Monday, November 8, 2010

4 Stories: Hairdo's



1. Oops!...I Did it Again

When I was—I dunno—about seven maybe; my brother and sister got bored. When my brother and sister got bored, and the three of us were home alone, that generally lead to my getting messed with. This particular day was no exception.

"Do you wanna look cool like Noah?" my sister asked with a devilish grin.

After a bit of convincing from both of them, I was in. They sat me on the toilet and took a number two guard to my head. They didn't even have the decency to trim my thick bowl cut first! I grimaced through the pain, keeping my eye on the prize.

When it was said and done, I did, in fact, look just like my cool big brother. I was totally satisfied with my new look. Until my mother got home. Let's just say my big bro and sis were in trouble. My mom looked at me, doing her best to hide how mortified she was by what they had done to her favorite child. She failed and began to cry. I, being a momma's boy, followed suit. I was no longer happy with my new look.

Many, many years later, I would finally repeat this mistake, only by choice. I was having one of those "off" periods in life, and thought, hey–if Britney can do it, so can I! Also, I'd had every other hairstyle, so I kind of ran out of options.


2. The Male Updo

Throughout the second half of my college years, one of my best friends, Chelsea, did my hair. She went to cosmetology school prior to entering the fashion program at CMU, and worked part-time at the town's most upscale salon. I was so lucky to have a friend who was constantly looking out for the best interests of my hair. One of my favorite styles she gave me looked like this. Only normally it wasn't quite so windblown and messy.


For my first fashion show at CMU, I decided to model one of my looks. Chelsea modeled the other. I wanted the styling to be daring and bold, so I had her take creative control of hair and makeup. I ultimately ended up with this masterpiece. It was so fun to rock such a unique do for a night! I would definitely try it on again!


3. Fun With Faux Hawks

The following is the silhouette I think works best with my face. I've had variations of it all through my life, but Chelsea's expertise took it to another level. I love how she added a little fun to it with a chunk of platinum. Unexpected use of color is one of my favorite things! I think I'm going to have to go down this route again sometime soon!


4. (EMO)ting

A couple years later, I decided to try something new. I grew my hair out and dyed it black. Perhaps I was rebelling against the preppy atmosphere I had to work in every day. Sure it was emo, but it was ironically emo, so it's okay.


That wasn't enough though, I needed to take it a step further. So the next time I got a cut, I opted for my first ever asymmetrical do. Sometimes it feels good to stand out a little. I was thrilled with how it turned out—and with the feedback I got!


I play with hairstyles a lot for a guy, I guess it's because I'm constantly craving change. When it's time for a new chapter in life, I feel like going all out and changing my look to reflect it.

I didn't even mention my high school hair adventures! Like the time I had Aqua hair, and then tried to die it black, but it turned purple! As it grew out, my whole head got sort of splotchy with dull greys and greens. Everyone said it looked like mold! Did I just share a fifth story? Whoops, I did!

Anyway, if you want to check out other fabulous bloggers recounting their tales of past do's (and don'ts), head on over to The Freckled Nest. And don't forget to share your stories, be it in your own blog or in the comments!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Office

So I'm doing that thing again, that thing where I don't blog for days at a time. But this time, I forgive myself!

As you probably remember, November is a crazy month for people like me. NaNoWriMo is in full swing, and although it's consuming most of my days, I'm managing to stay on track. In order to be successful, you have to write an average of 1,667 words a day. We're on day three, and I'm about to hit 5,000, finish my second chapter, and I show no signs of stopping just yet!

It's been a continued struggle to keep myself off the brilliantly amusing but gravely distracting NaNo forums and back into my prose, but I'm feeling optimistic about this year. It's easy to when I have such an amazing office to work from!


My book has already attempted on several occasions to hurl itself in another direction. My characters are also sneaking in little changes to my original idea and taking control of the reigns a little. In the end, I can't wait to see what I come up with. It's going to be pretty bad, as all first drafts are, but magical things can happen when you turn that inner editor off!

In the coming weeks, I'll try to keep you up on my progress, reveal a bit more about my story, and possibly even share an excerpt.

To those of you who are participating, Happy Noveling!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Panellets

Yesterday, while David was hard at work, I set off for his parents house. With the absence of my favorite American holiday here (Halloween, obviously), David and I decided to throw our own little costume party. David assured me that we could not have the party without panellets, so his mother graciously offered to help me make some. I have very little baking experience, so I was both hesitant and excited to embrace this Catalán tradition.


