Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sunburnt in Switzerland

Taking over Europe one park bench at a time.

Rrrrrrandom blurbs about the land of chocolate, cheese, and fountains...

Close call. I almost didn't make it. Despite the fact that I've been traveling rather frequently since I was literally five months old, I somehow managed to neglect packing my passport. I know, I know, I AM AN IDIOT. I know. Of course, I didn't realize my error until I actually stepped foot in the airport, at which point, I had to book it back to my flat by cab to grab the pesky item and speed back to the El Prat just in time. Whew. [I can picture my mom shaking her head at me right now. Teehee. *sheepish grin*] On the flip side, I do know now that it takes exactly 12 minutes to get from my apartment to the airport by car...and that's including extra minutes for driving on various sidewalks as the cab driver felt so inclined to do.

View from the top. The vista of the Alps from the plane when I was flying over Switzerland was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Actually, the scenery in general was quite idyllic and stunning. Man. Wish you coulda been there.

Cloudy with a chance of aloe vera? All last week, I kept reading weather reports predicting snow and torrential rain in Zürich, so I was prepared to brave the elements and fully expected to freeze my buns off. Learning from my winter break travels, I packed about 800 layers. And what do you know...the weather was sporadically pretty nice. Yay. I think I actually spent more time being sweaty than cold. In fact, I got slightly sunburned on Friday when Jess and I fell asleep in a park. Huh?!?!

Tweed coats and Burberry. Switzerland is generally old, rich people. But everyone there was so nice. On our second day after grabbing a kaffee creme at Sprüngli Cafe, a very dignified and classy old lady sitting next to me helped me put my coat on (I had so many layers on, I could hardly move...) before kindly patting my leg and wishing me a good day. Then on our boat cruise around Lake Zürich yesterday, I sat across from the sweetest old lady ever, who would occasionally smile at me and make some sort of thoughtful commentary. I, both because she spoke inaudibly softly and completely in German, didn't understand a single word. Nonetheless, she squeezed my hand and told me to "stay warm" before she disembarked from the boat. It's amazing what can be communicated beyond verbal language.

Rolex. Timeless. I don't know about the rest of Switzerland, but in Zürich, the entire world is immaculately dressed, I, consequently, looked like a ratty ragamuffin straight off the streets of Spain. And Jess made me go in the Louis Vuitton store with her. Ugh. Anyways. The shopping, especially on Bahnhofstrasse (comparable to Champs Elysees in Paris) was seriously FOOOOOOF. We window-shopped a few Chanel bodysuits, $500 chocolate truffle eggs, a few Rolexes...*commercial break* My mom thought she lost her Rolex, but then a plumber magically fished it out of the toilet when we were having flushing problems. My dad took it to a shop to get it cleaned, and despite having sat in the loo for a few years, it still works and runs like magic!

Old McDonald. We took a trip to Baden, an old town outside of Zürich, and went to order some typical Swiss sausages at a street-side stand for lunch. After looking at the menu and coming to terms with the fact that I had NO IDEA what anything meant, I just pointed at two wursts on the grill and ventured to ask the difference between the two. The lady responded, "That one is, umm...*SNORT SNORT SNORT* and the larger one is *MOOOOOO.*" "Umm, okay, I guess I'll have the...mooo." That was pretty entertaining. The lady in line behind me was cackling away, doubled over in laughter. *Haha*

Spic and span. Switzerland is SO clean. Wow wOw woW. The free WC's in public parks were eighty times cleaner than the bathroom in my Barcelona flat, if that says anything. They even have dispensers with "toilet seat cleaner" gel in the stalls at Zürich Airport. On the other hand, I could smell Spain before I could even see that I had returned...

Comfort and joy. I think part of the reason why I loved Switzerland so much was because I felt like a human again. I didn't have to be psychotically vigilant about my bag or pessimistically cynical 24/7. People didn't blatantly stare at me like my life is entirely their business. Guys didn't devour me alive with their eyes. No one catcalled, said inappropriate things, or made any sort of disgusting noise when I walked by. I was free to comfortably enjoy myself and it was such a nice luxury.

