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.


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.

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?


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.


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!


I don't know what exactly prevents me from blogging as frequently as "I'd like", except for laziness, which can't be the entire story, right? I do know that I start out with the intention of writing far more often than my track record will show. Many mornings, I convince myself that perhaps I just need some caffeine in me. I pump myself full of coffee while reading others' blogs until the point in which I'm much too jittery and unfocused to compose even one coherent sentence. Other days, when I aspire to write later in the day, I decide it'd be helpful to treat myself to an afternoon cap or two in order to breakdown the inhibitions that often plague me, prohibiting me from typing in fear that the prose that comes out will be, gasp, less than perfection. I manage a few soon-to-be discarded sentences before ending up sloshed and distracted by the kitten or something shiny.

All of this leads to a very important question: if I truly long to be a writer, why is it that I always dread... you know, writing? Especially when said writing is something as frivolous as a blog followed by mostly friends and family who only want a little insight into the exotic, new life of their long-lost, loved one? No really, if you know the answer, please share in the comments!

Perhaps, I need higher stakes. Maybe the reason I'm not writing is simply because I don't have to. I have more free time than ever right now, so there's no reason for me not to participate in National Novel Writing Month. The objective of NaNoWriMo, which takes place in November, is to write a 50,000 word piece of fiction in one month. It trains the author to get over the often fatal preoccupation with quality in every word that he writes. The mantra of NaNo is Quantity, NOT Quality. In order to produce a successful body of work, it first needs to be written! The bestsellers on your shelf probably barely resemble their original drafts, because writing is a process. I'm going to embrace that process once again, and hopefully mark my second "win" in NaNo.

I already have a plot brewing, and I'm excited to see where it takes me. I don't know exactly what effect this added strain will have on my blog. Perhaps it will leave me burnt out, and you won't hear a word from me in November. Or perhaps I will become so overwhelmed with the book that I'll turn to writing blog posts as a temporary distraction, finally viewing it as the fun, pressure-free activity that it is. We'll see!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's All Fun & Games! ('til somebody breaks a rib)

Sadly, the last post, this one and most likely some to come will begin with "a couple weeks ago" as I've apparently had more important things to do than update. Sometimes The Sims 3 just calls, you know?

A couple weeks ago (sigh), David and I were sitting here in the apartment debating about whether or not to attend the party in Sitges. Sitges is a beautiful little city situated between Barcelona and Cubelles. It's a popular tourist destination, especially with "our people", as it has a thriving gay community and nightlife. I'd spent an afternoon there during David's vacation time (the same week we visited Cambrils and Tarragona), but much like Gracia prior to attending its annual festival, I had yet to see it in its true glory. Debatably, I still haven't, as it hosts one of the craziest Carnaval parties in Spain, an event I'm both looking forward to and dreading as David's friends have the obligatory tradition of dressing in coordinating drag costumes.

David and I were exhausted from all the partying. We still hadn't quite recovered from the Cubelles party. We eventually rested on the decision to... well, rest. I was taking a nap when David received a call from his friend, Gloria. Gloria has a very exuberant personality, and is endowed with the never-failing gift of talking you into doing things you're really not in the mood for. The baffling thing is that she doesn't use any legitimate arguments in doing so, but relies solely on her distinctively expressive voice and high squeals to distract and perplex you. She's much like Jasper from the Twilight Saga, except instead of transmitting calm, sedative vibes; she makes everyone around her damn perky.

A few hours later, the whole gang was packed like sardines in a train departing from Cubelles. It was unusually hot on this night, and there wasn't even a hint of a breeze. The only distraction from the heat was the aura of excitement radiating from the crowd. It was obvious these people waited all year for this. And to think I'd pleaded David to stay at home and sleep.

Just as in Cubelles, the night was initiated by an impressive fireworks show. This was not your average show. You would think by now, they would lose their allure, but Spain continues to blow my mind with the ingenuity of these presentations. They really know how to fire up a crowd.

The presentation was divided into phrases, like a beautiful piece of music. For about a half hour your eyes were bouncing from focal to point to focal point. Flames cascaded from the prominently placed cathedral. They emerged from the water, raining sparks on the sea of boats docked just off shore to observe the show. The most creative part was a series of booming works used to form a rhythm. The crowd clapped along with the "BAM... BAM... BAM BAM BAM" created by the flashing explosions. Also notable was a fountain-like display set off from a pier.

