Thursday, December 27, 2012

5 simple games to spice up your holiday get togethers

Last Christmas, I was in the southern-Spanish countryside of a tiny village, volunteering in exchange for food and accommodation via HelpX on the property of Cuesta Viñas.

Myself roaming the gorgeous hills in the countryside of Válor, Granada, Spain
Myself roaming the gorgeous hills in the countryside of Válor, Granada, Spain

My Christmas day began with a jump into the pool to retrieve a balloon with my name on it: our first "Christmas game" that day.   Here are the other games we played at various times throughout the rest of the holiday, most requiring minimal household materials:

#1 Knife Drop

All you'll need for endless laughter and fun is some string, two knives, and two empty wine bottles.

Tie a piece of string to one of the knives, then tie the other end of that string around the waist of a player so that the knife hangs down their back side - over their rear.  Tie it so that the knife doesn't hang so low, since longer hanging strings are too easy.

Do the same with the other knife and string, and tie it to player #2: the opponent.  Both players race against each other to try to get their knife in the bottle first.  This requires some squatting, and is really fun to watch.

Here's a clip so you can see how Knife Drop works:

#2 Wine Bottle Walk

Using those same two wine bottles, you can play another game, which I have named "Wine bottle walk".  Mark a starting line on the floor.  We used the edge of a rug as our starting line.  Your feet must stay behind this line.  Put your hands on the bottles and walk forwards as far as you can.  Someone else should throw a coin or some sort of marker to whatever point you reach (if it's farther than the others), but it only counts if you can get back to the start line without falling.  The person to go the farthest wins.

I think after the first round of people, we all got a second chance to beat the record.  It's a lot harder than it looks!

Here's a video of Wine Bottle Walk in action:

#3 Box Bite

For this next game, all you'll need is a cardboard box.  Thinner cardboard that's easier to rip is preferable.

In the first round, everyone must bend down - without touching hands or knees to the floor - and pick up an edge of the box with their teeth.  After everyone does so, someone cuts off (or rips off) an inch from the top of the box, and thus begins round two.  As the box gets shorter and shorter, it gets harder to pick it up with your mouth.

Here's a clip of Box Bite being played on Christmas 2011:

#4 Abs Neck of Steel

Warning: Play at your own risk!  This game may cause injury (or pain) to your neck.  Most of us who tried it later wished that we hadn't! 

You'll need: two chairs and a small stool (or light piece of short furniture).

Rest your head (neck up) on one chair, put your feet on the other, and rest your rear on the short stool or end table.  When you're ready to begin, remove the stool/small furniture from underneath your tush and pass it around your waist, counting the number of times you pass it around.  

Whoever gets the highest number wins!  Many people were only getting a few before they stopped.  I think I made it to 13 or something and people were impressed.  But then this guy blew us all out of the competition:

#5 Wheelbarrow Race

This wasn't exactly the safest game to play, but our hosts had set up a wheelbarrow race after breakfast that morning.  We were put into teams of two, and two teams raced against each other at a time.

Wheelbarrow race starting line
Wheelbarrow race starting line

There was a short ramp each team had to wheel over, and then a brick at the halfway point that each team had to push around before changing directions and running back to the finish line (aka start line).

Wheelbarrow races
Wheelbarrow races
Wheelbarrow races
Wheelbarrow races

To make this safer, you could always do a wheelbarrow race without the physical wheelbarrow.  You know, where one person grabs the ankles of the other person, who walks on the ground with his or her hands.  Here's come clip art to illustrate:

Human wheelbarrow race
Human wheelbarrow race
Image Source

All of these games that I played last Christmas provided hours of entertainment!  They're so simple and require such few materials; I was surprised that I had never played most of them before.

Have you played any of these games before?  Are you going to try some at your next big get-together?  What games are always a hit at your parties?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Inside Out in Madrid: Las manolas y los manolos de Cascorro

At the end of November I blogged about a public art display I had seen in September in Madrid, but hadn't known what it was.

Readers Mary and Kris commented (thank you!) and left me this link.  That site is all in Spanish, so I'll translate and summarize a bit:

The art project was called "Las manolas y los Manolos de Cascorro," and it strove to showcase the diverse community of Cascorro, the neighborhood/plaza in which the project was displayed.  This in turn was to represent the diverse community that is society.  They took pictures of 76 people that had been walking down the street in that area, and with the help and support of the neighbors that offered their balconies for the project, put the portraits on display.

