Posted by: jayteea | Friday. 9 May 2008.

Glotz nicht so romantish

I feel like it’s time to explain myself…

 

I’m referring to the little quote at the top of this blog.  It’s a quote from well-known German dramatist/poet/critic/communist, Bertold Brecht.  I first discovered this dude when I applied his ideas about theater to Ernest Hemingway’s approach to writing (that is, haranguing and almost abusing the reader) in Death in the Afternoon (this was my senior thesis).  

 

Brecht is known for his dislike of “Aristotelian” drama; that is, drama that causes the reader to strongly identify with the protagonist and therefore neglect to question his or her authority and/or “rightness”.  As the story goes, he even put up big signs that said “Glotz nicht so romantisch!” (in English, “Don’t stare so romantically!”) to remind people to think about art critically, to question the hero—and the status quo—to not just sit back and relax, but to get off their butts after the show and make their newfound awareness an impetus for action.

 

I don’t think that this is just about art, either.  A lot of the time I drift through the day observing stuff… being life’s spectator, admiring everything around me, unconsciously agreeing with the way things are. 

 

Short story:  in Guatemala, tourists would come to my school taking photos of the students, especially the youngest ones.  After all, they’re so irresistibly photogenic, perfect subjects for vacation photos.  They knew that these children were homeless and/or impossibly poor, but they saw their happy faces and felt good.  I imagine they thought they performed a valiant deed, going to see the “real” Guatemala and becoming aware it’s many societal problems like poverty, homelessness, and malnutrition.  

 

I don’t want to be this kind of traveler—visiting different places, observing everything, taking a montón de fotos, idealizing the “natives”, maybe even donating a few dollars to someone’s cause.  Even noticing that bad stuff exists isn’t good enough.   I want to do something, help somehow, whether I’m on the road or at home.

 

For me, it’s easy to live life totally self-absorbed and only looking to my own happiness and comfort.  It’s easy to stare romantically at the world and love (or hate) it and let the days pass by without doing much.  The artistic side of me would love to do just that.  But  I think that art—and life—do not exist just for observation.  Claro, I’ll never stop doing things in my own interest or admiring life; however, I want to make it count…hopefully…for something.  Brecht’s quote is just my little “note to self”, reminding me that in order to fully aprovechar the time I have, I need to stop gaping, think critically, and start acting.  Cause otherwise I will just sit on my butt and look at Facebook all day.

 

(For more on Brecht’s life, literary technique, and legacy, you can take a look at this article.)

 

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Posted by: jayteea | Thursday. 24 April 2008.

Temperature: 29ºC

It’s 85 degrees and sunny today!

*happy dance*

I also went to the library to check out the new free wifi they have (it worked, kind of) and my friend/ex-intercambio that works there gave me a free book that they were giving away yesterday for the día del libro.  It’s poetry by Juan Ramón Jiménez, an Andalusian writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1956 (thanks, Wikipedia).  I like it so far.

What I’ve skimmed over, at least.

I also wrote a poem myself.  Perhaps I will share that later, but not now.  It’s not finished.  🙂

Posted by: jayteea | Wednesday. 9 April 2008.

The most sexually active country is…

France!  Tee hee hee.

…and that’s just one of the new things I learned while preparing my 8th graders’ English class for yesterday.

I was freaking out on Monday night, scouring the internet for fun classroom activities involving comparatives and superlatives (which are actually much more complicated than I thought!).  I finally stumbled upon aneki.com, a “comprehensive source of continental and world rankings”, a.k.a. superlative heaven.  Since we have access to computers and laptops with an internet connection in my school’s bilingual classroom, I planned an activity around searching for specific world records.

In short, the activity was a success!  The kids even went beyond the worksheet prompts and started exploring the website and reading other texts in English.  I was really excited–I’m new to this whole teaching ESL thing and sometimes really unsure of what to do with a class of 26 crazed 12-year-olds.  My co-teacher even asked for a copy of the worksheet I put together.  Who hoo!

