Tuesday, November 24, 2009

D and I have very different feelings about the holidays. I love them, and he does not. This has been something that we have both adjusted to as a couple. He kind of let's me make a bigger deal out of things than he might like, and I try to restrain myself a bit in order to make him feel more comfortable.

For me, the holidays are about tradition and family, and they are pretty soft traditions in a lot of ways. Generally they meant piling into the car and driving for several hours to eat a large meal with my extended family. Sometimes we would all sit around the table to enjoy the meal and other times we would grab a place on a sofa with a tv tray. The setting that I remember most is my aunt tinas old house that had a basement where the kids could hang out. I don't know if it was a holiday or not, but I have been told that one time my sister fell down those long dark steps to the basement in her baby walker, and she survived...

For me the holidays are not about gifts. They are about loud people that I only get to laugh with a few times a year, and trying to sneak some of my grandmas cookies before dinner time. It's been years since I lived on the same coast as my extended family. I know that since then I have really not spent many thanksgivings with them. I spent a few with my sister out here, which was nice, and one in Chile....or I think maybe on a plane to Chile and that was a pretty surreal experience.

Last year david and I cooked more food than it was possible to eat and had leftovers for days. I think I remember it being a quiet relaxing day which is kind of a new one for me, but also a good thing.... I guess maybe we are starting our own traditions now, which is weird to think of... I think that whenever I get the chance to spend the holidays with my extended family, I will cherish their novelty, and when I am with anna and mommers I will usually feel the most at home. It's comforting to establish a new familiarity with david... and also because he is not super into the holidays I don't think he will be quite so sad when I chose to spend the time with my mom and sister. So cheers to new traditions, definitions of home, and in about a month, a very Bulgarian Christmas...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

i like coffee and tea. i like harry potter and saves the day. - 22‏

Three years ago, I was home for a week after I dropped out of the credential program at Vanguard. I was waiting to go back to work full time and I was bored, so I thought I would look for some instant entertainment by posting a CL personal ad. Below is the response that I got from one gentleman caller. You have to understand that this is an extremely stark contrast to most of the responses I got, which just asked me to come hook up for the afternoon, but didn't ask in such un-crude terms. (I said it was for entertainment.)

I'm intrigued by your ad. I'm a single 25-year-old male who would like a meaningful relationship with a woman. I can't say that I'm familiar with any of the bands you name--I'm more metal than punk and indie rock--but I'm almost ashamed to admit that I do know quite a bit about Harry Potter. If you want to get some idea of who I am, you could take a look at my journal. Feel free to contact me by email or on AIM (Anima Umbrae), or to exchange pictures, if you want. In any event , I wish you luck with your search.

Anyway- I guess it was meant to be, because I responded to this email and three years later here I am. D and I have had wonderful and challenging times, but I have to say that overall it has been incredible, and I am so extremely happy to be with someone I love and respect as much as D. I have most of the emails from our first exchanges saved, so I might post a few (non-embarrassing) things in this coming week to celebrate the anniversary of three years of dating and loving one another.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It Makes Me Smile

These days I am taking less time to smile, and more time to 'manage' time and stress. I don't think my management of either or the two has been so great as of late, but what can I say?

This is essentially my last heavy quarter of coursework, and I am struggling through it. I think that the workload combined with the fact that I am having to coordinate with so many actual live people this quarter- and am really struggling with it- has made things so difficult. I really want to be an effective writer, researcher, etc. and do good work for the people I am working with, and yet it still seems really difficult to coordinate things sometimes, and I am so limited in my time, that it makes everything seem so much heavier.

One way I am trying to manage stress is to think about the fact that in less than two months I will be visiting my sister in Bulgaria. And all of this will be over. In the mean time, I look at pictures like this, and they make me happy. They make me wish that my job was to organize pumpkin carvings too, but at the same time, I know Anna's role there is a lot harder than that.

Anyway, here are some lovely fall pictures from Bulgaria- they will be getting an American taste of Halloween this year, with the candy corn and rite aid decorations that I sent them all the way from California. I wish I fit into a priority mail flat rate package sometimes. =)

These days, I

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In Which I was in Spain and Then Fell off the Face of Planet


I blogged pretty consistently at the beginning of Spain, but then I just couldn't do that and skype everyone I needed to, and sleep for at least 6 hours a night, so I kind of got out of the habit. So I figured I'd recount some of the things that I did with mom after I left Spain.

Our trip consisted of Dublin--> Edinburgh--> Northern Ireland (Belfast)-->Dublin-->Republic of Ireland (Galway, Derry Coast, Blarney Castle)--> Dublin

Some highlights included:

- So I knew that the bus your I booked looked like it had the potential to be a party bus, but the website made me think that it was a bit more diverse. However as soon as we got onto the bus of 20 year old Aussies and Kiwis (mainly) and the flamboyantly gay (and really hot driver) started talking about what drink specials we were going to get that night, I knew that I might have been wrong. My mom was the only one on the bus over 30 or so, and there were definitely no families on this trip. I was a bit worried at first, but my mom totally took things in stride. I am not sure if she took a sip of the first bottle of alcohol that was getting passed around on the bus, but somewhere on the ride of the first day one of the blokes started calling her Old Mother Hubbard. We drank with the crew that night, and had a really good time- so despite the fact that it was a party tour and not really mother daughter family atmosphere we had a wonderful time, made good friends, and saw things in Ireland that you have to see such as the Blarney Castle/Stone, The Cliffs of Moher,and a few Leprechauns
(Here is mom and the tour guide on the first night out)

-I enjoyed my first class of Guinness at the Guinness factory- I am not sure if it just tastes better with the Irish Water or when you are on the top of a 10 story building that has a panoramic view. I haven't tried to drink any since I got home, and when I do so it will only be from the tap. I'd have to say that Ireland made me a believer when it came to Guinness, even though I think that there is some debate regarding how much Guinness the Irish themselves drink. I was told that if you went into the most non-toursity of bars you would find locals drinking Bud Light, which in my opinion is a damn shame.