Las manolas y los manolos de Cascorro
Photo Source: El País
The cultural association "La mitocondria" collaborated with the Italian photographer Antonio Arcaro and the neighbors of the area, in order to make this art project a success.

This was actually an Inside Out project, inspired by street artist JR's TED talk that he gave last year when he was named winner of TED Prize 2011:

If you don't want to watch, the top banner of the Inside Out website provides the gist of what it's about: "A global art project transforming messages of personal identity into works of art.  1. Upload a poster  2. Receive a poster  3. Paste it for the world to see  Participate Now".  And here's what the website's "About" section reads:
"I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we'll turn the world...INSIDE OUT." – JR
INSIDE OUT is a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. Everyone is challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. These digitally uploaded images will be made into posters and sent back to the project’s co-creators for them to exhibit in their own communities. People can participate as an individual or in a group; posters can be placed anywhere, from a solitary image in an office window to a wall of portraits on an abandoned building or a full stadium. These exhibitions will be documented, archived and viewable virtually."
If anyone's interested in reading the article that appeared in El País about the project in Madrid, it can be found here.

I had actually seen this TED Talk in 2011 when the prize was awarded to JR, so I was really excited to find out that this art project was a part of his Inside Out challenge.  That's one of the great things about living in a European capitol city.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Oliva: Day 3, A year ago today

[This post is a part of a forgotten series about Oliva, Spain.  Post one can be found here.  Post two is here.]

A year ago today was a Saturday, and I was in Oliva - a small pueblo just south of Valencia along the Mediterranean coast.  My old roommate Gregorio's parents live there, and this was the first time that I went to their house.

We had arrived in Oliva that Thursday evening, and at the end of the day on Friday I asked Gregorio, "How old is your father?"
Gregorio did some calculating, then answered, "Well tomorrow he'll be...[I don't remember what age he said!]"
"Wait, wait, wait, what do you mean tomorrow?"
"His birthday's tomorrow," Gregorio said.
"What?  But nobody's said anything about it.  Are you pulling my leg?"
He laughed and said, "Yeah, it's tomorrow.  Really"

I didn't know whether I should believe him or not, as he's always pulling practical jokes on me.

Saturday morning when I woke up, his parents had already left for "la casa de arriba" (the upper house, which is their house up in the hills, away from the coast/town.  We would be having lunch there, I was told.  I was excited to finally see this casa de arriba because that's where Gregorio's parents' dogs live.  That's also where Gregorio gets all his fruit from; whenever he'd return to Madrid from his parents' house, he would always bring back crates and crates full of huge Valencian lemons and oranges.

View from the balcony
Oliva, Spain

Fruit tree at the casa de arriba
Oliva, Spain

We went inside the house and saw Gregorio's father watching television in the living room.  Gregorio didn't say "happy birthday" (well, feliz cumpleaños) to him or anything, so I didn't say anything either.  Because it had probably been a joke to try and get me to make a fool of myself.

After checking out the rest of the house and yard, and after I'd soaked up the amazing view of the coast and surrounding forested hills, Gregorio found his mother.  She was outside cooking this for lunch:

Oliva, Spain
Paella.  Homemade, authentic paella.  Made by a Spanish mother on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.  Wow.

The chef and I, and the paella
Oliva, Spain
She was nearly done by the time we had arrived, so we soon carried it up to the dining room.

As we were sitting down, Gregorio's dad went to wash up his hands or something.  Then Gregorio said to his mother, "Let's have this champagne for dad's birthday."
His mom whispered back, "It's today?!"
"Yes, December 10," he said.
*gasp*  "Es verdad!" (you're right!), she said.

I probably gasped myself.  I couldn't believe that nobody had said anything yet about his birthday, and wondered if he had forgotten himself, or if he was waiting for someone to say something.

So when Gregorio's father sat down at the table to eat, Gregorio said something along the lines of, "Let's have this champagne for your birthday, dad.  Happy birthday."  His dad grinned.

Later I asked Gregorio's mother if there was anything they normally did to celebrate birthdays.  "Oh no, we [she and her husband] don't celebrate them," she told me.  "They're just like any other day."

So that explains it.  I'll never forget December 10, 2011: the first day I ate homemade paella in Spain, and Gregorio's father's "forgotten" birthday.

