Friday, January 28, 2011

Basking


Today, I have become a certified TEFL teacher. Meh. Completion dates aren’t all that exciting. So here on the afternoon of my TEFL graduation, I am content to watch “the future come and go in the mildly discouraging way that futures do.” (Good Omens, paraphrased)

No need for fireworks or applause. No need for crepe paper (devilishly tricky stuff, that) or cake (but I wouldn’t say no!). I’m a little tired after a night out with the girls (“free sangria for ladies” night is a fantastic idea) and a little exhausted thinking about my 7 a.m. flight tomorrow and subsequent four hour delay in Madrid.

But mostly, I am quietly happy, and it’s not because I’ve passed a class. It’s difficult to explain why, but I am basking in the warmth of contentment.

For the last 22 years of my life, I have lived, ate, and slept with people who grew up in families of a white, upper middle-class American, Christian background. For the last three and a half years, I have been ensconced in an even thicker bubble of rich American Christians. To be clear, I love my people and my country (and their driers and love of God). But it’s terribly stifling way to live your life, forever unsurprised by the people around you.

Traveling is not always comfortable (here, I cite again the lack of driers and the Heathrow Airport and throw in a word or two about limited language capabilities). But it’s always rewarding.

So, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go bask in contentment for the time I have left here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Paella Party

Every day coming home from class, I feel as though “my backbone was just talking to my stomach about food. They tend to stick together when I’m hungry.”

I hope all of you Brian Jacques fans out there can spot a Redwall quote when you see one because that was it. Thank you, Brian Jacques for unnumbered amounts of recycled storylines, transparent clues, and endless recounting of feasts (this is my nostalgia).

Ah, the feasts. Overflowing flagons of berry cordials, plates piled high with scones, and the moles’ famous Turnip ‘n Tater Deeper’n’ever Pie. The selection is vast and the portions boundless (unless a hare happens to be at the table).

A couple weeks ago, my housemates and I shared a traditional meal with our landlady Rosa and her husband Carlo, and though the selection was not quite so vast, the portions were similarly beyond boundless.

Rosa put enough paella on each person’s plate to keep them satisfied until Brain Jacques writes a story in which the bad guys win. And paella is thick stuff, just the kind of food that can almost fill me after a soccer match. It’s a rice dish, and Rosa makes it with seafood (shrimp, mussels, ect.) and vegetables (peas, and green beans, and extremely succulent artichokes).

Mind you, we didn’t eat it until 9 p.m., which is a little late for me—but a very Spanish thing to do—and we had some heavy wine with it—heavy for me anyway. I have very limited drinking abilities. By the end of the night, I didn’t even have room for a scone.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Whole New World

Right next to the San Jacinto Bridge lies a bigger, almost warehouse-like building. It looks a bit like buildings that might house an American flea market. Unbeknownst to me, that was the home of Triana’s marketplace, less than twenty feet from where I walk every day.

I had never seen it, let alone stepped inside. For some reason, flea markets make me think of slave markets or something, so you can see the amount of courage it took for me to walk into this building that no doubt sold not only fresh produce, but human flesh. Luckily, I summoned all my will and charged through the door into the nearly empty room of fruit stalls.

Pretty much how things went down.
I was coming pretty late to the game, you see, only about an hour before the market closed. But now I see what all the hype is about markets (at least in Europe). They are cheap—unlike their contrived American counterparts; they are fresh—three perfect manzanas and a fluffy baguette; and they are laid back.

No one looked angrily at the gringo as she lurked from stand to stand, trying to figure out where the bags were and how to say “apple” again. People were chatting, and stall-owners were easy-going about my wobbly “tres manzanas” and “este pan?”

My current book is Haroun and the Sea of Stories (it’s brilliantly written). As Haround reasons, the real world is full of magic, so magical worlds can easily be real. The exploring days are not over. With nearly 7 billion people on earth, there are plenty of worlds still to be discovered. I find that extremely comforting.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's Hard to Believe


     that I’m already a quarter of the way through my life.
     
    that I’ll be done with college in four months.
     
    I’ll be back in the States by Saturday evening.

         Spain felt like home when I returned from England.
       
that no one else in this country needs dryers.

  how racist Spain unconsciously is (they have a cookie called “Filipinos”
 that has white chocolate on the outside and brown cookie in the middle”)
                                
        that I've only been in Spain 24 days

                                    that I’ve been in Spain for 24 days already.

 how not racist England is compared to the United States. I realized how rarely young African American men are respectable in the United States when I registered surprise on seeing a many well-dressed African American men in the tubes.

 how cold Michigan is. Ew.

