Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Have A Little Pasta With Your Pepper...

I am dedicating this post to my very best friend in Canada (you know who you are, or you BETTER from that title) and her little brother.

The joke is this:

We were camping one summer at her family's cottage and the camp put on a pig roast. The thought was great! The meat was not. We tried everything to make this meat taste better than it did. I should explain that I'm not a pork person to begin with (except when it comes to Jamon!) so I wasn't excited about this meal before it was even served. We tried it with mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce... anything they had on hand at the cottage. Our selection was limited. My bestie's little brother decided to try pepper. He put so much pepper on his meat that the joke became: "Have a little meat with your pepper".

Well... I bet you can guess where this post is going.. and if you can't, here's the story:

I decided to make myself a nice dinner tonight. Penne pasta with some cherry tomatoes, onions, zucchini and tomato sauce. Now, the tomato sauce here in Spain is a little different than in North America. It is what it is. By that, I mean that it is JUST tomato sauce. There are no chunks of this or that, no spices, no... flavour. So, I decided to see what my roommates had on hand to spice up my somewhat bland looking dinner. (Veggies are great, but I'm used to sauce with personality, and the sauce here is sadly lacking in that department. If I had to go on a date with the tomato sauce here, I'd be replaying Friends episodes in my head by the time the appetizers were ordered.).

Hmm. What do they have? Well, they have a whole lot of things that smell nice, but not for pasta, and I can't read the labels, so I don't actually know what they are (excpet currie and cinnamon.. neither of which did I want in my sauce). And then I spotted it. Pepper. Perfect, punchy pepper. I added a little, put the jar back, and continued making my meal.

Taste test!

It's still missing something. So I reach for the pepper to add some more and clumsy, not-paying-attention me, opens the wrong end of the spice jar and I dump the remainder of the pepper into my pasta. *look of horrified shock*.

So now I am sitting, trying to enjoy the meal that I am crying through, trying to be positive thinking of how much water weight I am losing by sweating it out of my very open pores. The heat in my mouth is similar to what I imagine drinking fire would be like.

Next time, I'll have a little pasta with my pepper.

*no photos will be added to this post, partly because you wouldn't be able to see the pepper and partly because I am very shiny right now.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

La Merce and The Night I Didn't Take a Cab Home...

Good morning lovely people,

I feel the need to preface this post by saying that I have literally had no more than 4 hours of sleep last night, and about 5 the night before. (Thursday night it wasn't my fault- I just woke up at 5am and couldn't sleep any longer). Today is an entirely different story.

Thursday night was the beginning of La Merce. It is the biggest festival in Barcelona to celebrate it's patron Saint, the Saint of Mercy. I met up with a few friends from school to go down for the opening ceremonies and it was insane. There were crazy amounts of people down there! We started in Placa Rei where there was a speech happening (in Spanish so none of us had any clue what was being said, but apparently it was quite inspirational), and then these crazy huge statues came out of the building in a parade and did some dancing. All of the music sounded somewhat the same, though I'm sure it all had significant meaning to the people of Bacelona. We wandered around for the rest of the evening, bumping into people, wandering into shops and watching live bands. It was a great night. We turned it in before midnight because we wanted to catch the metro home.

Some pictures of that night:

The top of one of the buildings- I want to say it is city hall, but I could be wrong.

Two awesome friends from school. I'll call them Arizona and Oregon.

Me and E. We'll call her L.A. though, because she is so very L.A. :)

Clearly we all had to have photos with everyone.. lol

The opening of the building- this is where the giant statues came out. I forgot to mention that they fired some VERY loud guns filled with confetti RIGHT infront of us. They were SO loud that the only thing you could do was duck and cover your ears- total reaction!

I'm pretty sure this was a king of some sort. It was the first statue and it was HUGE!!

This may have been the queen. Or a concubine. But probably a queen.

Lion, of course. All of the statues would come out dancing and swinging around, so this was probably the clearest shot I got of anything...

