free stats Carmen's Web: June 2005
Thursday, June 30, 2005
I taught my last set of students a ten minute class today. Introduced them to the concept of Spanglish and how it has made its way into a number of Bachata songs that originate from New York. A decade or so ago you would never really hear English in Bachata tunes...they all originated from the DR. But now, as Dominican-American artists mark their space in the genre, it's much more prevalent. A lot of people lament this. I agree that the music is not the same but music isn't supposed to stay the same, is it? Dominicans in NY have different issues than Dominicans in DR and their music reflects this. So while it's not the same, I think it still serves a purpose.

Anyway, enough of my personal views and back to class. I gave my students the lyrics to "Amor Eterno" with the English blanked out and told them to listen to the song carefully so they can capture the English. I played the first verse for them and as soon as it was done they asked, "there was English in that?!!?" Had to play for them a couple of times and towards the end gave them the lyrics. It was a fun class today. Still had the same butterflies I often (always) get, but I'm okay with it. I don't think I'll ever get rid of that feeling.

Finished the class and all the students kept calling us "teachers" now. "Teacher, that was good", "Teacher, I really liked that song!" "Teacher is going to Malaga". It was really cute. We went to the terrace with them afterwards and just talked to each other.

This was my absolute favorite class. The women were feisty, they were smart, and they were fun. They always said something that would make me laugh. I will definitely miss them.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:40 PM
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Monday, June 27, 2005
I taught my last class today! I definitely didn't go out with a bang, but it's over!!!!

I was extremely nervous before teaching. Regardless of how many times I've done this over the past three weeks the butterflies continue to flutter in my stomach, I continue to sweat from every pore in my body, and my hands still shake when I'm writing on the board or handing out papers. Although I was prepared and 100% ready for today's lesson, I still couldn't keep myself from feeling sick.

And the class today was just REALLY resistant to working; it was like pulling teeth for the entire hour. We just had a three day weekend after all and I don't think any of them wanted to be there. Hell, I didn't even want to be there! The past three days were just so relaxing...starting work again was the last thing I wanted to do.

The students zoned out so many times that I was ready to just close my books and end the lesson early. They just weren't motivated, didn't seem to want to work. And, for the first time, the blame did not rest on me! My lesson was kick ass and I think if I had gotten them on another day we would've produced great work.

I sat down afterwards thinking that the lesson was just absolutely disastrous. And although I really did care about this lesson I was just so relieved that I didn't have to do this anymore. I know that teaching in the real world will also be stressful, but this whole experience was just really intense. Being observed is not pleasant matter. Regardless, I think I managed the classroom well and can say with certainty that I did more than my best.

It's over. I went into this submerged under water and now I've finally gotten some air and it feels great!
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 7:52 PM
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Sunday, June 26, 2005
Weird things
Meet Cheryl's boyfriend, Matthew. Matthew has a very odd talent...he can squeeze his earlobes into his ear and keep 'em there for as long as need be:

What's the weirdest thing YOU can do with a body part???
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:41 PM
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Saturday, June 25, 2005
South along the coast
Went off to Sitges today with Cheryl, Jerry, and Kristen. It's a small little town about half an hour away from Barcelona with broad, sandy beaches and small, narrow streets. It was so nice to be away from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona for a day. It's been really hot here for the past couple of days. Last night I was drenched in sweat and could not sleep a wink. It was so uncomfortable. I had to get up twice to change my shirt. It was unbearable. This morning was really bad as well...the cool breeze from Sitges was like a gift from God.

We arrived around two and had a quick bite to eat at a Mexican place where, for the first time since I've been to Spain, I actually understood the Spanish. Navigated my way through the menu like it was second nature! They were playing some bachata as well ;)

Headed towards the beach after and just lounged around all afternoon. The water was really nice and cooled us off when the sun beat us to death. We went off to a restaurant by the water around six where we found this little gem:

Yes, it's wrong that I whipped out my camera to take a picture of an innocent man just standing in the middle of the beach, minding his own business. And yes, if Jerry were the one who took out a camera to take a picture of a woman we all would have probably given him a dirty look, but look...look could you expect me NOT to capture this???

Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:53 PM
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Friday, June 24, 2005
The night that just wouldn't start

Went out last night for San Joan. Lauren picked me up at the house, we met Jerry and Kristen, went to pick up Cheryl and Claire, and found Chris, Cay, and Sally. Getting all of us together took forever. We ended up going to get a bite at an all you can eat buffet and then decided to go down towards the beach. We had no idea where we were going...just knew that we were supposed to head south.

The trains were PACKED. PACKED. People looked like sardines in the cars. And this was around midnight! We finally make it to Barceloneta and as we're walking to the beach Kristen starts to talk to these two guys from Venezuela who ended up sticking to us for the rest of the evening.

We're at the beach and have no idea where to go. We're supposed to meet Yan and Mark at two different places so one group stays on the beach and the other goes to a building nearby. Cay spent 20 minutes trying to explain to Yan where we were. After half an hour we realize he's nowhere near so we leave to go to the other group who's still waiting for a Mark that was supposedly only ten minutes away.

We hang out there for a while and I start to talk with one of the Venezuelans, Marcel. My Spanish is awful. I can say a handful of words, I can sing every single Juan Luis Guerra song, but ask me to actually construct a sentence for you and you'll wish yourself away. Marcel didn't care and kept on talking to me. 23, living in Barcelona, desperate for a girlfriend but says he can't get one because he's ugly. He was waiting for me to say, "No, no es feo" but I wasn't about to oblige him. I hate people who fish for compliments.

So we're talking while we're waiting. He tells me about Venezuela and we start talking about music. I tell him that I'm a merenguera and he tells me how much he loves merengue. Asks me what else I like and I tell him bachata, to which he replies "Bachata! Bachata es feo". He completely lost me at that point. See, I'm very loyal to my music. VERY loyal. I have a collection of merengue and bachata music that would rival any Dominican's. I live, breathe, and eat this music. It's the only thing that calms me down, the only thing that'll ever make me happy if I'm out at a club. My brother once wrote a profile about me:

" the most wonderful, coolest, most caring person in the world (and she's my sister to boot!) Fun to hang out with, make fun of people, to talk to, to do anything with. Just be prepared to love bachata, or there's no hope for you."