                                                                                                                                 how much I love chocolate

 how much someone can become a party of your life. Roommates, novios, parents, dogs. (The order of that list is arbitrary.) My life right now is different mostly because of who I’m with, not where I am. If you think about the stages in your life, I am willing to bet you’ll find a similar pattern.

  how great it is to have toilet paper in a bathroom.


But really what I mean to say has already been said in Life of Pi.

“Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?” 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ode to a Crayola Camera


(This is my excuse for missing yesterday’s posting.)

It was about the time when we’d not only missed our flight at Heathrow, but also—by minutes—the last bus to the hotel from the next day’s departure airport, Gatwick, that I decided it was a Bad Day to Travel.

We had planned for the day pretty well, in all fairness. We took it easy, going to church in the morning and then taking a lazy bus ride and stroll over to Baker’s Street and Sherlock Holmes’ 221b. Before we left for the airport, we stopped by Platform 9 ¾, pilgrims to a shrine. We gave ourselves an hour for the train ride and two hours in the airport before take-off.

Unfortunately, in Europe, 17:15 does not mean 7:15 under any circumstances. From the moment we realized it, the following Dumbledore quote kept running through my head:
 
“Being—forgive me—rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.”

Now exchange “older” for “rather cleverer than most men.” That sums growing up for me right now. When you’re little and drop your camera into Old Faithful, it’s not such a big deal because it was made by “Crayola.” But losing your sister’s sleek, new Canon digital in the Philly Airport—or misreading army time when you glanced at the ticket days before the flight—makes you feel the weight of your twenty-two years.

(Sidenote: my old Crayola camera actually survived to obsolescence, despite all my best attempts to be irresponsible with it. I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to drop a camera into Old Faithful, but if it had been possible, I’m sure I tried.)

Confrontation Is My Forte

I was sitting in the pub beneath our hostel in London (all the hostels here seem to be the upper floors of pubs, as far as I can tell), when two girls came bursting through the door from upstairs into the bar.


"There's some creepy guy in our bedroom. He tried to climb into my bed, and we think he might be drunk or something."


It was an interesting turn of events, considering there was a good chance we were in the same room. So I turned around to see who was speaking.


He likes Parisian coffee shops (like this one) and took me
to London to see Les Miserables for our one-year anniversary.
Watch out, ladies.
That was the moment my novio burst into the pub through the same doors, eyes wide and hands raised like anyone who has ever had the library alarm go off on them for no reason. The fussy brunette in a matching pajama set demanded he explain himself.


But once he had ("I was just trying to open the window, and I slipped and fell.") and once the barman had back him up ("I did ask him to open the window in there, actually.") the girl still looked fussy. She lectured; my novio apologized for the misunderstanding. She lectured; the barman appeased. She took a breath to start lecturing again.


That's when I may or may not have charged into the fight. I may or may not have narrowed my eyes and crossed my arms in an equally fussy manner and stood between her and my novio. I may or may not have jutted my hip out and verbally implied that any boyfriend of a girl who looked like me would have no reason to climb into her bed besides to open a window. I also may or may not have elbowed her in the face.


Either way, I believe as Gerret Keizer says, "I believe in chivalry more than harmony," and my novio needed defending.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Red Buses and The Oldest Door in Britain

And the sign is in English!!

When I got my braces off sometime in high school (10th grade, maybe?) I hadn’t realized I had stopped smiling with my teeth until I tried it again.

Similarly, when I reached London last night sometime around 1 in the morning, I didn’t realize right away that I had virtually stopped talking to people in public. Even when our taxi driver looked at me and asked me a direct question, I looked around for someone else to answer.

In Spain, this makes sense. But in no other context would I ever happily let someone answer for me. I like to write; I like to communicate; and above all, I like to have my own voice.

That may be the hardest part about living in Spain this month: my voice has been taken from me. Not that I traded it to Ursula for a couple of legs and a tail-removal. Rather my voice had become obsolete in the world of Spanish. And now that I’m back in the land of the English-speaking-albeit-with-the-verb-phrase-“have got,” I find that it’s difficult to resurrect my public power of speech.

But as Horatio says, “These are but wild and whirling words.”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Once More to the Breach


I must have seen this picture in a math book or something, but ever since I’ve wanted to go there. Actually, I thought it was the Alhambra until about halfway through my visit I suddenly remembered we hadn’t seen that memorable geometric pattern.