¡Feliz cumpleaños Eulalio!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The mysterious faces in downtown Madrid

While walking around Madrid one afternoon (perhaps the day we were searching for a supermarket on the way back to your place after lunch with Herm, Hannah?  I don't remember!), this apartment building caught my eye:
I think it was either an artistic or political display, but never found out what it was exactly.  Here's a close up of one side of the building:
I think we were near the city center, somewhere around Ópera or La Latina.  Has anyone seen this display in Madrid?  What is the statement being made?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

ONCE museo tiflológico

When my sister and grandma visited me in Madrid for a few days back in July (before we headed to Germany together), one of the places we visited was the ONCE Museo Tiflológico (ONCE Museum for the blind, essentially).  If you recall from this post, ONCE stands for Organización Nacional de Ciegos Españoles (National Organization of Spanish blind people) -- and they sell lottery tickets!  I had never heard of this museum before, but the sister had seen it on a list of free things to do in the city, and it looked interesting.

The phrase "un museo para ver y tocar," is found on the museum's website and brochures, meaning a museum where you can see and touch things.  This museum is the first of its kind in Spain, and it opened on December 14, 1992.  The building is easy to spot, as it features the ONCE logo with a bright yellow strip across the top.

After we had signed in downstairs, we took the elevator up to the museum.  When we exited the elevator and headed towards the main desk, a voice recording said that people had entered the museum.  This way, the blind woman working the front desk would know we were there.  She gave us a brief run-down of the museum, which I later translated to my grandma and sister.

The museum was split into three main sections: salas de maquetas, the room of scale models (of buildings); salas de obras de artistas, rooms of works made by blind or visually impaired artists; and sala de material tiflológico, the room of materials used by blind people through history.

Sala de maquetas

We started in the sala de maquetas.  When we walked through the doorway to enter that section, a recorded voice said that we were now entering the sala de maquetas.   This allows ciegos, bind people, to know where they are going while visiting the museum, as well as the woman working to know where the visitors are.

This was one of my favorite rooms, and you'll soon know why.  It was filled with models of famous European, world, and Spanish buildings.  You could touch all of the models and each contained a booklet in print and in braille, which the sister so nicely shows here (next to the leaning tower of Pisa):

Leaning tower of Pisa
ONCE museo tiflológico, Madrid
Booklet in braille and print
ONCE museo tiflológico, Madrid

I finally got to "see" the Eiffel Tower for the first time:

Eiffel Tower
ONCE museo tiflológico, Madrid

It was really exciting to see lots of the places I had visited in Spain during my two years there (and some landmarks I have yet to see!), especially the model of El Escorial, where I had just visited with my grandma and sister the day before.  So I made them pose in a picture:

El Escorial
ONCE museo tifloógico, Madrid

Roman aqueduct in Segovia
ONCE museo tiflológico, Madrid

Here I am with my one of my favorite Madrid monuments, Puerta de Alcalá:

Puerta de Alcalá
ONCE museo tiflológico, Madrid

Salas de obras de artistas

We exited that first room and headed across the way to two room featuring art made by blind or severely visually impaired people.  Again, a recorded voice sounded every time we walked through a doorway.  Here were the pieces that caught my eye in this room:

Las Zapatillas Viejas
(Patxi Ruiz)
ONCE museo tiflológico, Madrid

África verde
(Pilar Lasierra)
ONCE museo tiflológico, Madrid

Gallos de pelea
(Idoia Díaz Cámara)
ONCE museo tiflológico, Madrid

Sala de material tiflológico

We walked down some stairs to get to the last room, which featured some materials and tools used in daily life throughout the history of the blind.  This exhibit also included multiple displays of old ONCE lottery tickets, of course.

And that ended our visit.  If you've never been, I would highly recommend going to the ONCE museo tiflológico (especially if you live in Madrid).  First, it's free.  Second, you can touch the exhibits!  And finally, it's not your average museum so you'll probably learn a thing or two, or spend some moments thinking about the world from the perspective of a blind person.  And again, my favorite part was the room with all of the scale models of famous monuments, so you've got that to look forward to as well.

Has anyone else been to this museum?  What about a museum for the blind in a country other than Spain?

