Tag Archives: rambling

In which I felt very a Smithie

The bells rang this morning.

For those of you who don’t know, morning bells denote Mountain Day, the randomly scheduled holiday held on some nice day during fall semester. The president declares it at 7:00 one morning, and the bells ring to announce to the campus that classes are canceled.

There a few things like the rush of joy of waking up to the chiming of bells, bells that declare a surprise holiday. I had hoped that Mountain Day would be today, but I’ve always tried to not anticipate Mountain Day; I think that it works better when unexpected. In fact, I do my best to forget that it happens, which means that I can just be joyful when I wake to bells and know that classes have been canceled.

Today was a glorious sunny day with clouds racing by, one of the best sorts of Autumn days, crisp and a little chilly but warm in the sun.

I was very aware, as I lay awake listening to ringing tones through the open windows, that this year I am a senior. I probably will never again live in a place where surprise holidays are announced with the ringing of bells. I will miss it: the thrill of waking up, the walking out into the hallway to discover one’s neighbors running around rejoicing in various states of deshabille, the gleeful abandon with which most of the campus manages to take this day in both hands and run with it, putting off the stress and work for at least a few hours.

I didn’t go apple picking. I didn’t climb a mountain. But it was a good Mountain Day.

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Thoughts on a summer evening

I’ve been reading A Castle in the Backyard: The Dream of a House in France. This is a book I picked up from the library last summer when I was looking at Spain books – I guess that France is right next to Spain in the Dewey Decimal system, and it looked interesting. I never got around to reading it, but it had looked interesting enough that it stuck in my memory as something I wanted to read. It’s the memoir of two middle-aged English professors who bought a summer house in France during the eighties: the story of their decision to buy a house, their search, and their adaptions to French life. It’s somewhat ridiculous, but it appeals to the part of me that likes spontaneous ridiculous (although it’s a rather prolonged bout of spontaneity, as the process happened over two summers).

It’s a story very much about France. They talk about french food, french neighbors, french countryside, and the french language. But at the same time, it reminds me powerfully of Spain. They turn a corner to discover a castle, and I think of the spanish castles. Little french towns remind me of little Spanish towns, of Portugalet and Toledo and Getxo and the town that we went to to look at countertops, and the town with the castle on the spur of rock. I think of long drives along winding roads through olive groves concealing nested hamlets, and a soundtrack of Abba and Jane Eyre and The Wailing Banshees and The Music Man. I remember riding with Pepi back from Torre del Mar, and the castle near Bilbao that we didn’t go see, despite a fabulous picture, because it wasn’t open and we decided that it wasn’t actually worth walking six miles each way, even if it looked amazing.

It’s funny. Much of my time in Getxo was spent overtired, sick, vaguely hungry, with sore feet, not sure that we would find somewhere to eat supper, and desperately needing a bathroom, not to mention a harried run back to the metro, not sure that we would catch the last train to catch our bus. I know all this, conceptually, and if I think about it I can remember the dark and cold plaza where we huddled, trying to kill time until it was acceptably late to eat dinner – but all the same, Getxo is softened in my memory to a charming, lovely town (which is was), full of lazy sunlit days strolling along warm promenades where the bike lanes have crosswalks (true, but those were the only two sunny days they got that season, or so I’m told), a tourist center with a pleasant woman who showed no dismay at discovering two cheap college students eating bread and chorizo on the front step of the cute little tourism house, of wind turbines churning away along the horizon of a sunset that outlines the statue of a sardine seller.

I find that other things blur, too. Just now I couldn’t remember the word for chorizo, though I could conjure an image of it in my head and almost taste it again. I’m aware that my Spanish is not quite as good right now as it was when I left Spain.

Not, mind you, that I intend to forget everything. And journals are good for refreshing faded recollections.

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Jiggity jog

Nobody calls you “sunshine” in grocery stores in Spain. They might call you “guapa (handsome woman, beautiful), but not “sunshine.” I’m not even sure that I know how to say sunshine in Spanish. I know how to say sunlight. Perhaps brilla del sol is sunshine. Or perhaps not. It certainly doesn’t have the same ring to it, and you would never use it as a way to refer to a person.
It’s little things like this that really make me aware that I’m home.

Also, no one in Córdoba leaves notes on the table for you saying that the weather will probably get nasty later today, and that you might want to stay home. In Córdoba, nasty weather is a lot of rain, or cold down to 3C, and you’ll get wet or cold or both, but nobody worries about ice on the streets.
I do like winter, though. Not as much as autumn, but I would miss the snows and the crisp chill and the pointy blue of a winter sky through bare branches if I lived in a place where there was never any winter. (However, if I lived in such a place, I think that I could probably do without days of freezing rain and week-old piles of gray-black snow that the snowplows dumped on your front lawn.)

I’m not aware of experiencing culture shock coming back, but it’s only been three days, so I should probably wait another few months before making gleeful pronouncements.

