Sunday, December 30, 2007

¡Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Felicidad!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

My Christmas was wonderful and I hope your's was too. BUT....it's not over yet! Here Christmas doesn't end until 3 Kings Day on January 6th! So the streets are still full of lights, music, trees, and sad people wandering around with no idea why we do all of this.

However I will say that they have got something right with 3 Kings Day. That's the day when they exchange the majority of their gifts, to remember the Magi bringing their gifts. Not that they haven't commercialized that as well, but at least it's a bit more accurate than Santa Claus and his magic reindeer.

So my Christmas went like this:

Christmas Eve I went to a family's house to have fondu. It was my first experience in fondu (besides the chocolate fountains that people have at formals and weddings these days) and I must say that it was delicious. Veggies, potatoes, yummy cheese, chicken skewers...so good. My absolute favorite was dates wrapped in bacon. Sounds strange, but oh so delicious. And to top it all off, Christmas Punch and fruit dipped in chocolate. My mom always promised me that sometime she would take me to The Melting Pot, an expensive fondu restaurant in Dallas. She never did. I've been scarred ever since. Just kidding Mom. I got over it. =)

That night I went home to another family's house (so as not to wake up all by my lonesome self on Christmas day) and spent the night. Christmas morning we opened gift with their 3 year old son who was SUPER excited about his play kitchen. I remember playing with those things in the church preschool. ::sigh:: Good memories. Then we went over to yet ANOTHER family's house for lunch and card/board games. So there was lots of family action going on, which I really enjoyed.

Here's a video clip from the night before Christmas Eve. The city had a lights show that I found to be quite impressive. It was a 30 minute lighting/firework/music extravaganza! Basically, it was a slide show projected on a building set to music with fireworks. Quite impressive. And the building it's on is the post office. It looks more like a palace than a post office. I've never been inside...maybe I should try that sometime. Maybe they do tours. I'm pretty sure people still work there because there are offices and stuff. I should look into that.

video

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Three Things I've Learned These Past Two Months and What You Should Do About It


Cheese is more than Kraft. I remember hearing somebody talk about "brie" in some movie or something. Some fancy rich person trying to show off about their knowledge of French cheese or something. Wealthy people have fancy cheese with fancy wine. But I always thought, "what's the big deal?" All you really need are the four basic cheese groups: Kraft Singles (Cheddar or American, your pick), Mexican 4-Cheese Blend, Mozzerella (for pizza, of course), and Cheesecake. But NO - I was wrong. It wasn't until I moved to Europe that I discovered "The World of Cheese." And my favorite? Brie. Ever heard of it? It's French. Get over your dislike of the French and go buy some Brie today. It will change your life. Eat it with fresh baked bread, sausage (chorizo is the best), and green olives. Or with fresh baked bread and raspberry (or any kind of berry) marmalade. Simply. Amazing.


Peppermint is more important than you think. This little candy may not seem all that important, but when all of a sudden Christmas is upon you and Starbucks isn't selling the Peppermint Mocha™ and there are no candy canes for your tree and you can't make peppermint bark while drinking apple cider suddenly the world seems to have turned dark and Santa Claus doesn't exist and if Santa doesn't exist then that means the Easter Bunny doesn't exist and if the Easter Bunny doesn't exist then who is going to give you Cadbury Creme Eggs this year and do they even have Cadbury Creme Eggs in Europe??? So go to Starbucks - drink a peppermint mocha - and think of me. Take a picture and send it to me. I'll appreciate it.


Green olives are actually pretty good. I've never really been a big fan of green olives. They were just too sour for me. Occasionally I could appreciate them on a pizza or maybe mixed in some pasta, but in general I just avoided them. And then I came here. The olives are fresher, not soaked in vinegar or whatever that juicy stuff is, and they're just SOO good. I like to eat them with cheese (see first paragraph), chorizo, bread, pasta, pizza, solo...it doesn't matter. But I like them. So what can you do about it? Go to the grocery store and try to find some fresh-ish olives. Perhaps HEB or a Whole Foods or something like that. If you can't find any, then eat the normal kind but try to imagine them not so sour. Or come visit me and eat them here. They're good. =)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Doggie Doo-Doo


Living in a city so huge where almost everybody lives in apartments - most of which are much smaller than what we might find in the States - it's surprising to me how many people have not just dogs, but BIG dogs. I'm surprised how many German Shepherds, Labs, and other large breeds I see every day. Where in the world do they keep them? Goodness knows our apartment (quite large, so I'm told) has no room for a dog that size!

But even more than the number of dogs, I'm surprised at the behavior of the dogs. Most of the dogs here are trained SO well! They know when to cross the street, they stay away from strangers, they don't attack innocent girls out for a walk, they wait patiently outside the grocery store while their owner shops...it's incredible. A lot of the time, people don't even use leashes, and I have only seen dogs get out of hand on two occasions, both of which were when two dogs met and one ticked the other one off...I guess some dogs just don't like to have their butts sniffed so much.

