Sunday, November 22, 2009

November 22, 2009

So, once upon a time, we were very good about making regular contributions to our blog. We updated it weekly even with unreliable internet. Plenty of stories were written and shared of odd happenings of our life abroad.

In Spain, we have lapsed in our regular contributions. In fact, we haven’t posted anything in almost a month. Many may wonder why we’ve failed to keep up on this project… are we busy? Have we lost internet connections? Are school and work taking all our time?

While some of these things are true, I believe the primary reason for our unreliability is our keen enjoyment of Madrid and Spain and our adventure here. Blog writing had become a therapeutic outlet while living in a developing nation and in the absence of the need to vent, we’ve lagged behind in our updates. Somehow, stories of beautiful walks down Madrid’s corridors with blue skies and sidewalks covered with autumn leaves seem less interesting than stories of Indonesian policemen who wake us at 2am to see our marriage papers. Complaints about housemates who leave their (entire) chicken out for the day or leave rotting fruits and vegetables in the kitchen aren’t nearly as interesting as complaints about fellow teachers who black out over the weekend after drinking too much. And, tales of our students who want to learn and the headmistress who bends over backwards to make sure we have all the teaching supplies we need just don’t seem to hold a candle to the epic tales of ceilings that fell in or generators that failed to work as was a regular occurrence in Indonesia.

Madrid is not a perfect city. Spain is not a perfect country. There are things here that drive us crazy. But, the beauty of our time here is so full of good memories that our need for therapeutic release is minimal.

At a time of year when many in the U.S. are beginning to turn their thoughts toward Thanksgiving, we can only say what we are thankful for this year.

  • We are thankful for the opportunity to explore new places and new adventures.
  • We’re thankful for each other and for the life we are sharing.
  • We’re thankful for bread and cheese and the culinary delicacies of Spain.
  • We’re thankful for closed sewers and clean public transportation.
  • We’re thankful for steady work and a good university.
  • I’m thankful that Peter gets the chance to study and work with language all day, every day.
  • We’re thankful for the chance to travel and experience the amazing world we live in.

And, we’re thankful for our family and our friends. We miss you all very much.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November 4, 2009

My nephew Nick had a school project, and he recently asked us for help with it. His second grade class read a book about a guy named Flat Stanley, who had been flattened in a serious, yet hilarious, accident involving a bookcase. In the story, Flat Stanley discovers he can visit anywhere in the world for only the cost of postage. Cool.

Well, Flat Stanley came to Madrid. We three had a great time seeing Madrid and all it has to offer.

His adventures are posted on our Flickr site. If you're interested in seeing all Flat Stanley saw, check out

November 4, 2009

Yeah. I know. I know. It’s been awhile. Too long. But here’s the thing: we’re pretty busy, and when you have some free time in such a great place like Madrid… Well, you know what I’m saying. I don’t feel like hanging in front of the computer screen, is all. Please accept our apologies.

Not that we don’t love you. Quite the contrary. We think of our family and friends often. More than it seems. Really. Sometimes adjusting has its challenges, but overall it’s pretty cool here.

There is, however, one aspect of living in Madrid that has been very difficult for me in particular. Finding that great cup of coffee is still something that eludes me. This upsets me. I live in a city of, what, something like 4 million people – a world-class place that was in the running to host the Olympics – and I’m left with going to Starbucks? That’s the best they can do? The Spanish seem OK with this though.

The perils of a being coffee snob in Spain are many. First, Starbucks is the only place I can get just a regular old cup of joe. Everywhere else only speaks the language of “café con leche” (coffee with hot milk). The other places don’t usually sell beans for brewing at home either. But even going to the ‘Bucks comes along with more than it’s usual baggage. Strangely, many Starbucks in town (and there are many) have drip machines which are supposedly “broken”, and drip coffee is rarely ever brewed. I believe this is because most Spaniards get lattes or café con leches or (of course) Frappaccinos. Most of the time the staff try to give me an Americano instead, but they don’t fool me. I can tell the difference.

But being cheated out of caffeine and regional coffee flavors from all over the world isn’t the only coffee-related danger here. Twice I was given coffee that had gone cold but was warmed up with the steam wand at the espresso machine – the one that’s usually used for steaming milk. And I’m here to tell you, coffee with a frothy head of foam is disgusting… as well as against several health code regulations in the States. And speaking of public health violations, last Saturday, Sarah and I were at a mall and I was putting forth great effort to receive what I had ordered while we were being spit upon by a few cheeky little Spaniards two floors up. I chased them and gave them a look that crossed all language barriers while they hid behind their clueless parents. (yes, lots of parents are inattentive here in Europe too.)

Don’t feel sorry for me. I’d still rather be here with lame coffee than in the States at this stage of my life. Yep, it’s pretty cool here.

Before I go, I want to send a shout out to a dear friend of ours who is ill, and who has seasoned many of life’s greatest storms with so many of us. A friend who has given so much more than he’s received: Morrissey. The troubadour of our most intimate sorrows – the boy with the thorn in his side – collapsed on stage the other week while singing “This Charming Man.” I’ve been wearing black since hearing the news… because black is how I feel on the inside. But maybe I’d be more of an encouragement if I wore gold lamé. Get well soon, Moz.