little sarah Big World

Month: February, 2010

My New Thing

I’m always on about My New Thing. “My new thing” is just whatever I happen to be into at the moment. Like once I took a cab-ride, like, two times in two weeks, in Salt Lake City (not a super cabby place). So then my new thing was taking cab-rides.

Sometimes my new thing sticks around long enough to just become my thing. Baking is kind of my thing. So is tea. And speaking Spanish.

Sometimes my new thing is a bad thing, like the time when my new thing was spicy Cheetos and light blue Gatorade, but my OTHER new thing was being obsessed with the Jonestown Massacre/Suicides. It finally peaked when my boyfriend at the time came over to visit, and there I was: eating spicy Cheetos and drinking light blue Gatorade while listening to the original recording of Jim Jones’s mass-suicide proposal, with the trash can full of empty spicy Cheetos bags and light blue Gatorade bottles.

I believe my boyfriend’s exact words were “Look at how you live your life!”

Sometimes my new thing is just a weird little brain loop that I get stuck on in my head. For instance, I went through this phase where I would say to myself “I guess what I REALLY want is…” followed by whatever lame thing had just happened. So, like, “I guess what I REALLY want is to stub my toe on the door,” or “I guess what I REALLY want is to break all my coffee mugs.” Stuff like that, but I only ever said it to myself.

In fact, I think “my new thing” started out as an only-in-my head type of thing. But now my newest new thing is that I have a blog, and I don’t have to keep all my thoughts to myself anymore.

And I like that thing.

With a Side of Nosiness

So there’s this phrase in Spanish, “que aproveche,” and it is currently the bane of my existence. It means, más o menos, “enjoy your meal,” which is fine. Like what a waiter would say after bringing you your food. Ángel says this to me when I order my tomato and cheese sandwich in the school cafeteria.

Gracias, Ángel!

But it doesn’t stop there. “Que aproveche” is also what you say basically any time you see anyone eating anything in Spain. So if I’m sitting there eating my tomato and cheese sandwich, maybe working on my lesson plans, and all the other teachers are coming in and out of the cafeteria and drinking café and shooting the shit, they’ll stop at my table to wish me a good meal. “¡Que aproveche!” “¡Que aproveche!”–like, three times. At least.


And annoying, because it reflects this larger trend of commenting on other people’s eating habits that we really don’t have in the US. If I dare to get hungry at the American lunch hour (noon) and scarf down a bocadillo with tortilla in the teachers’ lounge between classes, it’s guaranteed someone will remark about how “early” I’m eating. Same goes for if I eat dinner before nine pm.

And that tomato and cheese sandwich? “How strange!” “Don’t you eat meat?” “Why don’t you try some tortilla with tomato?” Or, worse yet, “¡Que rico!”

“Que rico” means, literally, “How rich!” Except that it really just means “Yummy!” So my roommates will say it about my vegetable stir-fry with brown rice, and this is one language barrier I have not been able to hurdle. No, my salad is not “rich”–it’s a salad. No, Life cereal is not “rich,” I don’t care how much you like cinnamon.

My most favorite cafeteria meal

We just don’t do this in the US, Europeans, please believe me! We don’t interrupt co-workers whose names we don’t even know to wish them enjoyment of their mid-day meal. We don’t tell people that what they’re eating is weird or rich, or unhealthy (because it doesn’t have meat in it–this coming from a people who will deep-fry potatoes or calamari at home for lunch, like, four days a week). We definitely don’t take our lovely, steamed vegetables or sautéed peaches, season them up, and then BLEND THEM INTO A UNIFORM LIQUID (I finally snapped on this one–Marta thought it was weird that I always eat my vegetables whole; I told her that pureed fruits and veggies are for babies. In the US, that is), and we don’t say shit when we pass by a complete stranger eating something on the street (another typical occasion for “¡Que aproveche!”).

Maybe this is why Americans are so fat–because we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want, without fear of scrutiny or judgment. The other day I heard one teacher say to another “You’re too fat to eat like that. You need to watch what you eat.” THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN THE US. (Point in fact: the fat teacher responded, “I know, you’re right.”). It’s like how we are about smoking in the states–free to chastise those who make unhealthy choices.

