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!