Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Back Home and on the Road

If you knew my mother at all you know that she loved her job. And you also probably know that where she worked was a pretty long drive from our house. From the time I was 7 to the time I was 13 I drove to school with my mother taking the same basic route every day. It was a formative time in my life and since there was plenty of traffic I got to know those roads pretty well.

Studying abroad I was constantly confronted with new sights and smells and tastes. They opened up a whole world of flavors and aromas I never knew existed, but they also distracted me from recognizing what I was leaving behind. I've been home now for just over a week and I can honestly say that I haven't had any serious reverse culture shock. What I have experienced is a strange shock of the senses. What a memory couldn't bring back for me, a familiar smell or sight can. Cleaning a drawer in my room last week stirred up a smell that I associate directly with my first summer at Camp Ramah almost 10 years ago. Passing something in the basement hit me with a smell I always associated with Fridays in grammar school when our Polish cleaning lady came. And driving to a friend's house who lives past school's Lake Cook exit on the I-90 suddenly brought me back to the years of driving to and from school with my mother.

As the misty rain fogged up my window I remembered arguing with my mom about when to turn the windshield wipers from slow to medium. I've always been a little OCD about that and I hated when she would leave them going full speed after the rain had tapered down to a mist. I remembered driving past the furniture store next to the exit when it was still under construction and I remembered the time we drove as far as our exit in the heavy snow only to pull off and find out school had been canceled. I remembered the smell of the stale M & M's and Diet Coke my mom bought after particularly difficult days at work and the books on tape she listened to after I graduated to fill the quietness of the car. I remembered Eric and Kathy in the Morning on 101.9 FM and the horrible 7 AM traffic and the nail polish smell from the times she tried to paint her nails in the car while driving because she didn't have time at home.

Barcelona was amazing and I am grateful for every moment I had. I am so glad I had the opportunity to study abroad and see a world so different from my own, but coming home is not easy. Being away allowed me to forget so much, it allowed me to hide in a new and exciting future without reminding me too much of my past. But I'm home now and ignoring the memories nagging at me is that much harder. I know it's going to be a long summer, but I think I'm finally ready to face it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A little update

Hello to all my avid readers. I have been remiss in my writing but I promise to end on a nice long high note. So just hold on to your pants until then.

For now I'm just going to tell you that I have had some of the most amazing experiences of my life, met some of the most incredible people, eaten by far the best food of my life, and overall just felt that I have been blessed with far more than I deserve. I have come to realize that life is not easy for anyone, that pain and sorrow fill so many peoples' lives. And while I have certainly not had the easiest of years, I have a loving family, a wonderful community, a strong education, and so much more than so many people in this world can dream of having. Traveling has at once made me want to hug everyone I know and thank them for what they have given me, and at the same time made me want to cry in despair at the pain and hatred that can be found no matter how far I roam. I have learned so much about myself, and I have only begun to learn about the world I call home. Basically what I am saying is that you should prepare yourselves for a really long blog post. Or two.

I will be home ever so soon and I hope to see as many of you as possible before heading off on my next adventure.
Much love,

Me checking out the view from the gardens in the Alhambra Palace in Granada.

The absolutely adorable daughter of one of the Moroccan villagers we had lunch with on my four day immersion program.

Me, John, Linda, and Lanie on the roof of the Alhambra

The streets of Chefchouen, Morocco.

The beautiful henna designs our host-sister drew for us in Morocco

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Beginning of the End

I must apologize for not writing in such a ridiculously long time, I know you're probably all just dying to know how I have been occupying my time. So fear no longer, I will update you to the best of my ability.

This evening I just returned from my second trip to Italy, this time stopping in Pisa and Florence. I flew out with Linda on Ryanair (actually without incident which was a surprise given their track record among my friends) and after a brief stop at the leaning tower (it really is pretty fabulous!) we hopped on a train to Florence where we met up with our friend Lanie who is studying there. We spent the next two days checking out a ridiculous number of churches, restaurants, gelaterias, mercados, and the amazing synagogue of Florence. I've really never seen a synagogue like it. It's huge and beautiful and full of designs clearly influenced by the duomo of Florence and the middle eastern style of mosques. If you're ever in Florence it is a must see, or at least I think it is. And if you're reading this clearly you think my opinion counts for something.

Of course we also saw the original David made my Michaelangelo when we was 26 years old. Ridiculous. Amazing. Rather intimidating to think that he was only five years older than me when he made a masterpiece. I guess I better pick up a talent in the next few years to leave behind for millions to adore, or is it too late for that...? Before rushing back to the airport I managed to squeeze in a five minute pizza lunch with my friend Nick who is also studying in Florence (he's the redhead in the picture). After lunch Linda and I took the train back to the airport nearly missing our flight but luckily we made it just in time. Seriously, that could have been really bad. But now I am safe and sound back here in my Barcelona apartment.

The last two weeks have been filled with lots of exciting things but of course that is tinged with the bittersweet knowledge that I will soon be back in Chicago. I do love you all and there are some things about the U.S. that I certainly miss (the dollar, for example, my kitchen, people who actually wait in lines instead of forcing their way in front of whoever is in their way) but I have come to see Barcelona as my second home and the idea of leaving it brings tears to my eyes. There is so much that I have learned here, so much I have seen and experienced. And I keep being surprised by the firsts that I am still discovering. Last Wednesday night, for instance, I went to my first Barca game. If you have ever lived in Europe you are probably shocked it took me this long to get to a football game since that seems to be the center of their very existence. It was expensive but completely worth it being the largest field in the world (it holds 100,000 people and it was full the night I went). Of course we won against FC Sevilla and much confetti was thrown by the die-hard fans sitting behind me.

In the past weeks I also went to several of the bars I'd been hoping to see, saw Casa Batlló (it blew my mind and I am officially amazing by Gaudí forever), spent a lot of time on the beach including several dives into the Mediterranean, a bike tour of the city, my first Pub Quiz, a night of live Cuban Jazz, and of course, a celebration of Sant Jordí.

Before I leave you tonight I have to explain the wonders of Sant Jordí day here in Barcelona. Much like our Hallmark holiday of Valentine's Day, Sant Jordí is a day of gift giving among lovers. It is the national holiday of Catalonia of which Barcelona is the capital. It commemorates Sant Jordí who killed a dragon to save the beautiful princess and from the dragon's blood grew a rose which he gave to the princess. Romantic, I know. I certainly always find roses covered in dragon blood to be sexy. In honor of this boys give their girlfriends roses on Sant Jordí. It also happens to be the birthday of both Shakespeare and Cervantes so women give their boyfriends a book in return for the rose. For one day a year the city overflows with booksellers and becomes a giant florist shop with roses being sold on literally every corner. Famous authors come to the city to read excerpts of their books and do signings (last year Dan Brown author of "The Da Vinci Code" came) and hundreds of people flock to Las Ramblas to purchase used and new books in Catalan and Spanish. Better than Valentine's Day it is a source of pride for the people of Catalonia and I felt a sense of love I can't quite explain for this city that has been so good to me. Besides, any holiday based around book giving is worthwhile in my mind.

