Wednesday, October 29, 2008

hace calor...hace calor...

Well, actually, it's frrreeeezzzzing here. Last night on the news the first 10 minutes were all about the dramatic weather shift between yesterday morning and night, and they showed an image of spain with a giant white mass of polar air over it! It was snowing in Madrid and in the north (Cantabria, Asturias, Pais Vasco) and here in Santiago it was cold and misting. Amidst the cold, I have my radiador on high, and the door to the living room shut to try to create a warm space. But one of the joys of this old apartment is that when the radiador is on, pretty much nothing else works without the lights going out. If you want toast, better turn off the heater first or power will go out. Want to blow dry your hair, same story, turn off the heater. Watch tv and use the computer at the same time, turn off the heater. I think there is something wrong with the electrical connections, because a 2500 watt heater can't really be using all the electricity in a small apartment, could it? Last night in a span of less than 5 minutes the power went out twice...

But, in the end I'm keeping warm with big socks, blankets, tea, warm pj''s really all quite glamourous.

In other good news...I bought a ticket to visit a friend of mine who just moved to Barcelona last night, and it only cost one centimo!!! Yes, 1 cent!! I'm flying to visit her mid-november for a few days, then catching a plane to Dublin (which was also a steal), and then I'll be back in the USA for about 3 weeks to eat some delicious turkey, introduce the familia and friends to D and celebrate an early Christmas! That means, I have to start Chirstmas shopping here now! Time to put on the christmas music...

Ohhh...and to make the shopping a little less difficult on my wallet, I was happy to see yesterday that the euro dollar conversion has dropped about $.25 since I arrived! Instead of $1.50= 1 euro it's down to $1.25=1 euro!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Places in the city...

It's a rainy Monday. More like a misty Monday. Here in Santiago it mists more than it rains, which makes it easy to be able to still be out and about despite the precipitation. I had a pretty busy morning, and luckily today all went well. For the past 3 weeks or so every errand I had to run turned out to be some headache with bureacracy, being sent to another office, being told my situation was beyond their control, etc, etc. But, it looks like the tide is turning a little (maybe being here now just over 2 months helps). I started the morning going to the bank, last time I went to deposit money I was charged without being told, 20.88 euros for something about being a non-resident. Since they didn't tell me I didn't realize I had been charged until the next day when I looked in my bank book. I went to the bank to ask about the charge and they couldnt tell me exactly what it was so supposedly they were going to get back to me. So today I decided to figure things out on my own by depositing some money in my account to see if they were going to charge me again, and then perhaps someone could explain the past charge to me. And today, I was told the charge was due to a request they have to make to verify my info in the US (it seems like the passport would verify my residency there, right?) and in fact 12 euros had been returned to my account from the 20 they had taken out (I would still prefer to have all 20 back, but this is a little bit of progress) and I was able to deposit money today with no hidden charges! So at least i got an answer and found out I won't be ridiculously charged every time I go to the bank because I am a non-resident.

After the bank it was on to the post office. You have to take a number to be helped in the post office, and it was quite a small non-elaborate place filled with people, so I admit walking in i was a little overwhelmed. But the guard helped me get a number, and I started waiting to see my number A202 on the screen. Person A201 never showed up, so the clerk thought, and put up my number, when suddenly person 201, who was at the wrong window, stepped in front of me. It's pretty common to be cut in front of in the Latin world, the idea of waiting in lines isn't looked highly upon, so with my prior experiences and due to the fact that she had the number 201 and was just a little lost, I decided not to lose my patience. But, when she left guy 200, who hadn't addressed his envelope and thus couldnt get his order done as number 200, stepped up to the window, and I started to get a little annoyed. But, in the end it all he had to do was send a letter and it took about a minute. Finally it was my turn, and the lady was really nice to me, seeing as I had waited extra time with 2 people going before me in my turn, and she helped me figure out the best way to send my letter, and in the end what I thought was going to cost at least 5 euros to send only cost 1.66!

After the post office I stopped at the supermarket to pick up some bread, and they had the barra rustica that I like and there was no line to wait in. I was pretty excited because usually getting bread aroung lunch time can be difficult as everyone has bought up the bread for lunch (ps...dont forget lunch time here is somewhere between 1:30-3:30, I usually eat at 2:30).