Horse. Woah Nellie.

A Dragon!
I don't know....


Maybe this one was the concubine. She came out much later. After all the animals and big tortise/dinosaur looking thing...

One of the stages in Placa Rei.

Statues. Dancing. It was kinda weird.

Someone else's kids having fun climbing a lamp post. It's like "how many people can you fit in a phone booth" only its kids on a lamp post. (In case you were wondering, "lamp post" is a compound noun.) 

Jamon, Jamon. (Now all I need is two men to fight over me!)

You can't really tell, but this man is a waiter.. at MacDonald's. Yes, that's right, he is SERVING people on a patio, wearing a bowtie!

5 Euros for this beer. And that was expensive!

Like I said, at 11:30 we left so that we could catch the metro, and then I woke up at 5 am. Friday was a bit of a rough school day for me. After school, I came home to siesta a bit. I checked my email and whatnot, Skyped with my sister and her adorable children (*so glad to hear that Jay's surgery went well!!*) and tried to siesta. I only got about 5 minutes of sleep because by the time the cat settled down next to me and stopped being needy for attention and I finally fell asleep, my friend called. The plan for the evening was supposed to be that a couple of girls meet up at my house, we go up to Parc Guell with some wine and drink it while the sunsets and then go find something else to do. It didn't happen quite as wel planned, as most of us didn't make it to Parc Guell (we'll go back another day to see the sunset). We ended up meeting at another friend's house and having a couple of beverages before heading out to La Merce.

Waiting for the train at the metro.
Australia, Seattle, L.A., Arizona and Colorado.

Once we got to where all the festivites were happening, we went to watch some live music.
Some random guy jumped into our photo...

And then he got RIGHT in there!

After the music got old, we wanted to sit somewhere. We started to walk out of that area when we bumped into someone we had met on the metro on our way home the night before. Since he's a local, we asked him to take us to a bar in the area where we could sit and have a couple of drinks. He took us to one place that wouldn't let us in because none of us were carrying id's of any sort (you just don't here- most of the time you don't need it, and if you do have it, it might get stolen by a pick-pocket, so it's better to leave it home). We ended up at another little place that wouldn't let us sit down because we are "foreigners", but we eventually just sat down anyway. We started talking to other people around. We met some people from Arizona, Britain and Finland. One of the Brits turned out to be a pilot with Ryan Air (but I'll believe it when I see it) so he told us he could get us REALLY cheap flights anywhere it Europe. We'll see. We exchanged contact info, partly because someone in our group kept asking him if he would marry her and trade a green card for EU citizenship and partly because he thought my accent was cute. 

We ended up hanging out with the Finnish guys down by the docks until about 6 am when the party finally broke up because the metro was open for service again. (None of us really wanted to pay for cab rides home because we all live in different directions).

It was one of those nights that everything just seemed to flow. The vibe was good from all the girls, no drama and no one fighting over where they wanted to go. We stuck together and made sure everyone was okay all night. Text messages to say we're home in the morning. The six of us had a really great night and I'm so glad I met these ladies! (Well, that and they all thought L.A. and I are 22!! They now know how old we are, but seriously, it's a good feeling to pass for 22 again!!) 

Time to do some serious relaxing. (That is an oxymoron- I did not learn that in English classes)

Bon Noche!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Peanut Butter Deficiency

Oh. My. Gosh! As of yesterday, it had been a week and a half since I had had a lick of peanut butter! For those of you who know me, peanut butter is not only a staple of my diet, it is an obsession in my daily consumption. I'll eat it on toast, bread, crackers, with jam, with honey, with bananas, with chocolate, in desserts, for dessert and straight out of the jar! I decided to go on a quest to find some peanut butter.


The quest began very disappointingly. There is a short supply of peanut buttery options in beautiful Barcelona. I had seen one type in the grocery store near my school, but it didn't appear to be too appetizing, so I wanted to find out what else is out there. The store near my house was completely lacking in any sort of creamed nut, besides hazelnut (in the form of Nutella- of which I have already managed to polish off one jar, which I am now using for my change, and it has a picture of the tazmanian devil on it!).