The site is actually quite entertaining…check it out.  You can even find out which sexually transmitted disease is the most prevalent in the US.  Bonus!

Posted by: jayteea | Sunday. 9 March 2008.

Trono/a

My students teach me lots of interesting things.  On Friday, I taught a private English class to two of my newer pupils–little blonde nine-year-old girls from a wealthy family.  Very cute, very enthusiastic.  Here is what they taught me:

 high chair = trona

 Which is funny (to me at least), since trono, the masculine from of the noun, means “throne”.

 So a high chair is like a throne for kids.  Nice.

So, I originally wrote this post a couple of weeks ago…I was kind of having a bad day.  That’s why I waited to post it–I didn’t want to regret my negativity.  Here’s a slightly tweaked version:

 It’s getting too dark to read without squinting.

 On my way home from the park, as I ignore the one knee sock that is slipping down my leg and getting all bunched up in my shoe, I (once again) get philosophical about life in Spain.  This time I’m less happy about it.

There is no doubt about it–as everyone who passes me on the street instantly knows, I am not from this place.  Earlier today Chema rattled off something about facial proportions and how my jaw is way too wide and my facial features (though beautiful), way too fuertes, strong, to pass for a Spaniard’s.  Now that it’s too late to hide behind sunglasses, I feel acutely vulnerable to the glances, stares, and oh-so-common critical once-overs that I get from almost everyone going the other way.  I remember to completely relax every muscle in my face, assumedly achieving my practiced look of nonchalance, but I refuse to take my hands out from where I have stuffed them in my pockets.  “Typical American stnace,’ I’ve been told before, but it’s fricking comfortable and that’s how I am going to walk.  I stick out and I know it–I feel it, even.

 If I close my eyes, the noisy Sunday evening traffic, even-louder birds, and screaming (and I mean screaming) baby behind me make it impossible to distinguish this place from home.  (I.e., it’s too loud to overhear any Spanish being spoken.)  Upon first glance, even, Spain isn’t all that different.  There are familiar chain stores, all kinds of cars, old people with canes, younger people with strollers, bike lanes, bus sops, normal things that remind me of other things back home.  That’s what’s so strange about being here–I feel like I  should feel at home.  But I don’t.

 Chema and I went to see No Country for Old Men at a movie theater outside of town this weekend.  In Spanish, it’s “No es país para viejos.”  Like the title, the audio track had also been changed into Spanish—it was, unsurprisingly, dubbed.  In any case, here we were, stuffed into this theater, being fed this nonexistent representation of an idealized American culture.  It didn’t remind me of home; rather, it reminded me of the other Americanisms here.  The triumph of Burger King’s “Sandy,” their run-of-the-mill ice cream “sundae.” The Mae West (as they pronounce it, “MY-west”), a very popular dance club, whose décor pays homage to classic American cinema.  Advertisements for Ballantine’s whisky* featuring well-known American icons—Steve McQueen, baseballs, muscle cars, etc.  (Check one out at http://www.interactivadigital.com/fotos/comun/actualidad/Octubre07/Control/Ballantinesbolet2.jpg) Popular music imported from the US.  Again…one might think that I would feel more at home here than I actually do.

Thing is, I know better.  All these cultural references are only idealized representations of the US.  The real “America” is quite different than the hazy picture of it that the typical Spaniard harbors in his or her mind.  This homage to the freedom of rock and roll and cowboy culture has nothing to do with the place I call home.  I sense no camaraderie between myself and huge posters featuring smiling, light-haired girls.  Watching No Country for Old Men in Spain didn’t make me feel proud of my American-ness*.  This reverence for an imagined U.S. culture is just plain weird.  Even though I might be reminded of the US by certain facets of life in Spain (normal, every-day similarities, specific cultural references), I am definitely not comforted by these representations of my culture, nor do I feel like I fit in any more because of their existence.