Then it was on to clases particulares with my two girls ages 7 and 9, and although my plans had to redone this morning when I realized my othe plans had not been printed (I don't have a printer so D prints things off for me at work), a little game I made at breakfast of go fish with clothing and colors was a hit.

So, even if it is raining, and even though it is a Monday, and even though I've been struggling with the craziness of Spanish government and bureacracy, today has been a really good day. Hope the week is starting off well for you too.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mi novio es un zombie...

Less than a week until Halloween and the cultural invasion in in full force. This week all around the city Halloween window displays and pumkins with glued on faces are popping up. I've decided it would be fun to have a little party, so D and I are getting things prepared and decided to start yesterday with the music. It is going to a little bit Americana and a little bit Spanish. To start with the Spanish jams is Mi novio es un zombie, by Alaska (translation, My boyfriend is a zombie), circa 19eightysomthing and representing the post Franco era freedom in the 80's. Beyond just singing and making music, Alaska was also responisble for a kids show called La bola de cristal (The Crystal Ball), if you have time, and speak Spanish it is worth checking out on Youtube. Also, if you know anything about Latin Pop music you've probably heard a few of their songs as covered by an endless of the bands and singers, including Thalia. Today Alaska is called Fangoria still hit the stage dressed in vinyl and, as I discovered in Mexico, they recently made a duet with the Argentinian band Miranda. But with that, here are the lyrics in Spanish and in English, and a link to watch Alaska singing Mi novio es un zombie on YouTube. You'll want to add this to your Halloween playlist too...

Mi novio es un zombie My Boyfriend is a Zombie

Sus dientes no son blancos, sólo tiene tres, His teeth aren't white, he only has three
su piel es transparente y verde a la vez His skin is transparent and green at the same time
sus ojos amarillos me hacen enloquecer, His yellow eyes drive me crazy
tiene algo ese chico y yo no sé que es, He's got something, but I don't know what it is
somos inseparables We are inseparable
y veo muy probable And I think it's very probable
llevarle al altar. I'll take him to the alter.
Siempre viste de blanco He always wears white
y le sienta muy bien And it looks really good on him
nunca lleva zapatos He never wears shoes
él sabrá porqué Only he would know why
somos inseparables We are inseperable
ya conoce a mis padres He has even met my parents
él es feliz y yo soy feliz. He is happy and I am happy.
Mi novio es un zombi My boyfriend is a zombie
es un muerto viviente He is a living corpse
que volvió del otro mundo He came back from the other side
para estar conmigo to be with me
mi vida ya tiene sentido My life now has meaning
recuperé el amor perdido I'll revive my lost love
intacto pero podrido. Intact but rotten.
Sus ojos amarillos me hacen enloquecer His yellow eyes drive me crazy
tiene algo ese chico y yo no sé que es. He's got something, and I don't know what it is
A veces pienso que no puede ser Sometimes i think this can't be
pero yo sé que nadie me separará de él, But i know no one will seperate me from him
está muerto, aunque lo niegue, He's dead, and he can't deny it
él es un zombi pero me quiere. He's a zombie but he loves me.
Somos inseparables We are inseperable
ya conoce a mis padres He has met my parents
él es feliz y yo soy feliz. He's happy and I'm happy.
Mi novio es un zombi My boyfriend is a zombie...
es un muerto viviente
que volvió del otro mundo
para estar conmigo
mi vida ya tiene sentido
recuperé el amor perdido
intacto pero podrido.
Mi novio es un zombi
es un muerto viviente
que volvió del otro mundo
para estar conmigo
mi vida ya tiene sentido
recuperé el amor perdido
intacto pero podrido.
Mi novio es un zombie
Mi novio es un zombie
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
uh ou uh ou
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
uh ou uh ou
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cultura Gratis

Every Friday a newspaper called Público offers a movie for 1 euro with the purchase of the paper. The movies are usually award winning, foreign or independant films. This week the movie was Buenos días, noche, an Italian film. Other films for 1 euro have included Motorcycle Diaries, Girl with the Pearl Earring, Las invasiones bárbaras (Canada), and Nueve reinas (Argentina). It's almost like Christmas getting a movie with the newspaper on Fridays. :)

