Saturday, January 24, 2009


Today's soundtrack:
"Narcissist" by Sage Francis
"In the Bleak Midwinter" as sung by Harry Christophers & The Sixteen

It is cold. Bitterly cold. Miguel has a new method of measuring just how cold it is. If you can walk to the end of the block and you just begin to feel the cold in your jeans, it's not too bad. If you only get into the alley before the cold sets in, it's damned cold. And if you only get outside the door, it's just insane and you stay home.

But we are hardy folk so we trudged to school, our long underwear mocking our attempts to remain warm for 15 minutes. By the time we got to the university, Miguel had sprouted snotcicles - that is, icicles in his mustache, right beneath his nostrils - and was doing a pretty good impression of Dr. Zhivago (you remember the scene, when he's left the partisans and is trying to get back to Lara).

Just as we got to Place Riel, a kid from the Residence came bounding out the door in a flimsy t-shirt and jeans, and sauntered into Place Riel. Miguel and I could only look at each other in utter disbelief.

In my mad effort to stay warm, I'm knitting up a baby blanket for some friends Miguel will see in his round-the-world trip. I'm using leftover black yarn, which I figure is appropriate for a Danish baby. Get it? It's a Blanket for Baby Hamlet!

Alright, it's possible that I'm the only one that finds this completely entertaining. The rest of you are just a bunch of savages.

Friday, January 16, 2009

now hear this...

Today's soundtrack:
"I'm So Tired" by the Beatles

I am not wearing any long underwear.

For the first time in weeks, I am long underwear-free. I'd do a little dance to celebrate, but it's so warm that I risk breaking a sweat if I do so.

I am, however, wearing my lovely handknit socks. They're made out of the Bearfoot Colors wool that my aunt gave me. Although the wool bleeds like a demon anytime it's near water, they are the most comfortable, lovely pair of socks that I've knit. And at this point, I've knit more than a few. See for evidence.

But the sky is blue, the temperature is hovering around 0ºC, and I'm facing a weekend of bodice-ripping literature (re: Aphra Behn, for the uninitiated). Good times.

Monday, January 12, 2009

tying up loose ends

Today's soundtrack:
"Me Enamora" by Juanes

Just snuck a peak at the 14-day weather projections for Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It is going to be so cold that the yellow line literally plummets off of the graph. There is no numerical value for the degree of cold we're in for. And it's snowing. Again. Another 10cm today. Thank the gods I have a handy Spaniard at home who still regards shoveling snow as a novelty. Hopefully by the time the novelty wears off, we'll have kids that can shovel it for us. What better reason to have children, really, than to have people to shovel the walk and clean the bathrooms. Clever evolutionary invention.

Must distract self in order to maintain sanity, therefore...

So there are some loose ends from the vacation that I haven't tied up yet. So here they are, in no particular order other than the order in which they are presented.

1) During our walk in El Retiro, we saw a bunch of men on rollarblades playing hockey. Not field hockey. Real hockey. Well, minus the ice. Don't believe me? I give you photographic evidence that Canada is slowly taking over Spain:

2) In honour of the emblem of Madrid, I give you Miguel doing his best bear impression, although this may only be funny to the Spanish:

3) In Madrid, even the statues are well hung:

4) Although Spanish meals are something like final exams, something must be said for Dutch cooking. No, seriously. Witness the bliss on the Spaniard's face as he digs into a typically healthy Dutch lunch. Yes, those are giant chocolate sprinkles on black bread:

Although the jetlag is now gone, it's been replaced with a paralyzing fear that on good days manifests itself as nothing more than sheer panic. Comps are four months away and I'm bunkering myself into my office for hours every day. In light of this, I'm seriously considering changing my answering machine message to the following:

"Hi, we can't come to the phone. If it's urgent, leave a message and we'll get back to you in May. If it's not urgent, call back in May. Thank you, that is all."

Saturday, January 03, 2009

when in spain...

When I left you all here, hanging on the edges of your seats, I was off to Spain. At the moment, I'm now back in Utrecht. Internet access was limited in Madrid as Miguel's parents are computerless, so I hope you'll forgive the silence of the past few weeks. Nevertheless, I'll try to sum up, as briefly as possible, my past two weeks y pico in Madrid.

After we arrived in Barajas, we took the metro back to Miguel's parents's place. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy the metro in Madrid? Well, they have a new metro map and it's nothing short of a postmodernist nightmare. The stations on the map bear very little resemblance to their actual spatial arrangement in Madrid. Sure, it's pretty but I spent several minutes looking for Cuatro Caminos with no luck.

But not to worry, the metro was completely redeemed for me two days before New Year's Eve. Miguel and I were taking the escalators down and in front of us were four rather rowdy teenagers who were trying to pick up every girl that passed them by. "Feliz año, guapa!" over and over again. We all ended up in the same train car and the boys launched into a Spanish Christmas carol that sounds pretty flamenco (to a Canadian anyway). "Ande, ande, ande la Marimorena. Ande, ande, ande que es la Noche Buena!" was sung over and over again, with some pretty funny verses inbetween, by one of the guys while the other two clapped and the last one danced around the car.

The metro is actually a pretty critical part of any family dinner. It seems to be the custom, as the party is breaking up, to discuss which lines are the best or fastest to get home. Now why they don't just pull out the map and all look at it is beyond me. They prefer to do this by memory. Trouble is that their memories aren't always what they should be. "You should take Linea 9 until Plaza de Castilla, then switch to Linea 2" one would say. "Linea 2 doesn't come through Plaza de Castilla" the other replies. Such disagreements usually end with pistols at dawn in el Retiro.

We didn't spend the whole time in the metro, though. Miguel and I snuck out to the Museo Archeologico, the Museo Thyssen, and the Prado. We spent hours wandering around the Puerto del Sol, Palacio Real, and el Retiro. We went to an Improv competition that Miguel's friend Beatriz was performing in. We went for cañas and coffees and chocolates con churros. At one point we ended up in a bar in a district that Almodovar used to hang out in when he was younger. I don't think I stopped eating the whole time I was in Spain.

Christmas Eve was spent with Miguel's family, although we later went to mass with his friends. I didn't know the majority of the traditional Spanish Catholic songs or Christmas songs, but I did like the one that went "oh no, no pasaron!", which I believed was a direct reference to the Civil War Republican slogan in Madrid, but Miguel assures me that it is not the case.

I think I saw every Spaniard that I know while in Madrid. Even Marta, who we hadn't gotten in touch with but managed to run into accidently in a Gino's the night before we left Madrid. Que casualidad. We spent a lot of time with Miguel's friends who are all kinds of entertaining, although some are still battling tuberculosis.

We spent New Year's Eve with Miguel's parents, and later with Miguel's friends Dani and Maria. I still haven't managed to eat all 12 grapes during the 12 campanas, but I have another two years to practice. After the bells and the fireworks (oh those Valencians), Miguel and I went to play boardgames with Dani and Maria until 6am, when we decided that we should probably call it an early night.

But now we're back in Utrecht, after spending the night in Eindhoven with Richard, Sonia and the soon-to-be Small One/Pequeñin, crashing at Yvon's for the night. Tomorrow morning, we're going to take the train to Schiphol Airport, and then back to Canada and the -22 that awaits us. It'll be a bit of a change from the 18C we had in Madrid.

All in all, a nice long and relaxing trip. And now, the insanity of comp prep and dissertation writing...