What: ONCE Museo Tiflológico
Where: c/ La Coruña, 18
Metro: Estrecho (line 1)
Hours: 10:00 - 14:00 Tuesday - Saturday, 17:00 - 20:00 Tuesday - Friday; closed Mondays and Sundays
Price: Free (Must present your D.N.I. or passport)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Reverse culture shock: Worse the second time

Reverse Culture Shock: Spain --> USA

When I returned from Spain after my study abroad year, our program warned us of reverse culture shock.  They even put together a required "Re-entry Workshop," at which I rolled my eyes at the time.  I didn't take it very seriously, since I hadn't gone through the initial culture shock phases that we'd been informed about upon arrival to Madrid that fall.  I had stayed in the "honeymoon phase" throughout that whole first year in Madrid; I loved every day of living in Spain.

And I really didn't experience reverse culture shock when I returned to Wisconsin for my senior year of college; I just thought Madison public buses looked funny.  I had all my college friends to return to, and lots of my closest friends from Madrid were from my study abroad program and returned to the states as well - most to my same university in Wisconsin.

But this time, returning has not been like it was before.  Keep in mind, last fall I moved to Madrid after graduating from college, so the majority of my friends also graduated and moved away to jobs or grad school in other states/cities.  Last fall I went to Madrid alone, not with a study abroad program like the first time.  This means most of the friends I made this past year continue to live in Madrid (such as Hannah!).  Finally, I only decided to return to the states about a month before I did, whereas throughout my study abroad year I always knew I'd be coming back after the school year ended.  I think all of these differences contribute to why I'm experiencing such reverse culture shock this time around.

On the surface

Arriving at the Philadelphia Airport from Madrid, lots of things drew my attention:
  • Seeing drinking fountains!  Holy cow! I'd forgotten about those!
  • Not being able to drown-out side conversations
  • America's got Big people
  • There were bagels for sale! (I bought one during my layover)
But these are normal "little things" that one would notice upon returning to the states after living as an expat.  Other "symptoms" of reverse culture shock are uncertainty, negativity towards American behavior, and frustration.  I think the following examples fall under those categories:

Shaking hands
I'm not sure when to shake hands with people or not here in the states.  Some peers I've met have extended a hand, others don't.  Some individuals I've met at work do and others don't. Or maybe they didn't because I didn't.  Because I didn't know! Giving besitos is much easier when meeting new people.  You both just automatically do it.

Eating out at restaurants
I've eaten out a decent amount since I've been back: my first day back when I surprised the parents, my first weekend back when I visited piano brother, my second week back with my aunt, with the sister in New Berlin, a couple times for work, and probably others I've forgotten.  That's a lot of eating in restaurants for three weeks!  I was astonished at lunch with my aunt when I realized I didn't have to finish my whole plate; they could box it up for me.  The concept of doggy bags does not exist in Spain; you eat what you can or it'll get tossed.  I had gotten used to finishing my plate no matter what.  So that was a good restaurant realization.

But it's been frustrating with how rushed the meals feel.  In Spain, you take your time when you eat.  Eating meals is a time to talk and spend time with people.  You have to get the waiter's attention if you want something. (Note: This is partly due to the fact that waiters make full salaries and have benefits, so you don't tip in Spain like they do in the states.  Hence, servers aren't trying to impress you for a big tip. But the other part of it is cultural.)  And you must always ask them for the bill when you're ready to leave.  They'll let you stay at a table and chat for hours, no problem.  So it feels strange and rushed when someone's coming by every five seconds to see how we're doing, and brings you the bill when you're not even done eating yet.  It's the fast-paced American life that I'm finding fault with.

When I went to the grocery store my first week back, the size of the store was overwhelming (and this was just the grocery store in the small village where my parents live).  So many brands/types/flavors of everything. So many pre-packaged and frozen items.  No more ripping out a single can of beer or soda; here you've got to buy the whole pack.  Everyone stocks up, loads it in a minivan, and drives it home.

Turn off the lights!
In Spain (and Europe, generally), electricity is a lot more expensive than it is in the states.  People are certain not to turn on a light if it's not necessary.  I really do love my new apartment and the roommates are fantastic, but there have been countless days that I come home and nobody's there, but the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and hallway lights are on. Why?!  If I had a nickel for every time I saw the light on in an empty room in my apartment, I'd be making money!

I felt safe in Madrid at any hour of the day and night.  Much safer than here in Madison.  In Madrid the main crime is pick-pocketing, and I knew just what to do to make sure I was never pick-pocketed.  But here things are different.  It wasn't great the day I found out my university's star running back was victim to an "unprovoked attack," or when three people were shot just outside of a bar near campus, or when a man was attacked on University Ave. this past weekend.  And then a shooter in Brookfield (1 mile from where the sister lives) killed three people on Sunday.  Arg!