Tomorrow I'm moving out of my apartment and starting the end of my journey. I'll be heading down to Morocco for four days with Lanie, Linda, and several other friends on an exchange program with Moroccan students. Then we'll spend a few days in Granada before I head off to Israel for two weeks. You'll have to forgive me if I don't update for a while but I'm out having an adventure worth writing home about and I promise to show pictures. Unless of course I get bought up for a bride price of more than 20 camels. I mean, how can I say no to an offer like that?

That's all for now but I send much love, roses, and hugs to you all.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

London and all things Jewish

Okay, I know this is two updates in quick succession but lots of things have been happening. I'll try and make this one mostly pictures. Basically I went to London with the purpose of falling in love with the city and was completely successful. I enjoyed as many markets and museums as I could fit into four days and managed to hang out with some family and friends along the way.

For any of you concerned about me finding Jewish life-fear not. My sister set me up with some of her friends from her semester at Oxford several years ago and they were fabulous. Not only did they let me stay in their house in Golders Green (a SUPER Jewish neighborhood in London) but they organized all my meals for Shabbat and Chag. The company was entertaining if a bit conservative (I tried unsuccessfully to convince them that Obama is not a Muslim nor does he want to exile all the Jews from America. Also had to prove that not all Americans are stupid, Vegetarianism does not mean I am a heretic, and women can in fact be Rabbis).

For seders I could not have asked for a better time. I spent the first night with the sister of an old teacher of mine from middle school. She has three young boys and her sister-in-law also had two young boys so it was very kid-friendly with lots of singing and prize-giving. The second night I went to the family of another teacher from high school which was equally nice. Their tradition is to sing every tune they know to every song in the haggadah so we didn't finish until around 3 AM but it was really nice and generally relaxed with lots of food.

Now I'm back in Barcelona where I spent the day with my wonderful friend from Pitt, Emily Pojman. She's studying in France and came to BCN for the day with her family so I had fun showing them lots of Gaudi and walking around in the rain. I brought back a box of matzoh and kosher for passover jam which has to last me until Thursday supplemented with fruits and vegetables and perhaps a chabbad meal or two. This has convinced my roommate that I'm crazy, but really I'm surprised it's taken her this long.

Anyway, wishing you all much love and a happy holiday whatever it is that you're celebrating (Lost a tooth? Got a new job? Bought a new pair of shoes? Really there's always something to celebrate...)

Enjoy the pictures and please send me emails letting me know what YOU'VE all been up to!
Por ahorra,

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Something Controversial

I'm going to start with a possibly controversial statement which may be upsetting to some of you so consider yourself warned: I don't think Wicked is a very good show. There, I said it.

I know there are a lot of you out there who can't resist the colors and costumes and giant scene changes of this adored show and I don't blame you. There's a reason it blows your mind- it's desingned to use every trick in the book that could possibly wow you. The problem is that it leaves no space to digest, no room to appreciate its true value. It's like having a chocolate cake stuffed down your throat. A piece slowly savored is enjoyable, but when it's coming out of your ears and slowly choking you it loses its appeal.

I'm saying all this as a preface for what was possibly my favorite birthday gift ever: second row center seats to Spring Awakening on West End. At first I was disappointed to be seeing an American show while here in London. I really wanted to have a totally British experience while here and so far it's been great. Just to name the highlights: stayiing with some British friends in Golders Green, British Museum, Hyde Park, Harry Potter Walking Tour of London, Changing of the Guards, Tate Modern, The Globe, Camden Market, V and A Museum, Covent Garden Market. Tea. So I really wanted to see something British like Billy Elliot the Musical or Les Miserables (longest running show in West End/in the world, something like 20 or 30 years).

That said, I am beyond happy with my decision to see Spring Awakening instead. I got half-price tickets which even with the pound exchange rate were cheaper than tickets on Broadway. I got the theatre early and marveled at my amazing seats. And here's where the theatre major in me comes out...this musical was EXACTLY what a musical shoud be. It doesn't overwhelm you, the songs are beautiful on there own but work perfectly for the show. There aren't massive costume changes or distracting dance numbers that serve no purpose beyond simple entertainment. The actors were all young and had incredibly pure voices that didn't try to impress me with range- just skill. Most importantly for me as an actress- they could act. I cannot begin to explain the frustration I feel when I go to see a musical where the actors sing-speak lines between songs because they've never taken a real acting class in their life. All of these actors had such amazing purity, their faces bringing you in to their deepest emotional pangs. I felt myself holding my breath and leaning forward, smiling, crying, laughing, and cringing in turn.

The actors didn't wear makeup at all and they stayed onstage the whole time never once breaking character. When the set moved or fancy lights came down, it was only to enhance the emotional build of the scene and trust me- it did. After the show I did what I NEVER do (partly because of mere embarassment) and I stood with the group of 20 something other girls by the backstage door waiting for autographs. The other beautiful thing about this show is that having almsot entirely children actors none of them were haughty or conceited. They were thrilled that anyone WANTED their autographs and happily signed and chatted with everyone there. For all of you Harry Potter fans, I got Sian Thomas' autograph who played Amelia Bones in the fourth movie.

So obviously I enjoyed the show and highly recommend it to anyone who can see it. Besides the show I had a great birthday but if anyone wants to celebrate in the more traditional fashion please let me know and I will happily go out when I return (just over a month!!)

That's all for now, but I hope you have a lovely lovely passover and I'll try to write a less theatre-focused entry next time.

Hasta luego amigos!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Death and Rebuilding

I cannot claim to have seen either the best or the worst the world has to offer, but this year I have certainly seen my fair share of both. Watching the nightly news it seems as if our fragile world is falling apart around us politically, socially, economically, and even pysically. If I want to bring it a little closer to home all I have to do is look down the street and watch the continued student protests and the physically violent police retaliation which indescriminately knocks down children, the elderly, and pregnant women who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I can look on my street where just yesterday I saw three girls mugged in the exact same place my roommate and I stood helpless just eight days earlier. I can look further at the injustice of losing my mother so quickly and at such a young age. And now to all that I can add the loss of my grandmother, a woman of such wisdom and strength that her very presence seemed to defy death. I last saw her just before leaving for Spain. Disease had made her weak, sagging her skin and showing the strain that a lifetime of pain and joy weighs down on one´s shoulders.

