Friday, April 28, 2006

I am scarf

Before I went into the city today, I asked Andrew how to say "Just looking" so I'd know how to respond in shops if I was approached by a salesperson. He told me to say "Solo estoy buscando"--easy enough. I practiced as I walked along La Gran Via, all the way down to Placa Catalunya. I stopped in El Corte Ingles to see if could find some facial scrub and lotion, ready to say "Solo estoy buscando" if necessary. When I was finally approached by a smiling salesperson who was addressing me in Spanish, not surprisingly I panicked and said, "Estoy bufanda," while shaking my head and smiling back. "Bufanda" means "scarf," and it's one of the only Spanish vocabulary words I know. Unfortunately, it resembles "buscando." I'm sure she was laughing at me as she walked away. It's high time for some Spanish classes.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Weird Night Out

Last night, Andrew went to a soccer match with two friends from LA who were in Barcelona for a couple of days. The match was an important one--I'm not sure yet what that means, or who Barcelona was playing against; I've got to figure this soccer thing out--and the stadium was, apparently, packed, which means 120,000 people. I don't have a frame of reference, really, but I think Yankee Stadium is huge, and that holds 55,000.

I met them afterward for dinner. They did not have a good time. Andrew's friends, the husband of whom is a banker of some kind, are accostomed to a very high level of luxury and ease--when they see sporting events, it's always in VIP style, with waiters, comfort, and a healthy separation from the masses. Not so at a Barcelona soccer game, where their VIP seats were smushed in with hordes of smoking, screaming fans in a typical fervor over the game. Andrew's friend's wife had worn super-high heels, which were treacherous on the steps to their seats and even more treacherous since the barrier preventing them from plunging to the seats below hit at about mid-thigh.

Anyway, it took them forever to find a cab--transporting 120,000 people from one place to another in an already cab-short city proved chaotic--and I didn't meet them until midnight. It took a while to get going and get to El Born for dinner, and when we got there, the entire neighborhood was strangely deserted. Shops would usually be closed at that hour, but the few restaurants that were open were no longer serving food, and most others were closed. A few straggling bars were open. One a.m. is not absurdly late for dinner in Barcelona, and I'm not sure what was going on.

We wound up at a dingy diner-type place (diner food in Spain consisting of boccadillos, some cold tapas, and a few "combination" plates consisting of eggs and some unidentifiable meats), where our waiter was drunk. When Andrew's friend's wife ordered a bikini (a ham and cheese sandwich), he asked lewdly (in Spanish, so only Andrew got the joke), "What size and color?" A strange night all around.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ikea

Andrew and I are in full nesting mode, and tonight we made the requisite trip to Ikea—an easy ten-minute bus ride away. I got a desk, a large shelf for the bathroom, a desk lamp, several baskets, some boxes for my jewelry, and a new pillow; we also got some new things for the kitchen, a new shower curtain, and a lamp for the guest bedroom (now serving as my dressing room).

This is truly a strange Ikea. Built very recently, in a rather desolate area on the outskirts of Barcelona, it’s so new that it’s basically marooned in the middle of a large, complex highway, where lots of cars and scooters are moving at high speeds and making unexpected turns. There are no cross-walks or traffic lights, and concrete construction barriers and netting block the most obvious routes to the store. Once we got off the bus, we had to sprint across the highway when it looked clear. After we were done shopping, we wanted to hail a cab—but there is nowhere for a cab to pull up. There’s not even a way for a cab to pull into the Ikea parking lot. Andrew managed to flag one down on the highway. The cab stopped in the middle of his lane, but we couldn’t get to it very easily; the doors were blocked by construction barriers. The driver backed up a bit so we could get in.

The last time Andrew and I were at Ikea was in August. Andrew had just moved into the new apartment that morning and was wretchedly sick with food poisoning. He should have been home in bed, but there were no sheets for the bed; no glasses to drink from; nothing. So he dragged himself through Ikea. It was not a fun trip. This time was, happily, much better!

Miming "Internet Connection"

I had my first Spanish-utility experience today, when the guy came to hook up our land line and internet service. The message that he was coming to a home whose inhabitant does not speak Spanish--which Andrew elaborated on, in Spanish, to Telephonica on the phone last night--evidently did not get passed along. He came in with many Spanish declarations, to which I said only, "Si. No hablo espanol." He mimed, "Where's the phone jack?" and I led him to it. It all seems to be in order, but before he left, he mimed "I'm calling" and kept saying "Mille quatro!", which I hope doesn't mean "I'm calling in your fee for four thousand euros." We shall see.

Monday, April 24, 2006

I'm an Ex-Pat

I live in Spain! That's all I keep thinking as I unpack and get things settled. I arrived on Sunday, and so did my luggage; we all made it through two connecting flights unscathed. I arrived in Barcelona on St. George's Day, the Spanish equivalent of Valentine's Day. For St. George's Day, men give women a rose with a shaft of wheat, and women give men a book. When Andrew and I went out for dinner last night, the streets were mobbed with flower and book stalls. Still, we got a table at a favorite tapas place; we watched the throngs through the window.

Today was my first real day as an ex-pat. Once Andrew left for school, I went to a nearby bakery for cafe con leche and a croissant, then stopped at the grocery store and another bakery to buy things for lunch. I worked on freelance stuff all afternoon, then read for a bit on the balcony, in the sun. It's been a lovely day. I live in Spain!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Nonexistent

Excited and determined to get everything ready for tomorrow's trip, I happily called Northwest to confirm my flight, which I booked over a month ago. "Well," the woman said, "that's strange. We have no ticket for you, and no record of you whatsoever!" Fantastic. After a few transfers and a lot of hold time, and more exclamations--"How strange! You're not in our system at all. You seem to not even exist!"--they managed to (re)book me on my flights and issue me a ticket, which, for many complicated and ridiculous reasons, had not happened before.

Last Day in the U.S.

Today is my last day in the United States (for now). I've left NYC, given up my apartment, sold all my furniture, quit my job, packed up all my books, and put all my worldly possessions in my parents' attic. For the past two weeks, after Andrew left, I've been reading Bleak House (Dickens) for a freelance project and idly packing suitcases, feeling as though I've dropped off the edge of the earth; but the actual move itself is yet to come. This move to Spain involved several moves--leaving New York, coming to Connellsville, and now leaving for Barcelona.

Tonight I'm going to Target and out to dinner; and then I'll finish packing. By Sunday afternoon...I'll be living in Spain.