Ole, Ole, Ole

Wow...this week flew by and I haven't written a single blog. Well, las clases particulares are going very well, although hanging out with 5-10 year olds has got me sick with a stuffy nose again. But yesterday I met the new family I'll be teaching who lives in Milladoiro, about 10 minutes driving from Santiago. There is a bus I can take out for 1.25 euros, and it drops me off right by their house, so I'm going to use that and the lack of parking available in the area to keep putting off learning to drive the manual car on the real streets. The girls in the family were adorable, and were hugging and screaming and inviting me to the country house for the weekend to sleep on the sofa bed within 5 minutes of arriving. I'm spending an hour teaching them, and a second hour with their dad who is an English teacher who just wants to keep up his speaking skills, so we spent an hour talking about house swapping. Now that I have a place in Santiago I'm thinking I should sign up on a house swapping website. A week in Paris, Rome, or London, without having to pay hotel sounds pretty good to me!

But, it's the weekend again, and to get you all in the Spanish swing of things here is a little video I took in Santiago last weekend. It was about 4 am, and this is the place all the college kids hang out. The theme of the bar is Independentista, meaning that it is the place all the kids wanting Galician indenpendance, Catalan independance, Basque country independance from Spain hang out. The walls are covered with the national flags and pictures of heroes of the independance movements. But, the drinks cost a little more and are half the size of drinks at other bars, and when the Gipsy Kings came on, yes the Gispy kings, all the kids started dancing like they love all things Spanish...
(and the pic above is a house I found while I was wandering around, obviously no one lives there now. and in the video, pardon my camera work)

Monday, October 20, 2008

The city

We spent Sunday afternoon at the park and in the museum, it's so nice to live in a city. We found this sphere and thought of the windy city...hope your weekend was great too!

Friday, October 17, 2008

You are what you speak

Most people in Galicia are bi-lingual from birth, speaking both Spanish and Galician (Gallego, Galego). Spain is a nation of many languages, in various regions of the country you hear not only Spanish being spoken but also Gallego, Basque-Euskadi, Catalan, and other dialects like Valenciano and Aragonese. Although these languages have a very long history, for a part of the 20th century they were forbidden by the government. Only, after the death of the Francisco Franco and the end of his dictatorship, did they begin to resurge. Walking around Santiago de Compostela today, most of the signs you see are written in Gallego, most of the conversations you hear are in Gallego, and even clerks at the grocery store speak first in Gallego then in Spanish if you don’t speak Gallego. There are Gallego television stations and newspapers, and kids study not only Spanish but also Gallego in school. Here in Galicia language is a very important part of the people and their culture, they take pride in re-establishing their own language and culture. On the New York Times website today I found an article about a Native American language that is dying after a century or more of being suffocated by government. Today only 200 people speak the language, but there is a movement to save the language and the culture by teaching the language to the children in school. Maybe as this language is reborn there will be a newfound pride and identity among the Arapaho people too.
Check out the article and the slideshow in the New York Times:

And, if you’re interested in the Galician language, check out the Galician newspaper, Galicia Hoxe:

And, why not, here’s the Wikipedia post on Gallego (I’m a language nerd):

¡Ata pronto e bo dia!

(ps...I found a Halloween window display!)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I think I'll take the bus...(they have TV's!)

I’m learning to drive a manual car so I can drive here, and aside from the tiny curvy, hilly, streets that make up the city, one of my other fears is the pedestrian who really seems to care less if you hit them. In The US the driver owns the road. As pedestrians we wait for the walk signal, look both ways before crossing, wave and smile at the driver who slows down or stops for the measly pedestrian who doesn’t have a car(at in the places I’ve lived in the US). In Santiago pedestrians don’t even bother looking at the street as they cross it, they keep up their conversations or keep looking straight ahead, making the driver slam on his brakes so as not to kill the pedestrian. After all this the pedestrian doesn’t even bother looking over to motion a thank you. I wonder if it has something to do with the Spanish mentality of playing with death…like the bullfight?? (haha, probably not…) But, also there are quite a few drivers’ training schools in the city; one in particular always makes me laugh. It’s called, Mata. Yes, mata. Like the Spanish verb matar-to kill made into a command or conjugated as the 3rd person present singular he, she, it form. I’m not so sure I’d sign up for classes there, but I guess it’s really just the owner’s last name.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