If I had to suffer all this pain alone, I do not know that I could manage. But I am one of the lucky people, despite my seemingly endless stream of bad luck. I look around the cities I have called home and find myself both cursed and blessed. I feel that God has both overlooked me and enveloped me in a supportive embrace; taken away my foundation and provided a net. I have such a wonderful community full of so many people who at the mere sight of a forming tear rush over with kleenex, hugs, and chocolate. I am living in a beautiful city, I have plenty to eat (often far more than enough), I have friends and family and my own health.

That is not to say that I am not angry at the unfairness of my personal situation, the frustration of death too soon and pain too persistant. But I wonder how anyone goes on without the kind of community I have been blessed with. And I wonder how I can contribute something meaningful to the world in any comparable way to the contributions of my mother and grandmother. Two women with such strength, women who lived through so much change and gave so much of themselves to everyone they met. Women who loved and learned and gave more than they took. Women who leave behind them such legacies as I can only dream of one day following.

Looking around me I see that our world is not in good shape, our future is not as bright as it once was, and the roads are not paved in gold--sometimes they´re not paved at all. But we must continue, the instinct to survive will not allow us to stand still amid the falling ruins of our world.

I cannot fly home for my grandmother´s funeral this week, so instead I am asking anyone who reads this to do something kind for someone else this week in her memory. Give a homeless person a granola bar, call your grandmother to say hi, make a donation to your favorite charity. It is more than something kind in honor of her memory. It is something kind to rebuild the roads we are losing. It is a reason to continue and it is a way to help ourselves and those we love.

Death is not easy, but life doesn´t have to be so hard.
Besos y abrazos

Monday, March 16, 2009

In which our Heroine learns about burns, muggings, and other fun activities

To calm all of you down, who are doubtless bracing yourself for the worst, I was not mugged- but someone else was... Now that I've prefaced with that let me travel back in time to the start of the weekend...dododododod. That was time travel music for all of you who didn't quite pick up on it. ANYWAY...

Not having class and desiring to attempt to enjoy the lovely weather my roommate and I wandered over to the beach to do some journaling. Glorious fun until it started to get windy and cold which convinced us it would be worth it to return to the warmth of our apartment. After a quick change we met up with our program to go see some Flamenco at a great live music club called Jazzsi. I discovered after two hours of Flamenco that while the dancing and guitar are great, I can do without the dying-cat sounds emitted from Flamenco singers. Seriously, I don't understand how it's considered a talent to wail in that manner. The guitarist was great though...

Afterwards Heather and I stopped for some falafel at the best place in town: Maoz Falafel. It's all vegetarian and has some of the best salatim (salad toppings) at its open salad bar. I always leave fully contented. Not to mention it was Heather's first ever falafel.

We slept in the next morning, got on our bathing suits, and walked to the beautiful playa (beach) to soak up some sun. It was way nicer out and after about four hours we realized how dumb it was not to wear sunscreen just because it's March. Totally burned our faces and chests and one side of our legs. Also I have a slight sunglasses tan. Really cool I know. So we went home, showered, read for a while, and eventually headed over to a friend's apartment to go out. Did I mention it was Heather's birthday? Well it was. And we drank some great Cava, chatted for a while, and decided to go out and celebrate together. Celebrating in Barcelona, you must understand, cannot commence until about 2 AM since that's when clubs OPEN. I know, crazy. So by 4:40 we were ready to head home, a short 7 or 8 blocks from the club. We started the walk, one we've done many times before, and were laughing about one thing or another. Suddenly three HUGE guys run up behind my roommate, grab her, and drag her down the street. Of course I was screaming and stupidly wacking them with my purse. They ran off with Heather's purse and immediately several other natives ran up to help us and walk us home. Of course we were terrified, but we've learned a valuable lesson: getting robbed sucks. It's really not fun or exciting or even worth the story. So if you're planning on getting mugged/robbed or beaten up I highly discourage it.

We've spent the last few days trying to fix things, but there have certainly been some surprises and most of them haven't been nice. This includes a bit of blaming the victim on our host mom's part, but we're working on that. Also working on not burning to a crisp, but the beach is just so attractive after classes....

But on the bright side, we're both safe and uninjured. I know someone else who was mugged twice in one week, so really, it could always be worse. But for the most part I really do feel safe in this city and think it's a great and beautiful place.

This weekend we're off to País Vasco in the North of Spain and then in two weeks I'm taking a nice long spring break in London Town so get ready for some fun posts!
And as always I send you

besos y abrazos

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rome: Where Stereotypes Turn out to Have Some Validity...

Well, honestly, I should be sitting here studying for classes. Apparently our teachers have decided that we should do some work because suddenly I have assignments and midterms which is really not ideal. Who do they think they are giving me work? Seriously, someone should talk to them. But of course, instead of being productive I am finding many other things to occupy my time with before actually beginning to study. Obviously this became an important priority. Lucky for you!

Now let me begin by saying I didn't really have any expectations of Rome itself. Yes, it's an old city. I figured there would be some ruins. Maybe some cool buildings and art. Nothing could have prepared me for what I found. Which was, pretty much, one of the best weekends ever. Can I explain it? Probably. Would it fit in a blog post that anyone with a slight amount of sanity and value for their time would want to read? Most certainly not. Ah well, I guess you'll have to get the abbreviated version.

Heather and I arrived on a very rainy Thursday morning after fighting through a flock of pigeons, missing our bus, and nearly having ulcers over the closeness of our arrival to the airport and our supposed take-off time. Our flight was, needless to say, delayed. Highlights of our trip included the National Roman Museum (lots of sculptures, stuff written in cuneiform, ancient Egyptian artifacts, etc.), the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, Palatine Hill (including the Titus Arch), the Vatican, and every other important building in Rome. We managed to walk pretty much the entire city in our four day trip. Our feet may hate us, we may be poor, and we may have consumed several thousand more calories than necessary in glorious pasta/pizza/gelatto, but boy did we have a good time.

Our first night there we went to see 12 Angry Men at an Italian theatre, which just so happens to be one of my favorite plays of all time. Now perhaps seeing a 3 hour play that starts at 9 PM after getting approximately 3 hours of sleep over the past 24 hours isn't a great idea. But despite my accidental (and really only momentary!) falling asleep, I adored the show. Granted, it was in Italian so I didn't entirely know what was going on, but I've seen the play enough times to have it nearly memorized so it really wasn't a big problem. The special effects were kind of ridiculous any if you're into theatre ask me more about it because I've never seen a play like this or even heard of something like this being attempted. It was awesome but crazy.