Public transportation
I get a free bus pass through my job, which I've been using to get to/from work.  A couple days I've biked, but with all of these rainy/stormy days I usually don't.  And soon it will be too cold and snow-covered to bike anyways.  Some buses come only once an hour.  Once an hour!  And others once every half an hour.  I so miss Madrid's metro that came every 2-3 minutes, and Madrid's buses that came every 8-12 minutes.  I don't like that a car is nearly a necessity here.  To go grocery shopping, to visit my parents' house, to buy something at one of the malls, etc.

I miss tapas.  Going out for drinks and tapas at cool bars throughout the city was a fun past time in Madrid.  You sit down and have a drink or two, munch on your tapas, and converse.  Here, free food will not be served with your drink (Well, unless you're at Wando's on a Tuesday night. I think... do they still do bacon night?).  Food probably isn't even available at the bar you're in.  And you'll have to tip on whatever you buy.  And you'll probably be surrounded by lots of drunk loud students getting drunker.

Criticizing the Culture

In all of the "how to deal with reverse culture shock" blogs and articles that I've read this week, many say to hold your tongue before you say something about your expat country - to be sensitive and careful of unintentionally making people jealous, etc.  I struggled with this, and read that advice a little too late.

Last weekend after dinner with some friends, we decided we'd prefer to have a few drinks at a friend's house rather than hitting up the bars right away.  Then this flew out of my mouth:
"Can't you not buy alcohol after 9pm in this country or something?  It's 8:47, let's get moving!"
I used that language because "this country" still seemed somewhat foreign to me at the time.  I wasn't sure of the cutoff time to buy alcohol here, because in Madrid you can buy alcohol whenever you want.  And if there happens to be some sort of cutoff time in Spain that I'm not aware of, that's because you couldn't tell; there are always chinos and people selling alcohol from plastic bags in the streets at all hours of the night.

Here's another quick story:  The other day at work while correcting the capitalization of a poster, I suggested leaving some words lowercase.  My coworker said, "But why?  It's a title..."  Then I caught myself.  I had mixed up English grammar rules with those of Spanish: "Oooh, well in Spanish you only capitalize the first word in titles," I explained, not intending to sound snobby.  But I guess people get sick of hearing, "But in Spain, bla bla bla" and "In Madrid, the people bla bla bla," so you have to learn to shut it in, which may drive you nuts.

Beneath the surface

That ties in to this next part, which is the hardest to deal with and also the most difficult to describe to someone who hasn't experienced it themselves.  Heck, I went abroad (as a student), had a re-entry workshop, and I still didn't understand this part of reverse culture shock when I returned.  It was only experiencing it now, my second time returning to the states, that I understand the isolation and loneliness "phase".

Leaving my friends behind in Madrid and returning to a city where I no longer have many contacts was rough.

Yes, I still had friends to come back to here.  But after not seeing someone for a year (a year in which you've experienced things that many back home couldn't even imagine - due to cultural/language differences), it isn't easy to just pick up where you left off.  You aren't the same person you were when you left, but people expect you to be the same.  Having old friends view you as the "old you" can be frustrating; they can't see your yearlong inner change.  They also won't understand some things you say and do (like when I call myself "Reca" when I talk in third person, or commenting on the price of wine here being ridiculous, or talking about whatsapp, or when my thumb flies to my forehead in a fist with the pinky out when I hear someone burp, etc.)  All of those examples would require an explanation, which is discouraging and makes you feel alone.  You can't say even the simplest normal things because no one here would understand (or care), so you're left to feel isolated.  The thought of trying to explain this feeling to someone from home just escalates the isolated/lonely feeling into a vicious cycle, because they won't fully understand.

Some related examples: I know people are just trying to be nice and mean no harm, but here are some questions I've gotten in the last two weeks and how I've answered them (in comparison to what I was actually thinking with all of this culture shock going on).

"Hey Becky, where did you leave the evals?"
What I said: My name isn't Becky.  They're on the back table.
What I was thinking: [I have two friends at work that have taken to calling me Becky.  Nobody calls me Becky; they probably do it just because they know it bothers me]  My name isn't Becky!  I'm Rebe (Ray-bay)! Or Reca!  I haven't heard anyone call me that in weeks, and it's who I am! I. Am. Not. Becky.