Alas, where else to look?

Our school had given us a map of interesing and useful places near the school, so I referred to my map and found Colo Imports. Wonderful! Maybe they will have some delicious P.B. I took a few of the girls from my class with me on a venture to the store to find out if they had the ever-desired delicacy. The store has many pleasing items within its four walls, however, I found the selection of peanut butter somewhat limited there too. They did have a jar of Skippy peanut butter, but it was far more expensive than I find Skippy to be worth, and the size was more of a sample size for my peanut butter needs, so I decided to pass. Next to the under-sized sampling was a tub of Dutch peanut butter for 13 euros. Hmmm. 13 euros? Do I really want to spend that much to find out that it's no good?

I decided to pass for now and see what the grocery store brand tasted like. If it was passable, I would forget about the enormous quantity and buy peanut butter on a weekly basis, rather than an bi-weekly basis.

I must say that despite the fact that the jar has a rather large smile on it, the quality of the peanut butter in the not-big-enough container from the grocery store was also disappointing in taste. It is grainy and somewhat bitter. I can't put my finger on exactly what is wrong with it, but I can say, it is a far cry from Kraft Smooth Light Peanut Butter.

I was told later in the day by the Director of my school (TEFL International Barcelona), Lisa Girling, that the Dutch peanut butter is actually quite delicious. She has convinced me to at least try this peanut butter for 13 euros, however, I still have my doubts that it will compare to my homeland's delicious light brand.

Dear Friends and Family Who Plan on Visiting,

I will not charge you money for staying on my couch during your visit, but if you feel the need to offer a gift to me as a thank you and a gesture of your appreciation, please bring *peanut butter.


Sad without my PB.

*by peanut butter, I mean Kraft Smooth Light Peanut Butter. (yes, light- I eat enough that eating light is necessary and more preferrable).

More specifically:

Dear Donia,

Please bring PB.

Dear Debbie,

Please bring PB.

Dear Patricia,

Please bring PB.

Dear Carrie,

For the love, PLEASE bring me some sustainance!! (ie. PB)

Muchas Gracias!

P.S. Yes, I did just write an entire blog on Peanut Butter. This doesn't even scratch the surface of my need for the creamy goodness. I'm pretty sure my blood is half peanut butter by this point. :)


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Party Like a Barcelonian

You will have to forgive me if this blog post is not long, and especially if it is not entirely coherant. I am really, really tired right now.

As I mentioned last night, I was headed out last night in my new pleather pants. I went to meet David and his work friends at one of the many metro stations in the city at 10:15 pm. Once we all met up, we went to one of his co-worker's houses for some food and drinks. All of the food was home-made and really quite delicious. I think I need to learn how to make tortillas de patatas. It could be my new food obsession.

Throughout the whole evening, I kept thinking how handy it would be to have subtitles on the conversations going on around me. For the most part, I just listened to everyone talking. Once in a while I would get into a conversation a bit, but I couldn't really understand everything, so for the most part, I was just trying to catch the jist of things. It was good though. I need to be around people who can try to speak Spanish with me (my roommates always want to be practicing their English, and they know I don't speak alot of Spanish, so its just easier to converse in English. I want to know Spanish though!!) I've been watching movies when I can in Spanish with the subtitles. It helps a bit I guess.