There was no hope for Marcel after his comment. He tried to redeem himself by asking me if I were going to the Juan Luis Guerra concert next month, but it was too late...he was cut off.

Mark called us at some point and we finally got up and started walking towards his direction. I was too distracted with Marcel and everyone else was walking so fast that we ended up losing each other. Cay, Sally, Mark and I (and the bachata hater) had no idea where to go and I was ready to just head on home. Got a call from Jerry, regrouped with some people (Lauren and Kristen were gone by that time) and started walking towards Port Olympic to meet Mark. I kept trying to avoid Marcel because it was just getting really annoying talking to this kid. The only thing he kept repeating is that I had a really beautiful face and that he was really ugly. I started talking with Jerry for a bit and Marcel started talking to others. Kept trying to avoid him for the rest of the evening.

Long, long story short...we end up at Port Olympic, it's 2:30, Mark is nowhere to be found. I sit around till 3am and then just call it quits. I had high hopes for this evening actually, but it just seemed like it didn't want to start, so I decided to just end it. It took me an hour to get home because there were no cabs around and the metro was just SO SO SLOW. Made my way to bed at 4am, knocked out till morning.

Only good thing I can say is that the celebrations are finally over and there are no more firecrackers!!!!!!!
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:29 PM
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Thursday, June 23, 2005
Pow, Bam, Kaboom...Barcelona is on FIRE!

It's San Joan Eve (pronounced joe-ahn, also known as San Juan in Spanish and St. John in English) and Barcelona is the noisiest it's ever been since I've arrived. Although firecrackers and fireworks are illegal, it hasn't stopped anyone from buying them and lighting them up in the streets. The past week and a half has been loud with indiscriminate popping here and there, but today it has not stopped once and has only gotten louder. Catalans look for an excuse to play with fire, and they've finally gotten a reason with San Joan.

Going out tonight with some friends from the course. Tried to take a nap when I got home from school, but it was just SO LOUD. Every time I would doze off I'd be jolted awake with a loud crack. Going to have dinner first and then finish off the rest of the night in the streets or on the beach. Angels warned me that the streets will literally be on fire; people light bonfires at night and are expected to jump over them. Most Catalans are escaping from the chaotic city for that reason, encouraged by the day off tomorrow (three day weekend!!), so I'm not sure, then, that it's a such a great idea to be out on the streets. It should be interesting though!

I truly wish I could record the sounds right now. It is NON-STOPPPPPP. The images are something I'll probably grab with my camera, but no words in the world can describe this continuous assault on your ears. It's like being in a war. I don't know why people find pleasure in something like this. Firecrackers, loud noise like that, has never impressed me. Among my most favorite things are watching fireworks, but firecrackers?? Never been my cup of tea. The sounds are just too violent, too warlike. Why anyone enjoys them is beyond me. It seriously sounds like we're in the middle of a battlefield right now. God I wish I capture this noise!
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:46 PM
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Wednesday, June 22, 2005
I started this course with no real intention to teach afterwards. CELTA was supposed to challenge was supposed to force me to confront my fears, push me farther than I was ever pushed. I was going to do the course, play around in Europe for the rest of the summer and probably return to NY and start career planning. I am now seriously considering teaching EFL. I've had so much fun the past couple of classes. Have relaxed so much more. I'm still nervous as hell, but get a weird adrenaline rush right after I finish my lesson.

Had a career planning session today. Barcelona is a difficult place to find a job, but there are jobs all over the world. It just looked so appetizing! I KNOW how hard it was for me when I first got here. My first couple of entries are testimony to my pain, misery, and alienation. I can't believe that only twenty days later my mind is traveling all over the world. I can't believe that I, chicken shit in front of groups, now want to put myself in front of groups. I WANT to teach!

Then again I'm writing this at lunchtime, about an hour before teaching today's lesson...
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 12:42 PM
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Monday, June 20, 2005
Almost there...
It's almost over. Two more classes to teach and I'm done.

My head continues to be in a spin. I've never gotten so little sleep in my life. No sleep, bad eating habits, lots of stress...I'm positive this is bound to end badly if I don't start changing these habits. It's just really hard to sleep when you've got so much on your mind, hard to eat when the food isn't that fabulous and you're always really tired to cook, and forget about trying to fix the stress; nothing is going to fix that except the very last class.

Teaching mid-intermediate classes now. I've been getting more comfortable teaching though. Not as nervous as I used to be...I don't feel like I want to throw up anymore. Today I actually relaxed during my lunch break and had a pleasant meal with Jerry and Cheryl. Instead of frantically writing a script for class (I usually write out EXACTLY what I'm going to say in class) I just chilled out, had a nice conversation, and went back to school with a happy stomach.

Started class of course with the butterflies I get all the time. Regardless of how many times I do this, this feeling will just never go away.

Taught the passive form today. Which meant that I had to learn what the passive form. It's really sad that I spent hours trying to figure out what it was while these EFL students knew exactly what it was, how to form, and why we use it instead of the active form.

Started class with a sentence on the board:

"George Bush was elected by the American people in 2004".

They saw the sentence and shook their heads, so I immediately added "some of the American people" only to make sure they didn't think all Americans were complete dolts.

Asked them if it were passive or active, they immediately said active, asked them how to change it to the active and they did it right away. (If you don't know how to do it you've got to look it up...I'm not going to give you the answer).

I then broke them into two groups and them complete a quiz in which the questions were passive. The prize for the winners was an all inclusive trip to the Dominican Republic, where Jose the Cabana Boy and Ramona the Cabana Girl would be at their beck and call. Both teams got all the answers right, so we went into round two. They had to form their own questions to ask each other. And they formed some great questions. I've really been underestimating the students and am always surprised when they exceed my expectations of them.

All in all, a pretty good class. Although I still get very nervous, shaking hands and all (but no more sweat stains...I make sure I'm wearing either a black shirt or a tank top!!! Never having that brown tunic fiasco again!), my body language flows more smoothly.