I'm also surprised at how many terriers and small breeds think they can take down the German Shepherds. Those guys are six times the size of these little things and yet the little ones go crazy barking at them all "back up off" and "you can't touch this" style.

But alas, one of the casualties of so many dogs in a city with so little grass is....

POOP.

Yes.

Dog poop. Everywhere.

If you ever come visit me, be sure to keep one eye on the ground at all times.

They've planted little doggie land mines planted all over the city, just waiting for some innocent tourist to step on one and BOOM. Dog poop all over your shoe. No walking on the carpet for you.

I have been fortunate enough to avoid stepping in one so far.

I bet I step in one tomorrow.

Whenever we go out with our friends and their 3 year old son, he always runs ahead and finds the danger zones. Then when come up on a pile of doo he yells "watch out! poop!" We call him the "Poo-poo Po-po." HAHAHA. Get it? For anybody over 35 who might be reading this, "Po-po" is slang for "police."* ::sigh:: It just cracks me up every time.

Poo-poo Po-po.

It's fun to say.

Try it.

No really, try it. Say it out loud, right now. Don't worry about what anybody might think. Just say it.

Poo-poo Po-po.

See what I mean? Isn't that fun?

Next time you see some poop on the ground, tell your friends "watch out! Don't step in the poop! I'm the Poo-poo Po-po!"

HAHAHA.

Now go read Heather Hendrick's blog where you'll find plenty of synonyms for poop.



*Please note that I have the utmost respect for our law enforcement authorities and use the term "Po-Po" as a term of endearment. =)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Am Elf


Sometimes I feel like Buddy the Elf. Smiling's my favorite. It really is. I love to smile. I love to say "hi" to people. I love to hug people. I just love all things happy.

Buddy the Elf lived at the North Pole. I lived in Aggieland. At the North Pole, everybody is friends with everybody. In Aggieland, we're all part of the Aggie family, and we love each other for it (we even love those who aren't Aggies, because they were smart enough to move there). At the North Pole, it's okay to say hello to everybody, because everybody is sooo sweet. In Aggieland, we consider it a proud tradition to say "howdy" everywhere we go.

But Buddy the Elf had a little problem. He didn't belong at the North Pole anymore.

I too, had a little problem. It was called "graduation." After graduation, I had to leave Aggieland. Buddy the Elf moved to New York City. I moved to a mega-city with a population of around 6 million people. Buddy found out that things were a little different out in the real world. Not everybody wanted to be his friend.

I too, found out that things are a little different. But we all know that things turned out all right for Buddy the Elf. He made some friends, learned how to survive in the big city, and in the end, he saved the day. I too have made some friends, learned a few important lessons (watch out for dog poop on the street, don't talk to strangers, guard your purse, how to spot drug dealers in the park...) and while I have yet to save the day, be looking for me on the evening news. My time will come.

The End.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Metro Musicians



Every day on my way to class I take the metro. It's great fun, especially when there are so many people that you end up spooning complete strangers. It's not awkward at all.

Okay, I lied there. It is quite awkward at times. ESPECIALLY when you somehow end up face to face with somebody. You just can't make eye contact with somebody when your face is only 3 inches away from theirs. Unless they're you're husband/fianceé/boyfriend. But I don't have one of those. But I do have Tim. Remember that one time at Rumors, Tim? Or was that Sam? Maybe both? I bet they don't even read this.

Back to the point of this post: every day I take the metro, and every day I hear Metro Musicians performing their hearts out for a few euros.

There's this one guy who plays a drum. He just sits there and plays his djembe every day. I like him. He adds a little rhythm to my step each morning. I wonder if he has any other talents?

There's this other guy that plays a synthesizer keyboard. Every day he plays the same song, except now that Christmas is near he plays various Christmas carols. The synthesizer makes sounds quite strange, and he always smiles. I like him, too, even though I don't particularly care for his synthesizer.

Some days, the guy with the drum and the guy with the synthesizer play together. That's always fun. They kind of look alike. I wonder if they're related?

This one guy has a little CD player that he plugs into a little amp and sings along to the CD into a microphone. He doesn't sing very well at all, but when he smiles, he makes me feel happy. But most of the time he just looks bored. He looks like he's about 40-45 years old.

But the best of all time...and this one wasn't at the metro I take to school - it was a different station - was this girl singing "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion. You know, the Titanic theme song? Yeah, we all remember it a little too well. As most of them do, she sang along to a track (but this one didn't have words as opposed to the guy with the CD player) with a microphone and amp. While she sang, she sat on a little chair with her legs crossed and the microphone held limply in her hand. She looked incredibly bored and even in the most dramatic moments of the song, she was checking out her fingernails or something like that. An hour or two later, when I returned from where I was going, she was still there, singing the exact same song, looking as excited as ever (that was sarcasm there, if you didn't catch that). I wish you could have seen it. I'm too tired right now to describe it in a way that would do it justice.