You might be wondering what these Spanish treats have to do with Halloween. Well, they don't, not really. They are actually a custom of All Saints' day, a Catholic holiday celebrated on November 1st. Due to its close calendrical proximity with Halloween, which is rising in popularity every year, and "All Hallows' Eve" itself being derived from a mixture of All Saint's day and the Celtic festival of Samhain, David and I are merely embracing the blurring of culture and tradition which will inevitably occur down the line.

You've probably heard of the Day of the Dead, an extremely colorful Mexican holiday that also begins on the first of November. It, too, is actually a hybrid of the Catholic All Saint's Day and pre-hispanic Mexican traditions. With the rapidly growing influence of American culture, Halloween is also seeing widespread popularity in Mexico during these festivities, especially in larger cities. I was bewildered to see this bizarre interfusion of cultures in Mexico City back in 2001. It was a hybrid of two hybrids!


Back to the delicious topic of this post: panellets. The dough is a twist on marzipan, concocted with sugar, lemon rind, almond meal and potato (or sweet potato).


The dough is generally rolled into little balls, however some variations require other shapes.


The balls are rolled in egg white, which serves as an adhesive, and then they're adorned with various goodies. The most common addition is pine nuts. We also used chocolate, cherries, coconut, crushed almond, and even made little mushroom shaped ones with chocolate sprinkles on the stems! Later the yokes of the eggs are used as a varnish to give them a nice golden brown color when they bake.


Fresh out of the oven, I got to try my first panellet! And let me tell you, they are delicious! I'd never tried anything remotely similar! I can't wait to break out the rest for our party this Sunday!


If anyone would like the full recipe, let me know! Happy Halloween, All Saints' Day, Day of the Dead and any combination of the three!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

4 Stories: Childhood Games

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Megan introduced me to a really cool group blog series called 4 Stories which was started on one of my new favorite blogs to follow: Freckled Nest. Every week, she writes four random stories about a given topic, and then encourages readers to do the same in their blogs. Enjoy mine and feel free to link to your own, or even just share them in the comments!

1. Team Green

Though I lived in a pretty rural area, I was fortunate enough to have somewhat of a subdivision with just enough children to form a play group. Lucky for us, our elementary school playground was practically in our back yards, so most of our mischief was dealt there.

One Sunday, a few of us decide to make our rounds. We were shocked and utterly disgusted to find that someone had defaced our playground. Toilet paper littered the entire lot!


An unprecedented sense of moral obligation surged through each of us simultaneously. It was up to us to clean up this mess. And when we did, we would be heros! The principal would surely declare a national holiday in our honor! We rushed to my house, explained the situation to my mother (who was most likely supportive in her ambivalent sort of way), grabbed some garbage bags and swiftly got to work. Neither of us had ever felt so proud. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure I've felt prouder to this day! You know, kids just feel stronger.

The quality of this camera's photos are so bad I can't even tell which is me!

Outrageously, we never did get our holiday. You see, we hadn't really thought the whole thing out. Since the vandalizing had occurred over the weekend, and we cleaned it up before the week started, nobody on the staff had gotten to experience the mess first hand. With the two giant garbage bags full of evidence already resting in some landfill somewhere, our principal surely must have thought we were exaggerating. We rest assured however, because we had been clever enough to take photographs! Too bad the attention span of a fourth grader is marginally shorter than the time it took to develop film in those days. I think in a way we all kind of learned a lesson that day. Don't do the right thing, because nobody will care.

2. It's Morphin' Time

When I was little, my four cousins and I were inseparable. One of our all time favorite and most frequently played games was Power Rangers. We would all fight over which color ranger to portray. Shelly, being the oldest of the two sisters, naturally got to be the pink ranger every time. Ginny was stuck with the yellow one.

We would often take the game to the aforementioned playground. We would climb on the "fort" (shown in the above photo), which had the magical capability of transforming into anything from Ariel's under the sea palace to Zordon's Command Center. We swore that if we jumped from the highest point, we became a streak of whatever color we were wearing, just like a teleporting ranger. We would take turns calling out our respective dinosaur and leap off to find our foe, all of us, that is, except for Ginny.

