July 16, 2008

The Scots who are teaching me Spanish.

Even though a coworker of mine insists that when I get to Spain I am going to sound like the Spanish version of Sean Connery, I have been more than happy with the Spanish lessons (run by two Scots, Mark and Kara) I have been taking via my CoffeeBreak Spanish podcast. Yes, their accents cracked me up a little bit when I first started listening to them, but after a few lessons I didn't even notice them anymore. These lessons were better back when I was still walking to work and speaking Spanish out loud on Park Avenue amidst a sea of people who could care less what you are saying because to be honest, I don't sound nearly as crazy as the man who sits on the corner of 51st and Park. Now that I take the subway (and when I say "subway" I really mean "subways" as my commute gives me the opportunity to take not one but TWO different trains to work) it's a little more difficult to hear Mark and Kara over the screeching of the subway cars on the tracks. It is also slightly rude to awaken my fellow passengers who are moments from slumber in their plastic yellow-orange seats on either side of me who haven't had their coffee yet. I am sure the last thing they want to hear is "Vuelvo a casa a las seis" and "Me levanto a las siete" (that is the last lesson I had, learning how to say things like "I return to the house at six" and "I get up at seven").

I know I need to start being more active in my Podcasts daily. I go through weekly phases where I listen to it every morning but I started a new book on Monday and now that's the only thing I want to concentrate on during my commute. Anyhow, despite the fact that I am taking a 4-week semi-intensive Spanish class when I get to Barcelona, I would like to have some idea/grasp on the vocabulary of Spain so I can get myself around for the first couple of weeks I am there. Things like finding the grocery store ("Donde esta el supermercado?") and nearest bus stop ("Parada esta cerca de aqui?") are phrases and ideas that my knowledgeable Scottish teachers are helping me out with before my journey to Spain.

July 15, 2008

I hope that packing tape holds for 6 months...

Contents of a box that won't be opened for another 6+ months

Yes, that is Monopoly, a frying pan, candlesticks, picture frames, and a red mirror in that cardboard box. This, my friends, is what you must do when you decide you are moving out of New York City; pack up almost all of the random items you own and get it into boxes for your parents to pick up and take away for the summer while you move into a furnished sublet. You will have to think long and hard about those items that you really DON'T need to live with (ie. your entire design magazine collection, your boardgames, your mugs & glassware, etc.) and start to think minimalistic. Start thinking that you should really only take the necessities from your midtown apartment that you are moving out of and parting ways from your roommates of the past 5 years. It was strange packing this box and others, knowing that they won't be reopened with their items to be taken out and put away in their new rightful places for another 6 months or so.

That's another thing you need to think about when deciding to move out of NYC for a little while, the fact that you will be living in 4 different places within one year. I have come to terms with and am okay with this. Sure, finding an apartment to rent can be stressful and is right now the one thing that keeps me up at night; finding a room to rent in Barcelona! A challenge that will be for sure. However, I look forward to the time when I will come "home" to my apartment in Spain and rest my head on "my" bed and think to myself that I did it, I found a place. Reading the online ads for rooms has been helpful to my Spanish vocabulary (learning words like furnished, refrigerator, closet, elevator, etc), even if I am looking at rooms online that won't be available by the time I get to Spain. I am so curious as to what apartments will be like. All I can help but picture now is the apartment in the movie "L'Auburge Espagnole", a great French movie about 6 international twenty-somethings that live in Barcelona together. Though I would prefer not to have 5 other roommates, I would like to have at least one native Spanish speaking roommate who possibly I could learn some Spanish from just by being around. I have started to think that I should take my favorite sticky little papers (Post-it Notes) and placing them on everything in my apartment to label each item in Spanish. For some reason though, I feel that my two summer roommates in Brooklyn may not enjoy this so much.

July 2, 2008

Checking off that New Year's Resolution.

The first week of January is a big time of the year for a lot of people across the world. Many make resolutions for themselves that range from losing weight to getting a new job to breaking a bad habit to exercising more. The first week of January for me was no exception as I am a big believer in new year’s resolutions and physically writing them down. So I did what I do every year – I made my list. I checked it twice. And then I decided to go about following through with number 1 on said list:

“Travel to a new country”

This may sound easy for some and difficult for others depending on what their traveling experience and history has been. For me, I have always loved going to new places and trying new things but haven’t really left the confines of the United States to do so. Road trips down both the east and west coasts, a summer in Hawaii, and drooling over travel magazines and reading the travel section in the New York Times has been the closest I have been to actually experiencing Europe, South America, Australia, Africa, or Asia. Then, at age 26, I left the country for the first time and traveled to Israel. This trip opened my eyes in many ways to the land of this gorgeous middle eastern country but more significantly, awakened the travel bug inside of me. It thought of all of the places in the world that I hadn’t been to but read about and wanted to go to; “Everything is really only a plane ride away!” it told me. This bug then fell back to sleep and lay dormant inside me for a year and a half until January 2nd when I began reading a book that woke it up.

This bug insisted that I follow my dream/thought of the past 8 years and go to Spain and live (not permanently, but for a bit longer than a work-sanctioned vacation). But where in Spain? Yes, I asked myself the same question as I knew NOTHING about the geography or specifics of this country. After a couple of days of web searching and talking to a former client who has spent a considerable amount of time there, I decided on Barcelona. The idea of living on the Mediterranean with the mountains nearby, sunshine, paella and sangria plentiful, and amazing art and architecture all around sounded like as good a place as any.

Researching all of the specifics of my travel to Spain came next as well as answering my own whos, whats, whens, wheres, and whys. The who would I stay with? The what did I want out of this? The when would I go? The where would I go when I got there? The how would I get there and get around? The why would I do this? The how could I do it monetarily? All of my answers came in the following week (as well as another long list of questions) and by Thursday I decided that this was officially going to happen, told my roommates of the past 6 or so years, and on Saturday I made the “big call” to my parents to inform them that their daughter would be leaving the city she has called home for the past 5 years and moving to a new country (which didn’t have English as it’s first language). I braced for the worst and hoped for the mediocre. What I got was the best: “We totally support your decision.” For a moment I thought that the phone number I had called had not actually gone to my parents’ home in New England but to another Mom-and-Dad-sounding couple.

Armed with the moral support of my family and closest friends and the information about Barcelona I had gleaned from friends, friends-of-friends, and hundreds of various websites I realized that this dream was going to become a reality. I was moving to Barcelona for three months later in the summer...which is NOW less than 50 days away. Amazing how a decision made when hot chocolate is brewing and winter coats are donned, can finally come to life when fresh-brewed iced tea and beach days are around.

A subway story.

Although I don't love the NYC Subway system all of the time (or most of the time as it is recently I have had a string of bad luck waiting for trains for many moons while they fix "signals" or whatever it is that makes me wait in the steamy underground of Manhattan) I do love funny stories written about the subway; especially when it involves simple illustrations. The NY Times has an adorable story about a father (the writer and illustrator, Christoph Niemann) and his two young sons who actually lead their Dad around the city subway system as if they have been riding for years and years. Now if only the MTA handed out entertaining stories like this one while I was waiting in the humid depths of the city for my train...