Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Is this it? Expectations and Self-esteem

Tough outside, sensitive inside.
People often compliment me on my confidence, composure, and bravery for moving to another country (thank you, by the way). Inside me, however, there is a raging storm of doubt. How many times a day do any of the following enter your head?

"I need to lose weight."
"I suck at relationships."
"I'm never going to pass this course."
"I'll never be rich enough to afford that."
"I'll never pay off my debt."

Margaret Cho, American comedian, once had a brilliant thought and shared it in a monologue:

"I thought about all the times, every day, where I said to myself, 'I'm fat. I need to lose weight. I'm ugly. No one likes me.' And then I calculated in my head the number of minutes I wasted, every day, questioning myself. How many minutes every hour? Every day? Ever week? And I thought, 'What if this is it? What if this is just the way I am? How much time would I save?' 

"Turns out I could save 90 minutes per week. I could take a pottery class!"

What if we all did the same thing? Accepted that that tight-ass shirt will never sit right over one's potbelly? Accepted that we haven't yet met the right person to fit with one's personality, whatever it may be? Accepted that that boring course will never be fascinating? Accepted that some high-paying jobs don't always fit one's dreams? Accepted that we have a lot of debt and too many credit cards?

See you in pottery class.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ghosts from the Past: All About Exes

For some reason, this week became "The Week of the Ex-Boyfriends". Not one, but TWO of them got in touch with me, wanting to re-establish lines of communication. My past practice has not included friendship with exes. Rather, I tend to never speak with them again, as it's easier for me. They're not horrible people, but I prefer to have my thoughts unclouded and my memories free from sadness or regret.

After a particularly bad breakup, when I asked a friend if I'd ever heal from the pain, she advised me, "You'll know you're better when you can look back on the relationship with fond memories." For months, when people would ask me about this specific ex, I'd get angry and say, "Oh, you mean 'A**hole'? I have no freaking idea how he's doing." I did everything I could to avoid remembering him, and almost never mentioned him to anyone. But after awhile, I noticed that I could tell tales about funny things he did, and not feel anger or regret. Later, I noticed that I could call him a good person and really mean it (not that he was good towards me near the end of our relationship, rather he was a good person in general). After several years, he contacted me last week, and I was completely shocked. But I replied in a good way and felt happy to hear from him. 

Will I be friends with either of the exes? Hard to say. There are people who can do it, and I've never been able to. However, if the time I've spent so far in Spain has taught me anything, it's that things change all the time - in fact, often the only constant in life is change.

Are you able to stay friends with exes? Why or why not? Comment below!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Flower Power: Córdoba's Patio Festival

Spring sucks in Jaén for people with allergies. They walk around with white painter's masks, to avoid breathing in pollen. We are surrounded by the olive trees of the countryside, and I feel bad for them. They definitely wouldn't be able to partake in a cool event in Córdoba at this time of year: the Feria de los patios.
Bad for the allergic...

...but fun for me.

Things I learned: Córdoba is best accessed via bus, although it's a 2 hour ride. Since I went on a Sunday morning, there were no Blablacars and the only train to arrive on time for the feria left Jaén at 6:40 a.m. 

It's very easy to walk the 20 minutes from the bus station to the sites. They're all relatively close to one another. Córdoba's old city centre is not very big. It was HOT though, so I was glad I was wearing a summer dress and good walking shoes.

Córdoba is filled with people who can speak English, at least at bare minimum. Better than in Jaén. Good news for tourists, bad news for someone like me who wants to be forced to struggle along in Spanish. I was flattered to hear from the tourism agent that my Spanish was very good!

My impression of the feria was that it was cool to see the patios.... the first ten, anyway. By the time we hit number eleven, I felt like I'd seen enough, although I kept going because my friend was excited to see such artistry playing with nature. It was definitely something culturally exciting that I'd never experienced before.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How Almería Beats Jaén

I'd been to Almería before, back in 2005 when I came to Spain for my first European vacation. I stayed at an eco-village and had one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. The Spanish bug bit me and lo and behold, I returned eight years later.

For this past May long weekend, I switched to a beachy vacation with good friends from Madrid. We met in our hotel in the city center, located in a cute barrio full of shops and fantastic restaurants. Every day, we got up early and caught a bus to the coast. San José was our first stop. The beach in the village was small, but a co-worker was kind enough to give us a lift in the afternoon to Genovese and Monsul, where a famous scene from Indiana Jones, featuring Sean Connery, was shot. It's said that Spielberg actually stayed at one of the hotels in San José. The village was very cute and had lovely restaurants. If you want a tranquil vacation, this is a good place to stay.

The next day, we got up again bright and early to go to Cabo de Gata. We arrived to find miles of beach, and insane wind. Within an hour though, it died down and we were free to enjoy scorching sun and cooling water, in what felt like a very private setting. There's so much space that people go off into their own corners and it feels like there's no one around. We "kept busy" by collecting shells, swimming, and sleeping.

At night, we hit nearby restaurants and tapas-hopped. Sorry Jaén, but Almería's got you beat. Drinks cost slightly more, but the quality of the seafood-rich tapas were amazing. Muy buenas pintas.

Our vacation was so relaxing and fantastic, that already we have started talking about coming back to do it all over again.