Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Sat Through a Soccer Game and All I Got Was This Lousy Sunburn

I went to my first soccer game this weekend in Granada. I wasn't psyched about it, frankly, but this semester is supposed to be about being open to new stuff. I'm pretty much always open to new things when they're edible (that sounded dirtier than I meant) and I'm always up for new experiences in art museums and shopping and moderate exercise with stops for nice views and snacks. Sporting events, not so much. So yeah. It was all about getting out of my comfort zone, etc. etc.

Really the only American sport I can get into is hockey, but that's because I was supposed to be born Canadian. I'm not kidding about this. Football is okay if you're watching it at home on the couch with friends and beer and chili, and absolutely horrible if you have to watch it live. Basketball is pretty fun to watch live, and okay if there's nothing else on TV. Baseball is boring as fuck, I'm sorry. It's all great if it's your thing, but it's not mine. I am destined to spend my life not catching Frisbees and swinging wildly at whiffle balls and getting smacked in the face by kick balls, and that's my cross to bear. I'm good at other things, such as Scrabble.

Soccer falls somewhere in the middle of my sports spectrum. I will say that the game was not as long as I thought it would be, so that was one plus, and it was a nice day out. It moves pretty fast, and Granada actually scored three goals so it wasn't quite as dull as it could have been. The stadium is absurdly disorganized--there are no signs to tell you what section you're sitting in, apart from a few chalk numbers scratched on the cement walls. I get the sense you're supposed to grow up coming here, so they don't need signs of any description--everyone who's from here already knows where to go. Really though, it wasn't unbearable. I only got a mild sunburn. I spent most of the time wondering what we were having for lunch.

Here's the thing though. Everyone loved it. I don't mean the Spaniards, because obviously they go crazy for this stuff, I mean the other American kids I was with. They want to go again, and a lot of them have already bought 50 euro tickets for a Real Madrid game next week. What gene am I missing? Why do sports make some people scream their heads off and make others wish they'd brought a book? Let me know if you figure that one out.

chainsmoking camerahombre

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Settled In and Taking Stock

Things I miss about home:
1. My family, friends and Cam.

2. Breakfast cereal. You think I'm joking by ranking this right after my family and my boyfriend, but I'm not. A bowl of Special K while watching Letterman is the absolute tits, I don't care what you say.

3. Dog-crap free sidewalks. In most respects Granada really is one of the cleanest cities I've seen--every night there's legions of guys in jumpsuits out cleaning the streets--but people let their dogs shit smack in the middle of the sidewalk and never pick it up.

4. Other people of slightly-above-average height. Spaniards are short people, and I seriously keep hitting my head on low-hanging doorways and beams all over this city. If I start acting strange, please let me know, because I'm probably mildly concussed.

Things I don't miss:
1. Driving everywhere. I absolutely love being able to walk to basically anywhere I need to go in an ordinary day, and I really don't miss paying 3+ bucks a gallon to drive around my gas-sucking Subaru.

2. Snow. I love to ski, but I have to say taking a break from the winter--especially this winter--has been really wonderful. It snowed for the first time today, but for the most part it's been sol, sol, sol.

3. Being under the legal drinking age. It is so unbelievably nice to have a drink or two and not worry that I'm going to get arrested by the forces of the Police State of Durham. That said, I'll be 21 when I get home, so my stateside friends better be ready to rage--because I have a feeling turning 21 could be anticlimactic in a country where people take their children to bars.

4. Working out. Now, I'd estimate that I walked at least six miles on most days last week. I sleep like a log and based on purely unscientific methods I think I've actually lost a little weight--but I really don't miss the gym. You know those people who say that eventually you're going to want to work out, that your body will crave it? I hate those people. I work out because I feel better, happier and healthier afterwards, but it's always a chore when I'm actually doing it. My name is Ellen Stuart and I fucking hate the gym. And I am not ashamed.

love the song...unfortunately the video was made my a fourteen year old who just discovered clip art.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Today we had a big gathering with our host families at Cafe Futbol, and we all at too many churros with chocolate. World travelers or not, we're still college students, and as such can't resist free food--especially when it's as tasty as churros. All of us girls are very conscious of what we're eating lately, and trying to calculate whether we're walking enough to work off the bollerias (rolls and croissants), pasteles (pastries) and of course, the churros. We do walk a lot, as does everyone here in Granada. It's a 20 minute walk to school from our apartment, and in addition to that we've been spending several hours wandering around every day, just getting to know our new city. I'm not usually one to worry much about what I eat, but still. The pasta. The sweets. The white bread at every meal. I'm also not one to abstain from good food when I'm on vacation, but I keep reminding myself this isn't a vacation--a vacation is a week, maybe two weeks. This is a whole semester, and all those carbs are going to add up.

It doesn't make us feel much better to try on clothes in Spanish stores--my size 4 butt just barely fits into a medium dress here. An extra-large pair of pants looks more like it would probably be about an American size 8. (Plus the fact that I'm really tall here, and my shoe size hardly exists--which is a very good thing, when you come down to it.)

