Monthly Archives: November 2011

I’ll be home for christmas.

Not that I won’t be doing my best to make the most of my last days here, but with Straight No Chaser constantly coming up in my playlist (what with it being so short and all without Pandora) and the version of I’ll Be Home for Christmas on the new Michael Buble CD  playing, I can’t help but look forward to it and everything waiting for me back at Wes.

Nineteen days and counting.


Breathing much easier halfway through this side of finals.


I am woman.

Let it never be said that I didn’t walk into the lion’s cage.

Broadly speaking, Spain has been a wonderful experience.  Academically, it’s been a never-ending crockpot of failure.  And furthermore, so unfun, except in the two classes I am doing the worst in (ironic, isn’t it?)

So on that note,  let us recognize that which the rest of the world so vehemently seems to profess and I have adamantly denied since kindergarten   Grades matter, but they aren’t always the best measure of improvement.

I think I’ve always rejected this claim on the basis of the absence of objectivity.  I’d feel better with myself if I upright faced failure rather than rationalizing it away.

In my father’s words, “You can either use it as a kick in the butt, or you can whine about it.”   If I pretended falling short of my goals was okay, then I was tricking myself into feeling better.

We are suppose to fail, right?  (hence the fall first)  So aren’t we cheating ourselves out of something if we call failure anything other than what it really is?

Spanish is not something that I’m good at.  I think I’m not good at it for the same reasons I could never get good marks on Strunk & White Grammar tests in high school.  I stink at grammar.  I can’t put raw language in lists and make a story about it (how I passed AP bio).  I study in CSS, because it all is a story–history, where ideas comes from, how ideas form governments, etc.  This stuff excites me.  I just have to think about it and apply it.

Anyways, I think there is real merit to studying outside of your strengths.  Unfortunately, outside of your strengths, stuff is a lot less fun.  Maybe because, I don’t know, you can’t/can barely pass your tests.

All to say, this semester is open range shooting on my GPA, but at least I can take pride in coming here anyways.  Doing it in spite of knowing how hard it would be.  And what’s a couple numbers in comparison to all the other experiences I’m getting along the way?

on the river, Valencia




Wikipedia xoxo

My dearest wiki,

I would like to credit you for all the childhood injuries you stopped when I was 11 and those that you are still lovingly preventing at 21.

Instead of reaching up high shelves for the most recent edition of the Children’s World Book that our elementary schools saw fit to purchase, we turned to yahoo (back in those pregoogle days).

Our first hits always turned up a wealth of information on our research topics, written by our middle school peers and their teachers.  Nothing quite cleared up what exactly the estates-general were like a 7th grader’s analysis of the French Revolution.  We grew to love geocities.

But our fascination would fade.  Once we learned what bibliographies were, our teacher’s taught us the difference between credible and non-credible sources, meaning no more personal websites.

But that quiet 6th grade year, something else happened.  You walked into our lives, keeping us from returning to dusty shelves where those heavy, outdated encyclopedias lie.   With all your subjects and embedded links to topics within the article, we looked to the future with newfound hope.

Sure enough, one day, our teachers told us that you too weren’t credible, but we knew not to believe them this time.   As high school masters of the MLA bibliography, we were smart enough to figure out to use the websites at the bottom of each page to find the “so-called” credible sources we were taught to use.

And our relationship grew and prospered.  I thought we could get no closer after you became a primary text in my college sophomore government tutorial, but then, wiki, I came to Spain.

And here, I wiki all subjects discussed in every one of my classes– in English and Spanish.  Here, it’s just you and me, spending long nights chasing new links, trying to figure out how the Habsburgs fell from power and when the Korean War started.

So wiki, as I preceed to finals, stick close by.  We still have many a-hour to get through together.


Yours truly,




In the spirit of full disclosure, wiki, just so you don’t get the wrong idea, please know I’m not ready to get serious.  See, I graduate in a year in a half, and then I’ll be free to choose whatever books I want to read without repercussions of not having learned whatever prescribed texts my professors saw fit to throw my way.

It will be a lot less “When did the Spanish-American War start?” and a lot more ” What was the long term economic effect of foreign policy at the turn of the twentieth century in relation to President McKinley?” So let’s just make the most of the time we have left, ok?

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”

I don’t know how to do finals.  I mean, obviously of done them plenty of times, but I feel so out of it.  The rhythm of CSS breaks a lot with your traditional mid semester and final semester work schedule.

And I’m feeling it.  Mind you all this is compounded by a deep dislike for Carlos III, most of my classes, and academic frustration in general.