Okay, I will not draw out any more conclusions.  That’s about as profound as we’re going to get today.  Apologies if I perhaps got a bit carried away.  Sometimes I miss writing papers and need to vent.

* Maybe Spain is ready to accept and even look up to this idealized version of US culture, but they still, in the same breath, bitterly criticize US politics, consumerism, obesity rates, pretty much anything they can use against us.  (Mind you, I am no raging patriot, but even I get a bit miffed when I encounter this barrage of criticism on a more-or-less daily basis.  But then again, most of this comes from the Spanish press, which is pretty Anti-American.)  This summer, PBS did a great documentary on this European phenomenon in general called The Anti-Americans (A Hate/Love Relationship).  More info on that at http://www.pbs.org/weta/crossroads/about/show_anti-americans.html

*Ballantine’s Brand Director claims that this new advertising campaign is “about leaving an impression by being true to yourself and living, like the Ballantine’s brand itself, with a strong sense of originality, charisma and style.”  Interesting, since I see these particular ads as representations of conformity/Americanization/globalization rather than individuality.  (Granted, the ads’ protagonists—eg. Bob Dylan, Steve McQueen—are/were assuredly not conformists; however, the portrayal of them here is anything but original.)

*Though watching A Prairie Home Companion two years ago in Madrid did make me rather nostalgic.  🙂

Posted by: jayteea | Thursday. 14 February 2008.

Sigh.

So it’s Thursday again.  Stupid Thursday.  It’s normally my recovery day from going out on Wednesday night.  Alas, I didn’t go out last night and now it is 10am and I have no ganas de hacer nada.  Sure, I could do my To Do list…grocery shopping, print off posters so that people actually start coming to my aerobics classes, catch up on e-mails, mail a postcard or two, etc., but those all sound boring.  I could read…but I only have stuff in Spanish and I just want to read something and understand every single freaking denotation and conotation of what the author has written.  I could go to the library and get some book in English.  Maybe I’ll do that.  Lately I’ve been carrying around a lot of books and not really reading them.  I wonder if the cardiovascular benefit of lugging them around outweighs the stress the heavy bags put on my shoulders/back/posture.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost my love of reading.  Whenever that happens at home, I try to read something that I used to love, eg. Choose Your Own Adventure books.  Not an option here.  Bummer.

Okay.  Vaya post de mierda.  I had a point, really…I just don’t remember it.

Really, though, I am in Granada and only have 3 1/2 months left here.  I will probably never again live so near the Mirador de San Nicolás, from where I can see the Alhambra as if it were up on a stage with the Sierra Nevada as a backdrop.  I will have to aprovechar and go there today.  And not just sit at home and spend time on the internet.

I got another job offer for private English classes on Thursday mornings at 9.  Don’t think I’m going to take it.  Sure, it would suck getting up that early after going out on Wednesdays (if that becomes a tradition, even…at this point, I’ve only gone out 3 times on Wednesday), but even more than that, the guy really put me off by the way he wrote his e-mail.  The first one was really short and said that he was interested in the ad I posted online last month.  He used the informal address, i.e. “tú.”  I responded with info about myself and the classes I give and asked him about his interest in English.  So then he goes and writes this super formal letter al estilo “Estimada Sra./Srta.,” using the Usted form and verbs like “rogar.”  What the hell?!  This dude is a tool.  I bet he wrote a form letter and just inquired about lessons to a variety of people and sent them all the same crap.  That’s why I’m not taking the job.  Plus, it’s for a businessman with a medium-high level and I know nothing about English grammar.  If he wanted a conversation class, it would be different.

AHHHH!  My roommates bunny is loose again.  I just chased it out of it’s hiding spot under the closet/wardrobe thing in my room.  I am not touching it.  It’s cute and all, but it would be much cuter OUTSIDE in the countryside with its family instead of being cooped up in a covered cardboard box all day.  Sitting in your own shit is never fun.