On Sunday mornings it's very easy to spot who's American and who's Spanish--the Spanish women are in fur coats and beautiful shoes, having a little paseo (stroll) through the quiet streets, arm in arm with a friend or husband; and the American girls are out in running shorts and blonde ponytails, taking a jog. (which I should still do.) But it's not just that there's fewer fat people--I was ready for that--but nobody seems particularly worried about exercising or watching what they eat. Forty-year-old women unabashedly eat fried dough dipped in chocolate. (I mean I was used to that from working at Canobie, but those women weighed 300 pounds and were wearing Gretchen Wilson tour T-shirts.) Spanish women enthusiastically ooh and ahh over how good it is, without any of those jokey "diet starts tomorrow!" comments American women make--and they're mostly thinner than Americans, too. Looking at them, I'm not too worried. The food we eat at home is delicious and very healthy, we walk everywhere, and a treat here and there is okay. What a concept.

dear julia: buying new pants is not the answer. paseos are.
also this movie sucked, except for the "eat" part.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Amor y Otras Drogas

Last night about ten or eleven of us went to the movies to see Amor y Otras Drogas (Love and Other Drugs). (The wonderful Sarah Hirsch paid and wrote it off as a "cultural experience"--thanks UNH) The dubbing in the movie was obviously insanely fast, and I was able to mostly keep up only because I'd already seen the movie in English. The movie got out at about 1 a.m., and we went to a bar called Batan to have a few drinks. We were tired of hearing only American music everywhere we go, so we asked the bartender to put on something Spanish...and so he had Kim and me go behind the bar and make a playlist. (American girls tend to get what they want here). It wasn't anything crazy, but even a low key night of a movie and a single drink doesn't end until about 3 a.m. in Spain.

Lots of talking about boys--from both sides of the Atlantic--as we walked around and ate too many Napolitanas (croissants with chocolate filling) this afternoon. I always feel lucky to be with Cam, but today I was feeling especially lucky to live in this century. My dad wrote to my mom every single day of the six weeks that she spent in England when they were in college, but Cam and I have Facebook, Gchat and Skype--it's easy for me to pop in for even a few minutes to chat, or, if I have more time, to talk face to face for as long as we like. I can't even imagine what a separation like this would have been like for a couple living before there was even reliable mail service. All I know is that being apart has certainly made me more sentimental than usual.

Had a pretty lazy afternoon drinking coffee and wandering around with Marilyn and Athina. Athina already has an admirer--Mauricio from Cafe Futbol--and today he brought her a flower and gave her a free coffee (Marilyn and I paid our own way). He's been trying to get her to go for un paseo (a stroll) with him for awhile now--unfortunately he's thirty years old and about 5'2.

Classes start tomorrow, so I actually have to go do homework! Hasta pronto.

that's my boys from Wilco helping out on instrumentals.

Friday, January 14, 2011

History Lessons and Relationship Advice from Maricarmen

Today we got ourselves a caravan of taxis and went up into the neighborhood of Sacromonte, where there is a monastery and incredible views of the Alhambra. One of our professors, Maricarmen, sat us down for a short lesson about the history of Granada and the monastery were were sitting in. La Abadia Sacromonte was a monastery and a seminary, and it has a beautiful courtyard with a fountain and orange trees. The star of David is everywhere--on the walls, the ceiling, the furniture and even the priests' vestments--and Maricarmen explained that in this context it's not a symbol of Judaism but Solomon's seal, a mark of wisdom and mysticism. I won't try to encapsulate the multiple millenia that Maricarmen told us about, but one of the most interesting things we did was explore the catacombs beneath the church. These were used by early Christians during the second century to hide from the Romans who occupied Spain at the time. The patron saint of this area is San Cecilio, and his (supposed) bones were found in the catacombs and are relics at Sacromonte today. The bones were found beneath two stones, one black and one white, and superstition says that if a woman touches the black stone on February 1, the feast of San Cecilio, she will be married within the year (My roommate Athina touched it but the rest of us stayed a safe distance away). Conversely, if you're married and touch the white stone on February 1, your spouse will either die or otherwise disappear over the course of the next year--which I guess must have come in handy before Spain recognized divorce (It's a fairly recent phenomenon here, compared with the rest of the world). Maricarmen swears it works--she said (in Spanish) that if you ever find yourself married to the wrong person, you shouldn't bother to pay a lawyer--just make a visit to La Piedra Blanca. That way, she says, you at least get a vacation into the bargain.

the chicos, making us a classroom

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Update from Spain

Hola todos, I'm in Spain for the semester now, so this blog is likely to become mostly about my adventures and misadventures in Granada. (There is such a thing as Spanish Cosmo though, so keep an eye out for that post) I arrived last night, and got settled with my host family. My senora's name is Ana and she's very sweet and a great cook. Got our hands on Spanish cellphones this morning, and had churros y chocolate at Cafe Futbol (basically donuts dunked in melted chocolate...super healthy.) After that we walked around a lot and found the Centro de Lenguas Modernas, where we'll be having class. Tonight we'll check out the nightlife, and tomorrow we'll have orientation at the Centro--before we start our five-hour-a-day Spanish classes with our profe Sarah on Monday. Hasta pronto.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Said It.