So that was fun. Also, we managed to eat Ice Cream (and I capitalize it to underline it's amazingness) every single day. Also pizza and pasta at least once a day. Did I mention that the food in Rome is AMAZING? Because it is. AMAZING. Just in case you didn't get that from the first several capitalized pointers. AMAZING. Okay, I think I've made my point.

Saturday night we wandered over to the Spanish steps where we met several nice Italian boys. I attempted to impress them with my large Italian vocabulary. Apparently, however, I know less than I thought.
"Yeah, I know a few words. Bonjurno, bruschetta, pizza, pasta"
"What was THAT?"
"No, the next one."
"What's that? It's not Italian." (confused whispering in Italian between the two boys)
"Sure it is, it's in all of the menus" pause. pause.... pause.... REALLY LONG awkward pause.....
"Oh!!! Brus-ket-ta. Hahahahahahaha. Brus-KET-TA." More laughter. Apparently I've been saying it wrong.
So much for impressing the natives. Well, at least now I know how to pronounce it, lovely American accent and all. And don't worry, Heather and I managed to leave without incident or injury (i.e I don't want any worried calls about my safety around Italian men).

Two more important points to cover.
1. Going to Rome while reading "Angels and Demons" and then attempting to go to all the places mentioned in the book? Brilliant travel plan. I didn't get to ALL of them, but I managed to drag Heather to at least half of the locations including the coffee shop Tazza de Oro located next to the Pantheon. Which really is as good as Dan Brown claims it to be in the novel

2. Italian men (not to generalize or anything) really ARE like the ones in the movies. Or at least all of the ones we met. Seriously. In Piazza Navone we saw a group of waiters who looked so much like the images you see in films I actually thought they were wax figures until one of them winked at me. Where do these men come from? I have no idea. But they are HILARIOUS.

Okay, I can't possibly write any more about the gloriousness of Rome without making you jealous enough to fly out yourself (which you should do, as long as you bring me with). I will add, however, that you get what you pay for when it comes to Hostels. And we didn't pay a lot, so there is a chance we may not have showered while in Rome.....

Anyhow, hope you enjoyed this little edition of who wants to be Renana Fox.
Coming soon to a web page near you: When Purim, Renana, and Barcelona Collide.
Hasta Pronto!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Shortie (No, this is not in reference to my height)

I have much to write about and I promise I will write far more than any of you care to read. But not right now. Because in less than 4 hours I will be leaving my apartment map in hand to go to Rome. So as you can imagine I am busy procrastinating the whole packing thing but will have to cave in eventually.

Still, I needed to write because of an amusing story that just can't wait. Today I went to a Teaching English as a Second Language workshop which was taught by a Brazilian-German named Matan. My friend Linda came with me and when Matan said his name we just turned to each other and laughed.

Then he told us he wanted to start the workshop with a story. Go figure he would choose an old Jewish story (possibly from the Talmud but don't quote me on that). The story, which I've heard several times before, is about an old man who has the same dream (about a buried bag of gold under a bridge in a city far away) every night for weeks. Finally he decides to go to the city to see if the bridge exists. In fact it does, but there is a guard standing watch over the bridge. So the old man tells the guard about his dream and asks if he can dig for the gold. The guard laughs and says he himself has been having a dream about buried gold under a man's kitchen tiles in a small town far away (incidentally the man in his dream looks like this old man) but the guard isn't crazy enough to go in search of that man's house. The old man realizes this dream is about him, he returns home, digs for gold in his own kitchen, and finds it buried there. Moral of the story: sometimes you have to go on a long journey to find the treasure that you have always had with you.

So Linda and I were quite amused at the randomness of this encounter, but I actually found the teacher and his story to be surprisingly deep and insightful. I think his story holds true for my trip to Barcelona because in a lot of ways I'm traveling abroad to find out more about who I am. But I also have to admit that his story telling and clear Jewish cultural heritage made me think of my mother, a woman who dedicated much of her life to telling Jewish folktales.

Rome was the last place she and my father went before she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer (two words that I can't help but capitalize). The pictures of my parents together in Italy are the last images I have of my mother as she was, as I want to remember her. In some ways I think I want to go to Rome to find her. And I know she is no more in Rome than in Barcelona, New York or Chicago, but following in her footsteps somehow makes me feel closer to her.

If I believed in Divine messages perhaps I would say this was God's way of telling me that my traveling is only helping me to find the pieces and memories of my mother I have always had. Well, I'm not sure if I believe that, but it's a nice thought to carry me off on what will surely be a wonderful trip regardless.

I promise to post pictures on my return and talk about my dad's visit in Barcelona, but until then, Ciao!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In which she FINALLY bakes, celebrates Carnival, and learns about politics

Let me begin by saying I really wanted to dedicate this post to my sister Tamar. In what has become a facebook craze for posting 25 Things About Me, my sister mentioned an obsession with public transportation. I really have not devoted nearly enough of my blog to praising Barcelona's amazing transportation system. And so, I had intended to spend this post detailing both how it works and why I am in love with it. But then I had an amazing week which I really couldn't gloss over. So you've been spared for a little while at least...

Last week I finally got my hands dirty in a kitchen after over a month of being baked-goods-free. Then I did it again the next night. Words can't explain how wonderful it was. Linda and I bought the necessary ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and then headed over to our friend's apartment to make use of his kitchen. As he lives with five other boys they were fairly amazed by the prospect of cookies made from scratch and promptly ate half the dough and most of the cookies. Though they didn't actually have any measuring utensils we did a lot of eyeballing-it and ended up with a massive quantity of delicious cookies. Also pretty big stomach aches from eating so much raw dough. The following night Linda and I headed over to the chabad rebetzin's house to help her bake for Shabbat and I got to make MORE cookies (I know, God is finally looking out for me, right?). We also made challah. Ironically, Genya uses almost the same recipe as I do at home except without the spices. I think there's some kind of magic rebetzin's use when making challah because it always tastes a little like heaven for no apparent reason.

Of course we were invited for dinner on Friday night where we met the usual crowd of visiting Jews who spoke a variety of languages and came from every imaginable country. At dinner I made the mistake of asking a Canadian who had recently made aaliyah (meaning moved to Israel) about the Israeli elections. Though it certainly lead to an interesting conversation, it did get a bit too heated for my taste. We also had some Venezuelans at the table who talked about the Chavez 'elections' and that was followed by a discussion of the political scandals here in Spain. Needless to say I am now very well informed about world politics. Or at least I am informed. I guess how well is subjective.