-I actually thought that the Blarney Stone was pretty scary. And because there is a long as line of people beside you that are waiting in this really narrow and even more scary dark windy staircase, you have to go really fast when you kiss it, and I don't think we really got any good pictures because it went so fast, and I hated it anyway because I had to take off my glasses and I couldn't see anything. I thought that I would just be kissing a rock, not one that I had to lay down and do a back bend on te top of a castle to kiss, and honestly, I am not even sure if I needed to kiss it, because if you know me then you might agree that I already have the gift of gab, right?

- There was a domestic dispute in one of the rooms neighboring us on our last night in Dublin. There was a lot of slamming and screaming, and we called the front desk to tell them about it, and they already knew which room it was in, and I don't know if that was a good or a bad thing. I don't think we would have called the hotel a loss had we not been stuck in the elevator for 10 minutes the night before, only to ask the lady at the front desk if this happened frequently, and having her reply yes it does, don't ever take it. Nice one.

Anyway, those are just a few of the highlights of the trip with mom and I. I have so many more good stories and memories, and have been working hard to get all of my pictures from the trip centrally located here.

I hope to write more about it at some point.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm Home from Europe, and Also Mexico- and My Life is Complicated, but Okay

I have so much to say about the end of my trip. Mainly about how I made really good friends with two great girls, and we drank two liters of gin and tonic and then two liters of rum and coke in one night, and I feel like right about now I might be missing them. Also about how my mom had a wonderful time in Ireland and Scotland. I think I might have enjoyed Scotland the most, and wasn't the biggest fan of Dublin, and found out the O'Neill clan was Ulster (N. Ireland- Union Jack) and that kind of bummed me out, but I think I need to devote some time over telling some of those stories on my blog in the next few weeks before school starts. (Blegh- school, so not excited)

This last week has been particularly complicated in the area of my relationship with D, which has been very difficult. I actually fled to Mexico for several days to be with Jare who is my best friend and a wonderful one at that, who supported me and just listened to me and sat with me when I was having a really big emotional hardship.

I am back in the States now. D and I have resolved to try and work things out once more, but with major changes this time. Most of them seem really daunting, but also extremely necessary, and I can honestly say that I am excited to address issues that have been holding me back in life. I cannot say for certain that I know that things will work out for D and I, but I can say that I do know that any growth that I can experiece within or out of the relationship is going to help me learn to be an emotionally healthier adult, which is a pretty exciting thing in the wrong one.

I wish that things didn't sometimes have to hit rockbottom before they get better, but I feel like maybe this is one of those instances. I guess only time will tell.

All I know is that I feel like I need to put away things from three different trips at this point, and I am thinking of renting the other room in my house when my roommate moves out in a few months, rather than having to clean or organize this one. I am only kidding, but I kind of wish that I could move in the other room to get away from this jumble of collections from different places.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

This is a good one...

I made a friend yesterday in a neighborhood called Bon Pasture (I think that's how it is spelled) As I mentioned before there is a serious lack of cats in this city, so I was stoked. I picked her up and she let me hold her a bit, though she was a bit more of a rambuncuous young cat who wanted to play than a docile lap cat who wanted to be held. She bit me a little and pawed at me to get down, although rather gentley, and I think now that I think about it I didn't feel any nails scratching me so either she was very gentle or didn't have claws.

When my group rounded the corner, I picked her up and started walking with her in an attempt to see if I could get her to follow me a bit. I think I forgot to mention before that the area that we were touring is a low income neighborhood where they are doing a lot of rennovation. As I was walking with the cat, a man from one of the houses came out to me, and told me that I couldn't take the cat, because it belonged to someone, and trying to communicate to him that I wasn't intending to take it I said "No me tocar, no me tocar" I said this several times and then said Lo Siento. He didn't seem angry, but he also didn't seem completely with it either, so he didn't really respond to what I said.

When I caught up with the group I told them that I had gotten in trouble for cat-knapping, and they asked me the story and I told them what I said to the man. Two if the girls who speak Spanish said that tocar does not mean take, it means touch and that I had actually been telling the man not to touch me over and over again. If you couldn't already guess, everyone had a really big laugh over this- including myself. I try really hard with the language, but sometimes funny mistakes like this can make my day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

El Carmel and Tres Turones- Why Planning Seems so Different in Barcelona

A lot of the things we have done in my classes so far has been going to see presentations that are done by municipal organizations who are in charge of the revitalization of certain areas in the city. They have told us about their plans for changing neighborhoods and improving them to make housing conditions, services, and transporation better for certain areas. One of the groups told us about 20 times that they were trying to design their city so that there would be diversity between the young people, older people, families, and the disabled. They feel that this integration is very important and makes for a healthy community. I think in a lot of these neighborhoods it's required that about 30% of the housing be public housing, which has controlled prices and ia subsidized heavily by the government. It's not a very rare thing to have really low income people living next to those who are middle class, and many private developers who own buildings are required to have public housing and controlled prices in their buildings to a certain extent by the government who pays them to do so. It's incredible to me and to others that no one protests this social housing, because in California when people try to put up affordable housing units people tend to be very upset and show up at city council meetings expressing the fact that having affordable housing in their backyards will bring crime and cause property values to drop. It's kind of amazing here that people from different income levels are able to live together in the same building without their being protest for the tenants that are not receiving help via social housing programs that have been established and funded by the government- it's a total contrast.