So last night I was watching Mean Girls, having a beer and doing my little sister's art homework. This was probably at about 1:30, and I wasn't in bed because I'm leaving for a semester in Spain tomorrow and I have an eensy bit of anxiety about that. Anyway. You know that part where Tina Fey has to talk to all the girls at the assembly in the gym? And says "You guys have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores, it only makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores"?

Well, our political leaders have to stop calling each other sluts and whores. Somewhere along the line it became acceptable--common, actually--for politicians to use language and rhetoric suggesting that they want to kill each other. Actually, you know what. Not politicians, in the broad sense. It's the right wingers. Maybe I'm not being politically correct, but last time I checked Dennis Kucinich was not exhorting his supporters to "don't retreat, reload."

It's just words, you say? Actually it's not--because when an ordinary citizen publishes an image of crosshairs over another ordinary citizen's name, that's criminal threatening. Apparently when Sarah Palin does it it's advertising. And please don't tell me that it's the same thing as violent lyrics in rap music. This is actually an argument some people are trying to make, that Sarah's hit list and Lil Wayne's lyrics are the same thing. The thing is, folks, is that Lil Wayne is not a.) a quote unquote "respected" political figure or b.) the commander of a vast army of fucktards and racist grandmothers.

No, Mama Grizzly did not pull the trigger. But she must take the lion's share of the blame for for the violent rhetoric that's become the norm. We don't know yet what Loughner's motives or politics were, and we can't blame the Tea party (yet). But I for one do blame Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and their whole gleeful posse of teabaggers for creating a climate in which it's perfectly okay to talk about murdering American political figures. They blatantly capitalize upon the inanity of people too stupid to look up "communist" in the dictionary or correctly spell "public," and act surprised when somebody gets shot. They didn't fire the gun, but they loaded it. These crazies whip up ignorant people into a faux-populist frenzy with words like "socialism" and "death panels," and then tell them all to go buy some guns. That's like giving a two-year-old a couple of Adderall and an espresso and then letting him drive a semi truck. People are going to get hurt.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On Wednesdays We Wear Pink: Actual Advice from Cosmo

Okay ladies. I'll bet you thought that January's Cosmo was going to be packed with tips for a happy, healthy, successful new you for 2011. And it is, as long as that new you understands that finding and keeping a man is really the only resolution that matters. First you've got to find one, and then--this is important--you have to keep him and make sure that he doesn't cheat on you. Because we all know that when a man cheats it's definitely not because he's a scumbag, and almost certainly because he wasn't having enough morning sex.

The Man Manual
Cosmo dedicates several pages to this "special section" called 101 Things About Men. One of the gems from here is "Decode His Emoticons." I mean, it's like Cosmo has just accepted that actual grown women don't seriously take their advice and realized that their actual audience is mainly thirteen-year-olds at slumber parties (Squeezed in between the Zac Efron movie marathon and the "how far have you gone?" conversation). But, having been one of those girls, I can say that their "decoding" is pretty bogus--I mean "Winking face: I just made a joke. Did you get it? LOL because my ego is on the line." Wrong. Wink face means "I just said something raunchy and I want you know know that it was a joke, even though I was kind of serious" In texting, winking face always means sex. So do ellipses. Fact.

The Moment He's Most Likely to Cheat
This article tries to explain what could "drive" a guy to make a "lame-ass" decision like cheating. Now, I'm sorry, but a lame-ass decision is buying an Ed Hardy shirt, or growing a soul patch. Cheating is a terrible decision, but obviously if a guy cheats it's because his girlfriend drove him to it. Cosmo suggests to prevent this you 1.) have morning sex at least once a week 2.) tell him his butt looks good, 3.) flirt with someone else to remind him how good he has it, and 4.) keep things interesting by making an on-the-fly short film on your iPhone. Which, okay. I'm sure everyone would be happier if they were having more sex and getting more compliments. But suggesting that "if you know how it works, you can prevent your guy from ever being tempted" --and, conversely, if you don't have enough morning sex and impromptu cell phone videos it's your fault if your significant other cheats on you--is pretty bogus.

60 Hands Free Ways to Wow Him

#44 Lick his eyelids, then blow on the saliva
This seriously sounds like the least sexually appealing thing ever. This advice comes courtesy of one Sadie Allison PhD, author of a presumably real book called (I'm not making this up) "Tickle His Pickle." Yes.

#36 "I love when a girl puts her mouth on my penis sideways, like it's corn on the cob, and slides her lips from side to side"
Well, thanks a heap for that visual, Schubert, 33.

#57 "On a cold night I went to my girlfriend's place. She put my penis under her armpit. It got me hot, fast. "
Silly Andrew, 22. Girls don't have armpits, we have underarms. Just like we don't have gas, we have occasional irregularity.

#33 "I was out to dinner and the girl I was dating kicked off her heels and gave me a foot job under the table."
Maybe I'm not as much of an exhibitionist as some people, but this is fucking disgusting. Food and feet and bodily fluids...annd I'm just going to be over here Purell-ing my brain. Bye.