Friday, September 7, 2012


I arrived in Madrid on Tuesday, found an apartment on Wednesday, met a new friend on Thursday, and am signing a contract and paying the deposit for the new place today.  Needless to say it's been a bit hectic, and very very tiring.

Get in my belly!
My roommate, R, has been sick since we got here, the temperatures have been uncomfortably warm (at least for me--anything over 60 annoys me), and, well, let's just say it'll be nice to not have to live in a hotel anymore.  We're only doing it for five or six days--I can't imagine how people who stay in a hostel for weeks manage to not go crazy.  All I want in the world is to go grocery shopping and come home to a place with a kitchen where I can cook!  Gracias Repsol, for your never ending supply of agua and Lays con al punto de sal.  Will definitely find a decent Indian restaurant for tonight--I have many shameful secrets and the first is that I don't particularly care for Spanish food.  It's a bit plain and boring.  I'll take a stab at it from time to time but sorry, there's nothing more delicious than a good bowl of Bombay aloo, and I won't rest until I've had some!  Soft potatoes with hot green chili, scooped up with a warm roti...drool.

Anyways...yes.  The apartment search was relatively painless--we used an agent and he was fantastic.  He spent ten hours with us, meeting us for breakfast, giving us thorough tours of every neighborhood in the old part of the city, and took us through each apartment.  The first, in Lavapies (where I'd originally hoped to live) was painfully small.  We finally settled on a huge top floor piso in Malasaña, a five minute walk from the Gran Via, and just far away enough from Sol to be able to almost entirely avoid it.  I may be a city lover but Sol is not my scene--I hate it.

Tonight we sign the contract, fork over a painful amount of cash, and we should be set to move in after the weekend.  All in all a relatively smooth process--my only concern is going to be how long it takes to get some wifi set up.  Fingers crossed!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Two Things

1. I am notoriously bad at blogging consistently.  If I go silent for a month it's not because my town has suffered a freak volcanic explosion* that has wiped out all internet communication options, it's because I have spent the last thirty days in bed watching Downton Abbey.

2.  Were I not notoriously bad at blogging consistently there'd still be nothing for you here, because I'm at a stage called "wait, then wait some more, and when you're done waiting, wait a bit longer," otherwise known as I'mWaitingForMyVisa-itis.  It's a tragic condition.  The only known cure is to spend about thirty days in bed watching Downton Abbey.

*these are more common than you think

Friday, June 8, 2012

Not All That Glitters Is Gold...

Last night I dreamt I'd been placed in Mexico City.

The email I got this morning didn't help in banishing that thought--a name and address for a  windowless brick building surrounded by dusty fields and construction sites in an area I'm not sure I'd ever venture into in my entire life if it weren't for the fact that I have to work there for the next year.

But the school's website made it sound nice--so much emphasis on music, the promise of a neighborhood full of young families, everything so new and clean.  By afternoon I'd become somewhat fond of the place--even the location seemed improved after I'd given myself a few hours to get used to the idea.

I even found a video someone had made of the place (and somewhat recently at that).  I pressed play and was just about to excitedly call someone over to watch it with me when I realized--well.  See for yourself.

Is there a word that combines "heartbroken" with "guilty?"  That's the word I need right now.  I managed a whole three hours of feeling happy about my work placement before seeing that.  Part of me is holding out hope that it's improved in the last two years and the other part of me is feeling guilty for feeling disappointed.  Have I become spoiled by the schools I went to?  None of my schools were anything particularly special--a rural high school and a collection of various elementary schools run by the Department of Defense.  Do I have a right to even feel disappointment about this?  It's enough that I'm being allowed to come to Spain--what right do I have to judge the state of a school in a less-than-stellar part of town?

Still...I'd have liked to have held on to that feeling of a year full of potential and happiness just a little longer than I was able to.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This Was Never More Appropriate...

In three months I'm leaving the US behind me and moving to Spain.  And because it's impossible for my love of Bollywood not to spill over into this blog as well, I'm sharing a post from my "other world" if you will.  A road trip through Spain to chase away demons and start a new life.

So to Rania, Yarelis, Sean, Rachel, Rebecca, Bernadette, Brittany, and all the other amazing people I've met (or have yet to meet)--here's to our new adventure.

*          *           *          *        *

I put on the Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara soundtrack today to chase away some rainy day blues.

A week ago I wouldn’t have given that CD a second thought.

In all the excited buildup to Zoya Akhtar’s sophomore film I felt like the person who got left behind at the rest stop and didn’t really mind.  I was psyched for the trip but the further we got the less enthused I was feeling.

“Zoya!  Farhan!  Hrithik!  Abhay!  I’ll pack my stuff!”

“Spain!  Hmm…this is starting to look like a tourist brochure…maybe I’ll just come for a few days.”

“Katrina’s coming?  Ugh.  Fine.  Look, I’ll tag along but I’m not going to be nice to her.”

“What the hell is this music we’re listening to?  No.  No, I’m good.  You guys go ahead, I’ll hitch a ride home.”

And then I saw the film.  And I fell in love.  

Was the film flawed?  Yes.  

Did I completely forget every criticism I had of the film five minutes after I left the theater?


I hesitate to even continue typing at this point—this is my third attempt to capture a piece of what I felt after viewing ZNMD and I’m finding it impossible.  I just erased four thousand words of…of what, exactly?  Fawning praise of some camera work and criticisms that don’t need to be explained.  We all know the gentle negatives of the film: the intro was too long and fluffy, the characters live in a world of wealth outside the reach of most of those who will see the film, it veered dangerously close at times to being a commercial for the Costa Brava.

So why am I listening to "Der Lagi Lekin" with tears in my eyes right now?