Ginny was a fragile and somewhat... clumsy child. She would typically shout out her zord and then slowly make her way down the adjacent ladder. Well, one day, in what I wouldn't particularly call my most proud moment, I got tired of Ginny throwing off the whole effect. "Morph, Ginny!" I probably yelled as I pushed her off the edge. Even the other kids seemed to think I'd done wrong as they tried to calm down my cousin, sobbing and with a mouth full of sand.

Shelly and I passed out, probably due to a long day of kicking Putty ass!

3. Magic Carpet Ride

Another glorious past time I shared with Shelly and Ginny was putting on first-rate plays and musical numbers for our parents. We would practice all day long and then hold our premier in the living room later in the evening when our parents were just buzzed enough to feign interest. One of the best productions we ever put on was our rendition of Aladdin. Our version, not surprisingly, had two Princess Jasmines!

The early stages of rehearsal often involved a little R&D. We were pretty bright children, and were one hundred percent determined on creating awe-inspiring scenery and special effects. Unfortunately, sometimes, the logistics did not work out in our favor. Like in the case of the magic carpet scene. How can you adequately suspend a blanket (representing the carpet) in the air so that it will support the weight of two eight year olds? Short answer: YOU CAN'T. Don't try. Don't try tucking one end under the mattress of the top bunk and then tying the other end to a floor lamp! Don't try supporting one corner with a ceramic utensil holder that weighs five pounds at best! You will break shit and you will get in trouble!

4. Awesome Science Genius Kids

Again, in elementary school, when it was too cold to go outside for recess, we would play in the classrooms. A new show called Awesome Science Genius Kids* had become extremely popular with the student body almost overnight and it was the only thing the cool kids were playing. We would all hover around the sink, the area of the classroom which most resembled a laboratory, and we would take turns saying "smart things".

One lunch hour, after a particularly awesome imagination session, on what could have been Chicken Patty day, so I'm going to say that it was. Because those rocked. Especially when you drenched them in ranch dressing. I miss ranch dressing. I digress, big time. So anyway, this kid Shawn showed me a plastic test tube he had gotten out of a home chemistry set. He had brought it in and filled it with water and I thought it was like the best idea ever, because the characters on our favorite show played with test tubes and beakers and stuff all the time! My brain began to tick. I had a chemistry set! I could bring in a test tube! I could be even cooler and put something colorful in it like juice or Kool-Aid so that it looked like a real life, top secret, hazardous chemical! Yeah!

Somehow I must have known that I was doing something wrong, because I remember hiding the orange juice-filled test tube on my way to school. I whipped it out at lunch time and received the exact level of acclaim I'd anticipated. And then I had one of those dumb, clumsy, kid moments. My test tube was not made out of plastic, but glass. And then it was made of a million tiny, little pieces lying in a puddle of OJ on the cafeteria floor. And then I had the death grip of the principal yanking me to her office to scold me—wait, you know what? I'm angry now! Did I really do anything wrong here? Grownups are SO uptight!

*The name of the show was not "Awesome Science Genius Kids". In fact, I'm not even sure there was a show like this at all anymore. I spent literally three hours this morning googling and tracing the lineups of every TV network only to come up empty handed. I believe one of the main characters was a redheaded boy. Circa 1993. Does anyone remember this show? AM I CRAZY?

UPDATE: It was called The Tomorrow People. Another hour of searching did the trick!

So, I hope you enjoyed my four stories! They got a bit lengthy, heh? Don't forget to share your own and to check out other contributions!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Labyrinth Park of Horta

One of the less famous attractions in the city is the Parc del Laberint d'Horta. I have wanted to see this place since over a year ago when David and I watched The Perfume and he pointed out the many surreal and breathtaking locations that were shot in Barcelona. Naturally, the scenery has been heavily edited, but just look at this clip! (I didn't realize it was dubbed in Spanish until the DVD was ripped, converted and imported into iMovie, my apologies!)


video

If you're looking for a little whimsy, this park is an excellent resource. The neoclassical and romantic gardens are part of an estate that belonged to a family called Desvalls until it was donated to the city in 1967. Prior to this, it had been the host to many social and cultural events, including open-air theater performances.

The Desvalls palace

The real gem of the park, for me, is the stunning cypress maze, which is the source of the park's name. What child doesn't dream of playing in a real life labyrinth! Seriously! Don't you just love those rare moments when you get to cross one of those "things to do before I die" off your list?


The maze is actually big enough to get you lost! I think the best part is passing other adventurers going in a direction you've already learned is a dead end. Watch for exchanged sinister smiles as you pass other folks, they are telling.