Some days I think I would like to be one of these Metro Musicians. I would love to have a microphone and an amp and a track to some 80's and 90's pop hits. But I wouldn't sit. I would stand. And I wouldn't look bored, either. I'd be super enthusiastic and people walking by wouldn't be able to keep from tapping their feet, nodding their heads to the beat and singing along. It would be fabulous.

Can you picture it? Some day I would love to do this, I just don't know that I would have the guts. Is it illegal? Would I have to pick up my amp and run away when I saw the police? Would I have to find a power outlet to plug it in? And would I have to fight the dude with the synthesizer for said power outlet? Could we sing together? I don't like to sing by myself, not really. It takes a bit of warming up to the people around me for me to sing solo.

If anybody still reads this, what songs do you think I should sing? What would be a big hit that would get me discovered? What song might earn me more than 5 Euro a day (keeping in mind that most people only put about 20 cents into your cup at a time)?

sidenote: Panda says that nobody reads my blog anymore (except Julie!) because I went so long without updating (a whole 3 weeks! wow!) while I didn't have internet. If that's the case, I'M BACK! So tell your friends!

-LB

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Happy Couple

Congratulations Greg and Lissy!!
After years of anticipation, Greg and Lissy, two of my bestest friends in the whole wide world, are FINALLY engaged! Aren't they cute?

Sadly, I couldn't be there to celebrate with them (since I'm here, of course), but I did wake up at 12:15am to call and congratulate the couple. Well, I guess I mostly just spoke to Panda, but congratulations to Greg also! Tee hee, he understands.

I'm so super trilled I can't even handle it. I'm still waiting for pictures, and it's killing me.

Yay Greg! Yay Panda!

Okay, so now if you're reading this you have to pray for them - that's the way it works. A couple gets engaged, so you pray for them. Marriage is hard stuff!! (or so I'm told) Even if you don't know them, say a prayer. And if you do know them, say more than one!

Adios!

LB

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Thoughts on English...

Learning a new language has really made me realize just how complicated my own first language, English, is.

TANGENT ALERT: I would just like to let you know that I ended that last sentence with a preposition and I don't care. I got a point taken off of a history paper my freshman year of college for ending a sentence with a preposition. I'm still a bit bitter about it.

I find that the words that I have the most trouble with are the "connecting" words. Words that would translate to "since", "therefore," "so," "then," etc. To demonstrate how difficult this is, I am going to open your eyes to the complexities of these words in English.

1) Since. Ever SINCE I came here, I've been learning a lot SINCE I am able to practice the language daily.

Did you see that? I just used the word "since" twice in one sentence, and both times it had a different meaning! It can mean from one time until the current time, or it can mean because. Look at the dictionary definition of the word, and see if that doesn't get you confused.

2) Therefore. Butch always says, "when you see the word 'therefore', you need to see what it is there for." This word really only has one meaning, which is basically, "consequently." The confusing part to a person trying to learn English is that it is made up of two words, "there" and "for," neither of which mean "consequently." Speaking of "for," that one's net on my list.

3) For. "For by the powers vested in me..." "I'm just here for the food." "For 10 years I tried and tired..." Do you get it? It can mean "through," "because of," "due to," "during," and about a million other things. And if you're trying to learn to speak English, how in the world do you learn when to use the word "for"???

4) By. "He went by train." "I'll be there by 6." "The table is by the couch." "I'm taller than Lissy by 8 inches." "This book is by CS Lewis." "Well by me! I can hardly believe it!" "My parents did well by me." "She had a son by him." "It was only a by comment." "Your time will come, by and by." "By and large, I like pecans better than almonds."

I could go on forever with the word "by." But I'll stop here.

5) Here. "It's only a mile from here." "Here, don't cry." "Here's to the king of rock!" Or to mix up 4 and 5, "I hereby declare the words 'here' and 'by' illegal."

6) To, Too, and Two. 'Nuff said.

7) At. "I'm at the park." "The kids are at play." "I'm at my best today." "They're at it again."

"Do see what I'm getting at?" I could go on like this forever....

I know some of these seem really obvious to us because we've been speaking English our whole lives, but to someone who is just learning for the first time, I can see how confusing it must be!

-LB

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Weekend Away!

This weekend I went on a trip to visit some friends a few hours southwest of me. This is a few of the city from the highway:

That's a castle on top of the hill...a real live (well, it's not alive, but you know what I mean) castle. And this is the city center at night. It was gorgeous, but I didn't have time to mess with my camera settings to get the "perfect shot", so you're just going to have to deal with this:


And these are two of my favorite little girls in the whole wide world:



This is the view from my bedroom window - the castle is RIGHT there! It was so cool!

The drive out there was very reminiscent of Idaho - long stretches of flat or slightly hilly land, but the mountain range was right alongside the road the whole way out there. The biggest difference is that Idaho doesn't have castles...

This weekend was just what I needed. I got to spend some great time with my friends who live out there and they just included me with the family as they went to a concert in another city, a youth event for all of the region, and church Sunday morning where Joel preached. Sadly, I didn't get a picture with Joel and Angela. I'll have to do make sure I do that next time I go visit!

And now I'm going to go for a run. =)

-LB