The pictures here are taken in an area of the city called El Carmel. It has a very difficult topography, and because it is on the outskirts of the city many people immigrated to that area and erected houses with their own two hands in order to have a place to live. (The pirate flag picture is from an area where many building were erected by the people who inhabit them, rather than by professional developers.) Because they were constucted in this manner the city doubts the safety of them. Also many of them are very very small and have poor ventilation and there are doubts about the health of living in such places. The city has a major renovation plan that will put in a new main street and has also put in several elevators and escaltors to help people reach their homes that used to require them to climb steep hills. As a result of this construction projects and also as a result of tearing down a lot of the unsafe housing people are displaced. However the city never displaces people and leaves them without a place to go. It is the law that they must be guaranteed housing in the same area, and if they chose not to be relocated they are given a lump sum of money. The brick building in the city is an example of new construction at the top of three newly installed escalators that climb the hills for you, where many people were relocated when their houses were removed in order to make such improvments to the neighborhood.

I think that the unique thing about this renovation in El Carmel is the fact that the improvements are being made to this area in order to improve the lives of the people who live there. I think that the kind of development I am used to seeing in S. Cal cities has to do with making improvements to the city in order to bring in more business and to push things along economically or even for better transporation purposes. So if they have to build public transport or a freeway through a very poor part of a city they give people money and they expect them to find a place to move to, as where here the improvements that they are making are not to bring in revenue for the city, but in this neighborhood especially they are made to help the people already living there, and if the city does have to claim eminent domain over your house or property they don't just hand people money and expect them to figure out where to go, they actually faciliate new housing facilities for the displaced.

The only thing that is suspect is that fact that so far we have talked to far more municipal workers than residents, so its hard to tell what the attitudes of the people living in these neighborhoods really is. Are they happy with the renovations? Do they feel that it is ultimately helping them or that the government is interfering to much by chasing them out of their houses into new places? Do they feel like they are being bought out or are they satisfied with the compensation and services that the city provides? When talking to those from the municipality I get these feeling that the city governments here really are doing great things for their residents, but I am excited to get out into the field next week and hear a different perspective on things. At this point, all I know is that the city's approach to working with neighborhood residents here seems to be very different from what I have seen in Orange County. Municipalities work closely with neighborhood associations in ways that appear to really impact positive changes that containa great deal of input from the residents. It's difficult for me to accept this concept after working with residents in Anaheim who are practially begging the city to accept their input. It seems that there is great benefit to the many Socialist municipalities in Barcelona- at least from the perspective of the residents who seem to have much more say in what goes on than I have seen in my experiences in Anaheim.

I like to listen...even when I don't understand it all.

I have slept quite a bit since I went to Rome. I was really tired out by the trip and on Monday we had a very intense class in which we took a 4km walking tour/hiking tour in one of the neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city. It was a wonderful tour, but unexpected amount of activity for the group on the day after we all were kind of tired from weekend adventures.

I haven't been indulging in the siesta thing here. Most days I sleep for about 6 hours and I am good to go. Today I slept for three and woke up and was thinking about trying to traverse some of the more Bohemian parts of the city alone, but decided to go out with the group for dinner instead. It was really nice- I am pretty much loving this drink they have here called a clara or clarita, which is beer mixed with limodada, but when my food came it was not what I ordered, which was not a huge deal, except as I was eating my Caprese pizza (and what I wanted was a Caprese salad) someone asked me what that little swirly thing was in my Basil and it was none other than a snail. A first other joked and told me I was supposed to take it out of the shell to eat it, and then eventually we told the waiter who apologized to me a lot, and gave me a salad. It wasn't a huge deal. I got the impression that it was part in parcel with all the fresh basil on top of the salad.

I stuck around after dinner to hang out with Karl, who is one of the staff with the trip. He is truly amazing- knows the city very well and it a great organizer of the students, oh and PS he worked with he worked with CESAR CHAVEZ for eleven years, and just mentioned this casually in a convesation one day. I decided to hang out with Karl and his friend, whose name I am really bad a remembering. She is from and lives in Barcelona and although my Spanish is limited I have talked to her quite a bit, and I think I get a lot of what she is saying. I decided to stay with them and not make Karl translate everything, so I just listened to what I could understand and it was interesting... We wound up at this swanky cafe right next to our residence where we had a late night coffee and took from photos on the egg chair that is pictures above. Karl asked our friend how she had met her other friend Teresa that he knows and she said that she met her on the metro or the bus, (I am not sure which) and Karl commented that people in California rarely get to meet other people like that because most of them commute to their jobs in cars by themselves. I told them about how when I lived in DC no one ever talked on the metro, and Karl said that New York's metro system was much different that people talked a lot more and made eye contact with each other.

I am thinking that perhaps another summer I can come here a month of so and do an intense language school and if I keep in contact with these new friends we can go out and talk about other things. I think that it can get frustrating when you are in places and out with people and just can't understand what people are saying, but I think it's really fun to just sit and listen to people and try to pick up on what you can from words that are familiar, or sound the same as english words, or through body language. I enjoy times here the most when I try communicate with people in Spanish and they try really hard to communicate back. I don't always get 100 percent of the picture, but I think that trying and picking up a little bit at a time is important and for me it's what really counts.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Spanish Cat

Between both Rome and Barcelona for two weeks, I think I have seen a total of less than 5 cats wandering the streets, which for me it a bit sad. However, the other day I did pass a pet shop and I went inside. Now, D doesn't usually condone my wanting to go into the puppy mill pet stores, because we both kind of think that it's gross to be selling purebred dogs like that when you can adopt so many from the pound, but I let the cuteness overtake my ethical beliefs about cats. You know that those places kind of stink, right? Well imagine one that is probably more cramped than you have ever seen before, with lack of, or very little air conditioning, with cats, dogs, and birds... All of this in about 90 degree whether. It was hella gross, and most of the cats literally looked like they were dead because they were so hot and asleep. It was gross. I wanted to buy them all just to release them, but the one in the picture was about 507 Euro, so it was a no go...

Anyway, do you think Ireland and Scottland might have more cats?tr

When in Rome...

Seeing all the historical sites in Rome is amazing. I have a feeling if it wasn't 90 degrees outside and I had about a week here I would just sit in many of the piazzas and just stare. Honestly, the Palladium alone could take you a whole day to get through- but but I really think that would only be possible if it were not mid-July.