“Where are the red arch things?”

“The wha—? Oh, that’s the Mesquita. In Cordoba.” Ten minutes later, I informed my novio, who has spent the last three weeks traveling here and there and everywhere with me, that we had to go to Cordoba.

And—despite an expensive train ride, expensive entry tickets into the mosque, and only three hours total in the city—it was worth it. There is something about mosques—and the Mesquita in particular—that I find calming. Cathedrals make me want to twirl, be respectful, and maybe sing a Disney song or two. But mosques leave me steeped in a quiet peace, begging for solitude and a quiet chat with God.
                                                                                                                                
I’ve always thought of Christianity as a humble, muddy sort of religion. All have sinned and the leader of our faith was a Jewish carpenter who washed feet and spoke with prostitutes. And while I’ll be the first to admit Protestants are strangely slow to fear and respect God, I identify more with a personal relationship than a vaulted-ceiling sort of faith.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Apologetics


Grammar is cool.

Seriously.

And here is why.

       1.      Grammar is generative. It’s the sort of puzzle you can always dig your hands into, like an endless bowl of pudding.

       2.      Grammar is flexible. The way we use language is always changing and we are the ones who change it. I understand why people argue that grammar is boring because it’s merely describing what we’re already capable of doing. But think of physics: the physical laws of our world don’t change and physics is just there to describe them. On the other hand, grammar rolls with the ever-changing punches of language.

       3.      Grammar is full of rabbit trails. I know it hurts your brain if you think about them too long, but they are damn intriguing.

       4.      Grammar is organized. You know how you like having your desk nicely organized and all your pens and notebooks in the right places? It’s kind of like that.

       5.      Grammar makes sense. Seriously. It’s like a code you have to break, but once you know that it’s just Navajo, you’re golden.

       6.      Grammar is an underdog: everyone hates grammar so it has a lot of ground to make up before people can call it “cool.”

All that to say, I taught a 90-minute lesson on English grammar this week (mostly talking about dependent clauses and how to differentiate between noun, relative, related speech, and adverbial clauses), and I couldn’t stop smiling. I was somehow in my element. So, as Madame Defarge might say, “Then tell Wind and Fire where to stop, but don’t tell me!”

Alhambra in the background. A Grammar nut and her novio in the foreground. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Everyone Else

Meet Nati.

Nati has lived in Sevilla for her entire life. She likes gazpacho during the summers and hot chocolate in the winters. She plays the piano and enjoys Strauss, specifically the Blue Danube Waltz. Her favorite movie (seen the year it came out in the theatres) is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

She has three children, and she studied French, Latin, and German while at university. Now, in her 80th year, she’s taken up English. She’s my one-on-one student for the time I’m in Sevilla. Her English is slightly better than my Spanish (I haven’t tested her French, Latin, or German), so we do a lot of pantomiming. Today we hummed part of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet together.

The Alhambra was moving, the Giralda was captivating, and I loved my little visit to the seashore, but the people I’ve met so far are amazing.

Rosa, I’ve already told you about. Her husband Carlo is Italian and even friendlier than his wife. He loves to talk and lights up when I use any of my little broken Spanish.

Eve, one of my classmates and roommates, is quiet and full of grins. She hates grammar and loves the Oscars. Her sister, Orlagh, is upbeat and engaging with an infectious grin. Hannah, my third classmate, is the only Spanish-speaker in the group. She holds the honor of being the only person I have ever seen to look good in “jeggings” (sorry Conan).

“I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well,” says Henry David Thoreau. Agreed: my own best writing is inwardly focused. Unfortunately for that system, other people are so much more interesting. I wonder how many stories I’m missing by simply being too focused on me.

The Spanish love their dogs. And they love their dogs in cute, argyle sweaters. And I love the Spanish for it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spain's Flaws

All other flaws could 
be forgiven, Spain, if you
only had dryers. 

Possibly the worst haiku ever written.


New pics are up. You can see them better on my Picasa Web Album, though. Here's the link:


Monday, January 17, 2011

Appropriate Language

When teaching English as a Second Language, I have to watch my speech pretty carefully. Students who don’t yet fluently speak a foreign language can follow your speech only if you use simple words and sentences. This type of speech is called “appropriate language” here at the Blue School.

It’s not easy; you’d be surprised at how often you use complex sentences in your speech (Can you identify the dependent clause which makes that last sentence complex?).