That, my friends, is the face of someone who already knows the way through the maze and is about to dash off leaving his poor, unknowing lover to fend for himself!


To be honest, the labyrinth was the only reason I wanted to visit, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how much more the park has to offer. The maze spits you out at tiered terrace which overlooks the park. Behind the central pavilion on the highest terrace is a pond which draws its water from a natural source.


Once you've successfully made it to the pavilions, from there you can take any of several trails that lead you through the rest of the park. Some will lead you through the woods where you'll find babbling brooks and waterfalls. Fountains and beautiful sculptures are placed strategically throughout.

Others will take you to flower gardens that seem to never end.


You'll be taking pseudo-artistic macro shots until your arms want to fall off.


I fell in love with this place and was so inspired by students from the nearby university who had planted themselves all over the gardens to study or read. I definitely plan to return. And if you ever come visit me, I'd definitely love to take you!


Oh yeah, it should be noted that these photos are all actually from July. Whoops! Better late than never!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Everything's Cheaper in Andorra

I'm going to try to get myself in the habit of writing daily. NaNoWriMo can be especially difficult if you're not used to writing when you're not "in the mood". As demonstrated by the intense neglect of this blog over the past couple months, I'm never in the mood. I don't have any unique ideas today, so I'm going to reflect on a trip we took back in August with David's parents and uncle. Super early one morning, we all hopped in the car and journeyed to a magical land called...


Andorra is a tiny little country wedged in the Pyrenees Mountains on the eastern side of the French/Spanish border. I mean, it's literally crammed into the mountains. Walking through the streets of its capital, Andorra la Vella, might even make you a little claustrophobic as no matter where you are or what way you're facing, the street you're on seems to end a few blocks ahead of you with a slab of mountain.


When I said tiny, I mean tiny. The entire country is roughly the size of Delaware. The population is in the 80 thousands and there is only one University. But more interesting than its size, are its prices. Andorra is virtually a giant Duty Free shop. If you saw the price for which we bought some staple items (like vodka and cigarettes), you might even wee yourself a little bit. "Tourists" flock to the country to stock up on electronics, perfumes, tires, and anything else their hearts desire. The only "tourist" activity I saw in action was the most common: shopping. David's parents scored a Nintendo DS XL for his brother. David I got finally found a reasonably priced sound system for our iPods. It was a good spree.

David looking cute!

The city was beautiful and so unique. As we made our way across Cataluña, I began to expect the capital to look like any one of the many decent sized villages that we passed. The ridiculously close proximity to the steep mountain slopes and totally unique mishmash of architecture were a pleasant surprise!

Dali sculpture!

Before this trip, I had heard of Andorra in passing, perhaps in a geography class, but I didn't really have any idea what it was like. I would love to spend more time there some day, as I'm sure there are many more things to do! The only bummer is that not only is Catalán spoken there (along with Spanish and French), but it is the official language of the country! There's no containing this thing!


The steep slopes can also be nasty. We parked the car in a mall parking garage for the day, the entrance to which was your average, street-level entrance. After pulling out of the separate exit, we all literally screamed at the sight before us. I swear the car was at a 45 degree angle as David's dad inched us down the most horrifying three-story ramp any of us had seen in our lives. All in all, though, it was a great way to spend time with the family!

Elvis cow!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Autumn Indoors

I think pretty much everybody has a favorite season. I think artists, especially, have a certain time of year they spend the rest of the year looking forward to, a season that brings them more inspiration than the rest. Since I can remember, I've been undecided between Summer and Autumn. Summer has the sun, the beach and its long, warm nights. Fall has, well, fall fashion, bonfires, Halloween, and the most vibrant scenery of all the seasons. I'm particularly fond of the latter, which is why the arrival of fall this year has me a little bummed out.

I was recently stunned to learn that Barcelona is latitudinally comparable to Southern Massachusetts. The Mediterranean climate, however, prevents the leaves from ever actualizing their exquisitely colorful potential. Instead, we just get a sort of dull brown-green shade sprinkling the parks and lining the streets (in addition to the always green palms that are perhaps more abundant to begin with).


This morning I woke up to a bit of a mess that I don't plan on cleaning up anytime soon. For the Halloween party that David and I threw in Columbus last year (in September, mind you), we bought a pack of fake autumn leaves. David was so in love with them that he took them back to Spain with him. When we unpacked the Halloween decorations this year, he spread the leaves all over the table. Naturally, with a kitten in the house, they wound up littering the floors of just about every room.