We had our mid-review tutorials today. My tutor said that I'm progressing really well and have the potential to pass this thing with high marks. I was very proud of myself when she told me this. This is the first time in a really long time that I have ownership over a project, that what I put in actually matters. I remember at my old job working really hard only to see how little impact my work had on anything. How things I did were ignored or belittled. To be in control over my own work, its own development means a lot to me right now.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 7:23 PM
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Sunday, June 19, 2005
If it weren't for the last five minutes...
Spent the entire day trying to work on a written assignment due tomorrow. While it shouldn't really have taken me all day, I was quite distracted today (and yesterday, and the day before, and probably tomorrow). Was listening to music, chatting with my roommate, tried to take a nap...anything to avoid actually writing it.

I was complaining recently how tough this course was...that there's so much to do and so little time to do it. But then I realized that this is how I work. I can be given an assignment a month in advance and will not come close to starting it till the day before it's due. Like Toots always tells me, "if it weren't for the last five minutes I'd never get anything done".
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 11:11 PM
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Friday, June 17, 2005
Tarragona or bust!

It definitely went bust.

Was supposed to head out to Tarragona today with Lauren and Cay. Cay's friend had a place out there and I figured it might be nice to get out of Barcelona and relax a bit for the weekend. Met up with Cay first and we had a really nice time talking. We talked about the course, life, and how much we love garlic!!! Dipping french fries in some garlic sauce...YUM!!!

We waited around forever for Lauren and Nerea to show up. Lauren finally got there at one point, but Nerea was nowhere to be found. I thought it was a little strange that the host would be late, especially when she knew that there was only one train heading out. After some time she ended up calling Cay and asked her where she was. "What do you mean where am I? I'm at the station." Apparently Nerea texted the wrong station to Cay. Had no idea what to do at that point. Nerea lost her signal and we couldn't speak with her anymore, there was no way we were going to have time to head out to the other station, and the train leaving from the station where we were at wasn't going to stop in Nerea's village. It was going to stop somewhere in Tarragona and then from there we would've had to figure out how to get to this village.

Lauren and Cay were both up for the adventure. "Let's just take the train, we can take a cab from there or a bus or something." Now, by this time it was 9pm. Tarragona was about an hour and a half away. There was no way I was going to start on an adventure like that so late in the evening. The purpose of this trip was for me to RELAX. I saw nothing relaxing about taking a trip to a strange city and playing the rest by ear. I excused myself although both Cay and Lauren kept trying to convince me to go. It was just not happening. Tarragona went bust.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 1:58 PM
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Thursday, June 16, 2005
I had a spectacular class today! It was, by far, the most successful class I've taught!!!

I was teaching comparative forms of adjectives and had no idea how to make this interesting for the class. The tasks in the book seemed boring and uncreative...I myself was bored looking at them. And I've learned, from the past two classes, that once this particular group gets bored there's very little you can do to get them motivated. They'll go through the motions, they'll complete the tasks, but you can see the boredom in their faces.

I stayed up until 2am trying to think of what I could do to make this lesson interesting and I came up with NOTHING. NOTHING. Went to school today discouraged, wondering if I should just forget about this whole experience. I wasn't finished with my work either and had to spend lunch finishing up, which meant that, again, I didn't get to eat.

Got to class, sat down, leaned back against the chair and asked the class a simple question: Should I stay in Barcelona after this course or go to Madrid? I was trying to introduce the lesson (comparative adjectives) and figured that this would be a good way to start. They had no idea that that question related to their lesson and started throwing advice at me. I manipulated their sentences so that they used comparative adjectives ("Madrid is hotter", etc). I could've kept that going for some time, but I'm still uncomfortable just being in front of the class like that. After a couple of minutes I asked them if they knew what they were doing, they stared at me blankly, and then finally realized that they were actually using grammar.

So the class started off well. I then split them up into three groups so we could play a game. I made it into a race and tried to explain the directions to them but they were still talking over me. I then, a little louder, told them they had to listen to the directions or else they weren't going to win and all of a sudden the one student who talks over every single person, who can't manage to keep his mouth shut, said " quiet, she's going to tell us the rules!" It was a GLORIOUS moment!!!!!! I finally got the class to listen to me!!!!!!!!

Put myself behind the scenes and let the class finish their game and complete their assignments. They were running up to the board, they were happy, they were learning. I just sat back and watched. And smiled.

Finished my lesson (got out of the hurricane) and was just really satisfied. It was just spectacular!!

Already in a great mood, I met with Angels after class for some coffee. It was so nice seeing a familiar face. And she is incredibly friendly. We went for coffee, talked for over an hour, and then instead of simply heading home she took me on a walking tour of Barcelona. Finally saw what made this city appealing to people. We ended up spending over three hours together before we finally made it home. I had a great, GREAT time with her. We talked non-stop about politics, history, life, New York...she's amazing.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 10:36 PM
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Wednesday, June 15, 2005
My horoscope this week:

"British medical researchers recently announced that contrary to conventional wisdom, brief periods of stress are healthy for us--so much so that they boost longevity and enhance our cells' ability to repair themselves. At the same time, the scientists emphasized that intense, long-term stress is still just as bad for us as we've always thought. If they're right, Capricorn, you should be the picture of vitality right now. The difficulties you've been facing lately have passed the Goldilocks' test: neither too great nor too small, but just right."

There is no way I will come close to believing that the stress I am currently experiencing is just right for my health. But I suppose if it hasn't killed me by now it's got to be a healthy dose...
You form a strange connection with people when you're all thrown into the same situation. Yesterday one of the girls broke down and was ready to give up on the entire experience. She wasn't prepared for her lesson, had problems with her MFP (again, if you never plan on teaching EFL you don't want to know what this is). I was getting ready to run out to lunch (see...I'm trying to eat properly) when I saw her walking up the stairs. She called on me and asked if I could help her with her work. I told her I was going to lunch and asked her if I could help her when I got back...she immediately said yes, that I should go eat, that she'd be fine. I saw something in her eyes though that indicated that she wasn't going to be fine; that she was overwhelmed and on the verge of breaking apart.