What do you want me do to? LEAVE? Then they'll keep
 being wrong!
Even harder for me is keeping my mouth shut when I disagree. Dad always used to say “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” He still says it, actually, but when I learned the word “constructive” I figured that I’d found a loophole.

                                               >>>

So for a while there, I was pretty sure I was being helpful when I told my teachers they were doing it wrong and here was why. And by “for a while there” I mean now and forever always.

My quote today is from Shakespeare’s King Lear. At the end of the tragedy, when the body-count is higher than the number of goals Lionel Messi could score against a team of 8-year-olds, Edgar stammers out that people ought to “speak what [they] feel, not what [they] ought to say.”

As much as I love the advice, I think I better to listen to Dad on this one.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Walking Trees and Divine Waters

I have now been in Spain longer than I have been in any foreign country. Every other trip I’ve taken overseas—Austria, Guatemala, Japan, China—has been exactly two weeks long. In celebration, I visited the Alhambra this weekend.

The Alhambra, like the Hagia Sophia, braids Christian and Muslim influence into a single thread. Both cultures have had their way with the Alhambra: built first by the Muslims, and tampered with by the Christians (it’s a theme around here). Charles V’s palace, probably the largest and most intrusive of the Christian additions, is neat, clean, and grand in a comfortable sort of way. But it was the palaces of the Arabic kings that startled me with their unique beauty.

“Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake.  Love.  Think. Speak.  Be walking trees.  Be talking beasts.  Be divine waters.”

When Aslan says these words, he breathes life into Narnia. That’s how the Alhambra feels. I could see this place as the origin of life, with its ebullient fountains and gardens made of the greenest greens you could think of.

Even the famous lamppost of Narnia exists here in Granada in the form of hanging lanterns above the narrow streets. Aladdin-style horseshoe-doors dominate the façades and tessellations cover the walls of all the important buildings, making the Arabic influence outstanding.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Teaching is Learning

As I figure out what I’m going to do with my English major, I can’t help but feel like Harry Potter did on his first day at Hogwarts. (I apologize for the multiple Sorcerer’s Stone references in back-to-back posts.) Who hasn’t felt as Harry did after hearing the Sorting Hat’s song, that he didn’t have any of the school’s lauded qualities? For me, I wonder what job I could possibly belong in.

Recently I came to a conclusion that might help me figure that out, a conclusion I have been avoiding for years:

I like teaching.

Yeah, yeah, I know, mom and dad. You could have told me forever ago.

Yesterday was my first ESL teaching experience, and for my beginner reading class, I designed a 45-minute lesson on the topic of orchestral music (okay, you can all stop rolling your eyes now). My students are volunteers, mostly retirees who want to learn English and stay sharp. I was jittery all morning, but once I got in front of the class and started explaining the day’s topic, I started to enjoy myself.

My students ate up my talk of bassoons and symphonies and Mozart’s twenty children. I, in turn, was energized by their obvious enthusiasm and eagerness to please:

Bubbly Andrés and his happy smile when he told me that he, too, liked classical music; struggling Nati telling me how she thought modern music could be beautiful; Isabel’s quiet assertion that the song felt “white” to her; pixie Pilar correctly identifying a clarinet; and Mario’s content concentration on his quiz question.

I know no one else is surprised (teaching is in my blood, after all), but this has been a pleasant discovery for me.

I sleep in the top left bunk!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Humiliations Galore

God likes to keep me humble.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed success in orchestra, in soccer, and in school. My violin teacher says one of my worst problems as a player is learning the notes too quickly because then I don’t take the time to play the notes in tune. Many things come easily to me.

But you really can’t be good at everything.

I’ve always wanted to learn to speak a foreign language fluently. I love to study linguistics and I actually enjoy the hard slog of learning vocabulary and grammar. But despite 6 ½ years of Japanese classes, I never became proficient. And my Spanish is rudimentary at best, my accent appalling.

It humbles me.

Don’t misunderstand me; I am very bad at a great many things. Science, for instance. Computers, for another. Buying jeans, playing baseball, and not quoting movies while others are watching them for the first time are all weaknesses of mine.

But quite frankly, I don’t care too much about being bad at any of those things. I know they’re valuable skills, but I’ve never wanted them enough to work for them. However, languages are something at which I want to excel.

As many nerd girls my age do, I identify with Hermione Granger, the muggle-born smarty-pants from the Harry Potter books. Rowling writes:

“Chess was the only thing Hermione ever lost at, something Harry and Ron thought was very good for her.”