Yesterday I went to the Collosieum in the morning and later to the Vatican Musum, which I thought was the place I needed the sleeved shirt for. When I didn't see any signs I figured that they were being lax because of the heat, but it turns out I had the wrong place, and today when I went to St. Peter's Basilica, I did need to buy a shirt to get in. Oh well. It seems like a common occurrence, it would just be nice if they told you before you walked all the way in.

Last night I wandered around and had dinner at a tourist trap that sat in the same Piazza at the Pantheon. I figured that paying a bit more for a meal was worth is to have a front row seat to that sight. I forgot to throw a coin to the Trevi fountain, so I may have to do that tonight or tomorrow before I leave.

After exploring the Palantine and the Forum all morning I went the the Tiberna island in the middle of the river and had possibly the best gellatto yet. I have ben here for 24 hours and this is my forth gelati, which is truly neccessary. Then I wandered around in the Ghetto- or the Jewish quarter and eventually made me way to a cafe on the west side of the river where I sat and had the best Caprese salad of my life. It was the perfect meal, as a cat sidled up to me before I was served.

I got on a city bus and had no idea where it was going to I wound up riding for about an hour or so. It went all the way to the end of the line and stopped for 4 minutes, so I got out and took a few snapshots of Saint Paul's Basilica, until I got back on the bus to ride a bit more. I had considered paying a lot of money for one of those expensive tour buses, but riding the municipal bus can accomplish a lot of the same, minus the narraration and the guide telling you exactly where to get off and what to look for.

My limited Italian has been quite shameful, but thankfully everyone I have encountered speaks English well enough. I speak Spanish to people a lot, and they seem confused...

Tonight I headed off to a place that my tour book touts as being one the best places for Pizza around, so I will let you know how that goes....


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

La Sagrada Familia

I don't know if the guide books would consider this to be the crown jewel of the city, but I do. I have been here three times, and I have never braved the line to enter this catherdral, however the outside if almost spectacular enpugh to not see it from the inside. It is a work that was started by Barcelona's famous and unique artist and architect- Gaudi.

He worked on it for the last fifteen years of his life, but he was kind of interesting in terms of creating a large building like this because he didn't like to make plans on paper, her kind of just liked to "go with it" and plan as he went, which has made it and even more challenging project to complete.

You can read more about it on Wikipedia, however please note that it was started being built in 1882 and it not expected to be finished for almost 20 years from now, however some Barcelonians think that is will never be finished, and that for some reason is just always needs to be under construction because it has for so long. Some of the recent issues that have arisen with it have included the implementation of high speed rail in the area and questioning whether or not the structure will hold- some engineers have questioned whether or not the foundation is strong enough to support a structure such as this regardless of the introduction of high speed rail vibrations in the immediate vicinity. It would be a tragedy is this thing collapsed, so here's to hoping for rgood engineering in this case.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ink and Sand in Spain

I didn't have my tattoo very long before I came to Spain, and I am wondering whether or not people will stare at it in the States like they do here. I would say on a normal day here I see 40 people look at it, 10 stare at it, and about three tap their friend on the shoulder and point to it to tell them to look at it- every single day. I don't know if it's just a huge tat and something that warrants being looked at all the time, if its weird because I am a female with one here, or if this is going to happen for the rest of my life- Europe or no. I don't really have any strong feelings about it either way- I like it. I think it's a good piece of art and that people should look at it, I guess I have just been overwhelmed by the response...

Also, this picture was taken on the beach of Tossa Del Mar on the Cost that is north of hear and is on the coastline in the way up to France. The water is beautifully clear there, and very salty, so it's easy to float and wonderful to swm in. My only gripe is that there rocky sand HURTS--- it's like little sharp pebbles in your foot everytime you take a step- that combined with the heat of it made it almost unbearable the other day, but well worth it to swim in the clear cool Sea.

Las Ramblas- Tourist Trap

Las Ramblas is a main street that runs from the Sea (starts with a big monument to Christopher Columbus) and runs up to the Plaza to Cataluyna, with fountains. The road is filled with shops on either side that cater to tourists (at least there prices do) and the main road on the center is filled with street performers, and illegal vendors selling things that they rush to fold up and run away with when the policia walk buy. Men are frequenty selling beer straight from the six pack, and yesterday I saw a man walking around naked with the biggest male anatomy I had ever seen in my life- I am talking horse size my friends-- I feel like he was probably a regular as he had underwear outline tattooed on his butt, and seemed like he would have been perfectly willing to stop for a picture had anyone been brave enough to ask.

The picture with me and the dragon above is a good example of the street statues that stay completely still until you drop change in their hat, which is when you can go up to them and pose for a picture. There are also pet shops on the main street that sell rats, bunnies, hedgehogs, turtles, and one even had a chipmonk the other day, which I thought was weird. I think that the thing that bothers me the most about this is the fact that I feel like touristas probably buy them and then can't take them with them, but who knows....

The ramblas is known for being a bit theft-happy because when tourist gather sround performers in big groups that are close together, it is easy for pickpockets to sneak their way in and brush up against pockets without people noticing much.

I have mixed emotions about Las Ramblas, becaue this is my third time here, and I thought that I would be rather touristed out by it this time, but in all honesty as long as you keep an eye on your stuff, and don't want to do any cheap shopping it's a perfectly entertaining way to spend a few hours people watching in this city...