Love. So. I really, really, really liked Switzerland. It was absolutely beautiful and I was truly enchanted by the country. 'Tis a crying shame I didn't study abroad there instead (I guess, the fact that they don't speak Spanish is kind of a bugger), but I am already planning to return when I am old and retired and can afford (maybe? hah...) to leisurely vacation there.

Mmmm. Switzerland, I'll be back yet.


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Babysitting. Voted #1 most effective contraceptive.

This is Laia. Isn't she a cute little chum chum?

Angelic facades...pshhhh. Adorable chub on the outside, total monster otherwise. Still an only child as of yet, she really knows how to work the system. We are talking Pablo Picasso status when it comes to the art of throwing tantrums. MAN.

Anyway, every Friday, I get paid 15 bucks to "teach English" to this three-year-old for an hour. Much of the time I spend at the house is necessarily spent saying "no" or "we don't throw things, okay?" or "please don't hit me." No wonder she just scowls when her parents ask her if she likes it when I come over. Haha.

Today, after a surprisingly cooperative and productive five minutes (I brought stickers...), her mom came into the room to check on us and asked, "Laia, what have you learned?" I proudly waited for her to show off the immense knowledge I had just imparted on her. But instead of rattling off "One, two, thra-fee (we're still working on this)" or "A, B, C," she stands up and screams "CACA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

The little devil. I did NOT teach her that, thankyouverymuch.

I need Geoffrey to come charm her into submission. Brotherrrr!!

So homesick it hurts.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"Wet paint. DO NOT TOUCH."

I exited my linguistics class with my new Canadian friend Keith, discussing Spain's penchant for racial stereotypes and general disregard for political correctness. As our professor wrapped up the class, he proceded to ask, pointedly looking at Keith and me, if he was speaking Spanish too quickly. Professor Alcoba turned to me, "I bet you understand perfectly because San Diego is 85% Mexican immigrants." Then he looked at Keith, who is black, and tangented, "Say, do you play basketball?" My turn again, "Lorena, is everyone in San Diego as serious as you or is that just because you're Chinese?" Ummm? (On the very first day of class, he asked me if Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was not my absolute, all-time favorite movie.) Mmhm.

As we chuckled over the awkwardness of being North American (much less black and Asian) and in Spain, the scene we suddenly encountered couldn't have affirmed it more. A huge mob had gathered in the hallways, people were squished in every crevice with nowhere to move or go. I attempted to shove my way through the crowd to the nearest door, only to come upon a guy dressed in a white body suit and a grey cloth wrapped around his head with only his eyes visible, standing guard holding a wooden board. My first instinct was something along the lines of a fresh paint job and that I should just try the next door. Discovery of that guy's twin posted at the next outlet led to finally noticing a plethora of Catalans dressed identically, blocking all doors and even elevators. Paint job, school hijacking...pshhh, same thing.

I was pushing people out of my way and navigating the stretch of hallway while listening to a voicemail from Sierra. She apparently was outside of the building, trying to get in to go to class. Meanwhile, I was trapped inside unable to get out. Finally, I just went up to one of the white-clad creatures and demanded to know how I was to go about exiting the building. He rattled off a slew of instructions in Catalan at lightning speed. I didn't understand anything he had said. But he refused to repeat anything in Castellano for me; typical Catalan pride. Eventually, I just took advantage of being small and the occurrence of a little scuffle at a door to slip out. Whew. That was fun.

I still don't know what was going on in there. Some strike about being Catalan or something. Nothing really new. Just last Tuesday, I got to school, prepared for a full day of classes. Half an hour into waiting around for our professor and the rest of the class to arrive, some kind soul deigned to pop in and tell us clueless foreign students that due to a demonstration assembly, all classes in the building had been cancelled for the afternoon. That was that. And today, as my linguistics class filed out after my professor's demure display of his knowledge of North American 'culture,' the Spanish students in our class informed us that there is to be a HUGE manifestación on Thursday, strongly advising us not to come to school. There are going to be crazy picket line armies of mullets that will block any students from alighting from the metro, much less entering the campus. Sweet. Four-day weekend for me. 

And that's school for ya. Just another day at the good ol' UA of B...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A taste of home...(but not enough:).

A small picture update of Jessie-face, who is studying abroad in Leon this semester, and her visit to Barcelona last weekend. Come back soon!