Although she insisted I go eat, I told her we should work on the plans first and then I'd go get something. We found an empty room, she took out her work, and all of a sudden started crying. She wanted to just go home, tell the tutor that she was sick and couldn't teach today. Then she started wondering what the hell she was doing here, why she wasted all this money on something like this, why she was putting herself through this hell.

I managed to calm her down a little and we walked through her work together. I didn't do it for her, but helped her put it together. She did all the work herself. After class, she received her MFP back with "it needs a little work, but yours is the best". It was odd because this particular tutor doesn't really say things like that; it was like the universe was aligning to make sure that she didn't get too discouraged. It was exactly what she needed to hear, and when she heard it she whispered a quick "thank you" to me.

It was the proudest moment I've had in a while. I was proud of myself for not having done the work for her, but helped her realize where the problems were and how to fix them herself. I am the kind of person who will do anything, absolutely ANYTHING to take away someone else's pain. I'll never teach them how to fish...will simply give them the fish. And this is precisely what I was talking about yesterday--DON'T SPOONFEED ANYMORE!!!!

So we all, the CELTA trainees, are in a really odd and difficult situation. This course is incredibly overwhelming, we're all far away from home, some of us have no one we know here. It's intensive, constant work, constant (vital) new information being thrown at us that we never have time to process and file in an appropriate folder in our minds. If I were a computer, I'd probably freeze by now with all this information being uploaded. I'm not sure the human brain is equipped to deal with constant bombardment like this.

I'm learning a lot though, and I don't just mean the stuff in books or class...

Oh, and my friend's lesson?? It ROCKED. As nervous as she was and as unprepared as she is, she performed brilliantly in front of class.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:38 PM
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Tuesday, June 14, 2005
My body is going into famine mode. It's desperately sending me signals that it needs help and for some reason I continue to ignore them. I'm well aware of the SOS, but am not responding to the call.

Whatever it was that I had last week (virus, nerves, stress, sensory overload) had a huge effect on me and I've been afraid to really eat anything even though I've been feeling well. The worst is definitely over--the chills I had, the absolute lack of desire to eat anything--all that is gone. But I'm still not eating. My body is going no nutrients. I've never lost so much weight so quickly in my life. My jeans, which used to be more than pretty snug, are so loose now that I've had to buy a belt to keep them up. I'm afraid of the severe physical changes.

It's amazing how resilient your body is, though. I honestly can't believe that it hasn't completely shut down. I feel the changes/warning signs. I blank out a lot. Complete blank out. It's not even normal memory loss (where the hell did I leave my keys) but I can't remember even the most basic of things. When I DO eat, I feel the effects immediately...the blood rushing to my brain, the stability of my body.

Taught my second class today. I'm still not getting "it" the way I really want to (perhaps if I eat that might help, huh????) I keep spoon-feeding the class (a problem I have in life outside the classroom). I always want to rescue people, save them from their problems. I wish I could learn to just let people work things out for themselves; be there as an anchor rather than solve their problems. I think if I can work this out then maybe I can translate it to my classroom (or vice-versa).
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 12:25 PM
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Monday, June 13, 2005
Rigorous Rosa
Taught my first pre-intermediate class today. I'm still surviving on just bread and water (prison life) so was a little lightheaded in class, but I think it went somewhat well. Had a little more control than I did the last time I taught, but I think I bored my class to shit.

Today's lesson was to get the students speaking about the places they live; flats, country house, city centre, etc. All I did in the beginning was put words up on the board, gave them a handout, and let them talk a little in the end. BORED SHITLESS they were. And they wouldn't stop talking!!! Everytime I'd tell them to stop talking they would not listen. Which of course made me more nervous. Here I am, in front of Rosa with no control over my class. "Please, please stop talking...we're working on this activity now, okay?? Okay??" It took a few minutes before I could finally get them to shut up to just put this lesson to rest.

Regardless, they seem like a fun class. All I have to do is figure out a way to get them interested in what I teach them and get them to listen to me!!!!

Rosa is intense. She's an absolutely BRILLIANT teacher. I was in awe of her when she taught the beginning of class on Friday. It's as if she were born to do this; it's second nature for her. I admire that so much...that she knows what she's talented in and has tapped into it. I can't see her doing anything else but teaching. Absolutely brilliant.

But SUPER TOUGH. She will not let you get away with anything. She demands the best from you and won't let you just slide by. I've never had anyone push me so hard, but it seems like the more she pushes, the better I want to do.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:16 PM
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Sunday, June 12, 2005
I went out last night to meet up with Cay and others for the Hawaiin party. Didn't end up meeting with Michael; we couldn't text each other properly. It's a shame because it would've been nice talking with him again...

SO...I meet Cay, Lauren and her boyfriend at Placa de Sol and we decide to get something to eat at a nearby restaurant before heading out to the party. My stomach really hasn't returned to normal, so I was planning to munch on some bread but then Cay said something about wanting flan and my mouth just started to water. I knew I was risking it, but decided to get the flan anyway.

We sat for over ten minutes waiting for the waiter to get us some menus so Lauren could order. Our waiter was a skinny, little Catalan man with missing teeth who looks like he's been working at this place for forty years. He came by our table, took someone else's order, grabbed some menus, threw them at our table and walked away. If a waiter ever did that in NY I would've walked straight out, but it was so thoroughly amusing that it was impossible to leave. He treated every single customer in there like shit, and everyone sat around and took it.

Little bit later he comes to our table and stares at us. Lauren and her boyfriend are still looking at the menu and our little waiter man looked like he was getting annoyed. So I looked at him and said, "dos flans para nosotros", pointing at myself and Cay. Without even looking at me he yelled out "NO. NO POSTRES!" Remember the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld?? This was our little waiter. Abrupt and angry. Cay and I looked at each other and then I just turned his attention over to Lauren, anxious to get his gaze off me. He took her order and then looked at me and Cay; "y tu?" "Nada," we replied. "Dos flans?? NO??!!" All I did was quickly shake my head yes to send him away. Apparently we were not allowed to order our desserts first...he had to take the dinner order and THEN we could order whatever else we wanted. I had just naturally assumed that there was no dessert in the entire place.

