snoring at my feet... they get it here.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

air time
i made, i´m here in, and i´m really tired. having left ´this morning´ before most friday night partyers found their bed, it was nice to have a friendly, energetic face to greet me in the morning... and take me to the airport. nat picked me up, and we zipped over to lindbergh, where i started leg one of the long road ahead. san diego to dallas, change planes. dallas to chicago, where i was a little selfishly grateful that the extent of the major flooding was evident only in some puddled rooftops flying in to o´hare. 3 hours there, being lost and walking a mini-marathon to find my gate, i took off again having the unfortune to be in a middle seat for the bulk ride to london. i don´t sleep on planes, but everyone around me certainly does, leaving me awake and bored and just a little trapped. from london, i was supposed to hop on to another plane over to madrid, and found myself in over 2 hours worth of just standing in lines in heathrow. by the skin of my teeth and a flash of a smile, i managed to convince the gate attendants to open the gate back up and let me on my flight, even if i was a minute or two late, and terribly sweaty from the run through the corridors.
thankfully i had decided not to check anything, having a funny feeling that i was going to have a hard time navigating the planes, much less a suitcase or two. so all the pieces, minus some food, arrived at madrid to meet gonzalo, where we went to his gorgeous house, met the fabulous housemates (future wife, a roomie, 2 dogs (one of which tried to bite my head off) and a bird or two). let the relaxing begin!
current mood: i am still able to speak spanish

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

hey you.
yeah, YOU. why haven't you called?
current mood: hello?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

cajones
i just had someone walk in to my work, and wander around a bit until one of my colleagues asked if he could be helped. he let her know that he was looking for someone, a girl with long brown hair. my coworker, who has short curly brown hair, led him my way, explaining that there could be 2 culprits with that description. and as she led the way into our office, we turned to find our friend with a tall stranger. it took me a second to recognize the guy: a stranger i had given directions to in the student plaza yesterday. he had remembered my offhand comment about working at the alumni association, and had made it a point to come find me and ask me out for coffee. (can't, i have a meeting) or after that (can't, have dodgeball) or after that. and, uh, to ask me for my name.
current mood: dang. that's cajones.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

dearly beloved
i am sad to report the imminent loss of a prized and valuable entity in my life: the favorite pair of jeans. i knew they were sick; their signs of wear were hard to ignore, much as i tried to be cheerful and supportive. but they seem to be fading fast, and the other day i found irreparable damage that has forced me to begin the denim's last rites.
let's take a moment and reflect on our life together. these jeans have been through a lot with me. they've been there with first dates and first heartbreaks. they've seen more places than my passport and have borne more wear and tear than perhaps my heart itself. they've been with me through the best of times, and the worst, and have still supported me even with the swings i have put them through (plus or minus 20 pounds at times). while perhaps strained, they have never really complained.
i know there exist support groups for those who have lost all kinds of important relationships out there, but what about this considerable connection?
current mood: oh sad.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

the love pirate
on friday i had the immense pleasure/pain of having a 250+ pound man stand on my thigh while i was laying on the floor. and through my giggles (it tickled like crazy) and tears (it also hurt like crazy!) he commented on the heart and crossbones design of my shoes, nicknaming me the "love pirate".
... and how was YOUR friday?
current mood: yo-ho, baby

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

¿es una playa nudista?
while i normally do very little prep work when it comes to travel, i found myself wanting to experiment with churning up the combined total of 6 years i took of spanish in middle and high school. so i went to my local library and grabbed a language CD (none of this cassette tape crap), choosing spanish for college and travelers over spanish for business and government... a choice that may land me in a compromising position in just a few short weeks.
starting off with the basics, i had fun trying to beat the CD in naming the spanish phrase before the friendly voices told me the answer. but i was soon way over my head as we ventured out of the formalities of introduction, and into the world of "hey cutie, i love you... do you have any condoms?" (which, if you're curious is: "oye papito, te amo... ¿tienes condones?") by the end of the week, i should be able to talk myself out of jail, into a local dance club, and thoroughly insult everyone i see... after i check if they've been tested for STDs.
current mood: ¡ay dios mio!

Monday, August 06, 2007

mini mouse
this long hair instigates hallucinations, i think. as i was looking into the bathroom mirror on sunday afternoon, i thought i saw something scurry itself under the refrigerator in the reflection, and wrote it off as a flyaway hair in the corner of my eye. i'm not one for paranoia, so it was an easy incident to dismiss. however, as i was sitting on my couch last night, using my coffee table as a writing desk, i once again saw a dark shadow dash under the front door. this time, however, my hair was pulled back and securely out of the way of excuses. sure enough, as my head whipped around, i saw the tail of a mouse disappear behind my exercise ball, and could hear it's tiny feet take residence behind my couch. first things first, i put on some shoes... i'm not skittish about mice (not live ones, anyway), but i would probably wig out if i accidentally stepped on it in it's furried confusion. next thing i did was close my bedroom door, a futile act as the gap under that door was wider than the one in my front door from where he/she came. then i grabbed the phone and called my upstairs neighbor, and her reaction was perfect: she brought a broom and a flashlight. i then called my landlord to let him know that due to the gap in my door, i was having uninvited guests, and could he please make it a priority to set things right. the neighbor, in the meantime, had sprung into action, barricading the kitchen doorway, and moving all the furniture to provide no hiding places. eventually our little mousey friend ran outside, and we attempted to barricade my front door as well. while i'm pretty sure i won't be greeted with brand-new weather stripping today when i get home, i really hoping i also won't be greeted by any other new friends with long tails and tappity-tap toes on the hardwood floor.
current mood: eek?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

i did it.
i booked my flight, am digging up my passport, and will be using the next 3 weeks to practice rrrolling my RRRs.
not that it will matter too much anyway, because i'm absolutely SURE that every time i will attempt to speak spanish when i am in madrid, it will come out in japanese. just like my spanish was brilliant when i was in tokyo.
current mood: how do you say... yippee!!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

boot scootin'
for maybe the second time in my life, other than the forced folk dancing haunting me from my middle school years, i went line dancing last night. normally this would be an activity i would turn my city-bred nose straight up into the air for, but it was a sort of forced cameo for a friend's birthday. i'm not used to being in a dancing establishment and not recognizing any of the music, so i made a contract with my friends that if any country song came on that i actually knew, i'd do a shot. i emphasize the country part, since the place was hopping with the 'Men in Black' will smith song when i approached the door, so i knew they occasionally played music that didn't have a fiddle as one of its main instruments. i manuevered through the entire night tackling quite a few milestones:
* i didn't get my toes smashed (i can now appreciate the use of boots, as opposed to flip flops, in places like the line dance floor).
* i didn't do any shots.
* i didn't have to smash anyone's head into a bar for being inappropriate, or a cowboy, or military, or any combination above.
good times were had by all, even to the point that i let my friend know that future suggestions of line-dancing activities may not evoke an automatic 'NO' from me. and that's saying a lot.
current mood: yee-haw, y'all.





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