Posts Tagged ‘espana’

Oh, Spain.

Dear Spain,

I have been super naive coming here without a real plan. It seemed like work would be, if not plentiful, then at least forthcoming. I thought that I spoke enough Spanish. I thought I’d be able to do this bilingual, bicountry thing. But I can’t. So while I wait to find out whether I’ve been approved for a position teaching English to students in your public schools, I’m going to be with my boyfriend in England. It’s been too hard. Your natives speak too rapidly. Your jobs are too hard to come by. Your nightlife is too late for me. Madrid doesn’t have any water, nor any mountains.

I’m bored, I’m lonely, I’m isolated and I feel useless. Not having a job is terrible. But I’ve still got money saved up, will have more come tax time, and I’ll be with my guy, planning my next moves in the coming months.

See you in September!


P.S. No, I’m not talking to my blog readers. I’ll still be posting semi-regularly.

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London was better than I expected this time around. Last time I was there I had such hassles at immigration and getting into the city and paying for travel when I was there that I was pretty much turned off by the whole idea of London. Now having been there twice and thus it all being a little more familiar, getting used to traveling on the tube and meeting a ton of really cool people on the Tweed Run has really helped improve my outlook.

I’ve found another friend in London, a cool chick who I will definitely delight in learning more about, she’s an artist, will take me under her wing and introduce me to more chicks in London. Her boyfriend wants to cook for the boyfriend and me, apparently he’s an amazing cook, I’m truly looking forward to returning to London in a week’s time. Someone else wants to cook carnitas for us, a Texan, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve been craving Mexican food lately. That and good Chinese food, both of which are sorely underrepresented in Madrid. I might have to learn how to cook Mexican food just so I can have it any time I like. First step: enchiladas suizas. Seriously. And tomatillo sauce. And, and, and I need a molcajete. (I might give up italicizing Spanish terms from now on, it’s beginning to feel a little too too.)

The Tweed Run was amazing, something ridiculous like 140 people, all in varying states of tweedy old-fashioned fancy dress goodness, all riding bikes around 22.5 miles of London’s streets. Everyone was so very nice, there was only a minimal amount of the hipsterness that had I expected coming from a fixed gear forum’s members, people shared liberally of enjoyable chat and whiskey. I made sure to nip rather than guzzle even though it was rather a slow circuit. People on the street were on the whole very receptive to the idea, taking photos, asking questions, calling out encouragement; I wonder how much our attire figured in there. Few jerks in cars, mostly drivers were very respectful. There was a heightened police presence due to protests for Palestine, which was a surprise, and definitely aided us in staying safe and slowing down motorists.

This time I finally got used to keeping my Oyster card handy so that I could tap it on the indicator upon both entry and exit of the tubes, and after days finally got used to looking right, then left then right. However, it will never cease to amaze me that you can park any which way you please, which completely does me in for quick visual cues of which way the street goes. No one way signs in London, leastways I didn’t see any. Also, the light can be green but the walk sign won’t, so all of my hard-won visual cues while biking in the city are just about null and void and I will have to get used to a new system.

Speaking of getting used to new systems, as soon as I got used to London, I had to return to Madrid. Spanish and pressing buttons when I want to leave the metro but no need for that card upon exiting the station. Wish me luck, I go back in a week!

In the meantime, I promise myself to buy a few essential sewing supplies and getting out of my funk of boredom by just doing it and messing around with learning to hand sew. Goal – pin tucks. I want to do some ridiculously time-consuming bodice front and will practice on scraps I will beg off my girl of the lobster fabric since she’s sending me stuff anyway.

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Last Friday I had my first proper outing, Spanish style. My roommate invited me out to meet a few of her friends at a bar near Puerta del Sol, a cute little joint whose bar was positively lined with jarras of sangria ready to be slurped down by those brave enough to venture out in the snow. Yes, that’s right, I said snow! It’s snowed in Madrid, and surprisingly as far south as Málaga, several times in the past week.

The snow was fodder enough for the beginning of the conversation. I was able to follow most of what was being said but there were times when I’d fade out, exhausted from the effort, only to drift back in, now able to understand, but with no concept of the subject at hand. But this is what I gathered over the evening: conversations everywhere are exactly the same. We talked about the weather, we bitched about traffic, we discussed politics, and we laughed. The highlight of the night for me was realizing that about 80% of the time that I contributed, no one looked at me like I was talking like I was from Mars. I got nearly all my points across, even in semi-complicated topics, and was well pleased.

Next stop, a smaller bar in the area that I’d never seen on a street I didn’t remember, in an area the boyfriend and I had traipsed through millions of times but must have kept to the same few tracks. 5€ mojitos were the boast of the bar but I was much happier seeing the shiny silver bowl of maíz frito (corn nuts!) sitting out, pretty as you please.

And even more so by what turned out to be a necklace of felt poppies worn by another bar patron and made by her grandmother.

Going out at 8:30 p.m. is fabulous. You can have four hours of drankin’, snackin’ & chattin’ and still be home before the metro closes for the night. Must do it again soon.

Oh, right. Central and North Americans: apparently a sizeable population of Spain thinks that México is part of North America. What say you? Apparently there is no definitive answer to this debate.

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On Saturday I visited the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, a private museum in Madrid that displays the holdings principally of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, at the neoclassical Palacio Villahermosa across the street from the Prado. Recently the acquisitions of his Spanish wife, Carmen, have also been added to the collection, resulting in several new wings being built.

I mainly ignored the guide, thinking there was no special layout to the museum beyond different epochs belonging to different wings or floors, but I noticed that I was heading in a circuitous route through time by my chosen tour through the museum. Starting with the permanent collection and moving through Carmen’s added section, I went from 17th century Italy and Holland through wan, thin French folk, into the lovely light-infused, remarkably shadowed Impressionist period and then back again. The holdings are impressive, vale la pena, yet while I would love to go back as often as I wished, the 6€ ticket price is a bit steep and there are no free or reduced entry times. I am sure I will return again, however.

When looking at art, I like to get right up on the canvas, seeing whether brush strokes are visible or not, and then stand back quite a bit and mark the difference in the view. The styles of Caravaggio and the Dutch masters of the 1600s look like cartoons when viewed close up, but if you step back, you can see (for example) the rosy flush of drink on the face of a violinist “merrily” toasting someone out of view, his lower social standing evident in the clothes slumped off one pale shoulder.

Dutch interiors circa the 1660s all seem to focus on the corner of a room with a window on the left and tapestries, maps or other rich ornamentation placed around the subjects, who are often playing musical instruments. De Hooch, Vermeer, Maes. The Flemish and the Dutch are also extremely well-known for their exceptional still lives, of which I never seem to get tired. But who was buying these paintings in the 1600s? How much did they cost? Was it the burghers or were the patrons of slightly higher standing?

One thing I notice about museums here that I haven’t noticed elsewhere is that often the birth city and death city of the artist are printed on the cards for each painting, and I meant to look up – was John Singer Sargent born in Florence? Yes, indeed he was, to American ex-patriot parents. His early life was a constant whir of travel which explains why he remained, essentially, an ex-patriot to the end. And, noting one painting by William Merritt Chase, I thought, “Hmm..1895, was that before he started using his graphic?” only to realize after researching when I returned home that that was Henry McNeil Whistler. I should be forgiven, as his mark resembles a W and both have prominent Ws in their names and similar styles, being contemporaries in Impressionism.

Turn a corner, spot a piece, jealously guard it for last – it looks like it might be a Schiele, but I am surprised in turn and discover it to be one of this lovely lady by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The only Schiele in the collection was on loan for another week or so. I wish I could have found a better photo on the internets of the Tolouse-Lautrec but I am finding more and more that it’s nearly worthless to view a painting in photos except to conjure reminders of what has already been seen in person. How do art students who go to schools nowhere near major art museums cope?

My favorite thing about going to new museums is not only finding art by artists whose work I feel I know intimately, but art by artists I’ve never heard of. It’s not that I have some rarefied, extensive knowledge of art, rather I got a decent layman’s art education by working as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan for a year, pumping my fine arts degree gettin’ friends for info and clarification and testing stylistic connections I’d made. So it was a great pleasure to come upon unexpected watercolors by Moreau and Prendergast and a gorgeous O’Keefe, sin floras, entitled New York with Moon.

Moving on, we find the awesome, weirdo Austrians, and Germans, and some Frenchies. Around the early 1900s, artists like Braque, Camoin and Vlamenck all seemed to have created works while sitting at the feet of Cézanne. As I grew up, I expected to have basically one job, or at least one kind of job for the majority of my working life. This has not been the case, but the expectation is still there, and it makes me so happy to see artists from the 1880s and later, who had whole sea changes over and over again in the direction their art took. Life appeared so open for them, and whether or not it actually was, we can still content ourselves with the sensation aroused by looking at their oeuvres.

As always, I visited the museum shop, and desperately wanted a few items, but they were indeed not vale la pena and I let them be.

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Well, having your loved one with you in another country is a sure-fire way to ignore everything you don’t want to think about and to spend all your time looking at neat stuff you’ve never seen before. Two and a half weeks flew by and the boyfriend went back to England last night. What do I do now? Why, get a job, of course! I have two conflicting issues in my search for work.

First, I know I understand Spanish decently, but I become absolutely flummoxed when confronted with the majority of the Madrileńos I encounter. My proficiency breaks down relatively early in a conversation and while that’s not necessarily a problem in everyday life, just an annoyance, I worry about whether employers will take the chance on sponsoring me without a better grasp of the language. So I’ve thought about taking a month-long intensive course here in Madrid. I found a place that is much cheaper than others, which is both a boon and something to be questioned, and can afford not only to spend the next three months here, but pay all my bills and still have several months’ income available afterward, should I not find work within that time.

Second, what if I don’t find work within that time? I don’t want to go back, so I’ve thought about how long to give myself here in Madrid before high-tailing it to another city and trying again. A month is the time I can come up with. I need to find work within a month, or at least I need to have exhausted all options of employment here in Madrid that I can find, before trying another city.

Do you see the rub? A month of classes would make me more marketable but I want to find work within a month. Over and over again, what I need to remind myself of is that I have done the math and I know how much money I have and what my expenses are and how long I can stay in Spain even while having enough to start over again in NYC, should it come to that, even if I don’t find work. And that number is somewhere around 5 or 6 months.

So buck up! Do what you gotta do! Find work while taking that intensive course! It gets out early enough in the day that I can still canvas the city looking for the ever-elusive euro.

It’s for real real snowing in Madrid! I need to find some gloves I like!

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There has been a lot of stop-and-start in my time here in Madrid. I move forward a step with finding things but two steps back when I get there because Madrileños speak so quickly, even when it’s apparent that I’m not fluent, that I’m having a hard time understand anything people say. Last week I was walking around again, as that’s about all I can do here right now, and decided that I was cold and wanted to stop into one of the millions of cervecerías in town for a beer. Cañas are teeny little beers for around €2, depending on the bar, and are the most common form of beer you’ll get here. After writing for a little bit in a tiny, smoke-filled room, the guy next to me struck up a conversation. He offered to show me another bar, serving proper pints of English beer. As I wanted to practice my Spanish more than the most common transactions allow, I agreed to accompany him. It was pretty funny, I’d be rolling along, understanding 90% of what he said, then came a fog where not a single word he said made it through. After about an hour of this, I’d had enough, and when he began to sound a little amorous, I’d really had enough so I took my leave and went back to the apartment.

