Saturday, August 29, 2009

T-Minus 18 Days

Can you believe it? 18 days! That’s 432 hours and before I figure out how many minutes and seconds that is I’m going to stop right there.

But seriously. EIGHTEEN DAYS.

EIGHTEEN. And even so, I am as calm as a painting of a sailboat against a perfectly blue sky on a morning beatific in its Indian summer breeze.*

And to be honest, it’s kind of annoying.

I’m worried about my lack of worrying because I’m a born worrier. And here I am, worrying about not worrying.

Sure, I’m nervous but it’s the normal amount. Like visiting the dentist nervous. I keep waiting for the full-blown Panic Meltdown of 2009, that I’m sure WILL come, when my family will find me in fetal position on the floor, clutching a Space Bag. But when?

Because really, if I’m going to worry, I should worry now, 18 days ahead of time. My biggest fear is that I won’t be able to keep it together when I realize that I’m flying across the Atlantic, all by myself, to live in a country that doesn’t have Dr Pepper and OMG WHAT HAVE I DONE? TURN THE PLANE AROUND! I WANT MY MUM.

And so then I’ll be crying with my head against the window (I’m a window seat kind of person), stifling sobs and the perfectly normal stranger sitting next to me will look up from his/her Sudoko puzzle and the next thing you know I’ve asked this stranger to hold my hand. For 14 hours.

That’s going to be awkward.

Maybe the reason that I’m not worrying is because I’ve done my to-do list like the good girl that I am.

A place to live? Check. My flight and visa? Check, check. Suitcases? I have three of them.

I think I might have to add “worry a little” to the list.

Or I could just watch "Taken."

*Ani DiFranco reference. I can has gold star?

(photo via NewMensch)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I get my dry cleaning done at the local precinct. You?

The small Asian lady's eyes grew larger as she counted my coats, one by one. Pretty soon, the counter was no longer visible underneath the heap of coats, jackets and the two dresses I had managed to carry from my car to the dry cleaners, in one trip. I clearly have a problem.

"You don't need any of these here," she muttered.

"I'm moving!" I said quickly, so she would stop looking at me like girl-you-crazy-you-live-in-LA-why-so-many-coats? (Internet, she was looking at me like THAT)

She peered out at me from above her gold-rimmed glasses. "Where?"

"I'm moving to Spain. It snows there." I couldn't believe I was giving the dry cleaning woman an explanation.

"Spaaaaaaaaain?" she said, like someone practicing scales on a xylophone.

She punched away at her calculator, said something about a discount and somehow still charged me a small fortune.

She handed me my ticket and asked if I was coming back to LA.


She nodded and turned around to the rows of clothes, immaculately pressed, veiled in plastic. I don't think she believed me.

(photo via Unicornology)

Thursday, August 20, 2009


As of Sunday morning, I have a place to live in Madrid! It's the Chamberi apartment I was considering in the first place (funny how things work out that way). My roommate offered to pick me up at the airport, which warms the cockles of my heart, considering we have no idea what we look like. Maybe she can hold up a sign like they do in the movies. Or I can wear something outrageously bright, like my yellow coat that makes me look like the Morton salt girl. I need to give this some more thought, you know, explore my options.

While I was apartment searching, I remembered what happened to a friend of mine and her traveling companion when they went backpacking across Europe a couple of summers ago. All was going well until they ran out of money in France. The two of them were too proud to call home or contact friends so they spent the night in a train station... and slept on the floor. My friend said it was so cold that night that she cuddled up with the homeless man sleeping next to her.

I remember thinking then, man, that's so badass. But that romanticized notion of traveling can be dangerous, especially if you're traveling alone. So I'm extremely relieved that when I arrive, I'll have a place to stay. A roof over my head and indoor plumbing is all I need. Who says Angelenos are high maintenance?

(photo via Unicornology)

Friday, August 14, 2009

T-Minus 33 Days

Chamberi, Madrid

I'm so glad it's Friday. I've been staying up most nights to Skype a potential roommate. She lives in Chamberi, a neighborhood in Madrid that is about 10 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the center. She has an extra room in her flat, which is completely furnished. She's Columbian and doesn't speak any English... so I will be practicing my Spanish A LOT. And she wants me to make a decision by Monday!

It's really hard choosing a place to live in when you're not there to see for yourself. Not that I'm picky, but I AM claustrophobic and a little natural lighting never hurt anybody. And I really like trees. So I've been doing the next best thing: Google maps street view.

If it's the building I keep staring at, she lives across the street from a small restaurant. Perfect for some midnight snax. As soon as I get to see some pictures, I will seal the deal via Skype.


Never mind the fact that I haven't even started packing, but I need to get out.