After eating all the food and drinking (I didn't really have a whole lot because I already felt dehydrated) we all started to leave the apartment. I should explain that this was around 2am. We got on the metro to go to a bar (which David had to convince me to come out to because I was so tired from drinking and just sitting around that I wasn't sure if I wanted to go out, but he basically begged me to and then told me I was coming. lol He knows me already). We finally got to the bar after walking for what seemed like forever, around 2:35am. In we went and the music was crazy loud. Dynomite was playing when we went up to the bar, and I pretty much went crazy. I realized the other day that I haven't really been listening to any music. I usually have music on all the time, but for whatever reason, I never have music on around here. I thought of all my friends I've been dancing with and really started to miss going dancing at a club in Toronto or Kitchener, with people who know me and know my crazy dancing styles. It was a really good night anyway though. We had a really good time. I only had one drink at the bar and a few sips of David's drinks. Here, they pour the alcohol and give you a single-sized bottle of your mix and you pour it in yourself. You can't fit the whole bottle in the glass, so there's always some left over. David and Jonathan would give me the leftovers and I'd just drink those. It worked out well. There were probably 500 people in the bar we were in, and everyone was sweating from dancing. If it hadn't been for the fact that I think I ate my weight in tortillas de patatas before the bar, I think I would have lost 10lbs. Oh well, I guess between dancing, walking and all the stairs I've been climbing, I'll balance out the food I eat!!

Other fav songs right now would come on (ie Give Me Everything) and all of the Spanish people would only be singing the choruses and the "ooooooo" parts, but I was singing away to ALL of them (then a Spanish song would come on and it would be the opposite!) We finally left the bar around 4:30, got cabs and got home around 5am. What a crazy night in Barcelona! Like I said yesterday about the heartbeat in BCN, it beats like the hearts of a crowd of dancing people all night long!

This morning I woke up at nine. Nope. And again at 10... fine. I got up, even though I didn't really want to, and got ready to go to my friend's house to study for the afternoon. We studied the Present Continuous and the Present Perfect. We ate chips and pizza. Classic.

Now it's time for bed. I'm not sure if I'll get photos of last night, and I didn't have my camera (and since nothing fun happened today, I didn't take pictures) so I'm sorry for the lack of photos today.

Grammar is still confusing to me, but I'm getting it.

Chau amigos!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Te Quiero, Barcelona

Dear faithful readers,

As my mother has so diligently pointed out to me (in an email), I missed posting yesterday. Believe me, it was not my intention to miss writing a day and telling all of you what a wonderful time I've been having, but it seems that the wonderful time I was having yesterday left no time for blogging. Alas. I beg forgiveness and hope that this blog will be sufficent enough to make up for yesterday's tardiness.

Yesterday started much the same as most mornings: get up, eat two peices of bread with nutella (it is rare to find peanut butter in Spain- I hunt!) and go to class. Three classes: CV writing, teaching pronunciation 1, teaching pronunciation 2. After class, it was fairly obvious that most of the class was headed to the beach. I went with a couple of my favorite ladies to help them find bathing suites. We had quite the excursion navigating La Rambla (commonly referred to as Las Ramblas) which is the pick-pocket centre of Barcelona. Luckily, none of us were targeted, but we have been thoroughly warned that it will happen, and just don't carry anything of any importance. (Don't worry mom, the pick-pockets here are not violent- they just steal your money for the most part. I keep mine in my pockets).

After trying on probably 100 bathing suites, each of the girls made a purchase and we headed for the beach. Once we got there, we found our class and set up to hang out for a few hours. Swimming was lovely, once you got in, and a game of "volleyball" was started. I have weak wrists, so I didn't play long, but it was fun while we did. We met some guys from Dublin who chatted up some of the girls for a while. They were entertaining and later told me that they "Love your bikini! I really ****ing LOVE your BIKINI!!" Thanks. (for those of you who don't know, I've titled my bikini my Hallie Barry Bikini because it's yellow). Hilarious.

After the beach, we all went home to shower and change and glam up before going out. We met at 9pm-ish at the metro closest to our school and went from there to The Magic Fountain. It is said that if you drink from this fountain, you will fall in love with the city. I have to tell you, I don't need to drink any clorinated, fountain water to fall in love with this place. It is so vibrant and colourful, I can't help falling in love. It's like this city has a heartbeat and all the people are the blood flowing in and out of the veins of streets. There is a rhythm to the city. It is slower in the early morning, gets faster later in the morning, slows down again for the afternoon and flows like water over Niagara Falls at night. The Magic Fountain was incredible. I've seen fountain shows with lights and music before, but never like this. If the city has a heartbeat, this is where it started last night. Thousands of people, both locals and tourists, gathered for hours around the fountain; drank, talked, smoked, (danced) and had a great time. I don't have any pictures of this yet because I had left my camera home for the evening.

