Thursday, November 5, 2009

Spain: mullets, casinos, and 2010 preparation

After about 2.5 weeks with some of my favorite people visiting, and then with Phil arriving, the last bit of my free time here was sopped up by relaxing nights in Barcelona and getting food poisoning that lasted 4 days while in Valencia. But that's a story unto itself, and I realized that specific vomiting stories are only earth-shattering and fascinating when it happens to you, not when you hear about the multiple train bathroom visits or the fact that we had to stop the cab driver during a roundabout on the way to the Valencia hotel so I spill out of the vehicle and puke in a bush next to a bunch of happy couples in a city park. So that's all you get for details... besides my advocating you do not eat a spinach/egg torte that is sitting in a showcase window.

But this week, in the quiet that follows the post-friends-on-vacation lifestyle, Phil and I plug away on our computers in the shared apartment living room. Periodically, we stare out of the large french doors that lead to our Barcelona balcony and to the bohemian streets below, but we never stray far from our inboxes and status updates. Right now it is critical for us to figure out how to best kick off 2010 in our own, very different (and thus complementary) ways: Phil is designing his 2010 season 24/7 - phone calls, sponsorship talks, excel spreadsheets graphing profit margins, etc. - with his people in the cycling world. Yes, it's confidential, or you know I'd be sharing that information with you all. In fact, I don't know everything either! This is the life of being a pro cyclist's girlfriend, they say.

And as for me, I've been simultaneously working on my Fulbright research by setting up interviews with a few different architecture firms who focus on sustainable design, here in Barcelona. Something I didn't think I'd be finding after speaking to my host institution, Actar Publishing, about their thoughts on my project earlier on... they had said, in so many words, that sustainable architecture is not happening in Europe right now, because of the horrible economy (and Spain has the worst unemployment rate in Europe, at 17.4%). After getting over this discouragement and having my proposal to extend my grant into 2010 rejected twice which would have allowed me to go to Madrid, since there are huge multi-unit housing projects that were recently built down there, I figured I'd dig a bit deeper into Catalunya before throwing in the towel. And voila! Before I knew it, a smattering of impressive architects have responded to my request for information that will begin tomorrow, with an interview I have with Habitan Architects.

Onto other, very important matters... I have started to realize a couple things about Spain that I will share with you now.

(1) Spanish people - both men and women - think that the uglier the haircut, the better it looks. It reminds me of people who thought of themselves as "alternative" growing up - the kids who thought they would buck the system and be different. It doesn't work when lots of people are doing it - I mean, you're not seen as being daring. You're seen as another person with the worst haircut in the entire world.

EXAMPLE 1: a woman will shave her head except for the back - from the top, down to the bottom, so that it resembles a man's coat tail*. Usually this part of the hair is left only about 3-5 inches long so it looks fluffy, not mullet-like... see next.

EXAMPLE 2: the Spanish men claim the mullet. they cut the hair short on their head all over and grow the back down to their mid-back. sometimes they wind that hair into one, long, inspirational * they usually drape over a shoulder like a snake, or if their hair is thicker in back, then multiple dreads.

* I will be taking to the streets with my camera to find them for your viewing pleasure.

(2) While checking out the blackjack tables last night at the Gran Casino de Barcelona, I noticed a plethora of Asian people gambling with 100 Euro chips. Not just one or two, but tons of them. Throwing 500 Euro bills and even a 1,000 Euro chip onto the table every 10 minutes or so. Women especially. Young ones, like 25-35 years old. They aren't dressed to the nines either. Now, it's not that this sight was shocking, I mean, I was not amazed that women gamble, nor that Asian folks gamble, in fact, my experience in casinos generally is minimal. But the ratio of them in this casino was something I did not expect at all. Oh yeah, and we didn't win, but it was fun watching pretending to be one of those Las Vegas girlfriends standing in support behind their player's chair. I got him water, I held his chips when he was up, and I held his hand walking back to the metro when we walked out empty-handed... haha. It is "the nature of the game", they say.

That's all for now - I'll be home in one month for Meghan and Zack's wedding - and then to stay with Liana and hopefully find some fun gigs to earn cash while our "in limbo" situation gets sorted out. Phil will be heading to the Vuelta de Costa Rica from mid-December into January. I am sad that I won't be able to go along, but a girl's gotta pay back student loans and be responsible too...right? Plus, being with a nomadic boyfriend, I have realized that there is never going to be a lack of adventure. December will just be a time to relax in the snowy wonderland with my family and friends back home. And although it's not the Costa Rican waterfalls, volcanoes, and thrilling races I'll be surrounded by, I am happy and grateful for wherever life takes me.

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