Posted by: jayteea | Sunday. 10 February 2008.

Lovely, or En Graná Otra Vé

It’s 4:48pm on a Saturday afternoon in Granada.  Atmosphere: super tranquilo.  I missed this.  After a whirlwind weekend road trip to Cadiz for Carnaval, I feel completely wiped out, but it’s okay.  I throw on an unusual outfit—that is, one that I usually wouldn’t wear in Spain—of tennis shoes, comfy jeans, a big Gap sweatshirt, and sunglasses to hide my makeup-free face after six hours of sleep in two days.  Iva’s going back to Madrid.

After walking with her to the bus stop, I grab hold of the oversized key in my pocket—the key to my car.  Well, what is to be my car for about 10 more minutes.  Getting into the driver’s seat of the Ford Focus C-Max (or something like that) makes me feel good.  Peaceful, really.  It’s been a long time since I’ve driven a car.  I feel like a grown-up again.  Memories of driving my car…the oh-so-rad teal Cavalier…around Mukwonago pass through my mind.  I feel like a normal Spaniard for once—not a silly extranjera that everyone stares at and unconsciously thinks to themselves: “she’s not from here…great…just another one of those foreigners invading my country.”  At least that´s what I imagine that many people think when I pass them on the street, wait in line with them at the supermarket, mumble taluegoooo, or try to teach them English.  Don’t get me wrong—many Spaniards are incredibly nice and accepting and it’s probably easier to be a foreigner here than in many other countries.  Spain’s still getting used to this massive influx of outsiders, though, and being one of them messes with your head sometimes. 

Thankfully our 5 or 6 hour trip to Cadiz has more or less prepared me for city driving.  In silence I navigate the excessively narrow, chaotic streets, dodging impatient pedestrians, rude moped riders, and big wheezy busses, remembering that there is no turn on red—ever—and that if you do turn right, you may have to stop before making the full turn to let the second red light turn red, the one that cuts off pedestrian cross-traffic.  Whew. 

Driving in Spain is like that.  This time around, though, my blood pressure is at a normal level.  Okay, good. 

It’s not just that I’m super relaxed, either.  Perhaps the caffeine from my two diet Cokes has finally worn off.  I’ve certainly stopped shaking.  I think it’s more relief, though, that I’m feeling.  We didn’t get (overly) lost, have an accident, or ruin the car.  This extra responsibility is almost off of my shoulders.  Anyway, if I screw it up now, at least there aren’t three other people counting on me.  Almost 9 months after my dad’s accident, I’m still really touchy about driving and even riding in cars, though I try to ignore it. 

Bonus points:  I manage to parallel park the car in front of Hotel San Anton.  Don’t even hit anything. 

Waiting patiently, I smirk as the hippie kids in front of me play stupid when asked why they didn’t fill up the gas tank before returning the car.  Come on guys, really.  I’m so relaxed that I don’t even care about my wet hair.  In a way, I feel more like myself when I know that I don’t look good.  Soon I’m chatting it up with the rental dude:  he reminisces about learning to drive stick on his old Fiat 600, I pretend to be interested while hoping that he doesn’t care that the car’s a little dirty or that there are discarded pieces of tinsel from my 2-Euro wig all over the floor of it.

When Spaniards are actually friendly, it makes me indescribably happy.  Now it’s time to walk home and take a much-needed siesta.  After the chaos of driving, I can truly enjoy the walk home, listening to the birdy sounds in the otherwise-quiet neighborhood, watching the old Spaniards out for their weekend post-lunch walks, thinking about the thankfully empty piso that I’m going back to, not feeling quite so alone anymore.

Posted by: jayteea | Saturday. 2 February 2008.

Hello world!

This is my blog, it is new.  I will try to write…later.

I’ve been looking at lolcat photos online for the past 20 minutes, so the English running through my head is not really what one might call blog-worthy. 

…but it is kind of funny.

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