It is good for me to be humbled, but it’s not enjoyable.


People lock these onto the bridge connecting Sevilla to Triana, the neighborhood in which I live. There wasn't always a bridge, so it used to be a big deal, this separation. Now, it's just a tradition and every year the government sends someone over with a pair of bolt-cutters and they get rid of them.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Phrasal Verbs and Turning Worlds

The world never does stop, not for joy, not for sorrow.

I love this line from Gary Schmidt’s Straw into Gold because not only is it true, but it feels true. Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” But when you’re sitting at your desk, aimlessly doodling a couple of cool-looking triangles on your geometry test instead of the answers you were supposed to know, your imagination doesn’t feel all that important. Knowledge nearly always feels imminently more important.

But not only does time keep slinking forward, but it nearly always feels as though it is. That’s how life is for me here. It slows in the mornings during our 4-hour grammar review sessions and flies when I’m seeing the city in the afternoons. My novio made a trip up to Sevilla yesterday and we went to see the Alcazar (the old palace near the Giralda with an amazing garden and beautiful Islamic decorating and architecture).

Homework for my TEFL class reached an alarming rate just the afternoon, the day before my departure to Grenada and the famous Alhambra. Consequently, I’m going to keep this short as the time slips through the leaves on the orange trees of San Jacinto.

I have found great joy here, strolling around Sevilla with my classmates, with my novio, and even by myself. But I think I can feel God slowing turning the world in his fingers and even as I enjoy the moment, I look forward to (a phrasal prepositional verb if there ever was one!) whatever’s coming next.


This is where I spend roughly 7 hours every day. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Una Giralda

If you look on the right sidebar of this page, there will be quite a few pictures running on a slideshow, many of which show views from the Giralda of the connecting Cathedral of Seville.

Like so many religious buildings around this part of the world, the Seville Cathedral was originally a mosque, and the Giralda tower (named for the weathervane on top called a giraldillo) was its minaret. The cathedral itself is the largest Gothic cathedral and third largest church in the world.

First the Cathedral, and then the Girald and both are the kind of places that makes you “not quite sure whether twice seven is twelve or twenty-two.” So, so tall, and the best part? There aren’t any stairs; it’s a ramp to the top, winding around the square core of the tower. The ramp is wide enough for two mounted guards to pass one another on horseback. And the windows at every turn offer beautiful overlooks of the city and cathedral.

Afterwards, I got home to my housemates: two Spaniards, two Irish, two Belgians, and two other Americans. And I ate an enormous baguette which costs only 35 euros. It was a good day.


And sorry the pictures aren't bigger. That is my newest blogging challenge.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stop Thinking

I had forgotten what it was like to be told to sit down and shut up by a teacher. But I remember now why I stopped volunteering information in class somewhere around sixth grade. They don’t use those exact words, of course, but their dismissive, totalitarianism answer does the trick well enough. Stop thinking and listen.

That is the first lesson of school: Teachers have agenda. They have answers, too, but those are all tied up in what the teacher thinks is more important.

I recognize the need for an agenda. The teacher knows what needs to be taught, and they can’t be chasing every little white rabbit that pops into one of their thirty students’ minds. Unfortunately, we learn by chasing the little white rabbits.

This, from Fahrenheit 451 sums up school pretty well:

“It’s a lot of funnels and a lot of water poured down the spout and at the bottom, and them telling us it’s wine when it’s not.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Bradbury. I love to learn, yet a hated school. I think most of us do. But the system is not set up for us to learn. It is set up for us to listen.

So this is—verbatim—what my teacher told me today

·         You could do that, but don’t. Keep it simple.

      ·         Don’t try to use anything you’ve learned before, or in the past.
      ·         Don’t worry about learning more when one is all you need.
      ·         On your homework and the test, just copy what I’ve put on the board, don’t try to come up with something on your own.

Oh, and this is where my novio works. His escuela, if you will. Sort of see why he didn't post pictures of it earlier. Not really all that photogenic, is it?


Monday, January 10, 2011

A Few of my Favourite Things

After 7-hours of class every day last week, my classmates and I were ready for the weekend. We all met up for beers after class got out and toasted our survival. Not really a beer fan myself, but it was relaxing to sit along the riverfront in one of the many bars/cafés that lines Calle Betis. (The bars are cafes in the afternoon, and only turn into bars at night. Around three in the morning, they become clubs.)