This is what I wore:

Standard black skirt, white shirt and coral pumps (with a Coach purse)- how can you go wrong?!

David was a little camera happy....

I think he's my new paparazzi!

We went to meet up with some classmates at a bar on the other side of town. When we got there at 11:40pm, the place was like an empty cave. It was dark and gave you the feeling that the walls would move and flow with the rhythm of the music at will when when people started showing up. Eventually the place filled until it was packed, and our whole group, probably 20 of us, was in the middle of the dance floor, dancing like we didn't care who was watching. I convinced a couple of the guys to go and spice up a bachelorette party that was looking pretty lame. They went over and asked a few of the girls to dance and finally got them up out of their chairs. We livened up their night! (If it had been my bachelorette party and it was that boring, I would have left to go find something more fun, that's why I sent in our boys!) Drinks were flowing and hips were shaking. We couldn't have had a better time. Someone called me "smokin' hot" and it made my 27-year-old self feel 22 again. I think Barcelona has shaved years off my life. As Donia has said, I'm glowing here.

One of the things I've noticed about this city: people smile here. Not all the time, and not in a creepy Disney theme park "It's a small world" kind of way, but they do smile here. I think North America really has something to learn from taking your time with life and easing into your daily activities. The Mercadona Food Market beside my school opens whenever the employees get to work. It is typically right around 9am, but sometimes it is as late as 9:15. And the locals waiting outside don't seem to mind. It's like they know that people are enjoying a nice breakfast down the street before work, and they'll just wait.

Today I went to La Rambla with E. She's great. She's my new shopping buddie, adventure-seeking, totally chill bestie. We're going to go dancing tonight and study tomorrow. We shopped for things I've never owned before. I bought suede pants and pleather pants. Yes, that's right. ME. PLEATHER. We're trying something out in BCN.

We had a lovely lunch at Piscolabis. It was sooo delicious! I hate it when people post pictures of their food, butI just can't help it!
The Menu

Patatas Bravas (Tapas- potatoes with sauce. I love this food!)

Me eating my Hannah Montana Burger. Don't ask me what was Hannah Montana about it,  because I don't know.

I forgot to take a picture before I started eating, so here it is mostly eaten. The fries are so small here!

Sparkling Water with Lemon

My roommate, David, works at Fraggo. Its'a coffe shop in La Rambla. We went there to have some coffee- this is what I had. It was so sweet it was like eating cake!

I must go siesta now. I am going out this evening with David, Jonathan and some people they know. It should be alot of fun! I might even wear my pleather pants!

Bon noche mi amigos!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Work, Play, Shop, Eat, Relax!

Today we learned more grammar. I think I'm going to die. I have realized in two days of learning grammar that I don't hate grammar. I hate the Canadian public school system for not teaching me anything beyond verbs, adverbs, nouns and adjectives. Who knew that tere is a Present Simple, Present Pefect and Present Continuous. I am Presently Confused. I also didn't know that there is such a thing as Proper Nouns, possessive pronouns, compound adjectives or Gerunds. Please don't ask me to explain any of those, because the only one I really know (and understand) is the Proper Nouns, which are nouns that are a title (like a city or a name of a person.)

Dear someone Who mightn't care,

I weren't teached grammar so I ain't have an clue how to make a sentance proper.