On Saturday Linda's Spanish roommate invited us to come to her small town (3,000 people total!) for celebrate Carnival. Carnival is the Spanish equivalent of Mardi Gras and it lasts approximately a week with parades and festivals all over the country. Ana lives in a town that is straight out of a fairy tale. About an hour outside of Barcelona, and then another 15 minute drive from the train station, her village is situated in the middle of the mountains with views that take your breath away. Her father owns and works a cow farm, so obviously I was in heaven. When your parents tell you they took the dog to go live on a farm with lots of open air where he can chase rabbits and roam free, they're referring to Ana's village.

After dropping our stuff at the farm, we went to the community center and painted little kids' faces for a few hours. I learned my new favorite word: Purpurina. It means glitter, and we used A LOT of it. I think Mitch Hedberg was right in referring to it as the Herpes of craft supplies. I think i still have some in my hair. The school organizes the costumes and each family is given specific instructions, because all of the costumes are homemade. Seriously. Who are these people? All the age groups have different costumes and they march together with their floats singing and dancing through the town's winding streets. The whole procession takes about two hours and is followed by an award ceremony at the town hockey rink. They're very proud of their hockey. Linda and I marched with Ana's friends dressing up as harlequinns and I have never had so much fun in my life.

There was such a warm comforting atmosphere, everyone knowing (and often being related to) everyone else. After dinner at a local restaurant we went to the town's one and only bar and danced until about 3 in the morning. As no one in the town knows English (Catalán is technically their first language) we spoke entirely in Spanish. All of Ana's friends kept complimenting us on our Spanish and were some of the nicest friendliest people I've ever had the luck to meet.

Around 3 we went to Ana's boyfriend's apartment which is equipped with a jacuzzi. Seriously. Heaven. When we woke up on Sunday morning (okay, afternoon) we went to the market to find some vegetarian food to take back to Ana's house where her mom whipped up a delicious lunch. We met part of Ana's extended family, talked politics (what else) and had lots of great coffee.

While I'm sure we were the only Jews around for miles, we discussed how the community was really a clear embodiment of hachnasat orchim (welcoming of guests in Jewish tradition). Friendly, welcoming, kind, giving, and open, I could not have dreamed up better company. Eventually we got a train back to Barcelona, stopping at a chabad event where there was even more homemade baked goods. Like I said. Heaven.

This coming weekend I'm heading off to Seville and on Monday my dad is coming to visit so it might be a while before I post again. But if you've managed to read all this you probably need the break anyway. And I'm sure I'll have lots to talk about when I post again.
Besos, abrazos, y vacas,

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hola from Lisboa

Let me just start by saying that Europe is expensive. Very very expensive. Which can be frustrating when you're trying to do pretty much anything on a budget. That being said, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to call it my home for a few short months and travel around.

Since your lovely authoress last wrote I have been to yet another beautiful country: Portugal. I had been told that Lisbon was beautiful but I'm really kind of a lazy traveler so I didn't take too much time to research before I went and consequently was utterly surprised at how much it had to offer.

I think I can best describe Lisbon as a combination of Rome, San Francisco, and Barcelona mushed together and shrunken down in size a bit. Though I was only there for three days I managed to try every possible form of transportation: trolly, tram, bus, metro, and ferry. They were all pretty easy to figure out, though I think my favorite was the trolly. I tried to get my friends to sing the Trolly Song from "Meet me in St. Louis" but apparently not everyone in the world has seen that great movie. If you're one of them please fix it. Immediately. Seriously, stop reading this blog this very second and go watch. Ok. See? Wasn't it worth it?

So to continue...we stayed at an adorable hostel called the Lisbon Poet's Hostel which was a great location, cheap, friendly, and offered (for the most part) great advice. Though I don't know too much about Lisbon's history, I did find out that it had been founded at least 1000 years before 52 BC which is ridiculous and incredibly cool.

On our first day we checked out the Cathedral (this seems to be a theme of traveling in Europe, but they're always quite beautiful and impressive), followed by Belém Tower and the Christopher Columbus Monument. I had completely forgotten (or perhaps just never knew to begin with) that Columbus set sail from Portugal. The monument was pretty shnazzy and we spent a good hour just taking pictures there.

The next day we headed over to the "Thieves Market" (aka flea market) which was possibly the biggest garage sale I have ever seen in my life. It went on for blocks and blocks. It takes place every Tuesday and Saturday and hundreds of vendors come out with every imaginable product from old scuba diving suits to porn to saaris to phone chargers. I had a great time just browsing and Linda's friend John found a toy that chirps like a bird when you blow into it. Unfortunately, he lost it when we went to the castle right afterwards. Really quite upsetting for all of us.

The castle is pretty close to the flea market and it is both huge and incredibly intricate in its design. We had unbelievable views of the entire city and treated the castle grounds as an adult size playground. Serious fun to be had there.

Saturday night was the downfall of the trip: Fado. Apparently Fado is a must see in Portugal and our Hostel recommended what I certainly hope is the WORST representation of this music. It was bad to the point of amusement, and way overpriced, but we learned a valuable lesson from that experience. I'm not sure what lesson we learned, but I'm sure there's one buried somewhere in there.

Sunday we headed out to the Christo Rey statue which is a replica of the one in Brazil but it was a bit too foggy to be worth the 4 euro ride to the top so we just let Jesus shelter us from the rain. Classic. Then we headed back across the bay (on the ferry) to a great (free!) art museum, some quick lunch followed by ice cream and return to the airport. They may not get the idea of vegetarian food in Lisbon (uniformly awful) but they certainly know their ice cream.

I just have to mention the tiles in Lisbon. Linda did more research than the rest of us on the trip so she new to expect this artwork but I did not. Almost all the buildings are covered in these hand painted tiles. Mostly they're white with blue paint but you can really find them in all colors and designs and they're stunning. Just one more reason you should go to Lisbon.

So to review:
Fado= really really bad and expensive
Trolly= super fun
Views of Atlantic= fantastic and beautiful
Tiles= impressive and surprising
me= broke and tired

Sorry this got so long, words really can't describe how great my last two trips have been. But I want to make this more interactive, so if you have any suggestions about places I should go while on my next trips (Seville and Rome) then please do send them my way. If I take up your offer you could be the lucky winner of my love and devotion. What better prize is there really?

Besos y abrazos

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lyon, Je t'aime

In which our heroine travels to another foreign land and meets a Jew

Yes, it's true, I have left and returned to this lovely city of Barcelona quite successfully. If you dislike coincidences, good food, and great museums I suggest you just skip this entry. Actually, I suggest you get yourself checked out, because who doesn't like those things?