"So how was your trip?"
What I said: Good, it was really great.
What I was thinking: Trip?!  It wasn't a trip!  I was not on a year-long vacation!  I moved to a different country and I had a life there. I had a job. I had a home. I had a daily routine. I played on a sports team.  I had close friends. Etc, etc. It wasn't a trip!

"Are you glad to be back?"
What I said: Err *hesitate* yeah!
What I was thinking: Well, for some reasons sure; it's obviously good to see family and friends that I hadn't seen in so long.  But I loved my life in Madrid.  There was lots of sun! No snow in the winter!  Ultimate year round!  Always learning something new and exploring a cool city!  Spanish, Spanish, Spanish (Castilian)!  History! Easy and cheap to travel throughout Europe or to the Mediterranean!  Opportunities!  International friends!  So you're asking me if I'm glad to be back to English-speaking Wisconsin away from some of my closest friends, in October, right as winter is creeping in?  Yeah I hardly ever answer that one honestly.

So then you just hold all this in, because you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or let people know that you'd rather be elsewhere.  Your friends and family from home certainly don't want to hear that.  How could they understand that?  So you don't say it.  You can't say it.  I didn't, at least.  I kept everything in and just kept going, trying to fit into that "old me" that people thought I was, while never allowing myself any time to process this mixture of feelings.  I stayed busy at work, and made sure every minute of my nights and weekends were full (because if they weren't, and you had no one to call and nothing to do -- the feeling's not a fun one to face).

Add to it the fact that the friends you used to see every day now live across an ocean from you, in a time zone 7 hours apart from yours, and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster.  Who do you talk to now?  The people I now live with were strangers, and the people at work only knew the "old me".  My two closest friends from here aren't able to talk every day; one just left the state and the other works crazy hours.  So I have many friends yet to make.

Moving forward

So that's what I was feeling most of the last two weeks.  I talked about it all with CC this Sunday, then worked on this blog post the beginning part of this week.  That must have done wonders, because I'm feeling great this week and seem to have left that lonely/isolated phase behind.  Time heals all.  Hopefully I'm moving on to the next phase of this lovely reverse culture shock experience.

I have been going to my university's Spanish conversation table (la mesa de conversación) on Wednesday evenings in order not to lose too much of my Spanish, and to hopefully meet new people.  I've also joined many meetup groups (great site by the way, if you've just moved to a new town and/or are looking to make new friends), and have some events coming up in the next few weeks.  Once I get a bit more settled, I'll look for some volunteer work and perhaps more opportunities to use my Spanish in this city.

Although I loved my life in Madrid, I didn't want to live there permanently.  I want to travel more and live in other cultures, and perhaps study to become a math or Spanish teacher, or work for an NGO.  I couldn't do this if I'd stayed in Spain, so I would have had to leave at some point or another.  It's all a growing and learning experience.  Returning to the states this fall will open up new opportunities and lead me to new friendships and many other good things that I can't predict.  Feel free to follow along and discover them with me at Rebe With a Clause.

Other people's experiences

If you're interested in reading other people's personal accounts of reverse culture shock, I recommend the following:


Here are some resources if you're dealing with reverse culture shock:

Please let me know if you have a blog post or know of another webpage you'd like to add to either of these lists!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Quijotes + Dulcineas featured on the radio

Madrid's ultimate frisbee team, Quijotes + Dulcineas, was just featured on the radio on Friday.

The radio station interviewed my friend Justin, and then they commentated a game of ultimate that was played outside of the studio.  

The radio station is Cadena Ser, and the radio segment can be listened to here (Esto no es Carrusel).  Check it out!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Navegante en el extranjero

If anyone's interested (like me) to see what's going on in Madrid (and with Quijotes + Dulcineas) during this next academic year, I'm pleased to announce that my friend Hannah has started a blog.  It's called Navegante en el extranjero, and currently has a summary of her past year in Madrid.  

Hannah renewed her teaching spot in the auxiliares de conversación program, so she'll be teaching at her same school through June 2013.  She's also started working at Madrid's nautical club, teaching/coaching sailing.  I think it will be some exciting stuff to read about, and am looking forward to future posts!