Most of my classes here in Barcelona don't take place in a classroom. We go one walking yours about every single day, and walk for miles in intense heat, and thus far I have only had a few shoe problems (which were solved with a shopping trip), and I have not had a hard time keeping up. I was definitely scared about the city bike tour that we were taking more than anything else on the whole trip... I think mainly because I rarely ride bikes, I lack balance, and I am pretty ungraceful and uncoordinated overall. I felt that this characteristics combined with the fact that I would be riding near traffic and in a group of 30 people could equal disaster... However, I resisted my urge to opt out and decided to attempt the bike ride, and I am really glad that I did. We rode mostly on the waterfront, and through a few neighborhoods and I was able to keep up reasonably well and not cause any accidents for my group, cars of pedestrians. I actually think that because of the experience I might look into getting a bike for a few other afternoons I have in the city, because overall it was a rather relaxing an invigorating experience, and I am glad that I didn't let my fear keep me from doing it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Update on nude swim...

No pictures for this one.

I am proud to say that after much struggle with trying to narrow down when I could actually do this, tonight I was one of two women who attended the nudist swim night in Barcelona's indoor pool that was used for the 1992 Olympics. I am kind of at a loss for understanding why this event it only attended by men, but all of the people working as the pool told me that this was normal, and one of the naked men in the hot tub with me told me that it was always similar when one went to a nudist beach...

I think the main thing that we learned from going was that it was not a particularly well attended event, and it was definitely not a tourist affair. However I did find it totally fun and freeing, and pretty wonderful to do it. I feel like I could personally be down with a nudist movement, and it's hard for me to understand how it is that we became so prudish in the United States. It's just the human body, right?

Anyway- one notable part of the time we were swimming was that several spectators walked by to see the Olympic pool, and I dont think many of them were expecting what they saw. Amy said that it was one the craziest things that she has ever done in here life... I might have to agree.... I wish that my swim in the Mediterranean had also been nude...well not really, but a little bit. = )

I am hoping to catch up on blogging this coming week. I have needed to put the computer down and get some rest at night, so I have slacked a bit.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Puedes nadir desnudo?

t(Picture taken at local daycamp in a municipal courtyard with an amazing looking pool that surrounds a water tower. The counselours eventually blocked me from taking any more pictures of the kids, because I think that they thought it was a bit creepy.)

I have been reflecting today on how many people here ask me if I speak English when I try to speak to them in my poor Spanish. I am trying to understand why and whether or not this has anything to do with the fact that Catalan is spoken here and English is their primary second language, but anyway here is a good story to go along with my use of espanol.

So just incase you don't know the Olympics were held in Barcelona in 1992, and because of that they have two official olympis pools that you can pay a fee to swim in. I was told that Tuesdays was the day for nude swimming, which my friend and I really wanted to participate in. However, we didn't want to go all the way there without bathing stuis just to find out it was the wrong day. So I decide to pick up the phone and call the pool with my limited english. I decided to try and use the room phone and when they answered I said something about la piscin, to ask whether or not I had called the pool, and I thought they said yes, so I proceeded to ask them what time the pool closed and then I asked if I could swim sin ropa or without clothing. They said in English a few times that they didn't understand, so I hung up and looks up the word for naked, beccause I thought then I would be able to ask more easily. I called a second time, and they said that they didn't know what I was talking about, and that it was the reception desk at the residence where I am staying, so in other words I basically called the residence desk twice and asked them if I could swim naked, despite the fact that they don't have a pool. As if this wasn't bad enough someone knocked on my door a few mintues later and asked me what the problem was- I explained that I had been trying to call a pool, and she explained that they didn't have a pool and that if I wanted to place outgoing calls I needed to come down stairs and pre-pay. Luckily this encounter with the reception worker was with my friend Amy rather than mysef, but Amy is only going to be here for a week, so it works out because now every time they see her they will think she is the one who kept calling the desk to ask them about nude swimming, when really it was me the whole time.

Eventually we used skype to call the real pool and I said "Puedes nadar desnudo?" and the lady told me en Sabado- not Martes, so it's a good thing that we didn't go today, because even though I'd be happy to swim their con ropa I'd also love to swim in an authentic Olympic pool nude, just to say I did it... I have several Saturdays ahead of me, and if I am not in Rome you might just know where I will be.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Barcelona, Urban Planning, Historic Preservation, Roman (Gothic) City

We have started learning about the history of Barcelona, and one thing we learned is that because of its location it was not a major Roman city to start out with, and to make a long history short, there was a centralled walled-in Roman city. Under Spanish rule (I believe) it became larger but was heavily fortified with Spanish military and walls around the city to limit development, because the Spanish government was worried that it might be a revolutionary threat because of the differences in the Castillian and Catalonian kingdoms.

When the city became more properous, it began to develop more, but it could not develop outside of the set borders (yet) so it developed very narrow streets and was built up high. It was very dense. Living conditions became very stratified and the lower classes lived next to the bourgeosise who decided to revamp their city's history by investing lots of money into restoring what is now considered to be the Gothic part of the city...

What we learned today is that a majority of the buildings, walls, etc in the Gothic part of the city were not in the same places they are today when Barcelona really was a Roman city. Things were rearrange, building surfaces and walls were moved brick by brick to create plazas and beautiful squares to recreate the Roman history of the city... The church that is pictured above is an intesting case because it was never finished during the period it was built in, so when Barcelona started to prosper and money came into the city Barcelonians with money researched the period quite a bit, and made the outside of this Cathedral a model example of the type of architecture and design that they wanted the building to look like...

This brings up interesting questions about what is authentic and what is not, but more importantly, why a city would chose to re-CREATE this historical part of the city, which was not entirely true to real history. The lecturer today talks about how this recreation of history is a way to create cultural community and identity. In doing to the Catalonians and Barcelonians can emphasize the history that they care to, and not emphasize what they would rather forget. I suggested that it was the commercial creation of history for tourism, however it was suggested to me that the Barcelonians really needed the re-creation of this historical identity for themselves as much as it is something nice for tourists to look at... I wonder what other kinds of historical preservation movements do the same thing. How much of the history that we see is authentic, and what was researched and restored to look more periodic in order to highlight the parts of history that we want to be prominent in our cities?

As things progress I hope to learn more about the Cataloian identity that has been created in this region of Spain. Also, Barcelona is apparently one of the best models of modernist planning that has ever existed, which I am supposed to learn about tomorrow.