As rude as the service was, I've never had so much fun in a restaurant!!!
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:15 AM
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Saturday, June 11, 2005
Lessons learned
I came home last night prepared to just spend the evening at home and do my work, but my roommate came in and insisted I go out. I was still resistant, but he refused to allow me to stay at home. Kept insisting that it's sinful to stay in the house on a Friday and decided at the last minute to just step out with him, even for a little bit. He took me over to his old place, which is a HUGE apartment with five bedrooms where people live L'Auberge Espanol style. Met his old Swedish roommate, hung out for a while before we made our way to the Kabul Youth Hostel. I've never been to a youth hostel. They're fucking wild!! I don't know if it's because I'm getting older, but the kids were just way too hedonistic!!!! I'm not sure if I would've even liked them at a younger age...

Rob needed to say hello to a friend at the hostel and I met his old boss, a Moroccan named Mohamed. I knew from the moment I laid eyes on him that he was an Arab, so kept my distance, but then Rob made the introductions ("Mohamed, this is my roommate"). "Where are you from?" he asked. I said New York and Rob had to jump in and say that my parents were from Egypt. "EGYPT!!! You speak Arabic!" and it all went downhill from there. He started calling every single Arab who worked there to come to speak to me....Apparently they love Egyptians and the Egyptian accent, and I felt like a doll on display ("say something! We love your accent!! Say something else!!!!). And of course they brought out all the typical Egyptian trademarks ("Adel Imam is the best...have you ever met him??!! Dina's hot! Hakim was here not long ago!") Couldn't get out of there quick enough.

When we left we went to meet some of our classmates at a falafel place, and by this time I was so desperately hungry (hadn't eaten all day) and I succumbed and had one. I knew it might not be good for my system, but God I was desperate. Thankfully nothing happened after only one sandwich. We hung out there for a while and I spoke to Cay, one of my classmates, for the first time. It's funny...we're stuck in the same classroom for hours on end during the day but this is probably the first time we've actually exchanged more than two words with each other.

We moved from the falafel place to a dark, balmy bar that was playing what I can only describe as Spanish polka music. It was the oddest sound I'd ever heard. Met one of my classmates' oldest friends from Germany, Michael, and we just started talking for the rest of the evening. I had initially wanted to step out with Rob and then leave early to go check out a salsa club, but since I was out with people I thought it might be better to just stick around, and do the salsa thing any other time. The conversation with Michael was also the most interesting conversation I've had in a really long time.

After a while they wanted to change venues but I was already super tired by
then and just wanted to go home. Michael and I exchanged numbers so we can meet up for lunch today (he's leaving for Germany this evening) and was going to have lunch with some of his friends and said he'll let me know so I can come out. Although I should work on my lesson plan, I know how important it is to step out and interact with actual human beings.

So the first moral of the story is to accept any invitation to go out, even if
you don't really want to. At one point I was going to strangle Rob for not leaving me alone, but he knew that I needed to go out and that's why he kept insisting as much as he did to get me to MOVE. I caved in only to shut him up. It's a good thing he was so insistent because I met some interesting people and saw decadent Barcelona at night.

The second moral of the story is that by being anti-social (due to shyness in my case) you end up missing out on some great people. I have a tendency to stand in a corner holding up the wall on social occasions. Usually avoid talking to anyone for two reasons really: 1. they won't be interested in anything I have to say, and 2. I won't be interested in anything they have to say.

I personally wouldn't have spoken to Cay if we hadn't been standing so close to each other. Which would've been stupid because we had a lot to talk about and had great conversation. I also wouldn't have spoken with Michael for the same reason (we were both standing alone and it just seemed
natural) and we didn't stop talking for over an hour. It wasn't forced, just kinda flowed from topic to topic, and we both seemed genuinely interested in what we were saying to each other...definitely went off on tangents, but were able to pick up the threads pretty easily.

Should get off and do some work. Cay invited me to a Hawaiin party tonight and am supposed to be meeting up with Michael a little later on...
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:14 AM
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Friday, June 10, 2005
Sick days gone wild
Yesterday was bad. Bad, Bad, BAD, BAAAD, BAAAAD. I woke up in the morning feeling normal. No sickness, no headache. All was good with the world. Towards the afternoon I started getting sick again and threw up during lunch. Susannah saw how sick I was and took me to a pharmacy to get something for my stomach. The pharmacist gave me something for the nausea and told me not to each anything for 24 hours. Eat NOTHING. If I get hungry (IF???) I should eat some bread, nothing else. Susannah sent me home and told me not to come back if I were feeling sick. I was supposed to be teaching today, but thankfully Claire (in my group) is going to substitute for me.

I'm not sure what it was exactly, but it must have been a 24 hour something because I'm feeling a little better now. Then again I haven't had anything to eat other than bread's hard to get sick when you haven't eaten anything.

But yesterday was BAD. My stomach was in total disorder, my head was killing me, and my body was just shaking. My skin was very sensitive and everything hurt. Every little thing hurt. I was honestly ready to pack my bags and go home...I just wanted to be around people who knew me, who wanted to take care of me. I started pitying myself and guess who I ended up calling for parents. I knew that they couldn't do anything for me, but for some reason just wanted to be babied, just wanted to hear concern in someone's voice. My mother, of course, wouldn't stop telling me what to cook, how to cook it, when to cook it, and ordered me to go downstairs and get some lemons to suck on, that they'd relieve the nausea. My father kept telling me to forget about Barcelona and just come home!!! It made me feel better to hear their voices. Funny...the ones I was trying to get away from are the first ones I seek for comfort.

I couldn't seem to compose myself to go out and get a lemon, so I tried to go to bed to make the shakes go away. When they wouldn't I finally got dressed to get a lemon. Went to a small supermarket right in front of my building and bought myself a lemon. ONE lemon. I'm not sure what kind of normal person just buys one lemon, but again, I couldn't think properly. When my brother called me a little later and I told him that I just bought one lemon when I should've bought others to just keep at home he laughed at me and called me a loser. YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE SO SICK AND TRY TO KEEP A STRAIGHT HEAD!!!!!