Yesterday, I was like an overheated engine that quite working.  I, quite literally, forgot how to exit the train.  Last week, I forgot where a class I’ve had since September meets.

But, alas, I have defaulted to my classic high stress coping technique.

Inspiring quotations in English and Spanish, detailed daily to-do list, encouraging words from a friend (shout out to Esther Oser).  Can’t tell you how much better it makes me feel.

On another note, the low quality photo is because I had to use my computer to take the picture.  My camera is freezing in obscure ways and not taking photos.  I’m waiting for the battery to die, and hope that once I recharge it, it will work again.  If not, I will need to buy a new one, meaning I will have replaced every piece of electronics I own while in Spain (though, my new computer, headphones, and ipod are functioning wonderfully).

I guess you just role with what you can.  In the meantime, I’m just trying to take it a day at a time.

Almost a Fair Lady

I can speed talk, articulate, enunciate, and give speeches with the best of them (in English), but I don’t know if my mouth’s ever been so worn out as it is today.

I’ve read that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body.  If that’s true, then my taking in and learning a language has had a serious affect on the physical fitness of my tongue.  Because while I most certainly talk, I say a lot less.

Sometimes you just know you’ve hit a new level in your language skills.  Today was one of those days.  I just didn’t shut up–all day.  Didn’t matter the topic.  It felt so great.

I felt completely like my normal self while speaking Spanish.  [Generally speaking,] there were no topics that came up where I had to alter what I was originally going to say  because I didn’t know a word.  I didn’t have to stop for a minute to think about how to say something.  It just all popped out.

After an early morning attempt to visit Congress that didn’t quite pan out and a notably fantastic lunch, I met a couple of girls (a Spaniard, Brit, and Pole) for coffee.

The mood was so lighthearted, and it felt like I had a never ending stream of stories, one-liners, and quiet antagonistic quips to egg them on.  It was so much fun.

Then, I talked with a German friend and another Spaniard for over two hours at dinner.

bad coffee + chocolate.

What goes up

This post was originally titled, “Please don’t say I told you so,” but it no longer seems a appropriate.

I’d been looking forward today by pretending it didn’t exist.  Tests are hard, and I knew I would probably be getting the two tests I took last week back.

I busied myself with chintzy grammar exercises while I waited for my law professor to arrive this morning.  He is always at least 30 minutes late.  When he came in at 9:30, I knew the exam return was for real, because he never carries anything.  Clutched in his left hand was a small folder.

After dolling out the homework for next week, he pulled out a sheet with all of our grades.  I thought he was going to post it.  When it became obvious that he wasn’t, I thought he was going to call out our grades by our student ID numbers.  Nope.

He just yelled out our names and grades, in front of everyone.

I don’t know how Rowe ended up at the beginning of the alphabet, but I was one of the first grades he called out.  My heart practically melted inside me.

Before I can say what I got, I must explain how grades are given out here (at least as best as I’ve been able to understand it).  It’s on a scale of 1-10, but  nobody gets 9s and 10s.  A 7 is good, and anything above 5 is passing.

Recalling that this is the class that I was literally incapable of reading the textbook at the beginning of the semester, I wasn’t hoping for much.  But somehow I cranked out a 5.3.  My slow, deep exhale was much akin to the involuntary sigh I gave out after my oral comps exam last spring, to which the history examiner smiled a little and said, “Relieved much?”

I thought for sure the professor must have smudged my grade a little, but it was a straightforward 20 question multiple choice test.  There’s no way.  I just passed it on my own.

Imagine my surprise when the professor continued to yell out the scores, and mine, that of  the befuddled and practically-formally-illiterate foreigner was higher than almost a third of the class.  Guess effort counts for something, though as my next class proved, it offers no promises.

Commence language class.  This course has actually been the best, most valuable class I’ve taken here in Spain.  As opposed to inane theoretical legal concepts cheaply rooted in philosophers we barely even study, I literally use the concepts I learn in language all the time, and it’s actually fun.

Unfortunately, enthusiasm and inclination to talk in class does not transfer to five page exams.  It wasn’t disastrous, but it was still pretty darn ugly.

But the hard thing is, I really have no idea what else I could have done.  I started studying early.  I asked questions.  I met with the professor one-on-one.  I wrote a custom study guide.  I sought out online resources.

It wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that the first test really was disastrous.  I was counting on this one to work its magic grade raising capabilities.  And now, all that’s left is the final.

I hate it when you get evaluated and people say, “I’m sure you did better than you think you did,” because they have no idea.  When you get the test back, you can say in the long run it all doesn’t matter, but that depends on what long run you are talking about.