Interesting stuff, and great times in Spain.

Gatas y Montjuic

This morning I went with a group to Montjuic, which is named for the secret Jewish community that lived their I think in medieval times- not sure about dates. We took a cable car up to the Castell de Montjuic, which is a place where many people were executed per Franco's orders. I remember taking the furnicular up to Montjuic with my sister, but then not wanting to walk anymore- the view was certainly beautiful and I saw the first two cats of the trip, which is always a good sign. Now I am going to shower (cold) to get ready for class tonight. The humidity hear is killer, I am glad I am from the east coast, so I at least understand what it is...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Black Rice- secret ingredient...

Many of the signs around here at cafes advertise that they have arroz negro, but I didn't know what that will until tonight. It came out after they had served all the other food, and I asked if it was a postre, because they serve it with a white creamy sauce that looks like creme fresh. However, it's not a desert, its kind of like paella with squid in it, and it is black because of the ink from the squid. With the white sauce, which is aioli it is really very tasty.

Today was the orientation for the program, and I learned that I am one of two grad students here, and it looks like a pretty young crowd that will do their fair share of partying, but it looks like the coursework is going to be really good.

I also went out earlier this morning to try and explore the city, but kind of forgot that it was Sunday and a lot of things were closed. After having been here two other times, I have to say that I am kind of over the main strip called Las Ramblas, because it really just seems like an oversized touri.st trap, but the human statues are really fun to watch...

My apartment is close to the city's central park, and there is a zoo there, which I will make my way to at some point. It looks like a great place to relax in the afternoons after class. I am glad that my eastcoast uprbrining prepared me for the humidty here, because the California seems like they are dying a little bit.

That's all I have to report for now. I put a few pics on facebook, but will leave you with a picture of my large and wonderful window, where I sat this morning and ate breakfast. Tomorrow more advetures to come...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Favorite foreign activity

I don't know why one of my favorite things to do when I am visiting a foreign country is to go grocery shopping. I think maybe it's because it seems like in Europe they just have such a wider selection of creamer yogurtsh creations which I find to be amazing...

Tonight I had Special K con frutas rojas (strawberries and raspberries) and Spanish bread with nutella on it for dinner. I promise that my abroad blogging won't just be about food, but there is something about a super mercardo in a foreign country that could have me browsing for many hours on end.

So, yeah- I am here, safe, unpacked, and fed, and I think that very soon I am going to lose this second wind, realize that I might have had 2 hours of sleep within the last 30 hours period and crash goodnight, but right now I am enjoying the Spanish breeze blowing into my new temporary apartment.

Days in L.A.

Yesterday D and I spent the day together in LA before I left for Europe. We went to see the Pompeii exhibit at LACMA and then dined at The Stinking Rose for dinner and stayed in a hotel close to the airport.

This morning at breakfast I spilled coffee on my hand, which caused me to start crying and having a bit of a melt down. I have been so excited about this trip, but as happy as I am to have such an adventure, I am also sad to leave my love behind.

Now I am in Heathrow Airport, and I am just exhausted from this being about my 8th hour in an airport today... I am ready to arrive at my residence in Spain, to shower, and to sleep.

More adventures to come...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Not much for the Blogging Lately...

School concluded about a month ago, and I think maybe I have gotten so facebook dependent so much that I feel like I keep up with people by tweeting rather than blogging, but I do like this forum as well. As many of you know I am headed off to Spain in about one week. I will be studying there for a month, and then I will be traveling with my mother in Ireland and Scottland for about two weeks. I am very excited and I plan on updating often with lots of pictures to show when I am on the trip.

My sister has been deported for her Peace Corp service for a month and a half now, crazy right? You can check out all of her latest happenings here http://bulgarianna.blogspot.com/. I had thought that I was going to be able to see her when I was in Europe this summer, but it doesn't look like it is going to happen as of now. She is going to be living in a rather remote village that will not be easily accessible via weekend tripping. It's sad, because I miss her, but I feel like I get to talk to her enough to keep in touch and to know what's going on. She seems to be doing really really well for herself, and I am so proud of her.

One of my best friends is getting married this weekend, on the 4th of July. A few people have commented that this is really weird, but I think it's amazing that I get to go to an awesome party thrown by someone else for this holiday. It will be wonderful and I am sure there will be amazing pictures.

I got a new tattoo. It's a Japanese crane- taken from the album The Crane Wife by the Decemberists. It's not complete yet, but when it is the bird will be standing in water and the water will say " Here All The Bombs, They Fade Away". People have asked me why this is so significant, and I guess the best way that I can explain it is that I love the Decemberists and there music makes me feel extremely connected to my sister, because she told me about them, we have listened to them together, and enjoyed a few of their concerts together and it has been magical. Also, this is my third tattoo, and it is a bird like the rest. The bird references have to do with my mother, because she is a birder through and through, so it all links back to her-- like most things in my life.

I don't have a ton more to say. I have really just been relaxing and getting ready for my trip and I am excited about it- even though I will miss D I think it is going to be good to get away and to experience the world a bit more...