Tonight, I'm meeting friends at someone's home (thanks friend of a friend for entrusting us with your fancy digs!) in the Hollywood Hills for an expat dinner. It's going to be really hard to say goodbye.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

September 16

Today was one of those days that if you asked me, "How was work today?" I would most definitely not say, "Fine." Because it was purely comical.

I woke up early to pick up my Visa at the Consulate. Once I had my Visa--which is essentially a fancy sticker in your passport--it all became... real.

So real in fact, that my mind decided it would be funny if it checked out for the day.

Funny as in, what if Stephanie can't find stuff? Like drafts of stuff she's written? Or a paragraph mysteriously disappears? She'll ask herself, "Did I not save it to my desktop? What was the file's name?" THAT WOULD BE FUNNY.

So after a great deal of searching and sighing, I had no other choice but to rewrite. As a writer, you have no idea how unnerving that is. Because I SWEAR, I NAILED IT THE FIRST TIME. I really did. I'd prove it to you, but I CAN'T.

The truth is, I've turned into a nostalgic, forgetful emo with the attention span of a parrot. Did I mention emo? And nostalgic?

I find myself looking around my room, wondering what will be different when I return. Surely, the calendar hanging on the wall will still be tacked to September 2009. Maybe I'll find the flip clock whirring slowly, from faithfully ticking off time all these months. Or maybe it will have sputtered to a stop sometime in December because the batteries died and no one was around to change them.

Driving home from work, I take off my sunglasses to remember it all--the way the sun sets behind the Santa Susana mountains, the blinding California light that I wish could be bottled to take with me as a carry-on.

This is why I can't find files.

(photo via Melecwi)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

La Quinta Estacion

So all this time, I thought La Quinta Estacion was from Mexico. They're actually from Spain.

In my defense, it was in Mexico where they got their big break.

**They're going to be touring Spain in the fall, if the Spanish Ticketmaster site is to be believed. Get this, it's called Tick Tack Ticket. With a name like that, I'd *almost* overlook the outrageous service fees.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ernie Loved Madrid

Madrid 2008 from on Vimeo.

"When you get to know Madrid it is the most Spanish of all cities, the best to live in, the finest people, month in and month out the finest climate and while the other big cities are all very representative of the province they are in, they are either Andalucian, Catalan, Basque, Aragonese, or otherwise provincial. It is in Madrid only that you get the essence. The essence, when it is the essence, can be in a plain glass bottle and you need no fancy labels, nor in Madrid do you need any national costumes; no matter what sort of building they put up, though the building itself may look like Buenos Aires, when you see it against the sky you know it is Madrid. If it had nothing else but the Prado it would be worth spending a month in every spring, if you have money to spend in any European capital. But when you can have the Prado and the bullfight season at the same time with El Escorial not two hours to the north and Toledo to the south, a fine road to Avila and a fine road to Segovia, which is no distance from La Granja, it makes you feel very badly, all question of immortality aside, to know that you will have to die and never see it again."

---Ernest Hemingway
From "Death In The Afternoon"

Profesora Stephanie

As I fret about Visas and packing and what adaptor I need to buy for my laptop, it's easy to forget that once I get there I HAVE TO WORK. Wait, what? I thought this was a vacation!

There's always a catch. For 16 hours a week, I will be teaching English at this fine institution.

When I applied, I thought, how hard can it be? I speak English and Spanish. I just have to stand in front of a classroom and say things like "Repeat after me class, 'The monkey is in the tree.'"

But I've never taught in my life. I've never been a tutor. And I hate public speaking. This explains why I lay awake at night dreading the first day of school when, instead of being the bored, glassy-eyed student doodling in the margins, I will be the source of the boredom.

The good thing is that I will be teaching elementary school students who, I hope, are not old enough to have a 'tude.

I'm also hoping my students are impressed with the fact that I'm from LA, which means that I hang out with movie stars and that I'm awesome, obviously.

So if my capabilities are ever questioned I shall say, "Say kids, did I tell you about the time I broke bread with Shrek and went shopping with Hannah Montana? No?"

Teaching will be a piece of cake.

UPDATE: I found a video of my school. As it turns out, it's one of the best public schools in Madrid and the kids are so cute in their uniforms I COULD JUST DIE. Also, I think the women in the video will be my superiors... I think I should start working on a lesson plan.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gratuitous Garden

Except for the Huntington Library, there aren't many well-kept green spaces in LA. But even Pasadena's crown jewel can't compare to the 250-year-old Real Jardín Botánico in Madrid.

Located next to the Prado Museum, it's filled with trees, roses, daffodils, orchids, tulips and bonsais.

In other words, it's heaven.

Why do I get the feeling the falls in Madrid are colorfully spectacular? I'm bringing all my coats and scarves and hats, even if it means I have to wear them all on the plane.

It can be done, my friends. It can be done.

(photos via Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid)
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