It's amazing that I didn't even ASK him to pose for these.

Anyway, it seems pretty trifle, but since I spend so much time alone in my apartment these days, it's nice to have one of my favorite parts of the outdoors come inside. It's amazing how something so simple can bring so much joy and inspiration!

Oh! Why am I alone in my apartment these days? David got a job! Sorry I haven't mentioned that yet, I just don't really believe in posts that solely consist of "this happened". Boring.

So anyway, that's what happened! (o_O)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bombings, Whirlwinds and Cheerleaders

Let me begin with a dream I had last night.

I was back at my alma mater: Central Michigan University. I was in a computer lab in one of the quads, working fervently on a generic essay when BOOM! There was a huge explosion. The Towers residence halls had been blown up. Strangely, nobody around me was in a state of shock. The second round of bombings brought down the library and a few other buildings, yet everyone remained calm. "Nobody would blow up this quad," everyone kept reassuring me. I went along with it.

Look at THOSE mad Photoshop skills!

Then the third round struck; I wasn't feeling so assured. I made my way to a courtyard in between residence halls. Someone I was with pointed down to a dorm on the first floor and said, "That's Heather Morris' dorm, did you know she went here?"

"Yeah," I replied, and suddenly I realized why we were safe in that quad; who would blow up the amazing Brittany from Glee?


I've been having many oddly dramatic dreams lately. A lot of them involve tornados, which according to various online (and therefore not the most reliable) dream dictionaries, signal abrupt, life-altering changes. Well, yeah...

The absurd thing about these dreams is that I consistently remain calm through the most terrifying experiences. I attempt to interpret most of them, and often think my findings somewhat accurate.


Have you had any rememberable dreams lately? Do you ever try to find meaning in them? Do you even believe in meaning behind dreams?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cleaning up Nature's Mess

Over the past week, Spain has witnessed some crazy weather. Floods have devastated several communities. Barcelona and other places that didn't see quite that much rain have been smitten with destructive winds.

The wind really got out of hand the night before last. We could here it rattling who knows what all night long. Not long after waking up, a huge gust flew in through the door we keep cracked so that the cat has access to his litter box. Across the room, a frame that holds some awesome Buffy artwork from my cousin Shelly instantly fell from where it had been leaning against the wall. David tried to carefully remove it from where it teetered on the edge of the cabinet, but a large shard fell from the frame, smashing on the floor below it.

The letter S was the unfortunate one

We quickly closed the door before anything else could be destroyed... inside the apartment, at least.

Before I came to Spain, David attached some privacy panels all along the railing of our terrace.

See the yellow things there?

Just fifteen minutes after the cleanup of our first little disaster, David watched as the wind ripped one of these panels from the railing. We called his parents, with whom we were to be meeting shortly, in order to delay our plans. We used the ties that had "secured" the panel to reinforce the remaining three.

After lunch we headed to the store where both victims had been purchased. On the way, we passed our apartment and noticed that, CRAP, another panel had broken. We purchased two of the thicker and hopefully much stronger alternative, and headed back to the apartment, where, CRAP, a third had bit the dust.

David is busy prepping for an interview tomorrow, and the wind hasn't completely resided, so we haven't gotten the new panels up yet. As we live on the seventh floor, our cat is now quarantined in the house. We just don't feel all that confident in his... er... astuteness, and believe it would be a matter of hours before curiosity quite literally killed the cat. His litter box remains on the balcony, where we've put the best barrier we could craft to prevent him from going beyond it. He can still jump it, though, so he has to be constantly monitored during potty time. He's great at cueing us to let him out with his not-so-subtle whining/meowing. The only problem is that most of the time he wants to go out, it's not to go to the bathroom, but rather, to annoy us. What is it with cats and closed doors?

Overwhelmed with the money we had to spend on replacing damaged goods, and the time we've spent and have yet spend resolving the matter, I said to David, "You know what? I really don't mind taking care of problems that I caused, or problems that you caused, or even problems that the cat caused... but dealing with shit that the WIND caused? That's just not tolerable." Seriously. Thanks a lot, wind!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Celebrating the Bad Times

Today is a special anniversary for David and me. One year ago, he left. The longest nine months of our lives started on that day.

This is the last photo I have of David in America.