Expect to hear from me more when I am In Europe. Have a wonderful summer everyone.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Year One Almost Done- Mission Accomplished

In September, when I started the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program, I felt like I was in a crisis mode almost immediately. It seemed that through some poor choice of my own I had entered into a field that prepared students to be municipal planners or work for private consulting firms, and while I am not opposed to either of the two, neither one was ever something I thought of as a goal. I came into the field of planning because I wanted to study the intersection of environmental and social justice issues, because I don't think green movements are sustainable unless they are actually available as solutions to even the poorest people in the world. As I started taking my classes and learning about planning as a field I though that perhaps this program would have been better suited for someone who wanted to be a transportation planner or a land use planner, and I certainly didn't fit into the category.
I started talking to past graduates of the program and asked them what they thought I should do in order to make the program work for me. They suggested that I get in contact with OCCORD (Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development) and talk to them about the community organizing efforts that they do around the Platinum Triangle in Anaheim. This turned out to be a perfect connection for me, and I started to broaden my own view of planning as something that could range from municipal planning to community based planning efforts that occur within organizations like OCCORD. Both my experience working with them and my exposure to new teachers with different views helped me to expand my understanding of planning. Also, as I began to look at community based efforts as very much linked to planning I talked about these things often among my colleagues, because I felt that by continutally reminding others that planning was bigger than the city, then perhaps I could influence others who were struggling like I was.
During the Spring Quarter (which is currently ending) some students got together and initiated a class called Critical Urbanism. The students were the teachers in this class, coming up with the readings and course material. We talked about issues of race, class, and gender in planning. We also focused heavily on community based and radical planning efforts that worked to change the system rather than to uphold it. The twenty people in the class had different opinions, but were all of the same mind that something in planning needs to change in order to address critical issues that we often either don't think of as planning, or that city planning departments don't address.
Yesterday the class hosted its final project- a colloquuim called Planning in Crisis: Critical Urbanism in Action. The event consisted of three panels, each of which contained different speakers that could address ciritcal planning issues from a different perspective. We had community based planners/organizers from OCCORD and Latino Health Access. We had students from UCI, UCLA, and UCI that were talking about the efforts being made on their campus to address critical planning issues. We also had a panel where students and practioners talked about the collaboration of planning academia in addressing real world problems, and how some of their projects in the past have gone.
The event was a hit! The Department Chair among other faculty was extremely impressed by the event commenting that the speakers were very much on topic and everything ran very well. I heard rumors that the Department Chair really wants to publicize the event on the department's website because it went so well. Students were excited to make connections with radical planners in the community and on different campuses. Conversations were had among students from all three campuses regarding how we could connect in the future in order to work towards critical planning efforts.
For me, the event was so important because it was truly a benchmark of how far I have come within this program in just one year. I started off as a frustrated student, considering whether or not I belonged here, and ended as a student who felt like I had really accomplished something on campus. I feel like the first and most important think that I accomplished was the alliance of many like-minded students in the program. I also feel like in some ways because of my insistence on looking at planning outside of the box, I have helped my colleagues to do so as well. Thirdly, I feel like this group of students who views critical planning as important just established themselves on campus and earned the respect of the department through the event yesterday. So yeah- I feel really excited about this accomplishment and how this first year started on a rocky note and ended on a great one. I am hoping that this process can be continued into my experience as a second year in the program.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My sister left, I cried.

I didn't cry for that long though or have a major breakdown, and I am rather proud of myself because of this. Also, whenever I get sad about her leaving I am just going to look at the professioal photo that I took of her and my cat. Because it's Hilarious!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Too Much

4 classes, while working and attempting to be an intern is too much shit going on at one time to stay sane.

I think that's maybe part of the reason that I have been such a poor communicator in my relationship lately. It's like this general sense of being overwhelmed spills over into my personal life and I have a hard time separating eveything into neat little piles. This is the pile where you are overwhelmed by school and this is the pile where you love your boyfriend and you want to have a happy weekend with him without making all of these little conflicts out of nothing. If you saw my room right now, you'd see all the piles are pretty jumbled, and such is my life at the moment. (This kicker this weekend was really bad PMS)

Anyway I have things to look forward to.
1. Concert with D this weekend
2. Two concerts with Jare in like two weeks
3. Going home to see my family
4. and Summer Semester in Europe.

So if the next 4 weeks if a blur because of school I guess I am just going to suck it up and roll with the punches and hope that I keep my piles a bit more organized on the weekends so I am not so bitchy and conflict causing.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I am shocked as D smiles.

Thanks for capturing this rare moment John.
Just letting you all in on a little secret- he smiles a lot when he is with me.
But don't tell him I told you that.
He'd like to keep it a secret.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reflections on a past life

Yesterday I worked at the Southern California Assemblies of God Conference, and it was a weird blast from the past. As I sat around and watched people all of the elements were familiar. People walked up to me and said "Praise the Lord". I watched the huge service on a big screen TV and the preacher spoke for over an hour and at the end had a long "alter call". People raised their hands to the loud worship music and bathed in the spirit.

The thing is that by the time I was at the end of wanting to be involved in Pentecostal Christianity I was kind of in the same place I was yesterday. A place where none of it played on my emotions as much it did in the beginning, but rather where all of these things were common place. I got to the point where the dramatic music and the demands of the preacher couldn't make me cry one more time, because I had already cried so many times. It was like I had to make this emotional separation between myself and what was going on, because otherwise I was constantly hysterically crying for some reason- spirit induced or not.

I don't mean to completely knock the church because I think there are some things in it that are important to people- the teaching to love your neighbor, the fellowship, etc. For me, the constant heightened emotion was the thing I struggled with the most. It's almost as if I felt like the preachers were performers and their goal was to make me cry, and with just the right rift of guitar and piano at the end, when they were asking people to come forward and ask for forgiveness they did it to me again time after time. It's hard for me to explain what I mean, except at some point I just felt so emotionally manipulated I shut down, and that made me doubt a lot of the realness of a lot of things that I had experienced- because everything was so dramatized that I didn't know which emotions I could consider to be legitimate. Another bone in the bag is that I am diagnosed clinical depression and sometimes felt like the church just always kept me on the downside of things because of all the emotional issues it created.

I don't know if this makes a lot of sense. I didn't sit at the conference yesterday and think that the people in attendance were ridiculous. I respect their beliefs a lot. I just can't take the emotional-ness of it because I am so emotional in the first place that I can't take another thing being thrown into the mix. Also I don't like feeling that manipulated all the time. I didn't like feeling guilty because I couldn't cry anymore.