So I sucked on that one lemon till I couldn't do it anymore and you know what happened...I felt MUCH better. My stomach wasn't in such turmoil anymore. Hate to say it, but mom was right. She was right. I still had the chills, my body was still aching, and I continued to pray for a relief that refused to come. Went to sleep early and woke up as if nothing was wrong. No shivers, no pain...I still keep eating only bland food (boiled vegetables, plain bread) but I'm feeling much better.

Finished, I suppose, the first week of this course. I can't wait till it's over. There's just so much to do, so many things to think of re: teaching. Having to work on your lesson plans practically every other day is just so exhausting and regardless of how many times you get up there in front of class, you're still super nervous. I wonder when this feeling will go away, if it ever does.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:13 PM
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Sick days
Felt absolutely horrible today. Towards the afternoon, about an hour before I started teaching, I developed a really, really bad headache. Haven't had a bad one like this in a long while. It was worse than a migraine and wouldn't stop pounding against my head and against my eyes.

I didn't know that I'd be able to teach, but I managed to go through with it. I honestly don't know how I did my lesson. Was teaching adjectives and ended up underestimating the students. I was 100% sure that they were going to have a tough time with the grammar rules (adjectives go first in English vs adjectives go second in Spanish). I was ready to spend at least ten minutes reviewing the rules, and realized within two minutes that they knew exactly what they were doing, were able to form sentences properly, and I was left in the dust. While I was teaching, up there in front of the class, the headache subsided a little. I knew it was there because my head felt sore, but the pounding was taking a rest. Regardless, I couldn't think on my feet and the lesson went south quickly. I managed to get the students working on some activities, but it was definitely a bad lesson. And embarrassing!!! I wore my brown tunic today...thought it was nice and appropriate for class. I completely forgot how HOT you get when you get up there to teach...the sweat seeping from your pores. The room can be cold, but the minute you get up there you're sweating up a storm. And there I was, in the middle of the room, underwarm sweat exposing my discomfort :(

After I finished teaching I just sat down and the headache came back with a vengeance. Couldn't keep my eyes open, couldn't keep my head from spinning. During the break I went to the bathroom and forced myself to throw up. My stomach felt a little better when I did that, but I went back to the class and still felt bad. Susannah saw that I wasn't feeling well and sent me home.

Got home, took an Excedrin, and tried to sleep off the headache. I woke up about an hour later feeling much better and returned to school for an observation and here I am now.

I don't know why I felt like that today. I'm almost positive it can't be something I ate. It can't just be that. I haven't been eating properly since I've gotten here, for many reasons. For one, it's really hard to find a restaurant that you actually want to eat in and then it's really hard to find something to eat when you have no time to eat. I run around trying to finish my work and can only eat something quickly, so I've been living on sandwiches and cereal since I've been here. I know I should start eating properly, especially since I changed my diet for the better since the beginning of this year. My body is going to be very unhappy with me soon.

My body and my senses have taken such a strong pounding since I've gotten here. First it was the emotional overload Toots was talking about, and then it was a severe physical attack to something. I know I WAS nervous about teaching, but I can't believe that stress could've given me a beating like that.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 7:12 PM
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Monday, June 06, 2005
In the Eye of the Hurricane
I've been finding myself using a lot of gestures when I talk to anyone now. It's almost a hazard of the trade. When you teach elementary leveled English students you have to speak really slow and use gestures in order for them to understand you.

Taught my first real class today...45 minutes teaching "jobs". I was so nervous before I went up. I wasn't nervous all weekend, not even this morning, but right before I went on I was shitting bricks. You know that feeling when your chest tightens up, the butterflies begin to flutter, and your body temperature rises even when the room is cold. I felt like I was going into battle. I started class with only four people in it, which made it even more uncomfortable. I battled through it, though, and think I did a pretty good job. Students kept coming in till there were at least eight, and I had them laughing and playing games. I'm not sure I can explain how I felt AS I was teaching. I know I was nervous because I was still very hot, but once I came out of it I could not remember ONE SINGLE THING I did in that 45 minutes. It was like being in the eye of the hurricane and just being relieved that you came out of it. You remember how hard/difficult it must have been in there, but you're proud that you managed to survive and come out fairly unscathed. Phew!

What makes this course stressful is that you always have to be on your feet. There's constant thinking, constant activity. We get two classes in the morning re: methodology where we have to work in pairs/groups to get the lesson done. You're never put on the spot in front of the whole class, which is a plus for me, but there's always constant activity. You come out of each lesson breathing a sigh of relief.

I can relax a little today because I'm not teaching tomorrow and have no lesson plans to complete. It would be useful to probably go through what we did today in class, but I'm just so tired and have such an awful headache. I want to be able to take it easy as well...tomorrow is going to be another tough day. This week I'll be teaching on Wed and Friday, so the rest of the week is going to be hectic.

I spoke with Angels today, an intern from my previous job. I had no idea she was in former co-worker (once she realized I was eating at McDemon's out of desperation) sent me Angels' contact info. It was really, really nice to speak to her...she was so excited that I'm here in Barcelona and was SOOOOOOO friendly. We're having dinner together on Wed, so that's something to look forward to.

My parents called me was really, really nice to hear their voice. My father said that he heard that I was having a tough time and told me that I should just pack my bags and head home :) The man never wants me to struggle. While it may get annoying sometimes, it’s just really, really nice to have someone who’d turn the world upside down just to make sure you’re not in pain. Still a pretty good security blanket to have. Don’t use it often, but it’s still good to know that I have it.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:12 PM
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Saturday, June 04, 2005
Was very bored earlier today. I was lounging around all day, sleeping on and off, trying to wish the day to end quickly. It's so hard being here alone. I don't know what I was thinking coming to a place where I don't know one single person. Everyone who knows I'm here is envying me. Barcelona is the greatest city in the world, they say. I'm living their dream. Meanwhile, I feel like I'm stuck in a nightmare. I can't see what they love about this city. Not sure if the problem is them...or me.