I kinda get sick to my stomach just thinking about that awful day. Even the day before was brutal. I remember being in the car together on our way to Easton Town Center for our personal last supper. The sun began to set, it dawned on me that when it rose again, it would be time to say goodbye. I started crying, but hastily stopped since tears are a serious hazard.


There was a sort of peace about the way we attempted to happily reminisce over two giant margaritas. It was a sad calm, the calm of knowing your fate and not having the capacity to process the adequate emotions, leaivng you with little or no emotions to express at all. It was a pleasant evening, and a brief one.


The next morning was intense. It was all about the mission: getting to the airport on time. Our fragile minds had to focus on the only thing we actually had control over. Saying goodbye to Megan prompted the first tears of the morning. I didn't expect her to be so emotional. I know she would miss "the D", but I think that in that moment she was also just overcome by our grief.

We emerged to the first morning frost of the season. David sat in the warming car while I stepped out to scrape the windshield. I etched a heart in the thin layer of ice just in front of his face. It was about then we both lost it. I did my best to hold in as much of it as I could until arriving safely to the airport.

The airport was a nightmare. I bought us each a pack of cigarettes. Ten minutes later I bought us each a pack of kleenex. We had arrived pretty early, so there was plenty of time to weep and cause a scene. Each minute that passed was torture, but one we were both willing to hold onto for as long as possible. When it came time for him to go through the gate, we stood and lingered. We embraced and kissed, embraced and kissed, stuck in a loop, stubbornly rejecting the followthrough, a silent protest to the cruel and inevitable outcome. Out of nowhere, I released him. I let him walk alway. I honestly cannot tell you HOW I did this, I do not know where this strength came from, as every part of my body and heart was yelling at me not to let go. But I did. And he disappeared beyond the checkpoint. I moved swiftly to the elevator, afraid of catching another glimpse of him.

Wow, I've been crying just in recounting this story. Sure it's depressing, but at least it's historically accurate! I suppose I wanted to write about this because I never really recorded it any other way. I think it's important to remember everything that we went through together in order to truly appreciate what we have today. As human beings we take so much for granted. But right now, reflecting on the worst day of my life, which happened exactly one year ago today, I'm definitely not taking him for granted. Yay! We made it through!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

First Quarterly

In the company I previously worked for, every three months the CEO would round up the troops for an event that was equal parts financial progress report and high school pep assembly. I thought that for my blog, I would try to do the same, only without the free beer and half-naked male models chucking T-shirts into the crowd. (Yes, it was professionalism at its finest!)

The fact that this post comes a week after the actual three month anniversary of my arrival is a clever tribute to the tardiness that has become so typical to this blog. Bullshit, you call? Alright, fine.

So, where does one begin in trying to recap three of the most significant and eventful months of one's life? Hm, let's try to break this down to make it a little bit easier on me. The four aspects of my life that are most important, or at least that I spend most of my time thinking about lately are as follows:
  1. Location
  2. Language
  3. Labor
  4. Love
Alright, so we have our four L's. And so I shall set forth and begin with the first, this lovely city that I've begun to call home. Barcelona.

Location


Three summers ago, I took out a hefty amount of student loans to finance my first excursion to Europe. Two months were to be spent in Barcelona where I would intern for a pair of independent fashion designers. For the rest of the summer, I would attend a course at the Paris American Academy.

Being a fashion student and a person that watches movies, I was extremely excited about spending a month in Paris. I obsessed over it. I wasn't, however, exceptionally anxious to visit Barcelona. I had seen many photos of the city, but nothing had invoked too much enthusiasm. It was merely an opportunity for me to knock off the internship requirement for my degree and work on getting my Spanish back up to par. My first days in Spain, boy did things change.


It was love at first sight. The city had an energy to it. It was like we were on the same wavelength. The architecture inspired me so much. The beauty here is gritty, gorgeous in a dark, odd and truly unique way. It has mountains, the beach, a vibrant nightlife, it oozes culture, everything I believed a city was meant to offer. Before I knew it I was wishing the two months would drag on forever, Paris could wait. I expressed in my journal a strong desire to come back someday, and make it my home.

The city must have heard my plea. One serendipitous night, after a twisted series of events, I found myself on a dance floor, separated from my friends and face to face with a gorgeous Spaniard with whom I'd eventually ask to marry. I loved the city and in return it blessed me with a modern fairy tale.