Friday, October 5, 2012

No "Noche en Blanco" in 2012

During my first fall in Madrid (2009), one of my favorite events was  La Noche en Blanco.  The Spanish phrase "noche en blanco" literally means white night, but its actual meaning is a night without sleeping, an all-nighter.  Madrid's Noche en Blanco was a city-wide late-night cultural event that took place in many of the main streets downtown that were closed-off to cars that night.  There were bike tours, exhibits, dancing, live music, performances, etc. in the streets and throughout the city.  Many museums were open into the early hours of the morning, with free admission.  I remember that the metro was open until 3am just for that night, rather than its usual 1:30am closing time.

Noche en Blanco, 2009 (Madrid)

Needless to say, I was very much looking forward to this event when I returned to Madrid fall of 2011.  Much to my disappointment, I found out that due to budget cuts and the economical crisis, the event had become a biannual event.  No Noche en Blanco for me that year.

But perhaps I could have attended Noche en Blanco 2012 before my surprise return to the states this fall.  Nope.  Not even a chance.  Turns out that in May of this year, Madrid announced that the city would go another year without Noche en Blanco.   Looks like we'll just have to cross our fingers and wait to see if there will ever be enough money for the event to return.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Surprising the older brother and the parents

The night before I left for France, I bought a plane ticket to Chicago.  I had been talking with my old boss to see if I could come back and work for her, and plans started to form.  Since I hadn't had an income in Madrid since June, and since my foreign identity card expired September 23, I decided I would return to the states and work for a year or so, to pay back my student loans at a quicker pace than the present (while I figured out what to do next in life...).

But I didn't tell anyone at home that I was coming back.  Since I had the perfect set-up to surprise, why not?  So I started telling family that I was thinking about coming back late fall/early winter, and that I would be HelpXing until then.

So I had many "lasts" during the month of September, although only Madrid friends knew about them.  My last practice was on Thursday, September 20.

Running the Madrid Corre por Madrid 10K the following Sunday morning was actually a great way to start my last full day in Madrid.  I got to see most of the major Madrid monuments and landmarks on the run, without any tourists or traffic!

And then it was Monday, September 24.  I was in planes and airports all day, and then took a three-hour bus from Chicago to Madison, arriving at midnight (WI time).  I got picked up by a friend downtown and crashed at his place.  The next day he took me to my older brother's house downtown.  I knocked on the door and hoped I had the right house.

One of his roommates answered and called for my brother.  He was certainly shocked to see me, but didn't have a huge reaction because a) We (my siblings and I) aren't overly expressive in that regard, and b) His roommate was right there in the kitchen and had no idea the significance of my presence.  I hung out there that afternoon and got him to organize a dinner with my parents for that evening (which they were a bit suspicious of because it was a Tuesday night).  But they agreed to meet my brother in a nearby town for dinner.

We arrived at the restaurant after my parents, due to traffic and a stalled semi in the middle of an intersection.  My brother called them and asked if they could come out, that he had to put something in their van.  So I ducked down behind a car in the parking lot as we waited for them to come out.  My brother told me when, and I jumped up! Surprise!

They had no idea (why would they?) and thus were caught completely off guard.  They were shocked.  And happy.  After the initial shock, we headed back in to eat.

I was a bit jetlagged and in disbelief myself at where I was.  The huge beer menu, extremely attentive waitress, and getting ID'd when I ordered a beer were all signs that I was no longer in Spain.

Ma and Pa at the surprise dinner

Cooking brother and I at dinner
I slept at my parents' house that night, hoping they could keep my arrival a secret just until that weekend.  The sister's birthday was that Wednesday, so she was coming home for the weekend and relatives were coming over on Saturday.  To me, that was the perfect recipe for more surprises.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

SURPRISE: I'm in the states!

I flew to Chicago a week ago and surprised my parents the following day.

I'll write a detailed post soon about all of the surprises, but since a week had gone by already, I figured it was time to announce my  move back to the states here on the blog.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Successful 10K: Madrid Corre por Madrid 2012

In preparation for the race, Hannah and I had pasta (with tuna, tomatoes, and eggs) for dinner the night before, then went to bed early.

On Sunday morning put on our running shoes, attached our numbers, then headed to Atocha to meet up with another frisbee friend who was also running in the race.
Hannah tying her shoes

Pumped up for the Madrid Corre Por Madrid 10K on Sunday morning

Here's a video of the beginning of the race, though I couldn't hear the gun shot from where we were.  We didn't cross the start line until 1:30 or so, but each of our numbers had electronic chips attached to keep track of our individual start and end times.