It’s because regardless of how artificial ZNMD’s world is, I know that the film is right.  Those characters are right.  They did something we all need to do—they figured out how to let go and live in the moment.  

Is that cheesy?

Is it important? 


The film centers around Arjun (Hrithik Roshan), Kabir (Abhay Deol), and Imran (Farhan Akhtar), but the main character, without a doubt, is Spain.  Director Zoya Akhtar said she initially had Mexico in mind for the location but I think she made the correct choice with Spain.  Having had my own Spanish adventures I can say that the transformative effect of that Barcelona air isn’t just movie magic—it’s real.  So real that I sometimes remember the smell of a rainy day spent wandering around Parc Güell and it puts me in a good mood for days. 

ZNMD was full of little surprises.  The first was Katrina Kaif.  It’s no secret that I’ll often flat out refuse to see a film if she’s in it, so little do I regard her, erm, “talents,” but she was so natural here that I actually found myself liking her.  I’m inclined to think she’s either a director’s actress or that she just isn’t at all suited to the type of acting required in your typical Akshay Kumar film (who I love, bless his heart, but that brand of cheesy film making requires a certain kind of actress and Kat doesn’t have what it takes for them).

The second (major spoiler alert here) is the treatment of Imran’s reunion with his father.  It would have been easy (and lazy) to throw together a happy scene where the son embraces his long-lost father and all is well in the world, but Zoya isn’t lazy.  Imran (played perfectly by Farhan, who for me had the standout performance of the film) struggles with the idea of meeting his father and when he finally does it isn’t a loving scene.  There are no clichés here, just honesty: Salman (Naseeruddin Shah) didn’t want to give up his life to raise a child, so he left, and tells Imran he feels no remorse.  It’s this second rejection that provides Imran with the emotional release he needed.  Just as Arjun’s  life changed when he overcame his fear of the water, so too did Imran’s as he moved past his fear of meeting the man who abandoned him.

And what was Kabir afraid of?  Two things, as it turned out.  For most of the film we’re led to believe he was afraid of getting married, but things aren’t always as they appear.  He isn’t so much afraid of marriage as he’s afraid of not getting married, and the disappointment of his family that would follow.  He’s afraid of breaking Natasha’s (Kalki Koechlin) heart.  While Arjun’s transformation is more outwardly noticeable (going from uptight, obsessed career man to a dreamy man in love), Kabir is more complex.  As he argues with Natasha (first at a distance, then in person as she joins the boys out of jealousy and suspicion) the easy going personality of Kabira (as his friends lovingly call him) is chipped away, revealing a man just as much in need of catharsis as his companions, perhaps even more.

I hesitate to compare Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara to Luck By Chance; where LBC was so plot driven and focused on the complex relationships between characters, ZNMD is more introspective.  They're vastly different in their scope, though I will say that as much as I admire Hrithik as an actor, I found him more effective in LBC, where his time on screen was a fraction of what it is in ZNMD.  He's so imposing that he almost overshadowed Abhay and Farhan, and while I was interested in Arjun's story line, it was Imran who I wanted more of.  Farhan was stellar in his portrayal of a man who jokes his way through life as a cover for pain that he doesn't want to talk about.  Abhay was the rock of the film, playing parent to Arjun and Imran and finally coming to terms with the decision he had to make.  Hrithik and Katrina had wonderful chemistry, as did Farhan with Ariadna Cabrol, the Spanish actress who plays  his love interest.  I couldn't have been the only one who wanted their post-love scene Spanish/Hindi conversation to go on forever.

I want to say there aren't enough words to describe how moved I was by Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara but that's not true.  I just threw out the three thousand odd that I had left from previous review attempts in favor of these, which are all that are necessary:

It's beautiful.  Go see it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

...and you, and you, and you

Cielo.  Sky.

Azul.  Blue.

Luz.  Light.

Ojos.  Eyes.

I'm starting to get the hang of this...

Am I the Thing I Hate the Most?

I've gone to this pub a few times, I don't need to look at the menu.  

Something grilled, something fried, and a bit of banter with the waiter.  He's BMX by way of a poetry reading and we probably exchange fifty words with him the entire hour but we cover everything important.  "Yes please" to an ice cold drink and "No cheese on that" in a tone that said I like you but don't you dare fuck this up.

I'm confident in restaurants.  In fact I'm confident everywhere.  I have a big smile and I know all the right things to say. least in English I do.

But somewhere between the first bite and calculating the tip I realized that today may be one of the last times I walk into a restaurant and don't have to struggle to talk to a waiter.

I felt the icy grip of Ugly American-itis taking over my brain.  Ugly Americans are right up there with Planned Parenthood protesters and tourists on the DC Metro on my list of Things the Velociraptors Should Have Eaten Instead of  Robert Muldoon.

And I'm a bit concerned that I'm about to become one.  Because, you see, I don't habla any español and that is (apparently) very, very bad when you're three months away from moving to Spain.  Or something. 

It's not like I haven't had this problem before.  I've been to Spain a few times and I was fine with just English.  Everyone was so lovely and accommodating as I butchered their beautiful language and demanded that they understand my frantic hand gestures (who the hell doesn't understand that drawing circles with your finger means "What time do we have to check out of our room tomorrow?").

It's amazing the role language plays in who you are.  I wouldn't be me without my English, without my ability to argue, to voice my opinions, to express happiness and sorrow and anger with my words.  And I know the second I step off the plane I'm going to lose all of that.  I won't be me anymore.  I'll be yet another American walking the city in a bubble, hearing this huge world around me and not understanding any of it.

Another ugly American using her hands to express what her voice cannot.

So to Madrid: I'm sorry.  I'm working on it.  Be patient with me.