So now I live here. Weird right? Well to be honest, it really isn't anymore. There was no sudden shift, it's just something that's happened gradually, but when I think to myself, "I live in Barcelona", it doesn't spark any emotion, any shock. It's just another fact.

In ways I suppose the city has lost some of its allure, but that's just the natural process of things. The honeymoon phase is only enthralling because it is temporary. Perspective changes with experience. But what I love about any great city is its ability to surprise you at any moment by making you feel the magic once again. All of the wonder that turned me on to this place is all still here, waiting for its opportunity to leave me speechless all over again.


I could go on and on about the city itself, but a lot of the thoughts I would like to share will find themselves in the post I plan to write later this week, about my trip to Madrid. Meeting the capital provided a whole new perspective on my new home, and cemented in the sense of familiarity I finally feel for Barcelona.

Language
Ugh. Spanish.

The above thought goes through my head in various incarnations on a daily basis. Don't even get me started on Catalán.


Ugh. Catalán.


Seriously, this language is everywhere! It's in all the signs on the streets. It's spoken in the subway. It possesses half the TV networks. It's seriously out to get me. Sure, it's the official language of Cataluña, of which Barcelona is the capital, but I just can't deal with it yet. I'm struggling to grasp Spanish as it is, and here I am unintentionally accumulating a cache of a whole other vocabulary. It's all been very... frustrant.

Back to Ugh. Spanish. As most of you know, I'm a lover of language. I love playing with words and expressing myself in unique ways. I suppose I'm just a writer. In Spanish, I'm the opposite. I'm a fool. I have a very rudimentary vocabulary, which means I'm often redundant. Pair that with my flawed grammar and pronunciation and I imagine I come off like, well, a four-year old... with a mild mental retardation.

I suppose I'm coming along alright. There are two parts to learning a foreign language as far as I'm concerned: comprehension (understanding when others speak) and composition (the ability to express yourselves to others by forming sentences all by yourself). In comprehension, I am improving fairly rapidly. It just doesn't feel like it. I suppose a child with a serious growth spurt doesn't really notice as he sprouts six inches over the course of six months. Some changes are only recognized from a more distant and infrequent perspective. I'm getting desperate to understand everything. As I begin to feel more at home it's becoming more frustrating. How can one be so handicapped in his own city?

Composition is another story. All of that perfect grammar is in this brain somewhere. Spanish was my minor, and I learned how it all works over and over in numerous classes. So where did it all go? Sometimes I feel like the more comfortable I become with speaking, the more flawed my speech becomes. It's like, I don't think as hard while forming sentences anymore, therefore I'm more prone to errors. It's a cruel trade-off. Basically, if I don't start to feel some improvement soon, I'm gonna have to go back to the books. Again I say ugh.

Though I complain, pretty much every one I meet tells me how impressed they are with my Spanish. I eat up every word of it, too, not out of a lust for complements, but to combat the serious insecurities my frequent shortcomings provide. Sometimes I find myself just wanting somebody to tell me, "Hey, you will finally be a fully fluent speaker six months from now, don't worry!" and then I can rest easy. Be it six months or two years, knowing that it will happen makes it a little easier. It will happen, right?

Labor

I've been having this reoccurring dream. I'm in class and it's nearing the end of the semester. We receive a report card of sorts, and I discover that I'm failing the class. Then it gets worse. I realize that I'm failing more classes, classes that I'd simply forgotten about and hadn't attended for months. I have no time to get these grades up and I am surely not going to be able to graduate.

The situation, the location, the classmates, all of these details change. But that wretched feeling in my gut isconsistent through all of its incarnations. Finally, after having had the dream three nights in a row, I looked it up in various online dream dictionaries. Here's more or less what all of them had to say:

To dream that you forgot to attend a class you signed up for implies that you feel incompetent and that you will not achieve success in your endeavors. You may doubt your talents, or skills to meet deadlines and obligations.

Since I was five years old I have not spent this long of a period of time without either academic obligation or work. My life has always had structure, and to a certain extent, I've always been aware of and striving for "the next step". Right now, I'm kind of an anomaly. I can't join the workforce, not legally. I saved money for this exact reason, and everything is working out for the meantime. But as a not completely lazy human being, I'm not designed to handle this much downtime. It was heaven at first, but obviously, as the dreams imply, it's starting to weigh on my mind.