But the best part of the weekend was visiting Huelva, the current home of my novio. He has lived there for roughly three months and failed to upload even one picture of his new home or work. For me, it was fun to finally see the place. And it was a dream to visit the beach and walk down the Atlantic shoreline, collecting shells and catching up on lost time.

Because it was such a lovely time, I made a list of a few of my favourite things that I saw in Huelva:

Soccer. This was the first time I’ve ever been surrounded by those who avidly watch, understand, and appreciate the sport I love. It’s an amazing feeling.

Chocolate Cake. We went to a brilliant café called “Vive la Chocolate” (yeah. exactly) in Huelva whose cake reminded me of how good the world is.

Public Transportation. Bus there. Bus back. Bus to the ocean, bus back. Easy, simple, on time.

Parallel Parking. It’s beautiful when done with the precision of a life-long European. An art.

Siesta. Andrew said the reason there weren’t many people at the beach was because it was siesta. On a Sunday, which is a whole day of siesta.

Warm. There is sun and it is lovely.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Rationalization

In case you can't tell from my posts or don’t know me well enough, I’m a worrier. I like to worry. I have to worry, otherwise I worry that I’m forgetting something important. If it’s not money (how can I afford to try those tapas tonight or to take the bus to the ocean or to go to the top of the Giralda?), it’s something else (will we make the bus? Are we using our time well enough? Are we having fun yet?!?).

However, as Uncle Screwtape reminds us, “man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his chattels.” And, as another Wise man once said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

I like the way our language shapes how we think about things. There is an embedded metaphor in the way English-speakers talk about time as if it were money: you spend, waste, and borrow time. Is it worth your while? Budget your time profitably. We even say it outright: “Time is money.”

But neither one is mine: time or money. They are gifts and I will spend them as best I can. Responsibility will undoubtedly be an element in my decisions, but so too will be my impetuousness (the part of me that has a fondness for purple shoes). Hopefully. something like a balance will result.

So long, and thanks for playing “Rationalize that Eurotrip!” with me.


P.S. I did go to the beach today.



Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Moment of Mortification


“But I like the inconveniences.”

"We don’t.  We prefer to do things comfortably.”
 “But I don’t want comfort.  I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness.  I want sin.”
"In fact, you're claiming the right to be unhappy."
"All right, I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley



In their defense, the public toilets here really aren't that bad. When compared to the squatters of China and Japan, they are paragons of convenient peeing. Consequently, I can forgive the Spanish toilets their annoying lack of cleanliness and toilet paper, if only because of its gracious, throne-like nature.

But forgiveness does not imply contentment, which is why I am always grateful for the toilet at my school which not only allows me to sit while relieving waste, but also provides oodles of toilet paper for my drying pleasure. The good stuff, too.

I would like to be clear: my embarrassment is not the fault of the Spanish toilet, and especially not this particular toilet. My embarrassment is the fault of my skirt, which hangs at exactly the height of the toilet bowl, my distraction due to a certain time of the month (the bane of my traveling experiences), and an inconveniently small bladder.

 All of this to say, I spent every minute of my break-time yesterday in the bathroom scrubbing an indelicate stain out of my (blessedly) black skirt and drying it in the hand-dryer. Oh bother.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Generally Speaking

Generalizations aren’t a good idea. Either they’re wildly unfair due to specificity, or they are just as unquestionably banal as the previous sentence. However, you’ll notice that in the writing of this blog I have made quite a few generalizations myself thus far and for these I offer the following amends:

Sevillanos know how to party. To the nerds and squares of Sevilla, I apologize.

Sevillanos stroll. To all three of Seville’s residents who can power-walk, I apologize.

Sevillanos are candid. To those here who know how to hold a secret, I apologize.

As my only line of defense, I submit this generalization as a credo under which I write (complements of OSC):

Most people are decent in every country.

And knowing that, believing wholeheartedly that the people I generalize about—while flawed—are good-willed, frees me to make my observations.

Another Orson Scott Card quote states that “A man always assumes others are as virtuous as himself.” I know my own failings, and I am sure others have their own as well. But I also know that I (generally) mean quite well towards others.

I don’t wish anyone harm (excepting incompetent secretaries, bad teachers, and soccer opponents, all of whom deserved to be deep-fried in chocolate sauce gnawed on by toothless octogenarians), and it seems reasonable that most people at least, do not wish any harm on me.

Generally speaking, of course.