Monday, December 16, 2013

Ugly Sweater Party

For my birthday this year, I decided on a North American theme: an Ugly Sweater party (Suéter Feo).  For anyone unfamiliar with this concept, around Christmastime people in my Canadian hometown pull out the ugliest sweaters they've ever been gifted, or scour the secondhand stores. We make them even uglier by adding Christmas decorations, and then go out and party!


Based on my friends' reactions, it was obvious that Fiesta Suéter Feo had never been done in Villacarrillo before. When I sent them example photos, about a third of them were absolutely enthralled by the concept. The rest were horrified at having to wear them in public. The protests on Whatsapp were hilarious: “We have to make our sweaters UGLY?”  “Maybe we can go to the bar.... in the afternoon?”  “But if I go out like that, I'll lose clients for my business.” 

But my friends are troopers, and love a good party, so they were game to bring my idea to life. I was so proud of them because they worked so hard on decorating their sweaters!  Watching them slave over their outfits for hours made me wonder, “Will they be brave enough to go to the bar wearing them?”  I secretly hoped so!

Getting ready for the party
When they showed up for dinner at my apartment, I was so happy to see their work. Even the ones who were adamant about not doing the theme showed up in ultra-ugly wear! But after dinner, would we go out as a group and show them off?

(Just in case the townspeople didn't know which one was the foreigner...)
My friend turned her entire self into a Christmas tree!

...Not this year; when it came time to go out, invitees started taking off the decorations. My Canadian friend, who was visiting from Madrid, tried to guilt them into keeping them on. But I couldn't force anyone to do it; doing so would have been like asking them to run naked in the streets. An Ugly Sweater party is such a strange concept here that making them go out dressed as such would have been cruel. It's like Hallowe'en; years ago, no one here celebrated it. But now, kids dress up and go out, and next the adults will. Is there any hope that one day people here will have Suéter Feo parties?  Based on the fun we had, yes there's hope.

Monday, December 2, 2013

My Bubble

I forgot my Mom's birthday. What's worse is that while it was her birthday, I was thousands of kilometres away celebrating my neighbours' birthdays. Three weeks later, I finally sent her a card and a video greeting.

In school, students asked about the welfare of my family in the Philippines. My response: “...uh, what typhoon?” You see, I don't watch the news. I can't understand the rapid Spanish anyway. And because no one in my immediate family was affected, I never received a message from my parents.

When I was living in Canada, I was obsessed with keeping up with the latest fashion and beauty trends. Here, I feel dressed up on days when I'm NOT wearing my running shoes. I had forgotten about my appearance until I arrived at the bar one evening, and a Madrid friend asked “Uh, you're going to change before we go out to the pub, right?” Even after he said that, for a few minutes I thought there was nothing wrong with my hand-me-down knitted cardigan, wrinkled shirt, messy hair, and – you guessed it – running shoes. 
I'm pretty sure my Canadian friends want to kill me right now.
In my pueblo, it's easy for me to forget the outside world that is revolving at dizzying speed, while here I amble slowly to work, only use the internet when I'm near Wi-Fi, refuse to mark papers while I enjoy a three-course lunch, and follow the stores' siesta time when they all close at 2 p.m. for a few hours. I stop while I walk to work to marvel at the way the sun's setting light is shadowing the Sierra's crevices. I feel at peace as I walk home alone at night, pausing to admire stars that I could never see in the city. 

Sometimes I feel like I'm not living in reality, like I'm on a perma-vacation. There still exists a pressure inside of me to climb the corporate ladder, keep up with trends, hurry up and get a boyfriend, move fast, fast, fast. At times, this voice yells LOUDLY inside of me. But 99% of the time, it's non-existent. Moving to the pueblo quieted the internal critic.