All of this free time and I haven't even worked on my book or even properly maintained my blog. I haven't touched my professional portfolio since I've been here. I haven't even pursued any of the things I always wanted to but never had the time for, e.g., learning to play the piano. Granted, I have been keeping busy. David and I have been enjoying making up for the time together that we lost over the previous nine months. We've done a fair bit of traveling, which often requires a fair amount of resting afterwards. But summer is over now, and so shall be my vacation. It's time to start dreaming of something else.

In the next couple weeks, I'll start planning for my next book. While David is sending out his résumé every which way and attending interviews, I'll get started on my digital portfolio. I've even already begun to contact people about tutoring English, which could actually eventually provide a decent source of income if I manage my time correctly. Throughout my life, I've often felt like others believed in me more than I believe in myself. But the times, they are a changing, and I along with them. It's about time to prove them right and myself wrong.

I'm in a very exciting chapter of my life, one in which I'm trying desperately to recall my own identity. This is made an even more difficult task due to the fact that my current situation and surroundings are causing me to change at a rapid pace. So how does one get to know himself at the same time that that self is evolving constantly? All I can say is: not gracefully! But I'll take a life that resembles a jerky, speedy and surprising roller coaster ride over the smooth, slow and predictable ferris wheel ride one day.

Love


Still going strong! David's and my relationship is a truly unique case. I know all relationships have their obstacles, but man! We've still spent way more time apart than together. Most of our relationship has involved a webcam. So much so, that when we were finally reunited this time around, it was somewhat... awkward. What had seemed like such a burden (our Macbooks serving as an intermediary) had become a sort of comfort, without which we both didn't know what to do! Thankfully and without much surprise, we got over it quickly. It's truly an experience you can't comprehend unless you've lived it, and I know not many couples have.

When I proposed to David, despite a lengthy and complicated precursor to a relationship, we had only been "boyfriends" for about two months. Some of my friends thought I was crazy, sure, until they met him. Suddenly everything flipped upside down and they would be making me promise not to hurt him! What we both knew and felt inside transmits beyond us to our friends and family. Despite very distinct backgrounds, we're a match. It's easy to see that we just... fit.


Every relationship has its ups and downs... its hiccups. Ours is no exception. Prior to our reunion, we'd both spent nine months desperately obsessing over the end of seemingly endless tunnel. All we could focus on, despite the best attempts of our loved ones to drag us out of our despair, was the conclusion, the one that would grant us limitless happiness. But like I mentioned before, the honeymoon can't last forever! As could have been expected, once the ecstatic intoxication began to wear off, we were both faced with a question that neither of us were prepared for: now what?

David and I changed a lot over the time we were apart. I hadn't really changed for the better. I had become pretty negative, and for what seemed at the time like good reason. But here I was, exactly where I had longed to be, and so the reason was gone. The acquired mentality, however, was difficult to shake. Culture shock can be a bitch all on its own, but pair that with the anxiety over maintaining a perfect relationship and a perfect state of mind when it is no longer in your nature... let's just say it became overwhelming. I began to close myself off, afraid that my internal fears would taint the relationship we'd fought so hard to preserve. And we all know what happens when your emotions get all bottled up. It was a dark couple of weeks for me. But it all worked out in the end, as it usually does when something is meant to.

Open communication. The trick to any healthy, successful relationship. David and I speak to each other like best friends, sharing everything. It's not good to wallow, but if you don't acknowledge your personal demons, you can't expect them to go away. In the relatively small time David and I have been together, he's proven to me over and over that he can help me, more than any other person ever could before. I can tell him anything and everything, and he always has what it takes to make me feel better, be it words or just an expression of understanding.

Sometimes we frustrate each other, which I suppose is normal. But most of the time we have an absolute ball! I had missed our evenings together so much. Any random night can feel like a party, even if it's just the two of us.

When I look back to that awful goodbye kiss in the airport almost one year ago, when I recall that gut-wrenching feeling like someone was tearing me in two in the most painful way imaginable; I know that neither of us will ever be able to let the other go again. Life is just better together.


So there you have it, the reality of it all. Life isn't perfect. Ever. Period. But it can be, in general, so damn good that it's hard to believe. Sure, it won't seem like it at all times, but it really just boils down to perspective. The perspective I choose to hold right now, in this moment, is that a handsome prince has rescued me and carried me away to live in his magical kingdom where I've been blessed with the opportunity to start my life over with endless possibilities. I suppose I really am in a modern fairy tale after all!