In 2005 I studied abroad in Seville, Spain, the city most thought of for all things typically Spanish like flamenco music and dance, bull fights, the opera Carmen, and the delicious Spanish dishes called tapas (little plates of delicious food to enjoy as your having drinks). Eating tapas in Sevilla is a social event, you go from one tapas bar to the next sampling an array of foods and drinking a caña (small glass of beer) or a glass of wine at each place, and it's such a part of life that there is even a verb describing the act of eating tapas, tapear.
But, here in Santiago, I think they've made tapas even better...where in Seville we had to order and pay for tapas and drinks, here in Santiago all you have to order is a drink and a plate of tapas is brought out for you and your friends to enjoy on the house, and the plates keep coming with every drink! It's really a great idea. Free food with your drinks. Some places have better tapas than others, some always have the same tapa, some give you a choice and bring out what you want. Delicious!!
(Pictured above are orejas, yes...pig ears. I will get pictures of delicious foods that you'll actually want to taste soon, but as of today, this is the only picture of tapas that I have, haha. If you want orejas as your tapa you need to go the taberna called Orexas, I passed on these when we went there. Octopus I'll give a try, but pig ears...hmmmm, I had to draw a line somewhere).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Falling leaves

I took a little walk last night to enjoy the warm weather and the light of fall. I caught the sunset over the cathedal and ended up in a beautiful park that is filled with one of my favorite things in Galicia, Hydrangea bushes. They are so huge and so colorful and everywhere. Now that it's fall they are changing colors beautiful. I love fall....(and I love that the flower matches my shirt...hahaha).

Sunday, October 12, 2008



      Food. Maybe one of the best things about Spain? Well, aside from the fact that I am one of the few people in the world who doesn't like jamon serrano, I am open to try just about anything.
      Here in Galicia octopus is one of the specialties. Where I am from we usually only see octopus on the ice at a hockey game, so coming here and having my bf tell me we were having octopus for dinner, I was less than thrilled. But, in the end, the flavor is pretty nice, you just have to get past the idea that you are eating tentacles (they are usually cut into little pieces so its not a big octopus arm staring at you).
      PBS has a new show all about Spain, and one of the chefs who is featured on the tour is Mark Bittman from The New York Times. His blog, Bitten, has lots of great, easy recipes, and lately he has been publishing a ton of recipes from the adventures in Spain. I found this video recipe today, and thought I'd share it; if you never have to chance to try Pulpo Gallego in Spain, now you can try it at home.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

And the Oscar goes to...

Recently the international films that are up for nomination for an Oscar were revealed. Each country submits one film to the Academy, and from those films five are chosen as the best, and as we all know, one wins. This year Spain chose to submit a film based on the Spanish Civil War, Los Girasoles Ciegos (from a novel of the same name).

Mexico chose the film Arráncame la vida, also based on a novel.

And Colombia submitted the film, Perro come Perro, about, yes, the business of narcotics.

Enjoy the trailers...and hopefully the films too, even if they don't make it into the final cut of the Oscar nominations.

you say mercado, I say mercadillo

Today I went with my suegra to a little market in Santiago. It is not the typical European market you're imagining with cute fruit stands, and chickens hanging from every corner, but the mercadillo is a market of clothing and house goods in a huge parking lot, selling scarves, sheets, towels, sweaters, purses, shoes, stockings, etc. for good prices. I made out with 2 pairs of shoes for 5 euros each. Not bad. I've also been keeping busy learning that when you lose a receipt in Spain there is no Target policy that within 3 months they can look up the purchase with your credit card number and give you your money back, and also, when your phone is messed up and makes calls to information on its own, at the end of the month, you are responsible for the delinquent phone calls, booooooo.

In job news, teaching clases particulares is going well, although teaching kids is completely new to me. I have experience teaching adolecents and adults, so half the time I have no idea what I am doing with kids, but at least they haven't noticed or at least they haven't said anything yet. But, today I received another call from another academia in the city looking for an English teacher...I had to turn down the job, making the total 4 academias I have turned down. Seriously, if you are interested in moving to Spain to teach English, consider coming to Santiago de Compostela as it appears there is quite a shortage of English teachers, the cost of living is pretty low compared to Barcelona and Madrid, and it's beautiful. I'll show you the mercadillo when you get here too.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Rose colored glasses