I appreciate so much the freedom of being a Quaker. I feel like I am just at peace with myself and am not constantly having to make sure I am okay enough with all the preachers who are telling me that I am not. I appreciate the ability to be emotional when I need to, but at the same time having the peace of mind to really just sit an enjoy the silence without feeling guilty because I am not responding in the appropriate emotional manner.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Great Shots from Friday at the WAP

I like the lighting and contrast in this one.
Small medium and large. The tiny one is a month old.

I am as sweet as nectar.

So crisp and beautiful

Baby cheetah!

Sleepy teenage lion.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Relationships 101

I have been with D for like 2.5 years now, or something like that, but I feel like I am still learning to be someone who is compatible with someone else. I need to be someone who is sensitive enough, but not over sensitive, interested enough, but not too nagging, etc. I guess that's to say that it is something that requires a constant tweaking of balance. Especially because we are not in the living together stage, we are still in this part where we are not completely involved in everything else the other one does yet, but still are interested- at least I think he is interested in my stuff to. ;)

Last night when I was taking a break from school work I was thinking about how one thing I need to work on it the ability to not feel responsible for someone else's feelings. I have always been the friend who feels like if you are sad then nothing more than my friendship should be enough to serve as a reminded that things will be okay, but this doesn't always work. Sometimes people have hard times and struggle with happiness and even if you are a part of that person's like you are not going to the instant thing that makes everything better. My problem is that I think I should be an instant fix. And then I tend to get a little bit angry at the other person when I am not their instant fix- not angry as much as frustrated, but I feel like I sit in front of D sometimes waving my hands and saying "UMMM BUT I'M Great!!!" and then get mad when he is not instantly happy again. I think that I realize that this is pretty silly and a little self centered. While I want him to think of me and our relationship as a positive thing to reflect on, I can't expect to be the cure all of everything, and when I do I am just going to let myself down.

And hell, I know plenty of women who are married, and have unhappy husbands and they are fine with it- in fact it doesn't seem to get them down at all. Okay, that's a joke. When you care about someone it is hard to not be attached to all of their emotions, but I am still seeking a healthy balance in this area. Maybe I am getting closer.

Monday, April 6, 2009

For anyone who likes Oregon Trail

You might want to check this out .

Also, this is a note to say that I had a wonderful time spending almost a whole month with my sister here visiting. I tried not to really lose my shit when she left because I am not really sure when they next time I am going to see her is going to be, but I am hoping that somewhere is my five weeks adventure to Europe I will make my way to Bulgaria to see her new home.

I admire her courage in embarking in a two year commitment to the peace corp. I also have a really hard time conceptualizing her as a 22 year on woman and not my little sister who I need to take care or and make sure is okay. That is not any fault of her own, just to say that I have a lot of that big sister protective side to me, and I don't think that it's easy to come to terms with adulthood ever.

We are very different people in some ways- mainly I don't think she likes school as much as me- but in other ways we are more similar than can be easily explained. We had the time to hash out some pretty sensitive topics when she was here, and I think even though it was really hard it was also really good to talk about things that really only the two of us can understand. It was not all emotional breakdowns though, as we did spend a substantial amount of our time together in hot tubs even when it was a little bit too chilly outside of them to get out and lay in the sun. I think that our temperaments work well toget her and we basically relax well around each other, although I do love that she seems to bring out the crazy side of my personality that is not always so apparent in my adult maturity.

I love her a lot, and I am excited for her adventure.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My best friends in Ensenada

Preceded by lunch at a coffee shop, a no drug purchasing memorandum, and followed by a walk through the stinky fish market, contemplation over buying a dog, and best taco stand in baja. Good times.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Adventures Con Mi Familia

Formal night on the cruise ship. Hold on girls, its waiter time! This is much more significant when you have seen the sign that says Sacramento 3073 in Ocean City, MD. I have seen the MD sign countless times, and this one only once.
Best pizza and SD. (But really people go for the hot chicks.)

Oh, I haven't invited you to our park yet, have I ?

Mexican Rooster Attacks American Tourist

Shortly after waking up this morning, I headed over the the barnyard animal enclosure to talk to the animals. They were very loud and this rooster was sitting up on the fence, so I touched it and it did not like it at all. It poofed up and ki-ki-ri-ci called at me. I left to see my sister and tell her goodbye and also tel tell her that I touched a rooster, and when I went back, I was walking along and it walked right up to me and scratched me in the leg. Then I took this video, where you can see it flying at me. Shortly after this incidence I decided to leave it alone completely and was taking pictures of the baby chicks, when to my surprise it did a sneak attack and flew up scratched, and pecked me in the back of the leg. I am scared for life. So my friends, if people question whether or not the violence in Baja Mexico is real, I can attest that it truly is real. Poultry real!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

And still going...

I have beenon a cruise and then in San Fran for a few days (above), and tomorrow am headed down to Baja to see Jare at the Orphanage. This has been a long vacation and great time with my sister. I have to go to work right now, but more later.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

St. Patty's Weekend

I suggested that we make Reuben Sandwiches in honor of the holiday and my Irish heritage. My name is Bonny O'Neill you know, and it doesn't get anymore Irish sounding that that. But since all my sister has been talking about for the last week is corned beef and cabbage, so I thought we'd try a veg version of that, and we did, and it was pretty yummy. Unfortunately the picture above is not my own, but it comes from the website where I got the recipe..It seems like it could be good with real beef too...

Thankfully this year good Catholics will not have to worry about all the discrepancy that comes when St. Patty's day is on a Friday during Lent, and they are not supposed to eat meat. I believe that although that article only talks about the archbishop of Atlanta saying it was okay to eat corned beef on the holiday, I think I have heard something about the Pope himself saying it was okay to eat... I am not Catholic, so I don't have that problem...

One of my favorite things about the holiday and this dish in particular is that it was the last thing that my mom ate before she went into labor with my little sister who was born March, 18th 1987...

I hope that you all particularly green Tuesdays and have some Irish stout to celebrate.