I had a good time with Kona in Bilbao, and bopping around Córdoba and Granada with mom and Isaac was wonderful. I’m glad that I stayed for that, despite my desire, while riding the bus to Madrid with the rest of the group on December 18th, that I too was going to Madrid to get on a plane so that I would be home in time for Christmas. Even if I did spend the next two weeks being sick, I had a good time.
I took lots of pictures, and will post them at some point, although depending on how mom’s internet cooperates, that point may not be until after I get back to school.

I hope you guys all had fabulous winter holidays.

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A check-in

To catch people up on computer issues, while I have a working computer, we couldn’t recover my data. So I’ve lost a month of pictures and have no music anymore. That’s pretty much the worst of it. And Pandora apparently does not work in Spain. Which is really too bad (any suggestions for free, not-illegal music sources? I like classical and folk and musicals and gospel and hymns and traditional ethnic and it doesn’t have to be in English or even have words).

I haven’t been doing enough interesting things lately to give a play-by-play recap, so I’ll just ramble about stuff as it occurs to me.

My host mother had decided that I don’t like sweets. I don’t know how to tell her than no, I have a huge sweet tooth, I’m just a whole lot pickier about sweets than about regular food. (I guess that it makes sense that I have higher standards for something that I’m eating specifically because I like it rather than something I’m eating because I’m hungry and need nurishment.) I did sort-of try to explain that it’s not that I don’t like chocolate, but rather that I don’t unilaterally like chocolate; this chocolate may have too much sugar in it, or I may not like the flavor of that one . . . but I think that that only reinforced her impression that I’m not a big fan of sugar. And while I can think of another way to try to explain it, telling her that I only like chocolate that I consider to be good seems very rude, since it implies that the chocolate she’s tried to feed me is bad chocolate. She also doesn’t seem to understand that in my house, a croissant is a dulce. And while I did try to tell her that it’s not that I don’t like sugar, it’s just that sugar is a food which has a high potential for me to dislike it if it’s not to suit my exacting standards, I don’t think that I’m explaining very well in English, so I don’t see why she would understand in Spanish.
Of course, the fact that I don’t like several of the options for sweet food is probably a good thing; it means that I’m not going to eat any of it. I don’t like the cordoveses because they have too much confectioner’s sugar and not enough flavor, and I don’t really like the stuff that’s like filo dough with crema inside because of what I guess is a texture thing; it sticks to the roof of my mouth in a funny way that’s unpleasant enough to make the so-so flavor entirely not worth the trouble. And hey, the croissants continue to be quite good to excellent.
Perhaps another factor is milk. I’m accustomed to eating my sweets with milk, and while I don’t dislike the milk here so much that I won’t drink it, it just doesn’t taste right. I have yet to decide if sweets without milk or sweets with odd milk are preferable. (And I can’t get over the fact that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated! It’s just weird to me that milk can sit out of the fridge like cans of fruit juice before it’s opened. Of course, they seem to be more lax about refrigeration here – or maybe it’s just Pepi. At any rate, she’ll make my lunch in the morning before she goes to work and then leave it sitting out on the counter all day. I usually stick it in the fridge when I get up, and then microwave it thoroughly. I have yet to figure out how this behavior can be compatible with the amount of mayonnaise that’s used here. Maybe the mayonnaise is different, too. Luckily Pepi seems to have decided that I don’t like mayonnaise, either. While this isn’t actually true, I do feel that mayonnaise is a condiment – to be used sparingly on a limited number of foods – rather than an ingredient to be applied with the same enthusiasm that Isaac uses for ketchup.

We played fútbol (and a bit of ultimate frisbee) on Friday night and had lots of fun. While I can’t even remember the last time I touched a soccer ball, most of the other participants seemed to have a similar level of skill. I, at least, had the advantage of four years of field hockey, which utilizes a similar set of team skills, if not ball skills (which while usually useful, also meant that I occasionally found myself in exactly the right place and still unable to actually perform the required action). It sounded like we may continue to have similar games; if that’s the case I will perhaps look into acquiring a cheap pair of sneakers.

Let’s see . . . we went out for ice cream yesterday. Instead of paying for overpriced ice cream in a cone, a bunch of us got two cheap containers of ice cream. While the ice cream wasn’t as good as it would have been from one of the artisan places, it was cheaper, and it was a nice group-excursion thing. You definitely feel closer to people when sharing communal ice cream than when each person has her own cone.

I’ve done a lot of walking of late. But I got plenty of sleep last night, and didn’t wake up with sore feet or feeling tense all over (my analysis: only-barely enough sleep coupled with computer worry and lots of walking/soccer). So that’s a good thing.

I should get around to doing homework at some point today. Also to downloading TeX or OpenOffice so that I can write papers when it’s next required of me.

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Checking in

I turned 21 yesterday. Which makes me completely and utterly a legal adult. Like I’ve been for the past three weeks. A bit anticlimactic, that.

In other news, What I’ve been up to.

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Since I arrived in Córdoba . . .

A few pictures and a lot of babbling.

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