Of course that's not true. I can clearly write a sentance, speak a sentance, but part of teaching something is explaining how to put that sentance together. AND I CAN'T DO IT BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW HOW!! I have to study really hard this month and pass my exam. I'm quite fearful of it. I'm sure I will pass, I just know that this course is not all laughing fun and games for anyone who was taught in Canada (me!), England, or the USA. I really feel the need to write to Stephen Harper and tell him that he really needs to invest more in the teaching of teachers so that they can educate students on grammar. I was told today that my Spanish students will not need to learn grammar. They already know it. I just need to be able to tell them where parts of a sentance usually go in that sentance. But if there is a question that they ask that I can't answer, that's where the tricky part comes in. *el suspiro*.

Anyway, after a very frustrating, confusing class, we were dismissed for the day. Woohoo! I went to them mall with some friends, had some lunch, went back to school to study a bit, and then went window shopping a little more. I bought some haram pants (not quite full pants, they go to my knees). They are SO compfy. We wandered a little more, found some really nice looking bakeries and resisted some delicious looking treats.

Eventually, I ended up at home, with some fresh veggies to add to my pasta dinner. I sat down and decided to watch The Lion King while I ate (with subtitles!)

Pictures of the day:
The view from the roof of my school..

You can see this from the roof too!

Here's another angle of the same building, from the mall! They have a viewing deck on the 5th floor of the mall!
(photo taken by P, thanks!!)

This is what a round-about is supposed to look like. Dear Kitchener, next time you build one, do it right!!

E taking a photo of the round-about

The girls
(photo taken by A, thanks!!)

Strike a pose!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Teaching Creates All Other Professions" (Author Unknown)


Today was my first day of teaching. I think it went pretty well. The people I was teaching were Level 1, which means they were beginner. Now, some of them were actually REALLY beginner (more like a Level 0), but they tried, and we went slow and reviewed alot. The material really spoke for itself during my portion. I got some good feedback from the teacher watching me, and the other student who was my peer evaluator. All in all, I think I'm going to be a a good English teacher (so long as I can get the grammar and verb tenses straight!)

After class, one of the girls and I decided to stick around to finish an assignment, and then go out and get some dinner. We ended up at the same place that the entire class had Tapas at on Monday. This is what we ordered:
Tortillas de Patatas (basically a pie of potato, onion, egg, tortilla and whatever the cook had on hand, all made into a pie/omelette sort of thing that came with bread on the side)

Bochetta de Carne (A hanging skewer of meat, essentially. It had some veggies skewered in there too, and it came with a couple of potatoes and a bowl of garlic mayonaise-y dipping sauce which was delicious!)

We stopped in some stores on our way to the Metro and I saw a cardigan that I would SO buy for my friend as a joke (because cardigans are the staple of her wardrobe- you know who you are) but 15 euros is a little much to spend on a joke I'd have to then mail home. The cardigan was a red with grey flowers on it. Very lovely, and the epitomy of all cardicans. Can't buy it for you though... Sorry!! 

Since we didn't get much time for exploring and "getting out" today, here are some pics that I couldn't post the other day...

This was my best attempt at taking a picture of myself beside a tree on the first day of school, without attracting attention from other passers-by. (Sorry it's a little blurry, mom)

Placa de Espana (I think, lol) We didn't get up close, because...

The building across from it used to be a bull-fighting stadium, and is now a beautiful mall!

It looks brand new, but it's actually really, really old, and perfectly circular (you could get lost for days in there ... well, maybe I could... and when I say lost, I mean shop.)

This is exactly what it looks like... Wine in a juice box... for 0,99 euro. (In the grocery store)

This is the walk from one beach to the next.. lovely boardwalk, with palm trees (Palm trees are not native here, they die every year and the tops are replaced!)

La Playa

Me... en la playa. (with a topless woman behind me.. I SO did not mean for that to happen!)

Me and some girls from my class whom I've decided to travel with!


Classmates strolling the beach... gotta love it!

Apparently they are so into working out, that they have exercise machines on the beach for anyone to use!

Including me!

Walking the pier (we weren't supposed to be on it... but there were people fishing out there!)

... and this is a jelly fish that some guy caught. I'm pretty sure he was going to fry it up for dinner.

Estoy cansada. Hasta la manana!