Gareth, the guy who did the CELTA course just this previous month, took me out to Montjuic today. He asked if I were bored and if I wanted to take a walk. I thought it would be a great thing to do to kill time, so I didn't decline his invitation the way I would have had this been a time when I wasn't so lonely.

Montjuic was beautiful and the trek up there was excellent work for my thighs!!! I still can't see what the wonder of Barcelona is, but I guess to each his own. We ended up eating pizza for dinner (I food + Barcelona...why do that??? It was just really hard to find something to eat and I was STARVING)

Asked Gareth to give me the lowdown on the tutors...

We've got three tutors for this course, each one teaching a different level:

Susannah teaches elementary,
Rosa teaches pre-intermediate,
and David teaches mid-intermediate.

Each one takes turns teaching us methodology classes in the morning as well. We change levels after we teach three classes in each. Susannah is quite young and seems like the one that would be the easiest of the three, the least intimidating. Rosa looks like she knows exactly what she's talking about and for that reason is a bit more intimidating. David reminds me of Professor Severus Snape, but without the mean streak. (Well, maybe Snape is too extreme...he reminds me of Alan Rickman in every single one of his movies)...he seems very dry, though there's something beneath his dry demeanor. Someone said something stupid in class today and I saw him trying to withhold his laughter, so maybe looks are deceiving. He looks like he'll be the toughest and I think I'm glad I get him last because I'll have had enough practice by then and may be less nervous when I'm being observed by him.

Gareth didn't give me any details, but told me that I'll have changed my mind about my mind by the end of the course. He told me that David was his favorite; that it didn't start out that way (started with the same opinion that I had).

Don't know what to think...I'm EASILY intimidated so I don't know how this is going to go at all.

On another note, Toots called me today and we spent 30 minutes just talking bullshit. It was nice to hear his voice and spend such a long time talking.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 9:10 PM
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Friday, June 03, 2005
Culture shock
This culture shock is pervasive. It seeps through everything--the language, the food, the music, the people, the stores...Everything seems so foreign, so intimidating. It's like being a tiny person in a giant land. Everything is so much larger than life. It's incredibly disconcerting, scary as hell. You're in vertigo ALL THE TIME. All you want to do is hold on tightly to something familiar. I didn't think it was going to be like this for me. Felt all gung-ho, yeah give it to me, I can take anything. Proxima estacion?? Yeah, I'm ready for it...looking forward to the ride, right?? Hasn't been that easy.

I'm a little disappointed in myself only because I didn't think I was like this. I thought I was much stronger. I mean, I've traveled, I've been around the world, I've lived abroad. This isn't my first time. It shouldn't be like this. I shouldn't be feeling so scared.

Toots sent me an email to help keep me grounded:

"The feelings of alienation and isolation are pretty normal so don't start questioning yourself or your ability to deal with things.

It's tied partly to the feelings of being on your own but also a sense of injustice ('Why do I have to endure this just to achieve something? Other people can stay with their friends and family and get things done') and stress at the demands being made of you. Stress is a very hard feeling to describe. I used to think I was stressed until I actually realised what stress is. It's an insidious presence that affects you without knowing what is happening to you.

Another aspect of it is sensory overload. Your brain is being flooded with new images, new pieces of information and the loss of your old instincts (your US ones). Believe me, it's a load to deal with, but your body and your brain acclimatise, fairly quickly. Also, the next time you travel somewhere for work/ study, your body is better equipped to deal with it. The reason it doesn't happen when you're on vacation is because there are fewer demands on us, when we travel.

It might be a cliche, but try breathing exercises, be more regimented (meals at the same time, embrace routine etc.) and most importantly BELIEVE that it will go away in a few days. It always does."

Toots is great.

I really hope it does. I have so much more respect for my parents now than I ever have. I can only now begin to truly understand how they felt when they left home, when they left their families, their land to go somewhere completely foreign. It was a courageous move. Granted, we all had each other and ended up in places where my father had family, so the loneliness wasn't as acute, but they must have had some strength to adapt to new surroundings and new languages. My father's very lucky...if I were married and my husband tried to take me away from what I cherished and loved I would've sent him off packing.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 11:17 PM
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My alarm didn't go off in the morning. Or maybe it did and I was just so exhausted that I didn't hear it. I usually wake up every single day at 5am or so and refuse to get out of bed until my alarm goes off. This morning I woke up at 6:30 and realized I could still sleep for about an hour, so I shut my eyes, tossed and turned, and then at one point I saw that there was too much light outside my balcony. Looked at the time, saw it was 9:15, jumped out of bed, brushed my teeth, put my hair up, and ran out of the house. Thankfully I live only fifteen minutes away by train, so I arrived to class around 9:45 or so. Not a pleasant morning.

I arrived to class in the middle of a lesson, which flew completely over my head. We had to learn the difference between communicative aims and linguistic aims, and how to fill out an MFP (meaning, form, pronunciation---if you have no interest to ever become an EFL teacher I would suggest you not even ask me to explain to you what this is). I don't know if it's because I missed the first half hour of the class or what, but I couldn't make sense of any of it. ANY OF IT. When we broke for a fifteen minute break and our tutor left the room we all just kinda stared at each other with a "what the fuck just happened" look. It was like being in a really bad car crash. I hope all our lessons aren't like that.

Saw our elementary tutor teach her class today...she just makes it seem so easy. It was nearly a two hour the time she finished we had our jaws on the floor. The way she managed to control the room the way she did, quite impressive. I teach on Monday and don't think I'll even be able to do half of what she did today.


Why is it that I feel so foreign here? I'm chicken shit, terrified to go into a restaurant and ask for anything. I keep either seeking McDonald's or this tapas place I found near the university. The waitress there speaks English and I was immediately comforted by that fact. The food is pretty good too, but expensive. I still make my way there regardless because it's a) not McDonald's and b) a new comfort zone.