If you’re talking about law school, it all means a lot. (Side note: I’ve been having a lot of developing thoughts about law too; expect a post on the topic soon)  In the long run very little matters, but does that mean we shouldn’t care about it now?

Lesson from all of this?  Wish I could tell you.

Those who can’t…analyze?

I might have to do the electric slide at my wedding, because at this rate, it’s the only dance I’m ever going to learn.

Veronica (wisely) figured we needed to get out more, so we treated our otherwise plain Tuesday night like a weekend.  Apparently someone on found out about a free salsa class in Madrid and started an online discussion.  Veronica did a little research to make sure it was legit, and we were off to check it out.

Somewhere between a discussion on how this week couldn’t possible get worse (for her), arguing about which metro exit we needed, and realizing we had no map, I located the street the class was on…then she mentions that the website said that the building was a little sketch, but not to let that put you off.

A few inquisitive looks later and jokes about our fictional Italian guy friends, we stumbled on 21 Calle de Pez, at which I promptly announced (in English and perhaps a little too loudly), “Yeah, it really does look sketch.”

Of course, at this moment, I didn’t realize there was a decent pocket of English speakers there, and the British and German girls in front of me laughed and affirmed my statement.  But they also mentioned that they had been there last week and told us how it worked.  Then someone else from from couchsurfing came up and started talking to us.

After about 10 minutes, we resolved that the free salsa dancing class was legit, and went in the building.  The whole event felt really authentic, despite the small group of foreigners.  The small community room we met in was crowded, but full of eager beginners.

It started much like every other intro salsa class I’ve been in (all 2 of them), step forward/back, side to side, and a few other basic steps.  I was impressed with myself.

Unfortunately, we went from step 1 to 22 in about five minutes, and I was officially lost.   And I remained lost for the following hour.  However, my experiences with my four dance partners, most certainly were noteworthy, if only because I was so bad and really had nothing else to focus on (other than my tangled feet of course).

1)  Sweet, Single, Spanish, but like 30….

We were literally the last couple to pair up when the instructor gave the order.  Maybe that says something about me, like standing at the front of the class to see the instructor while we copy the demonstration, might give me a better idea what I’m doing, but it could also prove to every man in the room that if I had two left feet, I’d be moving up in the world.

He was about 1/3 of a step better than me, but that’s not really saying much.  Furthermore, I’m so bad I couldn’t really hold it against him, but I did feel kinda sorry for him.  We were both too bad to help each other out.

He kept mumbling little apologizes, and I told him it was fine.  I really wanted to comfort the poor guy, but as I found myself scouring my mind for affirming words that would come across appropriately in a colloquial sense, without giving him the wrong idea, I turned up blank.

Then they said switch partners.

2) Ian the Brit.

He also was very lost, although he went to one other dance lesson and remembered quite a bit about last week’s move of the week.  And he taught it to me.  That helped.

He doesn’t speak Spanish, so despite my obvious flaws on the floor, I think he was okay with it, because he could understand me.

3) The Real Dancer

Very patient.  Very good.  The thing about salsa (maybe explaining why I find it so hard) is I don’t get how the moves fit into the beats of the music.  He counted them all out for me, and made me repeat the parts I kept messing up on.

I actually sort of figured out what I was doing, but as soon as the lesson ended and the music started again, I turned to thank him and he was gone.  Poor guy didn’t want to get stuck with me when the real party started.

4) Limp Spaghetti

I eyed Veronica to see if she wanted to go, but she was looking like she was actually enjoying herself.  So I waited, until Spaghetti man came for me.  There was a decent number of guys hanging around looking for partners, and I didn’t mind dancing while I waited.

I really didn’t get him though.  I think he actually knew what he was doing, but did not lead the dance at all.  He just kinda moved back and forth like cooked spaghetti and smiled at me when I messed up.  To be honest, it was a little weird.

He didn’t mix up his dance at all or talk, which may have been because he didn’t think I spoke Spanish, but it was still awkward.  I dance like a stiff stick, and he was like tissue paper in the wind.  We musta looked funny.

I finally caught eyes with Veronica and we were out of there, but not before she had to chase off another dance request (probably not coincidence that she got the offer and not me).  That was weird too, because I told the guy we had to go, and he looked at me like he didn’t understand.  And I know that I absolutely said it right.

So all in all, an interesting night.  I actually left thankful that nobody knew me and that the room was somewhat lacking attractive 20-something gentleman.  Lesson learned from all this: bring (or at least find) a patient partner when dancing.

Course, I might get to test out my own advice soon, given that tomorrow night is free TANGO…


I promise to start using photos again soon, but I’m having technical issues right now.