little sarah Big World

Month: January, 2010

Et c’est très, très bien

Today marks four months exactly that I’ve been in Spain, and—as if to celebrate—I realized the other day that I CAN UNDERSTAND THE NEWS. On TV. In Spanish.

I mean, I could kind of understand it before—like I could get the gist of it—but I’d kind of given up on watching the news while I eat dinner, because there was no way that the information was going to soak in if I was paying any attention at all to my food and not focusing 100% on the TV. So when I flicked on the “silly box” the other day at dinnertime, it was kind of just habit, just for background noise. But then it WASN’T just background noise—it was the NEWS, and I understood every bit of it.

It’s like my comprehension just skyrocketed, without my even noticing it. I can even EAVESDROP now—something I had formerly said was the final frontier in foreign language comprehension.

Four months also means that I’m more-or-less at the halfway point in my stay here, and already the second half has a very distinct feel. For one thing, I finally mustered up enough nerve to ask my coworkers about car-pooling AND NOW I DON’T HAVE TO TAKE THE BUS TO WORK ANYMORE! This cuts my commute time down from 3 hours round-trip to a half hour in each direction. Plus, I get to chat in Spanish while we ride. Double bonus.

I also took the first public shower of my adult life the other day. Naked and everything! (After yoga class). In Salt Lake I always just went home and showered, BUT NOT HERE! Here I strip down and make my momma proud. Oh, Spain—look at you! Quitándome of my inhibitions…

And then I’ve also started working “por mi cuenta,” which means that I now have my very own, adult students who pay me directly, in cash. Not sure if this will last, but it sure feels good to do away with the middle man, and it’s also nice to teach people NOT against their will.

I don’t know, I’m just feeling a lot more settled here. Like I really live here. Like I’ve got my own life and I’ve figured out the basics and I’m no longer scared to talk on the telephone.

But I also start to panic, because then I’m like “Oh no, I’m already halfway done! I’ve only got four months left!” And I’m worried that I won’t accomplish everything that I want to, or that I’m about to go and uproot myself again, when I’ve just now FINALLY gotten my bearings here.

I suppose that this is the essence of “little sarah Big World”—me, making my way in a foreign country. Me, on my own, almost like an adult. Me, FREAKING OUT AGAIN FOR NO GOOD REASON OVER NOTHING.

Ah, well. C’est la vie, n’est-ce pas?

The Bell Jar

Just finished it.

And here are my most favorite quotes:

“Only I wasn’t steering anything, not even myself. I just bumped from my hotel to work and to parties and from parties to my hotel and back to work like a numb trolley-bus. I guess I should have been excited the way most of the other girls were, but I couldn’t get myself to react. I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.” (This is an apt description of how I felt the first month or so in Madrid)

“The floor seemed wonderfully solid. It was comforting to know that I had fallen and could fall no further.”

“There I went again, building up a glamorous picture of a man who would love me passionately the minute he met me, and all out of a few prosy nothings.”

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig-tree in the story.

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked…and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig-tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

“That’s one of the reasons I never wanted to get married. The last thing I wanted was infinite security and to be the place an arrow shoots off from. I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.”

(If I were still an English major, I’d write a paper comparing this book with On The Road, using the quote above and Kerouac’s famous bit about “the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk,” etc. as a jumping off point. But I’m graduated now and don’t have to do shit like that anymore)

“At first I wondered why the room felt so safe. Then I realized it was because there were no windows.”

“A fresh fall of snow blanketed the asylum grounds – not a Christmas sprinkle, but a man-high January deluge, the sort that snuffs out schools and offices and churches, and leaves, for a day or more, a pure, blank sheet in place of memo pads, date books and calendars.”

The copy I borrowed came complete with notes in French

St. Jean

Went and visited my french friend, Sebastien, at his family’s country home in St. Jean, near Montpellier (France). It was nice to hear the crunch of fresh snow under my feet, wander through the silent woods and warm up by the fire. A much needed break, I’d say, and when I got home (to Madrid), my homesickness was cured.

Probably from all the alcohol we drank. Or from Sebastien teaching me (in French!) about stoicism, and then nearly driving us off a cliff in the early morning, giving me a chance to practice said philosophy.

But I honestly couldn’t be upset about it. All I could think, as we were hiking to the neighbor’s house to ask for help, was “Now I’ll get to practice my French even more!”

La Maison

Ruins near the house

Our "bon homme de neige"

More Ruins

We found châtaignes!

...gathered them up...

...filled my hat...

...roasted them in the fireplace...

...and ate them with champagne and cheese! Très cévenol.

The most productive thing I’ve done in a while

This is what I did instead of packing for France:

I call it my “anti-homesickness mural,” and so far it works like a charm.


Thanks to Kevin for supporting my dystopia habit

“We stood still; for the first time did we know fear, and then pain. And we stood still that we might not spill this pain more precious than pleasure.”

“Yet as we stand at night in the great hall, removing our garments for sleep, we look upon our brothers and we wonder. The heads of our brothers are bowed. The eyes of our brothers are dull, and never do they look one another in the eyes. The shoulders of our brothers are hunched, and their muscles are drawn, as if their bodies were shrinking and wished to shrink out of sight. And a word steals into our mind, as we look upon our brothers, and that word is fear.”

“Yes, we do care. For the first time we do care about our body. For this wire is as a part of our body, as a vein torn from us, glowing with our blood. Are we proud of this thread of metal, or of our hands which made it, or is there a line to divide these two?”

“We knew it without words: this house was left from the Unmentionable Times. The trees had protected it from time and weather, and from men who have less pity than time and weather.”

“I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth. And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.”

Happy New Year!