It was a pleasant day for a race, good weather, and it was fun to run through Madrid's downtown - past all the tourist spots - with 10,000 other runners, not tourists.  I went just a bit faster than my normal Reca-jogging pace, and felt good throughout the race.  Just a few side cramps at one point.  And I had energy to kick it up a bit at the end of the race, so I wasn't really running at race speed.

My final time was 1:01:25, so just over an hour.  So now I know what a 10K feels like, that it's very doable, and the time I should aim for in my next 10K.

I completely forgot that they videotaped the finish, so you can see me briefly here.  I wish I would have remembered and done something cool for the camera.  At 1:02:56 I'm in view on the right side and at 1:02:58 I'm easiest to see.  Bright yellow shirt (as pictured in photo above).  Far far right of the screen.  But just for a split second.

The first place runner finished in 31:15!

This race raised 20,000 euros for the food bank.  Registration only cost 10 euros, and came with a jersey and draw-string bag.  Water was provided between the 5th and 6th kilometers, and we were all given a banana, water bottle, and powerade when we finished.  I highly recommend this race to anyone that finds themselves in Madrid next September!

Friday, September 21, 2012

"Ready" for Sunday's 10K run

Today Hannah and I went to pick up our number/shirts for the Madrid Corre Por Madrid 10K we're running on Sunday.  There was a bit of a line, so we eyed up our competition while waiting.

The competition.

My plan to run every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night this month fell through after my first two runs.  I ended up having plans on those non-frisbee nights, you know, with things like helping at the 2nd division ultimate frisbee national championships in Alcobendas, playing Settlers of Catan with friends, painting Hannah's wall green, and being in Málaga.  But I also learned my running plan was not the way to prepare for a 10K anyway.  Cross-training by going to ultimate frisbee practices every Tuesday and Thursday was helpful, and in Málaga I did some sprinting routines on the beach a couple of nights.

Regardless of the little preparation, our goal is still just to finish without walking and to have fun.  We might bring a disc along and try to throw (but with 10,000 other runners I'm not sure if there will be space...).

Bag, shirt, and number (with an electronic chip!)
Wish us luck!

Quijotes & Dulcineas: Spanish Ultimate Frisbee Champions!

While I was in Málaga this past weekend, the competitive Quijotes &Dulcineas (Q+D) team competed in Spain's Ultimate Frisbee 1st Division National Championship (mixed, grass) in Sevilla... and WON!

Quijotes + Dulcineas
Spanish Champions 2012 (mixed, grass)

This is the third time Q+D has been national champions of mixed ultimate frisbee; the last time was in 2006.

Here's a news segment about the tournament, filmed while it was taking place:

Even if you don't understand Spanish, here are some things to look for in the news clip:
  :53 Alberto! (teammate on Q+D)
1:22 Amán! (teammate on Q+D)
1:34 The team in black is Q+D, during a post-game circle.

So that was the mixed (men and women) championship on grass.  At the end of October the women's and open national championships will be held in Santander on beach.

As Hermann explained it to me the other  night, every year they rotate the type of ultimate (grass vs. beach) for each category.  This means next year the mixed championship will take place on beach, and women's and open championships will be on grass.

And now, for your viewing pleasure (thanks to Herm and whoever filmed), here are three videos of Q+D playing at the national championship in Sevilla:

A few points against Mubidisk:

Mostly the whole semifinals game against Fendisc:

The whole final game against Corocotta:

We are all very pleased with the results of the tournament, and proud of the whole team.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Málaga: A relaxing beach weekend

My four nights, five days in Málaga were exactly as I'd hoped: Filled with beach, sun, and reading.  Since I had already visited  (and explored) Málaga last fall, this time I only wanted to relax on the beach under the sun.

I arrived Friday evening and took a walk to the beach with a book and stayed until the sun went down.
I spent the following three days on the beach, from sun up to sun down.  I did lots of reading, some snoozing, and got a good feel of the coast in my bones.

On my last day, Tuesday, it was quite cloudy and not really ideal beach weather.  That was fine with me, as I had spent the previous three days on the beach.  I walked around other parts of the city until it was time to catch my bus.

There were many kittens in the rocks on the shore:

I really liked all of the long walkways shaded by trees on both sides:

I spent my last two hours in the city reading Three Cups of Tea on my kindle in the botanical gardens, before I finished my walk to the bus station: