Cherry Lips, Crystal Skies

How today is the first day of December, signaling that November already happened for this calendar year, is mind-boggling to me. Where did November go? Time is flying! It’s been…way too long since my last entry here, but I shall attempt to make up for lost time.

Halloween: I didn’t have a costume planned until the morning of Halloween, when Mar (7) told me, considering the fact that I had nothing at this point in time, to borrow her neon-blue, waist-length wig for the occasion. She recommended I go as a “Blue Vampire.” So I heeded her advice and after nannying went to hunt down some cheap vampire teeth. At my third china-store (the Spain equivalent to the dollar store), I found a pair for 1 euro; as I tried them on my way out, I realized that I couldn’t move my mouth at all with the teeth in, which would make socializing at a party difficult. Hence, at the last minute I switched to dressing up as a blue-wigged witch for Gabi’s Halloween gathering in el Borne.

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November highlights… Bible study. Studying for GRE. Nannying. GRE. Gabi and I have continued our weekly bible study on Tuesday mornings at a wide variety of local cafés and eateries including Satan’s Coffee Corner (ironic I know), Milk, Molika, and Gabi’s apartment. Recently I finally had the chance to go to the church Gabi had been raving about, the International Church of Barcelona, and I’m sold! Compared to the aesthetically beautiful but substantially vacant masses of old here, ICB’s noon service features a live band, an amazing couple as the lead pastors, and a contagious energy that makes you want to get involved on a deeper level. I am excited to go to the women’s small group in the near future.

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So the GRE officially happened. The actual test day experience was even more formal and TSA security-like than I had expected. I was pleasantly surprised that there were noise-canceling earphones offered by the testing center. My experimental section ended up being Verbal and overall I felt like it went alright. Immediately afterwards as I stared dubiously at my “unofficial scores” for the verbal and quantitative sections I was a bit disappointed in myself but it could have gone worse. Yesterday I finally was able to see my official scores, including the analytical writing bit, and all I can say is: it is what it is. I am hoping to not have to take the GRE again, but we shall see.

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Last week I had the special opportunity to visit the Barcelona Food Bank with Jesús, my retired friend from last year’s intercambio at the library. Jesús does year-round volunteer work with them in their fundraising efforts, and he was nice enough to give a real behind the scenes tour of the whole operation. It was cool to see the actual warehouse too, the whole place preparing for the annual Gran Recapte (annual city-wide food drive). Last Friday evening I volunteered for the Food Bank at a grocery store, encouraging shoppers to donate and helping sort the donated items. Cass and I volunteered for the event last year as well, and I’m glad I got to help out again. On Thanksgiving day I had a meeting at ISA with Raquel to discuss the Masters at UPF. I’m really excited about applying for this program and getting that ball rolling if you will! More on that to come.

Later on Thanksgiving day I took the metro over to Cynthia and Will’s for a holiday get together with their friends and family. The best part was definitely getting to meet Mr. Ryan Alexander, the newest addition to Dylan’s family! He is a precious little baby who slept right until we all sat down to eat, naturally. It was wonderful to get to celebrate on Thursday with great people and a yummy homemade spread. Saturday Night Damian and I went to a belated Thanksgiving celebration at Janelle’s apartment near Lesseps. As I sadly have, in my mind, too little experience in cooking the traditional T-day side dishes, I opted to bring a fresh fruit salad to the potluck meal. Per the usual, Marta was the life of the party and had us all in stitches with her stories and contagious laugh.

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In other news, my virtual book club’s November read was Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl. I saved her novel of essays until post-GRE, but I finished it within a few days. I have also now watched the first season of her hit HBO show, Girls. I appreciate her dry humor and honest portrayal of the ups and downs of life of a 20something. I am now reading Janet Fitch’s White Oleander and would (thus far) recommend both. Damian and I are apartment hunting, hoping to move into a new place by the new year. My effort on this search so far has made me realize how incredibly lucky Cass and I were last year in how we found our place. It takes time and effort but I’m really excited by the thought that Damian and I will soon have our own place to call home!

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Be Intentional

Holy smokes – it’s been nearly three weeks since my last post! Eek! Well for starters, I wish I could explain away that happening by saying that I have been busy traveling or doing other equally wonderful things, but the sad truth is that I’ve been spending a large chunk of my time studying for the GRE. Boo standardized testing. Boo math. Boo 30-minute time limits. Studying for that is, needless to say, my current Everest. But alas, I have already taken two practice tests and I have seen some progress thus far, so thank goodness for that.

@ Granja Petitbo
@ Granja Petitbo

Other than that time-consuming venture, I have also been kept busy by nannying Mar & Clara and Dylan, as well as doing two social media freelance positions nowadays (Barcelona Nights and Family Box). I really enjoy the social media marketing work and I’m looking forward to further pursing like-minded opportunities. Dylan is about to become a big brother any day now… I can’t wait to meet Cynthia & Will’s second baby boy!

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I am still actively enjoying learning how to cook. Recently, I have gotten pretty good at making baked tacos and a chicken pasta casserole dish. Most notably, I made Scott’s recipe for banana bread; it turned out well overall, with some room for improvement. Due to studying, I sadly haven’t been reading as avidly as I usually can here. But to counter that, among other reasons, I have started a weekly bible study with Gabi! We did our first one last week at a cute Italian café in Borne. It was refreshing to discuss her daily devotional and work through some scripture.

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As I took my second practice test this last Friday, I gave myself the weekend off. Saturday evening Damian and I went to a nearby bar to watch the el clasico (FCB v. Real Madrid) match. Sadly, Barcelona lost 3-1, but watching Suarez play for the first time plus two mojitos made for a good time nevertheless. Afterwards we took the yellow line to Barceloneta to finally try out Cass and Gabi’s recommended steak spot – La Malandrina. Damian got the entrecot with fries, while I ordered the entrecot with the famed patatas a la crema. So good! Too good, in fact, as I ate myself into a food coma. Add into the equation their homemade chimichurri and diced pepper sauces, provolone cheese dip, beer, and you get an affordably priced Uruguayan slice of heaven on earth.

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Yesterday I went on an all-day trip to Girona, Figueres, and Besalú with Barcelona Trips. At first I had been planning on going to Girona and Figueres on my own, but considering that it was cheaper and less planning involved to hop in with that group, that is exactly what I ended up doing. In Girona we had a historical, yet humorous, tour of the main part of the city and then had free time for a couple of hours. Girona is a beautiful Catalan city and it was quite bustling with activity for a Sunday afternoon.

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From there we bussed to Figueres, hometown of the famous artist Salvador Dalí, and now home to his museum. I had an idea of what I was getting myself into, obviously Dalí is known for some pretty out-there works… but his museum is something else! The building itself, on the outside and inside, makes you stop and constantly do a double take, thinking to yourself: “What the…?” I’m definitely glad I finally saw the Dalí museum, but let’s just say I’m not dying to go back in the near future.

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Last but not least, we stopped in Besalú, a medieval town nestled into the hills of Catalonia. Unlike Girona, Besalú was pretty dead by the time we arrived (early evening). I took in the views and stopped in several cute local shops. Then it was back to Barcelona!

Working Hard, Staying Happy.

“The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.” – Fabienne Fredrickson

Is it really that simple? Say I was extremely passionate about surfing… If I don’t become a professional surfer or instructor, does that consequentially mean that I’m not following my calling? I’m not quite sure. But what I do know is that I feel like a dog who’s finally caught scent of something promising; I finally feel like I’m onto what will be a fulfilling career direction, somewhere in the world of marketing, social media, and public relations. That being said, I’ve also started studying hardcore for the GRE and semi-want to die. What a buzz kill! So far I’ve only taken one initial practice test, and have since hit the “Cracking the GRE Premium Edition” book daily, inundating my brain with dozens of new vocabulary words, writing sample thesis statements for the Issue essay, and slugging through annoying math problems. I am going to take the real deal in early November here in Barcelona.

IT’S ALREADY OCTOBER! What? Where does the time go!! I am very thankful that temperatures are finally starting to drop a little and it’s starting to feel more like fall around here. Sadly due to a foot issue, I haven’t been able to run much this last week, though I did manage to do get in my quickest 5k yet. But I’m hoping that with some R&R I’ll be ready to go because I have another 10k race this coming Sunday, the Corre Barri.

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Last week I had dinner at Marta’s and got to meet her two new students, Eric and John. Marta fixed up quite the spread and the guys were really nice so it was a good evening. Friday Damian and I finally went to la Pastelería Mendieta, aka the infamous Argentine bakery /café near the Encants metro stop. It definitely lived up to the hype! We got lunch there and between the two of us I was able to try sandwiches de miga, empanadas de tomate y queso, y de jamón y queso, & un arabe de carne y cebolla (typical Argentine sandwich, empanadas, and a Runza-like pastry). Then we ordered half a dozen media lunas to take home and share with Sergio. Media lunas are similar to croissants but a little different and then filled with dulce de leche and powdered sugar on top. Yum!

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Later Friday we decided to make some last minute plans to go to Valencia Saturday – Sunday, since neither of us had ever been before. We quickly booked buses, a cool looking hostel, and packed a bag to share. Unfortunately due to two unforeseen 5-minute metro delays, we missed our 7am bus by two minutes. So we did what we then had to do, wait in the Nord Bus Station until we could hop on the next bus departing to Valencia at 10am. Not ideal to say the very least, but by 2pm we had finally arrived in beautiful Valencia! We painlessly navigated to the Innsa Hostel located smack in the heart of El Carme, the old area of the city. We checked in with the amiable owner, Teresa, looked around the place, and unloaded. The hostel is a gorgeous old Spanish artist’s house, with much of the original architecture and structures in tact. On nearly every wall hang uniformly sized, brightly colored paintings. The center of the hostel is open-air, filled with natural light and greenery.

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Damian and I set out to make the most of our short trip by walking around El Carme y Ciutat Vella, strolling down the tiny side streets and innumerable plazas that dot this section of the map. We rented bikes and rode along side el Río (like a big, central park that runs horizontally down the middle of the entire city) till the City of Arts and Sciences, the recently built up area that is home to the impressive Opera Theatre, the Hemispheric, the science museum, and more. It was awesome to finally get to see that with my own eyes.

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After stopping by Los Serranos, we returned the bikes and went back to the hostel to get a pitcher of Agua de Valencia and tapas at the charming hostel bar. We did a bit of bar hopping afterwards and then ended up at Calcatta, a discoteca/bar near Plaza de la Reina.

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Sunday we had breakfast at the hostel and then checked out. We walked from there to Valencia’s pro-soccer stadium, Mestalla, about 20 minutes away. After checking that area out, we power walked back to the bus station just in time to make our bus back to Barcelona. Since we’ve been back I have done not a lot besides studying. I am still slugging, barely, through Gabriel Marquez’s Cien Años de Soledad. It just has yet to become a page-turner. Damian started working at FedEx here yesterday so that was exciting. Finally! I think that’s all for now folks… until next time!

Wrapping Up September

Happy Monday everyone! Since we last spoke, I am happily all settled into Damian’s in Poblenou. A week ago at this time we were in the midst of the big moving day, but now, thankfully, I’m pretty much as settled in as can be here. So far, so good. Not shockingly, I have really been enjoying the no longer incessant back and forth that was life when I lived across the city in Gracía. Also, I was impressed at how much space Damian was actually able to make for my belongings. It’s been a good first week here and I’m very appreciative of the Obispo hospitality and warmth, like usual.

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Since then, we’ve checked out the over-lapping Poblenou festival and the la Merce festivities. On the 24th, the actual holiday of La Merce (the local holiday here that celebrates Barcelona’s patron saint), Damian and I walked to Ciutadella Park to peruse the fountain show, food trucks, and the impressive hip-hop dance show imported all the way from Stockholm. From there we also browsed the expansive wine & cava exposition staked out all the way to the backside of Arc de Triomf.

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Thursday after work I was delighted to get to make plans with Ben Devries who happened to be visiting the city for a couple days. Gabi, Damian, Rodrigo, and myself ended up meeting Ben and his friends at Le Cyrano for drinks. Later we walked to Bling Bling (don’t mind the name), to continue the night courtesy of course to Aashi Guest List. I had never been there before and it was fun… not necessarily what I had envisioned, but fun. The best part, for me though, was definitely how well the boys all hit it off together!

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On Saturday I met up with Ben and his friends again and took them to Marmalade for brunch. Unknowingly/ sadly, they had already dined at Marmalade’s sister restaurant, Milk, but they were all good sports because the food really is delicious. I treated myself with a Bloody Mary (which anyone who knows me, knows that I usually never order, but was in the mood) and Eggs Benedict. Two thumbs up for Marmalade.

Yesterday I ran in my third (second official) 10km race, La Cursa de la Merce, here in Barcelona! The race started in the avenue between Montjuic and Plaza España, made a large loop around the city and finished at the same spot. I ran solo, and I was really happy to have finished in less than my goal time and to have felt pretty solid throughout the run. Damian and April came to cheer me on at the finish line, which was very much so appreciated. Yesterday, also happened to be the 1-year anniversary of when Damian and I started dating… time flies! Later, he surprised me with a bouquet of fresh flowers. It rained all day yesterday, but we eventually ended up going out to dinner for Italian food. It was a lovely day/ weekend.

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