The only shame was that the lack of movement in the air, which caused the smoke to hover, created a white blanket that with each minute concealed more and more of the spectacle.

Immediately following the fireworks, our group made our way to the sand. It's such a Spanish tradition to congregate on the beach, passing around homemade cocktails and basking in the celebratory ambience. This segment of the evening was reminiscent of my first huge Spanish party, San Juan of '07. I had know idea back then that I'd be sharing many more perfect nights with the same crowd. David is blessed with some amazing friends.

This night, for me, marked a new beginning. I really bonded with each and every person. I no longer felt like an outsider. I may not be Spanish, or even speak the language very well, but I am accepted. I have a place. I have numerous friendships, all complete with hilarious stories and priceless memories.

No Spanish party is complete without dancing. My favorite kind? Dancing in the street.

Long after the party could have ended, I found some treasure partially buried in the sand: an almost full bottle of Bacardi. Some friendships are set in stone over untiring and enlightening conversation. Others, perhaps less glamorously, are locked in over mutual vomiting.

When it was time to go home, our tightly-knit group had unraveled. A part of the group boarded a train that ended its route in Vilanova, one stop prior to Cubelles. Other parts were still scattered throughout Sitges. David and I were running to catch the Cubelles train when I took a rather gruesome fall. Here we were further separated.

Oddly enough, it didn't matter. When the final train left us in a now brightly sunlit Cubelles, we all staggered out of different cars. Just like in a scene out of movie, the group gathered, as if this conclusion were planned. I was in a great deal of pain, but could have partied on longer. We posed for one more photo and called it a night... or rather, morning.

Days later, when the pain in my ribcage still hadn't resided and I finally made a trip to the doctor. I discovered that I had indeed cracked or broken a rib. The pain would last another month or so. The memory of my first Sitges party would live on for much, much longer.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


As I mentioned in the previous post, celebrating the heritage of wherever you live is a huge deal here in Cataluña (I've reverted back to using the Spanish spelling as it rolls off my fingertips better). Much time, energy and money goes into these annual festivities. Often they go on for an entire week, and the residents of each town, city or neighborhood take great pride in the parties they throw. A couple weeks ago, I attended my second of these events.

Gracia, pronounced just like the Spanish word for "thank you" without the S is a "barrio" in the north-central part of Barcelona that is known for its bohemian/alternative lifestyle. The streets are narrow and winding, reminiscent of the Gothic quarter, but with a less touristic vibe. I'd dabbled in its vicinity when I was in Barcelona three years ago, as I lived just a few blocks south, but this was the first time I saw it in its true glory.

The evening started with a trip to a plant nursery where David's friend Tommy, from the Czech Republic, works. This is where we acquired the first plants we bought for our terrace. It was he that invited us to the festival in Gracia, as he's a resident. We obtained a beautiful new palm with a super "discount" and headed back to our place to drop off the plant and have some margaritas.

When we arrived to Gracia, the party was already in full swing. Have you ever had that feeling when you arrive at a party and you instantly notice that everyone around you is well in to their fifth or sixth drink (or more often in this case: joint) while you are pretty much sober? Well, this was kind of like that, except the crowd of intoxicated partygoers trickled down each street as far as the eye could see. Walking from one intersection to the next can take up to 15 minutes when you have to pry through a tightly-packed, dancing crowd. Eventually we found some blocks that were less crowded, the ones in which the band had already cleared out. Yes, nearly every block had its own live music. It was intense.

In addition to a band, each prominent block had a theme. Every year, the sub-communities choose a theme and decorate their street accordingly. The makeovers are judged early in the week before the non-stop partying has a chance to do any damage. Various prizes are awarded and for the rest of the week, winners get to display these awards at their entrances. The whole concept of this blew my mind! How original! How sweet!

Street of Terror

Alien life

A winner of multiple prizes including Use of Recycled Materials, "Life".

The wood crates are self-supporting, nailed together to create a faux forest.

It's hard to add more whimsy to this neighborhood, but they've managed.

Photo op!

I don't even remember what this one was all about.


My favorite theme: Extinction with Grace

If you are ever in Barcelona in late August, this definitely a sight to behold. I'm continuously perplexed and awed by the creativity and passion that go in to the celebrations here in Spain. It kind of puts the USA's measly festivities to shame! Am I wrong? To me, the only thing that is even close to being on the level of some of the holidays I've already witness here is Halloween, my favorite American tradition by far! What's your favorite holiday? What do you enjoy most about celebrating it?