So maybe it’s not such a bad thing, after all. Maybe Americans, as a people, would be healthier if we took a note from our Spanish friends and started taking an interest in our neighbors’ eating habits.


Nicole 2/21/1980

Happy birthday, sister. My oldest sister, the firstborn. Sometimes we don’t get along, because you’re a little bit lazy and a little bit whiny and emotional, and I’m a lotta bit an insufferable idealistic bitch. But I love you anyways.

Remember my first semester in the dorms? When I had just moved to Salt Lake and didn’t get along with my roommate and worked late and didn’t have an oven? You let me come over and bake pizzas and smoke weed and watch movies. If I missed the last train, you let me stay the night. And remember that I did it so much that I had my own “bedroll”? Sleeping bag, PJs and a toothbrush.

When I was still in high school and you had already left college and were living on your own in a tiny “bedroom” in the old Ruby building in Salt Lake, I thought that was so cool. I would say things like, “When I visit my sister, in Salt Lake…” or “I was at my sister’s place, in Salt Lake…”

Remember how for a while we had that thing where we would punch each other in the boob all the time? I think I started it because you had real, actual boobs and I was, like, 12 and jealous/fascinated. I associate this epoch of our lives with the phrase “tender, young breastacle.” Always.

And in middle school, you took me and my friends to the Blink182 concert, because we were too young to drive or go on our own. And you didn’t even act like we were the worlds biggest bunch of dorks. Nor did you tell Mom and Dad that we flashed our bras.

Oh! And remember when you first got your driver’s license and Mom or Dad would make you drive me around, like to a friend’s house for a sleepover or to orchestra rehearsal or something? And remember in the car we would always have “Classic Rock Lessons” with the radio? And you would quiz me about Bon Jovi and AC/DC and stuff like that, and remember you taught me about putting the car in neutral to coast down hills, and to jiggle the stick shift back and forth at stop lights, “just to make sure” before letting off the clutch?

Do you know that, to this day, I still do that? I always jiggle the stick shift, and I always think of you.

I don’t remember this one, but maybe you do: Mom says that when we were little–when I was still practically a baby and you were a skinny, hyperactive tween (before tweens even existed)–you would tie a blanket to Sammy’s crib, and we would huddle there under it, in the little space between the crib and the wall. For hours, just talking and playing.

We called it “The World.”

Adventures in Medicine! vol.2

Remember those old public service announcements that were like, (stern voice): “Do you know where your children are right now?” Well, if someone had asked my mother that last night, I doubt she would have said “Drinking barium, half naked, while strangers slide her around on a table in a dim room.”

But that’s exactly where I was this morning.

I know that a lot of people are intimidated by hospitals and esoteric medical procedures and whatnot, and I get that. It’s strange, it’s overwhelming, and doctors can me so intimidating and condescending. But I generally have to fight the urge to giggle in these situations. I mean, come on—“You can put your pants and shoes back on but that’s it. Don’t eat or drink anything. You can make piss but not caca and here’s a plastic baggie for your brat and shirt. Wait here. We’ll call you in half an hour.” HILARIOUS, right?

Oh, but how did we wind up here, Sarah? is the real question.

It all started last July, when I noticed (to my horror) that, despite working out six days a week and eating healthier than practically anyone I knew, I was bloated ALL THE TIME. And I was gaining weight, which is the worst thing that can ever happen to a person. (Don’t look at me like that. I know what you’re thinking—“But Sarah, what about [insert horrible, debilitating and/or disfiguring incident here]?” But you know what? People pity the injured, the sick, the victimized. Nobody pities the chubby).

Anyways, America being the wonderful country that it is, I didn’t have insurance. Until September. So I went to the doctor right before leaving for Spain and she was like, “Well, you have some sort of infection, I’m not sure what exactly but I’m going to go ahead and guess it’s a colon infection, which is weird for someone your age.”

True, but I’ve also already had arthritis and bunions. So we keep an open mind.

She gave me some antibiotics, I took them, and nada. By this time I was in Spain, so I had to climb down off the jet-lag/home-sickness bummer I was riding on and muster up enough gumption to go to the doctor here. In short: more tests, more pills, but no solution. Not even a diagnosis.