I don't know why it is that I'm so scared of my own voice. My Spanish really isn't that bad. I can easily get by with it, but for some reason can't seem to get it out my mouth. I've always been afraid of speaking, even in my own language, so I don't know why it should be much of a surprise to realize I'm afraid of talking to anyone here in Spanish.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:07 PM
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Thursday, June 02, 2005
First day of class
We start at nine and end at five, so there's very little time to wallow and worry about my loneliness too much. I will admit to having McDonald's for lunch, but did manage to find a nice tapas place to have dinner. It's REALLY hard to eat in Spain when you're a selective vegetarian, don't eat seafood, and can't eat pork. Half the menu is swine, fish, or red, red meat. 
First day of classes wasn't too bad. We did some methodology in the beginning. They don't really lecture in class, but force you to participate in group discussions, which was something I was dreading. For some reason though it wasn't too uncomfortable. I didn't feel as intimidated as I thought I'd be.

We're a group of 18 trainees. They broke us up into groups of three, with six people in each. All 18 of us are in class together in the morning and then we break up into our groups in the afternoon to teach classes to real students (poor guinea pigs). My group starts the first phase of this course teaching elementary students. We each had to teach a 20 minute lesson which, while you're up there, might as well be a 20 hour one.

Wasn't looking forward to going up there (and I was the first one as well). Stood in front of the class, saw all those eyes staring at me, caught a glimpse of my tutor in the background and started sweating from every single pore in my body. It was as if someone had turned up the heat and I was still wearing a heavy coat.

Couldn't get the class to follow any of my instructions. I started speaking to them the way I would speak to anyone who understands English and assumed that they'd understand the exercise I was trying to get them to do. I mean, the directions were pretty simple and I couldn't understand why it was that they just couldn't GET IT. They didn't understand me, they couldn't follow the lesson, and I was getting so exasperated with them. I felt myself losing patience as I couldn't get my point across. "Why the hell can't they understand me, what the hell is wrong with them, why can't they fucking follow directions" were the only things going through my mind.

I had no control over the lesson (a mere 20 minutes!!! What are future lessons going to be like!??). I felt incredibly frustrated afterwards. Blamed it on the students ("they're just stupid") but I know the fault does not lie with them. The patience thing is something I definitely need to work on if I want to become a teacher! I won't be too hard on myself though because this was, after all, my first time doing something like this.

Making a comment like that is already a huge deal for me. I usually feel sick to my stomach when I fuck up. For some reason I'm okay with my performance and am looking to see what I can extract from it to do better next time. I suppose being here is working already.

Came back home with a really bad headache. high school I would come home with a headache after the first day of classes all the time.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:16 PM
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Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Barcelona Bustle
I've been on the verge of tears all day. Arrived in Barcelona last night to find a problem with the apartment...couldn't stay there for the evening and had to find another place to sleep in. I ended up leaving my bags at the apartment and made my way to Ramblas where I walked up and down the avenue trying to find a cheap hotel. Some were cheap, but full. Others were ridiculously expensive, some wouldn't take me because (the genius that I am) I had no passport. I left it at home with the rest of my bag. Here I was, stranded in a street unlike any I've ever seen...tourists, locals, crazies, and everything inbetween existed side by side. I wasn't sure what to do with myself. I walked in one hotel, heart in my hand, and asked if they had a room available, and when they said yes I begged for it. I showed them my driver's license, showed them my credit cards, told them that I was desperate, and the guy took pity on me and gave me a room. As unappealing as it was, it was heaven last night.

I checked in and realized that the television was in Catalan, so decided to step out and explore the area a little. I was a little exhausted from the trip and finding the hotel and had planned to just call it an early evening....I'm going to be here indefinitely after all...but was a little too antsy in my room. Walked up and down, wasn't really impressed much, but as I was turning the corner saw a HUGE poster for a Juan Luis Guerra concert next month. If I had thought that I made the wrong decision to come to Barcelona, this just made everything worthwhile! He was in New York the evening after I had left and I was seriously considering changing my ticket so I could catch his concert. That I'll be able to see him here is a special treat.

I woke up this morning and made my way to school to get the keys for the apartment. Got there, checked out my room, and was ready to head on the next flight back home. My room was filthy, the bathroom had a funny smell to it, I was afraid of the kitchen. My sheets were stained, the duvet completely discolored (probably from someone's sweat), hair was all over the floor. I mean, I didn't expect luxury accommodations. And I'm not a prissy princess...I can easily deal with austere accommodations, but I can't deal with dirty ones. Unless it's dirt of my own making, I don't want to be around it.

Swallowed my pride and made it to the orientation at school, but couldn't stop from feeling as if I'd just made the biggest mistake of my life. Today when we were going around introducing each other and participating in activities all I wanted to do was break out into tears.

Everything seems so foreign here. I feel so foreign in this language. I'm afraid to say a single word in Spanish, can't come close to understanding anything in Catalan. I went into Corte Ingles this afternoon and avoided all the salespeople so I wouldn't have to converse with them, but at one point had no choice and needed to ask where things were. And although I asked for things in proper Spanish, I did it through muffled whispers to the saleswoman, afraid of my own voice, as if the world would suddenly explode if actual sound came out.

Bought myself some new sheets, a mop, and some cleaning supplies and made my home to scrub my place down. My room now smells like fresh lemons, the sheets added a nice homey touch, but haven't yet been able to do anything with the funny smell in the bathroom.


I feel incredibly lonely and more alienated than I've ever been in my life. Sadly, I sought comfort in...McDonald's. Yup. As tacky as it may sound, the Golden Arches provided me with what I needed the most--some kind of familiarity. I was embarrassed to go in, and even more embarrassed at how relieved I felt when I did. The only meals I've had since I've been here have been Filet de Peix meals. Supersized. Had it for dinner last night after walking up and down Ramblas without finding a place that looked appetizing. Had it again today for lunch. Am feeling really pathetic that the only place I can go into with some kind of comfort is McDonald's.

It's getting late and my first real day starts tomorrow. Maybe if I go to sleep I'll wake up and find myself in Oz (Dorothy's Oz, not HBO's...)
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 8:04 PM
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Who: Carmen

xx-something egyptia-yorker who's spent over half her life stuck in two worlds not of her own making. unable and unwilling to fully embrace one identity over the other, she created (is trying to create) her own place in the world where people love each other unconditionally, irrespective of artificial boundaries, and where dancing merengue is as necessary to life as breathing air.

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