On Friday morning I boarded a plane to Lyon, France with Linda Levin and her roommate Catherine. Did you know:
Lyon is the second largest city in France?
It boarders the French Alps?
It has a fairly sizable Jewish population?
It has a miniature Eiffle Tower and a HUGE ferris wheel right in the center of the city?
You can buy condoms on the street in vending machines?

I did not know these things. I also did not know that when people talk about French loving their bread and cheese, they're not kidding. Seriously guys, best cheese and bread I have EVER tasted. I wanted to leave my tongue in France to soak up some rays and savour good food for the next dozen or so years, but that didn't work out. Ah well, I guess I'll just have to go back.

Now onto the most ridiculous coincidence of my life. Seriously, hold yourself together for this one. When we had been in France for maybe 3 hours, and on the street for less than 45 minutes, we saw a guy walking in front of us wearing a backpack with a Canadian flag on it. He had stopped some French couple to ask them to take his picture. They complied, handed him back his camera, and went on. He looked at his camera, sighed, and stopped us to ask, in French, if we could take the picture for him. I looked at him, smiled, and said, "English?"

We all laughed, he talked about Toronto for a minute, which is when Linda asked if he knew her friend Ilana. Now let me remind you it's crazy we ran into an English speaking Canadian to begin with, but when he DID IN FACT KNOW ILANA I nearly passed out. Guess what? Mark is Jewish. And apparently there are a total of 100 of us in the world and we all know each other. He also knew one of my friends from EIE (the study abroad program I did in High School). He is studying in Lyon and spent the rest of the day giving us a tour of the city.

We went to the Roman ruins, the Viex Lyon (a great view of the city), checked out the Cathedral, wandered around the old city (I guess Jerusalem isn't the only 'old city' out there), tried some great chocolate croissants, rode the ferris wheel, and ate at a tiny restaurant for dinner. Possibly the best food I've ever eaten. Plus, Mark acted as a translator for us the whole day which made navigating about a million times easier. Also made getting vegetarian food much easier. It'll take me a while to get over the fact that we just ran into the one person in the city who might have connections to us. AMAZING!!

Saturday we slept in, then went to two great museums. The Resistance and Deportation Museum which was all about the resistance groups in Lyon during WWII and was both educational and depressing. We followed that with a trip to the Museum of Textiles and Cloth. Everything we saw in their boggled the mind with its detailed beauty. No wonder they didn't invent the TV for so long, who needs TV when you can just look at your wall and be entertained for weeks at a time?

We also came across a street protest/strike. I don't know what it was about, but apparently strikes are a regular part of the culture in France. They just don't feel the week has been complete without one or two strikes. I'm glad we got to witness at least one. I feel I was officially inducted into French culture through my strike experience.

Today we headed home where I have yet to start on my homework...story of my life I guess.
Well if you want postcards from the next stop (Lisbon) just let me know and I'll do my best. For now though, hugs to all from my lovely city of Barcelona.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Monastery and Me (and Linda)

I come from Chicago, often referred to as the Windy City. One would then expect that I would be used to wind and scoff at the so called 'viento' seen here in Spain. One might think that, but one would be wrong. This weekend four Barcelonians died due to wind related incidents (i.e. roofs caving in, trees falling on them, and pieces of wall falling on them). My host mother was terrified I would get hit by a tree and die while outside, luckily I seem to have survived. A bunch of trees in the area were completely uprooted, however, which is kind of ridiculous. The wind seemed strong but seriously, it didn't seem like the tree-knocking type.

On Sunday I decided I needed to get out of the city a bit so I convinced Linda to trek out to Montserrat with me. It's about an hour train ride from the city (round trip 15 euro) and it takes you to the foot of a beautiful rocky mountainside. We got a bit lost on the way out ending up in a random suburb of Barcelona but eventually found our way to the right place. Once there you get on a cable car and ride up the mountain to the monastery on top. Obviously this would not have been possible in the winds the day before but we lucked out and enjoyed the beautiful ride to the top. The monastery is the most ornate and decked out building I have ever seen. Every surface is covered in marble or gold and the painting, carvings, sculptors, and mosaics are breathtaking. Someone played on the organ at the front of the church leaving a haunted and melancholy feeling in the air as we drifted through the many rooms.

The monastery covers a massive amount of land and has paths that wind for what seems like miles around the mountaintop with white statues dotting the hillsides. We walked along one of the many paths for a bit and then decided it was cold enough to head back. We met up with a friend of mine for dinner and then all headed home.

Something I have neglected to mention is the Spanish obsession with cleanliness. Every night BCNeta drives around and literally hoses down every single street. In theory this sounds like a nice idea (if a bit wasteful of good water) but when you live anywhere near a window it makes going to sleep rather aggravating. I appreciate that they want to keep the streets pretty and clean, really I do. But must they do this at 2 AM? Might it be possible to wait until a slightly more reasonable hour? You know, closer to 7 AM? Or how about once a week? Work with me here. I really like to sleep. And they're often talkative, so you get the nice water sounds along with loud shouts of gossiping between the cleaners. So if you ever decide to move to Barcelona, be warned and bring earplugs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Happily Abroad but Proudly American

Getting used to the news abroad has taken some time, but I have certainly been missing the nearly constant updates on Obama's whereabouts that are so typical of American news. While he is certainly mentioned on Spanish television it is not nearly as often as I would like, and I rarely get to hear him speak since not everyone here would fully understand. I think, however, that it made the inauguration speech all the sweet not having heard his voice in weeks. I must sound like a crazed lover, but he really is the best orator I've ever heard.

I went to the hotel Le Meredian with about 300 other people to watch the inauguration coverage, eat tapas, and drink champagne (and no, I still haven't gotten over the fact that I can get alcohol legally here...). Of course, the moment after he was sworn in one of the many reporters taking pictures of the people in the room tripped on the sound chord and we missed the first 3 sentences of his speech. Panic and chaos ensued until a hotel worker could come and fix the soundboard. It was worth the wait though, and I've certainly never felt as American as I did sitting in a French hotel in Spain with an assortment of Americans and Spaniards watching the presidential inauguration. The Spaniards sitting behind me weren't quite sure what senators did though, and their discussion about it was rather amusing.

I went to an amazing concert with a few friends to celebrate that night and had my first experience with a loop machine. The singer had his guitar and this machine on-stage and would play a few chords or beatbox or sing into his special microphone and then the machine would start to play it back in a loop so that he could create a choir of himself in up to 18 parts with several instruments. It was one of the cooler things I've ever seen in the music industry (not that I've seen very much...) and I am fairly certain every woman and half the men in the club fell in love with him after his first song.