Sunday I went to the Museo Bellas Artes and had a lovely immersion into Spanish art from Zurbarán through modern artists like José María Labrador. Two of his paintings in particular caught my eye, small portraits of his wife and his most regular model, done in a sublime style influenced by Renaissance art. Spain seems to have a tradition of extremely young, extremely talented artists. It was here that I was reminded of the exhibition from a few years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manet/Velázquez, tracing the French appreciation of Spanish art via artists like Zurbarán, Velázquez and Ribera through the Impressionist movement in France and how it affected artists like Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas and their American expatriot contemporary, John Singer Sargent. One painting in particular, at Bellas Artes, by Juan Baptista Martínez del Mayo very clearly owes a debt to Velázquez and influenced Singer Sargent. Unfortunately, just as I got to the Goyas, I was asked to leave for the day. Next time, at only €3 it is one of the cheaper museums in Madrid.

One of my very best discoveries has been at the local grocery store, €.59 40s of beer. Steinberg Clásica, tastes just fine.

Last night around 8 p.m. I went out for a walk, I’d only left the apartment once all day, and that was to get groceries. I ambled north to the Paseo de la Castellana, which becomes the Paseo del Prado further south. This wide, tree-lined avenue was pretty, but a little boring and I remembered that calle Orense was somewhere nearby and decided to turn in its direction to suss out the location of a restaurant I’d been led towards as a possible source of employment.

Not being dressed in my finest, nor in anything even resembling stylish, I decided to pass it by instead of investigating the situation any closer, even at this early hour. Having found it, on I went toward c/ Bravo Murillo and known amounts of cervecerías, the better to attend to my bladder, lately begun to request attention. The area I found myself in seemed populated mostly by high rises and hotels, somewhat desolate, slightly residential.

A few winding turns later, through residential blocks a strange mixture of older and newer architecture (and by newer I mean at least 40 years old), I found myself where Avenida General Perón becomes c/Avila, conflicting impulses of shyness and the need to pee forcing me first to walk past the pub on the corner and then to retrace my steps and to go inside. Passing through the low doorway, I found myself in a small pub lined with leather and hammered nail banquettes, many people belly up to the long bar. It housed two gaming machines and the ubiquitous to Spain cigarette machine that Americans likely no longer encounter. I placed myself in front of the bartender and asked for the “carta de vinos”, what I had been led to believe was the correct request for the wine list and was met with confusion on the part of the bartender and mild derision from the “lady of a certain age” to my right. When asked if I wanted tinto, blanco o rosa, I concurred tinto and when he brought back one glass and a single bottle of red, I understood. I guess asking for jerez (sherry) might have gone over better there. My chilled red cost only €2.70.

Due to the early hour, I could barely smell the smoke in the air and retired to one of the banquettes with my glass. This is not an avant garde clientele like at the cafe I had hoped to visit tonight. But living so far north of the center, and not being able to figure out what’s going on with the Metro, when each particular station closes and when service stops completely for the night, I stuck around my apartment – I did not relish the thought of a 2 1/2 hour walk home at night.

I finished my wine, wended my way back to c/Bravo Murillo, and found myself absolutely ravenous. The combination of not knowing what the hell anything means on menus, not wanting to order yet another sandwich and lots of walking has taken its toll on my weight and my stomach fought back. I needed dessert. Lots of it, preferably something with vanilla creme and sponge cake. I found exactly what I wanted, as the subject line will attest, and happily gorged while walking home.

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We have water!

I took a shower! But it turns out that I did somehow break the hair dryer and I need to go buy another one. Except that my hair is wet. Still, I have a free Spanish class to be at in less than two hours. Grar. I was thinking about trying to find the owner of a restaurant within walking distance whose owner is known to an acquaintance of mine. It’s the best reference I have for now, so I’ll try it.

Turns out I will most likely have to leave the country for a short period of time, assuming I can even find a company that will sponsor me. Hope has not been extinguished, I have options. First and foremost the boyfriend needs to get here and we need to go all around this city and enjoy it and see if I want to stay here. If I don’t end up falling in love it’s pretty much a moot point anyway.

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