I think it´s time to share some of the the challenges beyond work papers that I´ve found to be common between me and another of my friends who has just moved to Spain. Obviously the financial crisis has been on the minds of everyone for the past week or so, what happens in the US does not stay in the US, and every newscast reports on the state of the banking system in Spain and the rest of the European Union. Luckily, as of now the Spanish economic system is a little more stable than in other parts of the world (they are ok with regulations and government controls on banking), so despite the world banking crisis, I opened a Spanish savings account recently. It was quite easy, showing them my passport and my address here in Spain I have an account as a foriegner that gives me an ATM card, so I can avoid all the international fees taking money out of my American account. There are a few extra charges to maintain the account as a non-resident, but nothing incredibly insane. So, I decided to deposit some money in my Spanish account, only to find that apparently I am being charged 20 euros each time I deposit money into the account!! wonder it was so easy to open the account as a non-resident. So, I went back the bank to ask about the charges, one was explained as the cost to get the ATM card (geez...) and the second they couldn´t explain to me saying it was probably something about getting the proof of my residency in the USA (isn´t that the passport?)...but they could have at least told me they were charging me those 20 euros each time. My friend has also come upon the strain of euro, with the exchange rate going between $1.40-$1.50 each week the basic necesities in life cost much more here. I have found some really great places to buy food and basic house things for cheap here, I´m not sure if they are all over Spain, but in case you need some cheap groceries or shoes while you are here on vacation stop at: Alcampo (supermarket/department store that is cheaper than the Corte Ingles), Dia%, Gadis, Lidl, Eroski (all supermarkets). For basic house stuff with style I found good stuff at a store called Casa (the closest Ikea to me is in O Porto, Portugal), cute bamboo rugs cost 5 euros and a fleece blanket cost only 6 euros there too. The Chinos, asian bazars, are also great places to get basic house stuff for cheap. Cheap clothes I have yet to find, pretty much the basic places are Zara, Bershka, and Stradivarious, but with the exchange rate I´m looking forward to the next round of rebajas(sales) in January.
Beyond money and buying things, I´ve also found that living in an old apartment with no heat has created quite a challege in staying warm. Heaters here are different then the ones at I would love to have a disk heater like the ones from Costco! But, here the basic heater is called a radiador, it looks like an old heater from the 40´s on wheels, is electric, and gives off heat by heating oil inside. I bought one for my apartment, only to find that it takes forever to warm up, as all the oil needs to heat up and start moving though the panels, and since I began using it my electricity has gone out about 10 times in one week. Thank goodness for my fleece blanket, slippers, and hot tea! But, another word of advice, figure out how to turn your electricity back on if you blow a fuse...

Friday, October 3, 2008

When it rains, it pours!

Unlike popular belief that in Galicia it is always raining, the weather has been extremely nice since I arrived, and continues to be except that everyday is a little cooler than the next. But, today I had my first double clase particular. It went really well, I had fun, and I think my students did too! Before leaving the mother gave me the name and number of another family who is looking for a tutor for their two children, which is great because really the only way to make it in the world is through networking. Along with that, I also received another job offer from an academia that wants to begin offering English conversation classes. The lady at the academia got my name from a friend and is hoping that I might turn down the job offer I have with another academia to work full time with her! So let's see, that makes job offer #4 in two weeks...if only working legally was less of a paperwork jungle. If only I were a citizen of the European Union...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


The medieval festival in Pontevedra, Galicia. Put on your best wench suit, strike up the bagpipes, get out your best cunca and some liquor de cafe, and dine on a grilled chorizo bocata...Enjoy!

El líder de una nueva generación

It's a beautiful grey day in Santiago. A perfect first day of October. The only thing missing in my apartment is a pumpkin, so to make up for it I bought a squash at the grocery store the other day. My little botanical garden is looking lovely. In the herbs, the boraja is blooming like crazy and the basil is starting to pop up too. I also finally started working. Until the papers go through all the way, I put up signs (well, so far I've only put up one, but I will put up more once I can walk around) for clases particulares and have recieved a few calls to teach kids and adults by the hour. I taught my first class yesterday and it went pretty well. It's a great way to really be immersed in Galician life. The mother picked me up and spoke only Gallego with me, and in the house I met Grandma and the other kids, and everyone spoke gallego. It's a fair trade, I'll teach them English, they can teach me Gallego.
In other news, the presidential campaigns of Obama and McCain is always on the front or the second page of the all the Spanish papers. The debate last week was being discussed for days after, and the vice-presidential debate tomorrow is also much anticipated. It's pretty obvious who Spain supports...
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