To keep this short I'll just list several of the fun and interesting things I've been up to:
1. Started classes in Spanish. Yes, it is HARD. Yes, all I need is a C to get credit. Maybe, do I think it's possible to get that C in Philosophy of Politics. Yes, I would love help.

2. Apparently Spaniards don't believe in kleenex or napkins. They most often come in a form similar to tissue paper and rarely are adequate help for my sneezes or messes. Because I don't know if you know this, but I am a messy eater.

3. The beach is a beautiful place to go running and a great way to see locals and tourists of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Also, apparently, a great way to see naked old ladies. During my run on Sunday I turned my head to look at the Mediterranean only to notice several topless 70-year-old women sunning on the beach. I guess that's what all the excitement over nudist beaches was about. I still don't get the appeal.

4. There is a Chocolate Museum around the corner from my apartment. It offers several chocolate baking classes. Enough said.

5. On Friday night I went to yet another Chabad Rabbi's house for dinner and had one of the best challahs I have ever tasted. His wife, Genya, is no more than 28 at the oldest and runs the Jewish daycare center out of their apartment. When I asked if she could give me her recipe she invited me and my friend Linda over to bake with her on Thursday night. There is nothing more exciting to me than baking challah in foreign countries. Obviously I will take her up on the offer.

There is far too much going on to write about everything, and I doubt I can maintain anyone's interest for as long as it would take if I tried. But that just means I'll have things to talk about when I get back. Next weekend I'll be going to Lyon, France with Linda and her roommate Beth and I'm certain to have good stories on my return. Until then, eat, drink, enjoy the new presidency, and be very, very merry.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


So instead of a long entry I'm just going to leave you with things I have learned as well as some funny anecdotes of the past week:

1. When trying to order a cappuccino at a restaurant, the waiter thought my friend had asked to order from the Chino, meaning Chinese. The Chinese waiter came to take our order instead, looking very confused as to why we would only order from him, and my friend will never live that one down...

2. When trying to leave the house this morning I couldn't find my key and spent half an hour looking for it, missing my class in the process. My host-mom and I spent a total of 2 hours looking before I found it in my shoe from last night. I had put it there to make it easier on myself to find it in the morning. I'm not quite sure what this says about me.

3. The park near my house has two exits/entrances that are right next to each other. This means you cannot cut through the park. I tried for a good hour to find an exit on the side near my school and finally asked someone who told me in a rather haughty way that there is, in fact, only one entranceway to the park. I did find safety school though (the system of mini-roads and signs that school children use to learn about traffic).

4. The term for hook up buddy in Spanish is Rollo. The term for friends with benefits in Amigo con derecho a race. I learned these in class. I may be tested on them.

5. Apparently, lettuce sauteéd in olive oil can be considered a meal.

6. Textbooks at the university are way cheaper than at American universities. So is the food.

7. Chocolate crossiants are not only covered in chocolate, they're full of it too. They are also delicious. Especially when eaten after spending two hours looking for the key to your apartment unsuccessfully.

8. The store around the corner from me sells pasta in the shape of boobs. It also sells birthday cards for children. Hmm...

9. I finally watched High School Musical. It cannot compare to Grease. John Travolta will always be hotter than Zach Effron.

I hope you found this slightly education and humorous and feel free to call, email, or write any time.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Very Upsetting Experience

This will be short because I just blogged recently, but I had a very upsetting experience today that I feel the need to post about. I got off the Metro on my way home from a tour of the Sagrada Familia (a Church designed by Gaudí) and saw a huge protest in the street near my apartment. It took me about 10 seconds to realize it was a Palestinian protest against Israel and the street was filled with hundreds, yes hundreds in the plural, of Palestinian supporters shouting, "Down with Israel, Israel is massacring the Palestinians, down with the murderers!" There were lots of signs equating Jews with Nazis (an inherent contradiction I feel, and something only an ignorant person would argue). There were signs damning Israel for having blood on her hands and sirens. What hurt me most was the deep hatred I felt oozing from the streets.

I began to cry, tears streaming down my face for my homeland, for as much as I can consider the U.S. to be a home, Israel will always be in my head and in my heart. I wanted to argue with this people, make them see our side. I wanted them to understand that we are under attack too, our schools and homes are being bombed and torn apart, our name is being slandered and our country criticized more than they can ever appreciate.

But I also wanted to cry for them. Each person who has died, no matter his relation to Hezbolah, had parents, and some had wives and children. Losing my mother has taught me so much about pain, and seeing the pain these people felt broke my heart a thousand times over. Sometimes I look at this world we live in, the pain and sadness and hatred and anger, and I wonder if all aren't just a little crazy for continuing on with our lives this way.

On the bright side, the news here in Barcelona seems fairly unbiased. Watching the coverage of the event I noticed they interviews Palestinians and Israelis with differing perspectives as well as presenting the different leaders' arguments. More than any news station in the states, the programs here seem to recognize the enormity and depth of the fighting.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

In Which our Heroine finds Jews, Food, a Program, and a Home (warning: this will be long, feel free to skim, laugh, complain, or completely ignore)

Hello to all of you faithful readers, friends and family. And by faithful I mean still interested after a whole week of my journey. Trek. Travels. What have you.

I last left you hanging on the edge of your seats in suspense as to whether or not I would indeed find my way to Chabad for Friday night services and dinner. Well, I am pleased to announce that I did indeed find my way without getting lost even once. It was really a miracle worth celebrating with prayer.

Though I had heard the Jewish life in Barcelona was fairly small, I was pleasantly surprised to find a fairly active Chabad. The Chabad is a tiny room in the basement of an apartment building located in a ridiculously hidden street that is nearly impossible to find. I walked by it several times at first (which doesn’t count as being lost, or at least I’m not counting it…) because it really doesn’t look like more than a doorway. The services started out small, but by the end of Kabbalat Shabbat the room was quite full and there were certainly no more seats in either the men or women’s section. The Chabad rabbi is fairly young and therefore only has five children right now, to whom he speaks only in Hebrew. His five-year-old daughter Chavi spent much of services talking very loudly to me in perfect Hebrew about her preschool’s bathrooms. I went to the rabbi’s house for dinner and met several visiting Israelis, a Brazilian, a Frenchmen, and two University of Colorado students who (of course) had several friends in common with me. On Saturday I returned to shul for more services (and lots more Jews, especially adorable Spanish children) as well as a hearty Kiddush followed by a poorly played game of chess with the Frenchmen. I did get an offer to go visit him in Paris though, so perhaps not so poorly played…

When I got back to the hotel I went to the lobby where I met my program leaders (six Barcelonian women studying tourism at universities in the area, all of them incredibly nice and all of them incredibly beautiful, a seeming trend here in Barcelona). I also met four of the five other students on my program. Minna arrived a few days late because of a plane misshap. Better late than never at least.