Then came Christmas and I was busy being forced to eat a ton of food by well-meaning Spaniards, which of course didn’t help anything. I arrived at a point where I was like, “You know what, stomach? You’re not going to digest things? Fine. I’m not going to feed you. But you’ve put me in a foul fucking mood, so expect to see a lot of alcohol,”

This troubled my mother, who insisted that I go to the ER, to settle this shit once and for all (this sounds extreme, but it’s because they don’t really have insta-clinics here. You either make a Dr’s appointment for a few days/weeks later or you go to the ER). So I did, and they sent me to a new doctor, who also implied that my problems stem from chewing gum/eating nuts/being a hysterical woman and generally not knowing what I’m talking about/making a big deal out of nothing.

Now here I am, tummy full of pink barium, bra in a bag, waiting to be called in again for round three of the radiology shuffle.

At least it’s entertaining.

Into Nothing

I remember when I first started to smoke weed, when I was still a kid with my friends and all we had was a pop can and somebody’s basement and the whole afternoon, or it was Friday night and Sam already had his driver’s license, and a big part of it was trying to describe to ourselves what it felt like to be high. And I remember settling on “it’s like I’m waking up each new moment for the first time, like I’m waking up and realizing everything, but I can’t hold on to it, and then I wake up again the next moment but it’s different and I’m somewhere else.”

But now I think maybe it wasn’t the feeling of being stoned. Maybe that’s just how Life feels.

Platonic Love and Too Much Caffeine

Sometimes I wonder if my friends will ever know how much I love them. I mean, okay, two things: First, I know I could just tell them. I could also just tell Colleague X to go fuck himself, that I never want to work with him again. I could tell Teacher Y that she’s a fracasada, or I could tell Friend Z that she’s too fat to give me diet advice—I could tell a lot of people a lot of things in a magical world without consequences.

But I can’t just come out and profess my platonic love for my friendships; it’s not that simple. Even the logistics are off—would I gather them all together, like an intervention? Or take them out to lunch, one at a time? Would I start with my closest, dearest, life-long friends and move out towards amicable acquaintances? That sounds like a recipe for bruised feelings.

Second, they fucking piss me off all the time, these friends. They hurt my feelings. Or, rather, I get my feelings hurt. I have delicate emotions; it’s a liability.

Another thing is that I am a perfectionist—I expect a lot from myself, and I expect almost as much from others. Then they flake on me, or they give me that look like I’m weird, and I become a frowny face.

But, oh, how I love them anyways. And maybe it’s because I love them that I expect so much—because I want them to be all the things that I see in them.

They’re funny, my friends, funnier than any of the assholes I have to listen to on public transportation. And they’re thoughtful, very “detallistas” (very American)—they buy me headphones that work with my too-small ear-holes, or run to the bus stop to bring me my schoolbooks. They put up with me being a cranky pants, and they always share their booze, or let me eat their sugar cereal without asking. They buy me sushi and beer when I’m going through rough times. They drink wine with me and feed me and let me bitch about life.

They burn me CDs for no special reason, and if it weren’t for this I would have NO music, te juro.

They give me books.

They let me eat their leftovers when I’m the last one to breakfast. They send me air-mail packages with dried mangoes, and tea, and they mail me hand-made postcards and sweet, stupid letters. Or they e-mail me about morning wood.

They’re big dorks, my friends, just like me, and we love classical music. We read web comics. We watch terrible, terrible television and eat Wendy’s dollar menu.

And they are so, so beautiful, and so capable, so special. Sometimes I just want to shake them and scream “What the fuck are you doing? Don’t you know that you’re worth more than this? Don’t you know that you can do whatever you want? That you can change the world? Don’t you know that you are one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met?!?”

But I don’t. I just love them silently. I love them across an ocean, from the other side of the world. I think of them all the time—every song I hear, every movie I watch, or the things I eat, or the new things I am learning—it’s all connected to a friend, a specific memory, or else it means nothing until I know I can share it with one of them. (Turns out, if Sarah falls in the forest, and none of her friends are around to see it, it doesn’t make a sound. It’s like it never even happened at all).


Or maybe it’s that I just drank some coffee, and it’s doing that druggy thing to me where I feel all high and happy and want to write. Then later, it’s going to wear off and I’m going to feel all grumpy and shitty and hate the whole world and its stupid, stupid faces.

But I’ll still love my friends. Happy Valentine’s.