We spent the first few days touring the city by foot, learning the transportation system (which is amazing and makes me wish we had a whole lot more money to replace the el’s in Chicago…), going out for Spanish food, and tasting lots of great wine. On Monday morning we were shipped off to our respective homes to unpack and then met at the program office for more orientation programs.

Heather and I are staying with a little old lady named Ana fairly close to Las Ramblas in a cute, if very cold, apartment. Ana has lived here for approximately 40 years and has hosted study abroad students for a long time so she’s pretty accustomed to Americans. Ana is Catholic and there are pictures of Jesus on almost every wall in the house. It’s not that I mind as a Jew, but more that pictures of Jesus always freak me out a little just because he looks scary and in a lot of pain.

Spaniards have a special holiday called Día de los Reyes which means Day of the Kings and is their equivalent of Santa Clause. The three Kings who have something to do with the three wise men (perhaps are the three wisemen?) come to give gifts to all the good little boys and girls on January 6. This means all decorations are up until the 7th including the complete nativity scene in our dining room. Everyone in my group has been sticking together and we were planning to go to the parade on the 5th a night but never really got around to it. No worries though, Spaniards love festivals so there will be many more opportunities.

Okay, to anyone who is still reading, you deserve a nice anecdote for your patience. This morning I decided to go running by the beach (just a few minutes from the apartment, and really incredibly beautiful) but I needed to be able to get back in the apartment. Ana made us copies of the key to her place but they’re not of great quality so she wanted to see me open the door before I left. Heather got in the shower as I was about to go out and Ana took the key to show me how the door works. This was the basic conversation, translated into English of course:
Ana: Turn it like this (turns to the right, then the left)
Me: Okay, like this? (turn to the right, then left, door doesn’t open)
Ana: No, to the left
Me: Okay, like this? (turn to the left, door doesn’t open)
Ana: No, to the right (opens door with some difficulty by turning to the right, then left), and remember that she’s lived here for 40 years.)
Me: (more aggravated) Like this? (turn to the left, door doesn’t open)
Ana: No, like this (turns to the right, then left, door opens after several tries)
Me: (really aggravated) So like this (turn to the right, then left, door doesn’t open)

This went on for the entirety of Heather’s shower, she had time to dress and put on makeup before Ana gave up and gave me her original key to use, which opened the door with much less difficulty, though it’s still a pain in the butt. Basically I’m trapped inside or outside, but I can’t leave without Ana. If this was a test of my patience, I failed miserably.

So basically, I love Barcelona minus today’s hail and the obnoxious door to our apartment. Also minus the cold water for the shower, to which I have to ignite the flame for the water heater by had. Even with all these problems the city is amazing and I’m exciting (though terribly nervous) for classes to begin tomorrow. Still don’t know what classes I’m taking, but if it’s horrible I can always participate in the glory that is add/drop.

Also, I finally got a cell phone here so if you for some reason have money lying around and want to call Spain to talk to me feel free to email and ask for the number. Of I may just call you since it’s really not that expensive for me. Or I can stick to facebook stalking everyone I love. Really it’s all the same to me.

Much amor a todos y Feliz Dia de los Reyes!

Friday, January 2, 2009

A New Beginning

If you know me at all you know I love to get lost the moment I arrive in a new place. It's kind of a tradition at this point so I don't know why I thought it would be different this time. Accordingly, I got off the Aerobus in Barcelona and walked in the exact opposite direction of my hotel. To be fair, I had gotten on a plane about 12 hours earlier and hadn't slept in about 24 hours nor had I ever been to this city before. I wrote down google directions from the general area of the bus stop to the hotel and people helpfully pointed me towards Las Ramblas (the equivalent of Broadway in New York, at least that many people/tourists) where I wandered around for an hour before giving in and getting a taxi.

You can imagine my humor when he drove me right back to where I had gotten off the bus, went up the street about 35 yards, and pulled up in front of my hotel. But once I got inside everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful and I quickly returned to Las Ramblas to find food and people watch. Being the nice Jewish girl that I am, I of course ended up at the vegetarian chain Maoz which sells falafel. Pretty good falafel in fact. Then I returned to the hotel, watched some Spanish TV, and fell asleep at 6 PM local time. Got to love the jet lag.

I woke up today and went to the Corte Ingles (a local department store) to buy an adapter for my computer plug. Then I went back to Las Ramblas, because it really is a fun street to wander. I walked down to the waterfront and then turned around ambling down side streets that looked interesting. In addition to a beautiful courtyard with a large fountain, I came across the Sex Museum, the Sex Shop, and The Sex Cabaret. After the third one I stopped noticing. They seem to really like sex on that street...

I'm sure I will quickly acclimate to my surroundings, but for now I can't help but notice all the differences between European and American society. First of all, I finally understand why Europeans think everything in America is huge. It's because it's true. The stores here are tiny in comparison. I could probably fit 5 of the clothing stores here into one GAP store at home. There are jewelry stores about the size of a closet and food vendors not much larger. The streets here are also all very narrow and impossible for me to navigate. I really feel lucky to live in a country that caters to my inability to find my way out of a box. Perhaps living here will help my directional skills.

Eventually I stumbled across the covered outdoor market called La Boquería. There are hundreds of food vendors selling everything you could ever want to eat. It felt a lot like walking through the market in Jerusalem only with more treif. Lots and lots of treif. I have never seen so much meat in my life. There were whole pigs and rabbits and pieces of lamb hanging from the sides of vendor's stalls. Seriously, I saw Babe, and he was having a bad day.

In the back corner I found a nice organic vegetarian stand where I bought an amazing mushroom tortilla (omlette) for lunch. So to all of you who doubted my ability to be a vegetarian in Spain- take that! Granted, I've only been here two days, but still, two days and two vegetarian restaurants. Not bad if you ask me.

Okay, I'm going to go attempt to find the Chabad for Kabalat Shabbat services tonight. If you don't here back from me again that just means I got lost on the way there. A likely possibility.

I send much love to everyone and I hope you all have a happy, healthy, and sweet New Year (I had 3 of them on the plane, one for every time zone we flew through. I generally don't like this holiday, so having to go through it 3 times was rather annoying, but maybe that means I'm in for a tripley good one).
Hasta Luego!